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Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

National Funding of Road Infrastructure

July 10, 2014 Comments off

National Funding of Road Infrastructure
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report examines the funding of roads and highways in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England and Wales, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden. It provides a description of the infrastructure in the jurisdiction, information on the ownership and responsibility of the roads, and taxes or other ways of collecting money to fund the nation’s infrastructure. If applicable, a discussion of reforms or new initiatives is examined.

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CRS — U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel

April 22, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to Israel. It includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and an analysis of current issues. For general information on Israel, see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

CRS — Israel: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close U.S.-Israel defense, diplomatic, and economic cooperation. U.S. and Israeli leaders have developed close relations based on common perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities. U.S. policy makers often seek to determine how events and U.S. policy choices in the Middle East may affect Israel’s security, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and other actors in the region. Some Members of Congress and some analysts criticize what they perceive as U.S. support for Israel without sufficient scrutiny of its actions or their implications for U.S. interests. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and is a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. The United States and Israel maintain close security cooperation— predicated on a U.S. commitment and legal requirement to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, and the United States is Israel’s largest trading partner. For more information, see CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, by Jeremy M. Sharp.

Israel has many regional security concerns. By criticizing the international interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that went into effect in January 2014, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may seek to give Israel a voice in an ongoing negotiating process in which it does not directly participate. In addition to concerns over Iran, Israel’s perceptions of security around its borders have changed since early 2011 as several surrounding Arab countries—including Egypt and Syria—have experienced political upheaval. Israel has shown particular concern about threats from Hezbollah and other non-state groups in ungoverned or minimally governed areas in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as well as from Hamas and other Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Predicting Suicide Attacks: Characteristics of Bombings in Israel

November 25, 2013 Comments off

Predicting Suicide Attacks: Characteristics of Bombings in Israel
Source: RAND Corporation

This brief describes an assessment of how geospatial and sociocultural characteristics may help predict the timing and targets of terrorist attacks.

CRS — Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

November 15, 2013 Comments off

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close U.S.-Israel defense, diplomatic, and economic cooperation. U.S. and Israeli leaders have developed close relations based on common perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities. U.S. policymakers often seek to determine how regional events and U.S. policy choices may affect Israel’s security, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and the broader Middle East. Some Members of Congress and some analysts criticize what they perceive as U.S. support for Israel without sufficient scrutiny of its actions. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and is a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. The United States and Israel maintain close security cooperation—predicated on a U.S. commitment to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, and the United States is Israel’s largest trading partner. For more information, see CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, by Jeremy M. Sharp.

Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas

October 31, 2013 Comments off

Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas
Source: Brookings Institution

With U.S. aid to Egypt now limited to areas of mutual interest, U.S. focus shifts to Egyptian counterterrorism and border security operations in the Sinai Peninsula. U.S. concern about Sinai is longstanding. However, since the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, what had been a buffer zone between Egypt and Israel has become increasingly lawless and unstable, threatening both countries.

The Saban Center’s new Analysis Paper, Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas, examines the interests of various actors in, and neighboring, Sinai; considers areas of mutual concern; and lays out the individual capabilities Egypt, Israel and Hamas have for addressing these threats, as well as opportunities for all parties to combine their core strengths to better address mutual interests. Despite these shared interests, the relationship between each of these actors is also extremely complicated. As such, this paper also considers obstacles to cooperation and opportunities for the United States to encourage trust-building and intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel.

Preparing for “Hybrid” Opponents: Israeli Experiences in Lebanon and Gaza

October 5, 2013 Comments off

Preparing for “Hybrid” Opponents: Israeli Experiences in Lebanon and Gaza
Source: RAND Corporation

The experiences of the Israel Defense Forces against hybrid opponents — Hezbollah and Hamas — in the recent conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza will help the U.S. Army understand the capabilities that it and the joint force will require in the future.

Just Published: Law Library of Congress Report on Guest Worker Programs

September 17, 2013 Comments off

Just Published: Law Library of Congress Report on Guest Worker Programs
Source: Law Library of Congress

A report titled Guest Worker Programs was recently added to the list of reports posted on the Law Library of Congress website under “Current Legal Topics” where you can also find a range of other comparative law reports on various topics.

The Guest Worker Programs report is based on a study conducted by staff of the Global Legal Research Center (GLRC). The report describes programs for the admission and employment of guest workers in fourteen selected countries:

  • Australia,
  • Brazil,
  • Canada,
  • China,
  • Germany,
  • Israel,
  • Japan,
  • Mexico,
  • Norway,
  • the Russian Federation,
  • South Korea,
  • Spain,
  • the United Arab Emirates, and
  • the United Kingdom.

