What You Need to Know about Israel and Gaza to Understand Events Today

1. Hamas took over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel had withdrawn all of its citizens including all of its military from Gaza in 2005 and Egypt has been in control of the Rafah Border Crossing since that time. Hamas’ believes that it is the duty of every Muslim to fight against the existence of the Jewish state and that terrorism against civilians, including women and children, is legitimate and will eventually work. Haviv Rettig Gur’s article about Hamas’ mindset is a must read. Hamas has conducted numerous terrorist attacks through the years in which it send men and women with explosive belts into Israeli cities to kill themselves along with as many Jews as possible. Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States.

2. Hamas, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its ally, celebrated the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Later in came to both promote and support attacks, some by other militant groups, in the Sinai Peninsula against the current Egyptian government led by Al Sissi in Egypt. These attacks including a particularly bad one in August of 2012 that left more than a dozen Egyptian soldiers dead resulted in 2013 in Egypt launching a major operation to close most smuggling tunnels into Gaza along with closing the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

3. Hamas began to fire rockets, mostly mortars and relatively inaccurate Qassam  rockets, at Israeli communities beginning in 2006, after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and several years prior to the Naval Blockade enforced by Israel in 2009, only after longer range and much more deadly rockets were used by Hamas. By Winter of 2009, several thousand rockets had been fired at Israeli cities not just along the Gaza border but further afield. The Israeli city of Sderot received much attention because of its bomb shelters and programs for children with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in December 2009. This article by Alan Johnson in the Daily Telegraph does a good job of summarizing the history of events surrounding rocket fire and the blockade.

4. In May of 2010, the Free Gaza Flotilla sailed from Turkey to Gaza in an attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. While international attention was focused on such things as limited medical supplies, some of which were actually useless and primarily for symbolic value, and then all attention came to be focused on the violence aboard the Mavi Marmara, the primary cargo carried to Gaza by the flotilla was cement.

5. In 2011, Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian Dictator and an ally of the Fatah Party and Mahmoud Abbas, was deposed in favor of Mohammed Morsi, the leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Over the ensuing year, the border between Gaza and Egypt was entirely open.

6. Starting in March 2012, Hamas begin firing rockets including longer range Grad rockets into Israel.  Israel responded with Operation Returning Echo, a five day operation that ended with a ceasefire on March 14, 2012.

7. Over the course of that year, Hamas added medium range M-75 rockets capable of reaching the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to its arsenal. Initially, these rockets were brought in from Iran into Sudan, potentially having been assembled and/or stored at the Yarmouk weapons factory outside of Khartoum which the Israeli military struck in October 2012, and then into Gaza primarily via smuggling tunnels in the Sinai, though some fishing vessels may have also been used to deliver them. With the open border and possibly because of the destruction of the weapons it may have been expecting to come from Yarmouk, Hamas launched a new rocket based operation against Israel in November of 2012. The use of longer range rockets was the primary reason for Israel to launch Operation Pillar of Defense (aka Pillar of Cloud) in 2012, a eight day operation that was highlighted by the effectiveness of the newly introduced Iron Dome anti-missile system. Hamas agreed to a ceasefire November, 2012 that has been in effect for the past two years prior to June of this year.

8. Since the Winter of 2012, Hamas began trying to bring in Iranian/Syrian made M-302 extended range rockets capable of reaching 80% of Israeli cities from Gaza and doing substantial damage when they strike. In March of 2014, a ship known as the Klos-C carrying M-302s from Iran was captured by the Israeli navy while trying to deliver dozens of M-302S to Gaza, but it is clear that many more arrived via other means, most likely crossing the border from Egypt prior to the end of 2013 when Egypt began closing smuggling tunnels in earnest.

9. June 2, 2014 the Palestinian Authority announced the creation of a Palestinian Unity government that would include representatives of Hamas as well as those of Fatah, the primary party in the West Bank led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas’ primary goal in joining the Unity Government was to open the door for funding to come to pay its 40,000 employees in Gaza.

