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February 11, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

New Revelations about the UN Goldstone Report - Dore Gold and Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Col. (ret.) Desmond Travers, the Goldstone Commission's military expert, displayed a fundamental bias against the Israel Defense Forces, reported false information about IDF weapons systems, claimed that Hamas fired only two rockets at Israel prior to last winter's conflict, and displayed a clear lack of professionalism in conducting his investigations.
    See also below Observations: Goldstone Commission Military Expert's Anti-Israel Bias Documented - Anshel Pfeffer and Danna Harman (Ha'aretz)

U.S. Penalizes Companies Tied to Iran Revolutionary Guards - Mark Landler (New York Times)
    The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Wednesday on a commander and four companies linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran accused of being involved in efforts to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Israel TV Reports Allegations of Palestinian Corruption - Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP/Washington Post)
    Fahmi Shabaneh, a former Palestinian intelligence officer, has provided documents to Israel's Channel 10 TV that back up allegations that Palestinian Authority officials have stolen millions of dollars in public funds, the station said Wednesday.
    The officials include confidants of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. One of the methods was to overbill the Palestinian government for real estate purchases.

Report from the Herzliya Conference - Jamie M. Fly (Weekly Standard)
    At the 2010 Herzliya Conference in Israel last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech focused on the need for Israel to have a strong economy, and plans to increase understanding and appreciation for Israel's heritage.
    President Shimon Peres spoke of the need to confront Iran not solely as a security issue, but as a moral concern for the West, stating that Iran was a source of evil to all seeking peace and freedom.
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the international community to institute sanctions on Iran.
    National Security Advisor Uzi Arad made a veiled reference to activities underway against Iran that could not be publicized.

PA Minister: "Nobody Has the Right to Declare the End of Jihad" (MEMRI)
    PA Minister of Religious Endowments Mahmoud Al-Habbash said in a sermon broadcast on PA TV on Jan. 7: "Nobody - whoever he may be - can ever abolish Jihad or say that it has come to an end. Jihad continues to Judgment Day."
    "There is not a single one of us who does not participate in the resistance. We all participate in resistance. Even a woman who sits at home, raising her children, is conducting resistance because she is preparing the ammunition of the future."
    "It is inevitable that the day will come when we will fly the flag of our independent Palestinian state over every inch of our soil and over the minarets and the domes of Jerusalem."

