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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 6, 2009

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Report: Arabs Formulating New Peace Plan (Jerusalem Post)
    A group of Arab leaders led by Jordan's King Abdullah II is formulating a new peace offer at the behest of U.S. President Obama, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Wednesday.
    The offer will reportedly call for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the Old City designated an "international zone." The question of borders will be resolved with land swaps.
    Some of the descendants of Palestinian refugees from Israel's War of Independence in 1948 will reportedly be allowed to return to the Palestinian state, while others will be naturalized in their countries of residence in the Arab world.
    The report said Obama had requested that the plan outline a "timetable for normalization and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and the Arab world."
    See also Quartet to Unveil New Mideast Peace Plan (AP)
    The U.S.-led Quartet of Mideast mediators is working on a new strategy for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and is expected to present it in five to six weeks, Quartet envoy Tony Blair said Tuesday.
    "This is a framework that is being worked on at the highest level in the American administration, (and) in the rest of the international community," Blair said.

Israel May Exit Lebanon Border Village - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's security cabinet is expected to convene Wednesday to discuss the IDF's pullout from the northern part of Ghajar, a village which straddles the Israeli-Lebanese border, over the next few weeks.
    Ghajar is split by the international border between Lebanon and the Israeli-held Golan Heights, which was part of Syria before the Six-Day War. Its residents are Alawis, a Shiite sect of Islam to which the majority of Syria's ruling elite belong.
    Since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Jerusalem has been in talks with the UN to find a way to transfer control over the northern part of the village to Lebanon.

Palestinian Mortar Fire from Gaza Continues (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinian terrorists on Wednesday morning fired three mortar shells at Israel from Gaza.

