Group Tied To Al-Qaida Says It Fired On Eilat

A jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaida claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat.

An airplane of the Arkia airline takes off from the airport in the Southern Israeli city of Eilat.  Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90

An airplane of the Arkia airline takes off from the airport in the Southern Israeli city of Eilat.
Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90

The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted the rocket fired early Tuesday morning by the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, which operates in Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, from the Sinai near the Israel border.

The Iron Dome battery was moved to the Eilat area about a month ago.

The Mujahideen Shura Council in its statement claiming responsibility said the attack was carried out to avenge the deaths of four jihadi terrorists on Friday in a drone attack in the Sinai. The attack was blamed on Israel, though Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.

“Eilat and other Jewish towns will not be enjoying security, tourism or economy. Jews will pay for the blood of the jihad fighters,” the statement said.

Israeli authorities late last week ordered the closure of the Eilat airport for several hours following a warning from Egyptian security services about a possible attack, according to reports.

Hotels in Eilat, a major tourist destination for Israelis and Europeans, are nearly filled at this time of year.

 

A Kidney For Harry

081613_kidneyThree-and-a-half years ago, all was right in the world with Harry Burstyn. He had a good job, a great wife and two children.

Then he thought he had kidney stones. There were complications, and he now finds himself, at 49, in kidney failure, receiving four to five hours of dialysis three days a week and in desperate need of a transplant. His kidney currently functions at 10 percent or less of what it should.

“It was totally unexpected,” the lifelong Baltimore resident said.

A day-long medical evaluation confirmed he would be placed on a nationwide transplant list. That may sound like good news, but the doctor then looked at him and said, “Check back in five to eight years. We may have a donor for you,” Burstyn recalled.

He quickly realized he needed to be proactive, so the medical and insurance salesman went to work finding his own donor after learning his wife would not be a good candidate. He set up a Facebook page, Kidney for Harry, and started handing out flyers about himself at area blood drives.

He is on the transplant list at three hospitals, but each of these hospitals will only evaluate one person at a time, so should Burstyn find someone interested in donating, that person often has to wait several weeks just to learn whether or not he or she is eligible.

Eligibility revolves around the health of the potential donor. Matching blood type is not essential, and if the donor is approved, that kidney can go to anyone on the transplant list and a different kidney would go to Burstyn. It’s called a chain, he said.

“As we all know, life isn’t always the way we planned it,” said Burstyn, a member of Ner Tamid Congregation. But he is optimistic.

“There are a lot of good people in this world,” he said.

To find out how to help, go to the Facebook page, Kidney for Harry, or email him at kidneyforharry@gmail.com.

Despite Netanyahu’s Pleas, Top House Dems Open To Testing Iran’s New Leader

In increasingly strident tones, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been telling his American friends that the purported moderation of Iran’s new president is a ploy aimed at relieving international pressure and buying the Islamic Republic more time to cross the nuclear threshold.

But in ways both subtle and direct, some of those friends — among them some of Israel’s closest allies in Washington — are saying that maybe Hassan Rohani is worth hearing out.

That was the message delivered this week by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, while leading a tour of Israel for 36 fellow House Democrats.

“We have a new [Iranian] president,” Hoyer told JTA from Israel, where the stalwart supporter of the Jewish state was on his 13th tour as a congressman. “It makes sense for the [Obama] administration to test the sincerity, willingness and ability of the new president to accomplish the objective of assuring the West and Israel and the U.N. what the Iranians are not doing, and will reverse what they already have done, toward a nuclear capability.”

The divergence represents a rare public gap on a crucial security issue between pro-Israel lawmakers and Netanyahu, who in a succession of meetings this month with congressional delegations to Israel has lobbied hard to persuade American leaders to ignore Rohani’s overtures.

“I know that some place their hopes on Iran’s new president,” Netanyahu told a delegation on Wednesday led by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). “He knows how to exploit this, and yesterday he called for more talks.

“Of course he wants more talks. He wants to talk and talk and talk. And while everybody is busy talking to him, he’ll be busy enriching uranium. The centrifuges will keep on spinning.”

