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October 14, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria to Hold Military Exercises with Turkey - Zerin Elci (Reuters)
    Syria said on Tuesday it would hold military exercises with Turkey, shortly after Turkey cancelled maneuvers with Israel.

Hamas Attempts to Smuggle Longer-Range Rockets into Gaza (Strategy Page)
    Iran is apparently concentrating on smuggling longer-range rockets into Gaza, like their Fajr-5.
    This rocket is as big as a telephone poll, has a range of 75 km., and could reach Tel Aviv and most of central Israel. But the Fajr-5 can be moved through the smuggling tunnels to Gaza only if broken down into 8-10 sections and then reassembled on the other end.
    The Fajr-5 carries a 200-pound warhead and is only effective if aimed at a large urban area. That means that the most likely victims will be civilians. Israel would certainly go into Gaza if a Fajr ever landed in Tel Aviv.
    Firing a few Fajr-5s into Israel, and then getting blasted by Israel, gives one pause. But Iran is supplying Hamas with much of the cash that keeps the organization alive. So Hamas is trying to replace the 2,000 rockets it lost in the recent war (including 1,400 destroyed on the ground).
    Iran is also smuggling in anti-aircraft missiles (like the SA-7/18 types), to be used against Israeli helicopters. These are easier to get through the tunnels, but the Israelis have equipped their helicopters and low flying fighters with countermeasures.

Israel to Join NATO Mediterranean Patrols (AFP)
    The Israeli navy will join a NATO force patrolling the Mediterranean Sea as part of the "global war on terror," an Israeli military spokesman said on Tuesday.
    NATO's Task Force Endeavor consists of surface units, submarines and patrol aircraft that monitor shipping "to help detect, deter and protect against terrorist activity."

Israel Sends Aid to Flood-Stricken Burkina Faso (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Israel sent a shipment of tents, blankets, medicine and baby food to the West African nation of Burkina Faso last week after recent floods left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
    Burkina Faso, a member of the UN Security Council, is one of Israel's most loyal friends in Africa, as seen in its conduct in international forums.

Hamas Claims Member Tortured to Death in Egyptian Jail (AFP)
    Hamas charged on Tuesday that Yusef Abu Zuhri, 38, the brother of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, was tortured to death in an Egyptian prison.
    Former detainees and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Egypt's security services of torturing prisoners, and earlier this year the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said 13 citizens had been tortured to death between June 2008 and February 2009.

