Monday, February 23, 2009

Israel Slams Amnesty Report

Hana Levi Julian Israel Slams Amnesty Report

The Foreign Ministry has slammed a report by the human rights organization Amnesty International that called for an end to arms sales to Israel. The London-based group has also asked the international community to embargo delivery of military supplies to Israel and the terrorist groups that have vowed to destroy the Jewish State. Amnesty International's Middle East director Malcolm Smart said when the 38-page report was published late Sunday night that the Obama administration should immediately suspend military aid to Israel, citing "gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights."

Smart called on the United Nations Security Council to impose "an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups," clearly equating the Jewish State with the terrorists that target its civilians.

In the report, the head of the group's fact-finding mission in Gaza and southern Israel, Donatella Rovera, charged that "Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the U.S. to carry out serious violations of international law, including war crimes. Their attacks resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children and other civilians, and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure."

Rovera also said that Hamas and allied terrorists had committed war crimes by launching rockets at Israeli civilians in the western Negev.

Israel's Foreign Ministry fired back Monday morning with a statement saying the report "presents a biased version of the events" of the recent counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, noting that the report neglected to mention the 10,000 rockets and mortars fired at Israel over the last eight years.

Moreover, asserted the ministry, the report "does not adhere to professional criteria and objectivity," noting that there was no mention in the organization's report of Hamas's open and deliberate use of civilians as human shields. "Hamas openly and in an organized fashion uses women and children to protect military targets, and booby-trap homes and public buildings," read the statement. "The IDF never intentionally targeted civilians," it pointed out.

The ministry added that credibility of the report is also suspect due to the data having been gathered from witnesses who were "interested parties and under Hamas pressure, as has been documented by many independent investigations in the international media."

Amnesty International also blatantly ignored "the basic fact" that Hamas is recognized as a bona fide terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States and other countries, the ministry said. "This organization [Hama has constantly refused to recognize Israel, rejects any opportunity for peace with it, and openly aspires to bring about its destruction."

NGO Media Monitor: 'Campaign to Deprive Israel of Self-Defense'

The harsh report was "clearly part of a campaign to deprive Israel of the means to defend itself," according to NGO Media Monitor director Prof. Gerald Steinberg.

"Amnesty's moral bankruptcy is further reflected by the refusal to condemn the aggression and blatant genocidal objectives as proclaimed by Hamas leaders," he said.

"Journalists who quote from this report without independent verification of the claims, and who omit mention of Amnesty's systematic ideological bias, are contributing to these false claims," the NGO Monitor warned.
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4. Researchers Return to Israel
by Hillel Fendel Researchers Return to Israel

The Education Ministry reports that the current academic year of 5769 (2008-9) has seen the re-absorption of 104 “returning scientists” in Israel. They are engaged in research in seven universities, in disciplines such as nanotechnology, biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as education, history and law.

Only 30 academics returned to Israel in the preceding year.

The sum of 95 million shekels (roughly $24 million) has been budgeted for their return, including the establishment of labs and improving the research facilities in the universities that accepted them. The difficult process of allocating the funds to the various institutions according to various criteria has not yet been completed, however.

The Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education in the Education Ministry released the statistics. Many of the returning academics are young Ph.D.’s with 4-6 years of research experience in their fields. Others have been abroad for between 10 and 25 years, and have been granted full professor status here in Israel.

Among the returnees are top figures in their fields, who have taught in prestigious schools such as Stanford, Oxford, MIT, and NYU, as well as National Institutes of Health (U.S.), Geneva University, ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), and others.

Planning and Budgeting Committee Chairman Prof. Shlomo Grossman said, “The world financial crisis has opened a window of opportunity for Israel to bring back its ‘best minds’ who assumed key positions in universities and research institutes around the world. The return of young and experienced scientists will significantly strengthen Israel’s academia.”
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5. Olmert Suspends Amos Gilad
by Hana Levi Julian Olmert Suspends Amos Gilad

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suspended top government negotiator Amos Gilad on Sunday after the senior Defense Ministry official publicly criticized him as well as decisions taken by the Cabinet. In a rare move, Olmert also filed a formal complaint against the head of the ministry's Diplomatic-Security division with the Civil Services Commission.

The disciplinary action came after Gilad slammed the government in an interview with the Hebrew-language Ma'ariv newspaper last week just prior to a Security Cabinet meeting, according to a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office.

Olmert had insisted on linking the reopening of the Gaza crossings to commercial traffic, and any other ceasefire agreement, to the precondition that Hamas terrorists first return kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The Security Cabinet voted unanimously on Wednesday to back that decision although Egypt had understood that an agreeement to return Shalit would not be concluded until after it completed mediating a ceasefire with Hamas.

"I don't understand what they are trying to do," Gilad told the newspaper. "Insult the Egyptians? We've already done that. This is insanity, simply insanity. Egypt remains almost our last ally here. For what? We are harming national security."

The Defense Ministry negotiator angrily denied allegations by the Prime Minister's Office that he negotiated with the Egyptians on certain points without government authorization and was maneuvering Olmert into a deal on a ceasefire that he didn't want.

"I was briefed before every trip I took," he asserted, "and I briefed the defense minister and the prime minister when I returned, usually that same night."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak backed his negotiator and issued a statement saying that it was "a shame" that the outgoing prime minister had decided to use the last days of his term to settle accounts with a "dedicated and excellent public servant."

Barak noted that Gilad had contributed to the security of the state for dozens of years, adding that he was known for his "seriousness, responsibility and integrity."
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6. Livni’s Door Closed but Unlocked
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Livni’s Door Closed but Unlocked

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni late Sunday night rejected Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to convince her to join a Likud-led unity government but agreed to meet again with the Prime Minister-designate. He received encouragement earlier in the day when Livni’s predecessor, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, praised Netanyahu at a Cabinet meeting for his efforts to create a wide coalition including the major parties.

Netanyahu and Livni met Sunday night for the first time since the Knesset election two weeks ago.

The Likud leader and former Prime Minister promised Kadima "full partnership” in the government, meaning at least two of the three top ministerial spots in the defense, finance and foreign affairs portfolios. However, Livni has insisted on a rotational government in which she and Netanyahu each would serve as prime minister for two years.

She has refused the offer for a unity government because of what she says are basic differences in the parties' policies. Livni favors continuing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for a new Arab state it wants to head, while Netanyahu has conditioned the establishment of such a state on the PA’s existence as a viable economic entity, among other factors

Differences in their stands on the Golan Heights are more stark, with the Likud emphatically refusing to negotiate a surrender of the strategic area to Syria, in contrast to Livni’s willingness to raise the issue with Damascus.

Explaining her refusal to join a unity government, she said, “If we compromise in order to be partners in a government which has a path that is not our path, it will be betraying the confidence of voters.”

Most of Kadima's senior party members have publicly backed her stand, which would leave Netanyahu with the alternative of forming a government coalition with the Israel Is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu), Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) Ichud Leumi (National Union) and Jewish Home parties.

Livni, after taking over the helm of Kadima from Olmert last September, failed to form a unity government because she rejected the Shas party’s conditions for joining a coalition. Netanyahu also rejected her offer for unity government, explaining that the country wanted elections.

Voters went to the polls February 10 to election a new national government, but the outcome showed a sharp division in the population. Kadima eked out a one-seat victory over the Likud but was left without any support from other parties to form a government, leaving both Livni and Netanyahu to declare each as the winner in the election.
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7. Prime Minister Regrets 'Siege'
by Maayana Miskin Prime Minister Regrets 'Siege'

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Israel's “occupation” of Gaza was causing worldwide anti-Semitism. In his weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said the restrictions on Gaza caused hatred, adding, “It should be remembered that we see the occupation as problematic.”

The Prime Minister, whose government supports the removal of Jews from most of Judea and Samaria, added, "As long as this reality continues, it makes it possible to attack Israel and gives anti-Jewish sources the opportunity to be heard. The complicated situation we're in encourages anti-Semitism.”

Olmert was reacting to reports of an increase in anti-Semitism worldwide since Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

His reference to Israel as “occupiers” was seen as an attack on more than 250,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria by his implicit reference of their presence as an "occupation," a term used by dovish groups who favor Israel’s surrendering all of the land restored to the Jewish State in the Six-Day War in 1967.

“As long as we continue to be presented as occupiers, we'll continue to suffer from anti-Semitism. We'd do well not to forget the overall picture and the complex meaning of being an occupier,” Olmert said.

In what some perceived as an attempt to cement steps for creating a new Arab country, Olmert issued a warning to Israel's next government, saying the government must understand “what we will face, if we give the sense that domination over another people is integral to our worldview and that we don't plan to make any dramatic changes.”

He also made a blunt appeal to Tzipi Livni, who succeeded him as Kadima party leader, to join a national unity government led by Binyamin Netanyahu, chairman of the Likud. Olmert, with Livni sitting at his side, "blessed" Netanyahu for his efforts to create a wide coalition government with Kadima.

Olmert began his term as Prime Minister with plans for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria. In 2007 he began negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for the creation of a PA state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

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