The state of the nation September 2014

Now that the school year has safely opened (much to the surprise of many of us) and the war is behind us for the moment, it would be a good time to sit back and take stock of the state of the nation and the region at the present turbulent moment.

Netanel Maman, an off-duty soldier killed by a rocket fired from Gaza

First, returning to Operation Protective Edge, very sadly 2 more people died over the weekend from their wounds. The first was a soldier on leave, who had come through the fighting in Gaza unscathed but was critically wounded as a civilian while on leave in Ashkelon. Tragically, Netanel Maman from Gan Yavne succumbed to his wounds on Friday morning.

 

Sgt. Shachar Shalev HY’D, 20, from Alonei Habashan, died of his wounds sustained in July in the fighting in Gaza

And then on Sunday, 20-year old IDF soldier Shachar Shalev from Alonei Habashan in the Golan died of wounds sustained in the first days of the war.

This brings the number of soldiers killed in Operation Protective Edge to 72.

May their memories be for a blessing.

Another casualty of the war – or at least one that has been wounded in battle – has been the US-Israel relationship. For example, those missiles whose delivery was held up during the war will be released soon –  Whatever the Hellfire that means:

WASHINGTON — Exactly how bad are Israel-US relations today? Who the Hellfire knows.

What is clear is that two weeks after the revelation that the US had added an additional level of scrutiny to resupplying the IDF with weapons, business was anything but usual regarding the military-to-military relationship upon which Israel relies.

It has been two weeks since The Wall Street Journal first reported that the White House had been caught off-guard by transfers of military equipment from the Pentagon to the IDF in the course of Operation Protective Edge.

According to that report, the administration responded to the surprise by tying up further arms transfers in an additional multi-agency review process. Some transfers requested by the IDF have since been released, but a request for additional Hellfire missiles remains unfulfilled.

Asked about the Hellfires almost two weeks ago, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said that “we generally don’t talk about specific deliveries after they’re requested and before they’re delivered, but I will say that things are being — things that have been requested from Israel are — we’re taking a little bit of additional care now given the situation, and if there were requests for such missiles, that would fall under that.”

The report of the “additional care” emerged after a much-reported dust-up between Washington and Jerusalem over Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to broker an Israel-Hamas ceasefire, in consultation with Qatar and Turkey. The timing reinforced perceptions that political — and even personal — considerations may be involved in the decision to freeze the transfer.

Instead, in repeated statements, the State Department emphasized that the additional scrutiny was tied to the ongoing military in Gaza.

With a ceasefire in its third day on Friday, however, there was still no word from the administration regarding a timeline for the missiles’ delivery.

In fact, on Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the ceasefire had not impacted the additional level of scrutiny that the transfer of weapons to Israel has faced in recent weeks.

Such delays are not unprecedented. Previous administrations — and this administration — have put a temporary kibosh on weapons transfers to Israel in the past when relationships between Washington and Jerusalem have soured.

at least publicly — there has been little explanation as to why the precision missiles have been singled out for extra, protracted scrutiny.

It is, ultimately, a scrutiny that, according to all sources, will be over “soon.” But how long “soon” means, and what steps Israel is meant to take in the meantime, are anything but clear.

“Soon” means “when the current Administration is out on its ear”. That’s my own personal feeling anyway.

For an interesting take on the state of Israel-US relations read Haviv Rettig Gur’s article “the root causes of Israel-US mistrust“.

It’s not just Israel’s self-defence that offends American sensibilities. It’s Jewish houses too, as the US objects to Israel’s declaration of 4,000 dunams (1,000 hectares) of land in Gush Etzion as State Land:

The IDF on Sunday conferred the status of state land on 4,000 dunams in the Gush Etzion region, thus ending the civil administration’s investigation into the possibility that parcels were private Palestinian property.

The new designation for an area known as Gevaot opens the door for settlers to advance plans to build a fifth city in the West Bank on those dunams.

“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity,” a State Department official said. “This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue, is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.”

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the US official said in Washington.

The land had previously been listed as survey land, a designation that prevented settlers and the army from moving building plans through the planning system. The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said that it had acted under guidelines from the upper political echelon issued after the end of the IDF’s mission to return the bodies of three teenagers which Hamas terrorists kidnapped and killed in June.

The 4,000 dunams are located just outside the Alon Shvut settlement in an area of Gush Etzion, that Israel believes will be included within its final borders in any final status solution.

This is not to blame the US entirely. The Palestinians and Israeli extreme leftists too object to this expropriation:

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that this status change must be reversed.

“This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza,” Abu Rudaineh said.

Don’t forget the Holy Olive Trees which accompany every Palestinian narrative:

A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.

I’m actually not holding my breath waiting for actual Jewish homes to be built on that land, because there’s a history there, one not to Israel’s advantage, one that clearly illustrates Israel’s spinelessness in the face of diplomatic pressure:

The area of Gva’ot was first developed as an IDF Nahal community in 1984, following a 1982 cabinet decision. The military closed it in 1996. For the next decade, the Shvut Yisrael Yeshiva made use of the site with small modular homes.

Since 1998 the Gush Etzion Regional Council has consistently pushed to build a city in that area. Initial plans for 6,000 homes in Gva’ot were abandoned in 2000 because the diplomatic climate was not supportive.

The plans were picked up again in 2008 and moved forward in 2009 after the Annapolis peace process fell apart.

In 2012, the Defense Ministry gave initial authorization to build 523 homes there but then froze the project.

In June of this year, the Gush Etzion Regional Council reissued its call for work to move forward on Gva’ot as a response to the deaths of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.

The three teens were kidnapped at a bus stop near the Gva’ot site.

Gush Etzion, the southern gateway to Jerusalem (from Israelstreet blog (click to enlarge)

What are the odds that this building scheme will once again be put off? The blog Israelstreet (which I just discovered) gives a more detailed history of the aborted building plans and talks about the Farce at Gva’ot. More importantly, the writer reminds us that Gush Etzion in its entirety forms the southern gateway to Jerusalem. No other country would abdicate the entrance to its capital to an enemy entity. Why is Israel demanded to do so? (Answers on a postcard please).

Of course it’s not only the Americans or the Palestinians who are objecting vociferously to the building proposals in Gva’ot. Egypt, the UK and the UN have piled on, as expected. Will the government withstand their pressure?

It’s not as if Israel has been expanding massively in Judea and Samaria. Sadly, the opposite is true, as there has been a massive drop in building in Judea and Samaria over the last year (but don’t expect Israel to be congratulated for this fall):

There was a 72 percent drop in settler housing starts during the first half of 2014, compared to the same time last year, according to data published on Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Similarly, there was a 7.2% decrease in the number of finished homes in West Bank settlements, according to the CBS. This matched the 7% decline in finished homes country wide.

