Why we must give Iran nuclear deal a chance
April 18th, 2014
05:08 PM ET

Why we must give Iran nuclear deal a chance

By Tyler Cullis and Jamal Abdi, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Tyler Cullis is a policy associate at the National Iranian American Council. Jamal Abdi is policy director at NIAC. The views expressed are the authors’ own.

The United States could be on the verge of securing a historic agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, one that verifiably limits it and opens the door to further cooperation between the two countries. Yet with a diplomatic victory on the horizon, the rhetoric of those who have long opposed any diplomatic resolution is reaching dizzying heights of disingenuousness.

During a recent Senate hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) hit out at reports that negotiations with Iran may produce a deal that “only” extends Iran’s nuclear breakout timeline to 6 to 12 months.

“I don’t think we did everything that we’ve done to only get a six to twelve month lead time,” Menendez lamented as he grilled Secretary of State John Kerry over the progress of the talks.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz piled on shortly after, calling such a timeline a “[U.S.] surrender to Iran” and “unacceptable.”

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Topics: Iran • Israel • Nuclear • United States
April 16th, 2014
12:06 PM ET

Mayor: Jerusalem will never function as divided city

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, about the prospects for a peace plan that includes East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. Watch the video for more.

What are the solutions?

Well, I'll leave that to the national government. You can call Ramallah the center of the Palestinian people. They could bring their embassy to Jerusalem. They, today, have freedom of movement, freedom of religion. Today's Jerusalem is an open, international city. And, by the way, it's doing extremely well. Jerusalem, if you look at the trends in the city of Jerusalem, our economy has been growing 8 percent from year to year. Satisfaction of all residents – Muslims, Christians, the ultra-Orthodox, secular – is at a rise. Our crime rates are one tenth an average of any American city. When I fly to the States, I pray, because I know I'm 10 times more exposed to crime in the United States than I am back home in Jerusalem. And all of that – economy going north, crime rates going south, all of that – we must be doing something right.

And for you, the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which is where the Palestinians would like to put their state, you think it would not be possible to have a Palestinian capital... FULL POST

April 8th, 2014
01:16 PM ET

Haass: Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a local dispute

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, about speculation that convicted spy Jonathan Pollard might be released from U.S. prison.

What do you think this, past week, the shenanigans have told us – maybe we're pardoning Jonathan Pollard, maybe we're not, the peace talks were going to fail, they were not going to fail? What's going on?

In the long run, it's irrelevant for the purposes of peace whether Mr. Pollard is in prison or not. It won't affect the basics. The real question, is the situation ripe? Are the leaders involved willing and able to make peace? I'm skeptical.

Let's just say for a second I'm wrong. So what? Right now, I think what we have to admit is that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, while it's of importance to Israelis and Palestinians, it's become a local dispute. It won't affect the dynamics of the Middle East. It's not going to affect the trajectory of the civil war in Syria or what's going on in Egypt between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood or what's happening elsewhere.

This has become a local dispute, that, quite honestly, is not worthy of the time and attention the secretary of state and the United States are giving.

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Topics: GPS Show • Israel • Middle East
March 8th, 2014
08:37 PM ET

Israeli minister: Palestinians need to recognize Israel as Jewish state

Fareed speaks with Israel’s economics minister, Naftali Bennett, about the status of Arab Israelis. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.  You've gone a bit further. You've said that it’s very important to strengthen exclusively the Jewish identity of Israel. What you do with the 20 percent of Arabs who live in Israel if they're not Jewish.

I'm a big supporter of full equal rights for the Arab Israelis. Twenty percent of Israelis are Arab.  They vote for the Knesset the same. They can be elected.  There are members of parliament, of the Knesset, that are Arab. And I support full equal rights for them.

As a nation-state, Israel is the Jewish nation-state.  So if we don't get that recognition from the Palestinians, essentially, they're saying give us our own state and now we want half of your state.  Well, it would be one and a half Palestinian states and only half a Jewish state.  And they're not willing to recognize that.

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Topics: GPS Show • Israel • Palestinian Authority
Should Israel unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank?
January 24th, 2014
02:25 PM ET

Should Israel unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank?

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter@FridaGhitis. The views expressed are her own.

What will happen if the current round of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians ends in failure? If the two sides cannot come to an agreement is there another option for solving the conflict?

As the talks continue with scant visible evidence of progress, a few prominent Israelis have started reviving talk of a third way: unilateral withdrawal of Israel from most of the West Bank – even without a peace deal.

