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Israel to Free 250 Fatah Terrorists in December


Israel will release 250 Arab terrorists from PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization next month in time for the Muslim Id al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. PM Ehud Olmert told Abbas this at their meeting in the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem Monday afternoon.

The feast marks Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son as commanded by God and related in the Bible. Islam and Judaism disagree over which of his sons was to be slaughtered.

Military Intelligence Chief Supports Direct U.S.-Iran Talks

By Ha'aretz

Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin said on Monday that he was not opposed to direct talks between Israel and the United States, saying "dialogue is not appeasement."

Speaking at the annual lecture in honor of late Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Dayan at Tel Aviv University, Yadlin said that Barack Obama's election as U.S. president and the world financial crisis present an opportunity to halt the Iranian nuclear drive through diplomacy.

Obama's election also sets the stage to apply international pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear aspirations, Yadlin went on to say. "Iran will do anything not to be cornered into the position of Iraq or North Korea," he said. "Iran is also very susceptible to international pressure because of the crisis."

Concerns by moderate Sunni regimes in the Middle East about the Iranian nuclear program were an encouraging sign, Yadlin added. But Iran is continuing its efforts - albeit cautiously - to develop offensive nuclear capabilities. This is being done stealthily to avoid attracting attention, he said.

Yadlin also said Israel's military deterrent power had not been as strong since 2000. He predicted "a low probability" for a calculated attack on Israel by one of its neighbors. By contrast, the likelihood of small-scale attacks is very high and could escalate into a bigger conflict after Israel responded, he said.

Yadlin also addressed peace talks with Syria, revealing for the first time assessments he shared with decision-makers. He said Damascus might make peace with Israel, but only if Israel gave in to all of Syria's demands. He said that even then, Syria would not cut its ties with terror groups.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is nonetheless interested in peace, Yadlin added, for an asking price which is well known - Israeli withdrawal from territories captured during the 1967 Six-Day War and a U.S. package that will guarantee the stability of Assad's regime and provide it with financial and military support.

Referring to Hamas-ruled Gaza, Yadlin said Israel could deal with two Palestinian entities, working toward peace with moderates in the West Bank while confronting Islamic militants in the Strip.

The past year has yielded some positive developments in the Middle East, in contrast to the "two difficult years" before, Yadlin said. He cited the first signs of American success in stabilizing Iraq, including the difficulties of Jihadist organizations there such as Al-Qaida.

Yadlin - who had served as IDF military attaché to Washington and as head of the National Defense College - said the end of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration was being received "with a sigh of relief in the Middle East, with cautious hope for peace."

Top Aide Denies Report Obama will Back Arab Peace Plan

By Ha'aretz

A senior adviser to Barack Obama on Sunday denied reports that the U.S. president-elect plans to throw his weight behind the 2002 Arab peace plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories captured during the 1967 Six-Day War in exchange for normalized ties with the Arab world.

The British Sunday Times said Obama expressed this sentiment during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories last July.

Dennis Ross, Obama's adviser on Middle East policy, issued a statement, saying "I was in the meeting in Ramallah. Then-Senator Obama did not say this, the story is false."

The Times cited a senior adviser who quoted Obama as telling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: "The Israelis would be crazy not to accept this initiative. It would give them peace with the Muslim world from Indonesia to Morocco."

According to the Times, Obama, who is due to take office as the U.S. president on January 20, has been urged by leading bipartisan figures in the American foreign policy establishment to embrace the plan, which was first proposed by Saudi King Abdullah in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

Among those who have reportedly lobbied the incoming president in favor of the plan are Lee Hamilton, the former co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group; Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser during the Carter administration; and Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush.

According to the Times report, the advisers say Obama should use the first six to 12 months of his presidency so as to utilize the good will afforded by the initial honeymoon period to push for a deal.

Given the geopolitical predicament of Arab states, who are fearful of the rise of Islamic radicalism as well as the specter of Iran's growing power, advisers believe the first year of an Obama presidency would be ripe for a breakthrough, according to the Times.

Though initially skeptical, Israeli leaders have been warming to the Arab initiative as a possible avenue to solve the impasse with the Palestinians. President Shimon Peres told world leaders on Wednesday at an interfaith dialogue in New York that the Arab peace initiative must be seriously considered as "a serious opening for real progress" in Middle East peace.

With elections looming, Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Labor chairman Ehud Barak are jockeying for the support of left-wing voters, with part of the focus being their disagreement over the Arab League's peace initiative.

The Arab peace initiative, first approved by the Arab League in 2002 in Beirut (and reaffirmed last year), calls for Israel's withdrawal from all the territories and a solution to the refugee problem in exchange for an Arab recognition of the end to the conflict and normalization between Israel and all the Arab countries.

Barak, the defense minister, has proposed that Israel use the peace initiative as a basis for negotiations, to smooth the way for both the Palestinians and the Syrians to make concessions. He also assumes that Israelis are willing to make concessions in exchange for a comprehensive peace.

Peres also supports this view, although his position as head of state precludes his taking an active role in the political discourse.

Peres: Peace Is Made by Closing the Eyes


President Shimon Peres told Diaspora Jewish leaders Monday, "You have to close your eyes" to make peace. He also reasoned that a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority will encourage Sunni Muslims against Ahmadinejad.

Speaking at the annual General Assembly of the United Jewish Committees, he said that "making peace is a little bit like marriage [and] you have to close your eyes and accept what is possible to accept." His audience laughed and applauded.

He also explained his reasoning why surrendering Judea and Samaria to the PA and establishing a new Arab state in their place would have a domino effect on peace in the Middle East.

Iran is the only regional country that wants to control the Middle East, Peres stated. He reasoned that a peace pact with the PA would show Sunni Muslims it does not have to accept Shi'ite dominance by Ahmadinejad's faction.

He wants "to run the Middle East, in the name of religion, the octogenarian president continued." The Persians in Iran are, all told, 35 million people. The Iranians are 70 million, half of them minorities, and half are Persians. And it is the Persians who are the producers of the ayatollahs and the fanatic people. They want to control 350 million people [of the Middle East], 90 percent of whom are Sunni."

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