December 18, 2023
Special Report
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Gaza Aid Trucks Stolen by Hamas Gunmen (Times of Israel)
    Videos on social media Sunday showed Hamas gunmen stealing trucks delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza from the United Arab Emirates.
    Masked and armed men can be seen sitting on top of the humanitarian supplies.

Israel Opens Second Crossing for Aid to Gaza (Prime Minister's Office)
    As part of the hostage release agreement, Israel committed to transfer 200 truckloads per day of food and humanitarian aid from Egypt for the civilian population in Gaza.
    The Rafah crossing has the capacity for only 100 trucks a day, with Israeli security screening taking place at the Kerem Shalom crossing.
    In order to abide by the agreement, the Israeli Cabinet approved a temporary measure of unloading the trucks on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing.
    Only humanitarian aid arriving from Egypt will be transferred into Gaza this way.
    The U.S. has committed to pay for the upgrade of the Rafah crossing as soon as possible to enable the transfer of humanitarian aid only via Rafah after passing Israeli security screening.

Inside the Hamas Tunnel Network - Paul Nuki (Telegraph-UK)
    The Erez tunnel network at Gaza's northern tip is four km. in length - the biggest discovered since the war started, according to the IDF.
    The tunnel runs 50 meters deep in places and is believed to have been designed for the wider invasion of Israel.
    As we move further underground, temperature and humidity rise quickly, and you can see why Hamas is desperate for fuel to power its oxygen generators and ventilation pumps. Even just 50 or 60 meters in, the air is dank and sickly.
    You can see why IDF troops only enter as a last resort. The frame of anyone moving in from the light becomes a perfect silhouette. A single combatant with a rifle could hold off a commando unit for hours.

U.S. Jews Suffer from Prank Calls to Emergency Services, False Bomb Threats (Jerusalem Post)
    "In the past 24 hours, the Secure Community Network (SCN - the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America) has tracked a staggering 199 swatting (prank call) incidents and false bomb threats targeting Jewish facilities, including 93 in California, 62 in Arizona, 15 in Connecticut, five in Colorado, and four in Washington state, among others," SCN said on Saturday.
    In the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, SCN logged 772 security incidents and antisemitic activity in October and 634 in November, including vandalism, harassment, and assault.
    In October and November alone, SCN referred 230 individuals to law enforcement.

Houthi Attacks Won't Help a Single Palestinian - Editorial (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    Yemen's Houthi rebels cannot have it both ways. If one of the Houthis' goals is to end Western interference in their country and the region, then repeatedly staging attacks that are almost guaranteed to draw a Western military response reveals either cynicism or unsustainable doublethink.
    How capturing a Bahamas-flagged, Japanese-operated cargo ship and its civilian crew made up of seafarers from Bulgaria, the Philippines, Mexico and Ukraine helps Palestinians in any practical way is a question only the rebels can answer, but few can argue that rationally it does.

Israel Can Never Go Back to the Way It Was Before - Richard Miron (Jewish News-UK)
    Kibbutz Kfar Aza, once home to 800 people, is now a crime scene.
    On Oct. 7, Hamas rampaged into the community, killing 62 people and taking 18 captive.
    Kibbutz resident Ilanit Suissa said, "My heart is not just broken because of the holocaust that took place here, but also because my whole agenda and ideology has broken down."
    "I really believed in peace, I was one of the people who fought for it" as a writer and filmmaker. All that changed on Oct. 7.
    For her, it is not just Hamas that stands guilty. She also blames ordinary Palestinians - "I can't imagine I will ever speak to someone from Gaza. Unfortunately, I feel every one of them had a part of what happened."
    Men from Gaza used to come to the kibbutz to work. Evidence suggests some took the opportunity to gather information for Hamas, from the layout of homes to entry codes for the kindergartens.
    Michael Milshtein, who previously headed the Department of Palestinian Affairs in Israeli Army Intelligence, had insisted Hamas was wedded to its jihadist roots and was planning to strike Israel.
    He says, "The world that existed until Oct. 7 has changed. It has exploded the considerations of everyone in the military and politics."
    As he explains, this means the notion of two peoples living in harmony as good neighbors in two states has gone.

