Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Iran Nuke Deal And Israel



israel_iran_nuclearAfter 18 months of negotiating, Iran has come to a preliminary agreement - on 2nd Apr. 2015 - with China, Russia, France, UK, US and Germany (P5+1) on Tehran’s nuclear program. Niw the framework agreement is made but the negotiations for a final deal will continue through June 30th 2015.

In brief according the Iran nuke deal Iran's stockpile and enrichment capacity will be limited and all nuclear-specific financial and economic sanctions against Iran will end. Officially Israel is against the agreement but there is also other opinions existing.

original
The framework deal
Here are the specifics of the preliminary deal:
  • The UN would end all previous resolutions sanctioning Iran, and would incorporate other restrictions for an agreed-upon time, according to Thursday's announcements.
  • To build a nuclear bomb, uranium needs to be enriched to about 90 percent. The 3.67 percent agreed by Tehran means it would be practically impossible for Iran to build a nuclear weapon, but would allow it to use nuclear material for peaceful purposes.
  • Uranium is the key ingredient necessary in order to operate a nuclear program. Once it has been enriched, it can be used to generate power or create a nuclear weapon. According deal Iran to cut the amount it keeps from 10,000kg to just 300kg
  • Iran cuts centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,104, with 5,060 for enrichment Uranium stockpiles.
  • Iran's nuclear facility at Fordow will be converted to a nuclear technology and nuclear physics center. The facility at Arak will be repurposed as a heavy-water research reactor that will not be able to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
  • Inspections – IAEA will have access to all Iran’s nuclear facilities
  • Sanctions – Iran will see sanctions lifted. Sanctions introduced against Iran have had a devastating effect on its economy. Areas such as oil and gas have been affected, while Tehran’s finance sector was also hit. This made it difficult for to trade on the world market, while areas such as Iran’s aviation industry suffered, as they were unable to get spare parts from the US and the West. Once sanctions are lifted, it will be a massive boost to Tehran’s economy as it will increase trade and see new investment into the country.

Risks?

  • Given the political situation in U.S. there is risk that U.S. Congress will not ratify the deal nor remove sanctions or that the new President, government and Congress will cancel the whole possible final deal.
  • There is also risk that Iran will continue to develop nuclear weapons and/or Israel will make air-strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities anyway.
  • There are now 12 sanctions in effect that target Iran's energy O&G sector. And there are 20 sanctions that target the country's financial sector, rendering it extremely challenging to conduct any transactions with Iran. The tentative deal neither outlines which specific sanctions will be removed first, nor the sequence in which they will be rescinded.
  • Even if a final accord is reached by June 30, it will take months before weapons inspectors arrive, assess and report on whether Iran is compliant with the accord. Consequently, it is very likely that this could delay the unleashing of Iranian oil into the global market for anywhere from six months to a year or more.
original (2)
Israeli reactions
Israel opposes the terms of the framework agreement, because it allows Iran to retain some infrastructure that could be used for producing nuclear arms if Iran chooses to violate the framework's terms. In recent months, this issue has clouded U.S.-Israel relations. Israel will not accept an agreement that allows Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and it demands Iran recognize Israel's right to exist, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period," Netanyahu said in what could be interpreted as a threat to act against Iran. (Source: VirtualJerusalem )
In Israel there is also other opinions about the Iran nuke deal. Ron Ben-Yishai, the senior military analyst for Israel’s most mainstream newspaper, Yedioth Aharonot, penned a column early Friday morning in which he said the deal was better than expected. Urging caution going forward, Ben-Yishai said that if the current framework reflects the final agreement, “even Israel could learn to live with it.” “We could not have achieved a better outcome even if Israel, the United States, and other countries had carried out military strikes on the nuclear sites in Iran,” Ben-Yishai.
Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid wrote that Israel will have a hard time fighting the agreement, the comprehensiveness of which caught many in Jerusalem by surprise. “In contrast to the messages conveyed in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Congress, the Israeli government’s public position over the last two years and the Pavlovian response that came out of Jerusalem on Thursday night, the framework agreement is not a bad deal at all,” Ravid wrote.
 
