- Experts: WH rejecting compromise on Senate concerns over Iran
- Israeli economic delegation to attend UAE energy forum amid deepening Israeli-Arab economic and military ties
- E.U. criticism of Israel draws renewed scrutiny amid back-and-forth over settlements
- New House legislation would tie Palestinian aid to ending anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement
- The White House yesterday released parts of the text detailing how the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) between the global P5+1 powers and Iran is to be implemented, after lawmakers and analysts spent the better part of a week expressing disbelief that the critical document would be withheld from public scrutiny and evaluation. Members of Congress were provided with the full nine-page text and a shorter summary was released publicly. At least one senior Senate staffer expressed skepticism that the White House's disclosures would remove worries, driven in no small part by boasts from top Iranian officials, that details of the agreement favorable to the Islamic republic were being withheld. The Los Angeles Times, which quoted the staffer, noted that related doubts are driving a legislative battle over a Senate bill that would lock in future sanctions on Iran should comprehensive negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program fail. The White House has bitterly fought the legislation, first by asserting that it would drain bilateral good will necessary for negotiations - a suggestion that has grown increasingly tenuous in light of Iranian behavior - and more recently by criticizing specific conditions that the legislation would set on any comprehensive deal. Among those are the requirement that Iran dismantle its "illicit nuclear infrastructure." Administration supporters have tried to characterize the condition as an unrealistic demand for a full halt on enrichment, a reading rejected by the bill's writers, who point out that use of "illicit" is precisely designed to provide wiggle room on the issue. The Times quoted David Albright, the head of the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security, emphasizing that "there's no language that says a centrifuge is prohibited or allowed" precisely because senators sought to craft language "in a bipartisan way." Albright also assessed, per the Times, that 'the Senate and White House could still negotiate a final version of the bill that would allay the administration’s concerns' but that 'the White House seems uninterested' in striking a bargain.
- Reuters reported yesterday that Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom will attend the Jan. 20-22 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, the latest in what is becoming a steady stream of evidence signaling warming ties between Jerusalem and traditional U.S. allies in the Arab world. The visit will mark the first official Israeli delegation since 2010 to the United Arab Emirates, a Gulf country whose leaders have become increasingly vocal in calling attention to Iranian territorial claims throughout the Gulf. The news comes alongside analysis published today by Washington Institute fellow Ehud Yaari describing how shared risks from Hamas and Sinai jihadists have created an environment in which the "level of coordination and exchange of information [between Israel and Egypt] is at an all-time high, and top commanders from both countries are now in almost daily communication." Deepening cooperation between Israel and Arab countries has been taken as part and parcel of a broader dynamic that has seen the solidification of three regional Middle East blocs. Alongside a camp made up of Israel and the U.S.'s Arab allies, there has been an increasingly explicit emphasis on a transnational "resistance" bloc anchored by Iran, while a third camp of relatively extreme Sunni entities - Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, various jihadist groups - has mostly opposed but opportunistically cooperated with the other two blocs. Analysts are divided over how the U.S. can navigate the emerging geopolitical reality. Repeated gambles on using Turkey to mediate U.S. interests in the regional have floundered, and Washington has at times seemed to proactively distance itself from security cooperation with its Arab allies. Recent weeks have seen growing criticism that the result is a de facto U.S. alignment with Iranian interests and moves.
- Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman yesterday summoned ambassadors from European powers to rebuke them for what he described as "one-sided" policies against the Jewish state, potentially renewing long-simmering controversies over the E.U.'s efforts to balance even-handed diplomacy in the Middle East with what even European leaders acknowledge is a diplomatic double-standard applied to Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed the evaluation in a talk with journalists, blasting in particular European Union silence regarding Palestinian incitement. The moves came a day after Israeli ambassadors in several European countries were summoned to receive lectures on Israeli construction beyond the Jewish state's 1949 armistice lines. European leaders insist that the vociferous criticism they often aim at Israel is grounded in concerns over Israeli settlement policies, an explanation that observers - including a group of European and global leaders drawn from political, military, intellectual, and activist circles - have evaluated as a pretext for "discriminatory polic[ies] directed exclusively against Israel." Analysts have in particular pointed to fairly explicit contradictions in the E.U.'s stances toward Israeli universities vs. Northern Cypriot universities and, more recently, to the difficulty that the E.U. faces in explaining away a recent Western Sahara fishing rights deal involving Morocco.
- New House legislation proposed by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would make $400 million in annual U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) contingent upon the President certifying that the PA among other things "no longer engages in a pattern of incitement against the United States or Israel." Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced the legislation - which comes amid concentrated efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to secure a U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement - and in a statement declared that, as part of those peace efforts, Congress will "make it clear to the Palestinian Authority that continuing anti-Israel incitement to violence through PA-controlled media outlets must cease." U.S. and Israeli diplomats have become increasingly emphatic in criticizing Palestinian leaders for engaging in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement, and a spike in recent violence has been linked in part to speeches honoring terrorists and exhortations toward violence. This week an official PA television program broadcast a song calling on viewers to "pull the trigger" to "redeem Jerusalem." Also in recent days, PA President Mahmoud Abbas was filmed sitting and applauding as Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash called on Palestinians to engage in a "jihad in Jerusalem." Abbas himself had only days ago given a fiery speech rejecting Israel's legitimacy as the nation-state of the Jewish people and holding out the promise of Palestinian refugees and their descendants flooding across Israel's borders.
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