Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 23, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

PA: Palestinian, Israeli Negotiators No Longer Meeting Directly (Jerusalem Post)
    Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Al-Quds Al-Arabi on Sunday.
    "Meetings are now taking place between the U.S. administration and us, on the one hand, and between Israel and the U.S. administration, on the other hand," Erekat said.
    He also said none of the security ideas offered by the U.S. were written down, but rather expressed verbally.

U.S., Britain Intercepted Emails from Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister - James Glanz and Andrew W. Lehren (New York Times)
    Secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal more than 1,000 targets of American and British surveillance in recent years, including email traffic from the office of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
    See also Israel: U.S.-Monitored Email Accounts Used for Unclassified Communications - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The email account of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that was monitored by U.S. and British intelligence agencies was a public account used for unclassified communication with the public. "The chance that security- or intelligence-related damage was done by this interception is zero," Olmert's office said.
    Sources in the office of the current minister of defense, Moshe Ya'alon, said that the minister's email mentioned in the news reports serves to connect the office with the outside world, and has no special significance. "It's an address just like the Knesset's email address," they said. "Any citizen can use it and the correspondence is not classified."

Hamas Is Alive and Kicking in the West Bank - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    For Hamas in Gaza, survival is more important than the armed struggle against Israel. Egypt has threatened to crush Hamas if it renews its rocket fire into Israel.
    Hamas is currently doing all it can to rein in the activity of more extreme armed factions. A police force of 800 Hamas activists was established a year ago for this purpose.
    In 2011, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive soldier Gilad Shalit, including 118 West Bank residents who were banished to Gaza. The senior figures among them were co-opted into Hamas' security apparatus.
    Salah Aruri, who served as infrastructure expert to the former head of Hamas' military wing in the West Bank, Ibrahim Hamed (who was arrested in 2006), is working with a large group of activists freed in the Shalit deal who are now leading Hamas' military wing in the West Bank.
    During the past two years, the Israel Security Agency has identified and preempted about 80 plans for attacks in the West Bank, plans that originated with individuals released as part of the Shalit deal.
    Hamas headquarters in Gaza transmits detailed instructions, as well as funds, to its West Bank activists.
    In several cases, Israel arrested individuals who had undergone military training in Hamas camps in Gaza. They had traveled from the West Bank to Jordan, then to Egypt, and entered Gaza through the Rafah tunnels. Some received training in the running of explosives laboratories.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Arab League Rejects U.S. Proposal in Mideast Deal
    The Arab League says it rejects a continued Israeli troop presence on the eastern border of a future state of Palestine, a proposal Palestinians say was floated by the U.S. earlier this month. Palestinian officials said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry proposed Israel control Palestine's future border with Jordan for at least 10 years to address Israeli concerns about a potential influx of militants and weapons. (AP-Fox News)
        See also PA to Seek Arab League Backing for Response to Kerry's Framework Peace Proposals
    Mohammad Sbeih, secretary-general of Palestinian affairs at the Arab League, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will present Palestinian and Israeli leaders with a framework peace agreement by the end of the month. PA President Mahmoud Abbas informed the Arab League that "once he receives the American proposal he will not respond but will present it to Arab nations to make a joint decision."
        Sbeih said Abbas articulated his position on the peace agreement: Abbas would accept a Palestinian state with the entirety of east Jerusalem as its capital, with limited land swaps as long as the lands being traded were of equal value. He would allow Israeli troops up to three years to leave the West Bank. He would reject any permanent Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, but would welcome an international peacekeeping presence. He would refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He would reject any proposal that required Palestine to be an unarmed state. (Ma'an News-PA)
  • Sen. Schumer: Time to Ratchet Up Sanctions on Iran - Molly K. Hooper
    Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who's leading a bipartisan effort to hit Iran with stricter sanctions, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday: "There are many of us, Democrats and Republicans in this Senate, who believe the best way to avoid war and get Iran to give up nuclear weapons is by ratcheting up sanctions, not by reducing them."
        "It's logical that it's sanctions, tough sanctions, that brought them to the table. If they think they can ease up on the sanctions without getting rid of their nuclear capabilities, they're going to do that. So we have to be tough." The legislation would impose harsher sanctions on Iran if it fails to come to an agreement after six months. (The Hill)
  • Palestine Embassy: Abbas Does Not Oppose Boycott of Israel
    Some journalists have reported that President Abbas, at a South African press conference, said that he is opposed to the international boycott. "This is untrue," the Embassy of Palestine in South Africa and BDS South Africa said in a statement Friday.
        "The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are not opposed to the Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Palestinian officials and leaders respect and uphold the right of Palestinian civil society to initiate and lead local and global BDS campaigns against Israel."  (BDS Movement)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Bomb Explodes on Bus Near Tel Aviv, One Hurt - Gilad Morag
    A policeman was lightly hurt in an explosion Sunday on a bus in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, as sappers were working to defuse a bomb. After one of the passengers on the bus alerted the driver that there was a suspicious knapsack with wires, the driver stopped, called the police and told the passengers to get off. All the passengers had disembarked when the blast took place. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas, Islamic Jihad Praise Bus Bombing - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
  • Defense Minister Ya'alon: "Whoever Really Wants Peace Needs to Speak about Co-existence" - Ariel Kahane
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon sent a message during a tour of the Jordan Valley last week: a military presence there is not enough, there have to be Israeli civilians living there as well. "My worldview is that in places where Jews don't live, there is no security....This reflects the correct security and political position regarding the Jordan Valley," Ya'alon said. According to the Defense Minister of the State of Israel, security and settlement go together as they have since the beginning of Zionism.
        "Whoever really wants peace needs to speak about co-existence and not about removing Jews and uprooting Jews as was done in Gaza. Today, 6,000 Palestinian workers make their living from the Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley. What could be more peaceful than that? And we saw how in Gaza the removal of the settlements harmed the livelihood of 3,700 [Palestinian] families when Gush Katif was uprooted, and the 4,500 other families who depended on work in the Erez industrial zone."
        "Whoever claims that if we don't get out of the West Bank we will suffer from an economic boycott, I suggest that they consider the economic, security and strategic implications of rockets from the West Bank on Ben-Gurion airport and on Tel Aviv."  (Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 20 Dec 2013)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rocket at Israel - Matan Tzuri
    A rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza exploded in a settled area between the border and Ashkelon just after midnight Sunday, causing damage but no injuries. "We were very lucky that it happened in the middle of the night, when no one's out in the street," a resident said. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Rocket Lands near Egypt
    A Kassam rocket fired from Gaza on Sunday during a military training exercise landed 300 meters off the coast of the Egyptian town of Rafah and exploded in the water, an Egyptian military official said. (Ma'an News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Boycott of Israeli Universities: A Repugnant Attack on Academic Freedom - Michael S. Roth
    The American Studies Assn. recently passed a resolution that "endorses and...honor[s] the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions." The boycott is a repugnant attack on academic freedom, declaring academic institutions off-limits because of their national affiliation.
        Here's what the American Assn. of University Professors has to say about the importance of unfettered interaction among scholars: "Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has been committed to preserving and advancing the free exchange of ideas among academics irrespective of governmental policies and however unpalatable those policies may be viewed. We reject proposals that curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues, and we reaffirm the paramount importance of the freest possible international movement of scholars and ideas."
        There is plenty of debate among Israeli scholars about the policies of their government, and there is plenty of debate among Israeli, Palestinian and other scholars about a reasonable path forward in the Middle East. As president of Wesleyan University, and as a historian, I deplore this politically retrograde resolution of the American Studies Assn. Under the guise of phony progressivism, the group has initiated an irresponsible attack on academic freedom. Others in academia should reject this call for an academic boycott. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Will Congress Stand Up for Academic Freedom? - Michael B. Oren
    Last week, the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions. By singling out Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and a country renowned for its liberal universities, and by overlooking vast human rights abuses in many other countries, the ASA is guilty of prejudice. But merely protesting this abhorrent decision will not succeed in reversing it or discouraging others from following suit. What's needed is a way to fight back, and Congress can do it. The writer was formerly Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Politico)
  • Jordan Valley Becoming the "Jordan Gateway" to Iraq
    John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, has suggested that Israeli forces could remain for at least ten years in the Jordan Valley. "If we're in control of the area, there's no reason for the [Jewish] settlements to leave," said Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN. The settlements, he said, could provide staging posts for rushing Israeli troops to the border in the event of attack, and would help safeguard Israel against any infiltration of weapons by hostile outsiders.
        Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah seems determined to link a Jordanian industrial park to a new Israeli one straddling the Jordan River. This "Jordan Gateway" park is to include an electricity plant fueled by Israeli gas piped under the Jordan River and a storage area for goods traffic heading from Israel's port of Haifa via Jordan into the Arab world. Shlomi Fogel, one of the park's Israeli architects, says that in July alone, 6,000 trucks full of grain, steel and marble crossed from Israel to Jordan, much of it bound for Iraq. (Economist-UK)

The Iran Foray of the ASA - Martin Kramer (Commentary)

  • The American Studies Association (ASA) coddled one of Iran's most prominent America-bashing academics at the very moment when Iran's President Ahmedinejad was busy purging Iran's universities.
  • In 2005, the University of Tehran established a Department of North American Studies, with U.S.-born Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a regime loyalist who fought in the Iran-Iraq war, becoming its director. That year the ASA brought Marandi to the U.S. for its annual conference.
  • In 2006, the Center for Distance Learning at SUNY Empire State College received a "partnership grant" from the ASA to promote its ties with Marandi's department - "seed money" for a full-blown exchange.
  • In 2007, Marandi was back at the ASA, at its annual meeting in Philadelphia, to present a paper savaging literary memoirs written by Iranian critics of the regime, some of which had become popular in the U.S. (e.g., Reading Lolita in Tehran and Persepolis).
  • In September 2006, President Ahmadinejad launched a tirade against "the continued presence of liberal and secular professors in the country's universities." Word came that these professors were being retired en masse. Yet through all this turmoil, Marandi and his university program flourished, and he became the go-to man for the official point of view in the world media.
  • The episode casts a harsh light on the ASA's latest decision to boycott Israel's institutions of higher education. The ASA now boycotts Tel Aviv University, not the University of Tehran, and even worse, it has a record of legitimating the very faction on the Tehran campus installed by the regime as part of a purge.

        See also U.S. Scholars Are Misguided in Boycotting Israel - Editorial
    For all of its difficulties, including the wrenching, long conflict with the Palestinians, Israel has become a lively and durable democracy. There is more freedom to speak one's mind and criticize the government in front of the Knesset than will be found in either Tiananmen Square or Red Square today - and far more in Israeli universities than in academia elsewhere in the Middle East. (Washington Post)

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