December 8, 2023
Special Edition
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Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Hamas Terrorists Captured in Gaza - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    In unprecedented images, a video released on Thursday by the IDF shows dozens of detainees suspected of either direct or indirect involvement with Hamas, sitting on the road with their heads down, stripped down to their underwear.
    Surrounded by Israeli soldiers, the detainees were in the heart of Jabaliya in northern Gaza.

U.S. Told Israel Not to Respond Directly to Houthi Attacks - Gordon Lubold (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran-backed Houthi forces in northern Yemen have been firing drones and ballistic missiles at Israel for weeks.
    Israel and the U.S. have shot down most of these threats.
    The U.S. has told Israel to let the American military respond to the Houthis instead of risking an Israeli response that could expand the conflict, U.S. officials said.

Israeli Civilian Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in North as Hizbullah Attacks Continue - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    Eyal Uzan, 60, an Israeli civilian, was killed by a Hizbullah anti-tank missile in an agricultural field near Moshav Mattat near the Lebanese border Thursday.
    In response, the IDF struck the source of fire with attack helicopters, tanks, and artillery.

U.S. Resumes Drone Flights over Gaza to Aid Hostage Rescue (Reuters-Al Arabiya)
    "In support of hostage recovery efforts, the U.S. has resumed unarmed UAV flights over Gaza, and we continue to provide advice and assistance to support our Israeli partner as they work on their hostage recovery efforts," Lisa Lawrence, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Thursday.
    The flights had been paused during the truce between Israel and Hamas, which collapsed last week.

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IDF Arms Defense Teams in Communities near Gaza ahead of Return of Residents (Times of Israel)
    Officials began distributing weapons, ceramic vests, and helmets Thursday to civilian standby security teams from communities close to Gaza, ahead of the return home of those who were evacuated during the war with Hamas.
    The training of standby forces, which has been intensified since fighting started, is to be further expanded.
    In addition, the number of IDF soldiers deployed in each border community will be increased and their training will be expanded.

Navigating Post-War Realities for Israel and Egypt - Dr. Ofir Winter, Morr Link and Adam Sharon (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    Egypt's pivotal role in Israel's strategy for post-war Gaza is indisputable.
    A joint plan to serve their respective political, security, and economic interests should focus on neutralizing Hamas' military and governance capabilities; facilitating the gradual and conditional reinstatement in Gaza of a "revitalized Palestinian Authority" committed to peace; strengthening Egyptian oversight over the Philadelphi Route and the Egypt-Sinai border crossings; and crafting an economic incentive package to bolster Egyptian involvement in Gaza.
    Dr. Ofir Winter is a Senior Researcher at INSS and a lecturer at the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Morr Link is a Research Associate at INSS.

