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November 16, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Next Round of Hostilities in Gaza or Lebanon Will Be More Intense - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The Goldstone report does not change the essence of the threat that Israel will confront in another round of fighting in Gaza or Lebanon.
    The next round will likely be more intense than previous campaigns - more rockets of higher accuracy and greater range.
    To put a stop to the firing, the IDF will have to use considerable force, combining massive firepower with the deployment of ground forces.
    Obama is employing methods similar to those of Israel, notably airborne "targeted assassinations" in Afghanistan.
    See also IDF Chief: Israel Will Fight in Gaza Again If Needed (Ha'aretz)
    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Friday that the army would not hesitate to respond if Palestinian militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets at Israel.
    "We must defend ourselves when we see a militant cell rigging Grad rockets [aimed] in the direction of Beersheba, and that is exactly what we did [during the January war]," he said.

Can the PA Survive on Its Own? - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    While Palestinian officials continued to threaten Sunday to unilaterally declare independence, a senior Israeli defense official said, "Just let them try."
    Even though the past year has seen an unprecedented improvement in the performance of Palestinian security forces and civilian institutions - largely due to increased cooperation with Israel - the PA is still far from being able to hold it together on its own.
    Despite the deployment of Palestinian forces in the West Bank trained by U.S. Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, whenever PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas travels outside of Ramallah, Israeli security forces are involved to coordinate and ensure his safety. "The PA forces cannot yet completely ensure his security," one officer explained.

Yuri Foreman Becomes First Israeli World Boxing Champion - Kevin Baxter (Los Angeles Times)
    Rabbinical student Yuri Foreman became the first Israeli fighter to win a world boxing championship when he scored a shocking and one-sided decision over Puerto Rican Daniel Santos in a WBA super-welterweight title fight Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Report: Five Hamas Men, Two Iranian Revolutionary Guards Die in Syrian Training Accident - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Five Hamas operatives and two Iranian Revolutionary Guards trainers were killed in an explosion on a Hamas military base near Damascus, Syria, the Kuwaiti daily al-Siyasa reported Sunday. Five more Hamas operatives were injured.
    Sources said the explosion occurred during a rocket dismantling and reassembling exercise on an Iranian-made long-range rocket, meant to ease the smuggling of such arms through the Gaza tunnels.

