November 21, 2011-US, UK and France Take Action Against Iran, New From Egypt and Jordan, New Libel Law in Israel

It has been two weeks since the IAEC issued its report on Iranian nuclear developments. Israel's hope has been that the world community would take the necessary actions to stop the program. At first, there was disappointment, as it become apparent that Russia and China were not going to step in. However in the last few days it has been clear that the US, Canada, and the EU would go it alone in imposing additional sanctions. Today, President Sarkozy of France called on his fellow EU members to impose the harshest possible sanction on Iran's central bank, as well as on its Petrochemical industry.

Late this afternoon the White House issued a copy of President Obama's Executive Order targeting Iran's oil industry. The order, as I understand it (a copy of the President's order arrived in my "inbox" literaly ten minutes ago), provides secondary sanctions on any company doing oil business with Iran. This level of sanctions will force any international company to either stop doing business with Iran or be forced to do no business with the United States or American companies. See the order. Furthermore, the White House has just announced that, together with the UK France and Canada, that under the patriot act it is determining that the Iranian Central bank aids terrorism and thus will sanction any bank that interacts with the Iranian bank, thus severly effecting all of Iran's international banking relationships.

Events in Egypt have once again taken center stage. Trying to get a clear picture of the events is difficult, as there are many conflicting reports. However, as best as can be determined, the fight taking place in the streets of Cairo and of some of the other cities in Egypt, is all about the role of the military, as well as the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the new Egypt. The military would like to guarantee that a future Constitution preserve the special role of the military. The military sees themselves as the guardians of the nation. They wish to operate without oversight over their budget or over their other actions. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood has made no bones about its hope to establish a “modern Islamic State” in Egypt. Neither group wanted violence, but neither have they been able to reach an understanding to date. As a result, the more extreme elements of both parties have pushed for the current confrontation. Where this confrontation is going is not clear. The current Egyptian interim government has offered to resign, but the path forward is unclear. The current Egyptian election plan has many stages, and its uncertain that anybody will have the patience to see the plan though.

Today, King Abduallal of Jordan visited the Palestinian Authority's President Abbas in Ramallah. While the stated reason for the visit was to discuss Palestinian unity, King Abdullah's main concern was the rising demonstrations in Jordan by Palestinian members of the Muslim Brotherhood. While the demonstrations started small, they have gained momentum. And while not yet threatening the regime, their direction is clearly troubling.

Meanwhile, back in Israel, tonight, the Knesset approved a bill, on first reading, that would ostensibly strengthen libel laws. However the law effectively stifles criticism of officials by the press. The law increases the penalty for libel many fold. The inherent problem with the law is how libel laws are structed in Israel, as opposed to the US and other Western countries. In Israel, the burden of proof for libel is with the accused. S/he must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the story told is correct. There is no need for the person libeled to prove damage, and even more important, in distinction from the US, where the concept of "Freedom of the Press" has created a much higher standard for what is considered "libelous" when it comes to public official; under Israel law no such exception is granted. Thus, any claim against a public official that cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt would be considered libel. This measure, joins a whole list of recent legislation that are very problematic, for those who believe in civil liberties. I will devote a special column in the near future to this important subject.