Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
March 31, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Support for Palestinian State Hits Two-Decade Low in U.S. - Aaron Blake (Washington Post)
    The idea of a Palestinian state is less popular in the U.S. than it has been in at least two decades, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows, as a long period of generally bipartisan support for the concept has passed.
    The idea is still slightly above water, with 39% in support and 36% in opposition. But that's a far cry from 58% of Americans who supported the idea in 2003.
    The 39% who support the idea is the lowest since 1998, and the three-point gap between support and opposition is the smallest in at least two decades.
    The new poll shows 38% approve of Obama's work with Israel, while 50% disapprove.

U.S. Poll: 63 Percent Say Iran Not Serious about Addressing Concerns over Nuclear Program (Pew Research Center)
    63% of Americans who have heard about the nuclear talks say Iranian leaders are not serious "about addressing international concerns about their country's nuclear enrichment program," according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 25-29.
    If a nuclear agreement is reached, 62% want Congress to have final authority over the deal.
    In addition, 65% say they sympathize with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians.

Unprecedented Influx of Advanced Weapons from Iran to Syria and Lebanon - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Advanced weaponry, much of it supplied by Iran, is flowing into Syria and Lebanon, a senior Israel Navy source warned on Sunday.
    "Such weapons pose a challenge to all Western navies in the area."
    The source described ten different kinds of missiles, including the 300-km.-range Yakhont guided antiship missile.
    He warned that the missile can be used to attack targets on land deep inside the country. "They can fire it at military headquarters in Tel Aviv," he said.

Iranian Offensive Fails on the Syrian Golan - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    In a military offensive that began in January to clear the Syrian Golan Heights of opposition forces, Assad regime soldiers and Hizbullah fighters sought to secure the route from Dara'a to Damascus.
    But after three months of fighting, the operation has not succeeded. In Nawa, Sheikh Maskin, Tel Mar'i, and Dara'a, opposition forces drove back the Iranian-backed forces.

Golan Heights Residents Caught Spying for Syrian Government - Noa Shpigel (Ha'aretz)
    Two residents of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, Ahmkad Makat and Tzudki Saliman, were arrested after documenting Israel Defense Forces activity along the northern border and passing the information along to Syrian intelligence agencies.

The Impact of Iran Sanctions Relief - Bobby Ghosh (Quartz-Defense One)
    There is little to suggest that the Iranian regime intends to spend the resulting windfall from sanctions relief on making life better for ordinary citizens.
    It is a safe bet that those closest to the regime, like the Revolutionary Guard, will take the largest share of any windfall.
    A great deal of the fresh money will also go to expanding Iran's ambitions in its neighborhood. Proxy groups like Lebanon's Hizbullah, Gaza's Hamas and Yemen's Houthis will all receive larger injections of money and weapons with which to further destabilize their countries.
    Expect more Iranian money to flow to Syria's Bashar Assad and into Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Shia minorities face Sunni persecution.
    If there's money left over, some of it will go to buying the Revolutionary Guards a new arsenal of conventional weapons.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Holds Key to Nuclear Deal - Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman
    U.S. and European officials said nuclear negotiations were imperiled by deep uncertainty over whether Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would sign off on the necessary concessions for a deal. All parties to the talks have set March 31 as the date for concluding a framework agreement that would outline all the main elements of a deal constraining Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions. Technical discussions on a final, comprehensive agreement will continue through June.
        But Western officials said there are signs Khamenei hasn't empowered his negotiators to give ground on the remaining sticking points. These include the pace at which UN sanctions on Iran would be removed, the scope of Tehran's future nuclear work, and the ability of international inspectors to access the country's nuclear and military sites.
        In speeches in recent days, Khamenei has fixated on the demand that UN sanctions be removed at the beginning of any agreement. Earlier this month, Khamenei said: "Removal of sanctions will happen immediately when the deal is reached...otherwise, we will not agree."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Iran Seeks Nuclear Deal But Not Normal Ties with "Great Satan" - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran is not expected to normalize relations with the U.S. even if Tehran reaches agreement with world powers on its nuclear program. An Iranian official said that Khamenei "will not agree with normalizing ties with America....You cannot erase decades of hostility with a deal....Ties with America is still a taboo in Iran." Khamenei has continued to give speeches larded with denunciations of "the Great Satan." Anti-American sentiment has always been central to Iran's Islamic revolution.
        "As long as Khamenei remains Supreme Leader, the chances of normalizing U.S.-Iran relations are very low. Rapprochement with the U.S. arguably poses a greater existential threat to Khamenei than continued conflict," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. (Reuters)
  • Iran Nuke Talks to Continue in New Phase - George Jahn and Matthew Lee
    Officials said Tuesday that Iran and six world powers are close to ending the latest round of nuclear talks with a statement that lacks specifics accompanied by documents outlining more detailed understandings. The texts reflect obstacles remaining to a final agreement but will allow the sides to continue negotiating in a new phase toward a comprehensive deal by late June. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Jewish House Democrats to White House: Stop Attacking Netanyahu - Edward-Isaac Dovere
    A dozen Jewish House Democrats laid it out for deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes last week: Enough. Obama and his aides, they said, had to stop acting as if the Israeli prime minister's comments are the only thing holding up a peace process that's been abandoned for a year while not expressing a word of disappointment about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - and openly toying with allowing the Palestinians their provocative recognition bid at the UN. The swipes at Netanyahu felt vindictive, and gratuitous.
        At the tense Rhodes meeting, the Jewish members of Congress told him the aggressive approach to Netanyahu was a problem, since the White House will be looking for their support in convincing people that the deal they're hoping to get with Iran doesn't put Israel in danger. "You want us to go out and say the administration's got Israel's back. How are you going to get us to say that when our constituents believe that the administration is stabbing Israel in the back?" one member of Congress said later. Rhodes left the meeting agreeing to relay a message of tamping down the rhetoric. (Politico)
        See also Bipartisan Letter to Obama: Stop Threatening Israel - Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Iran Nuclear Deal Rewards Tehran's Aggression
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Monday: "The emerging agreement in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price to pay for aggression, and conversely, there is a reward for Iran's aggression....It is impossible to understand how when in Yemen forces supported by Iran continue to occupy more and more areas, in Lausanne we turn a blind eye to this aggression. But we will not turn a blind eye, and we will continue to act against any threat in any generation, and certainly in this one."  (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Court Convicts Top Hamas Rocket Engineer
    Dirar Abu Sisi, a top Hamas rocket engineer, was convicted in Beersheba District Court on Sunday of founding a "war college" which trained Hamas commanders. He was also involved in expanding the range of Hamas rockets, mortars, and anti-tank weapons. Abu Sisi, who holds a Ph.D in electrical engineering from the Academy of Military Engineering in Ukraine, was reportedly kidnapped while taking a train to Kiev. (i24News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • A Bad Deal: Iran Is Outwitting the West in Nuclear Talks - Editorial
    If a deal on Iran's nuclear program is clinched in the coming days, it will be hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough. It will be nothing of the kind. If the framework agreement is signed on the basis of current drafts it will contribute to a reckless recasting of the U.S. position in the Middle East. Iran would be upgraded to the status of regional ally, while Israel, whose fears have been largely ignored during a year of diplomacy, would be awarded the status of regional irritant.
        The determination to notch up at least one success in Middle East peacemaking has led Mr. Obama to make ill-considered concessions in the belief that Iran is acting in good faith. Iran's clout will be increased by the knowledge of its nervous neighbors that it is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power, and that the U.S. is not willing to slow Iran's ascent. Instead of containing Iran's nuclear ambitions, this deal may simply give Tehran carte blanche to plan a future with its own bomb. (The Times-UK)
  • A Reward for Iran's Noncompliance - Editorial
    As the Obama administration pushes to complete an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, it has done little to soothe concerns that it is rushing too quickly to settle, offering too many concessions and ignoring glaring warning signs that Tehran won't abide by any accord.
        In 2007 and in 2013, Iran agreed with the IAEA on a "work plan" to answer questions about its suspected research on nuclear warheads. It then stonewalled inspectors, refusing to answer questions or permit access to sites. An appropriate response to this blatant violation of agreements would be to insist that Iran complete the IAEA work plan before any long-term accord is signed or any further sanctions lifted. It is vital to establish that Tehran will deliver on its commitments and that it will be held accountable if it does not. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Is Not About to Become America's Friend - David Rothkopf
    The administration's good first-term toughness toward Iran on nuclear sanctions was followed by a second-term hunger for a nuclear deal that was so great that everyone from Tehran to Toledo, Ohio, now believes that the U.S. wants the deal more than the Iranians do and has lost negotiating leverage as a result. The negotiations will only work if we practice the kind of diplomacy that is not undercut by messages that we need the deal more than the other side does.
        The Iran nuclear talks have also taken a toll on the deteriorating relationship with Israel. It is undeniable that the White House has poured gasoline on the flames that have all but incinerated the traditional foundations of the relationship. The fact that America's relations with every important country in the region are worse with the exception of Iran is telling.
        We should not be naive. We need to push back hard on the idea that somehow Iran is about to become our friend. The nuclear threat is just one of the many threats it poses. (Foreign Policy)
  • The High Price of U.S. Cooperation with Iran - Aaron David Miller
    The negotiations have given Iran international legitimacy and served as a palliative toward internal dissent from a public hungry for an improved economy. Should a deal be reached, the Iranian regime will get serious sanctions relief and still be in a position to exercise nuclear weapons options in the future.
        It is remarkable that the Obama administration chooses to hammer the Israeli prime minister for his election statements about Israeli Arabs when Iran's repressive regime is the region's greatest violator of human rights and Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq commit atrocities against Iraqi Sunnis.
        U.S. interests are little served or protected by the perceptions that Iran is rising, that the U.S. is quarreling with traditional allies, and that Washington now sees Iran as a central player with the Arabs. The perception is that Iran has hoodwinked America and is playing three-dimensional chess in the region while Washington plays checkers. The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. (Wall Street Journal)
  • UN Says Israel, Not Iran, North Korea or Syria, Worst Violator of Human Rights - Anne Bayefsky
    The UN Human Rights Council wrapped up its session in Geneva on Friday by adopting four resolutions condemning Israel - four times more than North Korea, Syria, or Iran. China, Qatar, Russia and Saudi Arabia - all members of the Council - got no mention at all. The writer is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. (Fox News)

Will the U.S. Stop Backing Israel at the UN? - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)

  • Officials say that President Barack Obama is strongly considering backing Palestinian moves at the UN Security Council. This could mean that Washington will hold back from vetoing a French or Jordanian resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, or even propose its own resolution seeking to enshrine the parameters of a future peace deal.
  • However, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday, "U.S. policy has always been that peace will be achieved by direct negotiations between the parties. That is the correct policy - there's no other way to achieve peace."
  • At the end of the day, any Security Council resolution on Palestine will not be enforceable, said Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry, unless it was passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which deals with threats to world peace or "acts of aggression." But the Security Council has never passed a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under Chapter VII. Thus, any resolution on the two-state solution would not be much more than a "non-binding recommendation."
  • At the same time, "a UN Security Council resolution that explicitly delineated Israel's future borders would first and foremost undermine Israel's bilateral agreement with the Palestinians, that made the future of borders an issue for negotiations and not something that would be imposed from the outside," said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and close Netanyahu adviser.
  • A Security Council resolution demanding an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, even with minor land swaps, would contradict the spirit of Resolution 242, he argued. "It should be stressed that in a 1975 memorandum between the U.S. and Israel, Washington gave assurances that it would vote against any initiative in the Security Council that would alter adversely or change Resolution 242 and 338 [after the Yom Kippur War] 'in ways that are incompatible with their original purpose.'"

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