July 27, 2009 Gates in Jerusalem

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

July 27, 2009 Gates in Jerusalem

The US Secretary of Defense made a six hour visit to Israel today. The major topic of conversation, both public and private, focused on the question of the Iranian nuclear program. In his public remarks Gates stated America's offer to talk with Iran was on the table until September, when the next session of UN began. Israeli sources report Gates' tone has changed since his last meeting with Israelis. There is a clear sense he no longer believes the Iranian problem can be resolved with talks. Gates asked that Israel do nothing in the two month interim, and Israeli Defense Minister Barak gave him a public assurance to that effect. What will happen when time runs out is very unclear. The White House has been talking about much stronger sanctions. Unfortunately, there are no signs Obama has been able to convince the Russians and the Chinese to go along with that course of action.

Netanyahu had a short term political victory today, when the Knesset passed, what has become known as the Mofaz Bill, on the first reading. The bill changes the current basic laws and allows any group of Knesset members of 7 or more members to split from their party, in order to form a new Knesset faction. The laws currently in place, require 1/3 of the Knesset members of a given party agree to split and form a new faction. The law has been called "the Mofaz law" because it is widely seen as a law created to ease Kadima number 2, Shaul Mofaz's, defection from the party. Mofaz has been very critical of the leadership of Tzipi Livni, particularly of her decision to remain outside the government. The chances of the law actually affecting current political events, diminished today when Mofaz gave an incredibly stinging speech, aimed at Netanyahu for introducing the bill. Mofaz claimed Netanyahu seemed to be forgetting Israel was not Cuba or North Korea where democracy was unimportant.

One of our readers e-mailed me today asking me to comment on this morning New York Times story called In West Bank Settlements, Sign of Hope for a Deal. I think other than the headline, which has nothing to do with the content of the article, it is a good piece. It summarizes well the Charedi communities beyond the green line

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