February 29, 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:

Hamas Still Thinks It Could Win the War - Marcus Walker (Wall Street Journal)
    Senior members of Hamas' leadership in exile met in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month and received a message from Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, saying, in effect: Don't worry, we have the Israelis right where we want them.
    Hamas' fighters were doing fine, the upbeat message said. The militants were ready for Israel's expected assault on Rafah. High civilian casualties would add to the worldwide pressure on Israel to stop the war.
    Sinwar's goal is for Hamas to emerge from the rubble of Gaza after the war, declare a historic victory by outlasting Israel's firepower, and claim the leadership of the Palestinian national cause.

IDF Is "Dismantling Key Components of the Tunnel Infrastructure" - Ruth Marks Eglash (Jewish Insider)
    As Israeli troops push southward through Gaza, there are almost daily reports of new tunnel shafts, lavish bunkers, subterranean weapons factories and storage facilities being discovered.
    IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. (res.) Peter Lerner explained that the army was focused on "dismantling key components of the tunnel infrastructure that gives [Hamas] a tactical and operational advantage."
    In northern Gaza, underground command-and-control centers used by Hamas had been obliterated, forcing its fighters above ground, while further south, in Khan Yunis, the detection of hideouts utilized by senior Hamas leaders have left them "in a constant state of threat and pursuit."
    "We are cutting down [Hamas' infrastructure] slice by slice, location by location, which handicaps Hamas' ability to operate freely."

IDF Pursues Hamas Leader Sinwar in Gaza Tunnels - Amir Bohbot (Jerusalem Post)
    Senior Israeli security officials said Wednesday that the IDF reached an underground fortified base called "Room 6" in Khan Yunis that was dug much deeper than other Hamas tunnels. It was equipped for living rooms, security guards, communication lines, and a diverse number of openings.
    When Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar realized that the IDF was closing in on him, he hastily left several locations, one after the other. In each case, he left behind money, documents, and other tell-tale signs that he was there.

German Warship Shoots Down Two Houthi Drones in Red Sea (Reuters)
    The German navy frigate Hessen shot down two Houthi drones in the Red Sea on Tuesday, German officials said.

Israel, Indonesia Were on Track to Normalize Ties before Oct. 7 - Lahav Harkov (Jewish Insider)
    Israel and Indonesia had planned to announce the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 2023, a move that was delayed by the Hamas attack on Israel and subsequent war in Gaza, three sources involved in the negotiations told Jewish Insider.
    After four months of negotiations, Israel's then-Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and departing Indonesian President Joko Widodo's office approved a final draft of an agreement for the Jewish state and the country with the world's largest Muslim population to exchange trade offices, as a first step towards full diplomatic relations.
    Indonesian President-Elect Prabowo Subianto, who won election earlier this month, has long supported normalization with Israel.
    Indonesia's sizable Christian minority (29 million people or 10% of the population) is pro-Israel.

Israeli Minister Says Trade with Arab Nations Undamaged by Gaza War - Ahmed Mohammed (AFP)
    Israel's Economy Minister Nir Barkat said Tuesday that trade relations with Arab states had not been affected by the Gaza war.
    Speaking on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization's ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi, he said, "Things are very stable....I think the leadership understands we have the same goal, which is to collaborate in a peaceful way."
    He added that Israel's economy is able to bear the cost of the war.

New Zealand Government Designates Political Wing of Hamas a Terrorist Entity (Radio New Zealand)
    New Zealand's Prime Minister has designated the political wing of Hamas as a terrorist entity. New Zealand designated the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist entity in 2010.
    Foreign Minister Winston Peters said, "What happened on 7 October reinforces we can no longer distinguish between the military and political wings of Hamas. The organization as a whole bears responsibility for these horrific terrorist attacks."

