Pro-Israel News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
By William Booth and Ruth Eglash August 26 at 3:17 PM   |The Washington Post| 

GAZA CITY — Palestinians in the Gaza Strip poured into the streets Tuesday to celebrate the announcement that Hamas and Israel had agreed to an open-ended cease-fire after 50 days of warfare that has killed more than 2,200 people.

“We have won,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri exulted at a news conference in front of Shifa Hospital. He said the group’s fighters had accomplished “what no Arab army has done. We have defeated them,” referring to Israel.

His exuberance aside, officials from Hamas and another Gaza-based militant group, Islamic Jihad, said the cease-fire agreement essentially brings Israel and Palestinians back to terms agreed on in the truce signed after the 2012 Gaza war.

A senior official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, speaking about the latest cease-fire on the condition of anonymity, said Hamas had gained little, if anything, from the conflict, which has left vast tracts of Gaza in ruins.

“Hamas is now finally accepting a cease-fire proposal that was first proposed by Egypt on July 15,” the official said. “There is nothing more to the proposal than there was a month and a half ago.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. "strongly supported" the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas and asked all sides to comply with its terms. (AP)

Under the deal, Israel will immediately ease restrictions on Gaza and allow relief aid and construction materials to enter the coastal enclave. The deal will also allow Gaza fishermen to venture six miles offshore; until now, they were restricted to three miles.

Other demands by the Palestinians — building a seaport and an airport, opening all border crossings and improving the movement of goods and people — are set to be discussed in Cairo. Israel also will press its demand that Gaza be demilitarized.

The cease-fire deal was modest. To be dealt with later are the big questions about who will control the Gaza Strip: Hamas, which currently runs the enclave and denies Israel’s right to exist, or the Palestinian Authority, which is committed to nonviolence and has been unsuccessfully seeking to create a sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry welcomed the deal and urged the two sides to “fully and completely comply with its terms.”

Kerry also sounded a note of caution, saying in a statement: “We are all aware that this is an opportunity, not a certainty. . . . We are approaching the next phase with our eyes wide open. We have been down this road before, and we are all aware of the challenges ahead.”

The senior Netanyahu aide expressed similar views, saying, “There have been 11 cease-fire attempts that have either been rejected or violated by Hamas, and the key to moving forward and easing the restrictions is honoring cease-fires.”

In Gaza City, residents who an hour earlier were hunkered down in their houses, listening to rocket and missile fire, burst into the streets after the deal was announced.

There were fireworks and chants, and flags of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were waved while banners celebrated the sacrifices of martyrs. Israeli drones continued to fly overhead, as they have for the entire conflict.

During his emotional news conference, Abu Zuhri boasted that the Gaza brigades had shut down Tel Aviv’s international airport and that Hamas rocket fire had forced Israeli residents in the border communities to flee their homes.

“Whatever Netanyahu says, he will not be able to defend his failure,” the Hamas spokesman said.

Meanwhile, even as Hamas leaders started to announce the deal, mortar rounds fired from Gaza killed two Israeli civilians and seriously injured several others on a kibbutz near the border, and Israeli airstrikes claimed eight lives in Gaza.

The conflict has killed about 2,130 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

Israeli news media reported that the Netanyahu cabinet was split on the decision to accept the cease-fire proposal brokered by Egypt.

The fiercest critic appeared to be the hawkish economy minister, Naftali Bennett, who, according to the news portal Walla, had requested that Netanyahu bring the proposal to a cabinet vote.

Community leaders from Israeli farm towns bordering the Gaza Strip — those hit hardest by rocket fire from the enclave, especially in the past few days — were skeptical about the cease-fire agreement, telling Israeli news channels that only time will tell whether the deal is for real.

“The leaders on both sides will probably each declare victory, while the people on each side do not feel like they are victors at all,” said Miri Eisin, a former army colonel who served as the deputy head of Israel’s combat intelligence corps.

“I am not sure that this is a cease-fire or that it will be respected any better than the previous ones,” said Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council. “We will need to wait two or three days to see if this is stable enough. All previous declarations were not very reliable.”

‘A lose-lose situation’

“It is much more a lose-lose situation than a decisive victory to either side,” Eiland said.

Israeli hard-liners are complaining that the deal did little to guarantee that Hamas would not quickly rearm and begin firing rockets and mortar rounds again.

“The decision to accept the latest cease-fire with Hamas is completely without justification,” said Danny Danon, a member of parliament and leader of Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“After thousands of rockets fired at our cities, and scores of Israelis killed and wounded, we are agreeing to accept the very situation that allowed Hamas to arm itself and prepare its forces for their murderous attacks on Israel,” Danon said.

Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, made the cease-fire announcement in front of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“We accept the cease-fire,” Abbas said. “It will provide food and construction materials for Gaza,” which he described as being in a “disastrous situation, almost unimaginable.”

