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July 1, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Spain Drops Probe of Alleged Israeli Crimes in Gaza - Emma Ross-Thomas (Bloomberg)
    Spain's National Court on Tuesday dropped an investigation into whether Israeli forces committed a war crime in Gaza by bombing a building housing Hamas commander Salah Shehadeh in 2002.

Report: Six Mousavi Supporters Hanged in Iran - Sabina Amidi (Jerusalem Post)
    Six supporters of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi were hanged in the Iranian city of Mashhad on Monday, sources in Iran told this reporter in a telephone interview.

U.S. Funds Abuse of Palestinian Human Rights - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)
    The leaders of the Palestinian Authority do not want the international community to hear anything about massive abuse of human rights and intimidation of journalists that its security forces are practicing almost on a daily basis in the West Bank.
    They want the U.S. and the rest of the world to continue believing that peace will prevail tomorrow morning only if Israel stops construction in the settlements.
    Investing billions of dollars in training thousands of policemen and establishing new security forces and prisons will not advance the cause of peace and coexistence.
    Recently, a Palestinian TV crew working for Al-Jazeera was stopped at a checkpoint in the West Bank, where soldiers confiscated a tape and erased its content.
    This incident hardly received any coverage in the mainstream media in the U.S. and Europe. The reason? The perpetrators were not IDF soldiers, but PA security officers at a Palestinian checkpoint.
    Walid Omari, the head of Al-Jazeera's operations in the West Bank, told Reporters Without Borders that his crew was preparing a report on the death of a detainee at the PA detention center in Hebron that might have been the result of torture.
    More than 700 Palestinians are being held without trial in West Bank prisons run by security forces loyal to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.
    These security forces are referred to by many Palestinians as the "Dayton Forces," a reference to U.S. security coordinator Gen. Keith Dayton.

