Posts by RaphaelAlmagor:

    President Trump And the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    April 20th, 2017


    By Raphael Cohen-Almagor.


    We do not know much about Trump’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During his controversial presidential campaign he made a number of statements that suggest:

    • Trump is a friend of Israel.
    • Trump has strong reservations about the Muslim world as he seems to think that Islam is the source of the majority of modern terrorism. Muslim terror targets the West at large and the USA in particular. The USA under President Trump is at odds with Islam.
    • Trump voiced his ambition to succeed where so many people before him had failed. He would like to bring peace to the Middle East. He declared his wish to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    • Trump’s team, composed by the president, does not pretend to be an unbiased broker. Most of the team is on the side of Israel. Period.

    Trump is a new phenomenon in world politics. He is the first president since Dwight D. (“Ike”) Eisenhower who came to this role without prior experience in politics. Thus we learn the Trumpism phenomenon while it is in the making. It is fair to say that Trump is not an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. He is aware of some of the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but he does not claim to be well versed in all of them. It seems that he is willing and open to learn. Being open to learning facts and details might not lead to overhauling Trump’s worldview but it might bring him to reconsider certain positions. Trump, the experienced businessman and the green politician, understands success and failure. He also knows the difference between declarations and actions. Words are cheap.  Actions can be very costly. What one says in an election campaign in order to be elected does not necessarily materialize. Since coming to the White House, Trump realizes that it might be difficult to make certain ideas a reality. Some of the issues are more difficult than he assumed. Jerusalem is one of them.


    Trump said he will move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He appointed an ambassador to Israel who is supportive of this move. Then he started preparing his homework and realized that the issue is more complex than what he initially thought. If American lives will be lost as a result of the decision, Trump will be perceived irresponsible. At the very least, he needs to show that he has devoted some attention to detail, that he carefully made calculations and then had cast his decision. As an aspiring politician one can make many irresponsible declarations. As a president, one needs to be far more careful. Words of the American president carry much weight, far more weight than Trump had initially realized. Trump understands finance and money. Only now he is starting to learn that in politics finance is only one facet of the complex matrix that defines the role of the American president in today’s world.

    I support the decision to move the American embassy and all other embassies to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. The capital is not Tel Aviv. Embassies should be in the state capital. I find the debate somewhat hypocritical. The United States, the United Kingdom and other countries have missions in charge of Palestinian affairs in East Jerusalem. They can have Embassies in charge of their relationships with Israel in West Jerusalem. This move won’t undermine the idea of two-state solution that speaks of dividing Jerusalem not only de facto but also de jure. The city is already divided. Go to Jerusalem and witness the separate Palestinian neighbourhoods. They look very different compared to the Jewish neighbourhoods.

    According to the vision of two-state solution, East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. Alternatively, Jerusalem will be declared an international area, holy and respected by all religions, and jointly administered by Israel and Palestine, or by the international community at large. With good will and innovative mind, a solution can be found. The problem is that while Israel is rich with innovation, it is short with good will. Palestine also lacks good will. Mistrust undermines the process.

    Three Options

    In the event that the Trump administration would decide to get itself seriously involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can push to one of three options:

    • it can accept the right-wing Israeli idealistic option that would bolster Israel at the expense of Palestine;
    • It can try to push for the optimal option of confederation;
    • It can push for the still most realistic and least violent option of a two-state solution.

    The right-wing Israeli idealistic option

    Netanyahu, who was, is and will remain Eretz Yisrael Hashlema person (a person who believes in preserving the whole land of Israel) but who loves power and wishes to be perceived as “pragmatic” in the international arena, would allow himself to be bolder with his true inclinations. Netanyahu is already pushed to boldness by his own governmental partners, first and foremost Naftali Bennett who does not have Netanyahu’s restraints. Bennett, unlike Netanyahu, does not pretend to be pragmatic, and says what he wants. He wants to annex the occupied territories. He does acknowledge that this is a complicated matter; thus he aims to do this step by step: first annexing the major bulks of settlements which amount to 20% of the West Bank. Then he will aim to annex Area C which amounts to more than 50% of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with a very small piece of land.

