December 31, 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:

Music Video: Bring Israeli Hostages Home (Homeland Concert)
    Last week, 1,000 Israeli musicians and singers came to the Caesarea Amphitheatre to sing with one voice in a call to bring Israeli hostages home from Gaza.

U.S. Navy Sinks 3 Houthi Boats Attacking Merchant Ship in Red Sea - Kevin Shalvey (ABC News)
    A Maersk container ship, the Singapore-flagged Hangzhou, issued a distress call on Sunday saying four small boats carrying Houthi militants were attacking it in the Red Sea.
    The Houthis then fired on U.S. Navy helicopters that had responded to the distress call.
    The Navy helicopters returned fire and sank three of the four small boats, killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area.

Iran Rushes Military Supplies to Hizbullah, Israel Responds with Expanded Attacks on Supply Routes in Syria - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    After Iran was seen to expedite weapons deliveries to Hizbullah, Israel has expanded its military responses.
    Attacks attributed to the IDF targeted the Syria-Iraq border area at Al-Bukamal, a supply route for weapons from Iran, with 19 non-Syrians reported killed.

Israel Seizes Vast Cash Hoard in Jenin - Dean Shmuel Elmas (Globes)
    Israeli security forces conducted an extensive operation in Judea and Samaria on Thursday to confiscate Hamas terror funds.
    Banknotes in various currencies worth tens of millions of shekels were seized, while 21 wanted terrorists were arrested with the cash.
    The lion's share of these funds comes from Iran, which is trying to increase its influence.
    According to Israel's Ministry of Defense, budget support for terrorist organizations coming from Iran has jumped in the last two years from 10-15% to more than 50%.
    It is this money that is currently fueling the recruitment of terrorists.
    In the past, ideology was the main motive in Palestinian terrorist activity.
    Today, Hamas tempts young people to carry out a shooting attack for NIS 2,500. Thus, these funds are required to feed terrorist activity.

New U.S. Poll Raises Questions about Americans' Support for Israel's War Against Hamas (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    A new poll of American public opinion, conducted by Dr. Irwin J. Mansdorf of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, finds that nearly a third of the American public holds anti-Israel views in light of the war in Gaza.
    The survey, conducted on December 13, 2023, found overall sympathy for Israel among Americans still at high levels.
    "However, in the current survey, we saw that even some supporters of Israel have started questioning important issues," said Mansdorf.
    "The main problem is with the Israeli attacks in Gaza, with over 34% believing that the Hamas reports about civilian casualties and damage are reliable, and they hold Israel responsible."
    More than 24% believe that reports of sexual assaults against Israeli women by Hamas are exaggerated and do not conform to reality, while 35% were unsure.
    21% agreed that Israelis use the Holocaust to gain global sympathy.
    22% claimed that Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli cities mainly targeted military targets and not civilian ones.

