Jewish Right To Israel

Jewish Right To Israel
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gaza Update 4 Is Up!

Jack has a new edition of his Gaza Update series up.
Check it out.

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The Claim Of Proportionality Is An Outgrowth Of Seeing Terrorists As Criminals

Andy McCarthy is in the process of writing an article on the issue of proportionality. In the meantime, he suggests a list of articles on the topic:
I want to add two cents to the much needed efforts of Ramesh and Victor (see, e.g., here and here) to correct the perversion of the concept of proportionality. I noted this trend back in the summer of 2006, when it was applied to Israel's military operations against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Also highly recommended is "Leashing the Dogs of War," a great article by our friends David Rivkin and Lee Casey, published by The National Interest in around autumn 2003. Also well worth the time is David & Lee's 2004 NRO article, "What Israeli Illegality?"
But the point that McCarthy does address in his post seems to indicate that the claim of proportionality as applicable to war is an outgrowth of the attempt in general to treat terrorists are mere criminals. If so, when critics of Israel raise a cry for proportionality--it is actually not an isolated accusation raised against Israel per se. True, it was not raised nearly to the same degree against the US in Iraq, but as liberals grow more comfortable and with the P-word, we can expect it to be used against any other country that defends itself against terrorists.

McCarthy writes:
I argue that there is no international law of warfare because Israel, like the U.S., has wisely declined to join the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. It has therefore not consented to Protocol I's effort to convert warfare from a military campaign into a hyper-legal regulatory exercise that favors terrorist factions over national armed forces.

Most of the world has signed on to Protocol I — including, regrettably, our NATO allies (the Brits ratified it in 1998, the same year Blair's government incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law). It is on the basis of this consensus — among countries that have either abdicated their national-defense responsibilities or stand to gain by Protocol I's tilting of the field toward terrorists and so-called "national liberation" movements — that Israel and the U.S. are now routinely accused of war crimes. But a set of obligations only constitutes "international law" if a country has agreed to be bound by it. Israel and the U.S. have not agreed to be bound by Protocol I. Consequently, there is no law violation in failures by Israel or us to meet its impossible terms (impossible, that is, if the objective of a military campaign is to be victory). [emphasis added]

Thus Ramesh Ponnuru defines proportionality this way:

The traditional just-war standard is that military action should be "proportionate" in that it causes fewer harms than it seeks to prevent. That's a sane and sound moral standard. It does not mean that military means must inflict only as much pain as the enemy has inflicted.

The seed for the idea of downgrading the ability of a country to protect itself may go back to the UN. Back in 2006 there was a UN report, which described self-defense by a country as a concession--one that was reluctantly granted and strongly limited--and not as a right per se:

Self-defence is a widely recognized, yet legally proscribed, exception to the universal duty to respect the right to life of others. Self-defence is a basis for exemption from criminal responsibility that can be raised by any State agent or non-State actor. Self-defence is sometimes designated as a “right”. There is inadequate legal support for such an interpretation. Self-defence is more properly characterized as a means of protecting the right to life and, as such, a basis for avoiding responsibility for violating the rights of another. [emphasis added]
When the right to defend yourself becomes nothing more than a dispensation, there will always be people ready to assume the right to annul it.

Don't forget to check out more at Memeorandum.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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Member of Canadian Islamic Congress Suffers From Analogy Creep

Mark Steyn:

Alas, Dr Mohamed Elmasry, founder of the Canadian Islamic Congress, failed in his campaign to rid the Great White North of my hate speech, so he has now turned his attention to other targets - the Zionist stormtroopers:

Many contemporary historians have aptly compared Gaza to the cramped and destitute Warsaw Ghetto of World War II.

But those "contemporary historians" don't know the half of it:

Gaza has, in fact, been reduced to a new Auschwitz: the only difference – a nightmarish irony — is that Jews are now playing the role of Hitler’s ruthless SS.

Er, right. And that would make Hamas the concentration camp guards?

Actually, that would make Hamas into the kappos--despised by both sides.

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Poll In Influential German Newspaper

From an email I received from a friend whose judgement I trust. I don't know that FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) is the biggest, but it is the 3rd oldest and influential.
Dear Friends,

Germanys biggest Newspaper „FAZ" is launching a survey about the conflict in Gaza. Voters can choose between 4 statements:

1. Israel must protect her citizens against Terror – Hamas provoked Israel

2. Israel blockaded peace in the Middle East – and shall not be surprised now

3. In principle Israel is right – but the attacks on Gaza are totally exaggerated

4. Situation is not clear enough to decide who is right or wrong

This newspaper is very influential in Germany. Most of politicians and managers are reading it. So far about 11.000 people gave their vote:

1. statement: 40%

2. statement: 44%

3. statement: 7%

4. statement: 9%

We still can change the results. (Remember? Yes we can!) Please copy this link:

http://www.faz.net/f30/common/Umfrage.aspx?doc=%7bD06D255F-6DE5-42CA-8EB4-BA9524C0F6A0%7d&rub=%7bB30ABD11-B91F-41C0-BF27-22C308D40318%7d

forward this mail to everybody you know around the globe! Urge your friends and family to vote! Right now – as a surprise – the mayority of the media in Germany are in favor of Israel. So is the political establishment, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. But: as longer the conlict is going on as more people here will be overwhelmed with mercy for poor Hamasnikkim . This vote is essential. Israel PR is week? Not this time! Vote!
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Pajamas Media: Middle East Update Overview of

From their Middle East Update page:
Overview of Middle East Update

The Pajamas TV Middle East Update show will focus on issues in the Middle East that are of world wide interest. Saudi Arabia and the energy crisis, Iran's nuclear ambitions, Hamas and Hezbolla terrorist actions against Isreal, and new developments in Israel's political leadership are some of the topics that Middle East Update will be covering.
Current programs available for free:
  • From Jerusalem, Caroline Glick speaks with Bill about the possibility of a ceasfire and the European reaction to the Gaza conflict.

  • Allison Kaplan Sommer reports from Tel Aviv on the Israeli and Arab reactions to the Gaza conflict and possible unreported motivations for Hamas's actions.

  • Captain Elie Isaacson of the Israel Defense Forces gives us another update from the frontlines of the the Gaza conflict.

  • TheAugeanStables.com discusses Hamas's tactic of targeting Palestinians in the Gaza conflict.

  • From the frontlines in Sderot, Israel Captain Elie Isaacson of the Israeli Defense Forces gives Bill an update on the conflict in Gaza.

  • Background profile of Caroline Glick , venerable journalist with the Jerusalem Post.

  • Yecheil Lankscram talks about his new website thankisraelisoldiers.org through which people can send a gift and express their appreciation of the IDF.
Check it out.

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Sheloshim Of The Victims Of The Mumbai Massacre

From an email:
Friends of Agudath Israel:

Today, 4 Teves, marks the shloshim of the kedoshim who were slaughtered last month al kiddush Hashem in the Chabad House in Mumbai, India. The names of these kedoshim, Hashem yinkom damam, are as follows:

Gavriel Noach ben Nachman
Rivka bas Shimon
Aryeh Leibish ben Nochum Efraim
Ben Tzion ben Chaim Dov
Nechamabas Yaakov Eliyahu
Yocheved bas Avrohom

An ish chashuv from our community who is well known to us (but who wishes to remain anonymous) has undertaken a campaign, with the blessings and support of Gedolei Yisroel, to promote a Klal Yisroel-wide commemoration of the Kedoshei Mumbai on this day of their shloshim through the saying of Tehilim and/or the learning of Mishnayos in their memory. The increased Torah and Tefilah will surely be a great merit l'iluy nishmasam, as will the sense of achdus that will result from such a Klal Yisroel-wide undertaking. May it be a z'chus as well for our brethren in Eretz Yisroel during this most difficult time, and for Acheinu Kol Beis Yisroel hanesunim b'tzorah u'v'shivya wherever they may be.

Chaim Dovid Zwiebel

David Zwiebel
Executive Vice President for
Government and Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
42 Broadway
New York, NY 10004
Tel: 212-797-7385; 212-797-9000, ext. 333
Fax: 646-254-1650
dzwiebel@agudathisrael.org
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Preposterous Proportions On Evening The Field Between Israel And Hamas

It seems that the "disproportionate response" crowd criticizing Israel has driven some pundits to distraction--and sarcasm.

Michael Totten asks:
What would a legitimate and “proportionate” response actually look like? Surely they don’t believe Israel should scrap its sophisticated weapons systems, build Qassam rockets, and launch those at Gaza instead.

The “disproportionate response” crowd doesn’t seem to mind that Israel struck back at Hamas per se. They aren’t saying Israel should only be allowed to negotiate with its enemies or that any use of force whatsoever is wrong. They’re clearly saying Israel should use less force, inflict less damage, or both.

One problem here is that it’s not at all clear how they think Israelis should go about doing it. The weapons used by each side can’t be the same. No one has ever said Israel ought to put its superior weapons systems in cold storage until Hamas can develop or purchase something similar. Presumably Israel is allowed to use its superior technology as long as the casualty count on each side is proportionate.

But how would that work in practice? A single Israeli air strike is going to kill at least as many people as Hamas can kill in twelve months. Does that mean Israel should be given a “license” of one air strike per year to use in the war? If IDF commanders want to take out a target where they expect five Hamas leaders or fighters to be killed, do they have to wait until five Israelis are killed first? If the Israelis endure rocket fire until one civilian is killed, do they get a “kill one Palestinian terrorist” coupon?

If strict proportionality isn’t necessary, what are the limits? If the Israelis kill two Palestinians for every Israeli that’s killed, is that okay? Or is doubling the number of casualties on each side too unfair to the Palestinians?
But Victor Davis Hanson goes further with some "modest proposals" that are...out of proportion:
1) Request that 50% of Israel's air-to-ground missiles be duds to ensure greater proportionality.

2) Allow Hamas another 1,000 free rocket launches to see if they can catch up with the body count.

3) Have Israeli soldiers congregate in border barracks so that Hamas's random rockets have a better chance of killing military personnel, to ensure it can claim at least a few military targets.

4) Redefine "holocaust" to refer to deaths of terrorists in numbers under 400 to give greater credence to Hamas's current claims.

5) In the interest of fairness, allow Hamas to establish both the date that war is supposed to begin and the date when it must end.

6) Send Israeli military advisers to Hamas to improve the accuracy of their missiles.

7) Take down the barriers to return to Hamas a fair chance of getting suicide bombers back inside Israel.
I can actually see Hamas taking some of these suggestions seriously, don't you?

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Operation Cast Lead: How Would Fatah Have Done It?

Boker Tov, Boulder makes an interesting observation:
The so-called Quartet, the United States, Israel and the Palestinians all agreed to the Road Map, right?

Well it says.... in Phase I ... that "individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on the Israelis anywhere" are to be arrested, disrupted and restrained. It also calls for, and I quote:

"sustained, targeted and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure."

That's EXACTLY what Israel is doing! It's right there in the Road Map, so why all the brouhaha?

Israel is only doing what the poorpalestinians were supposed to have done all by themselves, by May 2003. Since they didn't, or couldn't, Israel stepped up and is doing their dirty work for them.. for the betterment of the entire world.

That raises the question: just exactly how did the Quartet expect that Fatah would go about targeting terrorists and dismantling their infrastructure?

Probably pretty much the same way that Hamas targeted and dismantled Fatah, wouldn't you think?

[Hat tip: Rick Richman]

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Results Of The Israeli Consulate's Twitter Conference

America's Voices In Israel were not the only ones having a conference call on Tuesday. The Israeli Consulate in New York held a Twitter Conference.

Check out Israel Politik which has the questions and answers posted in 4 parts:
Q&A from Today’s “Press Conference”

More Q&A from Twitter Conference

Even More Q&A from the Twitter Conference

The Last of the Q&As from Today’s Twitter Conference
Check it out and see for yourself what you think of the format.

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Gaza: The Hedgehog, The Fox...And The Jackal (Update)

Bret Stephens quotes Archilochus, who said: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing"--and it is Hamas, according to Stephens, who knows that one big thing.

But it wasn't always that way:
Once upon a time -- say, from modern Israel's first stages in the early 20th century until the 1973 Yom Kippur War -- it was the Jews who played the role of the hedgehog. Zionism, for all of its factions and facets, revolved around the straightforward idea of getting and keeping a state. Doing so required land, people and arms, the more of each the better. Only secondarily was it about legitimacy, peace, economic growth, cost-benefit ratios or any other, more delicate, ingredients in the overall makeup of modern statecraft.
That was when Jews, Zionists, were focused and that concentration that the Zionist idea gave them enabled Jews to achieve great things. But times have changed.
Today, however, it is Israel that has assumed the role of the fox. It defeated the second intifada in 2005 and then promptly withdrew its settlements and soldiers from Gaza. It bombarded Lebanon for 34 days in 2006 not for the bald sake of victory (a word that appears to have been banished from the Western military lexicon), but for a much more ambiguous goal of "quiet." Israel pursues an identical aim in its current conflict against Hamas, where it previously attempted to walk the fine line between squeezing Gaza economically without quite prompting a humanitarian crisis.
Just as Israelis have changed from being hedgehogs to being foxes, Hamas has developed into being something of a hedgehog. Hamas has demonstrated its complete incompetence in governing--the job that it was supposedly elected to do--
But Hamas knows one big thing, which it labels "resistance" or, for Western audiences, "ending the occupation." Just what that means was made clear by Palestinian cleric Muhsen Abu 'Ita in a televised interview. "The annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine," he said, "is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine."

...Hamas believes, in short, that while Israel will do many things, and do them well, it will not do the main thing. And that, in turn, means that as Israel exhausts its target list, as eventually it will, the storm will pass. Then the green flag of the movement will fly defiantly over the tallest building left standing, its prestige hugely boosted -- and Israel's commensurately diminished -- throughout the Muslim world.
Stephens does not refer to the fox and hedgehog allegory as an argument against the idea of Israel's current operation in Gaza. Instead, he offers the comparison as a warning and a reminder that war allows for only two possible outcomes: victory or defeat--and Israel had better be very aware of this fact, because Hamas more assuredly does.

Which brings us to the jackal--not referred to by either Archilochus or Bret Stephens. It is my own contribution, based on a post I read by Jeffrey Goldberg:
I've been talking to friends of mine, former Palestinian Authority intelligence officials (ejected from power by the Hamas coup), and they tell me that not only are they rooting for the Israelis to decimate Hamas, but that Fatah has actually been assisting the Israelis with targeting information. One of my friends -- if you want to know why they're my friends, read this book -- told me that one of his comrades was thrown off a high-rise building in Gaza City last year by Hamas, and so he sheds no tears for the Hamas dead. "Let the Israelis kill them," he said. "They've brought only trouble for my people."
Goldberg himself most certainly does not see nor describe Fatah as jackals, but one does get the impression that Fatah--who humbled when Hamas threw them out of Gaza--is more than happy to have Israel do the dirty work for them of getting rid of their tormentors so that they can just come right in a collect the spoils.

Khaled Abu Toameh of The Jerusalem Post writes:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah loyalists are dying to return to the Gaza Strip after being kicked out by Hamas in the summer of 2007.

