Repairing the U.S.-Israel Alliance - Bob Schieffer (CBS News)
When Prime Minister Netanyahu backed away Thursday from remarks about the creation of a Palestinian state, the White House reacted with pointed, even snarky skepticism - as if they wanted to keep the public fight going.
I question that.
Sure, the White House is upset, but let's remember what's important here.
Israel is the only true democracy in that part of the world.
We need Israel, and Israel needs us.
It's time to stop the back-and-forth and repair the alliance, quietly.
Nothing makes America's and Israel's enemies happier than believing the relationship between Israel and America is unraveling.
Islamic State Skimming Millions from Salaries to Iraqi Government Employees - Damian Paletta and Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
Islamic State militants are skimming tens of millions of dollars a month from salaries paid to Iraqi government employees in occupied areas such as Mosul.
Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan Sign Agreement on Nile Dam - Khalid Abdelaziz (Reuters)
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed a cooperation deal on Monday over a giant Ethiopian hydroelectric dam on a tributary of the Nile river.
Egypt has sought assurances that the dam will not significantly cut the river's flow to its rapidly growing population.
Israeli Arabs Seem to Think Israelis and Palestinians Can Live Side by Side - Frederick Forsyth (Daily Express-UK)
There are one and a half million Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of Israel.
If their plight is so appalling, they could jump in the car and in an hour be over the border into Gaza to live under Hamas. In the same time they could be in the West Bank, living under the PLO government.
But they stay put. Why?
Well, it seems they have a better life and are well aware of it. They have better homes and jobs, better hospitals for their aged and better schools for their kids. They have better social security.
If they get into trouble with the law on a civil matter they have a better chance of a fair trial and an unpurchased judge, rather than a kangaroo court and a mediaeval punishment.
One and a half million Arabs seem to think Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side.
Israel's Rapidly Growing Economic Clout - Lawrence Solomon (Financial Post-Canada)
250 high-tech companies from the U.S. alone have made Israel home to their R&D centers.
2014 set records for Israeli high-tech and biotech startups - 52 Israeli startups sold to the tune of some $15 billion, plus 18 IPOs worth another $10 billion, according to end-of-year reports by accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Ethosia Human Resources, who expect 2015 to be even bigger.
This January alone saw foreign giants such as Microsoft and Amazon shell out $900 million for companies rich in Israel's only abundant renewable resource: ingenuity.
The Western press likes to describe Israel as increasingly isolated in the world due to its supposed failure to make peace with the Palestinians. Israel has never been less isolated, never been more embraced.
The writer is a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.
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- Israel Denies Spying on U.S. Negotiators in Iran Talks - Adam Entous
After the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran's nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks. The White House discovered the operation when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted Israeli communications that carried details from the confidential talks.
Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators. A senior official in the prime minister's office said Monday: "These allegations are utterly false. The State of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel's other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share."
Israeli officials said they received their information through other means, including close surveillance of Iranian leaders. Indeed, U.S. intelligence agencies helped the Israelis build a system to listen in on high-level Iranian communications.
Moreover, European officials, particularly the French, have been more transparent with Israel about the closed-door discussions than the Americans. (Wall Street Journal)
- Israel: West Is Heading for a "Bad Deal" with Iran - John Irish
Israel said on Monday it was probable that world powers and Iran would agree to a "bad deal" on Tehran's nuclear program. "We think it's going to be a bad, insufficient deal," said Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz. "In this (accord) you are getting a robust and complicated deal that enables Iran to preserve capabilities and allows it to remain a threshold nuclear state." Israel believed the current deal, which would allow 6,000 centrifuges, would enable Iran to "dash to the bomb" within nine to ten months because its nuclear infrastructure would not be dismantled. "We cannot keep quiet when our national security is at stake," Steinitz said.
See also UN Watchdog Unable to Conclude All Nuclear Material in Iran Is Peaceful
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said in Washington on Monday:
"We continue to verify the non-divergence of nuclear material declared by Iran, but we are still not in a position to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is [for a] peaceful purpose." (Reuters)
- U.S., Israel Snub UN Rights Council Session on Gaza War - Nina Larson
U.S. and Israeli envoys refused to attend a UN Human Rights Council special session Monday in Geneva on the situation in the Palestinian territories in the aftermath of the 2014 Gaza conflict. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that the U.S. had "coordinated our refusal to participate with Israel." (AFP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Iranian Commander Soleimani: Today Iraq and Lebanon, Tomorrow Jordan - Jack Khoury
Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, told a conference in Tehran this weekend he believed Iran had the ability to control events in Jordan, as it does in Iraq and Lebanon, the Iranian Student News Agency reported.
His remarks were the first time a senior Iranian official has openly discussed Iranian ambitions in Jordan.
- Jewish-Arab Coexistence Against the Odds - Yoram Ettinger
According to a Feb. 17 public opinion survey conducted by Tel Aviv University, the most pressing issues for Israel's Arabs are employment, education, health care, neighborhood crime and women's rights (43%), ahead of enhancing the status of the Arab community in Israel (28.1%) and the Israel-Palestinian conflict and negotiations (19%). Moreover, 61.3% of Israel's Arabs consider the Knesset an effective arena to address their concerns.
A Feb. 17 poll conducted by Stat Net indicated that 77% of Israeli Arabs prefer Israeli - over Palestinian - citizenship, and 64% are optimistic about Jewish-Arab relations. The 2014 special election for the mayor of Nazareth featured a resounding victory (62% to 38%) for Ali Salam, who focused on civic challenges in Nazareth, over Ramiz Jaraisy, who highlighted his identification with the PA.
According to Tel Aviv University researcher Arik Rudnitzky, the dramatic increase in voter turnout among Arab voters from 56.5% in 2013 to 64% in 2015 reflects the widening interaction and integration between Israel's Jews and Arabs, and growing Arab confidence in the Israeli political system.
A growing majority of Arab voters appreciate Israel's democracy, especially when observing the flaming Arab tsunami throughout the Middle East, devoid of civil liberties and replete with violent intolerance towards minorities and each other. (Israel Hayom)
- The Iran Time Bomb - Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen and Ray Takeyh
A careful assessment reveals that a one-year breakout time may not be sufficient to detect and reverse Iranian violations.
Once the U.S. had an indication that Iran was violating an agreement, it could be months before the director of national intelligence would be confident enough to present a case for action to the president. History suggests the Iranians would engage in protracted negotiations and much arcane questioning of the evidence.
Then the U.S. would have to convince the other member states invested in the agreement - including veto-wielding Russia and China - that the accord was being violated and that forceful action was needed. Time would be spent quarrelling over divergent views. In the end, a year simply may not be enough time to build an international consensus on measures to redress Iranian violations.
With stakes so high, we need a national debate about the nature and parameters of any agreement. The right venue for that debate is the halls of Congress. No agreement can be considered viable or enduring without such legislative approbation. Michael Hayden led the CIA from 2006 to 2009 and the NSA from 1999 to 2005. Olli Heinonen is a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Ignoring Public Opinion on Iran - Josh Kraushaar
If voters were confident that President Obama was striking a good deal with Iran that would prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, he'd have little trouble getting support from the legislative branch. The reason the president is facing such bipartisan backlash is that an overwhelming number of voters are deeply worried about the direction of the negotiations.
In this month's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 71% said they believed a deal would not prevent the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Earlier in March, a Fox News poll found that 57% believed the U.S. wasn't being "aggressive enough" in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear program, while nearly two-thirds supported military action as a last resort. In a February Gallup Poll, 77% said they believed Iran's development of nuclear weapons posed a "critical threat" to the U.S.
The reason for the growing opposition is that many voters don't believe the agreement will come close to stopping Iran's nuclear program, a point that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored in his congressional address. All of the polling is causing a significant number of Senate Democrats to consider breaking with their president to join Republicans in overriding a presidential veto over the deal.
- Do the Palestinians Want a Two-State Solution? - Amir Taheri
The Palestinians are divided. In one camp we have Fatah and its allies who have never formally committed to a two-state formula but have dropped hints that they might accept such a solution as a first step toward liberating the rest of Palestine, that is to say, what is now Israel, later. The second camp is dominated by Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel. In the third camp, there are more radical Palestinian groups, including the Islamic Jihad, now the favored protege of the Islamic Republic in Tehran.
Those familiar with the Palestinian public mood in the West Bank and Gaza know that there is great certainty that any Palestinian state manufactured through diplomatic games may become as corrupt and despotic as almost all Arab states are today.
Gaza, which is already a Palestinian state in all but name, is a bad poster for a future state. Proportionally, Gaza has more political prisoners than any Arab country. Hamas imposes a regime of censorship and intimidation little better than that of Assad in Syria.
Living with a problem, by managing it better, may be wiser than rushing into a mirage of a solution that could produce even bigger problems.
(New York Post)
Former Senators Urge Iran Vote - Kristina Wong (The Hill)
See also No Iran Nuclear Treaty without Congressional Action - Evan Bayh, Saxby Chambliss and Norm Coleman (Roll Call)
- A bipartisan trio of former senators has banded together to run an aggressive TV ad urging Congress to pass a bill that would allow lawmakers to review any deal that international negotiators reach with Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
- Former Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) have created a new non-profit called the American Security Initiative, which last week began running an ad showing a white van, ostensibly packed with a nuclear bomb, driving towards New York.
- The driver of the van is listening to the radio, where a soundbite from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is heard saying, "We got a North Korea in the making, one day you're going to wake up with an Iranian nuclear weapon."
- As the van continues driving into New York, the radio plays a snippet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress a week ago, in which he says, "Just imagine the horrific results if the Islamic extremists who rule Iran get their hands on nuclear weapons."
- For half a century, Congress has reviewed, amended and voted on treaties that have achieved lasting results with nuclear disarmament. In the Iranian context, congressional authorization would carry the added benefit of illustrating America's commitment to long-term Iranian nuclear deterrence beyond the end of the Obama administration in January 2017.
- Iran is more likely to make meaningful concessions when our government speaks with one voice and our commitments and deterrents extend beyond 20 months. Congressional approval of an Iranian nuclear accord that included specific and automatic consequences for listed violations would carry added weight.
- Congressional authorization for the use of force in case of egregious cheating by Tehran is particularly important. There must be no doubt about the price they will pay for non-compliance with any nuclear weapons limitations.
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