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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 31, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Law Expert: IDF Action in International Waters Legal (IMRA)
    Hebrew University international law expert Dr. Robbie Sabel discussed the legality of the IDF action in international waters.
    He explained that a state, in time of conflict, can impose an embargo, and while it cannot carry out embargo activities in the territorial waters of a third party, it can carry out embargo activities in international waters.
    Within this framework it is legal to detain a civilian vessel trying to break an embargo, and if in the course of detaining the vessel, force is used against the forces carrying out the detention, then that force has every right to act in self-defense.
    Sabel noted that there is a long history of embargo activities in international waters.

Israel: Flotilla Organizers Have Connections to International Terrorist Groups - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Monday that the organizers of the Gaza flotilla have connections to international terrorist organizations such as Hamas and al-Qaeda, and called the aid convoy violent and provocative.

Turkish Protesters Attack Israeli Consulate in Istanbul
    Turkish police blocked dozens of stone-throwing protesters who tried to storm the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul on Monday over reports of an Israeli attack on a Turkish aid ship headed for Gaza, CNN-Turk and NTV reported. (Ha'aretz)
    See also Turkey's Support for Flotilla Prompts Israeli Backlash - Ron Friedman (Jerusalem Post)
    Turkey was once the number one destination for organized Israeli workers union vacations.
    On Sunday, a survey revealed that 95% of the unions had banned all organized trips to Turkey following that country's involvement in organizing the aid flotilla to Gaza.
    Dani Tzimet, deputy chairman of the Israel-Turkey Business Council, said that while in 2008, 560,000 Israelis visited Turkey, in 2009 only 300,000 did.

Hamas Leader: American Envoys Making Contact - David Hearst (Guardian-UK)
    The U.S. is sending a succession of envoys to engage with Hamas but lacks the bravery to talk to the Islamist movement openly, its leader, Khaled Meshal, said in an interview with the Guardian.
    Meshal said the tectonic plates in the Middle East were shifting, with Iran, Turkey and Syria emerging as regional powers, while Egypt was in the throes of a battle for succession that would paralyze it as a regional player.

U.S. Reassured Netanyahu Ahead of NPT Deal (AFP)
    Israel was "promised that there would be no resolutions adopted at the UN that would hurt the vital interests of Israel," a senior Israeli official said Sunday.
    The conference statement calls on Israel to join the NPT and urges it to open its facilities to inspection, but makes no mention of Iran's controversial nuclear program.
    "Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received unequivocal assurances that included significant upgrade of Israel's strategic and deterrent capabilities in a personal message conveyed by President Obama," the official said in a statement in Toronto, where Netanyahu was on a visit.

At Nuclear Conference, U.S. Expects Little, Gains Little - Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post)
    The NPT review conference's final document singled out Israel's suspected nuclear program - but not Iran's secret facilities.
    The conference's final documents are reached by consensus, meaning that Iran, a treaty member, could block any initiatives. That explains why it wasn't named.
    Israel, on the other hand, has not signed the treaty and did not attend the meetings.
    Many diplomats expected the U.S. delegation would kill the final document because of the mention of Israel.
    When the U.S. accepted it, the Iranian delegation was so surprised that it asked for a four-hour postponement of the final session so that members could call their government, diplomats said.

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  • At Least Ten Killed on Gaza Flotilla - Amy Teibel and Tia Goldenberg
    Israeli commandos on Monday stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to Gaza. At least ten people were killed and dozens were wounded after IDF forces encountered unexpected resistance. Turkey's NTV showed activists beating one Israeli soldier with sticks as he rappelled from a helicopter onto one of the boats.
        The Israeli military said troops only opened fire after the activists attacked them with knives and iron rods, and one activist wrested a serviceman's weapon. Two of the dead activists had fired at soldiers with pistols, the army said. Organizers included people affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group that often sends international activists into battle zones, and the IHH, a Turkish aid group that Israel accuses of having terrorist links.
        "We did not want to see confrontation," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu. "We made repeated offers to the boats that they come to the (Israeli) port of Ashdod, unload the humanitarian cargo, and we guaranteed to pass all humanitarian items through the crossings to the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, they rejected our offers and chose the path of confrontation."  (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Israeli Soldiers Attacked While Boarding Gaza Flotilla (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also IDF: Soldiers Met by Well-Planned Lynch - Yaakov Katz
    According to IDF reports, over a dozen Israeli personnel were wounded, some of them from gunfire, and at least two were in serious condition. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Flotilla Activist Stabs IDF Soldier (Channel 2-Maariv-Hebrew)
        See also Defense Minister Barak: Flotilla Organizers Responsible for Activists Killed - Tovah Lazaroff and Yaakov Lappin
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that while he was sorry for lives lost, the organizers of the Gaza-bound protest flotilla were solely responsible for the outcome of the IDF raid earlier in the day. Barak said that the soldiers tried to disperse the activists aboard the ship peacefully but were forced to open fire to protect themselves. (Jerusalem Post)
  • NPT Review Meeting Calls for Conference on Nuke-Free Middle East in 2012 - Neil MacFarquhar
    The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in New York ended Friday with a call for holding a regional conference by 2012 to eliminate unconventional weapons from the Middle East. "People are not going to come to a disarmament conference voluntarily if they are at war with their neighbors," said Ellen O. Tauscher, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, who led the American delegation. Washington's support for such a conference does not supersede the longstanding U.S. policy that disarmament requires a comprehensive peace in the region first, she said. (New York Times)
        See also Obama: "We Strongly Oppose Efforts to Single Out Israel" at UN Nuke Conference - Louis Charbonneau
    U.S. officials, disappointed at efforts at a conference of signatories of the global anti-nuclear arms treaty to single out Israel, made clear that the Middle East could not be declared WMD-free until there was broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran curbed its nuclear program. While welcoming agreements on a range of non-proliferation issues at the UN meeting, President Barack Obama said: "We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security."
        Gary Samore, who oversees policy on weapons of mass destruction at the White House, said, "The political symbolism of mentioning Israel in this way is very destructive." The White House insisted it would not put the Jewish state under any pressure nor encourage it to do anything that would undermine its national security. It also denied entering into a deal with Egypt and other Arab states on the WMD-free zone. (Reuters)
        See also Text: Final Document of NPT Review Conference (NPT Conference)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas: We Deal with U.S., Not Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA leader Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. special envoy George Mitchell that the Palestinians don't believe that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a real peace partner, according to Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee. "Abbas told Mitchell that the Israelis are no longer peace partners as much as the Americans are," Zaki told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. "The Palestinian Authority is negotiating with Washington and not with Tel Aviv," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jewish-French Philosopher Lauds IDF Morals - Attila Somfalvi
    Jewish-French writer and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy told a conference in Tel Aviv Sunday, "I've covered many wars, and I've never seen an army that asks itself so many questions related to morals." "In a region where dictatorships and truly fascist regimes rule, Israel represents an island of democracy. Zionism is the only movement that has not failed and turned into a caricature. It is the only movement that has preserved its spirit." "Israel is a miracle because since its inception it has been in a constant state of war, yet it never gave up on the democratic values at its core."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Gaza Flotilla

  • A War for the World's Future - Mordechai Kedar
    This fight isn't about Gaza. The battle is about the future of the Middle East: Will radical Islamic forces rise and replace the current order, as already happened in Lebanon and in Turkey? The sail to Gaza is merely one event in this struggle. If Israel wanted to stop the flotilla, it could have done it more elegantly - for example, by sabotaging the ships underwater.
        Yet even such success would not have prompted a victory in respect to the big question: Who is the master of this region? It appears that Israel chose to tell Islamisizing Turkey, which is ruled by a group that is ideologically identical to Hamas - no more. Israel is located at a frontal outpost, where it fights the war of the enlightened, liberal, pluralist, open, and democratic world - in the huge struggle against the Islamic forces that threaten to take over the world and subjugate it. Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence. (Ynet News)
  • Gaza Flotilla Has Nothing to Do with Freedom - Claudia Rosett
    The basic narrative spun by the organizers of the "freedom flotilla" is to "break the siege of Gaza" and "establish a permanent sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world." But there's some important information that the flotilla crew omits. Gaza is a terrorist enclave controlled by an Islamist terrorist group, Hamas, backed by Iran. It has a busy and violent history of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket and mortar attacks; and is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It is Hamas-run Gaza that threatens its neighbors and is hostile generally to liberal, Western societies.
        Egypt has also had miseries enough with Hamas to find it worthwhile maintaining the blockade, though this seems to be of less interest to the "freedom flotilla" crowd. This ship convoy is not about freedom and not about aid. It is patently about helping Hamas and harming Israel. The writer is a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Forbes)
  • Israel's Concern: Gaza Aid Flotilla Will Help Hamas - Erin Cunningham
    If the activists make it to Gaza, they are unlikely to be able to side-step the increasingly repressive and cash-strapped Hamas government. "Every time aid like this comes from abroad, it goes through Hamas, everybody knows that," says Gaza-based Palestinian political analyst Talal Okal. "They want to show that they dominate everything, and that everything in Gaza passes under their eyes. So, if these boats arrive, Hamas will receive it [the aid] and distribute it how they want, to their supporters and according to their policies."
        Palestinians living in Gaza say Hamas has sought to bring more and more under its control in Gaza in recent months, raiding the offices of human rights organizations and embarking on an extremely unpopular taxation campaign as it grapples with serious cash shortages. Hamas also keeps an eye on - and, in some cases, completely controls - the goods that come through the smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. Okal says the most stark example of Hamas aid cronyism was when Hamas individuals and supporters were seen driving ambulances brought for Gaza's hospitals by British parliamentarian George Galloway's "Viva Palestina" convoy in January. (Christian Science Monitor)

    NPT Conference

  • Israel Angry over Being Singled Out on Nuclear Weapons - Janine Zacharia and Mary Beth Sheridan
    Israel on Saturday sharply criticized an action plan on nuclear weapons agreed to by the U.S. and 188 other countries that proposed a conference in 2012 to discuss ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. The action plan stressed the "importance" of Israel joining the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but did not mention Iran's expanding atomic program, the Israeli government noted.
        Many diplomats had expected U.S. officials to withhold approval of the final document because of the mention of Israel. But the U.S. government was apparently reluctant to be viewed as the spoiler at a conference that focused on one of Obama's priorities. National security adviser James L. Jones said Friday that the U.S. government "deplores" the decision to single out Israel and would "not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel's national security."  (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Sacrificed Israel for Success of NPT Conference - Yossi Melman
    The conference of the signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a diplomatic victory for Egypt and a failure for Israel. During the previous meeting in 2005, the U.S. refused to accept parts of the draft document that called on Israel to join the NPT and turned down the idea of holding talks in order to create a region free of nuclear weapons - even at the cost of the conference's failure. President Barack Obama and his administration opted for success at the conference over Israel. This time the decision pushes forth two key issues beyond the 1995 document negotiated by the Clinton administration. It talks of a target date - 2012 - for holding a conference, and appointing a special coordinator who will visit the region and hold talks for holding such a conference. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel: NPT Review Conference Ignores Mideast Realities
    The Prime Minister's Office issued the following statement Saturday in response to the NPT Review Conference resolution: "This resolution is deeply flawed and hypocritical: It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world. It singles out Israel, the Middle East's only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution. The real problem with weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East does not relate to Israel but to those countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and brazenly violated it - Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Libya, Syria and Iran."
        "As a non-signatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this conference, which has no authority over Israel. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation. Regarding the practical consequences of this resolution for Israel, we take note of the important clarifications that have been made by the United States regarding its policy. The Prime Minister will discuss this issue with President Obama on his upcoming visit to Washington this Tuesday."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel Deflects Pressure on Nuclear Weapons - Tim Franks
    Prof. Uzi Even of Tel Aviv University says that talk of a nuclear-free Middle East is premature. "There is no country in the world like Israel, which feels as threatened as Israel. And there is no country in the world which has any justification to keep nuclear weapons, except for Israel. It would be very foolish to ask us to disarm, because we won't. I am at the age where the Holocaust is very, very fresh in my memory."
        Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, says that not just Iran, but Iraq, Libya and Syria have all pursued a military nuclear capability, despite being signatories to the NPT. Making Israel sign would just "make the region safe for conventional war." Having Israel change its posture of nuclear ambiguity, he says, "would satisfy a small community of arms control experts in Washington and London, but it might leave the Middle East a much more dangerous place." And that is why the Israeli government insists that the time to push for a nuclear-free Middle East is only after the region is covered by a comprehensive peace agreement. (BBC News)
  • Observations:

    The Seizure of the Gaza Flotilla (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • A state of armed conflict exists between Israel and the Hamas regime controlling Gaza. Hamas has launched 10,000 rockets against Israeli civilians, and is presently smuggling in arms and military supplies into Gaza, by land and sea, in order to fortify its positions and continue its attacks.
    • Under international law, Israel has the right to protect the lives of its civilians from Hamas attacks, and, consequently, has undertaken measures to defend itself, including the imposition of a maritime blockade to curb Hamas rearmament. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no vessels can enter the blockaded area. The ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza.
    • Israel repeatedly offered the flotilla organizers to land in the port of Ashdod, and to transfer their aid to Gaza through the existing overland crossings, in accordance with established procedures. The flotilla organizers rejected this offer, stating clearly that "this mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege." (Greta Berlin, AFP, 27May10)
    • When it became clear that the protest flotilla intended to violate the blockade despite repeated warnings, Israeli Naval personnel boarded the vessels of the flotilla, and redirected them to Ashdod. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, there was an operational need to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.
    • The Israeli Navy was met with violent opposition, two pistols were found in the hands of protesters, and over a dozen Israeli personnel were hospitalized, some in critical condition.

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