    The optimal option: Confederations

    The West Bank and Gaza are small in size and population, and they are geographically apart. In order to make Palestine a viable state, they need outside support. There are several options:

    1. With Jordan (West Bank). Jordan and the Palestinian West Bank would agree to establish a federation. The West Bank was part of Jordan until the 1967 Six Day War. The West Bank is one the other side of the Jordan River thus geographic contiguity.
    2. With Egypt (Gaza and the West Bank).
    3. With Israel, Egypt and Jordan (The New Middle East).

    In terms of viability, there is no doubt that some form of confederation will better serve the Palestinian interest. However, at present this is a far-fetched proposal. Jordan, Egypt and Israel do not rush to establish such a confederation. This option can become realistic only when there is quiet, trust and good will of all concerned nations. These three ingredients, quiet, trust and good will are scarce at present. The USA can play a great role in bringing the parties together, offer attractive incentives and pave the way forward to an optimal solution.

    The realistic and less bloody option: Two-State Solution 

    This is the most just solution. I have been campaigning for a two-state solution since 2012, and explained the reasons why this solution is fair and just in a number of articles which the reader is welcome to read.[1] I do not wish to repeat the reasoning here. I believe that peace is a precious commodity and therefore it requires both parties to pay a high price for its achievement, reaching a solution that is agreeable to both. The peace deal should be attractive to both Israel and Palestine, equally. It cannot be one-sided, enforced or coerced. A two-state solution is the only viable, long-term solution from which both sides can profit. While the strategy is to reach that solution, the tactics for reaching it need to address present realities and new complexities that are the result of the latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.


    To resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is a need for courageous decision-makers who seize the opportunities presented to them and make the most for their peoples. As a shrewd businessman, President Trump knows that high stakes require high efforts and investment.

    For such a momentous achievement of resolving a deep, entrenched conflict, three things are absolutely essential:

    • An Israeli leader who is committed to bring peace to his people and is willing to pay the necessary price;
    • A Palestinian leader who is committed to bring peace to his people and is willing to pay the necessary price;
    • Shared belief by both leaders that the time is ripe for peace. By “time is ripe” it is meant that both leaders believe that enough blood was shed, that they need to seize the moment because things might worsened for their people, and that they have the ability to lead their respective people to accept the peace agreement and change reality for the better.

    President Trump can instill a sense of urgency in Israel and Palestine. He has the ability to assist in building trust, good will and security. The United States has the capabilities to consolidate economic conditions for Palestinians; bolster security on both sides; enshrine insistence on zero tolerance regarding all forms of violence; stop Israel from enlarging existing settlements; provide assurances for Israel so it could safely dismantle checkpoints to make the lives of Palestinian civilians easier, and involve the international community in the trust-building process. The road is long and trying but the potential reward is worthy of all efforts. With true commitment to achieve peace in our lifetime, President Trump the bulldozer may succeed in fulfilling a much-desired dream, creating a new chapter in the history of Israel and Palestine in which children can grow up liking each other, recognizing the many similarities that exist between them, and replacing the sword with a plough.

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    Election, Netanyahu, corruption and Iran

    May 25th, 2015



    By Raphael Cohen Almagor.



    “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end. Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely”.

    ~ Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough

    “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

    ~ Benjamin Netanyahu (July 2014)

    “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.”

    ~ Benjamin Netanyahu (March 2015)

    Like Old Cato I say time and again: The occupation has to stop, the sooner the better. The occupation is like an ox in our throats, an axe in our hearts.

    ~ Raphael Cohen-Almagor (time and again, since 1985)



    Light Side

    Reflections on March 2015 

    A quick couple of observations.

    Having had the opportunity to listen to Buji Herzog during this most unpleasant election campaign I see very little daylight between Buji and Bibi when it comes to Iran or the Palestinians. And Kenneth Waltz may be a highly respected scholar but as is so often the case with scholars, I believe he lacks common sense. Hitler had a Messianic vision as does the leadership in Iran. The use of nuclear weapons regardless of the consequences is what should worry us.