The Palestinians Chose to Self-Immolate on the Altar of Destroying Israel - Franck Salameh (Hoover Institution-Stanford University)
    The story of Israel is the tale of a Jewish state that views its rebirth as restitution and justice.
    It is also the tale of an Arab (Muslim) state that never was, that chose to self-immolate on the altar of preventing Israel's emergence, and that views the Jewish state in its midst as an aberration and disruption of God's justice, the personification of injustice.
    Justice from a Jewish perspective is "Israel reborn," while injustice in Arab (Muslim) eyes is this same "Israel reborn."
    How does one resolve such a dilemma when Israel, having achieved "justice," seeks "recognition," when Arabs seek its correction?
    For fans of "context" - from Hamas apologists, to honest human rights activists genuinely concerned for civilian lives, to infantilized pedestrians gorged on social media fallacies devoid of reflection, discernment, or critical analysis, to outright antisemites to whom Israel can't seem to do anything right and has no right to self-defense - that is the context of October 7, 2023.
    Arabs won't "recognize," and Israel won't oblige by offering its "demise."
    The writer is Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Boston College.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House: U.S. Has Not Given Israel Firm Deadline to End Gaza Operation - Humeyra Pamuk
    U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer discussed the end of Israel's major combat operations against Hamas in Gaza at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington on Thursday, saying, "We have not given a firm deadline to Israel, not really our role. This is their conflict. That said, we do have influence, even if we don't have ultimate control over what happens on the ground in Gaza." He noted a phone call on Thursday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
        "Frankly, if the war were to stop today, (Hamas) would continue to pose (a threat), which is why we are not in a place yet of asking Israel to stop or to force a ceasefire."  (Reuters)
  • Israel Agrees to Open Kerem Shalom Border Crossing with Gaza for Screening and Inspection - Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber
    Israel has agreed, at U.S. request, to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing to speed up the inspection of humanitarian aid delivered to Gaza via the Rafah crossing, a senior U.S. official said Thursday. (Reuters)
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director "Happy to See" Oct. 7 Hamas Terror Attack - Gabby Deutch
    Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Nihad Awad told a November conference hosted by American Muslims for Palestine, "Yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land and walk free into their land that they were not allowed to walk in." Audience members cheered Awad's remarks.
        "Yes, the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, had the right to defend themselves," said Awad. "Yes, Israel as an occupying power does not have that right to self-defense." Awad did not differentiate between "the people of Gaza" and the perpetrators of the Oct. 7 attack. "Gaza became the liberation source, the inspiration for so many people. The Gazans were victorious."  (Jewish Insider)
        See also White House Disavows U.S. Islamic Group after Leader's Oct. 7 Remarks - Peter Baker
    A spokesman for President Biden condemned the remarks by Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), on Thursday. "We condemn these shocking, antisemitic statements in the strongest terms," said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. "The horrific, brutal terrorist attacks committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 were, as President Biden said, 'abhorrent' and represent 'unadulterated evil.'"
        The White House included an officer of CAIR in a "listening session on Islamophobia" in May with Doug Emhoff. Later that month, the White House listed the council among several independent organizations in a document discussing commitments to fight antisemitism. The White House removed CAIR's name from the online document on Thursday. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • As Gaza Breaks Down, Hamas Rulers Hide Underground - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas mistakenly gambled on expecting only a limited Israeli offensive in response to its Oct. 7 attack. IDF forces have not yet entered the refugee camps in the center of the Strip and Rafah in the south. But already now, it is evident that the central governance of Hamas, in Gaza City and around Khan Yunis, is collapsing in full view of the Middle East, that is receiving the message as well.
        In the north, Hizbullah has not begun an all-out war on Israel after two months of limited fire. Some 100 Hizbullah fighters have already been killed. Hizbullah and its masters in Iran have good reason to avoid all-out war after the images of destruction in Gaza - a reminder to them of the firepower available to the IDF.
        Slow but increasing condemnations of Hamas are being heard in Gaza, while most civilians there still support the group and its popularity surges in the West Bank. Hamas has usurped humanitarian aid delivered by the UN for civilians and fuel that was needed for critical infrastructure.
        Hamas does not even try to offer solutions for the displaced and its leaders remain in hiding while its operatives steal what they can of the humanitarian supplies. Gazans understand Hamas and its leader Yahya Sinwar are responsible for their fate. (Ynet News)
  • In the Shijaiyah Neighborhood of Gaza City, "There Isn't a Building Where There Isn't Weaponry" - Jonathan Spyer
    Col. Oded Adani is deputy commander of the IDF's 188 Armored Brigade, currently tasked with the conquest of the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City. As we look toward a row of ruined buildings, he says, "Every building that received fire is one in which we located terrorists....The main challenge is that the enemy hides, and then arrives by surprise, setting traps and making use of civilian infrastructure - schools, cemeteries....There isn't a building where there isn't weaponry. There isn't a school from which terrorists don't emerge. We see it."
        With Hamas military capacities tightly woven into the civil infrastructure, it has become impossible to cleanly divide the two. Lt.-Col. Tal Turjeman, commander of the 906th Infantry Battalion, said, "We find ammunition boxes hidden under the beds of children, rocket launchers placed outside of kindergartens. 95% of the buildings we've entered contain military materiel." He describes the methodical process of careful targeting, and then the application of concentrated, massive force. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Operates in Shijaiyah in Close Combat with Hamas - Yoav Zitun
    Fighting continues in the Shijaiyah neighborhood in the eastern part of Gaza City. On Thursday, there were over 50 clashes with terrorist groups. Nearly 200 terrorists were killed, many by tank fire or snipers, as IDF forces moved into the neighborhood from various directions. Unlike what transpired elsewhere in northern Gaza, many of the Hamas forces here chose to stay. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • IDF: Hamas Broke Truce in Gaza Minutes after It Began - Emanuel Fabian
