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September 16, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Plot to Blow Up Dubai Tower Foiled - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    UAE security services arrested 45 suspects, mostly Palestinian and Lebanese, after a plot was uncovered to blow up Dubai Tower, currently under construction, the tallest building in the world.
    Eight other suspects were detained immediately after the plot was revealed one and a half months ago. The detainees are apparently agents of Iran.
    The Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jareeda reported that of the eight detainees, two are UAE citizens and the rest are Syrians and Palestinians.
    Some of the detainees said in the investigation that they plotted to crash a plane into the building that would take off from Iran.

U.S. Woman Rescued from Palestinian Captivity in West Bank (Jerusalem Post)
    Ten former IDF combat soldiers rescued a U.S. citizen and her two-and-a-half-year-old son from a Palestinian village in the Tulkarm area where they had been held captive for three years, Israel Radio revealed Wednesday.
    The woman, who had married a Palestinian man she met in the U.S., was prevented from leaving the house. The man's first wife and four children also live in the house.
    After efforts to bring about the woman's release through the PA failed, the woman's parents contacted a Jewish American man who had served in a combat unit in the IDF. He contacted friends in Israel who planned the rescue operation, gathered intelligence, and carried it out successfully on Monday.
    The woman and her son were transferred to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and left for Ohio on Tuesday.
    Giora, who took part in the rescue, said: "The rescue mission was planned in a similar way to operations carried out during my time in the military in a way that ensured no lives were endangered."

Israeli Activist: UN Commission Head Slept During Testimony (DPA)
    An Israeli activist who gave evidence to a UN commission investigating Israel's offensive in Gaza accused the head of the commission on Wednesday of sleeping during his testimony.
    "I was flown to testify in front of the committee at the UN headquarters in Geneva and during my testimony, which included raw video footage of Israeli children running from rocket fire, Richard Goldstone fell asleep," said Noam Bedein, who heads the Sderot Media Center, a non-profit organization seeking to highlight the plight of residents of the Israeli town which has borne the brunt of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza.

Hamas Calls UN Gaza Report "Unacceptable"  (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
    Hamas Tuesday rejected as "unbalanced" a UN report which accused both Israel and the Palestinians of committing "war crimes" during the Gaza war.
    "It is a political, unbalanced and dishonest report in that it puts on the same level those who committed the crimes and those who resisted," Hamas leader in Gaza Ismael Radwan said.

Useful Reference:

Gaza Facts: The Israeli Perspective (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a special website - Gaza Facts - which provides factual information addressing the legal and political context of the conflict in Gaza, the issue of Gaza war crimes, the issue of human rights and the investigations into Israeli military conduct during combat.

