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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.

The Jerusalem Post’s reporting from Doha last Friday was very disappointing. 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 JPost ought not fall hook, line, and sinker for Qatar’s sinister fairytale.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, April 12, 2024; and Israel Hayom, April 14, 2024. Print-friendly copy

According to unassailable and well-reported Israeli and American intelligence estimates, the monarchy of Qatar has provided at least $2 billion to its Moslem Brotherhood affiliate Hamas in recent years. The vast majority of this funding has been invested in building terror attack tunnels and manufacturing rockets and missiles for war against Israel.

But you would not know this from reading The Jerusalem Post last Friday. Instead, 7,000 words of reporting from the capital of Qatar by this newspaper’s editor-in-chief (see here and here) would have you believe that “the humanitarian aid” and financial support Qatar has provided to the Gazans is “commonly misinterpreted.”

Qatar’s billions for Gaza, according to the Post, “often labeled as aid to Hamas,” has in fact “been actions taken at the request of the Israeli and US governments, targeted specifically at the poorest families in Gaza” and “meticulously coordinated” with the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to reach them. All this is designed, so Qatar says, to “foster dialogue rather than support Hamas ideologies and actions.”

The Post even offers its readers a lengthy primer in Qatari mathematical chicanery, to wit $10 million a month flows from Doha to poor families in Gaza, $20 million a month is dedicating to purchasing fuel for Gaza, and $35 is transferred monthly to pay the salaries of supposedly more acceptable Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Gaza (none of whom actually work in government in Gaza). The Post does not bother to do the elementary math which would expose the millions more lavished on Hamas’ military.

In the massive array of Hamas subterranean terror attack tunnels in Gaza that the IDF has entered over the past six months, Israel has found thousands of pieces of weaponry, technological hardware, and documentary evidence of Iran’s material supply networks and military training regimes for Hamas, and Qatar’s multi-layered funding channels for Hamas.

This includes full access to Doha’s banking and investment sectors for globally sanctioned Hamas operatives and money men, as well as luxurious refuge for Hamas leaders.

But you would not know this from reading The Jerusalem Post last Friday. Instead, according to the JPost articles Qatar is a benevolent and honorable country “striving for a larger purpose on the world stage.”

Qatar actively backs terrorist groups across the Middle East and around the world including the Taliban, Hezbollah, Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) in Syria, the Houthi in Yemen, Al-Shabab in Somalia, ISIS and Iran’s man Shiite proxies in Iraq, and terrorist groups in Libya and Algeria. It also funds radical Moslem Brotherhood groups in Europe and America.

But you would not know this from reading The Jerusalem Post last Friday. Instead, we are told that the al-Thani kleptocracy merely “aims at fostering stability in a tumultuous region,” almost heroically “facilitates sustainable solutions from Afghanistan to Yemen and Lebanon,” and plays a helpful, “intricate” role in global security.

The Qatar-based and fully funded Al Jazeera television network is an evil empire. It glorifies Hamas, including its “heroic” massacres of October 7 and ongoing “resistance” against Israel, and all forms of Iranian proxy terrorism against Israel. It aids Hamas by reporting on IDF troop movements in Gaza and on IDF forces concentrated along the Gaza border. It actively drums-up terrorism against Israelis in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv too, with special efforts during Ramadan. Al Jazeera also is a reliable platform for naked antisemitism and explicit Holocaust denial.

But you would not know this from reading The Jerusalem Post last Friday. All you would know is that Qatar is blandly “influential through its Al Jazeera Media network.” (A sidebar article by another Post reporter gently allows that Al Jazeera reports lies about Israel and Jews.)

Instead, the Post offers-up an unnamed senior American diplomatic source to tell us that Qatar “is one of the good guys,” that Qatar is “crucial,” no less, for Israel’s security and existence, and that Israel “won’t be able to survive” without cooperating with Qatar.

Wow. Good that the Post reports this, because I really did not know that Israel’s very existence depends on the good graces of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

In the horrible, ongoing saga of trying to obtain release of the more than one hundred Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, Qatar has acted a go-between mediator. Since it funds Hamas and hosts Hamas “political” leadership in Doha, it purportedly has channels of communication to Hamas and influence over Hamas.

But had Qatar really wanted to pressure Hamas into a hostage release deal, it might have, for example, threatened to expel Hamas leaders from Doha or cut-off their funding. There is no indication that Sheikh Al Thani has even contemplated this.

But you would not know this from reading The Jerusalem Post last Friday. Instead, we were fed Qatari propaganda about a deal for the hostages that supposedly was obtainable in the first or second week of the war but was ignored by Israel.

The “viable deal” that was “missed” by Israel would have freed all (at least civilian) hostages while leaving Yihye Sinwar and his henchmen in charge of Gaza without any Israeli military action, alongside the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails. It was all in hand, thanks to the wise and so-well-meaning Qataris; just dumb Israel rejected the magnanimous deal.

The Jerusalem Post ran this Qatari fiction in its lead headline. (Again, in a sidebar article, some skepticism of this ridiculous report was allowed to creep into the newspaper, but the masthead told the Qatari tale.)

Qatar has invested many tens of billions of dollars in Western cultural, sporting, and academic institutions, and bought-up vast tracts of American and European real estate, all in a quite successful attempt to immunize itself from criticism and to very successfully distort teachings and research about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Awash in Qatari cash, US university campuses in particular have become incubators for Moslem Brotherhood interests and radical Islamic indoctrination. The wild anti-Israel riots of recent months on these campuses are a direct result of long-term Qatari influence. The rise of antisemitic and genocidal-against-Israel rhetoric in American academia has gone hand-in-hand with Qatari funding.

But you would not know this from reading The Jerusalem Post last Friday. Not at all. None of this rated even a whisper of a mention in the profile published about Qatar. Nor were Qatar’s super-tight ties with Iran and its proven money-laundering for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Qods Force commandoes.

All this has been documented by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI), the Counter Extremism Project, the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, the Misgav Institute for National Security, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and other solid sources. But there was no room over 7,000 words and three full pages of Post reporting to refer to this.

The bottom line: 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.

The tectonic threat of Iran to Mideast and global stability must be countered head-on.

The tectonic threat of Iran to Mideast and global stability must be countered head-on.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2024; and Israel Hayom, April 8, 2024. Print-friendly copy

A world asleep begets monsters. (Cartoon: Shay Charka)

The targeted assassination this week in Damascus – allegedly by Israel – of General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods forces in Syria and Lebanon, was long overdue.

As part of its post-October 7 updated doctrine of security, Israel can no longer make do with fighting Iran’s proxies, but rather must target Iran itself in response to Teheran’s key role in the current attacks on Israel and destabilization of the region. Israel must now strike directly within Iran, while also taking further action against the Qods Force. Iran’s self-perceived shield of impunity must be pierced.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration purposefully continues to misinterpret Iran’s proxy warfare. Blindly, willfully, and wrongly, Washington asserts that Iran “lacks full control over its proxies.” (This was said in the context of Kataib Hezbollah’s responsibility for the recent drone attack in Jordan that killed three Americans soldiers.) It refuses to finger Iran for all its escalatory muckraking, as detailed below.

Washington prefers to make nice and dream that Iran will calm down. Sure enough, the Biden administration rushed to assure Teheran this week that it had no advance knowledge of or responsibility for the hit on Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

The administration is sticking to its “strategy” (if you can call it that) of “restoring trust” with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, to smooth the way towards a return to President Obama’s rotten nuclear deal with Iran (the JCPOA), and to avoid further conflict with Iranian-backed rebels in Iraq and Yemen who threaten both American troops and global shipping and security.

For those who have not been paying sufficient attention, here is a summary of the Iranian record.

  • Iran is carving out a corridor of control – a Shiite land bridge – stretching from the Arabian (“Persian”) Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, including major parts of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Qods Force, various Shiite militias, and the Hezbollah organization. This corridor gives Iran a broad strategic base for aggression across the region.
  • Iran is establishing air and naval bases on the Mediterranean and Red seas, and especially in Syria, to project regional power. It has also stepped-up its harassment of international shipping and Western naval operations in the Persian Gulf. Iranian UAVs and missiles endanger civilian flights across the region, too.
  • Iran’s proxy army in Yemen, the Houthi rebels, seeks control of the Horn of Africa and the entrance to the Red Sea – a critical strategic chokepoint on international shipping. In recent months, the Houthis have struck more than 40 times at commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Eden, through which almost 15% of global seaborne trade usually passes.
  • More than 100 American service members suffered traumatic brain injuries from an Iranian ballistic missile strike on US troops in Iraq, four years ago. Last year, Tehran’s proxies in Yemen struck at a base in the UAE housing American military forces; and Iranian proxies struck at US targets in Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria. These attacks are part of Iran’s effort to evict America from the Middle East and coerce US partners into accommodating the Islamic Republic.
  • Iran is fomenting subversion in Mideast counties that are Western allies, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. It is particularly focused on destabilizing the Hashemite regime in Jordan to gain access to Israel’s longest border (its border with Jordan) and from there to penetrate Israel’s heartland. Israel this month rushed troops to the northern Jordan Valley following indications that Iraqi Shiite militia groups supported by Iran planned to invade Israel via Jordan and conduct a large-scale terror attack against Israeli communities near the border, like the October 7 attacks by Hamas.
  • Iran is threatening Israel with war and eventual destruction. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khomenei, regularly refers to Israel as a cancerous tumor in the Middle East that must be removed and speaks of the complete liberation of Palestine (meaning the destruction of Israel) through holy jihad.
  • Iran has armed enemies on Israel’s northern border (Hezbollah and most recently, also Hamas in Lebanon), southern border (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and terrorist undergrounds in the West Bank. It has equipped Hezbollah with an arsenal of over 150,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel and supplied Hamas with the arms and rockets that fueled four significant military confrontations with Israel over the past decade. Since October 7, Hezbollah has struck over 3,000 times at Israel, essentially depopulating the upper Galilee. These attacks have killed ten IDF soldiers and reservists as well as eight Israeli civilians.
  • There is dispute as to the extent of Iran’s foreknowledge of the October 7 Hamas attack, but Hamas would not have been capable of the attack without the systematic assistance it has been receiving from Tehran for decades. My colleague Dr. Yossi Mansharof has exposed the boasting of Iranian leaders (like Esmaeil Kowsari of the Iranian Majles Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, and formerly a high-ranking commander in the IRGC) about the involvement of former Qods Force leader Qasem Soleimani (who was assassinated by the US in January 2020) in the planning of the Hamas attack and the build-up of its forces.
  • In the massive array of Hamas subterranean terror attack tunnels in Gaza, the IDF has found millions of pieces of weaponry, technological hardware, and documentary evidence of Iran’s multi-layered funding channels, material supply networks, and military training regimes for Hamas.
  • Iran is sponsoring terrorism against Western, Israeli, and Jewish targets around the world, including unambiguous funding, logistical support, planning and personnel for terrorist attacks that span the globe, from Buenos Aires to Burgas. Iran maintains an active terrorist network of proxies, agents, and sleeper cells worldwide. (It again is threatening to unleash these operatives against Jewish and Israeli diplomatic targets “in response” to the strike on Zahedi.)
  • Iran is building a long-term nuclear military option, with enrichment and armament facilities buried deep underground. According to the IAEA, Iran has enriched uranium to near-bomb-ready levels (84%, which is close to the 90% level necessary for a nuclear weapon) and in recent months has tripled its accumulation of weapons-grade uranium, enough for production of an estimated six nuclear weapons within four weeks.
  • Iran is developing a formidable long-range missile arsenal of great technological variability, including solid and liquid propellant ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and ICBMs. The latest Iranian ICBM, called the “Khorramshahr,” seems to be based on the North Korean BM25 missile with a range of 3,500 km. The entire Iranian ballistic missile program is in violation of United Nations Security Council prohibitions.
  • Like his predecessors, US President Biden has pledged that he will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. But American military leaders now say only that the US “remains committed Iran will not have a fielded nuclear weapon” (– Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley to Congress in March 2023). This suggests that the Biden administration is now prepared to tolerate developed nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands, provided the weapon is not “fielded,” in other words, deployed.
  • Iran is providing Russia with armed attack drones for President Putin’s war against Ukraine. Experts presume that in return Iran will be getting sophisticated Russian military technologies such as aerial defense systems and fighter jets for its wars against Israel and pro-Western Arab regimes in the Mideast.
  • Overall, Iran is strengthening its ties to Russia and China, and tightening ties to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Armenia as part of a unified front against what it calls the “Great Satan,” America, and the “Small Satan,” Israel.

