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June 17, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Gaza Cement Rebuilding Hamas' Military Infrastructure (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Cement is a vital commodity needed in Gaza for civilian needs. However, reliable intelligence indicates that Hamas makes extensive use of cement to rebuild its military infrastructure damaged last year in the Gaza operation and to create new military infrastructure.
    Hamas is using cement for outposts, training compounds, and storage sites; defensive and offensive tunnels; and rocket launch sites lined with concrete.
    In recent months (based, among other things, on aerial photographs), there has been a considerable increase in the use of cement by Hamas military forces in Gaza. Its overall strategy gives priority to military infrastructure over the needs of the population.
    Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mash'al said in Damascus on Nov. 12, 2009, that most of Hamas' efforts in Gaza are targeted towards military preparations.
    Hamas receives the cement imported to Gaza as part of the aid delivered by international organizations or international aid convoys.

Hizbullah: Sue Israeli Leaders Anywhere in the World (Al-Manar-Lebanon)
    Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Nasrallah said on June 4: "We have to insist on the international probe [of the Gaza flotilla] even though we already know that it will be undermined. Nevertheless let us demand an international probe and embarrass Israel because it will undoubtedly reject it."
    "We have to sue the Israeli leaders anywhere possible in the world. Suing Israel for its crimes will render Israeli leaders beleaguered and perplexed."

Gaza Sermon on Hamas TV: "Battle with Jews and Crusaders Continues" (MEMRI)
    In a June 11 sermon aired on Al-Aqsa TV, a Hamas-affiliated preacher from Gaza said: "Whoever believes that our battle with the Jews and the Crusaders has subsided or is dormant is living in delusions."
    "Do you know why the conflict continues and will continue until the Day of Judgment? Because the Communist East and the Capitalist West...fear nothing as much as they fear the words 'Allah Akbar.'"
    "The Jews'... annihilation and the destruction of their state will only be achieved through Islam, by those who bow before Allah."

