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August 18, 2014: Deja Vu

How many times?  How many times do we count down as the final hours of a 72 hour – or 120 hour – ceasefire come to an end, aware that resolution of the issues between Israel and Hamas is exceedingly unlikely and wondering what will happen next??

The guessing is that it will either be active war or a tacit “quiet for quiet” situation.  But I’m not going to discuss various pros and cons, various implications, now: That discussion will wait for my next posting.


Here, briefly, I want to share a couple of selected pieces of news that are significant now – even before we know what follows this ceasefire. They will remain significant no matter how things play out because they are indicative of the underlying situation, and of certain attitudes and intentions.

Most telling here is the news that in recent weeks the Shin Bet has arrested 93 Hamas activists who had set up terrors cells across Judea and Samaria, and in eastern Jerusalem: in 46 Palestinian towns and villages, as well as in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron.

Focusing on the Temple Mount, they intended to start a third intifada.  Under cover of that intifada, Hamas intended to take down the Palestinian Authority and take over in Ramallah just as it took down the PA and seized rule in Gaza seven years ago.

The head of this complex operation was Saleh al-Arouri (pictured below); the Shin Bet says he operated from Turkey and remains there now. Al-Arouri is referred to as “the Mohammed Deif of the West Bank.”  In recent months there has been an influx of Hamas operatives known to be loyal to al-Arouri.  Sophisticated Palestinian Arabs - were recruited from abroad.  Notable among these was one with a doctorate in computer science who was trained in encryption and cyber-attacks.  Head of the military infrastructure in Judea and Samaria was Riyad Nasser, who has been in prison for some months now.

Funds for the operation were brought by Jordanian couriers from Jordan and Turkey, in order to purchase safe houses and vehicles.,7340,L-4560000,00.html

Saleh al-'Arouri - Arabs48

Credit: Arabs48


Folks, this Hamas plan is no surprise (even if the scope of it was greater than most of us had assumed).  But it is mind-boggling because of its various implications:

[] Let me begin with the kidnapping-murder of the three students – martyrs, truly:  In the course of searching for the boys, the IDF and associated security agencies pulled off a major operation in the Hevron area.  This was well after the Shin Bet had uncovered the plot (which was in May) and so clearly the search provided the opportunity to do considerable destruction of Hamas infrastructure in the area, to do arrests of Hamas operatives, and to confiscate Hamas funds.

[] I – along with many others – have been writing about the foolishness of thinking that Mahmoud Abbas’s PA might be installed in Gaza to monitor reconstruction, or the crossings, or whatever.  The PA is not strong enough, I’ve been saying.  In fact, I have been writing, Hamas even wants to overthrow Abbas in Judea and Samaria and is prevented from doing so only by the presence of Israel. 

Well, hello??? Here we are. 

Any one who proposes that Abbas move into Gaza after the exposure of this plot has got to be willfully blind (as most leftists are) or have distinctly devious motives.  The fact of this plot should be waved in the face of those who dare (and they will dare) to continue to suggest this.

What is more, anyone who suggests that we provide Abbas and the PA with an autonomous/sovereign state in parts of Judea and Samaria should be likewise challenged.  As things stand now (and barring a full take-out of Hamas – no simple task): to give the PA a state is to guarantee a Hamas state at our east.
[]  I must speculate, as well, as to what Abbas is using in place of brains.  I would assume that he imagines he will be the winner if the international community gives him a role in Gaza.  He probably thinks it’s pay-back time for what Hamas did to him. 

But the article I cite, above, says that PA security was updated on the investigation regarding Hamas plans.  Abbas knew that Hamas was planning to overthrow him, and that it was only the Shin Bet that protected him
This leads to the question, as well – a significant question – as to why Abbas did not disavow the “unity government” with Hamas in light of this information.  Or why he sits as one of the factions negotiating on the side of Hamas against Israel.  Is he motivated simply by fear?  This man who some imagine would monitor Hamas.

This is all too convoluted and surreal.

[] The article makes a significant point about the international nature of Hamas.  Mashaal is in Qatar. The Turkish government knew what was taking place on its territory – with al-Arouri planning the operation from there and recruiting operatives loyal to him from diverse places, including Malaysia (which is where the guy trained in cyber-attacks came from).  This makes Hamas more dangerous than would be the case if it were – as it once was – primarily a “local” terror group.

I cannot speak for my prime minister or the Security Cabinet.  But I would suspect that this awareness of the nature of Hamas may have played into decisions regarding how to deal with it.  “Taking out Hamas” would be more complicated and vastly more difficult than those who charge that Netanyahu is remiss for not doing so likely imagine.  This is not to say that Hamas in Gaza should not be taken down – a good case can still be made for this.  But it’s important to consider broader ramifications and not draw conclusions too quickly.

[] It is a good bet that this information about the Hamas plot was made public now for a purpose.

[] Lastly, the Temple Mount – Har Habayit - where Hamas wanted to focus its intifada scheme.  We’ve known for some time that there has been Hamas incitement on the Mount. But, again, most of us did not understand the full ramifications.

While I do write about the Temple Mount from time to time, I feel that perhaps I have been remiss in not focusing on it more.  Any one who thinks this most sacred space for Jews – our right to which is being challenged – is not at the heart of matters does not see the full picture.


Only one other piece of news here.  I think this is sufficient for now:

The US has offered to guarantee Israel’s commitment to any signed agreement. As Aaron Lerner of IMRA put it: “US offers to guarantee that Israel doesn’t interfere with Hamas missile construction?”

Please read Steve Emerson, Executive Director of The Investigative Project, on this:

Every time you think Obama has stooped as low as he might, in seeking to block Israeli actions against Hamas and protect Hamas, something else emerges.  None of this should be forgotten.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 03:04PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 14, 2014: An Ugly Mess

No matter what happens with regard to Hamas, it will be a mess of one sort or another.  There are no clean, neat diplomatic solutions. There is either war now, with all the pain and cost that is necessarily concomitant, or there is the possibility (only the possibility) of a temporary diplomatic resolution that has the seeds of war embedded within it and that, while providing a respite, will inevitably backfire.
Where are we, as I write? 
The 72 hours of indirect, Egyptian-mediated negotiations in Cairo between Israel and “Palestinian factions” – which ended midnight Wednesday night – led to no resolution of the differences between Israel and Hamas.  We shouldn’t have expected there would be such a resolution, as each side has demands diametrically opposed to the other: Israel is seeking demilitarization of Hamas and Hamas is seeking an end to the blockade of Gaza (in place to prevent importation of further weaponry).
I am reluctant to relay reports of what is said to have gone on, because a good deal of it is undocumented and unreliable: most, if not all, of what we ostensibly learned regarding terms being discussed came from the Palestinian Arab faction (remember, Abbas’s Fatah faction is right in there, negotiating with and on behalf of Hamas).  And they have a strong propensity to exaggerate their achievements in such matters. 
Did Israel agree to allow Gazan fisherman to go farther into the Mediterranean?  Or to permit the quantity of goods – either humanitarian or commercial - going into Gaza from Israel to be substantially increased?  Did we concur that Fatah forces might police the border?  Could it possibly be that Israeli negotiators agreed to facilitate the movement of money from the PA in Ramallah into Gaza so that Hamas salaries could be paid??? 
It’s difficult to state what Israel agreed to tentatively, in the course of negotiations – or even agreed to just put on the table for discussion.
Several times, while those reports were coming out, anonymous Israeli officials were cited as saying that no progress was being made.  Apparently (and, again, there is no confirmation on this) Hamas is refusing to release the remains of two soldiers it is holding - Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul; this would represent a real stumbling block to any deal Israel might be considering.
Several factors in particular must be mentioned with regard to these negotiations:
First, it is clear that, whatever Israel did or did not agree to, the Palestinian Authority – Abbas’s Fatah faction thereof - is being widely promoted as the “solution” to the problem of Gaza, just as we knew would be the case.  We must continue to declare loudly that reliance on Abbas would be a disaster – both because he’s in bed with Hamas and would not “guard” the situation with regard to preventing it from rearming, and because Fatah forces are weak and liable to be taken down by Hamas.
And then, it seems to be the case (is it??) that Israel has dropped the demand for the full demilitarization of Hamas, focusing instead mainly on ways to prevent its rearming.  Preventing more sophisticated weapons from being brought in to Gaza is, needless to say, an important and necessary thing to do. But it is not sufficient in and of itself.  Hamas still has some 3,000 rockets in its arsenal.
What is additionally the case is that Hamas currently has the capacity to build more of its own rockets, and is continuing to do so. 
See here:,7340,L-4558720,00.html
Reports, some leaked, that did come out citing Israeli sources yesterday seemed quite troubling.  We learned that a Security Cabinet meeting that was supposed to have been held had been cancelled because there was “no progress” and nothing to discuss or vote on.  But what happened instead of a full Security Cabinet meeting was a series of private meetings that Prime Minister Netanyahu had with various key members of that Cabinet (primarily but not exclusively heads of factions) – notably Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud).  Some sources described these meetings as a way for Netanyahu to alert these people to what to anticipate. 
Other sources described what happened as an attempt by Netanyahu to “soften up” the Cabinet members in order to get them to vote for some controversial concessions. Something they might or might not agree to:
Additionally there were complaints from some Cabinet members that they were being kept in the dark:,7340,L-4558420,00.html
Uh Oh.  What doesn’t he want them to know?  What might he be promoting?
For the record, I do not believe Netanyahu WANTS to give Hamas anything.  He is clear-eyed as to the nature of this adversary.  But I am concerned, very simply, that he lacks the nerves of steel required right now to buck the considerable pressure being brought to bear on Israel from a host of international sources.  Binyamin Netanyahu has demonstrated himself to be someone who worries a good deal about the international community and functions while watching over his shoulder.
In fairness to him, I acknowledge very readily that the pressure has to be absolutely incredible. (I am not sleeping well at night and right now I wonder how he can sleep at all.)  There is reason to believe that he might be considering a host of unpalatable factors – the rising world-wide hostility to Israel because of the deaths of babies in Gaza, the up-coming UNHRC “inquiry” – dubbed Goldstone 2 - into whether we committed “war crimes” in Gaza (which I’ll address another day), the malevolence of Obama (about which more below).  It might seem to him that not taking on Hamas right now would be prudent because of all of the other issues that we confront.
But there is a solid case to be made for dealing with Hamas without making concessions – with all that this likely implies.  Period. 
Two days ago, the “military wing” of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades, released this statement:
The warriors in Gaza are waiting with Allah’s help to renew the fighting, or to return to planning the next campaign. There’s no escape. Either jihad or planning [for the next jihad].”
Now, we know that this is how the jihadis operate.  It’s hardly a surprise. But for them to be so “in our faces” about it?  We should allow them to buy time to plan a better attack on Israel? 

