March 14, 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:

Defense Minister: IDF Edging Closer to Rafah Operation (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Wednesday during a visit to Gaza City, "Those who think we are delaying [the invasion of Rafah] will soon see that there is no place we cannot reach."
    "Our forces can reach any place, and the conclusion is that there is no safe haven for terrorists in Gaza."
    "We will bring every single person involved in the Oct. 7 massacre to justice - we will either kill them or try them in Israel."
    See also IDF: Civilians in Rafah Will Be Evacuated before Ground Operation - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The IDF said Wednesday it plans to direct a significant portion of the 1.4 million displaced Gazans in Rafah toward "humanitarian islands" in the center of the territory, ahead of a planned ground operation in the city.
    IDF Spokesman Rear-Adm. Daniel Hagari stressed that moving those in Rafah to the designated areas will be carried out in coordination with international actors.
    Those "islands" will provide temporary housing, food, water, and other necessities to civilians fleeing the war.

Hamas Executes Gazan Clan Leader Accused of Collaborating with Israel - Einav Halabi (Ynet News)
    Hamas executed the leader of the Doghmush clan in northern Gaza on Thursday after reports alleged Israel contacted him in an attempt to get his family to oversee the distribution of aid.
    Now the Doghmush clan is expected to take revenge against Hamas.

IDF Strike in Rafah Took Out Hamas Commander Who Stole Aid (Times of Israel)
    The IDF said a strike Wednesday on an UNRWA facility in Rafah killed Muhammad Abu Hasna, a commander in Hamas' operations unit who was involved in seizing humanitarian aid entering Gaza and distributing it to Hamas operatives.
    Abu Hasna was involved in "integrating extensive activity of the various Hamas units, was in contact with the field operatives of Hamas and directed them," the IDF said.
    He was also tasked with a Hamas intelligence war room that collected information on IDF movements.
    Abu Hasna's elimination "significantly harms the functioning of various Hamas units in Rafah."

A Visit to the Qatari-Built Hamas Stronghold in Gaza - Hanan Greenwood (Israel Hayom)
    The Hamad neighborhood in Khan Yunis is comprised of luxury homes in multi-story buildings, built by Qatar, located just a few hundred feet from the sea, with a view of the ruins of the Israeli communities of Netzarim and Kfar Darom.
    "We have been fighting for five months already, but this is the toughest combat zone we have been in so far. The terrorists here are suicidal, they fight for every square foot," IDF officers of the Commando Brigade said.
    "This neighborhood looks nice, but it is actually one big battlefield," says Lt.-Col. M.
    "There isn't a single location where we didn't encounter terrorists or ammunition. This is a very significant battle with very significant achievements. Unfortunately, two of our fighters were also killed right here."
    "There isn't a day that we don't encounter the enemy here. There is a very large number of them here, an unusual amount compared to what we have experienced so far in Khan Yunis," explains Col. Y.
    "There are a lot of terrorists who decided to retreat to this area in recent months from other areas."
    Outside one of the buildings I met a physician for one of the units, a reservist who has been serving since Oct. 7. A psychiatrist by profession, he told me, "Morale is high, it's amazing. I wish everyone had the level of courage and the will to win like these fighters."
    In one of the buildings, a terrorist used his family members as human shields. The fighters identified a woman and two children raising their hands, with the barrel of the terrorist's gun behind them. The forces managed to eliminate the terrorist, with the woman only lightly injured.

