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ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PARLEY & ROUHANI'S NUCLEAR DECEPTION

Mahmoud Abbas, Benyamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has made the first move in the Israeli-Palestinian peace parley by agreeing to release 104 Palestinian terrorists starting on August 15th. In Tehran, the newly installed President Hassan Rouhani appeared to adopt some of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rhetoric by describing Israel 'as a wound on the body of the Islamic world that must be removed'. 

Israel will continue the good-will gesture by later releasing a total 104 Palestinians in three more phases.

 Netanyahu's extra mile...

An Israeli-Palestinian 'shotgun wedding' - that's one way of describing the new round of peace talks that have kicked off in Washington.  U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are the chaperones, while former Ambassador Martin Indyk will be keeping an eagle eye on Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israel's Tzipi Livni, to see they do not back out at the altar of a possible peace accord. So, what are the prospects? Back in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will pay his admission ticket by releasing 26 Palestinian terrorists on August 15th. They have been doing time in Israeli prisons since before the Oslo agreement was signed by Israel's Yitzak Rabin and the PLO's Yasser Arafat back in 1993. The next day, Livni and Erekat will be back at the table. Israel will continue the good-will gesture by later releasing a total 104 Palestinians in three more phases. As expected, the release of the terrorists who murdered and maimed scores of Israeli men, women and children has incensed many of the victims' relatives as well as the public at large. However Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu Netanyahu was able to persuade his cabinet by saying: 'There are moments when tough decisions must be made for the good of the country and this is one of those moments'.  Is it not peculiar that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had to be literally bribed into participating in peace talks aimed at founding his own Palestinian state? 

Israelis and Palestinians will have to give up wishful thinking and replace it with geopolitical reality, if the talks are to eventually forge the long-awaited two-state solution.

What are the prospects? ...

 Until now, Abbas totally refused to negotiate with Netanyahu. After Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians the 'kitchen sink' including the partition of Jerusalem and the Palestinian leader refused to accept it, Abbas knew he could expect far less from the Likud's Netanyahu. Instead, Abbas turned to diplomatic warfare against Israel at the U.N. hoping to eventually achieve an imposed settlement that would favor the Palestinians. However, to Obama's credit, he blocked this gambit and sent Secretary Kerry on six mediating missions before finally cajoling Abbas and Netanyahu to come to the table. They are starting with a clean slate with all the core issues on the agenda. Until now, the maximum that either leader might offer did not meet the minimum his antagonist could accept. On the face of it, that is still the case. However, there is one thing going for the talks - if they fall through, neither Israel nor the Palestinians want to be blamed by the U.S. for not being forthcoming. Therefore Washington believes there is room for Indyk to play an important bridging role of 'facilitator'. There is no way of knowing how the talks will wind up, but it stands to reason that both Israel and the Palestinians will now have to jettison long-held ideologies. For Israel, it means shattering the illusion of the 'Land of Israel' that includes all of the West Bank. Instead, the Jewish state will have to commit to establishing a Palestinian state on the vast majority of this territory that has been occupied by Israel since June 1967, when Jordan's King Hussein ordered his army to attack Israel. On the Palestinian side, it will mean recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland to which the now millions of Palestinian refugees will not be returning. Again, Israelis and Palestinians will have to give up wishful thinking and replace it with geopolitical reality, if the talks are to eventually forge the long-awaited two-state solution. 

'There are some experiments in diplomacy which cannot be tried because failure invites irreversible risks'.

Territory for security...

 Security arrangements for Israel will obviously be the cornerstone of Netanyahu's approach in these negotiations. Without the 'secure and recognized borders' as stipulated in U.N. Security Council resolution 242, an overwhelming Israeli consensus will reject any peace plan. The vacuous slogan of 'territory for peace' that many politicians’ pundits preached to Israel in the past will not wash when it comes to an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank. Israelis are reminded continually by the Palestinian rockets launched into Israel from Gaza, after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon executed his unilateral withdrawal in 2005. There are other contingencies as well; Israel must be able to defend itself in the event of a Hamas takeover on the West Bank or an Islamist overthrow of King Abdullah II in neighboring Jordan. Henry Kissinger once put it this way: 'There are some experiments in diplomacy which cannot be tried because failure invites irreversible risks'. In this vein, just imagine if Israel had agreed to withdraw all IDF forces from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal with the Assad regime - al Qaeda and Iranian guns on the plateau could now be trained on Israeli towns and villages down below in Galilee. 

During the process, credibility could be built between Israel and the Palestinians, and possibly an awareness that mutual concessions for peace are worthwhile. This could pave the way for a series of interim accords that would keep the ball rolling.

Time element...

 Obviously, the nine-month time frame for reaching a full-fledged agreement is unrealistic. Again, it is a cosmetic touch to stress that Israel means business. But if the sides do make progress, that is the main thing. During the process, credibility could be built between Israel and the Palestinians, and possibly an awareness that mutual concessions for peace are worthwhile. This could pave the way for a series of interim accords that would keep the ball rolling. There is another factor: within nine months the Iranian nuclear crisis may have come to a head with the fallout possibly affecting the Israeli-Palestinian talks. And speaking of the Iranians, the newly installed President Hassan Rouhani, the so-called moderate, has hit the ground running by declaring: 'The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and must be removed'. In Jerusalem, Netanyahu was quick to respond: 'Even if the Iranians work to deny these comments, this is what the man thinks, and reflects the regime's plans'.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani's predecessor, was also marching in tune on Iran's 'Quds (Jerusalem) Day: 'A devastating storm is on the way that will uproot the Zionists. They have no place in this region'. As for the bigger picture - the U.S. diplomatic effort helps alleviate the international criticism of the Obama administration for taking a back seat when it comes to intervening in the Syrian bloodbath or taking a more decisive position on the Egyptian imbroglio. The question is whether the installing of President Hassan Rouhani and his soothing words for the U.S. will now provide an alibi for lack of action by Obama.

Iran: new era of deception...

'Khamenei may exploit Rouhani's image as a moderate and agree to some concessions ... However, it is very doubtful that [he] will agree to concessions that will bar Iran from acquiring the capability to produce nuclear weapons within a short time frame'.

 Dr. Ephraim Kamm, a leading Israeli expert on Iran's nuclear project, believes the key question now is how much freedom of action Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will grant President Rouhani in handling Iran's relations with Western countries. This is an excerpt from his article in the Yisrael Hayom daily:   

 'Rouhani won himself the reputation of a moderate on the nuclear issue when he agreed in 2003 to suspend uranium enrichment for a limited period. (Apparently for fear the U.S. invasion of Iraq could be expanded into Iran. D.E.). However, today the situation is different because Iran's nuclear project has advanced greatly; Tehran has now acquired a large quantity of enriched uranium but Khamenei has consistently demonstrated a lack of readiness for meaningful concessions. Therefore due to the pressure of the sanctions, Khamenei may exploit Rouhani's image as a moderate and agree to some concessions - for example, limiting uranium enrichment to 20% or on the issue of monitoring nuclear sites. However, it is very doubtful that Khamenei will agree to concessions that will bar Iran from acquiring the capability to produce nuclear weapons within a short time frame'.

David Essing

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