On Sunday, senior Fatah officials in the West Bank relayed a message to Israel to the effect that they would like to see the IDF "finish off the job" in the Gaza Strip by removing Hamas from power.

The officials made it clear that they were ready to assume control over the Gaza Strip as soon as the IDF eliminated the Hamas regime. Abbas, who held talks with the Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians over the past 48 hours, is also reported to have expressed his readiness and desire to return to Gaza.
For all of their eagerness, Fatah is unlikely to get their wish--not merely because the Palestinians of Gaza are not eager to have them return. Israel itself is not not focused on toppling Hamas from power per se.

The goal instead is apparently a ceasefire that brings about totally new rules, though down the road Israel is interested in seeing Hamas phased out of power. There will be no sudden vacuum for the Palestinian Authority to just come in and fill. If the PA is to be slowly phased in, it will have to demonstrate a level of competence along the way.

And such is not the way of the jackal.

UPDATE: Not in so many words, but Max Boot also doubts if Israel is the hedgehog here:

As I watch the war in Gaza from afar, I have been reading, for completely unrelated purposes, Jonathan Spence’s “memoir” of Chinese Emperor K’ang-hsi (r. 1661-1722). K’ang-hsi was not much impressed by the Seven Military Classics of ancient China, the most famous of which is Sun-tzu’s The Art of War. Those books lay out elaborate stratagems designed to defeat the enemy, sometimes without firing a shot. “I told my officials once that if you followed these books, you’d never win a battle . . . ” the emperor wrote. “All one needs is an inflexible will and careful planning.”

That struck me as spot on. Inflexible will and careful planning are indeed the sine qua non for military success. Does Israel have what it takes? I hope so, but I have my doubts.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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The OU Job Board Needs Your Help In Implementing Project C.H.E.S.E.D.

From an email:
The OU Job Board needs your help in implementing Project C.H.E.S.E.D.
NOW in your local community or nearby communities. Can you become an
Angel of C.H.E.S.E.D.?

Project C.H.E.S.E.D. an acronym for Community Help in Education Social
Services Empowerment/Employment & Development is a 14- point plan to
empower communities to respond to the growing economic crisis. This
plan outlines immediate action that the Orthodox Union recommends to
be implemented on an urgent basis. The OU Job Board along with the
Department of Community Services will help set up this program as well
as offer free online services to help communities in their efforts to
alleviate the suffering endured by families going through this
terrible ordeal.

We established this Project some months ago and chances are your local
Rabbi, executive director/administrator or community leader is well
aware of this program. What we are currently looking for are Angels of
C.H.E.S.E.D., volunteers who can lend their services and talents to
the communities they live in or local surrounding communities to help
those people who are currently in desperate need of services and a
helping hand in these trying economic times.
If you are available and capable of writing a good resume we need your
help. We will be running Resume Fairs throughout the USA Canada and
Israel, which utilizes volunteers such as you,to work one-on one with
people who need to update, re-write or write their resumes to enhance
their job prospects. If you are a writer, teacher, resume writer,
career counselor, Project C.H.E.S.E.D. and your community are looking
for you.

We are also looking for Career Counselors who are able to steer people
who are locked into a no advancement or dead job or who are unemployed
to an alternative situation. If you are a Career Counselor,
Psychologist, and Sociologists and can provide these services we are
looking for you as well.

We are looking to start this program ASAP. If you want to join us in
the very important task, please e mail me at jobs@ou.org with a brief
bio and what you think you can assist in.

Also, we are looking for Seminar and Workshop presenters who are
willing to give very "Tachlit"( realistic self help) oriented classes
in a variety of economic subjects. We will advertise your name and
business as we promote this class. These are also locally held classes
to benefit the local communities you live in or around

Please contact me at jobs@ou.org and become an Angel of C.H.E.S.E.D. NOW

Lets act NOW before it is too late to react.
All the best
Michael Srulie Rosner
jobs@ou.org


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Apparently Some In The Media DO Know What's Going On In Gaza

Hat tip to Allahpundit at Hot Air, who points out that "Palestinian legal advisor" Diana Buttu is also a former PLO spokesperson.

In any case, Buttu has nothing to worry about--she can always write an op-ed for either The New York Times or The Washington Post--or both.



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Operation "Take-a-Break" Day Trip For Sderot Families

From an email:
Dear Friends,

Operation Cast Lead, Israel's response to almost eight years of unending rocket attacks in Sderot and its surrounding environs, is in full gear. We must remember what affect this situation has on residents of the south.

Chanukah vacation, which was spent predominantly indoors, has now moved into bomb shelters for the foreseeable future; shopping malls are forbidden to open; schools are closed indefinitely - no school within 30 km of Gaza (This includes Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Rahat, Ofakim, Gan Yavne, Sderot, and Netivot. In addition, the regional councils of S’dot Negev, Eshkol, Chof Ashkelon, Shar HaNegev, Lachish, Yoav, Shafir, Merchavim and Yoav will remain closed).

The sounding of the Code Red alert now screams through additional communities on a constant basis, followed by loud booms, smoke and fire.

Children and adults, who have tolerated this situation for so long are at their wits end. Being cooped up in small spaces drains everyone of their coping abilities and adds new levels of stress.

If your relative or friend were living under these circumstances, you certainly would spare no expense to get them some relief. Kol Yisrael Achim - we are all brothers. Help us give our brothers some respite from their living conditions.

Operation Take-a-Break is underway. We are sponsoring full day respite trips for the residents of the south. Bus loads of individuals will be given a "day off" to engage in relaxing, fun and age appropriate activities out of the line of fire.

Each bus costs $500. In other words, for just $10 you can make a real difference in the life of an individual. Better yet, sponsor an entire bus and spare a community!

To sponsor this operation -
http://www.connectionsisrael.com/donate

Sincerely,

Adi Friedman
Managing Director
adi@connectionsisrael.com
Office: 972 2 6235266
Mobile: 972 54 3452566
www.connectionsisrael.com
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Check Out Gaza Roundup 3.5

Jack continues to do a great job of collecting a wide variety of posts about Operation Cast Lead and the latest developments.

Check it out.

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Notes On Today's Conference Call On Gaza

Today at 12pm EST there was conference call via phone sponsored by America's Voices In Israel, in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Consulate of New York. The purpose of the call, was to brief bloggers and broadcasters on the latest developments regarding Israel's response to continued rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Among the speakers was Malcolm Hoenlein, head of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Brigadier General in Reserve Relik Shafir of the Israeli Air Force and Deputy Chief of Mission in the Israeli Embassy in Washington Jeremy Issacharoff. Questions were answered from everyone who had something to ask.

I took notes, which I would like to share. I am solely responsible for any errors, unintentional misrepresentations, omissions and misspellings of names.

The conference started with a mention of 2 particular sources of information:
A new group on YouTube: IDFnadesk, which has videos--mostly illustrating the care the IDF has taken in the bombings of Hamas infrastructure. As a side note, Noah Pollak of Contentions has noted that YouTube has started to remove some of those videos.

Daily Alert which is prepared by Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and has summaries of and links to the key stories of the day--with an index of past issues.
Malcolm Hoenlein gave a short introduction, saying that putting aside the policy side of things, people forget why the current Israeli operation started. It is important to keep the context of how we got to this point, the kind of context that we do not get from the media at large.

He noted the truce just ended, which began in June 19--how incomplete it was and how it ended. He pointed out that since 2001 there have been over 8,000 rockets/mortars fired. The reason for conflict is that Hamas at the end undermined the truce that it did not keep to begin with.
Israel tried coordinating with Egyptians to renew the truce, but Hamas had a different agenda.
The rate of rocket fire has increased since the truce—and even during the truce also, Hamas increased ranges of their rockets and fortified structures.

