December 19, 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:

Houthi Attacks Pose a Major Threat to Global Trade - Philip Pilkington (UnHerd)
    Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea have now reached a critical point, with many global shipping companies stopping their vessels from moving through the area.
    The Bab al-Mandab chokepoint in the Red Sea accounts for 10% of global seaborne oil flows and also a large amount of liquefied natural gas.
    The alternative route involves sailing around the African continent.
    The main economic risk that this introduces is to delay the arrival of key goods which would lead to shortages and inflation. Oil markets also seem likely to be affected.
    The failure of the U.S. to intervene will result not just in economic pressures, but also in other countries calling into question the viability of American security guarantees.
    The writer is an Irish economist working in investment finance.

Released Israeli Hostage Recounts Horrors of Gaza Captivity (Ynet)
    CBS' "60 Minutes" broadcast an interview Sunday with Yarden Roman-Gat, an Israeli hostage who was released as part of the exchange deal with Hamas.
    She said she was paraded in the streets to cheering Palestinians. "My kidnappers could not help themselves, showing me off as a trophy," she explained.
    See also Video: Israeli Hostage Shares Details of Her Captivity in Gaza - Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes-CBS)

German Evangelical Christian IDF Soldier Killed in Gaza - Yair Kraus (Ynet News)
    Sgt. 1st Class Urija Bayer, 20, a commando brigade soldier, was killed in combat in southern Gaza, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit reported on Monday.
    Bayer, an Evangelical Christian who is not an Israeli national, was a volunteer for the IDF.
    Bayer's grandfather and grandmother moved to Israel from Germany in 1972 out of Zionist sentiments and established a nursing home and a guesthouse for Holocaust survivors.

Video: IDF Destroys Hamas Statue Dedicated to Killing Israeli Soldiers - Sam Halpern (Jerusalem Post)
    On July 20, 2014, an armored personnel carrier carrying seven soldiers drove over an explosive device the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. All seven were killed.
    IDF soldiers of the Golani Brigade destroyed a statue featuring a fist coming out of an APC, erected by Hamas in the central square to glorify the event, the IDF stated on Monday.

