Yossi Alpher

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President Trump with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House in February. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that President Trump had disclosed highly classified intelligence to senior Russian officials in a meeting at the White House last week. The intelligence had come from an American ally in the Middle East that had not given permission for such sharing, breaching a cardinal rule of intelligence cooperation among allies. On Tuesday, we learned that this ally was Israel, and that the intelligence reportedly involved information about Islamic State plots to blow up airliners with bombs planted in laptops.

The specific accuracy of these press reports is a secondary issue. The primary issue is the affront to protocol, as well as reported concern for the safety of the intelligence source, which was compounded by the impression that the leak came from a witless leader oblivious to the gravitas of his office.…  Seguir leyendo »

The timing of President Obama’s visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan appears to be a purely American initiative. Certainly from the Israeli standpoint, a U.S. presidential visit that falls shortly after a new government was empowered in Jerusalem and right before Passover is not particularly convenient. This issue of timing is important in understanding the expectations on all sides.

When Obama sprung the visit on Benjamin Netanyahu in early February, the Israeli prime minister had barely won re-election and was just beginning to form his third government.

Washington seemed to be sending two messages: First, the president of the United States, in his second term, would be more assertive with both Israel and the Palestinians regarding the need for a substantive peace process, and Netanyahu should be aware of this expectation in forming his government.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Israel-Hamas clash in and around the Gaza Strip offers an important reminder to the second Obama administration: You can ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for only so long.

You can, with wishful thinking, derogate that conflict to a low priority on your list of Middle East tasks — well below Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and the democratizing of political Islam. But it will contrive to bounce right back up to the top of your list.

Currently, the administration confronts two urgent developments related to the conflict: the Gaza fighting and the determination of the Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to seek U.N.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israelis and Palestinians need a new peace paradigm. The true significance of the Palestinian bid for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state is that final-status talks based on the Oslo accords have run their course and failed. By placing future Israeli-Palestinian contacts on a state-to-state basis, U.N. recognition could help lay the foundation for that paradigm.

The conventional wisdom is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigent behavior has driven the Palestinians to take the international track. But that hardly offers a complete explanation for this revolution in the Palestinian approach.

More significantly, P.L.O. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ experience in direct negotiations with Ehud Olmert, then Israel’s prime minister, in 2008 — following on the first final-status failure in 2000 at Camp David between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat — was an eye-opener for the Palestinian leader.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un aspecto muy extraño de la intervención internacional en el conflicto palestino-israelí durante los últimos meses es la tenaz insistencia de varios dirigentes mundiales, personas inteligentes y serias, en que las partes son capaces de negociar un acuerdo definitivo. Extraño, porque, tanto de palabra como de obra, el primer ministro israelí, Benjamín Netanyahu, y el presidente de la OLP, Mahmud Abbas, han dejado muy clara su incapacidad de hacerlo. Y todavía más extraño es que el presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, candidato natural a encabezar un proceso de paz en Oriente Próximo, ha tenido un estrepitoso fracaso en las negociaciones entre Israel y Palesina durante dos años y medio.…  Seguir leyendo »

Instead of wasting time and energy trying to revive a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the United States and European Union should take another look at the Palestinian initiative to seek U.N. recognition in September. What is described in some quarters as a recipe for new strife and confrontation can actually be leveraged into a win-win situation for Israelis, Palestinians and the world.

The Palestinians under Mahmoud Abbas want the United Nations to grant them a sovereign state based on the 1967 boundaries with East Jerusalem as its capital. That’s all. It is not asking the U.N. to solve the refugee /right-of-return issue or to determine who owns the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Jan. 21, Hanan Ashrawi, the veteran Palestinian negotiator and politician, argued on these pages (“Palestinians, America and the U.N”.) that the Palestinians are justified in raising the issue of Israeli settlements before the U.N. Security Council, and that Washington should support them. The debate is joined.

A bad idea. If the Obama adminstration wants to avoid another potential stumble in the Middle East, it needs to come out hard and fast — and remain steadfast — against Palestinian efforts to take the Israeli-Palestinian issue to the United Nations. Action there will only make a bad situation worse and kill what hopes remain for serious efforts to forge a two-state solution.…  Seguir leyendo »

As we drove into Tel Aviv along the Ayalon highway, Mikhail Milstein and I passed the LaGuardia exit. “Fiorello LaGuardia?” he asked. “Why does he have a street named after him in Tel Aviv?”

I wasn’t surprised by the question. Why should a lieutenant general from Moscow know about LaGuardia? “He was mayor of New York back in the 1930s and ’40s,” I replied, “half-Jewish and a Zionist.”

“I knew him,” Milstein said matter-of-factly. “I was in New York in the ’30s, posing as a Latin American student at Columbia University. One of my missions was to get to know him.”…  Seguir leyendo »