February 23, 2024
Special Edition
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Israel: 440 UNRWA Workers Are Active in Hamas Military Forces (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
    Eight UNRWA employees in Gaza have been arrested by the IDF since Oct. 7 due to their connections to Hamas, Maariv reported Thursday.
    On Wednesday, Israel's security services forwarded to the Cabinet an updated report indicating that 440 UNRWA workers in Gaza are active in the military arm of Hamas, meaning terrorists fighting against the IDF.
    2,000 other employees are registered Hamas operatives. An additional 7,000 UNRWA employees have a first-degree relative who is a Hamas terrorist.
    In total, out of 12,000 employees, close to 9,500 are connected to Hamas.

American Flour Shipment for Gaza to Be Distributed by World Food Program instead of UNRWA - Jacob Magid (Times of Israel)
    A new arrangement will allow for a massive American shipment of flour for Gazan civilians to be distributed by the World Food Program rather than the UNRWA relief agency for Palestinian refugees, a U.S. official said.

Report: Israel Eliminates Hizbullah Missile Expert - Lior Ben Ari (Ynet News)
    An Israeli drone strike in Remen, Lebanon, 12 km. from the border with Israel, killed three Hizbullah terrorists on Thursday including Hassan Saleh, considered a prominent missile expert, Sky News Arabia reported.

UK, U.S. Never Checked with Israeli Law Enforcement before Sanctioning Its Citizens - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    Three weeks after the U.S. announced sanctions on four Israeli citizens because of "high levels of extremist settler violence," it turns out that only one of the four is known to law enforcement authorities in Israel as having problematic conduct.
    Of the three Israelis sanctioned by Britain, not a single one is known to the authorities.
    The Americans and British did not conduct any preliminary checks or consultations with the Israel Police or Israel Security Agency before imposing the sanctions, even though they have extensive ties with Israel's security agencies in a very wide range of areas.
    In addition, data shows that in the fourth month of the Gaza war, there was a nearly 50% drop in incidents defined as "extreme violence" in Judea and Samaria, a downward trend that has continued since the start of the war.
    These figures essentially debunk claims by the U.S. on a supposed surge of such violence.
    A senior Israeli police official said: "Our actions are based on facts and data, not stories. Anyone who breaks the law is dealt with. Period."
    "We do know that many incidents actually start with provocations by leftists and anarchists, so these data do not necessarily tell the whole story and do not mean the blame lies specifically on the settler side."

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Army Okays Return to Many Communities near Gaza - Canaan Lidor (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Forces' Home Front Command on Thursday declared it essentially safe to return to all communities located between four and seven km. from the border with Gaza, along with 18 communities even closer to the Strip.
    The region was evacuated following the Oct. 7 attack, as rocket fire continued to rain on Israeli towns. The rocket threat has largely, but not completely, abated.
    Excepted from the resettlement plan are communities that suffered the most extensive damage, such as Kibbutz Nir Oz, Nahal Oz, Be'eri and Kfar Aza, which will require months or years to rebuild.

Prince William Should Keep Quiet about Gaza - Brendan O'Neill (Spectator-UK)
    Prince William has said the "fighting in Gaza must be brought to an end."
    My first question is: why is William more moved by this conflict than by other recent wars?
    Thousands have died in the Myanmar civil war. More than two million have been displaced. Hundreds of thousands have perished in the Saudi-Yemen conflict since 2014. Then there's Russia's criminal invasion of Ukraine.
    So what about those wars, William? Do you believe "too many" were killed, as you now say about Gaza? If you did, why didn't you say so?
    The cultural elite is displaying a frankly feverish obsession with the Gaza war. Peruse social media and you'll see people saying they can't stop weeping over Gaza. Some have taken to the streets every other weekend to register their rage with Israel.
    Now even a royal personage has joined these ranks of the selectively outraged, those who feel a peculiarly intense grief for Gaza while often turning a blind eye to bloodier wars.
    No "pro-Palestine" activist or tweeter or commentator has ever given a satisfactory response to the question of why Israeli militarism horrifies them more than other kinds of militarism, and why Palestinian suffering wounds them more deeply than other people's suffering.
    Who elected William to say the war in Gaza must end? William's grandmother went 70 years without exposing her feelings on world affairs. He should aspire to do likewise.