“Later we will have more talks,” he said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF August 26, 2014, 10:39 am |The Times of Israel|

As fighting between Israel and Hamas persisted for a 50th day Tuesday, retired US general John Allen was set to meet with Israeli officials to discuss the possible renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians once the Gaza operation ends.

John Allen, a four-star marine and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, arrived on an unannounced visit Monday night, Israel Radio reported.

He was previously involved in drawing up a US plan for security arrangements in the Jordan Valley reportedly rejected by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

His visit comes as Egyptian and Palestinian negotiators say the sides are working toward a ceasefire to end nearly two months of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said late Monday the Islamist group conceded that there are contacts to reach a truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions and that “the efforts are advancing more than in the past, but we haven’t received a concrete response from Israel.”

“We’re prepared to discuss at a later stage the various controversial issues: the sea port, the prisoners and the airport,” he said. “What’s important at this stage is ending the Israeli aggression, opening the crossings and rebuilding the Strip.”

Zuhri did not mention the lifting of Israel’s naval blockade which has been a main sticking point in negotiations.

Hamas is demanding an agreement to lift the blockade as part of a ceasefire whereas an Egyptian proposal, that Israel is said to support, calls for a lull first followed by talks on major issues.

Israel has not released any information about ceasefire talks. In the past officials in Jerusalem have said Israel would only negotiate if rocket fire stopped as part of a truce.

Rocket fire continued on Tuesday morning with several people lightly injured after a rocket hit a home in the southern town of Ashkelon.

Earlier in the morning Hamas said it fired a barrage of rockets including four at Tel Aviv and one at Haifa. The terror group said the rockets were in response to the overnight bombing of a tower block in Gaza City that left two dead and 20 injured. The IDF said one rocket was intercepted over Tel Aviv by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The US has presented its own draft elements for a Security Council resolution on a ceasefire between Israel, Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups, Reuters reported Monday, and is working with other countries on a joint text.

US officials and UN diplomats said the US draft has been presented to several countries and follows a separate text brought forward by Jordan and a previous one jointly by Britain, France and Germany.

“The US has come up with its own draft,” a UN diplomat, who declined to be named, told Reuters. “It’s quite different from the two others. Now they’re working to combine the drafts and come up with a common text.”

“We’ll work on coming up with a single draft,” another UN diplomat told Reuters “What’s important is that the Americans are engaging and there’s a new momentum in pushing for a ceasefire resolution in the Security Council that would be better than previous ones.”

UN diplomats said the US and Israel have been increasingly open to the idea of a Security Council resolution on a ceasefire.

Hamas has fired over 4,000 rockets at Israel in the past 50 days, including some 600 from close to schools, mosques and other civilian facilities, the Israeli army says.

Over 2,000 people have been killed in Gaza as Israel seeks to thwart the rocket attacks and smash a network of attack tunnels dug by Hamas under the border.

Gaza-based human rights groups claim over 70 percent of those killed are civilians, while Israel asserts 750-1,000 of the dead are Hamas and other gunmen.

It also blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities, since Hamas set up its rocket launchers, tunnel openings and other elements of its war machine in Gaza neighborhoods and uses Gazans as human shields.

Sixty-eight people have died on the Israeli side: 64 soldiers and 4 civilians, most recently a 4-year-old boy killed by mortar fire on Friday.


Monday, August 25, 2014


 Ryan Jones| Israel Today | Monday, August 25, 2014

One of the hot topics on the agenda at Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem was whether or not the Israeli school year could begin as scheduled next Monday, even as Hamas and its terrorist allies continue to pound much of the country with rockets and mortars.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that towns and communities in the vicinity of Gaza, those most often targeted by the terrorists, will only open the school year if their respective local school facilities have been reinforced against missile strikes.

Many schools in southern Israel have been reinforced, but not all.

Other options tabled at the meeting were to allow students from southern Israel to attend classes virtually via their home computers, or to hold studies in large community bomb shelters.

In truth, it might not matter what the government decides, because most of the residents of the area known as the “Gaza envelope” fled their homes amidst incessant rocket fire, and vowed they will not return until the IDF can fully curb the threat.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the government would provide assistance to any families wishing to relocate away from the Gaza envelope, which to many sounded dangerously close to admitting that Hamas had succeeded in permanently driving Jews away from another part of their promised land. 

