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September 5, 2011

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Dozens of Israelis Questioned at Length upon Landing in Turkey - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Some 40 Israelis on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were separated from the rest of the passengers upon arrival in Turkey on Monday and were questioned at length by Turkish police.
    Turkish police took the Israelis' passports and questioned each person in an investigations room. Only after prolonged questioning were the Israelis freed to go.
    Several passengers on a different flight that passed through Turkey on its way to Israel from Thailand told Army Radio that they were also treated in a humiliating manner at the Istanbul airport.
    "They made me undress to only my underwear. A woman officer did it, but she wasn't particularly gentle. It reminded me of stories my grandma told me of her past," Alina, one of the passengers, recounted.
    See also Israel's Security Cabinet Meets to "Contain Crisis" with Turkey - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

Rift with Israel May Hinder Turkey's Anti-Terror Fight - Umit Enginsoy (Hurriyet-Turkey)
    Turkey's decision to sever military ties with Israel risks creating liabilities in Ankara's fight against the PKK, defense analysts have said.
    The move toward Israel must be coordinated with special post-sale arrangements on the status of already delivered Israeli weapons systems and other equipment that is still being delivered.
    The most critical pieces of equipment being used in Turkey's anti-terror operations include UAVs, mine-resistant and ambush-protected armored vehicles and - to a lesser degree - tanks.
    In defense-industry deals between countries, there are usually clauses that define maintenance, repair and other post-sale services to be provided by the seller. But it is not clear what will happen to such deals following Turkey's cutting of military ties with Israel.

Turkey to Station U.S. Radar to Counter Iranian Rockets - Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
    Turkey has agreed to station high-powered X-Band U.S. radar on its territory as part of a missile defense system to protect NATO allies from the threat of long-range Iranian rockets.
    However, Turkey was concerned that data collected at the radar site could be shared real time with Israel.
    The U.S. based an identical X-Band radar in Israel in 2008 to bolster its missile defenses.
    The U.S. made clear that data from any U.S. radars around the world may be fused with other data to maximize the effectiveness of its missile defenses.

Jihadists Plot to Take over Libya - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
    Jihadists among the Libyan rebels revealed plans last week on the Internet to subvert the post-Gaddafi government and create an Islamist state, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.
    A government report circulated Tuesday said extremists were observed "strategizing" on Internet forums about how to set up an Islamist state in Libya.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Appeals to Palestinians to Stall UN Vote on Statehood - Steven Lee Myers and Mark Landler
    The Obama administration has initiated a last-ditch diplomatic campaign to avert a confrontation this month over a plan by Palestinians to seek recognition as a state at the UN. The administration has circulated a proposal for renewed peace talks with the Israelis and has made it clear to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, that it will veto any request presented to the UN Security Council to make a Palestinian state a new member outright.
        The State Department late last month issued a formal diplomatic message to more than 70 countries urging them to oppose any unilateral moves by the Palestinians at the UN, arguing that a vote would destabilize the region. Two administration officials said that the intent of the message was to narrow the majority the Palestinians are expected to have in the General Assembly. (New York Times)
  • Iran's Nuclear Experiments Raise Alarm at UN Agency - Jay Solomon
    The UN nuclear agency says it is "increasingly concerned" that Iran has conducted experimental work to develop nuclear weapons, in particular on warheads to deliver nuclear payloads. In a report issued Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency also said Iran has begun deploying second-generation centrifuges at its largest uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, which could allow the country to produce nuclear fuel at three times its current rate. Tehran has concurrently begun installing centrifuges at an underground site near Qom, seen as impervious to a military attack.
        The IAEA said it has gained additional information indicating Iran has conducted studies on how to build nuclear weapons. The agency confirmed that Tehran had begun deploying more advanced IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuges at Natanz. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also IAEA Report on Iran (IAEA)
  • Turkey to Challenge Gaza Blockade at International Court of Justice - David Batty
    Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara would challenge the Gaza blockade at the International Court of Justice. He told Turkey's state-run TRT television: "Let the International Court of Justice decide. We are starting the necessary legal procedures this coming week."
        Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon told Israeli TV: "The problem here is on the Turkish side....I think we need to say to the Turks: as far as we are concerned, this saga is behind us. Now we need to cooperate. Lack of cooperation harms not only us, but Turkey as well."  (Guardian-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Jerusalem Brushes Off Ankara Threat to Go to International Court of Justice - Herb Keinon
    After Turkey's threat to take Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague following Friday's release of the Palmer Commission report on the 2010 flotilla incident, Israeli officials said on Saturday that the court only adjudicates issues brought to it by two disputing states, or referred to it for an advisory decision from the UN. Israel won't agree to go to the court, the official said, and the UN will be hard-pressed to ask for an advisory opinion after a UN body (the Palmer Commission) found that the blockade of Gaza was legal, as was Israel's interception of vessels trying to break it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: Turkish Navy to Escort Aid Ships to Palestinians in Gaza - Barak Ravid
    Turkish officials told the Hurriyet Daily News that Turkish naval vessels will accompany civilian ships carrying aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Additionally, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan instructed his foreign ministry to organize a trip for him to Gaza in the near future. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • UN Report on Flotilla Incident Exonerates Israel - Elliott Abrams
    The UN report on the Mavi Marmara incident is now public and largely exculpates Israel. All the facts are as Israel contended. According to Yediot Ahronot, the U.S. government was pushing Israel to apologize to Turkey. One of the reasons Israel refused an apology was its clear and correct understanding that having a cold and hostile relationship with Israel is Erdogan's goal. An Israeli apology over the Mavi Marmara would have gained next to nothing - while weakening Israel's self-respect and its position in the region.
        When a UN commission takes what is in many ways a stronger moral stance in defiance of the UN's automatic anti-Israel majority than does our own government, we have a right to be disgusted. (Weekly Standard)
        See also Deciphering Israel's Behavior - Omer Taspinar
    Why did Israel decide not to apologize to Turkey? Tel Aviv decided that the apology would not solve problems with Turkey. According to the strategic assessment in Israel, it seemed that the relationship with Turkey was broken beyond repair. The fact that Turkey was not only demanding an apology and compensation but also an end to the embargo over Gaza is very telling for the Israelis. This showed that normalization with Turkey was almost impossible as long as the Turkish government indexed its relations with Tel Aviv not just to bilateral factors but also to the Palestinian question. (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
  • Turkey, Israel and the Flotilla - Editorial
    A UN report on Friday said that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is legal and that Israeli commandos boarding the vessel had to defend themselves against "organized and violent resistance." The flotilla, which sailed from a Turkish port with the acquiescence of the Turkish government, was faulted for acting "recklessly" in running the blockade. The report also said that "more could have been done" by Turkey to persuade organizers to avoid a clash with Israeli forces.
        Turkey rejected the findings, expelled Israel's ambassador and announced that it was freezing military ties. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that Ankara "will take every precaution it deems necessary" to protect its shipping in the eastern Mediterranean. He didn't explain, but it is irresponsible to even hint that Turkey, a NATO ally, might look for opportunities to confront Israel militarily. (New York Times)
  • Philistines for Palestine - Editorial
    On Thursday night about 30 demonstrators disrupted a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Their action represents a dark moment in public culture and civility and does nothing to further their cause. To see culture, which should be above partisan politics, attacked as it was in London is alarming. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is misguided and counterproductive. (The Australian)
        See also A Protest with a Whiff of Weimar - Stephen Pollard
    There is a chilling air to the so-called protests: an air of Weimar Germany, and the way Nazi party members broke up meetings. These events can only be understood in the context of anti-Semitism. When have there been similar protests against "violations of international law and human rights," as was chanted on Thursday, by any other country? Where have been the similar disruptions of performances by Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Iranian or any number of other nations' musicians? (Telegraph-UK)
        See also A Reflection by a Leading British Cellist - Norman Lebrecht
    The distinguished cellist Steven Isserlis sent the following letter to the Guardian after the attack on the Israel Philharmonic (it was not published): I have played many times with the Israel Philharmonic orchestra, and have found them to be the warmest, most hospitable orchestra I know.
        Of course, there are a wide range of political opinions within the group, but on the whole, my friends in the orchestra (and elsewhere in Israel) are united by their desire to lead a peaceful life, their disgust at any disregard of human rights emanating from their own government or from any others in the region, and their belief in the two-state solution as the only possible way forward. To wreck their very rare and special concert over here gives a terrible impression of us all - haven't the rioters done that already? (ArtsJournal)

