Behind the Scenes: Thirteen Jewish Prisoners in Iran – The Untold Story of a Negotiation That Worked: As the Israeli government and its most ardent backers in the United States continue to ramp up their criticism of the Obama administration’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, they might do well to heed the lessons from the last time they were involved in arms-length diplomacy with their arch-enemies in Tehran. Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Jewish community and the United Nations played a key role in a series of secret negotiations to win the release of thirteen Jews imprisoned in Iran.
–In 1999, the story started almost predictably. Security agents arrested thirteen Jewish residents of the southeast Iranian city of Shiraz, including five merchants, a rabbi, two university professors, three teachers in private Hebrew schools, a kosher butcher and a 16-year-old boy, accusing them of spying for Israel. After an elaborate, partially televised show trial, 10 were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, while Israel organized a high-level pressure campaign globally to win their release. The prisoners were gradually freed in small groups, with the news kept under wraps until the barest of details were leaked in March 2003, a month after the last one left Iran for Israel. But the inside story, never told until now, appears to show that opposite sides can make a deal, no matter how limited the scope. In interviews, the two key players in the negotiations – U.S. Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein and Giandomenico Picco, then a UN diplomat – revealed a delicate diplomatic minuet in the shadows that finally coaxed Iran to release the prisoners.
–A decade later, Picco and Hoenlein take away markedly different lessons for today’s diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. “The lesson you learn is that the only language Iran speaks is strength,” said Hoenlein. “The way you have to deal with them is from a position of strength; the pressure’s applied when you mobilize resources such as sanctions, and they respond to it. We had mobilized more than sixty countries. The case became too expensive, the price was too high. It’s the same lesson now – we need to show the Iranians they’ve got to make a choice. Continue their nuclear program, or increased sanctions.” Picco, for his part, notes that the reformist Khatami was doing essentially the same as current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is now doing with the nuclear negotiations: attempting to mend fences with the West while protecting Iran’s core interests. Despite the poisonous distrust on all sides, diplomacy worked. “The main lesson is, if you really are good at negotiating, and if the people you are dealing with have guts and leadership capacity but also look into the future and want to build a future, then you have a chance,” he said. “If you want peace, it can be done.” [NationalInterest]
Senate divided on additional sanctions: John McCain, Lindsey Graham in favor; Bob Corker and Tim Johnson against — “The outlook for the Senate passing a new round of sanctions is increasingly uncertain after Secretary of State John Kerry briefed lawmakers Wednesday on the temporary deal to halt Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The Senate is running out of time to pass sanctions this year and the divergent views expressed after Kerry’s briefing indicate that action isn’t imminent.
–The White House is already making some inroads on Capitol Hill. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), whose panel would have jurisdiction over a new sanctions bill, said Tuesday he would hold off on passing legislation for the time being, saying that the administration has made a “strong case” to pause congressional action. Wendy Sherman, an undersecretary at the State Department, and David Cohen, an undersecretary at the Treasury Department, will testify on the temporary Iran agreement before Johnson’s committee on Thursday.” [Politico]
Source – Israel’s Stanley Fischer picked to be next Fed vice chair: Stanley Fischer, who led the Bank of Israel for eight years until he stepped down in June, has been asked to be the Federal Reserve’s next vice chair once Janet Yellen takes over as chief of the U.S. central bank, a source familiar with the issue said on Wednesday. [Reuters] — Four reasons Stan Fischer makes sense for the Fed [WashPost] — Who Is Stanley Fischer? List of key dates and details of his life [WSJ]
Foreign Policy RoundUp: Shifting Landscape Marks Mideast Talks – Kerry today will hold another round of talks on Israeli security demands after the establishment of a Palestinian state [WSJ] — As sanctions ease, Iran sees oil exports jump: Washington insists that a crippling sanctions regime will continue to take its toll, but new figures suggest Tehran’s economic outlook is strengthening. [ToI] — Royal Bank of Scotland to pay $100 million in U.S. sanctions probe for the bank’s dealings with Iran [Reuters] — Israeli officials: U.S. admits Iran will get $20 billion from sanctions relief [Haaretz]
