May 19, 2021
Special Edition

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Hamas - "We Must Attack Every Jew on Planet Earth" (Israel Defense Forces)
    Hamas has been indiscriminately firing rockets at civilian areas of Israel for the past week.
    Hamas has always been clear about its main objective: to eradicate Israel and Jewish people, no matter where they live.

Hamas Attack Blocks International Aid Convoy to Gaza - Iyad Abuheweila (New York Times)
    Hamas attacks are contributing to the humanitarian crisis within Gaza.
    On Tuesday, a convoy of 24 trucks carrying international aid from Israel came under mortar fire from Palestinian militants as it tried to enter Gaza, according to Israeli and UN officials.
    Only five trucks got through. The trucks contained medical equipment, animal feed and fuel tanks for the use of international organizations in Gaza, Israeli officials said.

Hamas vs. Israel: Psychological Asymmetry in Action - Irwin J. Mansdorf (JNS)
    "Psychological asymmetry" refers to the difference between what is real in theory and what is real in practice, depending on perspective and ideology.
    When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, one example is the ability of an inferior military force to fight a superior one by resorting to tactics that the latter cannot and will not undertake.
    Arab terror entities, which care little for international humanitarian standards, benefit from this asymmetry by having no restraints when it comes to targeting civilians.
    They also care little about and even exploit to the point of sacrifice the well-being and lives of their own people, using them as cover in their missile-launching aimed at Israelis.
    When civilians in Israel are victims, psychological asymmetry sees them as collateral victims of a formidable military force. But when civilians of the militarily weaker Hamas are hurt, they are seen as "true" victims of the supposedly worthy underdog.
    Hamas realizes this well, and in the past has used images of wailing mothers and injured and dead children to promote the perception of the military superiority of Israel as being unfair and illegitimate.
    Yet Hamas' increased bombing of major population centers in the center of Israel inversely weakens their ability to claim unique victim status in the psychological realm.
    The writer is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs specializing in political psychology and an adjunct professor of psychology at Long Island University.

Calling Out Aggression in the Mideast - Richard A. Epstein (Hoover Institution)
    Once Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, it quickly initiated military attacks on Israel in 2008, 2012, and 2014.
    It is inappropriate to posit moral and legal parity between the two sides. In all cases Hamas was the aggressor.
    It is easy to forget the consistent pattern of Hamas and Palestinian aggression, and instead simply plead for the violence to stop, with no moral judgments either way, but it is a moral blunder to equate Israel's targeted self-defense with Hamas' aggression.
    The writer, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a professor at New York University Law School.

Austria Outlaws Lebanese Terrorist Group Hizbullah (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Austria banned Hizbullah in its entirety last week, outlawing all Hizbullah-linked activities in the country.
    "This step reflects reality," said Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. "The group itself makes no distinction between the military and the political arm."
    Hizbullah "poses a serious threat to the stability in the region and the security of Israel. Israel's right to exist must not be called into question."
    The EU designates Hizbullah as a terrorist organization but makes a distinction between the military arm and the political arm.
    See also Germany Carries Out Raids on Hizbullah-Linked Groups (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    Germany's Interior Ministry has outlawed three organizations accused of collecting money for Iran-backed Hizbullah. Police also conducted raids at locations across seven German states.
    "Those who support terrorism will not be safe in Germany, regardless of the garb in which their supporters appear," an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
    Germany's domestic intelligence agency estimates there are 1,050 Hizbullah members and supporters active in the country.

Israel Accuses Chinese State TV of "Blatant Anti-Semitism" (AP)
    Israel's Embassy in China is protesting "blatant anti-Semitism" on a program of the overseas channel of state broadcaster CCTV discussing Gaza.
    On Tuesday, host Zheng Junfeng said: "Some people believe that U.S. pro-Israeli policy is traceable to the influence of wealthy Jews in the U.S. and the Jewish lobby on U.S. foreign policy-makers. Jews dominate finance and internet sectors."
    He then accused the U.S. of using Israel as a "beachhead" in the Middle East.
    The Israel Embassy tweeted, "We have hoped that the times of the 'Jews controlling the world' conspiracy theories were over. Unfortunately anti-Semitism has shown its ugly face again. We are appalled to see blatant anti-Semitism expressed in an official Chinese media outlet."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iron Dome Proves It Can Withstand Hamas Rocket Barrages - Yaroslav Trofimov
    Israel's Iron Dome system, deployed since 2011 and built and maintained with $1.6 billion in U.S. funding, consists of a network of connected batteries and radars that fire at rockets that seem to be heading to populated areas and ignore those likely to fall into empty fields. In the current round of fighting, Hamas is firing scores of rockets simultaneously. Hamas "is trying to challenge the system. They thought that Iron Dome would stop functioning, but this didn't happen," said Danny Yatom, a former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service.
        The lopsided casualty toll isn't due to a lack of Hamas trying. Its rockets have been aimed relentlessly at Israeli population centers. "If it wasn't for the Iron Dome, all these rockets would have been falling on our heads and we would be counting our dead in the hundreds," said Moti Hetzroni, 77, of Ashkelon.
        Iron Dome is managing to destroy 90% of the incoming volleys. The limited nature of Israeli casualties means that Prime Minister Netanyahu, so far at least, isn't facing public pressure to launch a ground invasion of Gaza.
        "Everyone has been quietly impressed by the ability of Iron Dome to handle the sheer volume," said Michael Stephens, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. Iron Dome has the capacity to launch some 800 interceptors at a given time, making it hard for Hamas to overwhelm the system, said Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
        In peacetime, the Iron Dome system usually utilizes two missiles at a time to intercept incoming rockets, but in the current high-intensity conflict Israel has shifted to using one interceptor per one rocket, an Israeli Air Force general said. Israel hasn't asked the U.S. for more Iron Dome interceptor missiles but has ordered Israel's own defense industry to increase production, he added. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Rockets from Gaza Rain Havoc on Israeli Cities - Ilan Ben Zion
    Sirens wailed just before the Jewish holiday of Shavuot began on Sunday evening, sending Chen Farag and her family once again running for cover as they have dozens of times over the past week. The Farags live in Ashdod, a city of 225,000 people 18 miles north of the Gaza. After huddling in their home's reinforced safe room, an explosion shook the building and they rushed outside to see cars on fire, including their own. Their home's front door had been blown off, windows were blasted and shrapnel was embedded in walls.
        The Farag home is one of 146 buildings in Israel hit by rockets fired from Gaza. Others include homes, apartment blocks, schools, kindergartens and an oil storage tank. So far, 12 people have been killed in Israel and at least 106 suffered shrapnel and blast wounds. Ronit Ifergan, a mother of three from Kfar Aza, a kibbutz just a few of miles from Gaza, said the past week has been far more intense than previous rounds, with Hamas firing near-nonstop barrages of rockets indiscriminately into Israel. (AP-Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Congressman Drops Plan to Delay Transfer of Weapons to Israel - Ron Kampeas
    U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has decided not to ask the Biden administration for a delay in the transfer of over $700 million in precision-guided missiles to Israel. Meeks had convened the committee on Monday night to consider asking for a delay in light of the war raging between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. However, on Tuesday Meeks concluded that the Biden administration was ready to provide the oversight the committee sought and that the delay to consider the appropriateness of the sale in light of the war was no longer necessary.
        The sale was part of a deal reached last year and was unrelated to the war. The transfer is not set to go ahead for another year, and under consideration this week is the export license required for the transfer. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Keeps Up Rocket Fire as Israel Pounds Tunnel Network in Gaza - Yoav Zitun
    Palestinians in Gaza kept up cross-border rocket fire on Wednesday. IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hadai Zilberman spoke Wednesday of attacks on 15 km. of tunnels, from which Hamas launches rockets and enables the movement of terrorists and weapons. He added that after all targets in the Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City were "exhausted" on Tuesday, new airstrikes concentrated on Khan Yunis and Rafah, where rockets are fired at Beersheba and other southern communities. "We hit command centers, offices of the Internal Security Services and the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad."  (Ynet News)
  • 2 Thai Workers Killed in Rocket Attack on Gaza Border - Judah Ari Gross
    Two Thai workers were killed and eight other people were injured on Tuesday in a direct hit by a Palestinian rocket on a packing house in an Israeli community close to the border. In addition, an IDF soldier was wounded in a mortar attack while assisting in the transfer of humanitarian aid shipments into Gaza through the Erez Crossing. (Times of Israel)
  • Former Israel Security Agency Head: No Return to Pre-War Understandings with Hamas - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Former Israel Security Agency head Yoram Cohen on Wednesday told Israel's Kan radio that he opposed returning to the same understandings with Hamas that existed prior to the current war, and believed Hamas must be isolated much more aggressively. Cohen was the head of the ISA during the 2014 Gaza war. He said he would allow only humanitarian assistance into Gaza, including food and medicine, but would block sending in building materials.
        Cohen slammed the post-2014 Gaza war process in which thousands of international inspectors were supposed to ensure that anything that went into Gaza was not appropriated by Hamas, but the number was reduced to hundreds of inspectors and then to border crossing cameras which could not properly oversee the issue. He also criticized allowing Qatar to bring funds to Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF: Hamas Leaders Will Pay a Price for Their Mistakes - Judah Ari Gross
    Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva, head of IDF Operations, told Israel's Kan radio on Tuesday that he would consider the current round of fighting in Gaza to be a success if it ensured calm along the border for the next five years. "I think that the people who were mistaken, more than anyone else, were [Hamas leader in Gaza] Yahya Sinwar and [Hamas military chief] Muhammad Deif. They believed they'd be able to fire at Jerusalem and it would end with some limited kind of response from the IDF and the State of Israel. And they will look back on that decision and think of it as a significant error."
        "The big mistake was Hamas'. It has paid a price for it and will continue to pay a price for it. At the end of the day...most of the things it has built over these many years have not succeeded."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Israel Is Not Yet Ready for a Ceasefire with Hamas - Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer interviewed by Joe Scarborough
    Speaking on "Morning Joe" on Tuesday, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said: "About a week ago, Hamas launched this attack against us. When somebody comes over to you and clubs you, and then says 'we'd like a ceasefire,' you don't just listen to them and accept the ceasefire. The Israeli people want to make sure that this ceasefire will be a long-term pause in hostilities. We've had four rounds of violence with Hamas - in 2008-09, in 2012, in 2014, and now in 2021 - and we've had many salvoes of rockets fired at us in between, intermittently, during those periods."
        "What the people of Israel want is that they want their government to exact such a high price from Hamas that Hamas regrets having started this in the first place - but even more important, will not engage in this type of violence for a very long time in the future."
        "We're dealing with a terror organization that doesn't want to make peace with Israel...and we have to do what we have to do to defend our civilians. What would happen if half of Americans were in bomb shelters as missiles were flying into your cities? What do you think you would want your government to do? That's why the people of Israel are united in order to exact such a heavy price. Look, many Israelis want Israel to do more than it is doing now."  (MSNBC)
  • Iran's War on Israel: Hamas Is a Weapon, and the Palestinians Are Pawns - Clifford D. May
    Iran's rulers fund, arm and instruct Hamas, which rules Gaza, and has fired more than 3,000 rockets at Israeli cities over recent days. Iran's rulers fund, arm and instruct Hizbullah, which dominates Lebanon. Iran's rulers fund, arm and instruct Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens. Iran's rulers fund, arm and instruct Houthi rebels in Yemen. Do you detect a pattern here?
        U.S. envoys in Vienna are conducting negotiations with Iran's rulers, offering them billions of dollars in exchange for permitting the U.S. to rejoin the flawed nuclear deal. Under that deal, Iran's rulers promise to curtail - just for a few years - some aspects of their nuclear weapons development program. They do not promise to refrain from further funding, arming and instructing the Houthis, the Assad regime, Hizbullah, Hamas, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They will use whatever funds flow their way to further these projects with groups committed to "Death to Israel" and "Death to America!" The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
  • Hamas Attacks Shape Biden's View of Gaza Violence, Says Dennis Ross - Steve Inskeep
    Amb. Dennis Ross, who served as a Middle East envoy in the past to presidents of both parties, told NPR: "Israel withdrew from Gaza...it withdrew entirely, and now in this week has taken more than 3,200 rockets. So I think [President Biden] is very sympathetic to the reality that Israel withdraws from the territory and what it gets is rockets in return. And he sees that what Hamas is doing has nothing to do with the well-being of the people in Gaza. It has everything to do with being able to inflict pain on the Israelis. And I think he's quite sympathetic to the idea that Israel should have the right to defend itself."
        "He looks at what Hamas does, what it represents, that it isn't committed to coexistence at all, and I think that's what's guiding him probably more than anything else - plus a historic sense of a partnership with Israel and his belief that Israel remains the one true democracy in the region."
        "In the aftermath of this, as it relates to Gaza, we should mobilize...major international participation to reconstruct Gaza, to do the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for Gaza on one condition...Hamas has to give up its rockets. No one is going to invest in Gaza if Hamas at any point keeps its rockets and can launch against Israel and Israel responds and destroys the investment."  (NPR)
  • Israel Has the Right to Secure the Safety of Its Citizens under Attack from Hamas - Editorial
    As in previous flare-ups with the Palestinians of Gaza, the propaganda war is being played out to Israel's disadvantage. While terror groups like Hamas can hide their weaponry in schools or office blocks, democratic states must expect scrutiny of their military operations. Critics of Israel argue that the power imbalance makes it into the aggressor. Yet any ceasefire must be properly enforced. It cannot be used by Hamas as a military breathing space allowing it to smuggle in new Iranian weaponry.
        The Hamas charter of 1988 was a bloodthirsty document in which the group vowed to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. Now it is armed to the teeth and showing itself ready to move closer to its declared goals. The fact is that Israel has the right and duty to secure the safety of its citizens. (The Times-UK)
  • An Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire on Whose Terms? - Editorial
    Hamas and Islamic Jihad have launched more than 3,000 rockets into Israel since last week, and Israel has been pummeling those groups in Gaza to stop the attacks. Hamas has won a political victory within Palestinian politics with its show of force. Its leaders want to pocket a political win, walk away with their military capabilities intact, and regroup. If Israel lets that happen, the next Gaza war will take even more lives.
        Hizbullah, the more proficient missile-armed Islamists on Israel's northern border, would be emboldened. The better approach is to recognize that Israel is the best judge of its own security. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Missing the Point about the Abraham Accords - Noah Rothman
    Critics claim that regional politics may already be pivoting away from the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements between Israel and many of its Sunni Arab neighbors. Yet normalization progressed rapidly because of the realization that the priority for the region's Sunni states was containing Iran, not resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
        Today, Israel enjoys a functional diplomatic relationship with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, and Oman. While many of these states have condemned Israel's actions in Gaza, theirs has been a lethargic response. The genius of the Abraham Accords is in their decoupling of these Sunni Arab states' relations with Israel from the state of its intractable conflict with the Palestinian territories.
        The Gaza conflict might have slowed progress toward full normalization of diplomatic and security relations between Israel and the Gulf states, but it has not reversed it. An epochal concord is being tested, but it is emerging intact. (Commentary)

  • The Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005 was supposed to produce a more stable outcome and not four Israeli-Palestinian wars. The Israel Defense Forces pulled out of Gaza, together with the 9,000 Israeli civilians who lived there.
  • It is hard to find the basis of outstanding grievances that could justify Hamas launching salvo after salvo of rockets at Israeli population centers and devoting scarce resources to an endless war with the Jewish state. It makes sense then to look elsewhere for Hamas' motivation.
  • It was reported last week that Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, spoke by phone with Esmail Qaani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the man who replaced the notorious Gen. Qassem Suleimani. A senior Hamas official described a visit by a Hamas delegation to Tehran in 2006 with $22 million stuffed into suitcases, and claimed that Suleimani had agreed to transfer an even larger sum. In 2017, Ali Baraka, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, said, "Iran is the only country that supports the resistance with money and weapons."
  • The current Hamas offensive against Israel should be placed in a broader context of Iranian ambitions. An illuminating study published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change this February asserted that "the premise that Iran would moderate its commitment to creating and sponsoring militias due to the thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations after the 2015 nuclear deal and sanctions relief for Tehran was false....The number of militias created by the IRGC surged after this period."
  • It is imperative that Israel defeat Hamas in this round of conflict. It is important that Iranian expansionism through Middle Eastern militias is halted.
  • Moreover, the mistake of the 2015 nuclear deal must not be repeated, with billions of dollars going to Iran, fueling the next wave of terrorism - including the terror of Hamas. Not only is the security of Israel at stake but the security of the wider Western alliance.

    The writer, former director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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