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April 23, 2009

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Report: Corruption Still Rampant in Palestinian Society (DPA)
    Corruption is still rampant in Palestinian public institutions, the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity-Aman said Wednesday in a report.
    Despite some positive reforms in the area of public fund management, there is still a "general weakness in the system of combating corruption."
    Aman commissioner Azmi Shueibi said the Palestinian public in general believes that corruption increased in 2008.
    In the West Bank, "many forms of favoritism, nepotism, misappropriation of public money and abuse of public position continues to impact on many sectors of Palestinian society."
    In Gaza, corruption was "manifested in the dismissal, termination, transfer or exclusion of public officials believed to belong to the political opponents, who were replaced by new hires of a favorable political affiliation."
    See also Firms Run by PA Leader Abbas' Sons Get U.S. Contracts - Adam Entous (Reuters)
    Construction and public relations firms run by Tarek Abbas and Yasser Mahmoud Abbas, sons of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, have received over $2 million worth of U.S. government aid contracts to repair roads - and America's image - in the Palestinian territories since 2005.

Syria Says Ahmadinejad Speech Reflected Arab Views (AFP)
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at a UN conference on racism had widespread Arab support, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Wednesday.

Somali Pirates Form Unholy Alliance with Islamists (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    Intelligence agencies are alarmed at the Somali pirates' increasingly close ties to Islamist groups.
    Intelligence agencies have managed to deeply penetrate the pirate clans and have inside information about the bosses, arms caches, alliances and arrangements.
    Until recently, the pirates and Islamists have been mortal enemies. When fighters loyal to the radical Council of Islamic Courts seized power in Somalia in 2006, they immediately put the pirates out of business.
    Half a year later, an invading army from U.S.-backed neighboring Ethiopia swept aside the Islamists - and the pirates quickly headed out to sea again in search of new booty.
    Today, the pirates want money and the Islamists want power. The pirates are "mujahideen because they are at war with the Christian countries," says Sheikh Hassan Turki, the leader of Hizbul Islam. Mukhtar Robow of the al-Shabab militias says the pirates are defending "the coast against Allah's enemies."
    The pirates smuggle weapons for the Islamists including, last October, ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns - weapons that could make life extremely difficult for Western helicopter pilots.
    See also Somalia's Muslim Jihad at Sea - Joshua E. London (Washington Times)
    The Somali pirates do not think of themselves as pirates, but instead consider themselves to be devout Muslims protecting Somalia against the infidel West.
    While the U.S. government is treating the matter as a criminal case, these "criminals" are jihadist Muslim pirates and must be dealt with in the context of America's larger regional and international war against Islamist terror networks.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton: U.S. Prepared for New Sanctions If Outreach to Iran Fails - David Gollust
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is laying the groundwork for new sanctions against Iran if outreach to Tehran on its nuclear program fails. Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, "As the President said in his inaugural address, we will hold out our hand - they have to unclench their fist. But we are also laying the groundwork for the kind of very tough...crippling sanctions that might be necessary in the event our offers are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful." (VOA News)
        See also Clinton Sets Conditions on Palestinian Government with Hamas
    Secretary of State Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, "We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agrees to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority." "From everything we hear, there is no intention on the part of Hamas to meet those conditions, but these are not just American conditions. These are the conditions that were adopted by the Quartet," she said. "These are actually the the Arab peace initiative," she added. (Reuters)
  • Israel: Action on Iran Not a Condition for Peace-Making with Palestinians - Amy Teibel
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon made it clear Wednesday that reining in Iran was not an Israeli condition for going ahead with peacemaking with the Palestinians. "We should continue on the path of peace with the Palestinians as if there is no Iran threat. Simultaneously, we should move forward on stopping Iran as if there was no Palestinian issue," Ayalon said. (AP)
  • Israel Says Actions in Gaza War Did Not Violate International Law - Isabel Kershner
    The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday presented the conclusions of several internal investigations into its conduct during the war in Gaza and stated that it had operated in accordance with international law, countering accusations of possible war crimes. The IDF said it had "maintained a high professional and moral level" during the war, though it faced "an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians while taking cover" among Palestinian civilians and "using them as human shields." Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, the deputy chief of staff, said the army had "not found a single case of an Israeli soldier deliberately hurting innocent Palestinian civilians, whether from the land, air or sea." (New York Times)
        See also below Observations: Report on the Conduct of IDF Soldiers During the Gaza War (Israel Defense Forces)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Foreign Minister Hosts Egyptian Intelligence Chief in Jerusalem - Barak Ravid
    Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met in Jerusalem on Wednesday with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and invited him to visit Cairo. Lieberman's office called the talks friendly, and said that during the meeting Lieberman expressed his respect and appreciation for Egypt's leading role in the region and his personal respect for Mubarak and Minister Suleiman. (Ha'aretz)
  • Pro-Israel Activists Protest in Geneva - Tovah Lazaroff
    Shouting "I'm a Zionist" in English and French, several thousand pro-Israel activists rallied Wednesday in Geneva against the UN's week-long anti-racism conference. Former U.S. Ambassador Alfred H. Moses, who heads UN Watch, said, "We changed what could have been a tragic travesty into a triumph." Instead of hearing only Israeli wrongs, he said, emphasis has been placed back where it should be - on worldwide human rights abuses. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas PM Hid in Hospital During Gaza Operation - Yaakov Katz
    Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other senior Hamas commanders took over a ward of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and operated a command and control center there throughout the Gaza operation in January, the IDF revealed on Wednesday. Hamas believed that Israel would not target the hospital. Senior Hamas commanders also set up a command center in a Red Crescent Society clinic in Khan Yunis and used it as a detention center.
        An IDF investigation discovered that out of seven medical personnel claimed to have been killed by the IDF, five were Hamas operatives, including a nephew of the Hamas health minister. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Do the Palestinians Really Want a State? - Robert D. Kaplan
    The new Israeli government faithfully represents the Israeli electorate, which is in utter despair over the impossibility of finding credible partners on the Palestinian side with which to negotiate. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Abbas' Fatah movement may be willing to live in peace with Israel, but it has insufficient political legitimacy among Palestinians to negotiate such a deal. With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table.
        But there is a deeper structural and philosophical reason why the Palestinians remain stateless, as best explained by associate Johns Hopkins professor Jakub Grygiel in "The Power of Statelessness." Statehood is no longer a goal, he writes. Many stateless groups "do not aspire to have a state," for they are more capable of achieving their objectives without one. Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power.
        A state entails responsibilities that limit a people's freedom of action. A group like Hizbullah in Lebanon could probably take over the Lebanese state today, but why would it want to? Statelessness offers a level of "impunity" from retaliation. The most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space. (Atlantic Monthly)
        See also The Power of Statelessness - Jakub Grygiel (Policy Review-Hoover Institution-Stanford University)
  • The Two Nation-State Solution - Ari Shavit
    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about the occupation. If it were, it would have erupted in 1967 and not in 1920. The only way to peace is by means of true mutual recognition. Peace will not be achieved without Israeli recognition of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian nation-state, and without Palestinian recognition of the Jewish people and the Jewish nation-state. Israel has recognized the Palestinian people and agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. However, in no case - neither at Oslo, Camp David or Annapolis - did the Palestinians go a parallel distance. To this day they do not recognize the Jewish people, its rights or its nation-state.
        In the summer of 2008, Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, made Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas an unprecedented peace proposal. However, Abbas did not accept Olmert's offer. He rejected out of hand the principle of dividing the country into two nation-states. It is out of the question for Israel to recognize the Palestinian people's right of self-determination in advance, while the Palestinians refuse to recognize the Jewish people's right of self-determination. That asymmetry will not lead to peace. In this specific case Netanyahu is right. On this issue of principle he is expressing the firm opinion of the Israeli majority. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Report on the Conduct of IDF Soldiers During the Gaza War (Israel Defense Forces)

