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August 7, 2009

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New Israeli Tank Defense System Operational - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF Ground Forces Command has declared the Trophy anti-tank missile defense system operational, following a series of tests last week that surpassed expectations for the system's capabilities, it was revealed on Thursday.
    The system is designed to detect and track a threat and counter it with a launched projectile that intercepts the anti-tank missile.
    In the tests the system succeeded in intercepting all of the enemy anti-tank missiles.
    The IDF sped up development of the Trophy system following the Second Lebanon War, during which Israeli tanks came under heavy anti-tank missile fire from Hizbullah.

Report: Palestinian Authority to Stop Funding Gaza Utilities - Kifah Zaboun (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
    Authoritative sources in Fatah say the Palestinian leadership has decided to stop paying Gaza's electricity, water, and fuel bills to the Israelis and thereby stop financing the Hamas coup in the Strip.
    The sources said: "We are paying a heavy price to the Israelis for everything that enters Gaza and Hamas seizes them and then we are accused of participating in the blockade. We believe this farce should end and Hamas must shoulder its responsibility toward the people over whom it has installed itself."

Iran Four Years from Fuel for Bomb, Report Says - Walter Pincus (Washington Post)
    Despite Iran's progress since 2007 toward producing enriched uranium, in an updated assessment the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research continues to think that Tehran will not be able to produce weapons-grade material before 2013, based on Iran's technical capability.

Top Palestinian Officials Blame Israel for Arafat's Death (Ha'aretz)
    Top Fatah officials on Thursday ruled that Israel was to blame for the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
    Officials on the third day of the Fatah convention in Bethlehem accepted the proposal, put forth by the chairman of the Arafat Institute, stating that Israel had been behind the "assassination" of Arafat.
    Fatah requested international aid to probe the issue.
    See also Israel Resents Fatah's Accusation Over Arafat's Death - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

Syria Is Drying Up - Guy Bechor (Ynet News)
    The Euphrates River, Syria's main source of water, is drying up. The Turks are stopping its water in their territory, so that Syria and Iraq are receiving a declining portion of the water. Within about 10 years, the river is expected to dry up completely outside Turkish territory.
    Another important Syrian water source, the Aasi (Orontes) River, is drying up as well. Some 250,000 farmers were forced in the past three years to abandon their land and migrate to the large cities.
    It turns out that the ruling Baath party is at fault. During the 1960s, the party decided to turn Syria into a grain-exporting state and forced farmers to shift from herding, on semi-arid land, to growing grain.
    Roughly 420,000 illegal wells were dug in order to water the grain, which are now unusable. Any economist who dared to speak out against this policy was jailed.
    Syria has its sights on the Sea of Galilee in order to get the water needed for its agricultural land. Meanwhile, that water is used by both Israel and Jordan (we provide a fixed amount every year in line with our peace treaty).
    Should Syria touch Israel's main water source, it will pump out huge amounts, ruining it as it ruined its own rivers and ground water.

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Actress Who Endorsed Israeli Cosmetics Line Dropped by Oxfam Human Rights Organization - Richard Johnson (New York Post)
    Actress Kristin Davis is no longer working as a spokeswoman for the human rights/relief organization Oxfam International because she also endorses the Ahava cosmetics line - which is manufactured by Dead Sea Cosmetics in Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank.
    The women's peace group Code Pink, which accuses America of "war crimes," has called for a boycott, saying Ahava uses Palestinian natural resources in what it calls "occupied Palestine."

Recruits Reveal al-Qaeda's Sprawling Web - Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank (CNN)
    Bryant Neal Vinas is a young American who was arrested in Pakistan late in 2008 after training with al-Qaeda in the Afghan/Pakistan border area.
    In January he pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization.
    In notes made by FBI agents of interviews with Vinas, he admits he went to Pakistan to join al-Qaeda and kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
    On Thanksgiving weekend last year, shortly after his arrest, much of the New York mass transit system was put on high alert. Vinas had told al-Qaeda's command everything he knew about the system.
    Vinas' account of his time in al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan is a playbook of how the terror group survived after 9/11 and continues to operate in the remote hills of Pakistan.
    Al-Qaeda remains committed to launching attacks in the West, according to the descriptions of several Western recruits who spent time in al-Qaeda camps between September 2007 and December 2008.

