Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 19, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Election Outcome Won't Halt Tehran's Nuclear Program - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel does not believe that any of the four main contenders in the June 12 Iranian presidential elections would halt Tehran's nuclear program, according to IDF Military Intelligence assessments.
    "There is unlikely to be a change in Iran's nuclear policies no matter who wins the elections," a defense official said on Monday. "All of the leading candidates would likely continue with the nuclear program as part of Iran's overall strategy to project regional dominance."
    See also Shun Pro-West Candidates, Says Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei - Aresu Eqbali (AFP)

Hamas Rejects Gaza-Only Joint Security Force (AFP)
    Salah al-Bardawil, spokesman for Hamas' parliamentary bloc, said any agreement on the formation of a joint Palestinian security force as part of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks would have to apply also to the West Bank.
    "Any deal that limits an agreement on security forces to the Gaza Strip clearly means giving a certificate of good conduct to the security services in the West Bank and their role in fighting the resistance," he said.
    On Sunday Fatah announced that the two sides had agreed to form a joint security force in Gaza.
    See also Palestinians End Reconciliation Talks in Cairo Without Deal - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Hamas and Fatah ended talks in Cairo on Monday without bridging internal rifts.
    Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has mediated for nearly a year now without visible success, "told negotiators the world was not going to wait forever for them to unite," a Palestinian official said.

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Holocaust Denial Widespread among Israeli Arabs - Aron Heller (AP/Washington Post)
    According to a survey of Israel's Arab citizens published Monday, 41% say the Holocaust never happened, up from 28% in 2006.
    The survey also found that 54% of the Israeli Arab public believes Israel has a right to exist as an independent country, down from 81% in 2003.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Tells Netanyahu He Has an Iran Timetable - Sheryl Gay Stolberg
    President Obama said Monday that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making "a good-faith effort to resolve differences" in talks aimed at ending its nuclear program, signaling to Israel as well as Iran that his willingness to engage in diplomacy over the issue has its limits. "We're not going to have talks forever," Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a meeting Monday in the Oval Office. (New York Times)
        See also Obama and Netanyahu Optimistic about Peace Process; Obama Reiterates Calls for Two-State Solution, Netanyahu Stresses Security - Jake Tapper, Simon McGregor-Wood and Huma Khan
    President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu professed optimism Monday on coming to terms on issues such as Palestine and Iran, but behind their profuse praise for each other, the two leaders have clear differences on the two-state solution and the construction of settlements in disputed territories. (ABC News)
        See also below Observations: What President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu Said in Washington (White House)
  • The Beginning of a Strategic U.S.-Israel Convergence on Iran - Howard Schneider
    After his meeting with President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's advisers focused on what they regard as a key strategic success - agreement between Netanyahu and Obama on opposing Iran's development of nuclear weapons technology. Israel and the U.S. fear that Iran's nuclear program is masking an effort to develop nuclear weapons - a development Netanyahu feels would pose a threat to Israel's existence. The issue is at the core of Netanyahu's thinking about the region, and his advisers said that Monday's public comments show that Obama agrees with him. Netanyahu argues that Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia also feel threatened by Iran and, as a result, are open to closer cooperation with Israel.
        "There is the beginning of a strategic convergence of the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government," said Dore Gold, a Netanyahu adviser and former ambassador to the UN. "Both recognize that there are real dangers that could undermine the security of both countries, in particular Iran."  (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Obama to Present New Regional Peace Initiative - Yitzhak Benhorin
    President Obama informed Prime Minister Netanyahu that he intends to promote a new regional peace initiative that he will likely present during a planned June 4 speech in Cairo. Netanyahu's meeting with the president lasted for over four hours - an hour and 45 minutes of it a private discussion.
        Netanyahu said the president "understands" that Iran must not be allowed to obtain military nuclear capability. "There is no green light or red light. There is a principle we agreed on. The important thing said is that there is a commitment to an outcome where Iran does not develop military nuclear power."  (Ynet News)
  • Warning: Terror Groups Trying to Recruit Israelis Online - Hanan Greenberg
    The Israel Security Agency warned Monday that hostile elements may try to contact Israelis through online social networks, such as Facebook, in order to gather intelligence and maybe even lure them abroad for the purpose of abduction. There have been a number of cases in which terrorist elements approached Israelis through online social networks and tried to either recruit them or ask that they disclose classified information for a fee. The security agency has asked that Israelis be vigilant and report any suspicious attempt to approach them online or by phone. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran, Not Palestine, Tops Israel's Agenda - Alon Pinkas
    There are currently two concepts governing Israeli thinking. The first is that bilateral negotiations leading inexorably to a Palestinian state have failed miserably. What began ceremoniously and optimistically as the Oslo process in 1993 has produced nothing but terror, misery, further distrust and animosity and no political accommodation. It failed largely due to a lack of Palestinian leadership, absence of statesmanship and a tradition of missing opportunities. In other words, a politically stable, security-ensuring, economically viable Palestinian state is not a practical possibility now. Ask Tony Blair.
        The second is Iran. Israel sees Iran as a clear and present threat. Imagine if the 9/11 terrorists who crashed planes into New York and Washington had nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran is a direct threat to Israel, to the U.S. and to Europe. Islamic fundamentalism, especially the Shia strain, may be fighting a losing battle, but it may strive to go out with a bang. If Iran is not prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons, an independent Palestine will constitute nothing more than an advanced and violent Iranian outpost. The writer, former Israeli Consul General in New York (2000-04), heads the U.S.-Israel Institute at the Rabin Center. (Times-UK)
  • Stopping an Iranian Bomb - John P. Hannah
    Can the president's strategy of diplomatic engagement persuade Iran to cease its efforts to develop nuclear weapons? Unfortunately, successful denuclearization of hostile states is most likely to occur as a result of regime change, coercive diplomacy or military action, not U.S. pledges of mutual respect. In December 2003, Libya's Moammar Gaddafi accepted an American offer of rapprochement in exchange for giving up his nuclear weapons infrastructure - after U.S. troops had provided him with the compelling example of deposing and capturing Saddam Hussein.
        In 1981, Israeli jets destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor just before it began producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, stopping Hussein's own nuclear ambitions. Military force also proved necessary against Syria's rogue nuclear activities in September 2007.
        America's greatest success in setting back Tehran's nuclear program came when Iran halted its nuclear weapons design work in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Hussein's regime. The writer, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2005 to 2009. (Washington Post)
  • Middle East Requires Pragmatic Realism - Editorial
    If they are to gain peace, prosperity and eventually their own homeland, the Palestinian people need a more credible, pragmatic leadership than the fanatics of Hamas. Their leadership in Gaza renders any prospect of a Palestinian state a nonsense at present. Nor does the incompetent Fatah regime of Mahmoud Abbas on the West Bank have much to offer a complex, demanding process.
        A dose of skepticism on Netanyahu's part about a two-state solution is understandable. In 2000, the Clinton administration brokered a deal in which then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was offering a deal that would have set up an independent state in all of Gaza and 95% of the West Bank and territory from Israel proper to compensate for the remaining 5%. But then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat, unwilling to be seen as the Palestinian leader to give up the struggle against Israel, rejected the offer. Palestinians responded with a four-year suicide-bombing campaign against Israeli civilians. In the last analysis, it is doubtful whether the Palestinians are sufficiently mature enough to put their need of a homeland ahead of their unjust armed struggle against Israel's right to exist. (The Australian)
  • Observations:

