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Givat Hamatos – the origins and significance of yet another settlement controversy

Givat Hamatos – the origins and significance of yet another settlement controversy Author: Gabrielle Debinski and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Media coverage of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on October 1, was largely dominated by concurrent statements from the White House and US State Department respectively, denouncing an Israeli decision to persevere with the planning of 2,610 housing units in the Givat Hamatos area in east Jerusalem.

This not only detracted from other important issues but also symbolised of dysfunctional and immune from basic factual reality the debate about Israeli settlements has become internationally.

Back to Iraq

Back to Iraq Author: Oded Eran Categories: America, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Syria    

President Obama's Sept. 10 address to the American nation regarding the new US strategy against ISIS leaves many issues unclear, chief among them, what underlies the change in US policy regarding the extremist organisation. Both Obama's speech and public statements by senior American officials offer a variety of reasons for this shift in posture.

In first interview Netanyahu explains to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Israel’s war aims

In first interview Netanyahu explains to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Israel’s war aims Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, United Nations, Updates    

On July 20, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave his first formal media interview since Israel launched ‘Operation Protective Edge' in response to incessant Hamas rocket fire just over two weeks ago.

The full interview can be viewed here.

Speaking to CNN reporter, Wolf Blitzer, Netanyahu talked extensively for almost fifteen minutes about the objectives of Israel's operation, which has seen over 40,000 Israeli soldiers and reservists called up to deter Hamas from continuously firing rockets at Israeli cities from what has become a terrorist enclave in the Gaza Strip.

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Decision Time

Decision Time Author: Robert Satloff Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

As narratives about the root causes of the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations take shape, US leaders have a major decision to make about whether to disengage from diplomacy or deepen involvement in less high-profile ways.

The contours of that choice emerge from a detailed, impassioned, and painstakingly evenhanded speech delivered by Ambassador Martin Indyk to The Washington Institute's Weinberg Founders Conference on May 8, 2014, chronicling the nine months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations he stewarded on behalf of Secretary Kerry.

The Biblio File: The Civil Servant and the Insurgents

The Biblio File: The Civil Servant and the Insurgents Author: Paul Monk Categories: America, Middle East    

When the memoirs of Robert Gates were released in Australia in mid-January, much was made of his alleged criticisms of US President Barack Obama. Gates was a holdover from the Bush Administration and a lifelong Republican, as well as the former head of the CIA; so those already inclined to be critical of Obama - or for that matter inclined to leap to his defence - might be expected to jump on any criticism of the President by his former Secretary of Defence.

Yet what emerges unequivocally from the memoir is not Gates's criticism of Obama, but his lavish praise of the man.

The Last Word: A+ for AIPAC

The Last Word: A+ for AIPAC Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: America, International Jewry    

Some years ago, I was invited to attend the Annual Policy Conference of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. At that time, attendance was in the hundreds and the agenda narrowly focused.

This year I returned to AIPAC as an invited speaker on the subject "Israel and Asia - New Frontiers?" - in recognition of AIJAC's work in this region.

Estimates of total attendance at the conference ranged from 14,000 to as many as 17,000 people...

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 - Highlights and Controversies

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 - Highlights and Controversies Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The annual AIPAC (America-Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference wrapped up on March 4, following an eventful three days with important statements made by US and Israeli leaders.

The conference came at a critical time for US-Israel relations, as US Secretary of State John Kerry is soon expected to announce a ‘framework' for continued Israeli and Palestinian negotiations, and after AIPAC's decision to withdraw its support for a new Iran-sanctions Bill, following strong pressure from the US Administration. The conference also came on the same day that US President Barack Obama had some strong words for Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg.

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Iran and the State of the Union

Iran and the State of the Union Categories: America, Iran, Syria, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at some initial reactions to US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which he delivered before Congress earlier today. (The full text of the President’s remarks can be found here.)

Of particular interest to our readers would be two issues Obama touched on during his speech with regard to foreign policy. First, his succinct but important comments about the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – where he implicitly backed Israel’s demand to be recognised as a Jewish state. Secondly, Obama vigorously defended his interim agreement with Iran as a peaceful step towards defusing its rogue nuclear program, warning Congress that he would veto any legislation for new sanctions during the interim period.

Europa Europa: Going Swedish?

Europa Europa: Going Swedish? Author: Douglas Davis Categories: America, Europe, International Security, Iran    

From Israel to Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the myriad Gulf statelets, the perception that Washington has thrown in its lot with the Iranian-led Shia world - Syria and Hezbollah, plus Iraq - is unmistakable. That might not have been Obama's intention, but in such matters, perception trumps intention.

"As we go forward," said Obama shortly after the outline of an interim nuclear deal was agreed with Iran in Geneva, "the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitments to our friends and allies - particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions."

Few, it seems, were listening.

Geneva: Beyond the Hype

Geneva: Beyond the Hype Author: Robert Satloff Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel    

The blockbuster nuclear deal reached early on the morning of Nov. 24 in Geneva between Iran and the US-led coalition is both less and more consequential than early reports suggested. And there is a good chance that its real value - whether it prevents Iran's nuclear ambitions or inadvertently opens the door to an Iranian bomb - may not be known until US President Barack Obama turns into the home stretch for his second term, after the 2014 midterms.

A Friendly Disagreement

A Friendly Disagreement Author: Amos Yadlin Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

The dispute between Israel and the United States on the Iranian nuclear challenge emerged this week from behind closed doors and became an open conflict waged on television.

Israel and the US share the strategic goal of preventing Iran's attainment of nuclear weapons. Both countries agree that only two forms of leverage can block Iran's dash to the bomb - economic sanctions and a credible military threat. However, Israel and the US diverge in their assessments as to the scope and timing for effective use of these levers. Consequently, there is a huge gap between them on how to reach the goal of stopping Iran's military nuclear program...

Changing US Mideast Policy/ More on Negotiating with Iran

Changing US Mideast Policy/ More on Negotiating with Iran Categories: America, Iran, Middle East, Updates    

The US Administration has announced a new more "modest" approach to the Middle East, heralded first by President Barack Obama in a speech at the UN last month, and laid out in more detail by National Security Advisor Susan Rice in interviews over the weekend. The new policy focuses primarily on three issues - the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and Syria. This Update includes analysis of the significance and prospects of this new policy - as a well as a new discussion of the Iranian negotiations from three senior, veteran American policy experts.

Behind Rouhani's charm offensive

Behind Rouhani's charm offensive Author: Michael Segall Categories: America, International Security, Iran    

In mid-October, a further round of talks began between Iran and the West. Unlike in earlier rounds, this time there have been direct negotiations between the United States and Iran, occurring behind the scenes of the talks between Iran and the P5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). Although the telephone conversation between Obama and Rouhani, which transpired at the end of the Iranian President's visit to the UN General Assembly in late September, is still provoking anger in Iran, it has also aroused hopes that "this time" - ten years after the repeatedly failed negotiations began - there is room for success.

The Yom Kippur War in Australian editorials and analysis

The Yom Kippur War in Australian editorials and analysis Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Australasia, Egypt, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

In June, AIJAC took a look back at the coverage of the Six Day War of 1967 in two major Australian newspapers, the Age of Melbourne and the Sydney Morning Herald. Now, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, we open the archives once again to look at the coverage of that war in Australia, this time expanding the scope of our research to include the Australian, as well as touching upon the coverage of the Canberra Times, and the Melbourne Herald.

As a much longer war, there is more to take in, so the retrospective will be split into two parts. This blog will discuss the editorials and some of the in-house analysis of the period, while the second will revisit some of the on-the-spot coverage by the newspapers' foreign correspondents covering the war. Finally, similar to our blog from June, we'll conclude by weighing some of the key contextual facts of the Israeli-Arab conflict that were widely understood by journalists at the time but are largely absent from the narrative in the news today.

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences?

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences? Categories: America, International Security, Syria, Updates    

This update deals with the apparent likelihood that the US will soon lead some form of military strikes against the Syrian regime in the wake of what appears to be a large-scale, confirmed chemical weapon attack at East Ghouta and other Damascus suburbs, and increasing reports that intelligence has confirmed that the Syrian regime was responsible (Good reports on the ugly details of that attack come from the New York Times and Der Speigel, while reports on the intelligence are here, here, here and here.) With US President Obama saying he still hasn't made up his mind what to do, it focuses on the form such an attack might or should take, and the consequences of the various options reportedly being considered.

Boston Marathon bombing: Israel-trained medical team responds, extremists spread conspiracy theories

Boston Marathon bombing: Israel-trained medical team responds, extremists spread conspiracy theories Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Antisemitism, Terrorism, Updates    

Australians woke up yesterday morning to the shocking news that two bombs had exploded in the streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon and had killed three people - Martin Richard an eight-year-old boy who was cheering on his father in the marathon, Krystle Campbell a 29-year-old woman described by her mother as having a "heart of gold", and a Chinese woman who was a student at Boston University. More than 183 people have been hospitalised, 13 people have had their limbs amputated, and 24 are in a critical condition.