In his first news conference as president, Rohani said Iran wants to improve its relations with the United States and intimated he was prepared to increase transparency of his country’s nuclear program, which he insists is peaceful but which Western intelligence agencies believe is aimed at producing weapons.

Iran “will defend its people’s rights and at the same time will remove the concerns of the other party,” Rohani said. “If we feel that the Americans are truly serious about resolving problems, Iran is serious in its will to resolve problems and dismiss worries.”

Netanyahu dismisses such talk as a sham, but the Democratic leadership in the House doesn’t appear to agree.

An official in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, said her thinking on Iran was consistent with Hoyer’s, pointing to a floor speech July 31 when she joined the overwhelming majority of the House in voting to stiffen sanctions against Iran.

Though she backed new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Pelosi also welcomed Rohani’s openness to talks aimed at ending the nuclear standoff.

“Let’s do it diplomatically. Let’s do it with economic sanctions. Let’s do it by encouraging dialogue, engagement and the rest,” she said. “But let’s do that engagement from strength.”

Like Pelosi, Hoyer backs both increased economic pressure and an openness to talks — a position he said is not inconsistent with Netanyahu’s tough line. Nor is a letter signed by 131 House members urging President Obama to test Rohani’s offer, Hoyer said.

“The letter and the actions of the House of Representatives are consistent with what the prime minister has said,” said Hoyer, who did not sign the letter. “Words are cheap, talk is cheap and let’s see what the walk is.”

For Netanyahu and some in the pro-Israel community like Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N .Y.), the clock has run out on that approach.

In July, Netanyahu told the news program “Face the Nation” that Iran was “within a few weeks” of crossing the red line — a boundary the prime minister defined as possessing 250 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium — and vowed it would not be permitted to do so.

“If this were three years ago, I would have said, we have a couple of months to lose, OK,” said Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Now, while Iran is playing out the clock spinning centrifuges, pretending Rohani is a moderate and stepping back, thinking we might be pleasantly surprised — we would not be pleasantly surprised. We would be three months closer to Iran having a nuclear weapon.”

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in his July 31 floor speech backing the intensified sanctions also suggested there was no point in waiting out Rohani.

“Considering that Iran continues to flagrantly violate numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the suspension of its nuclear enrichment program while denying inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites, it is clear that Iran has negotiated again and again in bad faith,” he said.

“America’s policies must be based on facts and not some hope about a new government in Iran that will somehow change the nature of the clerical regime in Tehran. We must respond to Iran’s policies and behavior, not to its rhetoric.”

Nevertheless, the letter urging Obama to test Rohani — spearheaded by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) — appears to have had an impact. Its signatories include 18 Republicans, most of them from the party’s mainstream. Dent is on three subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. Also included were pro-Israel stalwarts Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).

The following week, J Street and Americans for Peace Now urged senators to join a similar letter to Obama initiated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The letter has yet to be sent — a sign that Feinstein may be having a hard time finding signatories.

A separate and tougher letter to Obama backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and initiated by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, garnered 76 signers. The Menendez letter, sent Aug. 2, emphasized intensified sanctions and urged that Iran be threatened with military engagement.

But in a sign of how the “test Rohani” message is gaining traction, the AIPAC-backed letter notes Rohani’s offer to engage and counsels “a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations.”

Obama appears to have embraced the message, although in carefully restrained tones. After Rohani’s inauguration, the White House issued a statement praising Iranian voters, not Rohani. It was issued by the White House, not by Obama.

“The inauguration of President Rohani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program,” the statement said. “Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States.”

 Ron Kampeas writes for JTA Wire Service.

Record Summer of North American Olim Volunteering to Enlist in IDF

Nefesh B'Nefesh - 08.13.2013This summer’s second charter Aliyah flight from the USA took off today, Monday, August 12th, bringing some 331 new Olim to Israel – including 125 young men and women who will be joining the IDF. The special Nefesh B’Nefesh flight was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, Tzofim Garin Tzabar. Today’s Olim are American, Canadian and British Jews.

Also on board the jubilee charter flight are 41 families, including 88 children. The passenger list also included 92 Olim moving to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel Go North and Go South programs.

