Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Long Arm - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
Military Intelligence: Iran Has Crossed Nuclear Bomb Threshold - Shahar Ilan (Ha'aretz)
Prominent U.S. Political Cartoonist Compares Israel to Nazis - Raquel Maria Dillon (AP)
Palestinian Rights Group Says Hamas Beat Man to Death (AP/Washington Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin has been told that Israeli aircraft carried out an attack on a weapons convoy in Sudan in January. Israeli intelligence is said to have discovered that weapons were being trucked through Sudan, heading north toward Egypt, whereupon they would cross the Sinai Desert and be smuggled into Hamas-held territory in Gaza. In January, the U.S. signed an agreement with Israel that calls for an international effort to stop arms smuggling into Gaza, from where Hamas was showering rockets on Israeli towns.
In the airstrike - said to have been "in a desert area northwest of Port Sudan city, near Mount al-Sha'anoon," according to the Sudan Tribune - 39 people riding in 17 trucks were reportedly killed. The state minister for highways, Mabrouk Mubarak Saleem, said: "A major power bombed small trucks carrying arms - burning all of them." (CBS News)
Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's Parliament, criticized the U.S. on Wednesday in harsher terms than any other leading Iranian figure has done since President Obama extended his videotaped olive branch to Iran last week. "Our problem with America is not an emotional problem that could be solved by sending congratulations," Larijani said. (New York Times)
See also below Commentary: Iran Has a Problem as "Great Satan" Turns on the Charm - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israeli ambassador to the UN Prof. Gabriela Shalev on Wednesday told the Security Council that "the State of Israel is committed to the Middle East peace process." When the new government in Israel takes office, she assured the council, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will continue to move forward. She added that the peace process must rely on the principles outlined by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators: recognition of Israel's right to exist, a complete halt to violence and terror, and the honoring of previous agreements.
The Israeli ambassador reiterated that Israel will not tolerate terrorist attacks on civilians from Gaza, and warned that the efforts of moderates in the region to achieve peace are being systematically undermined by extremist groups, including terror organizations supported by Syria and Iran. (Ha'aretz)
Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East Tuesday that indirect Israel-Syria talks were "a positive sign," but stressed that no peace would be possible until Damascus withheld funds and arms from Hizbullah and Hamas. "On the one hand, Syria has been willing to show that it will engage, at least indirectly, with the Israelis," Feltman said. "On the other hand, they are in fact the conduit for the arms shipments to Hizbullah, and also host the Hamas political leaders who have been clear in their rejection of the conditions that would lead to Palestinian reconciliation, a condition that would lead to real Israeli-Palestinian peace."
He said he had stressed during his recent visit to Damascus that U.S. policy had not changed simply because it was engaging Syria in dialogue. (Ynet News)
IDF forces Wednesday detained three Palestinians in possession of a pipe bomb near the village of Beit Dajan, southeast of Nablus. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Human Rights Watch's latest report on the Gaza conflict, "Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorous in Gaza," is inaccurate and distorted, revealing a readiness to manipulate "evidence" to match pre-determined ideological conclusions. The latest report completely omits the context of the broader conflict, including Hamas' deliberate exploitation of civilian areas to launch attacks. HRW claims that there was no Hamas activity around the Al-Quds Hospital, yet a Gazan ambulance driver reported that Hamas operatives "made several attempts to hijack the Al-Qud's Hospital's fleet of ambulances." HRW alleges there was "no indication" of "Palestinian armed groups" operating in Beit Lahiya, while photographic evidence shows Hamas fortifications in the town.
HRW extensively relies on the Palestinian NGO Al Mezan. Among other claims, Al Mezan lists a child as deceased who was subsequently interviewed by HRW author Marc Garlasco in Gaza. The report reflects HRW's inconsistent definition of "human shield." When reporting on Sri Lanka, HRW condemns the LTTE for "deploy[ing] their forces close to civilians, thus using them as 'human shields.'" Yet in Gaza, HRW claims that it "found no evidence of Hamas using human shields." (NGO Monitor)
See also Israeli Use of Phosphorus in Gaza Disputed - Howard Schneider
White phosphorus shells are used as an "obscurant" to hide troop movements or block an enemy's vision. Israeli military officials said the shells, designed to produce a smoke screen, were used in accordance with accepted rules. The IDF said: "These shells were used for specific operational needs only and in accord with international humanitarian law. The claim that smoke shells were used indiscriminately, or to threaten the civilian population, is baseless." (Washington Post)
If Iran's leaders could choose between a belligerent America threatening "regime change" and a conciliatory U.S. President hailing their "great and celebrated culture," they would probably prefer firebreathing threats. Their difficulties only arise when the "Great Satan" stubbornly refuses to be remotely satanic. President Barack Obama's conciliatory and nuanced approach towards Iran confronts its leaders with their greatest foreign policy dilemma in years.
Any visitor to Tehran is struck by how young Iranians have embraced Western - and specifically American - popular culture. By appealing to Iran's Westernized youth, Obama is seeking to widen the divide between the regime and its people. In addition, there are pragmatic figures inside Iran's regime who want to explore the possibility of easing tensions with Washington. Obama's intervention is designed to help them while isolating Ahmadinejad. Obama's words are designed to help Ahmadinejad's opponents in the June election by raising the possibility of a genuine rapprochement with America.
If Obama's approach succeeds, he will achieve one of history's greatest diplomatic coups. If he fails, America has carefully ruled nothing out. Obama may yet have to decide whether to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities by military means. If he ever reaches that juncture, he will be able to argue that America tried every alternative. (Telegraph-UK)
30th Anniversary of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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