How Can Israel Assure the Demilitarization of Gaza? - Meir Ben Shabbat (Israel Hayom)
    A monstrous entity has grown in our midst, taking deep root in all systems of life and segments of the population in the area it controls.
    It may be impossible to effect real change on a profound cultural level there, at least for our generation.
    Demilitarization will be required as a threshold condition for any future modus vivendi in Gaza.
    Israel cannot trust foreign peacekeeping mechanisms.
    Discussing the "day after" the war ends depends on the achievements of the ongoing combat.
    It is best to have that discussion from a position of strength, when one holds assets and leverage, not before.
    The writer, head of the Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem, served as Israel's national security advisor and head of the National Security Council.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Must Control Gaza's Border with Egypt - Nidal Al-Mughrabi
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Saturday night to retake control of Gaza's border with Egypt. "It must be shut," Netanyahu said. "It is clear that any other arrangement would not ensure the demilitarization that we seek."  (Reuters)
        See also Securing the "Philadelphi Corridor": A Strategic Imperative for Israel - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also below Observations - Netanyahu: We Are Wiping Out Hamas' Capabilities; the People of Israel Will Win (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • U.S. Approves $147.5 Million Sale of Artillery Ammunition and Gear to Israel - John Hudson
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the sale of 155 mm artillery shells and related equipment to Israel, invoking an emergency authority that bypasses the standard congressional review for arms sales, the Biden administration said on Friday. (Washington Post)
  • Israeli Airstrike Kills 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria
    An Israeli airstrike targeting Damascus International Airport on Thursday night killed 11 members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), sources told Al Arabiya on Friday. They were responsible for overseeing Iran-backed forces in eastern Syria and were present at the airport to welcome a senior delegation. The IRGC has denied the report. Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria. (Al Arabiya)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Deepens Operations in Southern Gaza - Yoav Zitun
    Over the weekend, the IDF reported intensified operations in southern Gaza, targeting and overrunning military installations belonging to Hamas in the heart of Khan Yunis, including its regional military intelligence headquarters. Combat teams carried out numerous raids in Khan Yunis, eliminating terrorists who were preparing to launch attacks. (Ynet News)
  • 5 Soldiers Wounded in West Bank Car-Ramming Attack Friday - Emanuel Fabian
    Five Israeli soldiers were wounded in a car-ramming attack on Friday near a military position close to the Adorayim Junction in Judea. One soldier was in serious condition. Troops shot and killed the assailant. (Times of Israel)
        See also IDF Soldier Wounded in Car-Ramming Attack Saturday - Emanuel Fabian
    An IDF reservist was seriously wounded in a car-ramming attack on Saturday at an army position south of Hebron. Troops "neutralized" the assailant. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Says Hamas Steals Gaza Humanitarian Aid, Accuses UNRWA of Cover-Up
    Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy has accused UNRWA of "failing miserably" to aid Palestinians in Gaza. He cited a recording released by the IDF Spokesperson's Unit of a conversation between a military officer and a Gaza resident. The Gazan man says, "Hamas is involved in everything. It's best you know. Hamas has their hands on UNRWA administration workers and it manages UNRWA. They are those in charge in the agency and those in charge everywhere else. From the day they rose to power, they took control of everything. They provide for their people first."
        "The administration workers in the agency are Hamas (operatives)....Those in charge of the departments or the regional headquarters are Hamas operatives themselves."
        Levy emphasized that the humanitarian aid workers were complicit in theft, and that Hamas prioritized aid delivery to its operatives over starving refugees. Israel says one of the reasons for the slow pace of aid is the UN's inefficient handling of border crossings. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • To Hamas, All Civilians Are Tools of War - Douglas Murray
    I spoke last week with "Major Y.," an American who went to Israel to fight in a special forces unit in the immediate aftermath of Oct. 7. He told me that Hamas routinely uses civilian houses as weapon stores, in complete violation of the laws of war, including the Geneva conventions which mandate that armies must not use civilian sites for military use. Major Y and others I have spoken with say one in every two or three homes in Gaza they go into has military weaponry, including AK47s, grenades and rocket launchers.
        They routinely find entrances to Hamas tunnels inside civilian houses, most often in the children's bedrooms. This is such a pattern that when they search a house they now go straight to the children's bedrooms to uncover weapons caches and tunnel entrances. Every single mosque they go into has a Hamas weapons store, as has every UN school, violating every rule of war.
        On one occasion recently, Major Y's unit spotted an old lady in a wheelchair alone on a street corner in the south of Gaza. As they approached her, they were suddenly fired on by a Hamas terrorist who was under her wheelchair. On another occasion, the soldiers saw a 13-year-old boy running with a bag near an UNRWA school. He put it down and ran away. A few minutes later it detonated, badly wounding an Israeli soldier.
        Recently, a group of old women and old men came out of a building waving a white flag. Then someone from within their ranks started shooting at the soldiers. Because of the civilians, the Israelis did not shoot back at the terrorist. Situations like this happen every day, says Major Y. (New York Post)
  • Hizbullah Fire Blights Northern Border Communities - Yuval Nisani
    When the Gaza war broke out, 130,000 Israelis were evacuated from border communities in the north and the south. Many of the evacuees are still living in hotels, nearly three months after the evacuation. While those from the Gaza Envelope know that the enemy near them is being dealt with by the army, those evacuated from the north have considerable uncertainty about their future, and with an impossible present reality.
