Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 23, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei Repeats "Death to America" - Sam Wilkin and Babak Dehghanpisheh (Reuters)
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the U.S. on Saturday of using economic pressure and "bullying" to try to turn his countrymen against Islamic rule.
    Khamenei denounced the sanctions and "arrogant" Western powers, blaming them and regional players for the halving of oil prices since last June, which has further squeezed Iran's economy.
    A man in the audience shouted "Death to America," a cry taken up by the crowd. Khamenei continued: "Of course, yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure."
    Khamenei added that Iran was negotiating solely on the nuclear dispute and not about regional matters. "The goals of America on regional issues are the complete opposite of our goals," he said.

Iranian Ship Unloads 180 Tons of Weapons for Houthis in Yemen (Al Arabiya)
    An Iranian ship unloaded more than 180 tons of weapons and military equipment at the Houthi-controlled port of al-Saleef in western Yemen, Al Arabiya reported Friday, quoting security sources.
    Last week Iran promised a year's worth of oil supply to the Houthis, and has agreed to provide Yemen with a 200 megawatt power plant.

Israeli Minister Accuses Iran of Argentina Terror Attacks - Almudena Calatrava (AP-San Francisco Chronicle)
    Israeli Agricultural Minister Yair Shamir led a delegation to Buenos Aires to commemorate the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy that killed 29 people and wounded hundreds.
    On Thursday he accused Iran of orchestrating the embassy bombing and a car bomb attack on a Jewish community center in 1994 that killed 85 people.
    "Iran continues to sow destruction and horror in all the world, but the world continues on as if nothing was happening," Shamir said.
    Shamir, the son of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said the world ignores that Iran is aiming "at the civilized world, including Israel."

Palestinian Appointed Deputy Chief Scientist at Israeli Ministry - Avi Lewis (Times of Israel)
    Tarek Abu-Hamed of Sur Baher in eastern Jerusalem was named as deputy chief scientist of Israel's Ministry of Science, Technology and Space on Sunday, becoming the highest-ranking Palestinian without Israeli citizenship in an official government post.

Netanyahu Victory Has Little Impact on the Peace Process - Joyce Karam (Al Arabiya)
    Even if Netanyahu were to have lost the election, one can argue that the stalled peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians did not have a realistic chance of recovery in the next two years.
    A divided Palestinian house between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and a region that is preoccupied with ISIS, four civil wars, and countering Iran, will unlikely deliver breakthroughs in the negotiations.

Israel's Elbit to Supply U.S. Marines with Laser System - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Elbit Systems announced Sunday a $73.4 million contract with the U.S. Marine Corps to supply a laser system that enables soldiers in concealed positions to carry out imaging, range finding and navigation in combat arenas.
    With the Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability system, marines will be able to acquire targets without breaking cover from their concealed fighting positions.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama: "A Two-State Solution Is the Only Way" for Israel - Sam Stein
    President Barack Obama said in an interview on Friday: "I had a chance to speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, congratulated his party on his victory. I did indicate to him that we continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic. And I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible. So we're evaluating what's taking place."
        "Obviously there's significant skepticism in Israel generally about Iran. And understandably. Iran has made vile comments, anti-Semitic comments, comments about the destruction of Israel....Frankly, they [the Iranians] have not yet made the kind of concessions that are I think going to be needed for a final deal to get done. But they have moved, and so there's the possibility."  (Huffington Post)
        See also below Observations - Israeli Ambassador Dermer: The Prime Minister Didn't Say What the President Suggested He Said - Chuck Todd (NBC News)
        See also below Commentary: Netanyahu Never Ruled Out a Two-State Solution - Mortimer B. Zuckerman (U.S. News)
  • Netanyahu Aides Cite Iran as Source of U.S. Tensions - Isabel Kershner
    Yuval Steinitz, a Likud minister, told Israel Radio on Sunday that the main reason for tensions with Washington was "the strong disagreement we have with the United States over the Iran issue." Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN who was a formal adviser to Netanyahu and spoke to him over the weekend, said that the core of what he described as "cool winds blowing" from Washington was Iran, not the Palestinian issue. "They're about to cut a deal with Tehran and they know that Israel has serious reservations about the substance of that agreement."
        Gold expressed confidence that relations would soon be repaired, if only because of other regional realities. "In the past we've had similar tensions over aspects of the peace process, and ultimately the region forced us into surmounting our differences and working together as allies."  (New York Times)
        See also Israeli Officials: Pressure on Peace Process Meant to Draw Attention Away from "Bad Deal" with Iran - Shlomo Cesana and Eli Leon
    Israeli officials said on Saturday night that elements within the international community will try to apply pressure on Israel regarding the peace process with the Palestinians as a means of distracting attention away from the emerging "bad deal" with Iran. An Israeli official said, "A look at the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran shows an alarming situation in which there is a concern that [the Obama administration] is embracing Iran at Israel's expense."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Petraeus: The Current Iranian Regime Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution - Liz Sly
    Former CIA director Gen. David H. Petraeus told the Washington Post: "The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. While the U.S. and Iran may have convergent interests in the defeat of Daesh [IS], our interests generally diverge. The Iranian response to the open hand offered by the U.S. has not been encouraging."
        "Iranian power in the Middle East is thus a double problem. It is foremost problematic because it is deeply hostile to us and our friends. But it is also dangerous because, the more it is felt, the more it sets off reactions that are also harmful to our interests - Sunni radicalism and, if we aren't careful, the prospect of nuclear proliferation as well."  (Washington Post)
  • 360 Congressmen Write to Obama on Iran - Kristina Wong
    A bipartisan letter on Iran signed by 360 members of Congress was sent to President Obama on Thursday, reminding the administration that permanent sanctions relief on Iran as part of a deal to rollback its nuclear program would require new legislation from Congress. "In reviewing such an agreement [with Iran], Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief," the letter said. (The Hill)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Nabs Hamas Cell that Planned Attacks in West Bank
    Israeli authorities recently arrested six Hamas operatives in Kalkilya in the West Bank who were planning attacks, the Israel Security Agency announced Sunday. The cell had dozens of kilograms of sulfur and 25 grams of mercury fulminate, substances commonly used in improvised explosive devices. Several cell members were recruited by Hamas during visits to Jordan. They underwent military training in Gaza before being sent to the northern West Bank for attacks and to recruit additional members. (Israel Hayom)
  • In One Bedouin Village, a Landslide for Netanyahu - Noa Shpigel
    On March 17, 76% of the votes in the Bedouin village of Arab-al-Naim in the Galilee went to Likud. Behind the improvised tin shacks are modern homes under construction, designated for the village's residents. "In a few years people will come here from abroad to learn how to build a community," says Nimr Naim, who heads the village council. He then lists the development projects that are underway in the village: kindergartens, sewers, a road, electricity, a soccer field. "I used to sleep in a cave with my goats. Now I ask my daughter what wallpaper she wants in her room," he says with a smile. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Netanyahu Never Ruled Out a Two-State Solution - Mortimer B. Zuckerman
    At Bar-Ilan University on June 14, 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side." What happened since? Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan olive branch was followed by more rockets from Gaza, foreign subsidies diverted to tunnel building for murder, and hostage-taking. Bar-Ilan was followed by Iran sandwiching Israel north and south between its terrorist client Hamas in Gaza and its terrorist client Hizbullah in Lebanon.
        Bar-Ilan was followed by the Palestinian Authority making a coalition deal with Hamas, and by more intensive "hate Jews" campaigns in schools and public television, more celebrations of murderers subsidized by the PA.
        Netanyahu said: "I think that anyone who goes about establishing a Palestinian state today and vacating territory is giving attack territory to extremist Islam to be used against the state of Israel." When Netanyahu says "today," he does not mean that he will not be open to it tomorrow or the day after. (U.S. News)
  • Did Washington Ask Netanyahu about His "Two-State" Statement before Criticizing Him? - Robert Satloff
    Launching a shot across Israel's bow, Obama aides told reporters that a new U.S. policy might include endorsing a UN Security Council resolution that would, against the wishes of Israel's democratically elected government, define terms of a final settlement. For Obama, such an act would leave a dangerous legacy of having ended 40 years of principled U.S. effort to promote direct negotiations between the parties.
        No one in the administration seems to have called up the prime minister to ask what he meant by his statements - namely, was he foreswearing forever the possibility of territorial compromise or was he saying that further concessions now, while Palestinians are pursuing their effort to vilify Israel in the International Criminal Court, are out of the question?
        If officials had telephoned Jerusalem, they would have heard what Netanyahu told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell the very next day. "I don't want a one-state solution; I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change." The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New York Daily News)
  • Produce the Fatwa - Thomas Joscelyn
    In a statement Thursday to mark Nowruz, the Persian new year, President Obama said: "Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons." If the president is so confident that Khamenei's alleged fatwa exists, then his administration should be able to produce a copy of it, revealing when it was written and what it says. The Washington Post's fact checker went looking for the fatwa and couldn't find it.
        There is another problem. Khamenei says all sorts of things, many of which we know are false. For example, he has repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration supports the Islamic State. And Khamenei has clearly lied about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Weekly Standard)
        See also Fact Checker: Did Iran's Supreme Leader Issue a Fatwa Against the Development of Nuclear Weapons? - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)

Israeli Ambassador Dermer: The Prime Minister Didn't Say What the President Suggested He Said - Chuck Todd (NBC News)

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, told "Meet the Press" on Sunday:

  • "Prime Minister committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state of Israel. What has changed is the circumstances over the last few years."
  • "We have a collapse of a 100-year order in the Middle East. And militant Islam is charging into the void. That's the first thing that changed. The second thing that that...ten months ago, the leader of the Palestinian Authority reached out to a terror organization and forged an alliance with Hamas. Hamas is committed to Israel's destruction. Their charter calls for the murder of Jews worldwide. They fire thousands of rockets at Israel."
  • "And what Israel believes has to happen now is that President Abbas has to break his alliance with Hamas and return to peace negotiations with Israel.... Why did the peace process collapse? Because President Abbas joined up with Hamas. You can't join up with a terror organization."
  • "The prime minister is not against a demilitarized Palestinian state. He's not against, and he hasn't retracted it any way, his vision that he laid out at Bar-Ilan University six years ago in 2009. What he's against is establishing a terror state on the West Bank, which would create not another Gaza, but 20 Gazas."
  • The prime minister "didn't say what the president and others seem to suggest that he's saying....He didn't change his position. He didn't run around giving interviews saying he's now against a Palestinian state."
  • "The only way we're going to reach peace is if we have the parties at the negotiating table. A United Nations resolution will do the exact opposite. It will harden Palestinian positions. And it will prevent us not only from having peace today, it could prevent peace for decades to come, because no Palestinian leader will move from those positions that are going to be put forward at the United Nations."
  • "What the Palestinians want is they want a state, but they don't want to give Israel peace in return. Israel is in favor of a Palestinian state that would end the conflict with Israel. We are not in favor of a Palestinian state that will continue to wage war against Israel."

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