Kibbutz Be'eri's Young Adults Return Home to Rebuild - Hillel Kuttler (Tablet)
    On Kibbutz Be'eri, 100 homes were so burnt and ravaged that they'll be razed and cleared.
    But Be'eri is also showing signs of life and a future, much of it thanks to its young-adult cohort who have returned to lend a hand in its hour of greatest need.
    Some 30 Be'eri natives in their 20s and 30s are back and have committed to remaining, at least for the short term.
    "We're not doing it for money, but for love," said Ella Dvori, 22, who cancelled a visit to India. "Now is the time to give back to the place we grew up in."
    The terrorists didn't target the neighborhood where the teens and young adults live, so their quarters are intact - while the rest of the kibbutz's population remains at hotels to which they were evacuated.
    The young adults took control over who entered the grounds, reopened the kibbutz's offices, and reopened the dining room. They're gardening, raking lawns, and removing light debris. Next will be reopening the laundry and restoring the lighting along walkways.
    "They're running the kibbutz," said Jelan, a Be'eri resident since 1976. "They're laying the groundwork for when the [older] adults decide to return. I'm very impressed by them. This is the next generation. When you give them responsibility, they run with it."
    On Oct. 7, 93 residents were murdered and 30 were kidnapped - totaling about 10% of the kibbutz's prewar population of 1,250.
    Residents said everything depends on whether the IDF succeeds to destroy Hamas and return security to the Israeli region known as the Gaza Envelope.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pentagon Announces New International Mission to Counter Attacks on Commercial Vessels in Red Sea - Tara Copp
    The U.S. and a host of other nations are creating a new force to protect ships transiting the Red Sea that have come under attack by drones and ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Tuesday in Bahrain. The seriousness of the attacks, several of which have damaged the vessels, has led multiple shipping companies to not enter the Bab el-Mandeb Strait until the security situation can be addressed.
        U.S. Central Command reported two more attacks on commercial vessels Monday. There are about 400 commercial vessels in the southern Red Sea at any given time.
        Operation Prosperity Guardian will include joint patrols and intelligence support in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden by the U.S., UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain. China has warships in the region, but those ships have not responded to previous calls for assistance by commercial vessels. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Houthis Vow to Defy International Coalition, Keep Up Red Sea Attacks
    Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels say they would not halt attacks on Red Sea shipping despite the announcement of a new maritime protection force. "Even if America succeeds in mobilizing the entire world, our military operations will not stop...no matter the sacrifices it costs us," senior Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti said on X.  (AFP-Times of Israel)
  • After a Devastating Terrorist Attack, Israelis Are Disenchanted of the Prospects for Peace - Sheera Frenkel
    A growing number of Israeli citizens are eschewing ideas that include promoting peace talks with the Palestinians and supporting a two-state solution since Oct. 7, when Hamas gunmen crossed into Israel in a surprise attack and killed 1,200 people. Since that day, a consensus has emerged that Israel needs to take a harder line with the Palestinians. Activist groups in Israel's peace camp say many members have abandoned the cause. Many longtime Israeli peace activists said they could no longer support the movement.
        "The trauma of what happened on Oct. 7 shifted Israeli society. It made them question the most basic tenets of whether they were safe in their homes," said Tal Schneider, a political columnist for the Times of Israel. "They are calling now for more military, more protection....Nobody in this country wants to talk about peace right now." A poll in November by Tel Aviv University found the share of Israelis in favor of a two-state solution had fallen to below one-third.
        Before Oct. 7, Larry Butler, 73, a resident of Nir Oz, had been a member of Peace Now. Now, displaced in a hotel in Eilat, Butler has questioned his beliefs. "I guess I'm somewhere in the middle," he said, "but I'm definitely not left." Maya Mizrachi, 25, had also protested for peace. After Oct. 7, she discovered that a high school friend was among those killed at the music festival. "The irony is that she was the biggest peace activist I knew," Mizrachi said. "She was the one who got me involved in the movement to begin with."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • "An Israeli Victory in Gaza Is a Victory for the U.S.-Led Free World"
    At a joint press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Tel Aviv on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, "Our common enemies around the world are watching and they know that [an] Israeli victory is a victory for the free world led by the United States."
        Gallant also announced plans for a phased transition in Gaza war operations, potentially enabling the local population to return to the northern part of Gaza. Austin said he discussed the shift from major combat operations to lower-intensity warfare with the Israeli leadership but stressed that Washington would not dictate timelines. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Solidifies Hold in Northern Gaza - Emanuel Fabian
    The IDF said Monday it had taken full control of the Beit Hanoun area in northern Gaza. Soldiers eliminated "many terrorists" there, destroyed their weapons depots, rocket launchers, underground command centers, and significant tunnels, capturing all of the Beit Hanoun battalion's main compounds and strongholds.
        The IDF arrested a number of Hamas terrorists at a school in Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood, including two who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. IDF forces also advanced in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. The IDF said it had killed some 600 Hamas operatives there in the past two weeks. Troops also located and destroyed more than 10 tunnel shafts in the neighborhood, seized weapons and intelligence materials, and located and destroyed dozens of rocket launchers. (Times of Israel)
        See also IDF Makes Headway in Khan Yunis, Hamas Leader Sinwar Said Hiding in Tunnel in Area - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF said Tuesday that its forces had made considerable headway in their offensive in Khan Yunis, the second largest city in Gaza. The military estimated that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was hiding underground in a tunnel in the area. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • What the U.S. Doesn't Get about Palestinian Hatred toward Jews - Nadav Shragai
    Most Israelis have a deep understanding - shaped by decades of terror, attacks, and bloodshed - that the hostility, hatred, and commitment to perpetuate the struggle against the Jews and Israel comes from the grassroots level, from the Palestinian public en masse. The Palestinian leadership is a reflection of Palestinian society, which rejects our very existence here. Hundreds of surveys and thousands of statements over many decades attest to this.
        There are large swaths in Palestinian society who cling to the most extreme interpretation of Islam, and find there an obligation, justification, and permission to murder Jews for being Jews and "infidels." According to Dr. Khalil Shikaki's latest survey, 82% of Palestinians in the West Bank support the Oct. 7 massacre, and most of them, despite everything they know today, still support Hamas.
        The doctrine that prevails in the Palestinian education system, from kindergarten to universities, of a world without Israel, a doctrine that sanctifies "martyrs" and glorifies terror, is a reflection of what the Palestinian household espouses today. Palestinians absorb hatred, distortion, lies, and incitement with their mother's milk.
        Therefore, changes in leadership in the Palestinian Authority are irrelevant if, with every slaughter and killing and shooting in our streets, Palestinians dance and celebrate on the roofs and hand out sweets. The Palestinian public cannot be replaced, nor do we aim to do so. It is what it is. This is what we have to deal with. (Israel Hayom)
  • Hamas Sees Peace as Weakness - Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib
    I was 12 and living in Gaza City on March 27, 2002, when a Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up in a hotel in Netanya, Israel, on Passover, killing 30 Israelis and injuring 140 others. I vividly remember the glee with which Hamas leaders, supporters, religious clerics and enthusiasts in Gaza celebrated this horrendous attack. The group's propaganda, which I experienced firsthand in Gaza, glorified its terrorism and demonized the word "peace," claiming it was equivalent to betrayal, weakness, surrender and the embrace of Jews.
        I remember signing up for a summer camp in 2002, though I hadn't realized this camp was organized by Hamas propagandists who proselytized the virtues of armed resistance. I told my mom that I wouldn't be attending the rest of the camp. Even as a child I saw through its cheap propaganda. Through its indoctrination and Islamization of Gaza's youth, Hamas was breeding future generations of radicalized Palestinians.
        Hamas has been a disaster to Palestinian aspirations for freedom and self-determination. It must be ruthlessly criticized and rejected. Weakening Hamas begins with normalizing criticisms of its ideology, its violent agenda and its subjugation of the Palestinian people.
        The writer is a nonprofit administrator and a writer on Middle East issues based in the U.S.  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Some Israelis Question Whether Any Assistance Should Reach Gaza During the War - Benny Avni
    Under American pressure, Israel is increasingly raising the amount of humanitarian aid it allows into Gaza. Yet some Israelis doubt the wisdom of letting any assistance reach the Strip during a military campaign to dismantle Hamas' control of it.
        A former head of Israel's national security council, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, told Israel's Channel 11 that, as a recent poll indicates, Hamas enjoys wide local support. "Once aid gets into Gaza, who distributes it?" Hamas decides what gets to civilians in need, and how much goes to its own fighters.
        If no aid gets in at all, Gazans would direct their anger at the terrorists who have ruled Gaza since 2007, Eiland said. In the initial hostage deal, he notes, Hamas insisted on aid deliveries. Now that more aid is coming in, its leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has no incentive to release more hostages. Eiland insists that the more aid that is delivered, the longer the military campaign will last, delaying a post-Hamas humanitarian rehabilitation of Gaza. (New York Sun)

