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March 31, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Arab Leaders Back Sudanese President Wanted for War Crimes in Darfur (BBC News)
    Arab leaders have concluded their annual summit in Qatar by showing their support for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted for war crimes.
    The Arab League said it rejected the International Criminal Court's decision to issue a warrant for his arrest.
    President Bashir had earlier spoken at the summit, and won strong support from his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.
    See also Arab Leaders Embrace Sudan's Indicted President - Liam Stack (Christian Science Monitor)

Hamas Rules Out Abiding by Past PLO Commitments (Maan News-PA)
    Senior Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardaweel said Saturday that accepting prior agreements with Israel, such as the Oslo Accords or other signed documents, would be impossible, and refused to do so.

Palestinians Support Armed Attacks Against Israeli Civilians - Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    A Palestinian poll conducted on March 5-7 asked about support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel.
    Gaza: Support attacks - 67%, oppose attacks - 32%
    West Bank: Support attacks - 47%, oppose attacks - 49%

Hamas Wins Teachers Union Elections for UN Schools in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas won all 11 seats in elections for the teachers union at UNRWA schools in Gaza held Wednesday.
    Hamas has controlled the teachers union for the past 16 years.

Why Do Armies Use White Phosphorus? - Juliet Lapidos (Slate)
    Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli military of "deliberately or recklessly" using white phosphorus shells over densely populated civilian areas.
    White phosphorus is primarily deployed as a smoke screen. It was used by U.S. troops in Iraq during the 2004 battle of Fallujah.
    It serves as a particularly efficient masking agent because it works so quickly - bursting into thick, white, billowing clouds in just a fraction of a second.
    White phosphorus also impedes the use of infrared tracking systems, like those used to guide some anti-tank missiles.

Natural Gas Signs Found in Another Israeli Drill Site (Reuters)
    A U.S.-Israeli exploration group that discovered large amounts of natural gas in Israeli waters earlier this year said on Sunday it found early signs of gas at a new drill site in the Mediterranean Sea.
    Earlier this year, Noble Energy said it had found 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas at the Tamar-1 site, 90 km. west of Haifa. The new Dalit-1 site is located 60 km. off the coast of Hadera, south of Haifa.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli Military Closes Probe into Gaza Misconduct - Howard Schneider
    The Israeli military's top lawyer on Monday closed an investigation into alleged misconduct during the recent three-week war in Gaza, concluding that charges made by graduates of a military preparation school were "based on hearsay" and had been "purposely exaggerated."  (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations - Hearsay: Findings of Military Police Investigation of Soldiers' Comments on Gaza War (Israel Defense Forces)
  • How Israel Foiled an Arms Convoy Bound for Hamas
    Israeli fighter-bombers, backed by unmanned drones, were responsible for a mid-January attack on an Iranian weapons convoy in Sudan transporting rockets and explosives to Hamas militants in Gaza, two highly-placed Israeli security sources revealed. A source denied prior claims that a ship and a second convoy were destroyed. "There was only one raid, and it was a major operation," he said.
        F-16 fighter-bombers carried out two runs on the convoy. After the first bombing run, drones mounted with high-resolution cameras found that the convoy had only been partially damaged, so the Israelis ordered a second pass with the F-16s. During the 1,750-mile (2,800 km.) journey to Sudan and back, the Israeli aircraft refueled in midair over the Red Sea.
        In early January, at the height of Israel's operation in Gaza, Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad learned that Iran was planning a major delivery of 120 tons of arms and explosives to Gaza, including anti-tank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25 mile range and a 45 kg. warhead. "This was the first time that the Iranians had tried to send Hamas a shipment this big via Sudan - and it is probably the last," a source said. (TIME)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Vows "Every Effort to Reach Viable Peace" - Shahar Ilan
    Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Monday that his government will make every effort to reach "a viable peace with all of Israel's Arab neighbors." He spoke during a special session marking 30 years since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. "The government that I am about to form will do all in its power to reach peace with our neighbors," Netanyahu said. "Israelis know how to spot genuine peace whenever it is offered."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Cabinet Weighs Linking Hamas Prisoners' Privileges to Those of Kidnapped IDF Soldier - Roni Sofer
    The Israel Prison Service on Sunday recommended to the government to cut back on Hamas prisoners' visitation rights, academic studies and means of communication. (Ynet News)
        See also Sanctions on Hamas Prisoners? - Alan Baker
    Hamas blatantly violates accepted humanitarian norms by holding kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit incommunicado somewhere in Gaza, preventing the International Red Cross or his family from visiting him, and denying such minimal rights as the transfer of letters and parcels. Yet the international community doesn't seem to be too bothered. Israel, on the other hand, grants Hamas detainees the conditions required by international law including Red Cross and family visits and medical supervision, as well as additional freebees such as academic studies and access to radio and television. International recognition of this enormous discrepancy is minimal, if at all. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Kills 2 Palestinian Terrorists Planting Bomb at Gaza Fence - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF soldiers thwarted an attack against Israeli forces Tuesday morning when they prevented a Palestinian attempt to place an explosive device on the Gaza border. (Ynet News)
  • Iran to Complete Hospital that Israel Started Building in Mauritania - Barak Ravid
    There are reports that Iran paid the Mauritania government about $10 million to kick out the Israeli ambassador a few weeks ago. Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, visited Mauritania on Wednesday and stopped at a hospital for cancer research and treatment in the Mauritanian capital known by locals as "the Israeli hospital," where he promised that Iran will "replace" Israel and equip the hospital as needed.
        The hospital was initiated in 2000 by the Israeli Ministry of Health, but was stalled at various stages due to hesitation on the part of the Mauritanian government. Several million shekels were spent on the project, which was funded partly by the Israeli government and partly by the American Jewish Committee, and an official inauguration ceremony was to have taken place within the next two months. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Iran Behind Freeze in Israel-Mauritania Relations - Freddy Eitan
    Nearly ten years after the start of diplomatic relations between Israel and Mauritania, the friendly relationship has changed to one of hostility and has led to the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Iran and Libya stand behind the change. The writer was the first Israeli ambassador to Mauritania. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Distancing America from Israel - Benny Avni
    With Benjamin Netanyahu set to be sworn in as Israel's prime minister, Western capitals are in a dither about the irrelevant question of Israel's commitment to the vaunted "two-state solution." The "solution" - based on President George W. Bush's vision of a democratic Palestine living peacefully next door to Israel - has no relevance to the world as it is now: Palestine is further from developing a viable democracy than it was when W. set forth the idea. Questions of Netanyahu's commitment to the idea are just a new club for those in Washington who think that distancing America from Israel will somehow solve U.S. problems with the larger Muslim world.
        EU leaders last week announced that Israel's hopes of an upgrade in economic and diplomatic ties with the EU are all but doomed unless the new Jerusalem government declares support for the two-state solution. What makes all this absurd, of course, is that Israel isn't the problem. The outgoing Israeli government was fully committed to Bush's vision. Livni, its foreign minister, endlessly negotiated with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to establish a Palestinian state. But Abbas' hold on power has been failing fast, while the absolutists of Hamas - who won't even pretend to want peace with Israel - are on the rise.
        Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his government has "gone further in the peace negotiations than any previous government." But the Palestinian leadership's "weakness and lack of courage" derailed the negotiations. (New York Post)
  • A Comprehensive Mideast Peace Is a Fantasy - Zvi Bar'el
    This is how the Arab League summit in Doha is looking. Host Qatar is not getting along with Egypt. Jordan is furious with Qatar because Al Jazeera, owned by the emirate's ruling family, reiterated the claim that the late King Hussein was a CIA agent. Egypt and Syria are still not reconciled. Saudi Arabia has embarked on a pan-Arab reconciliation effort, but with limited success. The Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have not reached an agreement. And Iraq is still considered suspicious, in part because it is under Iranian influence.
        It's also a scene that should raise thoughts about the concept of the Arab initiative, which passed during the 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut, to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories. The initiative offer depends entirely on across-the-board Arab support. Without it, there is no point. Will Iraq, which follows Iranian dictates, make peace with Israel just because of a peace agreement with the Palestinians? Will Lebanon, whose policy is dictated by Hizbullah, agree to peace with Israel even if a peace agreement is reached with Syria? And what will the Palestinians propose? Peace in Ramallah and war in Gaza? (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Arab Peace Initiative: A Primer and Future Prospects - Joshua Teitelbaum (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Hearsay: Findings of Military Police Investigation of Soldiers' Comments on Gaza War (Israel Defense Forces)

    • The Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, has decided to close the case in which the Criminal Investigation Department of the Military Police investigated statements made by soldiers at the Rabin Military Preparation Center in reference to the Gaza operation, after the investigation found that the crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by facts.
    • The investigation concluded that the stories told were purposely exaggerated and hyperbolic. For example, one story made the claim that a soldier was allegedly given orders to fire at an elderly woman. However, upon investigation, it was found that the soldier witnessed no such thing, and was only repeating a rumor that he had heard.
    • A claim made by a different soldier who had supposedly been ordered to open fire at a woman and two children was also determined to be an incident that he had not witnessed.
    • Brig. Gen. Mendelblit concluded the findings of the investigation: "It is unfortunate that none of the speakers at the conference was careful to be accurate in the depiction of his claims, and even more so that they chose to present various incidents of a severe nature, despite not personally witnessing and knowing much about them. It seems that it will be difficult to evaluate the damage done to the image and morals of the IDF and its soldiers."
    • The juridical assistant of the Military Advocate General, Maj. Yehoshua Gurtler, said: "Soldiers and commanders should not fear reporting inappropriate events that they have witnessed, but when the reports are not precise and are exaggerated, nothing positive will come of it."

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