Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Documentary To Be Screened

A new film is to be screened on a supposed back-door channel to Israel-Arab contacts:

More info at this site.

NYTimes report:

“Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace” is a well-reported history of the Camp David talks, the events that led to them, and the difficult negotiations that followed to forge the peace treaty that was signed the next spring. Directed by Harry Hunkele and using interviews with more than two dozen involved parties, including Mr. Carter, the film pays particular attention to the behind-the-scenes communications among nongovernment officials who helped the peace process along when official representatives could not. Leon Charney, for example, an American adviser to Ezer Weizman, the Israeli defense minister, practically jump-started the final round of talks when he learned from an Austrian businessman with ties to Egypt that Sadat would approve a deal that simply returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt...

The film also focuses on the interplay among the leaders and the pressures they faced from powerful factions within their camps, and it reminds us what it takes to resolve the seemingly unresolvable: a total commitment from heads of state willing to put themselves at risk...the film is not congratulatory. The treaty, it notes, was supposed to be a first step toward a comprehensive peace settlement for the Middle East. More than 30 years later that larger task remains undone.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When Begin Was Profiled

From this Voice of America item:

Spies Probe the Mental State of Foreign Leaders Pt II

When world leaders speak publicly, as many will do at the U.N. General Assembly, the CIA will be poring over not only what they say, but how they say it. Intelligence agencies devote considerable resources to ferreting out not only the physical well-being of presidents and prime ministers but their mental health as well. The two are closely linked, but mental health is more difficult to determine from afar...

The concerns are strong enough that the CIA maintains a special unit to look for clues as to the mental stability, as well as the physical health, of world leaders. Dr. Jonathan Clemente, a physician who is researching a book about medical intelligence, says the goal of the CIA’s Medical and Psychological Assessment Cell, MPAC, is to determine how a leader will act.

...“In the late ‘50s and early 1960s, CIA decided that they had expertise to look more carefully and in a more rigorous analytical way at the health of foreign leaders in order to help give policymakers some forewarning of the transition in a government, stability of foreign governments, and also looking for potential points of diplomatic leverage,” Clemente said.

Dr. Jerrold Post, a clinical psychiatrist and political psychologist, put together the CIA’s major systematic effort to analyze the physical and mental state of world leaders. He says the turning point for the effort was the psychological profiles he did for President Jimmy Carter for the 1978 secret peace talks at Camp David with then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Dr. Post says the three profiles drawn up - one each of Begin and Sadat, and a third on how they might interact - were of enormous help in reaching the eventual Camp David Peace Accords.

“The third was quite interesting. It had a terrible title in retrospect - something like “Contrasting Cognitive Styles of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Problems and Implications for Simultaneous Negotiations” - in which we described that in the way their minds were built, even if they totally agreed they would be talking past each other, and the importance of the president in playing an intermediary role,” Post said.

Analysts say the physical and mental states are deeply intertwined. A terminal illness, they say, can push a leader like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez into impulsive decisions in order to preserve their legacy. Dr. Post points out that Menachem Begin made two critical decisions - the pronouncement of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel, and the application of Israeli law to the captured Golan Heights - from a hospital bed.

“These two issues are two of the central issues now in the Middle East crisis and stumbling blocks in the negotiations. And my way of seeing it is that it was the imminence of death which led him to make these extreme actions,” Post said...


Sunday, September 11, 2011

6th Session of the IGF Started Last Week

The sixth session of the Israel Government Fellows Program started this week.  Twenty-one fellows from seven different countries began their 10-month adventure in Israel.  We have fellows from the US, Canada, Spain, France, Russia, Brazil and one with dual citizenship of South Africa and Australia.  This is the first time we will have Fellows from Spain, Brazil and South Africa.

The first month of the program is spent in intensive orientation seminars and immersion Hebrew classes preparing the Fellows for their experience in Israel.  The seminars introduce the Fellows to the history, politics and culture of Israel.  The Hebrew courses meet the student at their level of Hebrew from knowing only a few words to polishing fluent speakers.