- David M. Weinberg - https://davidmweinberg.com -

blog-test

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

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

Published in The Jerusalem Post [2], June 7, 2024; and Israel Hayom [3], June 10, 2024. Print-friendly copy [4]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in The Jerusalem Post [6], May 31, 2024; and Israel Hayom [7], June 4, 2024. Print-friendly copy [8]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Published in The Jerusalem Post [10], May 24, 2024; and Israel Hayom [11], May 26, 2024. Print-friendly copy [12]

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 [14], May 17, 2024; and Israel Hayom [15], May 20, 2024. Print-friendly copy [16]

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 [18], May 10, 2024; and Israel Hayom [19], May 13, 2024. Print-friendly copy [20]

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 [22], May 3, 2024; and Israel Hayom [23], May 5, 2024. Print-friendly copy [24]

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.