Obama, Israel and the "Jewish Lobby"

Obama, Israel and the "Jewish Lobby" Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Antisemitism, Israel, Updates    

Barack Obama's first visit to Israel as President last month has been widely analysed in the context of the Israel-Palestinian peace process and in terms of other regional security concerns, with a particular focus on the sometimes rocky relationship he shares with Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu. However, both Obama and some of Australia's less-informed commentators chose to emphasise what the visit tells us about the overall Israel-US relationship, above and beyond any personal issues between individuals. 

But despite the President's eloquence, some media commentators and pundits outdid themselves in attempting to use the visit to push the ugly but increasing well-worn argument that it is only because of the undue and often insidious impact of the "Israel Lobby" (or more crudely the "Jewish Lobby") that the US has the policy positions that it does on Israel, and the US-Israel alliance endures. Some go as far as to suggest that Israel somehow has direct control over the American government.

Change drives Israel coalition

Change drives Israel coalition Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: America, Israel, Op-eds    

The new Israeli coalition government - sworn in after weeks of negotiations only two days before the US President' arrival - was indeed an achievement, and one the President should be able to appreciate. Just as Obama was elected on a platform of "hope and change" an appropriate way to describe the new Israeli coalition would be as "the coalition for change".

Editorial: This Year in Jerusalem Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel    

US President Barack Obama's first visit to Israel as President will be remembered for many highlights, but none perhaps more important to the Jewish people than one simple paragraph he delivered in his remarks upon his arrival.

"I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people," the President said. "More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was... a redemption unlike any in history."

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The Case for Peace Process Optimism

The Case for Peace Process Optimism Author: Steven Rosen Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

I think the world is headed towards a surprise. I think the United States and Israel are converging on a fresh initiative towards the Palestinians. I don't think this is merely being imposed on Netanyahu from the outside - I think this is what he wants.

The Last Word: A Fantasy Visit to Israel

The Last Word: A Fantasy Visit to Israel Author: Gil Troy Categories: America, Israel    

"I'd love to sit at a cafe and just hang out," President Barack Obama told Israel's Channel 2 on March 14. Obama confessed: "Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise and wear a fake mustache." He mused about wandering Tel Aviv and meeting university students casually. In that spirit, I offer an alternative itinerary for his recent Israel trip.

Evaluating President Obama's Israel visit

Evaluating President Obama's Israel visit Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

US President Obama ended his visit to Israel and the Palestinian terrorities on Friday, going on to Jordan and then returning home.

His major statements in Israel were his speech on arrival, his media conference with Israeli PM Netanyahu, his media conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and his major speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem Thursday night (video is available here). All are worth reading in their entirety, if you have the time. For those who don't, AIJAC analyst Sharyn Mittelman offered a preliminary evaluation on Friday, while this Update is devoted to further evaluations of their cumulative effect, along with President Obama's other major stops in Israel and the West Bank.

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Obama wins hearts and minds in Israel

Obama wins hearts and minds in Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US President Barack Obama's trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories has been vitally important - and apparently highly successful. In only three short days Obama seems to have been able to address core issues that appeared to be straining the US-Israel relationship and press ‘reset'.

Obama will have to drive parties hard to achieve progress

Obama will have to drive parties hard to achieve progress Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel, Op-eds    

Obama will find many fresh faces in [Netanyahu's] government - and also some new opportunities to push forward towards peace with all of Israel's neighbours, especially the Palestinians. He will also find a government likely very concerned about pressing regional issues - especially the Iranian nuclear threat and the Syrian civil war - but also one interested in achieving the maximum policy co-ordination possible with Washington on these issues.

The new Israeli coalition in a nutshell

The new Israeli coalition in a nutshell Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

After six weeks of haggling, Israel's thirty-third Knesset was reported on Wednesday to include 22 cabinet ministers (down from 30 in the previous cabinet) and several deputy ministers from the 68-strong coalition of Likud-Beiteinu, Yesh Atid (There is a Future), HaBait Yehudit (The Jewish Home) and HaTnua (The Movement) The new government is due to be sworn in on Monday, and there are already signs that its agenda will be administered with pragmatism.

AIPAC: Looking for signs regarding the Obama Administration's second term agenda

AIPAC: Looking for signs regarding the Obama Administration's second term agenda Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

This year's annual AIPAC Policy Conference attracted more than 13,000 delegates, and heard from an array of speakers including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (via satellite), Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, US Vice President Joe Biden, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, US House Leader Eric Cantor (R) and US Senator John McCain (R).

A this year's conference observers attempted to gauge the Obama Administration's possible policies and preferences for the next four years - regarding US-Israel relations, efforts to advance the two state solution, the so-called "Arab Spring", and particularly regarding Iran's nuclear program

Why Hugo Chavez will not be missed by Venezuela's Jews

Why Hugo Chavez will not be missed by Venezuela's Jews Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Antisemitism, Updates    

The numerous obituaries and eulogies being written for the recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez all seem to agree on one thing: the man was polarising.

One group that was driven relentlessly towards the hostile pole is Venezuela's Jews. In addition to his generally poor rights record, Chavez had an ugly and long-standing habit of fostering enmity towards the Jewish community of Venezuela for his own political advantage...

Myth and reality regarding US-Israel relations

Myth and reality regarding US-Israel relations Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

The controversy stirred up during the confirmation hearing of US Senator Chuck Hagel, now appointed Secretary of Defense on Feb. 26, has once again opened debate on the relationship between the US and Israel. More to the point, it has prompted detractors to call into question the role of the "Israel Lobby", and push their claim that this lobby is somehow forcing the US to act against its own interests by maintaining close cooperation with Israel.

A Pilgrim's Progress

A Pilgrim's Progress Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: America, Israel, Middle East    

Judging by his first State of the Union address since his reelection, US President Barack Obama will focus in his second term on domestic issues - from the deficit, defence spending, and neglected bridges to the minimum wage, gun control and trade relations.

After all this, there was very little time left in his speech for foreign affairs. Israel was only mentioned once and the Palestinians were not mentioned at all. Then again, several days earlier the White House had announced that Obama would be arriving in Israel on March 20 for a three-day visit that will include a sortie to Ramallah, and be followed by a visit to Jordan.

Nothing Personal: The US-Israeli relationship

Nothing Personal: The US-Israeli relationship Author: Andrew Friedman Categories: America, International Security, Israel    

AIR correspondent Andrew Friedman caught up with Professor Eytan Gilboa, Director of the School of Communications at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and an expert on US-Israel relations, for an exclusive briefing about the presidential visit, the state of US-Israel ties and how these relate to general US policy in the Middle East.

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Op-eds, Syria    

North Korea's latest nuclear test has again brought into focus the growing urgency of stopping the nuclear weapons program of another country on the road to nuclear weapons capability - Iran. The rapidly closing window of opportunity to either persuade Iran to change course or, if all else fails, disable its nuclear facilities by force, is the backdrop for US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next month.

The Truth about Iraq WMD "Lies"

The Truth about Iraq WMD "Lies" Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Iraq, Media/ Academia, Middle East, United Kingdom, Updates    

The release of The Art of Betrayal, by Gordon Corera, the highly-regarded veteran BBC journalist, should, if our media indeed has the commitment to truth which it constantly proclaims, rightfully see the last decade of often conspiratorial rhetoric about the 2003 war in Iraq fade to reveal a different and more complex and nuanced reality.

Mr. Obama goes to Jerusalem

Mr. Obama goes to Jerusalem Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

US President Barack Obama has now announced that he will be visiting Israel in March, after coming under some criticism for failing to do so during his first term in office. Details on the visit and what US officials hope will accomplish are reported here. (It is worth noting the White House has been clear that a new peace plan is not part of their agenda.) This Update looks at some of the issues likely be raised during the Presidential visit, or to affect it.

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Scribblings: The "Intimidation" Implication

Scribblings: The "Intimidation" Implication Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Israel    

One of the issues that has been raised in the US controversy over the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as US Defence Secretary is some comments he made in an interview in 2006 that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Washington]."

Now in fact, the opposition to Hagel's appointment is related to many more issues than his stances on either Israel or the so-called "Jewish Lobby" - not that you'd know it from most of the coverage of the controversy in Australia. Other sources of opposition include the general disdain and dislike for Hagel among most of his former Republican colleagues, a preference of many Democrats for a Democrat to get the job, remarks about gays which have led to accusations of homophobia, complaints about his temperament, conservative views on abortion, and a generally idiosyncratic approach to most foreign policy issues, including his consistent past opposition to even sanctions on Iran.

Media Week - Half-cocked; Nuclear handwringing; Off key; The value of values

Media Week - Half-cocked; Nuclear handwringing; Off key; The value of values Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

In the Sun-Herald (30/12), Paul McGeough penned a long article devoted to offensively comparing pro-Israel voices concerned over President Barack Obama's possible nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his next Defence-Secretary to those Americans who defend their right to own guns in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Lessons in Israeli-Palestinian reality from two Middle East experts

Lessons in Israeli-Palestinian reality from two Middle East experts Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy awarded its 2012 Scholar-Statesmen Award to Dennis Ross and Elliott Abrams on December 6. Ross served as special Middle East negotiator to President Clinton and Iran policy adviser to President Obama, and is currently counsellor to the Washington Institute. Abrams, served as Deputy National Security Advisor in the George W. Bush Administration, and is currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In a post-award panel discussion, Ross and Abrams reflected on their careers in foreign policy and provided insights into the challenges of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran's nuclear program and the 'Arab Spring'.

