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March 17, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

85 U.S. Senators Outline Acceptable Terms for Iran Deal in Letter to Obama (Colorado Statesman)
    As of Thursday, 85 U.S. senators had signed a letter to President Obama outlining terms of a final agreement on Iran's nuclear program they would find acceptable.
    The letter states that Iran has no inherent right to enrichment and that any agreement must dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.
    It states that Iran has no reason to have an enrichment facility like Fordow, that the regime must give up its heavy water reactor at Arak, and that it must fully explain the questionable activities in which it engaged at Parchin and other facilities.

Bomb Targets IDF Force on Lebanon Border - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    An improvised explosive device was detonated Friday night at an IDF force near the border with Lebanon, as it was patrolling in the Shebaa Farms area. A military jeep was damaged, but no casualties were reported.
    The IDF responded with an artillery barrage on Hizbullah outposts within Lebanese territory.
    See also Photos Show Extensive Damage to IDF Jeep Hit by IED on Lebanon Border - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Photos show the extensive damage caused to an armored IDF jeep hit by an improvised explosive device on the Lebanese border Friday.
    Such a terror attack had not been seen on the border since the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The incident took place near the "Erev Hadash" outpost on Mount Dov.

Fatah Official: Allah Will Gather the Israelis So We Can Kill Them (MEMRI-TV)
    Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki told Palestinian Authority TV on March 12, 2014:
    "Those Israelis have no religion and no principles. They are nothing but advanced tools for evil....In my view, Allah will gather them so that we can kill them. Every killer is bound to be killed. There is no other option."

Iraq's Oil Output Surges to Highest Level in 35 Years - Sarah Kent (Wall Street Journal)
    The International Energy Agency said on Friday that Iraq's oil production jumped by half a million barrels a day in February to average 3.6 million barrels a day, its highest level since 1979.
    New fields coming on stream are expected to add 500,000 barrels a day of output in the next few months.

Qatar Prepares for Sanctions If Brotherhood Dispute Escalates - Simeon Kerr (Financial Times-UK)
    At a stormy meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council this month, Saudi officials threatened to close air space or its land border to Qatar unless Doha reins in support for the pan-Arab Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
    Executives in Doha say official planning is under way to deal with any potential sanctions.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iran Pursuing Banned Items for Nuclear, Missile Work - William Maclean
    Iran is still creating front companies and engaging in other activity to conceal procurement of banned components for its nuclear and missile programs, Vann Van Diepen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation, said Sunday. Such trade would breach a 2006 UN embargo banning the provision by any nation to Iran of materials related to its nuclear and missile development work.
        "They still continue very actively trying to procure items for their nuclear program and missile program and other programs," Van Diepen told Reuters in an interview. "We continue to see them very actively setting up and operating through front companies, falsifying documentation, engaging in multiple levels of put more apparent distance between where the item originally came from and where it is ultimately going."  (Reuters)
  • Egyptian Militants Outwit Army in Sinai Battlefield
    Egypt's army says it is crushing Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula, but in the region's villages and towns a victory for the state feels a long way off. In a visit to eight villages in Northern Sinai last week, a Reuters reporter saw widespread destruction caused by army operations, but also found evidence that a few hundred militants are successfully playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Arab world's biggest army and are nowhere near defeat.
        Residents say militants have seized control of about a third of the villages in the region, but that the number of fighters has decreased in the past few months, partly because many fighters have moved towards the Nile Valley, bringing the conflict much closer to Egypt's main population centers.
        "At the start of the fighting we used to hide in the mountains, but now we are present in the villages among the residents because it is safer there," said S.A., a senior militant. (Reuters)
  • Top Sinai Militant Behind 2011 Attack in Israel Killed by Own Bomb
    An al-Qaeda-inspired group in Sinai called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem) said Saturday that one of its founding leaders, Tawfiq Mohammed Freij, was killed Tuesday when a bomb he was carrying was set off by a car accident. Freij, also known as Abu Abdullah, was the "field commander" of an August 2011 cross-border attack into southern Israel that killed eight people. Freij also supervised a failed suicide car bomb attack on the Egyptian interior minister in Cairo in September 2013. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Abbas to Tell Obama that Israel Must Free Top Terrorist Leaders for Peace Talks to Continue - Yasser Okbi
    According to the London-based Al-Hayat, in Monday's scheduled meeting with President Obama in Washington, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will demand that Israel halt all construction in West Bank settlements as well as release high-profile Palestinian leaders who were convicted of terrorist atrocities, as a condition for his agreement to continue peace talks. Two of the leaders include Tanzim chief Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa'adat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who planned the murder of former minister Maj.-Gen. Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001. According to the report, if Abbas' terms are accepted, the Palestinians would extend the talks to the end of 2014. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli Officials: Concessions Are Not a "One-Way Street" - Herb Keinon
    The current round of diplomatic negotiations will only yield results if the Palestinians want them to work and lend their hand in making them work, Israeli government officials said on Sunday. If the Palestinians just wait for Israel to make concessions and see the process as a one-way street, the process will fail, the officials said. "This will only work if it is a two-way street."
        Israeli officials are presently focused on Secretary of State John Kerry's framework document laying out the principles the U.S. believes are needed for a two-state solution, though Kerry in the end may not present the paper because the two sides cannot agree on the bulk of it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Defense Minister Ya'alon: No Palestinian Peace Deal without Jewish State Recognition - Jonathan Lis
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Channel 2 TV on Saturday that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is unreachable unless they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Ya'alon said he disagreed with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's recent statement that it is a mistake to focus on the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
        "I supported Oslo; I thought that if we gave up land it would bring us tranquility, but when I discovered that the conflict is not only over land, and land is not only Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], it's actually 'all of Palestine,' as they call it, the whole land of Israel, I became more realistic," Ya'alon said. "I supported 'land for peace'...and what did I get - land for terror and more than 1,000 killed and thousands of rockets. What did the Palestinians give up? Nothing."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Ya'alon: Abbas Is Not a Partner for a Peace Deal - Shlomo Cesana
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Channel 2 on Saturday: "Unfortunately, an agreement will not happen in my generation." "Abbas is a partner who takes, not a partner who gives. He is not a partner for a permanent peace agreement that includes recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Obama's Middle East Fallacy - Jackson Diehl
    Netanyahu has resigned himself to the likelihood that the U.S. framework will include provisions he's not ready to endorse. Abbas has not. "There is no way. We will not accept," the Palestinian news agency quoted him as saying of the Jewish-state principle on March 7. Two days later, Abbas persuaded the moribund Arab League to adopt a resolution backing him up. He's said much the same about Israeli troops on the Palestinian-Jordanian border.
        Why does Abbas dare to publicly campaign against the U.S. and Israeli position even before arriving in Washington? Abbas expects to sit back if the talks fail, submit petitions to the UN, and watch the anti-Israel boycotts mushroom, while paying no price of his own. (Washington Post)
  • Mahmoud Abbas and the "Jewish State" - Robert Satloff
    A tourist guide printed in 1924 by the Supreme Muslim Council of Jerusalem, the highest Muslim communal body in Palestine, explains that Solomon's Temple, the holiest site in Judaism, was located on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, proof of Muslim recognition of the historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
        The 1947 UN resolution that gave international imprimatur to the partition of British-mandated Palestine mentioned the phrase "Jewish state" dozens of times. Surveys over the last decade by Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki show that 40-52% of Palestinians would accept recognition of Israel as the "Jewish state." The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Foreign Policy)
  • The Debate Is About Our Right to Exist - Dror Eydar
    The insistence upon recognition of a Jewish state isn't meant for Israelis. We don't need recognition from Ramallah. The call to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is intended to block the PLO's progressive tactic in which each territory it receives serves as the base for the next demand. And not recognition in empty words, but a requirement that this recognition make its way into the Palestinian school studies and media.
        As of now, the State of Israel doesn't exist in the PA. So the Israeli insistence on recognition is non-negotiable. Without this, it is better to maintain the status quo. The so-called threat that without a diplomatic deal Israel's situation will worsen has been made for a hundred years already. Don't try to scare us. We've managed all right so far. (Israel Hayom)

Arafat and the Jewish State: Setting the Record Straight - Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • On March 13, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that he views Israel's principled requirement of recognition as the nation state of the Jewish People "as a mistake." He added that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "confirmed that he agreed it [Israel] would be a Jewish state" in 1988 and in 2004.
  • However, the truth is just the opposite: the U.S. administration at the time did not believe that Arafat's words satisfied their goal of his recognizing Israel's right to exist. Moreover, Arafat's 1988 statement does not come close to meeting the requirement for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People.
  • In the last quarter of 1988, an intense effort was undertaken to facilitate the opening of a diplomatic dialogue between the PLO and the U.S. Previously, all U.S. administrations had strictly adhered to U.S. commitments, originally given by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, that required the PLO to recognize Israel, accept UN Security Council Resolution 242, and renounce terrorism as prerequisites for any dialogue between the parties.
  • Arafat did not issue a clear declaration recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, but only summarized the language of UN General Assembly Resolution 181. The U.S. government concluded that Arafat's statement did not meet Washington's demand that the PLO unequivocally recognize the State of Israel, and thus no dialogue was launched between the U.S. and the PLO at that time.
  • It was, in fact, current Israeli peace negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who insisted that "declared references must be made to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state" in Israel's official response to the 30 April 2003 U.S. and Quartet-sponsored "Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."

    Amb. Alan Baker, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. He is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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