 

Sorely missing is a US strategy to combat the evil influence and hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs. Prof. Walter Russell Mead has warned that “As Washington shrugs at challengers like China and Iran, world leaders make other plans like partnering with China and Iran.”

But Jerusalem cannot ignore Iran’s pincer war on Israel, its circling of Israel with strangulating “rings of fire,” its drive to enervate and destroy Israel.

Israel must resist America’s fantasy framework for a swift, dangerously indecisive, end to the Gaza war.

Israel must resist America’s fantasy framework for a swift, dangerously indecisive, end to the Gaza war.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, March 29, 2024. Print-friendly copy

President Biden delivers arms to support Israel, sort of, as the IDF advances towards Rafah. (Cartoon: Chay Charka)

In June 2014, then-US President Barack Obama green-lighted a Fatah-Hamas unity coalition, leaving Israel ominously isolated. Israel stood by its solitary self in absolute opposition to the government cunningly created by Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniye.

Just about Western leader was prepared to swallow the Palestinian deception in which “technocrats” were to run government ministries as stand-ins for the real power brokers in Palestinian politics (i.e., Hamas). Just about everybody was prepared to play dumb and pretend that Iranian-backed jihadists committed to the genocide of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel weren’t going to be the recipients of Western aid and diplomatic cooperation.

Nobody was prepared to admit that the Palestinian Authority had gone defunct; that Palestinian statehood had become a hazardous idea; and that Israel had no genuine Palestinian partner for a peaceful two-state scenario.

Obama and the Europeans were unable to acknowledge any of this since they had invested so heavily in the PA and Abbas, and it was so much simpler to vilify Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as the obstacle to peace.

Indeed, distancing America from Israel had been Obama’s modus operandi from day one. He infamously warned in March 2014 that Israel could expect to face international isolation and sanctions from countries and companies across the world if Netanyahu failed to endorse his bid for Palestinian statehood.

He proceeded to lament the fact that America, in his words, did not any longer have absolute power in this “diffuse” world, and that he would not be able to “manage” the coming anti-Israel fallout.

There wasn’t really much anguish in Obama’s voice. Obama wasn’t too upset about Israel’s “impending isolation” or the fact that America “would have reduced influence in issues that are of interest to Israel.”

It was all very artificial. Obama was merely feigning dismay at the possible isolation of Israel, while in practice purposefully paving the way towards Israel’s isolation and an American distancing from Israel.

The give-away was Obama’s total failure to place any responsibility on Palestinian leaders for retardation of peace. There was not a smidgeon of answerability that he attached to Abbas or Hamas. He had nothing to say about Hamas stockpiling of Iranian missiles and RPGs. He issued no warnings of PA diplomatic isolation or economic collapse if Abbas did not compromise and advance the peace process. Only to Netanyahu.

