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Time to put Israeli economy and society on an emergency footing.

Time to put Israel’s economy and its society on an emergency footing.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2024; and Israel Hayom, June 23, 2024. Print-friendly copy

A cold, calculated analysis of Israel’s strategic situation will reach the conclusion that this country faces a decade of tough warfare on seven different fronts, mainly against Iran and its proxy armies. Enemy armies and militias are entrenched on Israel’s borders, with Iran actively arming and seeking to radicalize Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, and Jordan, too.

Full-scale war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is two days or two years away at most, will be an earth-shattering event in particular, bringing inevitable destruction of unprecedented proportions to civil infrastructure in Israel (as well as in Lebanon).

Neither the Israeli military nor home front is sufficiently geared to handle this grim reality. Therefore, the Government of Israel must embark on an emergency effort to significantly strengthen the IDF, and to mobilize the public in preparing for long-term struggle in wartime conditions. This requires punishing economic decisions and a change of mindset led by leaders with both grit and vision.

I believe that the Israeli public instinctively understands the dramatic inflexion point at which this country stands and the sacrifices that yet will be required to guarantee the country’s very existence – beyond the enormous sacrifices in men and materiel that already have been amassed over the past eight months.

And I believe that the Israeli public, young and old across all partisan lines, is yearning – screaming! – for national leadership that will motivate it to participate in an escalating national war effort despite the severity of the costs involved.

I am not talking about the many magnificent initiatives that have been launched by Israeli civil society organizations over the past year to support soldiers and their families, and to heal and comfort war victims. I am not talking about barbeques for the troops, weekend retreats for war widows, or loans for devastated small businesses and farmers. I am not talking about the selfless activists who have rallied to advocate for Israel’s hostages or to back the government’s war goals against international pressures.

All these activities, from all sides of the political and social spectrum, are good and important, even heroic. And they certainly should and will continue.

Rather, I am talking about extreme moves to shift this country onto a true wartime footing, in order to rigorously prepare for the imminent, overwhelming challenges ahead.

I am talking about activating the Defense Ministry’s Supreme Emergency Economy Board to ramp-up and reinforce services such as hospitals, electricity grids, water and sewage networks, and food manufacturing and stockpiling. Israel must have at hand sufficient (again, massive) supplies of medicines, food products, and core industrial ingredients to last-out a one-year-long interruption in air and sea imports.

Also in need of colossal emergency augmentation: firefighting and rescue services. Far beyond the widespread forest and brush fires in Israel’s north wrought by Hezbollah in recent months, and wildcat arsons across Judea and Samaria perpetrated by Palestinian marauders, Israel must be ready for large-scale industrial explosions and fires at key infrastructure sites caused by precision-guided, large-ordinance Hezbollah missile strikes.

Israel also needs trained personnel to clear and dispose of massive amounts of wartime debris. According to disaster specialist Dr. Efraim Laor (the longtime Israeli oracle of emergency preparedness for earthquakes, and for chemical, biological, and nuclear strike), this could amount to 200 million tons of rubble, possibly contaminated itself, or that threatens to contaminate basic water supply and interfere with essential sewage treatment.

Then there is the military. The IDF needs to grow by at least three divisions. That is 50,000 soldiers more, with tons of military equipment. A gargantuan increase in the training of front-line troops is necessary, especially armored formations. The Israeli navy needs more than $5 billion in new ships, submarines, weapons systems, and personnel over the next decade.

Israel’s defense industries need to produce 10,000 surveillance and attack drones, 200 Thundermaker self-propelled artillery guns, 100 Namer armored personnel carriers, and 50 Merkava main battle tanks – per year. Israel also needs to self-manufacture 155mm artillery shells, and precision-guided missiles for the air force, in insane numbers. (This is especially true since Israel faces increasing restrictions on the use of US-supplied weaponry, and because there is a global shortage of such ammunition.)

This is a very tall, almost impossible, order, and it will cost hundreds of millions of shekels. Overall, it is estimated that Israel needs a huge build-up, eight times over the current manufacturing capacity of Israeli defense industries.

Besides the budget allocations for all this (and the concomitant cuts in civilian budgets that will be necessary), the Israeli government will need to mobilize the public to manufacture and man the above platforms.

It is time to raid the high schools, university campuses, and senior citizen homes for manpower; to press the entire Israeli public, young and old of all hues and stripes, into industrial and emergency service.

New factories and new rescue/response brigades need to be staffed by every able body. This inevitably will have to include segments of Israeli society that currently are underrepresented in industry and military.

And with political leadership that knows how to scare, inspire, and drive the Israeli public into the emergency super-structure and national crisis footing I am describing, I am certain that the public will respond with alacrity. I sense that Israelis are thirsting for such leadership. They are aching to be called upon for the Herculean efforts necessary.

SOME WILL retort that what I am calling for amounts to a near-complete shutdown of civil life in Israel, of education, culture, and leisure activities – and that this would be a major mistake. It would reinforce the assaults of our enemies who seek to indeed make Israel unlivable.

It would undermine our own self-confidence that despite enemy attacks, and alongside a painful war effort, everyday life in Israel proceeds apace with vigor, joy, simple pleasures (like vacation time), and with great accomplishment in all fields from science to music.

Nevertheless, it is high time for a national reset, for a forbidding awakening that marshals the public for the tough grind ahead. It is time to rally the troops – and that means all Israelis in all sectors and stages of life – for a period of intense national struggle. For sacrifice that goes beyond anything known to Israelis to-date.

