Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Iranian Arms Ship Detained in Cyprus - Menelaos Hadjicostis (AP)
Leaders of Turkey and Israel Clash at Davos - Katrin Bennhold (New York Times)
Hamas Accused of Torture Death of Gaza Critic (Reuters)
American Jews Support Israeli Operation in Gaza - Eric Fingerhut
Saudi Killed in Gaza Fighting - Thomas Hegghammer
Iran and Syria Trying to Replace PLO - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas War Crimes in Gaza (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
European Reactions to Israel's Gaza Operation - Tamas Berzi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Some Tough Questions for Palestinians - Moshe Elad (Ynet News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Barack Obama's administration signaled on Thursday that the U.S. reserved all its options, ranging from diplomacy to military action, to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. "We must use all elements of our national power to protect our interests as it relates to Iran. That includes, as the president talked about in the campaign, diplomacy where possible," Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said. "We have many issues to work through - an illicit nuclear program, the sponsorship of terrorism, and the threatening of peace in Israel are just a few of the issues that this president believes the Iranian leadership must address," Gibbs said. Asked whether Obama's view was that the military option remained on the table, he said, "The president hasn't changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options." (Reuters)
Most people remember the headlines: "Israeli Strike Kills Dozens at UN School." On Jan. 6, mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces reportedly killed 43 civilians at the UNRWA school where they had taken refuge in Jabalya in Gaza. But the story was not quite accurate. Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. Those who died in the incident were all outside, on the street. Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate. There was no Israeli shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
A Spanish judge on Thursday began an investigation into seven current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed Hamas terrorist leader Salah Shehadeh - wanted for masterminding suicide bombings - and 14 other people. The judge is acting under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain of crimes against humanity, even if they were alleged to have been committed in another country. The suit was brought by a group of Palestinians. (AP)
See also EU-Funded Palestinian NGO Leading the "Spanish Inquisition" - Gerald M. Steinberg
The Spanish case was initiated by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). With a large budget provided by the European Commission, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and other European governments, PCHR is among the leaders of the anti-Israel demonization strategy. The strategy was developed in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban Conference, the goal being to use boycotts and legal processes to brand Israel an "apartheid" state, while legitimizing terrorism. During the recent Gaza operation, PCHR issued over 50 statements, most of which included allegations of "war crimes." Israel's Foreign Ministry has pressed European governments to amend their legal codes to prevent NGOs from bringing such cases to court. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction
The idea of universal jurisdiction was conceived to stop officials who have engaged in war crimes, like genocide, and who have escaped the law. It should be directed at countries like Iran, where those who incite for mass murder are considered heroes, and not against the U.S., the UK and Israel, who are leading the war on terrorism and have functioning legal systems that prosecute those who really violate the laws of war. View video of a conference on the Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction held in London on November 26, 2008. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Visiting U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell went to Ramallah Thursday and met with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, after which he said that the Gaza border crossings should be opened with a PA presence. "To be successful in preventing the illicit traffic of arms into Gaza, there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods, and that should be with the participation of the Palestinian Authority," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
Members of a Gaza family whose farm was turned into a "fortress" by Hamas fighters have reported that they were helpless to stop Hamas from using them as human shields. The official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, reported Tuesday: "The hill on which the Abd Rabbo family lives overlooks the Israeli town Sderot, a fact that turned it into an ideal military position for the Palestinian fighters, from which they have launched hundreds of rockets into southern Israel during the last few years. Several of the Abd Rabbo family members described how the fighters dug tunnels under their houses, stored arms in the fields and launched rockets from the yard of their farm during the nights....One family member, Hadi (age 22), said: 'You can't say anything to the resistance [fighters], or they will accuse you of collaborating [with Israel] and shoot you in the legs.'" (Palestinian Media Watch)
Q: Will Israel cooperate with investigations of war crimes?
A: No official body or organization has presented any evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by Israel. All accusations have been based on rumor, half-truths, anonymous reports from unconfirmed sources, and manipulations of the truth. On the other hand, proven war crimes have been committed by Hamas.
Q: Was there illegal use of phosphorus?
A: During the operation in Gaza there was no illegal use of phosphorus, as confirmed by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jacob Kellenberger.
Q: Did Israel shoot at schools?
A: When IDF forces were shot at, they returned fire towards the source of the shooting. Defensive actions of this type are explicitly allowed under the Geneva Convention. The IDF did not fire directly at UNRWA schools; clearly had a school been targeted directly, it would have been completely destroyed. In the case of the school in Jabalya, both AP and the New York Times confirmed Israel's version that mortar fire came from a position located very close to the building.
Q: What about the civilian casualties?
A: Civilians who tried to flee the fighting were threatened by Hamas gunmen, while many were killed in the crossfire initiated by Hamas. Some civilians were hurt in booby-trapped houses and by bombs placed by Hamas throughout Gaza. These are the real reasons why many civilians were killed.
Extreme caution should be exercised concerning the numbers of civilian casualties reported. Throughout the past year, Hamas has dismissed doctors and nurses identified with Fatah and replaced them with its own supporters. Gaza's hospitals are now staffed only with Hamas supporters and Hamas officials are the primary sources of information. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Gaza War - Strategic and Diplomatic Impact
In Gaza, Israeli forces, responding to an intolerable provocation, inflicted lopsided casualties on Hamas, which displayed a discrediting combination of cowardice and brutality. Hamas fighters used civilians as shields instead of shielding civilians - and some Palestinians seemed to resent it. Hamas leaders hid in the basements of hospitals while ordering public executions for Palestinian rivals, acting more like members of a criminal gang than a nationalist movement.
"This hasn't solved the problem," retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, told me. "But it has introduced a completely different cost calculation for Hamas." The launching of Hamas rockets against civilians now has a predictable price - the essence of deterrence. According to Daniel Schueftan, a senior research fellow at the University of Haifa, "It is a fairy tale to say there are no answers through coercive force....We have...operational answers that reduce terror to a tolerable level. It is what we do with crime. It is what we do with terrorism." (Washington Post)
In the Gaza war, the IDF showed that it possesses the means, combat doctrine, and required determination for fighting in a crowded urban area while ensuring minimal casualties among our forces. Most importantly, the asymmetrical rules of the game that Israel appeared to accept in recent years had been broken. Previously, it appeared as though the weak side (Hamas, Hizbullah) could attack Israeli citizens uninterruptedly, while Israel hesitated in utilizing its substantial military power. The recent operation showed that even mosques used by terror groups are no longer off limits for Israeli military power.
The operation's diplomatic achievements include destabilization of Iran's protege in the Mideast. Moreover, most of the Arab world stood by Egypt vis-a-vis Hamas. This recognition of the common interest with Israel against Iran and its emissaries holds immense strategic importance. Furthermore, understandings and agreements on curbing weapons smuggling to Hamas have been signed and secured vis-a-vis the U.S. and most Western European states. (Ynet News)
It is Israel that would like to see a Palestinian state living peacefully at its side. Hamas wants something else - the destruction of the Israeli state, and the creation of a new extremist Islamic empire throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. Two years ago, Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in a military coup, killing 350 and injuring more than 1,000 Palestinians in less than two weeks. This story is forgotten; instead, we keep hearing about Hamas winning the Palestinian election, using this as an excuse for turning 1.5 million Gazans into hostages.
Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their interests. Hamas is a proxy of Iran, who did exactly the same thing three years ago in Lebanon, using its other proxy, Hizbullah, to divert attention from its developing nuclear military program. The writer is consul general of Israel for Toronto. (Toronto Star)
Arab support for the Palestinians has been the bedrock of Arab diplomacy for decades, but the recent Israeli military action against Hamas in Gaza has divided those backing PA leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party and those supporting its Hamas rival. On Gaza, Washington should continue to support the Egyptian initiative, which calls for the monitoring of Gaza crossings by the PA and greater Egyptian and international efforts to shut down tunnel smuggling networks. The U.S. should also work to ensure that Arab aid is delivered via the PA, allowing Hamas to gain as little credit as possible during reconstruction. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The Gaza war forced regional players to take sides. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states but Qatar gave Hamas a cold shoulder. Hamas is, after all, a Sunni Arab movement that turned its back on its brothers to embrace the feared and loathed Shi'ite Persian foe. A tacit if grudging alliance is emerging between Israel and pro-Western Sunni rulers. The prospect of an Iran fomenting Islamist revolutions, wars and insurrections around the region under the cover of a nuclear umbrella is infinitely more terrifying than a Jewish state in the Arab heartland. The Arabs need Israel's steel against Iran today. (Ha'aretz)
Israel has a compelling strategic reason to keep the sanctions on Gaza in place. (I say sanctions and not blockade, because Israel doesn't control the Egyptian-Gazan border, and so cannot impose a true blockade.) Israel's sanctions are meant to squeeze the "resistance" out of the Hamas regime - and, if possible, to break its monopoly on power in Gaza. Unless these goals are met, at least in part, it's lights-out for any peace process. Sanctions are a perfectly legitimate tool. It was sanctions that ended apartheid in South Africa, kept Saddam from reconstituting his WMD programs, got Qadhafi to give up his WMD, and might stop Iran's nuclear program.
Hamas owes everything not to its feeble "resistance," but to the tendency of the weak of will or mind to throw it lifelines. It's now demanding that the sanctions be lifted, and the usual chorus is echoing the cynical claims of a tyrannical and terrorist regime that shows no mercy toward its opponents, Israeli or Palestinian. Supporters of peace shouldn't acquiesce in another bailout of its worst enemy. It's time to break the cycle, and make it clear beyond doubt that the Hamas bubble has burst. The way to do that is to keep the sanctions in place. (Sandbox)
"We should have started reconstruction the day the war ended. But we have no supplies," says Gaza builder Anwar al-Sahabani. Peter Lerner, an Israel Defense Ministry official dealing with trade for Gaza, said Israel was helping international aid agencies in their efforts to move in food and other vital supplies. But until Israel was satisfied that cement would not be used by Hamas for fortifications and that steel pipes would be used only for plumbing and not to build rockets to fire at Israeli towns, the embargo on construction material remained. "We are not interested today in rebuilding Hamas, their bunkers. We are not interested in supplying them with pipes that will be used for rockets."