Hillary Clinton on Palestinian missed opportunities for statehood

Hillary Clinton on Palestinian missed opportunities for statehood Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was honoured at the Saban Forum in Washington on November 30, where she delivered an insightful speech on the challenges confronting the Middle East and Israel in particular. It's worth reviewing because Clinton offered a number of insights and historical reminders that anyone seeking to unravel the Middle East Gordian knot should understand.

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Take Two

Take Two Author: Robert Satloff Categories: America, Middle East    

As much as we would like to wish it so, it is a mistake to think the United States can pivot away from the Middle East and toward Asia, as though we have a fixed amount of bandwidth and the luxury of reapportioning it based on our preference. For the foreseeable future, the United States cannot avoid dealing with threats and challenges emanating from this region.

Middle East politics revolve around two threats: the ambitions of a hegemonic Iran and the spread of violent Sunni extremism. In this framework, other issues are secondary to US interests. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, is profoundly important to Israelis and Palestinians, but its continuation or resolution will have little impact on the larger dynamics defined by these two threats.

Bi-partisan support in Australia for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks

Bi-partisan support in Australia for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Australasia, Israel, United Kingdom, Updates    

As ‘Operation Pillar of Defence' enters its third day, rockets have gone from shelling southern Israel to threatening Tel Aviv - placing millions of Israelis in range of rocket attack. To date the Iron Dome missile defence system has intercepted 130 rockets, but some 300 rockets and mortars have landed in Israeli territory and three Israelis have been killed - Itzik Amsalem, Aharon Smadja and Mira Scharf who was pregnant.

In Australia, the Government and Coalition have expressed bi-partisan support for Israel's right to defend itself from rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip.

The US, Canada and UK have also expressed their support for Israel and condemned Hamas for the latest escalation.

The Middle East in President Obama's Second Term

The Middle East in President Obama's Second Term Categories: America, Middle East, Updates    

With the US election finally decided on Tuesday, and President Barack Obama returned to office reasonably comfortably, this Update looks at his Middle East challenges over the next four years.

An excellent starting place is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy forum on the subject, held yesterday, which is available for online viewing here (no transcript yet available).

Foreign Policy Ideology and Reality

Foreign Policy Ideology and Reality Author: Gil Troy Categories: America, Israel, Middle East    

Despite the testy foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney of Oct. 23, it is difficult to assess any candidate's foreign policy ideology - let alone how that candidate will act as president. Predicting how a president will function in foreign affairs is as reliable as guessing how first-time parents will act when their children become teenagers - lovely theories succumb to tumultuous unforeseen squalls.

Obama, Romney, Bibi and Iran Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

Where must the line be drawn regarding Iran's dangerous and illegal nuclear weapons program? At what point should the very strongest measures, including the possibility of military strikes, be implemented in order to derail it?

This is the question at the heart of a subtle yet significant disparity in diplomatic language regarding the Iranian nuclear threat. It divides Israel from the US, but it is also one of the few concrete differences in foreign policy between US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Huawei: US Congress, Canada backs Australian government claims that Chinese company is a security risk

Huawei: US Congress, Canada backs Australian government claims that Chinese company is a security risk Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Australasia, China, Updates    

In March this year the Australian government decided to block Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from bidding on the National Broadband Network (NBN) due to security risks.  Recently Canada stated its intention to exclude Huawei from helping it build a secure Canadian government communications network, due to security risks. Now a report by the US Congress on Huawei released on October 8 appears to support Australia and Canada's security concerns.

Bibi, Barack and Iran

Bibi, Barack and Iran Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

In the spirit of September's Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Iranian policy has become a focus of the season's soul-searching.

A lot has happened since Netanyahu's return to the Premiership, two months after Barack Obama landed in the White House. What his predecessors saw as an international problem whose treatment should be led by the United States, Netanyahu aired loudly in high-exposure forums like the United Nations General Assembly, the US Congress, and the AIPAC policy conference.

Attacks on the US Diplomatic Missions in Cairo and Benghazi

Attacks on the US Diplomatic Missions in Cairo and Benghazi Categories: America, Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Libya, Updates    

This Updates deals with the implications of yesterday's mob attack on the US Embassy in Cairo  (see video here) and the armed attack of the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. While these attacks have been reported as a response to a crude and objectionable anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" made by some Americans and previewed on Youtube, there is growing evidence that the Cairo demonstration was scheduled for Sept. 11 weeks ago to call for the release of the blind Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman, convicted for his role in the first World Trade Centre bombing. Meanwhile US officials say the Libya attack looks like it was also pre-planned, (see also here), possibly by an al-Qaeda-linked group, before the film issue ever surfaced.

Will they? Won't they? The ongoing Israeli/American Iran question

Will they? Won't they? The ongoing Israeli/American Iran question Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

An Israeli strike on Iran has been "imminent" for about two years now and commentators everywhere seem to be vacilating between alarm and dismissal. The volume of announcements, alleged leaks to the media, and public disagreement between various Israeli and US officials is leaving almost everyone scratching their heads over what is really going on.

The truth, as Elliott Abrams points out, is really anyone's guess...

In Israel, Romney seeks to differentiate himself from Obama

In Israel, Romney seeks to differentiate himself from Obama Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee in this November's US presidential race, made the most of a visit to Israel on Sunday, creating daylight - not between the US and Israel under a future Romney Administration, but rather - between his views and attitudes towards Israel and its neighbours and those of the current Obama Administration.

Romney plans trip to Israel

Romney plans trip to Israel Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Mitt Romney, the presumptive US Republican presidential nominee, will be visiting Israel in the near future, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

According to the story, Romney is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and members of the Israeli Opposition.

Romney's itinerary does not include a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Times.

A visit to Israel is becoming almost customary for US presidential candidates in an election season.

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Peres awarded US medal, says honour belongs to all Israelis

Peres awarded US medal, says honour belongs to all Israelis Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Israeli President Shimon Peres' ability to foster positive relationships with the West, and in particular the United States was very much on display in Washington on June 13 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award the United States government can bestow upon an individual. In a gala dinner held in Washington in Peres' honour, US President Barack Obama praised the Israeli President's legacy and efforts on behalf of peace.

Obama said of Peres, "In him we see the essence of Israel itself... an indomitable spirit that will not be denied."

Hugo Chávez's antisemitic re-election strategy

Hugo Chávez's antisemitic re-election strategy Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: America, Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, International Jewry, Updates    

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's hatred of Israel is no secret. His despotic regime's alliances with countries hostile to Israel, most prominently Iran, are also no secret. Less well known has been the devastating toll that his regime's overt embrace of antisemitic rhetoric and policies has had on the Venezuelan Jewish community - though AIJAC's Allon Lee blogged on this in February. Now, as the ailing strongman takes on Henrique Capriles in Venezuela's presidential election campaign, he is again resorting to antisemitism as a tactic.

US clamping-down on terror supporters and war criminals

US clamping-down on terror supporters and war criminals Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

After frequent calls on this blog for some action against Sudanese President Omar Bashir, it is welcome news that the US Congress is committing to halt aid to any country that hosts the indicted war criminal.

A US House of Representatives press release reports that the House Appropriations Committee has adopted an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for 2013 to this effect, proposed by Representative Frank Wolf...

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US Sanctions Telecommunications Companies in Syria and Iran

US Sanctions Telecommunications Companies in Syria and Iran Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Syria, Updates    

US President Barack Obama has announced that the US will apply new sanctions to prevent companies from using technology that help repressive regimes in Syria and Iran target dissidents.

The new US sanctions will target Syrian and Iranian government agencies and officials who directed the surveillance operations, as well private companies.

The crisis of bad journalism: why Lateline guest is being ridiculed everywhere

The crisis of bad journalism: why Lateline guest is being ridiculed everywhere Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Jewry, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Last night, ABC Lateline featured an interview by Emma Alberici of former New Republic editor Peter Beinart. Beinart has been a figure of much controversy lately due to his new book The Crisis of Zionism -- an extension of his 2009 essay 'The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment' in the New York Review of Books -- in which he makes the case that the Jewish community in America is taking an incorrect line on Israel and provides his own perspective on how the Israeli/Palestinian conflict ought to be addressed.

The book provoked a litany of responses from across the political spectrum, with almost every senior figure in the American foreign policy world deriding or distancing themselves from his contribution. As a result, there is a very substantial body of work from which to draw in order to evaluate every point that he makes. In general, most experts agree that Beinart is largely well-intentioned and does genuinely want the best for Israel, however he is at the same time hopelessly naive and heavily encumbered by a lack of serious research on the topic. His views are those of...

Israel and US debate Red Lines on Iran

Israel and US debate Red Lines on Iran Author: Michael Herzog Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

The March 5 summit between US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu marked an important milestone in the US-Israeli decision-making process on Iran's nuclear program. The meeting helped clarify positions and narrow gaps, yet significant differences remain to be addressed in the coming months.

