December 22, 2023
Special Edition
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Misreads Israeli Public Sentiment - Avi Issacharoff (Ynet News)
    The top leadership of Hamas has stated that renewed negotiations for a prisoner and hostage exchange would only be possible after a complete cessation of hostilities, including the withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza.
    Israel's willingness to present Hamas with an improved proposal for a hostage deal was interpreted by Hamas as weakness and an opportunity for extortion. Hamas seeks the release of  "high-profile" terrorists with blood on their hands.
    However, Hamas' aspirations seem to lack a firm grip on reality. Sinwar and his cohorts have not fully grasped that the Israeli public will not accept anything less than the dismantling of Hamas rule in Gaza.
    The IDF continues to achieve significant military gains daily.
    The writer, a veteran Israeli journalist focusing on Palestinian affairs, is one of the creators of the TV series "Fauda."

Video: Israel Thwarts Smuggling of Weapons from Turkey to Palestinians - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
    The Israel Police said Thursday they had thwarted an attempt to smuggle thousands of weapons parts from Turkey to the West Bank through Ashdod port.
    A cargo destined for Nablus contained an industrial weaving machine weighing several tons and measuring 10 meters in length.
    Concealed within the machine were thousands of components for automatic firearms and submachine guns, alongside counterfeit coin molds for 10 shekel coins.
    This week, two Palestinian residents of Nablus were arrested for involvement in arms trafficking and importing components for terrorist activities.

Large Banners in Cities across Turkey Support Hamas (MEMRI)
    Since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, large multi-story banners supporting Hamas have been displayed prominently in public places in 15 cities across Turkey.
    Many send their "greetings to Hamas" and encourage the group to "continue the resistance." One calls for "a world without Israel."

Iraqi Militia Attempts Drone Attack on Eilat - Yuval Barnea (Jerusalem Post)
    The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella for multiple pro-Iran militias, announced on X that they had launched a drone attack on Eilat in Israel.
    The Jordanian Defense Ministry announced that it had shot down the drone after it had crossed into Jordanian airspace, Maariv reported.

Anti-Israel Protest Forces LA Synagogue to Relocate Shabbat Services - Judy Maltz (Ha'aretz)
    For the first time since it was founded in 1935, Temple Beth Am, a Conservative congregation located just south of Beverly Hills, will be moving some of its Shabbat services to another location, fearing that a large anti-Israel protest scheduled for Saturday could erupt into violence.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington Vandalized with "Free Gaza" Graffiti - Jacob Gurvis (JTA)
    The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., closed temporarily on Wednesday after its steps were vandalized with graffiti in red paint reading "Free Gaza" in multiple places.

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Israel to Ramp Up Domestic Munitions Production; New Technology Bringing Success in Gaza War - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Learning a lesson from the war in Gaza, Israel has put in place the processes necessary for more local production of munitions.
    On Wednesday, Yediot Ahronot reported that "to enhance Israeli self-reliance in military supplies, the Defense Ministry aims to establish local production of the chemical agents necessary for bomb manufacturing."
    This initiative was coordinated with local defense industries. The transition to domestic armament production is projected to cost billions of shekels.
    The Gaza war is also showcasing new technology. The Iron Sting precision mortar is being used by the IDF for the first time in combat. Troops in the field can direct it using a laser and a GPS.
    A new rifle sight using SmartShooter's Smash technology "weighs less than standard sights, identifies the enemy within seconds, can lock on targets, and quadruples our forces' chances of hitting their target," said the IDF. The Smash technology helps the fighter with a rifle lock onto small moving drones.
    The Spike FireFly operates like a drone, taking off and hovering. Then the munition, which is part of the drone, can slam into a target.
    This is perfect for urban environments, where RPG teams may hide in a house and only pop out every once in a while.

