February 15, 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:

Israeli Forces Seek Remains of Hostages in Khan Yunis Hospital - Wafaa Shurafa (AP)
    Israeli forces raided Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis on Thursday, a day after thousands of people who had taken shelter there were evacuated.
    The IDF said it had "credible intelligence" that Hamas had held hostages at the hospital and that the remains of hostages might still be inside.
    IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said forces were conducting a "precise and limited" operation there and would not forcibly evacuate medics or patients.

Antisemitism in Britain Hits All-Time High - Charles Hymas (Telegraph-UK)
    Antisemitism hit an all-time high last year in an explosion of hatred against the Jewish community following the Hamas terror attacks on Israel, official figures by the Community Security Trust (CST) show.
    CST - a charity which protects Jews against racism - said the surge in anti-Jewish attacks, threats and abuse amounted to a "celebration" by antisemites of Hamas' Oct. 7 massacre.
    Its annual report said there were 4,103 antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2023, nearly double the previous record of 2,261 incidents in 2021. 2/3 of the antisemitism reports occurred after Oct. 7.
    Mark Gardner, the CST chief executive, said: "We condemn the stony silence from those sections of society that eagerly call out racism in every other case, except when it comes to Jew-hate."

    See also The Good People of Great Britain Must Stand Against Antisemitism - Danny Cohen (Telegraph-UK)
    Appalling antisemitic incidents in Britain are now more commonplace than at any time in recent history.
    The trigger was not Israel's military response to the Hamas attacks, but the massacre of Jews itself.
    Celebrations of the murder of Jewish women, children and the elderly took place on Britain's streets. Rape and killing became a source of pride, not shame. For the first time, antisemitic incidents were recorded in every police region.
    Many British Jews are feeling a sense of threat, prejudice and distress that they have not experienced in their lifetimes.
    Too many people in our country now think it acceptable to participate in racist acts against Jews. And they will feel more emboldened as they see there are no real consequences for displays of antisemitic hate.
    We need the good people of this country, the silent majority, to speak loudly on our behalf. And we need all of our institutions, the government, the police, the courts, our universities and schools, to do more.
    There must be zero tolerance for racism against Jews in this country.

Iranian Gas Pipeline Hit by Sabotage - Jon Gambrell (AP)
    Explosions struck a natural gas pipeline in Iran on Wednesday.
    Saeed Aghli, manager of Iran's gas network control center, told Iranian state television that a "sabotage and terrorist" action caused explosions along several areas of the line.

Gaza Residents Turn on Hamas Leader Sinwar after Video of Him in Tunnel - Einav Halabi (Ynet News)
    Unusual criticism has emerged on social media after a video from the IDF on Tuesday showed Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar fleeing with his children through an underground tunnel under the city of Khan Yunis.
    "This rat, Yahya Sinwar, quickly ran to hide underground," wrote Mustafa Asfur, a Gaza resident, on X.
    "He built tunnels to hide in for him, his children, his wife and those who surround them. He left the men, women and children of his people to struggle with death above ground."
    "You are a cowardly leader who sacrifices his country and his people for himself."

Gazan Journalist Says Hamas Uses Civilians as Human Shields (Jerusalem Post)
    Gaza-based journalist Jehad Saftawi said Tuesday on X: "Hamas terrorists used my family and hundreds of our neighbors as human shields. Hamas continues to hold the people of Gaza captive."
    "The case for removing Hamas is not to fuel escalation but to prevent it, which is why they should never be allowed to retake control of Gaza."
    Saftawi said it was the first time in more than 10 years that he's "been able to speak about this publicly," stating that it's "a cry for realignment for our Palestinian society."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S., Arab Nations Plan for Postwar Gaza, Palestinian State - Karen DeYoung
    The Biden administration and a group of Arab partners are rushing to complete a detailed, comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and Palestinians, including a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, that could be announced in the coming weeks. The planning participants include Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Palestinian representatives, in addition to the U.S.
        The elephant in the planning room is Israel, and whether its government will acquiesce to much of what is being discussed: the withdrawal of many, if not all, Israeli communities in the West Bank; a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem; the reconstruction of Gaza; and security and governance arrangements for a combined West Bank and Gaza. The hope is that Israel would also be offered specific security guarantees and normalization with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
        U.S. officials said the menu of actions under consideration include early U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state - even as elements of political reform, security guarantees for both Israel and the Palestinians, normalization and reconstruction are being implemented.
        "I'd be stunned if they extended de jure or de facto recognition to the state of Palestine" as an early part of a day-after plan, said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department adviser and coordinator on Arab-Israeli negotiations. He questioned whether the current leadership of either Israel or the Palestinians was capable of or interested in "any transformative solution." "They don't have the leaders in place to pull the wagon."
        Americans "think they can come here and play with us like building Lego," said Tawfiq Al-Tirawi, a member of the Central Committee of Fatah, the largest faction in the PLO, which forms the basis of the Palestinian Authority. "If we want to renew our leadership, that's purely our decision." One Arab official said Hamas should be included in the talks, if not in the future government, "to ensure they're on board with this."  (Washington Post)
  • UAE Restricts U.S. Ability to Launch Retaliatory Airstrikes Against Iran Proxies - Lara Seligman
    Some Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, are increasingly restricting the U.S. from using military facilities on their soil to launch retaliatory airstrikes on Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria, according to a U.S. official. The restrictions reflect Arab calculations on how supportive they can be to the U.S. without angering Iran. The UAE is home to Al Dhafra Air Base, which hosts dozens of U.S. aircraft involved in operations across the region. (Politico)
  • Before Resuming Funding, UK Wants "Absolute Guarantee" UNRWA Won’t Employ Terrorists
    Britain wants an "absolute guarantee" that the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA will not employ staff who are willing to attack Israel, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Wednesday. Britain last month joined the U.S. in "temporarily pausing" funding for UNRWA following allegations that 12 of its Palestinian employees were suspected of involvement in the Hamas attack that triggered the Gaza war.
        Cameron said: "What we're looking for is an absolute guarantee that this can't happen again. Let's be clear here that it looks as if there were people working for UNRWA who took part in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. That is unacceptable."  (Reuters)
        See also UNRWA's Not-So-Independent Investigators - Editorial
    Even the UN has felt obliged to investigate the evidence that keeps emerging that the UN relief agency for Palestinians in Gaza has been assisting Hamas. But the supposedly independent investigation of UNRWA doesn't inspire confidence. At least two of the three agencies selected to conduct an independent review have made statements aligning themselves against Israel or defending UNRWA.
        These include the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Norway's Chr. Michelsen Institute, and former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna. It's hard to imagine these people and groups providing a fair assessment of UNRWA's links to Hamas. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Netanyahu's Economic Adviser Says Markets Ignore Moody's Downgrade of Israel - Steven Scheer
    Since Moody's on Friday cut Israel's sovereign credit rating to A2 from A1 due to the Gaza war, markets have moved little, said Avi Simhon, director of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister's Office. "The fact that the markets did not react to Moody's announcement...shows the markets do not pay much attention to what Moody's says."
        Simhon, like other government officials, believes the ratings reduction was not warranted since they believe the economy will recover quickly once the war is over. "It's a temporary thing. We have a war and we have to finance it. It costs a lot but we can manage it."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Soldier Killed by Hizbullah Rocket at Army Base in Northern Israel - Adi Hashmonai
    IDF Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo, 20, was killed Wednesday by a Hizbullah rocket strike on an Israeli army base in Safed in northern Israel. Eight other soldiers were wounded in the strike. In response, Israeli air force jets began an extensive wave of attacks in Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli Jets Hit Hizbullah in Lebanon in Heaviest Strike since Gaza War Began - Sarah Dadouch (Washington Post)
  • Hizbullah Is Increasing Attacks on the Galilee - Ron Ben Yishai
    Thus far, 220 Hizbullah members have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on south Lebanon and even further north, across the Litani River. Nine were killed on Tuesday. There are also fatalities among Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Lebanon.
        Hizbullah has aimed their fire at Israeli military bases a number of times since Oct. 8. Hizbullah has used Iranian-made Cornet and Almas anti-tank missiles, which have a range of 8 km. (5 miles) and are very precise. But the damage in Safed on Wednesday appeared to be the result of a heavier rocket. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Taking Rafah Is Essential to Defeat Hamas - Editorial
    Ever notice how it is always deemed a humanitarian imperative to let Hamas survive? The diplomatic pressure on Israel to stay out of Rafah, Hamas' final stronghold, has become enormous. Warnings descend daily from the White House, Europe and the Middle East, plus the UN-NGO complex.
        Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military chief have already said that civilians will be evacuated from Rafah before Israel advances. Safe zones and a corridor out are being designated.
        There's no defeating Hamas and freeing the hostages without turning to Rafah. Hamas hasn't been toppled if it still governs territory. Hamas hasn't been destroyed if its four Rafah battalions remain intact. Hamas can't be destroyed while it has access to the Egyptian border and control of the flow of aid at Rafah. Israel rescued two hostages in Rafah, and it believes many others are held there. How could Israel abandon them?
        After Oct. 7, President Biden pledged his support for destroying Hamas. But lately his administration has increased its criticism of the war effort. He is rolling out initiative after initiative to pressure Israel: a sanctions regime against some Israelis with the potential to expand, a threat of automatic recognition of a Palestinian state, media leaks about investigations into Israel's war tactics, and new strings attached to weapons shipments.
        Once Rafah falls, Israel's fighting can shift to a lower-intensity, mopping-up phase, bringing the war to an end. Rafah is Hamas' last stand as a governing force, so expect it to pull every political lever to stop Israel. The question is why the Biden Administration is cooperating. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Will Take Whatever Actions It Believes Will Best Serve Its Security Interests, Regardless of Critics - David Brennan
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel's campaign in Gaza has put victory "in reach." Israeli planners are preparing to push south to Rafah, along the Gaza-Egypt border, prompting warnings of caution from the White House.
        "Netanyahu and the Israeli government have demonstrated repeatedly that they will take whatever actions they believe will best serve Israel's security, regardless of what their allies or regional partners advocate," Professor Adria Lawrence of Johns Hopkins University said. "The United States simply does not have the ability to deter the Israeli government that some of Biden's critics believe he has....Israel has the capacity to act with or without external support or military aid - it is not dependent on the U.S. military aid or support - and so there are serious limits on what any outside actor can achieve."
        U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said this week that President Biden is "confident that our Israeli counterparts understand our concerns." In any case, "we're going to continue to support Israel. They have a right and responsibility to go after Hamas. We're going to make sure that they can continue to do that."  (Newsweek)
  • British Foreign Secretary's Patronizing Advice Would Doom Israel to Defeat - Col. Richard Kemp
    British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has virtually called on Israel to surrender to Hamas as it prepares to destroy the terrorist group in Rafah. His call for a ceasefire is exactly what Hamas wants and has demanded from Israel - an end to the war that it is catastrophically losing. For Israel, destroying Hamas in Rafah is non-negotiable.
        Would Cameron have called for a ceasefire as Allied troops were poised to cross the Rhine in March 1945? Of course Israel cannot halt its offensive now any more than the Allies could then.
        Like a schoolmaster lecturing a recalcitrant schoolboy, Cameron has told Israel to "stop and think very seriously before it takes any further action." Who does he think he's talking down to? Does he seriously believe the Israeli war cabinet and general staff have not been working round the clock for months, "thinking seriously" about every action they take in this war?
        If Cameron had his way, and the operation in Rafah were suspended or cancelled, what would have been the point of the last few months of fighting inside Gaza? The remnants of Hamas would quickly regroup, re-arm and renew their decades of violent aggression against Israeli civilians. Those who really want to end the bloodshed should not be giving Hamas hope by condemning Israel's future prosecution of 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)

  • I won't apologize for Israel's justified actions in self-defense since Oct. 7. Beyond unfairly counting natural deaths and Palestinians killed by rocket misfires, Hamas inflates the number of "innocents" killed in Gaza by at least 12,000 - the number of terrorists killed. Echoing Hamas' statistics makes all Palestinians "innocent," no matter how murderous, or deems the IDF the world's worst army, only killing civilians, missing every terrorist.
  • Why should Israel apologize when Hamas still holds 134 hostages, when we've barely finished identifying Israelis burned to a crisp, when our sexually abused and maimed brothers and sisters are still adjusting to the wounds that will forever haunt them? Is anyone demanding Hamas apologize for the destruction it unleashed on Oct. 7, or seeking apologies from Palestinians who joined and cheered?
  • Hamas attacks. Israel counterattacks justifiably. Hamas terrorists hide behind defenses they built by stealing humanitarian aid, exposing their women and children to make propaganda points - and the world buys it.
  • So, no, Israel should not apologize. Nor has Israel behaved in an "over-the-top" way or "dehumanized" Palestinians - as President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken unfairly charged.
  • As an American historian, I understand that the most pressing moral question is: "Is the war justified?" Every liberal democrat knows that the moral imperative when fighting a just war is to save yourself, your comrades, and your country. I, for one, am proud of how effectively and carefully Israel has defended itself.
  • Both Blinken and Biden supported the Iraq War and the other post-9/11 wars which killed over 400,000 civilians. I wonder if either believes America "dehumanized" the Germans or the Japanese during World War II. America has never apologized for any disproportionate deaths in wartime. Apparently, I missed the lectures describing the times America stopped short of winning to please an ally or provided humanitarian aid during wartime - for the enemy to steal.

    The writer, an American presidential historian, is a Senior Fellow in Zionist Thought at the Jewish People Policy Institute.

        See also Video: American Jewry Four Months Later - Still Reeling from Oct. 7 - Interview with Prof. Gil Troy (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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