Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
December 9, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Iran Placing Medium-Range Missiles in Venezuela that Can Reach U.S. - Anna Mahjar-Barducci (Hudson Institute-New York)
    Iran is planning to place medium-range missiles on Venezuelan soil, according to a report based on Western sources in the German daily Die Welt (Nov. 25, 2010).
    An agreement signed between the two countries during the last visit of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Tehran on Oct. 19 provides for the establishment of a jointly-operated military base in Venezuela and the joint development of ground-to-ground missiles.
    At a moment when NATO members have agreed to develop a missile defense capability to protect Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the east (namely, Iran), Iran is making a counter-move in South America, the U.S.' soft underbelly.
    According to Die Welt, Iranian Shahab 3 (range 1,300-1,500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 km) missiles will be deployed at a base manned by Iranian missile officers, soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
    Iran has given permission for the missiles to be used in case of an "emergency."

Israel Eases Gaza Blockade, Approves More Exports - Daniel Estrin (AP)
    Israel decided Wednesday to allow increased exports from Gaza, further easing its blockade of the territory run by Hamas. Israel's Security Cabinet said its decision would expand economic activity for ordinary Gazans.
    Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser said Israel wishes to "ease the pressure on the population in Gaza that is under Hamas' oppressive and terrorist rule."
    Under the new regulations, Palestinians will be able to export furniture, textiles and agricultural products which represent Gaza's main industries.
    See also Decision Expanding Gaza Exports (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    See also Blair Praises Move to Allow More Gaza Exports - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

Jordan Bypassing PA to Develop Ties with Traditional West Bank Leadership - Asaf Gavor (Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 26Nov10)
    Sheikh Ahmad Abu Mashor, 63, is head of the Jahalin Bedouin, numbering 80,000 in the Jerusalem area and 60,000 in Jordan.
    "The Arab world is returning to the tribal tradition. You can see this clearly in the last parliamentary elections in Jordan, in Iraq, and other Muslim nations. Politics is moving in the direction of rejecting political parties and returning to a division based on families and tribes," he says.
    King Abdullah of Jordan "has lost confidence in the Palestinian Authority and the PLO institutions," he said. "The Jordanian kingdom is working with the Palestinian sheikhs on a channel of cooperation that bypasses the Palestinian Authority."
    "The king knows that the PA has no true basis or control in the field. The security forces and the police are clerks that receive a salary...if they stop paying salaries tomorrow, there's no police."
    He blames Israel for the current illogical situation in which the Palestinians live, not because of the "occupation" but because the Oslo agreements brought in the Palestinian leadership from the PLO in Tunis.
    While the PA leadership refuses to recognize the Jewish people, Sheikh Abu Mashor has no problem relating to the nation of Israel as "a nation that Allah commanded to live in peace....The relation between Jews and Muslims is one of blood ties that cannot be denied. We are cousins."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Ahmadinejad Sets Nuclear Red Lines for January Talks - Ramin Mostafavi
    A day after the conclusion of a two-day meeting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), Iranian President Ahmadinejad told those countries to drop any idea of curbing Iran's quest for nuclear technology and instead invited them to help build the 20 nuclear power stations it plans.
        Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili told reporters after Tuesday's meeting in Geneva that: "Iran will not discuss a uranium enrichment halt in the next meeting in Istanbul." Ahmadinejad reiterated that point and specified three red lines that Iran would not cross. "Our nuclear rights, including the continuation of enrichment, making 20% uranium, and building nuclear plants are not negotiable." Iran says it is not involved in "nuclear talks" and insists the negotiations are aimed more generally at discussing global problems. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Opposes South American Moves to Recognize Palestinian State
    The U.S. on Tuesday opposed moves by Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay to recognize an independent Palestinian state, saying such recognition is "counter-productive" to achieving Middle East peace. "We don't think that we should be distracted from the fact that the only way to resolve the core issues within the process is through direct negotiations," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. "That remains our focus. And we do not favor that course of action. As we've said many, many times...any unilateral action, we believe, is counterproductive."  (AFP)
        See also France Not Recognizing Palestine - Laura Rozen (Politico)
        See also below Commentary: Recognition of a Palestinian State - Premature, Legally Invalid - Alan Baker (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Why the U.S. Ended Push for Israeli Building Freeze - Ethan Bronner
    After American and Israeli officials began negotiating a partial, one-time, 90-day Israeli settlement construction freeze in exchange for American military hardware and diplomatic guarantees, it became clear that every element of the deal posed profound difficulties, and that the wisest course was to step back and start over. Now the administration wants to plunge forward - without direct talks and without a freeze - and demand substantive engagement from each side right away through American officials.
        The Palestinians are unhappy with this turn of events. Still, Palestinian leaders indicated that they were not closing off American-brokered talks; they know that all the recognition in the world will not, on its own, create the reality of a sovereign state.
        Administration officials came to the realization that the issue of settlements was one among a clutch of difficult ones: Jerusalem, borders, security, and Palestinian refugees. Any one of them placed ahead of the others would become a roadblock to progress. Israeli officials indicated that with a settlement freeze off the table, they could be more forthcoming on other issues, including changes on the ground in the West Bank. (New York Times)
        See also Obama's Double-or-Nothing Moment in the Middle East - Jackson Diehl
    The latest collapse of the Middle East peace process has left President Obama with a tough choice: quietly shift one of his prized foreign policy priorities to a back burner - or launch a risky redoubling of U.S. efforts. Netanyahu agreed in principle to a three-month partial freeze of building in the West Bank, but the Palestinians preemptively announced that the deal wouldn't be good enough for them to end their walkout from the talks, because it didn't include Jerusalem. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Expects U.S. to Block UN Recognition of Palestinian State - Herb Keinon and Hilary Leila Krieger
    Israel is confident the U.S. will block Palestinian moves to get the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state, government officials said Wednesday. Israeli officials said the U.S. was making clear to the Palestinians, Europeans and Arab government that trying to bypass the negotiations and going for a solution imposed by the outside would not be effective. Israeli officials said it was critical that the Palestinians realized all "exit doors" out of the negotiations were closed, and that there were no alternative routes to sitting down and talking directly. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Building New Peace Path Together with U.S. - Interview with Ron Dermer
    Discussing what seems to be a wave of states in Latin America upgrading their diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, Ron Dermer, political advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, told Israel Radio on Wednesday: "The real key is the American position, and the unequivocal American position opposes any Palestinian attempt to circumvent the direct talks....What is extremely important here is that we are in sync with the Americans. If the Americans will not be a party to such a process, in the end, it will not happen."
        "The old path we were on during the entire political process was a path led by the Americans. Now we are moving to a new path that we will build together with the Americans." "Ultimately, I think the Americans understand, they are far less skeptical, let's say, about the prime minister's willingness to reach an agreement, and perhaps a bit more skeptical now about whether the Palestinians really intend to reach an agreement." "Don't forget, the ones who walked out on the direct talks were the Palestinians, not us."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8Dec10)
  • Israeli Wounded in Gaza Mortar Attack - Yaniv Kubovich
    The head of security at a kibbutz near Gaza was hit in the neck by a piece of shrapnel from a mortar shell fired by Palestinian terrorists on Wednesday. The attack included the firing of four mortar shells at Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli Local Councils: "We're Being Shelled from Gaza Daily" - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Recognition of a Palestinian State - Premature, Legally Invalid, and Undermining any Bona Fide Negotiation Process - Alan Baker
    The acts of recognition of a Palestinian state in 1967 borders by Brazil, Argentina, and possibly other Latin American states have no significance other than as a political expression of opinion. These acts run counter to statements by Brazil and Argentina in the UN Security Council in 1967 in favor of freely negotiated borders between the parties and an internationally sponsored peace negotiation process as set out in Resolution 242.
        The unceasing efforts among states by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to attain recognition of unilateral statehood within the 1967 borders, and thereby bypass the accepted negotiation process, runs counter to their commitments in their agreements with Israel, as witnessed and guaranteed by members of the international community. The hostile actions and statements of the Palestinian leadership lack bona fides and prejudice any reasonable negotiating ambiance between parties that seek to establish peaceful relations between them, and are indicative of an utter lack of a genuine will to reach a peaceful settlement. The writer is a former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also WJC, ADL Slam South American Recognition of "Palestine"
    The World Jewish Congress (WJC) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have expressed concern over recent announcements made by Latin American countries that they recognize a Palestinian state. Ronald S. Lauder, President of the WJC stated: "We find these announcements made by Brazil, Argentina, and other Latin American countries to be troubling. Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking is a delicate process and is meant to be directly negotiated between the parties as mandated by UN resolutions." Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's National Director, said: "The actions taken by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to recognize an independent Palestinian state at this time undermine bridge-building."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Empty Nuclear Talks with Iran - Editorial
    The talks with Iran in Geneva this week appear to have produced little. Iran did not respond substantively to the concerns raised about its nuclear program. The only agreement reached - to meet again in Istanbul in late January - benefited Tehran in two ways: It advanced its aim of introducing Turkey, which opposed the last round of UN sanctions, into the negotiations, and it provided a means to postpone further international pressure. According to reports by international inspectors, Iran has the capacity to enrich another 150 kilograms of uranium - a quarter bomb's worth when fully processed - between now and the next meeting.
        The Obama administration's assessment is that Iran's very participation in the talks shows that its policy is working. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the BBC: "I think Iran comes to the table with a much more sober assessment of what isolation means, what the impact on their economy has been, and we hope that will cause them to have the kind of serious negotiation we are seeking." There was no evidence of that in Geneva. Instead, Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili declared that "halting uranium enrichment" - the West's principal objective - "will not be discussed at the Istanbul meeting." And on the eve of the talks, Iran announced that it had begun producing its own processed uranium ore, or yellowcake - another step toward creating an autonomous production line for bombs. (Washington Post)

Grim Prospects for a Palestinian State - Benny Morris (Tablet)

  • Starting with the Israeli handover of West Bank cities and Gaza to the Palestinian Authority in the mid-1990s, the Palestinians, ever-so-slowly and inefficiently, have built pre-state institutions of governance - most recently and competently under the leadership of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. During the past few years Western observers have noted substantial improvements in Palestinian taxation, infrastructure, and economic development, and in the functioning of the (American- and European-trained) security services. Indeed, under Fayyad, the West Bank is a largely peaceful place, with residents even paying traffic tickets, and militants of Hamas and other organizations largely inactive.
  • However, "negotiations" are unlikely to lead to a peace treaty or even a "framework" agreement for a future peace accord due to a set of obstacles that I see as insurmountable, given current political-ideological mindsets. The first is that Palestinian political elites are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. They do not want a permanent two-state solution.
  • Hamas, which may represent the majority of the Palestinian people, openly repudiates a two-state solution. The secular Palestinian leadership is more flexible on the tactics. They express a readiness for a two-state solution but envision such an outcome as intermediate and temporary. This is why Fatah's leaders, led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, flatly reject the Clintonian formula of "two states for two peoples" and refuse to recognize the "other" state, Israel, as a "Jewish state." They hope that this "other" state will also, in time, be "Arabized," thus setting the stage for the eventual merger of the two states into one Palestinian Arab-majority state.
  • It is hard to envision any circumstances under which the current Obama-initiated direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks can succeed. Politically, the two contending leaders have little room for maneuver and, at least on the Arab side, little will to concede anything. Abbas might sign off on "an end to the conflict" - and most likely be assassinated by Arab extremists in consequence - but a majority of Palestinians, and certainly a large minority of them, would continue the struggle, rendering the agreement no more than a wind-blown piece of paper.

    The writer is a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University.

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