Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Disputed" NOT "Occupied"

From The Wall Street Journal, DECEMBER 30, 2009, by DANNY AYALON, deputy foreign minister of Israel [my own emphasis added - SL]:

The recent statements by the European Union's new foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton criticizing Israel [see this previous posting] have once again brought international attention to Jerusalem and the settlements.

However, little appears to be truly understood about Israel's rights to what are generally called the "occupied territories" but what really are "disputed territories."

That's because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered "occupied" in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognized sovereignty before Israel's conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years.

The name "West Bank" was first used in 1950 by the Jordanians when they annexed the land to differentiate it from the rest of the country, which is on the east bank of the river Jordan. The boundaries of this territory were set only one year before during the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan that ended the war that began in 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State. It was at Jordan's insistence that the 1949 armistice line became not a recognized international border but only a line separating armies. The Armistice Agreement specifically stated: "No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations." This boundary became the famous "Green Line," so named because the military officials during the armistice talks used a green pen to draw the line on the map.

After the Six Day War, when once again Arab armies sought to destroy Israel and the Jewish state subsequently captured the West Bank and other territory, the United Nations sought to create an enduring solution to the conflict. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 is probably one of the most misunderstood documents in the international arena. While many, especially the Palestinians, push the idea that the document demands that Israel return everything captured over the Green Line, nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution calls for "peace within secure and recognized boundaries," but nowhere does it mention where those boundaries should be.

It is best to understand the intentions of the drafters of the resolution before considering other interpretations. Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in 1967 and a drafter of the resolution, stated in 1990: Lord Caradon, the British U.N. Ambassador at the time and the resolution's main drafter who introduced it to the Council, said in 1974 unequivocally that, "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial."

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, made the issue even clearer when he stated in 1973 that, "the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal." This would encompass "less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel's prior frontiers had proven to be notably insecure."

Even the Soviet delegate to the U.N., Vasily Kuznetsov, who fought against the final text, conceded that the resolution gave Israel the right to "withdraw its forces only to those lines it considers appropriate."

After the war in 1967, when Jews started returning to their historic heartland in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of settlements arose. However, Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish settlement in these territories. He maintained that the original British Mandate of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said "the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors." There is no internationally binding document pertaining to this territory that has nullified this right of Jewish settlement since.

And yet, there is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table. Statements like those of Lady Ashton's are not only incorrect; they push a negotiated solution further away.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Iran plans to smuggle raw uranium from Kazakhstan

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Dec. 29, 2009:

Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday....Such imports are banned by the UN Security Council.

...A senior UN official said the agency was aware of the intelligence report's assessment but could not yet draw conclusions. ...A Western diplomat from a member of the [International Atomic Energy Agency]'s 35-nation board said the report was causing "concern" among countries that have seen it and generating "intelligence chatter." The diplomat also requested anonymity for discussing intelligence information.

A two-page summary of the report obtained by the AP said deal could be completed within weeks. It said Teheran was willing to pay $450 million, or close to 315 million euros, for the shipment.

The price is high because of the secret nature of the deal and due to Iran's commitment to keep secret the elements supplying the material," said the summary. An official of the country that drew up the report said "elements" referred to state employees acting on their own without approval of the Kazakh government.

After-hours calls put in to offices of Kazatomprom, the Kazak state uranium company, in Kazakhstan and Moscow, were not answered Tuesday. Iranian nuclear officials also did not pick up their telephones.

Separately a senior US official who demanded anonymity for talking about confidential information said Washington was aware of the intelligence report, but declined to discuss specifics...

...Iran is under three sets of Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze its enrichment program and related activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Teheran denies such aspirations, saying it wants to enrich only to fuel an envisaged network of power reactors.

Any attempt to import such a large amount of uranium ore would be in violation of those sanctions, which ban exports to the Islamic Republic of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology that could contribute to its enrichment activities...

...The IAEA believes that Iran's rapidly expanding enrichment program has been built on 600 tons of so-called "yellowcake" or uranium oxide imported from South Africa during the 1970s as part of plans by the former regime to build a network of nuclear reactors.

But the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said earlier this year that, based on 2008 IAEA statistics, Iran had already used up close to three-quarters of its South African supply.

In a November report, the IAEA noted that Iran had stopped producing uranium gas from yellowcake in early August and said Iranian officials had notified the agency that the production facility was down for maintenance.

But David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said Tuesday that the facility at the city of Isfahan had produced very little for about a year. "They said it was closed for maintenance but the reality is they probably ran out of uranium," he said.

Kazakhstan is among the world's three top producers of uranium, accounting for more than 8,500 tons last year. Iran, in contrast is producing an estimated 20 tons a year - far too little to power even one large reactor let alone the network is says it wants to put in place.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More peace talks ...36 years later...

Iran Close to "point of no return"

From the Voice of America, Jerusalem 28 December 2009, by Robert Berger:

ISNA photo claims to show launch of Sejil 2 missile, 16 Dec 2009
Photo: AP

Israel also alarmed by Iran's recent test firing of its longest-range missile, previous threats by Iran's president
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Iran is moving quickly toward the "point of no return." Speaking behind closed doors to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak said Iran will have the technology to build a nuclear bomb by early next year and could produce one in 2011.

Cabinet Minister Yuval Steinitz is a former chairman of the committee. "Iran is trying to gain nuclear weapons. And if nothing serious, nothing dramatic will be done by the West, it will get there in a year or two," he said.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Steinitz says Israel has proof that the Islamic Republic is building the atom bomb. "There are good, I would say even excellent evidence and intelligence showing that this is the case. And this is crystal clear to all Western intelligence services," he added.

Israel is alarmed by Iran's recent test firing of its longest-range missile and previous threats by its president to wipe the Jewish state "off the map." So Israeli leaders are calling for tougher international sanctions on Iran before it is too late.

But Israel has warned time and again that if diplomacy fails, it might launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

US, not Israel, should explain

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Dec. 28, 2009, by DAN DIKER*:

The United States' recent request for a public clarification from National Security Adviser Uzi Arad following the IDF's killing of three wanted Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorists in Nablus is unusual and raises questions.

Arad's reported need to explain to his US counterparts the defensive nature of the IDF operation several days after the Iranian-backed terror cell's murder of Rabbi Meir Chai, a father of seven, seems exceptional. This IDF operation was no different than hundreds of other actions against Palestinian terror groups that have murdered well over 1,000 Israeli civilians since the Palestinian Authority launched the Aksa war of terror in 2000.

As a rule, the US has not asked Israel for public clarifications on antiterror operations. Clearly, close communications are important. There are multiple security and intelligence channels between Israel and its closest ally that have been and should be used to handle these types of security queries. The Israeli Embassy in Washington, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, the US consulate in Jerusalem, military attaches and representatives of respective intelligence agencies are appropriate addresses.

But in this extraordinary case, the US demanded a public clarification on behalf of the PA. This clearly represents heightened US sensitivity to Palestinian protests over the IDF's "unjust" incursion into Area A of Judea and Samaria/the West Bank, where the PA has overall security responsibility, to net the Fatah-associated terror cell that resulted in its elimination.

THIS IS where it seems more appropriate that the US issue clarifications to Israel.

At least one of the Aksa Brigades commanders - Annan Sabuh, who was found with two M16 automatic rifles and two other firearms - had been part of the amnesty program for former Fatah-affiliated terror group commanders and operatives that was predicated on turning in all weapons. The amnesty program was implemented in no small part at the behest of the United States and its security reform program, which began under Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in 2005.

Notwithstanding IDF praise for PA public policing improvements in some West Bank cities and for PA security actions against Hamas, the American-trained and -funded Palestinian security forces under the command of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have either refused or been unable to uproot the terror infrastructure of the Fatah-associated Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Similar to the three recently neutralized terrorists, thousands of additional Aksa Martyrs operatives and other Fatah militia members have gone into "retirement" via the amnesty agreement with the PA security forces and their US security coordinators, but many operatives still store weapons in their homes. US security officials may also be aware that some Fatah terror operatives have even been sheltered in PA security installations to remove them from Israel's most wanted list.

Fayyad has also coopted some Aksa commanders by assigning them to senior positions in the PA security forces, such as Abu Jabbal, a senior PA security forces officer in Nablus. The increased US commitment in 2009, equaling some $130 million to upgrade the PA forces to nearly 3,500 men, has failed to address the very problem of the continued existence of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and other armed Fatah factions that resulted in the recent murder of Chai. It is well known in senior Fatah security echelons that the limited capacity and political will of PA forces require the IDF to assume between 70 percent and 80% of the security operations against the extant terror infrastructure in the West Bank.

