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February 4, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Pakistani Scientist Convicted of Trying to Kill Americans - Tom Hays (AP/ABC News)
    Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist, was convicted Wednesday of charges that she tried to kill Americans while detained in Afghanistan in 2008.
    As the jurors left the courtroom, she shouted: "This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America."
    During the trial, FBI agents and U.S. soldiers testified that Siddiqui shot at them while yelling, "Death to Americans."

Australia Blocks Suspicious Shipments to Iran (AP/Washington Post)
    Australia recently blocked several export shipments to Iran because of concern the cargo may have been destined for Tehran's nuclear weapons programs, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Thursday.
    One of the blocked shipments was understood to include pumps that could have been used to cool nuclear power plants.

Could Iran Satellite Launcher Deliver Atomic Warhead? - Philippe Naughton (Times-UK)
    Iran successfully launched a can of worms, a rat and two turtles into space Wednesday, prompting a jubilant President Ahmadinejad to brag that the Islamic Republic would soon be sending its own astronauts to orbit Earth.
    The ambitious Iranian space program worries Western experts who fear the same technology could be used to deliver atomic warheads.

Russian Army to Learn from IDF Military Police - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The Russian military will dispatch a delegation to Israel in the coming weeks to learn from the IDF how to establish and operate a military police.

Egyptian Journalist Suspended for Visiting Israel - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Egypt's journalists union suspended Hussain Serag, the editor of the magazine October, for three months after he said he had visited Israel more than 25 times, thus violating a union ban on visits to the Jewish state.
    Separately, Hala Mustafa, editor-in-chief of Al-Demoqratiya magazine, was warned for meeting in her home with Israel's ambassador to Cairo Shalom Cohen.
    In 1979, Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but there continues to be a generally hostile popular attitude towards anything implying normal relations between the two neighbors.

Anti-Semitic Acts Soar in France (AP/Washington Post)
    France's Jewish Community Protection Service tallied 832 anti-Semitic acts in 2009, up from 474 a year earlier - an increase of 75%.
    The group said Wednesday that 354 incidents took place in January 2009 alone, at the time of Israel's response to rocket attacks from Gaza.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • In Response to Iran's Nuclear Program, German Firms Are Slowly Pulling Out - Judy Dempsey
    German companies, long Iran's biggest trading partners in Europe, are finding it increasingly difficult to do business there as the U.S., Israel and others campaign for tougher UN sanctions in response to the country's nuclear program. Yet even those companies that said they were pulling out will probably take years to wind down operations and wrap up outstanding contracts. Others are simply lowering their profile or finding third countries to do business through, fearing they will lose a lucrative market forever if they abandon it now.
        Interviews with several German companies, trade associations, and export guarantee agencies suggest a significant reduction of direct trade between Germany and Iran. Iranian companies seeking to import from German companies can no longer receive credit guarantees for seven to 10 years, which used to be normal for big infrastructure projects. The change was made over the last two years as a result of political pressure from the U.S. As a result, credit guarantees for Iran in 2008 amounted to 133 million euros, compared with 1.4 billion euros in 2005. (New York Times)
  • France to Press for UN Sanctions vs. Iran
    Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Wednesday that France will seek a new UN resolution with tough new sanctions against Iran over its unwillingness to take up appeals for dialogue over its nuclear program. Fillon accused Iran of leading a "headlong rush" in its nuclear program, but "it's not too late to use political means to prevent Iran from obtaining a military nuclear ability." He also called on the EU to "take up its responsibilities" over Iran. (AP)
  • U.S. Picks New Ambassador to Syria
    Syria has received a request from Washington to accredit a U.S. ambassador to Damascus, ending a four-year diplomatic absence, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Wednesday. Moualem confirmed media reports that Washington intended to name Robert Ford for the post. Ford, an Arabist, is the U.S. deputy ambassador in Iraq and was U.S. ambassador to Algeria in 2006-2008. (Reuters)
  • Arabs to Block Australia's Bid for Security Council Seat - Greg Sheridan
    Australia's bid for a UN Security Council seat has been dealt a severe blow after a warning from the Arab League that it is less likely to succeed because of Australia's support for Israel. Hashem Yousseff, chief of cabinet for Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, told The Australian, Canberra kept "bad company" at the UN, where it often opposes anti-Israel resolutions in alliance with the U.S., Canada and small Pacific island states. Australia's support for Israel, he said, was "one of the elements that will be taken into consideration" by the 22-member Arab League in deciding whether to support Australia's bid for a seat for the 2013-14 term. (The Australian)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Peace Talks Could Resume in Weeks - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Herzliya Conference on Wednesday: "I have reason to hope, realistically, that in the next few weeks we will renew the peace process with the Palestinians, without preconditions....Among the international community there is recognition that Israel wants and is prepared to renew the diplomatic process. And once this recognition emerged among the central players in the international community, the practical preparations for this step are also ripening."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Netanyahu Cool to Calls for Fresh Syria Talks - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Netanyahu is cool to the idea of renewed peace talks with Syria. He told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos Tuesday that he did not share Moratinos' belief that Syria was ready to leave Iran's orbit. "I've seen no evidence whatsoever of what you're saying," the prime minister said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Strategic Affairs Minister: Iran Can Still Be Stopped - Jonathan Weber
    Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Herzliya Conference on Wednesday that "Iran can still be stopped." "The Iranian regime has many weaknesses. It can certainly be made clear to them that foregoing the idea of entering the brink is the best course of action for them, since adhering (to their nuclear program) will endanger their basic interest of remaining in power." "It is important to continue clarifying to the extremist regime in Iran that all options remain on the table and that ignoring the demands of the international community will likely end in bitter tears for Iran."
        "It is not beyond reason that the changes in Turkey's policies towards Iran are related to a sense that Iran is about to become a country on the brink of nuclear weapons. Under these conditions, it is even more difficult to assume that Syria will abandon its ties with Iran to advance the peace process with Israel," Ya'alon noted. (Ynet News)
  • Third "Barrel Bomb" from Gaza Washes Ashore in Israel - Yuval Azoulay and Anshel Pfeffer
    A third explosive device from Gaza washed ashore in Israel on Wednesday at Palmachim, 10 km. south of Tel Aviv. Two barrels packed with explosives were picked up on Israeli beaches at Ashkelon and Ashdod on Monday. Two more are believed to have exploded at sea. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Terror Groups Recruiting Gaza Fishermen - Hanan Greenberg
    Israeli Navy Commander Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Marom accused terror organizations of "making cynical use of Gaza's fishermen for terror purposes" such as setting afloat barrels filled with explosive devices to wash up on Israel's shores. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Eyeless on Gaza: 54 House Members Demand Israel Lift Gaza Closure - Zalman Shoval
    Last week, 54 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including some long-time opponents of Israel, signed a letter asking President Obama to pressure Israel to "ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip." The congressmen asked the president to "press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza, to ease the movement of people in and out of Gaza." On a practical level, it is hard to believe that the initiators of this appeal do not realize that "movement of people in and out of Gaza" means allowing the movement of terrorists into Israel, as well as into Egypt or Jordan. The writer is a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., and currently heads the Prime Minister's forum on U.S.-Israel relations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Good Old Days Before Peace - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Many Jews and Arabs really miss the good old days before the Middle East peace process began - before Arafat and the PLO were brought to the West Bank and Gaza after the signing of the Oslo Accords. In the days before the peace process began, anyone living in the West Bank and Gaza could drive to any place inside Israel. Suicide and car bombings were unheard of. Not a single rocket was fired into Israel. About 200,000 Palestinians used to work in Israel on a daily basis. There was no security fence and no wall in the West Bank.
        There were no armed militias like Fatah's Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Battalions roaming the streets of Palestinian communities. Thousands of Palestinian merchants used to converge on Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities almost every day to do business. Thousands of Palestinian families would be seen enjoying their time at Israeli beaches, public parks and restaurants. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • Observations:

    A Moral Evaluation of the Gaza War - Operation Cast Lead - Asa Kasher (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • In Israel, a combatant is a citizen in uniform; quite often, he is a conscript or on reserve duty. His state ought to have a compelling reason for jeopardizing his life. The fact that persons involved in terrorism are depicted as non-combatants and that they reside and act in the vicinity of persons not involved in terrorism is not a reason for jeopardizing the combatant's life more than is required under combat conditions.
    • The ethical doctrine which follows from the IDF Ethics Code mandates that, whenever possible, you must warn non-combatants that they are residents of a neighborhood where it is dangerous to stay. In Gaza, the IDF employed a variety of unprecedented efforts meant to minimize injury to non-combatants, including warning leaflets, phone calls, and non-lethal warning fire.
    • There is no army in the world that will endanger its soldiers in order to avoid hitting the warned neighbors of an enemy or terrorist. Israel should favor the lives of its own soldiers over the lives of the well-warned neighbors of a terrorist when it is operating in a territory that it does not effectively control, because in such territories it does not bear the moral responsibility for properly separating between dangerous individuals and harmless ones.
    • Proportionality is not a numerical comparison, but an assessment of existing threats and the measures that must be taken in order to avert them. Proportionality is justifiability of the collateral damage on grounds of the military advantage gained.
    • Compare the Gaza operation to the U.S. Marine operation in Fallujah, Iraq, in late 2004. During the operation, about 6,000 Iraqis including 1,200-2,000 insurgents were killed. Of the city's 50,000 buildings, some 10,000 were destroyed, including 60 mosques. Thus, the U.S. left a trail of destruction in Fallujah far greater than anything Israel inflicted on Gaza. Comparing IDF activities to those of military forces of Western democracies is an essential part of any present attempt to use international law.
    • We in Israel are in a key position in the development of customary international law in this field because we are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism. The more often Western states apply principles that originated in Israel to their own non-traditional conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, then the greater the chance these principles have of becoming a valuable part of international law.

      Prof. Asa Kasher, a recipient of the Israel Prize, is co-author of the Israel Defense Forces Code of Ethics.

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