But of course, Obama truly “wished he had the influence” to arrest the isolation of Israel. Yeah, right. The big chill was on.

THIS HISTORY is relevant to the current moment when Israel is being threatened once again with “international isolation” and even an arms boycott by a US administration filled with Obama acolytes.

US-Israel relations are indeed at a watershed moment following the administration’s decision this week to abstain on (i.e., not veto) a rotten UN Security Council resolution that thoroughly delegitimizes Israel’s necessary and continuing war effort to eliminate Hamas in Gaza.

Next will be a long series of demonizing and criminalizing anti-Israel resolutions in UN agencies and international courts. (The Human Rights Council discussed four vicious reports on Israel this week and is to front several resolutions including a finding of “genocide” supposedly being committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.)

Internationalizing the conflict and criminalizing Israel always was a central Palestinian strategy. Alas, US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken are now acquiescing in this horrible scheme, in order to wedge Israel into their fantasy framework for a swift, dangerously indecisive, end to the Gaza war.

This includes a gambit for “revitalized” Palestinian statehood and a magnanimous soft deal with Iran that magically will make all regional wars go away, from Saana to Beirut and Rafah.

Like Obama, Biden and Blinken will be “unable to manage” or mount a defense of Israel if Israel does not bend to their will.

The big chill again coming from Washington is uncomfortable, but Israel has no choice but to resist. 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.

At issue is not just the question of how and when to destroy the remaining four Hamas brigades in Rafah in Gaza. Nor is the issue 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.

WHAT THE BIDEN administration all-of-a-sudden does not seem to understand (perhaps due to narrow electoral reasons), is that Israelis are mobilized and united to unambiguously win, with crushing certainty. This is not just “Netanyahu’s war,” as Western wags have slurred.

For all of President Biden’s true personal commitment to Israel, his administration also does not seem to comprehend that Western civilization itself is under attack from radical Islamist barbarians – with the Hamas war on Israel (alongside Hezbollah and Houthi attacks) being only the frontline of a broader assault on “Rome,” i.e., all the West.

This is truly a world war that cannot be nicely dialed down by accommodationist diplomacy. And this is a war that best can be won if Washington stands by natural allies like Israel instead of punishing them.

Israel cannot knuckle under. Israel stands quite alone, but what is new about that? “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). Being “un-reckoned” is unnerving but familiar territory for the People and State of Israel.

This is not a desirable situation, nor should Israel accept this as a permanent reality. There is much Israel must do to overcome gaps between its perception of the immediate and long-term challenges and those of other nations. There is much that Israel can and will do by resolute action that will force a grudging, positive reassessment by other nations, in due time.

A lesson of the Purim tale: Israel cannot allow the world to emasculate it. 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. The State of Israel does not shrink from long and knotty journeys.

A lesson of the Purim tale: Israel cannot allow the world to emasculate it. 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… The State of Israel does not shrink from long and knotty journeys!

Published in The Jerusalem Post, March 22, 2024; and Israel Hayom, March 24, 2024. Print-friendly copy

The Purim tale, retold through the biblical Book of Esther in Jewish communities around the world this weekend, provides an excellent lesson to Presidents, Prime Ministers, and commoners in understanding the link between Providence and human endeavor, and the challenges of Jewish history.

The Megillah hints that beyond the intrigue of royal courtyards; behind the politics of a White House or a Kremlin; and besides the movement of foreign and threatening military forces – lies a Hidden Hand operating on a transcendental plane.

Beyond the grasp of man’s finite mind, there is order and purpose. There is a higher Divine order into which man has not been initiated. In short, what appears random, isn’t. The “pur” (the “happenstance” hinted at in the word Purim) is really planned.

And thus, over and above the threatening actors around us – from the time of Haman in ancient Persia to the Ayatollahs of Shiite Iran, and from Amalek of Exodus to the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel wildly woke intelligentsia (so-called) of today’s Western world – there is an engaged and concerned G-d. And he acts to protect the Jewish People, especially when we screw-up.

The grand sweep of Jewish history is a sustained tutorial against the evils of brutal dictatorships, totalitarian regimes, and arrogant empires. From the oppression implied in the Tower of Babel story to the slavery of Pharaonic Egypt, and from Achashverosh to Nebuchadnezzar, the Bible critiques the politics of absolute power and the penchant of dictators to lord over the Jewish People.

None of these empires lasted too long. And none of these bad actors were able to destroy the physical core and indomitable spirit of the Jewish People.

I see this as a warning to the Islamic Republic of Iran – the most acute wannabe totalitarian hegemon of our times; and to the United Nations or the United States of America – who seek to dictate diplomatically to the modern State of Israel. You cannot succeed!

Concurrently this is a message of reassurance to Jews and Israelis as to how we must view our challenges. The ambitions of Iran to global Islamic empire are ephemeral, and so are the pretensions to power of extreme “progressives” in Red-Green intersectional alliances who are currently savaging Israel. They will not prevail.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote that: “Judaism is the unique attempt to endow events with meaning, and to see in the chronicles of mankind something more than a mere succession of happenings – to see them as nothing less than a drama of redemption in which the fate of a nation reflects its loyalty or otherwise to a covenant with G-d.”

Thus, Jews and Israelis should understand their current strategic straights as ordained trials meant to be tackled with wisdom and bravery, even defiance. We can and should confront the current attacks with confidence in the power of Jewish history.

We should go forward in the knowledge that the Jewish People and the State of Israel are not alone, even though it certainly feels so at the current moment. As Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman of the Galilee has taught (with his phrase becoming the key line of a currently popular Israeli song): “The Eternal People is not afraid of long journeys.”

AS FOR THE CURRENT MOMENT, it indeed seems, alas, that Israel’s leaders need to take a strong dose of defiance with their morning coffee. 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 with deference to the evil regime in Qatar which bankrolls and fronts for Hamas. Unbelievably, Washington is now thinking of contracting-out construction and operation of its new humanitarian aid port pier in Gaza to a Qatari company. (Then Iranian and Turkish ships can dock and deliver “aid,” i.e., weapons and terror tunnel rebuilding supplies, to Hamas freely!)

It continues further with American and European insistence that the necessary next stage of the Israeli military campaign to rout-out Hamas, in Rafah and the Philadelphi Corridor, is “unacceptable,” a “red line that must not be crossed.” The Biden administration, in particular, outrageously thinks that it can micromanage IDF operations from now on, house-by-house, bullet-by-bullet; handcuffing Israel and driving it into another disastrous draw against Hamas.

The debilitation of Israel continues yet still with arrogant talk of unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood and anointing the duplicitous and decrepit Palestinian Authority as a stabilizing force in Gaza – insane, immoral ideas that seed the likelihood of long-term strategic defeat for Israel.

Then there is the new threat of denying arms and munitions to Israel, from spare jet parts to artillery shells. Canada owns the shame of being the first Western country to explicitly declare such a boycott even as Israel fights for its life against a clearly genocidal enemy (Hamas) and prepares to take on yet another (Hezbollah).

The Washington of Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken (and Chuck Shumer, oy) seems to be not too far away from this too, although its arms chokehold on Israel is at the moment more subtle and implicit than public.

And on a broader level, Washington is kowtowing yet again to Iran, unlocking last week upwards of $10 billion in frozen funds for the ayatollahs. This is an Obama administration reflex deeply embedded in Biden’s team that still seeks a grand regional deal with Teheran at Israel’s expense (and that of Israel’s Gulf Arab allies).

Instead of seriously striking at Iran and its proxies (like the Houthis) and countering the IRGC-controlled Shiite crescent running from the Arabian (“Persian”) Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, or doing anything substantial to halt Iran’s race to nuclear weapons, the Biden administration seems obsessed with thwarting the supposedly malign influence and hegemonic ambitions – of Israel.

In the face of these deleterious developments, Israel obviously must continue to dialogue with leaders in Western capitals to reach understandings where possible, but also be prepared to defy them when necessary.

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. The State of Israel does not shrink from long and knotty journeys.

Everybody knows that the rapidly growing and politically muscular Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel can no longer altogether avoid military and/or national service. But haredi leaders will not relinquish their rigid communal structure of full-time and lifetime-long Torah study. So here is my national service plan for haredi men during “bein hazmanim,” their long semester breaks.

Everybody knows that the rapidly growing and politically muscular Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel can no longer altogether avoid military and/or national service. But haredi leaders will not relinquish their rigid communal structure of full-time and lifetime-long Torah study. And nobody can draft haredi Israeli Jews against their will – no matter what the Supreme Court rules or the Knesset legislates. So here is my national service plan for haredi men during “bein hazmanim,” their long semester breaks.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2024; and Israel Hayom, March 17, 2024. Print-friendly copy

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef in the departures lounge at Ben-Gurion Airport: “Just try to stop me!” (Cartoon: Guy Morad)

Israel’s national security situation has taken an acute turn for the worse requiring at least another 7,000 combat soldiers a year for the next decade. But it cannot draft Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) Israeli Jews against their will – no matter what the Supreme Court rules or the Knesset legislates.

Everybody knows that the rapidly growing and politically muscular Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel can no longer altogether avoid military and/or national service. But haredi leaders will not relinquish their rigid communal structure of full-time and lifetime-long Torah study.

Every type of solution for this long-running deep ideological and societal crisis has been attempted over the past 30 years – and failed. This runs from massive government support for haredi integration in higher education and the workforce as a pathway to eventual military service, to choking-off nearly all government support for haredi institutions. From persuasion to coercion. From backing to bludgeon.

There was the Tal Committee outline and Shaked Committee strategy (both of which were legislated in law), the Plesner plan, Peri plan and Stern plan – based on wise commissions that deliberated for years and promulgated visions of change in this matter.

These grand attempts at social engineering and compromise were cut short by impatient judges and politicians, or ignored from the outset by implacable haredi leaders. They failed because narrow and short-term interests trumped long-term thinking and any sense of overarching national unity.

Intra-religious dialogue between Religious Zionist rabbinical leadership (which encourages military and national service) and Ultra-Orthodox rabbinic leadership (which discourages and even emphatically fights against this) has been attempted too – to no avail.

