December 29, 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:

How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7 - Jeffrey Gettleman (New York Times)
    A Times investigation interviewed more than 150 people and uncovered new details showing a pattern of extreme brutality against women on Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists massacred hundreds of young Israelis.

Israel Proposes Underground Barrier to Block Weapons Smuggling from Egypt to Gaza - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    Israel has been proposing to build a deep underground barrier on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border to prevent weapons smuggling.
    Israeli defense officials believe Hamas has been bringing in its weapons via underground tunnels beneath Rafah.
    They suggest the wall be built using the advanced technological means built into the wall beneath the Israel-Gaza border.
    Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discussed the proposal to build the wall, with the cooperation of Egypt and some American funding, with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during his visit last week.
    The wall would cover 13 km., compared to the 65-km. underground wall between Israel and Gaza.
    The underground section held well on Oct. 7, unlike the border fence above it, and has never been breached by a Hamas tunnel. It includes technological systems that can detect digging nearby.
    The Egyptians oppose Israeli ground operations near Rafah, fearing that mass numbers of Palestinians would breach their border to escape the fighting.
    They also insist that no weapons smuggling had taken place through the Rafah border crossing, despite evidence to the contrary.
    The military believes the war cannot end before the Hamas lifeline is eliminated. Otherwise, the terror group would be able to rehabilitate its military capacity quickly.

Will Egypt Work with Israel to Destroy the Smuggling Tunnels into Gaza? - Jonathan Schanzer (Commentary)
    The Israelis have requested that the Egyptian military evacuate from the Gaza-Egyptian border.
    The Israelis don't want any Egyptians caught in the crossfire as they battle Hamas on Gaza's southern border.
    Israelis will soon begin to discover tunnels connecting Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula. There may be dozens of them.
    Despite some early Sisi regime successes in dismantling those tunnels (including by flooding them), the Gaza-Sinai border has become a major zone for Hamas smuggling activity.
    In recent years, these tunnels have also enabled Hamas leaders and fighters to come and go as they please.
    This is how Hamas was able to re-arm and replenish after multiple rounds of fighting over the years, and how Hamas fighters have been able to get training from the outside.
    The Sisi regime would be content to destroy Hamas because of its longstanding connection to the Muslim Brotherhood.
    But the Sinai Bedouins have a lucrative system of smuggling and the Egyptian military has been incentivized to turn a blind eye to their activities.
    The writer is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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IDF's Captured Documents Unit Saves Soldiers' Lives - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Intelligence gathered from items seized by Israeli forces from Hamas has saved IDF soldiers in the field in real-time on multiple occasions.
    Since Oct. 7, the IDF's Document and Technical Means Collection Unit, now staffed by 350 people, mostly reservists, has sorted through 65 million electronic files and 500,000 physical documents.
    Maps and electronic files have disclosed the locations of many concealed Hamas tunnel shafts and spots for sharpshooters set up for ambushes.
    In some cases, the officials leading the unit directly contacted officers in the field to save time and possibly lives.
    There have been numerous cases in which the entire maneuvering strategy of a battalion was altered based on information from the unit.
    These reservists have been at work for months, but they expressed readiness to continue for an indefinite period, despite their need to return to their daily lives, their livelihoods, and their families.
    See also IDF Combs Troves of Hamas Documents - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Hamas documents have revealed schedules for rocket launches targeting specific locations in Israel, such as airports and military bases.
    They also detailed procedures for the capture and confinement of Israelis.
    Parts of Hamas' combat plans spanned over 80 pages, specifying how Hamas would confront, in intricate detail, a prolonged Israeli military campaign.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Biden Tells Netanyahu to Solve Palestinian Tax Revenue Issue - Barak Ravid
    President Biden held a difficult conversation last Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel's decision to withhold part of the tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.
        After the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, the Israeli government said it would transfer all the funds except for those that go to Hamas-run Gaza. The PA, however, has refused to accept a partial transfer of the funds. Biden told Netanyahu he expects him to solve this issue, added that "this conversation is over," and ended the call.
        A few days after the Biden-Netanyahu call, the issue came up again during a meeting at the White House between Israeli Minister Ron Dermer and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. "We have made good progress and think this issue of tax revenue transfers is on its way to being resolved," a U.S. official said. (Axios)
  • Israel Retaliated Inside Iran for Iranian Terror Attacks in 2022 - Naftali Bennett
    When I became prime minister in June 2021, I told my security chiefs that my goal was to avoid, if reasonably possible, local clashes with Hizbullah and Hamas. Rather, Israel's national-security resources must be focused on weakening our primary enemy - Iran.
        As prime minister, I made another decision regarding Iran. I directed Israel's security forces to make Tehran pay for its decision to sponsor terror. Enough impunity. After Iran launched two failed UAV attacks on Israel in February 2022, Israel destroyed a UAV base on Iranian soil. In March 2022, Iran's terror unit attempted to kill Israeli tourists in Turkey and failed. Shortly thereafter, the commander of that very unit was assassinated in the center of Tehran. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Small Drones Are Helping Israel Navigate the Urban Battlefield in Gaza - Dov Lieber
    The Israeli military has learned that the cheapest and most effective option for exploring Hamas tunnels in Gaza is a small quadcopter drone. The IDF also flies these quadcopters into buildings before sending in soldiers, and they provide smaller units with aerial reconnaissance. Military officials say the drones have played an essential role in minimizing their casualties as they rapidly advance through a densely populated, well-fortified, and extensively booby-trapped battlefield.
        The small drones can create 3-D maps of the tunnels and can fit through small spaces. They can also create their own communications networks underground, with each small drone flying as far as it can before becoming a new relay node that will allow the next drone to fly further. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Attacks Hizbullah Deep in Lebanon after Drone, Rocket Barrages
    Israeli jets, tanks, and artillery struck several Hizbullah terror compounds and infrastructure across southern Lebanon on Thursday in response to a day of heavy rocket barrages in the North, the IDF reported. Air-raid sirens sounded Thursday from Haifa's suburbs to the Golan Heights. The IDF shot down a drone that crossed into Israel from Lebanon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arab Stabs Two Israeli Security Guards at Jerusalem Checkpoint - Emanuel Fabian
    A female border security officer and a male civilian security guard were wounded in a stabbing attack at the Mazmuria checkpoint near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa on Thursday night. A Times of Israel reporter who witnessed the attack said the assailant got out of a car and attacked officers guarding the checkpoint before being shot by those he'd stabbed. (Times of Israel)
  • French Report Details Hamas Buildup to October 7 Attacks
    A report this week in the French daily Le Figaro describes Hamas' exhaustive preparations for the Oct. 7 attacks and expected reprisal, from appointing dummy commanders to take the brunt of Israel's response, to sending members on secret training missions, all while keeping the timing of the assault from all but a handful of people.
        Saleh al-Arouri, a top Hamas official based in Lebanon, gave Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah a heads up just 30 minutes before the rampage kicked off. Hizbullah, which had been planning a similar assault on Israel, was not pleased. The report claimed, "The cards they had been holding for a future attack against Israel had been shown by the Palestinians: penetrating inside Israel, airborne [assaults], the element of surprise," noting a "well-known plan by Hizbullah's al-Radwan [unit] to infiltrate the Galilee."
        According to a Hizbullah source, Arouri "oversold" Hamas' leaders on the support they could expect from Hizbullah and others. Nasrallah, unable to commit backing, sent Arouri to Tehran, where he and Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh were told by Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that it would not be embarking on an "all-out war" against Israel, Le Figaro said.
        Hamas members and allies were sent to drill for the assault in Syria and Lebanon, getting them out of Gaza under the guise of sending them to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage. (Times of Israel)
  • Video - Israel Air Force Chief: Gaza Strikes Precise, There's No Indiscriminate Bombing - Emanuel Fabian
    Israel Air Force Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Omer Tischler said Wednesday: "Since the October 7 massacre, the Israeli Air Force has been conducting a precise, focused and process-based campaign." Tischler addressed media reports on Israel's use of unguided bombs.
        "The term 'dumb bombs' describes munitions that are not guidance-based. These are standard munitions that are regularly used by militaries worldwide. The claim that such munitions are indiscriminate or cause uncontrollable damage is misleading. Even though these munitions are not GPS-guided, they are still used accurately. They are released at a specific release point calculated by the aircraft's system to allow the pilot to strike a target accurately."
        Referring to massive craters seen in Gaza from IAF strikes, he said, "Heavy munitions are detonated underground, preventing fragmentation and significantly reducing the blast wave and debris as a result. In these strikes, the resulting crater visible in satellite images indicates that the underground detonation has actually occurred on a military target, and directly minimized damage to the surrounding areas."
        "In war, mistakes can happen. While they are exceptional, they are still made. We study them, learn from them, and make changes to our process as a result."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Limits of U.S. Influence over Israel - Dennis Ross
    The high death toll among Palestinian civilians in Israel's war with Hamas has triggered repeated calls for placing conditions on American assistance to the Jewish state. The reality is that U.S. aid to Israel has never been a blank check. We have often used military assistance as a way to achieve our own policy goals - to encourage Israel to take risks for peace or to help deter American enemies in the Middle East.
        But because Israel is a democracy, its policy choices are often shaped and determined by public opinion, and history shows that if Israeli voters think the U.S. is making unreasonable demands, it will reject them, regardless of the costs.
        Israel lives in a tough neighborhood, with enemies who call for its eradication. Jewish and Israeli history make it clear that such calls need to be taken seriously, because the unimaginable can happen; Hamas' Oct. 7 attack demonstrated that dire reality once again.
        U.S. strategic cooperation with Israel is not simply a favor to Israel. It serves American geopolitical interests while also channeling much of the aid back to the U.S. defense industry. Israel has developed and shared critical new military technologies, whether "active armor" to protect tanks or the Arrow and Iron Dome anti-missile defense systems. Moreover, the two countries share intelligence since the forces that threaten Israel usually also threaten the U.S.
        Threatening to withhold U.S. aid unless Israel changes its policies would only have the effect of making the Israelis feel they must go it alone. As one senior Israeli official recently told me, "If America says you have to stop or we will cut you off, we will fight with our fingernails if we have to - we have no choice."
        Today, with Israelis united in wartime and still traumatized by the Hamas attack, trying to force them to accept a Palestinian state would backfire. Making assistance to Israel conditional on certain policies won't build American influence or further American interests.
        The writer is a Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and has played a key role in U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East since the Reagan administration. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli Soldiers Want to Save the Country - Fiamma Nirenstein
    The IDF's Tze'elim base is a city of tents and concrete huts, home to a constant flow of soldiers going into and coming from the fighting in Gaza. Back in real life, Col. Asaf, 51, runs an office dealing with robotics. He has a wife and three children back at home. Here, he is a commander of operations.
        "From here, I direct the fighting of the infantry and the artillery," he says. "I tell them where to go, what to avoid, what to do. I send up the drones to get a good look at the targets, the weapons, the terrorists. If the strike is necessary and there are no innocent civilians, I send in the air force to prepare the ground, but I call it back if children suddenly appear on the street or in homes."
        "We are winning the most difficult war. The achievements are always getting more significant. Many tunnels have been discovered, the refuges of known terrorists. Weapons caches have been revealed and destroyed. Every day we know more and we take important steps. Calm and time - that is what we need. We fight well. Let us do it. We will destroy the enemy."
        The soldiers feel that they are doing something essential. You breathe this spirit in from them. They are exactly where they want to be. They tell you that themselves over and over again. They get annoyed when you ask if they are emotional or afraid. Of course, they are. So what? They want to save the country. They know they are the defensive wall. They only want to be allowed to do their job.
        The writer, a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. (JNS)
  • Kids in Israel Feel Connected to Their Country - Shayna Goldberg
    On Wednesday, Sammy Jackman, an immigrant from Britain, eulogized his beloved son, Efraim, who was killed in battle in Gaza. He described his ambition and drive, his love for family, his high standards and unwillingness to compromise, and the way he gave his all for the army, his country and his people. He said: "Only in Israel can you raise children like this." It's true.
        Kids are educated to give of themselves to society at large. This spirit of volunteerism pushes them to serve as counselors in youth movements, to run camps for the physically disabled, to visit the elderly, and to organize all kinds of group activities to help their communities. This tough spirit fosters independence and idealism. That's what happens when you give 18-year-olds guns and tell them they are responsible for each other's lives.
        The so-called "Tik-Tok generation" in Israel was able to put down their screens in a matter of moments and get out there to protect their people and their country. They have shown little sign of the entitlement, coddling, or failure to take responsibility that plague many of their counterparts in other countries. (Times of Israel)
  • How Westerners Empower Radical Islam - Zoe Strimpel
    Yasmine Mohammed - not her real name - is the author of the 2019 book Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam. Born in Vancouver with a father from Gaza and an Egyptian mother, she says, "any criticism of Islamic cultures is deemed xenophobic or racist." But this reluctance to apply to Islam the same pressures for change and improvement we apply to ourselves is a form of the inverse racism of low expectations.
        This is evident in the failure of many Westerners to properly condemn Hamas' actions on Oct. 7. Instead of heaping condemnation on Hamas, as we would do with any other group, she feels that many Western universities, media, and politicians imply its behavior is a fitting response to Palestinian grievances.
        "After the Holocaust, would you now expect Jewish people to jump into the homes of German people and start slaughtering families and kidnapping people? Of course not." But when it comes to Arabs or Muslims, a different, lower set of expectations is applied - as if barbarism is perfectly OK. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Handling Iran's Houthi Hornet's Nest - Editorial
    The Iran-backed Houthis have seized upon the war that Hamas instigated against Israel to launch drone attacks on some commercial ships and to commandeer others passing by their Yemeni bases. Rather than swatting swarming Houthi drones one by one as they buzz toward vulnerable Red Sea shipping, the newly formed naval coalition should knock out a terror base or two, thereby demonstrating the penalty for interrupting the right to safe passage in waters protected by international convention.
        Ultimately, Iran must be disabused of the notion that it can use terror to impose its long-sought Islamic caliphate across the Middle East and isolate the region from the modern world. Moreover, if Iran is left unhindered in putting the finishing touches on its nuclear weapons program, the world will have much more than mad Houthi hornets with which to contend. Regrettably, there is simply no effective alternative to peace through strength. (Washington Times)

  • Universities across Canada and the U.S. have become alarming hotbeds for anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric and actions. Students do not feel safe on campus nor protected by school leadership. In my hometown of Vancouver, a controversy has flared up at the Samuel and Frances Belzberg Library - an institution of research and learning that was endowed by my late husband and me - located in the Morris J. Wosk Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University.
  • The librarian for history, international studies, liberal studies and political science at SFU posted several hateful tweets that go beyond criticism of Israeli policy. On Oct. 29, the librarian denounced Zionism and Israel as "vile, inhumane, deranged, and monstrous." She also urged people to boycott Indigo books simply because its owners founded a charity that funds former Israeli soldiers' education.
  • I am 96 years old. I make no secret of my Jewishness. I lost dozens of family members in the Holocaust: aunts, uncles, cousins yet to blossom into their full selves. The horrific events of Oct. 7 were a stark reminder that antisemitism has endured and, astonishingly in recent months, deepened in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
  • Our hopes in endowing the library 34 years ago were rooted in our commitment to create a space where facts and information were centered, a place that would foster mutual understanding, not a cascade of social-media vitriol from one of our own librarians. I am also concerned about the unwillingness of officials at Simon Fraser University to publicly disavow these messages. The extraordinary irony is that the library exists within a Center for Dialogue.
  • I completely acknowledge, and celebrate, that our endowing the library gives me no right at all to hold sway over the learning and the dialogue that takes place within it. The library belongs to everyone now, as it should be.
  • And so, simply as a citizen and as a patron of the library, I think it is within my rights to express the obvious: this is an institution based on free and civil discourse. Such messages on social media from our librarian are no more tolerable in a library than bigoted social media messages from a professor or student leader should be at this university.
  • I am convinced that ugliness and hate in the public sphere is the enemy of peace and reconciliation. Decency, learning, openness and dialogue are our only hope.
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