Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 14, 2009
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Jordan: Death Sentence for Al-Qaeda Member in Killing of U.S. Diplomat (AP/New York Times)
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Obama indicated to Jewish-American leaders on Monday that the U.S. and Israel are making progress in bridging their differences on the issue of Jewish settlements. Obama, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and political adviser David Axelrod sat down with 16 Jewish-American leaders to discuss the Middle East and other issues. "He (Obama) said that there is more progress than appears in the negotiations and spoke quite positively of the tracks between [U.S. envoy George] Mitchell and [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and between the two administrations," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein said Obama indicated that "there might be some opening for an understanding between the two parties." (Reuters)
See also Obama Meets with Jewish Leaders - Peter Wallsten
A private meeting Monday held to ease tensions between the White House and American Jewish leaders included a pointed exchange as President Obama said public disagreements between the U.S. government and Israel are useful in the pursuit of Middle East peace. The president's remarks, surprising to some in the room, came as he was questioned about a perceived distance between his administration and Israel - specifically in his insistence that Israel halt all settlement construction in the West Bank. Obama said his approach would build more credibility with Arabs.
Some American Jewish leaders have complained that Obama has demanded more concessions from the Israelis on settlements than he has sought from the Palestinians. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he disagreed with Obama's remarks at the meeting, and that showing distance between the two countries gave Palestinians the ability to "play the United States against Israel" in order to gain leverage. (Los Angeles Times)
In a June 25, 2009, interview with the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, top PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said that there had been a steady erosion in Israel's position over the years, to the point that the previous Israeli government had offered the PA territory equal in size to 100% of the land occupied in 1967, by means of a land swap. Therefore, the Palestinians had no reason to rush into accepting the Israeli proposals. He stressed that the Palestinians would insist on receiving both the "right of return" and monetary compensation for the refugees. "I estimate that we are talking about $140 billion."
In addition, Erekat said: "Abbas told [former Prime Minister Olmert] that, according to the map he had obtained from a friendly country, the [Israeli] settlements that have been built to date occupy 1.2% of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem," and that "nobody should agree to Israeli settlers remaining in the Palestinian [state]." (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was interviewed on Israel Radio on Monday:
Q: Europe is now proposing, through [EU envoy] Javier Solana, that the UN unilaterally announce the establishment of a Palestinian state, should the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians fail.
Lieberman: "The statement should be construed in the context of a very human situation. Javier Solana is about to retire, he will be leaving his position by the end of the year, someone else will replace him. Like anyone else in a similar situation, he too is attempting to make a few statements, to leave a legacy, to be remembered for some unique accomplishment. But when push comes to shove, everyone knows that the existing agreements in this region were never achieved by coercion but only by direct communication between the two parties. We have the successful precedents of the peace with Egypt and peace with Jordan, both of which were achieved only by direct talks between the two parties. Therefore we hold on to the concept that peace cannot be forced upon anyone; peace must be built. It is up to us to build peace, it cannot be achieved by coercion."
"Only recently we heard President Obama speaking in great detail about the conflict in the Middle East, and he too said that there is no substitute for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and that nothing can be accomplished by coercion." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair told Prime Minister Netanyahu Monday that Israel was not getting enough credit for its many recent measures to improve conditions for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, such as the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints. Blair was briefed on the efforts Israel was making to boost the economic development of the West Bank and lift restrictions from the Palestinian residents, and both sides raised additional ideas for improving the Palestinian economy. (Jerusalem Post)
Talk of a resumption of Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations is "very premature considering Syrian intransigence and support for terror," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the Jerusalem Post on Monday. American diplomat and Syria expert Frederick Hoff, a top adviser to American Middle East envoy George Mitchell, is now in Israel for meetings and will fly to Damascus on Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Obama administration is attempting to fine-tune its strategy on Iran, and quietly put in place different levers for pressuring Iran if no diplomatic movement is in sight. While Obama has made it clear that he remains committed to negotiations, Iran has still not responded to the U.S. offer of engagement. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has promised to take an even more determined stance against the West in response to their recent "meddling" in Iran's internal affairs, even though Obama took every possible precaution in order not to be perceived as interfering in this way.
The lesson is that Iran's attitude toward the U.S. is driven by what Iran seeks to achieve, and not perceptions of U.S. accommodation. In fact, accommodation can be interpreted as a weakness to be exploited. To succeed on the Iranian nuclear issue, the U.S. will ultimately have to embrace its own interests and follow through with determination. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
The regime has regained control of the streets. Mousavi surely knows that Khamenei has, for now, decisively outflanked him. Hope for reform again appears a long-term affair.
The influence of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's preeminent cleric and probably the most respected Shiite jurist in the world, comes into play here. Iranian clerics have been free to go to Iraq on pilgrimage and for study since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Sistani, an Iranian by birth who still speaks Arabic with a Persian accent, has embraced democracy in Iraq. What's interesting is the potential appeal in Iran of the Iraqi model - the cultural and religious authority that comes from the Shiite tradition of keeping a certain distance from power, combined with a modern, moral embrace of democracy. The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Weekly Standard)
Why Is Israel's Presence in the Territories Still Called "Occupation"? - Avinoam Sharon (Global Law Forum)
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