Podcasts/Interviews/Briefing calls on the 2015 Escalation

In recent weeks, an upsurge in violence in Jerusalem has brought the embattled city back into the headlines. According to Danny Seidemann, founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem and one of the leading experts on the city, this violence, boiling at a level unseen in Jerusalem since 1967, actually began over a year ago, and it is not just another spoke in the “cycle of violence.”

“Usually there’s a tendency to overstate the instability of Jerusalem,” Seidemann said at a meeting of journalists and analysts in Washington this week. “But Jerusalem is normally a far more stable city than its reputation. What we are seeing now are significant developments that go well beyond tomorrow’s headlines.”

Seidemann described a dangerous confluence of factors, with the political stalemate creating an atmosphere of despair in which the conflict, which has always been political, will finally become the religious conflict that many have believed, until now incorrectly, that it is. The current conflict centered on the Temple Mount is only the tip of the iceberg. According to Seidemann, “The entire fabric of this conflict has changed.”

“The fighting over the Temple Mount indicates the establishment of a biblical narrative which is already fanning the flames of a religious conflict,” Seidemann said. “It is planting the seeds of the transformation of a political conflict, which can be solved, into a religious conflict which cannot be solved. We are seeing the ascendancy of those faith communities that weaponize faith. We are seeing the marginalization of traditional religious bodies who understand that Jerusalem is best served by the faiths working together.

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Efraim Halevey in Yedioth: Shifting Responsibility

Shifting Responsibility

Oped by Efraim Halevy

Published August 6, 2015 in Yedioth Ahronoth, p. 28 (Hebrew edition), translation by Israel News Today (INT)

The question that has been in the air ever since Prime Minister Netanyahu began his efforts to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran has been answered: if the US drops out of the agreement, the agreement will be completely canceled. This means that Iran will be free to resume its nuclear activity—the installation in Arak, for example, which is supposed to be completely neutralized according to the agreement, will resume its plutonium track in tandem with its enrichment track. Moreover, the international sanctions regime will collapse and only the US will continue to impose them while Russia and China will resume supplying weapons to Iran full steam and Moscow will again be able to help build the Iranian anti-missile systems as it did in the past. This will be the immediate and tangible cost. And there will be more to come.

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Members of Congress in Support of the Iran Deal

This page features statements -- links and excerpts -- from members of the Senate and the House of Representatives in formal support of the Iran nuclear deal, starting with the latest statements. (Last update: September 17, 11:02am, EST)

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Recommended Reading on the Iran Deal

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Dmitry Shumsky in Haaretz: How BDS is actually perpetuating the occupation

By obscuring the uniqueness of the Israeli colonialist regime, BDS is giving Israel an escape hatch; instead, boycott movement must focus on occupation and settlements, stop blurring lines between Israel and Territories.

If the BDS movement didn’t exist, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of occupation and settlement would have had to invent it. For contrary to the popular notion in Israel, on the international scene BDS is serving as one of the most effective factors in perpetuating the Palestinians’ national enslavement.

Both the boycott movement and the present Israeli government – as made clear in Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s fundamentalist speech to Israeli diplomats – are striving to imprint in international consciousness the inherent identification between the State of Israel and the Israeli military regime in the occupied territories, a single organic Israeli unit. Put another way: There is basic consent between the BDS movement and the Israeli government regarding the conception of the geopolitical space between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, as a single state called Israel.

The dispute between the boycott movement and the occupation and settlement government has to do with the moral character of that single “Israel” between the river and the sea. While BDS describes it as a criminal colonialist entity whose international legitimacy is in doubt, the Israeli government sees it as a legitimate partner in the family of nations that gives just expression to the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

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NSC Press Office: Interview of the President by Israeli Channel 2's Ilana Dayan

obama_bp_oval_office_320x265Q: Mr. President, thank you so much for having us at the White House.

THE PRESIDENT: Wonderful to have you here.

Q: Here’s what you said just a few years ago: “I had the impression that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not interested in just occupying a space, but is interested in being a statesman and putting his country on a more secure track.” And even -- also, you said, “I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace.” Would you repeat those very same words today?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s always difficult to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. And I think Prime Minister Netanyahu -- I’ve gotten to know and worked with since almost the beginning of my presidency -- is somebody who loves Israel deeply. I think he cares about the security of the Israeli people. I think he recognizes the history of hostility and anti-Semitism that makes it very important to him and his place in history to preserve Israel’s security. And I respect all that.

I think that he also is someone who has been skeptical about the capacity of Israelis and Palestinians to come together on behalf of peace. I think that he is also a politician who’s concerned about keeping coalitions together and maintaining his office.

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In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.

On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.

“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

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Mitchell Plitnick on LobeLog: Elliott Abrams’ Shell Game on Settlements

The shell game is a tried-and-true method of persuading people to give their money to the person running the game. In political terms, it’s also a reliable method of persuading people to buy into the political stance of the man running the game.

Elliott Abrams is a master of the shell game. He provides what seems like a serious and sober analysis, with just enough cherry-picking of facts and omission of detail to convince you of his point of view. That is a big reason why this man, who is responsible for some of the greatest foreign policy fiascos in American history, continues to be considered a legitimate source for foreign policy analysis.

Perhaps it’s not surprising. Despite the enormous catastrophes brought on by the neoconservative school of thought of which Abrams is a part, the philosophy, such as it is, continues to be an influential voice in the foreign policy debate in the United States. This is, however, even more reason to look at an apparent change of course from Abrams with a skeptical eye.

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Ernest Moniz in The Washington Post: A nuclear deal that offers a safer world

Ernest Moniz is U.S. energy secretary.

The recent announcement of the Lausanne framework concerning Iran’s nuclear program has stimulated a lively public and political debate. This is an important discussion that the nation deserves to have, and it must be informed by clarity on the specifics of the negotiated technical parameters for a final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

I joined Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s negotiating team in late February, but throughout the negotiations, leading nuclear experts at the Energy Department and its national labs have been involved in the careful development and thorough evaluation of the technical proposals to help define U.S. positions.

As a result, the key parameters for the agreement that was announced April 2 in Switzerland provide a technically sound path for certifying Iran’s nuclear program as peaceful, quickly determining if it is not and providing the breathing room needed to respond appropriately.

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