New Poll Shows What a Majority of Palestinians Think About Peace With Israel

A Palestinian man waves his national flag and shouts slogans during clashes with Israeli forces at the Nahal Oz crossing with Israel, east of Gaza City, on Sept. 27, 2013. (AFP / Getty Images)

A Palestinian man waves his national flag and shouts slogans during clashes with Israeli forces at the Nahal Oz crossing with Israel, east of Gaza City, on Sept. 27, 2013. (AFP / Getty Images)

TheBlaze (March 26) — A majority of Palestinians say they support rocket attacks on Israel and nearly half favor renewing an armed intifada, according to a new public opinion poll.

The poll from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research released Tuesday found that 68 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza said they support launching rockets from Gaza at Israel if Israel does not lift its Gaza blockade.

The poll also found that 48 percent said they support returning to an armed intifada, or uprising, in the absence of viable peace negotiations.

Sixty-eight percent of Palestinians surveyed said they favored “popular nonviolent resistance.”

“A majority of 74 percent favors Hamas way of resisting occupation. … Furthermore, 56 percent favor the transfer of Hamas’ armed approach to the West Bank and 40 percent oppose that,” the center noted.

The survey interviewed 1,262 adults in person in the West Bank and Gaza between March 19-21, with a margin of error of 3 percent.

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The Libyan Quagmire

By Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah for Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (March 25):

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  • Arab civil wars seem to follow a pre-designed pattern. Once the conflict in a particular Arab country bursts open, the country splits into two areas (sometimes more), with separate capitals and separate ethnicities.
  • Libya is no exception to this rule. Since the overthrow of Libya’s ruler Muammar Qaddafi in October 2011, Libya has fallen into chaos in which armed militias govern their own patch of territory.
  • A multitude of armed groups has emerged since the overthrow of Qaddafi, some of them merging with one another, others fighting for supremacy in defined geographical areas. Three main groups are fighting for control of Libya – militias, government forces, and the Islamic State.
  • Libya is not only a gateway to Europe, but also to three North African states (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and a clear threat to Egypt. The huge arsenal left by Qaddafi has been looted, and arms have found their way through smuggling networks to Syria, Iraq, Hamas in Gaza and also to Nigeria and most of the Sahel countries.
  • A force of African states has already engaged with terror militias. A force from moderate Arab Sunni states is under discussion.
  • The Islamic State’s infiltration into Tunisia and Algeria could definitely pose a threat to European and U.S. interests. In such a situation the West would be forced to consider a more immediate and aggressive attitude towards the terrorists’ haven in Libya.

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Congress Totally Cool With Israel Spying on U.S. Officials Negotiating With Iran

1427291213664.cachedThe Daily Beast (March 25) — Israel is spying on the U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks? No problem, key Democrats and Republicans in Congress say. “I don’t look at Israel or any nation directly affected by the Iranian program wanting deeply to know what’s going on in the negotiations – I just don’t look at that as spying,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it….I don’t find any of that that controversial.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday joked that he was more concerned that Israeli intelligence hadn’t shared what they learned with him. “One of my reactions was, why haven’t they been coming up here sharing information with me? I mean Israel. I haven’t had any of them coming up and talking with me about where the deal is, so I was kind of wondering who it was they were meeting with. I kind of feel left out.”

If anything, lawmakers said they were perturbed that the Israelis were being accused of spying. Learning the details of the nuclear talk, lawmakers argued, was more like information gathering. “To use the word ‘spying,’ that is a pejorative accusation. That’s not the phrase I would use to describe what I read,” Kaine said. Several lawmakers interviewed said that the Israeli government had not told them anything they weren’t already aware of in broad strokes. “No one from Israel has told me anything that I haven’t already known,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

A senior congressional staffer called administration allegations of Israeli spying “deeply irresponsible innuendo and destructive hearsay,” adding that “these unsubstantiated allegations are all the more galling in light of the fact that this administration has leaked, consistently and aggressively, details of Iran proposals to the front page of the New York Times and other news outlets, as well as to sympathetic think-tankers and pro-Iranian groups outside of government.”

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Krauthammer: No peace in our time

Dr Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts as he visits, on March 18, 2015, at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem following his party Likud's victory in Israel's general election. (Thomas Coex/ AFP/ Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts as he visits, on March 18, 2015, at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem following his party Likud’s victory in Israel’s general election. (Thomas Coex/ AFP/ Getty Images)

The Washington Post (March 20) — Of all the idiocies uttered in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu’s stunning election victory, none is more ubiquitous than the idea that peace prospects are now dead because Netanyahu has declared that there will be no Palestinian state while he is Israel’s prime minister.

I have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state — with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted — only to be rudely rejected.

This is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008 — three astonishingly concessionary peace offers within the past 15 years. Every one rejected.

The fundamental reality remains: This generation of Palestinian leadership — from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas — has never and will never sign its name to a final peace settlement dividing the land with a Jewish state. And without that, no Israeli government of any kind will agree to a Palestinian state.

Today, however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme instability of the entire Middle East. For half a century, it was run by dictators no one liked but with whom you could do business. For example, the 1974 Israel-Syria disengagement agreement yielded more than four decades of near-total quiet on the border because the Assad dictatorships so decreed.

That authoritarian order is gone, overthrown by the Arab Spring. Syria is wracked by a multi-sided civil war that has killed 200,000 people and that has al-Qaeda allies, Hezbollah fighters, government troops and even the occasional Iranian general prowling the Israeli border. Who inherits? No one knows.

In the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different regimes. Yemen went from pro-American to Iranian client so quickly the United States had to evacuate its embassy in a panic. Libya has gone from Moammar Gaddafi’s crazy authoritarianism to jihadi-dominated civil war. On Wednesday, Tunisia, the one relative success of the Arab Spring, suffered a major terror attack that the prime minister said “targets the stability of the country.”

From Mali to Iraq, everything is in flux. Amid this mayhem, by what magic would the West Bank, riven by a bitter Fatah-Hamas rivalry, be an island of stability? What would give any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement even a modicum of durability?

There was a time when Arafat commanded the Palestinian movement the way Gaddafi commanded Libya. Abbas commands no one. Why do you think he is in the 11th year of a four-year term, having refused to hold elections for the last five years? Because he’s afraid he would lose to Hamas.

