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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.

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.

Independence means rejection of international dictates meant to emasculate Israel.

Israel must repudiate American 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.” Israel must rebuff the Biden administration’s attempt to micromanage IDF operations, house-by-house, bullet-by-bullet; handcuffing Israel by denying it weapons and driving Israel into another disastrous draw against Hamas.

Israel must rebuff the soft bigotry of low expectations from Palestinians, which is the counterpart of hard bigotry – impossible demands – made on Israel.

Thoughts for the eve of Yom Haatzmaut 5784, Israel Independence Day 2024.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2024; and Israel Hayom, May 13, 2024. Print-friendly copy

Cartoon: Shay Charka (Makor Rishon)

As Israel approaches its 76th Independence Day, it must withstand ugly narratives of delegitimization that are crashing like tidal waves around the world and international dictates meant to emasculate the Jewish state.

It is maddening to see Western leaders and the supposedly great minds of Western academia succumb with equanimity to Hamas’ genocidal agenda and obviously criminal conduct.

They disregard Hamas’ anti-Semitic discourse and its record of Islamist oppression and human rights abuse. They overlook its total backing by Iran. They take little heed of its path of kidnappings, rockets, border-breaching massacres, and terror attack tunnels – with Palestinians as calculated cannon fodder. They profess to be concerned for Palestinian rights yet ignore Hamas’ radical Islamic oppression of Palestinians alongside its murderous intentions against Israel.

It is exasperating that people pretend that Hamas’ assaults on Israel’s sovereignty and security have anything to do with demands for humanitarian aid or for a two-state solution.

Nonsense! Hamas has repeatedly blown up the civilian and humanitarian supply infrastructures that Israel has facilitated for Gaza, and instead spent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid on military attack infrastructures.

How is it that foreign ministers and foreign correspondents fail to appreciate that over the past 20 years Hamas rejected US, UN, EU, and Arab offers of billions of dollars of aid to the people of Gaza if only Hamas were to demilitarize, end terrorism against Israel, and recognize Israel through acceptance of previous Palestinian agreements with Israel?

How is it that they fail to credit Israel with trying to mollify Hamas by facilitating tens of millions of dollars of Qatari cash for Hamas in Gaza over the past decade? (Alas, this obviously was a failed strategy).

Instead, they complain that while at war Israel restricts supply convoys into Gaza and they worry aloud that Hamas will not get kid gloves treatment when the fighting ends (such as the provision of cement and other building materials, which once again will poured in underground terror complexes instead of civilian reconstruction).

How is it that they call the Israeli-Palestinian death toll “disproportionate,” suggesting that not enough Israelis have been killed to justify Israel’s military counterstrikes on Hamas. How many more Israelis must die for the sake of immoral symmetry and ersatz Western scruples?

How is it that they ignore the fact that thousands of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza have fallen inside Gaza and likely are responsible for many Palestinian civilian deaths? How do they discount the fact that many of the Palestinian dead are clearly identified Hamas and Islamic Jihad military personnel – by admission of the terrorists themselves?

It also is galling that Western do-gooders seem to view Palestinian “Days of Rage,” “Nakba Day” riots, and missile barrage eruptions as expected behavior. As if the Palestinians cannot help themselves from throwing a tantrum. As if responsible and reasonable behavior – such as negotiation, democratic and peaceful discourse, and normative state-building – cannot be demanded of the Palestinians.

This is the soft bigotry of low expectations from Palestinians, which is the counterpart of hard bigotry – impossible demands – made on Israel.

I sense that this stems from reluctance to internalize the fact that, despite Israel’s Oslo Accord concessions and multiple peace offers ever since, much of the Palestinian national movement has not changed its goal of annihilating Israel and replacing it with a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” or with an Islamic caliphate.

IN RESPONSE, 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.

Among the wrong-headed ideas that must be rejected are Washington’s insistence 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.

Also to be rebuffed: American 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.” This includes the Biden administration’s attempt to micromanage IDF operations, house-by-house, bullet-by-bullet; handcuffing Israel by denying it weapons and driving Israel into another disastrous draw against Hamas.

(This, from a country that has not won a war in 80 years, despite carpet bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more.)

Israel must also repudiate the arrogant talk in Western capitals of unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood and anointing the decrepit Palestinian Authority as a stabilizing force in Gaza. These are debilitating ideas that seed the likelihood of long-term strategic defeat for Israel.