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
by Jerusalem Center Experts
View Daily Briefing at 4:00 p.m. (Israel), 9:00 a.m. (EST)
    View recent briefings

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Weighs Strike Options to Deter Houthis from Red Sea Attacks - Lara Seligman
    Top Biden administration officials are actively weighing options to strike back at Houthis in Yemen after the Iran-backed group launched new attacks on naval and commercial ships in the Red Sea on Saturday, according to two U.S. officials. The Pentagon has in recent days moved the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group from the Persian Gulf into the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen. Over the past week, missile-defense destroyers Laboon, Delbert D. Black and The Sullivans have arrived in the Mediterranean. (Politico)
        See also The Houthi Assault on Global Shipping - Editorial
    The Biden administration is contemplating the use of military force in response to continuing attacks on commercial shipping by the Houthi militia in Yemen. It's about time. The Houthi missile attacks pose the most significant threat to global shipping in decades, and they will continue unless a global coalition unites to stop them.
        The well-armed Houthis, whose missiles and drones are targeting commercial ships willy-nilly, have long been a regional threat, but now they are becoming a global menace. Their attacks are making the Red Sea non-navigable. This will have major economic consequences if it continues.
        The question is whether the U.S. and other Western navies are merely going to play defense and catch missiles as the Houthis set the terms of battle. And make no mistake: Iran is ultimately responsible for this Houthi offensive. The arms come from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran activated the Houthis to pressure the West to pressure Israel to stop its defensive campaign against Hamas in Gaza. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Advances in Khan Yunis - Yoav Zitun
    IDF forces advanced in the Khan Yunis region on Sunday, conducted a raid on the office of the Khan Yunis Brigade commander, targeted terrorist infrastructure and subterranean tunnels, and secured control of Bani Suheila Square at the heart of Khan Yunis. "In the past week, 7th Brigade troops eliminated numerous terrorists, located approximately 30 tunnel shafts, and destroyed numerous anti-tank and lookout posts in the area. They also confiscated grenades and anti-tank missiles and found intelligence materials including phones, computers and Hamas guidebooks," the IDF said.
        The 7th Brigade commander said, "There are terrorists and armaments in every home here, and in some locations we found military diving gear, including wetsuits. In other locations, we found considerable digging equipment and even a GoPro used by a terrorist who took part in the Oct. 7 massacre."
        The combat in Khan Yunis, the second-largest city in Gaza, presented unique challenges compared to the deserted streets of Gaza City in the north. "We raided the home of terrorists and in the basement we have found three Hamas operatives hiding among 20 civilians, 15 of them children."
        "These are complex dilemmas, but our troops are well-trained and strong....They know they are fighting a just war and making history....We will not stop until we eliminate Hamas."  (Ynet News)
  • Israel Set to Expand Gaza Offensive - Amos Harel
    In northern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces are finalizing control of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood in eastern Gaza City and the Jabalya refugee camp to its north. In the south, a campaign is underway that is advancing slowly and cautiously amid the deep network of tunnels Hamas has dug there.
        In guerrilla warfare, even a supposedly defeated unit still possesses residual functional capacity that can be used to exact a toll. There are many battles in which two or three terrorists attack an IDF force by surprise. Most of them end with the IDF thwarting the attack, but they also result in Israeli casualties. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Woman Injured in West Bank Shooting Attack - Elisha Ben Kimon
    An Israeli woman was injured in a shooting attack near Ateret in the central West Bank on Monday morning as terrorists fired at Israeli vehicles. The car was hit with at least 10 bullets fired by terrorists in another vehicle. The injured woman's husband was driving and she was in the back seat with her six-week-old baby. The husband fired back at the terrorists, driving them away. The attackers fled in the direction of Birzeit, near Ramallah. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Reservist Stabbed at West Bank Gas Station - Emanuel Fabian
    An IDF reservist, Cpt. Manny Kalcheim, 49, was stabbed on Sunday by a Palestinian at a gas station near the West Bank's Rantis checkpoint. The Palestinian, Rami Hamze Ballut, who identified with Hamas, was arrested. He had a permit to work in the Israeli community of Shilo. Security camera footage shows the reservist paying at the counter when the assailant runs up from behind and stabs him. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Must Fight Gaza War to the End - Avi Issacharoff
    In the coming days, there will likely be many statements by senior Hamas officials saying that if the Israeli attacks stop, then another hostage release deal could be agreed on. But that doesn't mean that such a deal will actually come to pass. Yahya Sinwar and his companions will specifically try to buy more time to ensure their survival.
        Meanwhile, the IDF's ground operation is showing results. There are clear indications of the dismantling of Hamas and the loss of command-and-control capabilities by the organization's leadership. It takes time, and it will take an additional time. The ground operation in Khan Yunis may change and become based on more targeted and intelligence-based actions but it will continue, and the U.S. government understands and accepts this.
        Hamas is paying a heavy price for its decision to launch an attack against Israel on Oct. 7, and it will continue to do so. Additionally, we must remember that Israel has no choice but to act until Hamas' complete elimination. Israel can't allow this terror organization, responsible for the greatest disaster in the country's history, to return to power in Gaza.
        If this were to happen, we would see more and more attempts to carry out actions and attacks reminiscent of Oct. 7. Only determined and consistent action against Hamas can prevent such disasters in the future.
        The writer, a veteran Israeli journalist focusing on Palestinian affairs, is one of the creators of the TV series "Fauda."  (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Knows Having PA Take Over in Gaza Is a Non-Starter - Israel Kasnett