The smuggling tunnels that provide many of the goods in Gaza's stores cannot supply large quantities of building materials. "Let nobody delude themselves that we are going to open the crossings for anything but humanitarian essentials," said Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's infrastructure minister. "We don't intend to open the crossings before [captured IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit comes home." (Reuters)
Hamas Claims Victory in Gaza War
In the past, thousands of Hamas supporters would gather for elaborate rallies. This time the mood was different. Rather than risk one poorly attended central demonstration, Hamas held separate rallies in different towns. In Gaza City, a few hundred tired-looking sympathizers walked behind a truck as slogans were reeled off through a loudspeaker. Hamas leaders believe they won a victory against the might of the Israeli military. This deep inner conviction is shaping the movement's decision-making. In a comparison with the 1967 Six-Day War, Ahmed Yusuf, an adviser in Hamas' foreign ministry, said: "Israel defeated four Arab armies in six days. We lasted 22 days."
Over the past two years the movement's hardliners have come to dominate, and more moderate or pragmatic figures have been pushed to the sidelines. The result is that Hamas appears no closer to making any major compromises. (Guardian-UK)
Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal said on Jan. 21: "The resistance showed fortitude and became an element equal to [the Israeli army], despite the difference in resources. The firing of missiles continued; our people rallied around the resistance and stood fast. Hamas, which [the Israelis] had set out to destroy, gained strength; the resistance has entered every home and has became an ideal among the Arab nation and worldwide." "The residents of the West Bank must rise up and resist until victory, as happened in Gaza."
Senior Hamas official Isma'il Radhwan stated: "The Gaza victory has paved the way to Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, the Negev, and the West Bank." (MEMRI)
A Hamas Cabinet minister carried a carton stuffed with checks worth nearly $2 million into a Gaza tent camp pitched on the ruins of the Salam neighborhood in Jebaliya. But before hundreds of homeless residents could collect, they had to listen to a political speech. Social Affairs Minister Ahmed al-Kurd told them Israel's military machine was defeated. Many complain that political maneuvering - both between Hamas and its West Bank PA rivals, and in the international community - is slowing the delivery of aid to Gaza. Israel said UN trucks are given priority at crossings into Gaza. "Over 40,000 tons of aid have entered Gaza since the cease-fire," said Peter Lerner, an Israeli military official. (AP/Washington Post)
I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home. I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you. Therefore, I am sure you know that Kassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities. Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods. Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered Gaza, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.
I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. (IMRA/Maariv-Hebrew)
The Iranian government's feeling towards the State of Israel varies from utter contempt to visceral hatred. Why? After all, Iran is not an Arab country, has no direct land disputes with Israel, has no Palestinian refugee problem, has a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world, and is home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel itself. Why should Iran be a more strident enemy of Israel than Arab nations that have lost hundreds of their sons in wars fought against the Jewish state?
One school of thought says that Iran and Israel are natural rivals for primacy in the Middle East. The other school of thought contends that opposition to Israel is a deeply held ideological tenet of Iran's 1979 revolution. Nothing less than the dissolution of the Jewish state would satisfy Tehran's hardline leadership. When I was based in Tehran with the International Crisis Group, I used to believe that Iran would be capable of altering its approach towards Israel in the context of a broader U.S.-Iran accommodation. I no longer believe this to be the case. A study I did on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, based on three decades' worth of his speeches, confirmed his consistent and disciplined opposition to Israel's existence. The writer directs the Iran Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. (The National-UAE)
Former President Jimmy Carter has just released a new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land. The former president writes that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin agreed to divide Jerusalem. I found that to be astonishing...especially since Mr. Begin had given me a copy of the letter he wrote to Carter on Sept. 17, 1978, in which he wrote, "Dear Mr. President, ...On the basis of this law, the government of Israel decreed in July 1967 that Jerusalem is one city indivisible, the capital of the State of Israel." According to Begin, Carter informed him that the U.S. government did not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Begin told me he responded, "Excuse me sir, but the State of Israel does not recognize your non-recognition."
Carter viewed PLO leader Yasser Arafat as a "little George Washington." He pens, "We pursued the concept of non-violent resistance of Hamas leaders and gave them documentation and video presentations on the successful experiences of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others." Peace in the Holy Land must include Palestinian militant leader, Marwan Barghouti, the serial killer. Carter calls him the "most intriguing player in the Middle East." (Washington Times)
Don't Strengthen Hamas - Mark A. Heller (International Herald Tribune)
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