|Southwest Asia News Digest
Olmert: Only 'Fantasists' Believe in 'Greater Israel'
May 26 (EIRNS)Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking in defense of his peace initiative towards Syria, said that those who believe in achieving "Greater Israel are 'fantasists,'" which is a remarkable statement from someone who came from the more extreme wing of the nationalist camp. "Only fantasists can believe that in this day and age, and in the current situation, it is still possible to cling to the vision of 'Greater Israel,'" Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today, according to Ynet. "Today we face the choice between Greater Israel and a Jewish nationthe two are mutually exclusive. They only exist together in the minds of deluded fantasists who misconstrue reality."
Olmert revealed that he initiated the opening of contacts in February 2007, knowing exactly the concessions Israel would have to make. He pointed to the "record of four predecessors who went to Damascus and committed to painful concessions; and let no one put me to the test on proving those commitments: They are all accounted for." This was a reference to Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak, all of whom knew that the price for peace would be for Israel to give up the Golan Heights.
He said that he did consult the United States on the move, and that "there is not a single party in the world that told Israel not to negotiate for peace." But what tipped the scales, he said, was "the burning question of what might happen if, heaven forbid, we would be drawn, due to a miscalculation, into a violent confrontation with Syria. Then I would be askedhow can it be that they were seeking peace and you did not even examine the possibility?"
On the Palestinians, he said he was committed to a negotiated settlement based on two states, adding: "I was one of those who thought the two-state solution was wrong, but that was a mistake. Most today understand that the choice is between two states for two peoples or one state in which all have an equal right to vote."
Syrian-Israeli Talks Could Lead to Peace on All Fronts
May 30 (EIRNS)Statements attributed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Israeli sources involved in the Syrian-Israeli talks, suggest that these talks could lead to a comprehensive peace agreement, not only between Syria and Israel, but also among Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, and even Hezbollah and Hamas.
Assad told a group of visiting British parliamentarians, including former Home Minister and Labour Party member Charles Clark, that as Syrian and Israeli talks develop, Lebanon should open up its own talks with Israel.
Assad has dismissed Israel's demand that Syria cut its ties to Iran, cited by one source as saying, "The President said Syria has normal relations with Iran. He made it clear that any suggestion to drop them was not a reasonable request. He said that if Israel could question Syria's relations with Iran, then Syria could question Israel's ties with other countries, particularly the United States."
The London-based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat quotes an Israeli official who has been involved in the talks with Syria, who said the Israeli position "does not mean that Syria will have to sever its ties with Iran and its followers in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, but it will join those influencing them in a positive mannerin accordance with peace relations between Israel and Syria."
The same sources said that 85% of a Syrian-Israeli deal has already been worked out. Both sides already agree that Syria has sovereign rights over the Golan Heights. The remaining questions deal with where the new border will be: Syria wants it to touch the northeastern shore of Lake Tiberius, whereas Israel as of now does not agree to that.
On May 30, al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted a Syrian official saying that Israel and Syria have made progress on the issues of water, security, borders, and normalization of relations.
Drive To Oust Olmert Threatens Syria Peace Initiative
May 28 (EIRNS)Lyndon LaRouche said today that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is "doing the right thing" in pursuing peace with Syria, and "you have to give him credit for that." As top Labor Party leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, held a press conference and called for Olmert to step down because of a corruption probe, LaRouche said, "Olmert has been right. He's working from the standpoint of the region and he's doing the right thing. Ehud Barak has his own agenda."
U.S. intelligence sources told EIR that the highest-level military officers in Israel agree that Olmert is doing the right thing. Last week, Olmert reportedly received a visit from a top military delegation, which expressed full support for the Syria initiative.
But today, the drive to oust Olmert escalated, with Barak's call for Olmert to resign, and several Labor Party members of the Knesset submitting a motion to dissolve the government. Barak said another member of Olmert's Kadima party should be designated as prime minister.
But Olmert is fighting back. "I need to resign because someone said something against me? Every minute an investigation is launched and someone has to resign? If so, four prime ministers should have resigned in recent years," Olmert told a meeting Israeli town councils near the Gaza Strip. He said that "every testimony [against him] will be refuted," and stressed that the main "source" against him, his former driver, had flunked a lie detector test after answering ten questions on TV.
Ambitious members of Olmert's own party, Shaul Mofaz, the former defense minister, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is very close to London, also have been screaming for him to resign. Mofaz is against returning the occupied Golan to Syria. And the warmongering Likud Party, headed by Dick Cheney's friend Benjamin Netanyahu, also wants Olmert out.
Olmert: No One Will Dictate Kadima's Timetable
June 1 (EIRNS)With Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni calling for Kadima party primaries "as soon as possible" and Labor Party Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying there could be a general election before the end of the year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today finally broke his silence. In remarks said to be addressed to Livni, who is also deputy prime minister, Olmert said: "Certain people have been acting under duress in the past few days: I urge them not to. We have responsibilities and we have to exercise caution in our decisions. I suggest we don't act under duress.... We have to stay united and lead Israel."
The prime minister also criticized Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak, saying that Kadima "was and will continue to be the ruling party, and no one on the outside will dictate its timetable." Olmert made these statements at a Kadima faction meeting in Jerusalem. As for the corruption investigation against him, Olmert said: "I haven't been given the chance to clarify things, but I will do so." Kadima's council chairman Meir Nitzan said: "Lay off the prime minister and stop the inheritance wars. Stop talking of primaries and general elections in November. Let him prove his innocence."
Larijani Elected Speaker of Iran Parliament
May 28 (EIRNS)Ali Larijani, the former head of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, and former chief nuclear negotiator, was elected today as Speaker of the 8th Majlis (Iranian Parliament). This is being welcomed as a signal that a new leadership configuration, more determined to pursue effective diplomacy on nuclear and other issues, has come into focus.
Larijani, who was ousted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his loyalists in October 2007, is known for diplomacy, not confrontation, received 232 votes out of 263. He is a member of the same Conservative bloc as Ahmadinejad, but a different faction. U.S. policy circles that want negotiations, not war, with Iran hope that Larijani will again become more active in securing an agreement on uranium enrichment with the "Five-plus-One" group, Washington intelligence sources are reporting.
Iran Minister: Next U.S. President Should Change Foreign Policy
May 31 (EIRNS)Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called on the next President of the United States to conduct a "serious review" of its foreign policy, which is being seen as a signal that Iran is leaving open the possibility of improved relations with Washington, according to Associated Press.
In an interview on the sidelines of a conference on Iraqi reconstruction taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, Mottaki said, "We don't want to make a problem for the American Presidential candidates, but this election is among a limited number of American Presidential elections where foreign policy plays a key role. The American people need change."
Mottaki said he was less concerned with "parties and people" than the course of U.S. policies after the election. "The United States of America needs a serious review of its foreign policy toward the Middle East," he said. "These policies in ... Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and generally speaking the Middle East, are mistaken policies."