10. With the Egyptian closure of both the Rafah border crossing and most of the smuggling tunnels in 2013, Hamas has become increasingly weakened and faces the likelihood of losing any fair election to be held in Gaza at this point. Hamas is unable to convince the Egyptians to open the border or to convince the Israelis to end the naval blockade. The Palestinian Authority’s desire is to end independent Hamas control over Gaza and to restore the PA’s control there in some fashion, if not completely.

11. Hamas’ current plan according to Gershon Baskin, who has communicated directly with Hamas’ leaders, is to force a compromise agreement upon Egypt and the Palestinian Authority by engaging Israel in a conflict that leads to many Palestinian deaths and brings outside pressure upon the situation. The primary goals of its current efforts are to attain a ceasefire agreement that would result in the opening of the Rafah Border Crossing currently closed by Egypt and the payment of the 40,000 Hamas employees, what they are owed as well as ongoing payments. It is not inaccurate to say that Hamas is firing rockets at Israeli civilians and utilizing offensive military tunnels from Gaza into Israel in a manner requiring Israel to kill many Palestinian civilians so that Egypt and the Palestinian Authority respond to its demands.

12. Hamas not only locates is weapons and personnel in or nearby normally protected facilities such as UN Schools, Hospitals, Mosques and civilian housing, it encourages civilians to gather around its weapons and discourages them to flee when notified. It was discovered today that Hamas used a UNRWA School situated between two other UN schools currently housing 1,500 refugees each to house rockets. The combination of all of these things is a clear attempt to use human shields. Israel meanwhile feeds this practice by regularly calling off strikes against targets when civilians are present. By no means is it the case that civilians are not killed when they do not evacuate targeted sites, they are, and there are certainly also errors on Israel’s part such as the tragic killing of four children near a Hamas target on a beach. Unfortunately, by embedding its personnel and weaponry among civilians, Hamas has created a situation in which Israel both has no choice but to respond and to respond when Hamas attacks from targets where there are civilians present.

13. There is no reasonable argument to be made for Israel to relax its naval blockade of Gaza instituted because of rocket fire coming from Gaza from 2006-2009 because of the massively increased level and severity of rocket fire in the ensuing years. If anything, it is assuredly the case that such a blockade has now been proven essential to Israel’s security.

14. Israel believed that there were “offensive” tunnels dug between Gaza and Israel that were primarily designed to attempt kidnappings of Israeli soldiers, but which also could be used to conduct damaging terror attacks. It did  not, however, realize the extent, quality, or severity of the threat that it faced until July 17th, when thirteen Hamas commandos crossed through a tunnel into Israel near Kibbutz Sufa with the intent of either capturing or wiping out the population of the Kibbutz. Israel then launched a ground operation to find and destroy other similar tunnels. The US government estimates that at least sixty similar tunnels likely exist and that some are also more substantial. One tunnel into Egypt was 1.5 miles long, 66 feet deep, contained electricity and had provisions including food placed along its length to accommodate travelers. The basis of this argument is an understanding of Hamas’ smuggling tunnels into Egypt and the fact that similar tunnels could be created into Israel. There are now jokes circulating that Hamas may have already completed a tunnel into the West Bank from Gaza.  The belief now is that Hamas has used tens of thousands of tons of concrete to build tunnels and bunkers in Gaza which cost it into nine-figures in dollars and that the threat from these is much greater than previously assumed. Israel has already stopped several attacks coming from these tunnels in the last week alone. It is important to note that such a tunnel would have almost certainly been used to move the three kidnapped Israeli teens into Gaza had they not been killed and that whether or not Hamas ordered its operatives to kidnap the teens, it certainly would have claimed the kidnapping had it succeeded.

15. Finally, today, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways cancelled flights into Ben Gurion Airport. Following these decisions, the US FAA banned US air lines from flying into Ben Gurion for at least 24 hours because a Hamas fired rocket landed near the airport. This reaction may be an over-reaction based on the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane in Ukraine in combination with US issued travel warnings. Other airlines will likely follow suit.

