Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
IAEA Finds Graphite, Uranium Traces at Suspected Syrian Nuclear Site - Mark Heinrich (Reuters)
Who Will Be the Next Head of the UN's Nuclear Watchdog? - George Jahn (AP)
Argentina Orders Holocaust-Denying Bishop Out - Debora Rey (AP/New York Times)
Israeli Tennis Player Given Visa for Dubai - Firouz Sedarat (Reuters)
South Korea to Buy Israeli Radar System in $215 Million Deal - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
Israel OKs Golan Apple Export to Syria (AFP)
Israel's Alamo - Lenny Ben-David (I*Consult)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, UN officials acknowledged Thursday, saying Iran had produced more nuclear material than previously thought. They said Iran had accumulated more than one ton of low enriched uranium hexafluoride at a facility in Natanz, which if further enriched could produce more than 20 kg. of fissile material - enough for a bomb.
"It appears that Iran has walked right up to the threshold," said Peter Zimmerman, a former chief scientist of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The new figures come in a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog. David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said: "If Iran did decide to build nuclear weapons, it's entering an era in which it could do so quickly." (Financial Times-UK)
Hamas has flatly rejected Israel's demand that it free a captive soldier in return for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian movement called instead for international pressure on Israel to force the borders open. Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy leader of Hamas, told the Guardian in Damascus Thursday that Corporal Gilad Shalit would only be released in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The soldier is believed to be alive but his whereabouts are unknown and he has not been seen by the International Red Cross. (Guardian-UK)
The U.S. will not change its stance towards Hamas, John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Democratic presidential candidate, said during a tour of Gaza Thursday. This visit "does not indicate any shift whatsoever with respect to Hamas....What it indicates is our effort to listen and to learn," Kerry said in the Israeli town of Sderot before entering Gaza. Kerry told the Gazans: "Your political leadership needs to understand that any nation that has rockets hitting it for many years threatening its residents is going to respond." Hamas "needs to make it clear how it is willing to move to make peace and those decisions have not been made yet." (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
In an on-the-record conference call Thursday, Middle East special envoy George Mitchell briefed Jewish leaders on his work thus far. Mitchell said settlements were "an important issue, but not the only issue," and that while Palestinian and other Arab leaders bring up settlements in every conversation, he will not pre-judge the issue. The envoy also noted that divisions among the Palestinians made dialogue more difficult. Mitchell said he was struck while reading the "Mitchell Report" on the region he wrote eight years ago how much has changed in that time. For instance, he said, Iran was not mentioned in that document, but the country was brought up in the "first sentence" of his initial meetings with every leader in the region. (JTA)
The Bush administration's former "classification czar" can testify for the defense in the case against two former AIPAC staffers. Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III in an order released Wednesday allowed the testimony of William Leonard, who headed the Information Security Oversight Office, in the classified information leak case. Leonard could be the most damaging witness to the prosecution when the two go on trial for allegedly relaying classified information to colleagues, journalists and Israeli diplomats. Leonard, who oversaw classification procedures from 2002 to 2008, and his predecessor, Steven Garfinkel, have argued in retirement that the government overclassifies. Their expertise could undermine arguments that the information allegedly handled by Rosen and Weissman met the standards of "national defense information," which Ellis has said the government must prove. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Palestinians in Gaza fired three rockets at Israel Thursday evening that struck near Sderot and Netivot. Two rockets had been fired at Israel earlier in the day. In response, the Israel Air Force bombed six smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, causing secondary blasts which indicated that explosives were hit. (Ha'aretz)
See also Palestinians Fire Ten Mortar Shells at IDF Troops on Gaza Border
Palestinian gunmen on Friday fired ten mortar shells at IDF troops operating near the Kissufim crossing to Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
A declaration pledging to challenge anti-Semitism was signed on behalf of all participating nations on Tuesday, the final day of the London Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism. Noting the dramatic increase in anti-Semitism being disseminated in the media and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, the London Declaration was signed by 125 parliamentarians from 40 countries. The parliamentarians issued a declaration stating that the international community must "not be witness or party to another gathering like Durban in 2001," in reference to the infamous UN "anti-racism" conference in which the focus on Israel, to the exclusion of all other issues, was widely perceived as anti-Semitic.