ASSERTIONS BY some US officials as to the effectiveness of PA security forces must also be reassessed in view of recent Aksa Martyrs actions against the Palestinian leadership. Aksa operatives fired shots recently at Anan Atiri, deputy to the incoming governor of Nablus, after publishing leaflets labeling the governor a traitor. The group has also publicly labeled Fayyad an American agent and has published threats against him. Add this to the fact that Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades shot at outgoing Nablus Governor Jamal Muheissin on November 26, and that in May it published a leaflet there accusing PA President Mahmoud Abbas of participating in assassinations in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

In view of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades' direct challenge to the US-backed PA Security forces, it would seem appropriate for to Israel to receive clarifications from the United States as to how these robustly funded and well trained paramilitary forces plan to finally uproot the Fatah and Hamas terror infrastructures that continue to claim the lives of Israeli civilians while physically threatening the PA leadership that is supposed to be securing the foundation for independence.

The United States might also clarify to the Palestinian leadership that in the aftermath of the tragic and violent Iranian-backed Hamas takeover of Gaza following Israel's 2005 withdrawal, Israelis are not inclined to assume major security risks in line with Palestinian "red line" demands for a second complete Gaza-type withdrawal, particularly in Area C of the West Bank, which houses the strategically vital Jordan Valley and its 3,000-foot protective hills overlooking Israel's major coastal cities.

To be sure, Israel will become even more risk-averse if the Palestinian Authority proves incapable of completely uprooting the entire terror infrastructure in the areas under their agreed upon jurisdiction.

*The writer is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs and a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Relaunch of talks (again)...

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Dec. 29, 2009, by Herb Keinon:

The "terms of reference" for restarting diplomatic discussions with the Palestinians are expected to be the main focus of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's discussions with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt on Tuesday, amid signs that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has made inroads on this matter.

Mitchell, who hasn't been here since early November but has continued talks with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the US, is due back in early January and is expected to bring with him a document that would provide a basis for relaunching the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

...One senior Israeli diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post that the terms of reference Mitchell is reportedly bringing would probably closely resemble the statement US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released soon after Netanyahu announced his 10-month housing-start moratorium in the West Bank.

"We believe," that statement read, "that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."

...Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu said, was necessary for any agreement with the Palestinians that would lead to an end to the conflict.

"We want an end to the conflict," he said. "That means the Palestinians must stop attempts to use a Palestinian state as jumping-off point for further claims against Israel. No claim to flood Israel with refugees, which would mean the end of the Jewish state; and no irredentist claims to the Negev, Galilee or Israeli citizens, which would mean the dissolution of the Jewish state."

Regarding Israel's demands that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized, Netanyahu said this would necessitate preventing the import of rockets and missiles that could be fired into Israel, as was currently the situation in Gaza and Lebanon.

He said the situation in Lebanon, and the rearming of Hizbullah despite Security Council Resolution 1701 prohibiting just that, proved that agreements on paper were ineffective.

"I am doubtful that anyone can do this except a real Israeli presence, Israeli forces," he said, intimating that in any future agreement with the Palestinians, Israeli forces - not international ones - would have to be on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state to prevent it from importing arms and staging attacks against Israel.

Zionist Muslim Sheikh

From, 28 December 09, by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz:

Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi
Israel News photo: (file)

...Making the trip from Italy to Hevron for the second time in recent years, the head of the Italian Muslim Assembly, Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, met with local Jewish leaders [of Hevron] in a show of solidarity. The sheikh, an Italian national who received his Islamic education from leading mainstream Saudi and Egyptian Sunni institutions, believes that his religion obligates its followers to support Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. In support of his position, Sheikh Palazzi quotes Koranic passages and traditions that affirm God's assignment of this land for the Jews.

...During Sheikh Palazzi's visit to Hevron, community leaders discussed with him ways in which Islamist fundamentalism might be curbed. "He emphasized Saudi Arabia as responsible for extremism," Arnon said. "It funds mosques in Europe and the United States and then determines who will be allowed to speak in them. In this way, Islam becomes more and more extreme, which is a dangerous trend."

In his activities in Italy, Arnon explained, Palazzi teaches what he calls "the real Islam", which he believes includes tolerance, Jewish-Muslim fellowship and Zionism. "He even organized a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Rome when Ahmadinejad talked about destroying Israel," Arnon added.

Sheikh Palazzi, who is also the Muslim co-founder of the Islam-Israel Fellowship of the Root & Branch Association, told his Hevron hosts that Italian Jews are now shifting their political positions further to the Right. In the past, according to Palazzi, Jews in Italy were primarily supporters of the Left, but a slow change in underway. Arnon said that Sheikh Palazzi believes his efforts, as a non-Jew supporting Israel, have contributed to that shift.

