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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 30, 2008

In-Depth Issues:

Gaza Fighting Enters Fourth Day - Ethan Bronner and Taghreed El-Khodary (New York Times)
    Israel continued its airstrikes against Hamas targets on Tuesday as the death toll in Gaza surpassed 350, some 60 of them civilians, according to UN officials.
    Israel has defined its aim as the crippling of Hamas' ability to send rockets into Israel.
    On Monday, Hamas fired more than 70 rockets at Israel and has killed a total of four Israelis since Saturday.
    At Shifa Hospital in Gaza, armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes shot six suspected collaborators with Israel in 24 hours.
    See also Palestinians Settle Old Scores in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    A gunman on a motorbike shot dead a fellow Palestinian near a Gaza hospital on Monday as militants settled scores with those suspected of collaboration with Israel.

Egypt Lashes Back at Hizbullah - Brenda Gazzar (Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit launched a scathing critique of Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Monday, after Nasrallah had called on Egyptians to protest their government's response to Israel's attack in Gaza.
    Aboul Gheit said, "They have practically declared war on Egypt via several satellite stations. The Egyptian people reject and opposes this....I tell this man: No, no! Our armed forces can defend our homeland from people like you."
    On Monday, Nasrallah called for uprisings throughout the Arab and Islamic world and said he supported a third Palestinian intifada.
    Gamal Abdel Gawad, head of the international relations unit of the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies, said, "The Palestinian cause is a major bribe used by the radicals to legitimate their aims and further Iranian hegemony in the Middle East."

The Battle of Gaza and the Real War - Michael Ledeen (Pajamas Media)
    Whatever Israel accomplishes in Gaza (and the same holds for our battles in Iraq and Afghanistan), it is only a matter of time before the mullahs reorganize, rearm, and return to battle. And the next battle may involve nuclear weapons.
    It is impossible to address the Arab/Israeli conflict by itself, for the context is all wrong.
    Nobody in Gaza or the West Bank, nor in Amman or Cairo, can guarantee peace for Israel. Today, that decision rests in the hands of Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Tehran's Cannon Fodder - Editorial (Washington Times)
    Israel is defending itself. Damascus-based Hamas has taken Gaza's population hostage, while staging repeated cross-border attacks. It now wants to blame Israel for Palestinian casualties that result from this week's airstrikes? Don't be duped.
    More than 900 Hamas operatives have received training in tactical warfare, sniper tactics and bombmaking from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
    Israel's current military operation constitutes a legitimate act of self-defense against Iranian terrorist proxies.

Fighting and Defeating Hamas - Ely Karmon (Institute for Counter-Terrorism/IDC-Herzliya)
    The destruction of Hamas' infrastructure and even the successful targeting of its leaders will not convince them to give up their goal to achieve a military balance of power with Israel.
    Israel should cut Hamas' oxygen pipeline - the tunnels permitting the smuggling of advanced rocket, anti-tank and other advanced weapons - by reoccupying and widening the Philadelphi corridor on the Egyptian border.
    The control of a 1-km.-wide strip of land on the border will permit the progressive drying out of Hamas' military capability, which has a direct influence on its ability to politically control Gaza.
    The control of the Rafah border passage should progressively return to the Palestinian Authority and the international European team and thus give the PA a foothold for a future political comeback in Gaza.

Useful Reference:

IDF YouTube Channel (Israel Defense Forces)
    The Israel Defense Forces has opened a YouTube channel containing the most recent IDF footage.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • White House Blames Hamas for New Mideast Violence - Deb Riechmann
    The White House, calling Monday for a lasting cease-fire in the Mideast, backed Israel's air attacks in Gaza and said Hamas had shown its "true colors as a terrorist organization." "Right now the people of southern Israel are not able to live in peace," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "They have to live in bomb shelters a lot of the time. And that's unacceptable." Asked if the U.S. thinks Israel is justified in its strikes in Gaza, Johndroe replied: "The United States understands that Israel needs to take actions to defend itself."
        Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other lawmakers also expressed support for Israel's right to defend its citizens against rocket attacks from Hamas. "As President-elect Obama has made clear time and again, no country should be forced to tolerate attacks on its people," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). "Hamas is abusing the people of Gaza by using their homes as a base for terror operations. The world should no longer tolerate a terrorist government in the Gaza Strip." (AP)
        See also Text of White House Press Briefing (White House)
  • Germany Blasts Hamas for Middle East Violence
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said the blame for renewed violence in the Middle East can be pinned on Hamas. Speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert by phone, she said responsibility for the Israeli air offensive against Hamas in Gaza lies "clearly and exclusively" with Hamas. A statement on the Chancellery Web site referred to Israel's "legitimate right" to defend its people and territory. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Czechs, Next EU President, Defend Israeli Strikes - Jana Mlcochova
    The Czech Republic, which takes over the EU presidency on January 1, defended Israel's strikes against Hamas on Tuesday. "Let us realize one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the cease-fire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable any more," Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes. "Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel?...I am enjoying the luxury of telling the truth," Schwarzenberg said. (Reuters)
  • PLO and Fatah Officials: Hamas Is Responsible for the Deaths of Its People
    Nimr Hammad, an advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, told Al-Akhbar (Lebanon) on Dec. 28: "The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles. Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly. They should not give the Israelis a pretext." He called upon the leaders of Hamas to stop carrying out "operations which reflect recklessness, such as the firing of missiles." (MEMRI)
        See also Gaza Blogger Pleads with Hamas to Stop Rocket Attacks on Israel - Jenny Percival
    Few bloggers are reporting from Gaza itself because of the lack of electricity, but Ramzy, a young teacher in Gaza, has made a podcast on an independent student website in which he pleads with Hamas to stop its rocket attacks on Israel to prevent further loss of life. "I'm not Hamas, I'm not Fatah, I just care about my people....This stubbornness will lead to more Palestinian casualties and deaths in Gaza. We are the big losers here, the Palestinian people, not Hamas or Israel," Ramzy says.
        He says the huge imbalance of power in favor of Israel means Hamas must cease hostilities. "I call on Hamas to get spare people's lives here. Hamas should really consider giving up for the sake of the people being killed." Ramzy criticizes the president of the Hamas government for saying Hamas will not give up at a time when so many Palestinians are losing their lives. (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Kills Three Israelis - Shmulik Hadad
    Heavy Palestinian rocket and mortar barrages rained on Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Netivot Monday, leaving three people dead and at least nine wounded. Irit Sheetrit, 39, a mother of four, was killed in Ashdod. IDF Master Sergeant Lutfi Nasraldin, 38, from Daliat el Carmel, was killed and five soldiers were injured after a shell hit their army base. Rockets also landed in Ofakim and in the Yavne area, 40 km. from Gaza. Two rockets landed in Ashkelon, one of them inside the yard of an elementary school. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Allows Humanitarian Aid into Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    Israel is allowing some 100 trucks carrying food and medical supplies donated by the Turkish and Jordanian governments to cross into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, despite Monday's massive rocket and mortar barrages. (Ynet News)
  • Peres: Israel Demonstrating Restraint in Gaza - Ronen Medzini
    "In all of Israel's history, I don't remember a war more useless or irrational than the one that Hamas is waging against us," Israeli President Shimon Peres said Sunday. "Israel, of its own accord, evicted settlements and settlers from Gaza (in 2005) I ask myself, why are they shooting? What do they want to accomplish? What do they expect, that we won't respond?" "Hamas is appealing to the Arab world, but the truth is, the Arab world needs to appeal to Hamas to stop. This is a war of insanity, of irrational people who aren't ready to explain why they are shooting." "No one among us longs for war, but at the top of our priorities is the safety of our children."
        "We don't hate anyone and don't want to kill anyone, but we do have the right to defend ourselves." He noted that "the IDF had demonstrated restraint and capabilities to hit its targets while avoiding hitting innocents." Israel's military operation in Gaza is "a justified operation that has no other alternative. The people are united behind the operation," he added. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Israel Feels Threatened - Benny Morris
    Notwithstanding the peace treaties signed by Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, the Arab and wider Islamic worlds have never truly accepted the legitimacy of Israel's creation and continue to oppose its existence. Israel faces a combination of dire threats. To the east, Iran is frantically advancing its nuclear project, which most Israelis and most of the world's intelligence agencies believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons. To the north, Hizbullah, which also vows to destroy Israel and functions as an Iranian proxy, has thoroughly rearmed since its war with Israel in 2006. To the south, Israel faces the Islamist Hamas, whose charter promises to destroy Israel and bring every inch of Palestine under Islamic rule. Hamas today has an army of thousands and a large arsenal of rockets. (New York Times)
