January 12, 2024
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Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Fatah's Return to Terrorism - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    Recent terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria and the war the IDF is waging against the terrorist organizations there underscore the fact that Fatah and its al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades are partners in terrorism.
    Many senior Fatah officials linked with the Palestinian Authority are backing Fatah's involvement in terrorism.
    More and more joint terrorist cells shared by Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP are being uncovered.
    The fathers of four of the nine Palestinian terrorists killed recently in Jenin and Tulkarm serve as officers in the PA security forces, and two of the six terrorists killed in the Israeli air strike in Jenin were members of Fatah. The rest were Hamas operatives.
    In 2023, Palestinian policemen and security forces carried out more than 100 terrorist attacks and attempted attacks.
    A week ago, terrorists opened fire on an IDF unit at the northern entrance to Jericho. They fired from Istiqlal University, an institution that provides training for Palestinian police officers and serves as the main training base for the PA security forces.

Seven Israelis Recall Their Ordeal in Hamas Captivity - Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz)
    "There were moments when I was sure I was going to die, that we were all going to die there in the tunnel in Gaza," said Aviva Siegel, 62.
    "Crying was forbidden, talking was forbidden, only whispering - and even that not always. Hours of quiet, silence. Fifty-one days I was in Gaza, and I believed with all my heart that there was no chance I would see my family again."

Egypt's Suez Canal Revenues Down 40 Percent Due to Houthi Attacks (Reuters)
    Revenues from Egypt's Suez Canal are down 40% from the beginning of the year compared to 2023, canal authority head Osama Rabie said on Thursday, after attacks on ships by Yemen's Houthis caused major shippers to divert from the route.
    The Suez Canal is a key source of foreign currency for Egypt.

Iranian Navy Seizes Oil Tanker near Oman - Jenny Gross (New York Times)
    Iran's navy said it had seized a tanker loaded with crude oil off the coast of Oman on Thursday, apparently in retaliation for the U.S. confiscating oil from the same ship last year.

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Were the People of Gaza Prisoners of Hamas? - Gerard Leval (Washington Times)
    Gaza, which has been free of any Israeli occupation and has been governed by its residents for nearly two decades, has been a hotbed of hatred for Israel and its Jewish population.
    Instead of focusing on the welfare of their fellow citizens, those governing Gaza have focused their energy on attempts to destroy their neighbors and have been teaching their young to do the same.
    It would be comforting to think that, as the mainstream media often portrays, the people of Gaza are prisoners of Hamas and that the acts perpetrated against Israel and its citizens are aberrational - the crimes of a few terrorists.
    Recent events inform us of the opposite. Reports regarding the comportment of Gaza residents strongly suggest tacit if not express complicity by many and perhaps by the preponderance of the Palestinians there with the vicious actions and intentions of the Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.
    Many of the attackers had maps prepared by Palestinians who had been working for Jewish residents. These people had been invited into the homes of Israelis to work at jobs paying salaries that permitted them to live far better than the average Palestinian in Gaza.
    But sheer hatred made them the instruments of the destruction of the very people who had welcomed them.
    When other "innocent" Palestinians saw that Hamas terrorists had broken into Israel, they chose to join the effort and to help themselves to whatever they could find in the villages that had been attacked.
    Other Palestinians joined the fray to seize hostages, while many who did not enter Israel cheered those who had done so.
    Mia Schem, a young Israeli hostage, said she was held in Gaza not by Hamas terrorists but by a Palestinian family. She said, "everyone there were terrorists....Entire families are in the service of Hamas."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Airstrikes Hit Houthi Airports, Military Bases in Yemen - Eric Schmitt
    The U.S. and five of its allies on Thursday carried out military strikes against more than a dozen targets in Yemen controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, in response to more than two dozen Houthi drone and missile attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea since November. The strikes hit airports, military bases, radars, missile and drone launch sites, and weapons storage areas. Biden officials said the strikes were meant to damage Houthi capability and hinder its ability to strike Red Sea targets.
        Britain joined in the attack as fighter jets from bases in the region and off the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower struck targets with precision-guided bombs. At least one Navy submarine fired Tomahawk cruise missiles. (New York Times)
        See also President Biden Orders "Defensive Action" in Yemen
    President Joe Biden said Thursday: "Today, at my direction, U.S. military forces - together with the United Kingdom and with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands - successfully conducted strikes against a number of targets in Yemen used by Houthi rebels to endanger freedom of navigation in one of the world's most vital waterways. These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea."
        "More than 2,000 ships have been forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea....And on Jan. 9, Houthis launched their largest attack to date - directly targeting American ships."
        "These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world's most critical commercial routes. I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary."  (White House)
  • Blinken Talks a Grand Vision for Mideast Peace but Hits a Wall in Israel - Edward Wong
    As Secretary of State Antony Blinken ended his latest visit to the Middle East on Thursday, where he discussed his vision of a postwar Gaza, eventually including a Palestinian state, the one government that matters most in the equation - Israel's - has given no sign that it is aligned with the Biden administration's long-term goals. "Today, no one can speak with Israelis about a Palestinian state," said Danny Danon, a senior lawmaker from Prime Minister Netanyahu's party. "Today, we have to look at stability, security."
        Meanwhile, the Israeli mainstream wants the invasion of Gaza to continue until Hamas is ousted. In a meeting with Blinken, Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, said that Israel was not slowing its campaign in northern Gaza, but merely changing tactics. Blinken was also told that Israeli military activity in southern Gaza would actually intensify because of the scale of the challenge there.
        Netanyahu rejected Blinken's calls for civilians to be allowed to swiftly return to northern Gaza. "Returning Palestinian civilians to northern Gaza will put them in harm's way," Netanyahu's office said. "There are still thousands of Hamas terrorists in northern Gaza, miles of underground terror tunnels and other Hamas infrastructure that Israel will need to deal with before it is safe for civilians to return."  (New York Times)
  • South Africa Presents Genocide Charge Against Israel at International Court of Justice in The Hague - Roni Caryn Rabin
    Israel faced a charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice on Thursday. South African lawyers offered as evidence the words of Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who said after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre that Israel was fighting "human animals."
        Israel will present its defense on Friday. The hearings will be the first time that Israel has chosen to defend itself in person in such a setting. Israeli officials have argued that Hamas should face charges of genocide. Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat noted that Hamas "calls in its charter for the destruction of the state of Israel and the murder of Jews." He also said the genocide case brought by South Africa overlooked the atrocities committed by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.
        Israeli leaders point to millions of messages, sent by various means, telling Gaza's civilians to evacuate to safer areas ahead of bombings, and say they are constantly working to increase the amount of aid entering Gaza. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Kills Dozens of Hamas Terrorists in Gaza - Emanuel Fabian
    On Thursday, the IDF killed dozens of Hamas operatives in southern Gaza's Khan Yunis and in Maghazi in the center of the strip. In Maghazi, the 36th Division killed 20 Hamas operatives, including a commander in the Nukhba force. In Khan Yunis, the 98th Division directed an airstrike on a building, killing seven Hamas operatives including another Nukhba commander who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre.
        Also in Khan Yunis, Commando Brigade troops killed three Hamas gunmen. In Bureij, troops of the 414th Combat Intelligence Collection unit spotted a Hamas gunman shooting at soldiers from a building. They piloted a drone to a window and killed the gunman. (Times of Israel)
  • Seven Wounded by Hizbullah Rocket Fire in Kiryat Shmona
    At least seven people were wounded after Hizbullah fired a barrage of rockets from Lebanon at Israel's north on Thursday, the Kiryat Shmona municipality reported. Rockets fell on a building and a school, and power outages were reported across the Upper Galilee. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Accused of Genocide while Fighting Genocide
    Responding to the hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday after South Africa accused Israel of genocide in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We are fighting terrorists, and we are fighting lies."
        "Today, again, we saw an upside down world, in which the State of Israel is accused of genocide at a time when it is fighting genocide. Israel is fighting against murderous terrorists who committed horrific crimes against humanity....And the IDF, the most moral army in the world, which does everything to avoid harming non-combatants, stands accused...of genocide."
        "Where was South Africa when millions of people were being murdered and uprooted from their homes in Syria and Yemen? By whom? By Hamas' partners....We will continue to uphold our just right to defend ourselves and to ensure our future - until total victory."  (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's Genocide Trial Isn't What It Seems - Noah Feldman
    On January 11-12, Israel defended itself against genocide allegations in the UN's International Court of Justice. The ICJ is not a criminal court. It can't try people for war crimes or crimes against humanity such as genocide. That makes it very different from the International Criminal Court. South Africa is asking the court to issue a provisional order directing Israel to stop its military operations in Gaza. Even if the court were to do so, it has no direct mechanism for enforcement. Any enforcement action would have to come from the UN Security Council, where the U.S. has a veto.
        In 2022, the ICJ changed its rules, allowing any country to sue any other country. Previously, to bring a suit in the ICJ, a state had to show that it had been directly affected by the actions of the party it was suing. To issue a provisional order, all the ICJ has to do is to find that the allegations are "plausible." That exceedingly low standard makes for an attractive opportunity for governments to score political points by hauling other governments into court. (Bloomberg)
  • South Africa Volunteers to be Legal Counsel for Hamas - Editorial
    The UN has done little while Russia has slaughtered innocent Ukrainians, but suddenly the body has a cause it can get behind - charging Israel with genocide for the crime of self-defense. South Africa says support for the genocide claim should be "inferred" by the existence of Israeli bombardment.
        Well, no. The 1948 Genocide Convention defines genocide as the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." A legally plausible case for genocide requires a demonstrated intent of ethnic cleansing, not a war of self-defense after a terrorist massacre.
        Before its military campaign, Israel urged civilians to evacuate. But arguing the merits presumes this case is more than political theater. Where was South Africa's moral outrage when the country tolerated Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, or when it opposed the indictment of Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir for killing 200,000 people in Darfur?
        If the UN wants to find genocidal intent, try the Hamas charter. The preamble says "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli Women Suffered Horrific Sexual Violence from Hamas. Where Is the Outrage? - Deborah Lipstadt and Michele Taylor
    During the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7, Israeli girls and women were subjected to gang-rape and humiliating sexual assaults. Hostages who have been released have reported on sexual violence that they and other captives endured while being held in Gaza. We, as human rights advocates in the fight against gender-based violence and antisemitism, are deeply troubled by the slow response of international organizations, governments and civil society to these horrific occurrences.
        This reaction is in stark contrast to the global gender-based violence movement's typical emphasis on the importance of believing survivors' accounts. When other groups have been subjected to gender-based violence, feminist leaders, women's groups and UN bodies have moved swiftly to speak out. But after Oct. 7, too many have remained silent or only belatedly and reluctantly spoken out. We echo the sentiment of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said: "Where is the universal condemnation? And where is the outrage?"
        What accounts for the clear reticence to speak out? The only difference is the perception that these were Jewish - and were perceived by some as somehow deserving - victims. This apparent reluctance to believe the accounts of Jewish women mimics patterns of Holocaust denial. It needs to be called out for what it is: a stark manifestation of deep-seated antisemitism.
        Deborah Lipstadt is the U.S. Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism. Michele Taylor is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council. (Guardian-UK)
  • The Pitfalls of Polling about a Gaza Ceasefire - Mark Mellman
    If pollsters asked, "Do you favor or oppose world peace?" I'd wager they'd find 90% in favor. When a pollster asks, "Do you support or oppose the U.S. calling for a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza," why wouldn't the average, poorly informed citizen say, "Yes, I favor the U.S. calling for a permanent ceasefire"?
        However, given a little more information, people have a very different reaction. My firm found that 61% believe "Israel should only agree to a ceasefire with Hamas after Hamas has been disarmed and dismantled and the hostages they took are released." Moreover, a 54% majority said, "any outcome that leaves Hamas in charge of Gaza is unacceptable," while 59% believe "any outcome that fails to free all the hostages Hamas kidnapped is unacceptable."
        People like world peace and ceasefires. But understanding how voters make the tradeoffs can be much more illuminating.
        The writer served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years, and is president of Democratic Majority for Israel. (The Hill)

In Gaza, Israel Can Win the War But Not the Peace - Michael Mandelbaum (Jerusalem Strategic Tribune)
  • The most important task of the IDF operation in Gaza is to destroy the tunnels, a protracted, arduous, perilous activity. To the extent that Israel can destroy these subterranean redoubts, whatever remains of Hamas will have to operate above ground, where it will be vulnerable to Israeli firepower.
  • The Biden administration has made known its preference that the Palestinian Authority (PA), now ensconced in the West Bank, take responsibility for governing Gaza after the main fighting concludes. The PA is unlikely, however, to be either willing or able to stop attacks on Israel. It is weak, corrupt, ineffective, and unpopular with Palestinians.
  • Moreover, the political outlooks of the PA and Hamas have considerable overlap. The PA, too, churns out vile anti-Jewish propaganda. It, too, insists that all those Arabs who left Israel when it was created in 1948 - most of them because of the war that the Arabs instigated in an effort to destroy the new Jewish state - and all of their many descendants must be allowed to return to Israel, a demand that not only has no historical or legal basis but is also a formula for the end of the Jewish state.
  • The PA supports anti-Israel terror, giving money to the families of those who engage in it. Its leaders, first Yasir Arafat and now Abbas, have always refused Israeli offers of a state and have never made any serious counter proposals. In so doing they have been listening to their constituents. Polls of Palestinian opinion have shown an overwhelming rejection of having two states, Israel and Palestine, living peacefully next to each other. Most Palestinians do not accept the legitimacy or the permanence of Israel.
  • All this makes Palestinian nationalism the only one that has as its aim not the creation of its own nation-state but rather the destruction of the state of another people. Nor will the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza change the Palestinians' attitudes toward the Jews and their state. To the contrary, it is all too likely to be regarded as a sign of Israeli weakness, thereby fortifying those attitudes.
  • Palestinian rejection of Israel is the essential, animating cause of the conflict between the two peoples. Israelis do not have the power to change it; they can only respond to its consequences.

    The writer is Professor Emeritus of American Foreign Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
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