DAILY ALERT
Friday,
March 15, 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:

U.S. Officials Say Houthi Bombing Campaign Hindered by Intelligence Gaps - Felicia Schwartz (Financial Times-UK)
    The U.S. military's attempt to halt Yemen-based attacks on Red Sea shipping is being hindered by insufficient intelligence about the Houthi militants' arsenal and full capabilities, according to American officials.
    While the Pentagon is confident that weeks of missile strikes have destroyed much weaponry, the extent of the damage is unclear because the U.S. lacked a detailed assessment of the group's capabilities before launching its bombing campaign.
    The U.S. and UK launched air strikes on Houthi positions on Jan. 12 and have pounded the group periodically in the seven weeks since.
    The campaign has destroyed or degraded 150 targets, the Pentagon said.
    But the Houthis, who endured almost a decade of bombardment by a Saudi-led coalition before the current conflict, have proven adept at resupplying their positions, and have continued to menace ships in the region.
    The Houthis have hit four U.S.-flagged commercial ships passing through waters near Yemen since Nov. 19, according to the Pentagon.
    They have attacked or threatened U.S. Navy or commercial vessels 62 times over the same period.
    Western officials said the U.S. has recently broadened the campaign to include efforts to interdict weapons before they get to Houthi fighters.



The Challenges of Providing Aid to Gaza - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
    One of the key contributing factors to the suffering of Palestinians caught up in the Gaza conflict are the numerous difficulties aid convoys are experiencing in their efforts to provide adequate humanitarian relief.
    Whether it is the rigorous checks being applied by the IDF, who are rightly concerned about weaponry and other supplies being diverted to Hamas, or desperate Palestinians looting the convoys the moment they enter Gaza, ensuring an orderly and even distribution of food and medicine to those in need is proving to be enormously challenging.
    The Israeli government insists that more than 14,000 trucks of aid have entered Gaza in the five months since the conflict started, more than sufficient to keep endemic hunger at bay.
    Claims that Palestinians are dying of starvation are bitterly rejected by Israel.
    Much of the data being provided by humanitarian groups to support the contention Gaza faces widespread famine is being provided by Hamas itself, whose primary goal is to discredit both Israel and its allies.


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What the New York Times Left Out of Its "Starving Gaza Children" Story - Ira Stoll (Algemeiner)
    A front-page story in the March 9 New York Times accuses Israel of starving Gazan children to death.
    Yet according to World Health Organization figures, the 5% acute malnutrition rate reported for Gazans who followed Israeli instructions to move south puts them in roughly the same shape as residents of India, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
    Why aren't starving children in those non-Gaza countries on the front page of the New York Times? Because the Times can't find a way to portray Jews as responsible for those other children.
    None of this is to deny that humanitarian conditions in Gaza are rough, or that some children are suffering. The fault for those conditions is with Hamas.



How Aramean Christians Are Integrating into Israel - Rebecca Sugar and Michael Freund (Wall Street Journal)
    Israel is home to 185,000 Christians, including 15,000 Arameans, whose ancestors lived in the Levant before the Arab conquest and were early followers of Jesus.
    In 2014 Israel recognized the Aramean Christian community, an important step toward their fuller integration into Israeli society.
    Shadi Khaloul, 48, founded the Kinneret pre-army program at Kibbutz Beit Zera in 2017, where half the students are Aramean Christians.
    His uncle served in the Israel Defense Forces, and his father was an Israeli policeman. Khaloul joined the IDF and became a paratrooper at 18.
    "I was taught that the Jews are our brothers and our allies. This state is our state. We need to defend it too." Moreover, "joining the IDF opened many doors for me," he said.
    "Jews and Aramean Christians are the indigenous people of the region. We developed from Jews. If we deny Jewish existence here, we deny our own."
    "Only in Israel are Christians safe. They want to keep the country strong. They saw what Hamas did, and they say that this threat will follow them too."