    What President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu Said in Washington (White House)

    President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke after their meeting on Monday, May 18:

    • Obama: Israel "is a stalwart ally of the United States. We have historical ties, emotional ties. As the only true democracy of the Middle East it is a source of admiration and inspiration for the American people....It is in U.S. national security interests to assure that Israel's security as an independent Jewish state is maintained."
    • "Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would not only be a threat to Israel and a threat to the United States, but would be profoundly destabilizing in the international community as a whole and could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would be extraordinarily dangerous for all concerned, including for Iran."
    • "We're not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction while Iran proceeds with developing and deploying a nuclear weapon....If we can begin discussions soon, shortly after the Iranian elections [in June], we should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction."
    • "It is I believe in the interest not only of the Palestinians, but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security....All the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they've previously agreed to. Those obligations were outlined in the road map; they were discussed extensively in Annapolis."
    • Netanyahu: "We share the same goals and we face the same threats. The common goal is peace. Everybody in Israel, as in the United States, wants peace. The common threats we face are terrorist regimes and organizations that seek to undermine the peace and endanger both our peoples."
    • "The worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities. Iran openly calls for our destruction, which is unacceptable by any standard. It threatens the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East. It threatens U.S. interests worldwide. But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists, or worse, it could actually give terrorists nuclear weapons. And that would put us all in great peril."
    • "I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately. I would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world....We don't want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them." If "there's recognition of Israel's legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace."
    • "It would help, obviously, unite a broad front against Iran if we had peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And conversely, if Iran went nuclear, it would threaten the progress towards peace and destabilize the entire area....We see exactly eye to eye on this - that we want to move simultaneously and in parallel on two fronts: the front of peace, and the front of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability."

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