One group of rabbis learnedly quotes impeccable religious texts about the importance of combining national service with Torah study (or, in similar fashion, gainful employment with Torah study), while the other group of rabbis refutes them with proof-texts about the paramount value of Torah study alone and the desirability of standing aloof from secular society and the Zionist state.

Even now, as the most impressive, deeply Religious Zionist young men have been sacrificing themselves on military battlefields in numbers and proportions as never before, and their inspiring, agonizing, heroic stories pierce the hearts of haredi Jews in even the most closed Ultra-Orthodox communities – haredi leadership is not budging.

‘We haredi Jews will abandon the State of Israel and move abroad if anybody dares attempt to draft us into the military’ – snarled the Sephardic chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef this week.

(Yosef should be forced to watch the YouTube response to his outrageous remarks by Tel Aviv yeshiva dean Rabbi Tamir Granot, whose yeshiva student son, Amitai, was killed fighting in Gaza.)

But most Israelis don’t want haredi Jews to flee Israel, nor do I believe that most haredi Jews would do so, under any circumstances. Building a stronger and better Israel remains the shared national purpose.

And still, there are no good solutions on the table for the haredi draft exemption issue. Everybody knows that the situation is untenable, but nobody has a solution. We’re stuck in a situation where the draft of young haredi men to the military is essential and yet impossible, long overdue and yet unlikely.

IT IS TIME for a new approach to break the logjam, what can be called the “vacation draft plan.” This will allow haredi men to continue learning Torah while serving military or national service during their semester breaks, which last ten weeks a year.Under my plan, no haredi youngster or married kollel man would have to miss a single day of scheduled yeshiva studies, any time, any year. They would serve only when they are anyway not “studying their hearts out” (or in the literal Hebrew phrase commonly used in the haredi world: “Studying to death in the tents of Torah”).

For the secular or Modern Orthodox Israeli this wouldn’t be a workable solution. In the normal course of things, professional people don’t get enough vacation from work to devote to another significant pursuit. In the working world, most employees (even senior executives) can take, at best, two or three weeks a year in personal vacation time, and this is insufficient for regular service in the army. It’s barely enough time for annual reserve duty. (The self-employed often cannot afford to take even a week off!)

But almost every yeshiva and kollel in this country operates on the same academic calendar with ten weeks of annual vacation time.

Studies begin in the Hebrew month of Elul (August or September) with the first “zman” (yeshiva slang for semester) ending six weeks later before Yom Kippur. Then students and teachers are off on vacation though Succot until the beginning of Cheshvan. Total vacation time, in one lump: Three weeks.

The five-month winter study semester concludes at the end of Adar, whence yeshivas are closed for the entire month of Nissan (including Passover). Vacation time: Another four weeks. The three-month summer semester ends at the beginning of Av, launching another vacation break, amounting to an additional three weeks.

Total vacation accrued, for all junior and senior kollel men, yeshiva boys, and yeshiva educators of all ranks and stripes: ten weeks of annual vacation. Ultra-Orthodox society calls this bein hazmanim (between the semesters).

At these vacation times, you’ll find haredi youth and haredi families travelling the country, visiting its parks, shopping in its malls, and even occasionally travelling abroad – alongside holiday preparations. And yes, they study Torah during these breaks as well, in informal frameworks.

I say that well-endowed-with-vacation haredi men have an obligation to forgo at least some of their time “outside the tents of Torah” to share in the national burden.

It could work like this: For, say, five out of their ten weeks of vacation each year, Ultra-Orthodox men would be drafted into specially-refined, religiously-protective frameworks – ranging from rescue services and rapid-response squads in their own communities to low- and hi-tech support units and even the infantry.

They would serve without missing a minute of any formal ‘seder’ or ‘zman’, without missing a single class or exam, without disrupting their long-term Rabbinic or Talmudic study plans, and without emptying out the yeshivas (which is what the yeshiva deans fear most). And they can stay in the yeshivas and kollels for as long as they want – 20 or 30 or 40 years or a lifetime, if that is what they prefer (and can afford).

Some haredi men might have to miss out on the luxury of having a Pesach seder at home or may have to spend Yom Kippur in the army or in a military hospital pushing wheelchairs, and their wives will alone bear the brunt of holiday preparations – but that’s a small price to pay for national responsibility and unity. A price that non-haredi Israelis have long born. You learn to grin and bear it, and even make this into teachable moments.

Call this giyus bein hazmanim – the vacation draft. Even after serving five or six weeks a year in the army (for multiple years), haredi men would still be left on average with an additional four to five weeks of annual vacation. Like I said, that’s much more than non-haredi Israelis get.

Note: My plan does not require haredi politicians or rabbis to abandon their high principles (– as haredi leaders like to insist: “No one who wants to study Torah should be prevented from doing so, without restrictions or quotas”). My solution won’t require the police to drag a single haredi youngster out of his yeshiva or his home.

Similarly, my solution for this vexing matter won’t require secular Israelis to put aside their nationalistic ethics or their values (as in, “One man, one vote, one soldier – no exceptions”). Nobody will have to stomach the unfairness of sending their son off to the military front while hearing the controversial claim that haredim are “equally putting their lives at stake in the tents of Torah.”