 

Jewish Federations Participate in Peace Process Briefing at the White House

The Jewish Federations were invited to participate in a small gathering of top Jewish communal leaders at the White House on August 8. At the meeting, the group was briefed for approximately 90 minutes by Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Special Envoy Martin Indyk on the status of resumed Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. The Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees Chair Michael Siegal, who attended the meeting, issued the following statement:

“Secretary Kerry reaffirmed his and the President’s commitment, optimism and realistic approach to guiding the peace process forward. The meeting had a seriousness of purpose, and a hopeful tone that something of value can be accomplished. We recognize that the course ahead will be challenging, but there is an opportunity today that cannot be missed. Jewish Federations applaud Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Rice, and Ambassador Indyk for their hard work and wish them success.”

 

Arab Idol’s Residency Is More Than Just An Address

Celebrities around the world frequently change their place of residence for reasons much less compelling than meeting the needs of their career. But when the celebrity in question is leaving the Gaza Strip for the West Bank, unimagined complications emerge, as the newest Palestinian superstar is finding out.

Israel, which controls the movement of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, has just announced that it has given approval for Mohammed Assaf, winner of the Arab world’s franchise of the international “Idol” television phenomenon, and his family, to change their residency from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Assaf, for whom travel will now play a large part in his life, will no longer require the Palestinian Civil Administration to ask for Israel’s permission for the singer to leave Gaza.

As a part of the contract he signed upon winning Idol, Assaf’s actual residence will be in Dubai. But according to his aides in Ramallah, he will always want to come back to the Palestinian Territories.

“It’s easier for him to travel within the West Bank having his residency changed especially when he is invited to perform in several concerts in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, etc.”, they told The Media Line. Assaf can also return to Gaza, but to do so he will need to apply to Israel for a permit.

But many people here believe that he will never go back to the Gaza Strip. “Why would he go back? There is nothing for him to do there,” Omar Adel, a Ramallah-based computer engineer told The Media Line.

With Israel still in control of movement there, Gazans cannot travel to the West Bank unless they are given a permit by Israel. Those who wish to travel abroad can ask for a permit to go to the West Bank, then cross into Jordan over the Allenby Bridge and fly from Amman’s international airport. Or, as most people do, they can register their name with Gaza’s Hamas government and travel via Egypt after entering through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing point.

Upon his celebrated victory in the singing competition, Assaf was granted a diplomatic passport by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a United Nations passport when the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) named the singer a goodwill ambassador. However, the passports will not ease his movement if he wants to leave Gaza when the border is closed: a frequent situation due to Egyptian security concerns that affects even high-level officials.

Gazans are quick to realize that Assaf’s good fortune actually began at Rafah because had the crossing point been closed, he would not have made it to the competition which was televised from Beirut. In fact, Assaf almost missed the auditions In Egypt because he was stuck at the border for two days. A fan of the former wedding singer gave him his turn to audition, leading to the storybook ending and stardom.

A few days after his victory, thousands went to the border of the Gaza Strip to greet Assaf upon his return. Sources told The Media Line that the Hamas government in Gaza told Assaf that he will not be able to hold any concerts in his hometown.

However, the situation is Ramallah is quite the opposite. Assaf came to the West Bank for second time after his June victory to inaugurate the Solomon Pools music festival in Bethlehem; and more recently returned to the West Bank to appear in the welcoming celebration for the visiting Barcelona football team in Hebron.

In fact, residents of the West Bank have already had a number of opportunities to see and hear Assaf. His first visit included welcoming FIFA (soccer league) head Sepp Blatter; hosting free concerts in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jenin; and appearing in concert at hotels for those who paid around $125 per ticket to hear Assaf perform.

Meanwhile, fans back in Assaf’s native Gaza Strip wish they had the same opportunity to see him. The problem there is not just issues of free movement. It’s also the religious fundamentalism of the Hamas government. “Hamas prevents men and women from mingling, so we weren’t expecting that Assaf will have any parties here, but we had a dream that he would,” Rana Hamdan, a 27-year-old NGO worker living in Gaza told The Media Line.

Hamdan says she understands that Assaf was not going to stay in Gaza after he became an Arab celebrity, but many of her friends felt some of their national pride was taken away.