It also provides information on the European Union’s Proposal for a Directive on Seasonal Employment, the Association Agreement between the European Union and Turkey regarding migrants of Turkish origin, and the Multilateral Framework of the International Labour Organization on the admission of guest workers. The complete report is also available in PDF.

The report includes a comparative analysis and individual chapters on each country, the EU, and relevant international arrangements. It provides a general overview of a variety of immigration systems, and addresses issues such as eligibility criteria for the admission of guest workers and their families, guest workers’ recruitment and sponsorship, and visa requirements. The report further discusses the tying of temporary workers to their employers in some countries; the duration and the conditions that apply to switching employers; the terms, including the renewability, of guest workers’ visas; and the availability of a path to permanent status.

CRS — Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

June 18, 2013 Comments off

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close U.S.-Israel defense, diplomatic, and economic cooperation. U.S. and Israeli leaders have developed close relations based on common perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities. U.S. policymakers often seek to determine how regional events and U.S. policy choices may affect Israel’s security, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and the broader Middle East. Some Members of Congress and some analysts criticize what they perceive as U.S. support for Israel without sufficient scrutiny of its actions. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and is a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. The United States and Israel maintain close security cooperation—predicated on a U.S. commitment to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, and the United States is Israel’s largest trading partner. For more information, see CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, by Jeremy M. Sharp.

Israel has many regional security concerns. Israeli leaders calling for urgent international action against Iran’s nuclear program hint at the possibility of a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. In addition to concerns over Iran, Israel’s perceptions of security around its borders have changed since early 2011 as several surrounding Arab countries—including Egypt and Syria—have experienced political upheaval. Israel has shown particular concern about threats from Hezbollah and other non-state groups in ungoverned or minimally governed areas in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as well as from Hamas and other Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s political impasse with the Palestinians on core issues in their longstanding conflict shows little or no sign of abating. Since the end of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel has militarily occupied and administered the West Bank, with the Palestinian Authority exercising limited selfrule in some areas since 1995. Israeli settlement of that area, facilitated by successive Israeli governments, has resulted in a population of approximately 500,000 Israelis living in residential neighborhoods or settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). These settlements are of disputed legality under international law. Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be the “eternal, undivided capital of Israel,” but Palestinians claim a capital in East Jerusalem and some international actors’ advocate special political classification for the city or specific Muslim and Christian holy sites. Although Israel withdrew its permanent military presence and its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it still controls most access points and legal commerce to and from the territory.

Despite its unstable regional environment, Israel has developed a robust diversified economy and a vibrant democracy. Recent discoveries and exploitation of offshore natural gas raise the prospect of a more energy-independent future, while economic debates focus largely on cost-ofliving and income and labor distribution issues. Israel’s demographic profile has evolved in a way that appears to be affecting its political orientation. Along with secular and nationalist Jews from various ethnic backgrounds, Jewish ultra-Orthodox, Russian-speaking, and Arab citizens significantly influence societal debates. The government formed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in March 2013 features a set of coalition partners that is different from the previous government, largely due to electoral gains on socioeconomic issues by new national leaders and possible future prime ministerial candidates Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.

CRS — Arab League Boycott of Israel

March 15, 2013 Comments off

Arab League Boycott of Israel (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Office)

The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.

The boycott has three tiers. The primary boycott prohibits citizens of an Arab League member from buying from, selling to, or entering into a business contract with either the Israeli government or an Israeli citizen. The secondary boycott extends the primary boycott to any entity world-wide that does business in Israel. A blacklist of global firms that engage in business with Israel is maintained by the Central Boycott Office, and disseminated to Arab League members. The tertiary boycott prohibits an Arab League member and its nationals from doing business with a company that deals with companies that have been blacklisted by the Arab League.

Since the boycott is sporadically applied and ambiguously enforced, its impact, measured by capital or revenue denied to Israel by companies adhering to the boycott, is difficult to measure. The effect of the primary boycott appears limited since intra-regional trade and investment are small. Enforcement of the secondary and tertiary boycotts has decreased over time, reducing their effect. Thus, it appears that since intra-regional trade is small, and that the secondary and tertiary boycotts are not aggressively enforced, the boycott may not currently have an extensive effect on the Israeli economy.