Iran Advocacy Group Said to Skirt U.S. Lobby Rules - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
    The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which has emerged as a leading voice for engaging Iran and ultimately lifting U.S. sanctions, may have acted in violation of federal law.
    Law enforcement experts say e-mails between NIAC leader Trita Parsi and Iran's ambassador to the UN offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lobbying disclosure laws.
    Neither Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S., Russia Call for Iran to Accept Nuclear Deal - Peter Nicholas
    Both President Obama and Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday after meeting in Singapore that they are losing patience with Iran and want a commitment that would ease fears the Iranians are developing nuclear weapons. The two leaders warned they won't wait much longer for Iran to accept a proposal that would resolve the dispute through diplomatic means. If Iran is defiant, Obama said, "the alternative would be an approach that would involve increasing pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations.''  (Los Angeles Times)
  • Pakistani American Mapped All Mumbai Terrorist Targets, Posed as Jew at Chabad House - Samyabrata Ray Goswami
    David Coleman Headley personally visited every target site of the 26/11 terror strikes last year in Mumbai, carrying out reconnaissance on behalf of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Indian police source said Saturday. Posing as a Jew, he even visited Nariman House, the Jewish Chabad center, in July 2008. Headley, a Pakistani-born U.S. national, was arrest by the FBI last month.
        Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, posed as a Jewish American during his Mumbai stay. "The FBI seized a book called How to Pray Like a Jew from him at the time of his arrest in Chicago. He had prepared himself thoroughly to pose as a Jew," a top Mumbai police officer said. (Calcutta Telegraph-India)
        See also Headley Arrested in October for Role in Foreign Terror Plot in Denmark
    Headley was arrested on Oct. 3, 2009, on federal charges for plotting to commit terrorist acts against overseas targets, including facilities and employees of a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. (Reuters)
  • Saudi-Iranian Tension Increases - R. Green and Y. Admon
    The current clashes between the Saudi security forces and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who have infiltrated Saudi Arabia from Yemen have intensified the steadily escalating conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In a column titled "The Houthis Are the Yemeni Hizbullah," Saudi columnist Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh wrote: "The situation in northern Yemen and in the south of our country, and the situation in Lebanon, are identical [reflections] of Iran's aspirations [and its method of] exploiting the sectarian dimension to further the next Persian agenda."
        Iranian officials rejected the Saudi accusations, and made threatening statements. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said about the fighting in Yemen: "We firmly warn the countries in the region and [our] neighbors against interfering in Yemen's internal affairs." An article in the daily Iran, which is associated with the Ahmadinejad government, claimed: "This war, which has been forced on the Shi'ites in Yemen, is a coordinated conspiracy by America and several Arab governments in the region, particularly Wahhabi evidenced by the fact that Saudi Arabia has occupied three Yemeni provinces and some 10 Yemeni islands...and is unwilling to withdraw from them, because they are very rich in oil."  (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Way to Peace Is Through Negotiations, Not Unilateral Steps
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Saban Forum on Sunday: "The way to achieve peace is through negotiations, cooperation and the agreement of both sides....There is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and any unilateral attempt outside that framework will unravel the existing agreements between us, and could entail unilateral steps by Israel."
        "The Goldstone report is a clear threat to peace in our region. Achieving a final peace settlement with the Palestinians will require territorial compromise. But how can Israel vacate additional territories if we cannot defend ourselves against attacks from that territory? Be assured that this UN report is not Israel's problem alone. It threatens to handcuff all states fighting terrorism. For if terrorists believe that the international community will justify their crimes when they fire on civilians while hiding behind civilians, they will employ this tactic again and again."
        "A responsible government should always seek to minimize civilian casualties in territories controlled by the enemy. But they also have an obligation to defend their citizens....The responsibility for the unintended civilian casualties such an operation entails should be place squarely on the terrorists and not on the defending government."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Syria Rejects Direct Talks with Israel - Tovah Lazaroff
    Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday rejected Israel's call for direct peace talks. Assad said that face-to-face talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be fruitful. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PLO Seeks to Neutralize Hamas-Controlled Palestinian Legislative Council - Ali Waked
    Salim Zanoun, chairman of the Palestinian National Council of the PLO, confirmed Sunday that the PLO was planning to take over the duties of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Legislative Council. PA sources said the parliament currently ruled by Hamas will be usurped by the PLO's Central Council, which will become the supreme Palestinian legislative body. Hamas is not a member of the PLO. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Paradox of Peacemaking: How Fayyad's Unilateral Statehood Plan Undermines the Legal Foundations of Israeli-Palestinian Diplomacy - Alan Baker
    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad published a plan in August 2009 to unilaterally declare statehood after a two-year state-building process. However, any unilateral action that undermines the existing Oslo interim framework could jeopardize the peace process and remove the basis for the existence of the Palestinian Authority. Were the Fayyad plan to be adapted and integrated within a resumed negotiating process, on the basis of the extensive infrastructure that already exists in the Oslo Accords, then this plan could serve as a constructive starting point for any new round of negotiations. The writer is former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Should Israel Have Cooperated with Goldstone? - Walter Reich
    It will continue to be necessary to fight an enemy part of whose military strategy is to hide behind civilian shields. This is indeed the new face of war, and countries, even as they do everything possible to limit civilian casualties to a minimum, must find ways of defending themselves, their interests and especially their citizens.
        In his Nov. 5 debate with Dore Gold, Richard Goldstone seemed at a loss as to what would have constituted a "proportionate" response on the part of Israel. The definition of "proportionality" he had in mind seemed to make no sense in military terms. If a country, confronted with the challenge of this kind of warfare, concludes that it just can't fight, then that country will be unable to defend itself. In the case of Israel, such a decision would result in its destruction. It, and other countries facing this dilemma, will have to devise, in response to this new face of war, a new way of dealing with it - one that enables it to defend itself even as it minimizes, to the extent possible, civilian casualties. The writer, a former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, is Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
  • Dictatorships Protect Each Other at UN - Natan Sharansky
    Former deputy prime minister Natan Sharansky said in an interview: The Goldstone report is part of the continuing war by the UN and dictatorial states within the UN to delegitimize the State of Israel. As a human rights activist who is in continuous contact with organizations and activists throughout the world, I can say with authority that we in Israel have the strongest democratic institutions in the world.
        The UN has a miserable record of defending human rights. What has it done to advance human rights in dictatorships like Egypt, Syria, or Jordan? Why has the UN never denounced the killing in Chechnya, Darfur, or China? UN representatives have admitted that there is an agreement between the Arab states and Russia that neither will deal with the dictatorships of the other. So what is left except Israel? During all the years of its existence, the UN has denounced human rights violations by Israel more than by all the world's dictatorships put together. This is because dictatorships won't criticize other dictatorships. (Maariv Weekend-Hebrew, 13Nov09)
  • Observations:

    Did the U.S. Act "Disproportionately" Against the Taliban? - Editorial (Washington Post)

    • In order to eliminate Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the U.S. launched at least 15 missile strikes in Pakistan this year and killed, besides Mehsud, somewhere between 200 and 300 people, according to a study by the New America Foundation. At least a quarter of those who died were civilians.
    • Was that toll "disproportionate" to the threat posed by a single terrorist and therefore a war crime? How about the recent NATO bombing of hijacked fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan, in which a mix of 80 to 120 Taliban militants and civilians died? Justified strike, accident or war crime?
    • Asymmetrical wars, in which terrorists and insurgents deliberately mix among civilians, are the story of the 21st century so far - and there are no clear norms for managing the moral dilemmas they pose. Can a drone's targeter knowingly expose civilians to injury if a terrorist leader is in range? How should a civilized army respond when its soldiers are mortared, or its own civilians exposed to rocket fire, from a position inside a schoolyard?
    • The Goldstone commission made a mockery of impartiality. It concluded, on scant evidence, that "disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy" by Israel. At the same time it pronounced itself unable to confirm that Hamas hid its fighters among civilians, used human shields, fired mortars and rockets from outside schools, stored weapons in mosques, and used a hospital for its headquarters, despite abundant available evidence.
    • As it happens, Israel is ahead of most other nations in managing these issues. In Gaza its forces used thousands of e-mails, phone calls and even non-lethal explosives to warn civilians away from airstrike targets.

          See also U.S. Drones Have Nearly Destroyed Al-Qaeda - Michael Smith
      Three weeks ago, Taliban leaders were meeting in a safe house in the Pakistani village of Chohetra, close to the Afghan border. The village is the home of Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Halfway through the meeting, a U.S. Predator drone fired two Hellfire missiles that destroyed the Taliban hideout, killing 24 people and wounding 12 more. The Predator was also used against Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed by the U.S. in June 2006.
          The process designed to "decapitate" al-Qaeda and its allies is having a devastating effect on the insurgents. Western intelligence agencies believe that the al-Qaeda leadership's power is on the wane, with the growing exodus of members from Pakistan to Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The writer is defense correspondent of the London Sunday Times. (The National-Abu Dhabi)

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