    The Kinneret program teaches Hebrew to Christians, prepares them for IDF entrance exams, and connects them with Jewish peers.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Houthis Vows to Expand Attacks on Israel-Linked Ships in Indian Ocean
    The leader of Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said on Thursday in a televised speech, "Our main battle is to prevent ships linked to the Israeli enemy from passing through not only the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but also the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope. This is a major step and we have begun to implement our operations related to it."  (Reuters)
  • Little Expected of New Palestinian Prime Minister - Steven Erlanger
    The appointment on Thursday of Muhammad Mustafa, 69, as the new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority seems destined to fall short of producing the "revitalized Palestinian Authority" that President Biden has called for, several analysts said. Mustafa represents neither a break with the past nor a threat to Abbas, who at 88 is widely unpopular among Palestinians. "There won't be any actual change," said Nasser al-Qudwa, a former PA foreign minister. (New York Times)
  • Sen. Van Hollen's Demagoguery Provokes Maryland Rabbis - Seth Mandel
    More than 70 rabbis in Maryland have taken the unusual step of rebuking first-term Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who has made anti-Israel rhetoric a centerpiece of his political agenda. In February, Van Hollen accused Israel of intentionally starving Palestinian children and called Israeli leaders "war criminals." This week he tried to use these unfounded allegations to raise the specter of an aid cut-off to Israel during wartime.
        Van Hollen's regular demagoguery provoked a letter from Maryland rabbis from across the major Jewish denominations informing him that his vicious grandstanding is one thing they all can agree on: "Today we write with a unified voice to urge you to change your rhetoric and actions that we believe mischaracterize the current war and undermine America's support for the Jewish state."
        "Following the worst pogrom against Jews since the Holocaust, we here at home have faced the worst wave of antisemitism in our lifetimes. Yet to our dismay, rather than standing with us, your efforts in the Senate have only stoked deeper divisions and further isolated Israel and our Jewish community.  (Commentary)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Soldier Killed in Stabbing Attack near Beersheba - Emanuel Fabian
    A member of Israel's security forces in his 50s, Senior Warrant Officer Uri Moyal, 51, was stabbed and critically wounded in a terror attack at a coffee shop at Beit Kama Junction, just north of Beersheba. The assailant, Fadi Abu Altayef, approached Moyal from behind, pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the back, before Moyal shot the assailant dead. Moyal succumbed to his wounds on Thursday night. Abu Altayef grew up in Gaza until age 18, and was given Israeli citizenship in 2019 after getting married to an Israeli woman. (Times of Israel-Jerusalem Post)
  • Heavy Fighting Continues in Gaza - Emanuel Fabian
    Fighting continued in southern and central Gaza on Thursday, with the IDF killing numerous Hamas gunmen. In the Khan Yunis area, IDF troops directed airstrikes, tank shelling and sniper fire on Hamas operatives. In central Gaza, the Nahal Brigade killed 10 Hamas operatives, including in close-quarters combat and by directing tank shelling.
        In northern Gaza, after rockets were fired Thursday at Israeli border communities, the IDF carried out airstrikes and artillery shelling against Hamas sites identified in the area of the launch. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Commits to Use American Weapons in Accordance with International Law - Barak Ravid
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signed a letter of commitment to the American government on Thursday regarding the use of American weapons in accordance with international law during the fighting in Gaza. The commitment letter was a requirement of the Biden administration under a new national security memorandum issued by the president on Feb. 8 that does not specifically refer to Israel. It applies to any country that receives American weapons. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Over Half of Israeli Evacuees from Gaza Envelope Have Returned Home - Canaan Lidor
    Some 32,000 out of 60,000 people evacuated by the government from locales within a 7-km. radius of Israel's border with Gaza are back in their communities, a government official working on rehabilitating the region said Thursday. Another 60,000 people were evacuated from the north due to Hizbullah fire. No date for their return has been set. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Will Defeat Hamas in Rafah - Ophir Falk
    Mounting international pressure to end the war won't weaken Israel's resolve to accomplish its mission of destroying Hamas, freeing the hostages and guaranteeing that Gaza will never pose a threat to Israel again. Detractors dismiss total victory as implausible, but the facts on the ground indicate otherwise. Israel has already incapacitated more than 21,500 Hamas terrorists. John Spencer, chairman of urban warfare studies at West Point, says that Israel is setting the "gold standard" for avoiding civilian casualties.