Despite the lack of economic impact on either Israeli or Arab economies, the boycott remains of strong symbolic importance to all parties. The U.S. government has often been at the forefront of international efforts to end the boycott and its enforcement. Despite U.S. efforts, however, many Arab League countries continue to support the boycott’s enforcement. U.S. legislative action related to the boycott dates from 1959 and includes multiple statutory provisions expressing U.S. opposition to the boycott, usually in foreign assistance legislation. In 1977, Congress passed laws making it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with the boycott and authorizing the imposition of civil and criminal penalties against U.S. violators. U.S. companies are required to report to the Department of Commerce any requests to comply with the Arab League Boycott.

The current list of countries that request U.S. companies to participate or agree to participate in boycotts prohibited under U.S. law includes Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

This report provides background information on the boycott and U.S. efforts to end its enforcement. More information on Israel is contained in CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

CRS — Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

November 16, 2012 Comments off

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close U.S.-Israel defense, diplomatic, and economic cooperation. U.S. and Israeli leaders have pursued common security goals and have developed close relations based on common perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities. U.S. policymakers often seek to determine how regional events and U.S. policy choices may affect Israel’s security, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and the broader Middle East. Some Members of Congress and some analysts criticize what they perceive as U.S. support of Israel without sufficient scrutiny of its actions. Other than Afghanistan, Israel is the leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and is a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. The United States and Israel maintain close security cooperation—predicated on a U.S. commitment to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, and the United States is Israel’s largest trading partner. For more information, see CRS Report RL33222, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, by Jeremy M. Sharp.

Israel’s perceptions of security around its borders have changed since early 2011 as several surrounding Arab countries—including Egypt and Syria—have experienced political upheaval or transition. Of particular concern to Israel is the durability of its 33-year-old peace treaty with Egypt, where a new Islamist-led government may become more reflective of popular sentiment that includes anti-Israel strains. Israeli leaders continually call for urgent international action against Iran’s nuclear program, and have hinted at the possibility of a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. For more information, see CRS Report R42443, Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities, coordinated by Jim Zanotti. Israel also perceives an expanding rocket threat from non-state actors such as the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, as well as Hamas and other militants in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Recent regional developments and Israeli reactions to them have reinforced the political impasse between Israel and the Palestinians on core issues in their longstanding conflict, calling into question the land-for-peace formula that has guided years of efforts to resolve it. Since the end of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel has militarily occupied and administered the West Bank, with the Palestinian Authority exercising limited self-rule in some areas since 1995. Israeli settlement of that area, facilitated by successive Israeli governments, has resulted in a population of approximately 500,000 Israelis living in residential neighborhoods or settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). These settlements are of disputed legality under international law. Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be the “eternal, undivided capital of Israel,” despite Palestinian claims to a capital in East Jerusalem and some international actors’ support for special political classification for the city or specific Muslim and Christian holy sites. Although Israel withdrew its permanent military presence and its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it still controls most access points and legal commerce to and from the territory.

Despite its unstable regional environment, Israel has developed a robust diversified economy and a vibrant democracy. Political debates are being shaped in new ways by population increases among Jewish ultra-Orthodox and Russian-speaking communities and Israel’s Arab citizens. Many analysts assert that national elections scheduled for January 22, 2013 will probably result in another government coalition headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Initial reports indicate that the campaign will focus largely on Israel’s handling of the Iran and Palestinian issues—including coordination on these issues with the United States—as well as the economy.

CRS — Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

October 12, 2012 Comments off

Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

Several published reports indicate that top Israeli decisionmakers are seriously considering whether to order a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and if so, when. Twice in Israel’s history, it has conducted air strikes aimed at halting or delaying what Israeli policymakers believed to be efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by a Middle Eastern state—destroying Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and a facility the Israelis identified as a reactor under construction in Syria in 2007. Today, Israeli officials generally view the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran as an unacceptable threat to Israeli security—with some describing it as an existential threat. This report analyzes key factors that may influence Israeli political decisions relating to a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. These include, but are not limited to, the views of and relationships among Israeli leaders; the views of the Israeli public; U.S., regional, and international stances and responses as perceived and anticipated by Israel; Israeli estimates of the potential effectiveness and risks of a possible strike; and responses Israeli leaders anticipate from Iran and Iranian-allied actors—including Hezbollah and Hamas—regionally and internationally.