There's No Such Thing as a "Ramadan Truce" - Robert Satloff (The Hill)
    An aspect of Ramadan that has been a tradition through the ages is the holy month as a time for war.
    There is a history of Muslim armies waging war during Ramadan.
    This makes it ironic that some well-meaning non-Muslims are calling on Israel to suspend its military operations against the Islamist extremists of Hamas out of respect for Ramadan.
    The 1973 Arab-Israeli war is widely known in the Arab world as the Ramadan War, when Anwar Sadat dispatched Egyptian forces to cross the Suez Canal.
    The Saudi newspaper Arab News reported that "some of the greatest victories in Islam occurred during Ramadan."
    The Washington Institute's Patrick Clawson noted: "Modern proposals for Ramadan ceasefires by secular governments - the Soviets in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein when fighting the Islamic Republic of Iran - were uniformly rejected by the Islamist side, which usually intensified fighting during Ramadan."
    For Hamas and their fellow travelers, waging war during Ramadan is as valid as in the other months of the year.
    The American government should not fall for well-meaning calls to urge Israel to display one-sided military restraint out of deference to Ramadan.
    We can be sure that Hamas (or what's left of it) won't be devoting the next month to introspection, service and worship.
    The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Vows to Take Rafah to Ensure that Oct. 7 Doesn't Happen Again - Paul Ronzheimer
    In an interview with Axel Springer, Politico's parent company, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israeli forces would move into Rafah in Gaza. "We'll go there. We're not going to leave them. You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is? That Oct. 7 doesn't happen again."
        Netanyahu said he had the tacit support of several Arab leaders for driving ahead with the onslaught against Hamas. "They understand that, and even agree with it quietly. They understand Hamas is part of the Iranian terror axis....We're close to finishing the last part in warfare." Fighting would not "take more than two months. Maybe six weeks, maybe four."
        He dismissed the idea of a ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, saying that while he would "like to see another hostage release," he didn't see any "breakthrough in the negotiations....Without a release, there's not going to be a pause in the fighting."
        When asked about the European view that there cannot be peace without a two-state solution, Netanyahu replied: "They don't understand that the reason we don't have peace is not because the Palestinians don't have a state. It's because the Jews have a state. And in fact, the Palestinians have not brought themselves to recognize and accept the Jewish state."  (Politico-EU)
  • The Israeli People Support IDF Move into Rafah - Bethany Mandel
    Over the course of ceasefire negotiations over the last several months, a pattern has emerged: Interested parties propose a deal, and Hamas rejects it. In turn, the U.S. president ratchets up his rhetoric. He doesn't turn up the heat against the Hamas terror organization, but instead against the Israeli prime minister. Biden seems to believe that the obstacle standing in the way of peace is Benjamin Netanyahu - that without the prime minister to deal with, negotiations would somehow go more smoothly with another head of the Jewish state.
        However, an Israel Democracy Institute survey conducted on Feb. 28-March 4 found that 74% of Israeli Jews support the IDF expanding its military operations into Rafah, while only 12% oppose it. In short, Netanyahu's handling of the war has popular support. The Israeli people would prefer to have the full support of the American president and his administration behind them, but they understand that they may have to go it alone not just with an invasion in Rafah in Gaza, but also with future military action against Hizbullah in the north. (Telegraph-UK)
  • The U.S. Privately told Israel the Kind of Rafah Campaign It Could Support - Alexander Ward
    The Biden administration is still grappling with what kind of Israeli military operation it can accept in Rafah, with U.S. officials knowing full well Israel wants to eliminate Hamas' four battalions in the Gaza city on Egypt's border. Senior U.S. officials have told their Israeli counterparts the Biden administration would support Israel going after high-value Hamas targets in and underneath Rafah - as long as Israel avoids a large-scale invasion.
        Israeli officials said the military is still developing ideas to ensure the safety of 1.3 million Palestinians in and around the city, many of whom fled there to avoid the war. An Israeli official said, "At the end of the day, we cannot win this war without defeating Hamas' battalions in Rafah."
        U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that President Biden is focused on "the protection of civilians and about Israel being able to sustain a campaign in a way that ultimately leads to an outcome in which the people of Israel are secure, Hamas is crushed, and there is a long-term solution to stability and peace in the region."  (Politico)
  • Hamas Has Been Shattered. Now It Is Fighting to Survive - Neri Zilber and Andrew England
    In the Defense Minister's office at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, a large pyramid adorns the wall made up of images of Hamas' top ranks. The title: "Status of leadership assassinations." After five months of ferocious conflict in Gaza, those still alive greatly outnumber the mostly mid-ranking commanders whose fate is illustrated by an X across their faces. But the Xs on the pyramid are gradually spreading, just as Hamas' fighting options appear to be dwindling.
        The quasi-state in Gaza that Hamas used to rule is wrecked, its forces are decimated and its population is enduring a deepening humanitarian catastrophe. For Hamas, an Islamist militant group founded to destroy the Jewish state, victory now has largely narrowed to one thing: survival. "Does Hamas still exist militarily? Yes," said one senior Israeli military official. "Is it organized? No. The path to completely dismantling them goes on."
        Yezid Sayigh, a Beirut-based fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Hamas' predicament stemmed from its catastrophic miscalculation over the real balance of military power. The bloody Oct. 7 attacks laid bare the group's "delusion" that the cross-border raid would trigger uprisings against Israel across the Middle East - and thereby limit the war or tip the balance. (Financial Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Intends to "Flood" Gaza with Humanitarian Aid - Anshel Pfeffer
    The Israel Defense Forces is planning to "flood" Gaza with supplies, spokesperson Rear-Adm. Daniel Hagari said Wednesday. The IDF is working on opening up multiple routes to Gaza by land, sea and air. Israel will provide the security for the floating pier that the U.S. will build and the supplies arriving at it, and will maintain a secure corridor for their distribution in northern Gaza.
        Another sea route is already in operation. The World Central Kitchen has launched a barge-style ship from Cyprus carrying supplies meant for Gaza. According to Hagari, this is "a pilot" which has been "fully coordinated" with Israel.
        A new land route, used for the first time on Tuesday, enabled a convoy of six trucks, carrying food bought by private contractors in Gaza, through a new road built by the IDF south of Gaza City. Hagari added that Israel will continue to coordinate airdrops of supplies to Gaza by the U.S., Jordan and other countries. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gazans Loot Aid Trucks that Entered Gaza through New Israeli Crossing