    Five investigative teams assigned to investigate events related to the conduct of IDF soldiers during the Gaza War dealt with the following five issues:

    • Claims regarding incidents where UN and international facilities were fired upon
      Regarding the UNRWA school in Jabaliya, Hamas fired mortar shells at Israeli forces 80 meters from the school. All of the shells fired by IDF forces landed outside the school grounds.
    • Incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews
      A building containing a mother-and-child clinic was used by Hamas as a weapons storage facility. Despite the fact that the building was not identifiable as a clinic, the IDF still warned the residents prior to the attack. IDF forces took extraordinary care and acted even beyond the obligations of international law.
    • Claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed
      Regarding the attack on the house of senior Hamas operative Nazar Ri'an, Ri'an was a legitimate military target due to his involvement in the execution and planning of terrorists attacks, and his house was used as a weapons storage facility, as proven by the secondary explosions after the attack.
    • The use of weaponry containing phosphorous
      The use of weapons containing white phosphorus as a smoke screen is standard, legal, and a tactic employed by other Western militaries worldwide.
    • Damage to infrastructure and the destruction of buildings
      No uninvolved civilians were harmed during the demolition of infrastructure and buildings by IDF forces. In many cases, the planting of explosives or weaponry by Hamas was responsible for the significant damage caused to the structures.
    • The government of Israel ordered the IDF to embark on the Gaza operation following eight years of rocket fire on Israeli communities in southern Israel. During this time, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children, women and men were terrorized by endless attacks executed by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza. Thousands of rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli schools, kindergartens and residential neighborhoods.
    • There were 1,166 Palestinian fatalities during the Gaza operation; 709 were Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, whose names are known. 162 of the fatalities were men between the ages of 16 and 45, whose connection to Hamas is unclear. 295 of the fatalities were Palestinian civilians.

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