Israel must also reject the erroneous strategic thinking that sees a grand soft deal with Iran as the panacea for all regional ills. Alas, the Biden administration seems more obsessed with thwarting the swagger of Israel than it is concerned with halting Iran’s race to nuclear weapons and its region-wide hegemonic ambitions.

AMBASSADOR Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Herzog (1921-1972) once explained why Israel sometimes stubbornly refuses to accept rational calculations of diplomatic cost/benefit that are politely or impolitely impressed on it by allies.

Israelis, he clarified, can shake-off the bleak prognostications advanced by both friends and enemies because of a deep-rooted belief in the power of Jewish history; by faith that Israel is guided by an astral calculus that is not always perceptible. This, he wrote, undergirds the willingness of Israelis to sacrifice for independence.

And thus, those who consider history only in terms of politics and international relations underestimate Israel. They apply temporal yardsticks of measurement to Israel but fail to fathom the processes at work behind the curtain of current affairs.

They fail to understand that Israel is on historic mission where the lines are blurred between imagination and reality, between the possible and the feasible. And so, Israel plows forward despite all critics and adversaries.

And at this very moment, true atzmaut, real independence, means that Israel must advance in defiance of those who seek to emasculate it (deny it weapons), of those who would prevent Israel from achieving its necessary and justified war goals of crushing Hamas and Hezbollah, countering Iran, and restoring this country’s deterrent power.

Remember: None of the brutal dictatorships or arrogant empires throughout history that sought to destroy the physical core or sap the indomitable spirit of the Jewish People succeeded. Neither will they do so today.

Western editorialists were fiercely anti-Israel 35 years ago too, as shown by a collection of Canadian editorial cartoons from the first intifada.

The type of unbalanced criticism Israel is experiencing today in its war against the genocidal Hamas movement in Gaza isn’t new. Western editorialists were fiercely anti-Israel 35 years ago too, as shown by a collection of Canadian editorial cartoons from the first intifada.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2024; and Israel Hayom, May 5, 2024. Print-friendly copy

The type of unbalanced criticism Israel is experiencing today in its war against the genocidal Hamas movement in Gaza isn’t new. Long before Binyamin Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Betzalel Smotrich were anywhere near Israeli government, the world was fiercely critical of Israel. Rarely have Western pundits brooked understanding for IDF operations against Palestinian terrorists.

I was reminded of this last month when I discovered, while cleaning my office for Pesach, a collection of editorial cartoons published in Canadian newspapers in January 1988 at the beginning of the so-called “first intifada.” (At the time I worked for the Canada-Israel Committee in Toronto.)

The editorial cartoons of three-plus decades ago gave full vent to intimations that Israeli troops were barbaric, and that Israeli policy was Nazi-like or equivalent to South African apartheid. Again, these ugly assertions did not pop up just recently.

In the second week of January 1988, cartoonist Bob Krieger of The Vancouver Province drew a cartoon with Israeli-flagged IDF troops shooting at a Divine hand descending from the heavens with two numbered tablets of stone. The insinuation was that the Israel Defense Forces and the Jewish People were committing abominations against G-d’s most basic Ten Commandments.

Vance Rodewalt of The Calgary Herald sketched an ugly, fat, and smoking Israeli soldier with an enormous rifle lording over an innocent pro-Palestinian protestor whose hands were submissively in the air.

The snarky Israeli tells the protestor that “World opinion being what it is, and me being the good guy I am, I’ve decided to give you a fair chance. When I give you the word…. Run for it!” The sweet protester’s placard lays on the ground emblazoned with the words: Down with Jewish oppressors. Long live Palestine.

The Windsor Star carried a cartoon by Edd Uluschak entitled “Modern David and Goliath” which had an outsized Israeli soldier with a smoking machine gun towering over a tiny dead figure with a slingshot.

Similarly, Malcolm Mayes of The Edmonton Journal drew a ghoulish Israeli soldier (with the face of the Grim Reaper) and a smirking Israeli politician (with the face of then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir) standing over a Gazan Palestinian who lies in a pool of blood. The Israeli says to the dead Palestinian: “You have the right to remain silent…”

Carrying further with this Palestinian-as-underdog theme and Israeli-as-butcher theme was Andy Donato of The Toronto Sun. He penciled a Palestinian midget figure throwing rocks and trying to climb up the barrel of an Israeli assault rifle. In another cartoon he had a Palestinian throwing a rock which bounced off the helmet of an Israeli soldier, who responded with deadly fire. The caption reads: “An eye for an eye, ears, nose and throat.”