The key point is that Israel did go for diplomatic option first.

A second point Hoenlein made was that Hamas wanted this crisis, that Abbas has been getting more support from moderate countries and Hamas has therefore felt isolated.

In terms of Israel's operation:
o The goal is to cripple the terrorist infratstructure that provides a threat to Israeli citizens---Israel is not interested in ending up with a situation that is worse than they started out with. Israel wants to stop Hamas's military goals. They know about the collateral damage, and regret it. On the other hand, in terms of Hamas--their only target is civilian.
o Israel is very sensitive to the humanitarian effort—89 trucks of humanitarian aid have been allowed through till yesterday with more added in south Gaza and another 5 ambulances provided by Turkey.
More than 2700 trucks carrying aid have been allowed into Gaza over the last year.

Gen. Shapir from Ashkelon came on the phone. He was speaking from Ashkelon which had taken about 29 hits from Qassam. There were not many on streets there. From the Airforce's point of view, it will be a long and tedious battle and they hope to avoid collateral damage.

Israeli Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff was also present and answered some of the questions.

Questions and Answers

Israel Matzav asked about the exit strategy and what the long term goal for Gaza was.
The Ambassador answered that the goal now is the pinpoint attack. Israel is currently monitoring and assessing the situation. Cannot look at the current conflict in conventional terms.
Malcolm Hoenlein added that it is just too early for an exit strategy. It is Hamas that needs to worry about an exit strategy
Atlas Shrugs asked how Israel intends to take guns out of hands of Hamas while at the same time leaving Hamas in place? And what about world criticism?
The Ambassador answered that if Israel takes weapons out of their hands, then it does not matter so much what their goals are. First and foremost is to defend citizens and keep them out of range of the missles.
General Shapir added that Israel is in for the long haul, and cannot tolerate the current situation. They cannot bomb each place from which Hamas bombs Israel because that entails colloratoral damage. Going about it the way Israel is doing it will take longer.
I had trouble hearing who asked the next question. It sounded like "Allen Nathan from Babylon Network". He asked what they thought about Hizbollah's threat to come in from the north to help Hamas. He asked whether based on Nasrallah's comment in 2006 of not anticipating Israel's strong response if Israel was concerned
The General recalled Teddy Roosevelt's comment about talking softly and carrying a big stick, that Nasrallah knew what to expect from Israel if Hizbollah interfered.
The next question sounded like it came from Ralph Levy from a kibbutz who asked about whether Israel was contemplating re-occupying Gaza to any degree.
The answer was that Israel will not go in. They will respect the sovereignty of Gaza and that there will be no buffer zone established via occupation. By the same token, no one will be allowed to shoot at Israel--if they do, they will face the consequences.
Jerry Gordon of Israpundit asked about how effective have the sorties against the tunnels in the south of Gaza been and how Israel would create from the air a zone free from bombers.
The General answered that they have taken out tunnels from first day by bombing entrance and exits. Most tunnels have caved in and are now unusuable. When the IDF sees movement on the border they will bomb again.

The IDF cannot guarantee a complete stop to the bombings, they can only guarantee that if they see terrorists, the IDF will shoot them. They will not bomb where ‘uninvolved’ citizens may be hurt. Israel has warned Gazans through leaflets and phone calls that they should move out of the area before bombs are dropped. That is why there has been a minimum of causualties.
I asked for further detail about the final goal--if it was just for a ceasefire with Hamas.
The Ambassador said it is premature to say much more but there will be no return to the status quo—that is not an option.

The General said that Israel wants to be sure that security is dramatically changed and that there will be new rules of the game.

He introduced the idea of having a legitimate representatives of the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority assert itself in Gaza and how Hamas is eventually phased out of control. He stressed that there are a lot of different things to address in such a ceasefire, such as smuggleing arms form Iran. Israel is still not sure if it is at that point yet; they are still assessing.
Mere Rhetoric asked about the avoiding the danger of an artificially short deadline how Israel can resist international pressure.
The Ambassador noted that during the time that Hamas was raining rockets on Israel at will, the world did not run to the Security Council for a truce. But now when the world sees Israel taking steps to defend itself—then there is a reaction.

Malcolm Hoenlein noted that there is goint to be a meeting of the Arab Foreign Ministers tomorrow.

He stressed the importance of getting out as accurate a picture as possible.

He said again that Israel is still in the mode of the operation and that Israel does not want to go back to status quo.
Gateway Pundit asked that though Israel has the support of the current US Administration, whether there are any concerns over the incoming one.
The Ambassador's response was to paraphrase the quote from Obama when he was visiting Sderot:
"If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it," added the US senator from Illinois, who spoke in front of book shelves filled with mangled Kassam rockets that had been fired into the area.
"And I encourage Israel to do the same."
He said that though the new admininstration had not yet taken office, there have been communications. He also stressed that there has been no thought given to the timing of the operation against Gaza vis-a-vis when Obama would be taking office.
Rick Richman of Contentions asked about Israel's concerns about a new front developing.
The Ambassador said that Israel was watching closely, mindful of the 2006 kidnappings.

The General said that Israel had made it clear to Hizbollah and anyone else that Israel will this time provide any response necessary. If Hizbollah acts up, they will have to deal with a repeat of of 2006--Israel was not happy with the war in 2006, but learned the lesson that if you have to fight, then you fight. Israel has shown this to Hamas and will show Hizbollah too if need be.

Malcolm Hoenlein concluded the conference call, reiterating that “the truth is our strongest weapon.”

He pointed out that currently there were now ½ million Israelis now within range of Hamas and their rockets. He stressed that Hamas is not a ragtag group--it has an army of 15,000 plus support from others.
The conference call concluded with a reminder that there will be other calls.

Please let me know if there are any corrections to be made to my transcript.

Update: Check out Memeorandum for more!

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Four Days After Hamas In Gaza: Now What?

What Is The Goal?

Regardless of the successful start of Israel's operation in Gaza, comparisons with Hizbollah in 2006 are obvious. As long as Hamas is able to continue firing rockets into Israel, there will be questions--the biggest one being: what constitutes victory?

Over at Contentions:

Eric Trager writes about the surprise and strength of Israel's attack:
All of these factors should point to a quick Israeli victory. There is, however, one major complication: Israel has yet to declare the long-term goals of its Gaza operation - and, in turn, has not defined “victory.”
Rick Richman makes the same point while indicating what some of the unacceptable conclusions to this operation would be:
Although Israel has not yet made its ultimate strategic objective clear, it is hard to see, given those remarks, that an acceptable outcome would be simply a new ceasefire, or a Lebanon-type resolution where an international force protects Hamas while it rearms.
At TNR, Yossi Klein Halevi suggests that really, Israel has 3 options--3 which are really 2: a limited attack geared towards giving Israel better terms at the next round of ceasefire talks with Hamas or overthrowing Hamas and replacing it with a foreign power such as Egypt. The third option consists of starting with option 1 but being drawn reluctantly into option 2.

Yet for all of that, Halevi also concludes that no one seems to know what Israel's goals are in Gaza:
We still don't know what the government wants to achieve, and what the army believes is achievable. What constitutes victory? Will we know how to translate military success into political gain? Will the government be strong enough to resist world pressure, even in the event of a disastrous accident that results in Palestinian civilian casualties?
If the pundits don't know what Israel's final goal in Gaza is, do we dare hope that the Israeli government does?

Can Anyone Tell Us What Israel Is Doing In Gaza?

