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 17, 2010
Ahmadinejad: "Islamic Revolution Reaching Beyond Iran" (Iran Tracker-American Enterprise Institute)
Taking Relations with Israel to the Brink? - Elise Labott (CNN)
Testing Obama, at Home and Abroad - David E. Sanger (New York Times)
Obama and Israel: Not Smart - John Podhoretz (Commentary)
A Telling Tiff - George Jonas (National Post-Canada)
Overkill: Rebuke of Israel Goes Overboard - Editorial (The Oklahoman)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The discord between the U.S. and Israel over Jewish building in East Jerusalem deepened Tuesday with Israeli officials rejecting demands by Washington and expressing anger over the public upbraiding of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the Obama administration. Since Israel annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli officials say, a request to scrap Jewish building projects there is both legally unfeasible and a betrayal of the mandate of the current government, elected on a platform of keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.
Israeli officials say the Obama administration misread the situation, and that stopping building in Jerusalem was never an option. "We must tell the American government that there are things we can do and things we cannot do," said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, who was reflecting the current government's thinking. "Freezing building in east Jerusalem is one of those things we cannot do." (New York Times)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismisses the view that relations between the U.S. and Israel are in crisis. "Oh, I don't buy that," Clinton told reporters Tuesday at the State Department. "We have an absolute commitment to Israel's security. We have a close, unshakable bond between the United States and Israel and between the American and Israeli people." She said U.S. and Israeli officials are in intense talks "over steps that we think would demonstrate the requisite commitment to this [peace] process." "Our goal now is to make sure that we have the full commitment from both our Palestinian and Israeli partners to this effort." (CNN)
See also Remarks of Secretary of State Clinton (State Department)
See also White House: Commitment to Israel's Security Is Unchanged (White House)
In response to Secretary of State Clinton's remarks, the Prime Minister's Office issued the following statement Tuesday: "The State of Israel appreciates and esteems U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's warm remarks regarding the deep bond between the United States and Israel and the U.S. commitment to Israel's security. Regarding the commitment to peace: In the past year, the Government of Israel has proven its commitment to peace in both word and deed, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 14 June 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech, the dismantling of hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks in Judea and Samaria, and the decision to suspend new construction starts in Judea and Samaria for ten months, which Secretary of State Clinton defined as 'unprecedented.'
By contrast, the Palestinians have raised preconditions for the resumption of the diplomatic process, such as they have not done in the past 16 years. They are waging an assault to delegitimize Israel in international institutions via the Goldstone report. They are also continuing to incite towards hatred and violence; included in this is the decision to dedicate a square in Ramallah after the woman terrorist responsible for murdering 38 Israelis. Prime Minister Netanyahu again calls on the Palestinians to enter into the tent of peace without preconditions because this is the only way to reach an agreement that will ensure peace, security and prosperity for both peoples." (Prime Minister's Office)
Pro-Israel Democrats have begun to criticize the Obama administration's stern stance toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As the stalemate continues, Democratic critics have begun to question the White House's public pressure on Netanyahu to reverse plans for controversial new housing and make other, unspecified concessions. Rep. Christopher Carney (D-PA) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) sent a letter Tuesday to President Obama asking the administration to climb down.
"We urge your Administration to refrain from further public criticism of Israel and to focus on more pressing issues affecting this vital relationship, such as signing and enforcing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act when it comes to your desk," they write. "While the recent controversy is regrettable, it should not overshadow the importance of the U.S.-Israel alliance. A zoning dispute over 143 acres of Jewish land in Israel's capital city should not eclipse the growing threat we face from Iran."
"We should not have a disproportionate response to Israel. We need to be careful and measured in our response, and I think we all have to take a step back," Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said Monday. "While the timing of the east Jerusalem housing announcement was regrettable, it must not cloud the most critical foreign policy issue facing both counties - Iran's nuclear threat," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "The Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find a way to do so in private and do what they can to defuse this situation," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY). While the Congressional criticism remains measured, it appears to be growing louder. (Politico)
See also Critics Accuse Administration of Exploiting Israel Dispute, Aiding "Enemies"
The Obama administration is drawing fierce criticism from both sides of the aisle for appearing to take dead aim at U.S. policy toward Israel by exploiting a dispute that began as a mere bureaucratic blunder. "These matters need to be thought through before public pronouncements can significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process," Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said Tuesday. (FOX News)
See also More Congressional Reaction - Uriel Heilman
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.): "While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region." Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.): "Our nation's security cannot afford a foreign policy which isolates our allies." (JTA)
In his prepared testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Gen. David Petraeus listed the Israeli-Arab conflict as the first "cross cutting challenge to security and stability" in the Centcom area of responsibility [AOR]. "The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR," he wrote. "The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel." (Politico)
See also Testimony of Gen. Patraeus (Senate Armed Services Committee)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
According to the Palestinians, more than 100 people were injured and 70 others were arrested during the "day of rage" declared in east Jerusalem on Tuesday. (Ynet News)
See also Fatah Calls to "Defend Jerusalem" - Khaled Abu Toameh
The armed wing of Fatah, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, on Tuesday called on the Palestinian Authority to give back the weapons it had confiscated from the group's gunmen so that they could participate in the "Jerusalem Intifada," as both the PA and Hamas continued to accuse Israel of planning to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces banned street protests in many Palestinian cities. PA security officials said that demonstrations were only allowed in areas under Israeli control, including Jerusalem, and that there was no need to protest inside Palestinian cities. (Jerusalem Post)
Tuesday's violent demonstrations occurred mostly in the villages around Jerusalem, with incidents also in Hebron and in Bil'in, but these were not mass demonstrations. Jerusalem police described the incidents during the past two days as a blatant failure of the Palestinians, both the Palestinian Authority and its Hamas rivals, to set the territories ablaze. In the village of Al-Suwaneh, one of the epicenters of Tuesday's confrontations, Israeli security forces dispersed several dozen Palestinian stone-throwers without much effort after arrests by undercover policemen. In a few hours, relative calm was restored, despite the wild incitement in the Arab media of recent days.