The notion that Israelis could voluntarily withdraw from territories claimed by Palestinians without securing an agreement is nothing new. In fact, the term “unilateral disengagement” was coined by the recently-deceased former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who removed all Jewish settlers and military forces from Gaza in 2005. He ordered the withdrawal after saying he had concluded that peace with Palestinians was not possible, but that he also believed Israel should not rule over millions of Palestinians.

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Topics: Israel • Middle East
Time ripe to rid Middle East of chemical weapons
November 20th, 2013
09:29 AM ET

Time ripe to rid Middle East of chemical weapons

By Barry M. Blechman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Barry M. Blechman is a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan international security think tank. The views expressed are his own.

The world will be a safer place if the surprising agreement that led to the promised destruction of Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemical weapons can pave the way for the banning of such weapons from the entire Middle East and eventually the world.

The next move is up to Israel and Egypt.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad surprised the world in September when he agreed to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention barring the use of such weapons and to permit the supervised destruction of all his chemical weapon stocks. The move was designed to halt an expected U.S. bombing campaign against his country after al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people in the Syrian civil war.

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Topics: Conflict • Egypt • Israel • Middle East • Syria
October 2nd, 2013
09:24 AM ET

A nuke wrapped in cashmere?

By Rep. Trent Franks, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. The views expressed are his own.

Oh to be a fly on the wall when the U.S. president and Israeli prime minister met to discuss Iran.

In recent weeks, much talk has been tossed around about a new, moderate Iranian leader and the potential for deals to be made on the nuclear front. Some pundits have likened this approach to trusting a wolf in sheep's clothing; I'd say we're looking at a nuke wrapped in cashmere.

Less than six days after giving a speech in front of the U.N. that seemed to reinforce the naïve and misinformed belief that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani represents a shift away from the radical nature of past Iranian regimes, President Obama then met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Of the dozens to choose from, I wonder which of Iran's international violations the two leaders discussed first.

The Obama administration has a long record of misjudging foreign policy realities. This shortsightedness has led to numerous failures – among them Egypt, Libya, Benghazi, and, most recently, Syria – that have cost innocent lives, compromised the United States' position in the world, and threatened our own national security and that of our allies. We must achieve a better result in our policies with Iran.

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Topics: Iran • Israel • United States
Israel must be wary of those lining up to give advice
October 1st, 2013
12:27 PM ET

Israel must be wary of those lining up to give advice

By Danny Danon, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Danny Danon is Israel’s deputy defense minister and the author of Israel: The Will to Prevail.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States this week has provided yet another reminder of how our country’s “volunteer advisers,” pundits and columnists are always quick to lavish their counsel upon us. Often forgotten once these thoughts of the day are neglected in favor of new topics is how much of this advice is proven by history to be dead wrong.

The Golan Heights and Israel is one such topic worth examining. International focus on Syria today centers on the heinous chemical attacks and its war-torn urban landscapes replete with rubble, bombs and bodies. These are heart wrenching scenes, and in Israel, as everywhere, we pray for a speedy end to this conflict and its wanton destruction. But simmering beneath these tragic headlines has been another key issue that sheds much light on the “value” of the advice Israel’s government receives – the Golan Heights, that slender tract of land along the Israel-Syria border.

The al-Assad regime has withdrawn thousands of its troops from the Syrian side of the Golan, mobilizing them for the defense of Damascus. This has created a power vacuum in the south of the country as the most significant troop redeployment of its kind in 40 years took place from the buffer zone.

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Topics: Israel • Middle East • Syria
Why the 'Netanyahu Doctrine' makes sense
October 1st, 2013
12:18 PM ET

Why the 'Netanyahu Doctrine' makes sense

By Einat Wilf, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Einat Wilf is a former member of the Israeli Knesset and sat on its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from his meeting Monday with President Barack Obama, he may have recognized in the president a fellow proponent of the Netanyahu Doctrine: to avoid the use of force, be ready to use it. After all, Obama had just reiterated that he won't take any options off the table on Iran, “including military.”

Of course, the Netanyahu Doctrine is nothing new – the ancient Romans described it as si vis pacem para bellum, “he who wants peace must prepare for war.” Hebrew wisdom extolled self-restraint as the highest form of heroism, and such ancient wisdom has also guided Netanyahu's policies, and not only on Iran. But while this doctrine did not originate with Netanyahu, the prime minister has become closely associated with its application in the region, despite facing significant criticism.

