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,
February 9, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas' Gaza-Based Leadership Challenges Palestinian Unity Deal - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Hamas' Gaza-based leadership challenged on Wednesday a Palestinian reconciliation deal under which PA President Mahmoud Abbas would serve both as president and prime minister.
    "We call upon the parties who signed and those who sponsored Palestinian reconciliation to reconsider," the Hamas parliamentary bloc in Gaza said in a statement, arguing that a dual presidential-prime ministerial role for Abbas would be illegal.
    See also Palestinians Slam Selection of Abbas as Unity PM - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinians across the political spectrum on Tuesday criticized the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.
    They pointed out that it was PA President Mahmoud Abbas who in March 2003 called for amending the Palestinian Basic Law so that the PA president would not also serve as prime minister.

Hamas an Impediment to Peace - Editorial (The Australian)
    Whatever hopes for Middle East peace that may be attached to the new Palestinian unity government headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas will be stillborn unless Hamas unequivocally disavows its commitment to terrorism and the violent destruction of Israel.
    To believe otherwise is to ignore the years of unrelenting Hamas terrorism launched from Gaza, especially rocket attacks that even now have more than 800,000 Israelis constantly in their range.
    Until Hamas renounces terrorism and unequivocally disavows its determination to seek the destruction of Israel, no government in which it is a partner should be given the time of day by the international community, much less be given any help from it.
    That should be made crystal clear to Abbas before he goes any further in embracing Hamas.

Hamas-PA Reconciliation and the Peace Process - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)
    No one can seriously expect Israel to negotiate peace with a combined Fatah-Hamas team when Hamas is dedicated to Israel's destruction.
    It is not the PA but the PLO that formally negotiates with Israel, and one of the most damaging aspects of the "reconciliation" agreement is that Hamas is supposed to join the PLO.
    Once it does, all but the most ardent peace-processors will have to admit the negotiations track is truly frozen.
    If Hamas is admitted into the PA government and the PLO as the terrorist group it is today, let's acknowledge that the Palestinian leadership has turned away from any genuine effort to negotiate peace.

German Police Arrest Two Suspected Syrian Spies (BBC News)
    A Syrian and a German-Lebanese man have been arrested in Berlin on suspicion of spying on opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. and Israel Split on Speed of Iran Threat - Mark Landler and David E. Sanger
    The U.S. and Israel remain at odds over whether Iran's crucial nuclear facilities are about to become impregnable. The Israelis have zeroed in on Iran's plan to put much of its uranium enrichment near Qum in an underground facility beneath so many layers of granite that even the Pentagon acknowledges it would be out of the reach of its best bunker-busting bombs. The Israelis say that once the Iranians get an "impregnable breakout capability" - that is, a place that is protected from a military strike - "it makes no difference whether it will take Iran six months or a year or five years" to fabricate a nuclear weapon.
        However, a senior American official said "there are many other options" to slow Iran's march to a completed weapon, like shutting off Iran's oil revenues, taking out facilities that supply centrifuge parts or singling out installations where the Iranians would turn the fuel into a weapon. (New York Times)
  • Architect of Egypt's NGO Crackdown Is Mubarak Holdover - Ernesto Londono
    Faiza Abou el-Naga, 59, the minister who coordinates international aid and the architect of Egypt's crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy organizations, is a holdover from the cabinet of former president Hosni Mubarak who has tried for years to stymie the groups' activities. Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood have endorsed the crackdown and Egypt's ruling generals also appear to be backing it.
        In February 2008, Abou el-Naga demanded that the U.S. stop funding four American and six Egyptian NGOs that had received money for democracy and governance work, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. When the Obama administration ramped up efforts to support civil society groups and political parties after last year’s revolution, Abou el-Naga was furious.
        U.S. officials fear that the narrative demonizing the U.S. and blaming foreigners for unrest is getting traction on the Egyptian street. "The generals are predisposed to believe these warnings about an international conspiracy to destabilize Egypt," said Hossam Bahgat, a prominent human rights activist. "They think they are facing the same fate as Mubarak."  (Washington Post)
        See also NGO Workers Could Face 5 Years in Prison, Egyptian Judges Say - Ernesto Londono (Washington Post)
        See also Egypt: We Will Not Halt Crackdown on Non-Profits Despite Threatened U.S. Aid Cut
    Egypt refused to back down in a dispute with the U.S. over Cairo's crackdown on non-profit groups despite Washington's threats to cut aid. Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri said Wednesday Egypt "can't back down or won't change course because of some aid."  (AP-USA Today)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: PA Chose Terror over Peace - Lahav Harkov
    The Palestinian Authority has embraced terrorist organizations instead of peace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday. "The Palestinians embraced terrorist organizations that call for Israel’s destruction," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Agreement between Hamas and Fatah - A Barrier to Peace (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel and Germany Sign Contract for Sixth Submarine - Yaakov Katz
    Israel and Germany signed a contract a few weeks ago finalizing the sale of a sixth Dolphin-class submarine to the Israel Navy. Christian Schmidt, Germany's secretary of state for defense, told the Jerusalem Post that Germany had agreed to subsidize its cost. Israel already has three Dolphin-class submarines and two are currently under construction in Germany with delivery expected later this year. According to foreign reports, Israel's submarines have a second-strike capability and carry cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Will the U.S. Send Money to a Palestinian Government that Includes Hamas? - Editorial
    How should the Obama Administration respond to the news that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a deal with Hamas to form a unity government? The U.S. has budgeted $500 million in direct assistance to the PA for the current fiscal year, plus another $232 million for the UN welfare agency that deals with the descendants of Palestinian refugees. U.S. law prohibits aid to any Palestinian government that includes Hamas.
        Would the U.S. continue to fund and train a Palestinian security apparatus that merges with Hamas' paramilitary units? Let's hope not. Eventually the U.S. will have to make some determination about the utility of funding a Palestinian government that scorns negotiations with Israel and rarely bothers to pay even lip service to U.S. interests. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Egyptian Hostage Crisis - Lee Smith
    On Monday, the Egyptian government announced that 19 Americans working with pro-democracy nonprofit organizations, under investigation for trumped-up charges of operating without proper registration, would actually stand trial. This is simple extortion - and the Egyptian government expects to be paid.
        While a December Gallup poll showed that 71% of Egyptians oppose U.S. economic aid, the Egyptian army is so desperate for American money that it wants more of it, which is why it is going to put 19 Americans on trial.
        The choice before our policymakers is whether or not to fund an army that is ruling a state hostile to our national interests, where domestic dynamics may drive it to war with Israel. The writer is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Tablet)
  • The Ongoing Human Catastrophe in Syria - Martin Peretz
    Syria - with its sectarian hatreds, its ethnic animosities, its historical pretensions, its territorial ambitions - may presently be ruled by the Assads. But, were the Sunnis empowered in Damascus instead of the Alawite "pretenders," nothing less cruel would define the exercise of power or the map of financial favor. They would just be different. The nation-state is not fit for a society delineated by these groupings. This is why some experts expect Syria to split apart into turf defined primarily by local allegiances, foreign neighbors, cross-border loyalties, religious inheritance and belief. Syria has not the traits of an ongoing and functioning political union.
        Which is why blood has flowed there so freely. If your neighbor is not of your lot he is, if not a downright enemy, at least a stranger. This population pattern is now writ large in Syria. No one will be able to resurrect whatever there ever was of the Syrian nation. Maybe there will actually exist a heavy-handed Syrian government in Damascus. But there is no longer a people of Syria. (New Republic)
  • World Democracies Are Warming Up to Israel - Moshe Arens
    The international political climate for Israel seems to be improving. Last week the Canadian foreign minister, John Baird, announced during a visit to Israel that Israel has no better friend than Canada. The policy of the new government of the Netherlands is distinctly friendlier than that of previous Dutch governments. The Eastern European members of the EU continue to maintain close relations with Israel. And the sounds coming from the U.S. regarding the U.S.-Israeli relationship in recent months must be music to most Israelis' ears, reflecting the deep-seated support for Israel among the American people. (Ha'aretz)

Can a Nuclear Iran Be Deterred? - Amitai Etzioni (CNN)

  • There is a growing interest among U.S. foreign policy officials and scholars in deterring Iran; that is, in tolerating a nuclear armed Iran but keeping it at bay by threatening it in kind should it use its nuclear weapons.
  • For deterrence to work, the leaders of the nations that command nuclear arms must be rational. However, there's another type of decision-making process that sociologists have known about. It's nonrational behavior, such as when people act in response to deeply held beliefs.
  • People have long shown they are willing to kill or be killed for their beliefs, and that God commanded them to act in a particular manner. Thus, a religiously fanatical Iranian leader who believes that God commanded him to wipe out Tel Aviv may calculate whether to use missiles or bombers and in what season to attack, but not whether to heed God's command to destroy the infidels.
  • Even rational heads of states have shown themselves in the past to be fully capable of making gross miscalculations that cost them their lives, regimes and all they were fighting for. Hitler would fall in that category. Similarly, the Japanese, when they attacked Pearl Harbor, believed they would be able at least to drive the U.S. out of their part of the world.
  • In short, it might be possible to deter Iran, but no one can assume that we can safely rely on the rationality of Iran's leaders and their decisions and reactions to the events around them.

    The writer is professor of international relations at George Washington University.

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