The 10.8% decrease in housing starts across the nation, was markedly different from the steep decline in West Bank settlements.

According to the CBS, work began on 1,807 settler homes through June 2013, compared with 507 in the same period this year.

The dip sounds dramatic, but construction in Judea and Samaria settlements was unusually high in 2013 in comparison to the last few years.

The conflict with the Palestinians in the West Bank remains as tense and volatile as ever. Security forces were hunting for suspects involved in 3 explosive attacks in Samaria on Sunday, while a toddler and a bus driver were hurt in separate incidents when Palestinians attacked buses with rocks. There were several other violent incidents recently too:

A three-year-old toddler was lightly wounded on Monday night by Arab terrorists that hurled rocks through the window of the bus she was riding in, as it passed through Uzi Narkis Street in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat.

The toddler was wounded while riding on the Egged 143 bus line from Tel Tzion, located north of Jerusalem in the Binyamin area of Samaria, to the Israeli capital.

Just shortly afterwards a bus driver was also lightly wounded on the road between Migdalim and Kfar Tapuah in Samaria, after Arab terrorists threw two molotov cocktails at him.

One of the firebombs struck the bus’s windshield, shattering the glass and wounding the driver who was treated on the scene and did not require further medical attention.

Arab terrorists on Saturday night threw a molotov cocktail at “Beit Meyuhas,” an historical Jewish home from the 19th century CE in Jerusalem’s City of David area just south of the Old City. A 45-year-old Jewish man was wounded lightly in the attack, suffering first and second-degree burns to his head.

Another baby girl, this time 11-months-old, was victim last Wednesday of an Arab rock attack on the car she was in at Yitzhar junction in Samaria. The baby suffered light wounds, which medics called a “miracle” given the fact the rock that hit her was the size of a fist.

Likewise last Saturday night Yedaya Sharchaton was critically wounded while driving with his wife Hadasah and one-year-old daughter Nitzan in Judea north of Hevron, after Arab terrorists threw rocks through the windshield, hitting him and causing the car to flip.

The rise in attacks comes as senior officials in Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction have recently said they reached a “political decision” to support Arab terrorists “slaughtering” Jews living in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

They likewise have called for a full return to terrorism, declaring “open war” on the Jewish state.

In response to Palestinian violence and incitement, which has been influenced by Hamas and in turn encourages the terrorists, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has demanded that Arab MKs who took part in a Hamas “victory” rally should be jailed:

MKs who attended a victory rally for Hamas are traitors who support terrorism and must go to prison, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday.

Liberman’s comments came after Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi and UAL leader Ibrahim Sarsour participated in an event on Friday at the Kabul Regional Council near Acre, organized by the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli-Arab leadership under the banner “Gaza Won.”

… they expressed open support for the enemy that fought against Israel for two months.”

As such, Liberman wrote, all of the participants should be seen as traitors and supporters of terrorism, be put on trial and be sent to prison. …

The foreign minister described the Monitoring Committee as “extremists who support enemies of the state. Talking to them sends a negative message to Israeli Arabs who are loyal to the state, and strengthens the extremists who support terrorism,” he said.

Speaking of support for terrorism, Mahmoud Abbas is back to old blackmail games – threatening Israel with a Hobbs Choice of withdrawal to the 1967 borders or going to the ICC.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a Fatah conference in Ramallah that if Israel did not agree to negotiate over a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he would join international bodies, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Israel Radio reported.

On Friday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said that Palestine was now eligible to join the Rome Statute and file war crimes charges against Israel.

Let him try.  I can’t wait for him to go to the ICC. Because if “Palestine” is eligible to join, Palestine is also “eligible” to be sued by Israel for war crimes committed against it. Pass the popcorn…

Some good news from the Palestinians: The PA said the budget for the unity government with Hamas was “below zero”:

The budget trouble was a result of a failure among donors to send funds as scheduled to the PA, which functions largely based on international aid.

“The US has not provided a single penny since January 1, and Europe and Arab states only provided a third of what they were scheduled to give,” al-Ayasa told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

“The government’s budget is below zero, and it’s starting to borrow from banks to move forward, because only less than third of donor funds that were scheduled to be received this year arrived,” he said.

The PA refused to pay the officials in June because they were appointed after Hamas ousted bitter rivals Fatah — which dominates the PLO — from Gaza in 2007 and therefore were not registered as its employees.

The pay row was the first challenge to the new Palestinian unity government, formed to try to end years of Palestinian rivalry, and Qatar stepped in to cover the costs to former Hamas employees.

A Palestinian official speaking on condition of anonymity said the PA will have to ensure the payments do not jeopardize international aid.

“Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by many abroad,” the source said. “The government wants to obtain guarantees that it is allowed to pay these wages.”

It’s about time international aid to the Palestinains was curtailed – perhaps then they would start to create something constructive rather than working solely towards the destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile there has been renewed fighting on Golan spilling over from the multi-front war in Syria between Assad’s forces, Syrian rebels and ISIS terrorists:

Two mortar shells fired from Syria exploded in Israeli territory on Monday as fighting between rebels and the Assad regime’s military raged in the Quneitra area.

Both explosions are likely the result of stray fire. On Monday morning, a mortar shell fell in the region of Ein Zivan on the Golan Heights, and in the afternoon a second shell exploded in Israel close to the international border near Quneitra.

The IDF also shot down an Iranian drone fired from Syria, again, not certain if it was fired intentionally or “strayed” into Israeli territory.

The IDF is now bolstering its forces in the Quneitra area to counter any cross-fire or possible attack.

The fighting in the Quneitra area led to the capture by Syrian rebels of 44 Fijian UN peacekeepers and the lucky escape of 70 Phillipino peacekeepers who were brought to safety; according to some rumours they are in Israel.

As if we haven’t got enough tzuris (troubles) in our region, Iran unveiled its latest surface-to-air missile.

Adelle Biton, seriously injured in a rock-throwing attack, returns home after over a year

However, I can’t leave this post with all this depressing news. Some good news which flew under my radar last week was that Adelle Biton, the little 3 year old who had been so terribly injured in a rock-throwing attack near Ariel last year, is being released home. She is now 4 years old and has a long arduous road ahead of her, but she is progressing slowly:

After a year and a half of intensive operations and treatment, four-and-a-half-year-old Adelle Biton will be returning to her home in the town of Yakir, in Samaria, tomorrow (Thursday).

But along with her family’s joy at her return, there are also fears for the long road to recovery which lies ahead for the infant victim of terror.

