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  • August 1, 2012

    U.S. defense secy. Leon Panetta arrives in Israel for a 2-day visit intended to calm Israeli fears over Iran and to project a U.S.-Israeli unified front. He urges Israel to allow sanctions and...

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  • July 29, 2012

    On the 2d day of his trip to Israel, Republican presidential candidate Romney prays at the Western Wall and gives a public address to 300 select supporters in Jerusalem (calling Jerusalem the...

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  • May 17, 2012

    IDF troops make 2 brief incursion into Gaza to level land and clear lines of sight along the border fence nr. Bayt Lahiya in the north and Khan Yunis in the south. IDF soldiers on the n. Gaza...

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  • December 2, 2011

    IDF troops on the n. Gaza border fire warning shots at Palestinians hunting birds nr. the no-go zone, forcing them to leave the area. Israeli naval vessels fire on Palestinian fishing boats off...

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U.S. defense secy. Leon Panetta arrives in Israel for a 2-day visit intended to calm Israeli fears over Iran and to project a U.S.-Israeli unified front. He urges Israel to allow sanctions and diplomacy time to work and to avoid unilateral actions. Separately, Israeli PM Netanyahu warns that ‘‘time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.’’ Meanwhile, anonymous U.S. admin. officials say (NYT 8/2) they are optimistic that ‘‘Israel has no imminent plans to attack and may be willing to let the United States take the lead in any future military strike, which they say would not occur until next year at the earliest.’’ (Defense News 8/1; NYT, WP 8/2; WP 8/21)

IDF troops make a predawn incursion into c. Gaza to level land and clear lines of sight along the border fence e. of alMaghazi r.c.; they withdraw later in the morning. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Jenin. (PCHR 8/2, 8/9; OCHA 8/10)

Around this date, House Foreign Affairs Comm. mbr. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) launches a new congressional caucus, the Congressional HellenicIsraeli Alliance, aimed at supporting the growing bilateral relationship between Israel and Greece, and on a broader level, Cyprus. It is also aimed at reinforcing a budding U.S.-Israeli-Greek-Cypriot alliance to pressure Turkey on regional affairs. (The Hill 8/7)

On the 2d day of his trip to Israel, Republican presidential candidate Romney prays at the Western Wall and gives a public address to 300 select supporters in Jerusalem (calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel). He vows to support Israel’s right to defend itself and calls for Israel and the U.S. to use ‘‘any and all means’’ to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He does not repeat the comment his foreign policy aide, Dan Senor, made en route to Israel that Romney would ‘‘respect’’ an Israeli decision to strike Iran unilaterally, nor does he mention the Palestinians or the peace process. Romney meets with his former business colleague PM Netanyahu, who makes kind remarks but is seen (e.g., WP 7/30) as being careful not to take sides in the election. He also meets with Israeli pres. Peres and PA PM Salam Fayyad; the Romney camp cancels at the last minute a planned meeting with Labor party officials. In an interview with CNN later in the day, Romney says that the U.S., in consultation with Israel, should move its embassy to Jerusalem. In response, White House spokesman Josh Earnest says: ‘‘The view of this administration is the capital should be determined in final status negotiations between the parties. That’s the position held by the previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican.’’ (NYT, WP, WT 7/30; WP 7/31; WJW 8/2)

Timed with Romney’s visit to Israel, the Obama admin. leaks a story to the Israeli daily Ha’Aretz that NSA Donilon briefed an Israeli official (some say PM Netanyahu, though Israel explicitly denies this) over dinner in Israel earlier in 7/2012 on ‘‘U.S. contingency plans for any attack on Iran,’’ emphasizing that the U.S. is making serious preparations for a military strike if such action is deemed necessary. A Netanyahu spokesman says Donilon did not share any operational plans. Donilon’s office says it does not comment on private meetings. (WT 7/30)

In Tunis en route to Israel, U.S. defense secy. Leon Panetta says Israel and the U.S. are united in support of strong sanctions against Iran. (NYT, WP 7/30)

Israeli naval vessels fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the n. Gaza coast, forcing them to return to shore. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in 2 villages nr. Ramallah and 1 nr. Jenin in the morning; patrols in 2 villages nr. Jenin and Ramallah in the evening. Jewish settlers block roads and stone Palestinian cars nr. the evacuated settlement of Homesh nr. Jenin. (PCHR 8/2; OCHA 8/3)