Asked about threats against the Zionist sheikh Arnon was adamant that he was perfectly safe in Hevron. "He walked around [here] without bodyguards," he said. However, Arnon said that he would probably be unable to openly enter Gaza or Ramallah under current circumstances.

Palazzi's visit in Israel continues for another few days, during which he will be making his way to other communities in Judea and Samaria to express his support for continued Jewish development and sovereignty in those regions.

God bless America...

From: The Australian December 26, 2009, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor:

THIS was the year the multilateral system, such as it is, broke down. Definitively.

The Copenhagen climate fiasco was bad news if you think the planet is warming and urgent action is required. It was also bad news if you think the globe needs effective management of big issues. It gave us a glimpse into where we go if we are deprived of US leadership. The answer is: we go nowhere. And that's if we're lucky.

...There seems to be a whole class of international relations commentators, not least among our bunyip faux wise men in Australia, eagerly predicting, if not outright yearning for, US decline.

Copenhagen is a benign version of what they get if their dreams come true. But at least with climate change the catastrophe is some time off. The multilateral system is failing, too, on more immediate problems.

Obama has spent a year holding out his hand in friendship to Iran. He has been comprehensively shunned. Iran has gone ahead building its nuclear weapons program. This year we found out it has a second, secret uranium enrichment facility at Qom.

This is doubly surprising because it is enriching all that uranium even though it does not have a nuclear power plant.

We also found out that Iran has been working on a neutron initiator, which has no purpose other than to trigger a nuclear weapon.

And, to top it off, the Islamic republic has tested a missile with a range just short of 2000km, putting not only Israel, but a large part of Europe, under direct threat.

That Obama has been shunned by Iran means he has yet to do anything about Iran.

On this it would be wrong to suggest that Obama, or the Americans generally, have been disengaged.

Because the Iranian economy is so badly run, it could be vulnerable to tough sanctions. But the UN Security Council won't pass sanctions if these are vetoed by Russia or China.

Similarly, the sanctions won't be wholly effective if they are not embraced by Russia and China.

Yet US success in persuading Russia and China on sanctions has been limited and equivocal, to say the least.

It may be that if Russia or China vetoes sanctions, or threatens to veto them so they are never brought to a Security Council vote, the US will lead sanctions unilaterally.

In this, the US will have the support of the European Union. And it will also have the support of Australia.

Now here is a big clue. If Iran is to be stopped from getting nuclear weapons it will be entirely the work of the US (unless of course the Israelis bomb the Iranian facilities).

The multilateral system as such will almost certainly not have been the key factor.

For here is a deep truth, which we are almost never allowed to utter. In international security, the global system is not the multilateral system centred on the UN. That is a byword for windy ineffectiveness, a la Copenhagen.

The only international security system that works is the US alliance system.

If the Iranians don't get nuclear weapons, it will be because the Americans stop them. If the Chinese are not tempted to use military force to take back Taiwan, it is because they are frightened of the US and its allies. If the world sees a reduction in nuclear arms numbers, it will be because the Americans work out a treaty with the Russians. If Saddam Hussein is gone and can no longer pursue nuclear weapons, and if there is a chance at last of a democratic Arab state emerging, it is because of US intervention. If the Taliban is to be prevented from retaking Afghanistan and providing a state for the use of its allies al-Qa'ida, it will be because the Americans kept their nerve and set an Afghan government on a sustainable security course.

And so it goes around the world.

This is the most unfashionable thing you can say, and also the most important, because it's true. The global security system, in so far as it works at all, is US security policy operating in co-operation with its allies.

This is, incidentally, very good for Australia.

Australia is perhaps the second-most intimate ally of the US after Britain. We are about the 14th-largest economy in the world, command a huge land mass with enormous resources, we are about the 12th-largest military spender in the world. We are a critical ally of the US in the Asia Pacific but also one of the US's few global allies. We contribute, often quite modestly, it is true, to most things that matter on the planet.

Here is another unfashionable truth: the US connection is central to almost everything we do. ... Australian middle-power diplomacy works best when it works in harness with the US, and the US system more broadly.

Some folks tend to posit middle-power diplomacy as a sign of our independence, our ability to act separately from the US. This is a foolish line of thinking. We are of course independent from the US and at any given time there will be plenty of things Canberra disagrees with Washington about. But our fundamental strategic alignment is as an ally of the US and as a part of the US system. Every serious player in the world recognises this and deals with us on this basis....

... This is the way effective Australian middle-power diplomacy works, which is in great contrast to the multilateral system. It doesn't work at all.