DAILY ALERT
Monday,
February 26, 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:

In Private, Arab States Are Rooting for Israel to Destroy Hamas - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    The Washington Institute sent a delegation that visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and the PA to assess the prospects for security and peace in the current environment.
    In private, Arab states are rooting for Israel to destroy Hamas. One senior Arab official said, "Israel is fighting for us in Gaza, and if it wins, it will succeed in defeating an Iranian proxy for the first time in forty years."
    But Arab states are focused on their own security and their own interests and are either unwilling or unable to play much of a role in shaping the outcome in Gaza or helping fill the vacuum that will be left by the Hamas defeat they all privately say they want.
    The Arab states all face domestic political urgency because of mass sympathy for the Palestinians and Al Jazeera-fueled outrage against the Israelis.
    One senses almost zero appreciation that Israel today is a very different country than it was on Oct. 6 and that, for the vast majority of Israelis, even talking about the two-state solution is viewed as bizarre, even perverse. Most Israelis see the world solely through the lens of 10/7.
    The general Israeli political sense is that it is wrong to make north Gaza safe enough for Palestinians to return until the Israeli evacuees are safe enough to return to their burnt and ransacked homes in Israel.
    In private conversation, Arab officials express great sympathy and understanding for Israel's situation. Arabs are still working closely with Israel to stem Iranian smuggling and to cooperate against radical plans to escalate on other fronts.
    Israelis say they are now facing seven hot fronts of military operation: Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran.
    They are involved directly in six, leaving America, Britain, and some allies to address the Houthis and their threats to Red Sea shipping.
    Iran has activated all those fronts, watching safely from the confines of its own territory as its adversaries take on one proxy after another.
    We may be scoring tactical victories, but it's not even clear we are playing the right game.
    The writer is Executive Director of The Washington Institute.



Norway Outdoes Ireland as Most Hostile Country to Israel - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    At an international summit in Cairo, two weeks after the outbreak of the war in Gaza, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was the only Western foreign minister who condemned Israel and did not call for the release of the Israeli hostages.
    When the hearings of the case filed by South Africa against Israel began at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Norway expressed support for the lawsuit, claiming that Israel is committing war crimes or crimes against humanity.
    In December, Norway's Foreign Ministry forbade the King of Norway, Harald V, from sending official condolences to the State of Israel after the Oct. 7 massacre.



Leaked Study: Most Iranians Want Secular Government  (Jerusalem Post)
    A study conducted by the Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry that was leaked to the Persian press abroad revealed that 73% of Iranians want a separation between state and religion, Iran International reported.
    85% said they have grown less religious in comparison with five years ago, while 7% claimed the opposite.



Houthi Attacks on Red Sea Shipping Have Limited Impact on Energy Prices - Gregory Brew (War on the Rocks)
    Actors can threaten to disrupt energy supplies, but their leverage is limited. Months of Houthi attacks on shipping, followed by a significant U.S. and British military response, has done little to move oil prices, while the impact on supply has been negligible.
    The Red Sea crisis has disrupted the shipping of goods and increased costs for some companies.
    When the Houthis began attacking commercial maritime traffic in mid-December, within a month, 3/4 of container traffic was avoiding the Red Sea, opting for the longer, pricier, but safer route around Africa.
    While Middle East and Russian oil continued to transit the Red Sea, Western firms opted for the Africa route - or, in some cases, chose different markets for their products. By February, tanker traffic through the Bab al-Mandeb had fallen by 50%.
    Most of the regionís energy flows out of the Persian Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz, an area which has remained outside the regional crisis. The Persian Gulf sends the majority of its supply east, to China and northeast Asia.
    Middle Eastern energy was of pivotal economic importance to the economic life of the U.S. and Western Europe in the last century, but by the 21st century, its relative importance had declined.
    Moreover, with the return of the U.S. as an oil and gas exporter, oil is more abundant than ever, thanks in part to booming U.S. production.
    The U.S. currently supplies 20% of the EU's crude oil, and in 2023 it accounted for half of the EU's liquified natural gas imports.