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  • U.S., Russia Agree to Delay Sanctions Against Iran
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday in Moscow that neither country is seeking to currently impose sanctions against Iran. Clinton said sanctions would be premature, while Lavrov said Russia is "in principle very reserved on sanctions, as they rarely produce results." He said sanctions should only be used when all diplomatic means have been exhausted. (RIA Novosti-Russia)
        See also Russia Resists U.S. Position on Sanctions for Iran - Mark Landler and Clifford J. Levy (New York Times)
  • Palestinians, Allies Reopen Gaza War Crimes Debate in Geneva - Frank Jordans
    The UN Human Rights Council will reopen the debate about alleged war crimes in Gaza later this week after Palestinians succeeded in gathering enough support to call a special meeting, officials said Tuesday. The Goldstone report accuses Israeli forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during their Dec. 27-Jan. 18 war. It will be the sixth time that Israel has been the subject of a special session by the Geneva-based council. Each previous session has resulted in a resolution critical of Israel.
        Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, "We still think that this report is very dangerous and is disconnected from reality. This report was based almost exclusively on Hamas propaganda."  (AP/Washington Post)
        See also UN Security Council to Discuss Goldstone Report in Monthly Mideast Debate - Betsy Pisik
    The U.S. managed to block requests for an emergency Security Council session on the Goldstone report by agreeing to hold its monthly debate Wednesday on broader efforts toward Middle East peace. But with an estimated 40 nations or observer missions signed up to speak, the report is likely to dominate much of the session. Israel says it did everything possible to avoid civilian casualties during the Gaza offensive. (Washington Times)
  • Israel: No Fresh Peace Talks Unless Gaza Report Is Dropped
    Israel said Wednesday that it would not renew peace talks with the Palestinians unless a UN report accusing it of having committed war crimes during last winter's Gaza war was dropped. "As long as the Goldstone report is on the table and everywhere they are quoting it and supporting it - also states that are considered our friends - we cannot make progress in the peace process," Israel's ambassador to the UN Gabriella Shalev said. "We will not sit at the table and will not talk with bodies and people who accuse us of war crimes. That is simply unacceptable," she told Israel Radio. "If they expect us to renew the peace process and to freeze settlements, we expect the international community to enable us to take risks (for peace) and not deny us - as this report does - our right to self-defense."  (DPA)
        See also below Observations: End Wretched Charade on Goldstone Report - Editorial (Miami Herald)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Iran Pays, Syria Smuggles, and Hizbullah Receives Weapons - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday released photographs taken by drone aircraft of the southern Lebanon village where a Hizbullah arms depot exploded on Monday. The photos show persons, possibly Hizbullah operatives, removing something resembling a 4-meter-long missile from the depot, loading it onto a truck and moving it to a hiding place in a different village.
        A senior IDF source said that Hizbullah has tens of thousands of rockets in about 300 storage facilities spread throughout 160 Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon. "Syria feels quite comfortable," he said. "There is no international pressure [on Damascus] to break off its ties with Iran or the "axis of evil." It pays no price for its role in the smuggling." "In places where [UNIFIL peacekeepers] still try to carry out searches, there is such intense friction with Hizbullah that the UN people usually opt to give up."
        Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the Second Lebanon War is losing its value. Hizbullah is hiding its arms caches among civilians and is counting on severe international criticism of Israel in case of future conflagration in southern Lebanon. The Hizbullah build-up should be seen within the context of the ongoing, secret war of Western countries, Egypt and Israel against Iran and its allies. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Video: Hizbullah Removes Weapons from Southern Lebanon Arms Depot after Explosion
    The video clearly shows a large number of people arriving at the scene of the explosion in Tayr Filsay and loading Katyusha rockets and other weaponry onto trucks. Afterwards they cover the weaponry in order to hide it and drive to another weaponry storage in the village of Dir Kanun A-Nahar, where they unload the weaponry. (IDF Spokesperson)
        See also Israel to UN: Lebanon Ignoring Hizbullah Armament - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriella Shalev on Tuesday filed an official complaint with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over Hizbullah's illegally storing of weapons south of the Litani River in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The compliant referred to Monday's explosion at the home of a Hizbullah operative in south Lebanon. Another explosion took place at a Hizbullah arms cache three months ago. "The aforementioned incidents leave no doubt regarding Hizbullah's modus operandi to place its military weapons and facilities in civilian villages and houses. Such use of civilians as human shields endangers their safety," Shalev wrote. (Ynet News)
  • Abbas: Hamas Leaders Fled to Sinai During Gaza Fighting
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas fiercely attacked Hamas on Tuesday. Speaking in Jenin, Abbas accused Hamas leaders of fleeing to the Sinai Peninsula in ambulances during the fighting with Israel last winter. He also suggested that Hamas was responsible for provoking the war: "Two weeks before the war, we telephoned the Hamas leadership in order to extend the ceasefire," he said. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Goldstone Backs Away from Report - Alan M. Dershowitz
    Richard Goldstone himself now seems to be backing away from his report's conclusions. In an interview with the Jewish Daily Forward, Goldstone denied that his group had conducted "an investigation." Instead, it was what he called a "fact-finding mission" based largely on the limited "material we had." Since this "material" was cherry-picked by Hamas guides and spokesmen, Goldstone acknowledged that "if this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven." He emphasized that the report was no more than "a road map" for real investigators and that it contained no actual "evidence" of wrongdoing by Israel. Goldstone said that he himself "wouldn't consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved." The writer is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • Turkey No Longer a Dependable Strategic Ally of Israel - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Muslim Turkey was for many years a formidable and reliable ally of Israel. However, as seen in the decision to cancel Israel's participation in NATO's aerial drill in Turkey, our strategic relations with it appear to be in freefall as security cooperation between the two states is increasingly being eroded. Turkey would not have adopted such a move had its government not concluded that the benefit it can expect among regional states by shunning Israel is greater than the potential damage.
        New deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars offered by Israel's defense industries to the Turkish army, as well as cooperation with Turkish colleagues, are being put on hold or are cancelled altogether. Recently, Ankara preferred to purchase a spy satellite from Italy, even though it is inferior in quality and more expensive than the Israeli product offered to Turkey. In order not to sabotage what is still left of the relationship, officials in Jerusalem prefer to maintain a low profile. However, we must recognize the fact that Ankara, for the time being at least, is no longer a dependable strategic and security partner for Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Getting Tougher on Iran - Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kans.)
    The Iranian regime has spent years lying about its nuclear program, sponsoring terrorism, and oppressing its own citizens. Whatever one thinks about the prospects of diplomacy, it's time for tougher measures to constrain the regime's ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction before it's too late. One promising approach is targeted divestment from Iran's energy sector. 18 states have passed legislation divesting state pension funds from companies that invest in Iran's energy sector. We introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act in the Senate in May. This bipartisan bill, which has 34 cosponsors, would grant federal authority and provide guidelines for states to divest from Iran's energy sector. It would also provide a safe harbor for fund managers to carry out divestment without fear of being sued. In the previous Congress, then-Sen. Barack Obama joined us in introducing similar legislation. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Observations:

    End Wretched Charade on Goldstone Report - Editorial (Miami Herald)

    • Rarely has the U.S. had as much good reason to exercise its veto in the UN Security Council as it will have when a controversial report condemning Israel for its campaign against Gaza terrorists comes up for consideration.
    • The report, issued by a commission headed by jurist Richard Goldstone, has been denounced by the Israeli government and criticized by U.S. officials as deeply flawed and unbalanced. It accuses Israel of possible war crimes in the defensive action launched last December.
    • The Israeli raid followed eight years of relentless rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
    • Israel wisely refused to cooperate with the Goldstone panel because it was tainted from the start as a creation of the outrageously biased UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva.
    • The report is being used as a cudgel against Israel. In an effort to put Israel in the dock, Libya is sponsoring the move to debate the Goldstone report before the Security Council. The role of Libya in this affair, one of the world's worst human rights abusers, provides another good reason for the U.S. to exercise its veto and put an end to a wretched charade.

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