There is Jews in Iran too
"We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless, bloodsucking Zionists." (Ayatollah Khomeini )
The beginnings of Jewish history in Iran date back to late biblical times. Persian Jews have lived in the territories of today's Iran for over 2,700 years, since the first Jewish diaspora when the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V conquered the (Northern) Kingdom of Israel (722 BC) and sent the Israelites (the Ten Lost Tribes) into captivity at Khorasan. In 586 BC, the Babylonians expelled large populations of Jews from Judea to the Babylonian captivity. Jews who migrated to ancient Persia mostly lived in their own communities. The Persian Jewish communities include the ancient (and until the mid-20th century still-extant) communities of Iran.
Yusef Abad synagogue Tehran
Yusef Abad synagogue Tehran
At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there were approximately 140,000–150,000 Jews living in Iran, the historical center of Persian Jewry. About 95% have since migrated, with the immigration accelerating after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when the population dropped from 100,000 to about 40,000. Today the figure is some 8.000-25.000. There might be discrimination of Jews in Iran but on the other hand Jews in Iran are formally to be treated equally and free to practice their religion.
Iran's Jewish community is officially recognized as a religious minority group by the government, and there is even a seat in the Iranian parliament reserved for the representative of the Iranian Jews. Maurice Motamed, a former Jewish Iranian parliamentarian states that in recent years, the Iranian government has allowed Jewish Iranians to visit their family members in Israel and that the government has also allowed those Iranians living in Israel to return to Iran for a visit. Today Tehran has 11 functioning synagogues, many of them with Hebrew schools; it has two kosher restaurants, an old-age home and a cemetery (Source and more e.g. Wiki )
 
My view
If the latest Iran nuke deal will realize and even implemented I think it will be a win-win solution for most of stakeholders with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia. This said especially when asked what is the alternative? From my perspective all alternatives – war, air-strike to facilities or more sanctions - are worse. Iran has spread its nuclear facilities across the country and underground so airstrikes probably don’t delay Iran’s nuclear programme more than planned deal. To Iran agreement lets continue its research and gives it the benefits of nuclear energy as well the benefits of nuclear medical research and gives good change to develop Iran’s economy with wider international cooperation.
 How-Israel-can-strike-Iran-
My earlier articles about Iran nuke:
Iran Nuke Deal Enables The D├ętente
End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran
Iran’s nuclear program at the crossroads
Read also:
Iranians And Israeli Instead Of Israel Vs. Iran
 
 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Knesset 2015. Post-Election Remarks

1425070416233Israeli voters gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a resounding victory in Tuesday's [17th Mar. 2015] election, despite pre-election polls showing him trailing the Zionist Union. The Zionist Union won close to the total it had been predicted by pollsters, and its 24 seats is more that Labour and Livni’s Hatnua won separately in 2013 (21). However PM Netanyahu’s Likud secured a decisive victory with 30 Knesset seats. Polls before election as well even exit polls differed vastly from the final figures. Sure the Israeli left did better than it has done in almost a generation but it was not enough. One part of leftist campaign was sc V15 – Victory in 2015 - project of the One Voice group. The project was accused of being operated and funded by anti-right groups abroad, which gave the group money to set up an organization that would cause Netanyahu to lose. The group denied that it was representing foreign agents, and the Likud sought to have the group shut down, unsuccessfully.

Netanyahu picked a fight with a sitting U.S. president and declared there will never be a Palestinian State. The Prime Minister’s renunciation of the two-state solution and his boast that he will continue building in east Jerusalem were signs of his new hard-line approach. Netanyahu was able to surge in the last few days, following even a racist campaign that warned right-wing voters of a “left-wing government backed by the Arabs.” The warnings worked and moved 150,000 votes from other right-wing parties into the Likud column in the campaign’s final days which pushed him from 19 percent in the polls before the election to 23 percent on election night and cemented his position as the leader of Israel's right wing. Other right-wing parties were losers – Bennett and the settlers dropped to eight seats in the exit polls from 12, Liberman dropped five, and the far-right Yahad party didn’t even make it in.

As result Israel’s Prime Minister should be able to put together a ruling coalition of center-right parties that is more manageable than his last majority. PM Netanyahu’s nasty campaign alienated major parts of the public in Israel and abroad he put himself in a diplomatic corner e.g with U.S. and EU. The fact that Netanyahu openly campaigned on his opposition to Palestinian statehood means that now he is backed by a majority of Jewish/Israeli voters. Related to U.S PM Netanyahu will need to decide what to do if and when a deal about Iran does go through.
Results