16. How likely is a ceasefire soon? Here is the ceasefire situation in a nutshell. It has not changed for over a week now. There are two ceasefire proposals being proposed currently. 1. An Egyptian one supported by the Palestinian Authority and to which Israel has agreed that grants none of Hamas’ demands and 2. A Qatari one which grants almost all of what Hamas wants. The Egyptian one is supported by all of the nationalist Arab governments including Jordan, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia as well as by the United Nations and the United States. Israel has agreed to the Egyptian proposal already. The Qatari one is supported by the Islamist governments including Turkey. Each of these sides wants the other to concede and both sides are willing for the Israel-Hamas fight to continue if the other side does not concede.

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Hamas has no Respect for Human Life

It is difficult to fight an enemy that does not share your values. It is precisely Hamas’ disrespect for human life that has resulted in the death and injury of so many innocent Palestinians in Gaza and has enabled them to dupe the international press thereby gaining sympathy for their cause.

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge more than 1,790 rockets have deliberately been launched from Gaza at civilian targets in Israel. Had they succeeded in their objective, they would have resulted in the death and injury of thousands of innocent people.

By contrast, Israeli forces have put their own lives at risk in their untiring efforts to avoid civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. Not only have leaflets been dropped warning of impending attacks but phone calls have been made and SMS messages sent to residents calling upon them to vacate homes in advance of attacks on buildings that have been used for military purposes.

However, in response to those efforts to avoid the loss of life, a Palestinian National and Islamic Forces representative appeared on television calling upon the Palestinian people to remain in their homes.

Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for Hamas, said in an interview on Al Aqsa TV: “The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation…. We aren’t leading our people today to destruction. We are leading our people to death.”

Meanwhile, as I write these lines, rockets continue to rain down on the houses of the long-suffering residents of Sederot and the IDF has intercepted two groups of terrorists, who had infiltrated Israel via underground tunnels in order to murder people in their homes and take hostages.

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Lift the Siege on Gaza

One cannot help but be moved by the suffering of Gaza’s population, who live a life under siege. The Electronic Intifada reports how Gaza’s hospitals struggle to save lives amid Israel’s siege. The pathetic plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is not an enviable one, but it did not have to be that way.

It should be noted that not only Israel maintains a tight watch on what and who enters Gaza but the Egyptians are doing precisely the same thing. They too are fearful of Hamas fermenting unrest and creating havoc in the Sinai Peninsula.

It wasn’t always that way. When the 8,600 Israeli settlers were evicted by the IDF from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip back in 2005, some 200,000 square meters of greenhouse space, which had been purchased by international donors, were left intact, but Palestinian militants ransacked them.

Not everyone knows that the blockade on the Gaza Strip was only imposed by Egypt and Israel two years later after Hamas took control of the area replacing Palestine National Authority government officials with its own.

Of course, the siege is not really a siege. Israel supplies electricity and water to Gaza’s inhabitants, grants the critically ill access to intensive care units in its hospitals and allowed no less than 1,200 truck loads of goods to enter the Gaza Strip during just one week during the week prior to Operation Protective Edge.

That having been said, Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip is not an open one and no one has the right to expect that it should be. We are at war with Hamas and they call for our annihilation. Over 1,000 rockets and mortars have been targeted at Israel’s civilian population since the commencement of the current conflict.

To cap it all, IDF forces this morning identified approximately 13 terrorists attempting to infiltrate Israel near Kibbutz Suffa via an underground tunnel constructed by Hamas using construction materials imported via Israel.

By all means, let’s have an open border with the Gaza Strip in the way that one can travel freely from France to Holland. However, for that to happen, we need neighbors who respect the notion of “live and let live”. Until that takes place, one can hardly criticize Israel for wanting to protect its citizens and for taking whatever measures it deems appropriate to ensure that Gaza does not become a terrorist’s haven with weapons and jihadists flooding in from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

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The Tragedy of the Palestinians

The United Nations reports that 177 Palestinians have been killed since Operation Protective Edge began a week ago. A quarter of the victims have been children. Palestinian medical sources say that some 1,280 people have been wounded.

All of this is a tragedy. It did not have to happen. Two sisters aged 13 and 11 were seriously injured by shrapnel in a village close to Beersheba earlier today.