  • I joined IDF troops in combat in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. The extremely challenging situation the IDF faces in Gaza today may be the most treacherous and formidable battleground any soldiers have ever fought on. Fighting in built-up areas diminishes the advantage of tanks, renders air and artillery support much more difficult, and is characterized by exceptionally high casualty rates, especially for attacking forces.
  • IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari has reported that Hamas has been using suicide attackers. If you don't make the right split-second decision when someone appears in front of you in civilian clothes, without a rifle, with his hands up and with an unseen suicide vest beneath his outer clothing, you and your comrades could be vaporized.
  • In almost every alleyway and every other house in Shejaiya the IDF has found explosives, weapons and booby-traps, not to mention terror tunnel entrances. I saw boxes of Iranian-supplied hand grenades stored in a child's bedroom.
  • In the midst of this hell, IDF soldiers are daily risking their lives to hunt down Hamas terrorists. I spoke to many of them inside Gaza and saw some of them in action. What I found deeply impressed me. The standards of professionalism and battle discipline of these young conscripts are remarkable, especially when you consider that most are straight out of high school, as well as the older reservists who dropped what they were doing in their offices and factories, grabbing rifles and uniforms to answer the call of duty.
  • I was struck also by their sky-high morale and incredible fighting spirit, virtues that are so vital in any fighting army. They know only too well the risks they face each day, with death just one bullet or bomb away, and too often they see their comrades maimed and killed beside them. Yet every single one I met, with images of Oct. 7 burned into their minds, remains utterly committed to protecting their families, friends and countrymen.

    The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA. 

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