British Prime Minister confirms Iranian nuclear threat as Obama warns Romney that it is no game

British Prime Minister confirms Iranian nuclear threat as Obama warns Romney that it is no game Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, India, Iran, Updates    

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour and Julian Borger have reported that British Prime Minister David Cameron has explicitly stated that Iran is intending to develop nuclear weapons. This comes just months after the same newspaper revealed that the British military has begun putting in place preparations for a possible war with Iran. That said, Cameron still backs sanctions and is particularly concerned with China and India.

David Cameron has warned that Iran is seeking to build an "inter-continental nuclear weapon" that threatens the west, as he urged Israel to allow time for sanctions to force the Iranians to change their strategic stance...

Obama and Bibi and Iran

Obama and Bibi and Iran Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

The past few days saw an intense period of discussion about the Iranian nuclear crisis in Washington involving both US President Obama, and visiting Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu. The three focal points of analysis were Obama's Speech to the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday (video here), the subsequent meeting between the two leaders on Monday and their public statement following the meeting, and Netanyahu's Speech to AIPAC on Monday evening (video here). We recommend reading all three original texts, and provide analysis of the context of all three below.

Reactions to Obama's AIPAC Speech

Reactions to Obama's AIPAC Speech Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

On March 4, US President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual policy conference. In his speech Obama emphasised his strong support for the State of Israel, and policy on Iran.

This blog post looks at a variety of resposes to the speech.

Fisking Four Corners: getting the facts straight on Syria, Israel and Iran

Fisking Four Corners: getting the facts straight on Syria, Israel and Iran Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Syria, Updates    

Last night, ABC's Four Corners program focussed on the uprising in Syria. The program mostly featured a British Channel Four documentary on the Assad regime's systematic torture of Syrian opposition-members, including children, which gave a shocking insight into the events besetting Syrians opposed to their government's policies. The program ended, however, with host Kerry O'Brien interviewing notorious Middle-East correspondent Robert Fisk for 15 minutes in which Fisk was essentially given a pedestal to promulgate his views unchallenged...

The plight of Venezuela’s Jewish community

The plight of Venezuela’s Jewish community Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Antisemitism, International Jewry, Israel, Updates    

Venezuelan Supremo Hugo Chavez often accuses Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians.

And so voluminous is the Chavez definition of the term that it is a surprise he has failed to notice that half of his own country's 200-year-old Jewish community has disappeared since he assumed power in 1998. But then the evaporation of this patriotic, productive, and loyal group is largely a consequence of Chavez's hostile policies and rhetoric...

Iran "not developing a bomb" clarification

Iran "not developing a bomb" clarification Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Earlier in the week, Overland editor Jeff Sparrow interpreted remarks from US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Iran is not trying to develop a "nuclear weapon", but a "nuclear capability" to mean that Iran's nuclear program is entirely legal. While Sparrow was using this quote to help support a perverse conspiracy theory involving Israel, for reasons unknown, trying to dupe the rest of the world into punishing Iran, Panetta is not the only official to have stated that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. In fact, Panetta himself has made it clear that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within a year, were it to make the decision to build one. Furthermore, Reuters reported yesterday that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said something similar, albeit in more detail...

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 Australia and US Senate seek tougher sanctions on Iran

Australia and US Senate seek tougher sanctions on Iran Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Australasia, Iran, Updates    

As we noted in a post last week, the EU lat weeked imposed new tougher sanctions on Iran, and today Australia followed suit.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced from Lithuania that Australian intends to impose additional sanctions in response to Iran's continuing non-compliance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, the US Senate has voted unanimously to pass the most stringent economic sanctions against Iran to date. However, the move was opposed to by the Obama administration.

US and EU place tougher sanctions on Iran

US and EU place tougher sanctions on Iran Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Europe, Iran, Updates    

Following the Iranian ‘mob' attack on the British embassy, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have recalled their ambassadors temporarily from Iran. The UK immediately closed its embassy in Iran and ordered Iran's dipxlomatic staff to leave London.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels condemned the attack on the British embassy, and announced new economic and travel sanctions on Iran to deter its nuclear program.  The sanctions will freeze the assets of 143 companies and ban 37 Iranian nationals described as "directly involved in Iran's nuclear activities" from entering the EU.  However, the EU did not follow Britain, Canada and the US which severed all dealings with Iran's Central Bank.  France has also been urging collective EU action to follow the British example and also to stop oil imports from Iran.

The US Congress also seems poised to push stronger action on Iran. On December 1, the US Senate unanimously approved tougher sanctions against Iran, voting to penalise foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's Central Bank - the main conduit for its oil revenues...

Iran responds to IAEA by threatening to destroy Israel... again + Australia feels the fallout

Iran responds to IAEA by threatening to destroy Israel... again + Australia feels the fallout Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, United Nations, Updates    

As outlined in yesterday's update, the UN's atomic energy watchdog has just released a report that just falls short of definitively stating that Iran has a nuclear weapons program - seemingly the closest that the UN ever comes to an unequivocal condemnation of a country that is not Israel. The report has emerged amid rumours that Israel is gearing-up for an attack on Iran and is busy soliciting support from allies in the UK and the US.

Predictably, Iran did not respond with steps to assure the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful, but instead blamed an American conspiracy and then threatened to destroy Israel.

Iran denies the allegations and says the evidence used by the U.N. nuclear watchdog was fabricated by the United States and its allies. It has insisted that its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity and ensuring an independent fuel supply for its nuclear power plants.

... "If smoke columns rise from our nuclear facilities, then this scenario could happen in other areas," said Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces. "The Dimona station in Israel is the easiest...

Palestinians admit that they do not have statehood support

Palestinians admit that they do not have statehood support Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

A breaking report from the AP reveals that the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Malki, has admitted that they have failed to muster the nine votes needed in the UN Security Council in order to approve their statehood bid.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told The Associated Press Tuesday, "It is clear now, with the U.S. counter effort and intervention, that we are not going to have these nine votes." They can still apply to the General Assembly.

That the US has been campaigning strongly against the bid is unsurprising given the difficult situation that the PA has been placing the Obama administration in through its recent UN antics...

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Has Iran run down the nuclear clock?

Has Iran run down the nuclear clock? Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Updates    

A new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report due to be released tomorrow is believed to contain compelling evidence that Iran is now at the end stage of its nuclear research program and is actively working on weaponisation technologies.

Ahead of the report's scheduled release we present a range of reading that predicts what the report will likely detail, where the effort to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program is at and whether the time has come to move from economic sanctions to military options.

Sudden jump in odds on Iran attack

Sudden jump in odds on Iran attack Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, United Kingdom, Updates    

A whole series of events last night made an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities suddenly seem far closer than had previously been the case. After a week of speculation in the Israeli press, Haaretz reported yesterday that the Prime Minister and Defence Minister are trying to gain cabinet support for a strike.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran, a senior Israeli official has said. According to the official, there is a "small advantage" in the cabinet for the opponents of such an attack.

Netanyahu and Barak recently persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected to attacking Iran, to support such a move.

This report coincided with the test-firing of a new long-range Israeli missile, which could be capable of reaching targets in Iran...

 Israel – a strategic asset for the US... and Australia

Israel – a strategic asset for the US... and Australia Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

The US-Israel alliance has come under increasing strain in recent time with both academics and US policy makers suggesting that the alliance has become more of a liability than an asset for US national interests. For instance, the infamous Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer based their whole "Israel Lobby" slander on the assumption that being associated with Israel was obviously and unequivocally bad for the US, and only some undemocratic and vaguely nefarious lobby could possible explain the continuing US alliance with Israel, as noted Middle East scholar Martin Kramer analysed and debunked brilliantly a few years ago.

However, a new report released by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy "Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States" (‘the report'), does even more to refute this trend in analysis and instead argues that US policy makers should acknowledge that the US-Israel alliance strongly serves US national interests in several important ways.

Two victims from Palestinian UNESCO ploy: UNESCO and the US

Two victims from Palestinian UNESCO ploy: UNESCO and the US Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

The admission of Palestine into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, little more than a symbolic victory for the Palestinian Authority (PA), has severe repercussions on the largest funder of both the PA and UNESCO: The United States. As AFP has reported, US legislation prevents US funding of any UN body that admits the Palestinians as a member.

"We were to have made a $US60 million ($A57.11 million) payment to UNESCO in November and we will not be making that payment," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Monday.

Nuland said the Palestinian admission "triggers longstanding (US) legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO."...

Considering the last resort option on Iran

Considering the last resort option on Iran Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Updates    

International legal scholar Louis René Beres, US Admiral (ret.) Leon Edney and US Lt Gen (ret.) Thomas G. McInerney have written an insightful article in Haaretz, looking at the current Iranian nuclear predicament and the various possible responses, focusing on the legality of a pre-emptive strike. They argue that the risk presented by a nuclear Iran is so great that a US strike is at least likely to be justifiable.

The Caroline Doctrine notes an implicit distinction between preventive war (which is never legal ), and preemptive war. Even the latter is not permitted merely to protect oneself against an emerging threat, but only when the danger posed is "instant" and "overwhelming."...

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Breakdown of Iranian attempted assassination of Saudi official on US soil

Breakdown of Iranian attempted assassination of Saudi official on US soil Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Updates    

This morning (Australian time), US Attorney-General Eric Holder announced that two men had been charged with attempting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US and, more significantly, doing so on behalf of the Iranian government. The two men were Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalised US citizen of Iranian origin, and Gholam Shakuri, who is believed to be in Iran. Incredibly, Arbabsiar cooperated with the US authorities once arrested and so much of the information on the assassination plot was collected from his testimony.

Naturally, the Iranian government has denied the allegations and blamed a Zionist conspiracy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the claims a "prefabricated scenario" and a "ridiculous show...

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Russia and China veto Syria sanctions

Russia and China veto Syria sanctions Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Asia, China, Russia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

After weeks of controversy over a Palestinian statehood bid of little real consequence, some in the UN have been attempting to shift their focus onto one of the many situations in the world in which innocent people are being killed on a daily basis. To this end, the UN Security Council attempted to pass a motion to prevent Syria's ongoing crackdown on dissenting citizens. Initially, the European countries were attempting to sanction Syria through imposing an arms embargo. As Foreign Policy's UN correspondent Colum Lynch reports, even a watered-down version of this that merely condemned Syria and did not call for any tangible sanctions was vetoed by Russia and China...

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US President Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly

US President Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly Categories: America, International Security, Middle East, Speeches, United Nations    

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations - the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.

War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilization. But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale. It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict, while also addressing its causes.

 

Origins of the Palestinian UDI bid

Origins of the Palestinian UDI bid Author: Jonathan Schanzer Categories: America, Palestinians, United Nations    

The Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or UDI, initiative was reportedly born in May 2005, when Abbas attended the summit of South American and Arab states in Brazil, where he met with President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva. Lula is said to have promised Abbas that, toward the completion of his second term ending January 1, 2011, he would rally support among Latin American states for the Palestinians to declare independence at the United Nations.

In Palestinian statehood bid endgame, the real loser will be peace

In Palestinian statehood bid endgame, the real loser will be peace Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Quartet, United Nations, Updates    

As the day of reckoning for the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, now reportedly slated for Friday, draws ever closer, there is a frantic last-minute effort to avert the potentially disastrous showdown in favour of peace talks. Such talks are widely recognised as the only possible way to reach a genuine and lasting solution to the decades-old conflict. For example, Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair said yesterday that:

"What we will be looking for over the next few days is a way of putting together something that allows their claims and legitimate aspirations for statehood to be recognized whilst actually renewing the only thing that's going to produce a state, which is a negotiation directly between the two sides...

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PA spin on unsteady path to unilateral statehood

PA spin on unsteady path to unilateral statehood Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Palestinians, Quartet, United Nations, Updates    

As reported by Al Jazeera, the US has begun a serious attempt to prevent the Palestinian unilateral statehood bid at the UN later this month. The Palestinian Authority, however, has remained steadfast and continued its refusal to back down.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the US has launched an attempt to persuade the Palestinians not to seek statehood at the annual UN General Assembly meeting beginning on September 20.

"When it comes to going to the United Nations, I think the train has left the station," Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of Fatah's central committee who is overseeing the UN bid, said on Sunday...

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US Congress standing up to Palestinian UN bid

US Congress standing up to Palestinian UN bid Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Haaretz has reported on a new bill being introduced into US Congress which would see US funding for the UN substantially reduced if the Palestinian UN statehood bid wins the upcoming vote.

A republican congresswoman introduced a bill on Tuesday, along with 57 co-sponsors, asking Congress to block U.S. funds for any United Nations entity that supports giving Palestine an elevated status at the UN.

The head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is also seeking to ban U.S. contributions to the UN Human Rights Council and an anti-racism conference seen as a platform for anti-Israel rhetoric...

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Five Things to Do to Topple Assad

Five Things to Do to Topple Assad Author: David Schenker Categories: America, Middle East, Syria    

On Aug. 18, US President Barack Obama issued a long overdue statement calling for regime change in Syria, declaring that the "time has come for President Bashar Assad to step aside." But will that call to action amount to anything in practice? The gestures that Obama has made, including ending the US import of Syrian petroleum products - totalling some 6,000 barrels per day - are little more than symbolic changes of policy. On the other hand, though the use of military force hasn't been explicitly removed from the table, it's clear that the American Government - not to mention the American public - has little appetite for another war in the Middle East.

Iran's economic management is the regime's weak spot

Iran's economic management is the regime's weak spot Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Iran, Syria, Updates    

Iran's economy appears so inherently fragile, that concerted external financial pressure on its energy sector could bring the regime to its knees and Washington Institute for Near East Policy analyst Patrick Clawson shows how it can be done:

If oil prices decline -- or, more important, if the United States and its allies can dissuade countries and companies from paying for Iranian oil (Washington has no objections if they receive said oil, only if they pay for it) -- then the Islamic Republic could face serious problems paying for the checks to which the Iranian people are rapidly becoming accustomed.

 

US funding for Somali aid may go to terrorists

US funding for Somali aid may go to terrorists Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Africa, America, Somalia, Terrorism, Updates    

As explained in a previous post, the drought that is currently besetting East Africa has become a full-scale humanitarian disaster in Somalia, mostly because of the rejection of foreign aid by Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab, who have rejected claims that there is a famine whilst waging a violent campaign against international aid organisations. AP has reported that, in order to combat the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the US will be loosening its counter-terrorism laws to allow bribes and other payments to Al-Shabab in return for US-funded aid organisations being permitted to operate in Somalia...

The Unholy Alliance of Iran and al-Qaeda

The Unholy Alliance of Iran and al-Qaeda Author: Allon Lee Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Terrorism, Updates    

The Obama Administration has released explosive details of how Iran has become a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

It comes as the Administration is reportedly interested in refocusing world attention on, in the words of US Treasury Department's Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen, Iran's "unmatched support for terrorism" as well as its ongoing nuclear weapons program.

 

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If Assad Falls...

If Assad Falls... Author: Reuel Marc Gerecht Categories: America, Middle East, Syria, Turkey    

The US administration's policy toward Syria is shaping up to be potentially the greatest missed opportunity of Barack Obama's presidency. If Syria were to break the right way and the regime in Damascus were to fall, the most tenacious state-sponsor of terrorism in the Arab world - Teheran's strongest ally and the lifeline to the terrorism-loving Lebanese Hezbollah - would be taken out. Alas, an administration that came into office only a little less eager to engage Damascus than Teheran seems stuck in its stillborn Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the turmoil of the Great Arab Revolt.

Iranian kettle meets pot

Iranian kettle meets pot Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Terrorism, Updates    

Press TV, an Iranian state-controlled media outlet, has reported Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemingly blaming some kind of pro-Israel conspiracy for the anti-Iranian sentiment permeating the Middle East, 

"In the final days of their existence, plotters intend to cause difference and clash in our region to save the Zionist regime (Israel)," said President Ahmadinejad in the southwestern city of Ahvaz on Thursday...

To mediate Middle East peace, Obama must first regain trust

To mediate Middle East peace, Obama must first regain trust Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Op-eds, Palestinians    

It appears that for the first time, neither Arabs nor Israelis trust the President of the United States to advocate their interests. A recent poll by the Arab American Institute has recorded a significant decline in support for Obama's Middle East policies. In all six of the Arab countries surveyed, Obama's ratings were at 10% or less, making Obama's policies less popular than those of George W. Bush or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, largely due to disappointment Obama has failed to keep the promises of his 2009 Cairo Speech in the context of the Arab Spring. In addition, majorities in all six countries surveyed said "Obama's handing of the Palestinian issue had worsened US-Arab relations", and many consider him to be too pro-Israel. Conversely, a May 2011 poll showed only 12% of Israeli Jews believe that President Obama is pro-Israel, while 40% labeled him pro-Palestinian, as many Israelis have grown more suspicious of the American leader.

Can Iran block America’s ‘Internet in a suitcase’?

Can Iran block America’s ‘Internet in a suitcase’? Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: America, Iran, Middle East, Updates    

Several weeks ago, the New York Times reported an Obama Administration effort to distribute a device it had developed called 'Internet in a suitcase', which could bring web access to dissidents in authoritarian countries across the world. The report stated:

Financed with a $2 million State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet...The State Department, for example, is financing the creation of stealth wireless networks that would enable activists to communicate outside the reach of governments in countries like Iran, Syria and Libya, according to participants in the projects.


This week, Iranian intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi responded to the news.

Darshan-Leitner takes on Gaza flotillas

Darshan-Leitner takes on Gaza flotillas Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Anti-Zionism, International Security, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Israeli civil rights organisation director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner has written a good primer in the Jerusalem Post on why the blockade of Gaza is legal and how flotilla activists are likely breaking US law.

Pursuant to the Oslo Accords ... the Palestinians agreed that the Gaza coastline would be placed under Israeli control and that no foreign ships would be allowed closer than 12 nautical miles from the shore.

Israel demanded this out of concern over widespread import of conventional and unconventional weapons into Gaza.

 

Textbook antisemitism for Arab children

Textbook antisemitism for Arab children Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Antisemitism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia    

Hannah Rosenthal, the US State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, has just completed a visit to Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in a bid to reduce the antisemitic content of their education syllabuses. As she told JTA, the State Department has found the textbooks produced in these countries to be replete with extremely offensive material regarding Jews, as well as Christians and women. The antisemitic subject matter included references to Jews as the "spawn of monkeys and pigs", as well as material from The Protocols of The Elders of Zion...