        Israel doesn't need prompting to provide humanitarian aid or to act with caution. According to retired British Col. Richard Kemp, the average combatant-to-civilian death ratio in Gaza is about 1 to 1.5. According to the UN, the average combatant-to-civilian death ratio in urban warfare has been 1 to 9.
        The city of Rafah is Hamas' last stronghold and its defeat there is a prerequisite for victory. Whoever pressures Israel to refrain from entering Rafah is preventing the destruction of Hamas and the freeing of Israel and Gazan civilians from Hamas' stranglehold. Gen. David Petraeus, who led the 2007 American surge in Iraq, said last week that the "key now is to not stop until Hamas is fully destroyed." Asking Israel to stop the war now is akin to telling the Allies to stop halfway to Berlin in World War II.
        The writer is a foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Wall Street Journal)
  • What Comes Next in the Gaza War? - David Horovitz
    U.S. and other allied military chiefs are genuinely impressed by the tactical successes of the IDF in Gaza, yet they recognize that public and political support for Israel is plummeting as the Gaza death toll rises and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Those empathetic military chiefs say that they could not fight with greater precision in such complex urban circumstances. Israel also privately receives from Arab allies unstinting support to finish the job against Hamas - but they're not going to say this publicly.
        While the temporary pier the U.S. will build will enable U.S. aid to be brought into Gaza, the IDF, at this stage, does not know how the distribution of aid will be secured to prevent a repetition of the looting and chaos that have attended aid convoys, culminating in the deaths surrounding the Feb. 29 convoy.
        Before the IDF takes on the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah, and evacuates Gazans from that warzone ahead of time, it must first complete its operations in Khan Yunis - partly because the Rafah evacuation plan requires that the IDF achieve overall security control in Khan Yunis.
        After the Rafah operation, the IDF will continue to be heavily deployed, with ever more accurate intelligence on Hamas' remaining capabilities. The capture of computer servers in Gaza City last month, for example, enabled the IDF to go back into areas where it had previously fought, with very specific information on remaining Hamas assets. (Times of Israel)
  • Why Biden Isn't Pressuring Israel - Aaron David Miller
    President Biden may be increasingly uncomfortable with how Israel is waging this war and the appalling loss of life of innocent civilians, but he shares Israel's war aims: to both eliminate Hamas' capacity to pull off another Oct. 7 and end its sovereignty in Gaza. This is a war against Iran-backed Hamas - a terror organization that seeks to replace Israel with an Islamic state; that engaged in a rampage of indiscriminate, sadistic killing and raping; and that holds hostages.
        That war is occurring in a densely populated area roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C., where Hamas has embedded its military assets around and under civilian structures and population.
        If the president had a compelling alternative to how Israel could wage a war in these circumstances without doing grievous harm to civilians, he might have more leverage. Moreover, a large majority of Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu's rival, Benny Gantz, support the war.
        The writer, a former State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator, is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (New York Times)
  • "Hamas Has Reminded Us that We Are a Nation, a People, a Family" - Amb. Michael Oren
    During a nine-week speaking tour in the U.S. where I visited several dozen Jewish communities, I saw a degree of confusion and fear I never before encountered. People unfamiliar with antisemitism now confront it persistently and in multiple forms. The vast majority of American Jews understood that rampant anti-Zionism merely exposed a latent Jew-hatred that existed well before Oct. 7. All but a few realized that Israel's security was directly linked to their own and that American Jewry was severely threatened by attacks on the Jewish state.
        Asked repeatedly, "What should we do?" I responded that they could remove the mezuzah from their doors and lock themselves in, they could move to Israel, or they could stay and fight. Jews are only beginning to discover the many ways they can fight back. I recalled the resignation of the presidents of Penn and Harvard, reminding my listeners of their ability to exact a price from any official who fails to stand up to antisemitism.