Friday, August 22, 2014


A hold up in the US supply of Hellfire missiles to Israel has been resolved and the incident
“is behind us,” Israel’s Channel 10 news quoted a senior Israeli official as saying on
Thursday night. The official said Israel had been assured that the suspension of the sale
“was just bureaucracy.”
The unconfirmed report did not specify when the weapons would be delivered.
The news came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed American support for Israel
during the ongoing war against Hamas, noting that he spoke almost daily with Secretary of State
John Kerry, and had held four calls with President Barack Obama since the conflict erupted 45
days ago.
A senior Israeli official last Thursday had confirmed to Israeli media that the US suspended a
planned shipment of Hellfire precision missiles.
The decision to hold off on the transfer was most likely on grounds of increased diplomatic
tension, the official said, corroborating a Wall Street Journal report that day on the affair.
The Journal report claimed that US-Israeli tensions were at a record high, with Obama and
Netanyahu said to have held a “particularly combative phone call” the previous day.
Later last Thursday, the State Department said that weapons shipments to Israel would
be undergoing additional review due to the war in Gaza, but denied that the Pentagon had engaged
in weapons transfers to Israel behind the back of the White House and State Department.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf said she was not aware that anyone had been “caught off-guard” by
such transfers.
Harf described an inter-agency process, including the Pentagon, White House and State
Department, to review such transfers, and said that she “would disagree” with the report in the
Journal to the effect that the State Department and White House were “surprised” that the
Pentagon continued to provide weapons to Israel.
The State Department spokesperson worked to downplay the scale and implications of the
additional review. “As I have said many times, the US has an unshakable commitment to Israel’s
security,” Harf asserted, citing Obama’s recent approval of an additional funding package for the
Iron Dome missile defense project.
“There has been no change in policy” regarding Israel’s security assistance, Harf insisted. She
added, however, that given the situation, it is natural that there would be “additional care” taken in
the review process. She emphasized that “additional steps” were not tantamount to an official
“review” of US military aid for Israel.
“It’s not an unusual step,” Harf said. “The general principle is that when there is an ongoing crisis
or conflict in which we are providing weapons, we would take an additional look at it,” she said.


Monday, August 18, 2014

 August 18, 2014, 7:14 pm Updated: August 18, 2014, 7:44 pm |The Times of Israel |

Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Monday it thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and starting a third intifada uprising.

The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.

Terror cells were set up in dozens of Palestinian West Bank towns and villages — including in and around Jenin, Nablus, eastern Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Hebron — the Shin Bet said.

Many of those recruited for the cells were students studying chemistry and engineering, and academics, according to the investigation.

Weapons caches discovered by the Shin Bet during a sweep of Hamas operatives in May and June, 2014 (photo credit: Shin Bet)

The Shin Ben said the plot was orchestrated by senior Hamas official Salah al-Arouri, who is based in Turkey and enjoys the support of the local officials there.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from forces loyal to Abbas. It is currently negotiating in Cairo over a ceasefire to formally end the past six weeks of Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Israel-Hamas fighting was preceded by Israeli arrests of hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June. The Shin Bet said it uncovered the West Bank coup plot due to information gleaned from those arrests. 

The three teens — Eyal Yifrah, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel — were slain on June 12 in the West Bank. Their killings were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in what was a likely revenge attack. Hamas stepped up rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, leading to Israeli airstrikes from July 8 at the start of what was called Operation Protective Edge. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas’s underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.

Detailing what it said was the thwarted bid to topple the PA in the West Bank, the Shin Bet said Monday that Hamas military cells in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, run through headquarters in Turkey, sought to execute a string of attacks against Israel, overthrow the PA, and establish a second front against Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

The Shin Bet revealed that during a three-month operation, it arrested 93 activists and confiscated 24 rifles, six pistols, seven rocket launchers, a large amount of ammunition, a getaway car, and funds amounting to over NIS 600,000 (some $170,000). It said that the infrastructure for the unusually “severe” string of attacks was based, also, on a “forward front in Jordan.”

Using a network of couriers to Jordan and Turkey, the Shin Bet said, the Hamas activists transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars of funds into the West Bank, with the intention of purchasing arms, and preparing safe houses, warehouse for weapons and laboratories for manufacturing rockets.

The leader of the operation, Riad Nasser, a resident of the village Dir Kadis, was recruited by al-Arouri, the head of West Bank operations for Hamas abroad, the Shin Bet said. Al-Arouri was one of the founders of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing

The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff reported in June that, according to an Israeli security official, al-Arouri was behind the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teens on June 12.

Udeh Zaharan, a resident of Zarka in Jordan and a former Israeli security prisoner, funneled the money into the West Bank via a network of couriers, the Shin Bet said.

Other key operatives included Majdi Mafarja, a resident of Beit Likiya, who has a doctorate in computer science and was recruited in Malaysia. According to the Shin Bet, he was arrested on May 22 and admitted during interrogation that he had served as courier for apparently encoded messages for the military wing of Hamas.

Salah Barakat, an Israeli citizen and resident of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa, was arrested on July 1 and admitted, too, to passing messages from the Hamas diaspora to the operatives in the field.

