February 5, 2024
Special Report
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Offensive Targets Iran's Regional Power Structure - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    U.S. strikes on pro-Iran militias in Syria and Iraq, as well as extensive strikes on Houthi infrastructure, indicate that the U.S. is aiming for more than a retaliatory response for the killing of U.S. troops in Jordan.
    These strikes targeted the logistical and operational center of the Shi'ite militias near the towns of Al-Bukamal in Syria and Al-Qa'im in Iraq, as well as missile storage facilities and production lines for UAVs in central Yemen.
    What the U.S. and UK are doing by attacking the IRGC and their proxies is akin to what Israel is doing to Hizbullah across its northern border, systematically destroying Hizbullah's operational and military infrastructure to impact their ability to carry out attacks for a prolonged period, while sending Israel's own message to the regime in Iran.

Yahya Sinwar Is Working to Fulfill Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's Vision - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar envisions himself as a significant and historic Muslim figure who will bring honor to the Muslim nation by defeating Israel.
    The assault on Israeli communities surrounding Gaza, orchestrated by Sinwar on October 7, 2023, marked the initial phase of his strategy to bring about the downfall of the State of Israel, as indicated by sources within Hamas in Gaza.
    Sinwar anticipated that his surprise offensive would prompt the direct military engagement from Hizbullah, Iran, and other allies across the Middle East, culminating in a wide-ranging assault on Israel from multiple fronts, ultimately leading to its defeat.
    More than two decades ago, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas and Sinwar's mentor, prophesied in an interview with Al Jazeera that Israel would cease to exist by 2027, based on interpretations of the Quran.
    Therefore, it is imperative for the conflict to conclude with a decisive Israeli victory - as well as Sinwar's demise - thereby thwarting his ambitions and preventing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's vision from taking root among the populace of Gaza.

Israel to Bring in Foreign Building Workers to Replace Palestinians (Reuters)
    Israel's government said on Sunday it would bring in 65,000 foreign workers from India, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan to resume construction stalled since Oct. 7.
    Some 72,000 Palestinian workers were employed on construction sites in Israel prior to the attack, who have now been excluded from Israel for security reasons.

Poll: 35% of Younger Americans Believe Hamas' Claims (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Hamas recently issued an official document, in Arabic and English, to appeal to international public opinion and try to correct its negative image.
    A new survey, conducted by Dr. Irwin J. Mansdorf of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a political psychologist, sought to examine whether the American public believes Hamas' false claims.
    The poll shows that up to 35% of people under the age of 45 support Hamas' claims.
    This support is also evident among 20% of those who define themselves as supporters of Israel's war in Gaza.
    The new findings indicate that a significant part of the population accepts pro-Palestinian claims that deny or minimize Hamas' deliberate harm to civilians, the rape of women, and the kidnapping of Israeli hostages.
    For participants under the age of 45, support for the false claims ranges from 27-35%, while among respondents over 45, support ranges from 15-25%.
    Among the younger Americans, 25% agreed with Hamas that the Israeli citizens kidnapped in Gaza are treated "in a positive and kind manner" (compared to 16% of the older participants).
    Regarding Hamas' claims that no intentional acts of rape were committed against Israeli women, 27% of Americans under 45 agreed, compared to 17% of the older respondents.
    "This is further evidence of the challenges facing Israel in the psychological warfare of the Palestinian groups," said Mansdorf.

