A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending May 26, 2011
May 20, 2011 Briefs
• The Netanyahu-Obama talked for nearly 2 hours at White House Friday without bridging sharp differences over 1967 lines. At their joint appearance, they affirmed strong US-Israel friendship and agreed to pursue shared peace goal together.
• But Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel would not go back to the indefensible pre-1967 lines. Neither would its troops leave the Jordan River frontier. "We have no margin of error" on security in the peace process, he said.
• Israel would not negotiate with a government in which Hamas was a member, Netanyahu said. He emphasized the Palestinian refugee problem cannot be solved within Israel's borders. He also noted that 1948 war produced a second refugee problem, the expulsion of an equal number of Jews from Arab lands.
Netanyahu is one of the 12 Mid East leaders saying no to Obama
21 May. If the Israeli Prime Minister stands by this refusal to accept Obama's parameters, he leaves the vast region stretching across the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and North Africa without a single surviving political, military or royal ruler willing to accept Obama's new policy principles. The only possible exception may be Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan.
Barack Obama's presentation of his Middle East vision Thursday, May 19 had three immediate results:
1. Every surviving regional leader was confirmed in his determination to keep his distance from US administration policies;
2. Another nail was driven in the coffin of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process;
3. The fuel that was poured on regional tensions increased the prospects of an Israel-Palestinian or an Israeli-Arab war this year.
No Israeli politician can afford to back away from the rejection of the 1967 lines and the demand that Israel retain a security presence and defensible borders, especially along its eastern boundary and, even more so, on the West Bank in any future peace accord. This fundamental principle was not denied by opposition leaders Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz.
At the same time, no Palestinian negotiator will think of seeking fewer concessions from Israel than the ones laid down by the US president. He will simply use the speech as a starting-point for the biggest squeeze Israel has ever faced.
May 21, 2011 Briefs
• Syrian troops open fire on funeral for protesters killed in outbreaks Friday. At least 11 killed.
• Saudi Arabia pledges $4 bn in aid to Egypt.
• Iran says it has dismantled a US espionage and sabotage network and arrested 30 alleged CIA spies.
• Ahmadinejad accuses West of causing drought in Iran by stealing rain clouds.
May 22, 2011 Briefs
• More than a dozen bomb attacks in and around Baghdad Sunday leave 19 dead, 80 wounded.
• At AIPAC conference, Obama pledged to preserve Israel's military qualitative edge. Also prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. He warned Israel the status quo is unsustainable and faced a new, impatient Arab generation.
Obama: Israel's final borders will differ from 1967 lines
22 May. US President Barack Obama corrected the harsh impression Israel gained from his May 19 Middle East speech by an exceptionally friendly address to the 11,000 delegates at the AIPAC conference Sunday, May 22. He explained that the final Israeli-Palestinian borders would differ from the 1967 lines because of the "mutually agreed swaps" which he also advocated.
The US president thus addressed the cardinal objection raised insistently by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu against a return to the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotitions.
Obama repeated the guarantee President Bush gave Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 against a return to the indefensible 1967 boundaries, adding that demographic changes on the ground and the interests of both sides made it unrealistic and were bound to be changed in negotiations.
In a speech to the solidly pro-Israeli audience, Obama offered another key concession by clarifying his early comment: Last Thursday, he said the future Palestinian state would share borders with Jordan, Egypt and Israel, but did not refer to the security provisions demanded by Israel, such as a military presence on the Jordan River border. Sunday, the US President explained that the IDF withdrawal from the territory that would be assigned to the Palestinian state in peace negotiations would be graded to match the guaranteed ability of the new state and its security forces to prevent terror, arms smuggling and infiltration. Otherwise, Israel would stay on the West Bank.
May 23, 2011 Briefs
• The EU follows the US in slapping assets freeze and travel sanctions on Syrian President Assad over his repression of protesters.
• Syrian FM Moalem: It's Israel's fault, we'll make Israel pay.
• Netanyahu to meet VP Biden Monday, addresses AIPAC conference.
• Obama starts six-day European tour in Ireland.
• Yemeni ruler balks at signing pact for quitting within 30 days.
Al Qaeda's Saif al-Adal masterminded Pakistani base assault
23 May. The fingerprints of Al Qaeda's interim operations commander Saif al Adal were all over the assault on the important Pakistani Mehran naval air base in Karachi, which began Sunday night, May 22 and ended only after 17 hours of fierce combat, debkafile's counter-terror sources report. It destroyed US surveillance aircraft and hit a shared strategic Palestinian-US-Chinese installation. It also impaired Pakistani reconnaissance capabilities over al Qaeda's North Waziristan strongholds and the Arabian Sea dividing Pakistan from India.