Cruises Making a Comeback to Israel - Danny Sadeh (Ynet News)
    The large international cruise ships have recently returned to Israel's shores, after having taken the country off their destination list in recent years.
    The ships will dock at Haifa and Ashdod ports in the coming months, bringing with them an estimated 40,000 tourists.

Israeli Students Triumph at Chemistry Olympiad in UK - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    A team of Israeli students won gold and bronze medals at the International Chemistry Olympiad at Cambridge University last month, where 253 young scientists in 65 national teams took part in the contest.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Fatah: Resistance and Armed Struggle Must Not Be Relinquished
    Statements made during the opening session of the Fatah conference in Bethlehem indicate that the dominant position among Fatah members is that resistance (muqawama) of various forms is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people. Most Fatah members advocated a combination of the political path with various forms of resistance - from non-violent measures such as demonstrating and planting trees to armed resistance. Except for one lone voice, none expressed a willingness to completely rule out armed resistance. Even Mahmoud Abbas took an ambiguous stand, in contrast to past statements in which he explicitly opposed violence. (MEMRI)
  • Accused of Crimes in Gaza, Israel Offers a Defense in Geneva - Olivier Bot
    "During its operations in Gaza last December, Israel abided by international law and acted in the same manner as other nations have done in the past when confronted with terrorism....If any crimes were committed, they will be punished," Daniel Taub, the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Senior Deputy Legal Adviser, told the UN Human Rights Council on Aug. 3 when he presented the conclusions of a 200-page report regarding the legal and factual aspects of Israel's Gaza operation last year. The Israeli report contains photographic evidence of sites used by Hamas combatants. "Hamas used what it learned during the Lebanese war, applying this tactic involving human shields and keeping its short range artillery mobile," Taub noted.
        Justifying Israel's operations on the grounds that Hamas has targeted Israeli civilians (more than 3,000 rockets last year), Taub contrasted the deliberateness of these attacks to the accidental loss of human life occasioned by Israel's military operations. (Tribune de Geneve-Switzerland)
  • U.S. No Longer at War with "Terrorism" - Jon Ward
    The U.S. is no longer engaged in a "war on terrorism." Neither is it fighting "jihadists" nor locked in a "global war." It is now solely a "war with al-Qaeda" and its violent extremist allies, John Brennan, head of the White House homeland security office, said Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. To say the U.S. is fighting "jihadists" is wrongheaded, Brennan said, because it is using "a legitimate term, 'jihad,' meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal," which "risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve." "Worse, it risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself."
        As for the "war on terrorism," Brennan said, the administration will not use the phrase "because terrorism is but a tactic - a means to an end, which in al-Qaeda's case is global domination by an Islamic caliphate."  (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Fatah Sets 14 Preconditions for Resuming Peace Talks with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah delegates meeting in Bethlehem Thursday resolved not to renew peace negotiations with Israel until all Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli jails, all settlement-building is frozen and the Gaza blockade is lifted. Nabil Sha'ath, a Fatah Central Committee member, said these were some of the 14 preconditions for a resumption of peace talks. While the conditions are not binding on PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, they broadly accorded with the positions he set out in an address to the gathering on Tuesday.
        As the Fatah conference entered its third day Thursday, it became evident that three major camps were competing for control. The first camp consists of old-guard leaders such as Abbas, Ahmed Qurei, Ahmed Ghnaim and Saeb Erekat. The second, which represents the young guard of Fatah, is headed by Marwan Barghouti, Jamal Shobaki, Kadoura Fares and Muhammed Hourani. The third camp belongs to Muhammad Dahlan and his supporters, especially those living in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Quiet in the West Bank: For How Long? - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Fatah is enjoying a genuine resurgence in the West Bank, partly because the image of Hamas is even worse. There are no more Fatah gangs or gunmen. There is the PA headed by Abbas, which has restored law and order to Palestinian cities. Terror in the West Bank has entered a deep freeze due to the ongoing efforts of the IDF and the Israel Security Agency, and the heightened coordination between Israel and the PA security apparatuses. Most of the known wanted men from Hamas have been killed or arrested, while a small number are still underground. Their Fatah counterparts have joined the "arrangements for wanted men" between the PA and Israel. In effect the West Bank has returned to the way it was prior to September 2000, when the second intifada erupted.
        However, IDF commanders must constantly be on the lookout for an immediate and unexpected transition from relative quiet to a violent confrontation, perhaps even with the trained security forces of the Palestinian Authority. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Commander: The Gaza War "A Necessary Operation" - Yaakov Katz
    The day after the Gaza war ended in mid-January, Col. Ilan Malka, commander of the Givati Brigade, who had spent two weeks deep inside Gaza commanding dozens of daily operations against Hamas, told a press conference: "We did not exaggerate in our use of firepower....I will not send ten soldiers into a house that is suspected of being booby trapped so they can all [be blown] up inside. If Hamas wants to protect the family inside, it shouldn't have booby trapped the home."
        Seven months later, numerous international NGO reports accusing Israel of perpetrating war crimes in Gaza have not changed Malka's mind about the war, which he called a "necessary operation." In an interview, Malka said in a vast majority of engagements his troops held their fire, at their own risk, to avoid harming innocent civilians. Hamas knows that Israel's weak point is when fighting in urban centers amidst innocent women and children, he says, referring to cases when mothers were sent to blow themselves up next to troops or children were sent to retrieve a dead terrorist's weapon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Palestinians

