Do We Have What it Takes to Live in the Middle East?

The struggle to establish and maintain a Jewish sovereign state in Eretz Yisrael has lasted more than one hundred years. Since 1948, the existence of the state has hung in the balance several times. This is one of them.

Our endless war is primarily with the Palestinian Arabs, but other nations join in confrontation from time to time. The war is at bottom a tribal/religious war, between Muslims and Jews over this land. Despite various shifting alliances, and despite the involvement on either side of various non-Muslim powers and their maneuvering for access to the resources and strategic aspects of the Middle East, one single fact is unchanging and underlies the hostility directed at Israel: Muslims cannot tolerate a sovereign Jewish entity in Dar al Islam. It is an affront to Islam and an affront to the honor of the Muslims who have been defeated – to their minds, only temporarily – by Jews.

Although Israel has signed “peace” treaties with some of her Muslim neighbors, Islamic ideology does not admit the possibility of a permanent peace with a non-Muslim tribe. What the West thinks of as a peace treaty is at best an extended hudna, a temporary cease-fire that can be broken when the Muslim side believes that it is strong enough to win, after the model of Muhammad’s CE 628 treaty of al-Hudaybiya – which he broke with devastating effect two years later.

When Israel was attacked on 7 October, a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred was unleashed throughout the world, led everywhere by Muslims for whom the religious importance of the war in Gaza is clear. In American universities, Muslim students have been in the forefront of the demonstrations; and in Europe, Muslims are the main perpetrators of anti-Jewish violence.

There have been “secular” or “Marxist” Arab organizations among our Arab enemies, but they are a minority; and their energy comes ultimately from the religious imperative in Arab culture, and their shock troops from the ranks of the pious.

Religious/tribal wars end when one side is defeated or pause when both sides are exhausted. A defeated tribe is expelled, killed, or absorbed. Partition or compromise solutions have not proven fruitful for this kind of conflict, and certainly not when the land itself is closely tied to religious beliefs or tribal traditions.

In our conflict, land is primary. It is not an accident that our enemies in the north and south have bombarded civilian populations near the borders with intent to force them to flee. Although from a tactical point of view this is not advantageous to them – it will be easier for us to repel an invasion using air power and artillery if it is not occupied by our own people – the result is to weaken our claim on the land, to reduce the area of “Muslim” land inhabited by Jews. The 7 October attack, with its extreme, sadistic brutality targeted primarily at civilians, is characteristic of tribal/religious conflicts; and like the bombardment, incurred a tactical disadvantage: a very destructive counterattack by Israel. But Hamas saw the brutality as essential and so instructed its combatants.

What are the implications of this for Israel’s short- and long-term strategic decisions?

One is the imperative to defeat and destroy Hamas. But even if it is removed from power and its military capabilities destroyed, the population of the Gaza Strip will be fertile ground for its reconstitution or the development of similar movements. If there is no real and permanent change in possession of the land, there will be no perception of defeat from an Islamic perspective. Israel’s victory requires that the land itself must be lost to Islam.

The only way to permanently solve the problem of the Gaza Strip is to replace as much of the Arab population as possible by Jews. Practical steps include taking a decision not to permit Gazans displaced to the southern part of the strip to return to the northern part, to facilitate their emigration to other Arab countries and the West, and to reestablish Jewish settlements in Gaza. Of course Jewish sovereignty, probably by a military government, is essential. The same reasoning applies to Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

The US, Europe, the UN, and virtually all international institutions are vehemently opposed to this. Indeed, there is now a rumor that if Israel invades Rafiah – which is necessary in order to defeat Hamas – the UN and various European countries will recognize a “State of Palestine.” At the same time, the US will cut off the delivery of weapons and ammunition to Israel, and may apply sanctions of some kind, either to Israeli leaders or to the state herself. The International Criminal Court may issue warrants to arrest government officials and military officers on war crimes charges.

All these threats are real. Some in Israel say, therefore, that we should follow the instructions coming from Washington, accept a cease-fire that will leave Hamas in existence, although in some (magical!) way, no longer in control of Gaza. That would keep American weapons flowing (although we won’t be allowed to use them). There would be, at least for a time, quiet in the south. And we could, they say, concentrate on the threats from Hezbollah and Iran.

They are wrong. This would be a disaster. It would be perceived and described as a great victory for Sinwar and Hamas, and an encouragement for the terrorists in Judea, Samaria, and Lebanon to win a similar victory in the same way. The civilian population in the Western Negev and the Galilee would not be able to safely return to their homes, essentially shrinking our state. It’s clear that the position of Washington on our conflicts with Hezbollah, Iran, and the PLO is even less in our favor than that on Gaza, and we would not be allowed to win a decisive victory in any of them. Quite likely the US plan to establish a PLO-led Palestinian state that includes Gaza as well as the land east of the Green Line and parts of Jerusalem would go forward despite Israel’s opposition.

We cannot avoid this outcome if we continue to accept our role as an American satellite. We must aggressively move Jewish settlement forward in both Gaza and Judea/Samaria (not to mention the Negev, Galilee, Golan, and Jordan Valley), even if it means a break with the US. In order to do this and survive, Israel has to become a true “nonaligned nation,” maintaining friendly contact with China and Russia as well as the US. This is a difficult balancing act, but the current situation is not sustainable: as it stands, Israel is a punching bag for America’s enemies while receiving bear-hug “support” from the administration in the US that is detrimental to her long-term survival.

Despite her dysfunctional political system and the elements within the country that are cooperating with truly antisemitic forces in the international arena to destabilize the nation, Israel nevertheless maintains a relatively high degree of social cohesion. The Jewish birthrate remains high and her young people still compete to join the elite units in the IDF. The IDF is the strongest force in the region when it is allowed to fight.