Finland: A Place Where Israel Is Loved - Michael Freund (Jerusalem Post)
    A deep-seated love and admiration for Israel among large sectors of its public distinguishes Finland from much of the rest of contemporary Europe.
    On a recent trip to the country, which included a lecture tour in six towns and cities, I found a remarkable level of support for the Jewish state.
    There are churches where the Israeli flag is proudly displayed side-by-side with the Finnish national colors, and where entire Christian congregations recite Israel's national anthem "Hatikva" first in Hebrew and then in Finnish.
    Dozens of Finns approached me to recount how proud they were to have spent time volunteering in Israel at schools and in hospitals or on kibbutzim.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel: Gap with U.S. Closing on Settlements
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio on Wednesday that Israel was close to an understanding with Washington on Jewish settlements, but ruled out a total freeze. Barak held talks in New York on Tuesday with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell. Barak said Israel was insisting on completing construction projects already underway. He told reporters that the meeting with Mitchell, which lasted more than four hours, was "positive," but there were still "differences." Asked whether Israel would declare a temporary settlement building freeze, Barak said: "I think that it's a little bit too early to predict. We are considering every positive contribution Israel can make towards the taking off of a significant, important peace effort." (Reuters)
        See also No Change in U.S. Position on Settlements - Glenn Kessler
    Following the Barak-Mitchell meeting, a senior administration official said, "We have not changed our position at all....Nor has the president authorized any negotiating room." Barak emphasized to Mitchell the efforts he had taken in recent weeks to ease West Bank roadblocks and move against unauthorized settlement outposts, as well as plans for economic development and a regional peace agreement. (Washington Post)
        See also New Construction Related to Dismantling Outpost - Daniel Bases
    On Monday Israel approved construction of 50 new homes at the settlement of Adam, north of Jerusalem, which Barak said was related to the dismantling of the outpost of Migron that "allegedly is on Palestinian ground....There are certain questions still under discussion in our courts whether this is really the case. But if it will be found this way, we agreed on a solution to this issue by removing the settlement to another place."  (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • U.S. Sanctions Iran Firm Linked to North Korea
    The U.S. said Tuesday that it had cracked down on companies involved in North Korea's missile program and in purchases of equipment that could be used in a nuclear weapons program. The Treasury Department said that it had singled out Hong Kong Electronics, which is located on Kish Island, Iran, because it had transferred millions of dollars of "proliferation-related" funds to North Korea from Iran, Stuart Levey, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement. (Reuters/New York Times)
  • Top U.S. Commander: Iran Still Supports Iraq Attacks
    Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said Tuesday that Iran is "still supporting, funding and training surrogates inside Iraq" and that "many of the attacks in Baghdad are in fact done by individuals supported by Iran."  (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Boat Attempting Illegal Entry into Gaza Intercepted
    An Israeli Navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the cargo boat "Arion" on Tuesday which was illegally attempting to enter the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Navy contacted the boat while at sea, but it disregarded all warnings, entered Gazan coastal waters, and was then diverted to the Israeli port of Ashdod. No shots were fired during the operation. The IDF Spokesperson emphasized that any organization or country that wishes to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza can legally do so via the established crossings between Israel and Gaza, with prior coordination. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Kazakhstan President: We Won't Help Iran Obtain Nukes - Roee Nahmias
    Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev assured visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday that his country would not assist Iran in advancing its nuclear program. "I understand that this issue concerns you, as it does us," Nazarbayev said. "There will be no flow of any nuclear substances from our territory." Addressing Israel's security situation, he said, "unfortunately, Israel is surrounded by neighbors who do not strive for peace....We've been informed of the (peace) initiatives laid out by Netanyahu and Obama - and we back these initiatives."
        Officials from both countries signed an agreement to cooperate in the satellite field. A year ago Israel successfully launched its Amos-3 communications satellite from the Kazakh city of Baikonur. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Does Israel Have a Partner for a Two-State Deal? - Yossi Alpher
    Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas recently discussed their 2008 negotiations with the American press, in interviews in the Washington Post on May 29 and Newsweek of June 13, respectively. In examining this negotiating experience for clues as to future chances of success, we see that Abbas chose to interpret whatever statement of empathy Olmert made about the refugees as acceptance of the right of return, while Olmert understood he was saying the opposite and rejecting the right of return. Abbas looked at an offer of virtually the entire territory of the West Bank, internationalization of the disputed holy sites in Jerusalem, and (according to him) the right of return, turned it down and said "the gaps were wide."
        Can we be blamed for suspecting that we really do not have a partner for a two-state deal? Abbas is about as moderate as the Palestinian leadership gets. Olmert proved to be about as moderate as the Israeli leadership gets. I myself would not have offered as much. The chances of a successful two-state breakthrough in the near future were definitely reduced by Abbas' statements. The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. (
        See also The Basic Political Stands of PA and Hamas Leaders Are Similar - Jonathan D. Halevi
    In recent weeks, the Palestinian leadership has presented its political positions in public speeches. A review of the content of recent speeches by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal reveals that there are no significant differences between the positions of Fatah and Hamas regarding fundamental issues related to a political arrangement with Israel - such as Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. (Jerusalem Center-Hebrew)
        See also Video - Israel and the Palestinians: "No" Is the Real Obstacle to Peace (American Jewish Committee/YouTube)
  • The World According to PA Prime Minister Fayyad - Barry Rubin
    Salam Fayyad is PA prime minister for one reason only: to please Western governments and financial donors. Lacking political skill, ideological influence or a strong support base, he does keep the money flowing since he's relatively honest, moderate and professional on economic issues. But his own people don't listen to him and most PA politicians want him out. Fayyad argues that it's not the PA's job to negotiate bilaterally with Israel on the basis of mutual concessions and compromises. Instead, as other PA leaders have openly stated, the PA's strategy is to get the world to pressure Israel to give it everything it wants.
        The Palestinian narrative, to this day, is that Jews have no right to a state and that all the land is rightly Palestinian, Arab and Muslim. This narrative prevents a two-state solution. By feeding the PA's false belief that the West will pressure Israel into giving it a state in the borders it wants, without concessions or even implementation of past promises, the U.S. and Europe are doing a very effective job in sabotaging any possibility for peace. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Is the Palestinian Authority Stable Enough for Peace Talks? - Dan Diker and Pinhas Inbari (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Observations:

    The UN's Kangaroo "Investigation" of Israeli "War Crimes" - Alan Dershowitz (Huffington Post)

    • Just as Spain's National Court decided to shelve a phony war crime investigation of a 2002 Israeli air strike in Gaza, a group of lawyers and military experts assigned by the UN Human Rights Council continued its phony investigation of "the grave violations of human rights" in Gaza.
    • The UN Human Rights Council is a scandal. It's a successor to the defunct UN Human Rights Commission. Both organizations have a long history of singling out Israel for condemnation and of ignoring real human rights abusers by the world's worst offenders, several of which dominate the Human Rights Council and its predecessor.
    • The Council has already concluded that the Gaza Strip "remains occupied," despite Israel having removed every single soldier and settler in 2005.
    • The Council's current president has limited the scope of the investigation to "violations committed in the context of the conflict that took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009." Prior to that period, Hamas and its terrorist allies fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells into civilian areas of Israel, killing, maiming and traumatizing Israeli women, men and children. But these attacks that provoked Israel's self-defense military actions are excluded from the investigation, according to the mandate and its interpretation by the president of the Council.
    • Hamas boasts that it has committed multiple war crimes: firing rockets at Israeli school children, primarily at times when they are on their way to and from school; it has hit several kindergartens, elementary schools and playgrounds. Targeting civilians is a war crime. Hiding behind human shields is also a war crime.

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