The hours leading up to the midnight termination of the temporary ceasefire last night were tense.  Egypt – the mediating party - was pushing for an extension to the temporary ceasefire because more time was needed.  But, while apparently Israel agreed at some point, Hamas was defiant – with Khaled Mashaal, head of the politburo, the most intransigent – and it seemed that this was not going to happen.
So certain did Hamas seem to be that there would be no extension, and that “negotiations” had failed, that rockets were launched from Gaza into several communities in the south of Israel a full two hours before the official end of the ceasefire.  (Something that Hamas later denied having done.)
The situation suddenly seemed clear: Enough fooling around in those negotiations; once again Hamas failed to even honor its full commitment to cease firing for 72 hours.  The Israeli negotiating team had returned home. Time to get serious.  Additional reservists had been called up and our troops were moved up to the border of Gaza.  Yair Lapid made a statement about how, if we must attack again because they start launching rockets again, “this time we’ll hit much harder.”
So be it then...
Just to interject a small personal note here.  I was relieved – because the prospect of making concessions to Hamas felt terribly wrong: one does not negotiate this way with terrorists.  But I was hardly upbeat.  I had more of a pained, it’s the right way to go and we’ll have to deal with this with resolve, attitude. I spoke to my visiting grandchildren about where we would would go if there were a siren; having lived through this multiple times already in their own home, they were cool.  But I felt an incredible sadness, that the absolute evil of Hamas was making all of this necessary.
Even as Hamas started launching those rockets, however, news began to trickle out from Cairo about an agreement from both sides to extend the temporary ceasefire so that more effort might be expended in reaching a permanent agreement.  And indeed, by midnight, the new ceasefire was announced: fire would be held for five days, but it was my understanding that there would be a two-day hiatus before talks began again, which would mean another 72 hours of negotiations.
What turned the trick, apparently, was direct intervention by Barack Obama, who let it be known that he wanted either a final agreement or, at the least, a temporary extension.  Reports are that a call he placed to Netanyahu to convey this was exceedingly tense, as have been most of their recent exchanges.
This is what I am seeing:
According to a Wall Street Journal article, which cited government sources, “the US administration has halted a shipment of Hellfire aerial anti-armor missiles to Israel.

“The sources noted that Israel had requested the transfer of ammunitions directly from the Pentagon, without receiving the approval of the White House or State Department officials.

"’We were blindsided,’ one US diplomat said, while a US defense official insisted that ‘there was no intent to blindside anyone. The process for this transfer was followed precisely along the lines that it should have.’

“According to the sources, White House officials were concerned about Israel's use of artillery, instead of precision-guided munitions in the more densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip...

“After the shipment of the 120-mm and 40-mm rounds caught the White House by surprise, the Pentagon was instructed to put another arms shipment to Israel - a large number of Hellfire missiles - on halt and the administration instructed all of its defense agencies to consult with the White House and State Department before approving any additional arms requests from Israel, the Journal reported.

A US official told the paper that ‘the decision to scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels amounted to the United States saying “The buck stops here. Wait a second… It's not OK anymore.”'"  (All emphasis added),7340,L-4558615,00.html
Michael Oren, who served a term as Israeli ambassador to the US that ended last fall, has weighed in on this:
"There is a claim in the Wall Street Journal that Israel went around the back of the United States to get a resupply of ammunition from the Pentagon, that it didn't get permission from the White House. I can only tell you as an ambassador that is impossible because there's a very specific and deeply embedded procedure for doing that and Israel, in order to get access to preposition military equipment in this country, American equipment, has to go through the administration.",7340,L-4558760,00.html
Oren says the WSJ story is unsubstantiated.  But if a US “source” deliberately leaked this faulty information on orders?  If this provides Obama with a fabricated public rationale for holding back on Israel?
When did this story appear? Wednesday?  When did Obama place his call to Netanyahu insisting that the ceasefire had to be extended?  Wednesday.
Here I move into speculation – but speculation informed by a sequence of events that gives it considerable plausibility.
Perhaps Netanyahu was not thinking about “Goldstone 2” or anti-Israel riots in various places.  Maybe his concern – a very real and enormously serious one one – was that the US, by withholding military equipment, would make it difficult for Israel to sustain a full war against Hamas.  Perhaps this is what he sought to communicate privately to key members of the Cabinet.  Perhaps his nerves were sufficiently steel-like in this situation, but he calculated that it might be better to forestall that final confrontation with Hamas until Obama was out of office. (Which might mean making nauseating compromises in the interim.)
Obama’s position on the record in this situation was clearly established some while ago:  First he has no desire to see Hamas brought down.  And then, he is eager to see that “two state solution” advanced via placement of Abbas in Gaza.  What better way to promote these interests than by weakening Israel’s hand?
If there is truth to my speculation, then it is my very fervent hope that Netanyahu will not sit still for this.  Oren’s commentary seems the first return volley, but a great deal more would need to follow.  Often threats are not spoken about. But, for a number of reasons, whatever threat may have transpired here would need to be addressed as boldly and perhaps publicly as possible.  We have many friends in the US. 
And there is one last piece to my speculation.  Obama would have had to do something to get Hamas to agree to a ceasefire extension.  It is quite clear that there was not unanimity within Hamas on this score.  The president has a very distorted and distinctive MO in his dealings with other countries: he fails to be supportive of those who are traditional US allies, and he overtly courts and makes concessions to radical regimes such as Iran that embrace values inimical to American interests. 
My guess would be (and Kerry played this very game with Abbas during recent negotiations) that Obama either exaggerated to Hamas what Israel is ready to concede or promised Hamas that he would do everything in his power to get Israel to... whatever (perhaps release prisoners) provide Hamas with that much needed sense of victory.
We might then, look for increased pressure on Israel to...whatever...
All this said, there is no reason to expect that, when the next 72 hours of negotiations is over, a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas will necessarily have been achieved.  It still remains quite unlikely, I think, concessions or not.  If (or when) those Hamas rockets start flying again, there will still be some very tough decisions that will have to be made here in Israel.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 02:19AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 10, 2014: Forecast Cloudy

Before I look at that forecast, let me mention “Kaitana Savta,” which translates literally as “Camp Grandma” (it sounds better in Hebrew).  I am about to begin Kaitana Savta, which comes every year in August and is truly as much fun for me as for my grandkids. Starting tomorrow and in days ahead, I will have two and three kids sleeping here and going out where Savta takes them to have fun, or staying in to do games and arts and crafts.


This year especially, this time will help me regain my balance - after weeks of focusing on the war.

And so... I will be posting.  But less frequently, and perhaps – after today – with shorter posts.


Now, as to that forecast.  I use the term cloudy in two regards.  First, the clouds block our vision. And then, they suggest storms advancing. 

As most of you doubtlessly already know, an Israeli negotiating team is back in Cairo after Hamas agreed to yet another 72 hour ceasefire.  Hamas leaders had refused to extend the last one because they weren’t happy with the way negotiations were going.  And so, last Friday they began launching rockets again. 


Credit: mikesamerica

How wearisome, how straining. These rockets startled many in Israel, as people had just begun to relax and think in terms of “normal,” and quiet. 

Hamas offered to continue to negotiate, but Israel made it very clear that we have a policy of not negotiating under fire, and our team was called home.


Then followed a touch-and-go situation, with Hamas reluctant to stop launching again and Egyptian mediators trying to bring about yet another ceasefire.  Finally Hamas agreed: For another 72 hours.  As is the Hamas norm, there was a barrage of launchings right before the ceasefire was to begin – they have to get in as much as they can.  This is the last ceasefire, they said.  If they are not happy with the results of negotiations in 72 hours, forget it.  They will not only begin launching again, they will escalate their attacks.

The ceasefire was called for midnight last night, but the Israeli team was only sent back to Cairo this morning, after it seemed that the ceasefire was holding.

The team: Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Gilad, Director of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Ministry of Defense; Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen; Yitzhak Molcho, lawyer and close confident of Netanyahu; Maj.-Gen. Nimrod Sheffer, head of the IDF’s Planning Directorate; and Yoav Mordechai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. 

They will concentrate on security issues.


Israel wants Hamas disarmed: With rockets in its possession removed and the means for bringing in more rockets blocked. 

Hamas wants to be fully open to the world, permanently and unconditionally: the blockade at sea must be lifted and all crossings into Gaza must be open. That’s just a start. They also want a seaport and an international airport.

These demands are mutually exclusive and the odds that they can be reconciled somehow within 72 hours are zero.  The only way to see an extension of the current ceasefire would be if one or both parties were to significantly compromise or modify its demands (Heaven forbid that Israel should). 


There are some very modest actions being taken – and proposals being made – in an effort to reconcile demands.

Egypt, which has kept the Rafah crossing into the Sinai tightly closed for some while now, opened it in recent days for wounded in Gaza and those with foreign passports.  Rafah is a key element here – would be a key avenue for opening up Gaza.

Additionally, Netanyahu has been alluding for some time to the readiness of some EU countries to lend an assist here, and it turns out that he spoke with some solid reason.  Last week, Britain, Germany and France presented Israel with a proposal for international supervision of the rehabilitation of Gaza that would prevent Hamas from re-arming.

It is, however, a long step from making such a proposal to providing Israel with reassurance that sufficient mechanisms would be in place and that the international community would persevere in its commitment.  We’re talking about making sure that forbidden armaments do not make their way into Gaza at all, and that materials needed for reconstruction (yes, including concrete!) do not fall in the hands of Hamas.


Netanyahu has said, and it is certainly true, that the EU is more prepared to help now because of alarm about radical Islam (and more on this below).  

But there is another proviso in the offer by the EU nations: They want to bring Mahmoud Abbas and the PA into the act, either with regard to manning the crossings or taking some control of Gaza in a more serious way.  Obama is pushing for this as well. This is supposed to be a solution to the problem – and a segue into new “two state solution” negotiations!.  But it is an absolute non-starter.

Consider the major stumbling blocks here:

[] Abbas and his Fatah party are solidly in league with Hamas.  They are sitting with Hamas officials, pumped for pro-Hamas Turkey and Qatar to serve mediator roles in negotiations, failed to criticize Hamas for breaking ceasefires, and so on.  Israel should trust representatives of Fatah to guard Hamas? This would clearly be a case of assigning the fox to guard the henhouse.

[] Abbas and Fatah – the Fatah-dominated PA – are weak and no match for Hamas.  Hamas drove Fatah from Gaza in the first place and has failed to defeat Fatah in Judea and Samaria only because of an IDF presence.  There is no way Abbas’s people are up to the job, even should they want to do it.   

I see this entire scenario as totally absurd anyway, as I had mentioned the other day when I spoke about Abbas trying to ride two horses with one tuchis.  Fatah and Hamas have a unity agreement that Fatah, and Abbas, have not disavowed.  I allude above to “the Fatah-dominated PA” because in theory the PA now includes Hamas.  Sort of.  They identify as one when it’s convenient and separately when that suits.

Such is the insanity of world diplomacy that all of this is taken seriously.


As far as the crossings into Gaza from Israel are concerned, I anticipate that in due course they will be opened to commercial merchandise.  Whatever authority is checking the crossings from the Gaza side, I cannot imagine a situation in which Israel would not monitor the flow of goods from our side. 

Please be aware, Israel has been permitting large quantities of humanitarian goods into Gaza.  (Israel does not pay for these goods, but does permit them to go in.)  Hundreds of tons of supplies go into Gaza daily: medical supplies, food products, hygiene products, etc., via the Keren Shalom crossing.

Here is yet one more piece of information that exposes the true cold-blooded nature of Hamas:

The Keren Shalom crossing had to be shut down because of deliberate shelling of the area by Hamas.  Such is Hamas concern for the civilians of Gaza.


So, if (when) Hamas begins launching rockets again, what will Israel’s response be?  It’s here that vision is blocked by the clouds.

We have had several operations over the years fighting Hamas in Gaza (these operations are not technically referred to as “wars”).  In each instance, Israel has stopped short of taking Hamas out.  This is referred to as “mowing the grass.” There are some very serious thinkers who believe the whole notion of “solving” the problem with Hamas is not realistic, as the radical ideology is too ingrained in the populace. They believe – even today - that it is in Israel’s best interest to increase deterrence from time to time so that Hamas is reluctant to attack Israel again for some period of years.

They believe that to try to do more is both unrealistic and would take too great a toll on Israel.

People of this persuasion speak of our waging a war of attrition, and not more, even if Hamas starts launching again: Hamas launches, we bomb from the air and shell from the sea, until Hamas finally gets tired of doing this.


But there is a growing number of Israeli voices calling for a more serious action. 

There are not only voices inside the government calling for this – I note Avigdor Lieberman in particular.  There is the almost unanimous opinion that the job is not yet done that has been expressed by frustrated members of the IDF. 

And now we have a new situation that we did not have before: pressure from residents of the south of Israel. This is not something that can be ignored. 

These long-suffering residents have endured years of living in shelters when rockets were launched from Gaza – and they endured with a stoic bravery. But when word was released about the Hamas tunnels and the Hamas plans for massacres of thousands in the south via those tunnels, that was something else. A large percentage of these residents fled the south, awaiting word that it was safe to return.  The tunnels were eliminated, a long term ceasefire was about to be negotiated, and they were told it was time to return.  Turns out that it was not yet safe to return, because Hamas started launching rockets again.  They are irked and are demanding that the government protect them. And Netanyahu has to pay attention.


And then the question is, how serious would the action be?  Stay in Gaza until all terrorist elements are eliminated and then walk away. Stay permanently?  Weaken Hamas much more seriously than we’ve done yet – including with assassination of some Hamas leaders – without totally taking Hamas down?  The opinions are vastly varied. 


I recognize that this is a long posting, but would like to touch upon a few other relevant factors before closing:

It is said that Hamas is continuing on the road of attacking because it is desperate – is low on money and feels it has nothing to lose. (And, it should be noted, since it has had no major “success” in the fighting, it is further motivated to keep trying.) But what I see is that it is also a more formidable enemy than was the case previously. 

This has to do in large part with those tunnels.  Yes, presumably we eliminated those that crossed the line into Israel. But a huge network of tunnels remains: this is where rockets are kept and where many of their leaders are hidden.  A major part of this intricate underground construction is located under Gaza City.  Were our troops to enter there – which they would have to do in a serious ground operation - they would be set upon by terrorists literally leaping out of the ground from behind them, either to kill them or to kidnap them.

Our marvelously trained troops, all of whom are dear to Israel, are ready to go.  But to send them into this?  


A confession: When Hamas started sending those rockets our way again at the end of last week, I thought – Enough! let’s take them down. Israel cannot tolerate this. And Hezbollah and others to the north are watching.

But then I thought again.  I realized that the launching of rockets might be a trap, luring us into Gaza City.  I realized what the cost might be.

This quandary is precisely what the decision makers of Israel must deal with.  And it is possible that some very heavy decisions will have to be made soon.


We speak about fighting the fight against radical Islam for the world.  Perhaps, then, we must do what we must do, with full determination. 

But perhaps there are other avenues that can accomplish what needs to be done...

What I am seeing, which makes me hopeful (if I am allowed to say “hopeful” in such a gruesome context) is that the world is waking up to the horrors of radical Islam.  The absolute horrors of what ISIS is doing in Iraq may have a quantum effect on how the world sees these matters.  Finally.

And the world is starting to see that Hamas and ISIS are one and the same.  Which will bring about growing isolation for Hamas – already Egypt and Saudi Arabia are arrayed against Hamas, and others will follow - and a stiffening of the spine of the international community.

See this very important and articulate TV interview by anti-terrorist Steve Emerson regarding the fact that Hamas and ISIS are one and the same.

He says Obama cannot bomb ISIS in Iraq and support Hamas as a legitimate entity in Gaza.  He says, what is more, that if everyone doesn’t wake up, the US will have to contend with ISIS on its own shores.

Share this link broadly, please!


And we have this tough statement on the issue as well - may it be a harbinger of new attitudes:


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, August 11, 2014 at 02:59PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 8, 2014: Soldiering On

In spite of decidedly negative news I must address, below, I want to first share some very positive reports. 
We start with Ari Abramowitz - a host on Israel Inspired Radio and former co-host of Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem – who wrote a Tisha B’Av message from his unit, Battalion 969.  It explained why the battalion had petitioned to remain in Gaza fighting in order to defeat those who have been terrorizing our nation (emphasis added):
”We want to continue fighting not because we love war, but because we love you.

”On a personal level, the paradox of the past month is that in the face of heartbreaking pain and the violence of war, my experience has been one of unparalleled love.
”...The love I have felt for my fellow soldiers during this war has transcended anything I have experienced before.

”While the bond of ’brothers in arms’ is a universal phenomenon, I find the love I feel for my fellow soldiers overtaking me like a wave. It is hard to explain as I don’t fully understand it myself. All I know is that I would happily give my life for any one of my fellow soldiers and I don’t doubt for a moment that they would do the same for me. Together we would not hesitate to give our lives for you.

”Throughout this war we have felt the love you have showered upon us – you have given us so much. I have never felt so much love from so many. Jews from both Israel and the Diaspora have flooded us with more care packages, clean underwear, dry socks, candy, potato chips and toothpaste then we can use. Jewish communities, federations, missions and individuals have not let the dangers of this war stop them from coming and volunteering. Hospitals have had to issue statements requesting that people refrain from visiting the wounded, for the lines to visit them were clogging the hallways and stairwells.

”Tens of thousands comfort the families of the soldiers slain and communities around the world hold solidarity and memorial rallies.

”We hang up your children’s letters next to our beds. I know a couple of them by heart. We read the articles, videos and Facebook posts with which you defend us and support us as we fight this just and moral war.

”While there will always be exceptions, from here it seems that this wave of solidarity spans the entirety of the religious, ideological and political spectrum. From the Gaza border the unity behind us feels unprecedented.”

An extraordinary love letter in the midst of the war.  Ari Abramowitz has to be special to write this way, but he is also writing about an astounding phenomenon.  This is who we are now, who we are showing ourselves to be.  May it last and may our love for one another strengthen.
With soldiers such as this, backed by a wave of love, we cannot be defeated. God is watching.
We have a report from Nefesh B’Nefesh (“soul by soul”), which facilitates aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel).  The war, they say, has motivated more young people to come to Israel, not fewer: The stories of the two “lone soldiers” who died has served as an inspiration.  “ calls and requests by Americans to enlist into the IDF has grown considerably.”  Next week there will be a Nefesh B’Nefesh “Lone Soldier” flight that will bring 109 young people, ages 18 to 23, who will be enlisting in the IDF.
And then we have this:
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox in Israel, who have resisted being drafted, are now signing up to volunteer for the IDF. 
“We believe that the people of Israel are in the midst of an obligatory war against ruthless enemies who seek to annihilate us,” declared an ad that ran on several ultr-Orthodox websites.
“We believe it is a great privilege to join the military effort, in addition to our important contribution through Torah study. We too yearn for this precious mitzvah.”
A Religious Jewish soldier is embraced by an ultra orthodox Jewish family member after attending a swearing-in ceremony for the orthodox Jewish IDF "Nahal Haredi" unit, at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, May 26, 2012 [photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

I love it!  Better, I am very grateful for all of this.  For this place we are in.
Although the first stage is not over after all, the second stage of the war against Israel is being launched now as well – the stage of delegitimization and attempts to level war crime charges against our leaders and officials.  A strong response that makes our case is exceedingly important. 
The Israeli government is responding with vigor, but I ask that each of you also take the time to inform yourselves on the issue - using the material that follows - and then speak out on Israel’s behalf.  The vilification of the Jewish State must stop.  You know the drill: speak to people about this issue and share links, write letters to the editor, do talkbacks on Internet sites, do call-ins to talk radio shows, write op-eds for your local paper.  You can make a difference if you do not remain silent.
One thing that must be made clear to people is that reporting from Gaza was exceedingly imbalanced for the simple reason that foreign journalists literally feared for their lives.  They dared not report from inside of Gaza on what they were seeing. With the beginning of the 72 hour ceasefire, however, they came out of Gaza and started talking:
Indian journalist Sreenivasan Jain has now written about how he saw rockets launched right outside the hotel where he was staying: "important to report on how Hamas places those very civilians at risk by firing rockets deep from the heart of civilian zones."
FRANCE 24 correspondent Gallagher Fenwick aired a report showing rockets being launched...100 meters away from a UN facility: “The Israeli army has repeatedly accused the Palestinian militants of shooting from within densely populated civilian areas and that is precisely the type of setup we have here. Rockets set up right next to buildings with a lot of residents in them."  
Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati exposed Hamas in a tweet (emphasis added): “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamasretaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday (yesterday) in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris.” And then: “@IDFSpokesperson said truth in communiqué released yesterday about Shati camp massacre. It was not #Israel behind it.”
“Another foreign reporter said that it is an open secret that Hamas uses Al-Shifa hospital as its command center, but that reporters in Gaza would not report that out of fear that it would endanger them.”,7340,L-4556016,00.html
See the stunning exclusive video by Sreenivasan Jain showing a rocket being shot from near his hotel:
Powerful stuff: use it!
The charge against Israel is that the IDF does not have the right to fire at a rocket launching site if there are civilians present – which means, of course (although this is not acknowledged in the charges), if civilians are present because Hamas told them to remain even after Israel warned them to leave. 
In point of fact, this is simply not the case.  The IDF has a solemn obligation to protect its soldiers and the people of Israel.  Think about it: If this were the case, Israel could never defend herself against rocket or mortar attacks, because Hamas would simply place civilians in the way every time and that would be the end of it – Hamas would be able to kill whom it wanted to. Israel has more than met her moral obligation in warning the civilians.
Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a press conference in English on Wednesday in which he addressed this issue.  He says if Israel were to fail to respond, it would be a mistake: “It is a moral mistake. It’s an operational mistake. Because that would validate and legitimize Hamas’s use of human shields, and it would hand an enormous victory to terrorists everywhere and a devastating effect to the free societies that are fighting terrorism.” (Emphasis added)
See text of his full statement, which utilizes several examples from the field:
Israel Prize laureate Professor Asa Kasher, who helped formulate the military’s Code of Ethics, says Israel is in  compliance with the ethics of battle. (Emphasis added)

“We are fulfilling the ethical requirements. Every battalion commander has an officer in charge of locating civilians, and everything is overseen by too many lawyers, who help direct the operation on the ground. The number of casualties is irrelevant—it does not speak of omissions or any wrongdoing on the part of the IDF.”

There is aggressive criticism of Israel’s operation, he says, because “there are people whose perspective is very shallow.”
Also on Wednesday, Israel Ambassador to the UN (what a thankless job!) Ron Prosor delivered tough and honest words to the General Assembly (emphasis added):
“It might be too much to ask you to stand on our side in this battle between civilization and barbarism, but at least have the decency to swallow your selective outrage while Israel wages war against the extremist groups seeking to eradicate the values that we all hold very dear.

If the U.N. assembly had invested a tenth of the energy invested in investigating Israel, it would reveal horrific war crimes on the part of Hamas.  The international community has lost its way. This organization was founded to promote morality, truth, and justice. Unfortunately, that is not its mission now.”


Lastly on this issue, I share a superb video by StandWithUs ( With thanks to Bernice S.):
If you share this video broadly it will be great.

“The head of Hamas in the West Bank since 2010 was recently arrested and was indicted on Thursday in the IDF West Bank Courts for organizing possibly dozens of terror cells for a wave of potential kidnappings, suicide bus bombings and attacks on settlements.

“Arrested on May 27...Riad Natzer, is accused of raising over NIS 1.5 million for terror operations, buying weapons for his operatives and organizing them into cells – each trained for a different kind of terror activity.

“...Known for allegedly running Hamas's terror operations ‘with lust’ for his job, Natzer recruited dozens of operatives and Natzer's arrest also led to the arrests of dozens of those operatives.”


The above was written Thursday night, but I held off on sending it to see how the situation with Hamas evolved. 

Yesterday, Hamas, unhappy that its demands in the negotiations were not being met, refused to agree to an extension of the ceasefire – although Israel had already done so.  But until this morning it was not entirely clear if that was an attempt at extortion (as Lieberman called it) or a declaration of a genuine intent to start launching rockets again.

Now we know that it was very serious indeed, as Hamas has been launching rockets at the south – at Sderot, Ashkelon, Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev, etc. - since 8 AM, which marked the end of the three-day ceasefire.  (Actually, I understand two mortars had been fired before the end of the ceasefire.) As I write, already 35 rockets have been launched.  By the time you read this, it will be much more.

I held my breath for a while, as Israel did not respond immediately. But by about 10 AM the Air Force had begun to return fire. 

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza

Credit: Reuters


We have recalled our negotiating teams from Cairo.  Hamas had said it would agree to continue negotiating while it fired rockets.  In their dreams.

Hamas has a problem: its leaders invited destruction upon Gaza with its attacks and promised the population of Gaza that there would be a success in the end that will have made it all worth while.  But they have nothing to show the people.  Thus their shooting persists with a “go for broke” mentality.

I cited an IDF source just the other day that said Hamas had crawled to Cairo on its knees begging for a ceasefire.  Not quite. Hamas may have sought that ceasefire, but only with the intention of securing good terms in the subsequent negotiations.  It is not yet on its knees and it must be brought down if not eliminated. At present it still possess too much strength.  


Our troops are still at the border of Gaza and I have no clue as to whether they will be sent in again.  What I do know is that the soldiers themselves are ready and eager.  Netanyahu said there would be a forceful response if Hamas started firing again.  Truly, do I hope so.  No token bombings.

That seems to be what our MKs across the political spectrum are calling for: a very vigorous and determined response, as our deterrence depends upon this.  This is being said by the left as much as the right.

All that I so thoughtfully wrote the other day about how there is an argument for not continuing the fight in Gaza has been rendered moot now.  Currently we are in an “ein breira” (no choice) situation.  It’s not whether we think we should continue to fight or not: We must.


Shabbat preparations call to me now. When next I write, there may be a bit more clarity on the situation, and there will be time to make comments about Obama and other players on the diplomatic stage.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.



Posted on Friday, August 8, 2014 at 09:41AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 6, 2014: With Clear Eyes

I will be posting less frequently now that the war is over – updating my readers often but not necessarily daily on the anticipated negotiations in Cairo and other matters of importance for Israel.
But for today, having stepped back for 24 hours plus now to assess the situation and gather information, I want to focus in this posting on how I see our current situation. And to make a couple of pertinent comments:
Wishful thinking is an indulgence we cannot permit ourselves now.  What is necessary is to look at the broader picture with eyes wide open.  And to recognize that there is no perfect solution to our very difficult and complex situation.
With all the above in mind, I do believe that stopping the war at this point – and heading towards negotiations in Cairo - is probably the best solution for Israel at present.  I write this fully aware of the fact that some strenuously disagree with me and believe Hamas must be taken out.
Indubitably I would have liked to have seen Haniyeh’s head separated from his shoulders.  But I have come to the conclusion that the price of achieving this may be too high right now.
The IDF has done an assessment of what would have been required to re-take Gaza and clean it of terrorist elements (that would mean not just Hamas but also al-Qaeda and other jihadists) and remove all weapons:
We would have seen many hundreds of our best soldiers killed; as they entered the cesspool of Gaza city, with its network of underground tunnels, there likely would have been numerous kidnappings as well (the worst of nightmares), as terrorists leaped out of tunnels and grabbed them.
It is estimated that the entire operation would go on for at least five years.
And then there is the issue of the civilian death toll in Gaza.  There are always civilian deaths in war.  And we should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by Hamas’s cruel use of human shields.  (Indeed, even as the war is over, we must continue to present to the world evidence of that tactic and of the moral integrity of Israel’s fight.) 
But neither can this factor be totally brushed aside. For the number of dead – some of them children - would have increased enormously.  And the fact is that we Israelis ourselves are not terribly comfortable with this.  I am reminded of the story told very recently by Col. Richard Kemp, who spoke to an Israeli pilot who said he was glad he had had 17 missions aborted because of civilians – he said he didn’t want to have it on his conscience that he had killed a civilian.  We have, indeed, the most moral army in the world, and we need to ask what the corrosive effect on the collective soul (and fighting morale) of Israel would be, were we to pursue a very extended battle here.
The concomitant to this is the world’s response. This is the age of TV and video and Internet, and the Western world has no stomach for the sight of bombed babies.  That the response to us is grossly unfair (and colored by anti-Semitism) is a given.  As is the bias of the media, and the way that Hamas stifles fair reporting via threats to journalists inside of Gaza. But, judging by the hammering we’ve endured these past weeks, it’s difficult to even imagine the dimensions of what we’d be dealing with, were the war to continue for years.
And the unpalatable fact is that the international response would have ramifications: be it in terms of the deaths being used as a rationale for violent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and elsewhere, or in terms of damage to our economic growth and ability to sustain ourselves, or attempts at legal delegitimization of Israel.  Perhaps, just perhaps, this needs to be factored into the equation somehow.
Yet concern about civilian deaths and its ramifications is a small matter compared to what I believe is the over-riding concern here:
Hamas is not the only enemy we face.  Nor is it remotely the most lethal. 
Hezbollah sits at our north in Lebanon with weaponry – including guided missiles! - more sophisticated than that of Hamas.  It is not inclined to attack us now, but we must remain prepared for that possibility. 
Were we to become too pre-occupied with military battles in Gaza, it might weaken our ability to face Hezbollah effectively
And then there is Hezbollah’s sponsor, Iran. Remember Iran, which sort of fell off the radar screen these past weeks?  We require resources to deal with this threat as well.  Iran has a friend in Obama and the rest of the world sits with its eyes and ears covered.  It may yet fall to Israel to face this threat alone.
Nor are these two threats separate, as Iran supports Hezbollah and would surely promote an attack on us from Lebanon, were we to hit.
My understanding is that we’ve done sufficient damage to Hamas at this point so that efforts to control it without further fighting have a reasonable chance of being successful.  If this were not the case, there would be no excuse for pulling out.  As it is, Hamas, while not out, is badly injured and in an extremely weak negotiating position.
Egypt has already rejected several Hamas demands, such as opening of a port and an airport, and is reportedly negative on requests for a crossing from Gaza into Egypt at Rafah.  Nor are we about to lift the sea blockade.  While we will permit goods to go into Gaza (via crossings from Israel), we will monitor them.  Israel will work with Egypt to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza via the Sinai.
An Israeli team is already in Cairo and meeting with Egyptian intelligence. Israel maintains the right, at any point, to go back into Gaza should Hamas begin launching rockets again.
Deputy commander of the Nahal Brigade Ori Shechter told Army Radio this morning that Hamas “crawled to Egypt” to beg for a ceasefire. He described Operation Protective Edge as an “overwhelming defeat for Hamas.”
This is all to the good, but does not addresses the demilitarization that Netanyahu is seeking.  Without some form of demilitarization, keeping Hamas down indefinitely will be problematic.  It may be crawling, but still has leaders and some rockets, and rocket-building know how. 
As was anticipated, that consummate diplomat, John Kerry, is back pushing “the two state solution” again.  No point in wasting time. He is seeking a "bigger, broader approach to the underlying solution of two states" and suggests negotiations on this be tied to the negotiations with Hamas.
There are more holes in this approach than there are in a bath sponge.  There is a Jewish saying; You cannot ride on two horses with one tuchis.  But indeed this is what Abbas is attempting to do.  He represents himself as the moderate in contrast with the radicals of Hamas, but he is defending Hamas and seeks to join in negotiations in Cairo at the side of Hamas.  What makes it all the more ludicrous is that Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah have a “unity agreement” that Abbas has not chosen to disavow.  One tuchis, two horses.
There is some poorly conceived scheme afoot to put Abbas and his PA in control again in Gaza, at least partially.  I think very few have a clear conceptualization of what is involved here.  When Hamas took over Gaza from the PA, the PA forces fled or refused to fight.  Yes, they are better trained now (thanks to the US), but still cannot even protect the PA administered areas of Judea and Samaria without considerable assistance from the IDF.
PA involvement in Gaza would be used by the likes of Kerry to further promote that “two state” vision, as now in theory all of the Palestinian Arabs would be under the same administrative umbrella.  But it can also work to Israel’s advantage, as the PA has obligations, under the Oslo Accords, to eliminate weapons not on the list of those specified as permissible by the Accords.  You had better believe rockets are not on that list, and Abbas would have accountability for removing them.
Stay tuned here...
Breaking news:

“Israeli security officials on Tuesday evening announced the arrest of the chief of a Hamas cell, who has confessed to organizing the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens a month-and-a-half ago.

“Hussam Kawasma, who arranged the three-man cell which kidnapped Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel from a hitch hiking post south of Jerusalem on the night of July 12,  was arrested several weeks ago.

“He was caught trying to flee to Jordan, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“The State Prosecutor said Kawasma told investigators that he funded, found weapons, and helped bury the bodies on land he’d recently purchased.

“Under interrogation, Kawasma admitted that the operation, whose brutality shocked the Israeli public, received training and funding from Hamas handlers in Gaza, according to Army radio. (Emphasis added)

“Officials said he is related to one of the kidnappers.

“The other  two cell members are still at large.”

Husam Kawasma, who was a resident of Hevron, was arrested in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat in Jerusalem in a joint operation involving IDF forces and the Shabak.  The other two cell members are Marwan Kawasma, 30 and Amar Abu-Eisha, 32.


The IDF in Gaza captured a training manual that describes the advisability of using human shields.  See it here (and thanks to the many people who sent me this link):
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.


Posted on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 06:40AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 5, 2014: And Now?

I am chagrinned but not exactly shocked by the latest turn of events here. 

As Shabbat went out, I had expressed surprise that – following the Friday ceasefire broken almost immediately by Hamas with an attack that included a suicide bombing and the kidnapping of Hadar Goldin – Netanyahu had not ordered a significant escalation of the operation in Gaza. When it was clear that what was happening was that IDF troops were being pulled back, a sense of great unease set in.  It seemed the operation was about to be terminated in a move that many – myself very much included - saw as premature.

But no, we were told that it was just a redeployment, because the tunnel phase of the operation was complete.  We were told that the decision of the Security Cabinet was to continue the operation.  What is more, there would be no participation in internationally promoted ceasefires, and we would not be going to Cairo to negotiate: If Hamas cannot be trusted to honor its commitment for a 72 hour ceasefire, there is no point in pursuing negotiations, went the explanation.


What happened following this announcement was that the Palestinian Arab factions – Hamas, the PA, etc. – met in Cairo without Israel and put forth their jointly arrived at and ludicrous demands.  They hadn’t simply said – as one might expect - that if Israel would not be participating there would be no point in proceeding. They proceeded.  And this was cause for great unease regarding the likelihood of Israel’s joining the talks. Never mind the protests from the Israeli government that we were continuing to do battle in Gaza. 

The pressure for Israel to come participate was huge as a result of how the situation was set up.  Israel had wanted Egypt to mediate, with both Turkey and Qatar frozen out of the picture.  And that was actually happening.  Was Netanyahu going to leave Egypt’s al-Sisi with egg on his face – thus taking the chance that our newly positive relationship with Egypt would be soured?  Egypt, along with the US, was calling on Israel to come to Cairo.


All of this transpired within the course of three days.  Late yesterday it was announced that Israel and Hamas had jointly agreed to an Egyptian sponsored three-day ceasefire. 


And then it was announced that if the ceasefire held Israel would be pulling out of Gaza completely and joining talks in Cairo.

So far the ceasefire is holding...  When and if our troops are pulled out, they will be deployed on the Israeli side of the border, prepared to go back in immediately if necessary.

What Netanyahu said was that we had accomplished our primary goal of destroying all tunnels that had been discovered that led into the south of Israel; various technologies were being examined for use on the Israeli side of the border to prevent new tunnels from being dug.

Additionally, Hamas had taken a significant hit with regard to depletion of its rocket supplies and infrastructure.  And 1,000 Hamas terrorists had been killed.


The question lingers in the air, however, as to whether that significant hit on Hamas was strong enough.  The major leaders remain alive, and will come out of their tunnels prepared to rebuild for the next attack.  Some one-third of their weaponry remains (which means, it is estimated, over 3,000 rockets).

There was a disinclination on the part of the government to take over Gaza again and take down Hamas entirely.  I will not revisit here again in detail the relevant questions touching upon whether truly taking out Hamas would have been a good thing. Key among these is the question of whether it would have paved the way for a take-over by al-Qaeda.  But there is also the issue of the burden that would be imposed on Israel were we to take over Gaza, and the specter of horrendous fighting in Gaza City.

What remains with me, however, is a conviction that Hamas – if not entirely eliminated – should have been sufficiently taken down so that it acceded on our terms.  I am vastly uncomfortable with the whole concept of having to give Hamas – a terror organization that has been attacking us – something in return for securing its quiet. And that’s what is implied in negotiations.  Not only is it wrong, it gives them a “win.”


Netanyahu’s goal right now, as I have been writing, is to tie the rebuilding of Gaza to the demilitarization of Hamas.  Hamas, clearly, is not about to invite us, or international forces, in to seize its rockets (most of which are hidden in very deep tunnels or in civilian facilities).  What Hamas leaders are suggesting obliquely is that if the blockade of its coastline were lifted and all crossings to Gaza were opened, it might consider this.  But what we would have then is a situation in which rockets would be removed only to be replaced by more sophisticated ones, supplied by Iran and N. Korea, and brought through its open borders. In addition to this is the need to contend with the ability of Hamas to manufacture its own rockets.

Clearly, this is a vastly complex issue that will require close examination in coming posts.  Hamas’s goal remains the same: To destroy Israel.


What we do know is that Egypt would be delighted to see Hamas demilitarized, as would several Sunni Arab countries, starting with Saudi Arabia, and the EU.  What support Israel will receive in this matter remains to be seen.

On a positive note, I observe a couple of things:  It is my understanding that once the Palestinian Arab contingent came to Cairo, Netanyahu and al-Sisi were in touch daily.  It occurs to me that our government may have already received certain reassurances from Egypt that encouraged Netanyahu to go ahead in agreeing to negotiations.

Then I have noticed that those elements within the government, and more specifically within the Security Cabinet, who have been pushing for a hard stand against Hamas have been very quiet with this latest announcement.  I have in mind, for example, Lieberman.  I did pick up one statement by Bennett, but it was fairly subdued and had to do with hoping Hamas did not renege on the ceasefire again.  This prompts me to speculate about what they know, that may be reassuring.


We have lost 64 of our treasured boys in the war with Hamas, and the tone of the nation is subdued.  What has been observed over and over again is the valiant and, indeed, noble, way in which mourning families have conducted themselves. I salute every soldier – we have the very finest and most selfless - and every family.


I have been told that 27 young women who were engaged to soldiers are now bereft.


One thing we are going to be confronting, even with the ceasefire, is on-going unrest and violence on the part of segments of the Israeli Arab population.  We have a fifth column inside our country, and Hamas will be pushing them on.  In the last 24 hours or so, we’ve seen three terror attacks in Jerusalem:

Yesterday afternoon, a terrorist driving a tractor (heavy excavation equipment) in the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood drove into a bus – which was, thankfully, empty. The bus turned over and the driver was injured; a passerby was killed. The terrorist was shot and killed.

About three hours later, a soldier on Mt. Scopus was shot in the stomach multiple time, and critically injured.  I have not heard that they caught the terrorist.

Today, just hours ago, a security guard at the entrance to Ma’ale Adumim – just outside of Jerusalem to the east - was stabbed and moderately hurt.  I believe the terrorist, who drove away, has been apprehended.


The other day I put up a link to a YouTube that showed an interview with an Arab mother whose baby was being treated in an Israeli hospital. She speaks very openly about embracing death and the honor of being a shahid (martyr) for Jerusalem. She would gladly see her young son go this route.

I had asked that you help it go viral, but, as many wrote to point out, it was taken down.  I now have another longer (7 minute) and even more effective version of the video – more effective because it also shows the kindness to her of Israeli medical staff.  (With thanks to Fred E.)

If you haven’t seen it yet, please do so.  And please! I ask everyone who reads this to send it out to at least three people.  People need to understand what we are dealing with.


I am getting a great deal of wonderful email messages from readers telling me about pro-Israel demonstrations in various places.  Love it, but cannot mention them all or run all the videos showing them.

But I will close here – as Tisha B’Av comes to a close as well – with this lovely video about a spontaneous pro-Israel rally in the Diamond District of NYC:


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 02:08PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 4, 2014: Let Us Draw Strength

Tonight begins Tisha B’Av, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar.  It marks the day of the destruction of our two Temples and a number of other national calamities.

On this day we fast and mourn, read the Book of Lamentations. 
We also look to the religious meaning in our lives, our purpose, and examine ourselves in terms of our proper conduct.
I had not planned to post at all today. And even though, in the end, I decided to send out this short posting, I will still avoid news and political analysis. There will always be time to return to this.
Instead, I am writing to share a beautiful message from Warren Goldstein, Chief Rabbi of South Africa (with thanks to Diana S. and Rebecca M.).

