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February 25, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Libya's Qaddafi Says Israel Behind Darfur War (Reuters)
    Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, the current African Union president, on Tuesday accused "foreign forces" including Israel of being behind the Darfur conflict.
    Gaddafi urged the International Criminal Court to stop its proceedings against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir over allegations that he masterminded genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
    "We discovered that some of the main leaders of the Darfur rebels have opened offices in Tel Aviv and hold meetings with the military there," Gaddafi said, according to the Libyan state news agency Jana.
    See also The President of Africa - Dana Moss (Foreign Policy)
    Muammar Qaddafi's selection as chairman of the African Union demonstrates his country's international rehabilitation.
    But if President Obama does not want Qaddafi to undermine counterterrorism and human rights initiatives in the region, he would do well to keep watch on the mercurial Libyan leader's continental ambitions.
    The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Israel's 18th Knesset Sworn In - Shelly Paz (Jerusalem Post)
    The 18th Knesset, sworn in Tuesday, has a record 21 women and an average age of 53.

Turkey Airs Anti-Israel Mini-Series - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    A new Turkish television miniseries being broadcast throughout the Arab world depicts Israel supporting the Turkish mafia to spread prostitution and drugs throughout the country.
    The Turkish Jewish community recently said there were several Turkish TV programs that contained "harshly anti-Semitic rhetoric."

Rights Group Urges Syria to Eliminate Special Court - Alia Ibrahim (Washington Post)
    A Human Rights Watch report Tuesday called on Syria to abolish its Supreme State Security Court, an institution used to stifle opposition to the government.
    The Supreme State Security Court "consistently ignores claims by defendants that their confessions were extracted under torture and frequently convicts them on vague and overbroad offenses that essentially criminalize freedom of expression and association," the human rights group said.
    The report said 153 bloggers, activists and private citizens have been tried on vague charges such as weakening national sentiment or awakening sectarian tensions.
    "This is not a court. This is just a means to legitimize the rulings of security apparatuses," said Mohammad Abdallah, a Syrian human rights activist now living in the U.S. who was tried by the court on charges of publishing false information.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Set Up Missile Facility at Suspected Nuclear Site - Katy Byron
    Syria's nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman told members of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency Tuesday that his country has built a military missile facility at a site where traces of uranium have been detected in the past. The Dair Alzour site was bombed by Israeli aircraft in September 2007. (CNN)
  • Waiting in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Gazans were relieved when Israel and Hamas declared separate ceasefires in January, but relief is still mixed with doubt and unease a month later. People who lost their houses remain homeless, living with friends, with relatives and in rental apartments. Their hopes to rebuild seem remote following news of a setback in efforts to reach a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. In daylight those people visit tents they established on the rubble of what were once their houses in order to receive foreign visitors who promise aid. Bulldozers have cleared streets in areas where the Israeli army operated in January but the rubble of houses, offices and Hamas security headquarters remained unremoved. International donors will discuss funding at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt next week.
        International envoys have urged Hamas and Fatah to reunite in order for the donors to find an official recognized party to deal with over Gaza reconstruction plans. But for aid to come and construction materials to be allowed in, efforts by Egypt need to reconcile Hamas with both Fatah and Israel. Will Abbas and Hamas be able to form a unity government that Israel, the U.S. and the West would agree to cooperate with and support? On Monday Abbas said Hamas needed to respect existing peace deals with Israel to be a partner in a unity government with Fatah. (Reuters)
  • Former AIPAC Lobbyists Win a Round in Court - Neil A. Lewis
    A federal appeals court in Richmond on Tuesday ruled in favor of two former lobbyists for a pro-Israel advocacy group in deciding how much classified information they may use in their defense on espionage charges. The appeals court also refused to entertain the government's objections to a series of formidable hurdles to a conviction put in place by the trial judge. The two have asserted that they were unfairly singled out and were only involved in the kind of free trade in information that is a regular and protected part of policy-making. Defense lawyers said Tuesday that they believed the appellate ruling and an earlier one by the trial judge greatly increased the prosecutors' difficulty in continuing the case. (New York Times)
  • Four Lebanese Generals to Be Handed to UN for Rafik Hariri Tribunal - David Charter
    Four army generals held in Lebanon over the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri are expected to be handed over within weeks to the UN tribunal in The Hague that will put them on trial, the court registrar said Tuesday. Ex-Lebanese intelligence chief Raymond Azar, Mustapha Hamdan of the presidential guard, Internal Security Forces Director Ali Hajj, and Jamil al-Sayyed from Lebanese General Security were arrested under the orders of former chief investigator Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor who carried out the initial UN inquiry. Mehlis concluded that there was evidence implicating Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in the assassination. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: UNRWA Providing Political Cover for Hamas - Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff
    The UN Relief and Works Agency is systematically providing political cover to Hamas, a senior Israeli government official said Tuesday, lashing out at UNRWA head Karen AbuZayd for passing a Hamas letter to U.S. Sen. John Kerry when he visited Gaza last Thursday. The senior Israeli official said, "That no one finds it strange that UNRWA, whose mandate is humanitarian, is the vehicle through which Hamas passes messages on to the U.S. just shows where UNRWA is at."
        Furthermore, the official said, UNRWA was lobbying around the world for governments to drop the international community's three preconditions to talking with Hamas - that it recognize Israel, disavow terrorism, and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements. It is not clear how this, or calls by UNRWA for an "independent international investigation" into alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza, fell within the organization's mandate, the official added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Peres: EU Sympathy for Hamas Diminishes Chances of Peace
    President Shimon Peres on Tuesday told Hans-Gert Pottering, the president of the European parliament, that European sympathy for Hamas is diminishing the chances of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. Peres said Europe and the international community are harming the peace effort by expressing understanding for the situation in Gaza, which, he said, was essentially expressing understanding for Hamas' terror. He said Hamas uses its own people as human shields in order to advance its interests. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at Israel on Wednesday morning. Despite Hamas' declaration of a ceasefire, Palestinian gunmen have continued firing several rockets and mortar shells almost every day, making life very difficult for southern Israel's residents. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Is the Real Issue for Israel and America in Middle East - Mortimer Zuckerman
    The Middle East conflict is no longer one just between Israelis and Palestinians. Iran is at the core of a wider, unfolding struggle between radical Islamists and moderate national entities. Today, most Sunni Arab governments, including those of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and even Fatah - although not Syria and Qatar - are far more worried about Iranian regional dominance than they are about Israel. They know that Israel is not going to undermine or overthrow them, while radical, Iranian-sponsored Islamists just might.
        Given the threat from Hamas, which has stated and restated that the Palestinians will continue their jihad until the face of the Zionist state disappears, who can think that Israel would get peace in return for yielding land? Withdrawal from the West Bank, once negotiable, now seems to many Israelis to make Israel more vulnerable to yet another generation of Palestinians promising to push the Jews into the sea. An increasing number of Israelis believe that as long as Iran and its proxies are armed and ready to fight, no number of uprooted Jewish settlements will bring peace. (U.S. News)
  • Nuclear Iran? Decision Time Is Here - Gideon Rachman
    Gary Samore, who will handle the non-proliferation job in the Obama White House, noted in a speech in Israel on Dec. 18 that Iran's leadership "probably value the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability much more than better relations with the U.S." "We have to be realistic, and stopping Iran at this point is going to be a very difficult challenge," he said. So the U.S. should set a deadline for the suspension of enrichment. The initial deal should trade suspension of enrichment for suspension of sanctions.
        The latest news from Iran suggests that the Iranians could produce material for a single bomb within months - although that would require a very public and detectable reconfiguration of their nuclear facilities. It is time for the Obama administration to launch a last big push to head off the Iranian bomb - and for the rest of the world to line up in support of that effort. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Downplaying Hamas: The Persistence of Rationalizing Terrorism Against Israel - James Kirchick (City Journal-Manhattan Institute)

    • When Israel erected a security fence and imposed a blockade on Gaza following its withdrawal from the territory in 2005, Palestinian terrorists had to find other means of killing Jews. Hamas chose crude rockets, which, while occasionally injuring and even killing Israeli civilians, were not nearly as lethal as men detonating themselves in crowded shopping malls.
    • Lamenting the greater number of Palestinian civilian casualties (due almost entirely to the Hamas practice of using women and children as human shields) is a perennial tactic of Israel's critics. The logic of their position dictates that Israel should wait until some critical mass of its own civilians is killed before eventually fighting back.
    • Over the past several weeks, the critics have developed a new piece of rhetoric: The Hamas actions that provoked Israel were merely a nuisance. A Guardian news report referred to the rocket attacks as a "manageable irritant."
    • Israel's detractors have minimized, to an almost comical extent, what its citizens have had to endure over the past three years. They portray a bona fide war crime - the deliberate firing of rockets into civilian areas - as a minor irritant.
    • They criticize, from the comfort of their keyboards thousands of miles away, the actions of a beleaguered democracy under siege from terrorists.

      The writer is an assistant editor of The New Republic.

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