Tech Giant Nvidia's Success Runs through Israel - Nevo Trabelsy (Globes)
    U.S. tech giant Nvidia is the dominant supplier of AI hardware and software.
    Nvidia's second largest development center outside of the U.S. is in Israel, where the company has been operating since 2016 and has 3,300 employees, representing 13% of its global workforce.
    The company's Israeli workforce has grown by 50% in the past four years.
    Last May, Nvidia chose Israel as the home for the Israel-1 supercomputer - the world's sixth fastest computer.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • IAEA Warns: Iran on Alarming Trajectory toward Nuclear Weapons
    The UN's nuclear watchdog reported on Feb. 26 that Iran remains on an alarming trajectory toward nuclear weapons. In quarterly reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that there was "no new progress in resolving outstanding issues in this reporting period," stemming from Tehran's failure to explain past and possibly ongoing nuclear weapons work at several sites.
        In addition, the reports indicate that the regime has continued to stockpile enriched uranium and expanded its ability to quickly sprint to nuclear weapons while continuing to inhibit IAEA monitoring.
        Washington and its European allies have an opportunity to censure Iran's nuclear advances and its failure to cooperate with the IAEA at next week's Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. The allies can also impose a deadline for compliance.
        "Washington must support the IAEA director general and push for a censure resolution calling on Iran to end its nuclear activities and cooperate with the agency," said Anthony Ruggiero, Director of FDD's Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program. "If the United States remains silent, Tehran will move one step closer to a nuclear weapon."  (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • Pro-Palestinian Protesters Enter Miami Beach Synagogue to Disrupt Event - Morgan Rynor
    Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz spoke at Temple Emanuel in Miami Beach on Sunday. Rabbi Rick Chizever said, "During his talk, four separate times, protesters stood up and started yelling and screaming and disrupting the talk." Joshua Lehrman, who attended the event, said, "To infiltrate a synagogue, to scream at elderly people, to make threats, it's completely out of line."  (CBS News)
  • BBC Reporting Said to Contribute to Attacks on British Jews - Anita Singh
    The BBC is "institutionally anti-Semitic" and its reporting of the Israel-Hamas war has contributed to attacks on British Jews, former attorney general Sir Michael Ellis told MPs during a Westminster Hall debate. BBC's senior management had "fundamentally failed" to deal with bias in its coverage, and "the relentless bias of BBC News coverage has contributed to the record levels of intimidation and attacks on British Jews."
        He said some of the BBC's reporting of the conflict suggested "moral equivalence between a democratic state whose leaders are elected by their people...and a genocidal terrorist group that oppresses its people and murders children and civilians."
        He also cited the BBC's reluctance to refer to Hamas as a terror organization; coverage of pro-Palestinian marches in the UK, which display "an extraordinary disconnect from reality by repeatedly stressing that they are 'mostly peaceful'"; and following Hamas' "cynical" policy of not distinguishing between civilian and combatant casualties in Gaza when giving updates on the number of dead and injured.
        A Survation poll found that 77% of Jews in Britain believe BBC coverage of the conflict in Gaza is biased against Israel. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Dozens Dead in Gaza Stampede over Humanitarian Aid - Emanuel Fabian
    At 4 a.m. on Thursday, 30 trucks carrying humanitarian aid arrived at the coast of Gaza City. Thousands of Palestinians rushed the trucks after they passed an IDF checkpoint, leading to a stampede in which dozens of Palestinians were wounded and killed, some after being run over by the trucks. Some of the trucks managed to continue further north, where armed men reportedly opened fire at the convoy and looted it.
        Dozens of Palestinians who rushed the last truck in the convoy began to move toward an IDF tank and troops stationed at a checkpoint. An officer in the area ordered to fire warning shots in the air as the Palestinians were within a few dozen meters, as well as gunfire at the legs of those who continued to move toward the troops. (Times of Israel)
  • Gazans Protest Hamas Misappropriating Aid - Einav Halabi
    Hamas has been diverting part of the humanitarian aid meant for Gaza and selling it to traders instead of distributing it for free. Large crowds burned tires and forced merchants out of a market in the city of Rafah on Wednesday in protest of soaring food prices. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Rooting Out Hamas Forces Trying to Regroup in Northern Gaza - Lazar Berman
    Lt.-Col. Aviran Alfasi, a battalion commander in the Givati Brigade, said that in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood, "There is resistance, but it's not like it was at the beginning. They shoot and run away. The battle is way less complex than it was."
        The battalion's mission for the last month has been to destroy the infrastructure and eliminate the fighters of Hamas' Zeitoun battalion. Almost every platoon has a drone that can enter homes ahead of troops, and there are more search dogs than ever before, Alfasi said. "We see attempts [by Hamas] to come back. It's not too organized. When it happens, we foil it."