On March 2013, as she was travelling in a car with her siblings and mother Adva close to the city of Ariel, their car was ambushed by Arabs, who hurled rocks at the car, causing it to veer off the road and crash headfirst into a truck.

Adelle, who was just three years old at the time, was left critically injured and fighting for her life; investigators say she was struck directly in the head by fist-sized rock thrown by her attackers.

Adding to the sense of celebration, Adva is currently in her ninth month of pregnancy – and will soon give birth to her first son after four daughters.

“Thank God, there will be happiness and joy… God is helping us,” she said.

We wish Adelle continued refuah shlema, and besha’ah tova to her mother on her imminent good news.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Shalom Kita Aleph 2014

2nd graders welcome new 1st graders on their first day at school

2nd graders welcome new 1st graders on their first day at school

Today is the first day of the new school year, much to the relief of parents (and grandparents!) around the country. This year of course, the long hot summer vacation was ruined by Hamas’s attack on Israel from Gaza and the war that developed (aka Operation Protective Edge), and it wasn’t at all sure that the new school year would actually open, certainly in the south of Israel.

Some 2 million Israeli school kids grabbed their backpacks and headed back to school Monday, as a fraught summer closed with a mostly calm return to studies.

The opening of the school year in the south of the country had been up in the air until just a week ago, when 50 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza ended in a ceasefire.

In the south and around the rest of the country, much of which also suffered rocket fire, the Education Ministry stressed that it would help students work through the effects of the summer’s military operation.

In the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which raged for most of the summer vacation, the first several weeks of the school year were to be devoted to activities designed to help returning students process and deal with their experiences over the summer, the Education Ministry said on Sunday.

“Its been a difficult summer for us all,” Piron wrote in a statement published on his Facebook page on Monday morning. The education minister sent special regards to the students in the south, and wished “a year of quiet and peace” to all.

“We will dedicate the first weeks of the school year to the summer and all of its events,” he said. “We will extol solidarity and brotherhood, and together combat racism and its expressions.”

President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter to teachers, commending them for their strength and patience in educating Israel’s somewhat unruly youth and combating sporadic violence and incitement.

In the southern communities most affected by the Gazan rocket fire during the conflict, special activities will take place during the beginning of the year to help students ease back into learning after a summer largely spent in bomb shelters. During the war, mayors of southern towns had threatened to delay the opening of the school year over rocket fears.

A total of 2,105,394 students are to begin the school year on Monday, the ministry said. Of these, 149,705 are starting first grade, and 112,750 are starting 12th grade, their last in the state-run educational system.

The children of the south of Israel are going to have the hardest time adjusting:

In the battered south, teachers braced themselves for the difficult questions their students were likely to raise, and in Nahal Oz, the absence of 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman — who was killed by mortar shrapnel on August 22 — was keenly felt.

Tragerman’s kindergarten teacher, Adi Sagi, told Channel 2: “The parents are exhausted by this whole war, and we’re trying to pick up the pieces and help the parents get through this period as much as we can.”

With regard to Tragerman’s classmates, Sagi said that in the past few days, the kindergarten hosted a birthday party “and someone said Daniel was missing.”

“It’s very painful coming from a child — it’s very difficult, but this is what is ahead of us,” she said.

Daniel Tragerman, 4, seen during a visit at the presidential residence in Jerusalem in early August. Daniel was killed by shrapnel from a mortar shell that hit his home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz on Friday, August 22. He was laid to rest on August 24. (Photo by Flash90)

All teachers are heroes in my eyes, but the teachers of the south deserve special medals of valour for coping not only with large classes and small budgets, but with all the psychological traumas affecting not only the children, but the parents and the teachers themselves.

The entire educational system though is suffering from both violence and budget cuts:

In the city of Taibe, in protest of the deadly shooting of a school principal by a masked perpetrator last week, schools remained shuttered and a citywide strike of local businesses went into effect.

Meanwhile, in Netanya, 600 students and their parents were set to gather outside the Begin elementary school but to stop short of entering, in a demonstration decrying the large classes and the school’s apparent refusal to open another class, the Ynet news website reported.

Similarly, in Jerusalem, the entrance to a school in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood was covered in chains in protest of the class sizes, the Walla news website reports.

The school year opened a day after large budget cuts to the Education Ministry were announced, but Piron insisted Monday that the cuts would not impair the curriculum in any way, nor the salaries of the teachers. He told Israel Radio that the Education Ministry cuts were not any steeper than those of other ministries.

Comparisons to other ministries are irrelevant. The Education Ministry is one whose budget, like that of the Defence Ministry, should be increased, not cut.  The outcome affects our very future.

A little bit of good news concludes the article:

Around 1,900 students are new immigrants and will be entering the Israeli school system for the first time, the Absorption Ministry said. Of these, 250 will be entering first grade.

Some 14,000 new immigrants of any age have arrived over the course of 2014, the ministry said, mostly from France, Ukraine, the US and Russia. The ministry estimated that in total, there will be some 35,600 immigrant children in the education system this year.

Contrary to ‘normal’ countries where children don’t want the holidays to end, Ynet reports that in Israel the children feel the most safe and the most normal back at school:

According to the plan, student discussions will be held at the beginning and at the end of the school day to talk about personal experiences during the summer break and the difficulties faced during wartime as well as how students dealt with the situation.

One of the activities to take place during the meetings will be called, “Pictures from the Album”, requiring the students to choose photos from the media that show the operation and to describe what they think happened before and after the picture was taken. Educational institutions in the Gaza vicinity will emphasize the way in which residents fled their homes due to rocket fire.

“We are in continuous contact with the authorities and we are preparing to begin the year,” said the Director-General of the Education Ministry Michal Cohen. “The sentence ‘returning to normal’ has a lot of meaning. The message from the children in the south has been ‘we want normalcy, but we also want our vacation.'”

“It was clear to us that we aren’t teaching normally,” said Cohen. “The entire country went through a rough time and we can’t go back to (school) as if nothing happened. We heard from the students that they feel the safest and most normal in educational institutions, which isn’t surprising because that’s where they meet the faculty and their friends.”

Cohen stressed that, “The motivation to return to school is the motivation to return to life.”

And that sums up the difference between Israelis and Palestinians. We educate our children to life. They educate their children to murder and death. We use our schools to educate. They use their schools to store rockets and weapons, and launch them from there.

Let us continue to celebrate life and enjoy watching our children thrive and grow. May G-d grant them the safety and peace to do so.

As the proud Grandma of two new 1st graders, a new high-schooler, and a bunch of kindergarteners, as well as two new baby day-care attendees, I wish all the children of my family and of all of Israel a successful new educational year.

Posted in Israel news | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Good News Friday

This week’s Good News Friday installment is going to be a little bit different for this very strange week.

My first item comes from Saudi Arabia of all places: The Saudi Foreign Minister has said that “we must denounce our hatred towards Israel“: (h/t Lewy 14 in the comments).

Speaking on the sidelines of the world assembly of Islamic scholars in Jeddh, Saud bin Faisal Al Saud said that the Middle-East needs peace and co-existence more than ever and Saudi Arabia as a leading Islamic country is ready to make sacrifices in peace negations [that HAS to be a typo! - Ed] and encourages President Abbas to follow the same policy.

Referring to the ongoing war in Gaza strip, the Saudi foreign Minster stressed that Hamas authority is the sole responsible for Palestinian calamity and they must brought before the law.The Saudi official further added that Arab World Increasingly Frustrated With Hamas which is seeking more wars.

I know that this is just a small beginning, but if it signifies the beginning of a change of heart amongst our Arab opponents this can only be to the good. Let’s hope this is not just a swallow without the summer to follow.

On the subject of support for Israel, here is a fantastic letter by a Jewish American actress in London saying Thank you to Hollywood exec Ryan Kavanaugh for your support (h/t Henry):

Last week, Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh became the first major Hollywood executive to publicly oppose a letter condemning Israel signed by Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. “It makes my blood boil,” Kavanaugh told The Hollywood Reporter. “As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, anyone calling it Israeli ‘genocide’ vs. protecting themselves are either the most ignorant people about the situation and shouldn’t be commenting, or are truly anti-Semitic.”

Here’s an excerpt from the letter. Read it all:

The past few weeks have been some of the most trying and isolating I have ever experienced. In the arts world especially, I feel as though I am on an island of one, as any voice of support for Israel is met with accusations of war mongering, genocide and disgust.

My parents raised me to always use my voice.

I don’t understand why so many titans whose voices could be heard around the world refuse to use theirs.

At a time when Jewish businesses are being fire-bombed in Paris, when Jewish families in Amsterdam have had to remove mezuzahs from their doors for fear of being attacked, and when Jewish storefronts in Rome are being vandalized with swastikas and tags such as “Jew your end is near,” I can’t help but fear for the future.

What example are we setting?

What legacy are we leaving?

Israel is fighting for her survival in a unique moment of absolute moral clarity, and some of the most accomplished and successful artists in the world have labeled this genocide.  Where is the overwhelming disgust? Where is the backlash? At best, where is the education?

The blatant double and ultimately suicidal standard by which Israel is being judged is not a reasonable critique of a military situation; it is in fact a thinly veiled anti semitic assault perpetrated by the likes of Jimmy Carter and Navi Pillay and echoed by throngs of ignorants around the globe to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state.  These extraordinary standards to which no other country in history have been held are part of a larger movement that is unearthing and harnessing the virulent, deep seated and devastating tides of victriolic hatred that too often seem to percolate just beneath the surface against the Jewish people. In my lifetime the tide has never been stronger.

Jews around the world who are being assaulted and maligned need your support, you in Hollywood whose voices cut across oceans.

Mr Kavanaugh, thank you for cutting across oceans, for not only cutting across, but for leading by example.

As I stare at the sea of articles posted by fellow actor “friends” on Facebook, all riddled with mis-truths vilifying Israel, and hear the faint cries of a “peaceful” protest rejecting Israel’s right to exist through my cracked window,  I cannot begin to articulate how much I appreciate your public and definite stance both supporting Israel and condemning the horrific and dangerously false accusations towards Israel by certain celebrities.

And for a brief moment, six thousand miles away, I don’t feel so completely alone.

Kol hakavod to Ryan Kavanaugh for his support and kol hakavod to Taube Brahms for expressing her thanks in her own name and in all our names.

And to conclude on a different note, the Apple co-founder visited Israel even as rockets were flying:

One of the issues Wozniak feels strongly about is how technology can help kids learn better. On Monday, he will be talking about that issue at Eduaction, a conference on all things educational sponsored by Mifal HaPayis (the Israel Lottery). Profits from Mifal HaPayis, which runs games like lotto, scratch card contests, and other legal gambling ventures, go into the educational system, generally to build classrooms and community centers and to sponsor programs in schools in depressed areas. Wozniak — making his first trip to Israel — is set to be one of the keynote speakers at the conference, which will take place in Holon, south of Tel Aviv.

And this is what Wozniak found during his trip:

Steve Wozniak (Photo credit: Courtesy)

It started when Woz posted a picture of Jerusalem, with the following message attached.

Woz: “Had a good time visiting Jerusalem and Gaza Strip today. If Israel did not react, the rockets would continue anyway. If Hamas halted rockets, Israel would not attack them. Peace.”

Steve Wozniak Israel opinion

This incited a flurry of comments, both supportive of Israel, and against.

But Woz is a straight talker – he doesn’t avoid a chance to voice his opinion – so he continued on.

“Sam, I looked across a few miles to Gaza. Right there you realize how stupid and senseless these crude rockets are. They can only kill indiscriminately. They are fired into populated areas. They can’t do much good for the Arab ideology since they really can’t inflict much damage. But the Israeli’s in certain places have to live with some fear and alarms and these rockets keep coming. You may be mathematically safe, but it’s like being raped when you can’t do anything about it. It may be ‘pinpricks’ to Russell Brand but he could say the same thing about rape. If Israely instantly bombs where the rockets come from they would likely hit a school or a home and the terrorists are a short distance away (most likely) or quickly move the small launchers. When it continues like this, it’s not unreasonable to call it an act of war and we know what the response to an act of war has to be.”

Then Woz got into the philosophical – good technology versus bad technology. This is where my favorite quote came from.

Thank you Mr. Wozniak for your clear-sightedness and for your support of Israel. What a shame you can’t give some lessons in clear thinking to world leaders and the UN.

Apologies for the short posting this week but I’m posting from my short summer holiday in the north (not near the border!).

Wishing you all a quiet and safe weekend and Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in International relations, Israel news, Technology | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A reporter’s inside story about the disproportionate focus on Israel

Media bias at its finest

If you read nothing else about the war, aka Operation Protective Edge, read this article. Matti Friedman, a former AP correspondent, explains how he and his colleagues got Israel so wrong in this seminal article “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth“.  It also talks about the disproportionate focus on Israel (which I have written about many times previously) and ties in with two further articles below.

I could quote the whole article but I won’t. It’s pretty long, especially for an online article, but every word is important. Here’s a short excerpt. Go and read it all:

The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.

While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility—in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession—my profession—here in Israel.


You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.

Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. Israel is not one of the most important stories in the world, or even in the Middle East; whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain. Israel is a speck on the map—a sideshow that happens to carry an unusual emotional charge.

Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. They may convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem, and indeed the Jews’ fault. But journalists engage in these fantasies at the cost of their credibility and that of their profession. And, as Orwell would tell us, the world entertains fantasies at its peril.

This is just a fraction of the article. Go and Read. It. All.

I had planned to leave this post with just the above article linked. But earlier today I came across the following post (via Twitter) from Richard Mather’s blog Defense of the Israeli People (it looks like an excellent blog to follow).  His post, entitled Israelophobia, demonstrates in a nutshell what Matti Friedman was writing about:

I recently came across a rather strange letter from a man called Philip Sandland. The letter was sent to a parochial English newspaper called The Sentinel, which usually deals with minor concerns like the local cricket scores and the quality of care in the local hospital. Here it is:

“MAY I be allowed to say a few words in answer to Margaret Browns letter on June 19? She says that Sunni and Shia Muslims have been fighting for more than 1,000 years. This is only partly true. When strong leaders such as President Assad or Saddam Hussein were in control, peace usually was the norm – minorities like Christians and Druze were left pretty much in peace. I believe that the fly in the ointment is Israel. The West has allowed the Zionist Jews to establish a state in Palestine, which enraged much of the Muslim world, and this is understandably so! How would the average British citizen feel to be thrown out of his rightful home and sent packing? The violent attacks by certain Muslims on Western targets is I believe due to a servile approach by the U.S. and sadly Great Britain to the misdeeds of the Israeli state, which invariably go unchallenged.”

There are many things that I could say about this letter and none of them would be complimentary.

This letter is a typical indication of the level of political discourse in Britain. And it is also typical of a highly unpleasant mental condition called Israelophobia, which is quite simply a political variant of anti-Semitism. Israelophobia, like anti-Semitism in general, is a mental illness, quite possibly a neurosis or morbid fear, although it some cases it takes on the characteristics of psychosis – paranoia, delusions, denial and the loss of contact with reality. I’m only half joking.

Whether it is neurotic or psychotic, Israelophobia can be defined as the hysterical, spiteful, hyperbolic and irrational fear or hatred of Israel. The unhealthy fixation with the State of Israel and Zionism is sometimes referred to as the “new anti-Semitism.” The “new anti-Semites” have merely substituted the word “Jew” with the word “Israel.”

As with all irrational prejudices, Israelophobia is intolerant and obsessional. The fact that Israelophobia attracts people from across the ideological, cultural and political divide is a good indication that it is unreasonable and confused.

In any other circumstance you would be hard pressed to find a situation in which Islamists, neo-Nazis, socialists, liberals, radical Islamists, Quakers and people who believe in shape-shifting aliens agree on anything. But when it comes to Israel and “the Jews,” all these factions share the same demented prejudice. Moreover, the disproportionate focus on Israel by the UN, the media and university campuses clearly indicate that Israelophobia is an obsession. And an obsession is a neurosis.

Sadly, Israel-bashers are completely immune to facts and statistics.

Why? It is because Israelophobes are anti-Semitic. They are not anti-Semitic because of Israel’s perceived wrong-doings. They are Israelophobes because they hate Jews. In short, Israelophobia is a symptom of anti-Semitism and not the other way round. In fact, I would go far as to argue that Israel-bashers do not want a political solution in the Middle East because that would remove their excuse to demonize the Jewish people.

In the end, there is no reasoning with these people because they don’t want to be reasoned with. Such people persistently deny they have a problem by refusing to admit they are anti-Semitic. But denial is just another sign of their madness. If these people weren’t so dangerous, I would pity them.

As above, read it all.

And a final article (there are so many out there, it’s surprising Israel doesn’t get better press) is from Abu Yehuda (previously Fresno Zionism) who writes “We can’t satisfy the world so let’s stop trying“:

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Justice Minister and the one who more or less carries the flag of the Left in the government, was quoted today saying something like “we need to end this soon, or the world will get tired of the violence and end it in a way that will not be good for Israel” (sorry, I don’t have the exact quote, but this is close).

Why do I mention this? Because it illustrates a certain mindset that we need to leave behind.

The fact is that “the world” will always find some way that Israel doesn’t measure up to the ideal moral standard that it has set up for us, and if we make heroic efforts to do so, then it will move the goalposts.

The problem is that Jew-hatred is a characteristic of the hater, not the Jew. A Jew can’t ameliorate it by changing in any way, which is why trying to do so is so frustrating. What a Jew can and should do in the face of Jew-hatred is defend himself. This is both practically and psychologically beneficial to the Jew, and may even act to reduce Jew-hatred.

What is true of the individual Jew is also true of Israel, the Jew among nations. The IDF can go to even greater extremes to protect civilian residents of Gaza, but it will never go far enough to satisfy “the world,” which is insatiable for Jewish self-abnegation.

Israel’s primary responsibility is to protect its citizens against attack. It does not need to try to gain approval by living up to fanciful standards that no other nation has ever met. Today we need to continue the war in Gaza until Hamas has been completely neutralized as a military force, and effective arrangements can be made to keep it that way.

There’s much more in the article. Again, go and read it all.

None of these articles will make us feel any better but they will help us explain that nothing we do short of national suicide – and maybe not even then – will persuade the Israelophobes (what a brilliant neologism) that we are “good” or worth letting us live. So we have to learn to ignore them and get on with doing what we do best – living, growing, flourishing, building.

But how do we convince our government?

Posted in Antisemitism, Defence and Military, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Yet another ceasefire: Einstein’s definition of insanity

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein

Ceasefire, as seen by Hamas (via A.F. Branco at Legal Insurrection)

Never before have I seen so many glum faces at a wedding – and not because anyone disapproved of the match. On the contrary, the wedding was beautiful and elegant and very joyous. But as we were leaving the house we caught the news that a ceasefire had been declared - yet again – between Israel and the Hamas terrorists.

In a “normal” war situation, the civilians of a country under fire would be delighted at the news of a ceasefire. But we are not a normal country, our situation is not normal and our enemy is most definitely not normal. In fact they are the most immoral and cruel enemy one could never wish to have this side of ISIS, and they are backed by the same sponsors as ISIS and have similar aims.

We wedding guests were not the only ones opposed to the ceasefire. There was opposition to the ceasefire across entire political spectrum:

Murmurs of dissatisfaction rose from the political Left and Right Tuesday night, after Israel agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas.

Meanwhile, Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin indicated that he does not trust the truce will last, saying residents of his constituency who evacuated should not return to their homes.

“It doesn’t interest me what the government or Hamas say. I will only call on residents to return when I feel like there’s a real ceasefire,” Yellin told Channel 10 News.

