February 12, 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:

Netanyahu, Biden Discuss Gaza on Sunday - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden spoke on Sunday evening for 45 minutes.
    During the call, Biden told Netanyahu that Israel should not proceed with a military operation in Rafah without a plan to ensure the safety of the people sheltering there, the White House said.
    Netanyahu replied that just as Israel has acted throughout the war according to international law and to the highest standards, "we will know how to do the same" in Rafah.
    Netanyahu emphasized that the operation in Rafah is necessary and Israel will do everything to minimize harm to civilians.

Israel Trying to Calm Egypt on Rafah Attack Plans (Times of Israel)
    Senior Israeli security officials are working to calm Egyptian concerns about a coming Israeli military offensive in Rafah, Israel's Channel 12 reported Sunday.
    Over half of Gaza's population has fled to Rafah to escape the fighting in other areas, and Egypt fears that fighting there will result in a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into Egyptian Sinai.
    Israeli security officials told the Egyptians that Israel would not make any unilateral moves and would work in coordination with Cairo.

Insights into the Complex IDF Operations in Gaza - from Ynet Military Correspondent Yoav Zitun - John Spencer (X)
    Smaller unit raids are more effective in their lethality than larger ground maneuvers. Many more terrorists are eliminated in less time and with fewer forces.
    Engineering forces developed a method for quickly uncovering and destroying launchers hidden in plantations.
    The IDF entered the raided areas near the border from the front and not from behind - evidence of the operational control achieved in the area.
    During a recent raid on the area between Shati and Shifa, the fighters covered the 13 km. journey to their destination in the heart of Gaza in two hours, compared to about a week the first time. The resistance on the way was minimal - 3 anti-tank missiles that wounded 2 soldiers.
    Hamas loots dozens of food and fuel trucks every day for the benefit of its operatives. "Truck drivers tell us they are begging Hamas to at least leave the truck to them," a senior commander says.
    The IDF takes advantage of this and lays ambushes from the axles of the trucks - thus eliminating a number of terrorists who tried to loot the trucks.
    Hamas learned from this, and proceeded to loot them at the entrance to UNRWA shelters.
    The writer is chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point.

IDF Reveals: Al-Jazeera Journalist by Day, Hamas Commander by Night (Jerusalem Post)
    Al-Jazeera journalist Mohammed Wishah had a side job as a commander in Hamas' anti-tank missile units, evidence retrieved by the IDF revealed, the IDF spokesperson for Arabic media, Lt.-Col. Avichay Adraee, announced on Sunday.
    "During operations by our forces several weeks ago inside one of the Hamas camps in northern Gaza, a laptop belonging to Muhammed Samir Muhammed Wishah was seized. It is clear from the documents that Muhammed Wishah is a prominent commander in the anti-tank missile units in the military wing of Hamas."
    Photos showed Wishah engaged in operations within Hamas, showing him training Hamas members and firing anti-tank missiles.

Israel Deploys New Military Artificial Intelligence in Gaza War (AFP-Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Israel's army has deployed some AI-enabled military technology in combat for the first time in Gaza.
    A senior defense official said the tech was destroying enemy drones and mapping Hamas' vast tunnel network. New defense technologies included AI-powered gunsights and robotic drones.
    The optic sight made by Israeli startup Smart Shooter "helps our soldiers to intercept drones," said the official. "It makes every regular soldier - even a blind soldier - a sniper."
    Another system to neutralize drones involves deploying a friendly drone with a net that it can throw around the enemy craft to neutralize it. "It's drone versus drone - we call it Angry Birds," the official said.

Twins in the Border Police: "When She Got Shot, I Could Feel the Bullet" - Meir Turgeman (Ynet News)
    Noa and Shira Cohen are almost 20. They're twins that have been doing everything together since birth. A year and a half ago, they enlisted in the Border Police.
    On Oct. 7, Noa recounts, "On comms, we heard a message: 'Sderot station on fire, there are dozens of terrorists, please help!'"
    Driving down Route 34 near Moshav Yahini, "What we saw is the definition of horror. Mortally wounded people, bodies lining up the road, gunfire coming from every direction. We disembarked and immediately returned fire."
    "Then we saw a hand protruding from the trunk of a nearby car that was shot to hell and we saw two terrified girls, one of which wouldn't let go of me, screaming she and her husband managed to escape the [Nova music festival] in [Moshav] Re'im."
    Noa and her fellow Border Police took on the terrorists, standing between them and the moshav residents. During the firefight, Noa was shot in the leg.
    Meanwhile, Shira was in the heat of combat in Sderot, 4 miles away. After two and a half hours of fighting, she could feel something was off with her sister, even though they were fighting in two separate locations.
    "I sensed something was wrong with her," says Shira. "I called her and...one of her squad mates...told me she's been shot in the leg."
    "We've been connected in more ways than one since we were born. When she got shot, I could feel the pain from the bullet."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Declares "Victory Is within Reach" as Hamas Reduced to "Last Remaining Bastion" - Anders Hagstrom
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News on Sunday that victory over Hamas in Gaza is "within reach." "We have already destroyed 3/4 of Hamas' organized terrorist battalions...18 out of 24. "We're not going to leave the other six. That would be like you leaving a quarter of ISIS in Iraq in place and you say, 'Well they can have their little territory. It's OK.' Obviously, ISIS would re-establish itself. Hamas-ISIS would re-establish itself, too, if we don't finish its last remaining bastion."  (Fox News)
        See also Netanyahu: U.S. Response to Attack like Oct. 7 Would Be "At Least as Strong" as Israel's - Lazar Berman
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News on Sunday: "We were attacked in the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. That Oct. 7 massacre was equivalent to 29 9/11s in one day and the equivalent of 50,000 Americans slaughtered - burned, maimed, raped, beheaded - and 10,000 Americans taken hostage, including mothers and children. So, what would America's response be? I would say it would be at least as strong as Israel's and many Americans tell me, 'We would have flattened them. We would have turned them into dust.'"  (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: Interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu (Fox News)
  • War on Hamas Unites Israelis in Quest for "Total Victory" - James Shotter
    Four months into the war, there is mounting international pressure for Israel to rein in its offensive in Gaza. But opinion surveys suggest the majority of the public remains firmly behind the war effort. "Certainly... the lion's share of the Israeli Jewish public is not in favor of pulling out of Gaza," said Tamar Hermann, a senior research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. "The war is perceived in Israel as a no-choice war."
        The signs of national resolve are everywhere. Israelis have flocked to enroll in the country's biggest ever mobilization. Businesses have donated huge amounts of food and equipment to soldiers in Gaza. The biggest reason for the continuing widespread support for the war is the deep sense of insecurity that Hamas' Oct. 7 assault - which killed about 1,200 people - has triggered in Israel. "The Oct. 7 hangover will be with Israelis for years, if not generations to come," said Dahlia Scheindlin, a pollster and political analyst. "This is what trauma is. It crowds everything else out."  (Financial Times-UK)
  • Israel Hits Back at Moody's Downgrade over Gaza War Impact - Neri Zilber
    Israeli leaders have hit back at a credit rating downgrade from Moody's, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arguing it was a result of the war rather than the underlying economy. The rating agency lowered Israel's rating from A1 to A2. Netanyahu said, "The rating downgrade is not connected to the economy, it is entirely due to the fact that we are in a war. The rating will go back up the moment we win the war."
        Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron on Sunday defended Israel's "strong" macroeconomic and monetary policy and the economy's "rapid recovery from the initial shock of the war," including in the financial markets. "The Israeli economy is rooted on strong and healthy economic fundamentals. We have known how to recover from difficult periods in the past and rapidly return to prosperity."  (Financial Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Security Forces Rescue Two Hostages Held in Gaza - Yoav Zitun
    On Sunday night, Israeli security forces successfully rescued Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70 - who were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on Oct. 7 - from the second floor of a building in Rafah in Gaza. Both men are in good condition. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Soldiers Protected Hostages with Their Bodies during Firefight - Alex Winston
    IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Monday, "In the early morning, at 01:49, IDF special forces breached a building in the heart of Rafah. On the second floor, Louis and Fernando were held by armed Hamas terrorists, who were present in the building along with terrorists who were in the adjacent buildings. From the moment of the breach and entry into the apartment, Yamam forces (the special forces unit of the Israel Police) shielded Louis and Fernando with their bodies, initiating a daring battle and heavy exchanges of fire at several locations simultaneously, with many terrorists."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Requires Security Control over All Territory West of the Jordan River - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    After an IDF briefing to the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We are on the way to victory....It is within reach. It is a difficult battle, but one we are winning. We want, in effect, to bring about the demilitarization of Gaza. This requires our security control and our comprehensive security responsibility over all territory west of the Jordan River, including Gaza. There is no alternative to this in the foreseeable future."
        "We are also saying this to the international community, and to the President of the U.S., and to all leaders. There is no alternative to this. This is to say, security control will always be ours, and if this requires a presence inside, then there will be a presence inside. If it requires that we be able to go in anywhere...at any time, this will be...the case in the future."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • IDF Soldiers Capture 20 Terrorists Hiding in Khan Yunis Hospital - Yoav Zitun
    On Sunday, IDF forces detained 20 terrorists who were hiding inside Al-Amal Hospital in western Khan Yunis. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Case Against Israel Rests on Lies - President of Israel Isaac Herzog
    The international legal system has begun to ignore reality and truth. Justice is unrecognizable, and noble ideals are perverted by terrorists and cynics. These feelings were brought in focus as the International Court of Justice at The Hague in January considered South Africa's accusation that Israel was guilty of genocide.
        Amid the many demonstrable misrepresentations that emerged from the accusation against Israel, one caught my attention - a quote attributed to me. On Oct. 12, five days after Hamas terrorists butchered 1,200 people in southern Israel and kidnapped hundreds more, a line that there was "an entire nation out there that is responsible," referring to the Palestinians, was presented as if it justified the killing of civilians.
        At that news conference, not one journalist asked me about the pain in Israel or about the global implications of this act of catastrophic terror. They were instead preoccupied with the effect this would have on Palestinians in Gaza - the territory that had produced and then celebrated the perpetrators of the attack. The fact is that many Palestinian civilians entered Israel on Oct. 7 and participated in murder, rape and looting, much of it documented on film. Palestinians were filmed cheering the massacre and jeering and attacking the hostages as they were led into captivity.
        I pointed out that Hamas operates from within the heart of its civilian population and enjoys broad support. I then stated, in no uncertain terms, that there are many innocent Palestinians, and that the State of Israel and our security forces don't view innocent civilians as targets in any way. I made it clear that Israel acts in keeping with international law. These words were purposely distorted when presented to the court.
        The South African case, brought in support of Hamas, is a blood libel against the nation-state of the Jewish people - a shameful low for an international system that emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust. This abandonment of moral clarity, the desertion of the vision of international justice and its replacement by cynical politics and outright falsehoods, will have repercussions far beyond Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hamas Is Asking Israel to End the War and Leave It to Fight Another Day - Col. Richard Kemp
    When one side in a negotiation offers terms it knows the opposite side can't possibly accept, it means they are not interested in a deal. This is precisely what Hamas has done in the latest negotiations over a ceasefire in return for release of Israeli hostages. They are effectively asking Israel to end the war and leave what remains of the terrorist organization to fight another day. What is unclear is the extent to which the leaders outside Gaza who are doing the negotiating are in agreement on the issue with their henchmen in the tunnels.
        Both Britain and the U.S. have given emphasis to re-energizing a "two-state solution" in the wake of this conflict. Apart from its sheer impracticability following the Oct. 7 massacre, any such idea at this point seems to reward and further incentivize terrorism. This is highly dangerous, not least for the civilians of Gaza. It encourages Hamas to hold out hope for Western diplomatic intervention in their favor and therefore helps prolong the war.
        The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA.  (Telegraph-UK)
  • The Fantasy of Palestinian Statehood - John Bolton
    British Foreign Secretary David Cameron recently suggested that the UK could recognize the state of "Palestine." The Biden administration is also musing about recognizing a nonexistent state. Since the first Oslo Accord, if not before, it has been bedrock peace-process doctrine that both Israel and the Palestinians must agree to any "two-state solution." Moreover, Israel is responding to a terrorist attack comparable to al-Qaeda's 9-11 attack on America, while simultaneously menaced by Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. What kind of ally then puts a knife in Israel's back?
        In international law, statehood has critically important characteristics, including having a defined territory and population, a capital city, and being able to implement normal governmental functions. There is no existing "Palestine" that meets any of these core criteria. Pretending that the Palestinian Authority qualifies does not make it so. Imposing this outcome almost certainly reduces Palestinian incentives to deal seriously with the Israeli government.
        The writer served as U.S. national security adviser. (Telegraph-UK)
  • The U.S. Sanctions Israelis - Another Prize for Terrorism - Liat Collins
    I hate hate crimes, wherever they are perpetrated and whoever is the target. Nonetheless, I was surprised that Joe Biden was so concerned by reports of alleged "settler violence" that he personally issued an executive order against four Israelis last week. It is fair to assume that most attacks against Jews, Muslims, or members of other communities don't make it to the desk of the Oval Office.
        Biden's decision is not about combating violence. It's an attempt at moral equivalence. The presidential order establishes a mechanism of financial sanctions against people (well, Jews) accused of "participating in specific actions in the West Bank, which include threats of violence against civilians." These are abhorrent acts indeed, but fortunately figures show that "settler violence" has decreased in recent months and is limited in scope and intensity. It is also condemned by Israeli public figures from the president, prime minister, and chief rabbi down.
        According to Israel's Channel 11, one of the four has never been indicted for violence. The other three have all faced proceedings in the Israeli justice system - a sign that the country takes the matter seriously even without U.S. presidential pushing.
        If we weren't already so used to such double standards, it would be astonishing that the president of the U.S. thought that tackling "settler violence" should be the highest priority at a time when Israel is still under rocket fire from Iranian proxies Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Houthis, and still reeling from the Hamas mega-atrocity of Oct. 7. Given the ongoing Iranian attacks on U.S. forces and international shipping, it should be clear that it is not the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria who are undermining regional stability.
        No matter what atrocity Hamas carries out, the Western world will ensure that the Jewish state gets equal blame. Using "settler violence" to provide an aura of even-handedness when compared to the utter depravity of the Hamas onslaught is warped and dangerous. (Jerusalem Post)
  • When Hamas Attacked the IDF Humanitarian Aid Unit - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Col. Moshe Tetro, 42, heads the Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) for Gaza, which is responsible for civilian issues including humanitarian aid, prevention of disease, supervision of international aid organizations, and transportation of wounded Palestinians, as well as the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Erez crossing, and the Nitzana crossing.
        "Our CLA base constitutes the hand that feeds the residents of Gaza. The attack of the base is in fact biting the hand that feeds them, allowing them to make a living and live. My soldiers who were killed here, their job was to allow the entry of food into Gaza and to deal with medical issues. And that's what they attacked."
        The Gaza CLA is located right next to the Erez crossing. On Oct. 7, the base was attacked by dozens of terrorists who blew up the entrance gate and swarmed in while firing heavily. "The terrorists were familiar with the base, they knew exactly where to go," says Tetro. "They entered my office and destroyed it to the ground."
        At one point, he saw among the Hamas videos two of his soldiers, Ron Sherman and Nick Beiser, being taken captive by Hamas. Their bodies were recovered in December. "Ron Sherman routinely took care of getting trucks into Gaza, for the benefit of people there." Three CLA soldiers were killed in the attack, and three more were abducted to Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • The Unshakable Trauma of the Kfar Aza Massacre - Amb. Vivian Bercovici
    Chen Kotler stands at the entrance to Kibbutz Kfar Aza where she was born and lived until Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas terrorists ravaged her community. 62 of the 750 residents were murdered; 18 were taken hostage. She was in Portugal on holiday with her sister on Oct. 7. It took the Israel Defense Forces nearly three days to clear Kfar Aza of all the terrorists.
        Kotler's home is next to the kibbutz armory. Had she not been abroad, she would surely have been among the dead. Hamas terrorists knew exactly where the weapons were stored and made that their first stop at every kibbutz they attacked. They knew where kibbutz security officers resided and targeted them next. Then they were able to make their way through the kibbutz, methodically and sadistically slaughtering helpless civilians.
        The writer is a former Canadian ambassador to Israel. (National Post-Canada)

What Is the U.S. Government Doing to Enforce the Taylor Force Act? - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The bi-partisan U.S. Taylor Force Act (TFA), adopted in 2018, declared that "The Palestinian Authority's practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror." As long as the PA continues to incentivize terror and reward the murder of Jews, there is no chance whatsoever to promote any constructive dialogue toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.
  • In addition to conditioning most of U.S. aid on the PA abolishing its "Pay-for-Slay" terror reward policy, as a long-term diplomatic goal, the Act urged "the Department of State to use its bilateral and multilateral engagements with all governments and organizations committed to the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians to highlight the issue of Palestinian Authority payments for acts of terrorism and to urge such governments and organizations to join the United States in calling on the Palestinian Authority to cease such payments immediately."
  • Very little has been done to achieve the diplomatic goal of ending the terror payments. It is apparent that the PA not only intends to continue paying its terror rewards but will pay rewards to the terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre as well.
  • In 2018, following the adoption of the Taylor Force Act, Israel also adopted legislation that punishes the PA for its "Play-for-Slay" policy by deducting the sum the PA pays to terrorists from the tax revenues it collects for the PA.
  • To date, the PA has lost over 3 billion shekels ($820 million), a sum equivalent to the PA payments to terrorists from 2018 through 2022. When Abbas urges Washington to release the "Palestinian clearance funds," he is referring to the sums withheld by Israel from the taxes as a direct result of the PA's "Play-for-Slay" policy.
  • Moral clarity requires that Secretary Blinken unequivocally demand an immediate end to the PA's "Play-for-Slay" policy as a non-negotiable precondition to establishing any form of revitalized Palestinian entity.

    The writer, Director of the Palestinian Authority Accountability Initiative at the Jerusalem Center, served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and was director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.

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