Israel Responds to the UN Report on the Flotilla Incident (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

  • The State of Israel has adopted the Palmer Report which deals with the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010, with the exception of the reservations detailed by the Israeli representative to the Palmer Commission, Joseph Ciechanover (see below).
  • The Palmer Report confirmed the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, and Israel's right to enforce the blockade, including in international waters. This naval blockade was put into place to prevent the smuggling of missiles and other weapons to Hamas, a terror organization which controls Gaza and is supported by Iran. Over the last few years, Hamas has fired over 10,000 rockets and mortar shells with the objective of striking Israeli civilian targets.
  • While enforcing the naval blockade, Israel has interdicted many vessels on their way to the Gaza Strip with no casualties. In the case of the Mavi Marmara flotilla, Israeli soldiers boarded the vessels with non-lethal means and with no intention of causing any harm. When they were brutally attacked by dozens of violent IHH activists armed with clubs, knives and steel pipes, the Israeli soldiers were forced to defend themselves.
  • Israel once again expresses its regret over the loss of life, but will not apologize for its soldiers taking action to defend their lives.
  • Beyond ratifying the legality of the blockade, the report determines that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that anyone interested in sending humanitarian aid to Gaza must do so in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

        See also Palmer Committee Member: No Use of Excessive Force on Flotilla - Attila Somfalvi
    Israel's representative to the Palmer Commission, Joseph Ciechanover, on Friday expressed reservations about some of the conclusions of the UN report on the flotilla incident. "Israel does not agree with the committee's depiction regarding the decision to board the ships, which they claim was 'excessive and unreasonable.'" "The committee was provided with evidence of repeated warnings given to the ships regarding the intent to board their decks."
        "The committee confirmed the fact that video clips showing the passengers wearing 'bullet-proof vests and holding iron rods, slingshots, chains and clubs' in fact supports reports of violence as told by IDF soldiers during the Israeli investigation. The committee also substantiated that 'two soldiers were shot,' 'three soldiers were caught, abused and were in danger,' while 'seven soldiers were injured by the passengers, some of them severely injured.'" "The Israeli soldiers clearly acted in self-defense and reacted reasonably, proportionally and in a restrained manner."  (Ynet News)

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