New Report Challenges NGO on Palestinian Non-Combatant Deaths in Gaza - Dan Izenberg (Jerusalem Post)
    Elihu Richter and Dr. Yael Stein of the Center for Injury Prevention and Genocide Prevention at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health have charged that a recent document released by B'Tselem on the number of Palestinian non-combatants killed in the Gaza operation "is flawed by major errors of commission and omission and possibly major misclassification biases."
    Many victims not classified as combatants actually were.
    See also Palestinian "Policemen" Killed in Gaza Operation Were Trained Terrorists - Col. Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA-Jerusalem Center)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN: Evidence of Israel, Hamas War Crimes in Gaza - Louis Charbonneau
    Both the Israeli army and Palestinian militants committed war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, during the December-January Gaza war, the UN charged on Tuesday in a report by a fact-finding mission headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone and organized by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. Goldstone recommended that the UN Security Council call on Israel to fully investigate possible crimes committed by its forces. Palestinian authorities should do the same regarding crimes committed by Palestinian fighters. If either Israel or the Palestinians fail to do so, then the council should refer the situation in Gaza to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the report said. (Reuters-Washington Post)
        See also Israel Rejects Independent Inquiry into Gaza War - Amy Teibel
    Israel said Wednesday it would not appoint an independent inquiry into its conduct in the Gaza war, rejecting a key recommendation from a UN report. Government spokesman Mark Regev said: "This report was conceived in sin and is the product of a union between propaganda and bias....Israel is a country with a fiercely independent judiciary.... Everything done by the military in Israel is open to judicial review." Regev said Israel didn't make a mistake in not cooperating with the commission: "The mandate was biased from the beginning and it would have been a mistake to give credibility to a mission that has more in common with a kangaroo court than it does with a serious investigation."  (AP)
        See also below Commentary: The Goldstone Report
  • Clinton: Iran Must Discuss Nuclear Issue - Mark Landler
    When the U.S. sits down with Iran on Oct. 1 for face-to-face talks, the Iranian nuclear program will be at the top of the American agenda, even though Iranian officials insist it is off the table, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday. "What we are concerned about is discussing with them the questions surrounding their nuclear program and ambitions." Clinton insisted that the U.S. would not be drawn into a lengthy and fruitless diplomatic dance with Iran, as some analysts have warned. "We have no illusions about the Iranian government."   (New York Times)
        See also France "Certain" Iran Working on Nukes
    French intelligence agencies are certain that Iran is hiding a nuclear weapons program, President Nicolas Sarkozy says. "It is a certainty to all of our secret services. Iran is working today on a nuclear (weapons) program," Sarkozy said Tuesday. The French leader also said he would not "shake the hand of someone who wants to wipe Israel off the map," referring to Iranian President Ahmadinejad. (AFP-Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
        See also below Observations: What Happened to the U.S. Deadline on Iran? - Dore Gold (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • New York Terror Raids Part of FBI Probe into Cell Plotting Attack on 9/11 Scale - James Gordon Meek and Simone Weichselbaum
    A suspected al-Qaeda cell - the first uncovered in the U.S. since 9/11 - drew round-the-clock FBI surveillance Tuesday as authorities said they thwarted its plans for a major terror attack. One of the suspects visited New York last week toting bomb-making plans after a trip to Pakistan - home to most of al-Qaeda's leadership, sources said. "The FBI is seriously spooked about these guys," a former senior counterterrorism official said. "This is the real thing." FBI agents swarmed into three apartments in New York this week, bashing down doors and carrying search warrants seeking bomb-making materials. (New York Daily News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mitchell, Netanyahu Meet in Jerusalem - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Netanyahu met with U.S. special envoy Mitchell in Jerusalem on Wednesday for the second time in two days, in an effort to reach agreement over the settlements issue. Diplomatic officials expressed "cautious optimism" following the talks on Tuesday that agreement could be reached on a package that would enable a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Bin Laden: U.S. Influenced by Israel
    Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden described President Barack Obama as "powerless" in a recording released Monday. In a tape addressed to the American people, bin Laden said Obama is following the warlike policies of his predecessor and urged Americans to "liberate" themselves from the influence of "neo-conservatives and the Israeli lobby." Bin Laden said Americans had failed to understand that al-Qaeda carried out the attacks in retaliation for U.S. support for Israel. If Americans realized the extent of the "suffering from the injustice of the will realize that both our nations are victims of the policies of the White House," which he described as "a hostage" to interest groups and companies. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
        See also Bin Laden's Suggested Reading: Carter, Mearsheimer and Walt
    From a translation of bin Laden's latest address: "Things will become clearer if you read what your former president, Carter, wrote about the racism of the Israelis against our kinfolk in Palestine." World politicians are behaving "under the influence of the Israeli lobby in America. The details of that are explained by two of your fellow citizens. They are John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their book The Israel Lobby in the United States. Upon reading these various suggested works, you will discover the truth."   (Ansar al-Mujahideen/Al-Qaeda)
        See also Osama Gets Desperate - Ralph Peters
    Osama bin Laden is changing his tune in a frantic attempt to get the Muslim world to pay attention again. In his new tape, Osama conveniently forgot his past claims that his movement was spawned by the presence of Christian "Crusaders" in "holy" Saudi Arabia. Now it's all about the Palestinian problem - an issue that's never topped al-Qaeda's agenda. When you can't get applause any other way, blame the Jews. (New York Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Goldstone Report