US belatedly condemns Syria as Assad flaunts Western concerns

US belatedly condemns Syria as Assad flaunts Western concerns Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Europe, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

This blog has been following the baffling hesitation that the West has been showing towards making criticisms of the Assad regime in Syria, despite intense crackdowns on civilian protestors, noting how Syria is interpreting this hesitation as a free pass to continue brutalising its civilians.

After months of ongoing strife within the country, the US and French ambassadors both made the decision on Friday to visit the besieged city of Hama, a rebel stronghold on which Syrian troops have been mounting a vicious assault over the last few days. As The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday...

US cuts funding to Pakistan

US cuts funding to Pakistan Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Terrorism, Updates    

Relations between the USA and Pakistan have been cool for some time, especially when it was revealed that the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden had been hiding for at least five years in Abbottabad - a town at the centre of Pakistan's military infrastructure. This revelation prompted a new round of accusations about Pakistani complicity with al-Qaeda.

The US has now announced that it is withholding $800 million ($A748 million) of cash and equipment to Pakistan's military. On July 10, William Daley, President Obama's Chief of Staff, said that the US had decided to withhold more than a third of the more than $2 billion annual package in protest at Pakistan's decision to cut back on counter-terrorism co-operation after Osama bin Laden's killing.

 

Assad's carte blanche is hurting Syrians

Assad's carte blanche is hurting Syrians Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Libya, Syria, Updates    

While ruminating yesterday on the US's decision to intervene in Libya, Middle East scholar Barry Rubin gave several insights as to why the West would choose Libya to attack rather than Syria. The assessement, unfortunately, is not particularly flattering for our leaders:

I would suggest that the actual main reasons revolve around ideology. The administration is now obsessed with...

Is Iran really not at war with the West?

Is Iran really not at war with the West? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

Since the bulk of US forces in Iraq have been withdrawn, the country has been seeing an increasingly worrying spike in violence. What is especially concerning is the alleged source of this renewed upsurge in the conflict. As reported in The Washington Post last week:

BAGHDAD - Three U.S. soldiers were killed this week in a rocket attack at a U.S. base near the Iranian border, the military said Thursday, bringing June's death toll to 15 and marking the bloodiest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years....

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To democracy or dictatorship? The US to engage the Muslim Brotherhood

To democracy or dictatorship? The US to engage the Muslim Brotherhood Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Updates    

US Secretary of State announced last night that her administration plans to form some limited contact with the previously shunned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This report comes just two weeks after the Brotherhood became a legal party in Egypt - for the first time in 80 years. Reuters quoted Clinton explaining her rationale for this decision:

"We believe, given the changing political landscape in Egypt, that it is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are...

More blows to Palestinian unilateralism Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In a move against Palestinian unilateralism, the United States Senate passed a resolution yesterday that threatens to withdraw aid from the Palestinian Authority if they continue with their commitment to go to the UN and request statehood in September. The resolution also rejected any Palestinian government that would include Hamas, until the group, which is a designated terrorist organisation in the US, renounces violence and recognises Israel. JTA reports:

Led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the resolution had 88 co-sponsors.

Taliban show Obama what they think of the troop withdrawal

Taliban show Obama what they think of the troop withdrawal Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Terrorism, Updates    

Just a few days after US President Barack Obama controversially announced a major withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have struck the Intercontinental Hotel in the heart of Kabul.The ABC has reported that at least 6 gunmen and one suicide bomber attacked the hotel and holed-up for several hours, before they were eventually taken-out by NATO helicopters. The death toll currently sits at a minumum of 10. 

Witness Sayed Hussain said he was inside the hotel compound when the attack started.

"I saw five to six men in civilian clothing armed with rifles who started shooting when they entered,'' he said, speaking close to the scene. "I lay down on the ground and soon after the police arrived.''

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Calls for release of Israeli soldier after 5 years of captivity

Calls for release of Israeli soldier after 5 years of captivity Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Jewry, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Tomorrow will mark 5 years since kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been held illegally by Hamas in Gaza. As Isabel Kershner has reported in the New York Times, Hamas has again refused a request from the Red Cross to visit Shalit - so that they could merely ascertain what kind of conditions he is being held in and whether he is alive or dead.

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday publicly demanded that Hamas provide proof that an Israeli soldier captured five years ago and held in Gaza is still alive. Hamas promptly rejected the demand.

Bold or spineless? Strong conviction or a lack of direction? Responses to Obama's speech

Bold or spineless? Strong conviction or a lack of direction? Responses to Obama's speech Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Just a few hours after President Obama's recent speech on Afghanistan, there was a wide array of responses, positing a number of theories as to the ramifications of the new US policy.

In general, the focus was on Obama's decision to end the troop surge that he implemented only 18 months ago. Michael Cohen from the American Security Project writes in The Atlantic that Obama was never fully invested in the surge strategy and is now returning to a strategy which is more congruent with his generally dovish stance on foreign policy.

If there is one overriding takeaway from Obama's speech tonight, it is that the same President who 18 months ago was led by his generals into an escalation that he didn't appear to fully support has now taken back control of his policy in Afghanistan.

Australian Parliament raises concern for arrested student Ilan Grapel

Australian Parliament raises concern for arrested student Ilan Grapel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Australasia, Egypt, Israel, Updates    

On 22 June, Federal MP Jamie Briggs (Mayo, Lib.) made a speech in the House of Representatives drawing the Parliament's attention to the arrest in Egypt of American-Israeli Ilan Grapel. Mr. Grapel was arrested earlier this month for alleged involvement in espionage and formenting sectarian strife in Egypt. As Mr Briggs rightly points out: "These allegations at best seem far-fetched and when you consider that Mr Grapel is a regular visitor to the Middle East and had entered Egypt under his own name on his own passport [and] was posting daily messages on Facebook, the allegations do raise significant concern."

Mr Briggs also commented: "This is similar, sadly, to the five year anniversary of the detention of Israeli citizen Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since 2006."

Breakdown of Obama's Afghanistan announcement

Breakdown of Obama's Afghanistan announcement Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Updates    

As reported recently on this site, US President Barack Obama has just given a landmark speech on the US policy in Afghanistan, including a timetable for the withdrawal of combat troops. The President gave a brief history of the war, concentrating primarily on his December 2009 "troop surge" decision, where he increased the number of US combat troops in Afghanistan by 33,000 in order to counter a resurgent Taliban. As he explained (Transcript via CBS):

...in one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda; reverse the Taliban's momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country.

Obama then announced that the surge was successful and will be withdrawn by the end of the year and the combat mission will end by 2014.

Obama confirms Afghanistan troops drawdown Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Middle East, Updates    

After much speculation that the US was gearing-up to pull out of Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has just given an address confirming that the US combat mission in Afghanistan will end by 2014, with the withdrawal beginning this year. He explained that 33,000 troops will be withdrawn by next year, thereby ending the controversial troop surge that is a hallmark of his presidency.

The speech is embedded below and the transcript can be viewed HERE. More on this shortly.

Editorial: The Indispensable Alliance Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

Following a week of dramatic speeches and meetings in Washington featuring US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, two conclusions have emerged. On the positive side, the United States and Israel alliance, though not always perfect, is strong and enduring. Worryingly, however, prospects for advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians appears more elusive today than for a very long time.

On May 19, President Obama's major State Department speech outlining US foreign policy in the Middle East focussed primarily on American reactions to the "Arab Spring" sweeping the region, but also reflected US thinking on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Weighty Week in Washington

A Weighty Week in Washington Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

Israel has learned in recent weeks that despite the social upheaval and political turbulence across the Middle East, Washington continues to focus on delivering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. This is what President Barack Obama made plain to Netanyahu during a meeting May 20 after which the two exchanged carefully phrased but pointed statements of disagreement during a joint appearance in the Oval Office.

Obama's call, both during the meeting and in a speech the previous day, to set the 1967 borders as a basis for future peace talks between Israel and a prospective Palestinian state, prompted Netanyahu to tell Obama, in the media's presence, that the 1967 borders "were boundaries of repeated wars," and that the nine-mile distance at one point between the West Bank and the Mediterranean "is half the width of the Washington beltway."

 

"Arab Spring" Pessimism/ The Key Middle East trade-off

"Arab Spring" Pessimism/ The Key Middle East trade-off Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

While most Middle East observers have felt considerable hope in the wake of the "Arab Spring" mass movements, this has always been mixed with varying degrees of trepidation. Today, some very knowledgeable key analysts are increasingly saying that the trepidation now looks more appropriate than the hope. This Update is devoted to a few of these more cautious and pessimistic views about what is currently occurring across the region.

First up is Professor Barry Rubin, who predicts a major collapse of the Obama Administration's policy hopes for the Middle East in September - not because of the Palestinian unilateral efforts at the UN, but because of the Egyptian elections.  He predicts very a destructive and radical government in Egypt following that poll, and presents a variety of evidence to support his view. He then enumerates a number of dangerous problems he sees arising, and also raises other problematic trends across the region, including in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

1967 "lines", Refugees and President Obama Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Events in Washington relevant to the Middle East continue apace. Following US President Obama's Middle East policy speech last Thursday, Obama met with Israeli PM Netanyahu on Friday (a video of Netanyahu's remarks is here and a transcript is here, while video of Obama is here) and then spoke to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC on Sunday (a text of his remarks is here.) This Update deals with some of the key issues raised by the statements at all three events.