Maj. Gen. Gershon Hacohen, who is the most ideologically rooted military thinker in Israel today, argues that rekindling an ethos of national struggle in Israel today – and acting decisively on this basis – is both essential and possible.

He recalls that David Ben-Gurion did so before and during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. This entailed throwing Holocaust survivors off the boats from Europe into battle, the drafting of teenagers into work brigades and senior citizens into factories and fields, even the rationing of basic foodstuffs. It involved subserviating all aspects of the economy to the war effort.

After the Yom Kippur War disaster, Hacohen says, Israeli leadership also knew how to rapidly rebuild the military, aggregating every resource to do so – despite global boycott, mushrooming debt and economic depression, and without succumbing to too much legal and other government bureaucracy.

Two years ago, the leadership in Kyiv threw Ukrainians into national war mobilization too, mustering a large fighting force within half a year and equipping itself with the newest battle technologies such as UAVs.

In May 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously girded the people of the United Kingdom for an arduous path ahead. Before he drafted every single Briton into war service of one type or another, he warned that “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering. I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

“You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us, to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory despite of all terror. Victory, however long and hard the road may be. For without victory, there is no survival.”

Israelis hanker for such leadership today. The emergency mobilization of society and economy described above is certainly necessary, and Israelis assuredly will be up to the task.

Helping them integrate into Israeli life is the big “day after” challenge. The “Ohev Ger” NGO is there to help.

Helping them integrate into Israeli life is the big “day after” challenge. “Ohev Ger” is there to help.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, June 14, 2024; and Israel Hayom, June 16, 2024. Print-friendly copy

Rav Menachem Weinberg, founder of “Ohev Ger” (second from left) with teachers and students at the Nativ conversion college.

Because the biblical Book of Ruth tells a story of kindness and commitment that marks Ruth’s decision to join the Jewish People, and the book is read ritually on Shavuot, every newspaper in this country on the holiday eve tells a few beautiful stories of modern converts to Judaism. Once a year, converts get a few moments of attention.

And then everybody forgets about them for the rest of the year.

Very few people lift a finger to assist converts beyond their day in beit din (i.e., after they are formally converted through a rabbinical court). This column, timed specifically for the “day after” Shavuot, is meant to redress this lacuna.

Understand: Converting to Judaism requires not only a change of lifestyle and belief system, but often entails replacing country, language, livelihood, community, and even family ties. Many individuals who have dedicated themselves to joining the Jewish People find themselves alone. They need and deserve support to meet untold challenges which devolve from their monumental conversion undertaking.

Most of the fine organizations that deal with conversion are focused on the conversion process itself – on teaching Jewish knowledge and testing the converts’ commitment. Some groups advocate for halachic or systemic change to the often impersonal and rigid Rabbinate conversion mechanism.

But care for the individual convert’s personal and communal needs after conversion is often sorely lacking. Due to the centralized conversion system in Israel many converts are not naturally streamed into specific communities. And even when they are, prejudice and suspicion abound, adding to the difficulties commonly experienced by ‘outsiders.’

These difficulties include language and cultural barriers that make it hard to join social circles, tap into communal resources, and create connections (– to benefit from protektzia, which is so important for getting ahead in Israel).

TWO YEARS AGO, a new non-profit organization was founded to care for converts on the “day after” conversion, to promote their success and smooth their integration in Israel. It is called Ohev Ger, Love thy Convert.

The agency was established by my esteemed brother, Rabbi (Rav) Menachem Weinberg, who has taught converts from around the world (even from Africa and China) – giving him a unique perspective on the needs of gerim.

Underlying Ohev Ger’s activity is the fundamental understanding that conversion is not the end of a process but rather the is beginning of a new life path, which requires familial and communal anchors to buttress dedication to Jewish life.

Ohev Ger programs include a network of volunteers who help integrate converts into communities and families; social programming for young converts; and professional social worker support for converts, which can include financial aid, rental subsidies, scholarships, employment and housing assistance, advocacy and legal services, and other counselling.

After October 7, the organization established a new program called Magen LaGer to provide convert soldiers and their families with support, emergency rental assistance for evacuees, and guidance on keeping halacha in wartime. It also has partnered with the Bnei Akiva yeshiva high school network to organize and pay for the weddings of converts.

Ohev Ger also has launched an incentive program for marriage matchmakers (shadchanim) to prioritize matchmaking for converts. This is particularly needed because there is stigma, prejudice, and suspicion in all sub-sectors of Israeli society regarding marriage to converts.

The organization is now attempting to establish a lobby in Knesset for promoting integration of converts in Israeli society, and an annual conference honoring converts for their dedication to Judaism and their contributions to Israel.

It also plans to offer scholarships for conversion course graduates to pursue continuing Jewish studies, and to launch a digital platform where converts can obtain swift answers to questions about Jewish life and customs.

Rav Menachem: “Ohev Ger is working with directors and teachers in the conversion colleges, with leaders of the Conversion Authority, with rabbinical court judges, with local community rabbis, and with many converts themselves, to enhance the ability of converts of all backgrounds to live proudly as committed Jews in Israeli society. It is our moral responsibility, historic opportunity, and mitzvah obligation to imitate God – who ‘loves the convert’ (ohev ger) – by supporting these unique individuals and attentively addressing their needs.”

