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March 11, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF Chief of Staff Stresses Iranian Threat - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi declared Tuesday in New York that Israel will triumph over those who seek to destroy it with the courage of its soldiers and their moral compass.
    Speaking at the annual dinner hosted by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Ashkenazi said, referring to the Iranian threat, that "all options should remain on the table."
    He noted that the IDF was increasing the number of military exercises while raising reserve troops' readiness.
    See also Text of Speech by IDF Chief of Staff - Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi (IDF Spokesperson-IMRA)

Rove: Bush Didn't Go to War for Israel - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
    Karl Rove flatly rejects the notion that Israel was connected to the George W. Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq, in a new book published Tuesday.
    Rove, Bush's close confidante and a senior White House adviser at the time of the U.S. invasion in 2003, describes several theories critics offered on why the president attacked Baghdad, among them "that he was doing the bidding of Israel"; teaching the Arab world a lesson; or finishing what his father started in the first Gulf War.
    "None of these is true," he writes. "The reason we turned our attention to Iraq was much more straightforward: We believed Saddam Hussein posed a threat to America's national security."

BBC Documents Torture in Palestinian Prisons - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    In a BBC television program broadcast in the format of a "commission of inquiry," hosted by Ahmed Al Budeiri, two former Palestinian prisoners, one from Fatah and one from Hamas, gave accounts of widespread torture in Palestinian jails.
    Wheelchair-bound Bilal Qawara, 22, from Khan Yunis in Gaza, who comes from a family of Fatah supporters, was arrested by Hamas in 2007 in an incident that killed two of his brothers. "Hamas broke into my house and snatched me away. I was interrogated for six hours. Afterwards, they threw me onto the street and shot me," Qawara recounted.
    Azzam al-Fahal, a bakery owner near Ramallah, was arrested last year by the Palestinian General Intelligence Services for membership in Hamas. "My hands were tied with metal cuffs and I was hung in the air for an entire day," he recounted.

Infrastructure Protection - Avi Schnurr (epolitix-UK)
    Scientists have concluded that a nuclear detonation in space creates an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which can damage or destroy electrical equipment over huge regions of the earth.
    Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security in July 2009, Dr. William R. Graham, chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission, warned that Iran, North Korea and other potentially hostile states are approaching the capability to launch a devastating attack.
    Iran, he testified, has openly discussed an EMP attack against the West, and has tested sea-launched missiles, apparently configured for an EMP-style high-altitude explosion.
    He explained that an EMP attack "has the capability to produce widespread and long-lasting disruption and damage to the critical infrastructures that underpin the fabric of U.S. society."
    Graham pointed out the potential for country-wide devastation from a single, barge-launched missile in the hands of a rogue nation or terror group.