7 October was a terrible blow, perhaps the single worst event in the history of the state (far exceeding the Yom Kippur war). In addition to the loss of life and (de facto) territory, it was a humiliation for the IDF and other security agencies. The invasion of homes and the kidnappings and torture of hostages has torn a hole in our heart that will not be easily mended. The attack encouraged all our enemies and triggered a worldwide explosion of Jew-hatred unprecedented since the Nazi era.

In the short term, only a true Middle Eastern response will suffice: a massively disproportional one that leaves everyone who had a part in planning or executing 7 October dead, and which severely punishes the culture that gave rise to it. Only that will restore our deterrence in the region, and the perception outside of it that Jews are natural victims. And in the long term, Jewish settlement and full sovereignty between the river and the sea is absolutely necessary to provide physical and spiritual security to the Jewish people.

Do we have what it takes to live in the Middle East? I believe that the people of Israel do. It’s only their leadership that has me worried.

Posted in Islam, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, US-Israel Relations, War | 2 Comments

Our Repeated Strategic Failures, or How We Never Learn from Experience

1. Failure to understand and respect our enemies.

Since before the founding of the State of Israel, Palestinian Arab leaders have been saying that the land between the river and the sea is Arab land, land in which non-Arab (and usually non-Muslim) sovereignty is intolerable. They opposed Jewish immigration from the turn of the 20th century because they correctly saw, even when many Jews did not, that sovereignty was the eventual outcome of Zionism. Leaders from Amin al-Husseini through Yasir Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas made countless statements to this effect, and repeatedly rejected offers of Palestinian statehood because they required the acceptance of a Jewish state as well. Jews and others with a Western outlook were repeatedly surprised when this happened, unable to grasp that the Arab objectives were not a mirror image of those of the Jews, who wanted a peaceful sovereign state and were prepared to compromise on land in order to get or keep it. For both secular and religious Palestinian movements like Fatah and Hamas respectively (although at the grass roots no Palestinian Arab movement is truly secular), the presence of a Jewish entity on what they believe is Arab/Muslim land is a painful violation of honor and doctrine. Over the years their belief in the absolute rightness of their position, their shame of having been victimized by the Jews, and their steadfastness in working toward their goal has only increased.

How many times have we heard that “what they want is to improve their lives and the prospects of their children?” That if only they could see a “horizon” of self-determination and prosperity, they would end their hostility to the Jewish state? Nothing could be more wrong – or more contemptuous of them. We are asking them, in other words, to abandon what they believe is their birthright to the land, to give up their honor (to Jews!), and to violate the principles of their religion, in return for scraps from our table. They would sooner die (and they do, often taking some of us with them).

Perhaps we are misled by the amount of corruption that exists in the political structures of peoples whose loyalties are primarily tribal, and think that the Arabs are weak and can be bought. Perhaps this is the source of the conceptzia that stupidly tried to buy quiet from Hamas with suitcases of dollars from Qatar, or thought that the billions of dollars siphoned off by Yasir Arafat would somehow make a peace partner out of him. Arafat took aid money to pay terrorists and fill his Swiss bank accounts, while Hamas leaders dug attack tunnels and built themselves mansions. But despite their corruption, neither neglected their main goal.

This strategic error has been repeated over and over, and has been responsible for two of Israel’s most painful failures: the Oslo Accords and the Second Intifada that followed, and the 7 October pogrom.

Give the Arabs the respect they deserve. Listen to what they say, and believe them when they say they are our enemies. They aren’t for sale.

2. Failure to Punish Those Who Hurt Us

We live in the Middle East. In the Middle East, when someone murders one of your people, you kill him. When someone invades your land, you take his land and you don’t give it back. Maybe you don’t agree with these principles and think that murderers can be rehabilitated, or that you can settle disputes over land legally or diplomatically; but the Middle East doesn’t care what you think. If you don’t protect your honor when you are victimized, it is a demonstration of weakness, and will be exploited. Recently the Iranian regime launched over 300 weapons including some 120 ballistic missiles at Israel, the largest attack of its kind in military history. The amount of death and destruction that it could have caused was enormous; only luck, the skill of our pilots, $1.35 billion in defensive weapons, and the help of the US (that we will pay for in loss of sovereignty) saved us. We responded by destroying a radar installation, to “send a message” that we could have attacked the nuclear installation it was protecting. Are we joking? They tried to kill us and instead of “rising up to kill them” as the sages of the Talmud recommend (Sanhedrin 72a-b), we send a message that we could have hurt them? That is not a Middle Eastern response, and it will be interpreted to mean that we are too weak or constrained (by the US) to strike back. This will encourage Iran to hit us again.

3. Failure to Maintain Deterrence

Israel’s response to rocket attacks and terrorism has tended to concentrate on parrying the enemy’s strikes rather than retaliating disproportionately (in the Middle East, the “disproportionately” part is important). While a purely defensive strategy (e.g., Iron Dome) results in less disruption to the home front, the enemy is not deterred from trying again and applying lessons learned from previous rounds of fighting. Psychologically, it normalizes the act of trying to kill Jews. A powerful retaliatory strike, on the other hand, makes the enemy pay a high cost for its aggression and deters future attacks. And it transmits the message that Jewish blood isn’t cheap.

4. Failure to Maintain Independence and Sovereignty

A small country can only control its own destiny by staying independent of any one great power or camp of powers. Such a country must maintain relations with all sides in the great power conflicts and play one side off the other. Israel successfully did this for a time, but by the 1980s, she was entirely dependent on the US, both diplomatically and as a source of military hardware. A key point of inflection was in 1987, when the project to build the Lavie fighter aircraft was cancelled. Today, although Israel’s economy is strong enough that she could pay for her own defense needs without American military aid, her procurement has been skewed for many years to extremely expensive American systems that may not be best suited for her needs (e.g., the F-35). It should have been obvious decades ago, and even more so with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, that American interests may diverge significantly from those of Israel, and that Israel should not put all her eggs in America’s basket. But our government and military took the easy way out, and allowed the addiction to US military aid to grow. Today we have the American Secretary of State sitting in on war cabinet meetings, and fine-tuning our military tactics – and very possibly preventing us from defeating Hamas and removing it from power.

The Consequences

All these failures work together to create disastrous situations for the state. The present situation in Gaza is a direct result of several strategic failures. The failure to understand that Hamas’ top priority was always going to be trying to destroy Israel and kill Jews, and that its leadership could not be sidetracked into providing for the welfare of its population or developing a real economy, led to the policy of allowing large amounts of cash from Qatar to reach the Hamas leadership. But rather than using the money to build civilian infrastructure, it plowed it into rockets and tunnels (after skimming a portion for the personal enrichment of its leaders). The conceptzia contributed to the IDF’s inattention and intelligence failures that allowed 7 October to happen.

Lack of punishment did damage on both an individual and organizational level. The fact that the death penalty (or even permanent imprisonment) for terrorist murderers wasn’t applied led to the release of Yahya Sinwar himself, the architect of 7 October, as part of an exchange of 1026 Palestinian prisoners for one kidnapped Israeli. Sinwar was serving four life sentences for murder. Hamas prisoners developed an autonomy within the Israeli prison system. In a particularly embarrassing affair, some prisoners arranged for attractive female soldiers to be assigned to their areas, exposing them to sexual harassment. Since the Palestinian Authority paid salaries to the families of all prisoners, prison was more like an extended work assignment than a punishment to be feared.

Over the past decade, there have been several limited wars or “operations” in Gaza in response to rocket attacks. In many cases, empty buildings have been hit, sometimes along with a few targeted killings, in order to “mow the grass” for a few years. The government could justify this weak response to attacks that could have been deadly, because most Hamas missiles were intercepted by Iron Dome. But our passive defense did not deter Hamas from trying again, as soon as they were able to do so, often with improved rockets and terror strategies. The 7 October attack was the result of the application of lessons learned from previous rounds.

After 7 October, the government realized that our strategy had to change, and that only a true victory over Hamas would prevent future disasters. But since the beginning of the war, we’ve seen increasingly intrusive interference and micromanagement by the Biden administration, which apparently does not want to see a complete Israeli victory. Because of our absolute dependence on the US for military supplies and protection from Security Council-imposed sanctions, Israel’s freedom of action has been severely limited. Failure to remove Hamas from power will be a victory for Hamas in the war that they started on 7 October.

A similar analysis can be applied to our conflicts with Hezbollah, and of course with Iran. After the war there will be elections, and most Israelis believe that wholesale change is needed. It is to be hoped that the new leadership will learn from our failures and reverse these disastrous policies.

Posted in Iran, Islam, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, War | Leave a comment

Confrontation with Iran: Who Won?

The West likes its Jews passive, dependent, and weak. When American officials say “Israel has a right to defend [herself]” they mean that they will allow her, and even assist her, to ward off the blows of her enemies. But their “rock solid support” does not extend to Israel taking offensive actions. Israel is allowed passive defense, but not to take the war to our enemies. And don’t even think about preemption.

Insofar as Israel obeys her Western “allies,” she is placed at a great disadvantage for several reasons. The most obvious one is that an entirely passive defense does not deter enemies from attacking over and over again. Why shouldn’t they? They have nothing to lose. The opposite: they will learn valuable lessons from their failures, which they can apply to the next round. And everyone is encouraged to keep trying for the honor of being the one who finally broke the Jewish state.

Then there is the relative high cost of defensive weapons. Each Arrow 3 missile like the ones used to intercept missiles fired at Israel on Saturday night, costs $3.5 million. Each Tamir interceptor used by the Iron Dome system to destroy the cheap Qassams of Hamas, the Katyushas of Hezbollah, and the drones of Iran, costs $50,000 (and two are usually fired at every enemy weapon). Each Iron Dome battery costs $50 million. The cost of using F-35s to shoot down drones is also high relative to the cost of the drones. Passive defense is expensive.

A purely passive defense strategy is so expensive, in fact, that no small country can afford to sustain it for a long period of time (and passivity guarantees that it will be needed forever). As a result, there is no alternative but to turn to one of the great powers as a sponsor. The price is loss of control and ultimately of sovereignty. It is already clear from the way American officials talk about Israel (e.g., President Biden is often described as “furious” with Israel), that Israel is seen as a satellite at best and a satrapy at worst.

Finally there is the message that is inherent in passivity. Shooting at Jews, because there are no consequences for it, becomes normalized. The Jews, people think, must deserve being shot at because, after all, everyone is doing it with impunity. This is particularly important in the Middle East, where honor is a paramount element in most cultures. Individuals, tribes, or nations that are hurt by an enemy must strike back or suffer a loss of honor, a mark that invites others to victimize them as well. Even in Western cultures – well, at least in the recent past – children were taught that failure to strike back at a bully invites more bullying.

An active defense, on the other hand, creates deterrence and restores lost honor. Nobody will attack Israel if they know that retaliation will be swift and disproportionate. If they are hurt badly enough, they will think twice about attacking again – if they have even retained the ability to do so. There is also an economic advantage: offensive weapons, like drones, rockets, missiles, and artillery, are far cheaper and simpler than technological marvels like Arrow and Iron Dome.

Israel has come a long way down the road to losing her sovereignty to the US as a result of her increasing dependence on military aid, in part to finance astronomically expensive systems of passive defense, and in part because she chooses to adopt other super-sophisticated weapons systems that are “free” even when they may not be optimal for her needs (e.g., the F-35). She has developed a culture at the top of her military hierarchy which is as loyal to the American military-industrial complex as it is to the State of Israel. The American government has, for its part, extended its influence deeper into all the affairs of our state, and in particular her management of her wars.

After the horrific atrocities of 7 October 2023, Israeli leaders had no choice but to adopt the strategic objective of removing Hamas from power and destroying its military capabilities. The US opposed this from the start, forced Israel to delay her ground invasion, and now – for several months – has prevented her from entering the last Hamas stronghold, Rafiah. The US has pushed for an extended (in effect, permanent) ceasefire, and has tried to turn Gaza over to the corrupt, terrorist, Palestinian Authority, a step which would nullify the gains made by the IDF at great cost.

After Iran attacked Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday night, President Biden called for Israel to treat its success at intercepting most of them as “a win,” and not retaliate. The media in Israel are trumpeting the success of our air defense array, which – with some significant help from the US, the UK, and Jordan – managed to down 99% of the weapons before they could land in Israel. This is a remarkable technological achievement, but it was an expensive operation, estimated to cost 5 billion shekels, or more than $1.3 billion.

Israel has not yet retaliated, and it is clear that the price demanded for accurate American intelligence about the impending attack and assistance in defending against it was that any retaliation will be at best symbolic – and certainly not include an attack on the Iranian nuclear project.

But the 99% figure is not as “phenomenal” (Israeli media love this word) as it looks nor is it likely to be repeated. Respected Israeli analyst Yigal Carmon wrote that the whole operation was choreographed by Iran with the cooperation of the US in order to allow the Islamic Republic to come down from the tree of needing to retaliate for Israel’s recent assassination of an Iranian general:

Iran wanted to retrieve its deterrence after the killing in Damascus of Iranian General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who, by Iran’s own testimony, was the mastermind of the October 7 attack. … [The US] coordinated with the Iranians so that civilians would not be struck. Arab media are already reporting this coordination. Iran made it easy for the U.S., Israel, Britain, and Jordan to know what it would and would not do, and where it would do it. Israel was not part of this coordination. …

The Americans played Israel and they are continuing to do so by preventing an Israeli reaction. In fact, they began the pressure on Israel not to react even before the attack took place. CENTCOM’s commander General Michael Kurilla went to Israel on April 13 and pressed for prior coordination with the U.S. of any action by Israel. Now President Biden said it himself: You were not hurt, they failed. Do not do anything. Do not escalate because you will be dragging us into a war. We protected you and no one was hurt. The answer will be diplomatic.

What did the various parties gain and lose from this exercise? Iran’s top priority today is to avoid triggering a serious confrontation that might result in damage to her nuclear weapons program, which is on the verge of completion. However (unlike Israeli leaders), the Iranians understand the psychological importance of at least appearing to get revenge when they have been injured, and this massive attack achieved that end. At the same time, the coordination with the Americans insured that Israel will not strike back, and therefore will lose points in the calculus of honor that is so important in the region. Israel also lost an opportunity, perhaps her last, to take action against the Iranian nuclear project before it becomes operational.

The Americans gain exposure for their defensive weapons systems, establish themselves as the protector of their allies, and increase their influence over Israel and her dependence upon them. Israel will have to replenish her supply of American weapons and ammunition, and the military aid is an important subsidy for the US defense industry. The Biden administration also maintains its (still inexplicable to me) policy of protecting and even encouraging Iran’s drive to become the nuclear hegemon of the region.

Carmon also notes – and this is a critical point for Israeli planners – that the 99% success rate in interceptions is not likely to be repeated in the event of a real surprise attack by Iran.

Israel can’t continue on the path of subservience to the US, because American objectives in the region are inconsistent with the continued existence of a Jewish state. She must reduce her dependence, develop her own defense industries, approach other great powers (e.g., China), and become a “nonaligned” nation rather than a satellite of one side or the other. In the short term, she must enter Rafiah, crush Hamas, repel Hezbollah, and keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

May Hashem give our leadership the sense to see this and the strength to act.

Posted in Iran, US-Israel Relations, War | 2 Comments

How Israel Lost the Information War

Yesterday I was listening to a news program on the radio while preparing dinner. The host asked his subject – I don’t recall who it was, probably an opposition member of the Knesset – this question: how can it be that world opinion has become solidly anti-Israel only a few months after the worst pogrom since the Holocaust, in which more than a thousand Jews were murdered in the most brutal fashion imaginable, in which hundreds of women were raped and children tortured to death? The predictable and stupidly self-serving political answer was that it was the fault of the Netanyahu government, which had “mismanaged” the war. But what is the correct answer?

The real reason is that Israel, while successful in the “kinetic” aspects of the campaign against Hamas, has been overwhelmingly defeated in the less visible theater of information warfare.

The roots of this defeat go back decades. There was as yet no “mismanagement” on the day after the Hamas invasion, when there was an outburst of anti-Israel demonstrations and attacks on Jews around the world while the rampage was still continuing in parts of southern Israel. The ground was prepared as far back as the 1970s, when a wave of Arab petrodollars, guided by the Soviet KGB, flowed into a massive project of psychological and diplomatic warfare against the Jewish state. It wasn’t so difficult for them – the built-in antisemitism of the West, temporarily suppressed after the Holocaust, found a new outlet. It was easy, too, to nurture antisemitic elements in the Muslim world. In the West, the educational systems were infiltrated and subverted, starting with the “best” universities and continuing down to textbooks and curricula for elementary schools. A reality-inverting identification was made between Zionism and Western colonialism and racism, benefiting from both the anger of the formerly colonized and the guilt of the colonizers.

Funds for anti-Israel initiatives also came from the network of charities associated with George Soros, starting around the beginning of the 1990s. This money nourished many of the NGOs and human rights groups that became centers of anti-Israel propaganda, and continues to support them.1

In the diplomatic realm, the invention of the Palestinian Refugee after Israel’s War of Independence (a war of national liberation in which the formerly colonized Jews fought Arab proxies of the British Empire!), provided Hamas with the troops it needed, fed and educated to the point of fanatic hatred with Western money. Hamas combined the multi-faceted indoctrination against Jews and Israel, pioneered by the PLO after Oslo, with religious jihad. Both the West and the Muslim world were primed and ready to blame Israel for the murder, rape, and pillage of her people. And the great-power rivals of the US, Russia and China, were only too happy to join in the take-down of what they see (correctly?) as an American satellite, an outpost of the US in an important zone of contention.

Given the fertile soil, the propaganda offensive of Hamas and its supporters when Israel counterattacked blossomed into a worldwide flourishing of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish expression. The Palestinians, who have developed the technique of exploiting their supposed victimhood, sometimes by exaggeration, sometimes by invention (as in the alleged shooting of the boy Mohammad al Dura in 2000, probably the most blatant yet effective “Pallywood” production ever), and sometimes by deliberately putting their people in harm’s way, pulled out all the stops. Soon the horrors of October 7th were drowned out by the suffering of the Gazans affected by the war that their leaders had started. Western media and humanitarian organizations slavishly repeated Hamas propaganda about civilian casualties with proforma disclosures that their only source was Hamas.

Mismanagement on the part of Israel also goes back decades. It includes overdependence on the US and consequent weakness in the face of pressure from unfriendly administrations, inability to overcome wish-fulfillment illusions about Palestinian motives and plans, weakness in the face of domestic pressure (for example, the release of more than a thousand imprisoned terrorists in return for one kidnapped soldier), and the tendency to prioritize internal political issues over serious external threats. A very serious failure has been our sporadic, inconsistent, and poorly funded actions in the information arena, while our enemies have implemented a long-term, carefully planned and meticulously executed campaign.

Al Jazeera, began broadcasting in Arabic by satellite in 1996, and since then has added multiple languages, including English. Based in Qatar and very influential in the Arab world, it has been in the forefront of anti-Israel propaganda ever since. In wartime, it specializes in inflammatory stories and photos of “atrocities” allegedly committed by the IDF (pictures from Syria and natural disasters are sometimes used). Left-leaning Western media, like the British Guardian newspaper have always followed an anti-Israel line; and the BBC is far from impartial. More recently, mainstream media in the US like the NY Times and Washington Post newspapers, the NPR radio network, CNN, and others – staffed by the products of “good” universities – have become more than merely biased: at their worst (which is often), they are mouthpieces for Hamas. Pro-Israel media in the West are rare and marginal. Some of Israel’s own media – in particular the English edition of Ha’aretz, which is widely read throughout the world – is only slightly less toxic than Al Jazeera. Israel is overwhelmed on social media as well, in part by botnets, but also by individuals and anti-Israel NGOs which dedicate staff to this function.

The combination of governments, international institutions, NGOs, media, academic institutions, and the arts all promulgating the carefully nurtured myths of Palestinian victimization and Israeli malevolence have overpowered Israel’s woefully inadequate attempts at a response.

In short, Israel has been and continues to be outgunned in the realm of information warfare. There have been sporadic attempts to improve the situation, but the funds for such a massive undertaking have never been available, nor would there likely be agreement on precisely what the message should be and how it should be presented. And we don’t have decades to lay the groundwork and gradually uproot the deep-seated antisemitism and hatred of the state of the Jews that has developed over time, even if we knew how to do it.

The best strategy in the face of this defeat therefore will be to depend on the human tendency to cheer for the winner: to be the “strong horse” that everyone bets on. Israel will need to defeat its enemies on the physical plane, to humiliate them and strike fear into the ones that are left. Rather than a picture of “responsible citizenship” that the world has been conditioned to disbelieve, our image should be that of a violent and dangerous player. In an environment where we can’t create warmth, we should at least inspire trepidation.

1 Alexander H. Joffe, “Bad Investment: The Philanthropy of George Soros and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, How Soros-funded Groups Increase Tensions in a Troubled Region: May 2013
https://www.ngo-monitor.org/soros.pdf

Posted in Information war, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, Media, War | 2 Comments

America Takes the Side of Hamas

It is with great sorrow – and trepidation – that I observe America taking the side of Hamas in what is nothing less than the first phase of a war against the existence of the Jewish state.

Despite the declarations of “unbreakable bonds,” and “unconditional support,” the Biden administration is demanding that Israel not invade Rafiah, the last remaining stronghold of Hamas, the location of its leaders – and perhaps also of many or all of the roughly 100 living hostages still held by Hamas.

Virtually all of Israel’s political and military leaders agree that only a ground invasion of Rafiah will end Hamas’ control of Gaza, prevent it from reconstituting its army, avoid the promised repetition of the horror show of October 7, and allow the residents of the western Negev to return to their homes without fear of rocket attacks or terrorist incursions.

