Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


February 20, 2009

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

IAEA Finds Graphite, Uranium Traces at Suspected Syrian Nuclear Site - Mark Heinrich (Reuters)
    UN inspectors found graphite and more uranium traces in test samples taken from a Syrian site Washington says was a covert graphite nuclear reactor almost built before Israel bombed it, officials in Vienna said on Thursday.
    One senior UN official said the discovery of additional uranium traces was "significant."
    The IAEA's November report said the site bore features that would resemble those of an undeclared nuclear reactor.
    The U.S. says the site was a reactor that was close to being built with North Korean assistance and designed to produce plutonium for atomic bombs.
    See also U.S. Urges IAEA to Take Up Syria Nuclear Concerns (AFP)
    State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid called on the International Atomic Energy Agency Thursday to discuss mounting evidence of a clandestine nuclear program in Syria at a meeting next month in Vienna.

Who Will Be the Next Head of the UN's Nuclear Watchdog? - George Jahn (AP)
    As Mohamed ElBaradei's 12-year tenure as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency comes to an end, member states will in the coming weeks elect a new leader of the UN agency charged with probing Iran's nuclear program, pressing Syria to reveal its atomic secrets, and thwarting terrorists from getting the bomb.
    Two men are vying for the post: Japan's Yukiya Amano, a low-key career diplomat who would be expected to depoliticize the agency, and South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty, a former anti-apartheid activist who promises a more hands-on approach to mediating nuclear crises.

Argentina Orders Holocaust-Denying Bishop Out - Debora Rey (AP/New York Times)
    The bishop whose denials of the Holocaust embarrassed the Vatican was ordered Thursday to leave Argentina within 10 days.
    The Argentine Interior Ministry said it had ordered Richard Williamson out of Argentina because his comments on the Holocaust "profoundly insult Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying an historic truth."

Israeli Tennis Player Given Visa for Dubai - Firouz Sedarat (Reuters)
    The United Arab Emirates will allow Israel's Andy Ram to play in the men's Dubai Championships next week, the state news agency WAM said on Thursday.
    Top Israeli player Shahar Peer had to forfeit her place in the women's tournament in Dubai this week after the UAE blocked her visa application.

South Korea to Buy Israeli Radar System in $215 Million Deal - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    South Korea has decided to buy Israel Aerospace Industries' Green Pine radar warning system in a deal worth $215 million, according to Sunday's Korea Times.
    On Monday, Israel's Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd., said it had won 22 million euros in contracts to supply Mexico's federal police with airborne surveillance systems.
    See also Mexico Adds More Israeli Surveillance Platforms (Defense Industry Daily)

Israel OKs Golan Apple Export to Syria (AFP)
    Truckloads of apples were sent from Israel's Golan Heights to Syria on Tuesday after Israel authorized the export of 8,000 tons of produce.
    This is the fourth year the International Committee of the Red Cross has organized this operation.

Useful Reference:

Israel's Alamo - Lenny Ben-David (I*Consult)
    Parts of the Etzion Bloc, on the road from Jerusalem to Hebron, were purchased by Jews 20 years before the State of Israel was declared in 1948.
    When Arab militias attacked Jewish communities throughout the region in 1947 and 1948, the Haganah dispatched soldiers to hold the Etzion Bloc, a key position on the southern approaches to Jerusalem.
    Five months of siege and attacks against the Jews of the Etzion Bloc ended with the massacre of 250 Jewish defenders on May 13, 1948.
    After Israel captured the West Bank in June 1967, the children of the Etzion Bloc's defenders returned.
    Today, the Etzion Bloc is one of the "major population centers" in the West Bank cited by then-President George Bush in a letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004 that would remain under Israeli control after a peace agreement.

For Researchers: Search the Daily Alert Archive
    All back issues of Daily Alert since May 2002 are available online and are searchable.
This invaluable Internet resource documents the recent history of Israel and the Middle East.
    See also
    Insider information on Israel's national security issues - filtered, sifted, and stored for easy retrieval - from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Add the Daily Alert Israel News Ticker to Your Website

Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
    If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert - and want to share it with friends - please click "Forward" in your email program and enter their address.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Has Enough Enriched Uranium for a Nuclear Bomb - Daniel Dombey
    Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, UN officials acknowledged Thursday, saying Iran had produced more nuclear material than previously thought. They said Iran had accumulated more than one ton of low enriched uranium hexafluoride at a facility in Natanz, which if further enriched could produce more than 20 kg. of fissile material - enough for a bomb.
        "It appears that Iran has walked right up to the threshold," said Peter Zimmerman, a former chief scientist of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The new figures come in a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog. David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said: "If Iran did decide to build nuclear weapons, it's entering an era in which it could do so quickly." (Financial Times-UK)
  • Hamas Refuses to Free Israeli Soldier in Return for Lifting Gaza Blockade - Ian Black
    Hamas has flatly rejected Israel's demand that it free a captive soldier in return for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian movement called instead for international pressure on Israel to force the borders open. Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy leader of Hamas, told the Guardian in Damascus Thursday that Corporal Gilad Shalit would only be released in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The soldier is believed to be alive but his whereabouts are unknown and he has not been seen by the International Red Cross. (Guardian-UK)
  • Sen. Kerry Shuns Hamas During Gaza Visit
    The U.S. will not change its stance towards Hamas, John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Democratic presidential candidate, said during a tour of Gaza Thursday. This visit "does not indicate any shift whatsoever with respect to Hamas....What it indicates is our effort to listen and to learn," Kerry said in the Israeli town of Sderot before entering Gaza. Kerry told the Gazans: "Your political leadership needs to understand that any nation that has rockets hitting it for many years threatening its residents is going to respond." Hamas "needs to make it clear how it is willing to move to make peace and those decisions have not been made yet." (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
  • Mitchell Briefs Jewish Leaders on Mideast Plans
    In an on-the-record conference call Thursday, Middle East special envoy George Mitchell briefed Jewish leaders on his work thus far. Mitchell said settlements were "an important issue, but not the only issue," and that while Palestinian and other Arab leaders bring up settlements in every conversation, he will not pre-judge the issue. The envoy also noted that divisions among the Palestinians made dialogue more difficult. Mitchell said he was struck while reading the "Mitchell Report" on the region he wrote eight years ago how much has changed in that time. For instance, he said, Iran was not mentioned in that document, but the country was brought up in the "first sentence" of his initial meetings with every leader in the region. (JTA)
  • Security Classification "Czar" Can Testify in AIPAC Staffers' Case
    The Bush administration's former "classification czar" can testify for the defense in the case against two former AIPAC staffers. Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III in an order released Wednesday allowed the testimony of William Leonard, who headed the Information Security Oversight Office, in the classified information leak case. Leonard could be the most damaging witness to the prosecution when the two go on trial for allegedly relaying classified information to colleagues, journalists and Israeli diplomats. Leonard, who oversaw classification procedures from 2002 to 2008, and his predecessor, Steven Garfinkel, have argued in retirement that the government overclassifies. Their expertise could undermine arguments that the information allegedly handled by Rosen and Weissman met the standards of "national defense information," which Ellis has said the government must prove. (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Anshel Pfeffer
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three rockets at Israel Thursday evening that struck near Sderot and Netivot. Two rockets had been fired at Israel earlier in the day. In response, the Israel Air Force bombed six smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, causing secondary blasts which indicated that explosives were hit. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians Fire Ten Mortar Shells at IDF Troops on Gaza Border
    Palestinian gunmen on Friday fired ten mortar shells at IDF troops operating near the Kissufim crossing to Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Declaration to Fight Anti-Semitism Signed in London - Jonny Paul
    A declaration pledging to challenge anti-Semitism was signed on behalf of all participating nations on Tuesday, the final day of the London Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism. Noting the dramatic increase in anti-Semitism being disseminated in the media and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, the London Declaration was signed by 125 parliamentarians from 40 countries. The parliamentarians issued a declaration stating that the international community must "not be witness or party to another gathering like Durban in 2001," in reference to the infamous UN "anti-racism" conference in which the focus on Israel, to the exclusion of all other issues, was widely perceived as anti-Semitic.
        "There is a new sophisticated, globalizing, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism, reminiscent of the atmospherics of the '30s and without parallel or precedent since the end of the Second World War," said former Canadian attorney-general and founding co-chair of the conference Irwin Cotler. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 15 Palestinians Escape from PA Prison - Ali Waked
