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August 12, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Fatah: Terrorists Who Killed 37 Israelis Were "Heroic" - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    A public Fatah event held this month under the auspices of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas included a song celebrating Fatah's 1978 terror attack in which 37 Israeli civilians were murdered in a bus hijacking.
    In addition, two summer camps for Palestinian youth were named after Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist who led the 1978 attack, and participants wore shirts with Mughrabi's picture.
    The Secretary of Fatah in Bethlehem, Yousuf Al-Aref, explained that "naming such summer camps after the shahida (martyr) Dalal Mughrabi strengthens the sense of belonging and citizenship among Palestinian girls."

Turkey Backs Gasoline Sales to Iran Despite Sanctions - Orhan Coskun (Reuters)
    Turkey will support gasoline sales by Turkish companies to Iran despite U.S. sanctions, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday.
    Any firms that sell gasoline to Iran could face retribution including a possible ban from accessing the U.S. financial system or denial of U.S. contracts, according to a document from the U.S. Treasury.
    Tupras, Turkey's sole refiner and gasoline exporter, buys 33% of its crude from Iran. A Tupras official said, "For us, Iran is more important than America, because we get crude oil from them. We don't get anything from America."

Israeli Technology Clears Landmines in Angola - Adam Gonn (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    Airborne sensors developed in Israel are helping to detect land mines in Angola, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.
    While the civil war in the east African nation ended in 1994, half a million land mines were left behind and detecting them has been cumbersome and labor intensive.
    Now Geomine, an Israeli company, has introduced a special camera that picks them out without having to touch the ground.
    The method allows for a large area to be surveyed quickly and accurately, said Avi Buzaglo Yoresh, the company's director general.

Covering Up the Female Sex Is Big Business in Istanbul - Peter Hitchens (Daily Mail-UK)
    In a workshop in Istanbul, two men were bent over sheets and patches of very black cloth, their sewing-machines whirring urgently, making dark robes and masks for women to wear.
    In the Istanbul district of Fatih I see a phalanx of veiled women, some wholly shrouded, their downcast eyes glimpsed through a slot, in chadors exactly like those commanded by the ayatollahs in Tehran. These are a new feature of Istanbul since I was last here a few years ago.
    Covering up the female sex is big business here now. The owner of an independent Islamic clothes shop complains to me that trade isn't as good as it used to be because he now faces so much competition.