Indeed, my solution for the haredi draft issue embraces the opposing core principles of both the haredi and non-haredi camps, and yet manages to square the circle. It concurrently upholds the belief that the world of Torah study should be allowed to flourish without restriction in the State of Israel, and the belief that it is morally unacceptable that an entire class of Israeli citizens automatically be released from the burden (nay, the privilege!) of defending the country.

I don’t belittle the spiritual importance, for national security too, that the haredi community attaches to constant study of Torah. But I’m saying that haredi men have the time and the ability to also serve in the military without egregiously cutting back on Torah study and without abandoning their unique way of life – if they care to fully share in the national security load and not just hide behind rusty ideological slogans.

For its part, mainstream Israel can facilitate increased haredi participation in the army (and by extension, in broader society) by adopting crafty and non-threatening compromise solutions, such as this proposal.

And in the meantime, until the vacation draft plan is implemented, wouldn’t it be nice if during bein hazmanim haredi men took their Talmuds and sat down to study with IDF soldiers on the Gaza or Lebanon border frontlines?

(Next week: A deeper dive into rival religious ideologies on this issue.)

On the soft bigotry of low expectations regarding Moslem violence during their holy month.

On the soft bigotry of low expectations regarding Moslem violence during their holy month.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, March 8, 2024; and Israel Hayom, March 10, 2024. Print-friendly copy

It would be nice if Palestinian Moslems in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza would approach their holy month of Ramadan (which begins this weekend) as intended by their religion – as a month of fasting, charity, prayer, contrition, and reflection.

Many devout Muslims do so, but it is also true that Ramadan frequently has been celebrated with Moslem, especially Palestinian, violence. Ramadan is exploited as an excuse for ramped-up holy war against Israel.

Those with long memories will remember that Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel on Yom Kippur 1973 – during the month of Ramadan. In many Arab circles, it is still called the “Ramadan War.” Somehow the prayer, contrition, and reflection did not inhibit that sneak attack that slaughtered 2,700 Israelis.

Neither did the fasting. Egyptian and Syrian soldiers were given an exemption from fasting because they were engaged in the religious duty of killing infidels.

Those with short term memories – which excludes many individuals in the Biden White House and Blinken State Department – can easily ascertain that Israel’s enemies have long used Ramadan to murder Jews. In 2016, Hamas gleefully labeled the murderous attack on the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv the “Ramadan Operation” and celebrated the “First Attack of Ramadan.” Other terrorist attacks on Jews soon followed, making that Ramadan a particularly bloody month in Israel.

It is not even limited to Jews. In 2016 and 2017, ISIS twice bombed a popular street in Baghdad during Ramadan, killing hundreds of Muslims. During that same 2016 Ramadan, a radical Muslim attacked the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, murdering 49 people. These are not isolated examples. Arabs have historically fought vicious wars against each other during Ramadan.

And sure enough, again this year, everybody fears “escalation” in Ramadan, especially since Hamas and its mouthpiece the Al Jazeera broadcasting network are religiously calling for expansion of the “Al Aqsa Flood” (i.e., the current war launched by Hamas’ October 7 attack) to Jerusalem and the West Bank via terrorism and uprising.

And so, the defense establishment in this country is warning Israeli leaders to pay deference to Ramadan, to be extra cautious during Ramadan, to do nothing to “provoke” Moslems on Ramadan – especially in and around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – because Moslem emotions are oh-so-very sensitive during that month.

President Biden even has gone as far to hint that Israel should halt its war against Hamas in Gaza to allow Moslems to piously observe Ramadan and, supposedly, tap into some of that famous Ramadan charitable spirit, leading Hamas to reverently melt towards a magnanimous hostage deal. (Halevai, I wish it were to be so.)

To a Jew and an Israeli, such sentiments sound bizarre, because they are bizarre. As the sage Rabbi Steven Pruzansky (formerly of Teaneck NJ and now of Modiin) brilliantly has written, “I do not recall ever becoming so agitated over the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that I felt the urge to run out and attack innocent Gentiles, or even guilty ones. Nor have I ever heard of that passion afflicting any Jew.”

“For that matter, it is inconceivable to any Jew – or any normal, moral, right-thinking person – to yell “G-d is Great” as a prelude to murdering, raping, marauding, beheading, exploding, stabbing, shooting innocent people, for whatever reason. Perhaps good Muslims should use this Ramadan for soul searching and how best to uproot this savage evil from their midst.”

It is the soft bigotry of low expectations that so-called security experts, politicians, diplomats, and statesmen nod their heads and say, “Well, of course, tensions always run high during Ramadan, and as such Jews should keep a low profile, because Moslem violence must be anticipated during the holy month.” Such a sentiment insults the majority of the world’s Moslems, as well as our intelligence. It is the very definition of surrendering to bullies rather than confronting them and vanquishing them.

WHICH LEADS ME to Palestinian-Jordanian impudence and Israeli infirmity in and around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Look at how the government of Israel was tied-into-fits this week with urgent consultations on how and whether to impose anti-riot limits on Arab visitors to the two Moslem shrines on the Temple Mount during the upcoming Ramadan month.