Friends of the IDF Ships 150 Tons of Emergency Winter Clothing, Gear to Soldiers (Israel Hayom)
    Friends of the IDF sent 150 tons of essential winter clothing and gear to Israeli soldiers fighting on the front line.
    Delivery involved two chartered 747s, along with cargo flights and El Al flights carrying items valued at $10 million.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hamas Tactics in the Gaza War: Deception, Ambushes and Booby Traps - William Booth
    As the conflict rages in Gaza, Hamas tactics have included deception, surprise, and ambush. In recent days, IDF soldiers have been hearing recordings of weeping and people speaking Hebrew, intended to lure them into a deadly trap. Hamas fighters dart from building to building in civilian clothes, the IDF says, and attempt to ensnare Israeli soldiers with booby traps and lures.
        Kobi Michael, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said the deceptions "are designed to entice the army to enter areas that Hamas prepared in advance as kill zones."
        Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran national security commentator for Yediot Ahronot, entered Gaza recently with the IDF and described a children's room: "The bombs were hanging in sandbags on the walls to explode at the head level of the soldiers. With the crying of children and all these gimmicks, the goal is to lure the IDF forces into traps. They lay bait to bring the forces to the area where explosives are placed in a circuit and connected to each other. And it did happen. They managed to hit soldiers like that."  (Washington Post)
  • Hizbullah Has Already Opened the Northern Front - Jonathan Spyer
    "We see a steady escalation in terms of the range and variety of munitions being launched by Hizbullah at Israel," IDF Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus told foreign journalists on Dec. 18. "We can do the same, if we need to, against Hizbullah that we are doing against Hamas in the south. This may be the scenario that we will need to implement."
        The briefing took place at the deserted kibbutz of Rosh Hanikra. Only yards from the border with Lebanon, it once was a flourishing community of 1,400 people but was evacuated, along with 27 other communities, following Hamas' massacre on Oct. 7, obliging 86,000 people to leave their homes and become refugees in their own country.
        More than 1,000 Hizbullah attacks have taken place since Oct. 7 as the Shiite Islamist group maintains a controlled second front to aid Hamas. Israeli forces have killed more than 100 Hizbullah fighters since Oct. 7. Seven IDF soldiers and four Israeli civilians have been killed. Between 1985 and 2000, Israel maintained a security zone north of its border with Lebanon. Now, the zone is on the Israeli side of the border.
        UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought the 2006 war in Lebanon to an end, pledged to keep Hizbullah north of the Litani River. But Hizbullah is deployed today all the way to the border. It now seems that Israel must choose between a pre-emptive action against Hizbullah or effectively ceding the northern border area to Iran's proxies.
        An IDF reservist at a border outpost told me, "It's a myth that Israel might open a front in the north because there's already a front opened - opened by an organization that's part of the Lebanese government."
        The writer is director of research at the Middle East Forum and director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli Opposition Leader Backs Government's Strategy in Gaza - Alexander Burns
    In a series of phone calls with American lawmakers since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Israeli opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid has conveyed resolute support for the government's strategy in Gaza. There has been no second-guessing of the war cabinet.
        "He wanted to make clear that there was real unanimity of purpose when it comes to the campaign in Gaza," said Senator Chris Murphy, a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "He was delivering a message about the imperative of defeating Hamas."  (Politico)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Senior Israeli Official: PA Can't Rule Post-War Gaza - Jeremy Sharon
    A senior Israeli official said Thursday that an op-ed by Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi on the Saudi-owned Elaph news site, which was taken to mean that the government may allow a reformed Palestinian Authority a role in governing Gaza after the war with Hamas, had been "misunderstood." The official insisted that there can be no role for the PA in Gaza after the war because it cannot be trusted to fulfill Israel's requirements, including demilitarizing the territory.
        The official also said that Israel is interested in reaching a new hostage release agreement with Hamas in which the remaining 17 women and children would be released first, but that there are no active negotiations at present.
        The official dismissed any potential UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire and insinuated that Israel would ignore it.
        He said Israel had three goals for Gaza after the war: that it be demilitarized, deradicalized, and that a functioning civil administration be established. He said the PA was not capable of delivering on any of these goals. On demilitarization, "we know the PA can't do it because they are not ready to confront the terrorists....They haven't done it since the beginning of the Oslo Accords and they don't do it today....We can't take people who aren't doing this in Jenin and ask them to do it in Gaza. It's a non-starter."
        The official said that instead, Israel wants moderate Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE to be involved in deradicalizing Gaza, alongside Western assistance, and wants civilian life in Gaza to be run by a "local administration of Palestinians."
        He added, "We are committed to putting an end to the existence of Hamas, because of the atrocities, because of the fact that they swore to go forward [again] with those atrocities, because they are committed to killing us, to raping us, to decapitating us. This [goal] is not going to change."
        Turning to the northern front, the official said, "If diplomacy won't bring about a solution, we will have no choice but to use other means to make sure that the north is safe, Hizbullah is taken away from the border, and Israeli citizens, about 100,000 people that left their homes, will be able to come back home safe."  (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Now Controls Gaza City's Shujaiyeh Neighborhood - Yaniv Kubovich
    The IDF has gained control of Gaza City's Shujaiyeh neighborhood and took over the headquarters of Hamas' Shujaiyeh Battalion, the army announced on Thursday. The IDF arrested many terrorists, including those who participated in the massacre in Israel on Oct. 7. In Jabalya in northern Gaza on Thursday, civilians were evacuated from a school, after which troops searched it and found large quantities of arms and ammunition. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli President: UN to Blame for Gaza Aid Delays - Jacob Magid
    Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Thursday that the UN has been failing to keep up with the amount of aid Israel is inspecting, and it is to blame for any limitations on aid entering Gaza, now that Israel has opened up the Kerem Shalom crossing to ease the bottleneck.
        "Unfortunately, due to the utter failure of the UN in its work with other partners in the region, they have been unable to bring in more than 125 trucks [of aid] a day," Herzog told visiting French Senate President Gerard Larcher. "Today it is possible to provide three times the amount of humanitarian aid to Gaza if the UN - instead of complaining all day - would do its job," Herzog said. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • In the Middle East, Any Perceived Weakness Is an Invitation to Attack - Dr. Harold Rhode interviewed by Chananel Shapiro
    Dr. Harold Rhode served in the U.S. Defense Department for 28 years as an advisor on Islamic culture. He speaks Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew, and French, as well as English. He said, "In Western society, we sometimes forget that in order to understand the enemy, we have to get into their brain. As long as we don't know how to do that, as long as we believe they think like we do, we will never be able to understand what motivates them. It can create situations of brutal and absolute surprise, as we saw on Oct. 7 in Israel."
        "Westerners understand that there are different narratives about a given situation....That's not the case in the Middle East, where most people only accept one narrative, their own - everyone else's narrative is wrong, regardless of objective reality. I soon realized that truth didn't matter there and was easily discarded for the point they wanted to make. Good friends often looked me in the eyes while lying to me."
        Rhode learned that in Islam, peace as the West defines it cannot exist between Muslims and non-Muslims. However, according to both the Koran and Sharia law, there can be a temporary agreement, some type of truce or armistice called a sulha or hudna. This is the type of non-aggression pact the Saudis and other Arab Muslim nations are willing to sign with Israel because they share a common enemy - Iran - but they are not long-term peace agreements, and will remain in force only as long as the leaders of these Arab countries believe them to be in their interest.
        "I learned that salam doesn't actually mean peace, as we would wish. Salam means the joy a Muslim gets by submitting to Allah's will."  (Mishpacha)
  • History Shows Hamas Can Be Defeated - Haisam Hassanein
    Opponents of Israel's military campaign in Gaza argue that Hamas is an idea, and you cannot kill an idea. But as the Egyptian government demonstrated in its effort to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that gave rise to Hamas a generation ago, ideas wither without organizations to pursue them. Today the Brotherhood in Egypt no longer exists in any meaningful form beyond a web page and a few little-known figures claiming to be leaders while living abroad.
        Egyptian President Sisi's efforts had little to do with winning a war of ideas. The government arrested Brotherhood leaders, forced some into exile, and used extensive force against the group's militant offshoots. It waged a relentless campaign against the Brotherhood's domestic recruitment sources by shutting down its educational institutions, intercepting funding from abroad, and working to criminalize Brotherhood ideology.
        In the long run, a decisive defeat for Hamas is what's best for Palestinians and the region as a whole, not just Israel. It would open the door to moderate Arab governments re-engaging with Palestinians, especially the Saudis and Emiratis, who (unlike Qatar) were not interested in backing an Iranian proxy.
        The writer is an adjunct fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (New York Post)
  • Muslim Activist Blasts Reactions to Attacks in Israel - Dana Ben-Shimon
    Anila Ali, a Muslim-American of Pakistani heritage who works to promote the rights of women in conflict zones, heads the American Muslim & Multifaith Women's Empowerment Council (AMMWEC). She told Israel Hayom: "I won't accept women's rights activists standing on the sidelines when it happens to Israel....Because the victims are Jewish women, you're selective? You can't choose victims and decide that you only support the rights of women who aren't Israelis."
        She is angry at Hamas and terrorist organizations that "stole Islam from us, took our religion and use it to create terror and to divide us. They caused Islamophobia. It was the same on 9/11. Hamas, the Taliban, ISIS - they're all the same, how they made our lives miserable."
        On one of her trips to Israel, she visited Ramallah and Jenin and heard how young men spoke about jihad and intifada for the sake of Islam. To Palestinian mothers, she says, "If you say that you're oppressed, what are you doing to get out of it? Think about how you'll educate your children. Give your children balls to play with and not bombs. Allah granted precious life to live, you need to stop sanctifying death....Killing can't serve as a model for children anymore....We need to educate them to accept their neighbors, and we've failed if we don't succeed in doing so."  (Israel Hayom)
  • The Fantasy of a Moderate Palestinian Authority - Joseph Epstein
    The Palestinian Authority has proven too ideologically extreme and inept to govern the West Bank, much less Gaza. It spreads the same radical, revolutionary ideology as Hamas and is unpopular among Palestinians due to its crippling level of corruption. A recent poll found just 17% of Palestinians are satisfied with the rule of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and 63% believe the PA is a burden on the Palestinian people. Abbas' sons, Tareq and Yasser, own a business empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
        Over two decades, the PA has doled out millions to the families of convicted terrorists, including those who have killed Americans. PA-run schools, summer camps and children's TV programs promote antisemitism and indoctrinate Palestinian children against Israel, encouraging martyrdom.
        After Oct. 7, eight PA-run schools celebrated with speeches, statements, and arts and crafts displays. Jibril Rajoub, the Fatah Central Committee chairman, called on all Palestinians to join Hamas in battle against Israel and even threatened another Oct. 7 in the West Bank. (Newsweek)
  • Mahmoud Abbas Must Go - Samer Sinijlawi
    I joined Fatah Youth in Jerusalem during the First Intifada in 1987 when I was 15. Several years later, with other young Fatah leaders, I met Mahmoud Abbas in his office in Ramallah. He was then No. 2 in the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was in his 50s; we were in our 20s. "You are tomorrow's leaders," he would tell us. Today, Abbas is in his late 80s, we are in our 50s, and that tomorrow never came. Abbas' leadership as president of the Palestinian Authority has failed to deliver democracy to his people, failed to keep them safe, failed to manage a viable economy, and failed to ensure they can live a dignified life.
        The Palestinian Authority is increasingly invoked as the one entity that could bring unity back to Gaza and the West Bank. But for us Palestinians, that solution will have legitimacy only if there are fundamental changes in the authority's structure - and that includes removing Abbas and his cronies from power.
        Since the establishment of the PA in 1994, Palestinian citizens have been watching their leaders' manifest lack of respect for the rule of law. Violation of their constituents' rights and freedoms have included allegations of embezzlement, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and beatings. Today, the president effectively controls the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government. Allegations of corruption are widespread.
        A new government for the Palestinians must find a way to join hands with Israel in bringing down the curtain on one of the most complex conflicts of the modern era. President Abbas must leave the political scene and be allowed to live his remaining days in dignity.
        The writer is a political activist and Palestinian political commentator from eastern Jerusalem. (New York Times)

  • As the IDF ground operations in Gaza deepen, it has come to light that there is hardly a spot in the Gazan public sphere that has not been used to serve in the struggle against Israel, including an elaborate system of tunnels, weapon storage facilities, snipers' posts, observation or rocket firing posts, headquarters and safe houses. Gaza as an entity was dedicated in its entirety to anti-Israel jihad.
  • This makes one wonder about Gazan residents' attitudes toward the atmosphere that had developed in their living quarters, permeating their schools, kindergartens, mosques, UNRWA facilities, hospitals and recreational areas. It is highly unlikely that Gazans were not aware of the terror state existing among them. Many might have identified with the Hamas project and assisted it.
  • The immense terror infrastructure currently being dismantled is a prime manifestation of Hamas' authentic set of priorities, which Israel had, to a large extent, failed to understand before Oct. 7. The financial value of the "tunnel cities" and the inconceivable scope of the weapons captured are estimated to be worth billions of dollars, the kind of money that could have dramatically improved the lives of Gazans over the last few decades.
  • In Hamas' view, the ideological objective clearly outweighed any improvement in quality of life, and the Gazans themselves did little to object. The Oct. 7 massacre is rooted in ideological yearnings perceived as overarching considerations.
  • The comprehensive rehabilitation that Gaza would require cannot focus merely on housing and infrastructure, but on the forming of a normal civil sphere, free of the murderous militarization spread by Hamas throughout Gazan society. This would require a profound change in Palestinian views - a mission even more complex than removing the military threats posed by Gaza.
  • A profound change in Palestinian views cannot be achieved solely through Israeli actions. It must involve efforts from within the Palestinian system itself. We cannot but hope that the younger Palestinian generation will begin to grasp that the battle slogans and victimization embraced by their ancestors have led its people to nothing but disasters, and start to examine the possibility of replacing them with compromises and focusing on developing life here and now.

    Dr. Michael Milshtein is director of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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