Even though the events were the most serious in the past two years, it still resembled an intifada lite. It was hard to find any passion in the demonstrators' eyes. In east Jerusalem, as in the West Bank cities, fatigue is discernible. The Hamas leaders in Gaza who are calling for a third intifada may have nothing to lose, but in the West Bank, the vast majority of the people prefer to keep things calm. The American condemnation that Israel received also contributed to the demonstrations of recent days. When the Obama administration attacks the Netanyahu government, the Palestinian Authority receives a boost - for popular protests and toughening its stance in the proximity talks. (Ha'aretz)
The PA is not interested as of now in a conflict of any sort with Israel - not a "rock intifada," not "popular resistance," and certainly not armed conflict. As for now, no one in the upper echelons of the PA is willing to start a new armed intifada. "What is happening today is letting off steam, but only to a certain extent," said a PA security official. "As of now, there is no plan to let that line be crossed. The people have suffered for years, and no one has any interest in going back to the same situation despite calls made by senior officials in the organizations and committees to start a struggle." (Ynet News)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday: "We have some misunderstandings with the U.S.; this is not the first time, and unfortunately, it won't be the last time either. We have an interest in lowering the flames. One way or another, we certainly have an interest in setting things straight and reaching understandings and we will do this in the customary channels."
Addressing the American demand for a construction freeze in east Jerusalem, the foreign minister described a situation in which Arabs would be prohibited from buying and building in the west of the capital - "They would immediately declare us an apartheid state. And they are also demanding we don't touch the illegal construction in the east of the city, despite verdicts and despite court rulings. I asked an American journalist, can you imagine the U.S. administration not honoring court rulings? It must be clear that we cannot only ban Jews from building. This is unacceptable. There will be no discrimination against Jews."
Lieberman said construction in east Jerusalem has been continuous ever since the end of the Six-Day War. "We cannot forfeit our sovereignty. A government was elected here, there is a very clear coalition agreement. This is a democratic government that represents the public's opinion." (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Alan Solow, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, issued the following statement on Tuesday:
We urge the United States and Israel to resolve the controversy with the use of language reflecting their historic friendship. The recent disclosure by Israel of its intention to build additional housing units in eastern Jerusalem at a future date does not contradict its announced commitment to freeze settlement building for a limited period, and a cessation to building in Jerusalem was never a condition of the proximity talks. Israel has always claimed a right to build in its capital city.
Israel's commitment to participate in proximity talks is in sharp distinction to the continued incitement by the Palestinian Authority. Only last week, the Palestinians went ahead with the dedication of a public square in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who was responsible for the massacre of 37 Israelis and American photographer Gail Rubin in 1978. It is such conduct which merits the attention and condemnation of those who seek to achieve peace. (Conference of Presidents)
I spoke with a senior administration official Monday who accompanied Biden on his trip to Israel, and he said that Biden did not tell the Israelis that their actions were endangering American troops. Here is what the official told me: "The assertion I read in the newspaper suggested that the Vice President said something to the effect that Israeli actions are endangering American soldiers. He never said that." (Atlantic)
Israelis shouldn't feel that they have been singled out. In Britain, people are talking about the end of the "special relationship" with America, despite their ongoing sacrifices in Afghanistan. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has openly criticized Obama for months. Relations with Japan are rocky, partly because of a perception that the U.S. can't be counted on for the long term. By now, a moderately self-reflective administration might be asking why so many allies, everywhere, are worried. Who has attracted attention in the Obama administration? The answer, so far, seems to be not America's allies but its competitors, and in some cases its adversaries.
The president has shown seemingly limitless patience with the Russians as they stall an arms-control deal that could have been done in December. He accepted a year of Iranian insults and refusal to negotiate before hesitantly moving toward sanctions. The administration continues to woo Syria without much sign of reciprocation in Damascus. Yet Obama angrily orders a near-rupture of relations with Israel for a minor infraction like the recent settlement dispute - and after the Israeli prime minister publicly apologized.
Rather than strengthening the democratic foundation of the new "international architecture" - the G-20 world - the administration's posture is increasingly one of neutrality, at best, between allies and adversaries, and between democrats and autocrats. Israel is not the only unhappy ally, therefore; it's just the most vulnerable. The writer is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Washington Post)
Last week's announcement of construction in east Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel was an unnecessary step. But optics are not the real problem. Mr. Netanyahu's efforts to avoid open disputes with Washington have not won him White House plaudits. Mr. Obama almost certainly believes the real obstacle to peace is not new housing or unfortunate timing but so-called Israeli intransigence.
On Iran, Mr. Netanyahu's mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions. What's more, Mr. Obama is also unwilling to let anyone else, namely Israel, act instead. (Wall Street Journal)
Obama and the Jacksonian Zionists - Walter Russell Mead (American Interest)
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