It is a message we need to hear at this difficult time.
We are taught that Tisha B’Av derives from the Sin of the Spies (Meraglim): Moses sent spies to check out the land of Ca’anan, before the people of Israel were to enter.  They returned, and 10 of the 12 who had been sent told the people, we cannot do this, we will not succeed.  But the key phrase is that, “We were like grasshoppers in our eyes.”  We felt ourselves small and so others saw us as small.
This is the ultimate lesson for these difficult times – that we not see ourselves as small in our own eyes, and that we believe in what it is possible for us to do, and what we are meant to be doing, with the help of the Almighty.
Tradition also tells us that the Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av. Thus the symbol of ultimate hope and redemption.

Credit: Keep Jerusalem
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.



Posted on Monday, August 4, 2014 at 05:31PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 3, 2014: Taking a Broader View

I begin with some very essential observations that go to the heart of Israel’s situation, observations that are broadly recognized among Jews here in Israel, but are not grasped by many - Jews and non-Jews alike - in the Western world:

1) The scourge of the Western world today is radical Islam, which is gaining traction in many quarters.  Israel is the only country that sees this with clear eyes and is prepared to do battle.  In taking on Hamas, we are on the front line for the world – a world that neither recognizes nor appreciates this.

2) Along with growing radical Islam there has been an incredible proliferation of anti-Semitism.  We are seeing violent actions that echo pre-Holocaust behaviors in Europe in the 1930s: A crazed mob locking Jews inside a synagogue in Paris.  This, in July 2014.  The single radical difference between the current situation and that of the Jews at the time of the Holocaust is the existence of the State of Israel. 

How heavy, then, is the burden on the shoulders of little Israel.  We truly are at the center of the world, and, with the help of Heaven, we will be equal to it. But how much harder it is because we are so roundly excoriated in many venues, criticized unjustly even by some of those who profess to be our friends.  We are far from perfect, but our every action is placed under a microscope that is reserved just for us.


Let me rush to mention here, lest anyone think otherwise, that I do recognize and appreciate that we have friends – and that heart-warming pro-Israel rallies have been held or are being planned in a host of cities, in NY, Toronto,  London, Sydney, San Francisco, Miami and elsewhere. 

Credit: Tibor Deme

Yet I feel moved to point out that these wonderful rallies are a reaction to the anti-Israel sentiment that floats in the air. Celebrating Israel is hardly the norm in Western societies.


I share here a video that pinpoints the moral difference between the Muslim Arabs in Hamas and Israelis.  Jewish doctors treating Palestinian Arab children, including from Gaza:


Truly do I wish I knew how to coherently describe what is going on now with regard to Hamas.  But the situation is terribly unclear and fluid.  There is no closure, no finality.  IDF troops have definitely pulled back from portions of Gaza, and lend the impression that the operation is close to an end.

Some troops have been pulled out and are being given a break, with the understanding that they might go back in.  

Yet, today, the JPost cites a senior IDF figure thus (emphasis added):

There is no decision to stop the operation. We are preparing to attack, not only to defend.  If a decision is made that this is necessary, we will attack."

It could not really be otherwise, as the south of Israel is still being hit rather fiercely by Hamas rockets.


While YNet cites a senior military source (the same one?) who explains (emphasis added):

“What we are doing in the field right now is based on the lack of an agreement; it is possible an understanding will not be reached.  There are other options on the table."

Israel is deploying forces in a temporary “security strip” along the border inside of Gaza, and is prepared to allow in large quantities of humanitarian goods, medications, etc.,7340,L-4553896,00.html


At the same time, Palestinian Arab delegations – Hamas and the PA, with other smaller groups such as Islamic Jihad - have shown up in Cairo to begin the “negotiations” that Israel will not be attending.

Other “international” figures such as Tony Blair are also present.

The agenda called for those Arab delegations to first meet amongst themselves regarding a joint position, which they would then take to the Egyptians.  And word tonight is that the delegations have already agreed:

“Cease-fire, the pullout of Israeli forces, ending the blockade, releasing the prisoners ... and starting the reconstruction process..” And an end to Israeli “incursions, invasions, assassinations, house shelling and flights over the Gaza Strip.” They are also demanding free passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, freedom of fishing within 12 miles of the coast, reopening the Palestinian airport in the southern Gaza Strip, construction of a seaport and cancellation of buffer zones along the border with Israel.

Cute?  A pretty comprehensive list. 

What happens next is anyone’s guess.  Israel is in constant touch with the Egyptians.  At some point Egypt is going to come forward with a “plan,” which will not incorporate all of the above demands but may well honor some of them. 

Both the Egyptians and the US are pressuring Netanyahu to join the talks. The very excessive nature of the Arab demands surely will stiffen his back. It is terribly important that the terrorists in Gaza not be rewarded for agreeing to stop launching rockets at us, and that he hold to his position that Hamas cannot be trusted to honor commitments.


It may be that something is transpiring behind the scenes that we are unaware of.  Our prime minister, who is under breathtaking pressure in this situation, may know what he is doing.  Who knows what “other options” he is weighing.

But I write today with an enormous sense of unease.  We cannot permit this to end badly for Israel.  And I am hardly the only one who would like to see a definitive victory. 

That Hamas is still launching rockets at us means they are not yet on their knees. Their leaders are still hiding out – whether in Qatar or in tunnels under Gaza City.  As long as the heads of some of them have not been separated from their shoulders, they will emerge from their tunnels with intent of rebuilding.

The risks of a reinvigorated Hamas, which manages to secure even better weapons for next time – perhaps because demilitarization has not been genuinely enforced, not genuinely embraced by the international community – do not bear thinking about.   

My friends, this is an existential issue for us.  We cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by the likes of that Palestinian Arab mother who loves death.

We here in Israel are all moving about with heavy hearts. None of this is simple for us.


Second Lt. Hadar Goldin was buried today.  It was announced earlier in the day that he had been declared dead, and his status was no long that of MIA – i.e., kidnapped.  I wish to touch upon this only very lightly, for it is difficult and unpleasant.  Let me simply report that it was not a question of “finding” the body.  The determination of death was made via a pathologist’s report in conjunction with a rabbinical ruling on halachha.  I am convinced that Hamas had him.

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

Posted on Sunday, August 3, 2014 at 05:23PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 2, 2014: Events Unfolding

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

I left my posting abruptly yesterday because of the advent of Shabbat and want here to follow through.  But it’s tentatively only, because indeed events are in the process of unfolding and we have to see what tomorrow and the ensuing days will bring.

Quite frankly, I had expected to return to the news to learn that Israel was expanding the operation in the face of Hamas’s kidnapping of Second Lt. Hadar Goldin and the killing of two other soldiers, after a “mutual” ceasefire – that was supposed to include discussions in Cairo on terms for extending it - had begun. 

Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, who was reportedly captured by Hamas militants on Friday.

Credit: AP

The sense of outrage was very real, the anger.  It seemed finally the time to stop pulling punches and take down Hamas.  I was particularly eager to see us go after Hamas leaders.


What I found, then, when Shabbat ended, startled me:  I learned that our troops were being pulled back from the Beit Lahiya and al-Atatara areas of northern Gaza and the civilians told that they could return to those areas. 

The IDF was saying that all the tunnels that led into Israel that had been discovered would be destroyed in another day or two. 

This statement remains a bit amorphous: What if some haven’t been discovered yet – but still might be if the operation continued longer?  What if some of the other tunnels that do not yet lead into Israel (and there are many in various parts of Gaza) could yet be extended into Israel?  

Certainly we have done overwhelmingly destructive damage to that system of tunnels – they are saying we have demolished what it took Hamas five years to build.  We have rendered it impossible for them to do the sort of massive and horrific attack they had planned – with hundreds of terrorists leaping out from tunnel exits in multiple communities in the south of Israel all at the same time. 

All sorts of technologies are being examined to detect further digging across the border; troops are being stationed on the Gaza side near the border; and security forces in the communities in the south are being boosted.  So, the danger that had been incredibly great and very imminent, has been reduced to one that is small, if not totally eliminated.
All along Netanyahu had said there was no guarantee that we could get 100% of the tunnels.

Perhaps that’s an honest assessment of the situation – that is, short of totally taking out Hamas - even if it is one many of us are not fully comfortable with.  What will matter in the end is what the residents of the south are prepared to accept.  (Many of them have gone elsewhere and are waiting to go home.)


The first impression given by this joint announcement – that troops were pulling back from some areas and that we were almost done taking out tunnels – was that we’d be pulling out of Gaza momentarily. A startling, bewildering and distressing impression – and one that in the end seemed to be not true. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the nation this evening and indicated that the redeployment of forces, because the tunnel phase of the operation was coming to an end, did not mean that the campaign against Hamas in Gaza was ending. We would take as much time as we needed, he said, leaving all options open, and applying force as it was required.
Meeting late into the night last night, the Security Cabinet decided to maintain “the current nature” of the operation, and “take stock” as necessary.  It is, in other words, a situation in flux.


