Iran

Week in Review—Peace Negotiators Blast Carter’s Palestine Plan; Abbas Tightens Grip on Power

Mideast Envoys Think Jimmy Carter’s Peace Proposal is Nuts

After publishing an op-ed in The New York Times on Tuesday calling on President Barack Obama to recognize Palestinian statehood and support efforts in the United Nations Security Council to set parameters for a peace agreement, former President Jimmy Carter was the subject of criticism from former State Department officials, one of whom is also an elder statesman of the Democratic Party.

Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who served as an envoy to the region under presidents Clinton and Obama, said in an interview Thursday that he disagreed with Carter’s recommendation. Mitchell, who just wrote a book on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said that for Obama to “unilaterally decide” the acceptable outcomes of key issues, or to recognize a Palestinian state, “would be a reversal of what had been American policy for several years.”

Aaron David Miller, who worked on the Israeli-Arab peace process under both Republican and Democratic administrations, wrote for CNN.com this week that following Carter’s advice “would leave the Obama legacy in tatters.” Miller warned that such an effort would probably fail anyway, since it would not equitably account for both Palestinian and Israeli concerns, and would likely drive the two sides further apart. Since the conditions for peace in the Middle East do not currently exist, Miller wrote, Obama should instead “adopt the diplomatic equivalent of the Hippocratic oath and do no harm.”

Democrats serving in Congress also rejected unilateral efforts to impose peace terms on Israel: The House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday stating that peace “will come only through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties.”

Writing in The Huffington Post, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, advised President-elect Donald Trump to ignore Carter’s recommendation. Cooper offered a number of suggestions that he said would make peace more likely, including emphasizing the destructive role of the terrorist group Hamas, and telling the UN to stop targeting Israel at the behest of the Arab and Muslim member nations.

Not everyone was critical of Carter’s op-ed. It got favorable treatment on PressTV, the state-owned Iranian propaganda network.

The New Boss is Same as the Old Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas unanimously won reelection on Tuesday to lead the Fatah party for the next five years. Abbas won by ensuring that there was no opposition at the party conference—supporters of rival Mohammad Dahlan were barred from attending.

Abbas’s victory didn’t result in his being any more conciliatory towards Israel. In his victory speech, which lasted for three hours, Abbas pointedly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, continuing his history of rejectionism, which has prevented progress on achieving peace.

Abbas did, however, offer a note of graciousness to Fidel Castro, the longtime Cuban dictator who was an early supporter of the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel. After Castro died, Abbas ordered PA flags to be flown at half mast in his honor. Abbas also sent a message of condolence to Raul Castro, the current dictator and Fidel’s brother, praising Fidel as someone “who spent his life fighting for the causes of his country and people and the causes of right and justice in the world.”

Abbas, who is currently in the twelfth year of the four-year term he was elected to in 2005, may be wondering what he’ll have to do to hold onto power for 47 years like Castro did.

99 Out of 100 Senators Agree: Sanctions on Iran Should Be Extended

The Senate passed a ten-year extension to the Iran Sanctions Act on Thursday. The vote passed 99-0, meaning that the extension of sanctions was supported by Democrats and Republicans, as well as senators who both supported and opposed last year’s nuclear deal with Iran. (The sole holdout was Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.], who did not show up for the vote)

The extension already passed the House of Representatives last month. The Senate vote came about despite a push by the Obama administration to prevent it. Nonetheless, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday that he “would expect the president to sign this piece of legislation.”

Extending the act means that sanctions that were suspended under the terms of the nuclear deal will still technically be on the books, and can be reinstated if Iran is found to have violated the deal. While Iran claims that the extension violates the nuclear deal, this claim has been dismissed by the White House and members of Congress.

“Reauthorizing the Iran Sanctions Act in no way violates the [deal],” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who supported the deal, said on the floor of the Senate before the vote. Extending the law, he explained, shows that “we stand ready to impose rapid and strict punishments for any violation of the [deal].”

In his speech, Peters also warned that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports on Iranian nuclear facilities were not detailed enough to ensure Iran’s compliance with the deal. Peters and 14 Democratic colleagues wrote a letter to Obama this summer raising this concern. Former IAEA deputy director-general Olli Heinonen, as well as researchers at the Institute for Science and International Security, both raised similar concerns this week.

Obama offered assurances when he announced the deal last year that “Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.  And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.” He also stated that “if Iran violates the deal, all of [the suspended] sanctions will snap back into place.”

But if verification and enforcement are essential to effective implementation of the deal, as Obama said last year, why hasn’t the administration insisted on more detailed reporting by the IAEA? And why did it object to the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, which would have enabled the sanctions snapback?

This question is even more important in light of an IAEA finding that Iran has, for the second time since implementation of the deal in January, violated its limits on stockpiles of heavy water, which can be used to make a nuclear bomb.

Feature: Ahead of the Curve: Countries Keep Criticizing Israel’s Safety Measures—Before Adopting Them

Former member of Knesset Einat Wilf observed that Israel’s security procedures, which were once widely derided as intrusive or overly inconvenient, are being looked at as cutting-edge innovations by those same critics. Wilf recalled that in the early 1990s, American executives for the company she was working for at the time would complain when they visited Israel, “What is this crazy security you have at your airports? How dare they look in my bag? How do you ever expect to be part of the global economy if you carry on this way?” Now, she wrote, “having spent, since 2011, cumulative hundreds of hours waiting in airport security lines around the world, I can safely argue that that Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport is one of the world’s sanest.” Not only have Israeli security procedures been effective in thwarting terror attacks, but it has been designed in ways “to enable the existence of an open society.” The West may have something to learn from how Israel achieves this balance.

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Three Big Questions

One of the premises behind suggestions like Carter’s to support unilateral Palestinian campaigns is that “daylight” between the United States and Israel is required for a peace deal to be achieved. But Gen. (ret.) John Allen, Obama’s former Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and the former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, said on Tuesday that no Arab leaders would stop cooperating with the United States due to American support of Israel.  He added that Arab leaders privately view Israel as a source of stability in an increasingly chaotic Middle East. How will this stance affect diplomacy in the Middle East and, more specifically, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks?

The online payment service PayPal just announced a research cooperation agreement with Ben-Gurion University. What is the next American company to form a partnership in Israel?

Imad al-Alami, a terrorist with close ties to Iran, was named the new leader of Hamas’ Gaza operations last month, a move that had evidently been in the works for quite some time. In that same week, senior Hamas figure Musheir al-Masri boasted that Hamas had thousands of rockets that could reach Tel Aviv and further. Do these developments presage greater aggressiveness by Hamas as it prepares for a new war?

[Photo: Commonwealth Club from San Francisco, San Jose, United States / WikiCommons ]