Shmuel Rosner writes that the operation is not about bringing Hamas down, but rather "about getting a better deal"--whatever that might mean. In an earlier post Rosner wrote:
One should listen carefully to the words uttered just minutes ago by Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the wake of the military operation in Gaza. He was not talking about toppling Hamas’s rule - as both his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu have advocated just days ago [December 21]. Olmert, burned by his painful 2006 Lebanon experience, rejected the ambitious goals that these two contenders for Prime Ministership have made parts of their campaign.

...Today, appearing in a short press conference, the Prime Minister conveyed a similarly cautious message: The operation has a very specific goal - to give the Israeli civilians living in the southern part of the country their life back. When Hamas will agree to commit itself to “understandings” - according to which rockets can’t be launched into Israel - the goal of this operation will be achieved. Until the next round.
Olmert may not have promised to topple Hamas, but according to the article Olmert did vow "to restore quiet to the lives of Israel's southern residents." Truly restoring quiet is no less difficult than actually bringing Hamas down.

Reading that first article Rosner links to, in Haaretz, Barak seems to be the one creating a situation with less wiggle room:
Barak on Saturday also said Israel "cannot really accept" a cease-fire with Hamas, rejecting calls by the United Nations and the European Union for a truce after Israel Air Force strikes killed at least 230 people in Gaza.

"For us to be asked to have a cease-fire with Hamas is like asking you to have a cease-fire with Al-Qaida," Barak said in an interview with Fox News. "It's something we cannot really accept."

Asked whether Israel would follow up the air strikes with a ground offensive, Barak said, "If boots on the ground will be needed, they will be there."

"Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game," he said.
No ceasefire...ready to send in ground troops if needed...totally changing the rules of the game--that is a lot for Israel to accomplish, presumably before Obama's inauguration on January 20th. Then again, Barak may have the most to gain in terms of his political asperations depending on how the operation turns out. Should that make me more--or less uneasy?

Gaza Without Hamas: A Goal Or Just A Slogan?

Not surprisingly both Livni and Netanyahu have been caught up in the rhetoric and have both promised to bring Hamas down--and that was already back on December 21 before the current operation even started, with both talking about how they will topple Hamas.

Khaled Abu Toameh writes that in the short term, Israel seems to have been successful to a degree:
What is certain so far is that Hamas has been dealt a severe blow with the demolition of almost all its security and civil institutions and the loss of hundreds of its supporters and police officers.

Moreover, Hamas appears to have lost some of its credibility due to the fact the Islamist movement was unprepared for the surprise offensive - a fact that contributed to the deaths of dozens of policemen who were attending a graduation ceremony in Gaza City on Saturday.

Hamas's relatively moderate response to the operation (only a few dozen rockets and mortars that have killed one Israeli citizen so far) has also harmed the movement's reputation.

Prior to the attack, Hamas operatives had threatened to fire thousands of rockets at Israel, including Beersheba and Ashdod.

Hamas's top leaders in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam, have all gone underground out of fear of being targeted by Israel. Just a few days ago the three had proudly announced that they were not afraid of death and would be "honored" to join the bandwagon of Palestinian "martyrs." The general feeling on the streets of the Gaza Strip on Sunday night was that the countdown to the collapse of the Hamas regime had begun. As one local journalist put it, "We don't know who's in control of the Gaza Strip. The feeling is that the Hamas regime is crumbling."
That feeling may be very fleeting should Hamas prove itself capapble of a sustained bombardment on Israel, especially if they can fire those rockets almost at will.

And even if it should happen that Israel were capable of ridding Gaza of Hamas--who would take its place. Abbas would love to return to Gaza, but it is questionable if the Palestinians of Gaza want him back or if it would seriously be in anyone's best interests. Besides, Gazans seem not to have turned against Hamas, according to Toameh, and instead have turned their anger against the Palestinians Authority and Egypt for apparently supporting and encouraging Israel in the current operation.

--Which again brings us back to the question as to what Israel's goal is.

Gillerman's Promise

Here is a short interview with former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman, being asked questions about the goals and objectives of the operation:



The Bottom Line

Bottom line, while the title of the interview is "Hamas Has Everything to Lose," the fact remains that Israel is in a far riskier situation:
  • Israel has moral imperatives that still restrict what it can do
  • We know from 2006 that world pressure on Israel to stop will only increase
  • This is an operation that Israel probably does not want to continue into Obama's inauguration
  • A simple ceasefire is not enough
  • Conversely, Israel will have to have something meaningful and tangible to show for all this
  • At the minimum, success will be measured by the cessation of rockets from Gaza
  • If the rockets continue, even in reduced numbers, the logic of the operation will be questioned
When you come right down to it--Israel has everything to lose.
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Israeli Consulate to Host Twitter "Citizens' Press Conference" on Sderot/Gaza

From an email from the Israeli NY Consulate:
Consulate to Host Twitter "Citizens' Press Conference" on Sderot/Gaza
Tomorrow, 30 December, from 1-3PM EST, David Saranga, Consul of Media and Public Affairs in New York, will answer your questions about the situation in Israel and Gaza in a "Citizens' Press Conference."You can submit your question by directing it to our Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/IsraelConsulate. Answers will be posted through Twitter as well.

We hope you will be able to join us--tell your friends!!

From the same email:

Support Israel on Facebook

Now you can show your support for Israel's counterterrorism efforts on Facebook, the popular social networking site. A group has been formed called "I Support the Israel Defense Forces In Preventing Terror Attacks From Gaza," where you can discuss the latest developments and help build support for Israel in a simple, yet powerful way.

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Is The "Disproportionate Response" Argument Disproportionate To The Truth?

At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein--who offered to pay for Glenn Glennwald's free vacation to Sderot to see what conditions are like--addresses what he sees as the logic behind the argument that Israel's response to Hamas is 'disproportionate':
Greenwald's real problem, I surmise, is that he thinks that Israel's response is "disproportionate" not because its disproportionate relative to Hamas's military actions and Israel's military objectives compared to the civilian damaged inflicted (more or less the international law definition of proportionality), but because he believes that Israel is primarily to blame for the situation in Gaza, and therefore any suffering inflicted on Gaza's civilians is primarily Israel's fault. Hence his observation about Israel's blockade of Gaza, which is not at all relevant to whether Israel's response to the rocket fire is "proportionate," but rather to whether Israel is morally at fault in general.

But by putting the issue in terms of the "proportionality" of Israel's response, Greenwald (and others) are obscuring their real argument, which is that Israel is not entitled to act in self-defense because no matter how many rockets are launched into Israeli territory, Israel is ultimately the aggressor in the Gaza situation.
Glenwald of course is far from alone in putting forth the "proportionality argument," but it does seem that of all the people who are up in arms over Israel's response to the over 4,000 rockets and thousands of mortar shells fired by Hamas, none of them have offered an alternative.

Instead they offer homegrown, convenient and just plain wrong definitions of what constitutes International Law and its applications to various aspects of the current situation--see the paper by Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell: International Law and the Fighting in Gaza.

Of course, some suggest that Israel should be dedicating herself to diplomatic negotiations with Hamas.

Jeffrey Goldberg indirectly addresses that option when he writes:
No country in the world could afford to ignore such attacks. And no country would. An elected government, such as Israel's, has a basic, overriding responsibility -- to protect its citizens from the organized violence of their enemies. Of course, it can do this in part by negotiating with its enemies (assuming its enemies recognize Israel's right to life) but its immediate mission must be to stop the violence, which is what Israel is now trying to do. [emphasis added]
It's time for these critics to realize that their halfhearted approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is disproportionate to the seriousness of the situation and its implications for Western Democracies.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Palestinian Girl's Family Killed: "I Say Hamas Is The Cause Of All Wars."

From Palestinian Media Watch:

A Palestinian girl whose family members were killed yesterday in Gaza: "I say Hamas is the cause of all wars."

by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, Dec. 29, 2008

A Palestinian girl whose family members was killed yesterday in Gaza after an Israeli air attack was interviewed today on Palestinian TV and placed the blame for the war on Hamas:

[Girl] "We were sleeping 7 girls in the room. We were asleep and didn't know what was happening. In the morning all the bricks were on top of my head, and the heads of all my sisters. My 4 year old sister next to me was dead."

[Interviewer] "How many were you?"

[Girl] "Seven.In the other room were my mother, my father, my yonger brother and another sister, who is 13 days old. I say, Hamas is the cause, in the first place, of all wars."
[Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas) Dec. 29, 2008]
If Al-Aqsa TV is carrying something like this, this may be an indication of which way the Arab world is leaning.

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Did Israel Use "Disproportionate Force" in Gaza?

New from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Summary:
28 December 2008

Did Israel Use "Disproportionate Force" in Gaza?

Dore Gold

* Israeli population centers in southern Israel have been the target of over 4,000 rockets, as well as thousands of mortar shells, fired by Hamas and other organizations since 2001. Rocket attacks increased by 500 percent after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. During an informal six-month lull, some 215 rockets were launched at Israel.

* The charge that Israel uses disproportionate force keeps resurfacing whenever it has to defend its citizens from non-state terrorist organizations and the rocket attacks they perpetuate. From a purely legal perspective, Israel's current military actions in Gaza are on solid ground. According to international law, Israel is not required to calibrate its use of force precisely according to the size and range of the weaponry used against it.

* Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel wrote for the Associated Press on December 28 that most of the 230 Palestinians who were reportedly killed were "security forces," and Palestinian officials said "at least 15 civilians were among the dead." The numbers reported indicate that there was no clear intent to inflict disproportionate collateral civilian casualties. What is critical from the standpoint of international law is that if the attempt has been made "to minimize civilian damage, then even a strike that causes large amounts of damage - but is directed at a target with very large military value - would be lawful."

* Luis Moreno-Orampo, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, explained that international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court "permit belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur." The attack becomes a war crime when it is directed against civilians (which is precisely what Hamas does).

* After 9/11, when the Western alliance united to collectively topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, no one compared Afghan casualties in 2001 to the actual numbers that died from al-Qaeda's attack. There clearly is no international expectation that military losses in war should be on a one-to-one basis. To expect Israel to hold back in its use of decisive force against legitimate military targets in Gaza is to condemn it to a long war of attrition with Hamas.
Dr. Dore Gold, Israel's ambassador to the UN in 1997-99, is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and author of Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism (Regnery, 2003) and The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007).

To view the full article, Click here.

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Is Iraq The Very Model Of A Modern Major Democracy?

"Iraq can serve as an anchor of stability in the region, a counter to Iranian hegemony and a model of democracy for the Middle East."

John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham
In Israel As Key Ally Of US In Mideast? Maybe Not Much Longer, I suggested that Iraq was shaping up to be the up and coming ally of the US in the Middle East--perhaps even taking the place of Israel, see that Iraq after all is an Arab country.

Andy McCarthy has disabused me of that notion, after writing about how vociferously the Iraq leadership has come out in condemning Israel. He quotes from the AP:

"Expressing condemnation and denunciation for what is going on against our brothers in Gaza and expressing solidarity with them by words only doesn't mean anything in the face of the big tragedy they are facing," he said in a statement released by office in Najaf.

"Now more than at any other time, both Arab and Islamic nations are required to take a practical stance for the sake of stopping this repeated aggression and to break the unfair besieging of these brave people," the statement said, without giving details of the proposed stance.

McCarthy concludes:
The administration touts the Iraqis' democratic progress ad nauseum, but what most of us care about is the part about how they're supposedly going to be with us on radical Islam. Yes, they've allowed us to quell al Qaeda's operations in their country — which it was in their interest to do for various reasons. But in what sense is a country where it's smart politics to be anti-American, where the major parties are Islamist, and where Hezbollah and Hamas are looked upon kindly likely to become "a strong ally in the war on terror"?
It continues to be hard to find another real democracy in the Middle East these days.

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Israel's War On Hamas Now Includes YouTube! (Updated)

Could it be that finally Israel is catching on to the idea of PR?!

Check out IDFADESK, on YouTube, where you can view 9 videos that have so far been uploaded by the IDF. For the most part, they are videos demonstrating the care Israel has been taking for pinpoint precision in the bombing of Hamas terrorist targets in Gaza.

There is also a video showing that Israel has continued humanitarian aid to Gaza:


Perhaps equally unusual is that there is actually some balance in the way some are reporting Israel's operation in Gaza. The BBC has an article that actually has the headline: Israel strikes key Hamas offices, differentiating between Gaza as a whole and the actual target:
Israeli air raids have pounded the Gaza Strip for a third day, hitting key sites linked to militant group Hamas.

Gaza's interior ministry and Islamic University were the latest targets.

Hamas says 312 Palestinians have died since Saturday, of which the UN says 57 were civilians. In Israel, a second person was killed by a militant rocket.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel was not fighting the people of Gaza but was in "a war to the bitter end" with Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
Ed Morrissey notes:
So far, the IDF seems to have something it rarely receives: a decent shake from the global media. Perhaps even journalists have tired of Hamas and their terrorist activities on behalf of Iran and the mullahcracy.
Now there's a thought.

Then again, the media and the world in general seemed to cut Israel some slack at the beginning of it's war with Hizbollah as well. It is not a matter of world opinion at the beginning of such an operation, but rather how it holds after the daily impact of reports and pictures of casualties.

All the more reason why, in addition to good PR, Israel needs a relatively quick--and decisive--end to this operation.

UPDATE: Check out Confederate Yankee, who writes:
Several of the videos showing the Isreali Air Force hitting Hamas rocket launching sites with GBU-39 precision-guided bombs have been flagged by pro-Hamas (or at least anti-Israeli) users and momentarily removed for terms of use violations before being restored. Some have been removed and have not been restored. Expect this online battle to continue, and perhaps intensify.
He contrasts with the terrorists who stage pictures and limit access to journalists.

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Live Broadcast Tonight of Siyum on Kiddushin and Seder Nashim

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:
Davar Be'ito Mah Tov!!

The Daf Yomi Commission of Agudath Israel of America is delighted to announce the 5th Nationwide shiur Lichvod Siyum Maseches Kiddushin and Seder Nashim.

The shiur will be given tonight, Monday night
3rd Teves 5769/ December 29th 2008
At 8:45 PM
By Rabbi Shmuel Dishon,
Menahel Yad Yisroel Karlin Stolin
The topic of the shiur is: Torah: The Only Blueprint for Life

To arrange a live broadcast in your Daf Yomi location or Beis Medrash
Please contact our office at
212-797-9000 ext. 266 Fax: 646-254-1600
Email: dafyomi@agudathisrael.org

The shiur will also be available live via telephone-
call 712-432-1001 access no. 495236131#.
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If You Want To Catch Up On Coverage Of Israel In Gaza In The JBlogosphere

...then you can't do better than to go to Jack's Gaza Roundup--Part I and Part II. There you will find a wide variety of posts from around the JBlogosphere.

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So Where Is Israel's Operation Headed?

The two camps have formed as expected--One side defending Israel's actions, the other condemning them; one praising Israel for restraint and pinpoint targeting terrorist targets while the other accuses Israel of acting all out of proportion.

What has not really become clear--or at least a topic of debate--yet is just what the goal for Israel really is and what it can expect when the operation is over.

According to Ralph Peters, at most--Israel will have bought itself time, but not peace:
It's a rare conflict that results in an enduring peace. Unintended consequences abound. At times, you fight just to buy time, to gain breathing space - or merely to frustrate an enemy's designs for a limited period.