Suspected key terrorists arrested by the Shin Bet during a sweep of Hamas operatives in May and June, 2014 (photo credit: Shin Bet)

Muhammad Kafaya, a former leader in the Hamas student union in Abu Dis University, was arrested on June 27. He turned over 19 rifles and five handguns.

The Shin Bet called the network “one of the most widespread we have known,” and said that its existence pointed to the danger of Hamas operations abroad, particularly in light “of Hamas’ strategic intentions of toppling the PA.”


Thursday, August 14, 2014
August 14, 2014|7:25 am| The Christian Post|


A diverse group of evangelical leaders, led by the National Religious Broadcasters President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, is set to travel this Sunday to Israel to show their support and friendship to the Jewish state and counter anti-semantic views.

"Countering rising anti-Semitism in the international press and on the streets, this friendship visit will communicate to Israel and to the Palestinians who stand in opposition to Hamas that we, leaders who represent the Christian community, stand with them. It will also show the world that Christians in general support the Jewish people and their right to security," Johnson said in a statement earlier this week.

"In addition, this visit should serve as an example to all followers of Jesus Christ, specifically encouraging them to pray for the peace of Jerusalem so that the lives of all those living in this region can be secure," he added. "We are thankful to the Israel Ministry of Tourism for coordinating this trip."

The "Christians in Solidarity with Israel" trip, scheduled for August 17-22, will include Christian leaders such as Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary; Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council; Anne Graham Lotz, president of AnGeL Ministries, and others.

"This trip will emphasize American Christians' steadfast support for Israel. It will also underscore our need to continue to pray for and work for the peace of Jerusalem so that all the people of that region, Jewish and Palestinian, can live without fear," Perkins explained in a statement.

"For a large number of Christians, there are two primary reasons to support Israel. We have the Jewish people to thank for our faith and we are instructed in Scripture not only to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but are told that those who bless Israel will be blessed," he continued.

"Secondly, it is in the national security interest of the United States to support Israel. To abridge our commitment to the State of Israel would be an act of hostility not just to the Jewish state but would do damage to our own vital interests."

On Thursday, a new five-day ceasefire has been agreed to between Israel and militant group Hamas, BBC News reported.

The conflict has resulted so far in nearly 2,000 Palestinian deaths, the majority of which are said to be civilians. While Hamas has blamed Israeli aggression for the high death toll, Israel has said that militants are using civilians as human shields and hiding in residential areas in Gaza where they launch their rocket attacks on the Jewish state.

Israel has faced much criticisms for the high death toll during the conflict, including from the International Red Cross and Human Rights Watch, which have suggested in reports that Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza.

But the European Centre for Law and Justice came to its defense, arguing that it is Hamas that is committing war crimes.

"While insinuating that Israel is committing war crimes as it protects its civilian population under attack by Hamas terrorists, the Red Cross is turning a blind eye to the deadly terrorist tactics used by Hamas – using its own population as human shields – in clearly violation of international law. We are urging the Red Cross to rely on the facts and the truth in reporting what is taking place in the Gaza conflict," wrote Jay Sekulow, who serves as Chief Counsel of the ECLJ.

Also the U.N. Human Rights Council announced an inquiry into the Gaza conflict, but appointed a Canadian international lawyer, William Schabas, to head the inquiry. Israel has slammed the appointment of Schabas, asserting that the lawyer holds an anti-Israel bias that will unfairly influence the commission.

"This commission's anti-Israeli conclusions have already been written, all it needs is a signature," Israel foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has said.

"For this commission the important thing is not human rights but the rights of terrorist organizations like Hamas."

The full list of those who will participate in the Christians in Solidarity with Israel trip is available on the NRB website.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

By Edwin Black, contributor

| The HIll |

Yet another tenuous cease-fire with Hamas is hanging on by a thread and may be broken by the time this is published. Through the plumes of smoke, Jerusalem now sees a very different political landscape. Virulent mass anti-Israel marches roil through the world's capitals — in some cases, with tens of thousands of angry protestors. War crime proceedings are now openly threatened by official bodies, even though they are based on confused conflations of international law uttered with the blindfold of Lady Justice pulled down over one eye only. The worldwide media establishment is now captive to its own inability to proffer balanced questions of Hamas's representatives even as Israeli spokesmen are continuously pressed for impossible answers. Even the White House has joined the chorus of those who find moral equivalency in the conflict, treating Hamas as though it were Lech Walesa's Polish Solidarity.

Israel is looking high and low for friends, especially those with a connection to Congress. It has found them — not just in its traditional reservoir of support in the American Jewish community, but also in Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which has now been propelled to the front row of pro-Israel organizations.

