<![CDATA[Hedgehogs.net: '' related content (page 4)]]> http://www.hedgehogs.net/tag/israel?offset=30 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480485/netanyahu-offers-finance-ministry-to-rival-days-before-election Sun, 15 Mar 2015 10:27:21 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480485/netanyahu-offers-finance-ministry-to-rival-days-before-election <![CDATA[Netanyahu offers finance ministry to rival days before election]]>

http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480473/flagging-as-election-looms-netanyahu-ramps-up-rhetoric Sun, 15 Mar 2015 10:27:09 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480473/flagging-as-election-looms-netanyahu-ramps-up-rhetoric <![CDATA[Flagging as election looms, Netanyahu ramps up rhetoric]]>

http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480231/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-iran-nuclear-negotiations Sat, 14 Mar 2015 17:07:05 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480231/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-iran-nuclear-negotiations <![CDATA[What You Need To Know About The Iran Nuclear Negotiations]]> Every week, The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world. Today, we speak with Ali Vaez about the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

International negotiators in Geneva have just over two weeks left to bring years of talks between Iran and six world powers to fruition by reaching a framework for an agreement on Iran's nuclear program.

Representatives of Iran and the so-called P5+1 group -- the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany -- have set a March 31 deadline to reach a basic understanding for a nuclear deal. The parties then have until the end of June to hammer out the remaining details.

The talks stem from international powers' concern that Iran is using its nuclear enrichment program to build a nuclear weapon. Iran insists the program is only for peaceful purposes.

The WorldPost spoke with Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group's senior analyst on Iran, about the ongoing talks.

What do Iran and the world powers aim to accomplish with this agreement?

Iran's nuclear program has been under international scrutiny for the past twelve years and has resulted in an international standoff between Iran and the West. The primary goal from the Iranian side is to normalize the nuclear program. The second goal is to make sure the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran as a result of the nuclear program are lifted.

The P5+1 group wants to make sure that Iran’s nuclear activities are purely peaceful and that there is no nuclear material and activity in Iran that could be diverted towards nuclear proliferation and weaponization.

In November 2013, the two sides took a first step in a very long journey towards their ultimate goals. The first-phase agreement froze some of the most sensitive nuclear activities Iran was conducting at the time, in return for limited and reversible sanctions relief.

In the current negotiations, Iran wants a more permanent form of sanctions relief. In addition to suspending some of its nuclear activities, the P5+1 wants Iran to roll those activities back and also accept and implement monitoring mechanisms that would allow inspectors much better access to verify the peaceful nature of the nuclear program.

What is on the table today?

Since the talks are still ongoing, it's difficult to talk about the details of the agreement with a high degree of certainty. But the contours of a possible agreement are more or less clear. What we know is that Iran will roll back its enrichment activities -- the process that is used to enrich uranium to be used in nuclear power reactors or in a nuclear weapon. Iran will reduce the number of centrifuges that it currently has installed from about 20,000 to a number between 6,000 and 8,000, and it will also reduce its current stockpile of enriched uranium from about 8,000 kg to something below 1,000. Those moves will increase the time that Iran would need to produce the material needed for a nuclear weapon from about three months to 12 months.

In return, sanctions that have been imposed on Iran as a result of its nuclear program are going to be lifted in a phased and incremental manner. Most likely, Iran's actions are going to be pegged to sanctions relief, meaning that Iran would take some specific measures and in return some specific sanctions would be lifted. Iran will also accept the most rigorous monitoring mechanism that has ever been implemented on a nuclear program in the world.

Do you consider this a "good" deal?

Good means different things to different people, but we should realize that diplomacy by nature does not produce perfect outcomes because both sides have to compromise. We should compare the agreement to its alternatives, and the reality is that what is currently being negotiated will virtually block all of Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon. In that sense I think it is a good deal. It does not totally eliminate the risk, but it diminishes it really significantly.

We should compare it to the alternative: no deal at all. With a deal, Iran will roll back its enrichment capacity. Without a deal, the capacity will be jacked up and the time Iran needs to produce the material for a nuclear weapon will be reduced to maybe just a few weeks. The inspection mechanisms that are currently in place will be much less intrusive than in the case of a deal, and the stockpile of enriched material that Iran has access to will grow instead of being reduced.

Without a deal, Iran keeps its heavy water reactor that produces enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon per year, and there's a risk that it could use the plutonium parts for nuclear weapons. With a deal, that reactor is going to be converted and it will produce less than a kilogram of plutonium per year, which means it would take Iran eight years to accumulate enough material for a nuclear weapon.

From an Iranian perspective, with a deal, Iran will not only have sanctions relief but will be able to find its way back to the international market. Without a deal, Iran will be isolated, sanctions will probably increase and we will get into a spiral of escalation on both sides that could lead to military confrontation.

How are the negotiations perceived in Iran?

With 80 million people, Iran is a big country and it is very pluralistic. There’s a broad spectrum of reactions. Some are extremely critical of the approach that the current Iranian negotiating team has adopted. Others are very supportive.

There's a small but very vocal group of hard-liners that would like to see the talks derailed. But overall, there's a sense of fatigue within the Iranian population after years of economic hardship and isolation. As was demonstrated in the presidential elections of 2013 that brought President Hassan Rouhani to power, the majority of the Iranian people want this issue to be resolved. There's broad-based support within the population and within the media. The political elite is also quite supportive.

Did the letter sent by 47 Republican U.S. senators warning Tehran that the next president could revoke any agreement reached by the current White House affect Iranians' perception of the negotiations?

The letter was obviously designed to sabotage the talks by dissuading the Iranians from making any concessions. Monitoring the Iranian media and reactions from Iranian officials so far, it appears the letter has missed its target.

First of all, it doesn’t come as a surprise to the Iranians -- they already knew that Congress is not going to cooperate with the White House on this subject. This was also calculated into their negotiation strategy. Some of the measures that Iran is going to accept are bound to the U.S. government taking sanctions legislation to Congress. So if Congress fails to lift the sanctions, the Iranians will also renege on their end of the bargain.

The Iranians also insisted to focus on U.N. sanctions instead of unilateral U.S. sanctions, because the U.N. sanctions formed the basis of legitimacy of all the unilateral sanctions. Even if the next U.S. president revokes the deal, the U.S. would have a much harder time bringing international support for enforcing the sanctions without a U.N. mandate. The Iranians require the U.N. sanctions to be lifted in the early stages of the agreement.

The Republicans weren't the only one to criticize the negotiations this month. In a speech to Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his case for why he considers the agreement "a bad deal." Did Netanyahu's speech come as a surprise to Tehran?

I think this level of politicization of the issue was quite surprising to the Iranians. The circumstances surrounding the speech turned the Iranian nuclear program, for the first time, into a partisan issue. But at the end of the day, Tehran knew that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s problems with the Iran deal are not about Iran enriching uranium but about Iran being enriched by any deal.

The speech alienated a lot of Democrats, and that inadvertently backfired on Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Republican allies in Congress, because now it’s much harder for them to push for legislation to block the agreement -- they simply lack a veto-proof majority in the Senate. So even though the speech was very powerful, it made the Israeli prime minister and the Republicans be seen internationally as pursuing maximalist demands aimed at derailing the negotiations. The Democratic support that was there -- before the speech and before the letter -- to put more pressure on Iran evaporated.

Do you think the negotiators will be able to come to an agreement?

I'm cautiously optimistic. I think the chances have significantly improved over the past few weeks because the talks have made significant progress on the most intractable issue in these negotiations: the problem with enrichment capacity. Defining Iran’s future enrichment capacity has created a momentum that could help them basically overcome the remaining differences on other issues. We’ve never been closer.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

More from The WorldPost's Weekly Interview Series:

- What Palestinian Membership In The ICC Really Means
- Anguish In Argentina After Prosecutor's Mysterious Death
- Could The New Syriza Government Be Good For Greece's Economy?
- Naming The Dead: One Group's Struggle To Record Deaths From U.S. Drone Strikes In Pakistan

http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480227/israeli-election-turning-into-referendum-on-netanyahu Sat, 14 Mar 2015 17:06:52 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480227/israeli-election-turning-into-referendum-on-netanyahu <![CDATA[Israeli Election Turning Into Referendum On Netanyahu]]>
But with so many of them having despaired of peace talks with the Palestinians, the focus is mostly on Netanyahu's personality, his expense scandals and the soaring cost of living. And as no candidate is likely to win big in the wild jumble of Israel's political landscape, the outcome of the March 17 election could well be a joint government between Netanyahu and his moderate challenger Isaac Herzog. It's an irony, because the animosities are overwhelming.