Punditry: Lee Smith – Why Obama’s Engagement With Iran Will Create a More Violent Middle East: Last week’s assassination of Hezbollah commander Hassan Laqqis in Beirut was a taste of what may come [TabletMag] — Colin H. Kahl: Why New Iran Sanctions Won’t Work [PoliticoMag] — Norman Podhoretz: Strike Iran Now to Avoid Disaster – A conventional-weapons attack is preferable to the nuclear war sure to come [WSJ] — Jeffrey Goldberg: John Kerry Is Israel’s Best Friend [Bloomberg] — David Ignatius: Obama’s relentlessly pragmatic diplomacy [WashPost] — Mike Huckabee: Israel has ‘License’ to Act Independently [JNS] — Jennifer Rubin: American People Hate Iran Deal [WashPost] — Neri Zilber: Israel’s America Debate [PoliticoMag]
AP Interview: Issac Herzog, opposition leader – “Israel’s new opposition chief said Wednesday that Benjamin Netanyahu’s views on a peace deal with the Palestinians remain an enigma, and that he’s not sure the Israeli prime minister has the “mental willingness” to do what is needed. “This is the big question of the day, whether Netanyahu has come to the conclusion that there has to be change,” Isaac Herzog of the center-left Labor Party told The Associated Press in an interview in his office in Israel’s parliament. He said he believed a deal was urgently needed and possible — including on the complex issue of dividing or sharing Jerusalem among two peoples who have been hostile for about a century.” [AP]
Book Review: Michael Doran reviews ‘America’s Great Game,’ by Hugh Wilford: In 1951, the CIA created a front group to promote an anti-Zionist view of the Middle East and weaken American support for Israel. “The Roosevelt cousins, Copeland and other leading Arabists believed that a century of American missionary activity had paved the way for a Pax Americana in the region—if only the Israelis could be sidelined. The early Eisenhower administration was their heyday. Eisenhower and Dulles gave such professionals in the State Department and the CIA carte blanche. But the Arabists’ massive efforts notwithstanding, Nasser drifted into the Soviet orbit and began spreading nationalist revolt throughout the region.” [WSJ]
Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson calls for Jonathan Pollard’s release:“Israel and Pollard have both publicly apologized for their actions,” Richardson wrote to Obama. “Pollard cooperated with the government and has been a model prisoner. I have dealt with cases around the world of people who are imprisoned and I have decided to add my voice to this case because I believe it is right that Pollard be released.” [JNS]
Heard at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Centennial Celebration in Washington: Last night, Jack Lew at the JDC’s gala dinner says Iran Nuclear Agreement Doesn’t Weaken Sanctions Regime [Bloomberg] — Biden tells JDC: Obama administration is working to help Holocaust survivors in the US, many of them living in poverty, working with aid groups and using diplomatic means to help recover property confiscated during the Nazi era [AP]
Ronald Lauder urges Germany to Comb Museums for Nazi Loot: Cosmetics Tycoon and Art Collector Vows to Lobby Berlin to Form International Commission [WSJ] — German state drops plans for reprint of Hitler’s Mein Kampf [Reuters]
Synagogue News: Synagogues Turning to Consultants to Better Understand Communities [Forward] — Construction of 1st Orthodox synagogue begins in Puerto Rico [GlobalPost] — In Tel Aviv, Israel’s ‘Sin City,’ an Unexpected Religious Revival Takes Root: Synagogues are full and kosher restaurants abound as liberal immigrants, Orthodox singles, and secular Jews come together [TabletMag]
Bad News for Jews Dept.: Jewish Billionaire, Jeffrey Soffer, sued in helicopter death [Page6] — Insurance company owner admits role in theft of $7M from charity [NYTimes] — Hasidic Village Sued Over Sex-Segregated Park [Gothamist] — Jewish ‘wedding’ group shares space with probed nonprofit [NYPost]
Real Estate RoundUp: Jewish Billionaire Edmund Ansin in 11-year fight for Miami-Dade property [SouthFloridaRD] — To delight of critics, Perth Amboy nixes waterfront development deal with Kushner Companies [NJ] — New kid on the block: Developer Haysha Deitsch [BrooklynEagle] — HGI sells Bellevue apartments for $57M [NashvilleBiz] — City Council green lights Chetrit’s Greenpoint Landing [RealDeal]
Finance RoundUp: Schwarzman’s Blackstone’s Hilton joins Ranks of Biggest Deal Paydays [Bloomberg] — Video: Joe Sitt on Bloomberg discusses the Hilton IPO [Bloomberg] — Apollo, Carlyle Funds Cheer Volcker Rule [FINalternatives] — Dankner has NIS 900m debts, just NIS 100m in assets [Globes] — Phillip Frost’s Opko Plunges on Short Seller ‘Overvalued’ Call [Bloomberg] — Hapoalim won’t seek to buy Israel Discount Bank’s New York Unit [Reuters]
Top Talker: Lament of the Plutocrats – Why (Jewish) Titans on Wall Street are fed up with the White House—and Republicans – and want Clinton/Christie in 2016: by Ben White and Maggie Haberman [PoliticoMag]
States hope to repeat Massachusetts-Israel tech success: According to a study released by the New England-Israel Business Council (NEIBC), Israeli businesses operating in Massachusetts have contributed significantly to the economy there through jobs and investment, revitalizing key components of the state’s economy and helping it to rise from the doldrums of the nagging, long-running recession that still plagues the United States. [ToI]
Sports Blink: Jewish leaders urge Dan Snyder, the Jewish owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the team’s name [YouTube]
Thats all folks, have a great Thursday!
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