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  • Iran Claims New Success in Uranium Enrichment - Alan Cowell and Michael Slackman
    President Ahmadinejad was quoted Thursday as saying his country had produced a first batch of uranium enriched to a level of 20%, taunting the West by declaring that if Tehran wanted to build a nuclear bomb, it would say so. Iran, he said, repeating an earlier assertion, was now "a nuclear state." "I want to announce with a loud voice here that the first package of 20% fuel was produced and provided to the scientists," he said. "In the near future we will treble its production." He continued: "We have the capability to enrich uranium more than 20% or 80%."  (New York Times)
  • Report: Technical Setbacks Cause Iran to Falter in Push to Enrich Uranium - Joby Warrick and Glenn Kessler
    Iran is experiencing surprising setbacks in its efforts to enrich uranium, according to new assessments that suggest that equipment failures and other difficulties could undermine that nation's plans for dramatically scaling up its nuclear program. A new assessment, based on three years of internal data from UN nuclear inspections, suggests that Iran's mechanical woes are deeper than previously known. At least through the end of 2009, the Natanz plant appears to have performed so poorly that sabotage cannot be ruled out as an explanation, according to a draft study by David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).
       The ISIS study showed that more than half of the Natanz plant's 8,700 uranium-enriching centrifuges were idle at the end of last year and that the number of working machines had steadily dropped - from 5,000 in May to just over 3,900 in November. Moreover, output from the nominally functioning machines was about half of what was expected.
        A separate analysis by the Federation of American Scientists also describes Iran's flagging performance. Ivan Oelrich, vice president of the federation's Strategic Security Program, said, "They are really struggling to reproduce what is literally half-century-old European technology and doing a really bad job of it."  (Washington Post)
  • Clashes in Iran on Anniversary of Islamic Revolution
    Iranian authorities clashed with opposition supporters Thursday as huge crowds rallied in Tehran to mark the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic. (VOA News)
        See also Iran Arrests Reformists in Bid to Quell Protests - Michael Slackman
    Iranian security officials have unleashed an epidemic of arrests in an effort to neutralize the political opposition, silence critical voices and head off widespread protests when the nation observes the anniversary of the revolution on Thursday. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, based in New York, calculated that in the past two months at least 1,000 people have been imprisoned. The authorities seem to have singled out journalists and women's rights activists. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Disrupts Internet Service Ahead of Protests - Nazila Fathi (New York Times)
  • Lebanon Backs Hizbullah against Israel - Zeina Karam
    Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Wednesday his government will support Hizbullah if a new war breaks out with Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel's Army Radio, "As prime minister, [Hariri] is simply a hostage of Hizbullah, which has veto power in his Cabinet." Like previous governments, Hariri's government endorsed Hizbullah's right to keep its weapons and has been loath to take any strong action against the group for fear of sparking a crisis. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Soldier Stabbed to Death by PA Security Officer - Efrat Weiss
    IDF Sergeant Major Ihab Khatib from the Druze village of Maghar was killed Wednesday after being stabbed while sitting in his jeep by Palestinian security officer Mohammad Khatib near Tapuach junction, south of the West Bank city of Nablus. The incident occurred while the jeep was stuck in traffic. The Palestinian stabbed the soldier twice in the chest through the open car window. (Ynet News)
        See also Soldier's Murder Was Latest Terror Attack by PA Security Forces - Avi Issacharoff
    Most of the fatal attacks against Israelis in the West Bank in recent years were carried out by members of Palestinian security forces. Two months ago a member of the PA's counterintelligence service was one of three Fatah men who murdered Rabbi Meir Chai near Shavei Shomron. In November 2007, three Palestinian policemen murdered Ido Zoldan, also from Shavei Shomron. A month later, two members of the Palestinian general intelligence service murdered two Israeli soldiers from Kiryat Arba who were hiking near Tarkumia. (Ha'aretz)
        See also PA Prime Minister Fayyad Condemns West Bank Attack - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama Gambles in Bid to Defuse Nuclear Standoff with Iran - David E. Sanger
    As President Obama adds economic pressure and military containment to force Iran's leadership to negotiate on its nuclear program, he is betting that he can win global agreement on a set of sanctions that are strong enough to convince Iran that its nuclear ambitions are not worth the price. He is also betting that he can win over the reluctant Chinese, by convincing them that sanctions are a better alternative than instability and oil cutoffs. Other elements of the strategy that the White House does not discuss publicly are: the placement of anti-missile defenses in four countries around the Persian Gulf, and stepped-up covert action against the country's nuclear program.
        But "isolating" a country diplomatically does not necessarily translate into changing its behavior. North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar have been economically isolated for decades, with little effect. "The history of sanctions suggests it is nearly impossible to craft them to compel a government to change on an issue it sees as vital to national security," said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (New York Times)
  • New U.S. Ambassador Faces a Syria Stuck in its Ways - Michael Young
    The Obama administration named a new ambassador to Syria shortly before this Sunday's fifth anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. The previous U.S. ambassador was recalled after that killing, not to be replaced until now. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon at the time of the Hariri assassination, is a man greatly disliked in Damascus. Feltman, who witnessed Syrian violence in Lebanon from up close, will be an influential skeptic at the State Department. Syria still enjoys little goodwill at the State Department or in Congress. Its ambassador to the U.S., Imad Mustapha, is mistrusted in Washington and may soon be sent home.
        On the Palestinian front, Syria supports Hamas at a time when the Obama administration is trying to restart negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. The Syrians want control of the Palestinian card, especially the means to torpedo agreements with which they are unhappy, as leverage in their own track with Israel. (The National-UAE)
  • Observations:

    Goldstone Commission Military Expert's Anti-Israel Bias Documented - Anshel Pfeffer and Danna Harman (Ha'aretz)

    • The Goldstone Commission's military expert, Col. Desmond Travers, formerly a senior officer in the Irish army, has said that Hamas fired only two rockets at Israel prior to last winter's conflict, according to a new report compiled by Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi and published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Wednesday. Travers ignored the fact that in three days alone during the month before the IDF campaign, Hamas had fired 32 rockets at Israel and that, according to Hamas spokesmen, Hamas had resolved to end the cease-fire.
    • The report also noted that Travers rejected any possibility that Hamas had been using mosques to hide weapons, despite Israel's evidence to the contrary and the testimony of British army Col. Tim Collins, who visited Gaza and found clear signs that a mosque had been used for this purpose.
    • In an interview last week with Middle East Monitor, Travers said the IDF had used drones that could detect people inside of buildings by their body heat and did so in attacking houses in which dozens of Palestinian civilians had taken shelter.
    • Neither Travers nor other commission members asked Palestinian interviewees who said their houses had been blown up by the IDF whether they were members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or whether weapons had been stored in their homes. When Travers interviewed two Palestinian psychologists, he asked them how Israeli soldiers could kill children in front of their parents as if it were a fact.
    • Travers gave an interview in which he accused Israel of murdering many Irish soldiers of the UNIFIL contingent in South Lebanon, and charged that "Britain's foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists."
    • Jerusalem Center President Dore Gold called on Judge Richard Goldstone, the commission chairman, to condemn Travers' remarks.

          See also Unprofessional Conduct of the Goldstone Commission's Military Expert - Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center-Hebrew)

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