        "My logistics center and offices went up in flames in one of the [Hizbullah] attacks," relates Itzik Peretz, a grower of peonies from Moshav Shomera. "My son was there when it happened, just three meters from where the missile hit, and was saved by a miracle. This week, our sales period was due to have begun. Every year we work towards it, but now everything's closed. It means that this year is lost."
        The damage and destruction are evident. Houses have been entirely burnt out, walls have collapsed, public buildings have been destroyed, and roads and infrastructure have been damaged by missile fire. Eitan Davidi, chairperson of Moshav Margaliot, experiences warnings of incoming missile fire from Lebanon several times a day. He says, "Margaliot is the most shelled place in Israel at the moment."
        "They're pounding us from every direction. Houses have been hit, agricultural buildings have been destroyed. Just a few days ago, a large farm with almost 170,000 laying hens was hit. The hens died. An anti-tank missile flew over my head, and a rocket landed beside my house."  (Globes)
  • How "Antiracism" Becomes Antisemitism - Barton Swaim
    Over the past 2 1/2 months, Jew-hatred has rocked elite college campuses. Tony neighborhoods in blue cities have witnessed marches calling for the elimination of the Jewish state and protests outside Jewish-owned businesses - this in response to the systematic butchering and kidnapping of Israeli Jews by terrorists.
        To these expressions of bigotry, high-ranking public officials and university administrators have issued bland disavowals of "violence" and "hatred in all its forms." The Biden administration, though so far pursuing a broadly pro-Israel policy in the Middle East, responded to the rash of antisemitic marches and assaults on Jews by announcing a "National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia."
        For several years a variety of academics and writers have argued that Jews are "white" or "functionally white" or "white passing." The words "white" and "whiteness" came to be used as though they signified a disease. "White," in this usage, has nothing to do with genetic characteristics. It signifies allegedly unjust privilege and legacies of oppression. Calling Jews "white" was a way of depriving them of any cover as a racial minority and classifying them with persecutors and exploiters.
        Assaults on Jews go almost without comment in most of the mainstream press. For weeks after Hamas took hundreds of hostages, including Americans, the U.S. news media showed minimal interest in their whereabouts. It was only when Hamas offered to return some of them in exchange for a ceasefire that reports on their plight began to circulate - almost as though the hostages' usefulness lay exclusively in stopping Israel from just retribution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Global Empire of Palestine - Lee Smith
    Why should Palestinians bother with arduous negotiations leading to compromise over land when they already have something far greater? Empire. Since Oct. 7, pro-Palestinian protesters - Arab and Muslim immigrants joined by locals - have filled the streets of European and North American cities in Berlin, Washington, Stockholm, Paris, Toronto, Oslo, Chicago, London, Rome, and Los Angeles.
        Oct. 7 represents the high-water mark of their long campaign against the Jews and Americans. Supporters cheer their champions, the team that kidnapped, raped, executed, and beheaded children. The protesters' goal is hardly a two-state solution. The ceasefire they're calling for is a tactic to strangle Israel's war effort.
        If the Israeli government can't establish a buffer zone between Gaza and the southern areas attacked on Oct. 7, as well as the northern towns within Hizbullah's range, the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have relocated to the center of the country cannot return home. The country will be shaved at the edges until all of it becomes uninhabitable.
        The crushing military defeat suffered by the Palestinians will hardly matter, as long as the world's one superpower - alongside Europe and the Gulf Arab states - stand ready to rebuild Gaza. By continually revitalizing the Palestinians, the stewards of global affairs have engendered something that by definition cannot survive in nature on its own: a society that celebrates death as its highest value. The source of their steadfastness - their ability to replenish their arsenal and refurnish their tunnels and other military infrastructure - is, in fact, a luxury repeatedly afforded them by the U.S. and its European partners.
        Terrorists, criminals, psychopaths, and fantasists from every part of the globe have grafted themselves on to the Palestinian cause because the most basic laws of nature have been revised to accommodate it. The Palestinian cause gives hope to each of these groups - hope that their own nihilistic and murderous ambitions could win world favor as well. And they have. (Tablet)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday evening:
  • "We have major successes but we have also paid a painful price. Achieving victory requires more time. Just as the Chief of Staff said this week: 'The war will continue for many more months.'"
  • "We are continuing to fight until the goals of the war have been achieved, especially the elimination of Hamas and the release of all our hostages....We will ensure that Gaza no longer constitutes a threat to Israel, that there will be no element in it that finances terrorism, educates its children for terrorism and pays the families of terrorists."
  • "Dear citizens of Israel, I greatly appreciate your determination and patience. Wherever I meet you, I hear the same words: 'Continue; don't stop.'...I hear it from the families of our fallen heroes, from those who have been wounded, and, of course, from our brave soldiers and commanders who I meet with in the field."
  • "We have eliminated over 8,000 terrorists and we are eliminating many more on each day of fighting. Step-by-step, we are wiping out Hamas' capabilities. Hamas will be defeated. Our soldiers will win. The people of Israel will win."
  • "On the northern border, we are striking harsh blows at Hizbullah. We are eliminating many terrorists and are destroying the enemy's capabilities....We will take all action until we restore security to the residents of the north."
  • "Regarding the Houthis - I spoke with many leaders about the need to form an international coalition to safeguard freedom of international navigation in the straits. I welcome the fact that such a coalition has been formed. In any case, we will not allow this threat to harm the citizens of Israel or the Israeli economy."

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