That's the situation Israel faces: No hope of an ultimate victory, but a constant fight to survive. Enemies who believe their god ordains their actions can't be placated. For faith-fueled terrorists, such as the core members of Hamas, the struggle with Israel's a zero-sum game. Compromise is, at most, an expedient tool, never an acceptable end state.

What will we see in the coming days? Much depends on Israel's resolve. The most probable scenario is that Hamas will continue launching terror rockets for a few weeks to salve its wounded vanity and maintain the image of "resistance," but will ultimately reduce its attacks against Israel - while it rebuilds its cadres and restocks its arsenal.

Israel will have bought time, not peace.

What might Israel have done better? It's essential to take out the top terrorist leaders. But Israel's government remains reluctant to target the cowardly Hamas leaders hiding in Damascus - or even the top terrorists remaining in Gaza.

For terrorist bosses, the rank-and-file are disposable and replaceable. You can't just kill the gunmen. You have to kill the names.
While pondering what the operation might bring, the one problem is that Israel knows it has been here before. Michael B. Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi write in today's Wall Street Journal:
Israelis are now asking themselves whether their Lebanon nightmare is about to repeat itself in Gaza. The parallels are indeed striking. As in Lebanon, Israel in 2005 unilaterally withdrew to its international border with Gaza and received, instead of security, a regime dedicated to its destruction. The thousands of rockets and mortar shells subsequently fired on Israeli neighborhoods represented more than a crude attempt to kill and terrorize civilians -- they were expressions of a genocidal intent.
It is Israel's ability to deal militarily and decisively with that genocidal intent from a nearby neighbor that makes it so crucial for Israel to be able to bring the operation to a satisfactory conclusion. That is why the armchair critics with their kneejerk condemnations are missing the point of why this operation is so important and why Hamas must lose:
Gaza is the test case. Much more is at stake than merely the military outcome of Israel's operation. The issue, rather, is Israel's ability to restore its deterrence power and uphold the principle that its citizens cannot be targeted with impunity.

Without the assurance that they will be allowed to protect their homes and families following withdrawal, Israelis will rightly perceive a two-state solution as an existential threat. They will continue to share the left-wing vision of coexistence with a peaceful Palestinian neighbor in theory, but in reality will heed the right's warnings of Jewish powerlessness.

The Gaza crisis also has implications for Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Here, too, Israelis will be unwilling to cede strategically vital territories -- in this case on the Golan Heights -- in an international environment in which any attempt to defend themselves will be denounced as unjustified aggression. Syria's role in triggering the Gaza conflict only deepens Israeli mistrust. The Damascus office of Hamas, which operates under the aegis of the regime of Bashar al Assad, vetoed the efforts of Hamas leaders in Gaza to extend the cease-fire and insisted on escalating rocket attacks.

If these critics--and the UN as a whole--are really concerned with bringing peace to the region and ending the tension in the Middle East, then countries must be able to feel safe from the threats of the likes of Hizbollah and Hamas and the machinations of the countries behind them such as Iran and Syria.

Alot was riding on Israel's war with Hizbollah 2 years ago.
Now Israel--and the world--have a second chance.

Thanks to Memeorandum for the link!

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Did Someone Mention Hizbollah?

In The New York Times today, Ethan Bronner writes about one of the outcomes of the current operation:
“In the cabinet room today there was an energy, a feeling that after so long of showing restraint we had finally acted,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking of the weekly government meeting that he attended.

Mark Heller, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that that energy reflected the deep feeling among average Israelis that the country had to regain its deterrent capacity.

“There has been a nagging sense of uncertainty in the last couple years of whether anyone is really afraid of Israel anymore,” he said. “The concern is that in the past — perhaps a mythical past — people didn’t mess with Israel because they were afraid of the consequences. Now the region is filled with provocative rhetoric about Israel the paper tiger. This operation is an attempt to re-establish the perception that if you provoke or attack you are going to pay a disproportionate price.”
Noah Pollak writes that Israel may indeed have regained some of that aura--and maybe did not lose as much respect as it thinks:
As a matter of fact, it’s interesting to note that since the summer 2006 war, Hezbollah has been completely quiet on Israel’s border — even after their terrorist superhero, Imad Mughniyah, was assassinated, and Syria’s nuclear reactor was bombed, and Hezbollah’s liason to Damascus had an unfortunate run-in with a rifle bullet on his balcony one afternoon. Right now, Nasrallah futilely rants from Lebanon, while Hezbollah watches its ally in Gaza get pummeled. Deterrence is a real thing, and while it’s too early to judge the outcome of the current engagement, it’s also too early to declare that Hamas’ experience of being whipped and humiliated — the first time in the group’s history — will not establish some new behavioral guidelines.
Let's not forget, Nasrallah is not only ranting futilely, he is ranting while hiding in an underground bunker.

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Israel At War: A Primer

HonestReporting has put together a primer to understanding Israel's operation in Gaza. Here is a brief summary:

Israel at War: A Primer

Israel has launched a major military operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Over the coming days and beyond, Israel will come under intense pressure both in the mainstream media and in online forums and the blogosphere. HonestReporting presents a guide, including images, video footage and source materials to help explain the current situation and Israel's actions.

READ THE FULL VERSION OF THIS PRIMER BY CLICKING HERE

Why has Israel gone to war against Hamas in Gaza?

  • A quarter of a million Israeli citizens have been living under incessant terror attacks from the Gaza Strip with thousands of missiles fired over the past eight years.

  • These missiles have been described as "home made" by the media. They are, in fact, deadly. Hamas has in its possession longer range Katyushas and Grad-type missiles which can cause devastation such as that on Monday 29 December as one Israeli was killed and 14 injured in a Grad attack on Ashkelon.

Hamas' responsibility for the current situation

  • The deterioration in the situation is the direct result of Hamas policy. It violated the calm, is firing against and attacking Israeli citizens, and is investing all its resources in arming itself and gathering power.

Israel does not target Palestinian civilians

  • The terrorist organizations work out of the Palestinian population centers and cynically exploit them, so the responsibility for Palestinian civilians getting hurt rests on their shoulders. Israel, for its part directs its activity at terrorist elements and does its utmost to refrain from harming the innocent.

  • Those homes and buildings which are used for storing weapons caches and manufacturing weaponry are legitimate military targets.

Israel prevents a humanitarian crisis

  • Israel has continued to allow humanitarian aid to pass through Gaza's border crossings despite Hamas's rocket and mortar attacks, including upon the crossings themselves.

  • Israel also plans to allow some Palestinians wounded in Saturday's offensive on Hamas to enter Israel to receive medical treatment. Meanwhile, Hamas is preventing wounded Palestinians from crossing into Egypt to receive treatment.

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International Law and The Fighting in Gaza

Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell have written a paper, International Law and The Fighting in Gaza [PDF], that goes into the issues both of how International Law actually applies to the current Israeli operation, and into the overall question of what Occupation actually means.

One thing that becomes very clear is that the critics of Israel engage in definitions of convenience when they claim that Israel is contravening International Law.

In their conclusion, Weiner and Bell write:
The Palestinian-Israeli fighting in Gaza has been characterized by the extensive
commission of war crimes, acts of terrorism and acts of genocide by Palestinian fighters.

On the other hand, Israeli counter-measures have conformed with the requirements of international law, with the possible exception that Israel may be legally required to cut off aid to the Palestinians. Israel may continue to impose economic sanctions and engage in military strikes including a full-scale assault on the Gaza Strip, as long as it continues to abide by the basic humanitarian rules of distinction and proportionality.