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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: We're on the Same Page with the U.S. about Evacuating Palestinian Civilians from Rafah - Margaret Brennan
    On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS' "Face the Nation": "Understand that unless we have total victory, we can't have peace. We can't leave Hamas in place. We can't leave a quarter of Hamas battalions in Rafah and say, well, that's fine, they'll be there."
        "It's like saying a quarter of ISIS will be left and with a defined territory, because you know, they will reconstitute themselves immediately. So total victory is important to achieve the war goal of destroying Hamas, releasing the hostages, and ensuring that Gaza doesn't pose a threat. But I think also this is essential for any future peaceful Middle East."
        "Once we begin the Rafah operation, the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion....We can't leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it. Obviously, we have to do it. But understand, too, that I've asked the army to submit to me a double plan, first to enable the evacuation of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and, obviously, second, to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions....Total victory is within reach. Not months away, weeks away once we begin the operation."
        "We're on the same page with the U.S. on this, because that's how we do it. The reason you have that population in Rafah is because we actually cleared them away from the other combat zones that we had, that's why they're there. So now there's room for them to go north of Rafah, to the places that we've already finished fighting in....Moving civilians out of an area that is going to be a combat zone is...a good thing, and that's what Israel is going to do."
        "A lot of things that we were told by the best of friends initially, turned out not to be true. They said you can't enter the ground war without having enormous complications. They said you cannot enter Gaza City, you can't go into the tunnels, it will be a terrible bloodbath. All of that turned out to be not true."
        "What would America do if you faced the equivalent of 20 9/11s, 50,000 Americans slaughtered in one day, 10,000 Americans, including mothers and children, held hostage? Would you not be doing what Israel is doing? You'd be doing a hell of a lot more. And nearly all Americans that I talk to say that."  (CBS News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Presents Rafah Operation and Civilian Evacuation Plan to Israel's War Cabinet - Tovah Lazaroff
    The IDF on Sunday presented to the War Cabinet its plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah and to militarily destroy some of the last Hamas battalions in the area of Gaza near the Egyptian border. In addition, the Cabinet approved a plan to provide "humanitarian assistance to Gaza in a manner that will prevent the looting that has occurred," the Prime Minister's Office said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Precision Strikes on Iranian, Hizbullah Forces in Syria Send Warning to Tehran - Lior Ben Ari
    Numerous pro-Iranian militias operate in Syrian territory. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Israel has carried out 16 attacks in Syria since the beginning of the year that reportedly damaged or destroyed 34 targets, including key weapon depots and ammunition caches. Since January, 35 operatives have been killed in Syrian territory: 8 affiliated with Hizbullah, 7 Iranians linked to the Revolutionary Guards, and the rest associated with pro-Iranian militias. (Ynet News)
  • Rafah: Striking at the Heart of Hamas Operations - Dean Shmuel Elmas
    Israel is preparing for a ground offensive against the last remaining Hamas stronghold in Gaza - Rafah. There are currently 1.3 million Palestinians in Rafah, which had a prewar population of 300,000.
        Rafah is at the core of economic activity for Hamas because of the cash being smuggled in from Egypt. Dr. Ido Zelkovitz, head of the Middle East Studies Program at Jezreel Valley Academic College, said, "The crossing under Rafah is very important for the existence and maintenance of Hamas' economy." It is the gateway from Gaza to the world. "Without control of Rafah, Hamas, which relies on smuggling, would have its oxygen pipeline to the world cut off."
        He says Rafah is a tribal region and the tunnels are controlled by Hamas and local clans, which divide up the income from the tunnels, with clan leaders receiving royalties from Hamas to prevent them from rising up against it. The clans take part in the smuggling operations, even though they are not members of Hamas, because it is in their economic interest. (Globes)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Media-Savvy Murderers of Hamas - Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari
    The Hamas massacre of Oct. 7, when terrorists live-streamed their atrocities, is arguably the most well-documented attack in history. Hamas mercilessly murdered, butchered, raped and burned Israeli families alive - documenting their crimes with GoPros and cellphones. The terrorists even live-streamed their atrocities on their victims' social-media accounts.
        For the past 16 years, Hamas has systematically embedded its terror infrastructure inside and under civilian areas in Gaza. IDF troops discovered that most homes in Gaza have terror tunnels underneath or weapon caches inside, and the majority of schools, mosques, hospitals and international institutions have been used by Hamas for their military operations.
        The Israel Defense Forces, by contrast, conducts its operations with caution, transparency and in accordance with international law. Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza, which is why we take extensive measures to minimize harm to the civilians Hamas puts in the crossfire.
        Our mission is to dismantle Hamas and bring our hostages home - not to destroy Gaza or displace its people. We will continue fulfilling the mission of ensuring that Oct. 7 never happens again, while upholding our values.
        The writer is chief spokesman of the Israel Defense Forces.  (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Legality of the Israeli Buffer Zone in Gaza - Avraham Shalev
