In spite of horrendous and hateful pro-Hamas sentiment around the world – which calls for a separate posting – there is no question about the fact that we are going to win this war. The people of Israel know this, and our leaders, both political and military, know this.
That is my primary message as I look towards Shabbat.
Militarily we are doing fantastically well. Fighting in Gaza is said to be the fiercest since the Yom Kippur War. We are deep inside Gaza City, taking out commanders and control centers, and when the opportunity arises, tunnels.
The entire 252nd Division (the Sinai Division, reservists) has been fighting in the northern Gaza Strip since Saturday. This is what the division commander Brigadier General Moran Omer said recently:
“We have been preparing for this for years, it is our duty to now restore peace and security to our civilians. Our reservists and their families are the expression of our unity, of being willing to defend our people as much as necessary, and of getting only one result – determined in every encounter with the enemy – until victory.”
Today (Thursday) troops from the 933rd Nahal Infantry Brigade captured a Hamas stronghold in western Jabaliya after 10 hours of fighting. The battle took place both above and below ground at a site known as Outpost 17.
Significant operational plans were discovered, as well as tunnel shafts, including a shaft located near a kindergarten and leading to an extensive underground route.
We are deep into Gaza City, but it has been made clear that our intention is not to level the entire city but rather to go after Hamas commanders and operatives and eliminate their control centers. Dealing with the tunnels is a major part of this task.
If we were left to finish the job, matters would be simpler. But there is a lot to contend with.
Biden continues to play that double game He has taken actions that are unquestionably of great help to Israel. But the US is adrift in anti-Israel sentiment. Regularly, Biden is confronted with questions about what the US is doing to stop Israel from breaching international law. The focus is on injury to Gazan civilians.
The answer, the proper answer, is that Israel is NOT breaching international law. Hamas, which uses those civilians as human shields, is responsible for the casualties. Within international law, Israel has a right to continue to attack Hamas targets – and that is all Israel attacks, Hamas targets, not civilians.
But Biden does not offer the proper answer. In an effort to show that he is limiting Israeli actions and looking out for the Gazan civilians, he has been pushing for a ceasefire.
A ceasefire is a disastrous idea, as it would give Hamas fighters a chance to rest, regroup, bring in new arms, get commanders into new hiding places, etc., thus enabling them to fight more strongly once the ceasefire was over. This would not only prolong the war, it would also likely result in additional deaths of our soldiers. Not acceptable.
Nonetheless, this week this is what Biden proposed – straight out of the Hamas playbook, or the Qatar playbook, which is pretty much the same thing.
What the president proposed on Monday was a three-day ceasefire, with Qatar attempting to secure the release of 10-15 of the hostages. This is a joke. There are some 240 hostages being held by Hamas. And they would release maybe 15?
Netanyahu’s response was an immediate and definite no, which brought a sigh of relief here. There is always a bit of concern about the intense pressure the US is putting on him but he’s been holding strong. He has offered a ceasefire if Hamas releases all 240 hostages, but this Hamas is not interest in doing.
Netanyahu says intense pressure on Hamas is the only way to secure release of our hostages. To reduce pressure would be counterproductive.
“I would like to set aside all kinds of false rumors that we are hearing from all sorts of directions and re-clarify one thing: There will be no ceasefire without the release of our hostages. Everything else is false.”
Today in an NBC interview, President Herzog said (emphasis added):
“There is no real proposal that is viable from Hamas’ side on this issue. Whilst there are many, many people who are third parties who are sending optimistic messages to the news reels, I’m saying outright: According to my knowledge, up to now, there is no real substantial information that is showing any real offer of any process on the table.”
Now Biden – who expressed frustration that Netanyahu would not agree to a ceasefire – has let it be known that he has agreed to humanitarian pauses. Our prime minister’s response was that these pauses had already been put in place on Monday. According to the IDF, these are “tactical, local pauses for humanitarian aid for Gazan civilians. These tactical pauses are limited in time and area.” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters that the pauses are continuations of Israel’s humanitarian corridor policy.
One final comment here on the Gazan civilians before I turn to other matters. Many of my readers may have seen pictures in the last few days of these civilians, enroute to the south, carrying white flags. There were reportedly thousands of these flags.
But Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat Hadin and an attorney, says there was no need for them to carry the flags:
“ The waving of a white flag is a symbol of surrender and acceptance of the enemy’s authority in international law and recognition that they will not attack again, but here we are dealing with residents who were not supposed to attack in the first place, so I am suspicious of the waving of the flags.”
I want to turn now to Am Yisrael, the people of Israel, and our role in this war. I am, in truth, overwhelmed by the beauty of our unity and our eagerness to support the war effort. Wherever you look there are Israeli flags out on the street, along with signs: Am Yisrael Hai, United We Win, etc. etc.
People all want to help in one way or another – packaging food that will go to soldiers; entertaining youngsters in hotels, restless refugees from their homes in the south; doing farm work in places where the farmers have gone to fight; visiting families of the hostages to give them comfort; donating blood.
Not only is the civilian population strengthened by this unity and active participation, the soldiers derive comfort from knowing how totally we are with them.
What is more, I firmly believe God is watching.
Another beautiful version of “Bring Him Home,” sung by members of the Broadway community for the hostages.
Pray to Heaven for Israel, my friends. Pray for the safety of our boys and the rescue of our hostages, and the strength and wisdom of our leaders. Pray with a heart filled with hope, not fear.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.