Other states can, and must, do more to encourage compliance with international legal standards by fulfilling their own legal obligations, while refraining from raising specious charges against Israel. International law requires Israel and other states to take measures to bring Palestinian war criminals and terrorists to justice, to prevent and punish Palestinian genocidal efforts, and to block the funding of Palestinian terrorist groups and those complicit with them.
In one section of the paper, the overall issue of International Law is addressed:
Flawed Criticisms Made by Opponents of Israel 

Traditional opponents of Israel have criticized it for alleged violations of international law. One of the strongest sources of criticism has been the Office of the “Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967” in the UN Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur’s office was created by the Human Rights Commission (since replaced by the Human Rights Council) in 1993 to issue onesided criticisms of Israel; the mandate specifies that the Rapporteur is “[t]o investigate Israel’s [alleged] violations of…international law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention…in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967,” but does not request that he also investigate Palestinian violations.45 The Rapporteur has used the one-sidedness of this mandate to justify anti-Israel bias in his reporting and has publicly and repeatedly interpreted his mandate as requiring him to criticize only Israel.46 As befits the Rapporteur’s bias, the Rapporteur has ignored the fact that he has no jurisdiction to investigate alleged Israeli wrongdoing in Gaza. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, no credible legal argument can be made that Gaza is a “Palestinian territor[y] occupied by Israel since 1967.” The Rapporteur therefore lacks jurisdiction. Traditional opponents of Israel have criticized it for alleged violations of international law.

Nonetheless, Rapporteur reports have been replete with inaccurate and biased criticism of alleged Israeli wrongdoing in Gaza. John Dugard, who served as the Special Rapporteur from the inception of the post in 1993 until 2008, issued a statement on January 18, 2008, criticizing Israeli defense measures as illegal. Firstly, Dugard claimed that Israel’s attack on a Hamas headquarters in a Palestinian Interior Ministry building in Gaza was illegal because the target was “near a wedding venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians.”47 However, the Palestinian Interior Ministry building was certainly a legitimate target under the rules of distinction since it makes a definite contribution to Hamas’ hostilities. The fact that one Palestinian civilian lost her life in the Israeli strikes is unfortunate,48 but certainly not a violation of the rule of proportionality, which authorizes collateral damage to civilians where justified by military necessity.49

Secondly, Dugard asserted that Israel’s closure of its borders with the Gaza Strip constitutes illegal “collective punishment.”50 Yet there is nothing in international law that requires Israel to maintain open borders with a hostile territory, whatever its sovereign status. Similarly, as will be discussed below, exercising legal counter-measures against a hostile entity does not constitute “collective punishment” under international law. Dugard’s refusal to level the same charge against Egypt, which also closes its borders with the Gaza Strip at times, underlines the bias that accompanies this legally inaccurate statement. Nonetheless, Rapporteur reports have been replete with inaccurate and biased criticism of alleged Israeli wrongdoing in Gaza.

At the same time, in sharp contradiction to the dictates of international law, Dugard offered several invalid excuses for Palestinian terrorism. In his report of January 21, 2008, Dugard wrote that “[c]ommon sense…dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by Al Qaeda, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation....They must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation.”51

Dugard failed to mention that such a distinction is forbidden by international law. Security Council Resolution 1566 specifically states that illegal terrorist acts “are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature.”52

In a similar vein, in the same report, Dugard attempted to downplay Palestinian terrorism by omitting all mention of international conventions and resolutions violated by Palestinian terrorism. Instead he inaccurately accused Israel of committing illegal terrorism by, for example, targeting military strikes at Palestinian terrorists and flying planes at supersonic speed.53 Needless to say, there is no international law treaty, UN resolution or international legal custom that renders such Israeli acts as “terrorism” or illegal in any other way.

Difficult as it is to envisage, Richard Falk, Dugard’s successor to the post of Special Rapporteur, appears poised to surpass Dugard in bias and legal inaccuracy. Falk has repeatedly and outrageously accused Israel of genocide, claiming in 2002 that “Israel is seeking to obliterate the existence of the Palestinian people,”54 and in 2007 that he felt “compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel” as a repeat of the Holocaust because Israeli policies “express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”55 Shortly after his appointment to the post of Special Rapporteur on March 28, 2008,56 Falk defended the appropriateness of his comparisons of Israeli treatment of Gazans to genocidal Nazi policies.57 

To their credit, some foreign officials, such as Franco Frattini (until recently the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security),58 have correctly defended the legality of the Israeli actions. Others, such as Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, have criticized UN bias against Israel.59 

Later in the paper, Weiner and Bell address different aspects of the alleged occupation of Gaza by Israel:

The Legality of Israeli Military Actions under The Laws of Occupation

1. Is Gaza Occupied?

Some groups have claimed that the Gaza Strip is “occupied” by Israel according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, in which case Israel would be required to “ensure the food and medical supplies of the population” as well as “agree to relief schemes on behalf of the…population” and maintain “public health and hygiene.”100

However, there is no legal basis for maintaining that Gaza is occupied territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention refers to territory as occupied where the territory is of another “High Contracting Party” (i.e., a state party to the convention) and the occupier “exercises the functions of government” in the occupied territory.101 Yet, the Gaza Strip is not territory of another state party to the convention - Egypt, which previously controlled Gaza, is a party to the convention, but Gaza was never Egyptian territory. And Israel does not exercise the functions of government - or, indeed, any significant functions - in the territory. It is clear to all that the elected Hamas government is the de facto sovereign of the Gaza Strip and does not take direction from Israel, or any other state. 

Some have argued that states can be considered to be occupiers even of areas where they do not declare themselves in control, as long as the putative occupiers have effective control. For instance, in 2005, the International Court of Justice opined that Uganda could be considered the occupier of Congolese territory, over which it had “substituted [its] own authority for that of the Congolese Government,” even in the absence of a formal military administration.102 Some have argued that this shows that occupation may occur even in the absence of a full-scale military presence, thus claiming that this renders Israel an occupier under the Fourth Geneva Convention.103 However, these claims are clearly without merit. First and foremost, Israel does not fulfill the conditions of being an occupier; in particular, Israel does not exercise the functions of government in Gaza, and it has not substituted its authority for the de facto Hamas government. Secondly, Israel cannot project effective control in Gaza. Indeed, Israelis and Palestinians well know that projecting such control would require an extensive military operation amounting to the armed conquest of Gaza.

Military superiority over a neighbor does not itself constitute occupation. If it did, the U.S. would have to be considered the occupier of Mexico and Canada, Egypt the occupier of Libya, Iran the occupier of Afghanistan, and Russia the occupier of Latvia.

Moreover, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that foes of Israel that claim that Israel has legal duties as the “occupier” of Gaza are insincere in their legal analysis. If Israel were indeed properly considered an occupier, under Article 43 of the regulations attached to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, Israel would be required to take “all the measures in [its] power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety.”104 Thus, those who contend that Israel is in legal occupation of Gaza must also support and even demand Israeli military operations in order to disarm Palestinian terror groups and militias.

Additionally, claims of occupation necessarily rely upon a belief that the occupying power is not the true sovereign of the occupied territory. For that reason, those who claim that Israel occupies Gaza must believe that the border between Israel and Gaza is an international border between separate sovereignties. Yet, many of those claiming that Gaza is occupied, such as John Dugard and Richard Falk, simultaneously and inconsistently claim that Israel is legally obliged to open the borders between Israel and Gaza. No sovereign state is required to open its international borders.
Read the whole thing.

The obvious problem of course is that Israel critics do not really care about International Law or at least have not looked into it sufficiently to really understand the issues. Thus articles such as this one are basically preaching to the choir.

As long as individuals and agencies remain willfully ignorant of the very topics they preach about, the issues will continue to be clouded--to Israel's detriment.

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