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 18, 2010
What General Petraeus Said about the Middle East - Barry Rubin (GLORIA Center-IDC, Herzliya)
Report: Not Enough Construction for Jews in Jerusalem - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Pakistani Scientist Khan Describes Iranian Efforts to Buy Nuclear Bombs - R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick
Fischer to Serve New Term as Bank of Israel Governor - Alisa Odenheimer (Bloomberg-Business Week)
Gaza Enjoying More Aid than Quake-Ravaged Haiti - Jacob Shrybman (Ynet News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Barack Obama is rejecting talk that U.S.-Israel relations are in a meltdown. Asked in a Fox News interview Wednesday whether the falling out amounted to a "crisis," Obama said flatly, "No."
"Israel's one of our closest allies and we and the Israeli people have a special bond that's not going to go away. But friends are going to disagree sometimes," the president said. "There is a disagreement in terms of how we can move this peace process forward....[On Tuesday], when there were riots by the Palestinians against a synagogue that had been reopened, we condemned them in the same way because what we need right now is both sides to recognize that it is in their interests to move this peace process forward." (Politico)
The angry exchanges between the U.S. and the Israeli government have rekindled a White House debate over whether - and when - President Obama should propose an American plan to form the basis of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, senior administration officials said Wednesday. If Mr. Obama decided to advance his own proposal, it would likely not be until his special envoy, former Senator George J. Mitchell, had engaged in several months of "proximity talks," the indirect, American-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who was deeply involved in the Camp David talks during the Clinton administration, said that while the administration had "been thinking for months" about the advantages and risks of putting its own plan on the table, "they are worried about being accused of imposing their own solution." (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
A 30-year-old Thai foreign worker was killed Thursday after a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza hit a greenhouse compound in Netiv Ha'asara in Israel in the third such attack in the last 24 hours. (Ynet News)
The Israeli government's top seven ministers deliberated Wednesday over Israel's response to the demands by the Obama administration regarding construction in east Jerusalem. The ministers were unanimous in agreeing on the need to resolve the crisis with the U.S. Still, a majority of ministers expressed serious reservations over Clinton's demands, including the cancellation of the Ramat Shlomo housing plan. During a telephone conversation Tuesday, Vice President Biden failed to persuade Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to the administration's demands. "There was a difficult air to the conversation, and it ended with no results and no agreements," a senior official in Jerusalem said. (Ha'aretz)
President Shimon Peres told visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday that Israel reserved the right to build in Jerusalem and that Israel's construction policy in the capital has not changed in forty years. This policy has never interfered with the peace process, he said. He added that Israel would continue this policy and called for a quick resumption of peace talks. (Ha'aretz)
IDF assessments of the situation in the West Bank and east Jerusalem suggest that the protests are dying out, despite efforts at incitement by Fatah, the PA and Hamas. "The average Palestinians are not interested in losing what they have. Jerusalem does not bother them to the point where they will risk what they have gained since the end of the second intifada," a senior officer in Central Command said Wednesday. "The organizers of the protests have so far failed to rally the masses. What has happened in Jerusalem and Hebron is relatively minor in scale. It was blown out of proportion by Al Jazeera." Calm prevailed in east Jerusalem Wednesday after a day of riots Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Even the closest allies can sometimes disagree. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no desire during a vice presidential visit to highlight longstanding differences between the U.S. and Israel on building on the other side of the 1949 armistice line that once divided Jerusalem. The prime minister repeatedly apologized for the timing of the announcement and pledged to prevent such embarrassing incidents from recurring. In reply, the Obama administration asked Israel to reaffirm its commitment to the peace process and to its bilateral relations with the U.S. Israel is dedicated to both.
Israel's policy on Jerusalem is not Mr. Netanyahu's alone, but was also that of former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Golda Meir - in fact of every Israeli government going back to the city's reunification in 1967. Consistently, Israel has held that Jerusalem should remain its undivided capital and that both Jews and Arabs have the right to build anywhere in the city.