Of course the numbers hurt on our side are considerably lower than those on the Palestinian side. We build bomb shelters and reinforced rooms in which our families can hide when Hamas fires rockets at an innocent population. By contrast, Hamas uses civilians as human shields and prefers to use the concrete at its disposal to build massive tunnels into Israeli territory in an attempt to infiltrate villages and kibbutzim close to the border for the purpose of murdering and kidnapping.

Some misguided people feel sorry for the Palestinians with their primitive rockets trying to wage a war against the might and sophistication of Israel’s armed forces. However, no one forced Hamas to start raining rockets down on Sederot’s population. The current conflict was of their choosing.

Last week’s The Economist bore the title “The Tragedy of the Arabs – A poisoned history.” That history can continue to dictate their actions and fate, or they can begin to open a new chapter based on compromise, mutual respect and “live and let live.” Israel is not about to go away and a Palestinian resistance based upon the belief that the Jewish State can be wiped off the face of the earth is bound to end in frustration, desperation and tragedy.

 

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Israel and Hamas – News from Israel

DATELINE:
Hod Hasharon, Israel
Sunday, July 13, 2014 – 8.30 PM

In less than two hours’ time Israelis and Gazians will be glued to their TV sets to watch the FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. Time will tell whether this will lead to a temporary lull in the rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population and the IDF’s attempts to control the situation, or whether we shall be forced to make a rush for our bomb shelters and reinforced rooms in the middle of the game.

Our daughter and grandchild have left Tel Aviv and moved into our home in Hod Hasharon, because they don’t have a reinforced room and it would take just too long for them to run with an 18-month old to the nearest public bomb shelter.

We try to carry on with our lives, but it isn’t easy. At any moment the air raid siren can sound. Home Command has apparently divided Israel into 220 separate zones. The sophisticated Iron Dome defence system can track the trajectory of incoming rockets and determine precisely where they will land. The population in targeted areas can then be warned and if a rocket is likely to land in a populated area, a missile will be launched to intercept it. They say that the system has a 90% success rate, but 90% is not 100%….

Life isn’t really normal, although we try to pretend it is. I continue to teach my Bar Mitzvah students, but visitors from overseas are cancelling their trips. Last week our congregation, Kehilat Yonatan, started a campaign to raise 1,000 shekels (about $300) from each of our members to fund the preparation of construction plans for a much-needed Reform community centre and synagogue in our town. However, it is hard to make progress on this right now. People’s minds are elsewhere and the campaign has gone dead.

There is something surrealistic about the manner in which we somehow continue to live our daily lives while our country is under attack. People say that the rockets coming out of Gaza are primitive, but a 16-years old boy from Ashkelon was severely injured by shrapnel this morning as he tried to find shelter on his way for a hair cut.

On the one hand, we are threatened by rockets coming out of Gaza, but, on the other hand, we continue to supply fuel, food and electricity to the Palestinians who live there. Israeli pilots halt attacks on targets in Gaza when civilians are sighted, because, unlike Hamas, we have no desire to kill innocent people.

It is fairly clear why Hamas chose to break its truce at this time and started launching rockets on Israel once again. They are in bad shape right now. With the emergence of a military government in Egypt, they do not have the support they received from the Muslim Brotherhood. Tunnels used for smuggling goods into Gaza have been shut down with a consequential loss of income to Hamas, which taxes all such “imports”. It has also become harder for Hamas to get financial support from Iran. Many Gazians no longer favour them and see that their fellow Palestinians on the West Bank generally enjoy a higher standard of living.

With Palestinian elections scheduled for later this year, Hamas desperately needs to improve its standing and show Palestinians that it is their true representative rather than President Mahmoud Abbas, who co-operated with Israel in its search for the three abducted Israeli teenagers later found murdered.

Things move so fast here. Eyal Yifrah, Gilead Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel are no longer in the news. The memory of the ghastly murder of Mohammed Abu Hadir also begins to fade. However, they too belong to the events that have contributed to the current round of fighting, which will unfortunately lead nowhere until the next ceasefire is brokered.

As I write these words, I read online that damage was caused to a house in my own town, Hod Hasharon, earlier this evening when shrapnel caused by the interception of an incoming rocket penetrated its roof causing material damage but no injury.

In less than two hours’ time the World Cup final will commence. Meanwhile the fighting goes on.