  • Israel Is Appalled and Disappointed by the Goldstone Report
    The report effectively ignores Israel's right of self-defense, makes unsubstantiated claims about its intent and challenges Israel's democratic values. At the same time the report all but ignores the deliberate strategy of Hamas of operating within and behind the civilian population. The report barely disguises its goal of instigating a political campaign against Israel.
        Despite the many widely reported instances of the abuse of civilian facilities by terrorist groups, and the statements of Hamas' own leaders praising women and children who acted as human shields, the report repeatedly stated that it could find no evidence of such activities.
        The report devotes considerable attention to "repression of dissent in Israel." It bases this assertion in large part on the widespread support for the military operation in the Israeli public. The notion that the majority of Israelis genuinely supported action to bring years of continuous rocket and missile attacks against Israeli civilians to an end does not appear to have occurred to the members of the UN mission.
        Regrettably, a one-sided report of this nature, claiming to represent international law, can only weaken the standing of law in future conflicts. At the same time, it will broadcast a deeply troubling message to terrorist groups wherever they are that the cynical tactics of seeking to exploit civilian suffering for political ends actually pays dividends. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel: Biased Goldstone Report Gives Support to Terror - Haviv Rettig Gur
    Israeli officials were particularly stunned that the Goldstone Commission Report summarily rejected the legal worth of Israel's own judicial bodies, in a country where the High Court of Justice can stop a battle in mid-stream, as happened in Jenin in 2002. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said Tuesday: "Israel has examined itself in the light of day in innumerable investigations and a robust system of independent courts. We have nothing to be ashamed of, and don't need lessons in morality from a committee established by Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Somalia." Israel is "nauseated and furious about a report that did not surprise us in its imbalance, but did surprise us in the lack of any real pretense to balance." "The immediate message of this report is: Terror pays. It says that terrorists who attack Jews, unlike terrorists who attack Americans, Spaniards, or other Arabs, will earn the protection of the UN."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • UN Report a Grave Blow for Israel - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The report explicitly rules that the combat methods and armaments utilized by the IDF even prior to the Gaza operation are illegitimate. This marks a first-rate achievement for terror groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas; it may encourage them to keep using the civilian population as a human shield. The Goldstone Report directly and blatantly serves the strategic effort of the radical elements in the Muslim world in their attempt to tie the IDF's hands in its war against missile attacks. However, this does not only limit the IDF, but also American forces and Western allies operating against Global Jihad terror and guerilla groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. (Ynet News)
  • Goldstone's Kangaroo Court Report - Gerald Steinberg
    The critics who warned of a "kangaroo court" created to find Israel guilty will claim they were correct. Goldstone's press conference in New York on Tuesday and the report's recommendations constitute another step in the Durban strategy, in which the language of human rights and international law is misused as weapons in the political war to isolate and demonize Israel. The evidence, as Goldstone stated, was based almost entirely on unverifiable Palestinian claims and publications from politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs.
        Goldstone's report is full of statements of "fact" that defy belief and come without any evidentiary source. For instance, contrary to numerous contemporary reports in media outlets like the New York Times, the report denies that Hamas fighters dressed in civilian clothing hid in hospital facilities and used ambulances to transport combatants. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    What Happened to the U.S. Deadline on Iran? - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Iran's new proposal to the West did not provide any opening for serious negotiations on the nuclear issue, but rather vague formulations for the agenda of any future talks. Back in July, when the G-8 announced that the opening of the UN General Assembly "would be an occasion for taking stock of the situation in Iran," most international observers understood that there was a hard September deadline that Iran had to meet to begin serious nuclear negotiations. Unfortunately, at this stage, there is little evidence that the Obama administration is about to adopt effective action in a timely manner in light of Iran's policy of rejectionism, setting aside diplomatic engagement and moving to a policy of severe sanctions.
    • Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently acknowledged that the Iranian stockpile of low-enriched uranium has already reached a sufficient level so that it was possible to talk about Tehran having "a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity." Tehran undoubtedly observed that no serious action was taken against North Korea for its nuclear breakout, either by the Bush or Obama administrations.
    • The common assumption in Washington policy circles today is that even if Iran reaches the nuclear finish-line, the U.S. can fall back on the same Cold War deterrence that was used against the Soviet nuclear arsenal. However, Iran is a true revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into the oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and even South America. With Iran threatening the flow of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well, through which roughly 40 percent of the world's oil flows, the nuclearization of Iran has global - and not just Middle Eastern - implications.       
    • In 2003-2005, Tehran engaged with the EU-3 for two years, exploiting the talks to race ahead with construction of key uranium enrichment facilities, while fending off punitive measures by the UN Security Council for three entire years. Iran today is far more advanced than it was then and the time for diplomatic experimentation is extremely limited.

      The writer, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was Israel's ambassador to the UN in 1997-1999. He is the author of the newly-released book The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (Regnery, 2009).

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