Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 16, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

ISIS Activity in Israel - Amir Rapaport (Israel Defense)
    In Israel, ISIS is more of a concept than an organization.
    According to the Israel Security Agency, there are three hubs of solidarity with ISIS that amounted to the establishment of small ISIS cells - in the north, among the Bedouin in the Negev, and in eastern Jerusalem.
    In the north, in 2014, seven Israeli Arabs, mostly from Sakhnin, were arrested for involvement in ISIS-related activity. The cell members admitted they had organized around an ideology of "Salafi-jihadism" which advocates global jihad, and they had pledged their allegiance to the ideology of ISIS.
    Members of the group communicated with ISIS activists in Syria, including Israeli Arabs who had travelled to Syria to join ISIS.
    In the Bedouin village of Khureh near Dimona, some individuals who had worked as teachers in the Israeli educational system were subsequently accused of being members of ISIS.
    No significant ISIS activity takes place in the West Bank, as any attempt to establish an ISIS infrastructure is dealt with by the Palestinian security forces.
    So far, 60 Israeli Arabs have gone to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and 11 of them have been killed. The high percentage of deaths and the defeats that ISIS has sustained have stopped its recruitment efforts in Israel almost completely.

IDF Responds to Gunfire from Gaza - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    After gunfire from Gaza damaged an IDF vehicle working near the border fence on Sunday, the IDF directed tank fire at Hamas positions in response, the IDF Spokesperson's Office said.

Qatar to Help Pay Gaza Electricity Bill for Three Months (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
    Qatar agreed on Sunday to cover the costs of electricity in Gaza for three months at a cost of $4 million per month, a senior Hamas official said on Sunday after Ismail Haniyeh, the deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, met with the Emir of Qatar.

Water Pipes Run Dry in Damascus - Louisa Loveluck and Suzan Haidamous (Washington Post)
    According to the UN, at least 4 million people in and around Damascus are now cut off from the water grid.
    Photographs shared on social media from the Damascus suburbs show residents crowding around water trucks.
    "Everyone is being very cautious about their [water] consumption now. You never know if what you have left will be the last," said Ingy Sedky, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Michigan Passes Anti-BDS Legislation (JNS-Algemeiner)
    Michigan has become the latest state to pass legislation aimed at combatting the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
    The bipartisan legislation prohibiting Michigan from contracting with businesses that boycott a "strategic partner" was passed last month by the state house and senate, and signed Tuesday by Governor Rick Snyder.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Concerned over Fresh UN Initiative after Paris Conference
    Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon on Friday raised concern over possible moves at the Security Council to adopt a new measure to build on the Paris Middle East conference. "We are witnessing an attempt to promote a last-minute initiative before the new U.S. administration takes office," Danon said. "Supporters of the Palestinians are looking for further anti-Israel measures at the Security Council." The council is planning to meet on Tuesday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AFP)
        See also Kerry Promises Israel: No Further International Action after Paris Peace Conference - Barak Ravid
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon and promised the Paris peace conference will not lead to further action at the UN or in any other international forums. He added that should any resolution be put forward during that time, the U.S. would oppose it. (Ha'aretz)
  • Kerry: U.S. Worked to Ensure Fair Paris Mideast Statement
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the U.S. had negotiated at the Paris Middle East peace conference to prevent Israel being treated unfairly. He said U.S. diplomats insisted on strong language condemning Palestinian incitement and attacks on Israelis in the final statement. "Where we thought it was unbalanced and where we thought it was not expressing the kind of unity that I talked about, we fought to address it," Kerry said. "We did what was necessary to have a balanced resolution."
        Kerry confirmed that he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during the Paris meeting to reassure him. Kerry said he had told Netanyahu: "We fully respect Israel's profound historic and religious ties to [Jerusalem] and to its holy sites. We've never questioned that. [The recent UN] resolution in no manner prejudges the outcome of permanent status negotiations for east Jerusalem which must reflect those historic ties and realities on the ground."  (AFP)
  • Britain Has "Reservations" about Paris Middle East Peace Talks
    Britain said on Sunday it had reservations about the Middle East peace conference in Paris. "We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them - indeed which is taking place against the wishes of the Israelis - and which is taking place just days before the transition to a new American President when the U.S. will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement," a Foreign Office statement said.
        "There are risks therefore that this conference hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace." Britain did not send a senior diplomat to the conference and did not back the final communique. (Reuters-Jerusalem Post)
        See also Australia: We Did Not Agree with Every Element of Paris Conference Statement - Michael Koziol
    Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has distanced the Australian government from a communique on the pathways to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. "While the Australian government was represented at the Paris conference, this does not mean we agree with every element of the final statement," Bishop said, noting that the government did not support "one-sided resolutions targeting Israel....The most important priority must be a resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians for a two-state solution as soon as possible."  (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Paris Conference Pushes Peace Further Away
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "The conference convening in Paris today is a useless conference. It is being coordinated between the French and the Palestinians. Its goal is to try and force terms on Israel that conflict with our national needs. Of course it pushes peace further away because it hardens the Palestinian positions and it also pushes them away from direct negotiations without preconditions. I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday's world. Tomorrow's world will be different - and it is very near."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel, PA to Renew Joint Water Committee after Six Years - Elior Levy
    Israel and the PA signed an agreement on Sunday to renew the activity of the Joint Water Committee to improve and modernize the West Bank water infrastructure. The committee has not met regularly for six years. The agreement will allow the laying of new pipes for water and sewage quickly and efficiently.
        Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said, "The signing of this water agreement proves that it's possible to reach understandings and agreements when we discuss issues substantively, bilaterally, clean of extraneous issues, regarding natural resources and additional infrastructures that affect the entire population. Over the past year and a half we've signed four agreements: on electricity, water, mail and 3G cellular infrastructure, which is intended to improve the quality of life for all the populations in the region."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Paris Peace Conference: Wrong Message, Wrong Time, Wrong Place - Ron Prosor
    The Paris conference on Sunday won't change anything on the ground. All it will do is raise Palestinian expectations, which will only increase their frustration and violence. When will the international community finally realize that granting the Palestinians unilateral achievements, time and again, is simply the wrong way?
        International conferences are intended to serve as an envelope in which the sides work to reach an agreement while they hold direct negotiations. That's the way it was in Madrid, Oslo and Camp David. Of course the conference will not deal with the real obstacles to peace, like the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
        There is no doubt that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has to be restarted, yet the form should be through a regional conference in a "2+6" format - in the presence of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Israel and the Palestinians, brokered by the U.S. and Russia. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, holds the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC). (Ynet News)
  • France's Irrelevant Initiative - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    No one invited France to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, but the country is still living in its own inglorious past and is convinced it is still a leading power on the international stage whose opinions matter. In the actual Middle East, however, no one gives France a second thought and no one is taking its peace initiative seriously.
        Moreover, no one in the Arab world cares or has the time to deal with the Palestinian issue or is willing to prioritize the Palestinian cause over the pressing problems these countries are facing. The Paris summit, therefore, is not a Franco-Arab venture. The writer, Vice Rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
        See also France's Counterproductive "Peace Initiative" - Dr. Tsilla Hershco (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
        See also Tempering Expectations for the Paris Conference - Ghaith al-Omari (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Paris Meeting Marks End to Obama's Mideast Diplomacy - Matthew Lee
    The Obama administration's eight years of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy came to an end this weekend, with chances for a Mideast peace deal at perhaps their lowest ebb in a generation. The State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry only participated in the Paris peace conference on Sunday to ensure America's interest in a two-state solution to the conflict is preserved.
        No one expects a plan to emerge that could lead to new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Obama's efforts on the peace process in 2009-2010 and 2013-2014 both failed. (AP-Washington Post)

Don't Tear Up the Iran Deal, Make It Better - Amos Yadlin and Avner Golov (USA Today)

  • The Iran nuclear deal is highly flawed, but it would be foolhardy for America to scuttle it now. During its first seven years the deal delivers a period of significant constraints over Iran's nuclear program along with tight inspections and monitoring. That makes those first seven years an opportune time to address the deal's flaws.
  • The U.S. should put into place partnerships and plans to deter any Iranian effort to race toward nuclear weaponry once the constraints on its nuclear program start waning.
  • To restore American deterrence, the new president should make two positions clear. First, the U.S. is willing to reimpose economic sanctions in the event of Iranian noncompliance. Second, it will not hesitate to use military force to prevent Iran from dashing for the bomb or from reducing its breakout time to a few months or even weeks after restrictions begin to wane.
  • The U.S., working with the other powers and Israel, should also move to counter Iran's non-nuclear misbehavior. The U.S. should assertively react to attacks on U.S. forces in the region by Iran or its allies; thwart Iran's military assistance to terror organizations, including Hizbullah, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hamas; and enforce UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which prohibits Iran from developing a ballistic missile program designed to carry nuclear weapons.
  • Washington and Jerusalem should formulate a parallel agreement on the appropriate response to potential Iranian violations of the nuclear deal or any crossing of the new American red line.
  • Their plan should provide Israel with the necessary legitimacy and capacity to act as a last resort in coordination with Washington to prevent a nuclear Iran.

    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, heads Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, where Avner Golov is a research fellow.

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