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  • IDF Chief of Staff: Flotilla Activists Fired First - Isabel Kershner
    Testifying before an Israeli commission of inquiry, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli Army chief of staff, said Wednesday that activists on a Turkish ship were the first to open fire as Israeli naval commandos raided the vessel. The soldiers who rappelled onto the ship from a helicopter one by one were immediately set upon by the activists, some wielding axes, knives, iron bars and clubs, he said. The second soldier who fast-roped onto the roof of the Mavi Marmara was shot in the abdomen and fired back, and that it was "clear and established" that flotilla participants opened fire first. The military said it found ammunition, cartridges and bullets that were not from the Israeli Army. (New York Times)
        See also Israel "Failed to Use Enough Force" in Raid
    Troops failed to use enough force when taking over the Gaza-bound flotilla, Israel's top general said. "We needed to have people alongside the ship with precise weapons to neutralize those who were preventing the soldiers rappelling down from the helicopter," he told an Israeli commission of inquiry. "Our central mistake was that we didn't manage to create the conditions to achieve maximum strength in minimum time." The military had "underestimated the intensity of the resistance we would encounter on board the ship."
        The general rejected accusations that some of the dead had been shot "execution-style." "I reject this with derision," he said. "Was there shooting point blank? Yes indeed - there was an instance where someone attacked a soldier with an axe from close range. Somebody with an axe - that is life-threatening."  (AFP)
        See also Chief of Staff: IDF Couldn't Predict Flotilla Raid's Outcome
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told the panel investigating the Gaza flotilla raid that he was "proud" of the soldiers who took part. "The commandos exhibited calm, bravery and morality in accordance with IDF values," Ashkenazi told the committee. "From the moment the operation began, it was clear that the circumstances were unprecedented," he said. The soldiers who opened fire did so because their lives were in danger. "The soldiers legitimately opened fire and shot those who they needed to shoot and not those who they didn't need to shoot."
        "We should have used precise fire to incapacitate those preventing the soldiers from boarding the ship to reduce the risk to our soldiers. This is the main lesson for the next operation." Ashkenazi said the army was not familiar with IHH, the Turkish group that organized the sail to Gaza. "We did not investigate the organization...because it is not defined as a terror organization and is based in Turkey, which is not an enemy state."  (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Wants to Give Iran Sanctions Time to Work - Matt Spetalnick
    The U.S. has enough "wiggle room" to give sanctions time to work against Iran before turning to other ways to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, Jim Jones, President Obama's national security adviser, told CNN on Wednesday. "We want to give these sanctions a good shot at working before we do anything else," he said. "We have indications, as the president said last week, that the sanctions are in fact causing them a great deal of difficulty, that the nuclear program is not quite as progressive as some might have thought a year ago," Jones said. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Lebanon: We'll Reject U.S. Military Aid If Weapons Can't Be Used Against Israel - Natasha Mozgovaya
    Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said Wednesday he would reject any U.S. military assistance to Lebanon's army if it comes with conditions that the weapons not be used against Israel. Murr said those who place conditions on how their funds or weapons are used should keep their money. He also said a Lebanese soldier who opened fire across the border with Israel, killing Lt. Col. (res.) Dov Harari, was acting on orders. (AP-Ha'aretz)
  • Mitchell Meetings Fail to Produce Direct Talks - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    An announcement of the restart of direct Palestinian-Israeli talks continued to elude visiting U.S. envoy George Mitchell Wednesday. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat stressed that the PA was sticking to its position that Israel should first recognize the 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state and halt settlement construction as a precondition for entering into direct talks. However, a U.S. official said that while the Palestinians were seeking U.S. guarantees in support of its position, "we are very sincere in saying that they need to sit down and do this face to face. Any other understanding that would preempt sitting and talking together is not best for the process."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Playing with Israel's Future - George F. Will
    Two photographs adorn the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One photograph is of Theodor Herzl, Zionism's founding father. Long before the Holocaust, he concluded that Jews could find safety only in a national homeland. The other photograph is of Winston Churchill, who considered himself "one of the authors" of Britain's embrace of Zionism.
        World War II convinced European elites that the continent's nearly fatal disease was nationalism, the cure for which must be the steady attenuation of nationalities. Israel, with its deep sense of nationhood, is beyond unintelligible to such Europeans. It is perverse that the European Union, a semi-fictional political entity, serves as part of the "quartet" that supposedly will broker peace in our time between Israel and the Palestinians. (Washington Post)
  • Ignoring the Obvious about Abbas - Jonathan Tobin
    According to the New York Times, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is merely a matter of American pressure on the Jewish state to force it to make the concessions that will magically end the conflict. In its Aug. 10 editorial, the Times agrees that it is too bad that the Israelis won't concede every point to be negotiated in advance of the talks and that the White House has come to understand that efforts to hammer Israel in the past year and a half have been both diplomatically unproductive and politically disastrous. But the editorial warns Abbas that he's wrong if he thinks time is on his side.
        Abbas' greatest fear is getting into real peace negotiations because he knows he can't make peace with Israel, no matter what the terms of the agreement or where the final borders might be drawn. Ehud Olmert offered him an even sweeter deal in 2008 than the ones offered to Arafat, and he wouldn't even talk about it. What the Times fails to understand is that it is precisely because of the power of Hamas and the weakness of Abbas, who rightly understands that the dynamics of Palestinian politics forbid any agreement that would recognize the legitimacy of Israel, there is no chance that the PA leader will ever accede to their wishes. (Commentary)
  • Lebanon Debates Giving Palestinians Rights - Zeina Karam
    The 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, many of them born there, are barred by law from any but the most menial professions and are denied many basic rights. Now the Lebanese parliament is debating a new law that would allow Palestinians to work in any profession and own property, as well as give them social security benefits.
        But the proposal faces stiff resistance. Lebanon's population of 4 million is divided between 18 sects, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Druse, and every community is highly sensitive to anything that could tip the balance of power in the country. Christians and Shiites are particularly worried about any possible permanent settling of the refugees, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Hizbullah: Hating Israel and Palestinians - Mudar Zahran (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Israelis Don't Appreciate the Politics of Gestures - Benjamin Kerstein interviewed by Michael J. Totten (Pajamas Media)

    • "Officials in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere are much less naive than their public statements make them appear. I don't think many of them believe that the peace process, for instance, is nearly as easy as they say it should be....They're smart enough to know that a lot of it isn't Israel's fault, but by blaming most of it on Israel they can buy themselves leverage in the Arab world. I think the Arab world understands this perfectly well, that it's the politics of the gesture."
    • "When foreign governments say Israel has to make concessions and take responsibility for the conflict, Israelis take it all very seriously. The charge of disproportionality during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the Goldstone Report - Israelis do not take into consideration the possibility that these may just be gestures. Israelis take it personally, and they become very angry. Israelis feel very strongly that the world is against them."
    • "Most Israelis are here because they fled from Muslim and European countries. They don't feel that either of those blocs have the right to lecture them about anything. Why should a country where your parents were expelled or killed have the right to tell you how to conduct yourself in a war against people who are trying to kill you today? This is something hardly any non-Israelis understand. They don't understand how galling we find this."
    • "Israelis are often accused of being arrogant, but they find it extremely arrogant for Europeans and Arabs to lecture them about morals, especially during a war. What has Israel ever done that is as brutal as what Europe did to the Jews, or what Arabs routinely do to even each other during armed conflicts?"

      Benjamin Kerstein is a Tel Aviv-based senior writer for The New Ledger.

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