    15 prisoners escaped last Friday from a PA prison in Jericho. Most belonged to the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and were being held as part of an amnesty agreement between Israel and the PA which grants pardons to members of terror groups who sign contracts committing them to good behavior. PA officials said the prisoners had dug a tunnel dozens of meters long underneath their cells in order to escape. (Ynet News)
        See also PA Arrests 6 Jailbreakers - Ali Waked
    Palestinian security forces in Jericho arrested six of the 15 prisoners who escaped from a PA prison on Friday. The PA set up an investigatory committee on Saturday, based on the suspicion that the escaped prisoners had received help from security forces and prison jailers, with the tunnel merely serving as a cover story. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Does an Anti-Semitic Conference Deserve U.S. Participation of Any Kind? - Editorial
    The first "Durban" conference was named for the South African city where the UN held its 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and was chiefly notable as a virulent display of anti-Semitism. Yet last weekend, the Administration announced it would participate in "conference preparations," while reserving judgment on whether to attend the conference itself. Back in 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to appear at Durban for fear that it would turn into a carnival of hatred and grievance. That's exactly what happened, prompting Powell to withdraw the U.S. delegation. As he put it at the time, "I know that you do not combat racism by suggesting that apartheid exists in Israel."
        The UN has been merrily planning the "Durban Review Conference" for April, whose purpose is to "reaffirm the Durban Declaration." The preparatory committee is chaired by Libya. Vice chairs include Iran and Cuba. The conference is organized under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, which the previous U.S. Administration refused to join. In the latest draft of the so-called "Outcome Document," Israel's "racial policies" are a major theme. The draft also calls for "limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression" in order to criminalize all criticism of Islam. There is also an effort to extract reparations for the long-banned trans-Atlantic slave trade: States that "have not yet condemned, apologized and paid reparations" for the trade are urged "to do so at the earliest." (Wall Street Journal)
        See also U.S. Holds Firm on Reparations, Israel in UN Racism Conference Talks - Colum Lynch
    The Obama administration on Thursday concluded its first round of UN negotiations on racism, pressing foreign governments to drop reparation demands for slavery and to desist from singling out Israel for criticism in a draft declaration to be presented at a UN conference in April. Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, dispatched Felice D. Gaer, a human rights advocate, and Betty King, a former U.S. diplomat, to Geneva to make the U.S. case in discussions on the draft declaration. The administration "is pushing back against efforts to brand Israel as racist in this conference," Gaer said, but cautioned that U.S. attendance at this week's final preparatory meeting does not mean the U.S. will participate in the conference. (Washington Post)
  • Chance for Change in Iran - Guy Bechor
    Iran's presidential elections on June 12 will be a clash of two divergent inclinations within the leadership. Former President Mohammad Khatami represents the desire to reach out to the West, while incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pushed Iran to adopt a radical policy and face international isolation. The popular Khatami already served as president for eight years, in 1997-2005, and could not return for a consecutive third term in office before taking a break in line with Iran's constitution.
        Should Khatami regain the presidency, this will not mark the end of the Islamic revolution, but its substance will be softer. Khatami rejects out of hand Ahmadinejad's statements against the U.S., Israel, and the Jews. He claims that these declarations caused great damage to Iran on the diplomatic and economic fronts. It would also not necessarily mean an end to Iran's nuclear project (a decision to be made only by spiritual leader Khamenei). Under Khatami's leadership, Iran's support for Hizbullah and Hamas will be maintained, yet the sums of money involved (as Iran faces an economic crisis with the decline in the price of oil) will become smaller. (Ynet News)
  • New Iranian UAV Capability Is Troublesome - Editorial
    Iran has developed a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles with a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi announced this week. The new UAV could soar over every U.S. military installation, diplomatic mission or country of interest in the Middle East. Drones are very attractive to smaller states because they are inexpensive, stealthy and pose fewer risks than conventional aircraft. In 2007 Iran claimed to have begun producing "suicide drones" invisible to radar and usable as guided missiles to attack U.S. ships. Should Iran arm its drones with missiles having chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear warheads, any of which are or soon will be within Iranian capabilities, the UAVs will be strategic, offensive weapon systems. (Washington Times)
  • Attack of the Libel Tourists - Editorial
    The problem is known as libel tourism; the damage inflicted on the First Amendment and academic freedom is serious. Disgruntled subjects of articles or books produced and distributed almost exclusively in the U.S. file suit in foreign jurisdictions to get around the strong First Amendment protections afforded here to journalistic and academic works. Britain has become a favorite venue for unhappy subjects because plaintiffs win cases that would be thrown out by U.S. courts.
        U.S. lawmakers are considering legal avenues to address the problem. One bill would empower U.S. judges to block enforcement of a foreign libel judgment if it does not comport with U.S. standards. It would also help immensely if Britain strengthened free-speech protections in its laws, as some British lawmakers are considering. (Washington Post)