    On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "As of this moment, the Palestinian Authority senior leadership simply refuses to condemn the [Oct. 7] massacre, and some of them even praise it openly. They will control Gaza on 'the day after'? Haven't we learned anything? As the Prime Minister of Israel, I will not allow that to happen."
        According to John Hannah, a Senior Fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) in Washington, the Biden administration "knows full well that a Palestinian state is a complete non-starter for the foreseeable future." The PA in its current state is "ineffective, corrupt and completely illegitimate in the eyes of its own people. It can't even fight terrorism in Jenin. Why in the world would any Israeli agree to put it in charge of security in Gaza, especially after the existential horror of Oct. 7 that was celebrated by Palestinian society across the board - not only in Gaza but in the PA as well?"
        According to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) last week, 75% of Palestinians (82% in the West Bank) believe Hamas' atrocities were justified. (JNS)
  • Our Youth Have Been Taught Lies about Israel, Hamas - Mark Penn and Andrew Stein
    Young people have never been this far removed from reality - affected by social media and political currents that have sold them pure propaganda. While Americans aged 65 and up support Israel over Hamas by 95% to 5%, those aged 18-24 support Israel by the thinnest of margins, 55% to 45% in the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris poll.
        Our schools have failed to teach our young people even the most basic facts. 44% of 18-24-year-olds believe Israel is not a democracy, and 41% say Israel does not allow Arabs to vote in elections. 41% think Hamas rules democratically and is not authoritarian. 45% think Hamas allows gay people to live together openly, and 51% believe Hamas respects the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. Yet Hamas' charter explicitly advocates the eradication of Jews and Hamas has executed suspected homosexuals.
        And no, Jews are not colonizers, and Israel is not an apartheid country - it is the Jewish homeland dating back thousands of years, and Jews are a multiracial group themselves.
        Mark Penn, a pollster and adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, is chairman of the Harris Poll. Andrew Stein served as New York City Council president. (New York Post)
  • If Security Problems Are Allowed to Fester, They Become More Difficult to Deal With - Herb Keinon
    At 72 days, the Israel-Hamas war is already one of the longest the country has ever experienced. This type of warfare against terrorists hiding in buildings and popping out of the ground takes time. Every day the pain grows more and more as names are added to the list of the fallen, but Israel must continue to pursue the aims of toppling Hamas, rescuing the hostages, and deterring other regional enemies. One of the reasons Israel finds itself in this current war is because, in previous rounds of fighting in Gaza, it was not willing to "finish the job" and eradicate Hamas.
        One of the reasons Prime Minister Netanyahu was not willing to finish the job was concern about the public's inability to handle the casualties it would take to bring Hamas to heel. It is the same thinking that prevented the government from taking military action to prevent the buildup of Hizbullah's enormous arsenal following the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
        Then Oct. 7 hit and the equation changed. Suddenly, because of the pure evil and savagery of the attacks, the public felt that Israel needed to do what it takes, as long as it takes, to remove this threat.
        There was a realization that no life-aspiring nation could live with terrorists hell-bent on destroying it operating within a stone's throw of communities it was hell-bent on destroying. There was an internalization that security problems do not go away or become more manageable with time. On the contrary, if they are allowed to fester, they only become more difficult to deal with. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Peace Can Only Be Achieved by Destroying Hamas - Lorne Gunter
    So long as Hamas remains in charge in Gaza, so long as it even just remains a functioning organization, there can be no lasting peace. That means any talk of negotiating a ceasefire in Gaza under present conditions is naive in the extreme.
        Of course, it's disturbing to see images day after day of displaced Palestinians living in rubble. But those seeking peace that will last for more than a few months must accept that Israel's current military campaign to root out the remnants of Hamas must continue.
        Anyone who has seen the footage of Hamas' butchers euphorically and triumphantly celebrating their shootings, beheadings, maimings, immolations and rapes of innocent Israelis on Oct. 7 can be left with no doubt Israel is up against a heinous evil in Hamas.
        At the end of the Second World War, did the Allies agree to ceasefires with Germany or Japan and leave the Nazis and the emperor in charge before firebombings killed tens of thousands in Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo, just because the thought of so many civilian deaths upset their modern sensibilities? (Toronto Sun-Canada)
  • Israel's Existential War against Moral Incertitude: A Historical Perspective - Dr. Joel Fishman
    American policymakers are pressing Israel to reduce the scope and intensity of its defensive war against Hamas. Israeli leaders fear that doing so will prevent a decisive outcome. How should Israel, the aggrieved party, respond to an attack of barbaric cruelty, and should others tell Israel how it must act? During the summer of 1945, President Harry Truman faced a similar challenge dealing with Imperial Japan.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center, is a historian and former editor of the Jewish Political Studies Review. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel Is Hated Because It Is Strong - Father Raymond J. de Souza
    The alarming antisemitic outbursts after the Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 - when one might have expected expressions of solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people - deserve further exploration. Down through the ages, if the Jewish people were weak, they were despised for being weak, or thought to be deserving of whatever insults could be added to injury. But if they became strong or successful, they are resented as such.
        The horrors of the Holocaust meant that there was a moral imperative to do something to protect Jews from such a calamity again. The key part of that something was the modern State of Israel, where every Jew would have a secure place to live in the world. Israelis still understand themselves as a small nation, fighting for survival in a vast region of hostile powers.
        If Israel were to become weak, would it then "earn" the sympathy of the Ivy League and the General Assembly? Unlikely. The perniciousness of antisemitism is such that it may be thought that the Jews got what was coming to them. (National Post-Canada)

How Jews Escaped Their Dismal Fate - Alan G. Futerman and Walter E. Block (Wall Street Journal)
  • Throughout history Jews have suffered mass murder on a regular basis over two millennia. No matter the location or era, Jews were prisoners of an inescapable sinister circle: Enter a society, live and thrive there for some time, and soon enough be robbed, attacked, murdered or expelled.
  • This closeness to death, accompanied by latent, primal fear, followed Jewish existence and persisted in this people's subconscious minds. Jews carry with them a chronic sensation of inevitable doom. This same fear, this feeling of inevitable catastrophe, is what most Jews felt on Oct. 7.
  • Jews need to defend themselves. There is no other way to assure freedom and flourishing if their precondition, self-protection, is outsourced to the goodwill of others. A Jewish state can always fight back. On May 14, 1948, something changed. Jews gained the power to defend themselves.
  • These past few months we have witnessed rallies calling for mass murder, condemnation, denunciations of Jews - all while the Jews have had to endure a barrage of horrific images and testimonies of the massacres. Yet Jews in Israel, instead of crying over their inevitable doom, are striving for victory in the face of their enemies.
  • Jews are human beings with self-respect. They won't accept gratuitous and unwarranted attacks or vicious rapes. They won't accept mass murder - never again. Jews will defend themselves, as a people, in their own homeland. Finally.

    The writers are co-authors of The Classical Liberal Case for Israel.

Daily Alert is published Sunday through Friday during the war.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert.