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  • Netanyahu gains popularity as peace talks collapse

    The prime minister's personal popularity goes up, while the Likud and Habyait Hayehudi gain seven more seats between them if elections were tomorrow. The Left loses four seats. Coalition troubles aside, 'peace' remains electorally toxic.  The biggest losers from the collapse of the peace talks are the pro-peace parties, a Haaretz weekend poll suggests - a finding unlikely to delight those hoping Netanyahu would swap his hard-right coalition partners for more moderate ones. According to the poll, conducted soon after the peace talks went into a spiral due to a cancelled prisoner release and the newly announced settlement building plans…

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  • Netanyahu's 'gift' of Palestinian statehood

    Statements by Israel's prime minister give insight into the -- problematic -- way he views peace talks with the Palestinians. And Naftali Bennett's emptiest threat yet. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated one of the most problematic views that he and his government hold -- that any future Palestinian state, if there ever is one, will be a painful, albeit generous gift from him to the Palestinian people. Responding to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s intent to accede to 15 international treaties and conventions, Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting: “[The Palestinians] will achieve a…

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  • What does Bibi actually want?

    Finally recognizing the pressure over the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu seems to be negotiating for 'an agreement with the world.' What does Bibi want? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that question. With so many attempts to decipher him – in interviews with his proxies, accounts by former employees and analyses by pundits - speculation over the Israeli prime minister’s true intentions should have been recognized as an Olympic sport by now. TIME magazine had no problem twice posing the exact same question -- will Netanyahu make peace – on its cover, 16 years apart. The answer is hidden…

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  • An important year for Iran nuclear talks: What Israel got wrong

    President Obama’s exceptional appearance at the Saban Forum amounts to an authorized interpretation of the nuclear agreement with Iran. Israeli leaders should be paying attention to the points he made. By Shemuel Meir The nuclear agreement with Iran, known as the “Joint Plan of Action,” which was signed in Geneva on November 24 between Iran and the superpowers is a great American diplomatic achievement with positive implications for Israel’s security. The agreement limits Iran’s capability to enrich uranium and begins to “roll back” those elements of Iran’s nuclear program that possess dangerous military potential. This is an agreement that has…

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  • How 24,000 new settlement homes allowed Netanyahu to save face

    Israel's nearly unprecedented announcement and subsequent 'review' of plans for 24,000 new settlement units was actually a win-win situation - for everyone but the Palestinians, of course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was outflanked from the right on Tuesday, purportedly surprised by an announcement of 24,000 – yeah, you read that right – new settlement housing units in the West Bank. Immediately following the first report of the unprecedented settlement expansion, Netanyahu announced he would block construction in E-1, one of the West's least favorite proposed settlement plans. Some eight hours later, he publicly reprimanded his housing minister, denied having…

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  • Yom Kippur War holds lessons for Netanyahu's stance on Iran

    Netanyahu appears more and more confident that Iran's stated intentions are not its true intentions. Instead of making parallels to WWII, he should take some lessons from the overconfident, and ultimately catastrophic intelligence assessments that preceded the Yom Kippur War. By Shemuel Meir What can we learn from the Israeli intelligence failure, known in Hebrew as the “conceptzia,” which is generally accepted as the explanation for the Yom Kippur War’s strategic surprise? The term “conceptzia” refers to an all-encompassing preconception that determines our interpretation of reality. In the case of the Yom Kippur War, it refers to the axiomatic view which…

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  • Does Kerry need to convince AIPAC to support peace?

    The U.S. secretary of state's comments raise the question of whether he's convinced Netanyahu is ready to make the compromises necessary for peace - or whether he needs AIPAC's support to do so. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry seems to think that should the occasion ever arise, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will require the support of his friends in Washington in order to sign a peace deal with the Palestinians. Kerry took time out of his busy schedule in London to send a video message to a closed AIPAC summit taking place in California wine country on Monday. Click for…

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  • Netanyahu at the UN: Enter the twilight zone

    To Israel's prime minister, 1.2 million of his own country's citizens do not exist. If that's not living in an alternate reality, then what is? By Amer Zahr It’s hard to describe what it felt like listening to Benjamin Netanyahu speak Tuesday at the United Nations. Many phrases came to mind: “alternative reality,” “parallel universe,” “clinical denial," and the list goes on. Then I remembered one of my favorite TV shows I used to watch as a kid: You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a…

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  • How Netanyahu can match Abbas's commitment to peace

    While the Palestinian president is renouncing the Palestinian right of return on Israeli television, Israel's prime minister is announcing new settlement construction. Instead of playing to his own political base, Netanyahu could have his Sadat moment. By Aaron Magid Meeting with a delegation of Knesset members on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that in a final status agreement the Palestinians “would not demand to return to Jaffe, Acre or Haifa.” Among other conciliatory comments, Abbas’s statement exemplifies his commitment toward addressing legitimate Israeli concerns and ending the conflict. Unfortunately, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has moderated his hawkish positions,…

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  • Jewish Agency plans most exorbitant 'pro-Israel' campaign ever

    A new initiative to market Israel to American Jews is expected to cost up to $300 million annually, three times the Birthright budget. But a cheaper project for both Americans and Israelis that could bolster Israel's image much more effectively is not on the table: Ending the occupation.  The Jewish Agency is reportedly developing its priciest campaign ever to connect Jews and Israel and it's going to cost a lot of money. The budget is expected to reach $300 million per year in the next five years, The Forward reported. The massive operation is expected to launch in 2014 and…

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  • Neither two, nor states, nor a solution

    Why even if the current round of peace talks are successful, the situation won't get much better. Ready, set, go! By Rechavia “Rick” Berman The Holy Mideast Peace Process merry-go-round (the second longest running act on earth, the only one older being the occupation it pretends to be solving) is off for another spin. While the U.S. president gets to largely keep his personal distance from the mess, he's still invested to some degree. Since Kerry's prestige, or what's left of it, is definitely laid on the line here, some of the White House's is too. And while the U.S.…

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  • Former PA minister raises questions about prisoner release

    If Israel doesn't follow through with release of all pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, including citizens of Israel, 'we'll create pressure – and we'll try to stop these negotiations,' Palestinian Prisoners' Club head Qaddura Fares says, adding that after previous releases, he has little hope. By Marian Houk "No, I am not satisfied," Qaddura Fares said crisply, the morning after the Israeli Cabinet voted on Sunday to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, the vote having been delayed for hours so Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu could persuade the unconvinced. "I think there are a lot of reservations about the process, the procedure,” Fares said. The vote…

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  • Likud MK: Settlement construction is good for peace with Palestinians

    Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ofir Akunis took Netanyahu's position that settlement construction is not an impediment to a negotiated solution with the Palestinians to a whole new level. According to a report in Haaretz Tuesday: ... [Akunis asserted] that past experience has shown that a halt to construction has only driven the Palestinians away from negotiating with Israel. "The Likud policy is very consistent. Our call to the Palestinians to enter into direct peace negotiations without precondition is in effect," he said. (Emphasis mine) Akunis, the same Likud lawmaker who in the last Knesset proposed a bill to limit all foreign…

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