Strategic Analysis

Mideast Briefing: Where Do We Go From Here?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Ed Rettig, Director, AJC-Jerusalem

Many say that the peace process is at a standstill. This is mistaken, since nothing stands still in the politics of the Middle East. A more accurate formulation is that the peace process is in retreat. Read more »

Mideast Briefing: Israeli Politics: Reshaping the Top of the Pyramid

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Ed Rettig, Director, AJC-Jerusalem

Over the last two months Israel has experienced a subtle reshaping of the top of the governmental pyramid, the offices of the prime minister, defense minister, and foreign minister. In a situation where threats to the state’s continued existence have overwhelmed most other political questions for generations, these three posts have constituted the centers of power. Within this triangle, the Prime Minister’s Office has been first among equals, with the Defense Ministry-guarantor of Israel’s security and the entity through which so many Israelis served their country-enjoying a relative advantage over the Foreign Ministry. Read more »

Mideast Briefing: Meanwhile… the Israeli Economy

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

Not many outside the country are taking notice of Israel’s economic commotion. While the world watches fascinated as history is made in Egypt, the Israeli economy is experiencing a moment of indecision that tells us much about the country’s social and political tensions. Read more »

Mideast Briefing: Labor Party Woes

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

Ehud Barak’s surprise exit from the Labor Party along with four senior colleagues had all the hallmarks of one of his famous military operations. Read more »

Mideast Briefing: Moshe Katzav – Shame, Fury and Pride

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

The eighth president of Israel, Moshe Katzav, is now a convicted rapist, after a three-judge panel of the Tel Aviv District Court issued a unanimous decision to that effect. A man honored upon his election just a decade ago as a boy from the slums who made it to the top, he is now reviled as a common sexual criminal. Read more »

Not with a Bang but a Dangerous Whimper

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

Largely obscured by the Carmel forest fire, two related developments last week call to mind the sad old epigram: in the Middle East, an optimist thinks things could be worse, while a pessimist knows they will be.

The United States announced it will no longer push for a further Israeli 90-day building freeze. At about the same time, the governments of Brazil and Argentina announced recognition of a Palestinian state within the “1967 borders,” with Uruguay announcing it will do so in early 2011. By the time you read this, other countries may have joined in. Read more »

Fire on the Mountain

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

It apparently began when a mischievous fourteen-year-old playing hooky from school ran off to an isolated spot near his town on the Carmel mountainside in order to smoke a nargilah (water pipe). Tragically, he seems to have been careless in disposing of the hot coal from the pipe. One’s heart goes out to him: this Tom Sawyeresque escapade, so innocent in its adolescent mischief-making, generated the worst forest fire in Israel’s history. By the time it was extinguished 42 people were dead, over 17,000 had been evacuated from their homes, and 40,000 dunams (about 9,900 acres) of forest were destroyed, including perhaps as many as four million trees. Read more »

“Ninety Days?”

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

The U.S. proposal for a ninety-day building freeze in the territories is a riddle. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Clinton evidently hammered out an American proposal Netanyahu believes he can get through his cabinet, one that would have Israel freeze settlement construction for ninety days in a one-off deal that includes American incentives. These, according to Israel’s Yediot Aharonot, are an agreement to “veto all UN Security Council and international resolutions that are critical of Israel or unilaterally advance Palestinian statehood,” and step up the fight against the delegitimization of Israel; a request to Congress to “approve the supply of 20 stealth fighter jets worth $3 billion”; and “additional and wider security guarantees when an agreement is reached with the Palestinians.” Read more »

“It’s Too Quiet”

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

Like the cliché from an old Western film where the hero squints at the horizon and says “it’s too quiet,” General Amos Yadlin, the outgoing chief of Israel’s Military Intelligence, issued a warning in his recent briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He said, “The recent security calm is unprecedented but there should be no mistake that there are efforts [by elements] in the area to grow stronger.” Israel’s enemies are lying low for two reasons. First, the 2006 (Lebanon) and 2008 (Gaza) conflicts generated deterrence. But second, the current calm serves their purposes. They make use of the time to arm themselves with new weapons. Read more »

The Rabin Assassination, Fifteen Years Later

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Ed Rettig, Acting Director, AJC-Jerusalem

The fifteenth annual rally commemorating the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, will evidently be the last. The Rabin Institute announced that in light of falling attendance the annual assembly will be discontinued. Instead, his death will be commemorated by a state ceremony at his gravesite on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem and various local events around the country–like the deaths of other distinguished departed. Thus, in the public mind, the life and death of Yitzhak Rabin recede into history. Read more »