        Lt.-Col. Oz Meshulam, another battalion commander, said the IDF's task is made infinitely more complex by the cooperation of many regular Gazans with Hamas. He said over 80% of the 1,000 homes they have searched contained weapons. "When you see that they hid weapons in every house we took, you understand that Hamas is inside the population. It lives with them, it breathes with them. They allow it to build this infrastructure." The troops found weapons in every school they searched, he said, and especially in UN and UNRWA facilities. "There is no chance [the UN] didn't know."
        Both commanders insisted that destroying Hamas is entirely achievable. "Every day, we are defeating and destroying Hamas," said Meshulam. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • IDF Gen. Gershon Hacohen: Prepare for an Enemy Who Will Come by Surprise - Armin Rosen
    In 2000, when Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen was head of the IDF general staff's training and doctrine division, he was asked to produce a paper about how Israel could defend itself without control of the Jordan Valley, which was to be ceded to a future Palestinian state under proposed peace plans. "My paper was very short," he recalled. "It is like asking an F-15 pilot to just rise up without an engine. No way."
        Hacohen, now 69, claimed to me that he was the only active-duty general to accurately warn about the likely security consequences of the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, an operation he was then put in charge of. In a war game in April 2005, four months before the withdrawal, the IDF general staff simulated a scenario in which terrorists in Gaza launched rockets at Ashdod, Sderot, and Ashkelon.
        Hacohen said in the midst of the exercise that "we don't have a full way to retaliate because we will not be allowed to cross the border every week, we will not be allowed to launch artillery at a refugee camp of 50,000 residents, we will kill uninvolved people...therefore tell [Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] what will happen will be a disaster, and we will not have a good way for retaliation."
        He said Gen. Rafael Eitan would "emphasize that the enemy is coming by surprise: Everything could happen at the very definite wrong moment, unexpectedly. The basic principle of defense is that you are not dependent in the field upon an alert. It is a part of the military profession as commander to keep the ritual of readiness."  (Tablet)
  • Real PA Reform Requires More than Just a New Prime Minister - Ghaith al-Omari
    Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and his cabinet resigned on Feb. 26 amid growing U.S., European, and Arab calls to reform the PA. The goal is for Ramallah to play a role in humanitarian, reconstruction, and governance efforts in postwar Gaza. Does this announcement signal that the PA leadership is willing to consider genuine reform, or is it simply a maneuver to ease international pressure?
        Donors need to be convinced that the PA is sufficiently reformed, capable, and financially transparent to play a progressively increasing role in managing reconstruction and governance - all without diverting assistance to unintended purposes. Similarly, international actors will be reluctant to get involved in transitional arrangements unless they are sure the PA is serious.
        The next PA government's top agenda items include rebuilding and expanding the security forces to resume control in the West Bank and, more gradually, Gaza, as well as creating a transparent, trusted public finance system to serve as a conduit for international assistance and reconstruction funds. These tasks cannot be achieved amid constant interference by other Palestinian power centers.
        The more independent Shtayyeh's replacement is, the more confidence there will be in the prime minister's ability to confront Abbas and senior Fatah figures, many of whom will likely try to undermine meaningful reform. Designating someone who is too close or deferential to Abbas would cast doubt on the move's significance. Moreover, any sign that the government includes figures close to Hamas would make it unacceptable to the international community.
        Reassuming control in Gaza requires more than just enhanced operational capabilities, it also depends on the people's willingness to accept the PA's rule. Recent polls indicate that 60% of Palestinians want to dissolve the PA and 90% want Abbas to resign. Appointing a new prime minister may not be enough to fix this wider legitimacy problem. Without clear signs that major changes are in the works, public trust in the PA will remain low.
        The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute and a former advisor to the PA. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • No, Most People in Gaza Are Not "Just Like Us" - Gerald M. Steinberg
    According to the mantras of peace activists, the way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is by recognizing that the people on the other side are "just like us." This article of faith is also passionately repeated by Western diplomats. But is Palestinian society "just like" Israeli society?
        Israelis look at Gaza and see that many supported the horrendous brutality in the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7. Large crowds turned out to cheer the terrorists returning from their heinous spree of torture, murder, rape and kidnapping. Some of the "ordinary civilians" ran immediately to join in the looting. Long before Oct. 7, everyone living in Gaza (including UNRWA employees) knew that Hamas was stealing international aid to build a massive underground terror infrastructure.
        In contrast to the majority of Israelis, many Palestinian mothers repeatedly encourage their children to become "martyrs" and express pride when they are killed while murdering and brutalizing Jews. No, they are not "just like us." In what Prof. Richard Landes calls "honor-shame cultures," humiliation (such as defeat in an aggressive war) leads to unbounded determination to exact revenge. This is the essence of the Palestinian nakba - the ongoing humiliation of the 1948 war in which the Arab armies were defeated by Jews and Zionists. If Palestinians were "just like us," they would instead examine their own shortcomings.
        In contrast to Palestinian textbooks, in which Jews and Israelis are depicted as monsters, Israeli children are not systematically raised on hate and incitement. The fundamental differences in our identities are deeply embedded in cultural values taught to children.
        To avoid more disasters, Israelis must firmly reject the temptations of "common humanity" and other messianic illusions. As long as the goal of the Palestinians, Iran, and their allies is the elimination of Israel, sufficient military power must be available and displayed so that they understand that attacks on Israel will result in their own destruction. A strong and "disproportionate" deterrent force is the best option for survival.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is professor emeritus of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • Why Do Iran and Hizbullah Crave Jerusalem? - Pinhas Inbari
    "Save the Al-Aqsa Mosque!" is the battle cry of radical Islam and is featured in all the war slogans of Hamas, Hizbullah, and Iran. The passion for Jerusalem by Hizbullah and Iran is puzzling because the Shiite religion does not attribute any significance to Jerusalem.
        According to the Shi'ite book of traditions Bihar al-Anwar, the Prophet Muhammad forbade pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Even the Isra (night journey) and the Mi'raj (journey to Heaven), according to the Shiite religion, did not happen in Jerusalem but in a "distant mosque" in Heaven.
        After the bloody Sunni-Shia war between Iraq and Iran, the ayatollahs decided to emphasize the liberation of Jerusalem, so that the Sunnis would look west to Jerusalem and not east to Tehran. As far as the Shi'a are concerned, "saving Al-Aqsa" is a political slogan, not a religious value.
        At this historic crossroads, moderate Sunni forces see Israel as the only force that can curb the extremists' efforts to turn the "liberation of Al-Aqsa" into an engine for the Shiite takeover of the Arab and Muslim world.
        The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent, is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The underlying narrative of the New York Times magazine piece of Feb. 6, 2024, "The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Long Shadow of 1948," is that the Palestinians have no responsibility for anything that has befallen them over the decades. This, plus a welter of factual errors and misleading judgments, has produced a seriously distorted description of the history of the first Arab-Israeli war and its origins.
  • The Times article consists of a lengthy "discussion" between six Arab and Jewish scholars, five of whom can hardly be deemed experts on either the Arab-Israeli conflict or the 1948 war. The three Arab panelists almost uniformly toe the PLO (or Hamas) line. The drift of the Times article is that the innocent Arabs of Palestine just sat back and watched, as suffering victims, as the Zionists, Israel, and some international actors, principally Great Britain, did their worst. This is pure nonsense.
  • Throughout the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, Palestine's Arabs consistently rejected all proposals for a political compromise and flatly demanded all of Palestine, "from the river to the sea." In April 1920, May 1921, and August 1929, Arab mobs, whose passions had been whipped up by religious and political leaders, attacked their Jewish neighbors and passers-by in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Hebron, and Safad, killing dozens in a succession of pogroms. (The Times studiously avoids this word, referring to them only as "assaults.")
  • Times staff writer Emily Bazelon says the 1920 Muslim Nebi Musa festivities in Jerusalem "turned into a deadly riot," in which "five Jews and four Arabs [were] killed." She fails to mention that an Arab mob attacked, murdered, and wounded Jews, or that the crowd of perpetrators chanted "we will drink the blood of the Jews."
  • After three days of rampage and despoliation, British mandate security forces finally restored order, killing all or most of the four Arabs Bazelon mentions in the process. The findings of the subsequent British investigation are included in the July 1920 Palin Report, which states: "All the evidence goes to show that these [Arab] attacks were of a cowardly and treacherous description, mostly against old men, women and children - frequently in the back."
  • The 1948 War, Bazelon explains, simply "broke out." What actually happened is that the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding Arab states rejected the UN General Assembly partition proposal of Nov. 29, 1947, and the following day, terrorists ambushed two Jewish buses near Tel Aviv and snipers fired at Jewish passers-by in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In May 1948, the armies of the neighboring Arab states invaded the country.
  • Canadian Derek Penslar of Harvard University, one of the three Jewish panelists, claims that "between 9,000 and 12,000 Palestinians fought for the Allied forces in World War II." In fact, as far as I know, it is doubtful whether any Palestine Arabs actually "fought" during the war, though perhaps some 6,000 of Palestine's 1.2 million Arabs signed up with the British and served as cooks, drivers, or guards in British installations in Palestine. By comparison, 28,000 of Palestine's Jews - out of a population of 550,000 - joined the British army, and many actually fought in North Africa and Italy in 1941-1945.

    The writer is professor emeritus of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University.

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