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May 7, 2009

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Spanish Prosecutors Demand to Shelve Gaza Probe (AFP)
    Spanish public prosecutors appealed Wednesday to shelve a decision taken by National Court Judge Fernando Andreu on Monday to press ahead with a probe into an Israeli air raid in Gaza in 2002 which killed Hamas leader Salah Shehade.
    Prosecutors argued that "the judicial actions taken by the State of Israel should be considered to be sufficient procedures of inquiry."

Ten Attorneys General Defend Israel (JTA)
    Attorneys general from ten states defended Israel's military action in Gaza, in a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton.
    The attorneys general wrote that "By intentionally targeting 6,300 rockets against Israel's civilian population, Hamas is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of a war crime in that it has violated...the Geneva Convention of 1949."
    "In addition to its war crimes committed against the Israeli civilian population, Hamas has also committed atrocities against the Palestinian civilian population under its control in Gaza by using these civilians as shields for its criminal conduct."
    The officials concluded that "Hamas' continuous rocket and mortar attacks on Israel's civilian population are a casus bellum. As in all wars, the appropriate response is not a 'proportionate' one, but one measured to bring about an end to the acts of war."

Israel Defends Record at UN Committee on Torture (DPA)
    An Israeli delegation on Wednesday completed a defense of its policies related to the international treaty against torture at the UN in Geneva, saying that it aimed to protect human rights even in times of conflict.
    Israeli delegates said legislation prohibited the use of torture and also granted prisoners and detainees rights, including a humane environment and access to family visitations.

Nuclear Inspectors Find Enriched Uranium Traces in Egypt - David Crawford (Wall Street Journal)
    International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors discovered traces of highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, at a site in Egypt, according to a UN report released Tuesday.
    Egyptian officials told IAEA inspectors the contamination was likely carried onto the site on equipment purchased outside Egypt.

U.S. Man Pleads Guilty in Muslim Charity Probe - Ray Stern (Phoenix New Times)
    Arizona resident Akram Musa Abdallah, 54, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of lying to the FBI about his involvement in a charity organization tied to Hamas.
    Between 1994 and 1997, Abdallah raised funds for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which the federal government accuses of funneling money to the terrorist group.
    When the FBI came inquiring about the group in 2007, Abdallah denied helping the group even though he knew the U.S. considered it a source of terrorism funding, says the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix.