Brian Gable of The Globe and Mail made it clear that Israel was to blame for the violence, not Palestinians. Repeatedly he depicted Israelis as aggressors and pyromaniacs, pouring or pumping gasoline on homes in the West Bank and Gaza.

Dale Cummings of The Winnipeg Free Press made the same allegation by imprisoning an Arab with a keffiyeh inside an oversized Star of David, with locks on his hands and manacles on his feet. (See image above.)

Dan Murphy of The Vancouver Province offered an “Israel Army Target Practice” session with ponytailed little Arab girls as clay pigeons tossed-up into the sky as somebody yells “PULL.”

To make it explicitly clear what Murphy thinks of Israel (it being an “apartheid” state), he drew a tea-party conversation between Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and South Africa’s President P.W. Botha. Shamir says “Arabs, and only Arabs are to be blamed for this unrest!” Botha responds “Indeed! Now let me tell you about the Black interlopers in Africa…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS TRULY AMAZING is that these vile cartoons are from 1988 – when Shimon Peres (the “Prince of Peace”) was Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Yitzhak Rabin was Minister of Defense, and Yitzhak Navon was Minister of Education and Culture (all of the Labor Alignment), alongside Prime Minister Shamir and Deputy Prime Minister and Housing Minister David Levy of the Likud.

This was long before the rise and fall of the Oslo peace process, long before Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister, long before Itamar Ben-Gvir graduated grade six, and long before baby Betzalel Smotrich could say the word “settlement.”

This was long before Israel dared to (was forced to) bomb terrorist bunkers or blow-up the homes of Palestinian terrorists. At the time, all IDF troops dared to do (under orders from Yitzhak Rabin) was club Palestinian attackers with wooden batons and fire plastic bullets at the limbs of Palestinian terrorists armed with Molotov cocktails. It was long before the much ballyhooed and mostly bogus “settler violence” narrative.

It was a time when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was openly and proudly terrorist and formally designated as such by all Western countries.

It was a time of great in-house Palestinian bloodletting, with as many Palestinians slaughtered by other Palestinians for being “collaborators” with Israel as there were Palestinians shot by Israel while putting down the intifada (– Palestinian terrorism which also killed and wounded thousands of Israelis).

Despite all the above, the cartoonists and editorialists of 1988 had zero sympathy for attacked Israelis and oodles of sympathy for the attacking Palestinians. Even back then – again long before the “obstructionist” Israeli right-wing under Netanyahu came to power – the world was more than ready to paint the IDF in the darkest hues and label Israel as criminal.

So much for blaming Israel’s hasbara (reputational) problems on the Israeli right wing. I’m just saying.

The IDF must be ready for unrelenting combat over the coming decade, and this requires new military leadership (and a lot of money).

The IDF must be ready for unrelenting combat over the coming decade, and this requires new military leadership (and a lot of money).

Published in The Jerusalem Post, April 26, 2024; and Israel Hayom, April 28, 2024. Print-friendly copy

Back in 2013, the IDF chief-of-staff promulgated a multi-year plan for the Israeli military called “Teuzah” (prowess or fearlessness). That plan accepted a significant decrease in overall funding to the IDF and shifted priorities away from the ground forces in favor of air force and cyber capabilities, intelligence, special operations forces, and stand-off precision fire. This came atop a cut of 25 percent in the ground forces budget between 2002 and 2006.

The IDF chief of staff at the time was Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.

According to Amir Rapaport, publisher and editor of the military industry-leading Israel Defense magazine, Gantz accepted the relative weakness of the maneuvering capabilities of the ground forces as a given. He did not think that the IDF would need to fight conventional army forces in the foreseeable future, nor have to conduct large-scale ground maneuvers in enemy territory.

Obviously, Gantz and his predecessors and successors (Mofaz, Halutz, Yaalon, Ashkenazi, Eisencott, and Kochavi) – all of whom were party to this grand conceptual error to one degree or another – were dead wrong. It is today quite clear that Israel will likely fight several wars in enemy-held territory over the coming decade.

Responding to Gantz’s mistaken plan in 2013, Dr. Eitan Shamir and Dr. Eado Hecht of the BESA Center warned that “Neglect of the IDF’s ground forces poses a risk to Israel’s security. There are real battles ahead against well-entrenched Hamas and Hezbollah armies.” But back then nobody was listening.

