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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 14, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

"Iran Has Divine Permission to Destroy Israel" (Jerusalem Post)
    The "government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has divine permission to destroy Israel," Mojtaba Zolnour, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's deputy representative to the Revolutionary Guards, was cited in Iranian media on Wednesday as saying.
    "The Noble Koran permits the Islamic Republic of Iran to destroy Israel."
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited these statements on Wednesday at a ceremony in the Knesset marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Iran Warns U.S. on Yemen Aid Ship - Nick Gass (Politico)
    Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the Iranian deputy chief of staff, warned the U.S. not to stop an aid ship from Iran heading to Yemen, saying that doing so would "spark a fire."
    Iranian officials maintain that the ship is carrying food, medicine, rescue workers and peace activists.
    U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren said American forces are keeping an eye on the ship.
    A Saudi military spokesman said Tuesday that if Iran wants to deliver humanitarian aid, it should coordinate through the UN.

Czechs Stopped Potential Nuclear Tech Purchase by Iran - Louis Charbonneau and Robert Muller (Reuters)
    The Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of compressors - sensitive technology useable for nuclear enrichment - after false documentation raised suspicions, UN experts and Western sources said.
    The incident could add to Western concerns about whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal.

Egypt to Buy S-300 Air Defense System from Russia - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    A senior Israeli intelligence official said Wednesday that Egypt was buying Russia's advanced S-300 air defense system.
    An Egyptian official told Reuters that Israel should not feel threatened.
    "If we are getting such a thing, it's because we're looking east [toward Iran], not north [toward Israel]."

Israel, Greece and U.S. Conclude Maritime Drill - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    Israeli, Greek and U.S. naval forces are wrapping up a two-week annual exercise aimed at honing maritime proficiencies and interoperability for potential joint missions in the Mediterranean.
    Now in its fifth year, the "Noble Dina" drill began April 29 in Crete, and ends in Israel Thursday after more than a week of anti-submarine warfare training and joint maneuvers in international waters.
    This year's drill was the largest yet, involving hundreds of military personnel and nearly a dozen surface, subsurface and air elements.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia Rejects Automatic Sanctions Return If Iran Cheats on Deal - Sangwon Yoon
    "There can be no automaticity, none whatsoever," in reimposing UN sanctions if Iran violates the terms of an agreement to curb its nuclear program, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told Bloomberg News on Wednesday. While the Obama administration maintains that Russia agreed "in principle" to the need for a sanctions "snapback" mechanism if Iran fails to comply with the agreement now being negotiated in final form, the Russian government has offered no corroboration. (Bloomberg)
  • Saudi Arabia Promises to Match Iran in Nuclear Capability - David E. Sanger
    Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain. "We can't sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research," one Arab leader said Monday. "Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too," former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal told a recent conference.
        It is widely presumed that Pakistan would provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear technology, if not a weapon itself, since the Saudis financed much of the work done by Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. (New York Times)
  • Vatican Causes Stir with Treaty Recognizing Palestine as a State - William Booth and Michelle Boorstein
    The Vatican announced a treaty Wednesday that reaffirms Palestinian statehood. Palestinians said the accord addresses such matters as properties, taxes and protocol at holy sites. The Vatican had recognized the "State of Palestine" in 2012, shortly after the UN granted Palestine "non-member observer status."
        "There's nothing new here, in terms of the recognition of Palestine, which was given to us a few years ago by the Holy See. What is new is we are going to sign an agreement with the Vatican," said PLO spokesman Xavier Abu Eid. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: France Pursuing UN Initiative on Palestinians Behind Israel's Back - Barak Ravid
    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius' initiative to advance a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the UN Security Council was discussed during strategic consultations between Israel and France last week in Jerusalem. The French tried to advance such a resolution a few months ago, but it failed when the Palestinians rejected Paris' draft, which called for basing the borders of the Palestinian state along the 1967 lines and setting a timetable for finishing negotiations.
        Fabius recently agreed to an American request to put off the resolution until a nuclear agreement is reached with Iran, which is supposed to take place by June 30, but he is determined to bring the resolution to a Security Council vote by the end of September.
        The French have not held consultations with Israel on the initiative and never gave Israel a draft of the resolution, leading Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Nissim Ben-Sheetrit to protest at last week's meeting: "You are speaking with the whole world about your initiative, just not with us. You seem to have forgotten that we are also a party to this and that you ought to involve us, too."  (Ha'aretz)
  • New Israeli Government Stresses Desire for Peace with Palestinians
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition stressed its desire Wednesday to achieve peace with the Palestinians and other Arab states as he prepared to present his new government. "The government will advance the diplomatic process and strive to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and all our neighbors, while maintaining Israel's security, historical and national interests," read the coalition guidelines presented to parliament. (AFP-Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Can a Nuclear Iran Be Contained? - John Bolton
    America's diplomatic efforts to stop Iran have failed; Iran is on track to get nuclear weapons at a time of its own choosing. The only issue remaining is whether a nuclear Iran can be contained and deterred. The monarchs meeting Obama this week at the White House and Camp David are just as worried about Iran becoming a nuclear-weapons state as Israel. Washington might offer sophisticated weapons systems in an effort to reassure the Gulf Arabs, but enhanced conventional firepower is utterly insufficient to contain or deter a determined nuclear power.
        Even the threat of nuclear retaliation by another nuclear power is hardly likely to deter use of nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime like Iran's. Unfortunately, the Islamic Revolution does not follow the same cost-benefit analysis that Soviet leaders did during the Cold War. For the mullahs, as Bernard Lewis astutely observed, the threat of retaliatory destruction is an incentive, not a deterrent. The writer was U.S. ambassador to the UN and, previously, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
  • Concessions to Israel Are "Crimes of High Treason" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership continues to give false hope to Palestinians regarding the "right of return" to their former villages and towns in Israel, instead of helping the refugees and encouraging them to move on with their lives. Abbas' PA media regularly refer to Acre, Haifa and Jaffa as "Palestinian cities."
        If and when the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ever resume, PA leaders will not be able to make any concessions on the refugee issue. The leaders will have only themselves to blame for having radicalized their people over the years to a point where Palestinians consider any concessions to Israel as a "crime of high treason."
        This stance not only applies to the refugee issue, but also to other matters, such as the two-state-solution, the status of Jerusalem and the future borders of a Palestinian state. Neither Abbas nor any future Palestinian leader will be able to reach a compromise with Israel when the PA itself continues to promote such anti-Israel sentiments. (Gatestone Institute)
        See also PA Organizes "Nakba Day" Rally - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinians in the West Bank marked another "Nakba Day" (Day of Catastrophe) Wednesday, on the 67th anniversary of Israel's establishment, at a rally organized by the Palestinian Authority. One demonstrator said, "We educate our children that this [the West Bank] is not our homeland. Our real homeland is there, in Palestine. There is no Israel."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Helicopters Against Terrorism: The Unique Israeli Model - Tal Tovy
    The combination of great mobility, short response times and the concentration of heavy firepower makes attack helicopters an effective, lethal weapon system in confronting guerrilla forces and/or terrorists. Despite their vulnerability, helicopters can launch guided missiles from long distances, thereby surprising guerrilla forces. By the time they manage to regroup, the helicopter can be long gone from the fire zone.
        In addition, numerous confrontations in the last few decades have taken place in densely populated urban settings, requiring the ability of attack helicopters to cause pinpoint damage so as to minimize casualties among non-combatant civilians. Many actions carried out by helicopter can be handled by other forces, but its use achieves a similar effect at lower risk. It is also possible they have a psychological impact, an important aspect in fighting against non-state actors. Dr. Tal Tovy is an Assistant Professor at the History Department of Bar-Ilan University. (Military and Strategic Affairs-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

Prospects for U.S.-Israel Relations - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)

  • In the last 20 months of the Obama administration, are we going to see a collision between the U.S. and Israel? I'm not all that sure that confrontation is inevitable.
  • Right now the Obama administration's main priority is negotiating, selling and implementing the Iran deal. The last thing the president wants or needs now is to open a second front with Israel on either Iran or the Palestinian issue. Once the Iran deal is concluded, we'll be entering a fairly prolonged period where implementation of the deal will be key.
  • The administration has begun to dial down its public fight with Israel. There appears to be more adult supervision in handling the U.S.-Israeli relationship in the White House. And it makes sense, particularly in the aftermath of Netanyahu's reelection. The president can't afford to create the impression that he doesn't accept the results of a democratic election.
  • The Palestinian issue will remain an area of prospective tension between Washington and Jerusalem. But a major confrontation over a non-existent peace process? Or a big row over a peace plan that's just a thought experiment or fantasy in someone's mind? What would be the point?
  • Israel will remain a close ally in a region where America has few stable friends and where even America's partners and certainly its enemies are behaving far worse than Israel.

    The writer is vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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