For Congress, the potential impact—short- and long-term—of an Israeli decision regarding Iran and its implementation is a critical issue of concern. By all accounts, such an attack could have considerable regional and global security, political, and economic repercussions, not least for the United States, Israel, and their bilateral relationship. It is unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be on the likelihood of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The current Israeli government, President Barack Obama, and many Members of Congress have similar concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. They appear to have a range of views on how best to address those shared concerns. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful, civilian energy and research purposes, and U.S. intelligence assessments say that Iran has not made a decision to build nuclear weapons. However, Iran continues to enrich uranium in militarily hardened sites and questions remain about its nuclear weapons capabilities and intentions.

Short- and long-term questions for Members of Congress to consider regarding a possible Israeli decision to strike Iranian nuclear facilities militarily might include, but are not limited to, the following: • How might an Israeli strike affect options and debate regarding short-term and long-term U.S. relations and security cooperation with, and foreign assistance to, Israel and other regional countries?

  • Would an Israeli strike be considered self-defense? Why or why not? What would be the legal and policy implications either way?
  • How might a strike affect the implementation of existing sanctions legislation on Iran or options and debate over new legislation on the subject?
  • How might Congress consult with the Obama Administration on and provide oversight with respect to various political and military options?

This report has many aspects that are the subject of vigorous debate and remain fully or partially outside public knowledge. CRS does not claim to independently confirm any sources cited within this report that attribute specific positions or views to various Israeli, U.S., or other officials. This is an update of a report dated March 28, 2012. However, the only updated material is the initial section entitled “Developments from Late March to September 2012.”

The Second Demographic Transition in Israel: One for All?

September 4, 2012 Comments off

The Second Demographic Transition in Israel: One for All?

Source: Demographic Research

This article explores family behaviours and attitudes in Israel over the last decades through the lens of the Second Demographic Transition (SDT). Israel is divided by religious affiliation, the level of religiosity, ethnic origin and timing of immigration. Although fertility transition to replacement level among certain societal groups has been previously shown, the question of how the transition unfolds in other domains remains open. The goal of this paper is to highlight the diversity of marital and fertility transitions and non-transitions among various groups of this heterogeneous society, and to compare Israel’s transitions to European ones. The data sources which are used are cross-national large scale surveys, national representative surveys, and Population Register data. The data were disaggregated by religion, religiousness and ethnic origin. Emancipative value change, postponement of marriage, alternative living arrangements and a growing variety of fertility regimes were analyzed. A full range of pre-transitional, transitional, and post-transitional elements was found among the groups. Such sign of the SDT as growing childlessness was not found, and the spread of other features as unmarried cohabitation and non-marital childbearing was found limited. Population composition effects were isolated. It was found that the level of religiosity and the country of origin are important factors which differentiate family behaviours and attitudes. The connection between value orientation of the groups within Israel and their family behaviours is discussed. The socio-structural and institutional constraints that might impede further progression of the Second Demographic Transition in Israel are also discussed. Further research directions are suggested.

The Second Demographic Transition in Israel: One for All?

August 27, 2012 Comments off

The Second Demographic Transition in Israel: One for All?

Source:  Demographic Research
This article explores family behaviours and attitudes in Israel over the last decades through the lens of the Second Demographic Transition (SDT). Israel is divided by religious affiliation, the level of religiosity, ethnic origin and timing of immigration. Although fertility transition to replacement level among certain societal groups has been previously shown, the question of how the transition unfolds in other domains remains open. The goal of this paper is to highlight the diversity of marital and fertility transitions and non-transitions among various groups of this heterogeneous society, and to compare Israel’s transitions to European ones. The data sources which are used are cross-national large scale surveys, national representative surveys, and Population Register data. The data were disaggregated by religion, religiousness and ethnic origin. Emancipative value change, postponement of marriage, alternative living arrangements and a growing variety of fertility regimes were analyzed. A full range of pre-transitional, transitional, and post-transitional elements was found among the groups. Such sign of the SDT as growing childlessness was not found, and the spread of other features as unmarried cohabitation and non-marital childbearing was found limited. Population composition effects were isolated. It was found that the level of religiosity and the country of origin are important factors which differentiate family behaviours and attitudes. The connection between value orientation of the groups within Israel and their family behaviours is discussed. The socio-structural and institutional constraints that might impede further progression of the Second Demographic Transition in Israel are also discussed. Further research directions are suggested.

