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Russian Analyst: No Mideast Peace in Near Future


Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors is not likely "by 2020 or by 2030," according to a Russian expert for Arab studies who spoke at a Jordanian conference under the title, "Middle East 2020: Is a Comprehensive Settlement Possible?" this week.

Analyst Sergei Demidenko, of the Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis, said there has been no change in the three major issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. They are the status of Jerusalem, foreign Arabs claiming a home in Israel and Jewish development in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.

Significant Quantities of Oil Discovered in Center of Israel


An everlasting hope of finding significant amounts of oil in Israel may have been realized with the announcement Thursday that "significant quantities" of oil were found in a well in the area of Rosh HaAyin, a city located east of Tel Aviv on the western edge of Samaria.

The Givat Olam (Hebrew for "Hill of the World") Exploration Limited Partnership informed the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange of the discovery, but added, "At this stage it is not possible to estimate the significance of these findings." The company's stock more than doubled on the stock market, according to Globes.

The firm said the oil was found late Wednesday night and that "more than 60 percent gas was measured in the drill mud." The commercial potential of the oil field will not be known until tests and calculations on production and processing can be completed.

The "Meged" well in the Rosh HaAyin area is one of the few that have been drilled outside of the Negev and Dead Sea area. Several studies by independent consultants have confirmed the potential for oil in the area, and previous drillings have encouraged the prospects of discovering enough oil and gas for commercial production.

Earlier this year, a huge gas field was discovered off the Mediterranean Coast. The gas is expected to be on line in three years and is anticipated to help Israel become self-sufficient in gas. It also is providing hundreds of high-paying jobs for developing the field and bringing the gas from the sea, off Hadera and Haifa, to the coastline.

If the Meged well proves commercially viable, it will further Israel's longtime hope of being energy independent and is likely to strengthen the shekel against world currencies.

Israeli Wargame Sees U.S. Sidelining Netanyahu on Iran

By Reuters

Israel will find itself diplomatically sidelined and militarily muzzled as the United States pursues a nuclear deal with Iran next year, according to a closed-door wargame at Israel's top strategic think-tank.

Not even a warning shot by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu -- the simulation featured an undeclared Israeli commando raid on Iran's Arak heavy water plant -- would shake President Barack Obama's insistence on dialogue.

Israel's arch-foe, meanwhile, will likely keep enriching uranium, perhaps even winning the grudging assent of the West. "The Iranians came out feeling better than the Americans, as they were simply more determined to stick to their objectives," said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser who played Netanyahu in the November 1 wargame at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).

Reflecting Israel's relative isolation, Eiland and his team spent much of the simulation sequestered from the multilateral talks in the snug, three-story INSS building.

"Netanyahu" did have hallway encounters with President Barack Obama -- played by Zvi Rafiah, an Israeli ex-diplomat with extensive U.S. ties. But their chats were hasty and hazy. "Our leverage over the Americans, when we could pry them away from the Iranians and Europeans and others, was limited," Eiland told Reuters. "Pretty much the only card we had to play was the military action card. And that's a faded card."

Assumed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal, Israel has hinted at preemptive air strikes as a last resort for denying Iran the means to make a bomb. But many experts believe Israel would be tactically stymied and loath to cross Washington, which is wary of unleashing a fresh Middle East conflict. "I care about Israel. I must defend Israel. But Israel cannot act unilaterally," said Rafiah, channeling Obama.

The simulation -- in which several serving Israeli officials took part on condition their names would not be made public -- was run by Emily Landau, a senior INSS policy expert. Reuters obtained a first look at the conclusions after they were passed to the Netanyahu government.

"The idea was to create a situation whereby the Americans try a new, bilateral approach to Iran -- both in terms of curbing its nuclear project and finding a way of satisfying its other demands," said Landau, who sees little future for U.N. Security Council sanctions given Russian and Chinese balking.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said the wargame results would be incorporated in internal strategic assessments. Such papers are not generally shared with the United States.

As it happened, the wargamers hunkered down in long-set stances: Iran entertaining negotiations while refusing to give up nuclear projects it says are peaceful; the United States talking tough but avoiding outright threats; and Israel fuming.

Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, a former chief of Israel's military intelligence who played Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, envisaged Tehran staying on its nuclear track "unless facing a threat to the survival of the regime."

"That just wasn't forthcoming from the Americans or their coalition," Zeevi-Farkash said, adding that "Obama" should have buttressed negotiations by boosting the U.S. naval deployment in the Gulf or persuading India to slash its business ties to Iran.

According to Zeevi-Farkash, Iran would be unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, preferring to use such weaponry to protect against invasion and wield regional clout. As such, a preemptive Israeli strike could spur Iran to get the bomb. "Iran would argue that it was the victim of international aggression, and appeal for foreign understanding," he said, adding that, as Khamenei, he had kept open communications with other world powers while negotiating with the United States.

The simulation saw brief brinkmanship after the imagined Israeli sabotage at Arak. "Khamenei" responded by dispatching a Revolutionary Guards commander to Syria and Venezuela, flaunting Iranian influence near the Israeli and U.S. orbits. To the dismay of "Netanyahu," "Obama" did not answer this with force, though he did extend security guarantees to Israel.

Eiland said the simulation pointed to an eventual U.S.-led shift to a policy of allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium and of "containment" should Iran eventually gain nuclear arms.

Israel would have to go along with its U.S. ally, Eiland said: "Israel cannot act alone here. An American-Iranian deal would divest Israel of the ability to attack Iran."

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