First up is former senior US official Elliot Abrams, who looks at how the AIPAC speech clarified the more controversial elements of the speech on Thursday. He notes the statement on Hamas was clearer, and the words President Obama used on borders was a correction to a mistake on Thursday, where he seemed to be suggesting that Israel could be forced completely back to the 1949 armistice lines if the Palestinians did not choose to agree to land swaps. Abrams notes a contradiction, however, that seemed to continue in the AIPAC speech, a recognition that Israel could not be expected to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority containing an unrepentantly rejectionist Hamas, and yet a demand seemed to be there for Israel to find some way to negotiate.

Reality missing in Obama map

Reality missing in Obama map Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

US President Barack Obama's speech outlining US Middle East policy in the wake of the Arab Spring movements was a watershed, detailing US support for reforms and democratisation.

However, its section on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts unfortunately weakened several important points with flaws that may impede peace prospects.

 

Obama's Middle East Speech

Obama's Middle East Speech Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, US President Barack Obama gave an important speech last night on US Middle East Policy in response to the Arab Spring - which can be read in full here, and can be viewed here. This Update deals with its policy statements across various issue areas as well as their ramifications.

First up is Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who discusses the implications of what Obama said particularly with respect to Israeli-Palestinian issues. He is critical of three elements of the speech which go beyond the Clinton parameters for a deal set back in 2000 - his enunciation of the principle that a deal should be "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," a rejection of an Israeli military presence in the Jordan valley in a deal, and "a borders-and-security-first approach, leaving the subjects of refugees and Jerusalem for future negotiations". Satloff points out that these are all US movements toward the Palestinian position - just as the Palestinian Authority had signed a highly destructive agreement with Hamas, and is likely to lead to a rift with Israeli PM Netanyahu, currently due in Washington.

 

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Iran and "Covert Action" Author: Max Boot Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

We're in an era of "covert action." In the US, that phrase went into disrepute in the 1970s, when Congress' Church Committee exposed hare-brained CIA plots to eliminate foreign leaders, such as assassinating Fidel Castro with exploding cigars. President Ford banned assassinations, a chastened CIA cast many veteran officers into the cold, and Congress imposed new limits on covert activities.

Editorial: An overdue US policy reset Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

There is no reason to believe that a second moratorium on construction in settlements would have led to a breakthrough. The Palestinian Authority (PA) repeatedly asserted that it would not agree to resume talks for a mere extension of the previous freeze, which ended in September. In that phase, the PA wasted nine months of the ten-month moratorium before even agreeing to talk.

Beyond the Freeze Deal Author: Robert Satloff Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

The recent announcement that the US Obama Administration has ended efforts to negotiate a 90-day extension of Israel's moratorium on West Bank settlement construction is more opportunity than embarrassment.

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US pulls the plug on settlement moratorium deal Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The US government has announced it is no longer seeking a second Israeli moratorium on construction in settlements for 90 days. This is because the administration "concluded that even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept a freeze - which he had not yet been able to do - the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the United States originally had sought."

US Middle East policy after the mid-term elections Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

As readers will be aware, US mid-term elections last week saw major gains for the Republican party at the expense of US President Barack Obama's Democrats. While the election primarily focussed on domestic political issues, this Update will focus on analysis discussing the effects, if any, of the changed Washington political scene on US Middle East policy.

Moral Victory

Moral Victory Author: Walter Russell Mead Categories: America, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Terrorism    

And the Sunni Arabs of Iraq made a choice. They saw al-Qaeda at its best - volunteer freedom fighters come from around the world to fight for them - and they saw America at its worst, incompetent, insensitive, vacillating and violent. And they chose the United States. They decided that the future of their families, their children and their values was better served by aligning with the United States against the terrorists and against the fanatics.

The Reset Button Author: Ehud Ya’ari Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

All of a sudden we have seen a different type of meeting between Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Obama. And a major effort on the part of the President, for the first time since his election, to be nice to the Israeli people by giving an interview to an Israeli journalist. They have reached the conclusion that keeping a distance from Israel, picking unnecessary fights with Israel, was not going to advance the peace process. They have reached the conclusion that by distancing themselves from Bibi, from Israel, they are not getting anything in return from the Arab world. And therefore, the change.

How to Support - and Improve - Israel Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Australasia, International Jewry, Israel, Op-eds    

Julie Szego's column entitled "The Need for a Critical Diaspora" (July 2) placed entirely too much uncritical faith in the arguments of American author and journalist Peter Beinart. She fails to take adequate account of the outcome of the intense and interesting debate that has ensued in America since Beinart's essay, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment" was first published in mid-May. In particular, Szego seems unaware that critics have shows that much of the empirical basis of Beinart's key claim is just plain factually wrong.

US Policy and the Peace Process / Talking about Islam and Terrorism Categories: America, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

This Update features some new analysis of the likely future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the wake of the Obama/Netanyahu summit last week. First up is Washington Institute analyst and former US National Security Council Middle East expert Michael Singh looking at what happens if and when direct Israeli-Palestinian talks resume.

Obama and Bibi Meet in Washington Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a much-anticipated meeting at the White House on Tuesday night with US President Barack Obama. This Update looks at the issues discussed and affected by the Summit, and the details of what was said.

Signs of change in US Middle East policy? Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update looks at the contours of American foreign policy in the wake of recent speeches and articles by senior US Middle East experts not especially noted for their pro-Israel views recommending a reappraisal of the global significance of, and best approach to, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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Is Washington's Iran policy "confused" Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Iran, Updates    

Much debate has been sparked by the revelation in the New York Times last weekend that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had written a secret memo stating that, in the paper's words, the US lacks "an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability."

From Reconciliation to Recrimination Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

The announcement could hardly have been more mistimed. Having first angered Biden it then embarrassed Netanyahu, then threw into a tizzy US-Israeli diplomacy and, while at it, dented what little progress had been made on the peace process.

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Editorial: Frustration versus Analysis Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

Although the resolution appears very clear, progressing there is desperately, exasperatingly difficult. Unfortunately, the well-meaning but relatively inexperienced Obama Administration has shown a counter-productive tendency to act out of this frustration rather than careful analysis.

Washington Wash-up Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu spent most of the past week in the US capital but, unlike with many previous visits by Israeli PMs, much of the trip remains the subject of conjecture.

The Latest Crisis and the Obama Administration's approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update focuses on what the crisis generated by the Obama Administration's statements on Israel's building plans in eastern Jerusalem - culminating in three new demands on Israel ostensibly to prove their peacemaking bona fides - seem to indicate about the Administration's approach to Middle East peacemaking.

Essay: The Great Satan Myth Author: Abbas Milani Categories: America, Iran    

The Iranian regime has never found itself more vulnerable. And, with this vulnerability, it has never leaned more heavily on its own narrative of history. This narrative, of course, has a central antagonist, a character conjured as the "Great Satan".

At an impasse? Author: Robert Satloff Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

How is it possible that a US administration that came to office committed to the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peacemaking is today further from even getting the parties to talk with each other than at almost any point since the peace process began at the Madrid conference more than 18 years ago?

A change in Washington Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update looks at the lay of the land in US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority relations following last week's photo op between US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

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Scribblings: Reductio ad Absurdum Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

So the US position comes down to this: the Israeli government must actively discriminate against Jews, including non-Israeli Jews, when it comes to making decisions about private building permits in all of east Jerusalem - more than half of Israel's capital - even when this could have no conceivable effect on future Palestinian claims in the area during peace negotiations.

Settlement Freeze Tag Author: Michael Doran Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

American presidents have been trying to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict since the days of Truman. Sooner or later, every one of them has learned a harsh lesson about the limits of American influence.

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Obama's challenge in the Arab and Muslim worlds Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Middle East, Updates    

Today's Update offers some additional analysis of the regional environment US President Obama must try to influence in his planned speech in Cairo tonight (Australian time). An interview Obama did with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times apparently reveals some of his own thoughts on the subject.

When Bibi Met Barack Author: Herb Keinon Categories: America, Israel, Middle East    

When the dust settles, what will likely be remembered from Netanyahu's maiden trip to the US in his second term as prime minister is that the talks led neither to a breakdown of relations with the US, nor a breakthrough in Middle East diplomacy.

Bibi Meets Barack Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

As this Update went out, news was coming in from Washington with respect to the Barack Obama-Binyamin Netanyahu meetings that took place on Monday, May 18.

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Hope of peace in Gaza remains Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel, Op-eds    

Is the new Netanyahu Government likely to be headed for a major confrontation with the Obama Administration? The argument often made is that while Barack Obama will push hard for Israeli-Palestinian progress, the supposedly "hard-line" Netanyahu Government does not even support a two-state resolution to the conflict.

Washington and Teheran Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, America, Iran, Updates    

This Update adds more on Washington's possible policy toward Iran, as th Obama Administration pursues engagement, at a time when both the US Congress and the Israeli government are attempting to maximise the leverage the US President will have.