Others share the resentment. “The Palestinian Authority and several businessmen are using Assaf,” Ahmed Mustafa, a 30-year-old government employee from Gaza told The Media Line. “They are including him in every occasion. I don’t know how he will sing anything against the Palestinian Authority or supportive of resistance against Israel,” Mustafa said.

Palestinian writer Ramzi Sadeq Shahin published in article in the Gaza-based Donia Al Watan agency calling Assaf a “fake ambassador.” “Gaza supported Assaf, but now he forgot about it. He had always said that he’s the son of Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, but now he and his family moved to Ramallah as if Gaza has become a disgrace to him,” Shahin wrote in part.

Others have also been disappointed by the decision for more personal reasons. “I was frustrated when I heard that President Mahmoud Abbas gave Assaf a diplomatic passport and that Israel has agreed to his residency change,” Ruba Jahshan, 25, and originally from Gaza told The Media Line.

Jahshan is unable to leave the city of Bethlehem out of fear that officials at the Israeli checkpoints in between the West Bank cities will discover her situation and deport her to Gaza.

Jahshan posted a Facebook photo of her 1 ½-year old daughter, Tia, talking to her grandmother and aunts on Skype. Jashan, who says she hasn’t seen her sisters and brother for more than 5 years, wrote to President Abbas on his Facebook page saying, “I don’t want to be a diplomat. But can’t you, Mr. President, use these passports for people like us who can’t visit their families? It’s more humanitarian.” Jahshan says she’s not sure whether the president has heard her plea.

In 2007, Jasha came to Bethlehem using a temporary permit with the intent to marry the person she loved. “I didn’t know it would be this complicated,” Jahshan explained to The Media Line. Because Israel didn’t grant her a change of residency when the permit expired, she has lived in the West Bank illegally since then. Her parents are able to visit her each year at Easter and at Christmas when Israel provides permits for Christians to spend the holidays with their families in the West Bank.

As she waits for Israeli approval to change her residency to the West Bank, Jahshan says she will not encourage any Gazan to fall in love with a West Banker. Meanwhile, she is envious of Assaf’s newfound freedom of movement.

As a singer living amid this seemingly endless conflict, many ask Assaf to refrain from internecine politics and to be closer to the people. Emad Drimly, a journalist from the Gaza Strip and a fan of Assaf is one of them.

Drimly supports the singer’s choice of residency, but thinks he should stay clear of politics. “It’s a professional decision for Assaf to move to the West Bank. I am not against the decision as the situation in Gaza prevents him from advancing his career. There is an attempt to create a division between the people of Gaza and the people of the West Bank, so I think Assaf should stay away from the political dispute,” Drimly added.

 

4 IDF SOLDIERS WOUNDED IN NORTH ISRAEL

An IDF Spokesperson announced that four IDF soldiers were wounded last night by an explosion during operational activity in the north. They were lightly to moderately wounded, and were evacuated to an hospital. The IDF is investigating the incident, and is monitoring possible developments.

Additional details about the incident were not given.

 

‘You Start To Give Up’

Despite the fact that 85 percent of the Israeli population, according to a poll published by The Jerusalem Post, was opposed to Israel agreeing to release 104 prisoners with blood on their hands, a decision was made earlier this week to do so. Now, the family members of victims of terror are protesting — loud and clear.

In the past week, there have been handfuls of rallies outside the Knesset and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s residence calling for an about-face.

“I am fed up,” said Sherri Mandell, mother of Koby Mandell, a 13-year-old American boy who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist near their West Bank home in 2001. “Everyone is fed up.”

And bleeding.

Koby Mandell’s little sister, Eliana, told the JT, “The loss I feel is not that he was murdered, it is more of what could have been. Because he was murdered he won’t be at my wedding. He won’t be at my graduation. I am older than my oldest brother now. That does not go away no matter how many years. It just gets worse.”

Similarly, Avi Bromberg, whose uncle, Israel Defense Forces Sgt. Avraham Bromberg, died in 1980 at the age of 20, four days after being attacked on his way home from a Golan Heights base by Arab terrorists, said he cannot excuse the government’s decision, and he does not believe it will bring peace.

