• irvsafdieh

AIPAC Soars, Israel Jets UAE, Coming Down the Track


AIPAC Renews Focus on Two-State Solution, Tries to Shore Up Democratic Support

Michael Wilner, Jerusalem Post, March 28th 2017

Recap:

The annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference took place in Washington this week. AIPAC officials used the opportunity to underline their support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Context:

  • The AIPAC Policy Conference is the largest gathering of America's pro-Israel community and features keynote speeches by American & Israeli leaders, educational workshops and demonstrations of Israeli innovations. More than 18,000 Americans and two-thirds of Congress attended the event.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke via satellite on Monday while US Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the group on Sunday evening. As a Republican candidate, US President Donald Trump addressed the AIPAC conference, describing former President Barack Obama as “maybe the worst thing to happen to Israel.” The speech resulted in a statement from AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus which reiterated AIPAC’s bipartisan position [1].”

  • During his address, Pence announced that the Trump administration was “giving serious consideration to moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem [2]” and US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley proclaimed that “the days of Israel-bashing [at the UN] are over” while pledging “no more freebies” for the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it returned to the negotiating table.

  • Hundreds of Jewish activists marched outside the Verizon Center at “the biggest ever Jewish-led protest of AIPAC [3]” to oppose what they view as support for Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians [4]. Members of IfNotNow, an organization that aims to end American Jewish support for the Israeli military’s presence in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, claimed their AIPAC invitations were revoked once AIPAC officials discovered their political affiliations.

Conversation Points:

  • Are AIPAC’s comments about a two-state solution an attempt to shore up support from democrats who might be disenfranchised with AIPAC’s push to upend the Iranian nuclear deal?

  • Might AIPAC’s comments regarding a two-state solution also be in response to Trump’s enthusiastic drive toward a new round of direct negotiations?

  • Do Jewish protestors give legitimacy to the anti-Israel camp?

  • Is AIPAC’s stance on bipartisanship questionable if it revoked invitations for members of IfNotNow?

Israel, UAE to fly together in Greek air force exercise

Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, March 27th 2017

Recap:

Pilots from Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fly alongside one another as part of a Greek air force exercise. The Jewish state does not have formal diplomatic relations with the UAE.

The Context:

  • Israeli officials boast of improving relations with Sunni Gulf states in light of the Iran Nuclear Deal since both parties view a nuclear Iran as a destabilizer in the region. “The Sunni Arab states increasingly see the Middle East through the same prism as Israel,” said Dore Gold, Israel’s acting foreign minister [5].

  • The 11-day drill will consist of “complex air operations” and also include naval and ground forces. Through exercises abroad, Israeli pilots gain experience operating in conditions unlike those inside their geographically limited country. "We only have Mount Hermon and [in Greece] the mountains simulate countries where we might land one day [6]." Flying alongside foreign air forces requires Israeli air teams to learn how to communicate in languages other than Hebrew.

  • Last November, Israel established a diplomatic mission to the International Renewable Energy Association, which is based in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital [7].

Conversation Points:

  • Do international military exercises present a strategic opportunity for Israel to create and improve diplomatic relations with foreign nations historically hostile to the Jewish State?

  • Will a shared concern over Shiite aggression be enough to bring Israel and the Gulf States into a true alliance?

High-speed Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail coming down the track

Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c, March 22nd 2017

Recap:

The current hour-long train ride between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will be cut in half when the high-speed route is inaugurated in 2018. The service will feature four double-decker trains in each direction every hour, each accommodating about 1,000 people, and include a stop at Ben Gurion Airport.

The Context:

  • The high-speed train is Israel’s biggest railway project in the past decade and one of the biggest infrastructure projects in modern Israeli history. The line consists of 9 bridges and 4 tunnels at cost of $1.9 billion. Underground stations also serve as nuclear and bomb shelters.

  • Considering Israel’s hilly topography and a train’s limitation to go beyond a 3% slope, tunnels constructed through mountains were necessary to ensure the shortest possible route. Israeli engineers sought experts from French, Russian, German and Spanish companies to complete the project.

Conversation Points:

  • What other infrastructure projects might be limited, or too costly, due to Israel’s landscape?

Notes:

  1. Netanyahu and Trump Skip Aipac Meeting, Mark Landler, New York Times, March 27th 2017

  2. Ibid.

  3. Protesters Take On Settlements In ‘Biggest Ever Jewish-Led Protest’ Of AIPAC, Kim Bellware, Huffington Post, March 26th2017

  4. AIPAC Revoked Credentials Of IfNotNow Activists Registered To Conference, Nathan Guttman, Forward, March 26th 2017

  5. UAE to partake in joint military drill with Israel, Middle East Monitor, March 27th 2017

  6. Israeli Air Force Holds Joint Exercise With United Arab Emirates, U.S. and Italy, Gili Cohen, Haaretz, March 28th 2017

  7. Israeli Air Force Begins Joint Exercise with U.S., UAE, Italy, Greece, The Tower, March 27th 2017