    IDF battalion commander Lt.-Col. (res.) Yisrael said his forces were on the outskirts of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza, on Nov. 24 when the truce began. "At 7 a.m. the ceasefire started, and at 7:15 a.m., dozens of terrorists ran toward us, from every direction. Some of them were opening fire, and our forces killed them. Between 7:15 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. we killed 20 terrorists. And then they realized they shouldn't mess with us."
        "They don't really try to face us, but to sting here and there. Their method of operating is fleeing in civilian clothes, leaving behind their uniforms, their guns, anti-tank missiles, explosives, and they just run. After we leave the area, they return and attack the next forces."
        "It's unbelievable. In dozens of yards of homes we found dozens of rocket launchers. We found Kalashnikovs under mattresses, inside clothes closets. It wasn't thrown there suddenly, they were hidden in the homes." Yisrael shows us two multiple rocket launchers, as well as a mortar launcher that the troops had found adjacent to homes. One of the rocket launchers still has cables running from it to the basement of one of the homes.
        Back home, Yisrael has a wife and children waiting for him, much like the other troops in the battalion. "It's difficult, complex, very challenging, kids who haven't seen their father [in two months]...but I think everyone understands that we have no choice," Yisrael said. "Whoever is here for the past 63 days...is now here due to willpower, friendships, wanting to obtain the objectives. Nobody is here because I told them to be," noting that around 60 of the troops are volunteering, as they are old enough to be exempt from reserve duty. "These are people sacrificing everything for the country, the best people in the country. They left behind everything, their families, their work, to fight here."  (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas and the Lesson of Hanukkah - Liel Leibovitz
    Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, began Dec. 7: two months after Hamas brutally murdered some 1,200 men, women and children in Israel. The U.S. post-Oct. 7 is a different country for secular Jews, many of whom now yearn for deeper connections to their past and to the stories that have bound them as a people for millennia.
        Before Oct. 7, many of us lived lives of quiet and content assimilation. Then came the attack, and anti-Israel activists trapped and, in some cases, assaulted Jewish students on college campuses. The press has related Hamas' propaganda as news. Thousands of our neighbors have waved Palestinian flags and cheered for the destruction of the world's only Jewish state.
        American Jews are becoming much more comfortable than ever setting themselves apart. You can see them filing into synagogues they'd never visited before, or buying Star of David necklaces to make sure they're easily identified as Jews, even though or precisely because they may pay for it with a nasty look or worse.
        You can read their posts on social media helping one another recover from the betrayal of so many people they once considered friends. Last month, nearly 300,000 of them gathered on the National Mall in Washington - the largest pro-Israel gathering in American history - to make sure they were counted as Jews.
        The writer is editor at large of Tablet. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Pro-Palestinian Protests Have a Problem - Louis Fishman
    During my three decades of voting in Israeli elections, I have most often voted for a Jewish-Palestinian party, something I have been quite vocal about. One might expect I would have eagerly attended pro-Palestinian marches, joining many of my friends who sincerely support the cause. However, the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on Israel sadly and quickly clarified to me that to join, I would have to deny every part of my existence. More than that, I would have chosen to side with people who justify the ruthless killing of Israelis as a case of "noble resistance."
        The pro-Palestinian bar of acceptance for Jews is not based on shared values of peace, equality, and human rights. It is based on one simple question: Are you willing to separate yourself not just from Israelis but from the Jewish people at large, who overwhelmingly sympathize with Zionism? Jews are welcome only if you reject Jewish self-determination, only if you declare vociferously that you're anti-Zionist and renounce your support for any Jewish political presence in the territory of Israel-Palestine.
        Most organized Judaism, whether Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox, is Zionist in some form or another. This is a historical fact, and its emergence is based on historical realities that go far beyond the question of supporting - or not supporting - Israel today or any specific Israeli government ever. Zionism, in essence, is the bond Jews have with Israel. It is an identity intricately linked to religion. For many Jews worldwide, it is also a family connection.
        In their fervor, many within the pro-Palestinian camp refuse to use the word Israel, but rather "Zionist" state; and they do not use the term "Israelis," but rather "Zionist colonizers" or "Zionist settlers." For them, it did not matter that the Israelis attacked on Oct. 7 were not settlers in the West Bank; all Israelis are fair game. What has emerged in the halls of academia and the protests is a new form of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, extending to Jews throughout the world who support Israel.
        The writer is an associate professor of history at Brooklyn College. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why Israel Is Entitled in Law to the "West Bank" - Melanie Phillips
    During a discussion on Times Radio, a number of people were astonished to hear me state that Israel is not in "occupation" of "Palestinian land" and that the Jews alone are entitled in law to this territory. These facts are never referred to in mainstream discourse. Yet Israel is entitled to this land - all of it - many times over in law, as well as according to history, truth and morality.
        There has never been any such thing in law as Palestinian land. There never was a state of Palestine. When the Romans conquered the Jewish kingdom of Judea, destroyed the Jewish Temple and drove the Jews of Judea into exile, they renamed it Palaestina in an attempt to erase its Jewish identity.
        When the Ottoman empire fell after the First World War, the international community that carved up the Middle East kept the name Palestine to describe the territory which was now to be recreated as the homeland of the Jewish people. This was cemented at the 1920 San Remo Conference and given the force of international treaty law by the League of Nations in the 1922 Mandate for Palestine.
        After Britain sliced some 70% off this land to create (Trans) Jordan in an act of arbitrary realpolitik, Palestine consisted of what is now Israel, the "West Bank" and Gaza. Only the Jews were given the legal right to settle these lands. That right has never been abrogated. From 1949 to 1967, Jordan held the "West Bank" as a military occupier. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel freed that territory from illegal Jordanian occupation, and allowed the legal claim of the Jewish people to that territory finally to be acted upon.
        At the time of the Mandate, Palestine was only sparsely occupied. As the Jews returned to the land, Arabs attracted by the prospect of growing prosperity poured in from neighboring states. They considered themselves to be Arabs. Between 1922 and 1948, when people referred to the Palestinians they were referring to the Jews.
        The writer is a columnist for The Times-UK. (Substack)

