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March 18, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

What General Petraeus Said about the Middle East - Barry Rubin (GLORIA Center-IDC, Herzliya)
    General David Petraeus told Congress Tuesday: "A credible U.S. effort on Arab-Israeli issues that provides regional governments and populations a way to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the disputes would undercut Iran's policy of militant 'resistance,' which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit."
    While to many Western observers such a reaction would seem logical, this is not what would happen. The Islamists would denounce the resulting Palestinian state as a Western lackey and redouble their efforts to sabotage any settlement.
    No matter how hard the U.S. tries, it will not satisfy those who profoundly mistrust America as inevitably infidel, imperialist, or both.
    But wait! Why should we assume that a "credible" effort means pressuring Israel for concessions?
    Actually, if there's going to be a credible effort, it requires pressuring the PA, which has been the main force opposing a serious peace process.
    Petraeus never said that it is Israel which is blocking such an effort. And it isn't Israel. Petraeus never said it was Israel's fault.

Report: Not Enough Construction for Jews in Jerusalem - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    A recent study on the future of Israel's capital reveals that the Jewish majority in Jerusalem is declining due to the mass migration of the Jewish population from Jerusalem to peripheral areas, together with the migration of an additional Arab population to Jerusalem.
    Population projections prepared by Prof. Sergio DellaPergola for the 2000 master plan predict that by 2020 a Jewish population totaling 75,000 people will be added to the city.
    However, currently a sufficient planned inventory of housing for 75,000 Jews by 2020 does not exist, while the estimated planned inventory of housing for the Arab population under the master plan would meet requirements at least until 2030.

Pakistani Scientist Khan Describes Iranian Efforts to Buy Nuclear Bombs - R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    The father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has written an official account that details an Iranian attempt to buy atomic bombs from Pakistan at the end of the 1980s.
    Khan states that in lieu of weapons, Pakistan gave Iran bomb-related drawings, parts for centrifuges to purify uranium, and a secret worldwide list of suppliers.
    Iran's centrifuges are largely based on models and designs obtained from Pakistan.

Fischer to Serve New Term as Bank of Israel Governor - Alisa Odenheimer (Bloomberg-Business Week)
    Stanley Fischer, 66, who helped steer Israel's economy back to growth amid the worst global recession since World War II, will serve a second term as central bank governor.
    Following a career as an academic, international policy maker and a banker in the U.S., Fischer became governor of the Bank of Israel and a citizen of the country in 2005. He conducts all official business in Hebrew.

Gaza Enjoying More Aid than Quake-Ravaged Haiti - Jacob Shrybman (Ynet News)
    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is set to arrive in Israel to visit Gaza amidst demands to end a so-called siege on the terrorist-controlled territory. Yet one has to ask what siege, or blockade, he is referring to, with 738,576 tons of humanitarian aid being transferred into Gaza in 2009.
    Gaza has also been called "the world's largest prison," yet in 2009, 10,544 patients and their companions left Gaza for medical treatment in Israel, including nearly 500 last week.
    Secretary of State Clinton pledged $900 million in aid to Gaza following Operation Cast Lead. A USAID report calculated the aid sent to quake-raved Haiti at $700 million - less than Gaza.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama on Israel: Friends Can Disagree - Josh Gerstein
    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)
  • U.S. Mulls Own Plan for Mideast Talks - David E. Sanger and Isabel Kershner
    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:

  • Palestinian Rocket Fired from Gaza Kills Thai Worker in Israel - Shmulik Hadad
    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)
  • Israel Weighs Response to U.S. - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
    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)
  • Peres to EU: Israel Has Every Right to Build in Jerusalem
    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: Palestinian Protests Dying Out as Economy Remains a Key Concern - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    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):

  • For Israel and America, a Disagreement, Not a Crisis - Michael B. Oren
    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)
  • American Credibility at Stake in Showdown over Jerusalem Construction - Hillel Halkin
    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)
  • Tripping in Jerusalem: The Biden-Israel "Flap" - Allan Gerson
    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)
  • How About an Arab "Settlement" Freeze? - Ruth R. Wisse
    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)
  • Obama Aggravates Israel's Mistake - Jeff Robbins
    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)
  • Observations:

    Was Obama's Confrontation with Israel Premeditated? - Yossi Klein Halevi (New Republic)

    • Ramat Shlomo, located between the Jewish neighborhoods of French Hill and Ramot, will remain within the boundaries of Israeli Jerusalem according to every peace plan. Building in the established Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem defines the Israeli national consensus. By placing the issue of building in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem at the center of the peace process, President Obama has inadvertently challenged the Palestinians to do no less.
    • Every Israeli government over the last four decades has built in the Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem; no government, let alone one headed by the Likud, could possibly agree to a freeze there. Obama made resumption of negotiations hostage to a demand that could not be met. Obama's demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations. It is pique disguised as policy.
    • In turning an incident into a crisis, Obama has convinced many Israelis that he was merely seeking a pretext to pick a fight with Israel. The popular assumption is that Obama is seeking to prove his resolve as a leader by getting tough with Israel. Given his ineffectiveness against Iran and his tendency to violate his own self-imposed deadlines for sanctions, the Israeli public is not likely to be impressed. According to an Israel Radio poll on March 16, 62% of Israelis blame the Obama administration for the crisis, while 20% blame Netanyahu.
    • Now the administration is demanding that Israel negotiate over final status issues in proximity talks as a way of convincing the Palestinians to agree to those talks - as if Israelis would agree to discuss the future of Jerusalem when Palestinian leaders refuse to even sit with them. To the fictitious notion of a peace process, Obama has now added the fiction of an intransigent Israel blocking the peace process.

      The writer is a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

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