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 Friday, December 08, 2006

Israel REJECTS Recommendations of Iraq Study Group

  Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday rejected conclusions by the Iraq Study Group that achieving American goals in Iraq was linked to a sustained U.S. effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, asserting that the two issues should not be connected. Olmert also dismissed the group's recommendation that Israel open talks with Syria, saying conditions were not ripe for such negotiations.

The remarks reflected a longstanding Israeli resistance to linkage of the conflict with the Palestinians to other Middle East disputes and a concern here that Israel might be pressed into concessions in an effort to defuse other regional crises. Read here for more

  • Israel is Worried Iraq Study Group Mentions of Palestinian "Right of Return"
    The Report's reference to Palestinians' "right of return" sparked immediate concern in Israel . The reference was buried deep inside a 160-page report that urged US President George W. Bush to renew efforts to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks as part of a region-wide bid to end the chaos in Iraq.

    "This report is worrisome for Israel particularly because, for the first time, it mentions the question of the 'right of return' for the Palestinian refugees of 1948," said a senior Israeli official, who was reacting to the US policy report on condition he not be identified.

    A Middle East analyst who was involved in the Iraq Study Group discussions but did not participate in drafting the report expressed surprise when the reference was pointed out to him by a reporter.

    "It's hard to know whether that language got in there because of carelessness -- I know there were many revisions up to the very last minute -- or whether it was a deliberate attempt to fuse something to the Bush rhetoric which wasn't there before," the analyst said.

    The 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians calls for a resolution of the issue of Israeli and Palestinian "refugees" as part of a final status agreement that would include the creation of a Palestinian state. But they do not use the term "right of return", which is a long-standing Palestinian demand -- rejected by Israel -- that Palestinians who fled or were driven out of what was to become the Jewish state in 1948, as well as their descendants, be allowed to return home.

    Bush, in a 2002 speech in the White House Rose Garden, became the first US president to formally back the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, but he also did not mention a right of Palestinian 'return'.
  • Editorial: Iran seems ready to help America in Iraq - but Israel clearly does not
  • International reactions to the release of the Iraq Study Group's report to US President George W. Bush have been many and varied, but none are more instructive than those voiced by Israel and Iran.

    The respective views of the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic speak volumes about how and why the United States has come to be so deeply - and so calamitously - involved in the Middle East. How Washington deals with these opposite positions and the contrasts between them will largely determine the fate of US efforts to recover the terrible tragedy unfolding in Iraq.

    The bipartisan US panel rightly determined that many of Washington's challenges in Iraq stem from the fact that so few Arabs and Muslims trust America. It also acknowledged that this state of affairs is but a symptom of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a festering wound that has been infecting the rest of the region for decades.

    It has led, for instance, to problems like Israel's continuing occupation of the Golan Heights - another issue that the report recommended addressing. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose country benefits in myriad ways from all forms of American largesse, summarily dismissed this line of reasoning, rejecting any "linkage" between Bush's mess in Iraq and his own in the Occupied Territories.

    The Iraq Study Group's recommendations also included the holding of direct talks with Iran on how that country can used its influence to help stabilize the situation in Iraq.

    It is far more difficult to explain Olmert's response in conventional politico-diplomatic terms. The notion that the region has not been adversely affected by Israel's wholesale dispossession of the Palestinian people is nothing short of preposterous on any kind of empirical grounds.

    Looked at from a different angle, however, Olmert's warped worldview is consistent with a phenomenon that has impaired the judgment of his country's leaders (and many of its people) since its inception: a moral blind spot that precludes recognition of Palestinian suffering.

    Olmert defended his position by asserting that "throughout the recent years" Bush has held the same one. The Israeli premier was exactly right, of course, which is a big part of why the Iraq Study Group had to be created in the first place.

    If and when the American president mends his ways, therefore, he will need also to open a few eyes in Israel.Read here for more

  • US Should Push for Israel-Arab Peace

  • President George W. Bush must push for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace as part of a U.S. effort to defuse broader regional tensions, an elite panel on the Iraq war urged on Wednesday.

    Bush has mostly avoided a hands-on role in Middle East diplomacy. The Iraq Study Group called for a "renewed and sustained commitment" to solving the festering Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Washington and its ally Israel have long rejected even a tenuous linkage between that dispute and the Iraq war.

    Arab leaders insist the issues are intertwined and that Israeli-Palestinian fighting has been a key source of regional instability.

    "The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability," the bipartisan commission said in its much-anticipated report to Bush.

    Its key recommendations included a call for direct talks as soon as possible involving Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians.

    In the Arab world, commentators held out little hope Bush would reactivate peace efforts. Arab leaders voice frustration over what they see as Washington's bias in favor of Israel.

    But the Baker group said in its report: "The United States does its ally Israel no favors in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict."

    On the Palestinian front, the commission reasserted the principle of "land for peace" as the basis for a two-state solution and urged support for moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas taking the lead in preparing talks with Israel.Read here for more

  • Bush-Blair split over report's key proposals
    George Bush yesterday rejected key recommendations made by the Iraq Study Group, revealing important differences with Tony Blair, who embraced the proposals put forward by the US bipartisan commission.Those differences became clear after the two leaders met at the White House.

    President Bush flatly contradicted the ISG's proposal that Iran and Syria be included in regional talks aimed at ending Iraq's worsening civil war.Mr Blair, by contrast, welcomed the regional peace initiative put forward by the ISG, saying only that the basis for those discussions should be acceptance of UN resolutions on Iraq

    Mr Blair enthusiastically embraced the ISG's regional approach and the link it made between resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bringing peace to Iraq. Read here for more

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