With or without elections, the West Bank could fall to Hamas overnight. At which point fire rains down on Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and the entire Israeli urban heartland — just as it rains down on southern Israel from Gaza when it suits Hamas, which has turned that first Palestinian state into a terrorist fire base.

Any Arab-Israeli peace settlement would require Israel to make dangerous and inherently irreversible territorial concessions on the West Bank in return for promises and guarantees. Under current conditions, these would be written on sand.

Israel is ringed by jihadi terrorists in Sinai, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic State and Iranian proxies in Syria, and a friendly but highly fragile Jordan. Israelis have no idea who ends up running any of these places. Will the Islamic State advance to an Israeli border? Will Iranian Revolutionary Guards appear on the Golan Heights? No one knows.

Well, say the critics. Israel could be given outside guarantees. Guarantees? Like the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which the United States, Britain and Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”? Like the red line in Syria? Like the unanimous U.N. resolutions declaring illegal any Iranian enrichment of uranium — now effectively rendered null?

Peace awaits three things. Eventual Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state. A Palestinian leader willing to sign a deal based on that premise. A modicum of regional stability that allows Israel to risk the potentially fatal withdrawals such a deal would entail.

I believe such a day will come. But there is zero chance it comes now or even soon. That’s essentially what Netanyahu said Thursday in explaining — and softening — his no-Palestinian-state statement.

… Blaming Netanyahu for banishing peace, however, is mindless.

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Israel’s election aftermath: With eyes wide open

Herb Keinon is the leading journalist at the Jerusalem Post (March 20):

BibiWins… The public knew very well of the tensions with Obama, and what another Netanyahu term would do to ties with his administration. The public knew very well that the EU may possibly level sanctions again settlement products. The country knew very well that Netanyahu could deepen Israel’s isolation, energize the Palestinians to redouble their diplomatic campaign, and give the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement more ammunition and momentum.

Yet the country still went to ballot box and voted for Netanyahu and the parties on the Right.

The Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni held out a promise of an Israel that would once again be accepted in the world, that would not have to dwell alone, that would be respected in the world’s capitals because it would take the diplomatic initiative.

The country either didn’t believe the message, didn’t think it was possible, or a little of both. When evaluating this week’s election results, it is important to widen the lens and look at longer-term trends. And the longer trends show that the Left has not won an election in this country since Ehud Barak in 1999.

The country has changed dramatically since then – both demographically and in terms of outlook.

Demographically, the numbers of those making up the core constituencies of the Right – the religious, the immigrants, those living in the periphery – have grown; while the urban, secular, Ashkenazi numbers making up the Jewish Left have not kept pace.

And in terms of outlook, the terrorism unleashed by the second intifada – followed by mini-wars in Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008- 2009 and 2014) – and endless rockets and missile attacks all over the country have had a huge impact.

Israelis feel insecure. This is not made-up, it’s not hype, it’s not phony or fear-mongering. It’s real, and it comes from kids getting kidnapped and murdered, rockets falling into living rooms, and passersby getting stabbed. To understand Israel circa 2015 is to understand that insecurity; and to understand why the country votes as it does is also to understand that insecurity.

To try to combat those insecurities with talk about economic security, diplomatic security or peace negotiations just doesn’t resonate – and it hasn’t resonated since 1999.

To talk to the public using the same language used in 1999, before the intifada; or even in 2009, before the Arab Spring and the titanic changes in the region, does not work. The country has changed; the country’s mentality has changed.

Do people want peace, even people on the Right? Certainly (though there are vastly different ideas of what it is worth to sacrifice to get that peace). Do they think it is possible right now, in this neighborhood, with a weak man at the head of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank; and with Gaza ruled by Hamas, which just a few months ago was busy burrowing tunnels to attack Israeli communities nearby? No.

Using slogans from a different era holding out the prospects of negotiations toward a two-state solution just doesn’t cut it in a country where so many people – because of what they have themselves experienced and seen – feel that train has long ago left the station.

Herzog and Livni tried to frame the campaign as one between hope and fear. They could provide hope, Netanyahu only fear.

But the problem is that Israelis live here – here – in the real Middle East. And when they hear Netanyahu talking about the threat from Iran, the threats of a region completely unhinged, the threats of terrorists wielding knives, guns or rockets, they don’t see him as a maniac from another planet, but as someone who is actually reading the intelligence briefings and looking out the window. They think he is telling the truth.

Those seen as crazy are those promising peace for withdrawal, or giving up land for favor in the eyes of the world. “The people went to bed hoping for change, and woke up with a Netanyahu government,” read a curious headline over an Haaretz op-ed piece online on Wednesday.

Curious because it was the people who went to bed hoping for change, it turns out, who went to the polls earlier in the day and voted for the Netanyahu government.

Why? Because they live here, in the middle of the real Middle East, not an idealized or fantasized one, but the real Middle East, the one currently engulfed in flames.

They voted for Netanyahu because after nine years of experience with him, knowing well his pluses and minuses, they believe he can keep those flames at bay, even if he alienates some friends in the process.

And if he does alienate friends in the process, and there are economic and diplomatic prices to pay, the country said on Tuesday it feels those prices could – and even should – be borne.

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The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine

Daniel Pipes — Today is the day when a Palestinian state was nearly declared – for the third time.

On October 1, 1948, the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Husseini, stood before the Palestine National Council in Gaza and declared the existence of an All-Palestine Government.

In theory, this state already ruled Gaza and would soon control all of Palestine. Accordingly, it was born with a full complement of ministers to lofty proclamations of Palestine’s free, democratic, and sovereign nature. But the whole thing was a sham. Gaza was run by the Egyptian government, the ministers had nothing to oversee, and the All-Palestine Government never expanded anywhere. Instead, this façade quickly withered away.

Almost exactly forty years later, on November 15, 1988, a Palestinian state was again proclaimed, again at a meeting of the Palestine National Council.

This time, Yasser Arafat called it into being. In some ways, this state was even more futile than the first, being proclaimed in Algiers, almost 3,000 kilometers and four borders away from Palestine, and controlling not a centimeter of the territory it claimed. Although the Algiers declaration received enormous attention at the time (the Washington Post’s front-page story read “PLO Proclaims Palestinian State”), a dozen years later it is nearly as forgotten as the Gazan declaration that preceded it.

In other words, today’s declaration of a Palestinian state would have retreaded some well-worn ground.