    Israel is considering establishing a security zone within Gaza, along the border, to prevent terrorist infiltration of Israel, such as occurred in the Oct. 7 massacre. It is asserted that Israeli demolition of homes in the zone is unjustified by military necessity. Furthermore, it has been argued that the establishment of a buffer zone in Gaza consists of an illegal occupation of Gazan territory.
        Yet, Israel's actions stem from clear military necessity. Moreover, states are entitled to hold enemy territory in the lawful exercise of their right to self-defense. This was seen most recently in the examples of the Turkish buffer zones in Syria and Iraq. Neither the U.S. nor the EU have denounced these buffer zones as a violation of international law or as illegally diminishing the territory of Syria.
        While it has been argued that any buffer must be established on Israeli territory, given that some of the Israeli communities invaded on Oct. 7 are barely one km. from Gaza, such a buffer zone would be ineffective as a means of defense.
        Stephen Schwebel, former president of the International Court of Justice, wrote: "A state acting in lawful exercise of its right of self-defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense. As a condition of its withdrawal from such territory, that state may require the institution of security measures reasonably designed to ensure that that territory shall not again be used to mount a threat or use of force against it of such a nature as to justify exercise of self-defense."  (Kohelet Policy Forum)
  • What Will Happen to Hamas? - Amb. Michael Oren
    Hamas will survive the war, but in what form? If we're talking about the 30,000 armed members of the Al Qassam Brigade under the command of Yahya Sinwar and other military leaders, Hamas will not survive the war. Hamas the military force will never be the same after this Israeli campaign. But Hamas the movement, Hamas the idea, will surely survive.
        No amount of firepower can annihilate a concept. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda still exist and occasionally mount attacks. In its theology, Hamas is identical to other Islamist groups that seek to recreate the medieval Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. It differs only in seeking Israel's destruction as the first stage in that quest.
        That threat can only be eliminated by long-term efforts to combat radicalization, especially among children. Such campaigns have been initiated in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, and are already registering success. Absent a similar effort among Palestinian youth, Hamas the idea will continue to inspire numbers of them to launch terrorist attacks against Israelis. But deprived of the backing of an independent state, the ability of these groups to cause major damage will be greatly diminished.
        The writer is a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • It's Chilling How Quickly the Oct. 7 Massacre Is Being Forgotten - Zoe Strimpel
    Instead of supporting Israel in its attempt to finish a job that is not only of the utmost necessity for its own continued existence, but hugely important for the future of the West, we see instead a wide range of anti-Semitic tantrums thrown globally.
        Israel was only ever going to be given two, three weeks tops after the Oct. 7 massacres, after which the great and the good would lose patience, demand that Israel lay down arms, let Hamas regroup and win, and continually and falsely accuse the Israeli military of being trigger-happy where Palestinian lives are concerned.
        The thousands who turn out on the streets every weekend to demonize Israel have no clue about the concept of waging a just war and why doing so is different from committing genocide. Outside Parliament, a mob was busy beaming "from the river to the sea" onto Big Ben. No one was beaming: "release the hostages."
        It is as if the actual events of Oct. 7 are simply ceasing to exist outside of Israel - as if Hamas' actions have now been almost totally forgotten. Hamas knew all along that, because of the power of anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism, the world would end up siding with it. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • For Lebanon, a War with Israel Would Be Catastrophic - Mohamad El Chamaa
    Wages for Lebanon's soldiers have fallen so low that many now have second jobs. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to support the country's emergency response services. Since 2019, the country's gross domestic product has fallen by 50%, and poverty now plagues 80% of the population. A wider war between Israeli forces and Iran-backed Hizbullah along Lebanon's southern border would be catastrophic.
        Simon Neaime, an economics professor at the American University of Beirut, said, "The situation is totally different today. In 2006, during the last war with Israel, we had a fully functioning economy, we had a functional banking system supplying credit to the private sector and contributing to growth, we had a government in place, we had a president." The country has been without a president for a year, and a functioning government for almost two. The currency has lost more than 90% of its value since 2019. (Washington Post)
  • Christian Media Adopt Use of Judea and Samaria over West Bank - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual convention on Feb. 21 endorsed a resolution opposing "the use of the erroneous term 'West Bank' to describe the biblical heartland of Israel and calls on its members to refer to the region by its historic name of Judea and Samaria." NRB has over 1,100 member organizations that reach millions of viewers, listeners, and readers.
        The resolution highlights that "Judea and Samaria...includes sites such as Hebron, Bethel, Shiloh and Shechem, along with many other places with rich biblical heritage" and that scripture foretells the "return of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria." "The presence of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria in modern times is a blessing to the Palestinians living there, as Israeli investment and jobs provide economic opportunity for their Palestinian neighbors."
        Israel Allies Foundation president Joshua Reinstein, who spoke at the event, explained that the term "West Bank" is merely a geographical term applicable to the country of Jordan, which occupied the area from 1949 to 1967. Jordan renamed the West Bank for its location west of the Jordan River. (Jerusalem Post)
Observations:

  • According to a "new wisdom" making the rounds in foreign-policy circles in Washington, Israelis were so traumatized by Hamas' brutal invasion on Oct. 7 that they can't think straight about their interests. This is the reason why 85% of Israelis oppose Palestinian statehood and 99 out of 120 Knesset members voted on Feb. 21 for a resolution opposing unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by foreign governments.
  • The "new wisdom" that Israelis are acting out of trauma is deliberately manipulative. Obviously, the atrocities meted out that day by thousands of Palestinians against thousands of Israeli civilians and soldiers left a gaping hole in the hearts of every Israeli. How could it be otherwise? But it doesn't follow that their post-Oct. 7 positions are an emotional response to trauma, which Israelis can be expected to abandon once they get past their emotional angst.
  • Israelis have responded rationally and bravely to the events of that day and immediately mobilized for war. The goal of the war - embraced by more than 90% of Israelis - is total victory over the enemy that did this. Victory for Israelis means no Palestinian state. This isn't a vengeful or emotional determination. It is a rational understanding that Oct. 7 was the outcome of Palestinian statehood.
  • Gaza has been an independent Palestinian state since Israel withdrew all of its civilians and military forces in 2005. They have been fully sovereign for more than 18 years. The Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria freely chose to be ruled by Hamas, which they overwhelmingly support.
  • If Israelis are intent on preventing a recurrence of Oct. 7, then they have no choice other than to oppose the re-establishment of the Palestinian state in Gaza, much less its expansion into Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. This is a rational response to a brutally clarifying event. It is irrational for America to pretend this reality away.

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