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Diplomacy and Other Times to Lie

JJ Goldberg wrote an article for the Jewish Daily Forward in which he implies that the Netanyahu government lied its way into forcing Israel into an unneeded conflict. Goldberg argues that the Israeli government sat on the information that the three Israeli teens were likely dead in order to exacerbate the situation and that it wrongly blamed Hamas for the murders. Even agreeing with Goldberg that Israel did indeed keep details about the fact that the three students were likely killed and understanding that their murderers may not have had orders to commit the atrocity from Hamas leaders, it is simply not true that the most reasonable explanation of the Israeli government’s actions are as Goldberg describes them.

Let’s begin with the issue of withholding the fact that the tape of the call seems to record gunshots and that the car when found contained eight bullet holes. That information would have certainly resulted in outrage and potentially in revenge attacks the moment it was released. Would Israel have been better off releasing it immediately without substantial preparation for the fallout stemming from the outrageous murder by Hamas affiliated terrorists of three students? Or would it have been better to wait to put into place plans to address the situation? That the world, including the families of these students, didn’t know their fate until the bodies were recovered was certainly painful. However, it would not have been substantially better to have believed them dead, but not had their bodies to bury.

Regarding those Hamas members who killed Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, it does not matter at all that they did or did not receive orders from Hamas’ leadership. Why? Because Hamas came out in support of the action after the fact. Anyone remember the three finger solute campaign in support of the kidnapping/murder of the students? There is little difference between organized campaigning for others do copy the action and supporting the original action. I’m sorry, but it is ridiculous to argue otherwise.

It was ultimately the rocket fire that spun the situation out of control, not anything related to the murders of teenagers as despicable as those murders were. As the range of the rockets in particular came to be apparent, Israel ceased to have any choice. Hamas’ ability to strike the heart of Israel has left Israel no choice but to take substantial military action. Leaving this situation such that it could flare next week, next month, or even next year would be unconscionable.

Meanwhile, Hamas use of human shields, along with the bunkers and tunnels, prevents Israel from conducting a simple air campaign. Thus we’re looking at a ground invasion in the near future that can limit civilian casualties. Even then there will be many.

Goldberg is right that this is a war that perhaps no one wants. Yet it is a war that Israel has no choice but to fight.

May it be over swiftly and with as few casualties as possible, but more than anything, may it result in a long period of peace.

We pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May it come soon.

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Blind Hatred Harms All of Us

We woke up this morning to the news that Jews had killed Muhamad Abu Khdeir and had failed to kidnap another boy a day earlier. These Jews do not represent Israel. They do not represent Jews. They do not represent the Orthodox community or the Sephardi Orthodox Community. They do not represent even their own families. They represent themselves and they are murderers of an innocent young man.

We are saddened, angered, and sickened by their actions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking about the deaths of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, said that:

I would like to send my condolences to the Abu Khudair family. I pledge that the perpetrators of this horrific crime, which must be resolutely condemned in the most forceful language, will face the full weight of the law. I know that in our society, the society of Israel, there is no place for such murderers. And that’s the difference between us and our neighbors. They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don’t. We condemn them and we put them on trial and we’ll put them in prison.

And that’s not the only difference. While we put these murderers on trial, in the Palestinian Authority, there is continuous incitement for the destruction of the State of Israel. It’s a staple of the official media and the educational system.

This is an asymmetrical conflict. We do not seek their destruction; they teach a very broad segment of their society to seek our destruction. And that must end. There is too much suffering. There is too much pain.

We do not differentiate between the terrorists and we will respond to all of them, wherever they come from, with a firm hand. We will not allow extremists from wherever they come to ignite the region and shed more blood.

From all across the political spectrum, there have been condemnations. Naftali Bennett of the right wing Jewish Home party said that the killing was “terrible, immoral and anti-Jewish” and argued that the killers should be prosecuted as terrorists.

Yishai Fraenkel, uncle of Naftali, one of the three Jewish teens recently murdered, spoke to the father of Muhamad Abu Khdeir, the murdered Arab boy, that:

There is no difference between those who murdered Muhamad, and those who murdered our children. Those are murderers, and these are murderers. And both must be dealt with to the full extent of the law, and we told him that.

No one is cheering. Blind hatred harms all of us.  Let us work for tolerance and peace.

 

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Time to Wake Up! ISIS, The Islamic State, and Israel

Wake up!!! There is a big threat developing in Gaza and the West Bank, but it isn’t the threat of another intifada or a missed chance to achieve a peace agreement. It is the growth of the Islamist anti-Israel anti-West group now known as “The Islamic State,”  formerly known as ISIS –  the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

If you are one of those people whose primary concern over the past few years has been how to get Israel and the Palestinians to sit down and have effective peace negotiations, you’re going to be caught off guard by this development, because it is much worse than the worst possibilities presented by your opponents. If you’ve been reticent to push Israel into negotiations because things on the Palestinian side as far as leadership and control have been questionable, you’re still going to have to change your mindset, because you’ve been focused on Hamas. This isn’t about Hamas not being able to recognize a Jewish state or even to conclude an effective truce. It’s about a group far more radical than Hamas being willing to kill those who would consider such a thing.

Now, we have to wonder whether or not people who once were affiliated with Hamas and conduct terrorist activities, still are. We assumed that the three students kidnapped by two men who had been associated with Hamas were kidnapped in an attempt to trade for prisoners on behalf of Hamas. But what if they were kidnapped and murdered by ISIS? A group claiming to be ISIS in the West Bank claimed responsibility right away. Additionally, Israeli Arab Muslim journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote today of the fact that Hamas is losing control of terror cells in Gaza to the Islamic State. Islamic State affiliated terror cells are also said to be firing rockets at Israel out of Gaza. The Israeli government would like for Hamas to stop these people, but they may not be able to do so.

The threat from the Islamic State is growing rapidly. Why?

For a long time, Islamists felt that the Muslim Brotherhood would be able to overcome the nationalist dictatorships and toss the pro-West governments, including Zionists, out of the region. The collapse of the Morsi regime in Egypt, the failure to oust Assad in Syria, and the weakening of Hamas in Gaza due to the restriction of cross border smuggling has led Islamists to look for alternatives to the Muslim Brotherhood. The success of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is providing hope to the most radical people and encouraging them to declare allegiance.

Toameh notes that Hamas denies ISIS has support in the Gaza strip,

But Hamas seems to be trying to cover the sun with one finger. At the funeral of two Islamists killed by the Israel Defense Forces last week in Gaza, funeral-goers carried flags and banners of ISIS.

Already last month, according to Toameh:

Hamas sent its policemen and militias to disperse a rally organized by ISIS followers in the Gaza Strip to celebrate the recent “military victories” of the terrorist group in Iraq. Hamas prevented local journalists from covering the event as part of its attempt to deny the existence of ISIS in the Gaza Strip.

At the rally, attended by dozens of Islamists, the crowd chanted, “Khaybar, Khyabar, Ya Yahud, Jaish Mohamed Saya’ud!” (“O Jews, Mohamed’s army will return.”)

The movement is growing stronger and we need to wake up to a new threat that is even more radical and hate filled than previous ones.

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A Grief Too Heavy to Bear

We stand with Israel as it seeks to respond to the murders of teenage students Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Frenkel and strongly urge Palestinian Unity Government President, Mahmoud Abbas to sever ties with Hamas in the wake of this war crime.

The fact that Palestinian supporters of Hamas, including young children, have been celebrating the kidnapping with a three finger salute over the past three weeks was heinous and infuriating from the beginning, but now in retrospect is even more sick and diabolical: smiling girls in pink dresses with their hands saluting the cold blooded murder of three teenage students. It takes a particularly ill person to have his or her children do that. It takes a sick society for thousands upon thousands to do so in print and social media.

In Israel tonight, there is a unity of purpose and boiling anger. There is a sense that enough is enough and that it is time not for restraint, but effectiveness. The words of the former President and Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, sum up the mood of the Jewish people worldwide, not Israelis alone:

“The whole nation bows its head this evening with a grief too heavy to bear. These 18 days the nation has prayed in one voice that our wonderful boys would be found alive and well. Now, upon receiving the bitter news, the people of Israel mourn the untimely deaths of the best of our young. Alongside this heavy sorrow, we are determined to punish the wicked terrorists with a strong hand. Our war against terror will get stronger, it will not weaken, so that this murderous terror will not dare raise its head.”

Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the three murdered students and with the people of Israel who themselves live with the understanding that those boys could just as easily have been their boys or their girls. We yearn for the day when Shalom will descend upon the land. May that day come swiftly and in our time. Amen.

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Reconciliation and Negotiations

Some say,

Israel can’t have it both ways! It cannot say that it should not negotiate with Pres. Abbas because he doesn’t have legitimacy since there haven’t been elections and he doesn’t govern Gaza, while also saying that Israel should not negotiate with a Palestinian Authority reconciled with Hamas.

Of course, they must! This argument is fallacious and outrageously so. The very concept that the Palestinian leadership’s reconciliation with Hamas should have no impact on ongoing cooperation, much less negotiations, is ridiculous. Of course, it must! In fact, until details of the reconciliation’s impact are understood, and here I’m not talking about on paper but on the ground over time, negotiations cannot possibly proceed much less succeed. To argue that Israel should not in the very least suspend negotiations, if not outright cancel existing agreements because of this, is illogical.

That said, that the Palestinian leadership needed to settle some issues before proceeding with negotiations makes obvious sense.

Currently, President Abbas is in the Ninth Year of a Four Year elected term as President. His government currently does not control and has little influence over a significant portion of the population and territory (Gazans and Gaza) who have been actively hostile to it, much less to Israel. Gershon Baskin raised dozens of questions whose answers are vital to understand fully at this point. Here are just a few of them which he posted on Twitter @GershonBaskin:

  • Who’s ideology is it that they unify under?
  • Will Hamas Ezzedin al Qassam troops merge into the PA security forces or the opposite?
  • Will PA security forces continue security coordination with Israel as part of a joint government?
  • Will Hamas give up its control of the Gaza side of the Erez crossing?
  • Will women in Gaza be allowed to dress as they like or will the Hamas police still harass women in Gaza?
  • If there are new Palestinian elections, which is badly needed, will the winner take all?
  • Will both sides respect the outcome of elections?
  • Will the PA release Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, will Hamas release Fatah prisoners in Gaza?
  • Will the EU and the US continue to provide financial support to Palestine?
  • Will all of the 133 countries which have recognized the State of Palestine recognize it with a joint government with Hamas?
  • If there is a joint PLO-Hamas government and Hamas abducts another Israeli soldier will the PA stand behind it or reject it?
  • If there is a joint PLO-Hamas government and rockets continue to be shot at Israel from Gaza, who will be held responsible?
  • With a new unity government, will Egypt re-open the Rafah border?
  • Hamas clergy regularly preach against Jews and Christians, what sayeth you Palestinian Christians about the unity?
  • Hamas has said that it will never recognize Israel, does the PLO withdraw its recognition of Israel granted by President Arafat?
  • Hamas Covenant: The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine
  • Hamas Covenant: The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews)
  • Initiatives, & so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of Hamas
  • Hamas: In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.
  • Will Egypt forget that Hamas-the MB – is still part of the government?

Anyone think that these questions are irrelevant for ongoing Israeli-Palestinian cooperative ventures, much less for peace negotiations? And more importantly, they need to be answered by overseen actions, not by words. To put it bluntly, these questions are too important to be brushed off with platitudes about how things should work or by any written agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The answers must be proven with actions and that will take time. In essence, this reconciliation agreement, should it actually move forward, will necessarily halt peace negotiations for a substantial time.

Of course, the US and EU might insist that the sides sit opposite one another at the table and pretend to negotiate, but the actual discussions will be halted because there is no choice but to do so. If they officially are not halted, it will not matter in practice. There will be no real negotiating going on because there cannot be until the major new questions are resolved and that will take months and possibly a year or more after elections to see how things sort out.

This isn’t a minor issue to be cast aside by those advocating for progress in peace negotiations. It is a sea change in the nature of the Palestinian side. That has broad long term consequences that dramatically affect Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and Palestinian relations with other nations. All of that has an equally dramatic impact on what may possibly happen during and after negotiations.

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