We do not know what today’s statement would have said, but like the 1988 document it probably would have claimed that “the Palestinian Arab people forged its national identity” in distant antiquity.

In fact, the Palestinian identity goes back, not to antiquity, but precisely to 1920. No “Palestinian Arab people” existed at the start of 1920 but by December it took shape in a form recognizably similar to today’s.

Until the late nineteenth century, residents living in the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean identified themselves primarily in terms of religion: Moslems felt far stronger bonds with remote co-religionists than with nearby Christians and Jews. Living in that area did not imply any sense of common political purpose.

Then came the ideology of nationalism from Europe; its ideal of a government that embodies the spirit of its people was alien but appealing to Middle Easterners. How to apply this ideal, though? Who constitutes a nation and where must the boundaries be? These questions stimulated huge debates.

Some said the residents of the Levant are a nation; others said Eastern Arabic speakers; or all Arabic speakers; or all Moslems.

But no one suggested “Palestinians,” and for good reason. Palestine, then a secular way of saying Eretz Yisra’el or Terra Sancta, embodied a purely Jewish and Christian concept, one utterly foreign to Moslems, even repugnant to them.

This distaste was confirmed in April 1920, when the British occupying force carved out a “Palestine.” Moslems reacted very suspiciously, rightly seeing this designation as a victory for Zionism. Less accurately, they worried about it signaling a revival in the Crusader impulse. No prominent Moslem voices endorsed the delineation of Palestine in 1920; all protested it.

Instead, Moslems west of the Jordan directed their allegiance to Damascus, where the great-great-uncle of Jordan’s King Abdullah II was then ruling; they identified themselves as Southern Syrians.

Interestingly, no one advocated this affiliation more emphatically than a young man named Amin Husseini. In July 1920, however, the French overthrew this Hashemite king, in the process killing the notion of a Southern Syria.

Isolated by the events of April and July, the Moslems of Palestine made the best of a bad situation. One prominent Jerusalemite commented, just days following the fall of the Hashemite kingdom: “after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine.”

Following this advice, the leadership in December 1920 adopted the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Within a few years, this effort was led by Husseini.

Other identities – Syrian, Arab, and Moslem – continued to compete for decades afterward with the Palestinian one, but the latter has by now mostly swept the others aside and reigns nearly supreme.

That said, the fact that this identity is of such recent and expedient origins suggests that the Palestinian primacy is superficially rooted and that it could eventually come to an end, perhaps as quickly as it got started.

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Daniel Pipes: Americans Battle the Arab-Israeli Conflict

A great article if you want to understand people who are pro-Israel and anti-Israel in the US. The same explanations and conclusions can be made about the people who are anti-Israel in Europe.

By Daniel Pipes for Middle East Quarterly (March 11):

Texas senator Ted Cruz meets with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel, January 11, 2013.

Texas senator Ted Cruz meets with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel, January 11, 2013.

When, in the midst of the 2014 Hamas-Israel war, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration briefly banned American carriers from flying to Israel, Sen. Ted Cruz (Republican of Texas) accused Barack Obama of using a federal regulatory agency “to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign policy demands.”[1] In so doing, Cruz made an accusation no Israeli leader would dare express.

This is hardly unique: Over the years, other American political figures, both Republican (Dan Burton, Jesse Helms, Condoleezza Rice, Arlen Specter) and Democrat (Charles Schumer), have adopted tougher, and sometimes more Zionist, stances than the Israeli government. This pattern in turn points to a larger phenomenon: The Arab-Israeli conflict tends to generate more intense partisanship among Americans than among Middle Easterners. The latter may die from the conflict but the former experience it with greater passion.

More Anti-Israel than the Arabs

Americans who hate Israel can be more volubly anti-Zionist than Arabs. At a memorable Washington dinner party in November 1984, hosted by the Iraqi embassy for the visiting foreign minister Tariq Aziz, two tipsy American press grandees admonished and even insulted this emissary of Saddam Hussein for being insufficiently anti-Israel. Helen Thomas of United Press International complained that Iraq had not retaliated against Israel after the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.[2] When Aziz tried brushing off her criticism, she scornfully accused the Iraqi regime of cowardice: “Just yellow, I guess.” Later the same evening, Rowland Evans of the syndicated Evans and Novak column, interrupted Aziz when he called the Iran-Iraq war the most important issue in the Middle East, shouting at him to tell Secretary of State Shultz that the Arab-Israeli conflict was his main concern.[3] The late Barry Rubin, who was present, subsequently commented: “Unaccustomed to being attacked for excessive softness on Israel, Aziz looked astonished.”[4]

In 1993, Edward Said of Columbia University castigated Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat for entering into the Oslo negotiating process. Meanwhile, Anthony B. Tirado Chase, an analyst of Said’s writings, found that “Said’s rejectionism speaks for few in the West Bank or Gaza.”[6]

… In 2009, after a lecture tour of American universities, the Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh observed that

there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah. … Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment, I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber. … What struck me more than anything else was the fact that many of the people I met on the campuses supported Hamas and believed that it had the right to “resist the occupation” even if that meant blowing up children and women on a bus in downtown Jerusalem.[8]

 

Even more ironically, Abu Toameh found that many of the Arabs and Muslims on American campuses “were much more understanding and even welcomed my ‘even-handed analysis’ of the Israeli-Arab conflict.” Along the same lines, the historian Bernard Lewis notes that “Israelis traveling in the West often find it easier to establish a rapport with Arabs than with Arabophiles.”[9]

Conversely, Lewis notes the viciousness of some Westerners residing in the Middle East:

Time and time again, European and American Jews traveling in Arab countries have observed that, despite the torrent of broadcast and published anti-Semitism, the only face-to-face experience of anti-Semitic hostility that they suffered during their travels was from compatriots, many of whom feel free, in what they imagine to be the more congenial atmosphere of the Arab world, to make anti-Semitic … remarks that they would not make at home.[10]

One symptom of this: The recent Hamas-Israel war prompted anti-Israel hate demonstrations, some violent, on the streets of many Western cities, while—with the exception of territories under Israeli control—the Arab street remained largely calm.