“I think … the chance for peace is small,” he told the JT. “The minute Abu Mazen comes with requests like this, it closes the door to peace. Peace comes when the two sides come together without pressure, when they sit and talk. There should be no release of murderers. Murderers belong in jail.”

Bromberg said he finds Kerry’s pressing for this release hypocritical and asked if the same thing could happen in the United States.

American-Israeli Shlomo Katz posted on Facebook an image of the faces of many of those Israelis murdered in the last decades whose killers stand to be set free. He spoke with the JT and said he thinks the hypocrisy is reaching “unheard-of levels.”

“Who could demand such an insane request from Am Yisrael?” he asked. “Hundreds of families had to suffer the excruciating pain of burying their beloved parents, grandparents, siblings, children and loved ones. Today, they have to not only relive the painful horror of murder, but begin to wonder what was it that their loved ones gave their lives for in the first place.”

Katz said the fact that the government made the choice to move forward despite the public’s cry makes him feel that the community’s voices are not heard.

“At a certain point,” said Katz, “You start to give up on a belief in the strength of your voice.”

See also, At Peace.

At Peace

Earlier this week, Palestinian and Israeli leaders met in Washington to launch a new round of peace negotiations.

Secretary of State John Kerry hosted an Iftar dinner for Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (right, center) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (next to Linvi) this past Monday at the U.S. Department of State in Washington.

Secretary of State John Kerry hosted an Iftar dinner for Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (right, center) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (next to Linvi) this past Monday at the U.S. Department of State in Washington.

There is a cynical and skeptical Palestinian and Israeli public, but the parties agreed to meet nonetheless.

As Secretary of State John Kerry stood before the media on July 29, he told listeners that he was under no delusions.

“It’s no secret this is going to be a difficult process. If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago,” he said.

There are many who question Kerry’s intentions. Why now? Who wants this, and who is ready for this?

There is no question that Kerry —and the Obama administration — is ready. The question is whether the
Israeli and Palestinian publics, and their leaders, want it as much as Kerry does.

“One would have doubts,” said Herb Keinon, diplomatic correspondent for The Jerusalem Post. “My doubts would be more on the Palestinian side than the Israeli side, though the Israeli side is not jumping up and down either.”

Keinon cited the pre-agreement back-and-forth as an example of how pressured the two parties felt. He said that when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas first presented Kerry’s proposal to the PLO, the group said no. Kerry had to fly back and forth between Amman, Jordan and Ramallah to strike the deal.

“The Palestinians didn’t want to do it, but were dragged into it because they were afraid of incurring American wrath if they didn’t come to talk,” said Keinon.

David Makovsky, Ziegler distinguished fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute, expressed similar sentiments about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He said the prime minister does not want to further isolate Israel by refusing to negotiate, and one can tell from his recent addresses that he is viewing Israel’s willingness to engage in this process not as one based on good will toward the Palestinians but on the self-interest of the Israeli state.

On the American side, however, there’s real value.

“It is an American national security interest to have Arab-Israeli peace,” said Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland.

Keinon explained that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “the only place in the Middle East where the U.S. can be proactive instead of reactive. It could have a beneficial impact for the U.S. if they are able to move something. It is important to America at a time when its whole Middle East policy is, as some would say, muddled.”

Makovsky cautioned, however, that solving this issue will not be an open sesame to solving Syria, Iraq and other conflicts. He also said that while thought-leaders in Jordan and other parts of the Arab world told Kerry the Arab-Israeli conflict is the core issue of instability in the news, if Kerry believes that, he is “being blind to reality.”

If anything, said Makovsky, it takes that card away from the hands of those who use it to carry out terror attacks.

Jewish American organizations have certainly jumped on the bandwagon. Overnight, most of the major Jewish organizations came out with statements supporting the talks.

“This is a great achievement for Secretary of State Kerry, who invested so much time and diplomatic effort in finally bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table,” said Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “Two states for two people cannot be achieved without strong U.S. leadership, and we are thankful.”

“The resumption of talks …. brings hope of new opportunities to move toward a peaceful resolution and an end of the conflict that has taken such a heavy toll,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in a statement.

Concessions
But as talks resumed and the parties met in Washington, D.C., one reality became apparent: The two sides likely are not ready to deal with final status issues.

