Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 4, 2009

Amb. Dore Gold and Judge Richard Goldstone will discuss the UN Report on war crimes in Gaza
Thurs., Nov. 5 at 5 p.m., EST, Brandeis U.
For live webcast, click here

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Commandos Storm Arms Ship from Iran - Anshel Pfeffer and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli Navy special forces took control of an arms-laden freighter 100 miles off the coast of Israel, not far from Cyprus, and brought it to the Israeli port of Ashdod, the IDF said Wednesday.
    The Antigua-flagged ship set out from Iran and later docked in Yemen and Sudan before sailing through the Suez Canal on its way to Syria.
    Soldiers who boarded the ship discovered a large cache of arms and ammunition.

Germany's Merkel Tells Congress Iran Must Not Acquire Nuclear Bomb - Andrew F. Tully (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint session of the U.S. Congress Tuesday that her country can never accept a nuclear-armed Iran.
    She said, "zero tolerance needs to be shown when there is a risk of weapons of mass destruction falling, for example, into the hands of Iran and threatening our security."
    Merkel said a nuclear weapon "in the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel, and denies Israel the right to exist is not acceptable."

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Israel Seeks German Funding for New Missile Cruisers - Arie Egozi (Ynet News)
    Israel is seeking partial funding from Germany in order to acquire two new Meko A-200 missile cruisers developed by the German company Blohm + Voss, according to foreign publications.