    A Healthy Happy and Kosher Pesech to all.

    Abraham Silverman, Canada 

    About Iran, I think we need to offer them something. If we only put pressure on them, they won’t give in. We can use some demands alongside some offers. Maybe we have even more advanced energy sources, I don’t know if solar power would be efficient enough. I agree that it is not the best option to allow Iran nuclear weapons. If we get rid of our nuclear weapons, maybe they don’t want any and just want energy. Maybe that would work.

    Dr Conny Beyer, England


    March 17-18, 2015 did not yield the results I wanted. Mr. Netanyahu remains in office.

    None of the polls, including last minute exit polls, predicted the Likud victory. A stunning failure for all the pollsters who need to think hard what had happened, how to explain their failure, and how to ascertain that such a failure won’t repeat itself.

    Two possible explanations: either the samples the pollsters use are unreliable, or people do not tell the truth.

    Even the exit polls failed to predict the final results. When I went to sleep on 18 March, 12:30 at night, Likud had 24. Six hours later, at 06:30, Likud had 30 seats. A resounding victory.

    I have asked Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig how to explain what had happened. He said that the exit polls are easy to explain: “10% of Likud voters simply lied and said they voted for the Zionist Union. All the predictions of the other parties came true, except for the disparity here: 3 more for Likud and 3 less for ZU. There’s only one way to explain this — the Likud voters lied to the exit pollsters (not the first time they did this, by the way).”

    Sam further said that “the regular polls did NOT get it wrong. First, the law did not allow any poll publication after Friday — four days before the vote. Second, on that Friday they all said that there are about 15-20% seriously undecided, so that it is impossible to accurately predict the result. Third (and complementing this), Bibi ran a brilliant (fear-mongering) campaign the last few days to bring back traditional Likud voters. The proof: ZU did NOT go down between Friday and Tuesday, nor did Meretz, Lapid or Kachlon. Rather, the extra Likud votes came from Bennet and from Yishai (both dropped precipitously in those last 4 days) — all from the farther Right.”

    So Netanyahu’s fear campaign proved to be effective (see below). Apparently there are many fearful people in Israel who would rather have the prime minister they know than take risks with a new leader. It is certain that Mr. Netanyahu will form a new government and serve a fourth term.

    The Zionist Union came in second with 24 seats. Once again it was abundantly clear that there is a difference between being a leader of a party, even a major party, and being a leader of the country. Herzog did not convince enough voters that he has the necessary qualities to lead Israel.

    Herzog certainly lacks what Netanyahu has in abundance: relentless zeal to win. Netanyahu has the “killer instincts” as to how to win elections, and to do whatever it takes to come out winner. Herzog does not have this.

    The Zionist Union campaign should be taught as a lesson How Not to Run an Election Campaign. It was unfocused, unclear, diffused and unconvincing. It spoke of a third assistant in kindergartens. I do think that teachers need more help, but this is not a slogan to win elections. People will not vote for a person to the prime minister’s office because he will bring a third assistant to kindergarten. All elections that I can recall were won on the security ticket: who will provide Israel with better security? Israelis are preoccupied with security concerns. Sixty-seven years after the establishment of Israel, its borders are still disputed, enemies still wish to destroy it, and the fear of terrorism is valid. Many Israelis still occupy their minds with the question of how long Israel will continue to exist. I never heard such a question in the Netherlands, Denmark or even in Luxemburg.

    People vote for someone because of one of three reasons or combination thereof:


    • Because they believe that a person has the qualities of a leader. That person might not actually have these qualities. The perception of leadership is enough to make people vote for that person.
    • Because they identify with the leader. That person has certain qualities with which they can identify. Maybe s/he looks like them, maybe they feel they can go for a drink, or dinner, with that person and enjoy it; maybe they feel connection with the leader; they feel s/he speaks to them in eye level and they can actually understand what s/he says.
    • Because of the political platform of the leader and party. Only a small minority vote because of this reason. Most people do not even know what the political platform is. Some parties hide their platforms. Elections are a show. Elections are more about perception than content.

    After the elections, people explained the result by pointing to the “ethnic devil” or “ethnic divide” in Israel. I do think that such a divide exists, but it exists on a small burner. Generally speaking, I do not think that Jews from the Middle East are discriminated against today in Israeli society. I also do not think that they are excluded from power positions. With time, more and more power positions will be in their hands.

    The Likud is more appealing to the “Middle Easterners” (Edot Ha’Mizrakh). Its nationalistic, exclusionary agenda which accentuates “Jews first” is appealing to them. The security agenda of a strong hand is to their liking. Non-Likud leaders need to try harder to appeal to them, finding a way to their hearts and minds, making a compelling case with which they can identify.

    The Zionist Union failed to do this. It remained alienated from them. Its leaders and agenda were unappealing to them.

    Put Kahlon in the Labour leadership and see what will happen. Is this a possibility? Stranger things have happened in Israeli politics. Tzipi Livni grew up in a right-wing Revisionist home.

    The Joint List of Arab parties won 13 seats, making it the third-largest parliamentary faction. Its four component parties previously had 11.

    Yesh Atid, a centrist party that won 19 seats in the 2013 election, its first, earned 11 this time.

    Kulanu — Hebrew for “All of Us”, led by Moshe Kahlon, a popular former Likud minister who broke away — in part out of frustration with Mr. Netanyahu — won 10 seats.

    The national-religious Jewish Home won eight seats, down from 12.

    Shas, led by Aryeh Derei got 7 seats. His main rival Elie Yishai was unable to pass the threshold. Yishai ran together with a group of Kahanists, followers of the Jewish-Fascist Meir Kahane who was assassinated in New York in 1990.

    The ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu won six seats, an achievement in itself given the ongoing corruption investigations against some of its leaders.

    The civil right party Meretz gained five seats. If it won’t change drastically, and it might not even be present in the next Knesset. Meretz needs a charismatic leader and a new agenda. At present, it is unable to appeal to those who truly need implementation of its agenda.

    People who voted Meretz did not vote for its leadership. They voted for the platform. They identify with the liberal-socialist ideology. Many voted Meretz despite its leadership, not because of it. As aforesaid, not many people vote for a political agenda, notwithstanding leadership.

    Turnout was near 72 percent, four percentage points higher than in 2013, which analysts attributed to the close contest between the Likud and Zionist Union.

    Just 26 months after Israel’s last election, Mr. Netanyahu reconfirmed his leadership and now can safely sail away to further his agenda and ideology. He declared that his Bar-Ilan speech is no longer valid, and that there won’t be a Palestinian state as long as he is in office.


    Netanyahu’s effective fear campaign

    Netanyahu said: “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out. Get out to vote, bring your friends and family, vote Likud in order to close the gap between us and ‘Labor.’”

    Netanyahu thought on the day of the election that Labour had an edge over the Likud. The incorrect polls energized him to provoke further fear among voters: Go out and vote because otherwise the Arabs will be in power.

    Netanyahu’s fear campaign yielded victory. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to Iran.  Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the Palestinians. Netanyahu evoked more specific fears with regard to Hamas, which is like ISIS. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the Arab world at large. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the Israeli Left, who will split Jerusalem. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the White House as the American president is no friend of Israel.

    Israelis are told to fear everyone. Their savior is Netanyahu.

    We shall see.

    The Israeli public as a whole has turned to the right. Israel today is far righter than it was when I left the country in 2007. People allow themselves to express ideas that they only whispered ten years ago. These ideas have gained legitimacy in the Israeli discourse. This explains why Netanyahu has said the above statements. There is no shame to differentiate between “us” and “them” although all are said to be Israeli citizens, with equal rights and liberties. The Israeli Jews have to untie the Palestinians at large because the Israeli-Palestinians are not part of “us”. They are part of “them”. They are part of the enemy. Be warned.