Is the British Way of Life Being Permanently Altered? - Allison Pearson (Telegraph-UK)
    Call me old-fashioned, but I rather liked our country when women and children didn't have acid thrown at them in the street, teachers weren't forced into hiding with their family for educating pupils about religious tolerance, Saturdays in the capital didn't feature antisemitic hate marches, and well-loved Members of Parliament didn't quit their jobs after being subject to death threats because they spoke up for their Jewish constituents.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Plans Further Action Against Iran's Militia Allies - Benoit Faucon
    U.S. Central Command said it had conducted another strike early Sunday against an antiship cruise-missile position that the Houthis had prepared to target vessels in the Red Sea. Separately, Washington said it is also planning more military strikes in response to an attack from an Iran-backed militia that killed three American soldiers in Jordan a week ago.
        "That is not the end of it," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," referring to American reprisals against targets in Syria and Iraq on Friday. He said that the U.S. intends to carry out "additional action to continue to send a clear message that the United States will respond when our forces are attacked or people are killed." The U.S. military so far hasn't killed any Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq, and the U.S. has given the Iranians ample time to move their troops out of the area.
        Some Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders in eastern Syria have moved to safe houses in densely populated areas and to the south of the country. In Yemen, 50 advisers from Iran's Guards and Lebanon's Hizbullah left coastal areas where they had been assisting missile and drone attacks on ships. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel's Untold Gaza Progress - Editorial
    You may have missed it amid the media defeatism, but Israel is winning its war in Gaza. Hamas losses are mounting, and support for the Israeli war effort has endured around the world longer than Hamas expected. The war is far from over, but Hamas' southern stronghold of Khan Yunis is falling. Hamas' remaining forces face an Israeli advance on all sides, and Israel is now fighting below ground in force.
        U.S. restrictions and Israeli caution have slowed the war and Israel needs time to achieve victory. Hamas is counting on Western powers to deny it that time. The "CNN strategy" of using human shields to gain media sympathy has worked every time for Hamas, but, so far, not this time. Oct. 7 was too brutal. This war has passed 120 days, and the U.S. and Europe refuse to call for a ceasefire.
        Israel says it has killed, incapacitated or arrested some 20,000 of Hamas' 30,000 men, and the losses have quieted its rocket fire, down more than 95% from the war's early days.
        The Biden Administration, despite its second-guessing, continues to provide munitions and diplomatic cover. The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris poll finds that large majorities of Americans support Israel and its war aims. Europe's elected leaders are also holding the line, and no Arab state has quit the Abraham Accords. Winning the war is essential for a secure Israel and a chance for Palestinians to have a normal life in Gaza. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Massive Hamas Base Dismantled in Khan Yunis - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF has uncovered a major military base of Hamas' Khan Yunis Brigade in Gaza, housing the office of Muhammed Sinwar, the brother of Yahya Sinwar. Within the base were extensive training complexes, some of which featured models replicating the entrance gates of Israeli communities, military bases, and IDF armored vehicles. The IDF uncovered warehouses filled with rockets and mortars, and a workshop dedicated to manufacturing combat equipment and weapons. (Ynet News)
  • Inside Khan Yunis with the IDF Commando Brigade - Eyal Levi
    The Maglan unit had eliminated three terrorists just a few hours before we arrived. They had been hiding in a small alley, from where they sent an innocent-looking person to the main street to see if there were any soldiers around. When he signaled that the coast was clear, they came out with an RPG rolled inside a carpet to hide it.
        Col. Omer Cohen, head of the IDF Commando Brigade, explained: "They act like civilians, and when they recognize you, they enter one of the houses, arm themselves, shoot, throw away the weapon, and continue as if nothing happened. If I...identify them ahead of time, we know to wait for them and strike."
        Major G, the commander of the Maglan unit, says his soldiers have killed about ten terrorists since the morning hours. He explains, "Our unit has lost members, and they and the bereaved families are pushing us. They want us to continue for them."
        Col. Cohen describes the units in his brigade: "They are all excellent raiding units that specialize in night fighting and fighting in built-up areas. They have a high firing capability in all types of antitank weapons, and each one has a specific purpose. Egoz is a guerilla unit that knows how to hit the enemy in places he didn't expect. Maglan is a collection, exposure, and attack unit that knows how to identify an enemy from a distance and destroy it. Duvdevan is a leader in fighting in built-up territory, and...has returned to fight in Judea and Samaria."
        "Almost every house here is loaded with arms," explains Col. Cohen. "What was life like here beforehand? Terror and more terror, and hatred for the State of Israel. You can find it behind every closed door. You ask what is an existential war? It is an enemy you cannot exist next to." The brigade has lost 32 soldiers since the fighting began, and they continue to operate like a well-oiled machine. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Biden Executive Order Should Sanction Palestinians - Mitchell Bard
    President Biden's executive order to sanction four Israelis for violence requires the U.S. to sanction thousands of Palestinians. The order is titled "Executive Order on Imposing Certain Sanctions on Persons Undermining Peace, Security, and Stability in the West Bank."
        The text says it applies to "any foreign person," not only Jews, "that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank" by "an act of violence or threat of violence targeting civilians" and applies to "a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, any of the activities."
        Since the IDF reported there were 25,257 Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank between 2019 and 2022, the U.S. has got a lot of sanctioning to do. The reality remains that the overwhelming majority of extremist violence is perpetrated against Jews, not Palestinians. The president's executive order could contribute to peace only if enforced fairly.
        The writer is Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE). (Times of Israel)
  • Why Is Biden Sanctioning Israelis in the West Bank Now? - Editorial
    President Biden has signed an executive order placing sanctions against violence by Israelis who attack Palestinians in the West Bank, saying it "has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region." The Prime Minister's Office responded that "Israel acts against all violators of the law in all places," and therefore, "there is no place for drastic steps on this matter."
        Whether or not there is a need for the executive order, the problem with issuing it at this time is that it appears to be a misguided and potentially dangerous attempt to create a moral equivalency between the genocidal atrocities of Hamas and Jewish attacks against Palestinians.
        The Israelis involved in these acts in the West Bank are a fringe and scattered group accused of violent, but not murderous, incidents that are primarily under investigation. Drawing an equivalency with Hamas terrorism will only embolden Palestinian terrorists to continue their campaign to eliminate Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • We Must Not Reward Hamas' Barbaric Violence of Oct. 7 - Keith Black
    On Oct. 7, Hamas murdered 1,200 innocent men, women and children in Israel, after large parts of the Arab world had made the courageous decision to end their hostility towards Israel. The UK should be encouraging the Palestinians to follow suit.
        Instead, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, said that "we - with allies - will look at the issue of recognizing a Palestinian state," suggesting the UK Government could take this momentous and consequential step before a two-state solution had been negotiated.
        No matter how well-intentioned, this would only encourage more violence and less diplomacy. It would send a strong signal to Hamas terrorists that their aims can be furthered by the most heinous of acts. It would weaken the voices of those Palestinians who have argued for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the conflict. Indeed, it would amount to rewarding the atrocities of Oct. 7.
        Crucially, unilateral recognition would also undermine the necessary message to the Palestinian leadership that they must negotiate and collaborate with Israel to ensure they can share a mutually-beneficial peace. It would lead the Palestinian Authority to believe that their aims can be achieved in the international arena alone, without agreement of the State of Israel and the Israeli people.
        Instead, the UK Government would do better to focus on pushing the Palestinian Authority to remove its self-imposed barriers to peace - including their horrific pay-for-slay program or their wide-scale teaching of antisemitism in classrooms to radicalize children against Jews and Israelis.
        The writer is chair of the Jewish Leadership Council in the UK. (Daily Express-UK)
  • An Obsession with a Two-State Solution Threatens to Incentivize Hamas - Melanie Phillips
    U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said last week that the administration was "actively pursuing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state." It's one thing to press for movement towards a Palestine state. Unilaterally recognizing it crosses a red line. Official recognition of a "Palestine" that doesn't exist is part of the strategy of diplomatic warfare against Israel promoted by those who want to see the Jewish state destroyed.
        Conceptually ridiculous, since it involves recognizing a "state" that has no physical form and no boundaries, it would remove at a stroke the necessity for the Palestinian Arabs to agree to live in peace alongside Israel. Instead, it would incentivize still further their rejection of Israel's right to exist.
        And what a time to announce this, when Israel is in the throes of a war for its existence after the worst slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. A Palestinian state would be a Hamastan on steroids. While Israel is forced to sacrifice the flower of its youth as it fights for its life, its so-called allies threaten to hang the Jewish state out to dry once again.
        The writer is a columnist for The Times-UK. (JNS)
  • After Oct. 7, the Israeli Constituency for Allowing the Palestinians Sovereignty Became Nearly Nonexistent - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The majority of Israelis were ready to welcome a Palestinian state if it meant peace during the period of post-Oslo Accords euphoria in the 1990s. That foolish optimism died in the violence of the Second Intifada that followed Yasser Arafat's rejection of statehood offers in 2000 and 2001.
        Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 led to the creation of an independent Palestinian state in all but name ruled by Hamas. That allowed the terrorists to build a subterranean terrorist fortress from which they fired rockets at Israel for years, and eventually launched the terrorist pogroms of Oct. 7.
        After that, the Israeli constituency for allowing the Palestinians sovereignty and the freedom of action to repeat those atrocities from either a rebuilt Gaza or a state in Judea and Samaria that would likely also fall under Hamas rule became nearly nonexistent.
        The will to continue the war against Hamas until it is wiped out isn't a matter of Israeli domestic politics. It's what the overwhelming majority of Israelis are demanding since they know that anything less than Hamas' eradication will be a formula for more terrorist horrors in the future. (JNS)

Iran's Growing Role in Judea and Samaria - Irina Tsukerman (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Palestinian Authority is facing the prospects of infiltration of pro-Iran elements and increasing pressure locally to engage with Iran. Iran's penetration into the Arab street in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Gaza has contributed to this challenge.
  • Iran's ability to navigate Palestinian rivalries to get factions to fight Israel under the Hamas umbrella on Oct. 7 was a significant accomplishment.
  • Moreover, Tehran made forays even into the circles close to Mahmoud Abbas through meetings between Fatah Central Committee insiders and prominent Iranian officials as early as 2014. Rumors of Iran's outreach to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade go back to the days of the Second Intifada.
  • Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub, then Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, established relations between Iran and the PA in 2014 when he traveled to Iran to meet with the Iranian foreign minister. In 2018, another member of Fatah's Central Committee, Abbas Zaki, called for Arab dialogue with Iran over resistance to Israel.
  • By helping Hamas position itself as the leader of violent anti-Israel resistance, Iran is pushing the PA to embrace similar rhetoric and public action more openly and to lend support to Iranian proxies.
  • Abbas may ultimately be cornered with no choice but to accept Iran's self-serving assistance, if only to remain relevant in light of Hamas' apparent success.

    The writer, a national security and human rights lawyer, journalist, and geopolitical analyst, is a Fellow at the Arabian Peninsula Institute and a Fellow at the Jerusalem Center.

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