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February 20, 2024
Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
by Jerusalem Center Experts
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The U.S. has proposed a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and opposing a major ground offensive by its ally Israel in Rafah. The move comes after the U.S. signaled it would veto an Algerian-drafted resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
The U.S. draft resolution would see the Security Council "underscore its support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released, and calls for lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale."
The U.S. does "not plan to rush" to a vote and intends to allow time for negotiations, a senior U.S. administration official said Monday. (Reuters)
See also U.S. Seeks to Force Temporary Ceasefire on Israel, Halt Rafah Offensive - Benjamin Weinthal
In response to U.S. moves at the UN to call for a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, former U.S. National Security Council official Richard Goldberg said: "The United States should be vetoing pro-Hamas resolutions, not proposing them. By putting forward a resolution calling for a ceasefire and opposing Israeli military action in Rafah, the White House is effectively pushing for Hamas to survive to massacre another day. This is a complete betrayal of U.S. interests and values."
When asked why Biden is imposing pressure on Israel, Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said, "There are lines being pushed that it's all about Dearborn, or that it's all about securing Saudi-Israel peace, but the polling out of Michigan and the strategic priorities in Riyadh don't back up these arguments. It looks more like left-wing ideologues using the pretext of political necessity and the potential of a Saudi-Israel normalization deal to jam through all the bad ideas that never made it into policy for years."
Former Israeli military intelligence officer Yigal Carmon, founder and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, said: "The Rafah crossing was the major area through which the worst smuggling operation went on for years when it was in the hands of the Egyptian government. If this is not stopped, there will be no end to the war, particularly heavy missiles on Tel Aviv and its surroundings. The seizure of Rafah will limit the war significantly."
"If the U.S. administration has a miraculous way to convince Egypt to fulfill its commitment, then there would be no need for an operation. Unfortunately, the United States does not pressure Egypt even though it has all the capabilities to do that. But what remains is to pressure Israel, but this will not work because what is at stake is missiles on Tel Aviv, and Netanyahu cannot afford to end the war with [a] continued flow of missiles on Tel Aviv." (Fox News)
See also U.S. Draft UN Resolution on Temporary Ceasefire Seen Unlikely to Pass amid Wide Support for Permanent Ceasefire - Jacob Magid
It was not immediately clear when or whether the U.S. draft UN resolution on Gaza would be put to a vote in the Security Council. It appeared unlikely to pass in its current form, given the overwhelming support among members for a more permanent ceasefire. (Times of Israel)
Iran continues to enrich uranium well beyond the needs for commercial nuclear use, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi said Monday. Iran is enriching at an elevated rate of 7 kg. of uranium per month to 60% purity, close to weapons grade. "There is a concerning rhetoric, you may have heard high officials in Iran saying they have all the elements for a nuclear weapon lately," Grossi said. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday struck two Hizbullah weapon depots near Sidon, 30 km. north of the border with Lebanon, in response to a drone attack on northern Israel. The explosive-laden drone struck an open field near the town of Arbel in the Lower Galilee, close to the Sea of Galilee, 30 km. south of the border with Lebanon. (Times of Israel)
The French newspaper Liberation claimed Sunday that Hizbullah has been digging hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels in Lebanon for over 30 years, some of them reaching depths of 40-80 meters, using North Korean technology. (Ynet News)
The Israel Defense Forces said Monday that troops have killed 12,000 Hamas gunmen since Oct. 7, after a Qatar-based Hamas official claimed the terror group had lost 6,000 fighters. Hamas is also believed to have thousands of operatives who are seriously wounded. (Times of Israel)
Norway has agreed to help facilitate the transfer of the Palestinian Authority's tax revenues, Oslo announced on Sunday. In the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 terror onslaught, the Israeli cabinet refused to transfer the portion of the funds that Ramallah uses to pay for services and employees in Gaza, arguing that the money could reach Hamas.
Protesting the move, the PA had refused to accept any of the tax revenues, which make up the vast majority of the PA's budget. Last month, Israel approved a framework under which the Gaza portion of the funds would be transferred to Norway, which would then hold them until Israel approved their release to the PA. (Times of Israel)
Israel's Ministry of Defense is planning to purchase tens of thousands of Israeli-made assault rifles for infantry brigades and first-response units. (Calcalist)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is between a democratic nation fighting for its existence against an Islamist movement whose goal is the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Yet many outside of Israel are increasingly speaking of ending the war as soon as possible. This means that Hamas survives - and gets away with mass murder. It means the Palestinians are rewarded with an independent state. Somehow, that makes sense in Washington. But not in Israel.
The overwhelming majority of Israelis see it very differently. The battle with Hamas isn't one about Israelis ruthlessly harming Palestinians. The hotels in Israel are full, but not with tourists. They're packed with hundreds of thousands of Israelis - families with small children and elderly people - who were forced to flee their homes near Gaza and near Lebanon due to rocket and missile fire from Hamas and Hizbullah. They have been omitted in the breathless coverage of Palestinian suffering.
The Israelis who were called back into the military and willingly risked their lives fighting in Gaza, though eager to resume their regular lives, are just as ready to return to the battlefield because they know the job of destroying a deadly threat to their country isn't finished. Few Israelis are prepared to halt the war until all of the perpetrators of the Oct. 7 massacres are stripped of the ability to repeat their crimes.
Morale among Israeli soldiers is high and stretches across all the cultural, political, and religious debates. They don't want to kill Palestinians and also grieve the loss of so many of their comrades - casualties made more likely because of the strict rules of engagement to lower the number of civilians killed, that prevent the Israel Defense Forces from fully utilizing the firepower at their disposal.