Joint Command Set Up at U.S. Radar Base - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF has set up a joint command center at the base in Israel's Negev desert that is home to the American X-Band radar, deployed last October to bolster defenses in the face of Iranian threats.
    When the radar was first set up, Israel was told that it would not be allowed to maintain a presence at the base.
    Several months ago, the Americans changed their position and allowed an Air Force major from the Air Defense Division to maintain a permanent presence at a joint command center inside the base.
    The base is operated by some 100 American soldiers from the European Command.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Peres: Israel Supports Two-State Solution, Iran Engagement
    Israel is on board with key elements of President Obama's agenda in the Middle East, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday after meeting with Obama at the White House. "[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu said he will cooperate (with) the commitments of the previous (Israeli) government. The previous government accepted the Roadmap (to Middle East peace). In the Roadmap, you'll find the attitude to the two-state solution," Peres said. He also said that if Obama wants to engage Iran, the Israelis are willing to back him.
        Responding to an Israeli media report that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had said that greater U.S. assistance in deterring Iran's nuclear ambitions hinged on peace talks with Palestinians, officials said Emanuel's comments were not meant to pressure the Israelis. Sources said Emanuel told AIPAC members that America's Arab allies, in particular Jordan, would find it easier to support tougher sanctions on Iran if there were progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace. (FOX News)
        See also Peres: Israel Can't Stop Natural Growth in Settlements - Ron Kampeas
    Israel cannot control natural settlement growth, Israeli President Shimon Peres told Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday. Peres said he told Biden that "Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married." (JTA)
  • Ahmadinejad, Assad Meet in Damascus, Vow to Back "Palestinian Resistance"
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday. Ahmadinejad also spent time with the leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian radical groups based in the Syrian capital. Ahmadinejad boasted that "Those who one day called Iran and Syria part of 'the axis of evil' now want to develop relations with Iran and Syria." He also contended that the Syria-Iran alliance had achieved "victories" in preventing "the big powers' offensive to dominate the region."
        "Syria and Iran have been from the very beginning united and in agreement to stand on the side of the Palestinian resistance," Ahmadinejad added. "We see that the resistance will continue until all occupied territories are liberated." (AP/New York Times)
  • U.S. Wants Israel, India in Anti-Nuclear Arms Treaty - Louis Charbonneau
    India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel should join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact meant to limit the spread of atomic weapons, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said Tuesday. "Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea...remains a fundamental objective of the United States," Gottemoeller told a meeting of the signatories of the pact. (Reuters)
        See also Israel: Signing NPT Won't Prevent Nuclear Armament - Roni Sofer
    An Israeli official on Wednesday criticized a U.S. call for Israel to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), citing the pact's failure to prevent countries from obtaining nuclear arms. "It is therefore hard to understand why there should be such an insistence on a treaty that has proven its inefficiency," a senior official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. The official said the treaty had not stopped Iraq and Libya from trying to obtain nuclear potential, and that "This miracle cure (NPT) has not prevented any country from acquiring nuclear arms, as we can see in the case of Iran." "We are baffled by the U.S. insistence that (Israel sign the NPT)." (Ynet News)
        See also below Commentary: Secret U.S.-Israel Nuclear Accord in Jeopardy - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA and Hamas Reject Israeli Prime Minister's Call for Peace Talks - Khaled Abu Toameh and Hilary Leila Krieger
    The Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Tuesday rejected Prime Minister Netanyahu's call "to resume peace negotiations without any delay, without any preconditions." PA officials in Ramallah said the PA would not resume peace talks with Israel as long as Netanyahu did not change his policy toward the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • UN Secretary General: UN Report on Gaza War Not Legally Binding - Barak Ravid
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said a damning UN report on Israel's conduct in its recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza was not legally binding. In a letter he agreed to attach to the report at the request of Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal, Ban condemned Hamas' cross-border rocket fire on Israeli civilians that sparked the conflict which was ignored by the UN committee report. Ban also commended the Israel Defense Forces for its close coordination with the UN during the operation. He added there would be no further reports by the UN on the subject. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Secret U.S.-Israel Nuclear Accord in Jeopardy - Eli Lake
    President Obama's efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel's nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials say. For the past 40 years, Israel and the U.S. have kept quiet about an Israeli nuclear arsenal that is now estimated at 80 to 200 weapons. Israel has promised not to test nuclear weapons while the U.S. has not pressed Israel to sign the nuclear NPT, which permits only five countries - the U.S., France, Britain, China and Russia - to have nuclear arms. The accord was forged at a summit between Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Nixon on Sept. 25, 1969, and commits both the U.S. and Israel never to acknowledge in public Israel's nuclear arsenal. Israeli defense doctrine considers the nuclear arsenal to be a strategic deterrent against extinction. (Washington Times)
        See also Breaking Faith with Israel - Editorial
    Will the U.S. sell out its strongest ally in the Middle East to cozy up to its worst enemy? America treats Israel and Iran differently because they are fundamentally different. Israel is a dependable U.S. ally and a free liberal democracy. Iran is a long-standing enemy of the U.S., is directly or indirectly responsible via Iraqi insurgents and others for more deaths of U.S. service members than any country since the Vietnam War. Its people suffer under an oppressive theocracy. We approve of an Israeli nuclear force for the same reason we approve of a British, French or American nuclear force: We know it will serve peaceful purposes. We oppose an Iranian nuclear force for the same reason we oppose a North Korean nuclear force: We know it will not serve a peaceful purpose. Any attempt to establish parity between Israel and Iran on the nuclear issue is dangerous and naive. Pressing Israel to make its suspected nuclear arsenal into a bargaining chip only weakens our allies without defanging our foes. (Washington Times)
  • Dropping Espionage Charges Against Former AIPAC Lobbyists - Walter Pincus
    The Justice Department on Friday formally dropped its four-year-old case against two former pro-Israel lobbyists for allegedly conspiring to violate the 1917 Espionage Act. The two lobbyists had been charged in August 2005 with conspiring to disclose national defense information to people not authorized to receive it - the first time that civilian, non-government employees had been prosecuted under the act. The same charges technically could be applied to academics, think tank analysts and journalists who seek and receive security information in conversations every day.
        In a March 27 letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., asking the Obama administration to review the case, the defendants' attorneys wrote that they would show that the information relayed to their clients was not classified defense information but material already in the public domain and "not potentially damaging to national security." To demonstrate that, the lawyers wrote that two of the government officials who prosecutors said passed classified information to the defendants "have told both us and/or government investigators that they were authorized to speak with our clients and knew full well (and even intended) that our clients pass the information on to others."
        The defense lawyers also said the testimony of J. William Leonard, the most recent former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, which is responsible for the government-wide security classification system, would "establish that the information was innocuous and that the defendants had every reason to believe that their conduct was innocent." (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Spanish Judge Went Too Far: Targeting Gaza Terror Mastermind Not a War Crime - Robbie Sabel (Ynet News)

    • A Spanish court is seeking to indict senior Israeli figures involved in targeting Salah Shahade. The notion of war crimes was not meant for these kinds of cases. There is no doubt that the objective, killing a terrorist, was legitimate. War crimes cases normally refer to the deliberate and cold-blooded killing of civilians, and not to considerations in respect to which means should be used against a legitimate target. Any military operation may entail civilian casualties if the military target is close by, and military officials need to make an effort to minimize the number of citizens involved.
    • This case presents a question of professional judgment regarding the proper means, yet in no way does it argue that Israel embarked on the operation in order to kill civilians. Therefore, what we see here is the misuse of the universal authority to look into war crimes, and we can assume that the Spanish authorities themselves would appeal the judge's decision: The legal system is supposed to deal with criminal matters and not with the military operations of other states.
    • We should expect to see continuing efforts by hostile elements to harass Israeli commanders at various courts worldwide. The only way to prevent it is to act via the various governments. Foreign governments are aware that the IDF is an organized army that operates in line with international law, and that Israel is home to an independent judiciary. Israel is attempting to prompt every state to promote legislation that would prevent the courts from acting based on complaints with a political bent.

      The writer, an international law lecturer at Hebrew University, is a former Foreign Ministry legal advisor.

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