There are, however, some exceedingly important points that have been made:  We are now saying that we will not have any further “humanitarian ceasefires” promoted by the international community. We will decide when it is appropriate to halt firing.  Long overdue and sounding good.

What is more, we will not be sending a delegation to Cairo to negotiate a long-term quiet.  If Hamas cannot be trusted to honor its commitment for a 72 hour ceasefire, there is no point in pursuing negotiations.

I see this as very significant. For Hamas’s whole goal – its definition of “victory” – had to do with securing certain benefits it was after: release of prisoners, and, more importantly, opening up of its borders.  We were supposed to ultimately grant these benefits, in some measure, in exchange for having them stop firing on us. That would have been a great win for them.

I will note here the obvious: the purpose of kidnapping a soldier, or trying to, was to secure a bargaining chip in negotiations. But if there are no negotiations?


We are now saying that we’ll simply decide when to call it quits.  We cannot leave Gaza if there is no quiet however. And if Hamas continues to fire rockets at Israel, the operation – I certainly hope! - will continue.

Will we get all their rockets? Without a very massive ground operation that sought them out in all the places where they are hidden – tunnels, mosques, schools, etc. – that is not possible.  (Think about what a dirty situation this is!) But I am reading that at this point a considerable portion of their arsenal has been eliminated.


And this is what I suspect will be the end of the matter:  I believe for Netanyahu, the option of demilitarizing Hamas is still very much alive.  I believe that he sees this as the most effective and realistic way to resolve the matter.  And as I wrote the other day – as I discovered for myself the other day - there is support for this in several quarters internationally, and some good reason to think this might happen.  Even tonight he referred to his appreciation for nations he has new relations with, and that is a lightly veiled reference to Arab nations, who would be expected to support what he hopes to do.

What is more, as much as I truly want to see the heads of Hamas leaders roll, I understand what we’re dealing with here, which makes the take-down of Hamas perhaps not the most viable option.  A nightmare situation, with our boys having to go into an enormously congested Gaza City, where there are still tunnels underground, and running the risk of being murdered by terrorists leaping out at them, or attempting to kidnap them. I think Netanyahu is hoping for a different way.


From the Times of Israel we have this most interesting report:

”In a phone call with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro about the breakdown of the short-lived UN- and US-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vented his anger, according to people familiar with the call.

“Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was ‘not to ever second-guess me again’ and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas, according to people familiar with the conversation. Netanyahu added that he now ‘expected’ the US and other countries to fully support Israel’s offensive in Gaza...”

In his address to the nation, after this report had surfaced, Netanyahu denied its veracity and talked about how he appreciates the support of the US, etc. etc.

But that Times of Israel piece rings true to me.  It was the US and the UN jointly that had pushed for the ceasefire and subsequent negotiations.  And after the kidnapping, it was the US that apparently called upon Turkey and Qatar to get Hamas to release Goldin immediately, so negotiations could take place.  Turkey made some noise in that direction. As if – after a kidnapping during a ceasefire – we would proceed as if everything was fine if we got our soldier back.

I think that Obama and company have been made to feel very foolish with regard to this “negotiations” effort that backfired completely. And I suspect something in the dynamic here may have shifted in favor of what Netanyahu is seeking.

Time will tell.


As to Hadar Goldin, the IDF is saying they will everything possible to bring him back. But in truth there is reason to believe he is not alive – that what Hamas grabbed was his body, or that he was wounded and died after they took him.  For there has been no announcement from Hamas regarding this – which would be promoted as a great “victory.”

Goldin’s very lovely family appeared on TV tonight, and they implored the IDF not to leave without rescuing him.  Terribly painful stuff.  I learned tonight that he had recently gotten engaged.


Here I leave it, for now.  Again, I share a fantastic political cartoon:
 Dry Bones cartoon, kirschen, Israel, Gaza, Hamas, palestine, Dry Bones, Obama, terrorism, borders, tunnels, ~~~~~~~~~~

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Saturday, August 2, 2014 at 07:57PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

August 1, 2014: With a Heavy Heart

Our whole nation is weary – strong, determined, clear about who we are, but weary.  How could it be otherwise?  We are contending with both an evil enemy and an insane world.
Shabbat is coming within hours – for which I thank Heaven.  I had thought perhaps a brief post today, one that simply provided background. No way...
What I wrote the other day – about how I would really need to post every two hours to keep my readers informed – continues to be the case.  I will send this out as late as possible before Shabbat and post again after, as necessary.
A brief chronological re-cap of today’s events:
The US and the UN jointly announced a 72 hour “unconditional” ceasefire, consented to by both sides, that would begin at 8 AM here. During those three days, it was said, there were to be negotiations on extending the quiet more permanently.
What? Another ceasefire?  Another attempt by our prime minister to show that we were on the right side and had humanitarian concerns?  I was deeply unsettled by the involvement of both the US and the UN, but the fact that Egypt would mediate talks was a good sign.
My first thought as the ceasefire began was with regard to work on taking out the tunnels.  Just yesterday, Netanyahu had said work on the tunnels would not stop even if there were to be a ceasefire (and I have to assume he knew it might be coming when he said that).
Via official channels it was hard to come by this information. Aaron Lerner pointedly asked a question about whether “continuing to work on the tunnels,” meant just filling them with sand, or using explosives to properly blow them up. 
Unofficially, from a source with connections inside the government, I was told that we would be continuing to blow them up and hoped that information was correct.
Following this, it then seemed important to monitor what would be happening with regard to the teams going to Cairo for the negotiations – and the issues of demilitarization, which Netanyahu had spoken of yesterday.  I saw that Egypt would not entertain the participation of Hamas without a PA presence, and that the Israeli delegation would include Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen and the head of the Policy and Political-Military Affairs department in the Defense Ministry Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad.
All of this became moot within two hours, however, when Hamas broke the ceasefire: in the Rafah area of southern Gaza (near the Sinai) terrorists emerged from a tunnel and began to shoot at IDF soldiers.  Reports followed of a fierce battle there.  Israel declared the ceasefire formally at a end; from the prime minister’s office came a statement about how the UN and the US can now see how Hamas conducts itself.  Hamas meanwhile attempted to point a finger at Israel – the “occupier” as the one who broke the ceasefire.
Reports of a fierce battle in the Rafah area then followed – a suicide bomber apparently emerged from the tunnel with the others and blew himself up, killing two. 
After this, came the chilling news that in the course of the fighting, an IDF soldier has been kidnapped.  He was grabbed during that battle, when the terrorists emerged from the tunnel (in the course of a “ceasefire”).  The IDF has identified him: Second Lieutenant (Platoon Leader) in the Givati Brigade, Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba. There are enormous intelligence efforts and an intense search on-going in order to locate Goldin; the period of time from when he was grabbed until it was known that he was gone was short – which increases the possibility that he may yet be found. A search is being done house to house in the area. It is not known if he had been wounded. 
Hamas’s Moussa Abu Marzouk announced that Hamas had captured a soldier, but a spokesman for the Hamas military wing has denied a kidnapping.
Netanyahu has informed Kerry that Hamas will bear the consequences for whatever follows.  Kerry termed the kidnapping during a ceasefire “barbaric”  We are currently hitting Gaza very hard.
Miri Regev (Likud) released a statement on the question of Israel’s participation in ceasefires today (emphasis added):

We call on the Prime Minister to return Israel her sovereignty. We must stop these cease-fires - they give over a message of hesitancy.

"We must not accept a single condition in a cease-fire. We must either demilitarize or retake Gaza; there is no middle ground. Now is the time."

I’m with Miri. After this kidnapping, I trust and pray that Netanyahu will be as well:

The apparent goal of the kidnapping is so that Hamas can go to Cairo to negotiate a permanent truce from a strong bargaining position.  In their dreams.

There must be – there surely will be - no negotiations as long as they have one of our boys – only action to defeat them with finality.


An excellent cartoon:
Negotiating With Hamas Cartoon

I close here with links to diverse sources (compiled earlier) that will provide you with further insight into how Hamas functions.
Shifa hospital in Gaza was hit recently, and there were furious accusations of Israel having done it.  It turns out that Hamas itself that had done it, as terrorists were careless in the launching of rockets.
This was hardly an exception – it just made press more broadly because a hospital was involved.  In point of fact, Hamas rockets fall short about 25% of time and kill people in Gaza:
We know that Hamas cares not at all for the lives of its civilians, but not many know that child labor is used in digging the tunnels, and it is estimated that at least 160 children have died in the process:
See a tunnel hidden in the bathroom of someone’s house:
And the last information today. With the amount of cement Hamas used to build its tunnels, it could have built two hospitals, 20 clinics, 20 schools, and 100 kindergartens.,7340,L-4552468,00.html
Is your mind boggled yet? Getting the picture of the obscene neglect of the people visited upon them by Hamas?

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

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Posted on Saturday, August 2, 2014 at 03:03PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint