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July 27, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Turkey Working to Prevent Lebanese Flotilla to Gaza - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Turkey is working to prevent Lebanese ships from attempting to sail to Gaza in violation of an Israeli blockade, Yediot Ahronot reported Tuesday.
    Israeli officials estimate that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who visited Damascus and Beirut last week, asked the Lebanese government to prevent the flotilla's departure as part of Ankara's efforts to ease tensions with Israel.
    According to the officials, the change in Turkey's policy stems from its understanding that the crisis with Israel has damaged its image, as well as its ties with Washington and Europe.
    In closed meetings, officials in Ankara have said that since the Turkish flotilla led to the partial lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza, there is no point in sending more vessels to Gaza.
    See also Israel-Turkey Trade Surges Despite Rift - Christopher Torchia (AP-Washington Post)
    Trade between Israel and Turkey surged in the first half of this year, despite the Gaza flotilla incident.
    Turkish exports to Israel were nearly $1 billion in the first six months of 2010, a 40% increase over the same period in 2009, and Israeli exports to Turkey were up 21% to $645 million in the same period, according to the Israeli government.

France Upgrades Diplomatic Ties with Palestinians - Jenny Barchfield (AP-Washington Post)
    To try to spur international efforts toward creating a Palestinian state, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday the Palestinian diplomatic representation in France - which was called a "delegation" and headed by a "general delegate" - will henceforth be considered a "mission" headed by an "ambassador, chief of mission."
    Deputy Palestinian Foreign Minister Ibrahim Khreisheh said the PA has 58 full-fledged embassies in Arab, Islamic and African countries, as well as former socialist countries in Eastern Europe.
    He said 54 countries have set up representative offices in the Palestinian territories, including 22 EU members, 7 South American countries, as well as Japan, China, Sri Lanka and India.

Israel Dispatches Police Team to Aid Haiti (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    A group of 14 Israeli police officers will soon leave for Haiti to assist the UN Stabilization Mission in upholding public order following the severe earthquake that struck Haiti in January.
    The Israeli police will work alongside Italian police forces, which will provide logistical support.

