Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 2, 2015

In-Depth Issue:

CIA Director: "Very, Very Strong Relationship between United States and Israel" - Bob Schieffer (CBS Face the Nation)
  Question: "Director, the political breach we have with Israel, has that degraded or in any way made -- hurt our intelligence gathering capabilities?"
   CIA Director John Brennan: "Absolutely not. There is a very, very strong relationship between United States and Israel on the intelligence, security and military fronts. It's one of the great things, I think, about our system, there can be policy differences between our governments, but the intelligence and security professionals know that we have an obligation to keep our countries safe and secure.
   "And so although there's been great debate about the Iranian nuclear negotiations that are ongoing, the CIA, NSA and other intelligence community entities are working very close with their Israeli as well as other counterparts."

"Absurd": Anti-Israel Group Wins Key Designation from UN Panel over U.S. Objections (Fox News)
  A pro-Palestinian group that denies Israel's right to exist and which critics say is a front for Hamas won key status from a UN panel, prompting angry diplomats from the Jewish state to lash out at nations that voted for the measure, including several with dubious human rights records.
   The UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, a 19-member panel that includes Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Venezuela, Russia and China, granted “observer” status to the Palestinian Return Center (PRC).

Cyprus : Lebanese Bomb Suspect Linked to Hizbullah Chief (Ya Libnan - Lebanon)
  A Lebanese-Canadian man detained in Cyprus after two tons of potential bomb-making material was found in his home was reported by media Friday to be a member of the militant group Hizbullah.
   The Phileleftheros newspaper said the 26-year-old man belonged to the Lebanese organization’s military wing and had personal links to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Iraq Lost 2,300 Humvee Armored Vehicles in Mosul (AFP/Al Arabiya)
  Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles when the Islamic State jihadist group overran the northern city of Mosul, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on May 31.

U.S. Approves $130 Million Sale of Precision Guided Bombs to the United Arab Emirates (U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency)
  The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Guided Bomb Units and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $130 million.
   The proposed sale will provide the UAE with additional precision guided munitions capability to meet the current threat represented by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and Houthi aggression in Yemen. The UAE continues to provide host-nation support of vital U.S. forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base and plays a vital role in supporting U.S. regional interests.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Iran’s Nuclear Stockpile Grows, Complicating Negotiations - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
    With only one month left before a deadline to complete a nuclear deal with Iran, international inspectors have reported that Tehran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel increased about 20 percent over the last 18 months of negotiations, partially undercutting the Obama administration’s contention that the Iranian program had been “frozen” during that period.
       The extent to which Iran’s stockpile has increased was documented in a report issued Friday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN organization that monitors compliance with nuclear treaties.
       The overall increase in Iran’s stockpile poses a major diplomatic and political challenge for President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. The administration will have to convince Congress and America’s allies that Iran will shrink its stockpile by 96 percent in a matter of months after a deal is signed, even while it continues to produce new material and has demonstrated little success in reducing its current stockpile. (New York Times)
  • See also Obama: Only a Deal Will Stop Iran Having Nukes, Attack Won't Help - Barak Ravid
    U.S. President Barack Obama told Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan that the forthcoming agreement between the world powers and Iran is the best way to ensure that Tehran does not obtain nuclear weapons. "I can I think demonstrate, not based on any hope but on facts and evidence and analysis that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable tough agreement," he said.
       According to Obama, an American military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would not dismantle Tehran's nuclear program. (Ha'aretz)
  • French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Wary on Iran Nuclear Deal - Matthew Dalton
    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a possible nuclear deal with Iran risks sparking a nuclear arms race in the Middle East unless the agreement grants international inspectors access to Iranian military sites and other secret facilities. Mr. Fabius insisted the ability to inspect such sites be part of a final agreement with Iran to ensure Tehran doesn’t covertly try to build a nuclear weapon.
      “The best agreement, if you cannot verify it, it’s useless,” said Mr. Fabius. At times, Mr. Fabius has taken a harder line than officials in Washington, warning in 2013 that the West risked being suckered into a “fool’s game.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force Commander Soleimani Spotted in Anbar, Iraq - Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss
    Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commanding officer of Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, has reportedly been photographed in Iraq’s Anbar province alongside Shiite militiamen. Soleimani was also photographed in Baghdad with Popular Mobilization Committee chief Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, and Imam Ali Brigade leader Shebl al Zaydi.
       Muhandis is a former commander in the Badr Organization who was listed by the US government as Specially Designated Global Terrorist in July 2009. (Long War Journal)
  • Islamic State Advances Further Into Syria’s Aleppo Province - Raja Abdulrahim
    Fierce battles raged between Islamic State and rebel fighters in Syria’s Aleppo province on Monday, the day after the militant group seized villages close to the Turkish border and came within seven miles of the main highway connecting Syria’s largest city to Turkey. The highway is the main supply route for aid and weapons coming from Turkey. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also While Nobody Was Looking, the Islamic State Launched a New, Deadly Offensive - Liz Sly
    The Islamic State's surprise assault in the Aleppo province opened a new front in the multi-pronged war being waged by the extremist group across Iraq and Syria, and it underscored IS' capacity to catch its enemies off guard. The U.S. Embassy in Syria issued a tweet “Reports indicate that the [Assad] regime is making air strikes in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo.” (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • World Media Misled by Hamas Version of Summer War - Noa Amouyal
    Last summer’s war with Hamas in Gaza presented a case of dueling narratives that Israel is still fighting to this day, Amb. Dore Gold told a press briefing at his Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) think tank on Monday.
       “Part of Israel’s challenge in all these conflicts is when ideas and conclusions are asserted even though they can’t be checked, they become the lingua franca on the nature of the conflict,” he explained. “These are the type of issues that helped form a narrative about the war that are certainly affecting Israel’s position up until this point in time.”
       The JCPA monograph, The Gaza War 2014: The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster it Averted, was presented to reporters at the press conference in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Syrian Druze Could Flee to Israel as Assad May Abandon Them to ISIS - Ariel Ben Solomon
    Syrian Druze near the Israeli border are under threat from the Islamic State as the Assad regime withdraws its forces from the area, according to Druze sources. The heads of the Israeli Druze community raised their concerns for their brethren in Syria in meetings with senior Israeli security officials.
       Israel is closely following developments in case Druze residents flee to Israel because of the jihadist threat. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • After Abbas, an Abyss - Ghaith al-Omari and Neri Zilber
    The PA President Mahmud Abbas recently turned 80 and is known to be an industrious smoker. His successor by law is the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas official Aziz Duwaik. Duwaik is currently imprisoned in Israel, but even if he were free, there would be no chance of a parliamentary speaker from Hamas taking the reins of power in the Palestinian Authority.
       The Palestinian parliament has not met in over seven years, and Abbas himself is now a decade into a four-year presidential term that began in 2005. Laws regulating transitions of political power are thus irrelevant: Abbas rules by presidential decree in the West Bank; Hamas rules by the gun in the Gaza Strip.
       Abbas has been leading the Palestinian Authority for a decade now, nearly equal in time to Arafat. In this period, Abbas has ensured that no new leaders would come to the fore as realistic successors. The Palestinian Authority cannot afford a leadership crisis if Abbas were to leave office; it already finds itself divided between Gaza and the West Bank, hamstrung by a moribund peace process, and facing growing discontent in the streets and refugee camps.
       A Palestinian state requires many things in order to be viable: economic opportunity, territorial contiguity, natural resources, and working institutions. For a people intent on attaining self-determination, it behooves the Palestinians, as well as the international community, to ensure a smooth transition process after Abbas. (Washington Institute)
  • Intra-Arab Rifts the Real Reason for Palestinians’ FIFA Failure - Pinhas Inbari
    The Palestinians’ failure to get Israel expelled from Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is no cause for Israeli complacency. The reason that the Palestinian attempt failed has less to do with Israeli diplomacy, and more to do with intra-Arab rifts.
       Behind the intra-Arab rift stands tension between Qatar on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States on the other. The latter view Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in Doha in 2022 as an effort to promote the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda on the world stage.
       Qatar has earmarked Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Fatah activist and former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force, to succeed Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas once he steps down. Rajoub, for his part, maintains close ties with Hamas in Gaza. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    A Critique of Obama's Understanding of Israel by an Israeli General - Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic)

    After I posted an interview with President Obama late last month, I received a comprehensive response from Yossi Kuperwasser, a former Israeli general and intelligence expert who served until recently as director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. His viewpoint, which is more-or-less a mainstream Israeli viewpoint, deserves airing:

  • I would like to set the record straight on President Obama’s recent comments in The Atlantic and at the Adas Israel synagogue. First, let me stress the shared values that anchor the U.S.-Israel relationship, as well as the gratitude I and every Israeli feel for the president’s unwavering support for our country.
  • President Obama’s anger toward Netanyahu is misplaced, especially given his extraordinary lack of criticism of Palestinians for far more egregious behavior. The Palestinians, after all, are the ones who refused to accept the president’s formula for extending the peace negotiations.
  • In response to these threats, all the president had to say at Adas Israel was that “the Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.”
  • Our core values are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this world, but Hamas proclaims “We love death more than you love life.” Happiness will be reached in the next world, according to the Hamas ideology.
  • So why does Obama pick on Netanyahu and not on Abbas? The most likely reason is directly related to a conflict in the West between two schools of thought, both dedicated to defending democratic and Judeo-Christian values: Optimism and realism.
  • Obama is a remarkable proponent for the optimist approach—he fundamentally believes in human decency, and therefore in dialogue and engagement as the best way to overcome conflict. He believes that Islamists can be convinced to accept a global civil society.
  • Netanyahu, on the other hand, is a realist. Due in part to Israel’s tumultuous neighborhood, he has a much more skeptical attitude of Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian President Rouhani’s government. Netanyahu does not see these groups as potential moderates.
  • Even though Israel, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, remains committed to the formula of “two states for two peoples, with mutual recognition,” the implementation of this idea at this point is irrelevant. The PA’s poor governance and the general turmoil in the Middle East render any establishment of a Palestinian state right now unviable.

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