Today it is clear that the IDF needs to knock-back the Iranian-proxy armies and jihadist militias camped on our borders. It needs to go house-by-house and tunnel-by-tunnel to ferret-out and eliminate terrorist cells in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. It may need to “decommission” Iran’s nuclear enrichment and bomb-making facilities.

Consider the situation in Lebanon. To rout Hezbollah and destroy its missile stockpiles in the coming war Israel will have to reconquer southern Lebanon. Even with the Israel Air Force working intensively from above (including massive leveling of Lebanese infrastructures), Israel could be facing months weeks of real and unrelenting ground combat in the deep valleys and steep mountains of Lebanon where Hezbollah is well dug in. (The Iranian-built and -funded terror army sits on a tunnel and bunker array that reportedly makes the Hamas military infrastructure in Gaza seem like child’s play).

Given America’s stampeding retreat from overseas commitments, the creeping repeal of an American protective diplomatic umbrella for Israel by presidents Obama and Biden, and the newest restrictions on use of US weaponry – Israel may be fighting truly alone.

UNDERSTANDING THIS is particularly relevant as Israel prepares to replace its military and intelligence leadership.

Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva has just resigned for his role in the gargantuan failure of October 7, appropriately so. Soon, IDF Chief-of-Staff Herzi Halevi, OC Southern Command Chief Yaron Finkelman, Mossad Chief Dedi Barnea, General Security Service Chief Ronen Bar, and dozens of other senior defense establishment leaders are expected to resign or be sacked, appropriately so.

The question is not only who will replace them but what sort of operational prisms their replacements will bring to the task. And what conceptual prisms will Israel’s politicians lay out for them. (A new set of politicians is necessary too!) And what budgets Israel’s prime minister and defense and finance ministers will allocate for the defense establishment.

Here is a brief list of necessary fixes:

* Manpower: Over the past 40 years, the IDF has shrunk from 15 to 10 divisions. It now needs to grow by at least three divisions. That is 50,000 soldiers more, and tons and tons of military equipment.

* Training: A gargantuan increase in the training of front-line troops is necessary. It is a well-known secret that many of the infantry and armored forces that went into Gaza over the past half-year were insufficiently trained for combat in built-up areas.

It is actually a miracle how well the IDF has fought in Gaza, with mid-level military commanders in the field (the lieutenant colonels, battalion commanders; and the colonels, brigade commanders) learning on the go and quickly bringing their troops up to speed. They are among the true heroes of the current war.

Alas, training is expensive, especially for combined arms high intensity conflict – which involves multiple branches of the military working together. Training of the reserve forces is even more expensive. And unfortunately, budget lines for training are usually the first thing to be cut when the overall military budget is slashed – as it has been in recent decades.

* Platforms: The army needs to reverse the demobilization of armored formations and buy and deploy many more “Namer” armored personnel carriers equipped with the “Iron Fist” active defense system; “Merkava” main battle tanks with the “Trophy” system; and self-propelled artillery guns with the “Thundermaker” system. This will cost hundreds of millions of shekels.

* Ammunition: The IDF used up much of its ammunition reserves over the past six months, especially its stocks of shells for the ground forces and precision-guided missiles for the air force.

While the US has rushed tons of weaponry to Israel, Washington also has held up resupply of some of these munitions at certain times, and there is anyway a global shortage of some firepower like 155mm artillery shells (with the war in Ukraine soaking-up much of the available weaponry). As mentioned above, Israel also now faces increasing restrictions on its use of US-supplied weaponry.

The takeaway is that Israel needs to self-manufacture and the IDF needs to stockpile much larger reserves of weaponry for the lengthy wars of the future with Hezbollah and Hamas. Again, this requires more money with guaranteed funding over a multi-year plan.

Reportedly, Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered a massive build-up, eight times over the current manufacturing capacity of the Israeli defense industries. Let’s see whether this order is implemented and budgeted appropriately by the next Israeli governments.

* Navy: Elements of radical Islam are gaining control across the eastern Mediterranean basin, from Libya to Syria and Turkey. Israel and Greece are the only Western-oriented countries in the region.

Former Israeli Naval Chief, Admiral (res.) Eliezer “Chiney” Marom, argues that Israel needs a much more powerful navy, with a long reach, to counter the strategic realignments underway, and to protect from terrorist attack the substantial natural gas fields we have discovered at sea.

The Israel Navy wants more than $5 billion in new ships, submarines, weapons systems. and personnel over the next decade for this.