        Communities formerly at odds over ritual differences have come together to advocate and demonstrate for Israel. Their contributions to Israel-related philanthropies have broken all previous records. So, too, has their participation in emergency missions to Israel. "For all the agony and the sorrow," I observed, "Hamas has reminded us that we are a nation, a people, a family."
        The bulk of American Jewry, I found, place their commitment to Israel above the partisan fray. They stand with us in Israel and alongside one another in combating antisemitism, countering anti-Zionism, and upholding Israel's right to defend itself and exist as the Jewish state. Rarely before have our people been more united and we are not alone.
        The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Harvard, M.I.T. and Systemic Antisemitism - David French
    A legal complaint about antisemitism against Harvard states, "Harvard permits students and faculty to advocate, without consequence, the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel, the only Jewish country in the world. Meanwhile, Harvard requires students to take a training class that warns that they will be disciplined if they engage in sizeism, fatphobia, racism, transphobia, or other disfavored behavior."
        I spent virtually my entire legal career defending free speech on campus, including the free speech of Muslim students and staff members. During those decades of litigation and my subsequent years in journalism, I have never seen such comprehensive abuse directed against a vulnerable campus minority group as I've seen directed at Jewish students and faculty since Hamas' terror attack on Oct. 7. What's happening to Jewish students and faculty at several elite campuses is so comprehensive and all-consuming that it can only be described as systemic antisemitism.
        The Harvard complaint details an incident at Harvard Law School where campus police allegedly observed passively as a mob of protesters "stormed Harvard Law's main building, marched down the length of the building's primary first-floor hallway, and blocked the hallway outside the study room where [Students Against Anti-Semitism and a visiting speaker] were hiding. Fearing a violent attack, students in the study room removed indicia of their Jewishness, such as kippot, or hid under desks." Think about that for a moment. In 2024, Jewish students felt the need to hide under their desks for their physical safety.
        Universities and schools demonstrate far greater tolerance for antisemitic speech and behavior than for virtually any other kind of offensive speech or behavior. They bend or break the rules to accommodate pro-Palestinian protests. Jewish students then face intimidation and even assaults. (New York Times)
Observations:

  • After months where media outlets seemed to only highlight the suffering of Palestinians since Hamas started a war on Oct. 7, President Joe Biden felt he had to respond with a tangible demonstration of his sympathy for Gaza civilians - to build a floating port from which food and other supplies would flow to alleviate the shortages that have produced a steady stream of appalling images of conditions there. Yet there remain unanswered questions about how the food will actually reach needy Palestinians without being stolen by Hamas.
  • But the real problem in Gaza isn't about aid or its distribution. The main issue in Gaza is Hamas itself. As long as the terrorist group is still armed and in charge of any part of Gaza - and still able to use parts of the tunnel system it built with international aid intended to help ordinary Palestinians - all talk about humanitarian concerns there is essentially a diversion.
  • The only reason residents in Gaza continue to suffer is precisely because the international community, the media, and the U.S. government have been persuaded to treat the impact on Palestinians of the war that began on Oct. 7 as more important than its cause. The only way it will truly end is by Hamas' complete defeat.
  • A ceasefire now would essentially reward Hamas for its assaults on Jewish communities in Israel. It would make the repeat of that spree of murder, rape, torture and kidnapping a virtual certainty; Hamas has said as much. All the suffering in Gaza and the casualties on both sides is the fault of Hamas alone. It started the war with cross-border attacks and unspeakable atrocities. And by not releasing the men, women and children it took as hostages, it must accept the responsibility for the inevitable consequences.
  • Hamas is counting on the images of Palestinian anguish, which they caused, to bail them out. They see the focus of the international community and the U.S. on the aid question, rather than on demanding that Hamas end its futile resistance. By acting as if the priority is to push aid into Gaza, regardless of the fact that most of it is being stolen by Hamas, they are prolonging the war and increasing rather than alleviating the pain of Palestinians.
  • The only way to ease Palestinian suffering is to help Israel to complete the defeat of Hamas and end its control of any part of Gaza. Once that happens, the problem of feeding and caring for Palestinians becomes simpler. Pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire before the terrorists are finished will only mean more privation for Palestinians as well as more blood spilled by Hamas.
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