“Mostly, we must fund this ourselves, because the relevant government offices, from social to religious affairs and a half dozen others, have no budgets dedicated to assisting converts – even though caring for converts is a commandment mentioned 36 times in the Torah! Unbelievably, there are government funds for building mikvaot (ritual baths) and eiruvin (Sabbath perimeter fences) but none for assisting geirim (converts).”

‘Mainstream’ Jews and ‘veteran’ Israelis can get involved by volunteering their professional and social services, becoming an Ohev Ger community coordinator, and donating funds to the cause.

I BELIEVE IT a privilege to live in an era with an unprecedented number of sincere converts. Every year, an average of 3,000 amazing gerei tzedek (righteous converts) from all over the world join the Jewish People in Israel through Israeli conversion courts (civilian and military). This amounts to approximately 50,000 converts over the last 15 years! About 40% of these converts are Ethiopian immigrants, 25% are from the former Soviet Union, 15% are Israeli-born, and the rest are from various countries.

Many of these converts have studied towards conversion at Israel’s National Center for Jewish Studies, Identity and Conversion (now known as the “Nativ” civilian and military conversion programs), an organization that was founded on the basis of the Neeman Committee and is run by the Prime Minister’s Office and Jewish Agency for Israel. The valiant Prof. Benny Ish-Shalom of Beit Morasha College of Jerusalem spearheaded this center from its opening in 1999 until his very recent retirement.

This is the place to salute Prof. Ish-Shalom for his pioneering vision, wise leadership, and unstinting commitment. For 35 years, he ran the largest Jewish educational venture in the world, navigating carefully through minefields of denominational politics and government bureaucracy, and triumphing over abundant apathy.

President Biden prefers to make allowances for Iran while reprimanding Israel; to spare the ayatollahs but scold Netanyahu; to let the Iranian bomb program advance but not the IDF. Dangerous times indeed.

President Biden prefers to make allowances for Iran while reprimanding Israel; to spare the ayatollahs but scold Netanyahu; to let the Iranian bomb program advance but not the IDF. Dangerous times indeed.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2024; and Israel Hayom, June 10, 2024. Print-friendly copy

On the sidelines of the funeral in Tehran for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash last month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei convened a meeting of his “resistance front” – with Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, PFLP, and Yemeni Houthi chieftains.

The purpose: To decide how to “continue jihad and struggle until a complete victory is achieved in the Gaza Strip with the participation of all resistance groups in the region,” and to “confront American imperialism.” Khamenei calls this the “ring of fire” strategy to eliminate Israel and achieve regional hegemony.

Two days ago, acting Iranian foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani visited Lebanon and Syria where he met with Syrian president Assad and Hezbollah chieftain Nasrallah “to discuss ways to counter the Zionist regime” – which apparently means, among other things, escalating Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel. Witness the precise missile attacks on military and intelligence sites in northern Israel this past week (and the resultant wild brush fires).

The mullahs of Teheran also are behind the increasingly sophisticated and well-equipped military infrastructure in Judea and Samaria. As far back as 2014, Khamenei began to openly advocate “exporting the Islamic revolution” to the hills of Samaria. He called for “serious planning to add the West Bank to the confrontation with Israel.” “Gaza is the center of resistance, but resistance groups in the West Bank are the key that can bring the Zionist enemy to its knees,” Khamenei said.

The notorious commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani (assassinated by the US in 2020), took-up the charge, making the arming of West Bank militias an Iranian priority.

Soleimani brought Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, and Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhaleh, to meet Khamenei and Raisi in Teheran. Hamas official Osama Hamdan then bragged about a “new stage of resistance” in which Iran would back the creation of “20 to 30 new battalions of 2,000 militants in Samaria.”

Al-Nakhaleh plainly told Iranian newspaper Al-Wefaq that anti-Israeli operations in the West Bank reflect directives coming from Iran. “No other country in the world takes such a stance so explicitly, a testament to Tehran’s support for the Palestinian resistance factions, with strong ties between PIJ, Hamas and the Islamic Republic.”

The result? Just yesterday the Shin Bet (Israel Security Services) warned of “Iranian islands” flush with cash and weapons in Judea and Samaria.

This means that heavy battles are ahead. Israel cannot sit by and watch Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in Israel’s center – adjacent to Israel’s three key cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa – become another full-fledged base of Iranian military operations against the Jewish state, like Gaza (on its southern border) and Lebanon (on its northern border).

AND WHERE is all Iran’s cash coming from? Well, the Biden administration has unfrozen at least $6 billion in Iranian assets, and helped Tehran evade sanctions through waivers that have funneled billions more into its coffers. Iranian oil exports have consequently surged to 1.82 million barrels a day, the highest total since the Trump administration reinstated sanctions in 2018.

On behalf of Iran, Hezbollah and the IRGC also are invested heavily in drug production and distribution (Captagon pills and more) across the Middle East and Europe, and in money-laundering cryptocurrency schemes – as revealed last year by Israeli authorities.

Of even greater concern is Iran’s helter-skelter dash to nuclear bomb capability, under cover of the world’s lopsided focus on Israeli “crimes” in Gaza. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran’s stockpile of 60% highly enriched uranium has doubled (!) since February from 20.6 kg to 42.1 kg and could be converted into weapons-grade enriched uranium in a matter of days. It would then be enough to fuel three nuclear weapons.

