Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
February 16, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: 71 Percent of Americans Have Positive View of Israel - Lydia Saad (Gallup)
    71% of Americans have a favorable view of Israel and 27% an unfavorable view, the fourth straight year that Israel's favorable rating has been 70% or higher, according to Gallup's February World Affairs survey.

Survey: Jews Are Best-Liked Religious Group in America (JTA)
    A new survey of Americans by the Pew Research Center, released Wednesday, ranked various religious groups on a scale of 1 to 100.
    Jews were ranked at 67, followed by Catholics at 66 and Mainline Protestants at 65.
    See also Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings toward Religious Groups (Pew Research Center)

Shadowy Iranian General Visits Moscow, Violating Sanctions - Lucas Tomlinson (Fox News)
    Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, a shadowy Iranian general responsible for the deaths of nearly 500 Americans, traveled to Moscow Wednesday to meet with high-ranking Russian officials.
    The Quds Force, which Soleimani heads, is the special operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxy forces across the Middle East.
    UN Resolution 1747 prohibits Soleimani to travel, and any country that lets him transit or travel is also defying sanctions.

Abbas Meets CIA Director in Ramallah - Adam Rasgon (Jerusalem Post)
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas met on Tuesday with CIA Director Mike Pompeo in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a Palestinian security source said Wednesday.

Israel Navy Ships Encounter Foreign Warships in Mediterranean - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Last week, a Turkish warship approached an Israeli navy missile boat in international waters in the Mediterranean, a few kilometers from Israel's shores.
    Over the last few months, Israeli ships have encountered dozens of American, Russian, French, Turkish, British, Italian and Greek warships.

Israel Boycotts Blocked at Two British Universities (Jewish News-UK)
    Anti-Israel BDS motions were defeated in two British universities this week.
    In London, a BDS bid was pulled at City University Student Union after the Board of Trustees rejected it.
    Separately, a BDS motion tabled at the Ulster University Students Union in Northern Ireland last Thursday was defeated, with new policies on anti-Semitism and Holocaust memorial passing instead.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump, Meeting with Netanyahu, Backs Away from Palestinian State - Peter Baker and Mark Landler
    President Trump jettisoned two decades of diplomatic orthodoxy on Wednesday by declaring that the U.S. would no longer insist on the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians. Hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel for the first time since becoming president, Trump said he was flexible about how an agreement would look and that he would not be bound by past assumptions. "I'm looking at two-state and one-state" formulations. "I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one."
        Momentum for side-by-side states had faded not just in Washington but also in the Middle East, where many Israelis and Palestinians have given up hope or changed their minds about the concept.
        Netanyahu repeated his two prerequisites: that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that Israel maintain security control over the entire West Bank. He said the obstacle to peace was Palestinian hatred, demonstrated by the payment of salaries to the families of those who carry out terrorist attacks. (New York Times)
        See also From Obama to Trump, a Change in Tone and Substance - Herb Keinon
    A major takeaway from the Trump-Netanyahu press conference on Wednesday is that differences between the U.S. and Israel will be dealt with very differently - as among friends, not rivals. The jocular tone was significantly different from the heavy, tense tone of most of the Obama-Netanyahu meetings.
        Another major takeaway was Trump's refusal to unequivocally endorse the two-state solution, U.S. policy since President George W. Bush announced support for a Palestinian state in 2002. Trump essentially said that he is open to entertaining ideas and approaches to the diplomatic process other than the ones that have been tried - and have failed - since the Oslo process began in 1993. The third major takeaway is the administration's endorsement of looking at a wider regional diplomatic process, as Netanyahu has been advocating for a number of years. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Text: Trump and Netanyahu Joint Press Conference (White House)
        See also Video: Trump, Netanyahu Press Conference (ABC News)
  • U.S., Middle East Allies Explore Arab Military Coalition - Maria Abi-Habib
    The Trump administration is in talks with Arab allies about having them form a military alliance that would share intelligence with Israel to help counter their mutual foe, Iran, several Middle Eastern officials said. The alliance would include Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Egypt and Jordan. Other Arab countries could also join. The U.S. would offer military and intelligence support to the alliance.
        One Arab diplomat said, "Israel's role would likely be intelligence sharing, not training or boots on the ground. They'd provide intelligence and targets. That's what the Israelis are good at."  (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Asked Trump to Recognize Golan Heights as Part of Israel - Tovah Lazaroff
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he asked U.S. President Donald Trump in their meeting to have the U.S. recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. The U.S. and the international community don't recognize the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, announced in 1981. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Continues to Call for Israel's Destruction Despite Nuclear Deal - Herb Keinon
    Iranian leaders' calls for Israel's destruction have not abated at all since the Iranian nuclear deal was signed in July 2015, former Israel Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said on Wednesday. "There is absolutely no indication of one iota of moderation by the Iranian elite in their hostile intentions toward Israel since the conclusion of the Iran nuclear agreement. Iranian policy in this regard is driven by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In September 2015, Khamenei himself said that the nuclear agreement would not change the destruction of Israel in 25 years. Those who asserted that the Iran nuclear agreement would lead to a moderation of Iranian attitudes were completely wrong."
        Gold's comments came as the think tank he heads, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, put out a compilation of poisonous statements made by Iranian leaders since the Iran deal was signed. Just three months after the deal was signed, Khamenei himself said: "You [Zionist regime] will not see 25 years from today! By Allah's favor and grace, nothing called the 'Zionist regime' will exist by 25 years from now." Khamenei even re-tweeted himself, saying that the "people" had picked this quote as his most significant remark of the year. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Iranian Official and Social Media Call for the Destruction of Israel after the JCPOA (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • For the U.S., the True Goal Is Peace - Michael Crowley
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House on Wednesday will "usher in a new relationship between Israel and the United States...a relationship that will show there is no daylight [between the two countries]," a Trump White House official said Tuesday. White House officials said that Trump wouldn't seek to impose a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
        Elliott Abrams, a former top national security official in the George W. Bush White House, applauded the White House's language. "The true goal is peace," Abrams said. "The positions of Israel and the [Palestine Liberation Organization] have long been that the best and quickest road to peace is the two-state solution. But that is not the goal; it is a means to an end. If it is impossible, or there are better means, we should be open to them. That's what I think the administration is saying, and they're right."
        "For both sides, the primary objective of this meeting is to change the political theater of the relationship," said Michele Flournoy, a former top Obama Pentagon official and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security. Their goal, Flournoy added, is "to change the vibe, the feeling" from the tensions of the Obama era. (Politico)
  • Netanyahu's Visit to the White House - Charles Krauthammer
    With Netanyahu's visit to the White House, the pressure for a Palestinian state is lessened on Israel, and it's a way of saying to the Palestinians: "You conduct terror. You teach your children to hate. We are not going to reward you in advance with statehood unless you do it in negotiations."
        I think people misunderstand the settlement issue. The administration will end up with an agreement with the Israelis to return to the understanding in a letter that George W. Bush wrote to the Israelis in 2004 in which the settlement issue is dealt with in this way: No new settlements, no expansion of the territory on which settlements are located. However, you can thicken the settlements by adding housing inside. That was the understanding. It was abandoned by Obama unilaterally, in what was a betrayal of the Israelis. (Fox News-National Review)