The doctrine is simple to formulate, yet nearly impossible to successfully implement because to be a success, three components must be in place: the capability to use force, projection of a true willingness to use it, and a deep desire to avoid doing so. No one, including the leader, knows what will actually happen at the critical moment of decision regarding the use of force, but the other side should be sufficiently concerned and unsure to consider the threat credible. When done right, the doctrine is a masterful tightrope walk over the twin abyss of Vietnam and Munich: Prepare for war too much and you risk instigating the very war you wish to avoid; prepare too little and you risk encouraging aggression through weakness and appeasement.

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August 16th, 2013
03:49 PM ET

Barak: World should back new Egypt government

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, just days before the latest outbreak of violence, about Egypt’s government and the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi.

Would it be fair to say that Israel is quietly happy with the change of government, which of course many people regard as a coup, in Egypt? The new government has been much tougher on the border in terms of supplying Hamas.

Yes, you know, I don't think that we are really a major player in this. It’s a dramatic development for the Egyptian people and for the whole Middle East, the Arab peoples. Israel is not the center focal point of this.

You have the border with Gaza and this government has been...better than Morsi’s government?

Yes.  But I think that the whole world should support Sisi. I believe that...

…the new Egyptian government?

I think that you have to support him. If we support him, it probably will embarrass him and it probably won't help him. But Sisi and the liberals, ElBaradei and others, they deserve the support of the free world. To whom else can they turn?

Morsi was elected relatively fairly, but he immediately turned to use the very tools...of [being] slightly and quite democratically elected into turning into a totally totalitarian, Sharia-like extreme Islamist system. And his own people rejected it.

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Topics: Arab Spring • Egypt • Israel • Middle East
August 13th, 2013
10:48 PM ET

What I'm reading: The real issue for Palestinians

By Fareed Zakaria

“Israel’s Palestinian citizens don’t want to leave. Over the decades they have developed an identity distinct from their West Bank and Gazan cousins. They appreciate living in a prosperous, democratic country. But—and this is what keeps Netanyahu up at night—they don’t want that country to be a Jewish state,” writes Peter Beinart in the Daily Beast.

“They don’t feel warm and fuzzy about a flag with a Jewish star and a national anthem that talks about the ‘Jewish soul.’ They believe, as a high-profile Israeli government commission acknowledged in 2003, that Israel’s treatment of them ‘has been primarily neglectful and discriminatory.’ Their kids can’t aspire to be prime minister. In ways both deeply symbolic and highly practical, they feel like second-class citizens as non-Jews in a Jewish state.”

“Omission and misdirection is hardly uncommon in domestic Chinese reporting, but the digital age has significantly complicated the process of suppressing information,” writes Jiayang Fan for the New Yorker. “A week ago, the Chinese-language edition of the Wall Street Journal briefly joined the Times and Bloomberg on the wrong side of China’s Great Firewall. Not for the first time, the Journal’s Chinese Web site was blocked without warning or evident provocation, while the English edition was uninterrupted.”

“The tactic is telling of the censors’ strategy: it doesn’t much matter if the barrier is linguistic or digital, as long as the vast majority of readers in China remain unable to surmount the divide. The sleight of hand would remain largely indiscernible if it were not for the emergence of Weibo and a rising class of educated Chinese who, by virtue of being bilingual, are able to monitor the censors.”

Why 'cautious pessimism' prevails in Middle East
July 30th, 2013
09:39 AM ET

Why 'cautious pessimism' prevails in Middle East

By Robert M. Danin, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Robert M. Danin is Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the former director for the Levant and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs at the National Security Council. He writes the blog Middle East Matters at CFR.org. The views expressed are his own.

Writing in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, Nadav Eyal characterized his country’s view of this week’s peace talks with the Palestinians as that of “cautious pessimism.” Palestinian public opinion is even gloomier. Mutual cynicism about the prospects for peace is not surprising, given that the two sides have been unsuccessfully negotiating an end to their conflict intermittently for over two decades. Having seen their hopes and aspirations dashed so many times before, why should this time be any different?

The initial indicators are not overly encouraging: That U.S. Secretary of State Kerry had to invest so much time and effort just to get Israelis and Palestinians to agree to meet suggests that he may want the talks more than them. Ultimately, it was Kerry’s sheer tenacity that made the price of saying no for the parties higher than acceding to the United States chief diplomat. But so far, what the parties have mainly agreed to is a process, not to a deal.

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