Explosion Outside Swedish Synagogue (World Jewish Congress)
    A firecracker exploded on the steps of the synagogue in the Swedish city of Malmo on Friday, a day after a bomb threat was taped to the building. Three windows were shattered.
    See also Suburban Washington Synagogue Vandalized - Maria Glod (Washington Post)
    Vandals struck an Olney, Md., synagogue early Monday, spray-painting swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on the outside walls, parking lot and light posts.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Europe Imposes New Sanctions on Iran - Stephen Castle
    The European Union ordered its toughest economic sanctions yet against the Iranian government on Monday, including "a comprehensive and robust package of measures in the areas of trade, financial services, energy, transport as well as additional designations for visa ban and asset freeze." European energy companies and insurers affected by the new controls promised to comply. (New York Times)
        See also Canada Imposes New Sanctions on Iran - Juliet O'Neill (Montreal Gazette-Canada)
  • Russia: Ahmadinejad's Statements Unacceptable
    "Recent public statements by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, which distort Russia's objective approach and our independent, constructive policy towards the Iranian nuclear program...are absolutely unacceptable to us," the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday. "We believe that instead of fruitless and irresponsible rhetoric, the Iranian leadership should take specific, constructive steps towards settling the situation as soon as possible." Moscow approved new sanctions after Iran failed to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear activities. (RIA-Novosti-Russia)
  • Israel Warns of North Korea Missile Proliferation in Mideast - Louis Charbonneau
    "Israel would like to express its ongoing concern regarding the proliferation of ballistic missiles from (North Korea), and to encourage the international community to strengthen its efforts in response to these dangers," Israel's UN mission said in a letter to the North Korea sanctions committee released on Friday. "Israel is particularly concerned by the dangerous effects of the proliferation activities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) on the stability and the peace efforts in the Middle East," said the letter.
        Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in May that a shipment of North Korean weapons, including rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, seized in Thailand last December was headed for Islamist groups Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon. He also said North Korea was providing Iran and Syria with aid for their missile programs. (Reuters-MSNBC)
  • Hizbullah Prevents Signing of Lebanon-France Security Agreement
    On July 13, 2010, MPs from the Lebanese opposition led by Hizbullah prevented parliament from approving a France-Lebanon agreement for cooperation in the areas of internal, civil, and administrative security - even though the agreement had already been effectively approved by both the government and by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.
        Opposition MPs rejected the agreement's first clause, which calls for French-Lebanese cooperation in "the fight against terrorism," because, they said, France's definition of the term "terrorism" was vastly different from the Lebanese and the Arab definition. The opposition MPs demanded that the agreement include the definition of terrorism from the 1998 Arab League Accord to Fight Terrorism, which distinguishes between "terrorism" and "resistance," and states that "armed struggle against foreign occupation" is not considered terrorism. (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Six Israel Air Force Soldiers Killed in Helicopter Crash in Romania -
    A military helicopter carrying six Israeli soldiers and one Romanian crashed Monday in mountainous terrain in central Romania during a joint exercise with the Romanian air force. Local sources said seven bodies had been recovered by rescue forces at the crash site, including four Israeli pilots and two mechanics. (Ynet News)
  • Netanyahu: Palestinians Are Dodging Direct Mideast Peace Talks - Jonathan Lis
    The Palestinian Authority is determined to sabotage attempts to upgrade the ongoing proximity Middle East peace talks with direct negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. On Sunday Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that "direct talks can commence as early as next week," adding that Israel had an "understanding with the Americans that we must move into direct negotiations immediately and without further delay."
        Regarding future security arrangements, Netanyahu said that the "arrangements reached with the Palestinians must be such as to withstand any changes in the political and security Middle East map" and must "stand the test of time." The prime minister also said he had no intention to extend the 10-month West Bank settlement construction freeze. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Presses Abbas to Resume Direct Peace Talks - Karin Laub
    Senior U.S. envoy George Mitchell warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he must move quickly to direct talks with Israel if he wants President Obama's help in setting up a Palestinian state, according to an internal Palestinian document obtained by the Associated Press on Monday. Mitchell told Abbas he should seize the fleeting opportunity and not waste time, the memo said. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Mini-Empire at the UN - Claudia Rosett
    Despite being under four sets of binding sanctions resolutions by the UN Security Council, Iran has learned to manipulate that institution. Iran gained a seat in April on the UN's Commission on the Status of Women. Iran sits on the 36-member executive board of the UN Development Program. Iran actually chaired the UNDP executive board last year, during the thick of the bloody protests in which Tehran's mullocracy was beating, jailing and killing protesters calling for democratic development in Iran. Iran also sits on the boards of both the UN children's agency (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP).
        Iran is a vice chair of the executive council of the UN's Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and sits on two major commissions of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Iran sits on the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development. At the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Legal Subcommittee is currently chaired by the head of the Iranian Space Agency, Ahmad Talebzadeh. Iran also sits on the governing council of the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR), and on the governing boards of the UN Environment Program and the UN Human Settlements Program. The writer is a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Forbes)
  • Don't Boycott Israel - Jacob Weisberg
    Supporters of a boycott of Israel seldom focus on China or Syria or Zimbabwe - regimes that systematically violate human rights. Boycotters are saying, "We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs." Because Israel is a refuge for Jews persecuted everywhere else, this kind of existential challenge is hard to disassociate from anti-Semitism. When people are trying to murder you because of your religion, it is difficult to credit the bona fides of those who merely want to shun you because of your government. (Newsweek)
        See also Israel Boycott Call Backfires - Hilary Leila Krieger
    A call to boycott Israeli-made Ahava products in a Maryland beauty supply store backfired last week when pro-Israel activists countered by purchasing the shop's entire Ahava inventory. When the pro-Palestinian group Sabeel DC organized a boycott call at Ulta in Silver Spring last Saturday, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington sent out an action alert urging supporters to visit the store and buy Ahava. "They cleaned the shelves out. It was the best Ahava sales weekend the store has ever seen," said Arielle Farber, director of Israel and international affairs for the council. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also UK Police Intervene at Anti-Israel Demonstration - Robyn Rosen
    Shop-owners have had to call in the police as demonstrations and counter-demonstrations outside the London branch of the Israeli skincare shop Ahava - famous for its Dead Sea products - have driven away customers. One shopkeeper said that protesters were "running down the road chasing people with flyers."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Observations:

    Leaks on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan Could Lead to Goldstone-Style Prosecutions Against Britain, U.S. - Robin Shepherd (Jerusalem Post)

    • The release of thousands of secret official files about coalition operations in Afghanistan reveals the accidental killings by British soldiers of hundreds of innocent civilians - revelers at wedding parties, kids in school buses, ordinary people going about their daily business who tragically found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    • When Britain allowed the Arab dictatorships to push a report through the UN specifically designed to criminalize the Israeli military's attempts to deal with terrorists hiding behind a civilian population in Gaza, it simultaneously set a precedent for all countries, including itself.
    • Now it has been revealed - via official documents - that British soldiers have been involved in exactly the same kind of operations against exactly the same kind of terror groups using exactly the same tactics and resulting in exactly the same kind of outcomes in terms of the loss of civilian lives.

      The writer is director of international affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London.

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