* West Bank: Given that security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority essentially has collapsed, and Mahmoud Abbas’ forces are no match for Hamas and other terrorist mini-armies that have entrenched themselves across Judea and Samaria – Israel needs to pour more troops into policing the territory. This is a big drain on the military system, but without it nobody in greater Tel Aviv or Jerusalem will be safe.

The fact is that Palestinian terrorism is off the charts with organized battalions of terrorist commandoes operating openly in dozens of cities and refugee camps. Take, for example, Nur Shams, a tinpot refugee camp adjacent to Tulkarem in central Israel just over the security barrier. The IDF operated there for four days last week and was unexpectedly met by insane quantities of Palestinian firepower.

(So much for dreams of a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority that would not only truly combat terrorism in the West Bank but also assume responsibility for administering, demilitarizing, and deradicalizing Gaza. Hah!)

* Jordan Valley: Many voices in the defense establishment are calling for the building of a well-fortified security fence along Israel’s long border with Jordan, as has been done along the Sinai, Lebanese, and Golan borders; alongside the permanent stationing of more troops along this strategic seam line.

Iran is actively seeking to undermine the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and take advantage of the porous border between Israel and Jordan to ship weaponry into the West Bank. The fluidity of the political and security situation to our east requires a military buildup in the Jordan Valley, and this needs to be budgeted for expeditiously.

* Iran: If worse comes to worse (and every day indeed it seems that worse news comes from Iran about its nuclear advances and from Washington about its strategic capitulation to Iran), the IDF and IAF may have to act against Iran’s nuclear and missile facilities. Then Israel will have to deal with the fallout from Iran’s retaliation – and the country had better be ready both militarily and on the home front.

This month’s unprecedented Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel proves that Israel needs quite a few more Arrow 2 and 3 anti-missile defense arrays. A small fortune.

Israel’s independence depends on robust defense readiness. And on new military-intelligence leaders with clear-eyed understanding of the situation.

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.

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.

The Biden administration’s current campaigns to delay, dissuade, and eventually preclude further military conquest in Gaza, and to delay, dissuade, and eventually preclude further confrontation with Iran, accompanied by persistent threats to deny Israeli diplomatic backing and weapons if Jerusalem does not heed Washington’s warnings – are formulas for grand defeat. And as such, they must be resisted.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, April 19, 2024; and Israel Hayom, April 21, 2024. Print-friendly copy

Reading the Israeli and global media one would think that this week Israel achieved its greatest victory since the Six Day War, successfully stymying a massive Iranian missile attack. With dozens of videos and hagiographic pilot profiles, the IDF is busy pumping its technological prowess. In religious circles, there are a thousand memes and essays circulating asserting a divine miracle, no less.

This is poppycock. At best, Israel can record a defensive tactical achievement, perhaps indeed blessed, but not a strategic win. On the strategic level, Israel suffered a whopping loss as Iran pierced with apparent impunity American and Israeli deterrence frameworks.

The US president in Washington barked “don’t,” and Jerusalem didn’t believe that Iran would dare to attack Israel directly, but Iran dared to do so, nevertheless. The ayatollahs brazenly launched a colossal Russian-style strike package intended to cause considerable damage; the largest one-night drone and missile barrage ever launched in history by one nation against another.

That fact that the attack failed – with 50% of the missiles failing to launch or crashing before reaching their target and 49% more impressively being intercepted by Israel and its allies – is irrelevant from a strategic perspective.

The screeching strategic reality is that Iran has catapulted its 40-years-long war against Israel (– a war that has been underway via proxies ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979) to a new, stratospheric plateau (literally so, with ballistic missiles flying from Iranian soil through space to hit Israel).

When one realizes what a dramatic watershed moment this is, the fact that the strike did amazingly little damage dims into the background. It is not a pertinent consideration in determining how and with what ferocity Israel should respond.

That is why President Biden’s reported advice to Israel to “take the win,” as it were, to suck-up its indignation, to rely on Western sanctions against Iran alone as “smart retaliation,” and in general to “avoid escalation” – is outrageous and dangerous nonsense.

And compounding his failure to deter Iran from directly attacking Israel, Biden has now added to the potential further collapse of any deterrence against Iran by declaring that he seeks no confrontation with Iran and will not participate in any Israeli retaliatory strike at Iran. This is strategic insanity of grandiose proportions!

When America fears escalation more than Iran does, the path towards grand Western defeat is clear. If Israel fears escalation more than Iran does, Tehran will march all the way to Jerusalem with even greater and grander attacks.

One can be certain that Tehran can and will build more successful strike packages in the future designed to overwhelm Israel’s defenses. It will try again and again, just as Hamas has launched repeated rocket wars against Israel over the past 20 years, each time with larger numbers of rockets and longer-range and more accurate rockets too.

Imagine if only one of the eight ballistic missiles (out of 120) that managed to penetrate Israeli defenses last Saturday night had fallen not in and around a well-protected airbase in the barren Negev but on a high-rise building in Tel Aviv? What if that one ballistic missile had hit the nuclear reactor in Dimona which is near that airbase? What if that one ballistic missile had been nuclear tipped? What if Israel had no advance notice of another such Iranian attack (which it did have this time) in order to mount a robust air defense plan?

Remember that every single warplane in the Israeli arsenal was in the air for eight straight hours this past Saturday night, along with warplanes and flying intelligence platforms from four Western air forces and reportedly several allied Arab air forces too, plus all reserve components of Israel’s air defense array (Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and 3, and the like). This is certainly not something that necessarily will be in place every time in the future that Iran decides to take a direct, unannounced poke at Israel.

DETERRENCE is a tricky task, a defense and diplomatic act that is hard to achieve. It is a construct that requires constant maintenance or else it dissipates. Psychologically, deterrence is measured by “subsequent behavior,” meaning that the Iranian attack will be considered successful if it dissuades Israel from future attacks against Iranian leaders and assets.

Conversely, the Iranian attack will be considered unsuccessful – not because the damage it intended was prevented – if Israel continues to target Iranian leaders and assets inside Iran and around the region. Such offensives are necessary to prevent Teheran’s hegemonic ambitions and nuclear military effort.

The worst possible thing for Israel’s deterrent posture is for a perception of Israel “being stuck” to take root in Tehran and/or around the world. The unhealthiest situation involves Israel being “stuck,” not moving forward, in crushing Hamas in Gaza (Rafah), in confronting Hezbollah in Lebanon, in suppressing terror cells in Judea and Samaria, in targeting IRGC emplacements in Syria, and in sabotaging nuclear facilities in Iran.

Being stuck, a situation where Israel is diplomatically or militarily hampered in every direction by well-meaning but weak allies or by supremely confident Shiite mullahs and their Russian ally, is an unacceptable, perilous position for Israel.

Instead, Israel needs to become “unstuck,” to free itself from stale strategic paradigms and insufferable diplomatic handcuffs that dominated before October 7 and April 14 – two dates that constitute watershed moments for Israel.

IN GENERAL, I sense that Israel’s strategic goals have become too limited in recent decades, hamstrung by the failed Oslo peace process with Palestinians and the failed Obama peace process with Iranians. These gambits emphasized quiet, cooption, deflation, and survival, at the expense of principle, dominance, and victory. They bought about cowering postures instead of appropriately necessary offensive postures.

As a result, at this very moment Israel is being pressed by its fainthearted friends to abandon its goal of liquidating Hamas; to instead prioritize humanitarian provisions to the enemy population; to downgrade its rage over the invasion, murder, abuse, and humiliation of its citizens including kidnapped Israelis held hostage for more than six months; and to acquiesce in the release of Palestinian terrorists and butchers (including the “Nukhba” marauders of Hamas).

Israel also is being pressed to absorb Hezbollah’s continued blows including the depopulation of northern Israel and to settle for another worthless, airy-fairy diplomatic “settlement” that will only perpetuate the Iranian threat from southern Lebanon; and to refrain from “escalatory retaliation” to the April 14 earthquake-level Iranian assault on Israel.

Were they to be adopted, these policies taken together amount to grand strategic defeat for Israel. They constitute a straitjacket that puts Israeli survival – yes, Israel’s very survival! – at risk; that brings into question Israel’s power to persevere as an independent nation in the Middle East. Were they to be adopted by Israel, these policies taken together inevitably would crash Israel as a resilient, buoyant society and a prosperous, leading economy that contributes so much to the world.

The Biden administration’s current campaigns to delay, dissuade, and eventually preclude further military conquest in Gaza, and to delay, dissuade, and eventually preclude further confrontation with Iran, accompanied by persistent threats to deny Israeli diplomatic backing and weapons if Jerusalem does not heed Washington’s warnings – are formulas for grand defeat. And as such, they must be resisted.

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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