    The six aid trucks that entered Gaza through a new crossing on Tuesday were looted by local Gazans, Israel's Channel 11 reported on Wednesday night. The truck were part of a pilot to test new ways to deliver aid without Hamas taking control of it, the IDF said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Rejects Claims It Is Using Gaza Hunger as Weapon of War - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israel rejects as "false" and "outrageous" EU High Representative Josep Borrell's claim it was using starvation as a "weapon of war" in Gaza. "There is no restriction on the amount of food and water that is allowed to be delivered into Gaza," said government spokeswoman Tal Heinrich, noting that "The [distribution] mechanism has not been functioning as it should because [it] was reliant on Hamas."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • There Is No Famine in Gaza - Alon Goldstein
    The war in Gaza concluded over a month ago. The IDF scaled back its troop deployment by 80% from the height of operations, with our troops transitioning to small-scale, surgical actions. The pace of humanitarian aid entering Gaza is at an all-time high. Hundreds of trucks are delivering supplies from the south and east, as well as a new passage opened by the IDF from the north. This is in addition to dozens of aid airdrops.
        And let's be frank: the people of Gaza are not starving to death. Although life in Gaza is indeed very difficult, with hundreds of thousands of refugees losing their homes and facing a long road to recovery, there is no mass starvation. There is no genocide. There is a harsh reality, initiated by a massive Palestinian slaughter of Israeli families. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Building a New Security Reality for Israel in Gaza - Dennis Ross
    Oct. 7 changed Israel, inflicting trauma and hardening Israelis' belief that they cannot live with Hamas in control of Gaza. Israel needs a strategy for ensuring that its military efforts and achievements in Gaza translate into a new political reality that means Israel will no longer be threatened from the strip.
        Israel does not want to be responsible for the Palestinians living in Gaza. However, Israel should not leave Gaza before it knows that Hamas is not in a position to reconstitute itself, its military means, and its political control. This requires that Hamas' military infrastructure, weapons depots, military industrial base, systems of command and control, and organizational coherence are largely destroyed. Israel's objective - and that of the U.S. - needs to be a permanently demilitarized Gaza, which can never again be used as a platform for attacks against Israel.
        As long as 91% of Palestinians believe that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should resign and 80% are convinced that the PA is corrupt, it is pointless to talk about a political horizon or an endgame involving the PA.
        Everyone knows that Hamas will seek to divert the assistance and to reconstitute itself and its military machine. No donor will invest in Gaza if Hamas is in control or siphoning away supplies. So a condition for reconstruction must be a genuinely different administration in Gaza.
        The writer, Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a professor at Georgetown University, is a former U.S. Envoy to the Middle East.  (Foreign Affairs)
  • There Will Be No Peace until Hamas Is Dismantled. - Matthew d'Ancona
    When most people call for a "ceasefire," what they mean is that Israel must end its military campaign - unilaterally. Blame is laid squarely on one side. Yet it was Hamas, after all, that broke the ceasefire five months ago. It was Hamas that killed more than 1,160 people on Oct. 7, deploying torture, sexual violence and sadistic terror. It is Hamas that still holds 134 hostages, some of whom are believed to already be dead.
        The Oct. 7 attacks generated the certainty that no Israeli government could ever again do business with the terrorist group responsible for the slaughter. It is too seldom reported that Hamas remains utterly committed to the annihilation of Israel. Hamas deliberately constructed the warrens and public buildings of Gaza in such a way as to put as many civilians as possible in harm's way. The terrible death toll is a direct consequence of Hamas strategy.
        Even if Netanyahu is replaced as prime minister, no Israeli government can countenance an enduring ceasefire until this Islamist death cult has been destroyed as a viable military force. It will take time. It is a bleak task, forced upon the Israelis by what happened to them on Oct. 7. There will be no peace until Hamas is indeed dismantled. (London Evening Standard-UK)
  • Gaza Must Be Deradicalized as well as Demilitarized - Gadi Ezra and Aviva Klompas
    The "Day After" proposal recently offered by Israeli leaders recognized that the key to long-term stability lies not just with demilitarizing Gaza, but with deradicalizing it. The plan calls for changing the culture of hate in religious, educational, and welfare institutions.
        The deep-rooted hate and rampant incitement in Palestinian society must be addressed, from students' textbooks, which routinely call for the elimination of Jews, to streets and squares named after jihadists who had murdered innocent Israelis - an ethos that glorified violence against Israelis.
        The Palestinian leadership remains committed to terrorism, both in Gaza under Hamas and in Judea and Samaria under the Palestinian Authority, which still stands by its "pay to slay" policy of financially rewarding terrorists and their families.
        Israel must work with international partners to marginalize the forces that foster, fund, and incite hate. That means increasing oversight of how aid dollars are used. It means overhauling Palestinian education systems and curricula so that they do not dehumanize Jews or call for Israel's destruction.
        We cannot revert to a reality where Israel has security control, but Gaza is populated by an aggrieved civilian population that regards Israelis as subhuman. Instead, we must demilitarize and deradicalize.
        Gadi Ezra is a former director of Israel's National Public Diplomacy Unit. Aviva Klompas is a former director of speechwriting at the Israeli Mission to the UN. (The Hill)
  • "If I Were 25, I'd Be in Gaza with a Gun in the IDF" - Prof. Alan Dershowitz interviewed by Ariel Whitman
    Prof. Alan Dershowitz said in an interview: "I was a lawyer for many of the protesters during the 1960s and the 1970s, and many of them were very radical, but nothing comes close to this [recent mass protests against Israel]. This is essentially equivalent to Nazi youth. The protesters are mostly ignorant. They know nothing about Israel. They know nothing about Hamas."
        "All they know is that they're joining a demonstration based on intersectionality between oppressors and oppressed, and Jews are the oppressors and Palestinians are the oppressed. These are not pro-Palestine demonstrations. These are anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Jewish demonstrations. And they're getting worse and they're spreading beyond the campus."
        "It's time for Israel to win the war. It's time for Israel to ignore world public opinion, to thumb its nose, and ignore the Red Cross and Physicians Without Borders and the UN. Israel has to make its own decisions. Tragically, Israel cannot completely ignore the U.S., but it cannot be dictated to by the U.S. We in the U.S. have to take responsibility for assuring American support."
        "There cannot be a two-state solution that's based on Oct. 7....Oct. 7 requires a complete dismantling and destruction of Hamas. Once that's done, we can go back and talk about various possible solutions, but nothing will ever be the same. For example...it cannot be that Hamas can come right up to the border....There has to be security done only by Israel, because that's the only country you can trust to do security. The same thing is true in the West Bank, but the key point is Hamas cannot be rewarded right now."
        "I'm 85 years old. If I were 25 years old, I wouldn't be talking to you today. I'd be in Gaza with a gun joining the IDF."  (Globes)