Just as half of the cabinet ministers were opposed to the cease-fire, many in the coalition expressed similar opinions.

Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said “any agreement that doesn’t include eliminating the rocket threat on residents of Israel and demilitarizing the Gaza Strip is less than half of what is necessary.

“In this reality, the defense establishment will have no choice but to prepare for the next round, which will be soon,” Ariel added.

According to MK Danny Danon (Likud), in the Middle East, restraint is seen as weakness.

“Despite the heavy price Hamas paid, we did not defeat Hamas,” he said. “Fifty days of fighting, 64 soldiers killed, five civilians killed, 82,000 reservists called up, and in the end we’re back to the agreement from Operation Pillar of Defense.”

Danon said a defeat was necessary to broadcast to the whole Middle East, including Hezbollah, Islamic State and Iran, that “they should not mess with the people of Israel.”

MK Eli Yishai (Shas) said that a cease-fire without Gaza being demilitarized means Israel may as well pencil in the next round of fighting in its calendar.

On the Left, lawmakers called for the government to take initiative and launch diplomatic negotiations.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said “this cease-fire comes too late, and its conditions prove, finally, that Operation Protective Edge is [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s strategic failure, as he went to war without goals and finished [it] letting Hamas gain on the backs of residents of the South.”

Gal-On also posited that the suffering residents of the South underwent in recent weeks came without any long-term planning by an “irresponsible” government.

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said a cease-fire is a positive thing, but it must come with “active and courageous initiative toward a diplomatic agreement.”

“We lost our best sons in this war and we cannot accept bloody rounds [of fighting] as necessary,” she said. “A historic axis of moderates was created in the Middle East, with Arab powers that share interests with Israel, and we cannot miss this opportunity.”

Like Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Yacimovich called for an international summit to bring a peace treaty with the Palestinians.

An international summit is the last thing we need! It will be hardly better than the UN’s biased “Commission of Inquiry into Israeli war crimes” (or whatever pseudo-title it’s been given), it would be loaded with anti-Israel members and would seek to impose a one-sided solution on Israel.  Thanks but no thanks.

So what the hell was Bibi thinking when he accepted an open-ended ceasefire?  Especially as this undemocratic-but-legal decision of his has led to his popularity drop in a free-fall.

In the first week of Operation Protective Edge at the beginning of July, 57% of Israelis were satisfied with Netanyahu, according to a Channel 2 poll taken by Shiluv Millward Brown Market Research. It rose to 82% on July 23, after ground forces entered the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu came back down to earth Monday night when data showed that 50% of Israelis were dissatisfied with him and just 38% satisfied – a 17% drop since a poll broadcast Thursday night.

I am at a loss to explain his decision.

Let’s first have a look at the parameters of the ceasefire:

IMMEDIATE STEPS

* Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza agree to halt all rocket and mortar fire into Israel.

* Israel will stop all military action including air strikes and ground operations.

* Israel agrees to open more of its border crossings with Gaza to allow the easier flow of goods, including humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment, into the coastal enclave.

* In a separate, bilateral agreement, Egypt will agree to open its 14 km (8 mile) border with Gaza at Rafah.

* The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, is expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas. Israel and Egypt hope it will ensure weapons, ammunition and any “dual-use” goods are prevented from flowing into Gaza.

* The Palestinian Authority will lead in coordinating the reconstruction effort in Gaza with international donors, including the European Union.

* Israel is expected to narrow the security buffer along the inside of the Gaza border, reducing it from 300 metres to 100 meters if the truce holds. The move will allow Palestinians more access to farm land close to the border.

* Israel will extend the fishing limit off Gaza’s coast to six miles from three miles, with the possibility of widening it gradually if the truce holds. Ultimately, the Palestinians want to return to a full 12-mile international allowance.

Longer-term issues to be discussed are a Gaza sea-port, more prisoner releases, the return of the bodies of the two abducted IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin HY’D, and a Gaza airport.

Demonstrating the viciousness and venom of our enemy, they continued pounding the south with mortar and rocket fire until the very last second – and beyond. And in the last barrage two more Israeli civilians were killed in Kibbutz Nirim:

Two Israelis died Tuesday evening in a mortar attack on Kibbutz Nirim, near the border with the Gaza Strip, and four others were wounded.

One person was in serious condition, and three others suffered minor injuries, in the strike on the Eshkol region community.

Kibbutz Nirim security chief Zeev Etzion HY’D (screen capture: Channel 2)

Fifty-five year-old Ze’ev Etzion, the security chief for the kibbutz, was killed on the spot as he worked to fix electricity lines damaged in an earlier mortar attack. Israel Radio reported that he was also a volunteer ambulance driver for Magen David Adom.

Nirim resident Shahar Melamed, a 43-year-old father of 3, died on his way to the hospital.

Nirim resident and kibbutz mechanic Shachar Melamed HY’D, killed by Hamas mortar attack

May their memories be for a blessing and may Hashem avenge their blood.

Medical care was given to the wounded as rockets and mortars fell around the kibbutz and Code Red sirens wailed.

The two Israelis killed Tuesday raised the civilian death toll in Israel in Operation Protective Edge, which entered its fiftieth day Tuesday, to six.

Last week a four-year-old child was killed in an attack in the nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

The Nirim attack came amid a fierce bombardment of the towns and communities of southern Israel in the hour before a ceasefire agreed upon by Israeli and Palestinian representatives took effect.

Earlier in the day, dozens were injured in Ashkelon when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a house in the southern coastal city.

This is what that house in Ashkelon looked like after the rocket hit it:

Objection to the ceasefire came not only from the political classes but from media commentators too. Nachum Barnea called the ceasefire “too little, too late“:

Israel Prize winner Nahum Barnea writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that the ceasefire is “Too little, too late.”

“Not every ending is a happy ending,” he writes. “The fear is that instead of paving the way for the Gaza threat to be lifted, we are paving the way for the next round, from Lebanon or Gaza. But this is what our government produced for us, and we must live with it.”

Barnea, who lost a son in a 1996 Hamas bus bombing, says that Israel discovered a few unpleasant truths during the fighting. One, Israel couldn’t defeat a small, isolated terrorist organization. Two, even limited conflicts demand a price Israelis are reluctant to pay. Three, the army ran the fighting, not the government.

The clearest objection though comes from a different angle, reflecting my own opinion, in Arlene Kushner’s excellent analysis “Worse and Worser“:

The truth: There is no entirely satisfactory resolution to our war with Hamas (the war that is not called a war).

Aside, of course, from that “ultimate” resolution in which we would fully retake Gaza and banish all terrorists and jihadis – thereby creating a peaceful situation in Gaza and a situation of deterrence with regard to terrorists in other locales – and then rebuild Gush Katif, helping the former residents to return.

But I also know that this vision is not about to be realized. There are a variety of factors that are arrayed against us and render this scenario severely problematic. I’ve covered them before:

  • The fact of the network of tunnels means we would pay a large price in the lives of our young soldiers – a price that would be difficult for the nation to bear.  …
  • The expense of this war, which would be prolonged, and of then assuming responsibility for the Arabs in Gaza who would remain would create a tremendous fiscal drain on the nation that many would consider unacceptable.
  • As soon as Hamas and related jihadi groups were banished, there would be an incredible international push for Abbas and his “moderate” cohorts to control Gaza as a step towards a Palestinian state.  (More on this below.)  There are a host of international problems associated with this.
  • Perhaps most significantly, the drain on our military resources might render us ill-equipped to do battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon and radicals in Syria who are at our border in the Golan, should this become necessary.  [...]  But what if, while we were in the course of fighting that extended war in Gaza, Hezbollah decided that it would be a great time to attack us from the northern front?  [...]  And here I didn’t even mention Iran.

And so we must resign ourselves to something less.

From my perspective there had to be certain parameters to any resolution: Hamas should not be rewarded for its attack on Israel.  It should not receive something as enticement to get it to stop firing upon us.  It should be sufficiently vanquished so that it would petition us for a respite.  (“Sufficiently vanquished” does not mean finally defeated.)

Most importantly, Israel must (now I use that word) convey strength.  And Hamas must be prevented from re-arming (leave aside the question of whether it would have to  surrender the rockets it currently has).

In a nutshell now: The ceasefire, accepted also by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is for a month.  At the end of the month, negotiations would begin on the demands of each side: from our side, demilitarization of Hamas; from the Hamas side, lifting of the blockade of Gaza, building of a seaport and airport, release of prisoners, etc.

This ceasefire, then, is another temporary one, albeit for a longer period of time.  It is not permanent, and in point of fact is likely to fall apart once the difficult issues are approached.  What would happen then is that Hamas – which would have had a month to regroup and manufacture more rockets – would begin to launch rockets again.  And where does a month leave us? Right at the time of our High Holidays.

Oh great.

At this time, the restrictions for Gaza fishermen will be relaxed, with the limit being extended to six nautical miles. And apparently two crossings will be opened under Israeli supervision to allow in humanitarian supplies and building supplies for reconstruction.  (What kind of materials?)  It is entirely unclear what sort of supervision there would be inside of Gaza to make certain that the materials were used appropriately or who would oversee the reconstruction.  What would UNRWA’s role be?

A statement was made recently by a representative of the EU, who said that the EU wanted to be involved.  How? They would supervise the PA to be sure it was doing the job it was supposed to do at the crossings. That’s reassuring, is it not?

Arlene returns to the role played by the PA, and possible US influence over Netanyahu’s decision:

One source I encountered now said that in a month Israel would resume negotiations with the PA. That this was going to be pushed on us is no surprise, but I believe this is still a projection for down the road – not a statement of Israel’s commitment at present.

I think of everything I find this prospect most offensive.  Abbas is the good buddy of Hamas’s Mashaal.  Representatives of Fatah sat at the negotiations during ceasefires with Hamas, and spoke for Hamas.  Abbas has never renounced the “unity government.”  Yet we are supposed to consider the PA “moderate,” a partner for peace.  This is the sort of stuff that drives me to consider running my head into the wall.

Retired US general John Allen came to town last night to meet with Israeli officials regarding the renewal of peace talks after there is a ceasefire.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/top-us-general-in-israel-for-post-ceasefire-talks/

Who knows what message Allen conveyed from Obama to Netanyahu and how this played into Netanyahu’s decision to accept the ceasefire proposal.

Gen. Allen was the one who came here to design a “security plan” for the Jordan Valley that was supposed to advance our negotiations with the PA some months ago; Israel rejected his ideas.

The ceasefire will be debated to death in Israel for days and weeks to come. But how did Hamas “celebrate” their glorious victory?

Like this:

David Horovitz in another perceptive column says we should not dismiss Hamas’s “victory celebrations” so quickly:

Hamas has breached truce agreement after truce agreement in the past 50 days, and there is no compelling reason to assume that this case will be any different. Unnamed sources in the Palestinian negotiating delegation — a curious forum comprising rival factions including Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad — claimed Tuesday night that Hamas’s leadership in Gaza insisted on accepting the same unconditional Egyptian terms that it rejected more than a month ago, and sidelined the Qatar-based Khaled Mashaal, who had previously rejected such terms. Some say that the sight of the Israeli Air Force moving to smash the apartment buildings in which Israel claims it had some of its command centers finally prompted Hamas in Gaza to call a halt. Time will tell if a terror government’s solemn assurance that it has silenced its guns has any credibility.

Entirely predictably, Hamas immediately busied itself extricating what it called success from amid the devastation it has brought down upon Gaza these past seven weeks. It fired over 4,500 rockets at Israel. It killed 64 soldiers and five civilians. It prompted several dozen airlines to shun Israel for two days last month. It terrorized southern Israel, especially in more recent weeks, when it stepped up its mortar fire and rocket barrages on the south. It killed four-year-old Daniel Tragerman inside his own home on Kibbutz Nahal Oz. For an organization committed to the destruction of Israel, these are achievements to celebrate.

By emplacing its war machine in the very heart of Gaza, it also condemned hundreds of thousands of people — the Gazans in whose interests it falsely claims to have fought — to homelessness, dire poverty, and the bleakest of futures. But for Hamas, these too are achievements. Extremism flourishes amid bitterness. Islamic radicals find willing recruits where hope of a better future is in short supply. Thus Hamas expects to profit, too, from the destruction wrought as Israel targeted all those rocket launchers and terror tunnel entrances sited in the homes, mosques and schools of the Gaza Strip. And it can also celebrate the staining of Israel’s reputation in those wide international circles where the evil, cynical nature of Hamas’s war strategy is misunderstood or ignored.

A slightly more positive note is taken by Yossi Melman at the Jerusalem Post, whose analysis tells us how Israel made Hamas crawl to a ceasefire:

Hamas was forced to accept Egyptian and Israeli dictates.

Hamas crawled to the cease-fire. One should not be impressed by the well-organized victory festivities in Gaza. Most of Hamas’s demands and preconditions were rejected from the outset.

The cease-fire is unlimited in time and Hamas was not promised anything except that which had been offered at the start of the military campaign.

Full of itself and arrogant, it miscalculated. If Hamas had not rejected the offers, Israel would not have launched a ground incursion. Hamas’s 32 attacking tunnels would not have been destroyed. Its rockets and mortar shells wouldn’t be reduced to a residual arsenal of 20 percent – from 10,000 to approximately 2,000.

And most importantly, parts of Gaza wouldn’t have been destroyed.

Unfortunately, Gaza has been set back decades. More than 5,000 houses were destroyed. Thousands were damaged and on the verge of collapse. Gaza has been suffering water and electricity shortages.

Three hundred thousand residents – 15% of its population – turned into homeless refugees within the boundaries of the small enclave, which was already mostly one big refugee camp.

Anger, despair and frustration are ruling the day in Gaza.

Surely people will not go to protest in the streets. Hamas has established a reign of fear and terror. The massive public executions during the war, and in particular last week, of alleged traitors were not aimed at unveiling and disrupting Israeli intelligence operations, rather to send a clear message to the Gazans: We are Hamas and we are here to stay. Don’t dare revolt against us.

But the locals have a long memory. They will remember who brought them the calamity.

n a sense, the Gaza war is reminiscent of what happened during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah was defeated. Its secretary-general admitted it in public. But then he heard Israeli defense commentators who criticized the war’s conduct by then prime minister Ehud Olmert’s government and regained his self-confidence. Hassan Nasrallah told himself that if stupid Israel thought that it was defeated, so let it – and declared his false victory.

Eight years later, it is quite clear that war brought Israel significant gains at the strategic level. Northern Israel has enjoyed peace and tranquility.

The bottom line is that Hamas failed to reach its strategic goals. Israel showed determination and except some marginal manifestations, the Israeli home front was stubborn and did not break down.

The real index with which to check Israel’s gains is against the war’s declared aims. The leading trio – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz – who have shown reason and self restraint in order to avoid more casualties, were determined not to surrender to populist voices, including from their cabinet colleagues who pulled out long knives to stab them in the back and demanded to “smash Hamas.”

Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz decided neither to occupy Gaza nor topple the Hamas regime.

Having said all that, much depends on the cease-fire being honored.

I like the optimism in Melman’s article but my true feelings, or maybe suspicions, are more along the lines of Arlene Kushner and David Horovitz.

If Israel does not project strength, or is perceived to have lost the war or only lost international standing, then even if technically we have won the war as Melman says, not only Hamas, but Hezbollah and ISIS will learn their lessons and repeat the exercise.

Posted in Defence and Military, Israel news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Victory over Hamas will come when our leaders care more for our children than for the enemy’s

The picture below sums up the entire absurd situation in which we find ourselves, where the IDF takes extra-special care not to harm the enemy’s civilians, but that “special care” in fact endangers our own civilians, not to mention our soldiers.

The caption in the photo is a paraphrase of Golda Meir’s famous quote:

“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

The caption in the photo says:

We can beat terror only when our Government will love our children more than they care about what the world says.

It is becoming obvious to any Israel-watcher that this is indeed the case.Why else has our pusillanimous government not carpet bombed the border area from which those deadly mortars are being launched, one of which killed little Daniel Tragerman on Friday, and a few of which injured several Israelis yesterday, and all of which have caused all the kibbutzim and moshavim along the Israeli side of the Gaza border to empty out completely.

Hundreds of Israelis left their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip on Monday, reflecting growing frustration over the war with Hamas and the Palestinian mortar fire raining down on their communities. Tens of thousands of Israelis have fled the area in nearly two months of fighting, which has turned the communities into virtual ghost towns.

With the school year fast approaching, the government began offering assistance to residents Monday in the first large-scale voluntary evacuation in nearly eight weeks of fighting.

Officials estimate that 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left over the course of the fighting, including hundreds on Monday. Some went to stay with relatives and friends, while others are staying at hostels or were taken in by strangers who want to help fellow Israelis.

Fields that once yielded vegetables and flowers are barren and pockmarked by Palestinian mortar shells. Streets are empty and most homes eerily silent.

The government this week offered to help anxious Israelis close to the war zone leave their homes, the first time it has sponsored a large-scale evacuation.

“It is their right to leave, and we will assist them with temporary solutions,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said in a TV interview

He’s darn right that it’s their right to leave. In fact it is their obligation to leave, to protect their own lives and the lives of their children. But it is the government’s obligation – not just a right – to act in order to protect their own citizens, not the enemy’s.  It is the government’s obligation to act to bring about a situation where our civilians can return home in peace and safety, and not have to abandon the territory.

Don’t think that the Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah are not watching and learning from Hamas’s victory. Why else are Lebanese terrorists now waking up and shooting rockets into northern Israel? They’re reckoning what worked for Hamas will work for Hezbollah. And soon enough it will work in Hebron and Jerusalem too if the government doesn’t act forcefully and quickly.

And don’t think too that Israel will earn the world’s esteem and admiration for taking so much care about Gaza’s civilians. Whatever we do, we are accused of genocide, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, baby-killing, land-theft,  and more (and probably the Icelandic volcano too. We just have to wait for it to erupt…). So if we’re going to be accused of the crime…

I’m not suggesting we go out and commit mass murder of Gaza civilians. On the contrary. We should carry on giving them warning of impending attacks. But then we should attack – not hold off because there might still be a civilian present, whether voluntarily or human shield. International law does not demand that of us, and we don’t need to be holier than the US and NATO in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

Confirming our suspicions that the government is more worried about world opinion or some specious version of morality, in which the enemy’s civilians are more precious and more necessary to save than our own civilians, watch this shocking video from Channel 10 news (h/t Naomi Ragen’s email list):

The English translation:

Published on 25 Aug 2014

Channel 10 reporter reveals that the IDF has advised the residents of Nahal Oz that

the five mortar launchers that have been the source of deadly mortar fire since the start of the operation include 3 that have not been destroyed by the IDF because they are located next to school where Gazans have taken refuge and the other two are located next to houses whose occupants the IDF hasn’t yet managed to get in touch with in order to request that they leave. As a result, these mortars have been firing at Nahal Oz for 49 days.

This morning we learn that the IDF finally bombed the school from which the lethal mortar was launched on Friday. But if the school had been bombed earlier, along that whole swathe from where the mortars were being launched, Daniel Tragerman might very well have been alive today.

Victory over Hamas anyone? You’ve got to be joking!

And if Netanyahu thinks he’s going to earn brownie points where it really counts – in the Israeli ballot box – he’s much mistaken. His popularity, which had been soaring in the high 80s or more during Operation Protective Edge, has now plummeted to 38% because of his poor handling of the aftermath (or continuation) of the war.

Posted in Defence and Military, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments