Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 12, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Send Counter-Terrorism Experts to Nigeria - Leon Usigbe-Abuja (Nigerian Tribune)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday informed Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan that Israel would send a team of counter-terrorism experts to assist in the ongoing search and rescue of the girls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.
    The president welcomed the offer, saying that Nigeria would be pleased to have Israel's anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations.

Israel vs. al-Qaeda: Emerging Challenges on Two Fronts - Ehud Yaari (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Because of the Arab Spring uprisings, al-Qaeda-affiliated militias have now emerged on Israel's Syrian and Egyptian fronts, which had been largely quiet since the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
    Never before has Israel faced a situation in which its border towns were in such easy range of al-Qaeda militias.
    In response, Israel has created two new territorial military divisions on the Sinai and Syrian fronts; fences have been constructed along the Egyptian front; troop deployments have been increased; and new intelligence equipment and resources have been allocated for Sinai and the Golan Heights.
    Meanwhile, Egyptian-Israeli military cooperation is at a level never seen before. Ten Egyptian battalions are now operating in central and eastern Sinai, and Israel wants to see even more Egyptian personnel deployed.
    Egypt still does not control the main militant safe havens in Jabal Halal and Wadi Amr.
    Militant groups are equipped with antitank and antiaircraft missiles, allowing them to easily threaten shipping in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Suez Canal, as well as commercial airline traffic and Israeli border towns.

Amnesty Researcher Admits that Palestinian "Eyewitnesses" Often Lie - Elder of Ziyon (Algemeiner)
    Donatella Rovera, an Amnesty field investigator, wrote an interesting article about the challenges of fact-finding in war situations. One of her main points is that eyewitnesses are often unreliable.
    "In Gaza, I received partial or inaccurate information by relatives of civilians killed in accidental explosions or by rockets launched by Palestinian armed groups towards Israel that had malfunctioned and of civilians killed by Israeli strikes on nearby Palestinian armed groups' positions. When confronted with other evidence obtained separately, some said they feared reprisals by the armed groups."