Ending the War - Robert Satloff and Dennis Ross (American Purpose)
  • President Biden wrote in the Washington Post on November 18, 2023,"If Hamas cared at all for Palestinian lives, it would release all the hostages, give up arms and surrender the leaders and those responsible for Oct. 7." Biden was right to raise the prospect of Hamas' surrender. Actively pursuing that goal might be the best way to save Palestinian lives and to achieve U.S. strategic objectives in the Israel-Hamas war.
  • Since Oct. 7, President Biden has held fast to the principle that Israel has both the right and the obligation to wage war against Hamas for its unprovoked aggression against civilian communities in Israel.
  • Israel has implemented numerous operational procedures to keep the tragically high civilian death toll from climbing substantially higher; it has also allowed inspected humanitarian goods to flow into the war-zone.
  • Both Washington and Jerusalem recognize that the precondition for any effort to bridge their differences over the "day-after" is Israeli victory over Hamas. Any talk of a post-war political process is meaningless without Israeli battlefield success. There can be no serious discussion with Hamas either still governing Gaza or commanding a coherent military force.
  • President Biden recognized early that "ceasefire now" presents an insurmountable obstacle to any "political process later." His correct and courageous decision has been to fight the growing chorus for a ceasefire and to play the long game.
  • In the fog of war in Gaza, the only certainty is that the survival of a substantial element of Hamas would be a political and diplomatic disaster. If a battered but still operational Hamas is left in control of key parts of Gaza and is therefore able to claim victory, Hamas' rejectionist ideology will likely gain traction among Palestinians and throughout the Middle East. This would put Arab states on the defensive, and they would hesitate to take risks to advance a reinvigorated Arab-Israeli peace process.

    Robert Satloff is executive director and Dennis Ross is a distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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