Israel Is Winning the War - Amb. Dror Eydar (Israel Hayom)
    Our IDF heroes are dismantling Hamas, neighborhood after neighborhood, tunnel after tunnel. Their leader Yahya Sinwar is on the run.
    The rockets that were part of our lives for 20 years are almost gone.
    We are in awe at the heroism of our soldiers and their parents, the mothers and fathers, who encourage them to fight for our home.
    We are in awe of the volunteerism, the giving, the camaraderie, and the great sense of family that beats in the heart of the public, which pushes its leaders not to stop until we have achieved complete victory.
    The writer is a former Israeli Ambassador to Italy.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Prepares for a Prolonged Conflict in Gaza - Adam Rasgon
    The Israeli military, by its assessment, has delivered a major blow to the capabilities of Hamas, killing commanders, destroying tunnels and confiscating weapons. But it anticipates a protracted campaign to defeat Hamas. During the most recent fighting in Gaza, Israeli analysts say, Hamas has avoided direct confrontations with Israeli units.
        In northern Gaza, Hamas fighters were now operating in isolation, without support, an Israeli military intelligence official said. The Israeli military believes that at least 5,000 militants remain in the north. "Hamas hasn't been completely defeated in northern Gaza," said Col. Nochi Mandel, chief of staff of the Nahal Brigade. "We've done a lot of work, but there's still more to do." He emphasized, however, that the army was no longer encountering strong resistance. Israeli officials said IDF forces would continue to sweep northern Gaza to tamp down the Hamas insurgency for the foreseeable future.
        Israeli military officials have said the southern city of Khan Yunis has been one of the most significant centers of Hamas military activity. Israeli forces are targeting Hamas' extensive underground tunnel network in and around the city, and many key subterranean command centers had been destroyed. "The army is being very aggressive there without facing much competition from the other side," said Amos Harel, a military affairs analyst for Ha'aretz.  (New York Times)
        See also The Gaza War Is Essentially Over - Lazar Berman
    With a significant portion of its fighting force dead or wounded, Hamas still appears to have the ability to function as a coherent organization, and would likely be able to reassert control over Gaza if Israel left. Yet for some time now, the IDF has not been using anything resembling "all its strength."
        Earlier this month, the IDF announced it was pulling the last reserve unit out of Gaza, leaving only regular army units to continue the fight. At the height of the war, five divisions were fighting simultaneously in Gaza, with 10,000-20,000 soldiers each. Now only two divisions are still fighting, both in much smaller numbers than earlier in the war. For almost two months, the fighting in Gaza has looked more like a military operation than a full-fledged war.
        Hamas leaders are no doubt encouraged by Israel's shrinking offensive. They know they have weathered the worst of Israel's military pressure, and believe they have survived with enough of their force intact to regroup. All they have to do is outlast Israel. At the same time, even though Hamas rears its head wherever it can, it is not currently in control of Gaza. Its forces remain pinned underground. (Times of Israel)
  • Houthi Missile Hits UK-Owned Ship in Gulf of Aden
    The Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles from southern Yemen into the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, striking the MV Islander, a UK-owned cargo carrier, causing one minor injury and damage.
        Earlier, U.S. aircraft and a coalition ship shot down six Houthi attack drones in the Red Sea. (CENTCOM)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Outlines Post-War Plan for Gaza - Jacob Magid
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday presented the Security Cabinet with a document of principles regarding the management of Gaza after the war. Civil affairs in Gaza will be run by "local officials" who have "administrative experience" and who aren't tied to "countries or entities that support terrorism." The IDF will maintain freedom to operate throughout Gaza to prevent the resurgence of terror activity.
        Israel will establish a security buffer zone on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border to remain in place "as long as there is a security need for it." At the Egyptian-Gaza border, Israel will enforce a "closure" to prevent the revival of terror activity, with assistance from the U.S. and in cooperation with Egypt "as much as possible." The "closure will be made up of measures aimed at preventing smuggling from Egypt - both underground and above ground, including at the Rafah crossing."
        The plan envisions Gaza's "complete demilitarization...beyond what is required for the needs of maintaining public order." Israel will be responsible for realizing this goal for the foreseeable future. Israel will also promote a "de-radicalization plan...in all religious, educational and welfare institutions in Gaza, as much as possible with the involvement and assistance of Arab countries that have experience in promoting de-radicalization."
        Israel will work to replace the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, with "responsible international aid organizations." Israel will only allow the reconstruction of Gaza to begin after the completion of the demilitarization and the commencement of the "de-radicalization process." "The rehabilitation plan will be financed and led by countries acceptable to Israel."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli War Cabinet Minister Gantz: If No Agreement on Hostage Release, Israel Will Move into Rafah over Ramadan - Sam Sokol
    Israeli War Cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that if there is no agreement on a hostage release, Israel will move into the southern Gaza city of Rafah over Ramadan. "On the battlefield, we are facing an operation in Rafah, which will begin after the population is evacuated from the area," he said, arguing that clearing out the last remaining Hamas forces there was critical for the demilitarization of Gaza. Since November's temporary ceasefire, "we have not stopped fighting for even one day - and we will not stop even for a minute without our hostages being returned."
        Gantz said, "In any future situation, Israel will maintain its supremacy and its operational capabilities in the entire Gaza Strip," insisting that Israel "will not allow murderers to return to control places where the IDF has operated."
        Regarding the "unilateral" creation of a Palestinian state, Gantz said that after Oct. 7, "it would be a mistake to give such a tailwind to terrorism." He argued that political arrangements that do not stem from direct talks "will not be sustainable."
        "Our goal and the goal of the donor countries is the same: aid to the residents and not to the terrorists....We are working to strengthen the moderate axis vis-a-vis Iran, and establish a regional administration that will help the Palestinians build another government in Gaza."  (Times of Israel)
  • IDF in New Gaza City Operation, 35+ Hamas Fighters Killed in Past Day - Emanuel Fabian
    The Israel Defense Forces' large-scale operation in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood is continuing, the military announced Thursday. Airstrikes were directed against 10 Hamas sites in Zeitoun, while the 401st Armored Brigade killed 20 operatives in the area. In Khan Yunis, the 7th Armored Brigade killed more than 15 Hamas operatives. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Eliminates Palestinian Terrorist in Jenin en route to Commit Attack
    The IDF eliminated Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist Yasser Hanoun in a drone strike in Jenin on Thursday. He was on his way to commit a shooting attack and had carried out several attacks against Israeli forces and communities in recent weeks. According to Palestinian reports, a second Palestinian was killed in the strike and 10 others were injured. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Former U.S. Secretary of Defense: Recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a State Now Is a Huge Mistake - Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates interviewed by David Ignatius
    Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview published Wednesday: "The United States needs to understand that, unlike on a lot of other policies, Netanyahu on the two-state solution has a lot of popular support in Israel. I think there continues to be an underestimate outside of Israel on the traumatic effect on Israel of Oct.7....In all of Israel's wars with the Arab states, they have never experienced anything like the massacre of innocent civilians that they suffered on Oct. 7, and I think it has had a huge impact psychologically inside Israel."
        "I think that the administration was correct after Oct. 7 in the very strong support that they provided for Israel under those circumstances. I think that as the retaliation against Hamas in Gaza has proceeded, I think the administration has also taken the right position in terms of pressing harder for more humanitarian relief - more food, more medicine, and so on - and more effort to prevent collateral damage, to prevent the killing of innocent Palestinians."
        "This has been made much tougher by Hamas' approach, which is to integrate themselves with the civilian population so that there is no way to getting at Hamas without going through innocent civilians. This is what the Taliban did. This is what Hamas does, and it makes the situation all the more complicated for Israel."
        "The notion of recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a state now, I think, is a huge mistake. There has to be a process, a sequence of events, and some established criteria, of changes that have to happen in the West Bank, in the Palestinian Authority, and among the Palestinians themselves with Arab support, that over time will allow some confidence to be built on the part of the Israelis that a Palestinian state next door is not going to be an existential threat to Israel, is not going to be a threat for another Oct. 7. And that is going to take time."  (Washington Post)
  • Traumatized Israelis Are in No Mood to Compromise Their Security - Gadi Taub
    In Israel, the obstacle to the "two-state solution" is Israel's electorate. Traumatized Israelis are in no mood to compromise their security. Israel's coalition government is united in the belief that promising the Palestinians a state in the middle of a war for national survival would be a declaration by Israel's government that murdering, raping, and kidnapping Israelis is the way for Palestinians to achieve their national ambitions. Even the prime minister's rivals in the coalition, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, publicly support this consensus.
        American recognition of a Palestinian state would be seen by Israelis as categorically anti-Israel, a reward to Iran for its aggression, and a prize to the Palestinians for having massacred Jews. No previous U.S. administration has contemplated recognition unless the Palestinians commit to end the conflict, partition the land, recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their own nation-state, and sign a final accord of peace and normalization.
        After Oct. 7, most Israelis would not accept partition even if the Palestinians made the commitments they have disdained to date. We learned this lesson the hard way: We can't afford to exchange land for promises which can easily be broken. We can't allow for even a remote possibility of a future terror state perched above our coastal plain, 9 miles from the center of Tel Aviv.
        The writer is a senior lecturer in communications and public policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Tablet)
  • Arab States Reluctant to Come to the Palestinians' Aid - Michael Hirsh
    Former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker spent nearly four decades representing America's interests in the Arab world, serving as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said in an interview that despite public support for Palestinian rights, in truth nearly every Arab state has long viewed the Palestinians with "fear and loathing." "The last thing the Arab states, particularly those around Palestine and Israel, wanted to see was an independent Palestinian movement, let alone a state."
        "What's noteworthy in this entire conflict since Oct. 7 has been the lack of reaction or response from the Arab world. Saudi Arabia continues to hold the door open for a peace agreement with Israel. The UAE, Morocco and Bahrain didn't even withdraw ambassadors. Jordan did, but of course with about half of its population being Palestinian, Jordan has a particular problem. That lack of reaction I think is very telling."
        "It is noteworthy there is no Palestinian population in Egypt. Going back to the days of [former Egyptian leader] Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptians saw the threat. Again, the Palestinians contributed to their isolation through some spectacular acts like the assassination of a Jordanian prime minister in front of the Sheraton hotel in broad daylight in Cairo by two Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP] gunmen, one of whom stooped down to drink the assassinated prime minister's blood."  (Politico)
  • U.S. Survey: Israel's Planned Offensive in Rafah, Gaza, and the "Two-State Solution" - Irwin J. Mansdorf, Ph.D
    Psychological-cognitive factors such as "context" influence individual perception and perspective, viz., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The notion of "cognitive set," where first impressions create a temporary readiness to think or interpret information in a particular way, applies here.
        On the one hand, we found that providing brief background information on the current war against Hamas did not change perceptions of how individuals viewed the war. However, providing specific, factual aspects related to Palestinian behavior did change attitudes regarding support for a Palestinian state.
        Basic support for a Palestinian state among our American sample was about 43%. When introducing specific cognitive conditions, support was reduced to between 20-38%.
        Results also show that support for an Israeli offensive in Rafah increases with the knowledge that Hamas refuses to surrender and release the kidnapped hostages. The shift in attitude, when presented with realistic scenarios, is a crucial tool in the potential psychological and cognitive presentation of issues such as continued Israeli military action and consideration of support for a Palestinian state.
        The writer is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center specializing in political psychology. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The House of Commons Debates a Gaza Ceasefire - Angela Epstein
    The House of Commons on Wednesday discussed a Scottish National Party (SNP) motion for a ceasefire in Gaza. Of course, the idea that any Westminster debate will have an impact on Israel's military policy is for the birds. When it comes to protecting its people from hostile neighbors, Israel can only rely on itself.
        There's something arrogant and vaingloriously colonial in believing that a country under enemy attack from a terrorist death cult should pay any heed to what politicians thousands of miles away might have to say on the subject. Indeed, all the childish party politics have achieved is to inflame community tensions further and give succor to the dangerous rise of radicalized Islamic protest. (Daily Express-UK)

What Would a "Revitalized" Palestinian Authority Be? - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Times of Israel)
  • The Palestinian Authority, in its current form, has failed the Palestinians and has failed the peace process. Nonetheless, in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre and the ensuing war against Hamas, U.S. President Joe Biden wrote in the Washington Post on Nov. 18, 2023, that "Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited...under a revitalized Palestinian Authority."
  • PA reform must include the following non-negotiable steps:
    1. Condemn the Oct. 7 massacre. More than 4 months have passed since the Oct. 7 massacre, in which more than 1,200 people were tortured, raped, beheaded and murdered, hundreds wounded, and 240 people kidnapped to Gaza. To this day, no PA leader or figure has condemned the atrocities. Sadly, PA leaders have embraced and justified them.
    2. Abolish the PA/PLO's "Pay-for-Slay" policy. PA law defines the terrorists as the "fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society." The payments are made to all Palestinian terrorists, including participants in the Oct. 7 massacre. Every year, the PA pays over $300 million to imprisoned terrorists, wounded terrorists, the families of dead terrorists, and released terrorists, who are also entitled to guaranteed employment in the PA. The U.S. Taylor Force Act describes this policy as an "incentive to commit acts of terror."
    3. Recognize the Jews as a people, entitled to a state in their ancestral homeland. The Palestinian Authority rejects the very existence of a Jewish people, referring to Judaism merely as a religion, undeserving of a national homeland. Jews, according to PA teachings, are responsible for the ills of the world and have no sovereign history in the land.
    4. Cease all incitement to murder and glorification of terror. For the last 30 years, the PA has been violating their commitment as part of the Oslo process to combat incitement. The PA has actively engaged its education system, media, and culture in hate indoctrination and inciting terror. Generations of Palestinians have been educated to hate Jews, seek the destruction of Israel, and see murderous terrorists as role models.
    5. Halt PA attacks on Israel in international forums. The PA/PLO is conducting full-scale lawfare against Israel at the UN and other international forums, including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. The attacks, based on invented facts and outright libels, seek to delegitimize Israel and turn it into a pariah state. These are flagrant breaches of the Oslo Accords.
    6. Actively fight terror. A fundamental commitment undertaken by the Palestinians as part of the Oslo process was to actively combat terror. To fulfill this commitment, the PA was permitted to establish a strong security apparatus that benefitted from international funding and training. Many members of the PA security forces, who were meant to be fighting terror, were themselves actively involved in terrorism.
  • Once these rudimentary prerequisites are fulfilled, an additional plan to revitalize the PA would deal with its deeply embedded corruption and turn it into an effective democracy with regular elections in which a fully functioning judicial system can be developed.

    Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center, is former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division.
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