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March 20, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Talks Stall over Ending of Sanctions - Laurence Norman and Jay Solomon (Wall Street Journal)
    When international sanctions on Iran would be lifted has emerged as one of the largest remaining stumbling blocks to an agreement to constrain Tehran's nuclear program by a March 31 deadline, according to U.S., European and Iranian officials.
    Tehran's negotiators in Switzerland have hardened their position that UN sanctions be repealed at the front end of any deal, while the U.S. and its European allies are demanding the UN sanctions be suspended or terminated in a phased time-frame over years.
    They believe sanctions relief should only come after Iran addresses concerns about its past nuclear work and is given a clean bill of health by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
    A senior European diplomat involved in the Lausanne talks said it would take much more than a year or two for UN sanctions to be lifted.
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told NBC News: "The most important thing is that the lifting of restrictions on Iran's nuclear program would depend on Iran's change of behavior, that it would stop supporting terrorism, stop its aggression against just about every country in the region, and stop calling [for] and threatening the annihilation of Israel." 

    See also Iran Nuclear Talks Lag, with Status of New Centrifuges Another Hurdle - Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger (New York Times)
    A dispute over what limits should be placed on the development of new types of centrifuges has emerged as a major obstacle as negotiators try to work out an initial accord on Iran's nuclear program, Western officials said on Thursday.
    The U.S. is worried that allowing the Iranians to perfect more sophisticated centrifuges would make it far easier for Iran to make a dash for a nuclear bomb.
    Iranians had told the U.S. that the second generation centrifuges they have developed are about three to five times more efficient than the first generation models they are using.
    Other issues that have not been settled include how many years an agreement would be in effect and what monitoring would be put into place when it expired.
    France wants the agreement to last for 15 years and then be followed by 10 years of stringent monitoring measures, a Western official said.

Senate Grants Obama Reprieve on Iran Bill Vote until after Deadline - Burgess Everett (Politico)
    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the committee's top Democrat, said they will wait until mid-April before voting on legislation that would allow Congress to weigh in on a nuclear deal with Iran.

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Israel Sends Mobile Water Purification System to Parched Pacific Island - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
    Israel's G.A.L. Water Technologies is sending a unique water-purification system loaded into a vehicle to the Marshall Islands, which suffer a serious lack of drinking water, in a donation from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    G.A.L. Deputy CEO Sigal Levi said: "This new product, patented in 171 countries, is the first of its kind in the world. In a few minutes you have enough fresh water for 6,500 people to drink, completely automatically."
    The mobile treatment, storage and distribution unit could save lives following natural disasters, when drinking water may be impossible to procure.

Israeli Natural Pest Control - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
    BioBee Biological Systems at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu is one of the leading international companies in the field of biological pest management, natural pollination and Medfly control.
    In 2014, BioFly, a division of BioBee, sent 380 million sterilized male flies to Croatia to help fight fruit-fly infestations in orchards.
    BioBee also is the world's leading producer of Phytoseiulus persimilis, the most effective natural predator of red spider mites. This two-millimeter-long creature is used by most of California's strawberry farmers.

Breaking Silence, Survivor Sets Out to Meet Holocaust Past - Douglas Dalby (New York Times)
    At a school in Multyfarnham, Ireland, Tomi Reichental, 79, told the students of his boyhood in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
    He described seeing his grandmother's body being thrown onto a cart overloaded with other corpses. He was only 9 years old.
    For nearly 60 years, he never spoke about his experiences. Now, "I owe it to the victims that their memory is not forgotten," he said.
    "It's not that I didn't want to speak about it before. It's just that I couldn't. There are thousands like me; I believe it is nature's way of allowing people to deal with things."
    Now he travels twice a week to tell his story so younger generations will know what happened to him and to millions of others. He is fully booked for the rest of 2015.
    He was rounded up by the Gestapo in Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia, in October 1944. Forced into a cattle car on a freezing November day, he believes the train was diverted to Bergen-Belsen only because the Nazis had been forced to destroy the crematories in Auschwitz and Birkenau that very week ahead of a Soviet advance. "A few days earlier I wouldn't be here now."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: "I Want a Sustainable, Peaceful Two-State Solution" - Andrea Mitchell
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel discussed a future Palestinian state in an interview with NBC News on Thursday. "I never retracted my speech in Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognized the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state, he's made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces....I don't want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change."
        "If you want to get peace, you've got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel for an achievable peace. We have to also make sure that we don't have ISIS coming in to that territory. It's only two dozen miles away from our border. It's thousands of miles away from yours. So we need the conditions of recognition of a Jewish state and real security in order to have a realistic two-state solution. And I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable."
        "I'm very proud of the fact that Israel is the one country in a very broad radius in which Arabs have free and fair elections....I said I'm concerned with the massive foreign-funded effort...that would try to get out votes for a specific party....I was trying to get something to counter a foreign-funded effort to get votes that are intended to topple my party, and I was calling on our voters to come out."  (NBC News)
        See also below Observations: No Peace in Our Time - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)
  • Video: Misreading Netanyahu and the Peace Process - Erin Burnett
    Dore Gold, a former senior foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, was interviewed on CNN on Thursday:
    Q: Did Prime Minister Netanyahu make that comment on Monday saying there would be no two-state solution under his watch just to win the election or was he actually saying what he really believes?
    Gold: "I saw NBC News was playing this up that somehow his position changed in the past 24 hours. What the prime minister is saying is that he still maintains his policy of two states for two people as he has said before, but he is saying there won't be a Palestinian state today, and that is used in the actual Hebrew language of his statement. And the reason he is saying that is because the Middle East is far more dangerous. We have the moves of ISIS all across Syria and Iraq. We have the movements now of Iranian surrogates like Revolutionary Guard forces even getting close to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. So Israel will need very strong, robust security defenses in any arrangement. I think that was primarily on his mind when he made his statement."
    Q: In Washington that's not how it was seen. Two top Obama administration spokesmen today at the State Department and the White House specifically said that the prime minister has changed his policy on a two-state solution.
    Gold: "People like Secretary of State John Kerry worked day in and day out with Prime Minister Netanyahu and saw how committed he was to working out a solution with the Palestinians that left Israel with a secure border and not a full withdrawal. Secretary Kerry actually put forward a paper called a 'framework agreement' which Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to. It was Mahmoud Abbas in March of 2014 who refused the Kerry plan when it was presented to him by President Obama in the Oval Office. So the fact is, Israel has gone along with this. The Palestinians said "no."  (CNN)
  • Obama Calls Netanyahu to Congratulate Him on Israeli Election - Juliet Eilperin
    President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to congratulate him on winning his country's election Tuesday. The two leaders "agreed to continue consultations on a range of regional issues, including the difficult path forward to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," a White House statement said. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Gilad Shalit Was Accompanied by Suicide Bombers at Time of His Release
    In an interview with Al Jazeera Thursday, senior Hamas military official Abd al-Hakim Hanini claimed that while captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was being exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in October 2011, he was surrounded by Hamas operatives wearing explosive belts.
        Hamas' military commander, Ahmed Jabari, who was later killed by an Israeli air strike in November 2012, ordered terrorists to accompany Shalit while wearing explosive belts. "Jabari told us that Shalit would be accompanied by martyrs with explosive belts around their waists. The military wing would decide - if there would be any violation of the conditions of the deal, Shalit would not return to Israel alive," Hanini said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Issues 3rd Report on Gaza War Probes - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The IDF on Thursday released its third major report on Gaza war crimes investigations. 120 incidents have been or are in the process of being reviewed. The army announced six new criminal investigations, the most notable of which involved a July 30, 2014, strike on an UNRWA facility. The other five involved lower key crimes such as theft. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Text: IDF Military Advocate General Decisions on Reported Incidents during the Gaza War (IDF Spokesperson-IMRA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    U.S.-Israel Relations

  • The Accusation of Racism Against Netanyahu - Jennifer Rubin
    On election night Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told his followers (and this was borne out entirely by the unprecedented success of the Arab Joint List, which gained 13 seats) that activists were working to hike Arab turnout. ("Arab voters are coming in droves to the ballot boxes....NGOs bring them in buses.") His accusation that certain groups sought his downfall by hiking the Joint List is beyond dispute.
        The president's former political operative, Jeremy Bird, who is part of the nonprofit One Voice, had gone to Israel for precisely this purpose, to hike Arab turnout and therefore help unseat the Israeli prime minister. "We are doing an amazing job at getting out the vote with over 15,000 volunteers and more than 40 tents set up throughout Israel," a spokesman for the V15 political action group, allied with One Voice, bragged.
        Netanyahu was not marginalizing the Arab vote; to the contrary, he was recognizing that the greater the Joint List turnout, the greater chance he would fall from power. (Washington Post)
        See also Obama Buries the Hatchet - in Netanyahu's Head - Elliott Abrams
    On Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest went out of his way to attack Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, stating: "There has been a lot of coverage in the media about some of the rhetoric that emerged yesterday that was propagated by the Likud Party to encourage turnout of their supporters that sought to, frankly, marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens." No reporter asked Earnest about this subject. He simply went out of his way to criticize a statement Netanyahu had made about getting out Likud voters, to counteract what he said were massive efforts to get out the Arab vote.
        The issue isn't whether that Netanyahu statement was awful or admirable, but the conduct of the White House. The leader of a close ally wins a democratic election. President Obama takes the occasion to hit him again. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Why Did Israelis Back Netanyahu?
    When Israelis look at the West Bank, they see a pre-1967 border that is basically just a cease-fire line from the 1948-49 war that established the country. Without the West Bank, Israel is only about 10 miles (15 km.) wide at its narrowest point. The strategic highland looms over Israeli cities, visible on a clear day from the outskirts of Tel Aviv and surrounding Jerusalem on three sides. They fear that if their army clears out, it will be replaced not by peaceful Palestinian moderates but by more menacing forces like Hamas.
        On several occasions Israeli governments have offered the Palestinians statehood on close to all of the West Bank and Gaza. The idea of a border running through Jerusalem - with Palestinian police controlling entrances to the Old City a stone's throw from downtown hotels - is unfathomable to many Israelis. Few think a peace deal is likely. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Why a Netanyahu Victory Isn't Likely to Make U.S.-Israel Relations Worse - Howard LaFranchi
    "It didn't take Netanyahu's reelection to convince anyone that while the Israeli-Palestinian process maybe wasn't dead, it was frozen pretty hard," says Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert who has held government posts in both Republican and Democratic administrations. A number of factors will "tend to constrain what the administration is prepared to do to press the Israelis," Miller says. These include unabated pro-Israeli congressional pressure, a U.S. presidential campaign where all the candidates will be trumpeting their support for Israel, and shared U.S.-Israel national security interests.
        Miller points out that the Obama administration has "never gone beyond words to demonstrate its dissatisfaction with Israel," and he doesn't anticipate that happening now - simply because he doesn't see how the U.S. benefits by getting tough with Israel. "I just don't see what ratcheting up gets the administration," he says. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Israeli Elections Overseen by Israeli Arab
    The Chairman of Israel's Central Election Committee overseeing the recent Israeli election is Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran - an Israeli Arab. Imagine a Baha'i overseeing Iranian elections, a Yazidi overseeing Iraqi elections, or a Christian overseeing Saudi elections. (CAMERA)

  • Iran

  • What's the Diplomatic Breakout Time for Stopping an Iranian Bomb? - Claudia Rosett
    At the Iran nuclear talks, U.S. negotiators have been aiming for a deal that would involve a so-called breakout time of one year - meaning that the Tehran regime, should it cheat, would still need at least a year to be able to produce nuclear weapons. The idea is that this would be long enough for inspectors to detect the cheating, and the international community to do something about it. But how long is the Diplomatic Breakout Time - the time needed for the rest of the world, or the P5+1 world powers cutting this deal, to take decisive action.
        After failed talks and back channel talks and talks about talks, there eventually came the Joint Plan of Action in November 2013, setting the framework for the current talks that were supposed to be wrapped up in six months. There have been countless hours of bilateral, trilateral and full court meetings. There have been working dinners and discussions in Geneva, Vienna, New York, and now the Swiss city of Lausanne.
        So with a built-in buffer one-year breakout time for Iran, how does the diplomatic decision process work for the U.S. and its partners? Presumably they would all first have to be persuaded that Iran was really cheating, and how much. They would then have to debate and decide exactly what action to take. And Iran might use its talents to devise a form of cheating that such a deal has not fully anticipated and planned for.
        North Korea has been under UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs since 2006, when it conducted its first illicit nuclear test. North Korea is still building missiles and nuclear weapons, and the diplomats of the P5 are still brooding over what to do about it. There's already been a diplomatic breakout time of almost nine years. The writer, journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, heads its Investigative Reporting Project. (PJ Media)
  • Ignoring Previous UN Security Council Resolutions on Iran - Clifford D. May
    Imagine a deal that would require Iran to verifiably "suspend all enrichment-related activities" and "not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons"; a deal that would provide such "access and cooperation" as the International Atomic Energy Agency requests to resolve its continuing concerns about Iran's research on nuclear-weapons design; a deal that would ban the supply of nuclear-related materials and technology to Iran and freeze the assets of individuals and companies involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs; a deal that would maintain sanctions until Iran complies with those requirements. Actually, such a deal is the essence of the UN Security Council resolutions already passed on Iran. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel's Peace Partners? - Alan Joseph Bauer
    An American jury last month returned a guilty verdict against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. The group universally accepted as the one that must negotiate some type of final-status peace deal with Israel has been found guilty of offering material support in half a dozen terrorist attacks that resulted in nearly 500 dead and wounded people in Jerusalem between 2002-2004.
        One of the most powerful arguments presented at the trial revolved around the continuing payments to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails. These payments occur every month and they are occurring now. If the PA had turned over a new leaf, one would expect that it would stop giving money to convicted terrorists and the families of suicide bombers. The writer was a plaintiff in the recent trial of the PA and PLO. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Top Violator of Women's Rights Around the World? It's Israel Says UN - Anne Bayefsky
    Guess who is the number one violator of women's rights in the world today, according to the UN Commission on the Status of Women? Israel. Not Syria, where government forces routinely employ rape and torture against women as a tactic of war. Not Saudi Arabia, where women are physically punished if not wearing compulsory clothing and are almost entirely excluded from political life. Not Sudan, where the legal age of marriage for girls is ten. Not Iran, where "adultery" is punishable by death by stoning, and women must obtain the consent of their husbands to work outside the home. The writer is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. (Fox News)
  • Palestinian Intellectual Praises Israeli Democracy
    'Imad Al-Falouji, head of the Gaza-based Institute for Intercultural Dialogue, served as information minister and as an advisor under Yasser Arafat. On March 18, 2015, he wrote: "Anyone examining the Israeli entity is amazed by the extent of internal disagreement on every issue....They have a [political] right, center and left...and every perception has proponents and opponents....But, despite all this, they have passed laws that govern these disagreements and set out a common goal: that of serving the State of Israel and the people of Israel. They manage to use the internal disagreements as a source of strength."
        "But we, 'the possessors of truth'...strike out in every direction without an agreed-upon plan or purpose....Each group claims to possess the absolute truth and [presents] the others' as absolute lies. We do not possess the ability to listen to the other. Anarchy rules the day: political, economic, social and even conceptual anarchy."
        "Let's look at the campaign platforms of the Israeli parties, and what they focused on. All of them agreed on the need to serve the people on the socio-economic level, promote employment, cultivate the family and solve its problems, eradicate unemployment, promote education and achieve security for all citizens....But in our [political arena], everyone talks about politics and general foreign-affairs, and only rarely does a party concern itself with improving the lives of the people."  (MEMRI)

No Peace in Our Time - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)

  • Of all the idiocies uttered in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu's stunning election victory, none is more ubiquitous than the idea that peace prospects are now dead because Netanyahu has declared that there will be no Palestinian state while he is Israel's prime minister.
  • I have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state - with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted - only to be rudely rejected. This is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008.
  • The fundamental reality remains: This generation of Palestinian leadership - from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas - has never and will never sign its name to a final peace settlement dividing the land with a Jewish state.
  • Today, however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme instability of the entire Middle East. Syria has al-Qaeda allies, Hizbullah fighters, government troops and even the occasional Iranian general prowling the Israeli border. In the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different regimes.
  • The West Bank could fall to Hamas overnight. At which point fire rains down on Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport and the entire Israeli urban heartland.
  • Peace awaits three things. Eventual Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state. A Palestinian leader willing to sign a deal based on that premise. A modicum of regional stability that allows Israel to risk the potentially fatal withdrawals such a deal would entail. I believe such a day will come. But there is zero chance it comes now or even soon. That's essentially what Netanyahu said Thursday.
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