Israeli soldiers know that they are defending their homes and families. It's the civic faith in the justice of their cause that resonates throughout Israeli society and pervades the thinking of those who have sent their loved ones to battle. It is also felt by the grieving families of those who didn't come home. Israel is a nation united by both anguish and determination.
Israelis understand that their opponents are not in far-off lands like in America's wars in recent decades. The horrors of Oct. 7 were not a one-off act. Israel has suffered many terrorist attacks in which large numbers of civilians were killed by Islamist murderers, but Oct. 7 was the worst of them all. What made it resonate throughout Israeli society was the certain knowledge that it was intended as a trailer for what Hamas - and the majority of the Palestinian population that supported and still supports those actions - intends to do to the rest of Israel. (JNS-Israel Hayom)
Antony Blinken's children - aged 3 and 4 - were on their way home when Hazami Barmada and Fatima Showkatiann poured fake blood in front of their vehicle. Protesters have been camped outside the Secretary of State's home for a couple of weeks over Israel's military operations in Gaza.
As the car carrying the kids rolled up, some in the group shouted: "Your father is a baby killer!" Strangers yelling at preschoolers is a sign of something troubling in our political culture. It's also a commentary on the dubious efficacy of this very of-the-moment variety of direct action. A cathartic thrill for the righteously indignant, showing up at the homes of Washington bigwigs also creates optics that turn demonstrators into bullies and their targets into victims, hardening the hearts of just about everyone in sight. (Politico)
The International Court of Justice began hearings Monday on meritless claims that international law requires immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, regardless of risk to Israel's security. Presiding was the ICJ's newly promoted chief judge, Nawaf Salam. Salam, who has demonstrated personal bias against Israel, served as Lebanon's UN ambassador from 2007 to 2017, repeatedly denouncing and voting against Israel's military conduct and presence in the disputed territories.
U.S. officials have rightly criticized the ICJ proceeding as "one-sided" and warned it will undermine prospects for "a negotiated two-state solution." Future Palestinian or other Arab leaders would find it hard to make concessions that the ICJ has ruled Israel doesn't deserve.
The U.S. should make clear that regardless of any politically driven ICJ ruling, it will continue supporting Israel's security and ensure that direct bilateral negotiations remain the only route for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The writer, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a law professor at Arizona State University. (Wall Street Journal)
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Hamas to unite with the PA. Asked about working with the perpetrators of Oct. 7, Shtayyeh replied, "One should not continue focusing on Oct. 7." Also at Munich, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that Hamas should get a ceasefire without having to give up anything, not even the women it took hostage.
Speaking at an African Union summit, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva called the Gaza war a "genocide" and "a war between a highly prepared army and women and children," comparing it to "when Hitler decided to kill the Jews." (Wall Street Journal)
Back in 1989, I started work at a housing charity in Birmingham. Later I served as Labour's housing minister. I was therefore delighted last year to be appointed to chair Midland Heart, one of the country's leading housing associations, and I have worked hard to support the organization.
So I was, naturally, shocked to learn on Friday that I had been suspended and now face being driven out permanently after a campaign organized by extremists and an online mob. What was my offense? I made the mistake of calling Hamas a "death cult of Islamist murderers and rapists" in a tweet on Feb. 10.
The word "Islamists," it must be noted, refers not to Muslims in general but only to violent religious extremists who espouse a warped form of Islam. The term is used by the government, universities and think tanks. I have said repeatedly that the vast majority of Muslims are just as appalled by racism and extremism as anyone else.
On Wednesday, I deleted the tweet but did not apologize as I had done nothing wrong and stand by my description of Hamas. But this was not enough for the Midland Heart board, which met without me and decided my position was untenable. We have to stop this nonsense. Extremists must be faced down, not appeased. We must all stand up for our democracy and freedom of speech. (Mail on Sunday-UK)
The explosion of hatred and extremism prompted by the Oct. 7 massacre was never going to limit itself to the Jewish state. The news that Palestinian terrorists had infiltrated Israel and slaughtered its citizens appeared to kickstart a dynamo of Jew-hatred in the West.
A report from the Community Security Trust (CST) finds there were more antisemitic incidents in the UK over the past 12 months than in any previous year, with Oct. 7 pinpointed as the most significant factor. The first warning siren sounded in Israel at 8.30 a.m. UK time and the first incident in the CST report was at 12.55 p.m.
"The speed at which antisemites mobilized in the UK following Hamas' attack shows that, initially at least, the significant increase in anti-Jewish hate was, if anything, a celebration of Hamas' massacre by people whose own hatred was emboldened and, in their minds, legitimized by the brutality enacted on civilians in Israel," said the report.
The report confirms antisemitism as a grave and growing problem in this country, with attacks on Israeli Jews inspiring antisemitism against British Jews. Some Jews already are wary of being visibly Jewish in public. That British citizens are even having to think in these terms is abhorrent but it is the country we now find ourselves with. This is a country where an MP was murdered partly over his membership of Conservative Friends of Israel, while another has just been intimidated into standing down over his pro-Israel views.
I don't want us to be this sort of country. One of the most admirable qualities of the British is their tolerance. We need to become much less tolerant - hotly intolerant, in fact - when it comes to antisemitism. (Spectator-UK)
Unilateral Recognition of a Palestinian State Will Undermine the Oslo Accords - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Post)
The writer, former legal adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry who participated in the drafting of the Oslo Accords, heads the Institute for Diplomatic Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.