Israel's policy on Jerusalem did not preclude the conclusion of peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. Nor did it prevent the Palestinians from negotiating with Israel for more than 15 years after the Oslo accords of 1993. Consistently, Israelis have demonstrated remarkable flexibility as well as generosity to any Arab leader genuinely offering peace. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (New York Times)
Four months ago, Israel and the U.S. concluded an argument regarding Israeli construction in the West Bank and former Jordanian Jerusalem with a compromise that neither government was particularly happy about: Israel reluctantly agreed to suspend all new construction in the West Bank for nearly a year, and the U.S. reluctantly accepted Israel's refusal to do the same in Jerusalem. Yet however reluctant this acceptance was, America made it clear that it considered the Israeli position enough of a concession to push the "peace process" forward and that it was willing to live with it. On that basis, the Netanyahu government declared a West Bank freeze and began to enforce it, despite the anger this caused on the pro-settlement Israeli Right from which many of Mr. Netanyahu's voters come.
Now, America has reneged on its word. Using the Ramat Shlomo incident as a pretext, it is demanding once again, as if an agreement had never been reached, that Israel cease all construction in "Arab" Jerusalem. Basically, it is saying: "We agreed to a compromise? So what if we did? Now you've insulted us and we're taking our agreement back." This is a grave mistake. And it is gravest of all for the "peace process" that President Obama claims to be so eager to restart.
The next time an American president asks Israelis to count on America, he might ask himself: Why on earth should they? (New York Sun)
Clearly, Israel had never pledged to change its policy to treat east Jerusalem (as opposed to the West Bank) as sovereign Israeli territory, placing issues of housing off-limits for purposes of negotiation or Israeli-American dialogue. Israel's official position for the last forty years is that east Jerusalem's status is not negotiable. Israel's position may change during negotiations, but it seems delusional to believe that Israel can be forced to change its position on Jerusalem in advance of actual negotiations.
To the extent that this is the ambition of the Obama Administration, as it seems to be, it marks a radical departure from the long-held U.S. policy towards Israel. For the last forty plus years Washington's position has been that: (a) the status of Jerusalem is distinct and wholly different from that of the West Bank; and (b) that while the U.S. considers Israeli settlement activity in both Jerusalem and the West Bank to be ill advised, it does not deem West Bank, let alone east Jerusalem settlements, to be unlawful.
To be sure, U.S. presidents are free to announce new doctrines and policies, and do not need Congressional approval or even that of the American public. But it is generally accepted that this is done openly with an opportunity for an airing of costs and benefits. Here, to the extent U.S. foreign policy was changed, it was changed by stealth. The writer is former counsel to the U.S. delegation to the UN. (Huffington Post)
It is unfortunate that Arabs obsess about building in Israel rather than aiming for the development of their own superabundant lands. Ramat Shlomo, the neighborhood at the center of the present altercation, is actually in northern Jerusalem, west of the Jewish neighborhood of Ramot, home to 40,000 Jewish residents. Why does the White House take issue with the construction of housing for Jewish citizens within the boundaries of their own country? Any peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict will begin with a hard look at the map of the region in which 21 countries with 800 times more land are consumed with their Jewish neighbors' natural increase. (Wall Street Journal)
Knowing that Netanyahu had already apologized for the announcement of additional housing in east Jerusalem, the Obama administration deliberately took a course that it knew would inflame anti-Israeli intransigence throughout the Arab world, and would undermine support for Israel in the U.S., turning these events into something that borders on ugly. Notably, this was from an administration that had stayed conspicuously silent for 14 months while Mahmoud Abbas refused even to negotiate with Israel, without fear of any consequences.
The PA has in the last decade repeatedly rejected two-state solutions with Israel that would have involved an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has made it clear that it does not have an issue with housing projects here or there; rather, it is committed to the destruction of any state of Israel, regardless of borders. This makes the Obama administration's position that settlements are the impediment to peace worse than silly.
When those who have long harbored the view that it is only a matter of time before the U.S. can be peeled away from Israel hear words that confirm their view, any incentive they may have had to make peace with Israel disappears and the incentive to be intransigent grows. By the same token, when the administration resorts to the sort of ugliness that it has over the last week, it raises serious questions among Israelis and others about whether Obama can be trusted to protect the security of Israel. The writer is a former U.S. delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission under President Clinton. (Boston Globe)
Was Obama's Confrontation with Israel Premeditated? - Yossi Klein Halevi (New Republic)
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