The opening salvo of wartime support was seen at the group's Washington Summit, held late last month on July 21. At the very moment when the Jewish state was under the first of a series of crushing waves of global criticism for its involvement in Operation Protective Edge, CUFI roused its American heartland membership in loud, rollicking support of Israel. That night, firebrand evangelist Pastor John Hagee led some 4,800 foot-stomping, shofar-blowing Christian delegates, who had traveled from across the nation and from overseas, to witness a procession of grand podium speeches backed up by floor-to-ceiling video effects, syncopated Israeli music and incisive info sessions. Part tent revival and part political shout, CUFI's Washington Summit is patterned after the mega-gatherings staged by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the very same hall. At a time when the fog and dust storms of war make it hard for some to discern the good guys from the bad guys, CUFI speakers brought clarity and context to its attendees.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took time, via taped message, to thank the evangelical crowd for standing by Israel during its hourglass of need. He spoke from Israel, bunkered in a secure room. To thunderous applause, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) exhorted the Israelis in their Gaza strategy to "go as far as you need to go, and do what you've got to do."

The Convention Center conclave was more than lip service. The next day, CUFI's membership swarmed the halls of Congress to lobby their representatives from the heartland to stop funding the Palestinian National Authority until it ceases paying terrorist salaries and to stand with Israel in its fight against Hamas.

Days later, CUFI spent a small fortune in a national, multi-platform advertising campaign, purchasing full-page ads "about the true nature of Hamas." Aimed at constituents in key districts, the full-page ads ran in volleys that appeared in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostLos Angeles TimesUSA TodayThe Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionThe Denver PostChicago Sun-TimesThe Philadelphia InquirerThe Arizona RepublicThe Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, theHouston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. Display ads were also purchased at top news, analysis and Christian websites, including Fox News, the Christian Post, Beliefnet, the Blaze and the Drudge Report. Email blasts to the group's 1.8 million members backed up the ad campaign.

Those ads, in large type, quoted from the Hamas Charter, starting with the document's first syllables that vow destruction of the Jewish state: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it."

CUFI declared that its campaign was launched to eliminate the moral confusion in the American media when it comes to the true nature and goals of Hamas. A dedicated CUFI Web page asked readers to email Secretary of State John Kerry: "Now is not the time to ease the legal and justified blockade of Gaza. Now is the time to destroy Hamas' terror tunnels, remove Hamas' missile stockpiles, and demilitarize Gaza."

Before the newsprint was dry, CUFI organized a tour of 51 leading pastors — one from each state and the District of Columbia — to travel to Israel for a four-day solidarity trip. Braving hundreds of rockets, the pastors donated blood to the Israel Defense Forces and visited the wounded. CUFI executive director David Brog declared, "We will tell everyone we meet that those shouting 'death to the Jews' on the streets of Berlin and Paris do not represent all of us. And, perhaps most importantly, we'll share what we see and learn with our members back home."

Brog followed that declaration with an essay in The Times of Israel that articulated, "When we Americans fought Al Qaeda, we understood the moral distinctions between terrorists and a democracy seeking to defend itself from them. This moral clarity should not blur at ocean's edge. Israel is a democracy defending itself — and us — from the Palestinian equivalent of Al Qaeda, Hamas. We must stand unequivocally with Israel."

At a time when Jews in Europe are noiselessly changing their names, when Jews in America are questioning their identity and their safety in hushed tones, CUFI will not go quietly.

While some major American Jewish organizations are still typing press releases, pondering position statements and scheduling conference calls, CUFI has rushed in from the aisles to shake things up, joining StandWithUs and others in the front row of the pro-Israel community.


Monday, August 11, 2014

 August 11, 2014, 2:11 pm

|The Times of Israel|

72-hour ceasefire took hold in Gaza Monday, as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators headed to Cairo in search of a long-term solution to end over a month of deadly fighting.

The truce, which began just after midnight, was the fruit of days of Egyptian-brokered mediation to stem more than four weeks of violence.

Ten hours into the truce, the skies over Gaza remained calm, with no reports of violations on any side and signs of life emerging on the streets of the war-torn Palestinian enclave.

As the sun rose on Gaza City, shops and businesses began opening their doors and a handful of people could be seen doing their early shopping.

Outside a UN-run school, a clutch of cars and donkey carts waited to take some of the refugees back to homes they had fled during the fighting.

“We want to go back to see what happened to our house,” said Hikmat Atta, 58, who had piled his family into a small cart and was heading back to his home in the northern town of Beit Lahiya which they had left in the first days of the war.

But with the truce still in its early stages, he was not taking any chances.

“We’re just going back for the day, at night we’ll come back here,” he told AFP.

Egypt urged the warring sides to use the three-day lull to reach “a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” after efforts to extend a similar truce last week collapsed into a firestorm of violence, as Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Israeli territory across the border.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it would give the two sides “another chance to agree on a durable ceasefire” while stressing the importance of addressing “the underlying grievances on both sides.”

Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza, has conditioned its agreement for any permanent agreement on Israeli lifting its eight-year blockade on Gaza.

“We insist on this goal,” Hamas’s exiled leader Khaled Mashaal told AFP in an exclusive interview in Doha on Sunday.

“In the case of Israeli procrastination or continued aggression, Hamas is ready with other Palestinian factions to resist on the ground and politically.”

Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat arrived in Cairo late Sunday for talks with Egyptian and Arab League officials on behalf of president Mahmoud Abbas, an airport official said.

Meanwhile, an Israeli team arrived in Cairo on Monday, an Israeli official told AFP.

The team was to resume Egyptian-mediated talks it had abandoned on Friday after Hamas refused to extend an earlier truce and resumed its fire on southern Israel.

Israel had pledged to send its negotiating team back when the truce took hold.

Palestinian delegates in Cairo said they would be happy for Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to take over the reconstruction of Gaza and execute any agreement reached in Cairo.

Israel has no direct interface with Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“The national unity government and the Palestinian Authority will take over the execution of all that will be agreed upon during the truce talks,” Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation, told reporters.

“We are backing the setting up of a national body to be formed by president Abbas, which will take over the reconstruction (of Gaza),” said senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq.

“The president of the body should be professional, credible and one who will be accepted internationally.”

The new truce deal followed a similar arrangement last week which had brought relief to millions on both sides of the border.

Hamas had refused to extend the 72-hour lull when it expired on Friday, and Israel accused the Islamist faction of breaching the agreement in its final hours with rocket attacks.

In the gap between ceasefires, warplanes hit more than 170 targets, killing at least 19 people, while the Palestinians fired at least 136 rockets at Israel, of which 93 hit and 13 were shot down, with the rest falling short inside Gaza, the army said.

According to Hamas Health Ministry figures, 1,939 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict. The UN says just under three-quarters of those killed in Gaza were civilians and around a third of the civilian victims were children. Israel says 750-1,000 of the dead are Hamas members and other gunmen. It also blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities, saying Hamas sets up rocket launchers and tunnel openings in Gaza neighborhoods and uses Gazans as “human shields.”

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians in the fighting. Eleven of the soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen emerging from cross-border tunnels dug under the Israeli border.

Hamas has fired over 3,000 rockets at Israel, including some 600 from areas close to schools, mosques and other civilian facilities, the Israeli army said.

The resumption of fighting had put Netanyahu under increased pressure from hardliners to send ground troops back in to Gaza to topple Hamas.


Friday, August 8, 2014
BY REBECCA SHIMONI STOIL August 8, 2014, 4:00 pm
|The Times of Israel|
WASHINGTON — As a 72-hour truce came to an explosive end with rockets fired into
Israel Friday morning, it seemed as if the US had turned to other issues. In the days
and hours leading up to the Gaza ceasefire’s demise, the US appeared largely absent
at the crunch point in Cairo and, by Thursday night, it was the anxiously awaited humanitarian food
drop to some 30,000 starving Yazidis on an Iraqi mountaintop that topped the administration’s
foreign-policy talking points.
After weeks of blustering and blundering, with pronouncements from Washington podiums and
Secretary of State John Kerry’s lengthy attempt at securing a negotiated ceasefire through shuttle
diplomacy, Washington kept a low profile as delegations met in Egypt’s capital in the past few
The US was, in fact, represented in Cairo. Acting Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
Frank Lowenstein — Martin Indyk’s successor — arrived in the Egyptian on Wednesday, August 6,
after talks began. His role was treated ambivalently, with State Department Deputy Spokeswoman
Marie Harf describing it as “to monitor progress and advise in areas where the US can be helpful
and achieve — in achieving a lasting ceasefire and forging a sustainable long-term solution for
Gaza,” but noting that “he will not be involved in direct mediation between the delegations.”
Harf suggested that the limited involvement stemmed from the fact that “obviously, Hamas is a
designated foreign terrorist organization” and that Washington does not maintain “direct contact
with Hamas officials.”
Kerry was nowhere to be seen — at least, not in the region. He was redirecting his focus on a
seven-day whirlwind tour to Kabul, Afghanistan, Naypyitaw, Burma; Sydney, Australia; Honiara,
Solomon Islands; and Honolulu, Hawaii.
The State Department emphasized that far from distant, “Secretary Kerry also continues to be
engaged with — at the leader level — with the key stakeholders.”
“Obviously, what we need to see is a longer-term ceasefire put in place, and if Frank can help and
our team there can help, if Secretary Kerry can help by making phone calls, we are absolutely
there to do so,” Harf said Thursday, in a barrage of ‘if’s. The takeaway message between the lines
was that Kerry was not currently engaged, but was willing to make phone calls if somebody
thought it would help. Yet nobody — at least publicly — was clamoring for a Kerry call, nor were
any such calls announced in the critical hours before Friday’s morning’s Hamas resumption of
rocket fire and the subsequent Israeli response.
The ceasefire — for better or for worse — appeared to be a regional show, run by Egypt. While
Egypt traditionally has served as a mediator in such conflicts, it did so in previous years with
strong, top-level US backing and involvement in talks.
Part of the challenge to US engagement is Washington’s own ambivalent relationship with the
Egyptian government.
Noting that there were aspects of Egyptian politics that the US found “objectionable,” the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy Executive Director Robert Satloff said, during a
Thursday panel on the Gaza ceasefire, that “if any strategic matter puts itself front and center and
requires a rethink of the need for high-level sympathetic engagement between the US and Egypt, it
is the events of the last few weeks.”
He said that senior members of the Obama administration are divided on their perspective on
Egypt and its potential role in the Middle East. “There are some who believe that Egypt is part of
the problem, and some who think it is part of the solution. And this difference of view stymies the
potential for a serious, strategic rethink and a serious, strategic reset of our relationship with
Cairo,” Satloff explained. “This is, to me, utterly regrettable, as underscored by the events of the
last couple of weeks.”
In this round of conflict, the US has nominally supported Egypt’s endeavors for weeks, even writing
off a United Nations attempt at brokering a deal with a statement that the US supports the
“Egyptian plan.” But the US has seemed reluctant to throw its weight around after the fallout from
Kerry’s Paris meetings with Qatari and Turkish representatives. Two weeks ago, Kerry submitted
a proposal based on Qatari and Turkish input, taking Hamas demands into account, which Israel’s
leaders flatly rejected and privately slammed. Kerry said later it was just a draft.
“The problem with the US proposal at the time, which raised a lot of consternation at the time not
just in Israel but in the PA and Egypt, was not that they wanted Turkey and Qatar to play a role, but
that they wanted to establish an alternative channel to the Egyptian role in this rather than direct
everything in that role,” explained Mike Herzog, a former IDF general, member of Israel’s peace
negotiations team and a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy during the
Thursday discussion on the Gaza ceasefire.
Ultimately, Herzog said, “the United States was less relevant in bringing about the solution than
Egypt and some regional actors, and that is very unfortunate.” As the US drew back from
involvement, Egypt appeared to lead a coalition of concerned Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
and some Gulf states — who were invested in achieving a deescalation.
Egypt, with its control of the gate of the Rafah crossing, was the only state — other than Hamas’s
financial supporters, Qatar and Turkey — that seemed to be capable of generating leverage over
At the same time, Washington seemed to be losing some of its leverage. Aaron David Miller, a
senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, suggested that US-Israeli tensions, which came to
a head following the Paris conference, had also served to limit Washington’s role in Cairo.
“The US at this point has little credibility with Israelis and no influence over Hamas,” Miller said,
explaining the low US profile during the talks.
Miller continued that an additional factor in Washington’s relative quiet in Cairo was the fact that
“there is a risk at this stage that a higher-profile role would complicate what it is that they’re trying
to achieve.”
Low levels of US involvement in this round of talks also meant, he added, that the US could
reassess its role should the ceasefire break down — as it did.
Speaking during the Washington Institute panel, Washington Institute Senior Fellow and former US
special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross suggested that the US — and perhaps other
western powers — could again take an active role toward a more lasting agreement after
successful ceasefire talks.
“One of the things we can count on, and it’s understandable, is that there is going to be a push
diplomatically to see what we can do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Ross suggested.
President Barack Obama’s comments Wednesday, in which he looked beyond the ceasefire
toward a more comprehensive resolution in Gaza, seemed to reinforce such a direction.
Ross went on to delineate possible steps that the US could take to create a more hospitable
climate through conflict management, if not resolution, in an environment of intense mutual
distrust between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, while still sidelining Hamas.
Ross’s colleague, Satloff, added that Washington’s relative sidelining in the ceasefire talks
emphasized the fact that “it would be really important for the US to turn a page from recent events,
to take on, to revisit the question of what are our priorities in this part of the world, what type of
leadership are we going to be projecting.”
The tendency for US behavior in the region as a whole, he warned, “is very reactive.”
“The comments of my colleagues point not toward a reactive posture, but the need for a very
active posture — one that is coordinated very well between the White House and the State
Department,” Satloff commented.
With the ceasefire lying in shambles, it has yet to be seen whether Washington’s low-profile
strategy will position the United States back in the center of any renewed attempts to deescalate,
or whether it missed a critical opportunity to take advantage of a brief window of respite to achieve
a lasting peace.
Thursday, August 7, 2014

 August 6, 2014, 10:04 pm Updated: August 6, 2014, 10:09 pm 

|The Times of Israel|

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night set out a moral justification for the way the IDF has dealt with the Hamas strategy of firing rockets at Israel, and tunneling under the Israeli border, from the heart of Palestinian residential neighborhoods in Gaza.