"There is a new sophisticated, globalizing, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism, reminiscent of the atmospherics of the '30s and without parallel or precedent since the end of the Second World War," said former Canadian attorney-general and founding co-chair of the conference Irwin Cotler. (Jerusalem Post)
15 prisoners escaped last Friday from a PA prison in Jericho. Most belonged to the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and were being held as part of an amnesty agreement between Israel and the PA which grants pardons to members of terror groups who sign contracts committing them to good behavior. PA officials said the prisoners had dug a tunnel dozens of meters long underneath their cells in order to escape. (Ynet News)
See also PA Arrests 6 Jailbreakers - Ali Waked
Palestinian security forces in Jericho arrested six of the 15 prisoners who escaped from a PA prison on Friday. The PA set up an investigatory committee on Saturday, based on the suspicion that the escaped prisoners had received help from security forces and prison jailers, with the tunnel merely serving as a cover story. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The first "Durban" conference was named for the South African city where the UN held its 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and was chiefly notable as a virulent display of anti-Semitism. Yet last weekend, the Administration announced it would participate in "conference preparations," while reserving judgment on whether to attend the conference itself. Back in 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to appear at Durban for fear that it would turn into a carnival of hatred and grievance. That's exactly what happened, prompting Powell to withdraw the U.S. delegation. As he put it at the time, "I know that you do not combat racism by suggesting that apartheid exists in Israel."
The UN has been merrily planning the "Durban Review Conference" for April, whose purpose is to "reaffirm the Durban Declaration." The preparatory committee is chaired by Libya. Vice chairs include Iran and Cuba. The conference is organized under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, which the previous U.S. Administration refused to join. In the latest draft of the so-called "Outcome Document," Israel's "racial policies" are a major theme. The draft also calls for "limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression" in order to criminalize all criticism of Islam. There is also an effort to extract reparations for the long-banned trans-Atlantic slave trade: States that "have not yet condemned, apologized and paid reparations" for the trade are urged "to do so at the earliest." (Wall Street Journal)
See also U.S. Holds Firm on Reparations, Israel in UN Racism Conference Talks - Colum Lynch
The Obama administration on Thursday concluded its first round of UN negotiations on racism, pressing foreign governments to drop reparation demands for slavery and to desist from singling out Israel for criticism in a draft declaration to be presented at a UN conference in April. Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, dispatched Felice D. Gaer, a human rights advocate, and Betty King, a former U.S. diplomat, to Geneva to make the U.S. case in discussions on the draft declaration. The administration "is pushing back against efforts to brand Israel as racist in this conference," Gaer said, but cautioned that U.S. attendance at this week's final preparatory meeting does not mean the U.S. will participate in the conference. (Washington Post)
Iran's presidential elections on June 12 will be a clash of two divergent inclinations within the leadership. Former President Mohammad Khatami represents the desire to reach out to the West, while incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pushed Iran to adopt a radical policy and face international isolation. The popular Khatami already served as president for eight years, in 1997-2005, and could not return for a consecutive third term in office before taking a break in line with Iran's constitution.
Should Khatami regain the presidency, this will not mark the end of the Islamic revolution, but its substance will be softer. Khatami rejects out of hand Ahmadinejad's statements against the U.S., Israel, and the Jews. He claims that these declarations caused great damage to Iran on the diplomatic and economic fronts. It would also not necessarily mean an end to Iran's nuclear project (a decision to be made only by spiritual leader Khamenei). Under Khatami's leadership, Iran's support for Hizbullah and Hamas will be maintained, yet the sums of money involved (as Iran faces an economic crisis with the decline in the price of oil) will become smaller. (Ynet News)
Iran has developed a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles with a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi announced this week. The new UAV could soar over every U.S. military installation, diplomatic mission or country of interest in the Middle East. Drones are very attractive to smaller states because they are inexpensive, stealthy and pose fewer risks than conventional aircraft. In 2007 Iran claimed to have begun producing "suicide drones" invisible to radar and usable as guided missiles to attack U.S. ships. Should Iran arm its drones with missiles having chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear warheads, any of which are or soon will be within Iranian capabilities, the UAVs will be strategic, offensive weapon systems. (Washington Times)
The problem is known as libel tourism; the damage inflicted on the First Amendment and academic freedom is serious. Disgruntled subjects of articles or books produced and distributed almost exclusively in the U.S. file suit in foreign jurisdictions to get around the strong First Amendment protections afforded here to journalistic and academic works. Britain has become a favorite venue for unhappy subjects because plaintiffs win cases that would be thrown out by U.S. courts.