More Zionist than the Israelis

Similarly, American supporters of Israel tend to stake out more ardently Zionist positions than do Israelis. In 1978, Richard Nixon complained that “the problem with the Israelis in Israel was not nearly as difficult as the Jewish community here.”[11] In 1990, Israeli journalist Yossi Melman was surprised to find a Jewish audience in Texas taking a harder line against the Palestinians than he did himself; he responded with alarm when one young man asserted, referring to a fracas with the Israeli police that left nineteen Palestinians dead, “I do not feel sorry for those Palestinians who were killed. The Israeli police should have shot a thousand of them,” and no one in the audience took issue with him.

In 2000, Said complained that Zionist groups in the United States have views “in some way more extreme than even those of the Israeli Likud.”[12] Also in 2000, when Israel’s prime minister offered unprecedented concessions on Jerusalem, Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, criticized his efforts “to take away or compromise Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount and turn it over to the jurisdiction of the United Nations or the Palestinian Authority.” Later, he warned, “all of us will have to answer to our children and grandchildren when they ask us why we did not do more to stop the giving away of Har haBayit [the Temple Mount].”[13]

Polling by the American Jewish Committee regularly finds American Jews more skeptical than their Israeli counterparts on the question of the efficacy of diplomacy with the Arabs.[14] At the same time, for an American to be pro-Israel means liking all Israelis; starting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Christians United for Israel, pro-Israel organizations offer unconditional support to Israel. Many American Jews go further: With neither their own lives nor those of their children at risk in the Israel Defense Forces, they do not publicly disagree with Israeli government decisions. By contrast, ranking Israelis repeatedly demand that Washington pressure their own government into taking steps against its wishes. Most famously, in 2007, David Landau, editor of Haaretz newspaper, told then-U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that Israel was a “failed state” and implored her to intervene on the grounds that Israel needs “to be raped.”[15]

Explanations

Three reasons account for American partisans adopting stronger positions than their Middle Eastern counterparts:

Pure passion: Abu Toameh notes: “Many of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials … sound much more pragmatic than most of the anti-Israel, ‘pro-Palestinian’ folks on the campuses.” That is because they have real-life decisions to make with which they must live. Israelis and Arabs maintain a patchwork of relationships and daily life that softens the harshness of rhetoric. In contrast, pure passion tends to reign in the West. Most Israelis have contact with Arabs, something few American Zionists do. Similarly, a fair number of Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, and other Arabs come into contact with Israelis. For Middle Easterners, the enemy is human; for Americans, the opponent consists of two-dimensional political adversaries.

This even applies to so monstrous a dictatorship as Saddam Hussein’s. As Barry Rubin commented about the experience of Tariq Aziz at dinner: “Perhaps it was easier to deal with the inner circles of Saddam’s regime, where fear bred discipline, than with these wild, unpredictable Americans.”[16]Two examples: Pro-Israel and anti-Israel Americans never need to cooperate on joint water supplies.Ismail Haniya, a prominent leader of the Hamas terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s elimination, has three sisters who emigrated from Gaza to Israel, live as citizens there, and have children who served in the Israel Defense Forces.[17]

Solidarity: Israelis argue mostly with other Israelis and Arabs with Arabs; but in the United States, pro-Israelis argue with anti-Israelis. Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East feel free to disagree with their own side more than do their U.S. partisans. When a left-wing Israeli criticizes the Netanyahu government’s policy, he disagrees with the Likud Party; when a left-wing American Jewish figure does the same, he attacks Israel. The former debates are within the framework of Israeli policymaking, the latter in the arena of American public opinion. Melman noted that “we Israelis have the luxury of expressing ourselves more frankly than many American Jews” and explained this by noting how “American Jews fear that their public criticism [of Israel] might be exploited by professional critics of Israel. Hence, most American Jews prefer to conceal their disagreements about Israel.” Mattityahu Peled, a left-wing Israeli gadfly, similarly observed that the pressure on Jews who hold dissenting views in the United States “is far greater than the pressure on us in Israel. … probably we in Israel enjoy a larger degree of tolerance than you here in the Jewish community.”[18]

Best-known policy issue: In the Middle East itself, other issues—civil wars in Syria and Iraq, the Saudi vs. Qatar vs. Iran rivalries, water problems—compete with the Arab-Israeli conflict for attention. But in the United States, the Arab-Israeli conflict is far better known than any other issue and thus dominates the discussion. As a result, the lines of debate are far more clearly etched: When the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) conquered Mosul in June 2014, no one knew what to do. But when Hamas launched rockets against Israel a month later, the facts and arguments were reassuringly familiar.

Conclusion

Arab-Israeli partisanship fits a broader pattern in which distance turns greys into blacks and whites, increasing political passions. In the case of the Contra war in Nicaragua, the journalist Stephen Schwartz writes that, on the one side, “Sandinistas often commented to me that they were put off to realize that their Democrat supporters in Washington employed a bloodthirsty rhetoric that would never have been heard in the towns of Central America.” When asked about this, a Sandinista explained: “We have to face death, and it makes us less willing to speak idly about it; but they enjoy talking about a death they will never risk or inflict on others.”[19]

The same reluctance applied on the other side, Schwartz found. A Contra supporter explained: “Our families are split by this conflict, and we do not feel the aggravated sense of rage displayed by foreigners about the war here. In fighting, we may have to kill, or be killed by, a relative with whom we grew up. It is not something that fills us with enthusiasm.”

In other wars where combatants live in close proximity to each other but their supporters do not, a similar pattern has emerged: Civil wars in Vietnam, Ireland, and Bosnia come immediately to mind. Commenting on the Spanish civil war, Trotsky observed that the rhetoric in London was far more extreme than the reality in Barcelona.

In conclusion, this pattern runs contrary to the general assumption that the frenzied combatants in a war need cool-headed outsiders to help guide them to resolution and peace—an assumption that sometimes leads to the unfortunate decision to put ignoramuses in charge of diplomacy and policy. In fact, the locals may see the problem more lucidly and realistically than their foreign friends. It is time for foreigners to stop assuming they know how to achieve the region’s salvation and instead to listen more to those directly involved.

Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. DanielPipes.org

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Dershowitz: Supporters of deal are strengthening Iran’s negotiating position

Alan Dershowitz is an American lawyer, jurist, author, and political commentator. He is a scholar on United States constitutional law and criminal law. He spent most of his career at Harvard Law School where in 1967, at the age of 28, he became the youngest full professor of law in its history.

