|Southwest Asia News Digest
Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks Plan Announced
Nov. 11 (EIRNS)Israeli opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, a Knesset member and former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, announced his proposed peace plan on Nov. 8, which would include talks with Hamas and creating an interim Palestinian state. The plan, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, could put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a tight spot, since Mofaz's experience includes serving as defense minister under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
According to the daily Ma'ariv, the "Mofaz plan" envisions the signing of an agreement for the formation of an independent Palestinian state, whose borders would not be less than 92% of the West Bank, with land exchanges. The first stage would involved immediate transfer of 60% of the West Bank to the Palestinians, with the rest to be negotiated. While this looks like a previous proposal for a Palestinian state with temporary borders that never got anywhere, the Mofaz plan calls for passing a compensation law that will reimburse all those who leave their homes in the West Bank settlements. While Mofaz said the so-called settlement blocks will remain, he nonetheless envisions a withdrawal of 70,000 settlers.
Regarding Palestinian refugees, Mofaz does not support a right of return to the state of Israel, but only to the proposed Palestinian state. He also called for special arrangements in the Holy Basin, which is comprised of the Old City of Jerusalem, the al-Haram al-Sharif mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and other holy sites.
Regarding Hamas, Mofaz said, "If Hamas is elected and chooses to negotiate, Israel must conduct dialogue with any group that changes its behavior."
Remarkably, Ynet quotes Hamas West Bank legislator Mushir al-Masri, who said, in response to Mofaz's plan, "This is a very important step, but we are interested in its translation from talk into action. Obviously, such comments carry a lot of weight when they come from someone of Mofaz's staturea man who went to war against Hamas and the resistance and is familiar with the issue's political and related aspects." Al-Masri is also chairman of the International Campaign for the Release of Abducted Members of Parliament. This is a committee that has been seeking the release of the 45 Hamas West Bank legislators who were seized by Israel when Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured, almost four years ago. Twenty-seven have been released, six of them only last week.
Mofaz will meet with the ambassadors of Turkey, Egypt, Russia, and Jordan, and has already met the U.S. ambassador, and will be traveling to the United States to discuss his plan with think tanks and others.
Obama-Netanyahu Meeting Cool
Nov. 11 (EIRNS)Ha'aretz reports that the Nov. 9 meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not a great success. White House sources are said to have expressed disappointment that Netanyahu did not present any concrete plan to scale back Israeli construction in the West Bank. Meanwhile, an article in YNet, the online version of Yedioth Aharanot, Israel's largest newspaper, said that this was the most secret meeting since Monica Lewinsky last visited the White House.
Ha'artez points out that the meeting was not confirmed until Netanyahu was on the plane to Washington. And, in general, the White House did not like the idea of having a meeting with Netanyahu just because he was in town to speak at a conference. In fact, they point out that he arrived at the White House in a van and not the official car that brings such guests to the White House.
YNET reports that no press conference was given because the White House did not want Netanyahu to put his spin on the meeting. They point out that after the meeting between the two after the UN General Assembly in New York, reports circulated which claimed that Netanyahu had succeeded in swaying Obama's opinion. This apparently damaged trust between the two.
57% of Israelis Support Talks with Hamas
Nov. 13 (EIRNS)Ha'aretz reports that a new poll shows that 57% of Israelis support the view of Knesset member Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, who published a plan earlier this week, in which he called for dialogue with Hamas under certain conditions. Among Kadima voters the idea has 72% support, and even among Likud voters it has 53%.
Otherwise the poll shows the electorate shifting further to the right, with the right and center-right party capable of achieving 72 seats, compared to 48 seats for the center-left parties. The Labor Party could very well disappear with 5 seats. Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak's rating has collapsed, and many Laborites called for him to leave the Netanyahu government.
No January Elections for Palestine
Nov. 12 (EIRNS)The postponement of Palestinian elections that we previously reported from sources, is now official. Reuters reports that a senior Fatah official said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would "adhere to the decision of an independent election commission to put off the presidential and parliamentary elections," which he had scheduled for Jan. 24.
Iran's Uranium Could Be Stored in Turkey
Nov. 10 (EIRNS)Discussions are underway between Turkey and Iran that could aid the international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held discussions on a proposal by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamad ElBaradei to have Iran store 900 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey, while some of it is being processed in Russia and France.
Iran had earlier rejected a proposal that all of it be shipped to Russia while it is being reprocessed, for fear that it would never get it back. ElBaradei suggested that Turkey serve as a storage place, since "Iran has a lot of trust in Turkey."
Shortly after ElBaradei announced the proposal on Nov. 6, Erdogan and Ahmadinejad discussed the idea on the sidelines of the meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Istanbul. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said the prospects for agreement on the proposal were good, according to the Nov. 10 Zaman.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset Foreign and Defense Policy Committee that Western powers could stop Iran's nuclear weapons program because Iran was rational. "The Iranian regime is radical, but it's not irrational," Ashkenazi said according to YNet. "If the regime sees international insistence, it's not illogical to assume that it will change its direction. In 2003, the Iranians halted their nuclear program after they understood that the Americans were on their way to Iraq, and knew that Iran was next in line."