Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Azerbaijan Foils Plot by Hizbullah and Iran to Bomb Israeli Embassy - Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
Six Palestinians Killed in Hamas-Fatah Clashes in West Bank - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
Man, 85, Fined for Giving Military Secrets to Israel in the 1980s - Benjamin Weiser (New York Times)
Israel Rejects Loyalty Oath Proposal - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Pro-Israeli Producer Goes for Hearts of Non-Jewish Viewers - Cnaan Liphshiz (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
As President Obama heads to the Middle East this week, administration officials are debating how to toughen their stance against Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The measures under discussion include stepping back from America's support for Israel in the UN if Israel does not agree to a settlement freeze, administration officials said. Even symbolic actions would be a sharp departure from the previous administration. However, a senior administration official said "Israel is a critical United States ally, and no one in this administration expects that not to continue." (New York Times)
As the U.S. hardens its policy of zero growth in West Bank Jewish settlements, the policy circle around Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to reject it as unworkable. Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, said the issue of settlements in the West Bank was overrated as an obstacle to peace. "The settlements themselves cover only 1.7% of the actual land in the area we are talking about that could become a Palestinian state. Growth itself is infinitesimal." "It's not the key issue affecting peace in the Middle East, and it's never been a big issue for other countries in the Middle East. It's disingenuous."
Gold says it is time for a new approach. "Whenever we sit down to negotiate over a Palestinian state, we get stuck on the same issues. We can't give Palestinians control of the air space. We can't allow a Palestinian state to make defensive treaties with countries like Iran. Settlement growth? The issue is the security of Israel, not whether someone can build an extension to their home in Efrat." (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
Tens of thousands of supporters of Israel crowded New York's Fifth Avenue on Sunday as part of the annual parade celebrating the birth of the Jewish state in 1948. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson led off the parade, followed by floats blasting Israeli pop music. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Israel Pride Parade - Amber Sutherland (New York Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israeli political officials expressed disappointment after last week's round of meetings in London with George Mitchell, President Obama's envoy to the Middle East. "All of the understandings reached during the [George W.] Bush administration are worth nothing," said one senior official. Another official said the U.S. administration is refusing every Israeli attempt to reach new agreements on settlement construction.
Israel Defense Ministry chief of staff Brig. Gen. Mike Herzog spoke to Mitchell and his staff about understandings reached by former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon with the Bush administration on allowing continued building in the large West Bank settlement blocs, asking that a similar agreement be reached with the Obama government. The Israelis were stunned by the uncompromising U.S. stance, and by statements from Mitchell and his staff that agreements reached with the Bush administration were unacceptable.
An Israeli official privy to the talks said that "the Americans took something that had been agreed on for many years and just stopped everything." The Israeli envoys said the demand for a total settlement freeze was not only unworkable, but would not receive Israel Supreme Court sanction. (Ha'aretz)
Israel will not freeze settlement construction for natural growth, despite intense pressure from the Obama administration to do so. In addition, in Prime Minister Netanyahu's view, there is no reason housing cannot be built inside major settlement blocs. Defense Minister Barak will discuss the matter this week during a visit to the U.S. Barak has made it clear that he, too, feels it is illogical and impossible to completely stop all construction in the settlements.
Israel has made clear to the Americans that it will build in a way that will not impinge on the Palestinians - meaning that construction will be within the designated boundaries of the settlements and there will be no expropriation of new land. The current sense in Jerusalem is that if the U.S. does not honor its previous understandings with Israel, then it has little right to demand that Israel live up to commitments it made in the past. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
As he prepared for his White House meeting last week, Mahmoud Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait for Hamas to capitulate to his demand that any Palestinian unity government recognize Israel and swear off violence. And he will wait for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction. Until Israel meets his demands, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won't even agree to help Obama's envoy, George Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures.
What's interesting about Abbas' hardline position is what it says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments. From its first days the Bush administration made it clear that the onus for change in the Middle East was on the Palestinians: Until they put an end to terrorism, established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters for a settlement, the U.S. was not going to expect major concessions from Israel.
Obama, in contrast, has repeatedly and publicly stressed the need for a West Bank settlement freeze, with no exceptions. In so doing he has shifted the focus to Israel. He has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the U.S. will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud.
Palestinians remain a long way from swallowing reality. Setting aside Hamas and its insistence that Israel must be liquidated, Abbas - usually described as the most moderate of Palestinian leaders - last year helped doom Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, by rejecting a generous outline for Palestinian statehood. (Washington Post)
Abbas displayed depressing passivity in an interview with the Washington Post before his White House meeting. He suggested that his only role in the American-led peace initiative is to wait - for Hamas to join in a unity government, for Netanyahu to act. He said he can't ask Arab states to have anything to do with Israel "until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognize the two-state solution....Until then, we can't talk to anyone." Abbas needs to do a lot more. He must keep improving Palestinian security forces. He must redouble efforts to halt the constant spewing of hatred against Israel in schools, mosques and media. He must work harder to weed out corruption. Unless Abbas' government does more to improve the lives of Palestinians, it will surely lose again to Hamas in elections scheduled for January. (New York Times)
The idea of stopping all construction in all settlements means that once again the Israelis will be ceding something in advance and for nothing in return. This is a destructive negotiating tactic and will encourage the same kind of intransigence - you give me, I take - that has marked the Palestinians in all of the talks. Telling the Israelis that they can't build another house in all of the settlements means that no one can marry and no one can have children and no one can add a room to the house. This is not diplomacy; it is the smothering of ordinary life.
In fact, the 2003 "Roadmap" made distinctions among settlements, envisioning that the largest would remain sovereign Israeli territory. The very largest happen to cling to Jerusalem. I wouldn't withdraw from them in a million years. This is a matter of the security of the city, its breathing room and, yes, its centrality in Jewish history and in contemporary Jewish life. There is a price to be paid by the Palestinians for their suicidal politics over the decades. And if I were Netanyahu, I would expect also to be able to increase defensive settlements in the Jordan Valley rift as a protection against Palestinian terror flowing east to west and west to east between the kingdom and the new Palestine. (New Republic)
See also Jewish Babies Threaten the Peace Process - Editorial
Last week, Secretary of State Clinton stated that Washington "wants to see a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions." The euphemism "natural growth" refers to children. About 9,600 babies were born in West Bank settlements in 2007, and the State Department views these bundles of joy as a threat to its precious peace process. (Washington Times)
No Room for Partisanship on an Iranian Nuclear Bomb - Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Wall Street Journal)
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