Written by The Lekarev Report
The prime minister was briefing the committee on the resumption of negotiations with Syria and addressing criticism of his apparent willingness to surrender the Golan Heights as part of a final peace agreement.
"Today we face the choice between Greater Israel and a Jewish nation - the two are mutually exclusive. They only exist together in the minds of deluded fantasists who misconstrue reality," he said.
The prime minister explained the decision to keep the talks under wraps despite the fact that the matter had been hotly debated by the committee on past occasions was the sensitive nature of the negotiations.
"Anyone in my chair understands that these moves need to be made with the utmost caution, and secrecy is a necessary part of that. Not even the entire cabinet could be privy to the information. I initiated this move in February 2007, with a record of four predecessors who went to Damascus and committed to painful concessions, and let no one put me to the test on proving those commitments - they are all accounted for."
Reactions were swift to Olmert's statement.
MK Limor Livnat slammed Olmert's statements and accused the Prime Minister of being the one who is 'delusional' for someone at the end of his political rope who thinks he can accept envelopes of cash and at the same time give away the Golan Heights.
Livnat also said Olmert told the committee members that Israel was not negotiating with Hamas - as opposed to comments made by Deputy Premier Haim Ramon, who recently implied Israel was indeed negotiating with the terrorist group despite past decisions against this.
MK Effie Eitam accused Olmert of "trying to deceive the committee through guile and cunning, using stories and slogans.
"It is clear to me now that this is how he behaves in front of police investigators as well," said Eitam. "But his slickness will be of no help to him, we all remember how he brought Hamas to Gaza and Hizbullah to Lebanon and now he is plotting to bring Iran to the Golan Heights. He must be stopped, in the political arena and perhaps the criminal one."
Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz met with residents of the Golan Heights on Sunday. Those in attendance reported that both Yishai and Mofaz expressed their opposition against any concessions to Syria on the issue of the Golan.
Mofaz was quoted saying that "transferring the Golan to Syria at this juncture would effectively constitute giving it to Iran," and that he was against the possibility of making concessions at the beginning of talks.
Yishai assured the residents that the Shas party would support them in preventing any possible evacuation plan from the Golan. He further stressed that Syria is an essential part of the "axis of evil" and that Israel must not abandon its security when confronted by Syria and Hizbullah.
PA: Israel Offered 91.5% of Judea and Samaria
Palestinian officials said yesterday that Israel has presented a withdrawal map from Judea and Samaria (commonly called the West Bank) that gives the Palestinians 91.5% of the territory, leaving only about 8.5 percent in Israeli hands, even less than a previous plan but still unacceptable to the Palestinians.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and other PA officials, however, told The Jerusalem Post that the report is unsubstantiated.
Also Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted as telling supporters that the negotiations have achieved no progress since they were restarted last November with a pledge to US President George W. Bush to try for a full peace treaty by the end of the year.
The Palestinian officials said that Israel presented its new map three days ago in a negotiating session. The last map Israel offered had 12 percent of the West Bank remaining in Israel. Israel wants to keep West Bank land with its main settlement blocs, offering land inside Israel in exchange. The land would be between Hebron in the southern West Bank and Gaza - at least part of a route through Israel to link the two territories.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors, said Palestinians were ready to trade only 1.8% of the West Bank for Israeli land.
Israeli officials refused to comment.
Washington Unhappy with Israel/Syria Talks
Sources in Washington tell me that the Bush administration is quite unhappy with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's decision to embark on peace talks with Syria through Turkish mediators.
One US official called the move a "slap in the face" just two weeks after President George Bush's historic speech in the Knesset in which he declared that America stood by Israel in opposing negotiations with "terrorists and radicals."
The tension may well affect some of Israel's benefits with America, and Israel's defense establishment and military high command are concerned about possible delays in the flow of essential supplies of equipment. Olmert's close aides, especially those involved in the peace talks with Syria, may no longer enjoy a warm top-level welcome in Washington.
According to a US official, who asked to remain unnamed, the decision to cool ties with Jerusalem followed the discovery by American agents in Turkey that Olmert's senior advisers, Yoram Turbovich and Shalom Turjeman, and a Syrian delegation arrived in Istanbul for indirect peace talks. The two delegations stayed at the same hotel for three days and a Turkish go-between shuttled between their rooms.
Since 2003, the Bush Administration has boycotted Syria for facilitating the flow of terrorists into Iraq, for its efforts to destabilize the pro-Western Lebanese government and for its close ties with Iran.
Three days after Jerusalem, Damascus and Ankara announced that peace talks had begun, the Syrian defense minister Hassan Turkmani landed in Tehran to boost military ties with Iran.
The American official commented dryly that if the Olmert government is prepared to consort with such characters, it should not be surprised by the administration's coolness.
Most Kadima Members Oppose Golan Giveaway
Just days after the news broke that Prime Minister Olmert had initiated unofficial talks with Syria, his own Kadima party colleagues in the government are openly expressing their disapproval.
Three Cabinet ministers from Olmert's Kadima party - Ze'ev Boim, ex-Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and Meir Sheetrit - say they are against giving away the Golan for at least the next 25-30 years. It will take this long to see if Syria has truly changed its terrorism-supporting position, they told the NRG-Maariv Hebrew news site.
Minister Ruchama Avraham-Belila told NRG flat-out she would vote against any withdrawal from the Golan, while Minister Yaakov Edry and Roni Bar-On are leaning the same way.
Minister Chaim Ramon, who favors a full Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria but now opposes a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, is taking a relatively strong stance vis-a-vis Syria. "We are willing to make painful concessions in order to attain peace with Syria," he said, "but we cannot agree to have Syria simultaneously support Hizbullah and Hamas, continue to be a central ally of Iran, and continue to be a central component in the extremist-Islamic axis."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, "Israel wants peace, but the Syrians must understand that it involves a total end to their support for terrorism, Hamas and Iran."
Talansky Prepares to Give Testimony
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador will meet with United States businessman Moshe (Morris) Talansky today to prepare him to give testimony tomorrow in the criminal investigation against Prime Minister Olmert. Talansky will testify about allegations of bribery against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before returning to his family in America.
Attorneys representing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are not expected to cross-examine Talansky.
Talansky was interrogated again Sunday in the police's National Fraud Investigations Unit in Bat Yam in the "cash envelopes" affair. Talansky is scheduled to testify in court in a pre-trial deposition Tuesday, after which he will return to his home in the United States.
Carter to London Paper: Israel Has 150 Nukes
One month after his visit to the Middle East earned him the criticism of American and Israeli officials for his willingness to meet with Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, former US President Jimmy Carter is again stirring up animosity.
In a report published today, Carter told the London Times that Israel possesses 150 nuclear weapons. Although it is speculated that Israel has nuclear weapons, no Israeli official has ever confirmed such a report.
Carter believes that the international community should hold "direct talks" with Iran in order to persuade them to give up their nuclear ambitions.
Former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash downplayed Carter's comments, but warned that they could potentially be used by Iran to push its nuclear development.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the British daily The Guardian, Carter called on members of the European Union to break the embargo of the Gaza Strip, which he called "one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth."
"Most families in Gaza are eating only one meal per day. To see Europeans going along with this is embarrassing," he said. Of course, he failed to mention that Israel attempts to deliver food and medical supplies into Gaza on a regular basis but the trucks are stopped at the entrance to Gaza and not allowed to deliver the food to the people, thanks to Hamas.
Israeli Economy Takes Giant Leap Forward
The Israeli market posted a gratifying 5.4% growth in the first quarter of 2008, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reported today. The growth exceeded expectations, especially when considering the various recession warnings heard around the world and in Israel since the beginning of the year.
CBS data indicated that Israeli exports have gone up 12% and that goods and services imports rose by 18.7%, gross domestic product added 5.4% and gross industrial product added 6.1%. Tourism is up a significant 41% when compared to last year.
In a second highly important development in this field, the Israeli Shekel joined the foreign exchange market's CLS Bank global settlement system Monday, making it available for international payment instructions. In a CLS statement, the bank announced that "Following regulatory approval, the Mexican Peso and Israeli Shekel have been designated as CLS Bank Settlement Eligible Currencies. The extension of the CLS Bank service to these currencies enhances systemic stability in the settlement of foreign exchange transactions, and over half of all CLS Bank Members will be able to settle in these two currencies immediately."
Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer said Monday that Israel induction into the CLS system "is a significant step in Israel's increasing integration into the global economy. By reducing settlement risk in FX transactions, vital to Israel's open economy, it reinforces the stability and efficiency of Israel's banks and financial system, and benefits the entire economy.
Shalom and blessings,
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