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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Some headlines and summaries from JTA

Gates: Iranian nuclear strike unlikely

Iran is unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, President Bush’s nominee for defense secretary said.

Addressing the U.S. Senate in his confirmation hearings Tuesday, Robert Gates said he did not discount threats to Israel from Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but added that he believed that the religious establishment controlling Iran was less inclined to an attack.

“There are, in fact, higher powers in Iran than he, than the president,” Gates said.

“And I think that while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons — Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf.”

He said a U.S. attack on Iran or Syria could destabilize the region.

Gates, who was referred to the full Senate unanimously by its Armed Services Committee, added that he was surprised upon the announcement of his nomination that the first nations to congratulate him were Israel and some Arab countries.

Report: Hezbollah committed war crimes

A new report using declassified Israeli military materials documents Hezbollah’s use of civilians as human shields and other war crimes during this summer’s conflict.
The American Jewish Congress helped the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Institute for Special Studies, a private research group with close ties to Israeli intelligence, prepare and translate the report.

Seen as a semi-official Israeli response to charges that Israel committed war crimes by attacking civilian areas of Lebanon, the report shows how Hezbollah fighters deliberately operated from within populated areas and exploited civilian cover during the 34-day war with Israel, in violation of international law.

Most of the report, which Israel hopes will help deter war-crimes suits threatened by Lebanese and foreign activist groups, appears on

Israeli envoy: Protect Lebanon

The world ignores the threat to Lebanon’s government at its peril, Israel’s new ambassador to the United States said.
“It should be the world’s challenge to make sure that Lebanon does not fall into the hands of Iran and Syria,” Sallai Meridor said Monday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, his first public appearance since his appointment three weeks ago.

Meridor said that if Hezbollah succeeds in toppling the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, it would be a victory in Iran’s plans to dominate the region and its oil supply.

“This Lebanese theater is being watched by the entire region,” he said.

Biden: Don’t link Iraq with Palestinian conflict

U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) said it would be “dangerously naive” to link the revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with progress on Iraq.
Speaking Monday to a gathering of the Israel Policy Forum in New York, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee responded to news reports that the Baker-Hamilton Commission is set to recommend reinvigorating American involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian track as a means to win moderate Arab support for stabilizing Iraq.

“Israeli-Palestinian peace should be pursued aggressively on its own merits, period, not as some sort of diplomatic price to make the Arab states feel good so they will help us in Iraq,” Biden said.

The Baker-Hamilton Commission, also known as the Iraq Study Group, is scheduled to present its recommendations Wednesday.

U.S. asking Qatar about P.A. aid offer

The United States is querying Qatar about its plans to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority teachers.
The international community has banned virtually all funding for the Palestinian Authority as long as its government is led by Hamas, a terrorist group, and U.S. authorities have threatened legal action against bodies that fund the Palestinian Authority.

Qatar recently offered to subsidize the salaries of 40,000 P.A. teachers.

“We’re talking to them about exactly what is the mechanism through which this assistance would flow and what exactly is the intended end use,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday.

There are mechanisms to get humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, McCormack said, but “if the intended use of this money is to pay salaries of Hamas government workers and that it gets funneled through the Hamas government, paid directly to the Hamas government, then that would cross the line of the existing international understanding.”

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to meet with her Qatari counterpart this week.

U.K. post resigned after controversial remarks

A peer in Britain’s Liberal Democrat party resigned as a trustee for a British charity over anti-Israel remarks.
Baroness Tonge’s resignation Tuesday followed months of controversy after she referred, during her party’s conference in September, to the “financial grips the pro-Israeli lobby has on the Western world.”

After pressure from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the party, gave Tonge a “severe reprimand,” but decided last week not to force her out of her position as parliamentary party whip.

However, after her resignation as a trustee for Christian Aid, a spokesman for the Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel predicted that it was “only a matter of time” until her party post is withdrawn.

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