This comes on the background of the threats described above, and stepped-up Jordanian and the Palestinian Authority efforts in the international arena to warn of the “dangers of any attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo at the holy site,” and “to reaffirm Jordan’s role as custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”

They describe Israeli visits to the Temple Mount and the quiet, unofficial Jewish prayer quorums that sometimes gather there as “stormings” and “violent incursions” into Al-Aqsa mosque, and as the “Judaization” of Jerusalem and its Muslim holy sites.

The inversion of truth contained in the above presentation is utterly galling! If anybody has unilaterally, brazenly, and violently changed the status quo on the Temple Mount over the past 25 years, it is radical Palestinian and Islamic actors who have turned the mount into a base of hostile operations against Israel, instead of protecting it as zone of prayer and peace.

Israel, on the other hand, has acted with utmost restraint in the face of Arab assaults.

The Wakf (Islamic Trust) and Islamic movement provocateurs have attacked Jewish visitors to the Mount, Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below the Mount, and Jewish worshippers on their way to the Western Wall. They have attacked Emiratis and Bahrainis praying in Al-Aqsa mosque (because these countries signed Abraham Accord peace treaties). They have greatly restricted visitation rights to the holy mount for all non-Moslems, and hijacked the pulpits in the mosque on the mount to preach hatred and violence against Israel.

The Wakf also has conducted vast, illegal construction projects on the mount and beneath it, willfully destroying centuries of Jewish archaeological treasures. (Four hundred trucks full of archaeologically rich rubble were unceremoniously dumped by the Wakf into the Kidron Valley. Thousands of artifacts from the temple periods have been since found in this rubble.)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas continues to stoke a broad-scale campaign against the authenticity of Israel’s historic rights in Jerusalem. In September 2015 he screeched about “filthy” Jewish feet that were “desecrating” holy Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. “Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,” he bellowed. “They (the Jews) have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so, and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”

At the same time, the PA-controlled Wakf has allowed ISIS, Hamas, Islamic Movement, and Turkish flags to fly on the Temple Mount in violation of all understandings, as well as blood-curdling banners with calls to annihilate Israel and the Jewish People.

This inflamed and despicable discourse now is being picked-up by gullible (and not-so-gullible) Western progressives, who blabber about Israel’s “unprovoked” and “unacceptable” actions on the Temple Mount, “excessive” force, and “violations” of the “status quo.”

Even well-meaning Western spokespeople, like the State Department spokesman, have fallen victim to the Big Lie, with mollycoddling mumbo-jumbo about the need for “all sides to de-escalate and respect the sanctity and status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem.”

All sides should de-escalate? Status quo? Sanctity of holy sites? What the heck are they talking about? There is only one side, the Arab side, that purposefully has escalated the violence in Jerusalem and defiantly defiled Har HaBayit over the past 25 years! It is the Palestinians who have turned Al Aqsa and the entire mountain plaza into extra-territorial headquarters for propagation of blood-curdling Big Lies about Israel.

In fact, Palestinian violence and Islamic exclusivism has become the new Temple Mount status quo. This is the status quo Western leaders demand that Israel preserve?

Alas, the governments of Israel seem to have gone mute in the face of the slanders at the heart of the Palestinian-Islamic narrative regarding the Temple Mount and the Jewish presence in Zion. Even now, when Hamas and its allies in Judea and Samaria are at war with Israel, Israeli leaders continually prefer to keep things quiet and “restore calm” after every wave of Palestinian assault, and to swear fealty to a “status quo” that is long dead.

To top it all off, Jordan has the nerve amidst all this to ask Israel for additional water allocations. Even as Jordanian Queen Rania continues to deny and downplay the October 7 attacks, and Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi lambaste Israel with the most vicious anti-Israel rhetoric, Jordan wants an additional 50 million cubic meters of water over and beyond amounts Israel is obligated to provide under the 1994 peace treaty. This is chutzpah par excellence.

But hey, in the pious spirit of Ramadan, what’s 50 million cm. of water among friends?

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A lesson of the Purim tale: Israel cannot allow the world to emasculate it. 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. The State of Israel does not shrink from long and knotty journeys.
Everybody knows that the rapidly growing and politically muscular Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel can no longer altogether avoid military and/or national service. But haredi leaders will not relinquish their rigid communal structure of full-time and lifetime-long Torah study. So here is my national service plan for haredi men during “bein hazmanim,” their long semester breaks.
Israelis are not “traumatized” or “immobilized” by October 7, but rather animated and alert. They are not intellectual weaklings, wounded babies that have to be coddled and coaxed into making “adult decisions” like embracing Palestinian statehood. Israelis will not brook such global contempt.
UNRWA is not a neutral, efficient, indispensable, or moderating force, nor can it simply be fixed by better oversight. It must be replaced for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Israel’s future is guaranteed by gutsy and patriotic teens, soldiers, and students. They are buoyant and brave and confident in Israel's ability to overcome adversity. Pay no attention to the “Dichonistim” movement, the “Depressive” lobby -- a privileged class of older journalists and veteran “experts” that gloomily dominate the airwaves with stale, defeatist thinking.
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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