2994By Alan Dershowitz for The Jerusalem Post (March 11) — Despite repeating the mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal” with Iran, the United States seems to be negotiating on the basis of a belief that the worst possible outcome of the current negotiations is no deal. Many supporters of the deal that is now apparently on the table are arguing that there is no realistic alternative to this deal. That sort of thinking out loud empowers the Iranian negotiators to demand more and compromise less, because they believe—and have been told by American supporters of the deal—that the United States has no alternative but to agree to a deal that is acceptable to the Iranians.

A perfect example of this mindset was the Fareed Zakaria Show this past Sunday on CNN. He had a loaded panel of two experts and a journalist favoring the deal and one journalist opposed. This followed Zakaria’s opening essay in favor of the deal. All those in favor made the same point: that this deal is better than no deal, and that any new proposal—say to condition the sunset provision on Iran stopping the export of terrorism and threatening to destroy Israel—is likely to be rejected by Iran, and is therefore, by definition, “irrational” or “unproductive,” because it would result in no deal.

The upshot of this position is that Iran essentially gets a veto over any proposal, but the United States does not get to make new proposals. If it were true that this deal is better than no deal, it would follow that any proposed change in this deal that Iran doesn’t like is a non-starter.

That’s why Netanyahu’s reasonable proposal that the sunset provision be conditioned on changes in Iranian actions and words has been poo-pooed by the so called “experts.” They haven’t tried to respond on the merits. Instead they are satisfied to argue that Iran would never accept such conditions, and therefore the proposal should be rejected as a deal breaker.

This is the worst sort of negotiation strategy imaginable: telling the other side that any proposal that is not acceptable to them will be taken off the table, and that any leader who offers it will be attacked as a deal breaker. This approach—attacking Netanyahu without responding to his proposal on their merits—characterizes the approach of the administration and its supporters.

We will now never know whether Iran might have accepted a conditional sunset provision because the advocates of the current deal, both inside and outside the administration, have told Iran that if they reject this proposal, it will be withdrawn, because it endanger the deal. What incentive would the Iranians then have to consider this proposal on its merits? None!

The current mindset of the deal’s advocates is that the United States needs the deal more than the Iranians do. That is why the United States is constantly leaking reports that the Mullahs may be reluctant to sign even this one-sided deal which has shifted perceptibly in favor of the Iranian position over the past several months. But the truth is that Iran, which is suffering greatly from the combination of sanctions and dropping oil prices, needs this deal—a deal that would end sanctions and allow it unconditionally to develop nuclear weapons within ten years. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will accept it. They may push for even more compromises on the part of the United States. The reality is that we are in a far stronger negotiating positon that advocates of the deal have asserted, but we are negotiating from weakness because we have persuaded the Iranians that we need the deal—any deal—more than they do.

Most Israelis seem to be against the current deal, especially the unconditional sunset provision. Author David Grossman, a left-wing dove who is almost always critical of Netanyahu, has accused the United States of “criminal naiveté.” He opposes Netanyahu’s reelection but urges the world to listen to what Netanyahu told Congress.

“But what [Netanyahu] says about Iran and the destructive part it is playing in the Middle East cannot and should not be ignored,” Grossman said. “Netanyahu is right when he says that according to the emerging deal there is nothing to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb once the deal expires in another 10 years, and on this matter there is no difference in Israel between Left and Right.”

There are considerable differences, however, between the Obama administrations’ negotiating position and the views of most Israelis, Saudis, Emirates, Egyptians and Jordanians—as well as most members of our own Congress. We can get a better deal, but supporters of a deal must abandon their unhelpful public claims that the current deal is the best we can get.

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Poll: 84% of Americans oppose terms of Iran nuclear deal

Majority of US voters support using military action to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Fox News survey finds.

Netanyahu Congress Speech March 2015The Times of Israel (March 9) — The majority of Americans do not believe the Obama administration has been aggressive enough in its effort to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and overwhelmingly reject the terms outlined in the prospective deal it is pursuing with Tehran, a poll found recently.

According to a survey conducted ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to the US Congress, 57 percent of American voters asked said that the United States was not doing enough to stop Iran from advancing toward a nuclear bomb.

The poll, commissioned by Fox News, found 84% of voters thought it was a bad idea to allow the Iranians to obtain nuclear weapons in 10 years, in return for agreeing to freeze their program now.

Some 55% of the 1,011 polled said it would be a “disaster” if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, while 40% categorized it as “a problem that could be managed.”

Last week, Netanyahu delivered a speech to US lawmakers warning of the dangers posed by Tehran’s apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In his speech, Netanyahu called the emerging deal “very bad” and said it “paves the path” for Iran to get a bomb.

The poll found 56% of voters thought it was a good idea for House Speaker John Boehner to independently invite Netanyahu to Washington to address lawmakers without the approval of the White House, versus 27% who disagreed with the move. Fifty-five percent also agreed with the Israeli prime minister.

… Nearly two thirds of voters (65%) said they supported the US using military force if necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Some 41% thought the Obama administration “is not supportive enough” of Israel, while another 35% say the Washington’s support is “just right.”

Finally, a 59% majority said that Obama was a weak negotiator with foreign leaders, up from 54% from last year.

The poll was carried out by Republican and Democratic research groups and had a margin of error of three percentage points.

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Krauthammer: Netanyahu’s Churchillian warning

By Charles Krauthammer for the Washington Post (March 5):

Netanyahu Congress Speech March 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress was notable in two respects. Queen Esther got her first standing O in 2,500 years. And President Obama came up empty in his campaign to preemptively undermine Netanyahu before the Israeli prime minister could present his case on the Iran negotiations.

On the contrary. The steady stream of slights and insults turned an irritant into an international event and vastly increased the speech’s audience and reach. Instead of dramatically unveiling an Iranian nuclear deal as a fait accompli, Obama must now first defend his Iranian diplomacy.

In particular, argues The Post, he must defend its fundamental premise. It had been the policy of every president since 1979 that Islamist Iran must be sanctioned and contained. Obama, however, is betting instead on detente to tame Iran’s aggressive behavior and nuclear ambitions.

For six years, Obama has offered the mullahs an extended hand. He has imagined that with Kissingerian brilliance he would turn the Khamenei regime into a de facto U.S. ally in pacifying the Middle East. For his pains, Obama has been rewarded with an Iran that has ramped up its aggressiveness in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, and brazenly defied the world on uranium enrichment.