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  • Report: Foreign Analysts Cite Iran Bomb Progress - Desmond Butler
    Congressional investigators say some foreign intelligence analysts believe U.S. intelligence is underestimating Iran's progress toward designing a nuclear warhead before Tehran halted its program in 2003. The foreign analysts believe that Iran ended its work because it had made sufficient progress, not because of international pressure, as the 2007 U.S. national intelligence assessment concluded. The foreign analysts believe "intelligence indicates Iran had produced a suitable design, manufactured some components and conducted enough successful explosives tests to put the project on the shelf until it manufactured the fissile material required for several weapons," the report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Kerry: U.S. No Longer Wants Iranian "Regime Change"
    The U.S. no longer seeks "regime change" in Iran, Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday. "Our efforts must be reciprocated by the other side: Just as we abandon calls for regime change in Tehran and recognize a legitimate Iranian role in the region, Iran's leaders must moderate their behavior and that of their proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas," said Kerry. (AFP)
  • Gates Assures Mideast Allies on U.S. Overtures to Iran - Greg Jaffe
    Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sought to reassure U.S. allies in the Middle East on Tuesday that their relationships with the U.S. would not be damaged by the Obama administration's efforts to open a dialogue with Iran. In Egypt, Gates played down the likelihood of a major breakthrough that would lead to dramatic changes in the U.S.-Iranian relationship, such as the re-establishment of diplomatic ties. "I believe that kind of prospect is very remote," he said in Cairo on Tuesday after meeting with President Mubarak. "We'll just have to see how the Iranians respond to the offer from the president. Frankly, some of the first things that have happened as a result of the extension of that open hand have not been encouraging."
        Gates assured leaders that any talks with the Iranian regime would progress slowly, if they advanced at all. "To tell you the truth, I have been around long enough to see these efforts attempted before with no result," he said. (Washington Post)
  • Pro-Israel Lobbyist Hits Back at Prosecutors - Mark Lavie
    A pro-Israel lobbyist cleared of espionage-related charges by a U.S. judge lashed out at his accusers in an interview broadcast Wednesday in Israel. Steven Rosen, formerly of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told Israel's Channel 10 TV that the charges against him were part of an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish search for Israeli "spies under every bed." "I did nothing wrong," he said. "Who did something wrong is the people who brought this case, not just that they were incorrect, but that the attitude they had about Jews, Israel, AIPAC, was completely false, and unfortunately, a lot of that nonsense is still out there."  (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Government Was Right to Drop AIPAC Case - Editorial (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Peres: Israel Won't Apologize for Gaza Operation - Allison Hoffman
    Israeli President Shimon Peres told reporters Wednesday that IDF forces did not intentionally aim at civilians or UN facilities during the Gaza operation. "We don't think we have to apologize because we have the right to defend the lives of our children and women," he said. When a reporter for Al-Jazeera interrupted Peres, Peres challenged the reporter to explain why Hamas continued to fire rockets into southern Israel. He said that if Hamas "didn't shoot, there wouldn't be a single problem."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza landed in Israel on Thursday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 2,000-Year-Old Hebrew Scroll Found by Palestinian Antiquities Thieves - Jonathan Lis
    Two Palestinians were arrested Tuesday for attempting to sell a rare antique Hebrew scroll. Handwritten in Hebrew on papyrus paper and estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, the document was written by a widow named Miryam Ben Yaakov. The document was apparently stolen from a cave by antiquities raiders. All archeological artifacts within Israel's borders are state property and trading in artifacts is illegal. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Ancient Hebrew Document Found
    The document, measuring 15 x 15 cm., is written in ancient Hebrew script, which is characteristic of the Second Temple period and the first and second centuries CE. Fifteen lines of text can be discerned. In the upper line of the text one can clearly read the sentence "Year 4 to the destruction of Israel."  (Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Numbers Game: How Many Civilians Were Killed in Gaza? - Simona Weinglass
    On March 12, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that 926 civilians and 236 fighters were killed in the Gaza fighting. On March 26, the Israel Defense Forces reported 709 Hamas terror operatives dead, along with 295 "uninvolved Palestinians." How is there such a big disparity between the two sets of numbers? Former Israeli intelligence officer Jonathan Dahoah Halevi asserts, "PCHR's list is inaccurate. I get the impression they intentionally tried to inflate the civilian numbers."
        "Why is Said Siyam" - the de facto defense minister of Hamas - "listed as a civilian?" he asks. "Muhammad Dasouki Dasliye?" Halevi says that Dasliye was a Palestinian Resistance Committee operative and suspect in the terrorist attack against three American security guards in Gaza in October 2003. "Nizar Rayan, he's a civilian?" News reports describe Rayan as a militant cleric who mentored suicide bombers and sent his own son on a suicide mission in 2001, killing two Israelis.
        Halevi has a list of 171 people the PCHR defines as civilians that he claims he can prove are actually combatants affiliated with Hamas or other terrorist groups. His contention is based on a simple principle: When fighters die, they leave a paper trail. Martyrdom posters, photographs of funerals, articles celebrating heroes' exploits, lists of payments to families - these sources help disprove that a particular fatality was a civilian as opposed to a fighter. As for fatalities among "non-combatant" police officers, Halevi says, type one of the names into a Google search and up pops a web site with photos showing the Gaza cop sporting a martyr's headband and M-16. (New Republic)
  • Washington's Elders of Anti-Zion - Lenny Ben-David
    By no means should anyone ignore or minimize the Washington leaks and attacks against AIPAC, the American Jewish community or Israel. But it should be understood that these actions are part of a historic, decades-long, beneath-the-surface, low-intensity war in Washington to weaken U.S.-Israel relations. Press leaks about Israeli spying, illegal weapons sales and the theft of military technology sprout almost like clockwork during periods of tension between the two countries.
        Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, responding to the detractors of the pro-Israel lobby at the time of the Ford "reassessment" in 1976, told an AIPAC conference that "columnists [and] editorial writers have warned us about ethnic lobbies. We've heard careless and, I think, reckless things being said about the powerful Jewish lobby. As if somehow or another, it was against the law in this country to speak up for what you believe in."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Defending the Golan Heights - Dore Gold and Shimon Shapira (Foreign Affairs)

    • In making the case for an Israeli-Syrian accord, Richard Haass and Martin Indyk ("Beyond Iraq," January/February 2009, Foreign Affairs) misrepresent the proposals made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Syria during his first term in office, from 1996 to 1999. They assert that Netanyahu offered a "full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights" to Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.
    • This is simply untrue. In fact, in 1996 Netanyahu sought clarifications from U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher that the hypothetical statements made orally by Yitzhak Rabin about withdrawal from the Golan - known among diplomats as "the Rabin deposit" - did not bind the State of Israel. Both of us were dispatched to Washington to secure that understanding, which we obtained after a series of meetings with the highest levels of the Clinton administration.
    • Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., confirms in his memoir, The Brink of Peace, that Christopher wrote in a letter to Netanyahu that his government was not in any way bound by the contents of the diplomatic record from that earlier period.
    • Moreover, in 1998, when Netanyahu exchanged messages with Assad through Ronald Lauder, at no point did Netanyahu agree to withdraw from the Golan Heights, as Haass and Indyk suggest.
    • Back in 1975, U.S. President Gerald Ford had written to Rabin that although the United States had not yet taken a stance on where Israel's ultimate borders should be, when it did so, it "would give great weight to Israel remaining on the Golan Heights." Repeatedly during the 1990s, U.S. administrations assured Israeli governments that the commitments made by Washington in the Ford letter would still be respected.
    • The Golan Heights remain a vital line of defense for Israel. The stability of Israel's northern border with Syria partly emanates from the fact that at present, the Israel Defense Forces are deployed on the Golan Heights and not in the valley below.

          See also Defensible Borders on the Golan Heights - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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