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April 4, 2011

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Washington Quietly Halts Arms Delivery to Lebanon - Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
    The U.S. has quietly frozen weapon shipments to Lebanon's armed forces following the collapse of the country's pro-Western government in January, underlining growing concerns about Hizbullah's role there.
    The arms freeze was approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates but hasn't been publicly announced.
    Defense officials said the U.S. is continuing to provide training and nonlethal assistance to the Lebanese military.

Israel Urges Russia to Reassess Syria Missile Deal (Reuters)
    Jerusalem has urged Moscow to review its plans to sell anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria, Israel's ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender said Sunday.
    Russia said in February it would sell two surface-to-air rocket units armed with P-800, or Yakhont, missiles to Damascus in a deal worth $300 million.
    Israel fears the missiles, capable of hitting ships 300 km. off Syria's coast, could end up in the hands of Hizbullah.
    Golender said the issue was raised during talks between Russian President Medvedev and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Moscow on March 24.

Afghan Mob Kills Seven Foreign UN Staff (Reuters)
    An angry mob that killed three UN civilian staff and four Ghurkha security guards in north Afghanistan ripped out the door of a bunker where several had taken shelter, and slit the throat of one man who survived a bullet, the top UN envoy in the country, Staffan de Mistura, said on Saturday.
    Some 3,000 demonstrators, enraged by the burning of a Koran by a militant fundamentalist Christian in the U.S., overran the compound.
    See also Inside the Massacre at Afghan Compound - Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib (Wall Street Journal)
    Mazar-e-Sharif has long been considered one of the safest cities in Afghanistan. So the diverse UN staff - including a female Norwegian fighter pilot, a seasoned Russian diplomat, and a German woman - took few precautions even when the mob converged on their compound.

U.S. Shifts to Seek Removal of Yemen's Leader, an Ally - Laura Kasinof and David E. Sanger (New York Times)
    The U.S., which long supported Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh, has now concluded that he is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office, according to American and Yemeni officials.

Report: Al-Qaeda Members in Brazil Planning Attacks (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda operatives are in Brazil planning attacks, raising money and recruiting followers, the Veja news magazine reported Saturday.
    At least 20 people affiliated with al-Qaeda as well as Hizbullah, Hamas and two other organizations have been hiding out in Brazil, working to incite attacks abroad.
    A Lebanese man named Khaled Hussein Ali, who has lived in Brazil since 1998, is an important member of al-Qaeda's propaganda operation and has coordinated extremists in 17 countries.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Head of UN Panel Regrets Saying Israel Intentionally Killed Gazans - Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner
    Richard Goldstone, an esteemed South African jurist who led the panel of experts that spent months examining the Gaza war, wrote in an opinion article in the Washington Post that Israeli investigations into the conflict "indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy." "If I had known then what I know now," he wrote, "the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."  (New York Times)
        See also below Commentary: Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes - Richard Goldstone (Washington Post)
        See also Israel Asks for Goldstone Report to Be Repealed - Aron Heller
    Israel said Sunday it was launching an international campaign to push the UN to rescind a scathing report on Israeli war conduct in Gaza two years ago, after the report's author, international jurist Richard Goldstone, said that his most serious accusation against Israel - that it deliberately targeted civilians - appeared to have been wrong.
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday that Goldstone's comments vindicated Israel's wartime conduct. "There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel. This happened in the case of the Goldstone report....This leads us to call for the immediate cancellation of the Goldstone report."  (AP)
        See also In Israel, Goldstone's Gaza War Retraction Triggers "Earthquake" of Vindication - Joshua Mitnick (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Syria Tightens Security Following Protests - Bassem Mroue
    Syrian security agents made sweeping arrests Saturday in and around the capital, Damascus, as President Bashar Assad tried to cut off two weeks of deadly pro-democracy demonstrations that are threatening his family's ruling dynasty. Syria has restricted media access and expelled journalists, including two Associated Press journalists. (AP)
  • Jones: Iran "Agitating" in Mideast Turmoil - Candy Crowly
    President Obama's former national security adviser James Jones told CNN on Sunday: "Iran is...flying under the radar right now because you...don't hear too much about their nuclear program, because everybody is focused elsewhere. But you can bet that Iran is affecting virtually everything and trying to play in every one of these countries where we're having some difficulty. Even though under the banner of democracy and change, Iran is out there agitating things."
        "A nuclear weapons capable Iran is very dangerous. It would certainly cause a nuclear arms race in the Gulf....They would not hesitate to export that technology to their surrogates. And that would be very dangerous."  (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Airstrike in Gaza Foils Hamas Holiday Kidnapping Plot - Amos Harel, Jack Khoury, and Anshel Pfeffer
    The Israel Air Force attacked a Hamas unit in Gaza early Saturday, killing three including a senior Hamas military leader. Defense sources said the Hamas unit was on its way to Sinai to abduct Israelis during the upcoming Passover holiday. Defense sources also noted that the security situation in Sinai has deteriorated since the fall of former Egyptian President Mubarak. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israelis Warned of Terror Threat in Sinai - Attila Somfalvi
    Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel warning Saturday urging all Israelis to leave the Sinai Peninsula immediately, following the killing of three Hamas terrorists in Gaza. "Terror agents in Sinai are preparing an attack together with local Bedouin," the warning said. "Security forces have reliable and updated information showing that terror agencies are currently attempting to kidnap Israelis in Sinai for negotiation purposes."  (Ynet News)
  • Jordanian Protests Continue - Ben Hartman
    A massive police presence on Friday kept an antigovernment protest in Amman from descending into the sort of violence that left one man dead and over 150 injured in clashes with police and pro-government supporters in the Jordanian capital a week earlier. The demonstration was organized by the "March 24th Movement," which, while started mainly by young people, has taken on a heavily Islamic membership. The crowd at Friday's rally included a high number of men with long beards and virtually all the women present were in full Islamic garb.
        Portraits of King Abdullah II were held up at both the pro-government and anti-government rallies Friday. "We're all with the king; we all know that Jordan would be destroyed without the Hashemite kingdom. We just want the corrupt people in the government out," said Yahan Bataineh, 35. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Still Intends to Pursue Israeli "War Crimes" at UN, ICC - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
    The Palestinian Authority on Sunday said it still intends to use the Goldstone Report to push for condemnation of Israeli "war crimes" in Gaza - both at the UN and the International Criminal Court, even after jurist Richard Goldstone said that his report had erred. Palestinians accused Goldstone of "surrendering to Zionist pressure and threats."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes - Richard Goldstone
    We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.
        The final report by the UN committee that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that "Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza" while "the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel." The investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the UN committee's report indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
        I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within. Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations.
        Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The UN Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms. The writer, a retired justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, chaired the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict. (Washington Post)
  • Judge Richard Goldstone: "Never Mind" - Jeffrey Goldberg
    South African Jewish judge Richard Goldstone, who excoriated Israel for allegedly committing premeditated crimes against civilians in Gaza - contributing, more than any other individual, to the delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state - now says, well, Israel didn't actually set out to target Palestinian civilians, unlike Hamas, whose plainly-apparent goal was to murder Israeli civilians. Well, I'm glad he's cleared that up. Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel, once it has been broadcast across the world. (Atlantic Monthly)
        See also Video: British Colonel - "The IDF Did More to Safeguard Civilians Than Any Other Army" (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Mr. Goldstone Recants - Editorial
    We would welcome this apologia if we didn't think a jurist of Mr. Goldstone's stature should have known the difference between a democracy like Israel with a history of investigating its own failings under the rule of law, and a self-avowed terrorist state like the one Hamas runs in Gaza. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Richard Goldstone's Legacy - Avi Bell
    When the Goldstone Report was first published in 2009, with a brew of blood libels and legal fallacies that exceeded even the usual anti-Israel vitriol produced by the UN Human Rights Council, Goldstone went on a PR offensive. He took to the airwaves to try to sell the idea that the report, which conspicuously and repeatedly denied or whitewashed nearly all of Hamas' crimes, was accurate in accusing Israelis and Israel's leadership of the most monstrous crimes and motives. The writer is a professor of law at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)

The Palestinian UN Gamble - Irresponsible and Ill-Advised - Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The Palestinian leadership has announced its intention to abandon the negotiation process and to unilaterally seek a UN resolution that will impose a solution upon Israel. Facing a possible veto in the Security Council, the Palestinians are aiming to impose a UN resolution through the General Assembly "Uniting for Peace" procedure, which they hope will be supported by the UN member states.
  • While such a resolution would not have the authority to alter the legal status of the territories, the negative consequences of such a course of action would nevertheless serve to void the very basis of the peace process. It would undermine the legal existence of the Palestinian Authority and violate commitments by Yasser Arafat to settle all issues by negotiation.
  • Such unilateral action outside the negotiation process would constitute a fundamental breach of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, thereby releasing Israel from its reciprocal commitments.
  • Such unilateral action would undermine the international community's reliance on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which form the foundation of all the agreements between the parties. It would also place into question the integrity and credibility of any Security Council resolutions or agreements resolving conflicts between states.
  • It would render as meaningless the signatures of the major powers as witnesses to previous negotiated agreements. It would also be incompatible with provisions of resolutions and agreements requiring negotiated solutions to the Jerusalem and refugee issues.

    Amb. Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the various agreements comprising the Oslo Accords.

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