  • How to Effectively Sanction Hamas - Yagil Henkin
    Hamas is determined to achieve political recognition. Preventing the leadership from traveling abroad will affect the leadership and its ability to rule. In addition, economic sanctions should be applied against individuals and businesses connected to Hamas. In addition, a legal campaign can be waged - there is no reason that an invidious legal complaint can prevent Israeli military personal from visiting particular European countries but not the Hamas leadership, supporters and financiers. The writer is an associate fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Adelson Institute-Shalem Center)
  • Arab Tenants Who Paid Their Rent Were Not Evicted - Rafael Broch
    The eviction of two Arab families in eastern Jerusalem is an apt example of how an appetite for a certain type of story can create that story regardless of the facts. The two Palestinian families were evicted because Israeli courts had found that the land belonged to Jews, not to the Palestinians living there. In fact, there is a long legal history pertaining to the dispute between 28 Arab families and Jewish organizations over the ownership of the land in question. However, one crucial point was omitted from most of the reporting: the families were evicted for failing to pay rent in violation of the terms of their tenancy agreements. The Arab families who have kept to the terms of their tenancy agreement have not been evicted.
        It's all very well for the Guardian's Middle East editor, Ian Black, to describe the evictions as "the ugly face of ethnic cleansing." But without informing readers that the only people being evicted are the ones who refused to pay rent to the landlords they recognized decades ago, they paint a distorted picture. The writer works for "Just Journalism," an independent research organization focused on how Israel and Middle East issues are reported in the UK media. (Guardian-UK)
  • Time to Push the Arabs - Benny Avni
    It's been 62 years since the UN General Assembly partitioned British-mandated Palestine into two states, defining one as Arab and the other as Jewish. Yet almost all Arabs remain unified in their "outrage" over Israel's renewed demand for recognition as a Jewish state. It's high time for President Obama to publicly admonish Fatah on this point, just as he pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly declare his adherence to the "two-state solution." So far, Obama has succeeded only in encouraging PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to wait until Washington delivers endless Israeli concessions. It's time to push Palestinians to change their mindset. Insisting they recognize Israel as a Jewish state would be a good start. (New York Post)
  • There Are Consequences for Choosing Aggression - Lenny Ben-David
    Despite all of the Arab attacks in 1920, 1921, 1929 and 1936, the British response was to reward Arab aggression against the Jews and impose draconian restrictions on Jewish immigration. The pattern of Arab attacks and rewards would repeat itself time and again. Arab states, terrorist groups and the Palestinian Arabs believed that they could wage "wars of limited liability." They could unleash attacks with impunity in an attempt to wipe out Israel, convinced that if they were defeated they could return to a status quo ante, or even achieve diplomatically what they couldn't win on the battlefield. Territories captured by Israel would be returned and not annexed, terrorist leaders would be honored and not condemned, and Jews/Israel would be blamed.
        Despite Arab aggression against the Jewish communities in Palestine in 1947 and 1948, Palestinian Arabs still demand today a "right of return" to areas within Israel's borders since the 1949 Armistice. In 1956, Egyptian-commanded fedayeen terrorist attacks led Israel to join Britain and France in the Sinai campaign against Egypt. Two days into the war, President Dwight Eisenhower called Israel's Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. According to a biographer of Jewish leader Max Fisher, Eisenhower admonished Prime Minister Ben-Gurion: "You ought not forget that the strength of Israel and her future are bound up with the United States." This was followed by specific threats: If Israel did not leave Sinai and Gaza there would be UN condemnation, U.S. aid would be terminated, the tax-status of charitable contributions would be challenged."
        In 1957, the U.S. pressure forced Israel to withdraw from Sinai without securing ironclad guarantees against Egyptian aggression and blockades. In October 1965, Max Fisher visited Eisenhower at his Gettysburg farm. Eisenhower admitted to him: "Looking back at Suez, I regret what I did. I never should have pressed Israel to evacuate the Sinai." (Jerusalem Post)


  • There Is a U.S. Military Option on Iran - Gen. Chuck Wald
    The Iranian government has yet to accept President Obama's outstretched hand. Even if Tehran suddenly acceded to talks, U.S. policy makers must prepare for the eventuality that diplomacy fails. Publicly signaling serious preparation for a military strike might obviate the need for one if deployments force Tehran to recognize the costs of its nuclear defiance. A U.S. Navy blockade of Iranian ports would effectively cut off Iran's gasoline imports, which constitute about one-third of its consumption. Should these measures not compel Tehran to reverse course on its nuclear program, and only after all other diplomatic avenues and economic pressures have been exhausted, the U.S. military is capable of launching a devastating attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities.
        Many policy makers and journalists dismiss the military option on the basis of a false sense of futility. They assume that the U.S. military is already overstretched, that we lack adequate intelligence about the location of covert nuclear sites, and that known sites are too heavily fortified. Such assumptions are false. An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would mostly involve air assets, primarily Air Force and Navy, that are not strained by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, the presence of U.S. forces in countries that border Iran offers distinct advantages. Conflict may reveal previously undetected Iranian facilities as Iranian forces move to protect them. Moreover, nuclear sites buried underground may survive sustained bombing, but their entrances and exits will not.
        Of course, there are huge risks to military action, but the risks must be weighed against those of doing nothing. If the Iranian regime continues to advance its nuclear program, we risk Iranian domination of the oil-rich Persian Gulf, threats to U.S.-allied Arab regimes, the emboldening of radicals in the region, the creation of an existential threat to Israel, the destabilization of Iraq, the shutdown of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and a regional nuclear-arms race. The writer was the air commander for the initial stages of the U.S. operation in Afghanistan and deputy commander of the U.S. European Command. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran and Russia: No Love Lost - Amir Taheri
    For 30 years, Khomeinist mobs have been burning the U.S. flag in public amid shouts of "Death to America!" These days, however, it is the Russian flag that is burned by protestors chanting "Down with Russia!" Angry Iranians regard Russia as a friend of a regime that has "stolen" a presidential election and is trying to crush the democracy movement. Russophobia has a long history in Iran. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Cairo Joins the Battle Against Tehran - David Schenker
    Egypt's Mubarak regime has been demonstrating an increasingly public identification with the nascent coalition against Iran. During the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli military campaign in Gaza, Cairo refused to open the border and provide relief to the besieged Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. In December, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran's Lebanese client, Hizbullah, urged civil disobedience in Egypt to open the frontier, an appeal that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit characterized as a "declaration of war." Subsequently, an organization affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards put a $1.5 million bounty on the head of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which was posted on the website of the Iranian government's Fars news agency. Then this past April, Cairo announced the arrest of 25 members of a 49-person Hizbullah cell operating on Egyptian territory. According to Egyptian sources, the group was smuggling weapons to Hamas, targeting Israeli tourists in the Sinai, and conducting preoperational planning against shipping in the Suez Canal. (Commentary)

    Trends in the Middle East

  • Israel and the Arab World: Positive Changes - Ephraim Kam
    Since the 1970s and especially since the early 1980s, important changes have occurred in the Arab world's attitude to Israel. First of all, most Arab leaders, state and non-state alike, have gradually reached the conclusion that Israel is a fact and cannot be destroyed, both because of its military power and due to the steady commitment of the U.S. to its existence and security. Furthermore, Egypt's - followed by Jordan's - choice of peace with Israel and withdrawal from the cycle of war, combined with Iraq's downfall in its wars with Iran (1980s) and the West (1991 and 2003), have prevented the formation of an Arab military front against Israel.
        The collapse of the Soviet Union dealt the final blow to the military option against Israel by depriving Syria of strategic superpower backing, and leaving the U.S., with its special relationship with Israel, as the sole superpower. These developments led to the realization among Arab leaders that the conflict with Israel should be ended through diplomacy, because war was neither practical nor to the Arabs' benefit.
        In the first half of the 1990s, the very existence of a Palestinian diplomatic channel has contributed to the legitimacy of dialogue with Israel and the creation among moderate Arab governments of an interest in encouraging this process. In all probability, however, inclusion of the Arab world in the peace process can probably take place only after the direct principals in the negotiations - Israel, the Palestinians, and Syria - achieve real progress on their own, which the Arab world can then complement. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Why the Iranian Alliance Will Fail - Jonathan Spyer
    In the course of 2009, the Iranian-led bloc of states and movements has suffered a series of setbacks. Hamas' belief that it could deter Israel from a major ground operation in Gaza derived from a key item of faith guiding the Iran-led alliance - namely, that Israel is a tired society no longer capable of successful national defense. But Israel demonstrated its ability to deliver a telling military blow to Hamas-led Gaza, at minimum cost to itself. It also showed that the asymmetric-warfare methods developed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and applied by Hamas in Gaza are not foolproof.
        The June 7 elections in Lebanon delivered an additional blow to the Iran-led bloc with the unexpected defeat of Hizbullah, a blow to the aura of invincibility and inevitability that Hizbullah has worked to weave around itself. However, the most decisive setback to this bloc has been the ongoing unrest in Iran where the demonstrations against the rigged presidential elections have made a mockery of the claim that Iran represents "popular will" in the region against corrupt pro-Western regimes. The regime is increasingly seen as just another Middle Eastern government holding power against the will of its own people. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
  • Quiet on Israel's Borders - Aluf Benn
    It has been ten years since things were so peaceful on Israel's security front: quiet in the north, quiet in the south, no terror attacks. However, the present quiet is conditional; at any moment, violence could erupt again. The present quiet reinforces Israelis' indifference toward any kind of peace process. Netanyahu's reference to a "two-state solution" and Obama's pressure tactics to freeze West Bank settlements arouse little public interest. Israelis want peace and quiet. And that's what they have - and without negotiations or peace accords. The scars of past hopes blown to smithereens, following the Oslo accords and Gaza disengagement, are still fresh; Israelis do not find peace talks tempting.
        The Israeli-Palestinian situation is beginning to resemble the Israeli-Syrian situation: The status quo is convenient and cheap for everyone, and it seems a shame to undermine it with another diplomatic adventure whose prospects are slim and whose dangers are formidable. (Ha'aretz)

    Other Issues

  • Autocracy and the Decline of the Arabs - Fouad Ajami
    While the Iranians have gone out into the streets to contest the writ of the theocrats, in contrast, little has stirred in Arab politics of late. The Arabs have the demography - 360 million people - and the wealth to balance Iran's power. But they have taken a pass in the hope that America - or Israel, for that matter - would shatter the Iranian bid for hegemony. The simple truth is that the Arab world has terrible rulers and worse oppositionists. There are autocrats on one side and theocrats on the other. A timid and fragile middle class is caught in the middle between regimes it abhors and Islamists it fears.
        George W. Bush's freedom agenda broke with a long history and insisted that the Arabs did not have tyranny in their DNA. A despotism in Baghdad was toppled, a Syrian regime that had all but erased its border with Lebanon was pushed out of its smaller neighbor, bringing an end to three decades of brutal occupation. True, Mr. Bush's wager on elections in the Palestinian territories rebounded to the benefit of Hamas. But the verdict of that election was a statement on the malignancies of Palestinian politics. It was no fault of American diplomacy that the Palestinians, who needed to break with a history of maximalist demands, gave in yet again to radical temptations. The writer is a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and an adjunct fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A Jewish Obligation to Live in Jerusalem - Mordechai Kedar
    The struggle over the construction of a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem is at heart a struggle over Israeli sovereignty in the city, based on 3,000 years of Jewish history in the holy city, long before Washington was the capital of the U.S., Paris the capital of France and Cairo the capital of Egypt. Zionism is based on the idea of returning to Zion, meaning to Jerusalem, not to Beersheva or Haifa or Jaffa.
        Jerusalem never was, even for a day, the capital of a Palestinian or Arab entity. After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, the capital was Ramle, located 40 km. from Jerusalem. Even Jordan, which ruled eastern Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967, did not make it its capital. Accordingly, the Palestinian demand to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine has no basis in history.
        Concessions offered in neighborhoods adjacent to Jerusalem would place the capital of Israel within range of light weapons, enable snipers to target pedestrians, and return the city back to the pre-1967 days of protective walls.
        The territory of eastern Jerusalem was never under internationally recognized Jordanian sovereignty. Hence it is impossible to argue that it is "occupied territory." At most this is disputed territory and Israel has a considerable judicial advantage in seeking recognition of its annexation. The entire city of Jerusalem should be developed on the basis of Jewish-Arab equality. The writer is a lecturer in the Department of Arabic and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. ( Post)
  • End the Blood Libels Against Israel and the IDF - Isi Leibler
    The current global campaign accusing the IDF of "crimes against humanity" and "genocide" exceeds all the obscene libels that have ever been launched against the Jewish state. One of Israel's proudest achievements is the IDF code of conduct, which instills awareness that Israelis are obliged to act as role models of decency. It is all the more impressive that such an ethical military code was implemented in Israel, the only country in the world which from its inception has been obliged to defend itself continuously from overt and terrorist onslaughts by neighbors who regard the elimination of Jewish sovereignty in the region as their primary objective. What Israel did to minimize civilian casualties during the Gaza operation was unparalleled in the history of warfare. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why Single Out Israel? - Colby Cosh
    At the upcoming general council of the United Church of Canada, attendees will be asked to vote on a resolution boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions. The language of the resolution says that Israel is "built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners." In view of the 1.4 million Arabs living within Israeli borders, Israel is not much better at ethnic cleansing than I am at cleaning my house. Using the term "ethnic cleansing" to characterize the founding of Israel makes the term elastic enough to include freely contracted purchases of land by Zionists under the British Mandate, as well as the Palestinian Jews' refusal to let themselves be starved and exterminated by their Arab neighbors in the 1947-48 intercommunal free-for-all. Individual Jews are "cleansing" the region literally just by being alive there. The nerve!
        The preoccupation with the injustice in the Middle East is nothing but an irrational political fad, helped along by a lamentable tendency to subject Jews to special, incessant scrutiny. (National Post-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Is U.S. Open to a Settlement Compromise? - Abraham Foxman (New York Jewish Week)

    • By this time one would have hoped that the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government would have resolved their dispute over Israeli settlements. What was so troubling about the administration's approach was its handling of the issue in public, making it harder to reach a compromise and making Israel appear to be the problem in the region.
    • The Israeli government has made significant concessions from its perspective. It has agreed in principle to dismantle the illegal settlements and not to expand existing ones on new land beyond the boundaries of existing settlements. But this has not been good enough. Washington seems to be eager to squeeze out every last ounce of Israeli resistance on the subject by rejecting not only the concept of natural growth but even of Israel completing structures in midstream.
    • Now the Obama administration's approach begins to raise a series of more fundamental questions: Is the administration's outreach to the Muslim world predicated on distancing the U.S. from Israel? Are the unrelenting U.S. demands on Israel regarding settlements giving the Palestinians an excuse to avoid direct negotiations with Israel, the only path toward real peace? Is the continuing focus on settlements creating the perception around the world that the U.S. now agrees with Israel's critics that it is Israeli policy that is the critical obstacle to peace?
    • Continuing the tension over settlements will only produce a lose-lose situation. Israel will feel more insecure and be less willing to consider concessions; Palestinians will feel less of a need to make critical decisions; Arabs will be no closer to getting the Palestinian issue off their agenda and focusing on the Iranian threat.

      The writer is national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

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