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March 24, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Jerusalem Mayor: U.S. Policy Set by the Palestinian Press - Nahama Duek (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 19Mar10)
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in an interview: "I don't understand why the Americans are upset....No government has ever frozen building in Jerusalem, not a Labor government or Kadima. I think it would have been wise if the Americans had come and learned the details before they took a position."
    "There are detailed, public master plans for the good of all....If the Americans had come and learned the plans, they wouldn't have reacted as they did. To my regret, their policy was set according to what appeared in the Palestinian press."
    Q: So what's the proper solution?
    Barkat: "To keep building. That is the only solution. Jerusalem can't be frozen. This was never part of the negotiations and it needs to be removed from the agenda. I believe we must end the crisis with the Americans. Our fate is bound together, intertwined with one another, but let them come and learn the territory. I'll be happy to guide them." 
    See also Jerusalem Mayor: Building Freeze "Undermines Peace" - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    "Demanding a freeze in the city is an obstacle and undermines peace," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told the London think-tank Chatham House on Monday.
    Anticipating that the population of Jerusalem would grow to 1 million by 2030, the mayor said he needed to build 50,000 apartments to meet the demand for housing.
    See also Demography, Geopolitics, and the Future of Israel's Capital: Jerusalem's Proposed Master Plan - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

U.S. Aviation Security Pick Favors Israeli Model (Reuters)
    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Robert Harding, President Obama's nominee to oversee security at U.S. airports, said on Tuesday he wants to shift screening closer to the Israeli model to include more behavior detection in a bid to thwart terrorism plots.
    "We should move even closer to an Israeli model where there's more engagement with passengers," Harding told the Senate Commerce Committee.

Obama and Israel: Why the Trust Is Gone - Ed Koch (World Tribune)
    I consider the Obama administration's recent actions against the Israeli government to be outrageous and a breach of trust.
    President Obama and his administration's overly harsh public reaction to the construction in east Jerusalem appears to have emboldened Israel's enemies and provided a cover for their extremist views.
    It has also created a serious crisis of confidence among the Israeli public that it can depend on this administration for its security.
    There will be an effort this week to mend fences, but the relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there.
    The writer served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989.

Are American Troops in Danger Over "U.S. Favoritism for Israel"? - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)
    Yes, Israel's Arab enemies don't like America for supporting Israel. They also don't like America for intervening in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Islamic extremists don't like Israeli Jews for being Jewish. And they don't like American Christians for being Christian.
    Is the U.S. going to be deterred from supporting Israel because that support irritates our mutual enemies?

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Netanyahu, Obama Meet at White House
    President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for two hours Tuesday at the White House. The Israeli leader arrived after a show of solidarity with leaders of Congress from both parties, during which he thanked the U.S. lawmakers for their "constant support" and "unflagging" friendship. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) said that Congress speaks with "one voice" on the subject of Israel. "Together we remain committed to advancing the peace process, preserving Israel's security, [and] responsible sanctions against Iran."
        State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said: "Do we see eye to eye on everything? No. Are we satisfied with the exchange and the seriousness [in which] the prime minister has taken our concerns on board? We are."  (CNN)
        See also Netanyahu Spends Unheralded Time at White House - Glenn Kessler
    Prime Minister Netanyahu met with President Obama at the White House under a virtual news blackout. No reporters or photographers were invited to record the scene or even a handshake between the two leaders. (Washington Post)
        See also Congress Puts Out Red Carpet for Israeli Prime Minister - Richard Sisk (New York Daily News)
  • Britain Expels Top Mossad Agent over Passport Cloning - Philippe Naughton, Catherine Philp and James Hider
    Britain has expelled Mossad's chief representative in London after a criminal investigation blamed Israel for cloning British passports used in the assassination of a senior Hamas operative in Dubai. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said Israel's "intolerable" misuse of British passports had shown a "profound disregard" for the UK's sovereignty.
        "Given that this was a very sophisticated operation, in which high-quality forgeries were made, the Government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service," he said. "Taking this together with other inquiries, and the link with Israel established by Soca [the Serious and Organized Crime Agency], we have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports."  (Times-UK)
        See also Israel: No Proof of Israeli Involvement
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Israel places great importance on its relations with the UK and conducts numerous and sensitive dialogues with the UK. He stated that Israel regrets the British decision and added that Israel has not received any proof pointing to Israeli involvement in the matter. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also British Response Mild, Affected by Upcoming UK Elections - Gerald Steinberg
    The Mossad representative's expulsion marks a predictable diplomatic protest in a bid to close the case without prompting an earthquake. We are not dealing with a suspension of collaboration between Israel's and Britain's intelligence agencies. (Ynet News)
        See also New Mossad Rep to Head to UK - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
  • Arab League Chief Pushes for Closer Ties with Iran - Salah Nasrawi
    Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa wants the 22-nation bloc to engage Iran directly over concerns about its growing influence and its nuclear activities, in a step that could undermine U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate the country, diplomats said Tuesday. The engagement would take the form of a forum for regional cooperation and conflict resolution that would include non-Arab nations Iran and Turkey, two Arab League diplomats said. Moussa also wants to initiate direct talks with Tehran on Arabs' concerns over what they view as Iranian meddling in regional affairs, including through its support of militant groups beyond its borders. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: PA Demands Could Put Talks on Hold for a Year
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he feared Middle East peace talks could be delayed for another year unless Palestinians dropped their demand for a full settlement freeze. "We must not be trapped by an illogical and unreasonable demand," Netanyahu told Congressional leaders during a Washington visit. Israeli officials dismissed Palestinian concerns over Israeli building in and near east Jerusalem. They said even Palestinians understood that apartment blocs Israel erected would not be dismantled in any future peace deal. (Ynet News)
  • Jerusalem Planning Authority Okays Shepherd Hotel Plan - Barak Ravid and Nir Hasson
    The Jerusalem municipality has given final approval for the construction of 20 apartments next to the Shepherd Hotel in east Jerusalem. The hotel was purchased by an American Jew in 1985 for $1 million. The local planning council initially approved the plan in July, a move that angered Britain and the U.S. and prompted them to call on Israel to cancel the plans. The council issued its final approval for the project last Thursday. Prime Minister Netanyahu has reiterated that Israel reserves the right to build in east Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Partisan Elements "Distorted" Jerusalem Construction Announcement - Ronen Medzini
    Jerusalem city hall characterized the latest reports on construction at the Shepherd Hotel compound as "distorted," saying they were meant to stir a provocation during the prime minister's visit in Washington. "The plan was approved in July 2009 at the local committee. Its approval was published in the media back then. The fees were paid by the land owners only on March 15 of this year, and the approval was granted automatically after that," the official response said.
        Sources closely affiliated with the construction project also said that the latest permit is merely technical. "The permit for the Shepherd Hotel was granted more than six months ago. Regrettably, radical leftist elements chose to present the matter as if the plan was approved today. These same elements were seeking to sabotage the prime minister's visit in Washington," one source said.
        Meanwhile, Jerusalem city hall announced Tuesday the promotion of a comprehensive plan for east Jerusalem. The initiative will include an increase in the commercial and hotel zones in the area, as well as the addition of another 100 housing units earmarked for Arabs. (Ynet News)
        See also Aerial Photo: Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem (
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Dispute with Israel Underscores Limits of U.S. Power, a Shifting Alliance - Glenn Kessler
    The two-week-old dispute between Israel and the U.S. over housing construction in east Jerusalem has exposed the limits of American power to pressure Israeli leaders to make decisions they consider politically untenable. Administration officials have been careful to turn down the heat in their latest exchanges with Netanyahu over Jerusalem, even as they continue to express their displeasure.
        Arab leaders have long said that a peace deal would be possible if the U.S. pressured Israel. But many experts say such hope is often misplaced. In the case of east Jerusalem, Netanyahu believes that a halt to construction represents political suicide for his coalition, so no amount of U.S. pressure will lead him to impose a freeze - at least until he is in the final throes of peace talks.
        "U.S. pressure can work, but it needs to be at the right time, on the right issue and in the right political context," said Robert Malley, a peace negotiator in the Clinton White House. "The latest episode was an apt illustration. The administration is ready for a fight, but it realized the issue, timing and context were wrong. The crisis has been deferred, not resolved."  (Washington Post)
  • Washington's Shrinking Options on Iran Nuke Sanctions - Tony Karon
    Israel and its advocates in Washington see Iran's nuclear program, rather than the conflict with the Palestinians, as the prime issue in the U.S.-Israel conversation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told AIPAC on Monday: "We are now working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran's leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence....Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite."
        The actual level of progress on the Iran sanctions front, however, has not yet caught up with Clinton's tough talk - and there's little sign that any of the pressure being mustered will realistically stop Iran from acquiring the means to create a nuclear bomb. Russia has yet to offer any clear support for new sanctions, while China believes that Iran's nuclear program represents no imminent weaponization threat. The Obama Administration had hoped to up the ante with new UN sanctions by February. But diplomats say June is more likely the earliest point at which the Security Council could be persuaded to act. And even in the best-case scenario, new UN sanctions are unlikely to carry the "bite" promised by Clinton. (TIME)
  • Hillary Clinton's Unfortunate Mistake - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    Someone in the State Department is giving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imprecise information about PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In her speech to AIPAC on Monday, Clinton condemned Hamas for renaming "a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis." On the other hand, Clinton "commended" Abbas.
        Clinton condemned Hamas alone, because the municipality that named the square after the terrorist is run by Hamas. But in fact it has been the PA and Mahmoud Abbas, not Hamas, who have been leading the Palestinians in glorifying Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist bus hijacker who was responsible for the killing of 37 civilians in 1978. Palestinian Media Watch has documented 15 examples of Mughrabi veneration by Abbas, Fatah, and the PA in recent years. When Hamas is condemned for the terror glorification while it is Abbas and the PA who are guilty, the message to the Palestinian leadership is that they can continue with their incitement to hatred and violence, and no one will call them to account. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Diplomatic Dispute Obscures Israel's Invaluable Help to U.S. Military - Dore Gold (Washington Examiner)