  • Hamas Knows One Big Thing - Bret Stephens
    Hamas knows one big thing, which it labels "resistance" or, for Western audiences, "ending the occupation." Just what that means was made clear by Palestinian cleric Muhsen Abu 'Ita in a televised interview. "The annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine," he said, "is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine." This kind of genocidal incitement is more than idle ranting: Gigantic ambitions sustain political movements through hard times.
        War offers no outcome other than victory or defeat. This is one big thing that Hamas understands, and that Israel must as well. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Very Disproportionate, Indeed - Marty Peretz
    Frankly, I am up to my gullet with reflex criticism of Israel as going beyond proportionality in its responses to war waged against its population with the undisguised intention of putting an end to the political expression of the Jewish nation. What would be proportionate, apparently, are those tried-and-true half measures to contain Hamas that have never worked. If I were giving advice to the Israelis, this is what I would say to Hamas and to the people of Gaza: "If a rocket or missile is launched against us, if you take captive one of our soldiers (as you have held one for two and a half years), if you raise a new Intifada against us, there will be an immediate response. And it will be very disproportionate. Proportion does not work." (New Republic)
  • Hamas Gets Its Wish - Editorial
    Israel bombarded Hamas security targets in Gaza for the third straight day on Monday, and much of the world screamed in protest that Israel has overreacted. What would have happened if there had been such international outrage when the rocket attacks from Gaza began to escalate a few weeks ago? Or if there had been outrage when Hamas formally declared on Dec. 18 that it was ending the six-month truce with Israel? There will be no peace in the Middle East and no prosperity for the people of Gaza as long as the provocateurs of Hamas are in charge. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Israel Can Buy Time, Not Peace - Ralph Peters
    We may sympathize with the average Palestinian family, exploited by generations of corrupt leaders and now caught in yet another round of violence. But let us never forget that Israel hasn't fired thousands of blind rockets into Palestinian cities, that Israeli suicide bombers don't attack Arab restaurants and bus stops, and that Israel seeks to avoid harming civilians - while Hamas seeks to kill as many civilians as possible. (New York Post)
  • Sderot Under Siege - David Keyes
    There is nothing moral about the depraved state in which the launching of almost 6,000 rockets can pass without an overwhelming retaliation. There is nothing sane about restraint in the face of a vicious war waged upon you. If 6,000 rockets were launched at San Diego from Tijuana, rest assured that the residents of Tijuana would have little trouble finding parking because their city would be flattened. There would be no talk of ceasefires. America would wage war, it would win, and the rocket fire would cease.
        Israel's actions in Gaza should be the beginning of the beginning. Hamas must be annihilated and Gazans' very faith in their way of life must perish in the agony of their total defeat, to paraphrase MacArthur. Only then may the people who elected the region's most vicious terrorist group undergo the spiritual reformation so critical of a defeated people to reject militarism and violence and embrace civility and restraint. (Commentary)
  • A Self-Destructive Palestinian Leadership - Editorial
    The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 provided the Palestinians with a chance to truly govern themselves within a territory that the Israelis would no longer patrol. Yet when faced with the opportunity to further the two-state solution, the Palestinian people chose Hamas instead. When faced with the task of building a peaceful state in Gaza, Hamas instead chose war, firing thousands of rockets over the years into southern Israel.
        As Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged after Israel's bombardments of Gaza began, Hamas invited the attacks when it rejected any extension of a six-month truce with the Jewish state. (Denver Rocky Mountain News )
  • The Suffering that Hamas Causes - Jeff Robbins
    Hamas' disdain for the suffering its policies cause the Palestinian residents of Gaza is exceeded only by its open, and even proud, infliction of atrocities on Israeli civilians. This year alone, Hamas, which expressly calls for the obliteration of Israel, has launched approximately 3,000 rockets and mortar bombs into Israeli civilian centers, always for the purpose of killing and maiming Israelis if possible, and terrifying those who are not actually hit. Under these circumstances - which would have continued without end had the Israelis failed to act - it seems clear that the Israeli military response was not merely a necessary one. It was, regrettably, the only one left. The writer was a U.S. delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission during the Clinton administration. (Boston Globe)
  • Observations:

    Don't Overlook Israel's Vulnerability - Mary Dejevsky (Independent-UK)

    • Have you ever been to Israel? Because if you have, you might understand how small and devoid of natural defenses this country is. You would see that from north, south and east, they are vulnerable to siege from those who command the higher ground. And you would realize how fearful Israelis remain, even three generations on, that they could actually be driven into the sea in a matter of hours.
    • Deep down, do you believe that the State of Israel has a right to exist, or do you feel that the world would be a simpler and more harmonious place if only the victorious Second World War Allies had found a way of purging their post-Holocaust guilt without acquiescing in the creation of a Jewish homeland in what had been Palestine under the British mandate.
    • Well, I have been to Israel; I have talked to its leaders and people. My overwhelming impression is not of war-lust, but of insecurity. You have a duty to ask what came first: the fear of annihilation or the military capability to pre-empt it.
    • The point is that, having endorsed the creation of the State of Israel, the UN, as heir to the League of Nations, has an obligation to make sure that its continued existence is possible. Time and again, though, all manner of international guarantees have proved inadequate. Israel soon learned that it would have to be able to look after itself. All the peace treaties that Israel has so far been able to negotiate with its neighbors have been achieved from a position of military strength.

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