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September 11, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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September 11, 2009
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA-JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 11, 2009 PAGE 17A Q By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Timing, if not intent, inevitably is weaving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process into the efforts to end Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. The major powers met last week in Germany to coordinate Iran policy ahead of the U.N. General Assembly later this month. At the same time, Israeli of- finials were in Washington planning a joint summit of the Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders during the General Assembly. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have steadfastly denied linkage between the two issues. Obama says he is det~r- mined to contain Iran whether or not Israel plays ball on the Palestinian is- sue, and Netanyahu insists he is doing all he can to advance the peace process however Iran sanctions play out. Nonetheless, recent events have driven both processes into a synchron- icity, including meetings Netanyahu held with Euro- pean leaders two weeks ago that focused both on Iran and international calls for a Jewish settlement freeze in the West Bank. When the International Atomic Energy Agency is- sued an unusually blunt re- port on Aug. 28 saying that Iran still was not cooperat- ing with efforts to assess whether it is militarizing its civilian nuclear pro- gram, it provided support to the tough line European leaders have been taking recently against Iran. "We already have sanc- tions in place, but we can go further on sanctions, and we're ready to do that," German Chancellor Angela ~erkel said in a joint news conference with Netan- yahu on Aug. 27 during the Israeli prime minister's visit to Germany. Merkel stressed that to be effective, sanctions must include Russia and China, two major trading partners with the Islamic Republic that until now have been reluct~ant to expand sanctions. "We will not be able to allow for a situation where a few countries of the Eu- ropean Union and America are in on'his but we leave "China, for example, Rus- sia and other countries outside of this," she said. There are parallel efforts in the U.S. Congress to pass a unilateral sanctions package targeting Iran's energy sectorand banking system It seemed clear that Germany, France, Britain and the United States were prepared to make the strong sanctions case pos- sible this week when their representatives meet in Germany with representa- tives of Russia and China at a pre-General Assembly gathering of the "P5 plus 1"--the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week that Iran's discredited election in June robbed the nation of credibility. "It is the same leaders in Iran who say that the nuclear program is peace- ful and that the elections were honest," Sarkozy was reported by Reuters as say- ing in his annual address Aug. 26 to French ambas- sadors. "Who can believe them?" The same day, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also expressed skep- ticism of Iran's denials that its civilian nuclear program did not have a military end. "The region and world have nothing to fear from a civilian nuclear program in Iran," Brown said, "but Iran's actions do not make their arguments convinc- ing." On Sept. 1, Iranian me- dia reported that Tehran was prepared to offer a new nuclear package to the international com- munity. Details were not forthcoming. The prospect of interna- tional unanimity on isolat- ing Iran may help pave the way for Netanyahu to freeze settlement building in the West Bank and Jerusalem, a component the Obama administration considers critical to advancing the peace process. Israeli media'reports suggest that the Americans and Israelis have arrived at a formula that would end their recent war of words over settlements: Netan- yahu effectively would end settlement expansion, including construction in eastern Jerusalem, and the United States would back away from unequivocal demands for a stop to such building. U.S. officials in recent days seemed to be tamping down their anti-settlement rhetoric. "We want to keep these negotiations in a confi- dential, diplomatic track," State Department spokes- man Ian Kelly said Aug. 26 when he was pressed on tl)e settlement matter. "We are in a sensitive time." Netanyahu met in Lon- don last week with George Mitchell, Obama's top Middle East envoy, who is- sued a statement afterward describing "good progress" toward resuming talks with the Palestinians. Mitchell held meetings last week with Mike Her- zog, the chief of staff for Israel's Defense Ministry, and Yitzhak Molcho, Ne- tanyahu's top diplomatic adviser. On the peace process, European leaders have praised Netanyahu's mea- sures to ease daily life for West Bank Palestinians. "I strongly welcome his recent moves to remove checkpoints on the West Bank," Brown said two weeks ago at his joint news conference with Netan- yahu. "An economic road map should underpin and sustain political, dialogue, and I know that the prime minister is committed to exactly that." Last week, Israeli Presi~- Call Jeff at 8787 dent Shimon Peres told reporters that the next step was a summit dur- ing the General Assembly bringing together Obama, Netanyahu and Palestin- ian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama, according to Ha'aretz, will outlirie a two-year timetable to- ward arriving at a final- status deal. That would correspond with the plan announced last week by Salam Fayyad, the P.A. prime minister, to estab- lish a de facto P alestinian state within two years. Abbas and Fayyad are eager to undercut both Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip, and their own Fatah Party's young guard, who chal- lenged the establishment leadership during the recent party congress. A plan for statehood could underscore the leader- ship's seriousness against a recent history that instead has suggested impotence against Israel and Hamas. U.S. officials have wel- comed the plan, insofar as it calls for the estab- lishment of critical in- frastructure. But Israel's Foreign Ministry rejected Fayyad's unilateralism, albeit in tepid terms sug- gesting that Israel might endorse a plan that was less unequivocal about a deadline for statehood. Amgs Ben Gershom/GPO/FLASH90/JTA At the start of a trip to Europe on Aug. 25, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London. "The Palestinians' uni- lateral initiatives do not contribute to a positive dia- logue between the parties, and if the unilateral initia- tive presented by Salam Fayyad is promoted, Israel will respond," Foreign Min- ister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement Aug. 31. "A positive dynamic must be created between both sides without committing to target dates for an over- all arrangement, which in the past gave rise to disap- pointment and frustration, which led to the outbreak of conflict between the two sides." i!