U.S. lawmakers are considering legal avenues to address the problem. One bill would empower U.S. judges to block enforcement of a foreign libel judgment if it does not comport with U.S. standards. It would also help immensely if Britain strengthened free-speech protections in its laws, as some British lawmakers are considering. (Washington Post)
See also Libel Tourism: International Forum Shopping for Defamation Claims - Avi Bell (Global Law Forum-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Last weekend, a conference held under the title "Gaza, The Victory" took place in Istanbul, bringing 200 Sunni clerics and activists together with senior Damascus-based Hamas officials. The location of the conference is a further indication of the move of the Islamist AKP government in Turkey toward a more open alignment with anti-Western and anti-Israeli forces in the region.
The atmosphere in Turkey during the Israeli operation in Gaza became deeply charged against Israelis and Jews - with a number of ugly incidents recorded across the country. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off the stage in protest during a debate with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland. Erdogan attended the emergency summit in Doha on Jan. 16 that was convened by Syria and Qatar to offer support to Hamas, and he publicly questioned Israel's UN membership.
In courting Hamas and hosting Islamist gatherings, the AKP government in Ankara is seeking to build Turkey's regional "strategic depth" - its preferred phrase - by building up relations with Syria and Iran. Since it is becoming increasingly unfeasible for countries to maintain close relations with both the U.S.-led and the Iranian-led camps, the prospect of Turkey moving toward the Iranian-led alliance can no longer be dismissed as fanciful. Turkish analysts have noted the rise of a "Muslim nationalist" orientation in the country. The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
An Arabic-language "hasbara" (information) Web site edited by former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel, now a research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, offers a sampling of news items and perspectives that many Arabs in the Middle East are rarely served. "It is true that in the last six or seven years there has been a kind of a revolution that has happened in the Arabic media," Mazel said. "You have newspapers published in London like al-Hayat, a-Sharq al-Awsat and others that really give much more information about the world than the traditional Arab press, but...it's far from being enough. I don't think that they cover 80 to 90% of what is being said about them (in the Western press)."
The Web site, which Mazel said has a limited budget and garners about 2,000 readers a month, also features historical pieces about the Jewish people's historic connection to the Land of Israel. Many of the letters sent by readers from around the Arab world had been positive toward Israel, Mazel said. Some readers have even asked for political asylum or job opportunities in Israel. "We fight through a war of ideas," Mazel said. "I cannot go to Yemen, to Saudi Arabia and sit with people and talk. So we have now this wonderful tool called the Internet and through the Internet, we transmit to them some of these ideas." The Web site, updated weekly, is located at www.infoelarab.org. (Jerusalem Post)
For Israel, a nation smaller than the state of New Jersey, the issue is the daily bombing of unarmed civilian neighborhoods, causing death and injury to residents, destroying homes, cars, school, workplaces, and streets. Israel doesn't do this. There has never been an Israeli suicide bomber and their citizens don't shoot bombs day after day into Gaza cities. What would this nation do if Cuba started bombing Florida, Mexico bombed Phoenix, or some militant group in Canada started bombing Helena, Montana? When "talking" to foreign leaders and signing all kinds of documents doesn't stop it, what's left? These attacks on Israel have been going on for over eight years. Being bombed by a foreign country used to be an act of war. If some of us had to be on the receiving end of this torment day after day, we might think differently about it. I'm sorry, but I'm taking Israel's part. (Helena [Montana] Independent Record)
Israel's Gaza Operation and International Law - Robbie Sabel (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
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