Party
Votes
%
Seats
+/–
984,966
23.40
30
+12
786,075
18.67
24
+3
443,837
10.54
13
+2
370,850
8.81
11
–8
315,202
7.49
10
New
283,559
6.74
8
–4
241,200
5.73
7
–4
215,083
5.11
6
–7
211,826
5.03
6
–1
165,292
3.93
5
–1
125,106
2.97
0
New
47,156
1.12
0
0
Arab List
4,537
0.11
0
New
3,429
0.08
0
0
We are all friends Na Nach
2,502
0.06
0
0
1,977
0.05
0
New
Hope for Change
1,519
0.04
0
0
Economy Party
1,050
0.02
0
0
Flower Party
943
0.02
0
New
941
0.02
0
0
886
0.02
0
0
Living with Dignity
562
0.01
0
0
503
0.01
0
0
Democratura
243
0.01
0
New
223
0.01
0
0
Invalid/blank votes
43,869
1.04
Total
4,253,336
100
120
Registered voters/turnout
5,881,696
72.36
Source: CEC

                                          According to Israel's Central Election Committee, out of a total of 5,878,362 eligible voters 4,253,336 participated in Tuesday's election or 72.3 percent of the electorate. The final election turnout was 4.6% higher than in the previous election and the highest since the 1999 elections, which saw a 78.7% turnout. Furthermore, the electoral threshold for any party to participate in the next Knesset was 136,808 votes with 33,482 votes to equal one mandate. The election resulted in a record number of women (28) being elected to the Knesset.

The new government

President Reuven Rivlin tried before elections to facilitate a Likud/Zionist Union coalition government, however both parties have ruled this option out. There is in theory also a possibility to centre-left government with ZU, Arab list, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Moshe Kahlon’s centrist party. The winner isn’t the party with the most votes, but the one that can unite several smaller parties together into a governing coalition. In 2009, Netanyahu became prime minister even though the Likud came in second on Election Day. However I think that now these alternatives are unrealistic.

President Rivlin intends to begin meeting the heads of elected Knesset parties on Sunday [22nd Mar. 2015], to receive their recommendations over who should form the next government. This is the first stage in the coalition building process and will almost certainly result in Rivlin inviting Netanyahu to build a coalition. Netanyahu will then have an initial four-week period to complete the process. Netanyahu has already contacted Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni and Ya’akov Litzman, plus Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon. A coalition including all of these parties would guarantee a 67 seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. Widespread media speculation suggests that Kahlon will become Finance Minister and incumbent Moshe Ya’alon will remain Defence Minister. Naftali Bennett will be appointed either Foreign Minister or Justice Minister. Avigdor Lieberman wants a senior role, but his negotiation position is weak with his Yisrael Beitenu party having secured just 5 seats. Senior Likud MKs including Gilad Erdan and Yuval Steinitz will also expect to be rewarded with prestigious ministerial positions. Meanwhile, Shas leader Aryeh Deri looks likely to become Interior Minister, a job he has previously held, while United Torah Judaism may be rewarded with the health portfolio. Israel-Poll_wednesday

Peace process?

Without any commitment to a two-state solution and Netanyahu’s boast that he will continue building in occupied east Jerusalem may increase pressure – not least from Europe – for moves towards sanctions against Israel. However in his first post-election interview (with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News), Prime Minister Netanyahu backed off his opposition to a Palestinian state. Binyamin Netanyahu has retracted his pre-election statements, according to which he would not allow a Palestinian state to be established. "I don't want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution," Netanyahu said Thursday [19th Mar.2015, AR] in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "I haven't changed my policy." Netanyahu said his earlier comments were a reflection of changing conditions on the Palestinian side, pointing to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's pact to form a unity government with Hamas, which Israel, the U.S. and most European countries consider a terrorist organization. "I'm talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable," Netanyahu said Thursday, insisting that he would support a demilitarized Palestinian state under a plan that would ensure Israel's security. (Source: Virtual Jerusalem )

After earlier reports said that the Palestinian Authority was considering suspending all security cooperation with Israel in the wake of Binyamin Netanyahu's reelection, the PA officially announced Wednesday night that it was hoping to renew talks with Israel, regardless of who was Prime Minister. Nabil Abu-Rudeineh, the PA's official spokesperson, said that the PA has “no interest in the disposition of Israel's Prime Minister. The only thing we are interested in from any Israeli government is the recognition and acceptance of the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.” At a press conference in Ramallah, Abu-Rudeineh said that acceptance of the two state solution was the only basis of negotiation with Israel. (Source: Arutz Sheva ) images8OFOQO83In my opinion a two-state solution is possible. The final status agreement has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings/agreement/plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed. The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try. (both plans can be found from my document library )

My conclusions
My forecast is that if centre-right wing government continues after elections so nothing will change in peace process, the same is if there will be Likud/Zionist Union coalition government. If centre-left government will be established there might be a slight chance to go forward. In this case there is no need to start everything from the beginning as Mrs. Livni was participating to long negotiations during Olmert's time. If peace negotiations don't start or they fail again so there always is another option : unilateral actions; e.g. Israel could annex main settlements from West-bank inside the security fence and return to negotiations about other than so solved border issue when both parties feel need to make a long term deal. Not so bad option anyway from my perspective.

One key aspect with peace process is that historically Likud remains the only party to have withdrawn from Israeli territories – first from Sinai in 1982 under then-prime minister Menachem Begin as part of the peace agreement with Egypt and in 2005, under then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, it unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

The optimist side of me would like to compare situation now with situation ten years ago. Ariel Sharon was war hero know about his hawkish attitude and his position was strong. After this election PM Netanyahu has now a strong mandate and he could make similar brave decisions and broke deal with Palestinian Authority based two-state solution and -67 armistice line – with land swaps to annex main settlements behind security fence to Israel. Remains to be seen if this optimism will be Utopian – I hope not. 9f57f-images

Monday, March 16, 2015

Knesset 2015: Forecast

1425070416233On 17th March will Israel have voting for new Knesset and it seems to be creating very interesting scenarios for future.  Last polls show that now there is a real possibility to replace PM Netanyahu with centre-left option.  Centre-right Likud is losing elections to Zionist Union which is a new combination of Isaac Herzog's Labor party and Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah.  When PM Netanyahu made decision about early elections he or most analysts hardly were supposing so big change.  It remains to see if possible win of Zionist Union is enough for centre-left led government which could boost Israeli-Palestinian peace process to new track. 
20150314_fbc471
According to the last polls Zionist Union is getting 24-26 Member of Knesset while the ruling Likud only 21 or less and its right-wing ally Habayit Hayehud 11-12 MKs. A new center-right party - Kulany - with its popular leader, ex-Likud minister Moshe Kahlon might get nine MKs and the secular populist party Yesh Atid 12-13 seats..   
Yisrael Beiteinu is now in the danger zone as FM Avigdor Lieberman’s party barely crosses the electoral threshold and will get only four-five seats if any.  By contrast, both Meretz and Yahad have improved their positions, exceeding the electoral threshold and getting five-six seats.   The religious parties tend to be keeping their positions.  Following the raising of the electoral threshold the main Arab parties - Balad, Hadash, the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, Ta'al and the United Arab List - agreed to run on the same list in the election, this Joint List, could increase turnout amongst Arab voters to 56%, 10% higher than in the 2013 elections. However, the more hardline northern branch of the Islamic Movement opted to boycott the elections, along the Abnaa el-Balad (Sons of the Village) movement. One interesting detail is that Kadima party is not running in this election at all.
 
2896217285
One should make note that the margin of error in Israeli polls is quite high - some four per cent up or down. However if the winner is ZU so there is a huge challenge to form new government - actually putting together a coalition will be very difficult. Herzog would have to persuade parties like Meretz and Yisrael Beiteinu to sit together, and convince one or more Haredi parties to cooperate with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid. Arab parties probably prefer centre-left government more than other alternatives. 
As sources I have used e.g following election pages:  JStreet, Haaretz,  Bicom.
Peace process
Solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not on top of the agenda in this elections .  However the new government will have its impact to peace process to one way or other.  In infograph below there is positions of parties related to main issues of Israeli-Palestianian conflict.  Credits for the figure belong to  MEMO –Middle East Monitorille.
 

My forecast is that if Zionist Union can form the new government there will be improvement with Israeli-Palestinian peace process based on two-state solution.  If Herzog and Netanyahu create unlikely joint government so probably nothing new with this issue will be invented.  If the new government is right-wing dominated so then there is possibility that Israel will carry out some unilateral actions such as officially annex main settlements to Israel.
israel-flag-bandeira
 

Monday, March 9, 2015

From History: "Beilin - Abu Mazen Plan"



Image result for beilin abu mazen documentIn 1993,  under the direction of Yasser Arafat's deputy, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) held secret negotiations with Israel's then–Deputy Foreign Minister, Yossi Beilin.  The negotiations gave birth to the "Beilin–Abu Mazen Understandings," (or Beilin-Abu Mazen plan or Beilin-Abu Mazen document) the first-ever draft of a final status agreement.
Beilin had worked as a journalist and as a lecturer in political science before going into politics in the mid-80's. He quickly established himself in the Labor Party's Young Guard as a militant moderate and as an advocate of equal rights for Israel's Arab minority and reconciliation with the Palestinians.Right at the beginning, Beilin went straight to Arafat (while he was still in Tunisia) to ask him to join in an effort to work out principles for a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Arafat agreed and delegated the job to his closest advisor, Mahmoud Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen.
From the democratic point of view Yossi Beilin's action was questinable.  Behind the backs of an elected prime minister (Yitzhak Rabin) and foreign minister (Shimon Peres), a deputy cabinet minister over a period of two years held fateful talks with the national enemy. The agreement was negotiated in secret in Oslo and Stockholm by a team of Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, under the supervision of Beilin for Israel, and of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) for the Palestinian side and was finalized in October 1995. 
Yossi Beilin returned to get the approval of Prime Minister Rabin.    However, by the time Beilin had returned to Israel, Yitshak Rabin had been assassinated by Yigal Amir. Shimon Peres was unwilling to go forward with the agreement, and likewise, apparently, Abu-Mazen was not able to find support for it on the Palestinian side. However, many of the ideas contained in this agreement were carried forward to other negotiations, and are reflected in draft agreements regarding refugee status and Jerusalem, as well as status of the settlements and the principle of territorial exchange.
But when the document was leaked to the press, Abbas tried to distance himself from it and to minimize its importance. The document was never formally published and never adopted by the Israelis or the Palestinians. PLO officials disavowed its existence, but the proposal found its way into circulation. Although the proposal was never completely accepted, some of the ideas presented in it were thought to be good compromises in resolving certain issues in final status negotiations later on.
  • Borders: Israel will withdraw to the 1967 armistige line/borders, except for certain territorial exchanges (land swaps).  Israel would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • Settlements: Israelis remaining within the borders of the Palestinian State would be subject to Palestinian sovereignty and Palestinian rule of law. They would be offered Palestinian citizenship or could choose to remain as alien residents
  • Jerusalem: Related to Jerusalem one Municipality would be maintained in the form of a Joint Higher Municipal Council, with two (Israeli and Palestinian) sub-municipalities. The Palestinian boroughs would be under Palestinian sovereignty; the Israeli boroughs under Israeli sovereignty.  The Western part of the city, would be the capital of Israel, called "Yerushalayim"; the Arab Eastern part would be the capital of Palestine, called "al-Quds".
  • Refugees: Whereas the Israeli side acknowledges the moral and material suffering caused to the Palestinian people as a result of the war of 1947-1949. It further acknowledges the Palestinian refugees' right of return to the Palestinian state and their right to compensation and rehabilitation for moral and material losses. In turn, the Palestinians would give up their right of return to Israel proper and instead encourage Palestinian refugees to settle in the new Palestinian state.
 
Follow-up
In January 1997, Beilin and Michael Eitan, a Likud Member of Knesset, announced that they had arrived at a set of guiding principles for Israel's negotiating position in the final status talks, quite similar to the reported details of the Beilin-Abu Mazen Plan. The Beilin-Eitan Agreement was released as the Likud-Labor consensus on a permanent agreement with the Palestinians. Neither the Likud nor Labor leadership has endorsed the Beilin-Eitan plan.
At Camp David in 2000  Israel practically proposed the Beilin-Abu Mazen formula to the Palestinians. It was a little less on the settlements, a little more on Jerusalem. Afterward, in the months following Camp David, Israel went much further and proposed n enhanced version of the Beilin-Abu Mazen formula to the Palestinians.
At Taba, Israel offered the Palestinians a super-enhanced version of Beilin-Abu Mazen, but even the super-enhanced version could not bring home the Palestinians.
 
Conclusion
Beilin and Abu Mazen managed to produce what seemed to be the first solid evidence that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is soluble. They  had drawn up Documents solemnly declaring that no serious problem stood in the way of a peace treaty with the Palestinians - not Jerusalem, nor Jewish settlements in the territories, nor the Palestinian demand for a right of return for their refugees. The document shows what the real back channel work can achieve.
The text below - as well in my document library - is unofficial, but is believed to be substantially correct. It is believed that in addition, there may have been informal letters exchanged concerning the status of Jerusalem and other matters that were not made public.