The international response? Well, the IAEA board on Wednesday condemned Iran “for its lack of cooperation” with agency watchdogs, with the US reluctantly going along at the last moment (after first lobbying European countries to avoid censuring Iran).

Wow. The Iranians must be shaking in their Islamic marching boots.

Of course, Biden’s approach to Iran is a function of the long-standing Obama-Biden obsession with appeasing Tehran’s ayatollahs, hoping that “they will become less medieval and more compliant if treated nicely” – as former US national security adviser and ambassador to the UN John Bolton wrote critically this week. It also is a function of Biden’s desire to keep gasoline prices low and foreign distractions to a minimum before November’s US presidential election.

THIS EXPLAINS the weak American responses to attacks upon its assets in the Arabian Gulf by Iranian proxies, carefully avoiding killing any Iranians themselves. It also explains Washington’s insistence that Israel not respond significantly to the massive April 14 Iranian missile attacks – an event that should have led to game-changing military action against Iran on multiple fronts. But Washington publicly reassured Teheran that it would not take part in any offensive actions against Iran and made sure that Israel could not do much either.

And then there is Gaza and Lebanon, where Biden has undermined Israel’s attempts to achieve crushing victories in the multi-front pincer war being waged against it by Iranian proxies. This includes withholding weaponry and ammunition, attempting to micro-manage IDF operations neighborhood-by-neighborhood and/or preventing them, forcing Israel into paralyzing, never-ending, and unlikely to succeed hostage negotiations, and insanely insisting that the supply of humanitarian aid to Gazans be Israel’s “priority.”

This is persistent strategic blindness. By concentrating energies on punishing Israel for daring to defend itself against extermination; by failing to give Israel the weapons and diplomatic cover it needs to achieve decisive victories; by refusing to acknowledge Iran’s hegemonic “ring of fire” strategy; by failing to confront the Houthis as they close international shipping routes through the Red Sea (and Suez Canal); and by failing to truly check Iran’s nuclear bomb program which is moving towards all-out nuclear attack on Israel within a decade – the Biden administration is wreaking disaster on Israel and the West.

WHAT IS particularly sad is that there are ways of halting Iran’s march towards a nuclear bomb and regional hegemony.

A real Biden administration road map for countering Iran would include snapback sanctions on Tehran with tight supervision (especially of Iranian oil exports and dual-use technologies); terrorist designation of the IRGC across Europe; suspension of Iranian membership in international forums; sanctions and economic pressure on individuals and organizations involved in repressing human rights; penalties on key Iranian industries; covert disruptive measures against Iran’s nuclear program; and most saliently, articulation and demonstration of a credible military threat against the Iranian regime.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington has outlined more than 200 specific measures in the military, cyber, financial, energy, legal, and diplomatic spheres that US government agencies can take in “deploying multiple elements of national power” to confront threats from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Taken together, these measures would enhance American deterrence, reassure America’s true Mideast allies, pointedly punish Iran for terrorism, help Israel win its ground wars in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and Lebanon, and perhaps prevent an Iranian nuclear breakout.

Alas, President Biden prefers to make allowances for Iran while reprimanding Israel; to spare the ayatollahs but scold Netanyahu; to let the Iranian bomb program advance but not the IDF. Dangerous times indeed.

Laundered concepts such as a “revitalized Palestinian Authority,” “international security guarantees,” “accommodation with Iran,” and “regional integration” must be dismissed. The first is a fantasy, the second ridiculous, the third ruinous, the fourth premature.

Laundered concepts such as a “revitalized Palestinian Authority,” “international security guarantees,” “accommodation with Iran,” and “regional integration” must be dismissed. The first is a fantasy, the second ridiculous, the third ruinous, the fourth premature.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2024; and Israel Hayom, June 4, 2024. Print-friendly copy

 

A Washington-led Western laundry service is working overtime to rinse and sanitize a series of soiled, failed concepts and press them on Israel. Israel must resist since these would lead to long-term strategic defeat.

 

Among the laundered concepts are a “revitalized Palestinian Authority,” “international security guarantees,” “accommodation with Iran,” and “regional integration.” The first is a fantasy, the second ridiculous, the third ruinous, the fourth premature.

 

Relying on Mahmoud Abbas’ corrupt and impotent, poisonous and terror-glorifying, Palestinian Authority as a ruling alternative to Hamas would be insane. The PA is both incapable and unwilling to be the moderating force in Palestinian politics that everybody is yearning for. The notion that it can be sufficiently “revitalized” or “reformed” and then be an anchor of the “day after” in Gaza is indeed a fantasy.

 

And yet, old, hackneyed peace-processor professional elite that brought us the misguided Oslo Accords and unilateral withdrawal paradigms is back at it, promoting a conjured-up “moderate Palestinian Authority leading to establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that does not pose a security threat to Israel.” Just see the opinion article on these pages earlier this week by the managing director of the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies.

 

As if 30 years of Oslo peace processing in any way moderated the Palestinian national movement; as if 30 years of Palestinian governments in Judea, Samaria and Gaza have led to anything but the most militarized and armed-to-the-teeth Palestinian authorities ever imagined.

 

“International security guarantees” are being bandied about for a host of arenas. For example, the Philadelphi Corridor along the Egypt-Gaza border, and southern Lebanon. European Union cops (instead of Israeli or Egyptian troops) supposedly would halt the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, and UN forces purportedly would ensure the withdrawal of Hezbollah forces 10 or 20 or 40 kilometers back from the border with Israel.

 

Right. Been there, done that, tried that. International forces of any and all types have failed to provide real security for Israel.

 

Accommodation with Iran was Obama administration policy and clearly is the Biden administration’s goal too. This has led to near-nuclear-breakout status for Teheran, alongside the most aggressive Iranian hegemonic march across the Middle East. This week, Washington acted to prevent IAEA criticism of Iran’s latest nuclear violations and advances – which are so egregious and frightening that even European countries wanted to scold Iran.

 

But to mollify the Iranians and get them to call-off their Houthi and Hezbollah proxies, the US wants Israel to ceasefire in Gaza and ignore the shattering moment for regional and international insecurity of a nuclear-bomb equipped Iran.

 

Regional integration is the new scaled-down euphemism for “normalization” of Saudi-Israeli relations. Integration is something less than full peace between the countries, a thingamajig that according the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken would enable construction of a “more potent regional coalition against Iran.”

 

All Israel needs to do to bring about this blessed but still backhanded union is end its war against Hamas and offer a “credible pathway” to Palestinian statehood including Palestinian Authority governance in Gaza as an alternative to Hamas. And then, by and by, Israeli hostages held by Hamas hypothetically will be released, Hamas’ Nukhba terrorists will disappear never to fight another day, Palestinian terrorist strongholds in Jenin, Nablus and more will dissipate into thin air, Hezbollah’s Radwan forces will retreat from Israel’s northern border, the Houthis of Yemen will end their assault on global shipping lanes, and other magical goodies that help Biden get reelected (like a massive Saudi cut in oil prices) will appear too.

 

I’m all for peace with Saudi Arabia and a coordinated regional front against Iran, but not at the price stipulated and dictated by this administration, and not at the current moment.

 

THE MAIN PROBLEM with all the above concepts coming out of the Washingtonian and western European laundromat is that they squelch and sideline the most important strategic goal of the moment, which is Israeli victory; the necessity of crushing Israeli victory over Hamas and Hezbollah. Without that, Israel’s deterrent power is forever shot to hell, and no stable peace can come to the Middle East, never mind to Gaza.

 

Thus, gambits for “revitalized” Palestinian statehood (and planning for rehabilitation of Gaza) and magnanimous soft deals with Iran that magically will make all regional wars go away from Saana to Beirut and Rafah – are dangerous. They distract from the central, necessary goals of this war; in fact, they detract from Israel’s chances of winning decisively.

Who will rule Gaza once Hamas is annihilated? What is the endgame? I don’t know. This is going to be a long war, as Israel peels away and destroys layer after layer of Hamas military capabilities. Israel is rightfully fixated on its entrance and victory strategy, not on exit strategies and Palestinian rehabilitation.

 

In fact, the demand that Israel answer these questions now must be rebuffed, because it is meant to pointedly prevent Israel from doing what needs to be done in Gaza – outright military victory.

 

Alas, the world seems hell-bent on emasculating Israel, of preventing Israel from achieving its necessary and justified war goals of crushing Hamas and restoring Israel’s regional deterrent power.

 

The emasculation begins with small matters like insisting that Israel’s “primary goal” must be provision of humanitarian aid to an enemy population in wartime, which is an absurdity never broached before in the history of wars.

 

It continues further with American attempts to micromanage IDF operations, neighborhood by neighborhood, house-by-house, bullet-by-bullet; handcuffing Israel and driving it, G-d forbid, into another disastrous draw against Hamas.

 

The debilitation of Israel continues yet still with arrogant moves to unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood and anoint the decrepit Palestinian Authority as a stabilizing force in Gaza. It continues with moves to deny arms and munitions to Israel (while unlocking tens of billions of dollars in funds for the ayatollahs of Iran).

 

IT IS NOT an exaggeration to say that Israel stands at a moment of grand diplomatic inflexion, a pivotal moment with historical implications for Israel’s sovereignty and long-term security.

 

Again, at issue is not (just) the question of how and when to destroy four remaining Hamas brigades in Rafah in Gaza. Nor is the issue more humanitarian aid to Palestinians trapped in the hell created by Hamas.

 

At issue is the regional and international perception of Israel as a country capable of resoundingly winning an existential war of self-defense; a war against the first Moslem Brotherhood state ever established (Hamas in Gaza), a state which has genocidal plans for Israel long into the future again and again – unless eliminated.

 

At issue is the regional and international perception of Israel as a country with the determination to rout the Iranian-backed Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah proxies that have forced Israel into repeated rounds of draining warfare, and which now have depopulated and destroyed significant parts of southern and northern Israel.

 

At issue is the regional and international perception of Israel as a nation that cannot be steamrolled into diplomatic or military defeat; that is able to act on its essential security imperatives and free all of Israel (including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria) of terrorist violence and rocket attacks.

 

At issue is regional and international perceptions of Israel as a society that is unified, resolute, and just; whose moral compass in wartime is unwavering; and whose partnership is reliable.

 

Finishing-off Hamas and maintaining long-term control of a security envelope including Judea, Samaria, and Gaza is an essential goal that justifies Israeli defiance of the world.

Ersatz recognition of a Palestinian state at war with Israel retards peace.

Ersatz recognition of a Palestinian state at war with Israel retards peace.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2024; and Israel Hayom, May 26, 2024. Print-friendly copy

Purportedly, Washington has sewn-up a Saudi-Israel normalization deal, enabling construction of a more potent regional coalition against Iran. All Israel must do is end its war against Hamas and offer a “credible pathway” to Palestinian statehood including Palestinian Authority governance in Gaza as an alternative to Hamas.

And then, presto, the Israeli hostages held by Hamas will be released, Hamas’ Nukhba terrorists will disappear never to fight another day, Palestinian terrorist strongholds in Jenin, Nablus and more will dissipate into thin air, Hezbollah’s Radwan forces will retreat from Israel’s northern border, the Houthis of Yemen will end their assault on global shipping lanes, and good old Yuletide cheer will wash over the Middle East.

What could be better? How can Israel say no? What could go wrong?

Well, the main problem with the pollyannish American package is its insistence on Palestinian statehood, which after 30 years of Oslo process failures and the October 7 attack flies in the face of logic, justice, history, and basic security realities. The Palestinian national movement, Fatah and Hamas wings alike, largely has shown itself to be committed to Israel’s debilitation and destruction, not to a peaceful two-state solution.

Until Palestinian political culture matures towards accommodation, no rational Israeli government will consider ceding parts of Judea and Samaria to any Palestinian faction. And until the military power and political sway of Hamas (and Islamic Jihad, and Fatah’s Al-Aksa Brigades, and more) is crippled, no peaceful and responsible alternative Palestinian leadership ever will emerge.

And therefore, the war against Hamas and its satellites in Gaza and the West Bank cannot end now. That’s an Israeli consensus; rare, but real and valuable.

Alas, the Biden administration and much of the international community still messianically thinks that establishment of a Palestinian state must be diligently pursued post haste via pressure on Israel, regardless of the circumstances or the complete lack of interest in truly implementing such a scheme on the part of the Palestinians.

Some, like the European countries that this week unilaterally “recognized” Palestinian statehood, seek to dictate from above. They grandstand to defy Israel, no less, pretending to be advancing peace when in fact they are knowingly weakening Israel.

Snootily, they “will no longer wait for Israel.” They opine that Palestinian independence cannot be dependent on Israel, that it is an imperative to be forced on Israel.

And thus, rewarding violent Palestinian “resistance” is no problem for them. Funding the recalcitrant Palestinian Authority or irredentist UNWRA is good too. Facilitating the survival of Hamas is fine, as long as Israel is forced to buckle.

And to prove their defiant fealty to the shibboleth of Palestinian freedom – costs to Israel be dammed – they castigate Israel via labeling schemes, trade and arms boycotts, and outrageous court indictments. One gets the sense that these European freedom fighters for Palestine are but a hair’s breadth away from promoting the so-called one-state solution, meaning the dissolution of Israel.

BUT FOR PEOPLE claiming to be friends of Israel, this path must be rejected. The rush to ersatz recognition of Palestinian statehood runs contrary to the experience-based views of the vast majority of Israelis and Israeli political leaders. It is not consistent with friendship for the Jewish state.

The sad fact is that the only Palestinian state that might arise at the moment is one that would permanently be at war with Israel. A state that supports and glorifies Palestinian suicide-bombers, missile launchers, and rapists against Israel’s civilian population; a state where the airwaves and newspapers are filled with viciously anti-Semitic and bloodthirsty anti-Israel propaganda; a state whose leaders crisscross the globe and lobby every international institution to vilify and criminalize Israel.

The only Palestinian state that might arise at the moment is a state whose political and religious figures outright deny the historic ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and demand settlement of Palestinian refugees in pre-1967 Israel as a way of swamping and destroying the Jewish state.

The only Palestinian state that might arise at the moment is, in fact, a state like the current Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, that aside from being corrupt and tyrannical towards its own people, commits all the above crimes against Israel; or a state like “Hamastan” in Gaza that would repeat the October 7 massacres one thousand times over.

And therefore, the war against the Palestinian threat in Gaza and the West Bank cannot be cut short. That’s an Israeli consensus; rare, but real and valuable.

NEVERTHELESS, the asinine storyline being sold in Washington and endlessly echoed in media around the world is that Israel is being offered a US-Saudi “lifeline,” and that Prime Minister Netanyahu is spurning it because of his far-right coalition partners. This is poppycock.

Netanyahu is completely within the consensual tradition of all Israeli leaders in insisting that Palestinian terrorism be crushed, not coddled; that a peace process be toughed out the old-fashioned way – by building confidence between the parties through measured, verifiable, and concrete steps along a long-term road map towards stability.

And Netanyahu is completely within the consensual tradition of all Israeli leaders in insisting that only clear commitments from the Palestinians that the conflict is fully and permanently over might merit the ceding of territory by Israel.

Moreover, Netanyahu is correct that a realistic peace process must consider the Iranian hegemonic drive across the region, including Iranian takeover of vast swaths of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with Jordan in sight too; imperial conquests that are being aided and abetted by the Biden administration’s quite clear acquiescence in the Teheran’s status as a nuclear threshold state.

Peace processors must take into account this changed situation, so that no second Hamastan can arise in the West Bank, nor draw-in Al Qaeda and ISIS elements, nor open the door to the destabilization of Jordan via the West Bank.

This means that Israel must militarily control the broad security envelope, fully. It means that hackneyed notions of withdrawal to anything reminiscent of the 1967 lines should be set aside.

In short, dismissal of the American-brokered “Saudi lifeline” involving a “pathway” to Palestinian statehood has nothing to do with Itamar Ben-Gvir or Betzalel Smotrich, the Israeli far-right. Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid in the Israeli center and left-wing are no more likely to countenance establishment of runaway Palestinian statehood over the next fifty years than Netanyahu is – again, especially after October 7.

The international community must roll-back triumphalist Palestinian maximalism, not chop-away at logical Israeli conservatism. If over Israel’s objections the international community rushes to recognize revanchist, extremist, and unfettered Palestinian statehood – true peace will be pushed ever-so-much farther away.

What the supposedly pro-peace international community ought to be doing is backing Israel’s legitimate war goals until their complete execution and demanding vast reform from Palestinian leaders.

How about some sustained peace education and deradicalization programs for “Palestine”? Without that, diplomacy that demands two states (in any contours) will fail, sinking into the quicksand of Palestinian rejectionism and annihilationism.

Fortunately, most Israelis reject dangerously debilitating narratives about Israel’s unworthiness, and have recommitted themselves to hope, brotherhood, and aptly deft diplomatic defiance.

Most Israelis reject dangerously debilitating narratives about Israel’s unworthiness, and have recommitted themselves to hope, brotherhood, and aptly deft diplomatic defiance.

Rabbi Menahem Kalmanson’s speech at the Israel Prize award ceremony was a deep dive into “brotherhood;” a renewed commitment to national solidarity and love of peoplehood.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2024; and Israel Hayom, May 20, 2024. Print-friendly copy

The hard left in Israel tried, but failed, to foil Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) this week. It held “torch dousing” instead of “torch lighting” ceremonies, and slammed Israel radio and tv for broadcasting the traditional memorial and celebratory Independence Day events.

Radical left spokespeople especially savaged the prime minister’s speeches at national events, calling him a “dictator who refuses to act according to the voice of reason and morality” and a man who operates “from a desire for revenge, oppression and power.”

Haaretz ran a sourpuss op-ed article demanding “No Celebrations!” “This year, the holiday’s very existence has become intolerable. How is it possible to cope with independence celebrations in a state that turns its back on what makes it a state and defines it as independent?… As long as Israel has not brought back the hostages, any engagement with ‘independence’ is self-deception…”

“(We must) resist celebrating a holiday that has been emptied of meaning, that makes one’s eyes sting from so much falsehood and one’s throat burn from so much insult. We are left with depression felt by every decent Israeli who doesn’t belong to the right, the Netanyahu cult, or the settler/ultra-Orthodox/religious Zionist community.”

Just to be clear who and what it was opposing, the same newspaper ran a screed from a fellow at the Harvard Divinity School which offered a near-theological justification for extinguishing Yom Haatzmaut. “In Israel, Jewish extremists worshipping a god of holy war are getting stronger,” the writer expectorated.

“Since October 7, the flagrantly anti-democratic, morally bankrupt political theology of Israel’s right-wing Jewish radicals, a worldview that justifies the death, starvation, and hunger of Palestinians, is becoming more dominant. Jews in Israel and around the world must confront this desecration of our tradition,” and certainly not celebrate Israel Independence Day.

One of the gods of the atheist, doubtful-Zionist hard left, Prof. Yuval Noah Harari, wrote in Yediot Ahronot that the dark forces of Jewish supremacy and Zionist oppression were on the ascendancy in Israel, posing a threat to Israel’s future and legitimacy. He held out hope that “classic, sane Zionism” could yet win back the country, but in the meantime found little to celebrate on Independence Day.

FORTUNATELY, most Israelis clearly rejected this rejectionist, dangerously debilitating narrative, and set out into Israel’s streets and parks to mark Yom Haatzmaut.

It was marked not as usual, not in wild fanfare or inappropriate rejoicing, not in complacency. Rather, it was marked in subdued appreciation and prayer. In appreciation of Israel’s survival and achievements, and with a prayer that brotherhood, resoluteness, and better leadership will see the country through to great victories.

Of course, Israel never has had the luxury of taking its survival for granted, and this is ever truer this year when Iran and its terrorist proxies are closing in from all directions, and the Ayatollahs in Teheran are close to producing a nuclear bomb. Woke forces are tightening a global diplomatic noose around Israel’s neck.

Also, much of Israel’s northern and southern reaches remain devastated ghost regions from which tens of thousands of Israeli residents remain internally exiled. Men, women, and child hostages are still held by Hamas in Gaza, and precious soldiers are falling in the hell holes of Jabalya. So yes, there is little immediate comfort for Israel on this birthday week.

“Beleaguered” is an appropriate adjective for the current Israeli psyche.

Nevertheless, I sense that 99.9% of Israelis upheld celebration of Yom Haatzmaut this week as a statement of hope. Hatikvah, the hope, has not extinguished. Israel can and should be able to drive beyond the current straits, repairing its internal ills and strengthening its strategic posture.

Rabbi Tamir Granot, head of Yeshivat Orot Shaul in Tel Aviv (who lost a son in the current war), said at a prayer rally this week that “When everything is good, when there is no anger or pain, one doesn’t need hope; it’s possible just to live well. It is precisely when it hurts, when we are angry, when the heart burns, when there is tension, when our children are held captive by cruel enemies, that we need and find that material called hope.”

Naturally and so very correctly, Granot pointed to the extraordinary resilience displayed by Israeli civilians and soldiers in repulsing the Hamas invasion last Simchat Torah, and to the stamina of Israeli society ever since. So very correctly, he warned against the defeatist messaging and internally vicious campaigning that is once again seeping to the fore of Israeli politics today.

He, and others, noted that cancellation of Yom Haatzmaut would have been a moral victory for Israel’s enemies, and also would have been cynical exploitation of the hostage plight to bring down the government. Indeed, the demands for cancelation of Independence Day celebrations were (unsurprisingly) like the demand that Israel unconditionally swallow the outrageous dictates of Hamas for an immediate cease-fire, complete IDF withdrawal from Gaza, and the release of all the terrorists including the Nukhba murderers and rapists.

INSTEAD of such enervating poison, the motivating music that must continue to echo in our ears can come from the inspiring speeches given by bereaved mothers and fathers at Remembrance Day and Independence Day speeches this year.

Some these speeches were based on parting letters left behind by fallen soldiers, expressing absolute faith in the wellsprings of age-old Jewish identity and the future of the State of Israel; letters that exhorted their families to stay the course and celebrate life.

Others, like the stunning speech delivered by Rabbi Menahem Kalmanson at the Israel Prize award ceremony, were based on a deep dive into “brotherhood;” a renewed commitment to national solidarity and love of peoplehood.

Kalmanson was a member of “Team Elhanan,” a family unit which bravely entered Kibbutz Beeri on Oct. 7, fought terrorists, and rescued over 100 members of the kibbutz. The eldest brother, Elhanan, was killed by terrorists after 16 hours of fighting.

Menachem: “This ceremony answers the question ‘Why are we here?’ — a question that echoed throughout the past year as dissension and dispute raged in the country and threatened to tear us apart from within. The question ‘Are we still brothers?’ continued to echo until the sirens of Simchat Torah echoed and our enemies awaiting our demise came out of their trenches and attacked.”

“We did not ask ourselves why we are doing this, settlers going out to save secular kibbutzniks. As my brother Itiel said, “When you know your brother is in danger you don’t really have a choice. ‘I seek my brothers’.”

“At the home of the Meir family in Beeri, Michal Meir refused/feared to open the door for us when we came to rescue her. She did not open the door until I yelled Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad (Hear oh Israel the Lord our God is One). This was not a prayer, it was a shout: I’m a Jew, I’m here for you, please open the door.” This call, this cry for unity, echoed around the region that day as thousands of soldiers went forward out of a sense of deep responsibility and endangered their lives for their brothers.”

Kalmanson concluded by declaring: “We cannot continue to fight without seeing the good in this nation, as the blood of our brothers cries out from the ground, and we are our brother’s keeper.”

ANOTHER theme that dominated Yom Haatzmaut discourse (about which I have written frequently) was defiance; defiance of the pro-Hamas messaging and anti-Zionist approaches that have taken root in capitals and campuses around the world.

As Prof. Gil Troy has written: “On Israel Independence Day we must negate the misleading, Palestinian-centered tale of woe, and return to the magnificent Jewish story and the Zionist tale of redemption… Our enemies want to make us miserable, to make Israel unlivable, to make Independence Day uncelebrate-able. We cannot allow that to happen…”

“We cannot afford to mourn or mope. We must live the miracle of Israel: freedom, prosperity, dignity, and power… while rejecting the poisoned ivy of the Ivy Leagues…. and we must broadcast our narrative and affirm our rights loudly and proudly, effectively, and creatively.”

To this I add: Let us count our personal and national blessings. Life in Israel is full of meaning, marked by sacrifice, commitment, achievement, and joy; the crucial ingredients that make life satisfying and exciting, and uniquely so for Jews who have long awaited a national return to Zion.

Let us remind ourselves that, until 76 years ago and for the last 2,000 years, the Jewish People had no national home. Instead, it suffered Diaspora, dispersion, degradation, and disaffiliation, even near-extermination. Attempts to annihilate the Jewish People in Israel and to persecute them abroad continue apace, but the People of Israel are no longer defenseless.

So, despite apocalyptic agonizers, demoralized doubters, devious detractors, and fair-weather friends – let us recommit to hope, brotherhood, and aptly deft diplomatic defiance.

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Laundered concepts such as a “revitalized Palestinian Authority,” “international security guarantees,” “accommodation with Iran,” and “regional integration” must be dismissed. The first is a fantasy, the second ridiculous, the third ruinous, the fourth premature.
Israel has no choice but to stiffen its spine; and in some matters to grow a spine. More than ever before, Israel must reject impossible international dictates and demands.
Western editorialists were fiercely anti-Israel 35 years ago too, as shown by a collection of Canadian editorial cartoons from the first intifada.
October 7 and April 14 demand that Jerusalem free itself from stale strategic paradigms. Israel cannot accept a situation where it is diplomatically and militarily hampered in every direction by well-meaning but weak allies or by supremely confident Shiite mullahs and their Russian ally. This is an unacceptable, perilous position for Israel.
Qatar is a fundamentally dangerous and disingenuous actor which falsely presents itself as an honest broker, a moderating influence, and a friend of the West, even of Israel. The Jerusalem Post ought not fall hook, line, and sinker for this sinister fairytale.
David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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