Friday, July 25, 2014

Closed Sky Over Tel Aviv. Dark Sky Over Europe

by Giulio Meotti

The Israeli ambassador in Berlin, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, this week used three words and that fatal number to describe the situation: "It’s like 1938." Because the Jews are attacked once again in the streets of Germany.

Paraphrased slogans that date back to the days of Hitler, such as "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas", are heard during pro-Palestinian manifestations throughout all of Europe. And since Israel launched Operation Zuk Eitan - Protective Edge - the European Jews are falling back into a state of inferiority and fear.

Once again it is dangerous to be a Jew in Europe. The imam of a mosque in Berlin is under investigation for this sermon: “Oh Allah, destroy the Zionist Jews, count them and kill them to the last one”.

In Paris protesters are urged to adhere to “a raid in the Jewish Quarter”. It seems that the days of Klaus Barbie are come back in Paris.

Hundreds of French young people marched toward a synagogue shouting "Mort aux juifs," as happened in the days of Captain Dreyfus. In large urban areas such as Sarcelles, Créteil, Sartrouville and Saint-Denis, the tension is high. In the Marais, the historic Jewish district of the French capital, Jewish students are attacked if they are wearing tzitzit or kippahs. Meanwhile in the town of Roubaix, the home of the perpetrator of the massacre at the Jewish Museum in Brussels has become a pilgrimage site for Islamists.

There is no shortage of slogans like "Merah max", which praise the terrorist who killed Jewish students at a school in Tolouse.

Anti-Semitism is an old "maladie française", a French sickness. But now, it is worse than ever. Ten years ago, a million French people took to the streets against the wave of anti-Semitism crying "Synagogues brûlées, en République ranger”. Today the same streets are full of hatred for the Jews. And synagogues have been targeted.

In Amsterdam, the city of Baruch Spinoza, the home of the Dutch Chief Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs, has just been attacked twice  in one week.

Even in the Washington Post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been portrayed beating a Palestinian child in a cartoon. And the degeneration of journalism is rampant everywhere, from the Independent to Le Monde, newspapers where Jews are often depicted with a big nose (the Jew "Satan scarlet hawk-nosed" as Joseph Goebbels said).

Opinion makers and renowned directors of the humanitarian NGOs are comparing Gaza to Guernica and the security barrier to the Warsaw ghetto.

The CNN journalist in Israel, Diana Magnay, has been forced to resign after having defined the Israelis as "scum".

A war is waged against Israel in the best universities. Freedom of speech is granted to everyone in European universities, including the Islamists, but not to the Israelis, who are intimidated, isolated, execrated, often hunted. Recently, to name just one example, one of the most important US academic associations, the American Studies Association, voted for a boycott of Israeli universities and colleges.

In the parliamentary debates of Europe, Jews are  called “avengers” and charged with the world’s ills, while Islamic leaders enjoy the hypocrisy. From Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who compared Netanyahu to Hitler, to the former Malaysian mufti, Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who evoked the Austrian painter to explain that perhaps "he was right to exterminate the Jews" .

A number of Nobel Prize winners (Desmond Tu-tu, Betty Williams, Federico Mayor Zara-goza, Jody Williams, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Mairead Maguire and Rigoberta Men-chu) just called for a boycott of Israel, compared Israel to Apartheid in South Africa.

The Jewish State in the West has become an "appendix," a foreign entity, colonial, something to be removed. Europe seems to want to solve, once and for all, the "péché originel of Israel." The original sin of the creation of Israel.

The isolation of Israel is also economic, especially in northern Europe. The largest Danish bank, Danske Bank, has put the Israeli Hapoalim in its black list. Then came the decision of the Swedish bank Nordea to put under scrutiny the Israeli Leumi and Tefahot for their presence in Judea and Samaria. The largest Dutch pension fund, PGGM, withdrew five investments with financial institutions in Jerusalem. Even Abp, the third most important pension fund in the world, withdrew from the Israeli market.

Asher Ben-Natan, the Israeli ambassador to Germany in the ‘60s, attended a conference at the University of Munich. He was violently interrupted by activists of Israel’s boycott. A poster hanging in the auditorium read: "Only when the bombs explode in fifty Israeli supermarkets can be peace." Forty years have passed since then, the boycott has become mainstream and missiles are falling on the territory of Israel.

Since then, as the Dutch journalist Paul Andersson Toussaint has written, "anti-Semitism is again salonfähig." It is a German word used seventy years ago. It means acceptable in polite society.

An acid rain is falling on our heads.  The sky is sick over Europe. Meanwhile, over Tel Aviv, the sky has been closed. It is the first time in three decades.

Giulio Meotti


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israel Calls Out UNRWA for Claiming IDF Shelled School

by Elad Benari

UNRWA's claims that an evacuation of a Gaza school was prevented are untrue, says the IDF.
UNRWA HQ in Gaza
UNRWA HQ in Gaza
Flash 90
Israel on Thursday called out a United Nations aid agency for falsely claiming that the Israeli Defense Forces did not permit civilians to evacuate a Gaza school where 15 people were killed in an Israeli attack, reports the Washington Free Beacon.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) laid blame for the civilian deaths on the IDF, claiming it never received approval from the IDF for an evacuation from the facility.

UNRWA released a statement claiming, “UNRWA had been attempting to negotiate with the [IDF] a pause in the fighting during which they would guarantee a safe corridor to relocate staff and any displaced persons who chose to evacuate to a more secure location. Approval for that never came to UNRWA.”

Earlier, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness had similarly accused the IDF of preventing a civilian evacuation.

“Over the course of the day UNRWA tried 2 coodinate [sic] with the Israeli Army a window for civilians 2 leave & it was never granted,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness tweeted, following the strike.

Multiple IDF sources rejected UNRWA’s claims and characterized them as outright falsehoods when reached by the Washington Free Beacon.

“For two days we were trying to move people out of that school in particular and the Beit Hanoun area in general,” said an IDF official who was involved in the interactions between the IDF, UNRWA, and International Red Cross (ICRC) leading up to the incident.

The official continued, “This morning we sought a ceasefire in the area and a humanitarian evacuation of civilians, but Hamas refused—because they wanted to keep civilians in the area to protect their fighters who were firing on the IDF.”

The claim by Gunness and UNRWA that the IDF did not respond to their request to evacuate civilians, the source said, is “a flat-out complete and total lie,” the official told the Free Beacon.

When asked for further details about the incident, UNRWA claimed that its school in Beit Hanoun had been turned into “a battlefield” in recent days.

Many locals, including women and children, had sought shelter from the fighting in the school, believing it to be safe territory, according to UNRWA.

“This is the fourth time in the past four days that an UNRWA school has been struck by explosive projectiles,” UNRWA said.

An official IDF statement released to the Free Beacon said that “the IDF authorized a humanitarian time window for evacuation between 10:00-14:00 IDT earlier today. Hamas prevented the civilians from leaving it and once again used their infrastructure and international symbols as human shields. In the course of the afternoon, several rockets launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip landed in the Beit Hanoun area.”

“From initial inquiries done about the incident, during the intense fighting in the area, militants opened fire at IDF soldiers from the school area,” the statement said.

“In order to eliminate the threat posed to their lives, they responded with fire toward the origins of the shooting,” it added.

“The UNRWA claims that Israel prevented the safe evacuation of the school in Beit Hanoun are unfounded,” the statement concluded.

The IDF said earlier Thursday it was investigating claims that the school was shelled.

UNRWA has made headlines in recent days after it was discovered that Hamas stored rockets in its schools in Gaza.

UNRWA found the rockets in one of its vacant schools a week ago. It found a second batch in a vacant school on Tuesday, but said in a statement that because staff were withdrawn quickly, they were "unable to confirm the precise number."

In both cases UNRWA said it "informed the relevant parties," but did not identify who had been contacted.

It was later reported that rather than destroying the rockets, UNRWA workers called Hamas to come remove them.

While UNRWA confirmed the existence of rockets in one of its schools last week, the organization refused an Israeli request to provide a picture of the weapons. A picture could have helped Israel show that Hamas uses civilian institutions to store weapons and launch attacks.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over the finding of the rockets and directed the world body to deploy experts to deal with the situation

Elad Benari


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israel’s Morally Impossible Self-Defense

by Richard L. Cravatts

Israeli soldiers stand in front of Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City 

Seeming to give credence to Orwell’s observation that “Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence,” the world’s attention has turned once again to the clash between Hamas and Israel, as the Jewish state launches its ground incursion into Gaza in what is being called Operation Protective Edge. And predictably, as the body count rises on the Palestinian side, the moral arbiters of acceptable political behavior have begun condemning the Jewish state for its perceived abuses in executing its national self-defense.

Forgetting that Israel’s current campaign was necessitated by ceaseless rocket and mortar assaults on its southern towns from Hamas-controlled Gaza, international leaders and diplomats have initiated their moral hectoring of Israel as it attempts to shield its citizens from harm. Britain’s deputy Prime Minister, Nicolas Clegg, was adamant that Israel cease its self-defense. “I really would now call on the Israeli government to stop,” he said. “They have proved their point,” and had done so, in his opinion, through a deliberately “disproportionate form of collective punishment.”

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who presides over a morally bankrupt group comprised largely of despotic, authoritarian regimes, was quick to decide that “Too many” Palestinian civilians have been killed, and that he “feels a sense of responsibility for the Palestinians who, especially in the Gaza Strip, have long been denied the sense of freedom and dignity that they deserve,” presumably overlooking those same human rights being denied to Israelis who have lived under a rain of rockets since 2005.

But the most insidious refrain, one uttered only when Israel’s enemies are killed (certainly not when Jews are murdered), is that Israel’s military response is too aggressive, that the force and effect of the excursion into Gaza are beyond what is permitted under human rights law and the rules of war. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for instance, brushed aside any talk of justifiable self-defense, asserting that “. . . Israel is not defending itself, it is defending settlements, its main project.” Moreover, the deaths so far of some 200 Palestinians in the latest incursion is, according to Mr. Abbas, tantamount to “. . . 
genocide—the killing of entire families is genocide by Israel against our Palestinian people,” indicating both an ignorance of what that term actually signifies and a blindness to actual genocides occurring presently at the hand of his co-religionists elsewhere in the world.

The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, James Rawley, had thoughts only for the Palestinian victims of the conflict, sanctimoniously announcing that the Israeli response must be “proportionate” to the threats posed by Hamas attacks, and that “Our thoughts must first be with those many [Palestinian] civilians who have already lost their lives, and the even greater number of who have suffered physical or psychological injuries.”

The remonstrations of its many and far-flung critics aside, Israel is not the international outlaw here, but a victim now involved in a defensive countermeasure to terrorism against its citizenry. In fact, in a 2008 report, Justus Reid Weiner and Dr. Avi Bell, two legal scholars at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, noted that Hamas’s shelling of civilian targets within Israel’s borders—the direct cause of the current conflict—clearly violates international law and requires a military response from Israel, even though world observers have been oddly silent on the Palestinian incitement that is the cause of the present clashes.

“The Palestinian attacks,” they wrote, “violate one of the most basic rules of international humanitarian law, the rule of distinction, which requires combatants to aim all their attacks at legitimate targets – enemy combatants or objects that contribute to enemy military actions. Violations of the rule of distinction – attacks deliberately aimed at civilians or protected objects as such – are war crimes,” exactly what Hamas has been committing with its relentless rocket assaults. Hamas militants not only commit a war crime each time they lob a rocket or mortar into Israel from Gaza by virtue of the fact that the targets of those attacks are specifically and purposely civilian, not military, assets—a violation of the “distinction” rule—but also, in not wearing military uniforms and often posing as civilians, Hamas terrorists are also committing another crime, that of perfidy.

Article 48 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 is very clear about this prohibited behavior of combatants, stating that “[i]n order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Since the rockets Hamas aims at southern Israeli towns are launched randomly into civilian enclaves, and lack the technical sophistication to reliably be aimed at military targets even if that was Hamas’s actual intention, each of the 12,000 or so rockets that have come into Israel from Gaza since 2005 (including over 1000 this month alone) represents both an causis belli and a war crime.

“It is a central principle of just war theory,” observed Dr. Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, “that the self-defense of a people or a country cannot be made morally impossible.” 

Israel faces that precise dilemma every time it is forced to suppress Palestinian aggression and protect its populace from unending rocket assaults, particularly since its actions are widely and almost immediately denounced as excessive, disproportionate, and in violation of international law. Perceived as having unjustly dispossessed the Palestinians and accused of still occupying both the West Bank but also Gaza (and holding the latter under siege), and collectively punishing the Palestinian Arabs living there, Israel has been stripped of its moral standing in the community of nations and so its attempts at self-defense are at best tolerated.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against attacks of terrorists, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself. Few leaders in the West and none in the Arab world ever condemn Hamas for its chronic, unlawful terroristic behavior toward Israel, but the moment Israel undertakes military action it receives strict warnings for restraint, censure for its success in neutralizing Hamas strongholds, and eventual condemnation for the inevitable deaths of civilians—the collateral damage that is the tragic byproduct of conflicts fought in neighborhoods rather than battlefields.

Israel, which is promiscuously condemned for committing “crimes against humanity” and human rights violations, not only waited years before responding to Palestinian terrorism, but then, in one of the most populous areas on earth, scrupulously followed the rule of distinction by precisely targeting Hamas terrorists and infrastructure, with minimal, though still unfortunate, collateral damage to the Gaza civilian population – a feat made all the more difficult by Hamas’s insidious tactic of embedding rocket launchers and armament stores within homes, apartment buildings, schools, and mosques in residential neighborhoods.

Combat in the crowded streets and alleys of Gaza obviously makes warfare more difficult for Israel, especially in its attempt to minimize civilian casualties while maximizing the suppression of enemy fire and attempting to neutralize Hamas’s ability to continue to pose a threat in the future. Since, as mentioned, Hamas militants do not wear identifying uniforms, and embed themselves within civilian environments, Israel’s effort to maintain “distinction”— that is, scrupulously determining who is a legitimate military target and who is a civilian— is normally challenging and dangerous. And, knowing that the world community is apt to be harsh about any civilian deaths that result from Israel’s offensive—even though it Hamas who has created the circumstances by which those civilians will and have perished—Israel has resorted to extraordinary measures to avoid the death of non-combatants, including “knocking” on roofs to warm of imminent bombardment, distributing flyers, and using other warning techniques, all of which compromise Israel’s strategic advantage while helping to minimize civilian deaths. Even so, when the inevitable Palestinian civilian deaths occur (which seem to be a welcomed part of Hamas’s cognitive war against Israel), Israel is accused of violating the rule of “proportionality,” the other aspect of warfare which international law requires that prohibits a military response that causes more civilian deaths than would be considered necessary in achieving a set military objective.

In fact, collateral damage – the accidental killing of civilians during military conflicts – is itself allowed by international law, provided the actions that caused the civilian deaths are not, according to Weiner and Bell, excessive in relation to the military need. But the fact that deaths occur in civilian populations – even what might be perceived as excessive deaths – are not in and of themselves indicative of violations of international law, and, says Weiner and Bell, “if a state, like Israel, is facing aggression, then proportionality addresses whether force was specifically used by Israel to bring an end to the armed attack against it.”

The practice of Hamas of using human shields, as well as storing munitions and weaponry in civilian neighborhoods and non-military buildings, also absolves Israel from some of the proportionality requirements, since the use of human shields and the perfidy of Hamas in the first place puts the fault for civilian deaths on it, rather than Israel. Israel indiscriminately pummeling Gaza with bombardment from the air—with many resulting civilian deaths—would violate the rule of proportionality and could be considered a war crime; Israel responding to rocket fire from an apartment building and, in the process, killing civilians (even a large number of them) who were in the building with Hamas combatants is allowed, as long as Israel’s intent was to achieve a military objective and not just to exact revenge or capriciously murder civilians. Even errors which lead to the death of civilians are acceptable, as long as the military purpose was the motivating factor in the assault, since, as Jonathan F. Keiler, former captain in the Army’s Judge-Advocate General Corps, noted,“we do not determine criminality based on outcome, but intent.”

Proportionality also does not require that the number of deaths—either of Hamas militants or Palestinian civilians—be equal to the number of deaths suffered by Israel, or to damage done to Israeli infrastructure or military targets. One moral challenge in asymmetrical war is that observers in the world community intuitively feel that Israel’s disproportionate military strength makes the conflict fundamentally “unfair,” that because it is technologically and logistically able to exact more harm on the Palestinians, Israel should restrain itself to minimize enemy casualties. That may be a compelling emotional response, but it is, of course, not a legal or moral argument with any weight. In fact, it is precisely because of Israel’s military superiority that a rational adversary would have been deterred from attacking in the first place.

The fact that Hamas chose to challenge an adversary with disproportionate military capability indicates that the decision was either irrational or some type of collective death wish; in either instance, the Palestinians, and the world at large, cannot now expect Israel not to use every means possible to protect its citizenry from both immediate and future assaults by genocidal terrorists who wish to murder Jews and destroy the Jewish state. No nation is required to enter a suicide pact with its enemies, and no nation can be expected to wait until enemy rockets successfully reach an apartment building or school, forcing Israel to play, in the words of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, “Russian roulette with its children.”

Richard L. Cravatts PhD, Professor of Practice at Simmons College, is the author of "Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews" (a David Horowitz Freedom Center publication) and President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Stop the Jew-Hatred​ and Build Palestine

by Tarek Fatah

Whichever side of the Arab-Israeli conflict one stands on, you cannot deny the courage and perseverance of the Palestinian people.
For generations, they have lived as stateless citizens, on one hand standing up to Israel, which controls their day-to-day lives, and on the other enduring their own leadership, which has betrayed them at every opportunity.
It is sad to see their century-long quest for statehood crippled by the evil of Hamas, which has turned the legitimate Palestinian national struggle into an Islamic Jihad against Jews.

Gaza could have become a showcase of Arab enlightenment and enterprise after Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005. It could have become a tourism haven and a crucible for learning and arts, science and technology.

Instead, Gaza has become a one-party Islamic dictatorship under Hamas, dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.

Thousands of precious lives have been lost in this macabre display of hatred disguised as piety.

Its not just Israeli Jews that have been targeted for death. Palestinians opposed to Hamas have been massacred to consolidate its power.

On Nov. 12, 2007 Hamas gunmen fired on a rally organized by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party inside a Gaza stadium, at an event held to commemorate the late Yasser Arafat. Many were killed. To the horror of the world, Hamas gunmen butchered Fatah fighters, throwing wounded men from the roof of a 15-storey building to their deaths.

In the current clash between Israel and Hamas, another ceasefire will soon come into effect. The Americans and the United Nations will pour in millions of dollars to re-build bombed out infrastructure.

But who will tell the Palestinians to get off the path of self-destruction? Who will convince the Palestinian Islamists to stop dreaming of destroying Israel and start building the future of their own people?

Let me give it a try.

Palestinians must reflect on why, after struggling for 100 years, their dream of statehood remains unfulfilled? They need to ask themselves why tiny countries under occupation by larger foes have become independent nations, while Palestinian statehood remains out of reach.

Let us look at four examples.

East Timor: For 400 years it was colonized by Portugal and in 1975 occupied by Indonesia. The one million, mostly Catholic, Timorese fought a long, bitter guerrilla war under Fretilin (Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor) for freedom from the huge country of Islamic Indonesia, with a 300 million population. In 2002, East Timor won independence as the last Indonesian soldier left.

Eritrea: Located in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea was annexed by its southern and larger neighbour, Ethiopia, in 1962. This triggered a 30-year guerrilla war that involved hijackings and assassinations, scarring an entire generation. However, in 1991 after a UN-supervised referendum, Eritrea gained its independence.

Then there were the independence struggles of two Islamic countries that fought for and found statehood—Bangladesh in 1971 and Kosovo in 2008.

In all four cases, these national liberation movements wanted their own freedom, not the destruction of the countries that occupied their land.

East Timor didn't want to destroy Indonesia. Kosovo had no interest in wiping Serbia off the map.

When Palestinians stop chanting for the death of Jews and Israel, and start working to secure their own state, they will achieve it.

Palestinians have demonstrated courage and perseverance. What they need now, is wisdom.

Tarek S. Fatah is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a columnist at Toronto Sun, host of a Sunday afternoon talk show on Toronto's NewsTalk1010 AM Radio, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of two award-winning books: Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The War With Hamas; Decision Time Approaching

by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 257

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israel must decide whether it is willing to tolerate a chronic Hamas threat or risk a long, difficult operation to get rid of it. 

As Operation Protective Edge enters its third week, the real question has yet to be answered, and will have to be addressed in the next few days: Should Israel halt the operation at this time, or expand the ground operation to take over Gaza?

Hamas began the current round of violence by firing hundreds of rockets at Israel, expanding the range of fire, introducing terrorists and aerial drones and attempting to launch multiple tunnel attacks. It may have succeeded in seeing most Israelis run for cover, but other than that, Hamas has little to show for its efforts: three civilians were killed by rocket fire, 30 Israeli soldiers were killed in clashes with terrorists with a few dozen wounded, and the economic damage Israel has suffered is minor compared to its gross national product – regardless of the moral and financial blow made by foreign airlines temporarily suspending flights to Israel.

The feeling that Israel is not in control of the situation, but rather is being dragged along, is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the past few weeks. It is hard to stomach the fact that a terror organization, which is one of Israel’s weakest remaining enemies in terms of firepower, has been able to challenge the strongest nation in the Middle East for days and is showing no signs of fatigue. Many in the region view that as a Hamas success.

On the other hand, Israel has mounted a forceful response. Using precision weapons, the Israeli Air Force has dropped thousands of tons of explosives on Gaza Strip, limiting its operations due to its desire to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible.

The question of how to address the terror tunnels has been at the forefront of the ground incursion since its very beginning. Military and political decision-makers have been aware of the complexity of the threat and the difficulties of dealing with it.

As the aerial operation continued and Hamas rejected the cease-fire proposals Israel had agreed to time and again, the opportunity for a difficult but necessary ground operation presented itself — especially given the international legitimacy lent to Israel’s actions. The potential IDF casualties, and projected Palestinian death toll, which is higher since Hamas was preventing Palestinian civilians from leaving areas where tunnels has been dug, were also considered.

The IDF ground operation, which is very limited geographically, is geared toward one objective: locating and destroying tunnels leading from Gaza Strip to Israel. Though limited in scope, this mission is anything but simple, as it requires seizing control of the open area between the Palestinian side of the border and the nearby urban areas, maintaining control of the area where tunnel entryways have been found, and engaging in urban warfare against a well-prepared, well-entrenched enemy.

The IDF is meeting its operational goals despite suffering losses. The military has been able to locate dozens of tunnels, it is exercising due caution while searching for additional tunnels, and destroying those already seized. Using the proper procedures to prevent terrorists from infiltrating the border, and assisted by Iron Dome on the home front, the IDF has been able to prevent Hamas and its allies from marking any real achievements. Hamas’ impotence is doubly evident against the backdrop of the unprecedented destruction of its infrastructure in Gaza Strip and its international isolation.

Still, Hamas has not been brought to its knees and its operatives keep launching missiles into Israel. It has been able to get foreign carriers to cancel flights to and from Ben-Gurion International Airport, its operatives are tenaciously fighting to preserve the tunnels that have yet to be seized by the IDF, and Hamas has been able to kill and wound Israeli soldiers.

Diplomatic clock ticking

The Gaza Strip has always been a hotbed for terrorist cells, but between 1967, when Israel seized it in the Six-Day War, and the 1993 Oslo Accords, they had never fired at Israel.

The buildup of firepower in Gaza started after the implementation of the Oslo Accords (1995), when the IDF left the urban areas where most Palestinians resided. Five years later, the Qassam fire on southern Israel began. A decade later, in a reckless move of security, Israel disengaged from Gaza (2005) and allowed it to connect with Sinai, which was a terrorist hotbed even then.

Hamas wasted no time overrunning Gaza, and even though the strip is home to several terrorist groups, including the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, none of them have contested Hamas’ rule.

Massive amounts of weapons, of every type have been funneled into Gaza in a process abetted by Iran and Hezbollah. This process was accelerated further after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, which has turned the latter into a key source of advanced weapons for terrorists.

The loss of control over the crossings between Sinai and Gaza Strip has brought weapons experts and technology into Gaza, which has been compounded by the smuggling of weapon-manufacturing machinery and critical materials. As a result, Gaza terrorists now possess independent production capabilities for long-range rockets and other weapons, such as drones.

Israel is now facing fierce fighting. Through the years, Hamas has crafted a sophisticated system that allows it to fire rockets for a prolonged period of time, alongside a labyrinth of tunnels that afford them a considerable advantage over any invader.

After two weeks of fighting, world leaders understand Israel’s position and are willing to endure the protests by leftists and pro-Palestinian groups, but the diplomatic clock has begun ticking and a decision on the next step has to be made — especially if Hamas continues to reject the Egyptian cease-fire proposal.

Now is the time to ask the real and only important question: Should Israel view the Hamas threat as one does a chronic disease, which has unpleasant yet tolerable daily effects and which requires a difficult treatment every few years; or should Israel risk a complex, difficult and risky operation that, even if it could alleviate many of the symptoms completely, would require lengthy aftercare?

It is possible to create a reality in which there is no rocket fire from Gaza Strip, just as there is no rocket fire from Judea and Samaria. This, however, requires a complex ground maneuver to seize the strip, which would undoubtedly result in many Israeli casualties. A prelude to this scenario is evident by the high number of IDF casualties sustained so far in the ground operation.

Such a maneuver is also likely to meet hostile international public opinion, including from world leaders that have so far supported Israel’s moves. Of course, simply conquering Gaza Strip would not be enough and the IDF and Shin Bet security agency would have to reconstitute the intelligence infrastructure that was lost after Oslo and the disengagement.

The IDF would also have to deploy massive forces on the ground to demilitarize Gaza, arrest Hamas operatives or kill those who refuse to surrender, and essentially reinstate Israel’s full military control of Gaza Strip, just as it was prior to the IDF’s retreat from the strip’s urban areas in 1995.

This kind of control means one thing: the military will deploy its forces across Gaza according to its own consideration — there is no need to be everywhere at all times — and it will operate freely across Gaza as the need arises.

The Vacuum Dilemma 

The process of demilitarizing Gaza and arresting Hamas operatives could take between six months and a year, and it is likely to see fierce fighting and many casualties. Hamas will eventually lose its ability to challenge the IDF, which would assume control on the ground, as it has in Judea and Samaria.

IDF intelligence would be used to facilitate further arrests and preventative actions. As long as Israeli troops are on the ground, the level of difficulty and risk would plummet and the majority of terrorist capabilities would be thwarted. Even if terror groups would mark the occasional success, it would be temporary and containable. Only once all that is done, will there be no more rocket fire from Gaza at Israel.

The military dilemma, which is complex, may be compounded by a political dilemma, as no one knows who would be willing to assume responsibility for the Gaza Strip once the IDF completes is mission. The IDF would be unable to leave Gaza, as that may prompt the rise of new and even more radical elements than Hamas. In the current climate in the Middle East, each vacuum is immediately filled with radical Islamist elements, which naturally Israel cannot allow.

This is why Israel might have to reinstate the pre-Oslo “civil administration,” overseeing Gaza and its 1.7 million residents. It is an administrative, economic and diplomatic burden, which — notwithstanding the differences stemming from the passage of time — we successfully carried for 28 years, between 1967 and 1995.

It is a difficult but feasible move that will have an unequivocal result. It will halt the Gaza rocket fire and it will put an end to the terrorist tunnels that threatens Israelis on Israeli soil.

A military operation of this scope will see a heavy civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has been using Palestinian civilians as human shields, as their lives are worthless to its leaders. In the long run, taking control of Gaza would save many Palestinian lives, because IDF “maintenance” on the ground would claim fewer lives than the various military campaigns over the years.

This change might make things easier for Israel, despite the scathing international criticism during the incursion and demilitarization process. After all, Israel has been unable to rid itself from “occupation” accusations despite its complete disengagement from Gaza, and the international community has censured it over the civilian death toll in the various military operations mandated by the current situation.

Another option is a return to the cease-fire deal reached in the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense and the understandings of the 2008 Operation Cast Lead, meaning to pursue a mediated cease-fire as soon as the tunnels are destroyed.

To reach a cease-fire deal, Israel will have to make concessions, especially economic ones, in negotiations that should be held parallel to the continued efforts to target Hamas infrastructure from the air, as well as ongoing rocket fire at Israel.

Such a cease-fire would see Hamas reestablish its undisputed rule in Gaza Strip and allow it to reconstitute its military capabilities ahead of a future conflict, which will take place when it feels that it has become powerful enough. Hamas may not find it as easy as it once did to rebuild its severely-damaged infrastructure and restore its capabilities. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s regime in Egypt will not make it easy for Hamas, but this process will only see a change of pace.

Israel will undoubtedly use this time to improve its own capabilities, just as the Iron Dome had undergone updates ahead of Operation Protective Edge; but we have to realize that Hamas will be the one to decide when both parties’ capabilities will be put to the test.

I believe that given the extent of the damage Hamas has sustained, along with the Egypt-imposed constraints and international isolation, it would have to undergo a long and difficult rehabilitation process, and therefore a cease-fire — even without an IDF operation that would extend beyond the destruction of the tunnels —could last longer. This lull would also be temporary and we are likely to see the occasional rogue operative fire rockets at communities in the Gaza vicinity; but it is clear that Israel would not violate a cease-fire agreement “over a few rockets.” It has not done so in the past, nor will it do so in the future.

Unfortunately, those are the only two realistic options: a lengthy, difficult operation to end the rocket fire on Israel, or a cease-fire that would lead to another round of violence in the future. Other options, ranging from “we should pummel them to the ground, cut off their water and power and starve them out” to “we should negotiate, offer them financial aid and bolster Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas’ position,” have no practical standing and are not grounded in the realities Israel must face with regards to itself (yes, morals and ethics) and with regards to the world.

These suggestions will not achieve anything; or they will lead us back to the aforementioned problem. Financial aid to the Palestinians is important, Hamas has put it as a precondition to a cease-fire and Israel should facilitate it, but it will not change Hamas’ animosity.

The reader might wonder what my own opinion is, but my personal opinion is not important. The facts and their correct analysis are far more important, as they allow each reader to come to his own conclusions as to the complexity of the problem and the difficulties pertaining to a future decision.

Israel’s decision-makers deserve every praise for the prudence of their actions so far, and we hope for the same in the future. But we should be aware of the fact that the problems they face have no easy solution. Sometimes, simply giving an issue further consideration before making a careful decision is commendable— and this case deserves even more than a second thought.

A version of this article was published today in Israel Hayom

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

Major General (res.) Yaacov Amidror is the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Until the end of 2013, he served as National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel and chairman of the National Security Council. Previously, he was commander of the IDF Military Colleges, military secretary to the Minister of Defense, and director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in IDF Military Intelligence.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Reuven Rivlin Sworn In as Israel's Tenth President

by Arutz Sheva Staff and AFP

Ceremony overshadowed by Gaza operation; both President Peres and incoming President Rivlin address Israeli war effort.

(L to R) Rivlin, Edelstein, and Peres at the
(L to R) Rivlin, Edelstein, and Peres at the Knesset
In a gala ceremony, but a subdued one, Reuven Rivlin was sworn in Thursday evening as the tenth President of Israel. The ceremony was held in the shadow of the heavy fighting still going on in Gaza, as IDF troops continued to pummel away at Hamas terrorists and destroy their rocket and tunnel infrastructure.

As a result of the war, a reception that was to be held after the ceremony was canceled. The decision to cancel was made by Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Edelstein, speaking first, opened his comments with a prayer for the safety of IDF soldiers. A large portion of his speech was dedicated to discussing the war effort. “We entered this just campaign in order to bring about an end to the ongoing damage our citizens suffer. We embrace our soldiers, as we would members of our own family,” Edelstein said.

Turning to outgoing President Shimon Peres, Edelstein said that “for nearly 60 years you have been a part of the Israeli political system, here in the Knesset. You made your views well know to all, and set an agenda. Once you became president, you placed politics aside and became as one of the people, of all the people. You were the man of hope, the man of the future.” To the incoming president, Edelstein said that “this war shall pass, and on your shoulders will be the most difficult burden – to unite the people and heal the tears in Israeli society. I know you are prepared for this battle, which will come the day after the Gaza battle ends.”

Peres also dedicated a good portion of his speech to Operation Protective Edge. “Hamas fires at us but it cannot answer two simple questions: Why is shooting at us? There is no more occupation of Gaza. What does it seek to achieve? We showed them they could achieve things without making war on us, yet they chose to do so. We have suffered 68 years of terror, but they have brought much destruction to their nation. They have never beaten us, and only caused suffering for their citizens and destruction for Gaza. Hamas has no answers and learns no lessons.”

Rivlin began his speech with the recitation of the “Shehechiyanu” blessing, recited upon the embarking upon of an important new project. “With prayer, dear, and modesty I present myself to fulfill your will and to act in your name.”

The Gaza war was also a main subject of Rivlin's speech. Rivlin said Israel would not be bowed by the ongoing violence in Gaza. "We are gathered here today not only because the law requires it, but also with a very clear message to our enemies: you have not overcome us and you will not do so," he said.

“The Hamas terrorists may dig their tunnels, shoot from within schools, use civilians as human shields, but this terrorism will not drive us back, will not weaken our spirit. We are not fighting against the Palestinian people, and we are not at war with Islam -- we are fighting terrorism," he said.

And in a direct address to Peres, he said: "Seven years ago, you stood on this platform and told us that you never dreamed of being president. You said your dream as a boy was to be a shepherd or a poet of the stars.

“Your dream, Mr President, came true. You were for us a shepherd of hope and a poet of vision."

Peres will on Friday leave his official residence in Jerusalem and move into a new apartment in Tel Aviv, close to the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, Haaretz reported.

Rivlin will officially begin his term in office on Monday, drawing a line under what many Israelis have seen as a golden age of the presidency. A lawyer by profession, Rivlin has won widespread support from across the political spectrum for his determined defense of democracy and civil rights.

Rivlin has a tough act to follow, with Peres's charisma and global standing enabling him to transcend the largely ceremonial position of the presidency and use it to promote his personal views on the peace process - often provoking friction with elected officials who resented what they saw as an interference which undermined Israeli democracy.

Arutz Sheva Staff and AFP


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

VIDEO: Ruby Rivlin's Inspiring Acceptance Speech

by Reuven Rivlin

Reuven Rivlin


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Desperately Seeking Relevance

by Jonathan Spyer

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with the emir of Qatar in Gaza, October 2012
The conflict between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel became inevitable after a series of decisions and actions made clear that the movement was not interested in defusing tensions and returning to the ceasefire that had shakily pertained since 2012.

These actions included the attempt to infiltrate a terrorist team into Zikim on July 8, the continued firing of rockets after the rejection of the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, the failure to respect the humanitarian cease-fire initiated by the UN and the attempted attack though a tunnel on July 14.

It is doubtful that Hamas planned the entire campaign from the start. The trigger to the crisis – the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers, may well have been carried out by elements not taking orders from the movement's official leadership.

But as the momentum of events gathered pace, it is clear that Hamas at a certain point reached a decision to escalate, to initiate a head on collision with Israel.

What were the tactical and strategic considerations underlying this decision? Regarding immediate and tactical considerations – Hamas is not an isolated player. It is part of a Muslim Brotherhood regional alliance bankrolled by the Emirate of Qatar.

The last year has not been good for this alliance. In 2011-12, they were riding high. They had come to power in Egypt and in Tunisia and seemed fairly placed to triumph in Syria too. Hamas elected to back what looked like an emergent Muslim Brotherhood power bloc – and drew away from its alliance with Iran.

Not much is left of all that. Egypt and Tunisia are gone. In Syria, only the regime, Islamic State and the Kurds remain as serious players. The Muslim Brotherhood's moment in the sun was exceedingly brief.

This left their Palestinian iteration, Hamas, looking somewhat beached in 2014. The Iranian funding declined.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decimated the tunnel system through which the rulers of Gaza brought in goods and money. Fuel shortages and power outages became part of daily life. There was no money to pay state employees.

The Hamas decision to relaunch its military campaign, its refusal to accept Israel's offer of "calm for calm," and its rejection of an Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel accepted represent an attempt to bring about a "reset" in the position of Hamas and its backers in the region.

In precisely the same way that Iran created and developed Hezbollah in order to use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a generator of legitimacy among the Arabs for the Shia Persians, so Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood want a bloody war in Gaza, so as to reinsert themselves into popular legitimacy, relevance and diplomatic influence in the Arab world.

Hamas, previously isolated and increasingly irrelevant, is starring in a drama of its own making. Its spokesmen are crying crocodile tears for the deaths of civilians that they knew were inevitable.

Hamas banners are being carried once more by baying crowds in European cities.

Qatar, meanwhile, the main bankroller of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, is inserting itself back into regional diplomacy, following Hamas's flat rejection of Egyptian mediation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were in Doha to hear Hamas's demands for a cease-fire. The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad al-Thani is acting as the "channel of communication" for Hamas.

Yet for all this, the success has been only partial. The rival, anti-Muslim Brotherhood alliance of Sisi's Egypt and Saudi Arabia is operating in more or less direct opposition, seeking to prevent any tangible gains for Hamas from its campaign, and to force it back to acceptance of the status quo ante bellum.

Given the suffering of Gazans, any such acceptance would constitute a huge blow to Hamas. So Cairo is effectively allied with Israel and against Qatar/ Hamas/MB in this conflict. The obvious explanation for this is Cairo's ongoing war against the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

The "Arab street" has failed to rally to the Qatar/Hamas banner. There are larger demonstrations in European cities for Hamas than in any Arab capital.

The Arab world is engulfed by issues of far greater historic magnitude than the question of Gaza. And in any case, from the regional perspective this conflict appears as an Israel vs Hamas war, not an all out clash between Israelis and Palestinians.

Regarding strategic considerations – Hamas remains committed to the muqawama ("resistance") doctrine, according to which it is engaged, together with other Islamist political-military organizations in a long war that will end in Israel's destruction.

According to this view, most famously articulated by Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's general-secretary, Israel is physically and technologically strong, but suffers from a spiritual and ideological weakness.

This weakness is variously attributed either to the supposedly inherent cowardly and craven nature of Jews, or to the "artificiality" of the Jewish state and identity, or to a not quite logically tenable mixture of the two.

This weakness, the muqawama doctrine considers, can be brought out through a long war of attrition, in which the inability of the Jews to absorb casualties, and their gradual recognition of the impossibility of normal life in their state will result in its slow and steady erosion, and eventual demise.

From the point of view of this doctrine, the Hamas decision to escalate makes sense – even if to an outsider the idea of a tiny statelet willingly seeking conflict with a vastly more powerful neighbor seems counter-intuitive. The civilians whom Hamas leaders knew would die in any conceivable Israeli response were presumably factored in as collateral damage. From a certain point of view, they even represented an asset, since their example could be held out as proof of the supposedly greater willingness of the Arab/Muslim side for self-sacrifice, when compared with the Israeli/Jewish enemy.

So the war derives from the desire of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar to return to relevance and centrality in the region, and from the persistent misreading of the nature of Israel and the true balance of forces between the Jewish state and its enemies, by the Islamist rulers of Gaza. 

Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.