Biden's Middle East Is a Fantasy World - Amit Segal (Wall Street Journal)
  • According to the White House, the Palestinians aspire to peace, reject Hamas, and are ready to make painful concessions. In reality, according to a November survey by Arab World for Research and Development, affiliated with Birzeit University, 59% of Palestinians "extremely support" the Oct. 7 massacre, and another 16% "somewhat support" it.
  • When President Biden refers to the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, he ignores that its president, Mahmoud Abbas, was last elected 19 years ago to a four-year term, and that the last time the Palestinians went to the polls, in 2006, they voted for Hamas.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris this week uttered a statement about Israel typically reserved for dictatorships: "It's important for us to distinguish or at least not conflate the Israeli government with the Israeli people." Yes, there is a significant disparity between Israel's leadership and its citizens - but it's the opposite of what people in Washington assume.
  • A February survey conducted for Channel 12 News found that 63% of the Israeli public strongly opposes a Palestinian state under any circumstances. The Israeli government has been providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, but a January survey found that 72% of the public opposes such aid until all hostages are released.
  • The Israel Mr. Biden knows - the one that supports deep withdrawals, settlement evacuations, and the two-state solution - ceased to exist two decades ago during the second intifada. Savage Palestinian violence at that time indiscriminately claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis, including babies, women and the elderly.
  • It's time the administration recognizes reality: The Palestinians overwhelmingly support the murder of Jews, and the Israelis don't think the Palestinians deserve a state.
  • I'd like to remind my fellow Israelis that it's important for us to distinguish, or at least not conflate, the American government with the American people. According to a recent Harvard Caps-Harris poll, the American public supports Israel much more than the president does.

    The writer is chief political commentator on Israel's Channel 12 News.

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