He did the same with Russia. He offered Vladimir Putin a new detente. “Reset,” he called it. Putin responded by decimating his domestic opposition, unleashing a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign, ravaging Ukraine and shaking the post-Cold War European order to its foundations.

Like the Bourbons, however, Obama learns nothing. He persists in believing that Iran’s radical Islamist regime can be turned by sweet reason and fine parchment into a force for stability. It’s akin to his refusal to face the true nature of the Islamic State, Iran’s Sunni counterpart. He simply can’t believe that such people actually believe what they say.

That’s what made Netanyahu’s critique of the U.S.-Iran deal so powerful. Especially his dissection of the sunset clause. In about 10 years, the deal expires. Sanctions are lifted and Iran is permitted unlimited uranium enrichment with an unlimited number of centrifuges of unlimited sophistication. As the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens points out, we don’t even allow that for democratic South Korea.

The prime minister offered a concrete alternative. Sunset? Yes, but only after Iran changes its behavior, giving up its regional aggression and worldwide support for terror.

Netanyahu’s veiled suggestion was that such a modification — plus a significant reduction in Iran’s current nuclear infrastructure, which the Obama deal leaves intact — could produce a deal that “Israel and its [Arab] neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally.”

Obama’s petulant response was: “The prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.” But he just did: conditional sunset, smaller infrastructure. And if the Iranians walk away, then you ratchet up sanctions, as Congress is urging, which, with collapsed oil prices, would render the regime extremely vulnerable.

And if that doesn’t work? Hence Netanyahu’s final point: Israel is prepared to stand alone, a declaration that was met with enthusiastic applause reflecting widespread popular support.

It was an important moment, especially because of the libel being perpetrated by some that Netanyahu is trying to get America to go to war with Iran. This is as malicious a calumny as Charles Lindbergh’s charge on Sept. 11, 1941, that “the three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”

In its near-70 year history, Israel has never once asked America to fight for it. Not in 1948 when 650,000 Jews faced 40 million Arabs. Not in 1967 when Israel was being encircled and strangled by three Arab armies. Not in 1973 when Israel was on the brink of destruction. Not in the three Gaza wars or the two Lebanon wars.

Compare that to a very partial list of nations for which America has fought and for which so many Americans have fallen: Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Vietnam, Korea, and every West European country beginning with France (twice).

Change the deal, strengthen the sanctions, give Israel a free hand. Netanyahu offered a different path in his clear, bold and often moving address, Churchillian in its appeal to resist appeasement. This was not Churchill of the 1940s, but Churchill of the 1930s, the wilderness prophet. Which is why for all its sonorous strength, Netanyahu’s speech had a terrible poignancy. After all, Churchill was ignored.

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A Problem of Nuclear Proportions

Arak_Heavy_Water4-300x215By Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror, former Israeli National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council, served 36 years in senior IDF posts.

 

BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University (March 1):

  • Almost every intelligence agency interprets the Iranians’ unrelenting efforts in the same way: to obtain nuclear arms. There is no other way to explain the herculean efforts they have been engaged in for so many years. We must not allow Iran to receive legitimacy for its preparations to possess nuclear arms, in exchange for buying an insignificant amount of time. The price is too high. There is no chance to restore pressure on Iran once it is stopped. The sanctions will not be applied once more if Iran should renege on the agreement. Therefore, the chances that Iran will renege on the agreement are great.
  • Even without using nuclear arms against Israel, a nuclear Iran will make the Middle East a much more dangerous place. One way is the significance of Iran’s “nuclear umbrella” over the leadership of terrorist groups and hostile countries. It is obvious that Hizbullah would thrive in such a situation, while Israel would not be able to respond or prevent it from acting even when it felt threatened. Under this umbrella the terrorist groups could grow far more dangerous and act against Israel around its borders and throughout the world. The Iranians and their allies have planned dozens of acts of global terrorism in recent years.
  • Iran would become the leading regional superpower and grow extremely strong once it succeeded in getting U.S. permission to become a nuclear threshold state. The stronger Iran becomes, the more anyone who dreams of seeing the Middle East moving away from totalitarianism and toward democracy can forget about it.
  • But beyond that, the important Sunni states in the Middle East will act to protect themselves. They will lose all trust in the U.S., which surrendered to Iran’s trickery in the talks, and will act to obtain nuclear arms for themselves. These countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, and perhaps others, will never agree to go on without nuclear capability when the leading Shiite state possesses it.
  • The Iranians realized that even though the American president said all options were on the table and even built a credible military option, the U.S. had no desire to use that option, no matter what. The absence of a stick in the negotiating room lifted a great deal of pressure off the Iranians.
  • The second Iranian realization came after a statement from a White House spokesperson that an agreement with Iran would be the president’s greatest success during his term. Together with the superpowers’ acceptance of Iran’s main demands regarding the continued existence of their enrichment capability, that statement led the Iranians to conclude that the U.S. wanted an agreement more than Iran and contributed to Iran’s near-uncompromising stance.
  • At the end of the day, Israel must make it clear it has not signed the agreement and is not bound by it. In the future, Israel must formulate its policy on the basis that “a bad agreement is worse than no agreement,” “all options are on the table” and “Israel must protect itself on its own.”

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Dershowitz: The White House must respond to Netanyahu’s important new proposal

US President walking into the White House. (photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)

US President walking into the White House. (photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)

The Jerusalem Post (March 4) — I was in the House gallery when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a logical and compelling critique of the deal now on the table regarding Iran’s ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons.  He laid out a new fact-based proposal that has shifted the burden of persuasion to the White House.

His new proposal is that “If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.”  His argument is that without such a precondition, the ten-year sunset provision paves, rather than blocks, the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal, even if Iran were to continue to export terrorism, to bully nations in the region and to call for the extermination of Israel.

With logic that seems unassailable, Netanyahu has said that the alternative to this bad deal is not war, but rather “a better deal that Israel and its neighbors might not like, but which we could live with, literally.”  Netanyahu then outlined his condition for a better deal:  namely that before the sun is allowed to set on prohibiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the mullahs must first meet three conditions:  stop exporting terrorism, stop intruding in the affairs of other countries, and stop threatening the existence of Israel.