Arguing that Israel’s battle over the past month against terrorists in Gaza using civilians as human shields came during a critical test period, he said it would be a “moral mistake” as well as a practical one to not take action against terrorists operating from mosques, schools and other civilian areas.

Such behavior would represent “an enormous victory for terrorists everywhere,” he said, and would result in more and more civilian deaths around the world.

“What’s happening now is not only a test for Israel but for the international community, for the civilized world itself, [for] how it is to defend itself,” Netanyahu declared at a press conference on the second day of a 72-hour ceasefire that began on Tuesday morning.

Terrorists must not be allowed to “fight from civilian areas with impunity” and rely on world condemnation of the victimized nation — in this case, Israel — for responding to attacks, he warned.

The prime minister blamed Hamas for Gaza’s civilian deaths, due to its rejection of various ceasefire proposals throughout the campaign and its deliberate basing of its military infrastructure in the heart of Gaza population centers.

Palestinian sources in Gaza say that over 1,800 people were killed in the past month during Operation Protective Edge; Israel says it killed some 900 combatants, and Netanyahu stressed that Israel “regrets” every civilian death. Israel entered the campaign in order to stem rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli towns and cities as well as to destroy a network of tunnels, dug by Hamas under the border, and used to launch attacks inside Israeli territory.

“Ninety percent of the fatalities could have been avoided had Hamas not rejected then the ceasefire it accepts now,” he said of an Egyptian ceasefire proposal that Israel accepted three weeks ago. “Hamas needs to be blamed for these deaths, ostracized from the family of nations.”

Israel’s response to the Hamas rocket and tunnel threat was “justified and proportionate” Netanyahu asserted, adding that “every civilian casualty is a tragedy — a tragedy of Hamas’s making.”

It would have been “disproportionate” not to act, he reasoned, and therefore “to get our people killed.”

Hamas fired over 3,000 rockets at Israel, including 600 from near to schools, mosques and homes, the Israeli army said Tuesday. Hamas gunmen also killed 11 IDF soldiers when emerging into Israel from its cross-border tunnels. Netanyahu said Wednesday that the Hamas “death squads” had planned much larger attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians through the tunnels, and that demolishing them, as Israel has done in recent weeks, was a strategic necessity. In all, Israel lost 64 soldiers and three civilians in the campaign.

The prime minister presented evidence to back up his assertions of Hamas’s reliance on Gazans as human shields, showing footage of what he said were mortars fired from near an UNRWA elementary school for boys. He also described a “terror tunnel” near a school and many tunnels dug from inside homes.

“I think it’s very important for the truth to come out,” he said, devoting a section of his press conference to remarks in English, taking questions from foreign journalists, and saying Hamas had subjected foreign journalists to intimidation in Gaza in recent weeks.

He also screened footage from indian, Finnish and French TV of Hamas firing rockets from civilian areas, including the outskirts of Gaza City’s main hospital — footage that was only broadcast in the last few days.

Netanyahu offered condolences for the Palestinian citizens harmed or killed during the operation.

“Israel deeply regrets every civilian casualty, every single one. We do not target them. People of Gaza are not our enemies. Our enemy is Hamas,” the prime minister said.

The decision to pull forces out of Gaza last weekend was made only once the 30-plus sophisticated Hamas tunnels had been destroyed, he said. Netanyahu added that Israel was working “to create technological means to locate new tunnels that will reach into our territory.”

Netanyahu stressed the need to prevent Hamas from rearming. That, he said, is the way “to prevent this conflict from bring repeated.”

With regard to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s role in negotiating a truce, Netanyahu said that the PA had played a part in talks and would continue to do so. Hamas seized control of Gaza from the PA in a violent takeover in 2007.

“We have cooperated and are cooperating with the PA,” he said. “We’re prepared to see a role for them [in] the reconstruction of Gaza, humanitarian aid, security questions. The ceasefire agreement was coordinated with them.”

Despite reports of bitter differences between Israel and the Obama administration throughout the war, Netanyahu thanked US Secretary of State John Kerry for his support, saying he had another “very good” conversation with Kerry on Wednesday afternoon. He welcomed Kerry’s calls for the disarmament of Gaza-based terror groups.

He also praised the “iron discipline” of Israelis — a play on the “Iron Dome” which intercepted hundreds of the Hamas rockets — and lauded the Israel Defense Forces.

“The IDF is an amazing army,” he said. “It’s a strong army [and] had major achievements. It stood and stands by all the requirements. The entire nation is behind the IDF, during peace and during war.

“I am proud of the IDF. I am proud to be the prime minister of such a united people.”