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February 23, 2009
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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda Tells Hamas: Don't Accept Truce (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri urged Palestinians in Gaza not to succumb to Arab pressure for a truce with Israel. "Jihad to liberate Palestine and all Islamic land should not stop," he said.
    In a recording posted on the Internet on Monday the militant leader said: "I reaffirm to our brothers the fighters in Gaza and everywhere that the mujahideen against crusaders in various battle zones are willing to give their brothers in Gaza and everywhere training and preparation."

French Teenagers Victims of Cairo Bomb (Times-UK)
    A 17-year-old French girl died and 17 other French teenagers were injured when a bomb exploded in a crowded Cairo market on Sunday.
    22 people were injured in the blast including the French children, a German tourist, three Saudis and three Egyptians.
    Extreme Islamist groups have in the past deliberately targeted the lucrative trade in tourists.

Kerry Given Letter for Obama from Hamas - Eli Lake and Betsy Pisik (Washington Times)
    A senior UN official in Gaza gave Sen. John Kerry a letter addressed to President Obama from Ahmed Youssef, an adviser to Hamas, without informing Kerry of the letter's origin, Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the senator, said Friday.
    Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters that the letter was not endorsed by Hamas or the Gaza government.
    See also U.S. Officials Outraged at UN Over Hamas Letter to Obama (Fox News)
    U.S. officials are furious with the UN for its role in Hamas' attempt to enlist U.S. Sen John Kerry to transfer a letter to President Obama, an official source said.
    The incident also has raised security concerns over how much Hamas knew about Kerry's travel plans.

Dubai Fined $300,000 for Israeli Tennis Star Visa Dispute (Times-UK)
    The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour on Friday levied an unprecedented series of fines and penalties on Dubai tennis authorities for its denial of a visa to Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer.
    The tour's board decided that Peer will receive $44,245, an average of the prize-money she received at events last year; the tournament was fined $300,000 for a breach of tour rules, and the event will have to post a $2 million financial performance guarantee to stage the event in 2010.
    Larry Scott, the tour's chief executive officer, said: "These actions send a clear message that we will not tolerate discrimination and we will not allow this situation to happen again."
    See also Player Withdrawals Hit Men's Dubai Tennis Event (AP)
    The Dubai Tennis Championships will start next week without five of the top seven men's players scheduled to compete at the ATP Tour event.
    Defending champion Andy Roddick of the U.S. said Friday he won't attend because he doesn't agree with the United Arab Emirates' decision to deny Israeli Shahar Peer a visa.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Netanyahu to Form New Israeli Government - Isabel Kershner
    Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, was invited by Israel's president, Shimon Peres, on Friday to assemble the next government. Netanyahu immediately called on the Kadima Party, led by Tzipi Livni, and the Labor Party, led by Ehud Barak, to join him in a unity government. Netanyahu will have up to six weeks to put together a governing coalition. He was tapped for the premiership after he gained the endorsement of 65 members of the 120-seat Knesset. (New York Times)
        See also Netanyahu Vows to Work with Obama for Peace - Aron Heller
    Israeli prime minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu promised Sunday to work with the U.S. to promote peace in the region. "I intend and expect to cooperate with the Obama administration and to try to advance the common goals of peace, security and prosperity for us and our neighbors," Netanyahu told reporters ahead of a meeting with visiting Sen. Joseph Lieberman. (AP)
        See also U.S.: We Will Work with the Next Government of Our Ally Israel
    Acting deputy State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said Friday, "The United States is a longstanding and firm ally of Israel. We will work with the next Israeli government, however it is composed."
        He added: "The position on Hamas for the State Department, for the United States, is very clear. Should they accept the existence of the State of Israel, should they stop trying to violently overthrow the State of Israel, should they wish to reengage in the peace process and stop trying to rearm by smuggling rockets and other arms into Gaza, then there could be a place for them in future discussions. But until that happens, I don't see our position changing." (State Department)
        See also below Observations - Netanyahu: Unite All the Forces Within Our People to Face the Challenges (IMRA)
  • Rockets Fired from Lebanon Wound Three in Israeli Arab Village - Robert Berger
    Three rockets were fired toward Israel from Lebanon on Saturday. One slammed into an Israeli Arab village in the Galilee in northern Israel, wounding three people. A local resident told Israel's Army Radio there was a lot of broken glass and damage in several houses. Israeli artillery returned fire. Israeli officials said such attacks could not take place without the knowledge of Hizbullah which controls South Lebanon, while Hizbullah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, said it was not involved. (VOA News)
  • Britain and Italy Threaten to Drop Out of Durban II - Leon Symons
    Britain and Italy could join Canada and Israel in refusing to attend the Durban II Review Conference in April unless they receive cast-iron guarantees that it will not turn into an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel arena of hate. Britain's Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown said on Tuesday: "I was at the first conference. I have never seen such a disgraceful event in quite a long international life....We are not going to stand idly by and allow this racist stuff to get through and be seen as acceptable. We are not going to have it." On Monday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: "We will not send an Italian delegation [if it is the same as Durban 2001], but we will try to harmonize our position with other countries who are the friends of Jews."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Amnesty Seeks Embargo Against Israel, Palestinians
    Amnesty International is calling on the UN to impose an arms embargo on Israel and the Palestinians, saying both sides used weapons supplied from abroad to carry out attacks on civilians during their three-week conflict in Gaza. The group issued a report Sunday that detailed "evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law by all parties." Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East director, called on the U.S. to immediately suspend military aid to Israel. (CNN)
        See also Israel Responds to Amnesty Report
    Amnesty International's report presents a biased version of the events, and does not adhere to professional criteria and objectivity. The international community has accepted the fact that Hamas was solely responsible for the military confrontation, but the Amnesty report is dedicated almost exclusively to the censure of Israel. There is no mention in the report of Hamas' deliberate use of civilians as human shields: Hamas' bases, ammunition depots and battlegrounds were all purposely located in the midst of Palestinian population centers. The IDF never intentionally targeted civilians. The witnesses providing the descriptions appearing in the report are interested parties and under Hamas pressure.
        The comparison of the supply of weapons to Israel and Hamas is inappropriate. Can a comparison be made between the weapons used by al-Qaeda and those used by NATO forces? Amnesty chose not to mention that Hamas is supported by foreign extremists in its struggle against the legal and recognized government of the Palestinian Authority. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Durban II Draft Document "Getting Worse" - Tovah Lazaroff and Abe Selig
    The draft document for the UN anti-racism conference, dubbed Durban II, is problematic both for Israel and Western democracies in general, Israeli Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Roni Leshno Yaar said Sunday. The initial draft of the Durban II text, posted on the UN Web site, speaks of "laws based on racial discrimination with the aim of continuing domination of the occupied territories" and a "contemporary form of apartheid." In the last week, the Palestinians tried to introduce language into the document regarding the 2004 advisory ruling by the International Court of Justice at The Hague against the security barrier, said Leshno Yaar. The Americans were present but did not appear to have made improvement in the document, which he said "is getting worse every day." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Continue Rocket and Mortar Fire at Israel from Gaza - Yanir Yagna
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket and two mortar rounds at Israel on Sunday. On Saturday a rocket struck Ashkelon, after Gaza militants fired 10 mortar shells and a Kassam rocket on Friday.
        Egypt on Sunday opened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza to let students, third-country residents and medical patients cross into Egypt. Also Sunday, Gaza medics said five Palestinians were found dead in a smuggling tunnel under the border with Egypt. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Sentences Accused Collaborator with Israel to Death by Firing Squad
    A military court in Hamas-ruled Gaza on Sunday sentenced a man to death by firing squad for allegedly collaborating with Israel. Rights groups say that Hamas executed 17 men who escaped jail during Israel's military operation in Gaza last month, after being convicted as collaborators. Amnesty International reported on Feb. 10: "Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip have carried out a deadly campaign of abductions, killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of 'collaborating' with Israel, as well as opponents and critics." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Yes, We Should Worry about Iran's Satellite - Uzi Rubin
    Iran successfully orbited its Omid satellite earlier this month. As a first satellite for a novice space-faring nation, it compares well with the Sputnik and America's tiny Explorer 1. When the first Iranian spy satellite starts transmitting high resolution photographs of U.S. installations in the Middle East and elsewhere to Tehran, the true significance of the Omid will become evident.
        The Safir space launch vehicle calls for even closer scrutiny. The strong synergy between ballistic missiles and space launchers was seen when the Soviet Union's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the R7, was used to orbit Sputnik 1. Half a century later, the Soviet R7 rocket is still going strong as the first stage of the very reliable Soyuz launcher. The real sophistication of the Safir lies in its second stage. Its propulsion is based on storable liquid propellants that can be kept almost indefinitely, making it launch-ready at any moment - a significant advantage for military missiles. The Safir demonstrates scientific and engineering proficiency coupled with global-range missile technology in the hands of a radical regime and a nuclear wannabe.
        Iran's first space launch symbolizes the fact that Iran is now poised to project power globally. The writer was head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization from 1991 to 1999. (Wall Street Journal)
  • UNseen Abuses: The UN Human Rights Council - Editorial
    What do these have in common: genocide in Darfur; child soldiers in Chad and Congo; compulsory sterilization of women in China; suppression of dissent in Cuba, Iran, Syria and Russia; rape as a political weapon in Zimbabwe; sex trafficking in Asia; denial of human rights to minorities and women in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries? Answer: None of those gross abuses has drawn the notice of the UN Human Rights Council. No, the council has had other matters to attend to, the vast majority of which focused on Israel. Pretty much whenever an Israeli soldier has responded to terrorism, the group has cranked out a formal condemnation. Twenty in less than three years. (New York Daily News)
  • Observations:

    Netanyahu: Unite All the Forces Within Our People to Face the Challenges (IMRA)

    After being assigned by Israeli President Shimon Peres to form the next government, Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday:

    • At this fateful hour, the State of Israel faces enormous challenges. Iran is developing nuclear weapons and poses the greatest threat to our existence since our War of Independence. Iran's terror proxies confront us in the North and South, and the worst global economic crisis in the last 80 years threatens the jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.
    • These great challenges obligate us to work together and to unite all the forces within our people. I call on the members of all the parties to put politics aside and to place the good of the country first. I turn first of all to the chairwoman of Kadima, Tzipi Livni, and the chairman of the Labor Party, Ehud Barak, and say, let's join hands and work together in a national unity government to secure the future of the State of Israel.
    • The great tragedies in the history of our people happened when we did not unite in the face of great challenges. But the opposite is true as well. The great victories occurred when we put our differences aside and stood together as one during moments of truth. Today, we face such a moment of truth.

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