Natural Gas and Israel’s Energy Future Near-Term Decisions from a Strategic Perspective

April 28, 2012 Comments off

Natural Gas and Israel’s Energy Future: Near-Term Decisions from a Strategic Perspective
Source: RAND Corporation

Israel’s electric-power system needs new capacity to meet the demands of its growing economy. Israel must make major decisions on investing in new base-load generating capacity in the near future. Planners and policymakers need to consider likely future levels of demand, the costs and availability of sources of supply, security of supply, reliability, environmental effects, and land use. Decisions have to be made under conditions of deep uncertainty about what the future may have in store. This monograph discusses the opportunities and risks the government of Israel faces in shifting to a greater reliance on domestic and imported natural gas. The analysis seeks to help the Israeli government engage in managed change by choosing robust strategies that minimize potential consequences of relying more heavily on natural gas. It does so by applying to these assessments newly developed methods for strategic planning and decisionmaking under deep uncertainty. In particular, the study applies an innovative, quantitative robust decisionmaking (RDM) approach to the central question of how large a role natural gas should play in Israel’s energy balance. Rather than relying on the typical planning method of trying to develop plans around a small number of “most likely” scenarios, RDM helps planners discover strategies that are robust — i.e., strategies that perform well across a large range of plausible futures. Given that we cannot predict the future, we use RDM to examine the available alternatives and ask which would be best to choose.

Survey — Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012

April 5, 2012 Comments off

Survey — Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012
Source: Public Religion Research Institute
From press release:

Jewish values, particularly pursuing justice and a commitment to social equality, are important for informing political beliefs and behaviors, a new national survey of American Jews finds.

The new survey of 1,004 American Jews, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and released at a National Press Club briefing, is the most comprehensive, representative national study of its kind conducted by a non-Jewish research organization. The new survey takes a broad look at how Jewish values, experiences and identity are shaping political beliefs and behavior and influencing social action in the Jewish community and beyond.

More than eight-in-ten American Jews say that pursuing justice (84%) and caring for the widow and the orphan (80%) are somewhat or very important values that inform their political beliefs and activities. More than seven-in-ten say that tikkun olam (72%) and welcoming the stranger (72%) are important values. A majority (55%) say that seeing every person as made in the image of God is an important influence on their political beliefs and activities. Strong majorities of American Jews also cite the experience of the Holocaust, having opportunities for economic success in America, and the immigrant experience as important in shaping their political beliefs and activities.

When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46%) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as cite support for Israel (20%) or religious observance (17%). About one-in-ten volunteered that a sense of cultural heritage and tradition (6%) or a general set of values (3%) are most important to their Jewish identity.

CRS — Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

April 3, 2012 Comments off

Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Several published reports indicate that top Israeli decisionmakers now are seriously considering whether to order a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and if so, when. Twice in Israel’s history, it has conducted air strikes aimed at halting or delaying what Israeli policymakers believed to be efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by a Middle Eastern state—destroying Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and a facility the Israelis identified as a reactor under construction in Syria in 2007. Today, Israeli officials generally view the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran as an unacceptable threat to Israeli security—with some viewing it as an existential threat.

This report analyzes key factors that may influence current Israeli political decisions relating to a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. These include, but are not limited to, the views of and relationships among Israeli leaders; the views of the Israeli public; U.S., regional, and international stances and responses as perceived and anticipated by Israel; Israeli estimates of the potential effectiveness and risks of a possible strike; and responses Israeli leaders anticipate from Iran and Iranian-allied actors—including Hezbollah and Hamas—regionally and internationally.

For Congress, the potential impact—short- and long-term—of an Israeli decision regarding Iran and its implementation is a critical issue of concern. By all accounts, such an attack could have considerable regional and global security, political, and economic repercussions, not least for the United States, Israel, and their bilateral relationship. It is unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be on the likelihood of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The current Israeli government, President Barack Obama, and many Members of Congress have shared concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. They appear to have a range of views on how best to address those shared concerns. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful, civilian energy purposes, and U.S. intelligence assessments say that Iran has not made a decision to build nuclear weapons. However, Iran continues to enrich uranium in militarily hardened sites and questions remain about its nuclear weapons capabilities and intentions.
Short- and long-term questions for Members of Congress to consider regarding a possible Israeli decision to strike Iranian nuclear facilities militarily might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How might an Israeli strike affect options and debate regarding short-term and long-term U.S. relations and security cooperation with, and foreign assistance to, Israel and other regional countries?
  • Would an Israeli strike be considered self-defense? Why or why not? What would be the legal and policy implications either way?
  • How might a strike affect the implementation of existing sanctions legislation on Iran or options and debate over new legislation on the subject?
  • How might Congress consult with the Obama Administration on and provide oversight with respect to various political and military options?

This report has many aspects that are the subject of vigorous debate and remain fully or partially outside public knowledge. CRS does not claim to independently confirm any sources cited within this report that attribute specific positions or views to various U.S. and Israeli officials.

CRS — U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel

March 20, 2012 Comments off

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to Israel. It includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and an analysis of current issues. For general information on Israel, see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $115 billion in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers. In addition, all U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in installments. In addition to receiving U.S. State Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs.

In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package that gradually will raise Israel’s annual Foreign Military Financing grant from a baseline of nearly $2.55 billion in FY2009 to approximately $3.1 billion for FY2013 through FY2018. For FY2013, the Obama Administration is requesting $3.1 billion in FMF to Israel.

In the second session of the 112th Congress, in addition to the normal foreign operations appropriations process, lawmakers may address: Administration or Israeli requests for additional defense appropriations for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense; an extension of U.S. loan guarantees to Israel beyond FY2012 when they are set to expire; and new funding for joint U.S.-Israeli scientific research.

The Obama Administration’s FY2013 request includes $3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Israel and $15 million for refugee resettlement. Within the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s FY2013 budget request includes $99.8 million in joint U.S.-Israeli co-development for missile defense.

On March 5, 2012, House lawmakers introduced H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012. If passed, this bill would, among other things, allocate additional weaponry and munitions for the forward-deployed United States stockpile in Israel; provide Israel additional surplus defense articles and defense services, as appropriate, in the wake of the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq; expand Israel’s authority to make purchases under the Foreign Military Financing program on a commercial basis; encourage an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises; support extension of the long-standing loan guarantee program for Israel, recognizing Israel’s unbroken record of repaying its loans on time and in full; and require the President to submit a report on the status of Israel’s qualitative military edge in light of current trends and instability in the region.

Israel and Iran: A Dangerous Rivalry

January 11, 2012 Comments off

Israel and Iran: A Dangerous Rivalry
Source: RAND Corporation
From press release:

While Israel and Iran once were de facto allies, the two nations have come to view each other as direct rivals for power and influence in the Middle East, increasing the risk for a possible military conflict, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

“The Iranian regime views Israel as a regional competitor bent on undermining its revolutionary system,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, co-author of the study and a senior political scientist with RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Israel, on the other hand, views Iran as its main security challenge, posing serious strategic and ideological challenges to the Jewish state, particularly as Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear capabilities.”

In order to prevent the current rivalry from escalating toward conflict, the study suggests U.S. leaders should continue to bolster security cooperation and intelligence-sharing with Israel, making such efforts visible to the Israeli public, while quietly counseling against unilateral action and continuing to focus on steps to further isolate, penalize and weaken Iran’s capacity to project power and influence throughout the region.

The United States should engage in activities that increase understanding about how a deterrence relationship between Israel and Iran may evolve, and encourage direct communication between Israelis and Iranians through informal diplomatic channels. The United States also should continue both engagement and sanction policies that may affect the internal debate in Iran on nuclear weaponization.

Despite the current animosity, Israel and Iran have not always been rivals, nor are they natural competitors, researchers say. Arab governments tend to regard both nations with suspicion, and Israel and Iran do not have territorial disputes or compete economically. The two nations cooperated together for years before and after Iran’s 1979 revolution, based on shared geopolitical interests.

Only in the last decade have the countries begun to see each other as rivals. As late as the 1990s, Israel’s security establishment did not consider Iran as its predominant security challenge. However, Iran’s expanding missile capabilities, nuclear advances and the rise of fundamentalist leaders with vitriolic anti-Israel rhetoric have fueled anxiety. This is particularly the case as Israel perceives Iranian influence on the rise.

Economic Survey of Israel

December 24, 2011 Comments off
Source:  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Israel’s economy passed through the 2008-09 global downturn in relatively good shape but is now suffering alongside others from the continuing effects of the renewed global crisis, and geopolitical tensions have increased. Annualised quarter-on-quarter real GDP growth was 4.7% in the first quarter but had slowed to 3.4% by the third quarter. Much of the slowdown came from a deceleration in export growth, as world trade slowed significantly. The November 2011 OECD Economic Outlook 90 has real GDP growth at 4.7% in 2011 but less than 3% in 2012. All private expenditure components, domestic and foreign, should contribute to the slowing.

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