    In June 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “there is no scope for discrimination in the State of Israel. We are obligated to equality of opportunity for everyone. The Arab sector is a central engine of growth for Israeli economy which has yet to be fully utilized.”[1] Netanyahu expressed his belief that integrating minorities in the job market would contribute not only to the Arabs but to Israel at large. This is Israel’s national interest and Israel should encourage this integration.[2]

    The slow shift to the right also entails going back on his Bar-Ilan speech. There won’t be a Palestinian state as long as Netanyahu is in office.

    What does this mean?

    It means there won’t be peace. It means growing frustration among the Palestinians who are still living under occupation. It means violence. It means more bloodshed. It means more insecurity. It means more terror.

    It also means growing isolation of Israel in the international community. It means “Am Levado Ishkon” (People who reside alone); it means more power to the BDS movement; it means growing stature for Israel as a world pariah.

    It also means growing tensions between Israel and the White House. Maybe Israel won’t be able to count on the USA to stand on its side in crucial UN decisions, and in international organizations meetings.

    It means growing dissatisfaction with Israel in various European organizations.

    It means growing tensions with Turkey and Egypt, two countries that Israel needs on its side in regional politics.

    Netanyahu succeeded in his goal – he was reelected to the prime minister’s office. On the way, he has damaged Israel’s relationships with the USA; he told the Palestinians in very clear words that there is no point negotiating with him, thus they should seek other ways to move forward; he polarized Israeli society even more than it already is; he expressed his belief that the Israeli Palestinians are fifth column who are not to be trusted. Netanyahu has made the elections an end in itself. He achieved the end. Now what?

    The horizons are not bright, I am sorry to say. Democracy comes with a price. The last elections were crucial for Israel’s destiny. Israel voted Right. This was wrong.

    This idea encapsulates the elections results in Israel: No turning left to the way of peace.


    Former PM Ehud Olmert convicted for corruption

    On March 30, 2015, the Jerusalem District Court convicted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in what has become known as the “Talansky affair”. American businessman Talansky was in the habit of passing cash money to Mr Olmert in sealed envelops. Mr Olmert gratefully accepted them and never advised the tax authorities about these “gifts”. Olmert stood trial for this affair in the past but the court did not find enough strong evidence to convict him. After Olmert’s personal assistant refused to take the heat for Olmert and sit in jail for a number of years, Ms. Shula Zaken testified against her former boss and provided the strong evidence. Thus in the retrial, the same court that in the past found Olmert “not guilty”, this time reversed its decision and convicted him

    This verdict is in addition to Olmert’s prior conviction in the Holyland Affair, a far greater affair, with greater sums of corruption money.

    The Court’s three-judge panel of Jacob Zaban, Moshe Sobel and Rivkah Friedman-Feldman ruled that Olmert illegally received and concealed substantial funds in envelopes from New York businessman  Morris Talansky in the late 1990s and the early 2000. Talansky himself died during the court proceedings. The court based its decision on recordings, a journal and testimony by former top Olmert aide-turned-state-witness Shula Zaken against Olmert, none of which was available for his original trial in which he was acquitted in July 2012. Olmert’s lawyers attempted to discredit Zaken, repeatedly arguing that Zaken has lied. Those allegations were rejected by the court. Olmert himself decided not to testify in the retrial. Judge Rivkah Friedman-Feldman – who replaced Musia Arad who had sat on the panel acquitting Olmert, and who retired in 2013 – noted in her opinion that Olmert should have been convicted the first time even without all the new evidence. “Olmert’s decision not to testify in the retrial spoke for itself,” she stated.

    Olmert’s appeal of his Holyland conviction is still pending before the Supreme Court.

    This is a sad day for the Israeli political system, and a good day for the justice system. It is sad that a former prime minister is convicted, yet again, for corruption. Olmert lacked good sense of judgment for many years. The same pattern of taking money from businessmen has repeated itself for many years. It was not a one-off misjudgment. It was a pattern. All that money, and probably more, was wasted in a very expensive and lengthy legal battle. Money can take you so far in the Israeli justice system. It can delay. It can prolong court proceedings. But at the end of the day, justice does prevail.

    SourceThe Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2015,



    On February 26, 2015, James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, submitted his Worldwide Threat Assessment to the  Senate Armed Services Committee. Here is what he had to say about Iran 

    The Islamic Republic of Iran is an ongoing threat to US national interests because of its support to the Asad regime in Syria, promulgation of anti-Israeli policies, development of advanced military capabilities, and pursuit of its nuclear program. President Ruhani—a longstanding member of the regime establishment—will not depart from Iran’s national security objectives of protecting the regime and enhancing Iranian influence abroad, even while attempting different approaches to achieve these goals. He requires Supreme Leader Khamenei’s support to continue engagement with the West, moderate foreign policy, and ease social restrictions within Iran.

    Iran possesses a substantial inventory of theater ballistic missiles capable of reaching as far as some areas of southeastern Europe. Tehran is developing increasingly sophisticated missiles and improving the range and accuracy of its other missile systems. Iran is also acquiring advanced naval and aerospace capabilities, including naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, anti-ship missiles, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles.

    In Iraq and Syria, Iran seeks to preserve friendly governments, protect Shia interests, defeat Sunni extremists, and marginalize US influence. The rise of ISIL has prompted Iran to devote more resources to blunting Sunni extremist advances that threaten Iran’s regional allies and interests. Iran’s security services have provided robust military support to Baghdad and Damascus, including arms, advisers, funding, and direct combat support. Both conflicts have allowed Iran to gain valuable on-the-ground experience in counterinsurgency operations. Iranian assistance has been instrumental in expanding the capabilities of Shia militants in Iraq. The ISIL threat has also reduced Iraqi resistance to integrating those militants, with Iranian help, into the Iraqi Security Forces, but Iran has uneven control over these groups.

    Despite Iran’s intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia, Iranian leaders—particularly within the security services—are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran. Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses.

    Source: James R. Clapper, Statement for the Record, Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, submitted to the  Senate Armed Services Committee (February 26, 2015).

    American efforts to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear capabilities should be viewed in this context. (Almost) everything is relative in life. Compared to ISIS, Iran is a moderate country. It has governmental institutions and it acts like a responsible sovereign power, part of the international community. With its assets in Syria and Lebanon, and growing influence in Iraq, Iran has an important role to play in the new Middle East. The USA wants Iran on its side against rogue, unabashed terrorism.

    What are the positives of the Iranian deal?


    • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.
    • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
    • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
    • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.
    • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
    • Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.
    • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
    •  Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.
    • Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.
    • Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.
    • Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.
    • Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.
    • Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.
    • Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.
    • For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.


    Inspections and Transparency

    • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.
    • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
    • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.
    • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
    • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.
    • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.
    • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
    • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
    • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.
    • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.


    Reactors and Reprocessing

    • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
    • The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.
    • Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.
    • Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.
    • Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.
    • Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.


    What are the negatives?

    No nuclear facilities are to be destroyed;

    Iran will not end all research and development on advanced centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium;

    Iran will not reduce the number of operating centrifuges at its Natanz plant beyond what was agreed to in the framework;

    Iran will not close its underground enrichment facility at Fordo;

    Iran will not allow inspections “anywhere, anytime” by international monitors. Iran’s foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif told a closed parliamentary hearing that Iran would not allow cameras into any of its nuclear sites. Iran will continue to develop its nuclear capabilities;

    Iran will not ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country and disclose past nuclear-related activities that might involve military uses.

    Is the Iran deal good for Israel? No. It is not.

    Is the Iran deal good for the USA ? Yes. It is.

    Does the Iran deal provide security assurances to Israel? No. Deterrence will provide such assurances.

    It is about time for Israel to change its nuclear policy, state openly its capabilities and be transparent.

    Transparency in Israel’s nuclear power will be the deterrent vis-a-vis Iran.

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    What Iran wants by Rouhani

    February 9th, 2014


    By Raphael Almagor.