“Do we want to bring both sides to the table and force them to make choices when they are not ready to make them?” asked Keinon.

This is especially true, given the concessions that each side already has had to make — some that are causing upheaval in their home communities.

In Israel, Netanyahu agreed to release 104 prisoners in four batches, many of whom have blood on their hands (see accompanying story, ‘You Start To Give Up,’ on page 32). This decision, which passed in the cabinet by a wide 13-to-7 margin (after a nearly six-hour meeting), has spawned a multitude of rallies — and outcry by victims of terror and their families who stand to see their loved ones’ murderers set free.

“You had a situation where Abbas had been telling the Arab public that unless Netanyahu commits to talks based on the pre-’67 lines, and unless Netanyahu agrees to a complete freeze [of construction] in the settlements, he is not going to deal with him. He had to back off from those demands,” said Makovsky. “So he said, ‘Let me have this.’”

Moreover, Makovksy noted, the Palestinian Authority had to contend with Israel’s trading 1,000 terrorists for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. Israeli teenagers get lost in the West Bank all the time, and the residents there don’t hold them hostage; the PA wanted to be rewarded for that.

On the flip side, the Palestinians committed to not bringing any charges against Israel to the U.N. during the course of the negotiations. That frees Israel from some pressure, enabling it to focus international intention on issues such as a nuclear Iran.

Neither Abbas nor Netanyahu are as strong as the leaders of the past (Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin), said Makovsky. With Abbas opposed by a virulent Hamas and both leaders looking over their right shoulders and averse to risk, public support will be vital to move the process forward.

What happens when the two sides hit a brick wall? Hopefully Kerry can massage the thing, and maybe there can be efforts to go to an interim agreement. Maybe.

Calculations
The challenge is that both publics, said Telhami, don’t believe a two-state solution is possible.

“They may be open to it,” said Telhami, but the majority doesn’t think it is possible anymore. The return to negotiations does not address the profound mistrust and absence of faith in a deal.”

A poll released on July 24 by the Tel Aviv University and the Dialog Institute showed that 39 percent of Israelis would vote for a peace deal if it were brought to a referendum (which was a condition Netanyahu put forth when agreeing to talks), while 16 percent said they would probably vote for a deal. Five percent said they would likely oppose it; 20 percent were unsure.

Worse still, while Israelis report wanting peace, most feel achieving it is unlikely. An Israel public opinion poll, fielded by the Dahaf Institute and released by the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution in May, revealed that 51 percent of Israelis are saying that lasting peace with the Palestinians will never happen; 40 percent say it is inevitable but will take more than five years. If the two-state solution collapses, 13 percent think it will lead to the one-state solution, 37 percent say that the status quo will remain, 35 percent expect intense conflict for years to come, and 6 percent expect that the Palestinians will give up.

In the meantime, there is a nine-month window to try to make this work. And at the helm will be former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. Assisting Indyk will be Frank Lowenstein.

Nine months?

It’s not a deadline, said Makovsky, but it is the belief that the parties need to sit together long enough to ascertain if this is possible. The Israelis also need assurance that 2010 won’t repeat itself; in that year, the Palestinians sat for three weeks, determined they had heard enough and then went to the U.N.

Telhami said he thinks nine months sounds right. He also thinks that now is the right time.

“The people observing this situation for years are divided into two groups. One says it is too late already for a two-state solution. The other says that soon it is not going to be possible anymore,” he said. “No one says we have all the time in the world.”

See also, ‘You Start To Give Up’

Attempted Spy Arrested In Israel

An ultra-Orthodox man, a member of the Neturei Karta sect in Jerusalem, was arrested in July on charges of attempting to spy on Israel for Iran. He apparently contacted the Iranian embassy in Berlin three years ago, offering to spy for them and stating he would, “kill a Zionist.”

The Iranians supplied him with an email address, through which they would maintain contact. He checked the account a few times and contacted the embassy again by phone a few times. The name of his contact person was ‘Haji Baba.’

The inductment states that he has admitted the charges. The indictment further delineates that the man explained to the Iranians that he wished to have a ‘gentile’ rule in Israel, and wished to work to actualize such a government.