UN Replaces Notorious Human Rights "Expert" Richard Falk with Another Anti-Israel Foe - Anne Bayefsky (Fox News)
    Indonesian Makarim Wibisono has replaced Richard Falk as the UN Human Rights Council's special investigator of Israeli actions in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
    Wibisono, from a country that does not recognize Israel, has described Israel as perpetrating "callous attacks against terrorized and defenseless civilians."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Supreme Leader Calls for Mass-Production of Missiles
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday called on the country's Revolutionary Guards to mass-produce missiles. "They expect us to limit our missile program while they constantly threaten Iran with military action. So this is a stupid, idiotic expectation," the IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. "The Revolutionary Guards should definitely carry out their program and not be satisfied with the present level. They should mass produce. This is a main duty of all military officials."  (Reuters)
  • Japan, Israel to Bolster Defense Cooperation as Netanyahu Visits - Isabel Reynolds
    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce an agreement Monday in Tokyo for the two countries to increase defense cooperation, officials said. (Bloomberg)
        See also Netanyahu in Tokyo: Both Israel and Japan Face Rogue Nations with Dangerous Nuclear Programs - Herb Keinon
    At the start of a five-day trip to Japan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Tokyo on Monday: "There is a common bond between us. We're both democratic, progressive, technological societies. You face North Korea, which is a rogue regime with nuclear weapons. We face the possibility of Iran, which is a rogue regime that wants to have nuclear weapons. They're cooperating between them, and we should cooperate between us."  (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • "Israel Does Not Spy on the U.S.," Says Ex Intel Chief
    "Israel does not spy on the U.S.," the former head of military intelligence Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said on Saturday, following two such reports in Newsweek. "As a former head of military intelligence, [I can say] with certainty, Israel does not spy on the United States. And military chiefs from the past 29 years will tell you the same thing," Yadlin told Channel 2 TV. "Every prime minister, since the Pollard incident, has very clearly instructed his intelligence establishment."
        "The American people must be told of the benefits [resulting from] the cooperation between our countries. There must be some balance to these very problematic reports."
        Also Saturday, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Channel 10: "In all my meetings with heads of the U.S. intelligence establishment, I've never heard one claim about Israeli espionage in the United States."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Spying Reports Embarrass Their Authors - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The second Newsweek article on Israel's alleged spying efforts in the U.S. embarrasses its author and sources. As anyone who has ever worked in Washington and with the White House knows, American analysis of events pertaining to foreigners is at times distorted or even downright mistaken. The U.S. intelligence community, which eavesdrops on every corner of the world, has a tendency to judge the actions of others as if they were undertaken by Americans.
        The best example is the incident regarding Israel's alleged attempt to place a spy in then-vice-president Al Gore's hotel room, citing a Secret Service man who encounters someone as he was removing an air conditioning vent. If Israeli intelligence wanted to spy against Al Gore, it could have done so in numerous ways, especially while he was in Israel. It was probably a hotel maintenance worker taking care of the AC system in anticipation of the visit of a senior figure. (Ynet News)
        See also Newsweek Espionage Report Is Just Too Unrealistic - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
        See also Oren: Claims the FBI Warned Israeli Diplomats about Spying Are Baseless - Herb Keinon
    Claims that Israeli diplomats were summoned by the FBI dozens of times in the decade since 9/11 and told to stop spying on the U.S. are "utterly without foundation," former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said Sunday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Behind Newsweek's Anti-Israel Canard - Ari Lieberman
    The sources for Newsweek's sensationalist allegations of Israeli spy activities in the U.S. were mainly anonymous, except for former CIA employee Paul Pillar. Pillar is a rabid Israel basher. In March 2014, he spoke at the "National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel 'Special Relationship'" where he attacked Israel on everything from its defensive military operations in Gaza to its concern over Iran's procurement of nuclear weapons. He even attempted to downplay Iran's threat to wipe Israel off the map, claiming that it was a mere mistranslation. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel Fires Back at U.S. Envoy over Peace Talks' Failure - Dan Williams
    Israel fired back on Friday at a senior U.S. official, who blamed Jewish settlement construction in part for the breakdown of peacemaking with the Palestinians, saying he himself had done nothing to help the negotiations. U.S. envoy Martin Indyk said on Thursday that neither side had had the stomach to make the necessary compromises, and singled out settlement building as a particular obstacle. But a senior Israeli official familiar with the talks accused Indyk of hypocrisy, saying he had known construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem would continue during the discussions. (Reuters)
  • Martin's Myths - Elliott Abrams
    Martin Indyk, the chief assistant to Secretary of State John Kerry in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, speaking to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, continued the obsession over settlements - and the supply of misinformation about them. He spoke of "rampant" settlement expansion and "large scale land confiscation" for settlement expansion.
        There is no "rampant" expansion or "large scale land confiscation" for settlements. Israel built 2,534 housing units last year in the West Bank. Of these, about a quarter (694) were in two major blocs near Jerusalem, Giv'at Ze'ev and Betar Illit, and 537 were in two other major blocs, Modiin Illit and Ma'ale Adumim, also near Jerusalem. These four, which will remain part of Israel, account for half of last year's construction.
        Only 908 units were built last year in Israeli townships of 10,000 residents or fewer, and most were built in towns that are part of the major blocs. Units built in areas that would become part of Palestine number in the low hundreds, approximately the rate of natural growth.
        If Israel builds now inside settlement borders of major blocs it will certainly keep in any final peace agreement, it is not disadvantaging Palestinians today, nor is it making a final peace harder to achieve. Construction in the major blocs is not, nor was it an obstacle to peace talks before the administration foolishly made it so. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration. (Weekly Standard)
  • The Mideast Peace Gap - Aaron David Miller
    In a fascinating postmortem, an unnamed American official involved in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations said: "There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort's failure, but people in Israel shouldn't ignore the bitter truth - the primary sabotage came from the settlements." If you believe that, I have a bridge over the mighty Jordan River to sell you.
        Let's be clear: Kerry's peace process didn't fail primarily because of settlements. It has been on life support from the beginning. The maximum that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to give on the core issues can't be reconciled with the minimum that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to accept. That's why every effort in the last decade has failed.
        Moreover, the notion that the Palestinians could be counted on to make concessions that would take them beyond their established consensus was an illusory assumption. The notion that Abbas could be depended on for major deliverables was a fantasy. The writer served as a Middle East negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations. (Los Angeles Times)

Peace Talks' Failure Is in the Eye of the Beholder - Shmuel Rosner (New York Times)

  • No one in the region was terribly surprised when the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed. Yet failure is in the eye of the beholder. And in this case only those who expected a deal - the Americans - failed.
  • But for the two parties with real interests at stake, the talks proved, once again, that there are things more important for them than peace and calm - things like national pride, sacred traditions, symbols and land.
  • Both parties entered the talks without any hope of reaching an agreement, and both are now exiting having reached their unstated aim: to avoid a deal in which they were never interested, without having to bear the full blame for dropping the ball. Each side would prefer to see Mr. Obama place the blame on the other side, but sharing it is reasonably tolerable.
  • There are two false perceptions that repeatedly distort discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. First is the misguided idea that everybody knows what a final deal will look like, and that the inability to reach it is basically a diplomatic technicality. And second is the unfounded belief that Israelis and Palestinians want peace more than anything else. They don't.
  • Of course, Israelis and Palestinians, like all people everywhere, want to live without violence. But they also want many other things. They continue to battle it out because they have priorities other than the ones imagined by the mediator.

    The writer is a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute.

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