PA TV: Jews Have No History in Land of Israel - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
    In an interview on official PA television on Oct. 22, historian Nabil Alqam first denied thousands of years of documented Jewish history in Israel, then replaced it with "4,000 to 5,000 years" of fictitious Palestinian history.
    Placing Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims in Israel in biblical times is historically impossible: The name "Palestine" was coined by Rome only in 136 CE, and for nearly 2,000 years Jews were the only Palestinians the world recognized.
    Islam was established only in 610 CE. Arabs first arrived in Israel with the Muslim invasion in 637 CE.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran's Khamenei Rejects U.S. Outreach - Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spurning what he described as several personal overtures from President Obama, warned Tuesday that negotiating with the U.S. would be "naive and perverted" and that Iranian politicians should not be "deceived" into starting such talks. "Whenever they [the U.S.] smile at the officials of the Islamic revolution, when we carefully look at the situation, we notice that they are hiding a dagger behind their back," he said. "They have not changed their intentions."  (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Hope Dims for High-Level Israeli-Palestinian Talks Over State - Karen DeYoung and Howard Schneider
    The Obama administration has concluded that an early resumption of high-level negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over a Palestinian state is unlikely in the near future. While still pressing for face-to-face talks between Abbas and Netanyahu, Secretary of State Clinton has begun to urge Arab states to encourage Palestinian participation in lower-level talks with Israel to avoid a vacuum. "We recognize that things have stalled," Clinton spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "We're looking at a variety of ways that increase interaction between the parties in some form."  (Washington Post)
        See also Clinton: Negotiations Are in the Palestinians' Interest - Jay Solomon
    Secretary of State Clinton tried to kick-start a new round of talks during stops in Israel and Arab capitals, but the divisions proved too wide to bridge. Clinton told a reporter from Al-Jazeera Tuesday in Morocco why negotiations with Israel, even without a total settlement freeze, were ultimately good for the Palestinian people. "The fact is, that this offer was made to put an end to new settlement activity," Mrs. Clinton said. "If people don't want it, then settlement activity continues."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. House Condemns Goldstone Gaza Report by 344-36 - Ann Sanner
    The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, in a 344-36 vote, passed a nonbinding resolution that urges President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton "to oppose unequivocally any endorsement" of a UN report that accuses Israeli forces of war crimes in Gaza last winter. Twenty-two representatives voted "present."  (AP/Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Rep. Berman's Response to Goldstone on House Gaza War-Crimes Resolution (Foreign Policy)
  • Israel Wants Arab "Marshall Plan" to Help Palestinians - Ilene R. Prusher
    Israel's deputy foreign minister expressed disappointment on Tuesday that Arab states were not doing more to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and called on the wealthier Gulf countries to put at least $10 billion into the Palestinian economy. "The Arab countries could do much more, first and foremost Saudi Arabia," said Minister Danny Ayalon, speaking at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Ayalon said that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was taking risks to help the Palestinian economy flourish, but that few reciprocal moves had been made by Arab countries. He maintained that the oil-rich Gulf is one of the few regions across the globe where the economies are sufficiently strong to substantially invest in building up the Palestinians' capacity to run their own state. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel, U.S. Reach "Silent Understanding" on Goldstone Veto - Roni Sofer
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon confirmed Tuesday that Israel and the U.S. have come to a "silent understanding" that the U.S. will veto a decision to have the Goldstone report heard by the UN Security Council. The General Assembly on Wednesday is expected to vote to send the matter to the Security Council. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Has Dozens of Missiles Capable of Striking Tel Aviv - Yaakov Katz and Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Hamas has likely succeeded in smuggling dozens of long-range Iranian-made missiles, capable of striking Tel Aviv, into Gaza, a top defense official said on Tuesday after Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin revealed that the terrorist group had test-fired a rocket with a 60-km. range last Thursday. Hamas "is doing all it can to get its hands on long-range missiles that penetrate deep into the Israeli home front," the official said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Preparing for a New War in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, director of IDF Military Intelligence, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that Hamas has accumulated an arsenal of rockets slightly larger than the arsenal it possessed before last winter's fighting. Hamas has used the lull in fighting with Israel to not only restore, but improve its capabilities. Still, and similar to Hizbullah, restoring the arsenal hardly testifies to restoring motivation to confront Israel militarily. Hamas is in no hurry for a confrontation. Gaza has not yet recovered from the devastation of the Gaza operation, and Hamas knows it would pay in heavy casualties if the conflict reignites.
        In the meantime, Israel is improving its anti-missile defense systems. The first battery of interceptor missiles from Iron Dome, Israel's answer to Katyusha and Kassam rockets, should be deployed in the second half of 2010. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama Is Learning from the IDF - Aluf Benn
    Israel's critics in the U.S. portray it as a strategic burden. They argue that during the Cold War the Israel Defense Forces gave Americans useful information on Soviet weapons systems used by Arab armies, but the Soviet Union collapsed and the value Israel offered to U.S. national security evaporated with it. These critics are wrong in a big way: The U.S. military effort against al-Qaeda and the Taliban is based on a doctrine developed by Israel. The IDF was a global leader in targeting terrorists from the air.
        After 9/11 the Americans simply copied Israel's methods, foreign sources say. Unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), armed with missiles, started being used to kill terrorists, first in Yemen and later in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the New America Foundation, between taking office in January and early October, the Obama administration authorized 42 UCAV strikes. Bush authorized 40 such attacks during his three final years in office. Six senior Taliban and al-Qaeda figures were killed in Obama-ordered operations, as were some 450 others. Judge Goldstone would be advised to note that a quarter of those killed were civilians, while the rest were low-grade fighters. The targeted killing three months ago of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, also killed 11 civilians, much like the Israeli bombing that killed Salah Shehadeh along with his relatives and neighbors in Gaza in 2002. (Ha'aretz)
  • Islamic Conference Initiated Goldstone Inquiry
    Established in 1969 to safeguard global Muslim interests, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental body after the UN. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the OIC, says the organization was the "initiator" of a UN war crimes inquiry in Gaza: "What I would like to put on record is that the OIC was the initiator of this process. On January 3, during the attacks on Gaza, we convened the executive committee of the OIC on a ministerial level. It was decided that the OIC group in Geneva should ask the Human Rights Council to convene and consider the possibility of sending a fact-finding mission to Gaza. The OIC was instrumental in getting through this resolution."  (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
  • Why Does the U.S. Play Iran's Game? - Barry Rubin
    Do you know how many years the talks with Iran have gone on without yielding fruit and letting Tehran develop nuclear weapons every day? Answer: Seven. Iran's increased power in having nuclear weapons will not consist merely of firing them off. Aside from far higher levels of Arab and European appeasement will be the huge leap in the appeal of a seemingly mighty Iran and victorious Islamism to millions of Muslims who will join or support radical Islamist groups. Instability in the Arab world and terrorism in Europe can be expected to skyrocket.
        To pretend that Iran's possession of nuclear weapons will be neutralized by U.S. guarantees is a fantasy. That's why it is so important to stop Iran from ever obtaining nuclear weapons. If this does not happen, the entire strategic balance will change against Western interests. But nothing can even begin to happen until the U.S. concludes that the Iranian regime has shown that it doesn't want any real deal that precludes it from becoming a nuclear power. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Rep. Berman's Response to Goldstone on House Gaza War-Crimes Resolution (Foreign Policy)

    • After Judge Richard Goldstone wrote to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) to say that a resolution denouncing Goldstone's report was factually inaccurate, Berman prepared a reply discussing some factual inaccuracies in the Goldstone report:
    • Goldstone: The "mandate clearly included rocket and mortar attacks on Israel."
      Berman: "The broadened mandate Justice Goldstone sought was discussed, but not voted on, at a UNHRC plenary session. It was then announced via a press release in an altered formulation, more restrictive than the formulation envisioned by Justice Goldstone. The UNHRC did not create a new mandate."
    • When summarizing the results of investigations into alleged Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians, the report states that "in none of the cases reviewed were there any grounds which could have reasonably induced the Israeli armed forces to assume that the civilians attacked were in fact taking a direct part in the hostilities." The report does not take into account that Israeli soldiers were operating under fire, in an extremely volatile and dangerous environment, in which the enemy was hiding among a civilian population.
    • The report uncritically attributes numerous statements to "Gaza Authorities" (meaning, Hamas), while often casting doubt on information derived from the international and Israeli press and from non-government-affiliated Israelis. Perhaps most tellingly, the report appears only to cite Israeli statements when it finds such statements a useful basis for criticizing Israel.

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