Arab Nations Urged to Meet Aid Promises - Tobias Buck (Financial Times-UK)
    Arab countries have been urged to use more of their oil wealth to help the Palestinians after figures showed they contributed only 1.5% of the general budget for the UN agency charged with supporting Palestinian refugees.
    The Arab League passed a resolution in 1987 saying that its member states should provide at least 7.7% of UNRWA's general budget.
    "The oil boom has seen the coffers of many Arab states swell to the tune of billions of dollars. Surely it is now payback time to help fund education and healthcare for some of the most disadvantaged people living on their own doorstep," said Chris Gunness, the UNRWA representative.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranian Bank and Ship Lines Face New U.S. Sanctions - Daniel Dombey and James Blitz
    The Obama administration on Wednesday unveiled its widest ranging measures to date against Iran, affecting sectors ranging from banking to petroleum and shipping, in a bid to prevent Tehran from dodging existing restrictions and to encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit.
        The U.S. identified 22 petroleum, petrochemical and insurance groups which U.S. persons are forbidden to deal with, because of their ownership by the government of Iran. One, London-based Naftiran, identifies itself as involved in a joint venture with BP extracting natural gas from the North Sea. The U.S. Treasury Department also targeted the Revolutionary Guard's Air Force and Missile Command as well as two subsidiaries of the Guard's engineering division and Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards' commander in chief, and Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the head of its Basij Resistance Force. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also U.S. Rolls Out New Sanctions Against Iran in Effort to Plug Leaks - Glenn Kessler
    The Obama administration rolled out new sanctions Wednesday, attempting to plug leaks in existing sanctions and asserting, as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did, that they were the "first steps to implement and build on" a resolution passed by the UN Security Council last week. But Treasury and State Department officials later acknowledged that all of the actions announced Wednesday did not require the latest UN resolution for action and could have been imposed months earlier.
        To keep up a sense of momentum, EU governments are also poised to announce Thursday that they will pursue sanctions that go beyond the UN resolution, including prohibiting new investments and technical assistance in some parts of the oil and gas industry. The announcement will set broad guidelines for sanctions that will be written and shaped by EU officials in the coming weeks. (Washington Post)
  • Presbyterian Report Condemns Israel - David Waters
    At its July 3-10 meeting in Minneapolis, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be asked to approve a strongly worded report written by its Middle East Study Committee that calls on the U.S. to stop sending aid to Israel until it changes its policy toward Palestinians. In 2004, the PC (U.S.A.) became the first mainline Protestant denomination to approve a policy of divestment from Israel. The policy was unpopular with many Presbyterians and was later rescinded.
        The report is drawing sharp criticism from Jewish groups. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism claimed the report is "distinctly one-sided, traffics in troubling theology, misrepresents Jewish history," and "describes Israel as the occupying army and the major impediment to peace without acknowledging that the Israeli government has the ethical imperative to defend its citizens from terrorist infiltration."  (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Ease Gaza Land Blockade - Barak Ravid
    Israel's security cabinet voted Thursday to ease the land blockade of Gaza. "It was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] to expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision," an official statement said. However, "existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war materiel" will continue. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Jewish Groups Skip Meet with Turkish Officials - Natasha Mozgovaya
    AIPAC, B'nai B'rith International and the Anti-Defamation League decided to decline an invitation to meet Wednesday in Washington with visiting members of the Turkish ruling AKP Party to protest the deteriorating relations between Ankara and Jerusalem. "I believe in dialogue and meetings, but there is a point at which it becomes useless to have a conversation," ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told Ha'aretz. "Let them first reconcile with the Israeli government, and then I'll be delighted to talk to them," he said. "But at the moment they've decided to use Israel as a whipping boy."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas Reloading: If Gaza Blockade Ends, Terror Attacks Will Intensify - Joel Mowbray
    What few Western leaders seem to realize is that the blockade was working. Hamas was in freefall, with its cash flow drying up and most Gazans turning on the party they had backed just a few years earlier. In March, according to Associated Press, the Hamas government was only able to pay most employees roughly half of their salaries. The culprit for Hamas' financial woes? "We are having difficulties in getting the money in (to Gaza) because of the siege," Deputy Finance Minister Ismail Mahfouz wrote on the Gaza Finance Ministry's website. Economic revival in Gaza cannot help but reinvigorate Hamas, thus increasing terrorist attacks against Israel and dashing hopes for achieving peace. (Washington Times)
  • The Palestinians: Who's Afraid of Elections? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian government in the West Bank surprised Palestinians by announcing that municipal elections, slated for July 17, have been called off indefinitely. The real reason behind the cancellation is Abbas' fear that his ruling Fatah faction would suffer a humiliating defeat, after Fatah leaders failed to agree on the candidates who would represent them in the election. Many Fatah members threatened to run as independents or as representatives of their clans - one of the reasons Fatah lost the last two votes: the municipal election in 2005 and the parliamentary election in 2006.
        The decision to call off the election is a blow to U.S. efforts to prepare the Palestinians for statehood. The U.S. continues to believe that Abbas and Fatah are credible peace partners who would one day be able to deliver a peace treaty. But a party that cannot even hold a municipal election should not be treated as a real partner to anything.
        Fatah continues to be dominated by most of the figures that were responsible for its defeat in the last two elections. This is the reason why Fatah is unlikely to win any election in the foreseeable future. Those who are negotiating with Fatah as a peace partner need to absorb this fact. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • Prepare for Moral Confusion - George Jonas
    On Jan. 19, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, described as a terrorist by Israel, was throttled in a Dubai hotel room. Dubai alleges that a travelling circus of Mossad assassins, 26 or more, participated in the hit, utilizing British, French, Irish, German and Australian passports. When it comes to certain policies, of which counterterrorism is one, some countries do the heavy lifting, while others sit on the fence or their moral high horses, content to reap the benefits of what they disdain to do. Israel and the U.S. are examples of the first kind; Canada and the EU are examples of the second.
        In addition to being a founder of Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by Canada, the EU and the U.S., al-Mabhouh was its chief weapons procurer. As such, al-Mabhouh was complicit in the killing or wounding of some 2,000 Israelis over the years, including schoolchildren. (National Post-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Support Israel: If It Goes Down, We All Go Down - Jose Maria Aznar (Times-UK)

    • For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.
    • In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the State of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.
    • Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbors using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathizers, it faces a campaign of delegitimization through international law and diplomacy.
    • For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel's destruction as the fulfillment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.
    • Israel is our first line of defense in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel's right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The U.S. shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.
    • What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel's legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel's vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defense of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

      The writer was Prime Minister of Spain, 1996-2004.

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