    Iranian president Rouhani published an article on Iran’s agenda and I wish to bring to your attention some of his most important messages.

    President Rouhani opened by stating that when he campaigned to become President of Iran, he promised to balance realism and the pursuit of the Islamic Republic’s ideals—and won Iranian voters’ support by a large margin. “I am committed to moderation and common sense, which is now guiding all of my government’s policies. That commitment led directly to the interim international agreement reached in November in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear programme. It will continue to guide our decision-making in 2014”.

    The Iranian government is discarding extreme approaches. “We seek effective and constructive diplomatic relations and a focus on mutual confidence-building with our neighbours and other regional and international actors, thereby enabling us to orient our foreign policy toward economic development at home. To this end, we will work to eliminate tensions in our foreign relations and strengthen our ties with traditional and new partners alike. This obviously requires domestic consensus-building and transparent goal-setting—processes that are now underway”.

    President Rouhani emphasised the need for economic development and the democratic processes in Iran. He spoke of the need to rebuild and improve Iranian bilateral and multilateral relations with European and North American countries. President Rouhani voiced grave concerns regarding the situation in Syria, stating: “I am profoundly disturbed over the humanitarian tragedy in Syria and the enormous suffering that the Syrian people have endured for nearly three years. Representing a people who have experienced the horror of chemical weapons, my government strongly condemned their use in the Syrian conflict.

    I am also concerned that parts of Syrian territory have become breeding grounds for extremist ideologies and rallying points for terrorists, which is reminiscent of the situation on our eastern border in the 1990s. This is an issue of concern to many other countries as well, and finding a durable political solution in Syria requires cooperation and joint efforts”.

    President Rouhani devoted a large part of his article to the nuclear debate, stating that Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy programme has been subject to enormous hype in recent decades. He maintained that since the early 1990s, one prediction after another regarding how close Iran was to acquiring a nuclear bomb has proved baseless. Throughout this period, alarmists tried to paint Iran as a threat to the Middle East and the world.

    President Rouhani wrote: “We all know who the chief agitator is, and what purposes are to be served by hyping this issue. We know also that this claim fluctuates in proportion to the amount of international pressure to stop settlement construction and end the occupation of Palestinian lands. These false alarms continue, despite US national intelligence estimates according to which Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon. In fact, we are committed not to work toward developing and producing a nuclear bomb. As enunciated in the fatwa issued by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, we strongly believe that the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are contrary to Islamic norms. We never even contemplated the option of acquiring nuclear weapons, because we believe that such weapons could undermine our national security interests; as a result, they have no place in Iran’s security doctrine. Even the perception that Iran may develop nuclear weapons is detrimental to our security and overall national interest”.

    “I committed myself to doing everything in my power to fast-track a resolution to the standoff over our nuclear-energy programme. To fulfill this commitment and benefit from the window of opportunity that the recent election opened, my government is prepared to leave no stone unturned in seeking a mutually acceptable permanent solution. Following up on November’s interim agreement, we are ready to continue to work with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) and others with a view to ensuring our nuclear programme’s full transparency.

    The peaceful nuclear capability that we have achieved will be used within an internationally recognized framework of safeguards, and it will be accessible to multilateral monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, as has been the case in the past several years. In this way, the international community can ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of our nuclear programme. We will never forgo our right to benefit from nuclear energy; but we are ready to work toward removing any ambiguity and answer any reasonable question about our program. The continuation of pressure, arm-twisting, intimidation, and measures aimed at cutting off Iranians’ access to a whole range of necessities—from technology to medicines and foodstuffs—can only poison the atmosphere and undermine the conditions needed to make progress”.

    President Rouhani concluded that “Iran is fully prepared to engage seriously with the international community and to negotiate with our interlocutors in good faith. We hope that our counterparts, too, are ready to take advantage of this window of opportunity”.

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    On representation

    August 24th, 2013


    By Raphael Almagor.

    The most controversial part of the bill is the raising of the election threshold to four percent.

    Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon voting at the Likud elections, June 30, 2013.


    Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon voting at the Likud elections, June 30, 2013. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
    On 31 July 2013, the “Governance Bill” passed its first reading in the Israeli Knesset, with 63 MKs voting for and 46 against.
    The bill amends the Basic Law: The government.

    It includes a limit of the number of government ministers to 19 and of the deputy ministers to four. Motions of no-confidence will be held only once a month in the presence of the prime minister or at the demand of 61 MKs, in which case the debate will be held immediately. If the motion of no-confidence is carried by a 61 MKs majority, and an alternative candidate for prime minister proposed and accepted, the candidate will have 21 days to form a government instead of the current 28.

    Should the candidate fail, the deposed government will return to the cabinet.

    The bill also determines that if the coalition does not manage to pass the state budget within three months, the Knesset will be dissolved.

    After the general elections, the government will have 55 days to form a state budget, and the Knesset 45 days to pass it. All these amendments have strong reasoning behind them.

    The most controversial part of the bill is the raising of the election threshold to four percent.

    This part of the bill received the support of 64 MKs. Opposition members of Knesset from Meretz (the civil rights party), United Torah Judaism, Arab parties and several MKs from the Labour party took the Knesset podium and protested against the “anti-democratic” bill.

    Since 1987 I have written on democracy and its inherent problems, speaking in favor of its obligation to defend itself. In elucidating the theory of Democracy on the Defensive, I explained that the very principles that underline democracy might undermine its existence.

    Democracy is founded on the idea of liberty.

    But if we allow limitless liberty to each and every person to pursue what she perceives to be her conception of the good, the result will be anarchy.

    Democracy is built on the idea of tolerance.

    But if we tolerate violent, coercive and antidemocratic groups in society, this might bring about the destruction of the democratic order.

    Democracy is built on the idea of participation.

    Indeed, the idea of participation is so important that many call present-day democracy “participatory democracy.” Citizens should exercise their potential ability to influence the decision-making process, while the government, on its part, should encourage individuals and groups to take part in civic life.

    But if each and every citizen swamps the government with everyday demands, organizes constant demonstrations, pickets and rallies, then the government will find it difficult to function.

    Democracy is built on the idea of representation.

    Each citizen is to have an equal vote to influence the outcomes of the legislative process; each citizen alienates his right for political decision-making and gives authority to a few delegates to manage the civic life in the way they see best. These representatives are chosen by the people to decide for them, ideally according to the lines prescribed in their political platform. This elections process is the mechanism which gives effect to the difference between democratic and non-democratic modes of representation.

    While decision-making processes should aspire to take into account as many interests as possible, there is no obligation to consider each and every interest in society. This would be nearly impossible, or impossible. Democracy should aspire to ensure adequate representation, but it is not obligated to represent each and every view.

    Thus, there is a tension between each and every democratic principle. A good government has to find the right balance between each and every principle, and in the interplay between the principles.

    I have argued for years that Israel should increase the entry threshold to the Knesset to 4% or 5%. This in order to ensure better governance capabilities. I also argued this when I was active in the Meretz Party. I cannot say that I gained many supporters within my party for that view, but I sincerely believe this is the right thing to do. The Knesset has far too many parties. As a result, many governments did not complete their terms. Fragile coalitions, tempting deals, blackmailing efforts, partisan interests – all these factors have undermined Israeli governance.

    A good government is one that does not distort the representative system in favor of the majority; that ensures and protects an adequate proportional representation of minorities.

    Nothing but a false show of democracy is possible without it. John Stuart Mill said: “In a really equal democracy, every or any section would be represented, not disproportionately, but proportionately.” This can be done also with fewer parties represented in the Knesset.

    The United States has two major parties. The United Kingdom has three. They are not less democratic than Israel, and their governance abilities are far more efficient. The decision to raise the entry threshold to the Knesset to 4% is correct and will contribute to a stronger, better- functioning Israeli democracy.

    The writer is a professor of politics and director of the Middle East Study Group at The University of Hull.

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