February 7, 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:

New Argentine President in Israel, Says Embassy to Move to Jerusalem - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Argentine President Javier Milei, elected in November, arrived in Israel on Tuesday and announced that he plans to move Argentina's embassy to Jerusalem.

IDF Discovers Links between Iran and Hamas in Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli forces located documents proving direct cooperation and communication between Iran and Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari announced Tuesday.
    The documents detailed $154 million transferred from Iran to Hamas in 2014-2020.

May Allah Curse Hamas for the Destruction It Has Brought upon Gaza (MEMRI)
    Palestinian writer Majdi Abd Al-Wahhab wrote on the Saudi website Elaph on Jan. 9, 2024:
    "Anyone who sees the destruction in Gaza, in terms of human lives, buildings, and on the economic, financial and psychological levels, cannot but pray to Allah and ask him to curse all those who caused this destruction."
    "How can we not curse the people who caused this, given this complete devastation? How can we not curse Hamas and its leaders after they have destroyed every element of dignified existence in Gaza?"
    "Wouldn't it have been better for Hamas to invest the human and financial capital - which it squandered on building up its military abilities and digging tunnels - in developing Gaza?"
    "It has already been proven that [Hamas'] military abilities can cause Israel no more than very superficial harm, and certainly cannot defeat it, and the evidence for that is clearly in front of us."
    "This devastation does not bode well, contrary to the assumptions of those who delude themselves that [they are] winning."
    "Congratulations to the leaders of Hamas for what they have done in Gaza....The devastation will be followed by [people] fleeing, migrating and living in misery and suffering."
    "Many are now thinking of migrating, after Hamas has caused them to lose everything that was meaningful in their lives, providing they can find a way to migrate and leave Gaza...for the propagandists of fake patriotism and nationalism will prevent them."

Iranian Intelligence Suspected of Plot to Kill Swedish Jews (AFP-The Local-Sweden)
    Swedish radio reported on Tuesday that an Iranian couple, believed to be working for Iranian intelligence, have been deported after being suspected in a plot to kill Swedish Jews.
    Mahdi Ramezani and Fereshteh Sanaeifarid had applied for and been granted asylum in Sweden by posing as Afghans. The couple were arrested in April 2021 and deported in 2022 for posing a security risk.
    "We have strong belief that they were here on a mission on behalf of Iran," said deputy chief prosecutor Hans Ihrman.
    Sources said the two were working on behalf of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
    One of the suspected targets was Aron Verstandig, Chair of the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.

Palestinians Don't Want a Two-State Solution - Neville Teller (Jerusalem Post)
    A two-state solution means that one of the two states is Israel. But "From the river to the sea" means the removal of the State of Israel.
    While the two-state solution appeals to world opinion, it is not what the majority of Palestinian opinion favors.
    The latest authoritative poll in December revealed that 64% of Palestinians are opposed to a two-state solution.
    Hamas is rooted in rejectionism. Their total raison d'etre remains to eliminate Israel.
    Since the massacre of Oct. 7, Hamas has gained unprecedented support within the Arab world and among the Palestinian populace.
    Palestinian statehood means something quite different to majority Arab opinion than it does to the ardent two-staters.

Oct. 7 Was "a Turning Point for Me" - Judy Maltz (Ha'aretz)
    Joe Roberts, chairman of JSpaceCanada, stepped down on Monday, saying that the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 had shaken his political beliefs to the point that he no longer identified with the group's agenda.
    JSpace is often seen as the Canadian equivalent of J Street in the U.S.
    Since Oct. 7, Roberts has been sharing his disillusionment with the Palestinians and the peace process on social media.
    He recently called to dismantle UNRWA, following revelations that employees of the Palestinian relief agency had participated in the Hamas terror attack.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • At Least 30 Hostages in Gaza Are Dead, Israel Says - Ronen Bergman
    Israeli intelligence officers have concluded that at least 30 of the remaining 136 hostages captured by Hamas on Oct. 7 have died since the start of the war, according to a confidential assessment. "We have informed 31 families that their captured loved ones are no longer among the living and that we have pronounced them dead," IDF Spokesman Rear-Adm. Daniel Hagari said Tuesday.
        Officials said that Israeli intelligence officers assess that at least 20 other hostages may have also been killed. Some of the dead were killed inside Israel on Oct. 7, but their bodies were taken by Hamas to Gaza. Others were injured and died of their injuries after being abducted to Gaza. Others still were killed by Hamas once inside Gaza. (New York Times)
  • Iranian-Backed Houthis Conduct Multiple Attacks on Shipping
    On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired six anti-ship ballistic missiles from Yemen toward the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Three missiles were attempting to hit the M/V Star Nasia, a Greek owned-and-operated bulk carrier. An explosion near the ship caused minor damage. Another missile impacted the water near the ship. The USS Laboon intercepted and shot down a third missile fired at the ship.
        Three missiles targeted the M/V Morning Tide, a UK-owned cargo ship. They all impacted the water near the ship without effect. (CENTCOM)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • The Fighting in Gaza Continues - Amos Harel
    After many weeks of slow and careful advances, there is a certain noticeable movement in the army's operations in Khan Yunis. The refugee camp in the western part of the city is encircled, and soldiers there are killing dozens of terrorists each day.
        Meanwhile, Israeli raids in northern Gaza continue, causing many Hamas casualties. These are areas in which Hamas is trying to rebuild its military and civilian structures. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Captures 80 Suspected Terrorists in Khan Yunis - Emanuel Fabian
    The IDF said that over the last day, troops captured 80 terror suspects in western Khan Yunis, including several who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre. (Times of Israel)
        See also IDF Targets Stolen Gaza Aid Trucks Used by Hamas to Transport Ammunition - Matthias Inbar
    The IDF has targeted stolen Gaza aid trucks that Hamas has repurposed to store and transport weapons, sources said. Armed men were in the vehicles targeted by the IDF. (i24News)
  • Palestinian Terrorist Attack Thwarted near Nablus - Elisha Ben Kimon
    An armed Palestinian terrorist fired on IDF reserve soldiers on Tuesday at an entrance to the West Bank city of Nablus. The IDF force returned fire and eliminated the terrorist. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Audacity of Israel's Armchair Critics - Daniel S. Mariaschin
    Every day since Israel entered Gaza in response to Oct. 7, major media outlets have arrogated to themselves the job of not only incessantly criticizing Israel but also picking apart its war effort. There is heavy coverage of calls for a ceasefire before Israel's military objectives are achieved. The New York Times and others have solemnly concluded that the damage to Gaza is the worst in post-World War II history.
        Some supporters of Israel have expressed concern that world opinion is turning against the Jewish state. The truth is that Israel enjoyed maybe two weeks of support before the tide turned, as we all knew it would. Memories of that dreadful Saturday morning in October seemed to have drifted off into the ether.
        Existential threats are called existential threats for a reason. America fought thousands of miles away in two world wars to prevent our enemies in Europe and Asia from reaching these shores. Kibbutz Nir Oz, where I had relatives, is less than 10 minutes from Gaza. For people perched continents away, it is the height of arrogance to opine on matters of existential security for Israel, especially in the aftermath of the barbaric massacre Israel just suffered.
        And where is the appreciation for what Israel is doing for the broader community of democracies by seeking to destroy a terrorist organization that would, if able, carry out Oct. 7-style killing sprees wherever it had the opportunity? Given all that the Jewish people have endured not only over the centuries but especially from 1933 to 1945, it is pure chutzpah for non-Jews to lecture and hector Israel as if it had the right to defend itself but only up to a point.
        The writer is the International CEO of B'nai B'rith. (JNS)
  • Settler Colonialism: A Guide for the Sincere - Bret Stephens
    Settler colonialism is often denounced in anti-Israel polemics and protests. But if settler colonialism needs to be eliminated, why not get rid of all settler colonialism? That would start with the U.S., which began as a settler-colonialist enterprise under British, Dutch and Spanish rulers, and continued as one under American rule. This also includes Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
        To say that Israel alone must be eliminated on grounds of settler colonialism while giving a pass to other cases of settler colonialism is a double standard that is hard to describe as anything but antisemitic.
        It's odd that the ethnic group that is today most vociferously accused of settler colonialism is the one that can unmistakably trace its language, culture and religion to the same places which it now inhabits and governs. Virtually every Israeli can read Hebrew inscriptions on Jewish coins found in archaeological sites throughout Israel dating back more than 2,000 years.
        Jewish nationalism - Zionism - is the oldest continuous anticolonial movement in history, starting well before the Romans sought to de-Judaize the area by calling their colony Palestina. Hanukkah, the festival of lights, celebrates the recovery of Jerusalem from colonizing Greeks in the second century BCE.
        In the final analysis, Israel is justified by being a sovereign state that commands the loyalty of its citizens. Ditto for the U.S. and every other state, whatever the nature of its origins. (New York Times)
  • Is the U.S. Misreading the Middle East? - John R. Bolton
    The idea of raising the Palestinian Authority from its ashes on the West Bank to govern Gaza leaves Israelis across the political spectrum speechless. The Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor recently described the Palestinian Authority as "weak and increasingly unpopular" and a "sclerotic institution, riven with corruption" and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as presiding "over his rump of a fiefdom like other Arab autocrats in the region, stifling civil society and repeatedly dodging calls for fresh elections." It defies common sense that such an entity should be entrusted with responsibility on the West Bank, let alone post-conflict Gaza.
        With regard to the objective of full diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, before Oct. 7, Riyadh and Jerusalem were progressing toward mutual recognition, motivated by their shared view of Iran's threat, amplified by the palpable economic and political benefits likely after recognition. The current Gaza conflict has not altered those realities. Rather, Iran's "ring of fire" strategy against Israel has emphasized, not reduced, the congruence of Israel's and Saudi Arabia's national security priorities. The issue of Palestinian statehood will not be a dealbreaker for Riyadh.
        Recognizing a Palestinian state before peace is agreed on with Israel only compounds the error. Such suggestions mirror Yasser Arafat's campaign in UN agencies to make "Palestine" a state just by saying so. They contradict years of U.S. policy, as well as the Oslo Accords, and will cause Israel to stiffen its resistance. This is no way to treat an ally gravely threatened by Tehran.
        As for concerns about a "wider war," the U.S. and Israel have been in a wider war since Oct. 7. The real cause is unmistakably Iran. Until Iran stops interfering beyond its borders - stops arming, equipping, training and financing terrorist groups and stops seeking nuclear weapons - there will be no lasting Middle East peace and security. Iran does not and will not fear U.S. power until it pays heavily for what its barbaric surrogate Hamas unleashed four months ago, now joined in violence by Hizbullah, the Houthis and Shiite militias.
        The writer served as national security adviser under President Donald Trump. (Washington Post)
  • Make Iran Fear America Again - Walter Russell Mead
    From Iraq to Lebanon and Gaza to the Red Sea, Iran and its proxies can create an instant crisis anywhere, forcing the U.S. to respond on Iran's timetable. If the U.S. can't seize the political and military initiative from Tehran, America will keep dancing to Tehran's tune.
        The newly energized and rallying forces of radical jihadist ideology and international terror are aligned with Iranian state power. Unless they are definitively defeated, they will boil out across the region and the world, endangering Americans at home and further diverting resources and attention from our struggles against the growing ambitions and capabilities of great-power rivals like Russia and China.
        Great powers, lesser powers and terror groups are watching America's response to the escalating series of aggressive moves by Iran and its "axis of resistance." If stability is ever to return, it must begin with a psychological revolution in the Middle East. Iran must learn to fear President Biden more than he fears Iran.
        This is the standard by which we should measure the success of the president's retaliatory strikes in the Middle East. Did the strikes restore America's power to deter? Have they changed the balance of fear in the Middle East?
        The writer, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College. (Wall Street Journal)

Without UNRWA There Would Be No Hamas - Einat Wilf (National Post-Canada)
  • Canada's temporary suspension of its financing of UNRWA over charges that some UNRWA staff participated in the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel should be made permanent. UNRWA has created the ideal conditions for murderous terrorist groups to emerge, from Black September, which carried out the gruesome slaughter of Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics, to Hamas. Anyone who truly cares about charting a path to true peace in the Middle East should have every interest in ensuring UNRWA is dismantled.
  • Seven decades ago, with empires collapsing across the world and new states emerging to replace the former imperial lands, tens of millions of people became refugees as they were fleeing across newly delineated borders. Those refugees were all settled in the places to which they fled (typically new countries with similar ethnic makeup to that of the refugees) or in new places.
  • In Korea, the temporary UN agency UNKRA settled 3.1 million refugees from the war, at least three times the number of the Arab refugees from the Arab-Israeli war of 1947-1949, with a third of the budget allocated to UNRWA. It completed its job within a few short years and closed down.
  • But the Arab refugees today known as Palestinians refused any form of settlement in place because they knew that would mean the war is over and that the Jewish state would thereby be legitimized. The Arab refugees were determined, even when a ceasefire with the Arab states ended the war, to keep fighting to ensure that the Jewish state is undone. Keeping themselves as perpetual refugees became one of the main weapons in the total Arab war against the Jewish state.
  • After the agency failed to resettle even one Arab refugee, UNRWA's funders, the U.S. and UK, wanted to close it down, but the Arab countries would not hear of it. Since immediate relief was no longer necessary, UNRWA developed a sprawling education system run by the Arab refugees themselves in which a new Palestinian nationalism was born, uniting Arabs living in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza around the goals of revenge and "return."
  • 40% of the refugees live in the West Bank and Gaza. By their telling they live in Palestine. They were born there and lived there. They are not refugees and have no need of resettlement. Another 40% are citizens of Jordan and were born in that country. Nowhere else in the world is a citizen of a country, born in that country, somehow a refugee of another sovereign country. The remaining 20% are registered in Syria and Lebanon. Recent data shows that most of those have long left these countries.
  • UNRWA and the Palestinian "refugee" issue are not marginal aspects of the conflict. They are at the core of the conflict and the reason for its perpetuation. UNRWA has been one of the most substantial forces in ensuring that the rejection of Israel never ends. As a long-term peace activist, I understand that the war cannot end if there is an organization, supported by Canada and other Western powers, that does everything possible to ensure it continues.

    The writer, a former IDF intelligence officer and Knesset member, is the co-author of The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace (2020).

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