Editorial: Washington and Jerusalem Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel    

President Obama has reportedly said he wishes to begin renewing peace progress by asking for a series of "concrete steps" as reciprocal "confidence-building measures". This is potentially fully congruent with Netanyahu's approach - especially in terms of his concentration on "reciprocity"

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Scribblings: Indyk-ations Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

As readers may recall, the AIR published a review in March of Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in The Middle East, by Dr. Martin Indyk... Having now read the book myself, I agree with most of what reviewer Jonathan Schanzer had to say

Bibi and Barack Can Unite Author: Yossi Klein Halevi Categories: America, Israel    

In Washington, a new president is reaching out to the Muslim world, including Iran. In Jerusalem, the new government represents the disillusionment of the Israeli public with 15 years of failed peace talks.

Editorial: The Rules of Engagement Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

First, it's important to note – as demonstrated by the West's attempts to improve relations with Iran under Khatami – that Obama's approach is not actually a new policy. To the contrary, for the past 30 years every US administration has tried to use diplomacy and "engagement" to resolve the West's conflicts with Iran

An Israeli-Palestinian agenda for Obama Author: Adam Frey Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

Before his inauguration, US President Barack Obama promised that his administration would be engaged in the Middle East peace process from "day one". Because he is venerated in Europe and the Arab world for being perceived as fundamentally different from previous President George W. Bush, but has also appointed people trusted by Israel to some key Middle East roles, many believe Obama is particularly well positioned to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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Obama's Options Author: David Makovsky Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, a strategy of "engagement without illusions" will most likely drive the Obama Administration. Prospects of diplomatic success are worth trying, but at a minimum, engagement would attempt to reverse the slide toward radicalisation.

How to Put the Squeeze on Iran Author: Orde F. Kittrie Categories: America, Iran    

If Barack Obama is to persuade Iran to negotiate away its illegal nuclear weapons program, he will first need to generate more leverage than what the Bush Administration is leaving him with.

Scribblings: The Talking Cure Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Iran, Iraq, Middle East    

US President-elect Barack Obama is going to change US policy toward Iran and end the Bush Administration approach of refusing to directly engage Teheran diplomatically, right? Actually, things are not nearly so cut and dried as this conventional wisdom holds.

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Editorial: Election Fever Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Iraq, Israel, Middle East    

Whether the person inaugurated in Washington is Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain, and whoever emerges as prime minister in Israel, it is already clear that the new leadership in each country will immediately face a myriad of challenges.

Essay: The Iranian Nuclear Challenge Author: Bipartisan Policy Center Categories: America, International Security, Iran    

A nuclear weapons-capable Islamic Republic of Iran is strategically untenable. This report is about preventing the untenable. While a peaceful, civilian nuclear program in Iran might be acceptable under certain conditions... it is the decided judgment of this group that continued Iranian enrichment of uranium... threatens US and global security, regional stability, and the international nonproliferation regime.

Iraq, post-Petraeus, post-Surge Author: AIJAC staff Categories: America, Iraq, Updates    

Today, we offer some pieces on the state of Iraq as the US Commander there, Gen. David Petraeus, this week handed over to his deputy and successor, Gen. Raymond Odierno, and a new book by Washington journalist Bob Woodward revealed new details about the White House and Pentagon decision-making that led to the successful "surge" change in strategy adopted under Petraeus in 2006.

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Alexander Downer speech to American Jewish Committee upon receiving the Ramer Award for Excellence in Diplomacy, Washington D.C. Categories: America, Australasia, Europe, International Jewry, Israel, Speeches    

The Australian and American Jewish communities have a lot in common. In both cases Jews have found in our countries the peace and tolerance which was denied them over the centuries in Europe and the Middle East: but they have not only found freedom and tolerance in Australia and America, they have contributed mightily to our two societies.

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Year of Decision? Author: David Makovsky Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

US President George W. Bush's recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories came six weeks after the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis. That parley marked the first time the United States did not mandate a purely sequential approach to the peace process.

Nukes or not, Iran remains a threat Author: Bren Carlill Categories: America, Iran, Op-eds    

AMERICAN intelligence agencies believe Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program. Since an Iranian nuclear bomb would risk destabilising the entire Middle East, this sounds like great news. But it's worth looking beyond the headlines.

Annapolis: Joint Understanding of Negotiations - 2007

Annapolis: Joint Understanding of Negotiations - 2007 Categories: America, Documents, Israel, Palestinians    

The representatives of the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), represented respectively by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, in his capacity as Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and President of the Palestinian Authority, have convened in Annapolis, Maryland, under the auspices of President George W. Bush of the United States of America, and with the support of the participants of this international conference, having concluded the following Joint Understanding

Primary Colours Author: Adam Frey Categories: America, Iraq, Middle East    

Though the US presidential election is still a year away, the Democratic and Republican primary campaigns have been in full swing for some time. And, owing to a new and severely front-loaded primary schedule beginning in January, the parties may know their nominee by mid-February.

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The Biblio File: The Usual Suspect Author: Jeffery Goldberg Categories: America, Iraq, Middle East    

The villains in The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy are almost entirely Jewish. Many of the chapters of the book contain extensive lists of Jews (even Rothschilds) who, the authors claim, act against the best interests of the United States. And act effectively: the Israel lobby in this book is an invincible juggernaut.

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The Return of the Mediator

The Return of the Mediator Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

The Review spoke to Ambassador Dennis Ross in May 2001, a bare six months after he was a central player in the US Clinton Administrations last-ditch attempt to create an Israeli-Palestinian peace in December 2000. At the time, he remained the unflappable diplomats diplomat, controlled and punctilious in speech.

Biblio File: Power and Partnership Author: David Kemp Categories: America, Australasia    

This book should change the terms in which Australia?s alliance with the United States is publicly debated in this country. Its most important claim, from the standpoint of an Australian, is that the US-Australian alliance empowers Australia.

AMIA Revisited Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Europe, International Jewry, Iran, Terrorism    

On November 9, there was an extraordinary development in an 11-year old case of terrorist mass murder. Argentina finally identified and named the Lebanese Hezbollah member, Ibrahim Hussein Berro, allegedly responsible for the suicide bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Aid Association (AMIA) Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in July 1994.

Editorial: The ISG?s Unrealism Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Iraq, Middle East    

The bipartisan Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report to US President Bush set out the grim reality of the situation in Iraq and made some plausible, even if predictable and contested, recommendations about military strategy there. However it also includes two recommendations about wider Middle Eastern policy that are fundamentally flawed.

The ISG Unplugged Author: Eliot Cohen Categories: America, Iraq, Middle East    

The theory of the thing is very peculiar indeed. You are in the middle of a war - a hard war, a war that is going badly. If the government has bogged down, if the people inside have gone stale, you would say that the sound thing ... would be, first, to fire a bunch of officials (generals as well as top civilians), promote or bring in fresh talent, and put together a small group of people to take a new and unillusioned look.

Too high a price for peace Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Op-eds, Syria    

The bipartisan Iraq Survey Group report to US President George Bush makes some reasonable if unsurprising recommendations about military strategy in Iraq, but also two recommendations about wider Middle Eastern policy that are fundamentally flawed.

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The Opportunity Author: External author Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

After four-and-a-half years of terror and violence, the proverbial stars seem to be aligned for a new push for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Unlike his predecessor, the newly elected Palestinian Authority (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas, stresses the importance of peaceful problem solving and has condemned suicide bombing (in Arabic and in English) as counterproductive. On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the one-time architect of the settlement movement, is leading the drive to evacuate all settlers from Gaza and the northern West Bank. At Sharm-el-Sheikh earlier this year, he and Abbas committed to a cease-fire, an important step even if rejectionists on both sides are certain to try to exploit it. In Washington, meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice is as close to the Commander in Chief as any Secretary of State has been since James Baker teamed up with George W. Bush's father, guaranteeing that she speaks with the president's authority.

Media Microscope: Poll-er Opposites Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: America, Australasia, International Security, Media/ Academia    

The term "gigo" (garbage in, garbage out) was invented by computer scientists in the 1950s. Back then, the term was another addition to the growing vocabulary of the computer industry. Yet, according to critics, this unusual acronym could just as easily be applied to the findings of the heavily-publicised Lowy Institute poll, which was published on March 28.

If not now, when? Author: External author Categories: America, Iran    

In his January 20, 2005, inaugural speech, President George W. Bush declared, "America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude."

Essay: The Right Questions Author: AIJAC External authors Categories: America, Terrorism    

It didn't take long for interrogators in the war on terror to realise that their part was not going according to script. Pentagon doctrine, honed over decades of cold-war planning, held that 95 percent of prisoners would break upon straightforward questioning.

Looking Ahead Author: External author Categories: America, Iraq, Middle East    

The outlines of the second Bush Administration's approach to the Middle East began emerging from an American-Israel dialogue held in Washington in early December.

No Joke Author: External author Categories: America    

LaRouche, 82, is glowering behind outsize eyeglasses. His hair is wispy on his prominent head. His shoulders stoop. Yet he still projects supreme self-assurance.

Sharon-Bush Exchange of Letters - 2004 Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

Israel is committed to the peace process, and aspires to reach a mutual agreement on the basis of two states for two peoples, the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, as part of the realisation of President [George W.] Bush's vision.