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April 8, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Russia to Supply PA with New Weapons - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Russia has promised to supply the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank with new weapons, including two helicopters.
    The Russians have also agreed to supply the PA with more than 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 300 armored vehicles, 100 pistols and large quantities of ammunition, a senior PA official in Ramallah said Tuesday.

Israel Carries Out Anti-Missile Test (Reuters)
    Israel carried out a test launch of its Arrow II interceptor missile on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said.
    The Arrow intercepted a target missile, simulating an Iranian Shehab missile, launched from an Israeli aircraft over the Mediterranean.
    Israel Radio said it was the 16th test launch of an Arrow - a defense source said 90% of those tests have been successful.
    At least two Arrow batteries have been deployed in Israel, which has been testing the system to improve its performance at high altitudes and against multiple incoming missiles.

Hamas Won't Join Palestinian Government that Recognizes Israel - Saed Bannoura (IMEMC-PA)
    Dr. Ismail Radwan, a senior political leader of Hamas, stated Monday that Hamas will not deal with or be part of any government which recognizes Israel as a legitimate entity on the historic lands of Palestine.

Palestinian Assailant Killed at Demolition of Terrorist's Home - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    Iyyad Azmi Awisat, 20, attempted to run down Israeli Border Guard officers in Sur Baher in eastern Jerusalem on Tuesday.
    After wounding three officers, Awisat was shot and killed.
    The attack occurred as Israeli security forces were destroying the Sur Baher residence of the terrorist who killed three people in a bulldozer attack in Jerusalem last July.
    Israel's High Court authorized the demolition a few weeks ago, citing it as a deterrent against future attacks.

Study: India Most Sympathetic toward Israel - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    The country most sympathetic toward Israel is India, according to a study of the world's 13 most important countries, Yediot Ahronot reported Friday.
    58% of Indians reported sympathy to Israel, followed by 56% of Americans.
    Other countries showing sympathy to Israel included Russia (52%), Mexico (52%), and China (50%), followed by Britain (34%), France (27%), and Spain (23%).

Former FBI Chief Defends Flow of Money to Saudi Ambassador - Tom Hamburger and Josh Meyer (Los Angeles Times)
    Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh says $2 billion that flowed from British arms manufacturer BAE Systems to U.S. bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was not a bribe, but was instead part of a complex barter involving the exchange of Saudi oil for British fighter jets.
    Freeh is now a lawyer and consultant for Bandar.

Useful Reference:

Israel's Response to the Roadmap in 2003 (Israeli Knesset)
    On April 30, 2003, the U.S. State Department released the text of the "Roadmap" to a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On May 25, 2003, Israel's Knesset accepted the Roadmap, subject to 14 points.
    These included the complete dismantling of terrorist organizations including Hamas, collection of all illegal weapons, cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority, and cessation of incitement.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama to Muslim World: Israel Not Behind All Mideast Problems
    President Barack Obama called on the Muslim world Tuesday for a "balanced" approach towards Israel, saying that the Jewish state was not behind all problems in the Middle East. "In the Muslim world, the notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance because there are two sides to every question," Obama said during a visit to Turkey. "I say the same thing to my Jewish friends - you have to see the perspective of the Palestinians. Learning to stand in someone else's shoes, to see through their eyes...this is how peace begins." (AFP)
        See also Text: Obama at Student Roundtable in Istanbul (White House); Video (YouTube)
        See also Arabs Hail Obama Overture to Muslims - Mona Salem
    President Obama's efforts in Turkey to repair the relationship between Washington and Muslims won praise in the Arab world on Tuesday, more than seven years after the 9/11 attacks. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Obama's initiative had put the two sides "on the path towards rebuilding bridges of trust between the U.S. and the world's more than one billion Muslims." Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi compared Obama to "a beacon of light in the obscurity of imperialism....So far his political discourse has been reasonable."
        Yussuf al-Kuwailit, a senior editor of the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, wrote: "Obama is a new American phenomenon, who reflects the true picture of America, trying to settle its differences with the world through participation and cooperation, without arrogance and talk of power." Kuwailit said Obama's bowing to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the G20 summit last week "showed extreme modesty...without undermining his position as the president of the biggest world power." (AFP)
  • U.S. Moves Against Iran Nuclear Trade - Joanna Chung and Daniel Dombey
    New York prosecutors joined the Obama administration Tuesday in shutting down a China-based network that allegedly supplied Iran's nuclear and missile programs with the unwitting aid of some of Wall Street's biggest banks. Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, unsealed an 118-count indictment accusing Li Fang Wei, a Chinese national, of setting up front companies to disguise the illegal sales.
        At the heart of the case is the LIMMT Economic and Trade Company. The administration has banned U.S. groups from dealing with LIMMT since June 2006 on the grounds that it provides material support to Iran's missile program, which analysts see as one of the three components of nuclear weapons capability, together with building warheads and uranium enrichment. Morgenthau said Li's companies acquired financing to ship large quantities of components to Iran's missile and nuclear programs between November 2006 and September 2008. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Iran Using Chinese Companies to Buy Nuclear Equipment - Julian Borger
    Iran has dramatically stepped up covert attempts to buy nuclear equipment over the last six months, often by using Chinese companies as fronts, according to a senior German industrialist. Ralf Wirtz, whose company makes pumps that can be used in uranium enrichment centrifuges, told a Washington conference organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "In the last six months I have seen a considerable increase of procurement attempts which - as we are told by government authorities - are for a nuclear program." David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said: "China is a huge hole in the system. It needs help to implement its own controls." (Guardian-UK)
  • Biden: Possible Israeli Strike on Iranian Nuclear Facilities Would Be "Ill-Advised" - Rebecca Sinderbrand
    The possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is not a concern, Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview Tuesday. Biden said he was not worried that Israel's new government, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would order such an attack. "I don't believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu would do that. I think he would be ill-advised to do that. And so my level of concern is no different than it was a year ago." (CNN)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Report: Obama Team Readying for Clash with Netanyahu - Aluf Benn
    In recent weeks, Obama administration officials have briefed senior Democratic congressmen and prepared the ground for the possibility of disagreements with Israel over the peace process. The briefing is meant to foil the possibility that Netanyahu may try to bypass the administration by rallying support in Congress. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Fears U.S. Pressure to Continue Annapolis Process - Roni Sofer and Ali Waked
    Israel is preparing for the possibility of increased tensions with the U.S. administration ahead of special envoy George Mitchell's visit to the region next week and Prime Minister Netanyahu's scheduled trip to Washington in about a month. One source said both Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman were expecting heavy U.S. pressure ahead of Netanyahu's visit to Washington. However, other senior officials in Netanyahu's government said they believed the U.S. and Israel would find a way to avoid a dispute and set new guidelines for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. According to them, the U.S. has no choice but to acknowledge that Israel's new government has a different agenda than former Prime Minister Olmert's coalition. (Ynet News)
        See also Poll: Israelis Expect U.S. Pressure But Continued Good Relations - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann
    According to a War and Peace Index poll of Israelis conducted on March 30-31, a majority of Israelis, both Arab (59%) and Jewish (54%), believe that the new Israeli government will maintain a good relationship with the Obama administration when it comes to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace. However, a majority of the Jewish public (55%) expects Obama to pressure Israel if it does not cooperate in advancing the negotiations. (Tel Aviv University)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Settlement Freeze Fallacy - Elliott Abrams
    Will Israel's new government face American demands for a settlement freeze? If so, we are headed for a needless confrontation with the Netanyahu cabinet. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis now live beyond the "green line." Those settlements exist, and there is no point in debating whether it was right to build them. President Bush largely resolved the issue of the major settlement blocs in a 2004 letter to Sharon. He stated a truth that Palestinians have come to recognize: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
        Most settlement activity is in those major blocs that it is widely understood Israel will keep. Those settlements are becoming more populated, not geographically larger. Most settlement expansion occurs in ways that do not much affect Palestinian life. Settlement activity is not diminishing the territory of a future Palestinian entity.
        In fact, the emphasis on a "settlement freeze" draws attention from the progress that's needed to lay the foundation for full Palestinian self-rule - building a thriving economy and fighting terrorism through reliable security forces. The demand for a freeze would have only one quick effect: to create immediate tension between the U.S. and Israel's new government. That may be precisely why some propose it, but it is also why the Obama administration should reject it. The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was the deputy national security adviser overseeing Near East and North African affairs in the George W. Bush administration. (Washington Post)
  • The Muslim Guardian of Israel's Daily Bread - Ben Lynfield
    Jaaber Hussein signed an agreement with Israel's Chief Rabbis Tuesday making him the owner for one week of all bread, pasta and beer in Israel. The contract, signed for the past 12 years by the Muslim hotel food manager, is part of the traditional celebrations ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Jews are forbidden by biblical injunction to possess leavened bread during Passover. The agreement with Hussein offers a way of complying with religious edicts without having to wastefully destroy massive quantities of food. Hussein, a resident of the Israeli Arab town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem, relishes the role the Jewish state has assigned him. "I see this as a way to help people with whom I work and live." (Independent-UK)
  • Mohammad al-Dura: Theater of the Absurd? - Stephanie L. Freid
    When ARD documentary filmmaker Esther Schapira viewed the now iconic images of Mohammad al-Dura and his father Jamal back in 2000, she felt there was more of a story to tell. Her latest work - "The Child, the Death and the Truth: The Mystery of the Palestinian Boy Mohammed Al-Dura" - aired in Germany this month. This time Schapira and crew went back to ask follow-up questions about issues that had surfaced the first time around. "Why don't we see blood in the images?" Schapira asks. "That didn't make sense to me back then. There was a claim of three bullets to the child - 15 fired on him and his father altogether - but no blood."
        Schapira procured images from Mohammed al-Dura's Gazan autopsy and hired German biometric facial imaging expert Kurt Kindermann to compare the autopsy, the funeral, and the France 2 images. Kindermann concluded that the boy at the funeral and in the morgue were most likely one and the same. They were not, however, the same boy seen crouching beside his father in the famous video sequence.
        Schapira presents these findings in her latest documentary along with an impossible timeline sequence: Mohammed al-Dura was shot at 2 p.m., but the Gaza morgue says he was brought in at 10 a.m. "I think it's strong evidence that there is no proof that Mohammed al-Dura is dead," Schapira concluded. (Pajamas Media)
  • Observations:

    Verdict: Israel Not Guilty - John Hinderaker (Power Line)

    • George Bisharat is a Palestinian-American law professor who has made a career out of defaming Israel. On April 4 the New York Times donated space on its op-ed page for his latest screed, titled "Israel On Trial." It begins: "Chilling testimony by Israeli soldiers substantiates charges that Israel's Gaza Strip assault entailed grave violations of international law." He fails to mention that the "chilling testimony" turned out to be untrue.
    • Bisharat states: "Despite Israel's 2005 'disengagement' from Gaza, the territory remains occupied." The statement is simply false. It is because Israel withdrew from Gaza that Hamas was able to take control and launch thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel over a period of years.
    • He accuses Israel of "imposing collective punishment in the form of a blockade, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." Israel had a perfect right to prevent military supplies from being shipped or smuggled into Gaza so that more rockets could be launched.
    • He accuses Israel of "willfully killing civilians without military justification." Hamas' principal military strategy is the employment of human shields. Those who want to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza should stop firing rockets from there. There is no evidence, however, that Israel's military killed any civilians in Gaza otherwise than by accident in the course of operations undertaken for self-defense.
    • He accuses Israel of "deliberately employing disproportionate force." The "proportionate force" theory is beloved by Israel-bashers. In fact, however, no such principle exists in international law. It was invented for the occasion and has never been used as a club against any nation except Israel. No sane country, when attacked, responds "proportionally." Nazi Germany never did attack the United States. Was the fire-bombing of Dresden proportionate?
    • A sane country, when attacked, reacts with all of the force at its command in order to win the war that was started by its enemy. Has anyone ever questioned this fundamental right of self-defense, except as applied to Israel?

          See also He Forgot about the Poisoned Wells - Noah Pollak
      Israel's Gaza blockade may be an ineffective policy, but it is not a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Why do people like Bisharat never condemn Egypt for its involvement in the blockade?
          Israel was "deliberately attacking civilian targets"? Hamas conspicuously used civilian infrastructure for terrorist purposes. Rockets were fired from schools, mosques were used as weapons depots, and the Islamic University of Gaza was used as an explosives production facility and rocket storehouse. (Commentary)
          See also International Law and the Fighting in Gaza - Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell (Global Law Forum)
          See also Israel on Trial - George Bisharat (New York Times)

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