Trump Changes the U.S. Message to the Palestinians - Jonathan S. Tobin (National Review)

  • In refusing to specifically endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Trump was endorsing the diplomatic principle that the U.S. cannot impose peace on terms that aren't accepted by the parties, and we shouldn't behave in a manner that encourages Palestinians' ongoing refusal to make peace.
  • The Fatah Party that runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank pays lip service at times to a two-state solution, but its ideology centers on denial and hope: Deny the right of the Jews to any part of the country, and hope for a state Arabs will dominate.
  • Both Hamas and Fatah glorify violence against Jews and honor terrorists. That's why few Israelis believe a two-state solution is possible. Though it's clear a majority of Israelis want a two-state solution, they understand that the Palestinians have yet to come to terms with Israel's legitimacy, and they think more territorial withdrawals would endanger their security without bringing peace. The idea of possibly replicating a Hamas state in the West Bank strikes most Israelis as not only ill-advised but utterly insane.
  • For eight years, President Obama insisted that the Israelis give up the West Bank and part of Jerusalem in order to allow a Palestinian state. He didn't take into account that Palestinian politics and the Hamas-Fatah rivalry made it impossible for them to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be located. Obama's approach had the effect of rewarding Palestinian intransigence, which doomed his efforts.
  • Trump sent the opposite message to the Palestinians. His refusal to sanctify the two-state mantra is a warning that if Palestinians want a state, they will not get it by jettisoning negotiations and asking the UN to impose terms on Israel. Trump's willingness to put pressure on the Palestinians - rather than pointlessly hammering the Israelis as Obama did - actually increases his chances of success, minimal though they may be.

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