Much has changed in the world since Netanyahu first became prime minister in 1996, but Israel remains stuck with the question of what to do with the highly strategic, biblically resonant, Palestinian-populated lands it captured almost a half-century ago.

Israelis know it is their existential issue, but it seems almost too complex for a democracy. After decades of failed peace talks under every sort of government, the whole festering thing has become such a vexation that politicians seem to fear it, and voters look away.

When he called the early election in November, Netanyahu seemed a shoo-in, but somewhere things went wrong. Notorious around the world for American-accented eloquence in the service of a tough stance, he is extraordinarily divisive at home, where he has been prime minister for the past six years, and for nine in total.

His speech last week before the U.S. Congress, urging a tighter deal than he believes is brewing on Iran's nuclear program, was typical: He impressed some Israelis, while infuriating others who sensed a political ploy.

Polls show his nationalist Likud Party running slightly behind Herzog's Labor Party, rebranded the Zionist Union in a bid for nationalist votes. There are scenarios in which Herzog — improbably mild-mannered in a high-decibel land — becomes prime minister. And that would change the music: Herzog is a conciliator genuinely interested in ending the occupation of lands captured in the 1967 war.

Some things to watch for:



Despite its reputation for plucky unity, the country is badly fragmented — and that's reflected in parliament under the proportional representation system.

Combined, the two big parties get far less than half the vote. Then one finds a nationalist party appealing to Russian speakers, another for secular liberals and two for the squeezed middle class. A united list represents the one-fifth of citizens who are Arabs and is itself divided between communist, nationalist and Islamist factions. There are four religious parties, for Jews of European versus Middle Eastern descent and for varying degrees of nationalism.

The schisms are real, reflecting a society so diverse that at times it seems to be flying apart. The discourse is of one's rival destroying the country, through stupidity or evil. A TV debate between the main candidates other than Netanyahu and Herzog quickly degenerated into shouted accusations of fascism, criminality and treason.



By dint of necessity, this constellation has nonetheless coalesced over the years into rival leftist and rightist blocs: the Arab parties aligned with the dovish left, and the religious with the nationalistic right. If either wins 61 seats combined, its main party governs.

But for the first time in decades, there is a new party that seems genuinely non-aligned: Kulanu, led by Moshe Kahlon, a working-class Likud breakaway of Libyan Jewish descent who became popular for reducing mobile phone costs in previous governments. He says he will go with whichever side makes him finance minister — as both almost certainly would — and seeks to reduce the cost of living. He appears to care little about the Palestinian issue.

Every recent poll shows him holding the balance of power, with about 10 seats while the blocs split the rest.



The winning bloc often rules in alliance with parts of the other bloc. Such coalitions widen the base and win points for moderation and inclusiveness. They are also paralyzed by disagreement and tend to collapse of their internal contradictions, as Netanyahu's did four months ago.

Likud seems especially reluctant to rule on its own, almost always preferring a grand coalition with Labor or centrist parties rather than one with just its nationalist and religious allies. At least in part, that looks like an admission that truly nationalist policies — such as annexations in the West Bank — would so offend the world and provoke the Palestinians as to bring ruin.

The right sees the West Bank as the heartland of biblical Israel and also a place of immense strategic value, since Israel without it is reduced at its narrowest point to about 10 miles (15 kilometers) wide. The left's key argument is that permanent control of millions more Arabs would destroy Israel as a Jewish-majority state.

The right has developed a majority among Israel's Jews. But it is also hugely unpopular among the nation's still-powerful elites, including academic figures, business leaders and — to a striking degree — the security establishment. The 2012 documentary "The Gatekeepers," presenting a highly critical view of the West Bank occupation, featured every one of the six then-living heads of the Shin Bet secret service, entrusted with securing that very occupation. The keynote speech against Netanyahu at the main opposition rally last week was by Meir Dagan, who led the Mossad intelligence agency for much of Netanyahu's term. A predecessor, Shabtai Shavit, has been similarly critical, as have recent heads of the military.

So great is the pressure on the right that successive Likud leaders have abruptly changed course or even crossed the line, including then-prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Some predicted the same for Netanyahu, who in 2009 accepted the principle of Palestinian statehood, appearing to renounce all he had once stood for; but actions did not follow, and the theory that he was just pretending so as to confuse his critics gains currency by the day.



Even among proponents of a West Bank pullout, the talk is of saving Israel demographically as a Jewish-majority state rather than of making peace. Many yearn for unilateral moves, having given up on the possibility of a negotiated deal after all these years.

Israel might conceivably agree to the near-total West Bank pullout the Palestinians seek; previous governments have. The Palestinians may agree to drop the demand that refugees' descendants be allowed to move to Israel, potentially by the millions. But the real conundrum is Jerusalem, where a division of the intertwined holy city along ethnic lines would lead to perhaps the world's most complicated map, a tinderbox extraordinaire.

Providing the worst of precedents is Gaza, the other part of the would-be Palestinian state, on Israel's southern flank. Israel pulled out its soldiers and settlers in 2005 and handed control to the Palestinian autonomy government of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas — a relic of interim agreements from the pre-Netanyahu 1990s. But Hamas militants swiftly seized the strip and have been blockaded by Israel; they regularly fire rockets at Israeli towns, and three wars have been fought.

Then there are security threats to Israel from elsewhere in the region: Iran, believed to be seeking an atomic bomb; its proxy Hezbollah, with a forest of missiles pointed at Israel from Lebanon; Islamic State jihadis rampaging in nearby countries; al-Qaida radicals on the border with a disintegrating, still-hostile Syria.

Given the widespread pessimism, Herzog subtly dodges the peace issue, perhaps for fear of appearing naive.



With the electorate confused and fractured and no clear path forward on the key issues, and with neither Netanyahu nor Herzog likely to win a convincing majority, a plausible outcome has their parties banding together. They may also agree to rotate as prime minister in such an arrangement, with the first turn going to whoever has the stronger parliamentary hand.

Such has already happened in 1984. Labor's Shimon Peres and Likud's Yitzhak Shamir lived in uneasy coexistence and switched jobs halfway through. A few things got done. But the main issue, then as now, was the West Bank; Peres negotiated over it with Jordan, only to see his peace plans scuttled by the skeptical Shamir. Shortly thereafter the first Palestinian uprising began.

Many fear another one is coming, even as Israelis focus on the price of cottage cheese.


Dan Perry is AP's Middle East editor leading text coverage in the region. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/perry_dan]]>
http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480226/netanyahu-blames-flagging-poll-numbers-on-global-leftist-plot Sat, 14 Mar 2015 17:06:48 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480226/netanyahu-blames-flagging-poll-numbers-on-global-leftist-plot <![CDATA[Netanyahu Blames Flagging Poll Numbers On Global Leftist Plot]]> By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM, March 14 (Reuters) - Flagging in opinion polls before Tuesday's election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to rally Israeli rightists by casting his center-left challengers as tools of a global campaign to usurp power.

Over social media and broadcast interviews, the three-term leader has accused unspecified foreign governments and tycoons of funneling "tens of millions of dollars" to opposition activists working to undermine his Likud party and boost the Zionist Union joint list led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

"Right-wing rule is in danger. Leftist elements and the media in this country and abroad have joined forces to illegitimately bring Tzipi and Bougie (Herzog) to power," Netanyahu said on Facebook on Friday.

The Zionist Union dismissed the rhetorical fusillade as a bid by Netanyahu to shift voters' attention from socio-economic problems to security challenges like the Palestinians' drive for statehood and Iran's nuclear program, on which the prime minister argues he alone can resist foreign pressure to yield.

"I want to make clear that all of this Likud spin is not something that we do," Herzog said in a speech on Saturday. "The public is fed up with Likud and with Benjamin Netanyahu."

The latest opinion polls predict the Zionist Union taking between 24 and 26 of parliament's 120 seats in the election, compared to 20-22 seats for Likud. That could empower Netanyahu's challengers to build the next coalition government.

He could scrape into a fourth term, however, if the Zionist Union fails to muster enough support in an Israeli political spectrum where right-leaning parties are predominant.

For now, Likud's ideological allies in parliament are a threat as they sap votes from the ruling party, Netanyahu said.

"The right-wing is splitting," he told Voice of the South radio. "The right-wing must unite behind me and vote Likud."

That message is unlikely to be well-received among other nationalist leaders with whom Netanyahu is expected to speak at a demonstration on Sunday in Tel Aviv's main Rabin square, where tens of thousands of opposition voters rallied last week.

Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party, a partner in Netanyahu's outgoing government, has balked at ceding votes to Likud, saying he fears the prime minister could end up joining a broad, mainstream coalition with the Zionist Union.

Some officials within Likud privately blame Netanyahu for a scattergun election campaign and blowback from his March 3 speech to the U.S. Congress against the Obama administration's Iran strategy.

"We're closing ranks now, but if Tuesday turns out badly for us, there will be a reckoning," one senior Likud delegate said, hinting Netanyahu could be ousted as party head. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480225/john-kerry-says-its-unclear-whether-iran-deal-is-within-reach Sat, 14 Mar 2015 17:06:45 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480225/john-kerry-says-its-unclear-whether-iran-deal-is-within-reach <![CDATA[John Kerry Says It's Unclear Whether Iran Deal Is Within Reach]]> (Adds Kerry comments on Iran talks, background on Israeli election)

By Lesley Wroughton

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt, March 14 (Reuters) - On the eve of fresh talks with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was unclear whether an interim agreement over its nuclear power program was within reach.

"I can't tell you whether or not we can get a deal, whether we are close," Kerry told a news conference on Saturday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where he attended an Egyptian investment summit.

"The purpose of these negotiations is not just to get a deal, it is to get the right deal," he added.

The United States and five other major powers -- Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia -- will resume negotiations with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland, from Sunday. They hope to clinch a framework agreement by the end of the month.

The two sides would then seek to negotiate by June 30 a final agreement to would curb Iran's most sensitive nuclear activities for at least 10 years. In exchange, sanctions on the Islamic Republic would gradually end.

Kerry expressed concern again that a letter to Iran last week from Republican senators may have undermined the talks. The letter warned Iran that any deal made by President Barack Obama might last only as long as he remained in office -- a highly unusual intervention in U.S. foreign policy-making.

Kerry said he would assure Iranian negotiators and Europeans allies during the upcoming talks that Congress did not have the authority to change the deal.

"As far as we're concerned, Congress has no ability to change an executive agreement," Kerry said, adding that "important gaps" still remained between the sides.

The letter followed a speech to Congress earlier this month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned that Obama was negotiating a "bad deal" with Iran. Republicans invited Netanyahu to speak about Iran without consulting the White House or Democrats.


With Israel preparing to elect a new government next week, Kerry said the United States hoped that whatever the outcome it would help push forward the peace process with Palestinians.

Opinion polls show Israel's center-left opposition is poised for an upset victory in the parliamentary elections over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party.

"President Obama remains committed to a two-state solution," Kerry said, adding "he remains hopeful that whatever choice that people of Israel make, that there will be an ability to be able to move forward on those efforts."

He declined to elaborate on the prospects of resuming the talks, with an election just days away.

Peace talks broke down in April 2014 after nine months of negotiations led by Kerry, with the long-standing goal of a two-state solution no closer.

Kerry met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday on the sidelines of the investment conference in Sharm el-Sheik. The meeting included Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Abbas has steered clear of taking a position on the Israeli election, saying only that he was ready to work with who wins. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Larry King)
http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480223/republicans-say-obama-keen-for-iran-deal-to-build-own-legacy Sat, 14 Mar 2015 17:06:38 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11480223/republicans-say-obama-keen-for-iran-deal-to-build-own-legacy <![CDATA[Republicans Say Obama Keen For Iran Deal To Build Own Legacy]]> WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans critical of U.S.-Iran nuclear talks contend President Barack Obama is so keen for a deal that he is ignoring Tehran's moves to expand its influence across the Middle East.


http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11479788/israel-election-will-outcome-revive-peace-process Fri, 13 Mar 2015 18:38:17 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11479788/israel-election-will-outcome-revive-peace-process <![CDATA[Israel election: Will outcome revive peace process?]]> 11479788 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11479388/israel-election-will-outcome-revive-peace-process Fri, 13 Mar 2015 17:08:33 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11479388/israel-election-will-outcome-revive-peace-process <![CDATA[Israel election: Will outcome revive peace process?]]> 11479388 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11479358/clown-prince-of-israeli-diplomacy-might-soon-be-out-of-a-job Fri, 13 Mar 2015 17:08:05 +0000 http://www.hedgehogs.net/pg/newsfeeds/hhwebadmin/item/11479358/clown-prince-of-israeli-diplomacy-might-soon-be-out-of-a-job <![CDATA[âClown princeâ of Israeli diplomacy might soon be out of a job]]>