No indigenous Pakistani element, including Taliban, would have wanted to harm Pakistani's intelligence capacity against India, whereas al Qaeda has for years sought to stir up trouble between them by launching Pakistan-based attacks on India.
Jordan's king boycotts Abbas. Moscow: Hamas must recognize Israel
23 May. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has run into major hurdles in his ploy for using a unity pact between his Fatah and the extremist Hamas as the fulcrum for a diplomatic offensive against Israel to climax in UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September. The US and Russia have nixed Abbas' international moves until his unity partner Hamas recognizes Israel and abides by Quartet conditions. Jordan's Abdullah accuses him of two-timing him with that same new partner.
Abdullah's boycott of the Palestinian leader covers the cutoff of Jordanian intelligence ties with Palestinian counterparts. The rift between the Jordanian monarch and Abbas also blocks Palestinian channels to the Saudi royal house.
May 24, 2011 Briefs
• Palestinian spokesmen say Netanyahu's parameters for a peace deal are a declaration of war.
• Israel's Ofer Brothers Group is one of 7 international firms sanctioned by US for role in selling a tanker to Iran's Shipping Lines. The group is barred from securing financing from the US Export-Import Bank, obtaining loans over $10m from US financial institutions or export licenses. It is not clear which of the Brothers' extensive financial interests will be affected. An Ofer Brothers spokesman denied the charge.
• Egyptian prosecutor files indictments against Hosni Mubarak and sons Gemal and Alaa on charges of killing protesters and corruption.
• NATO drops 18 bombs, its heaviest raid yet, on Tripoli military vehicle depot. Libyan government reports 3 dead, more than 100 injured in attack on "empty barracks".
• Israel's top soldier Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz hears reservists complain of equipment shortages and extensive service-dodging. He said the lack of equipment will be rectified, the reserve pool expanded.
Netanyahu before US Congress hints at Israel action against Iran, voices willingness to leave some settlements outside borders
24 May. In his address to the US Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu indicated Israel may act against a nuclear-armed Iran, ruled out return to the 1967 borders, stressed Israeli troops would stay on the Jordan River and agreed to negotiate the status of Jewish settlements. US senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle rose thirty times to give him cheering ovations on these and other assertions in Round Four of his speech contest with President Obama.
He was applauded when he said: In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. This is the land of our forefathers." Nonetheless, he said, "we accept that we will have to make painful compromises and give up parts of ancestral Jewish homeland for a genuine peace."
debkafile adds: In private conversations, Netanyahu has listed West Bank settlements with a total of more than 100,000 inhabitants for potential exclusion outside Israel's final boundaries.
Turkey ditches Assad, backs off participation in Gaza flotilla
25 May. Syrian President Bashar Assad's Arab and Muslim support is melting. debkafile's intelligence sources report that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has secretly ordered his government officials to dump Ankara's ties with Damascus and allowed Syrian opposition leaders to meet in Anatolia on May 31-June 2 on ways to topple Bashar Assad. He has also cancelled Turkish participation in the June flotilla for breaking the Gaza blockade for fear Assad might seize on a clash at sea as pretext to attack Israel for an unwanted show of Syrian-Turkish solidarity.
The Syrian ruler was quietly advised not to try and travel to Turkey although as a non-European Union member, Ankara is not bound by EU sanctions.
May 26, 2011 Briefs
• Serbian President Boris Tadic confirms capture of wanted former head of the Bosnian-Serb army Ratko Mladic.
• G8 draft communiqué urges immediate Israel-Palestinian peace talks and Libya to end violence and seek political deal.
• At least 7 injured in bomb blast at a bus station near Istanbul shopping mall.
• US diplomats' families evacuated from Yemen where more than 40 killed in escalating civil war.
• Egypt to permanently open Gaza-Sinai border crossing at Rafah. debkafile: A new Egyptian security office will monitor individuals before authorizing passage.
• Dedication ceremony held for already populated E. Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood Maaleh Zeitim on Mount of Olives.
Qaddafi and rebel commanders agree on truce. NATO carries on war
26 May. Combat in Libya is winding down. debkafile reports that Muammar Qaddafi and the rebel commanders are close to a series of accords for ending the war after two weeks of secret talks. Fighting on the ground has receded to small pockets where a few rebel commanders are still holding out, while the primary battlefields of Misrata, Brega and Ajdabia have fallen silent.
NATO warplanes again pounded Tripoli Wednesday night, May 25 still hoping to eliminate Qaddafi and so win the war.
The talks led by Qaddafi's chief of intelligence Abdullah Sanousi made enough progress this week for both sides to agree to go public on a call for a ceasefire, prompting Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi's letter to world leaders proposing an immediate UN-monitored truce. He also offered an amnesty and the drafting of a new constitution, elements approved in the negotiations. No reference was made to Qaddafi's departure.