The Americans are also pushing for a hostage deal that will entail a months-long ceasefire, which will enable Hamas to better prepare for further action by Israel, and which they hope to stretch even longer. Thus, when the inevitable confrontation with Hezbollah, an outbreak of war in Judea/Samaria, or an Iranian nuclear breakout occurs – probably all three simultaneously – Israel will be forced to fight a reconstituted Hamas on her southern front as well as her enemies on her northern and eastern ones.

At the same time, they are calling for the Palestinian Authority, which has never stopped paying terrorists to murder Israelis, to take control of Gaza. It will then be integrated into a sovereign Palestinian state. Again, virtually all Israeli leaders and a majority of the Israeli people believe that such a state would almost immediately be at war with Israel, this time only a few kilometers from her center of population.

The Americans argue that the invasion of Rafiah would entail “unacceptable” civilian casualties. They insist that preventing such casualties, which (they say) are already excessive, must be Israel’s top priority1.

But they know that the casualty figures coming from Hamas (there is no independent source) are massively inflated. They know that the IDF has achieved a lower ratio of civilian to combatant casualties than any other army in similar urban combat. They know that reports of hunger and humanitarian crisis are exaggerated, and that food and medical supplies are entering Gaza in great quantities. They know that Hamas is stealing some of it for its own purposes and selling the rest at exorbitant prices. They know that Israel has promised to evacuate civilians from the area before invading (despite the Egyptian refusal, with American support, to accept any refugees from Gaza). They know that the international law of war permits a reasonable amount of collateral damage, proportional to the military advantage gained. And they know that Hamas’ method of fighting, which deliberately places civilians in harm’s way and multiplies casualties for a propaganda advantage, is a war crime.

The US has excellent intelligence of her own, and Israel has provided American officials with access to her data. They must know all of the above, but they also know that the worldwide campaign of anti-Israel propaganda has been highly effective, and that many people – including Americans in states critical to the coming presidential election – believe it. So they position themselves as the champions of the “innocent Gazans2” who are suffering at the hands of Israel, and continue to ramp up pressure on Israel to “do more” to protect them, and to ensure that more humanitarian aid (which now exceeds the amount that was flowing before the war) gets into Gaza. They place limits on the use of American weapons, and threaten to cut off the flow of ammunition if Israel doesn’t follow instructions. In addition to weakening Israel, the American position strengthens Hamas, both by ensuring its supply of food and fuel, and with the message that all it has to do is hold on until the US makes Israel stop fighting.

The cynicism and hypocrisy is blatant. It’s been said that “Biden is calling for a two-state solution: Michigan and Nevada.”

What the Americans do not understand, because even now they do not understand the Middle East, is that Israel does not have a choice. Encircled and outnumbered by Iranian-supported proxies, our only hope for survival is to maintain the deterrence that our qualitative military advantage can provide. Today our enemies are waiting and watching. If they know that Israel will be prevented from defeating them, If they see that the terror tactics of October 7 are rewarded with international aid and even Palestinian statehood, they will attack more fiercely, and they will be encouraged to do so in precisely the way that worked so well for Hamas: the combination of the most vicious terrorism imaginable, along with the use of human shields and psychological warfare. if they see – remember, this is the Middle East – that murder, torture, and rape on a massive scale are not avenged, then they will be convinced that Israel is weak and defenseless. Like a flock of chickens attacking a wounded individual, they will try to peck us to death.

But I can’t place all the blame on the Americans, although they are doing their best to hamstring us. Our weak leadership has already indicated that it would accept a deal which would allow some hostages to come home, in return for a release of thousands of imprisoned terrorists, including many of the bloodiest. In addition, it would agree to a ceasefire for at least six weeks – and this is the first stage of the deal; it would be extended by further negotiations for the remaining hostages. And Hamas will never give up all of them until its survival is assured. Ironically, Hamas, convinced that the Americans will force Israel to give up even more, hasn’t accepted the deal.

It’s hard to imagine that we will get up after a ceasefire of months and invade Rafiah. If Israel does not do it within weeks or days, the opportunity will be lost. If Hamas is not decisively defeated they will claim victory. And they will be right in doing so.
_______________________________

1This is rich, coming from the country that incinerated Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, bombed dams to flood North Korea, machine-gunned refugees in No Gun Ri, “destroyed [Vietnamese] village[s] to save them,” and killed tens of thousands in Iraq.

2In the only Palestinian election to date, Gazans voted overwhelmingly for Hamas. Many “innocent civilians” followed Hamas soldiers across the border to pillage and murder. Today polls show most Palestinians support Hamas; those that don’t still admire the October 7 atrocity and favor armed conflict with Israel.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, US-Israel Relations, War | 5 Comments

What We Must Tell Blinken

With the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip, American Secretary of State Blinken has informed Israel of the restrictions under which the US will permit her to operate. No displacement of the civilian population, and fewer civilian casualties (although there are no numbers except those that come directly from Hamas). No bombing hospitals or schools, even when they are in fact sanctuaries for Hamas troops. No cutting off the supply of fuel, which Hamas uses to keep its tunnels lighted and ventilated. Nevertheless, we are told to finish up the war quickly, because our “credit” is running out. And just in case anyone thought that it should someday be possible for Israeli children to sleep peacefully in the communities of the Western Negev, no security zone on the Gazan side of the border, and no Israeli security control of Gaza. The implied threat is that if Israel goes “off the reservation,” the US will not supply her with essential ammunition and spare parts for our American weapons systems, nor veto hostile resolutions in the UN Security Council.

I don’t know how Israel has responded to these demands, made to our war cabinet where Mr. Blinken apparently has the right to sit. But I know how I think we should answer. And so I submit the following:

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We appreciate the support we receive from America in our war against the genocidal Hamas. We appreciate that you seem to understand that these monsters must be removed from power in Gaza, from which they have promised to repeat again and again the atrocities they committed against our people on 7 October, atrocities that were proportionally twenty times greater than those perpetrated against the US on 9/11. But despite your understanding, you insist on placing restrictions on how we may fight; indeed, on micromanaging the war for us.

Let us speak frankly: you are asking us, in the short term, to trade the lives of our soldiers for those of Gazan civilians, and you are measuring our performance in meeting this demand with numbers supplied by Hamas! You are asking us to fight in a way that at best will only partially defeat Hamas. You say you want Hamas removed from power, but the likely outcome of following your instructions will not accomplish that. You are asking us to fight in a way that Americans never have and never would. This is not how you fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

In the longer term, you are asking us to give up the entire Western Negev, which will become uninhabitable by Jews unless we retain security control of Gaza and unless we can establish a buffer zone between it and our population. You even aspire to create a unified, sovereign Palestinian state in all of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, something that would shortly bring about the end of the Jewish state.

We do not accept your restrictions and micromanagement of the war, and we will not trade the lives of our soldiers for anyone, not Gazans (who overwhelmingly support murderous violence against Jews, whether by Hamas or other groups), and not the electoral fortunes of the Obama-Biden faction of the Democratic Party.

We insist that when the war ends, appropriate conditions for the security of the Western Negev must be in place. And we must inform you that if you carry out your threat to cut off our supply of ammunition and parts for our modern American weapons, we will be forced to fight in less modern ways, and for much longer. The humanitarian crisis will, as a direct result, be far greater, and you will be responsible for it. Because we will not stop fighting what we see as an essential battle in the war for the survival of our nation and people, even if we have to fight with the most primitive of weapons.

We don’t have a choice. But you do. You can support us, or you can in effect support those who think that murder, torture, and rape are not only acceptable tactics, but praiseworthy. You can help us end the war quickly, or you can extend it, with all the pain and suffering that entails. But know this: either way, Hamas will not escape judgment.

Sincerely,
Virtually Everyone in Israel

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, US-Israel Relations, War | 8 Comments

How To Get Our Honor Back

Look for a moment at the Israel-Gaza war in a different way, a Middle Eastern way. Look at it in terms of honor and shame. Despite the fact that these ideas are almost gone from the West – replaced in some places by “woke” concepts that are almost unintelligible here – they are tremendously important. The tribes of the Middle East still operate in a zero-sum world, where the weak are prey, deterrence is paramount, and honor is deterrence. And Israel’s future, if she has one, will be dependent on her relations with her Middle Eastern neighbors and not with post-Christian Europe and North America.

Everything about the terrible attack on southern Israel on 7 October was designed and choreographed as an attack on her honor. The rapes and torture, and (especially) the video documentation thereof, the emphasis on the degradation of women, the inclusion of Israeli Arabs and foreign workers in the massacre (to show that we couldn’t protect them), the killing of men and the capture of women and children (to become slaves) were more important than the transient military advantage resulting from the invasion.

The crowning glory of the attack was the hostage-taking, because, as the Hamas leaders understood, it enabled the subjugation of the Jews to the will of Hamas. Suddenly all our tanks and F-35s are rendered useless, and we are required to jump to the commands of Hamas, to beg for the lives of the women and children in their cruel hands, as they strut around and preen themselves, to worldwide applause.

This, as they see it, is enabled by the essential weakness of Israeli society, the society that Hamas leaders learned about as they served prison sentences (in the case of Yahya Sinwar, a sentence that was cut short as part of the obscenely excessive ransom for one Israeli soldier).

From 7 October to today, everything has gone according to the Hamas plan. The deal that was made will enable its military capability and political control to survive. They have precisely calibrated it according to their understanding of our society, the political situation in the US, and the expected behavior of the international community. The message to the most important audience, the tribes of the Middle East, has been received. Israel has no honor; anyone can hurt us, even a group like Hamas that is little more than an ISIS-like militia. The Iranian axis is the “strong horse.”

It needn’t be this way. Even now, it isn’t too late to recover our honor and our deterrence. The war should be resumed, with a strong offensive to finish off Hamas’ military capability in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. We should demand that all hostages be released within a specified time period (a few days). If this does not occur to our satisfaction, not only will the Hamas leadership all be targeted and killed, but their families as well. In effect, they will be our hostages. In either case, the war will continue until the military capability and political control of Hamas over Gaza is ended.

I can only imagine the objections. It will endanger the captives. It is barbaric. It is collective punishment. Let me answer the last two first: call it what you will, it is the way a tribe must behave in the Middle East to survive. This is especially important for a small country without strategic depth like Israel, which can’t afford mistakes. Israel’s attempts to act according to the moral precepts of large Western nations (which, of course, the hypocritical Westerners violate with impunity whenever it is to their advantage) places her at a great disadvantage in asymmetric warfare with typical Middle-Eastern tribal societies like Hamas, possibly an existential one.

The first objection is more serious. It is true that anything other than complete surrender to all of Hamas’ demands will endanger the captives to some extent. But allowing Hamas to survive, giving it military advantages, and releasing terrorist prisoners will also have its price. We can’t put up posters of future victims of Hamas, but they are certain to exist. As Caroline Glick has said, the only difference is that we know the names of today’s captives. The others areas yet unknown, but they are no less real. And if we do not regain our deterrence, we can expect that there will be many more of them.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, War | 2 Comments

Betrayal

The government of Israel has agreed to a stupid, shameful deal with Hamas. If the government continues along this path – and it seems almost certain to do so – it will mark the turning point of the war in Gaza. In retrospect, it will be seen as the point at which it became clear that Hamas will retain control of the Gaza strip.

The details of the deal, as I understand them this morning, are that Hamas will return some 50 of the 240 hostages they are holding, women and children. The Red Cross will be allowed to visit the remaining hostages. In return, Hamas will receive a cease-fire of four days, during which Israel agrees not to fly (I presume both drones and manned aircraft are included) over the northern part of Gaza for six hours each day. There will be no flights at all over the southern part. Israel has agreed to extend the cease-fire for an additional day for every ten hostages released. In addition, Israel will release some 150 to 300 Palestinian women and teenagers imprisoned in Israel for offenses less serious than murder. Israel will allow fuel and an increased amount of humanitarian goods to be brought into Gaza.

Not so bad, right? Wrong – it’s a disaster.

The IDF has been rolling up Hamas in Gaza. Another week or two of fighting would be decisive. It would liquidate Hamas’ military capability and civil control. All that would remain would be to mop up. What would happen next is a difficult question, but it will not be relevant if Hamas remains in control or retains significant military capability.

A cease-fire will allow Hamas to resupply its soldiers, to rebuild damaged communications systems, to reestablish the chain of command where key commanders (who were specifically targeted by the IDF) have been killed. It will allow them to reinforce their weak points and those places where they expect the IDF to attack. It will allow them to repair damaged systems for launching rockets. The no-fly restriction will allow them to move remaining hostages to more secure locations and extricate key personnel from areas where they are in danger without being tracked. At least some if not all of the fuel, food, and medicine that will be entering the Strip will be hijacked for Hamas’ purposes. Fuel in particular is needed to operate generators that supply power for ventilation of the tunnels where Hamas operatives live and from which they fight.

In short, a few days of cease-fire translate directly into a much longer extension of the war. From the start of the ground invasion on 27 October and until 20 November, 66 IDF soldiers have been killed in combat in Gaza (this of course is in addition to the 1200 civilians and soldiers killed on 7 October, and the unknown number of hostages who are no longer alive). For every day that the war is extended, IDF soldiers will be lost. And some of the toughest fighting is ahead.

It must be assumed that the international pressure to stop the war before Israel obtains her objectives will not go away; rather, it will probably increase as a result of the cease-fire. The obscene accusations of “genocide” will only become louder. There is concern that the cease-fire will expand, ultimately to become indefinitely long. The pressure on the Biden administration to force Israel to stop fighting will only grow.

The provision to release hostages in groups will present insupportable choices for the government: how will it be able to tell the families that have children or parents still in captivity that their family members will not be redeemed, when others have? Indeed, as long as Hamas has even one captive, its leverage will remain. The well-organized families of the hostages have underlined their – totally understandable, but also tragically wrong – contention that the primary goal of the war should be to return the hostages rather than to defeat Hamas, by blocking the main highway near Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Indeed, this aspect of the deal is the most dangerous part of it. The first group of hostages will be traded for women and teen-aged terrorists without blood on their hands; but surely there will be more expansive demands made for the next group. The more hostages are freed, the harder it will become for the government to hold out against the pressure to give in to the increasingly severe demands of their captors. And Hamas has already announced that its objective is to obtain the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, including (especially) the worst of mass murderers.

Ariel Kahane, writing in Israel Hayom today, compared the choices facing the government to those facing the Judenraten in the Nazi-controlled ghettos, who were asked to provide lists of Jews to be deported to death camps, or see the entire ghetto liquidated.

If Hamas is not decisively defeated, it will encourage Hezbollah to increase the pressure in the north, as well as possibly to undertake a hostage-taking operation of its own. It will put the wind in the sails of Hamas and other terrorist factions in Judea and Samaria. It will send a message to Iran, and also to Israel’s hoped-for allies in the Arab world that Israel is weak, unable to stand up to extortion, and unable to defeat a force which is more akin to a terrorist militia than a real army. It will be a massive blow to our honor and therefore our deterrence.

In summary: this deal promises an extension of the war, which will cost Israel in the lives of the best of her young men. It will result in the release of numerous terrorists, most likely ultimately including the worst mass murderers, those who should not even be alive, rather than free to kill again. It will enable the “international community” to put the brakes on the IDF, both in the way it fights and in the time it is allowed to do so. It will, in my estimation, allow Hamas to remain in control of at least part of the Gaza Strip, and perhaps to retain some hostages for further leverage. It will encourage Israel’s enemies and damage her attempts to make allies in the Middle East.

Psychologically, it reinforces the false equivalence between kidnapped hostages and convicted terrorists. It legitimizes terrorism and hostage-taking – consider the absurdity that Israel has agreed to blind her eyes in the sky, because otherwise they might find the hostages and be able to rescue them!

The deal is a disaster, a surrender to the monsters of Hamas that murdered, tortured, and raped our people and who have said that they will do it again if given the chance. It is open-ended in a way that can only lead to even worse acts of appeasement.

Our young soldiers overwhelmed their commanders in their desire to fight; some reserve units didn’t have enough weapons for all of those who volunteered. They are fighting ferociously and heroically. As of yesterday, sixty-six of them will not go home to their families, and many others have been so severely wounded that they will never live normal lives. They were winning, and the decision taken by the government is nothing less than a betrayal.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, War | 5 Comments