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  • Biden Says Peace Talks Must Resume
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says there must be no delay in resuming Mideast peace talks, despite a row over Israeli plans for new homes in Jerusalem. In a speech at Tel Aviv University, Biden repeated his criticism of the timing of the building decision, but praised the response of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the controversy. He also stressed that the U.S. had "no better friend in the community of nations than Israel" and that their relationship was "impervious to any shifts in either country."  (BBC News)
  • Royal Dutch Shell Halts Gasoline Sales to Iran - Julianne Pepitone
    Royal Dutch Shell has stopped selling gasoline to Iran, the company confirmed Wednesday, adding to a list of oil giants that have stopped sales after a threat of future U.S. sanctions. (CNN)
        See also Hurdles for U.S. as It Ramps Up Pressure on Firms Trading with Iran - Steven Mufson
    The U.S. is trying to choke off the 130,000 barrels a day of gasoline that Iran imports because it lacks adequate refining capacity. But oil industry sources said that Iranian front companies were securing gasoline supplies from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Bahrain, and that some companies in Iraq were making purchases on Iran's behalf. "All you are doing is transferring sales from one company to another," said a trader in Kuwait. (Washington Post)
  • European Parliament Backs UN Report on Gaza War - Slobodan Lekic
    The European Parliament on Wednesday voted by 335-287 to back the Goldstone panel which concluded that both sides committed war crimes during the Gaza war. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Israel Criticizes EU Support for Goldstone Report - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: "It is remarkable that all EU members have not supported the different phases of the Goldstone process, either at the UN Human Rights Council or at the General Assembly, yet the European Parliament thinks it can afford the luxury of an irresponsible and irrelevant resolution on a report that was immoral to begin with, and in complete detachment from prevailing EU policies."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Regrets "Timing" of Jerusalem Housing Announcement - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cabinet ministers Wednesday that the timing of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee's announcement of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, which was issued on the same day U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the region, was "a serious mishap...that should not have happened." Israel apologized for embarrassing Biden with the timing of its announcement, but made clear it has no intention of reversing its plan. (Ha'aretz)
        See also A Case of Undiplomatic Timing
    "We were also taken a bit by surprise," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. "This was a local zoning and planning board....It's not the job of the prime minister to be involved in local zoning board decisions," he said. (CNN)
  • Residents of Jerusalem Neighborhood Don't Understand the Commotion - Abe Selig
    A resident of the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem, commenting on the announcement of 1,600 new housing units, said: "[Former Jerusalem Mayor] Teddy Kollek...would be turning over in his grave right now if he knew that this was even being debated....If we can't build here, then tell me, please, where can we build?" Eli Diskin, a Ramat Shlomo resident, said that 1,600 new housing units "wouldn't even be enough" to deal with the overflowing population of the neighborhood. "Each family averages between seven and eight members, and frankly, there is nowhere left for people to live. If someone gets married, if they have more kids, where are they supposed to go? They have to leave the neighborhood." "I don't think it even needs to be explained," Diskin added.
        His sentiments were echoed by every other Ramat Shlomo resident on Wednesday. "If this is not an inseparable part of Jerusalem, than what is?" asked Pini Gamliel. Mendy Hechtman said American diplomats should come and see the neighborhood for themselves. "Once you get here, you can easily see that this is simply another neighborhood in Jerusalem, but the media makes it seem like this is some kind of far-removed settlement."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Photo: Ramat Shlomo Neighborhood of Jerusalem (Robbins-Becher Photographers); Aerial Photo of Ramat Shlomo Neighborhood (GoogleEarth)
  • Israel Planning 50,000 Housing Units in Jerusalem - Nir Hasson
    Some 50,000 new housing units in Jerusalem neighborhoods are in various stages of planning and approval, Israeli planning officials say. The plans for some 20,000 apartments are already in advanced stages of approval and implementation. The housing shortage in Jerusalem has become more acute in recent years, especially in ultra-Orthodox areas. The West Bank construction freeze has increased the pressure to create more housing in Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Demography, Geopolitics, and the Future of Israel's Capital - Nadav Shragai
    The Jewish majority in Jerusalem is declining due to the mass migration of the Jewish population from Jerusalem, together with the migration of an additional Arab population into Jerusalem. The planned inventory of Jewish housing does not meet expected needs for 2020. To preserve a stable Jewish majority in the unified capital of the State of Israel requires the building of tens of thousands of new housing units. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Biden's Visit to Israel and Construction in Jerusalem
        Aaron David Miller: If you're hoping for an Israeli-American war, I wouldn't bet on it: shared values, a strong pro-Israeli community and America's need to cooperate with Israel to advance and protect its own interests preclude it. And it's likely that the Obama administration is warming to that reality.
        Daniel Gordis: Insisting that Israelis freeze settlement expansion without making some equally explicit demand of the Palestinians - and using the same term "settlement" for both massive neighborhoods that are home to tens of thousands and for illegal outposts - Obama has convinced Israelis that he has no command of the issues, and that he is predisposed to pressuring Israel much more than the Palestinians. (New York Times)
  • Dr. Mitchell's Mideast Talking Cure - Josef Joffe
    Israelis and Palestinians have been talking to each other ever since the fabled "Oslo Process" of 1993. They are negotiating face-to-face about all kinds of practical matters: roadblocks, investments, tax receipts. They are in constant contact about nabbing terrorists and training Palestinian security forces. So why the "proximity talks"?
        Under the leadership of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the West Bank is booming, while Hamas-ruled Gaza is sinking. Foreign funds are flowing in by the billions. Though nobody admits it, the Israeli army underwrites the life-insurance policy for the Fatah regime in Ramallah. Hence the Mitchell Minuet, a remake of the Baroque dance in which everybody circles, bows and returns to the original position.
        Israel and the Palestinian Authority are actually getting along quite nicely now that Yasser Arafat is dead and Fatah's mortal enemy is ruling Gaza - no broker required. At the Herzliya Conference in February, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in his impeccable double-breasted suit, delivered in his perfect English a speech Israelis had never before heard from a Palestinian leader. Essentially he told them: "We can do business with each other." The audience gave him a standing ovation - face-to-face. The writer is editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg and senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Presbyterian Church Poised to Defame Israel - Editorial
    A special committee of the U.S. Presbyterian Church is set to release a report on the Middle East that embraces parts of a manifesto by Christian Palestinians who call for an end to Israel as a Jewish state. The report notes: "The phrase 'the right of Israel to exist' is a source of pain for some members of our study committee who are in solidarity with Palestinians, who feel that the creation of the state of Israel has denied them their inalienable human rights."
        The committee says the U.S. ought to employ "the strategic use of influence and the withholding of financial and military aid in order to enforce Israel's compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts." No similar tactics are recommended against Hamas, which fires rockets at Israeli homes and schools. Not against Iran, which pursues nukes and dreams of erasing Israel. Not against Hizbullah. (New York Daily News)
        See also Presbyterian Church Releases Part One of Israel-Bashing Report - Anath Hartmann
    A comparison of the letter the committee has written to "Our Palestinian Friends" and the one it has written to "Our Israeli Friends" shows a stark one-sidedness. The first note has the tone an admonishing parent might use when chiding a child about not picking up his toys. The second is full of references to Israel's "dehumanization" of Palestinians and "violations of human rights."  (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    To Deny Our History in This Land Is an Attempt to Deny Our Future - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Christians United for Israel Jerusalem Summit on March 8:

    • We face great challenges to our security, but we also face unprecedented challenges to our legitimacy. This assault on our legitimacy comes in many forms - it comes from the so-called human rights bodies in the UN which would deny Israel its legitimate right of self-defense; it comes by falsely charging Israel's political and military leaders with imaginary war crimes; and it comes by the outrageous campaigns to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.
    • But there is an even greater assault on our legitimacy - the attempt to perpetrate one of the greatest lies of history - to deny the connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel; to cast the Jewish people as foreigners in the land of our forefathers. The attempt to deny our history in this land is an attempt to deny our future in this land. That is why to defend our past is to defend our future.
    • I ask you all to join us in this battle to defend the truth. Remind them of Abraham and Isaac, remind them of Joshua and Samuel, remind them of David and Solomon. Remind the world that the land of the Bible is not in the heavens but right here on earth. And that the people of the Bible are on the land of the Bible.
    • I show visiting foreign officials a signet ring on loan from the Department of Antiquities that was found next to the Wall of the Second Temple, but dates back to the First Temple. It goes back some 2,800 years ago, to the period of the Kings. It is a signet seal of a Jewish official, and it has a name written in ancient Hebrew, which I can read. The name is: Netanyahu. Netanyahu Ben-Yoash. I say that's my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back 1,000 years earlier, to Benjamin the son of Jacob, who also walked these hills. That is our connection. And nobody can deny the connection of the Jewish people to the Jewish land.

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