    • During the recent bilateral tensions between the Obama administration and the Israeli government, a vicious rumor began to spread that the U.S. feels that Israeli "intransigence" in the peace process puts U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk. For years, there has been a whole cottage industry of anti-Israel forces who have been trying to promote the image of Israel as a strategic burden rather than as a strategic asset.
    • As Netanyahu argued at AIPAC, Israel has actually helped save the lives of Americans. In August 1966, the Mossad succeeded in recruiting an Iraqi Air Force pilot who flew his MiG-21 to Israel. The intelligence on the MiG-21 was shared with Washington and would prove to be extremely valuable, as the MiG-21 was the work-horse of the North Vietnamese Air Force in the years that followed.
    • Israel supplied the Americans with many other Soviet weapons systems, from 130mm artillery to T-72 tanks. Gen. George Keegan, the former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, was quoted in the New York Times on March 9, 1986, as saying that the intelligence the U.S. received from Israel could not have been obtained if the U.S. had "five CIAs."
    • Even after the Cold War, Israel continues to be a vital American strategic partner. In 2007, the U.S. ambassador to Israel revealed that Israeli technology was being used by the U.S. armed forces in Iraq to protect them from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that were responsible for most U.S. casualties in the Iraq War. On March 15, 2007, the commander of EUCOM, Gen. Bantz Craddock, told the House Armed Services Committee that "in the Middle East, Israel is the U.S.'s closest ally that consistently and directly supports our interests."
    • During his AIPAC speech, Netanyahu disclosed: "Israel shares with America everything" that it knows about their common enemies, especially intelligence. Both sides need to make sure that unnecessary diplomatic tensions do not sacrifice their long-held strategic interests that have served the security of both countries.

      Dore Gold, who served as Israel's ambassador to the UN, heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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