Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at www.dailyalert.org|
March 9, 2010
For Iran, Enriching Uranium Only Gets Easier - William J. Broad (New York Times)
Turkey Should Pause Before a Mirror - Stephen Kinzer (Guardian-UK)
Rachel Corrie Damage Suit Trial Begins - Dan Izenberg (Jerusalem Post)
Dozens of Arab Students in U.S. Visa Fraud - Gillian Flaccus (AP)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Oil trading firms Trafigura, based in Amsterdam, and Vitol, based in Switzerland, are stopping gasoline sales to Iran, industry sources said on Monday, joining BP, Glencore and Reliance Industries which have halted sales under threat of U.S. sanctions. Analysts say Iran would always find traders to sell it fuel, but the smaller list of suppliers means Tehran would have to pay higher prices. "Political pressure from the United States and its European allies is starting to make an impact and deter fuel trading with Iran," said IHS Global Insight Middle East energy analyst Samuel Ciszuk. (Reuters)
As the Obama administration pursues new multilateral Iran sanctions at the UN, Congress is getting ready to move forward with its own sanctions bill, which the administration is still not happy with. A senior Senate aide close to the process said the House and Senate will soon move to conference on resolving the two versions of the Iran sanctions legislation, one led by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), and the other sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). The State Department had been negotiating with key senators over Dodd's bill, seeking an exemption for any countries they determine to be "cooperating" with the U.S. on the sanctions regime.
Several congressional aides said Friday that their bosses were getting impatient with the ever-slipping deadline for UN action and that a large exemption that includes Russia and China would not fly on Capitol Hill. The administration had pledged to wrap up at the UN in February during the French rotating presidency, then that slipped to March, and now lawmakers are being told April. (Foreign Policy)
U.S. special envoy George Mitchell announced Monday that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to indirect talks, though he acknowledged that the structure and scope of the talks had not yet been agreed upon. "It's hardly a cause for celebration that after 17 years of direct official talks we are regressing to proximity talks," said Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.
"Israelis and Palestinians aren't ready for direct talks; their positions are too far apart," said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. mediator and ambassador to Israel and Egypt, said it's "not understandable why we would now have them sit in separate rooms and move between them." (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
In a Jerusalem meeting with Quartet envoys on Friday, U.S. special envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell's deputy, David Hale, said the negotiations after Annapolis and the understandings reached by Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia, as well as Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, would not be binding. The talks will be based on agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the Roadmap. Abbas never responded to Olmert's offer, but the Palestinians insisted that the negotiations resume from where they stopped during Olmert's term as prime minister. The U.S. apparently accepted Israel's position, which was to ignore everything that was not signed as part of an agreement.
The talks will also be based on the Obama administration's two statements from the past year: President Obama's speech to the UN, which described the goal of a secure, Jewish state in Israel alongside a viable, independent Palestine; and Secretary of State Clinton's statement regarding a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with territory exchanges, combined with Israel's desire for a secure Jewish state that includes "recent developments," meaning the settlement blocs. (Ha'aretz)
The U.S. said on Monday that Israel's approval of 112 new homes in Beitar Illit, adjacent to the "green line" in the West Bank, did not violate a limited Israeli settlement freeze. "On the one hand, it does not violate the moratorium that the Israelis previously announced. On the other hand, this is the kind of thing that both sides have to be cautious about as we move ahead with these parallel talks," said U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. Under heavy U.S. pressure, Israel agreed in November to restrict building in the West Bank. The government said at the time that exceptions could be allowed. (Ha'aretz)
See also Exception to Freeze Approved for Infrastructure, Safety Reasons - Tovah Lazaroff
Beitar Illit is the third-largest Jewish city in the West Bank, with a population of 36,000. Israel has assumed that it will retain Beitar Illit in any final status-agreement with the Palestinians. On Monday, the Defense Ministry explained that initial approval for the 112 apartment units had been granted by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as part of a larger project of close to 300 units. Contractors had received all the permits necessary for the units and had laid the foundations for all but 112 units when the moratorium was announced. A source explained that it was impossible to lay infrastructure for the larger project without construction of these 112 units. In addition, the site, as it is now, posed a safety hazard to people in the area. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Israel had issued VIP cards to about 300 Palestinian elected officials and heads of security arms which enable them to quickly pass through IDF roadblocks in the West Bank. However, Israel recently removed 100 names from the VIP list - all of them members of the Fatah's central committee who took part in the protests in Bil'in. Palestinian officials are also shunning economic ties with Israel, as seen in the discussion on eliminating Palestinian workers at industrial zones in the settlements.
On the whole, the Abbas-Fayyad duo is attempting to erase the last remnants of the Oslo Accords as they press the Americans to prevent Israel from engaging in "hot pursuits" within the West Bank. All these moves, which are part of what is known as "Salam Fayyad's White Intifada," are directed at defeating Hamas in the upcoming local elections in the West Bank on July 17. Hamas has already announced that it will not take part in the elections.
Indirect negotiations are slated to be launched this week between Israel and the Palestinians. However, before the local elections in the West Bank, nothing will come out of these contacts. The Palestinians enter these talks with the aim of discussing the core issues, so that they can showcase them ahead of the elections. Israel views these talks merely as a stage en route to direct talks which will be launched - according to Mitchell's plan - in four months. Meanwhile, the Americans want to end these talks with at least a declaration on final-status borders. What we have here are three parallel lines that do not meet. The PA cannot show up at the elections with a record of concessions on the national front. It has a clear interest in creating a crisis in order to prompt a warm public embrace and reach the elections with an image of strength. (Ynet News)
Iran holds the world's second-biggest oil and gas reserves and supplies about 4.5% of the world's oil production. Iran may be counting on China to shield it against international sanctions that could really hurt, but some analysts believe that would be expecting too much. "The Iranians are overconfident in the Chinese reliance on them," said Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Meanwhile, Erica S. Downs of the Brookings Institution says it is unclear how much money the Chinese have spent so far in Iran's energy sector. "The Iranians aren't getting all they were hoping for from China," she said.
The global recession isn't helping. Iran needs oil prices to stay above $90 a barrel to balance its budget, according to PFC Energy, a consulting firm. Also, unlike a few years ago when the world's oil system could barely keep up with growing demand, there now is ample spare capacity, much of it in Saudi Arabia. Cliff Kupchan, a former State Department official and now a director at the New York consulting firm Eurasia Group, said this meant that Iran no longer held a "trump card" when it comes to oil. (New York Times)
Facing Iran: Lessons Learned Since Iraq's 1991 Missile Attack on Israel - Moshe Arens (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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