IDF troops make 2 brief incursion into Gaza to level land and clear lines of sight along the border fence nr. Bayt Lahiya in the north and Khan Yunis in the south. IDF soldiers on the n. Gaza border nr. Bayt Lahiya fire warning shots at Palestinian farmers who stray too near the border fence, forcing them to leave. IDF soldiers on the s. Gaza border open fire on Palestinian agricultural areas e. of Abasan, causing no reported damage or injuries. Israeli naval vessels fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the n. Gaza coast, forcing them to return to shore. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in 2 villages nr. Ramallah and 1 each nr. Qalqilya and Tulkarm in the morning; in 2 villages nr. Jenin and 1 each nr. Qalqilya and Tulkarm in the evening; and in 2 villages nr. Jericho and 1 each nr. Ramallah and Tulkarm late at night. The IDF also conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Jenin, including rearresting a PA General Intelligence officer released in the 2011 prisoner swap that freed captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. (PCHR 5/23; OCHA 5/25)

News hits the media that the new U.S. amb. to Israel Dan Shapiro recently told a meeting of the Israeli Bar Association that the U.S. is ready and willing to use military force against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail, stating that the military option is ‘‘not just available, but it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done.’’ A tape of Shapiro’s address was leaked to the AP, with an anonymous Israeli official stating: ‘‘Quite clearly he didn’t mean this to be public. ... For the Iranians to understand that he really means it, they have to hear it publicly and clearly.’’ (AP, ITV 5/17; NYT, WT 5/18; see Quarterly Update [QU] in JPS 165 for details on Iran.)

At a private fundraising event in Florida that is secretly taped and leaked to the media on 9/18/12, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney states that ‘‘the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace’’ and are ‘‘committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel.’’ He also opposes creation of an independent Palestinian state, assuming that it would become a client state of Iran. In terms of a U.S. mediating role in the peace process, he states: ‘‘The idea of pushing on the Israelis—to give something up, to get the Palestinians to act, is the worst idea in the world.’’ In response to the leak, which was seen (e.g., NYT 9/19)

as likely to damage Romney’s ability to act as a peace broker if elected, Romney publicly states on 9/18 that he stands by his longtime support for the U.S. official position advocating a negotiated 2-state solution. (Mother Jones 9/18; NYT 9/19)

Israeli DM Ehud Barak meets with U.S. secy. of defense Leon Panetta in Washington to request an additional $680 m./yr. in aid over 3 yrs. to help purchase 3–4 new Iron Dome antimissile batteries and another $168 m. for 3 other missile programs jointly developed with the U.S. (This is on top of an increase of $99.9 m. in funding for FY 2013 already requested by the Obama admin.) With the appeal coinciding with Israel cutting its defense budget by 5% per year for 2013 and 2014, critics complain (e.g., WP 5/17) that the U.S. is effectively helping balance Israel’s budget before balancing its own. (WP 5/17)

IDF troops on the n. Gaza border fire warning shots at Palestinians hunting birds nr. the no-go zone, forcing them to leave the area. Israeli naval vessels fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the n. Gaza coast, forcing them to return to shore. In the West Bank, the IDF patrols in 4 villages nr. Ramallah during the day; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem. Palestinians (sometimes accompanied by Israeli and international activists) hold weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the separation wall, land confiscations, and settlement expansion in Bil’in, Kafr Qaddum, Nabi Salih, and Ni’lin; demonstrations in Bil’in also call for national reconciliation. IDF soldiers fire rubbercoated steel bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades at the protesters; 3 Palestinians and 1 Israeli in Bil’in are hit and moderately injured by tear gas canisters; 2 Palestinian journalists (for Associated Press and Palestine TV) and 3 international activists are arrested in Nabi Salih. (PCHR 12/8; OCHA 12/9)

Speaking at the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center in Washington, U.S. Defense Secy. Leon Panetta states that the “firm principles” on which U.S. Middle East policy is based are: (1) the U.S.’s “unshakable” commitment to Israel, (2) maintenance of regional stability, and (3) preventing Iran fr. obtaining nuclear weapons (by military means if necessary). However, he also says Israel bears significant blame for a peace process that “has been effectively put on hold” and must do more to revive peace talks and improve relations with Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. (NYT, WP 12/3)