If the mullahs reject these three reasonable conditions, it will demonstrate that they have no real interest in joining the international community and abiding by its rules.  If they accept these conditions, then the sunset provision will not kick in automatically but will require that Iran demonstrate a willingness to play by the rules, before the rules allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

Instead of attacking the messenger, as the White House has done, the Administration now has an obligation to engage with Netanyahu in the marketplace of ideas, rather than in a cacophony of name-calling, and to respond to Netanyahu’s argument on its merit.  There may be persuasive responses, but we have not yet heard them.

The decision to accept or reject a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program may be the most important foreign policy issue of the 21st Century.  Many members of Congress, perhaps most, agree with the Prime Minister of Israel, rather than with the President of the United States on this issue.  Under our system of separation of powers, Congress is a fully co-equal branch of the government, and no major decision of the kind involved in this deal should be made over its opposition.   Perhaps the President can persuade Congress to support this deal, but it must engage with, rather than ignore, our duly elected representatives of the people.

The Administration and its supporters, particularly those who boycotted the Prime Minister’s speech, focus on the so-called lack of protocol by which Netanyahu was invited by the Speaker of the House.  Imagine, however, the same protocol for a speaker who favored rather than opposed the current deal.  The White House and its supporters would be welcoming a Prime Minister who supported the President’s deal, as they did British Prime Minister David Cameron, when he was sent in to lobby the Senate in favor of the Administration’s position.  So the protocol issue is largely a pretext.  The Administration is upset more by the content of Netanyahu’s speech than by the manner in which he received the invitation.

This is too important an issue to get sidetracked by the formalities of protocol.  The speech has now been given.  It was a balanced speech that included praise for the President, for the Democrats, for Congress and for the American people.  Prime Minister Netanyahu was at his diplomatic best.  In my view, he was also at his substantive best in laying out the case against the Administration’s negotiating position with regard to Iran, especially the unconditional sunset provision.

The Administration must now answer one fundamental question:  why would you allow the Iranian regime to develop nuclear weapons in ten years, if at that time they were still exporting terrorism, bullying their Arab neighbors and threatening to exterminate Israel?  Why not, at the very least, condition any “sunset” provision on a change in the actions of this criminal regime?  The answer may be that we can’t get them to agree to this condition.  If that is the case then this is indeed a bad deal that is worse than no deal.  It would be far better to increase economic sanctions and other pressures, rather than to end them in exchange for a mere postponement of Iran obtaining a nuclear arsenal.

There may be better answers, but the ball is now in Obama’s court to provide them, rather than to avoid answering Netanyahu’s reasonable questions by irrelevant answers about “protocol” and personal attacks on the messenger.  Israel deserves better.  The world deserves better.  The American people deserve better.  And Congress deserves better.

An unconditional sunset provision is an invitation to an Iran that continues to export terrorism, bully neighbors and threaten Israel—but with a nuclear arsenal to terrorize the entire world.  This would be “a game changer”, to quote President Obama’s words from several years ago, when he promised that he would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.  Suddenly, “never” has become “soon.”  Congress should insist that any provision allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons after ten years must at the very least be conditioned on a significant change of behavior by the world’s most dangerous regime.

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Video & Transcript: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Full Speech To Congress

Netanyahu to Congress: Emerging deal would lead to a nuclear Iran and inevitable war

Netanyahu Congress Speech March 2015Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the US Congress on Tuesday, saying that the current deal being formulated by the P5+1 group of world powers and Tehran would inevitably lead to a nuclear Iran and war.

The US has said over the past year that no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal, Netanyahu told the assembled American lawmakers.”Well this is a bad deal. A very bad deal.”

Netanyahu said that the alternative to this deal was not war, as some have posited, “but a better deal.”

“The days of the Jewish people remaining passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over!” Netanyahu said to rousing applause.

The Israeli leader said that the Western powers’ emerging deal with Iran would all but guarantee that Tehran gets nuclear weapons.

Any deal would include concessions that would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, he said. “Not a single nuclear facility would be demolished,” according to the terms of the deal, Netanyahu added.

Their breakout time would be a year by US assessments and even shorter by Israeli assessments, he said.

He said that nuclear inspectors in North Korea had not been able to stop Pyongyang from getting nuclear weapons and they would not be able to stop Tehran either.

Netanyahu said that sanctions against Iran should not be lifted until Tehran stops aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East, stops supporting terrorism around the world and stops threatening to annihilate Israel, “the one and only Jewish state.”

He recalled the story of Purim in which Persians tried to wipe out the Jews, saying that the people were saved by Esther speaking out.

Today, Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is trying to wipe out the Jews, he said. “He spews the worst kind of anti-Semitic hatred. He tweets that Israel must be destroyed.”

He rejected Iran’s claim that it opposes Israel only, and not Jews, by quoting Iranian ally, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah: “‘If all Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the problem of chasing them around the world.'”

“We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest subjugation and terror,” Netanyahu said to applause.

He rejected the notion that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a moderate, saying that the regime is as extremist as ever.

“The ideology of Iran’s regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam and therefore it will always be an enemy of the US. The fact that Iran and the US have a common enemy in Islamic State doesn’t make Iran a friend of America,” he said.

“To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle and lose the war,” he said. “We can’t let that happen.”

Netanyahu said he regretted that some saw his visit to Washington as political. “That was never my intention,” the prime minister said.

“I know that no matter what side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel,” Netanyahu said to applause.

He said that the US-Israel alliance must remain above politics. The prime minister said that he had called US President Barack Obama a number of times in Israel’s hour of need, and he had obliged. He thanked the US president for all of the support he had provided Israel.

“This Capitol dome helped build our Iron Dome,” Netanyahu said.

 

Full video of the speech:

YouTube Preview Image

Click here for the complete transcript of the speech.

Krauthammer: The fatal flaw in the Iran deal

Charles Krauthammer is right on the money as usual.

The Washington Post (Feb 27) — A sunset clause?

Nic6421546-1410The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the elements of a “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would reenter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview in December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations.

Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.

Such an agreement also means the end of nonproliferation. When a rogue state defies the world, continues illegal enrichment and then gets the world to bless an eventual unrestricted industrial-level enrichment program, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is dead. And regional hyperproliferation becomes inevitable as Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others seek shelter in going nuclear themselves.

Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium.

Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table in the first place. And that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. That’s the opening. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point — no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

That’s the carrot. As for the stick, make it quietly known that the United States will not stand in the way of any threatened nation that takes things into its own hands. We leave the regional threat to the regional powers, say, Israeli bombers overflying Saudi Arabia.

Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program.

Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind.

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Dershowitz: The appalling talk of boycotting Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses US Congress in 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses US Congress in 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (Feb 28) — As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for US President Barack Obama, I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 to a joint session of Congress.

At bottom, this controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics – it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers. Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies, and the threat of nuclear proliferation.

Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people.

Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.

Recall that Obama sent British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby Congress with phone calls last month against conditionally imposing new sanctions on Iran if the deal were to fail. What the president objects to is not that Netanyahu will speak to Congress, but the content of what he intends to say.

This constitutes a direct intrusion on the power of Congress and on the constitutional separation of powers.

Not only should all members of Congress attend Netanyahu’s speech, but Obama – as a constitutional scholar – should urge members of Congress to do their constitutional duty of listening to opposing views in order to check and balance the policies of the administration.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu or Netanyahu’s decision to accept, no legal scholar can dispute that Congress has the power to act independently of the president in matters of foreign policy. Whether any deal with Iran would technically constitute a treaty requiring Senate confirmation, it is certainly treaty-like in its impact.

Moreover, the president can’t implement the deal without some action or inaction by Congress.

Congress also has a role in implementing the president’s promise – made on behalf of the American nation as a whole – that Iran will never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

That promise seems to be in the process of being broken, as reports in the media and Congress circulate that the deal on the table contains a sunset provision that would allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons after a certain number of years.

Once it became clear that Iran will eventually be permitted to become a nuclear-weapon power, it has already become such a power for practical purposes.

The Saudis and the Arab emirates will not wait until Iran turns the last screw on its nuclear bomb. As soon as this deal is struck, with its sunset provision, these countries would begin to develop their own nuclear-weapon programs, as would other countries in the region. If Congress thinks this is a bad deal, it has the responsibility to act.

Another reason members of Congress should not boycott Netanyahu’s speech is that support for Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. The decision by some members to boycott Israel’s prime minister endangers this bipartisan support.

This will not only hurt Israel, but will also endanger support for Democrats among pro-Israel voters. I certainly would never vote for or support a member of Congress who walked out on Israel’s prime minister.

One should walk out on tyrants, bigots, and radical extremists, as the United States did when Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and called for Israel’s destruction at the United Nations. To use such an extreme tactic against our closest ally, and the Middle East’s only vibrant democracy, is not only to insult Israel’s prime minister, but to put Israel in a category in which it does not belong.

So let members of Congress who disagree with the prime minister’s decision to accept Boehner’s invitation express that disagreement privately and even publicly, but let them not walk out on a speech from which they may learn a great deal and which may help them prevent the president from making a disastrous foreign- policy mistake.

Inviting a prime minister of an ally to educate Congress about a pressing foreign-policy decision is in the highest tradition of our democratic system of separation of powers and checks and balances.

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Iran Opposition Unveils Secret Tehran Uranium Enrichment Site

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, shows satellite photos during a press conference at the National Press Club February 24, 2015, in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, shows satellite photos during a press conference at the National Press Club February 24, 2015, in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Washington (AFP) – An exiled Iranian opposition group Tuesday accused Tehran of running a “secret” uranium enrichment site close to Tehran, which it said violated ongoing talks with global powers on a nuclear deal.

“Despite the Iranian regime’s claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent … it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

He said the site was hidden in a military base in the northeastern suburbs of Tehran.

He presented to reporters a series of satellite images drawn from Google Maps which he said backed “this intelligence from highly placed sources within the Iranian regime as well as those involved in the nuclear weapons projects.”

The Lavizan-3 site was apparently constructed between 2004 and 2008 and has underground labs connected by a tunnel.

“Since 2008, the Iranian regime has secretly engaged in research and uranium enrichment with advanced… centrifuge machines at this site,” Jafarzadeh said.

The group had shared its information with the US administration, he added.

The existence of the site was “a clear violation” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as UN resolutions and an interim November 2013 deal struck with global powers gathered in the P5+1 group, he said.

Under the interim accord, Iran agreed not to allow “any new locations for enrichment” and to provide IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, all information about its nuclear facilities.

“It is absolutely senseless to continue the negotiations,” added Jafarzadeh.

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Verdict against Palestinian Authority could spell trouble for Abbas at ICC

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a ceremony in Ramallah. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a ceremony in Ramallah. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (Feb 24) — One cannot underestimate the impact of the $655.5 million US terrorism trial verdict against the Palestinian Authority on its hopes to convince the International Criminal Court prosecutor to indict Israeli soldiers and leaders for alleged war crimes in last summer’s Gaza war.

Whether the ICC intervenes is viewed as an open question, and the overall diplomatic and legal situation could have a big impact.

On one hand the ICC is not (yet) viewed as unabashedly biased against Israel like many UN organizations, such as the UN Human Rights Council, UNRWA and the UN General Assembly.

It is viewed as far more legal-professional in its approach and less automatically controllable by the nonaligned movement of Muslim states and other third-world countries, who regularly vote against Israel.

… Why would a US ruling on whether the PA was involved in terrorism in 2004, matter in 2015? Because until now, despite Israeli allegations of Yasser Arafat’s involvement in the second intifada violence, the PA has said Hamas performed all the terrorism and that it has been clean since the mid-1990s Oslo Accords.

If it emerges in the verdict that the PA was involved in terrorism from the top down, suddenly the PA is not coming with clean hands, but with hands awash in the war crimes that it accuses Israel of.

If the ICC prosecutor is on the fence, a major decision like this – and maybe more like it following – could push the narrative far enough in Israel’s favor that the prosecutor could be concerned about being viewed as having indirectly assisted terrorists.

Israel or Israel-supporters could even try to use the US decision, though it is a civil damages case, to push the ICC to intervene against the PA, dating back to the second intifada.

Until now, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had no personal risk going to the ICC, as the Gaza war at most, put Israel and Hamas at risk.

Investigating the second intifada could put him and his inner circle at legal risk – producing a situation where the ICC would be reliant on Abbas providing evidence against Israel, which in turn could present equally damaging testimony against him.

Though this is only one verdict and one bad day for the PA, which it may successfully brush off, Israel and its supporters have already made good on the threat that the PA’s use of “lawfare” could boomerang in unpredictable ways.

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