        See also Libel Tourism: International Forum Shopping for Defamation Claims - Avi Bell (Global Law Forum-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Turkey's Shift Toward Iran and Syria - Jonathan Spyer
    Last weekend, a conference held under the title "Gaza, The Victory" took place in Istanbul, bringing 200 Sunni clerics and activists together with senior Damascus-based Hamas officials. The location of the conference is a further indication of the move of the Islamist AKP government in Turkey toward a more open alignment with anti-Western and anti-Israeli forces in the region.
        The atmosphere in Turkey during the Israeli operation in Gaza became deeply charged against Israelis and Jews - with a number of ugly incidents recorded across the country. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off the stage in protest during a debate with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland. Erdogan attended the emergency summit in Doha on Jan. 16 that was convened by Syria and Qatar to offer support to Hamas, and he publicly questioned Israel's UN membership.
        In courting Hamas and hosting Islamist gatherings, the AKP government in Ankara is seeking to build Turkey's regional "strategic depth" - its preferred phrase - by building up relations with Syria and Iran. Since it is becoming increasingly unfeasible for countries to maintain close relations with both the U.S.-led and the Iranian-led camps, the prospect of Turkey moving toward the Iranian-led alliance can no longer be dismissed as fanciful. Turkish analysts have noted the rise of a "Muslim nationalist" orientation in the country. The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arabic-Language Israeli Web Site Aims to Sway Opinions in the Arab World - Brenda Gazzar
    An Arabic-language "hasbara" (information) Web site edited by former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel, now a research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, offers a sampling of news items and perspectives that many Arabs in the Middle East are rarely served. "It is true that in the last six or seven years there has been a kind of a revolution that has happened in the Arabic media," Mazel said. "You have newspapers published in London like al-Hayat, a-Sharq al-Awsat and others that really give much more information about the world than the traditional Arab press,'s far from being enough. I don't think that they cover 80 to 90% of what is being said about them (in the Western press)."
        The Web site, which Mazel said has a limited budget and garners about 2,000 readers a month, also features historical pieces about the Jewish people's historic connection to the Land of Israel. Many of the letters sent by readers from around the Arab world had been positive toward Israel, Mazel said. Some readers have even asked for political asylum or job opportunities in Israel. "We fight through a war of ideas," Mazel said. "I cannot go to Yemen, to Saudi Arabia and sit with people and talk. So we have now this wonderful tool called the Internet and through the Internet, we transmit to them some of these ideas." The Web site, updated weekly, is located at (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Has No Choice - Joy Kocher
    For Israel, a nation smaller than the state of New Jersey, the issue is the daily bombing of unarmed civilian neighborhoods, causing death and injury to residents, destroying homes, cars, school, workplaces, and streets. Israel doesn't do this. There has never been an Israeli suicide bomber and their citizens don't shoot bombs day after day into Gaza cities. What would this nation do if Cuba started bombing Florida, Mexico bombed Phoenix, or some militant group in Canada started bombing Helena, Montana? When "talking" to foreign leaders and signing all kinds of documents doesn't stop it, what's left? These attacks on Israel have been going on for over eight years. Being bombed by a foreign country used to be an act of war. If some of us had to be on the receiving end of this torment day after day, we might think differently about it. I'm sorry, but I'm taking Israel's part. (Helena [Montana] Independent Record)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Gaza Operation and International Law - Robbie Sabel (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • International law and the UN Charter recognize the inherent right of states to use force in self-defense against an armed attack. The right applies even if the attack is by irregular forces.
    • Hamas has not denied that its attacks were targeted at Israeli towns; such attacks are a violation of the laws of war. The IDF correctly saw itself as being bound by the laws of war in its conduct, notwithstanding the total disregard of these rules by its opponents.
    • The IDF repeatedly warned civilians of impending attacks, using leaflets and mass telephone messages. It does not appear that any other military has ever taken such steps to minimize civilian casualties, nor is there any other similar conflict on record in a built-up area where the percentage of civilian casualties in relation to combatant casualties was lower.
    • Israel uses phosphorous shells in flares and smoke shells. Such shells are standard equipment in all NATO militaries as well as the Arab states' armed forces. They are of course dangerous to handle when burning but absolutely legal. The International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed that there was no evidence that these shells were used in Gaza in any irregular way.
    • Once armed conflict develops, international law does not require proportionality of response. A state defending itself may indeed strive to cause disproportionate damage to its enemy's military targets and military capabilities. Let the attacking state or organization beware.

      Dr. Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Israel Foreign Ministry, teaches international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

    Support the Daily Alert
    Daily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy. No wonder it is read by heads of government, leading journalists, and thousands of people who want to stay on top of the news. To continue to provide this service, Daily Alert requires your support. Please take a moment to click here and make your contribution through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert