From Israel: “Very Tough Days Ahead!!”

I can hear my readers asking, “But wait!  Hasn’t Israel been embroiled in some very tough days for some time now?”

Indeed! But we are gearing up for increased difficulties with the beginning of Ramadan on March 10.  Ramadan: the “holy” Muslim month that has a long-standing tradition of violence against Jews.

Part of that Ramadan tradition involves focusing violence on Har Habayit, the Temple Mount. Here we see a scene from the Mount, complete with Hamas flags, two years ago.  

Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

There is a reason for that focus on Har Habayit.  As the site of the two Temples of the Jewish people, it provides evidence of the ancient Jewish presence here – a presence that far precedes even the existence of Islam, never mind Muslim presence in the land.  The goal is to undercut Israel’s right to the land by demonstrating that the Mount is in the rightful possession of the Muslims.  They seek to delegitimize Jewish historical claims.

Do not, for a moment, underestimate the symbolic significance of the Mount in what is essentially a religious war.

More on Har Habayit follows below.


As I write, for all intents and purposes the current round of negotiations on securing the release of Israeli hostages is finished – whether it is officially declared a dead or not. As far as I was concerned, it was finished as soon as it started. In the course of those negotiations, it was obvious to anyone with eyes to see that Hamas was not serious.  Its demands were, as Bibi said, “delusional,” and we weren’t having it.

There had been a broad framework put forth by negotiators to which Israel had agreed: a six-week ceasefire and release of some 40 hostages – women, children, elderly and ill.  Not all of the hostages were to be released. Israel would release 10 prisoners for every hostage who was returned.  There were a number of other peripheral stipulations, such as the Hamas demand that Israel refrain from aerial surveillance for a number of hours a day and that civilians be permitted to move north.

The major stumbling block was that Hamas didn’t really want a six-week ceasefire, except as a prelude to the end of the war.  Not just an end to fighting, but the withdrawal of all IDF troops from Gaza.

What I read more than once was that negotiators from Qatar and Egypt had assured Hamas that a prolonged ceasefire – that is, an end to fighting – would be negotiated in stages two and three.  And I thought, “Really?”  I don’t recall reading that Israel agreed to anything remotely like this, as, in fact, we have been adamant in our insistence on finishing Hamas.  (The “negotiators” Qatar and Egypt are not exactly neutral.)


For our part, Netanyahu had insisted on the names of those hostages who are still alive.  It is important to understand that of the 130+ hostages Hamas is said to be holding, it is estimated that some 70 may be dead. Hamas would not provide this information, and Israel then refused to send a team to be further involved in the negotiations.      


Yesterday, Hamas attempted a different approach: They don’t know where all of the hostages are, they said, and require a ceasefire first, in order to be able to locate them and figure out who was still alive.


Nice try.  It did not work.  My guess is that this was just a ploy. But, if in fact they don’t know where the hostages are and how many are alive, there is no way to proceed with a deal in any event.

There were also reports about other Hamas demands, not well received by Israel, regarding the security prisoners that would be released. They wanted more high-level (“senior”) terrorists.


By yesterday, after two days of impasse, the talks were certainly informally acknowledged to have been a failure. “There is a complete stalemate in the negotiations,” said one Israeli official.

A vague, obscure hope is held out in certain quarters with the thought that Biden might apply sufficient pressure to turn matters around.  What has been suggested is that Biden push Qatar to pressure the Hamas leaders who live in luxury in Doha, the capital of Qatar, to cooperate in making a deal.  The threat would be that Qatar would evict them from the country if they didn’t turn the situation around post haste.

Do not, dear readers, hold out any expectations in this regard.

My heart is with the families of the hostages, who harbor what turns out to be false hope.


Biden’s most recent statement on this issue, made yesterday before boarding Air Force One, was that “a ceasefire is in the hands of Hamas now.  Israel has been cooperating. There’s an offer out there that’s rational.”


Credit: SkyNews (au)

Biden went on to say that there had to be a ceasefire before the beginning of Ramadan, or it would be very dangerous.  The reference to Ramadan is very specific, and the president has reason for making this observation. Israeli leaders had declared, going into the hostage negotiations, that we would give it until Ramadan, and if there were no agreement by then, we had a plan for moving out the civilians and were going to move into Rafah.


Biden’s major concern is that the civilians of Gaza will suffer if we commence a major operation in the south of Gaza, where there are about 1.5 million people.  The suffering of the civilians has been his focus.  And, unfortunately, the onus for that suffering has been consistently placed on Israel, rather than on Hamas where it belongs.  Or, for that matter on Egypt, which will not open the border to the Sinai.

There are claims of a humanitarian crisis involving severe hunger verging on starvation.  The major culprit in generating this situation – which I suspect, according to what I’ve read, is bad but not that bad – is Hamas, which steals as much as 60% of supplies meant for the civilians.


A major incident occurred last Thursday in the early morning, when civilians in Gaza stampeded in order to reach 38 trucks that were entering Gaza from Egypt via the Kerem Shalom crossing and were headed north.  

In the course of that stampede, people were trampled; in some instances, the trucks ran over people.  In all, more than 100 died. The IDF was then accused of having shot them.

Here you see a drone shot of the stampede.

Credit: IDF spokesperson’s unit

According to IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, in a statemen made Thursday night:

“…the IDF was securing the humanitarian corridor so that the aid convoy could reach its destination in northern Gaza. The tanks that were there to secure the convoy saw the Gazans being trampled and cautiously tried to disperse the mob with a few warning shots.”  (Subsequent investigation indicated that perhaps six of the hundred or more who had died had been accidently shot.)  

For videos of the stampede and the Hagari statement:



It goes without saying that this incident exacerbated international concerns about the civilians.

One possible solution involves the stepping up the practice of airdropping supplies.  Both the US and Jordan have dropped supplies.  In the picture you see Jordanian supplies dropped over southern Gaza – Khan Yunis and Rafah.  Canada is considering participation as well.

Credit: Said Khatib/AFP


Israel’s major concern, as Ramadan begins, is the fact that Hamas is threatening a surge of violence over Ramadan – as alluded to above.  

In fact, according to Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, speaking after a security assessment on last week:

The main goal of Hamas is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of their plan that began on October 7. This is the main goal of Hamas, and it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah.”



This is not a concern to be taken lightly!


There are two schools of thought on how to deal with this.  It is the position of Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) that very stringent controls are required with regard to who would be allowed up on Har Habayit during Ramadan – both concerning numbers of Israeli Arabs allowed up at one time, and ages (under 20 and over 70 – excluding ages of those most likely to be violent).   The police agreed with this policy.

Credit: Alex Kolomoisky

Other members of the War Cabinet took the opposite position: that applying stringent controls simply riles up the Arab masses and make matters worse.  Ultimately, the rules that were to be applied according to Ben Gvir’s position were reversed.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has now announced that we respect religious observance and that there will be very few restrictions on Israeli Arabs wanting to go up to the Mount to pray.  (Some number of Palestinian Arabs will also be allowed up.)

My own view is that this attempt not to rile up the Arab masses is naïve and, in light of the current situation, exceedingly foolish.  The Arabs will not be coming in a spirit of peace, for Heaven’s sake.  They are being incited by Hamas leaders:

Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s political bureau, located in Doha, called for stepped up attacks on Israel during Ramadan, with a “broad and international movement to break the siege on Al-Aqsa mosque.”  He further called on called on Arabs in Jerusalem and in Judea & Samaria to storm the Temple Mount on the first day of Ramadan.

Credit: Said Khatib/AFP


Police are being told that numbers are to be limited only in accordance with a need for “crowd control.”  Crowd control?  On the first day apparently 50,000 to 60,000 will be permitted up.  See what this looks like – Ramadan three years ago:

Credit: Arab Press (JNS)

Ben Gvir has warned that the decision could “endanger the citizens of Israel and allow a victory photo for Hamas.”    

Many accuse Ben Gvir of being a radical right-winger. For me he is a man who has his head screwed on right.  Because he is not essentially a politician, his words are not always measured (politic).  Many agree with my assessment, however, as his numbers are going up in the polls.


It seems fairly obvious that Hamas did not truly want a hostage deal.  It was playing a game: promoting delusional terms precisely because its leaders had their eye on further terror, not cooling the situation.

As to Yahya Sinwar:  There have been so many conflicting reports regarding his situation that it has been difficult to report with any sense of accuracy.  For some time, there were indications that he was cut off from communication with his people, still hiding in tunnels – possibly in Rafah.  Lately, however, there have been reports that Sinwar indeed is in touch with his people and the other leaders.  He likely participated in decisions regarding the goals of Hamas during Ramadan.


There is yet another reason why we are likely to have tough times ahead:  We have been on the edge of a war with Hezbollah in the north for some time.  Some say the on-going situation is already a war, which is on the cusp of a major escalation.  In my next post, I expect I will address this.            

It is likely I will also write about Minister Benny Gantz – a member of the War Cabinet – and his visit to the US.

And about the crimes of UNRWA – as it has now been documented that over 450 UNRWA teachers participated in the massacre of October 7.


There is no end…


With all that I have written above, I wish to close on a positive note.  The people of Israel are strong and are acting with selflessness and determination to an enormous degree.  We know who we are and where we are going.  

The beautiful people of Israel will prevail in the end.  


Keep praying to Heaven for Israel, my friends.  Pray for the strength and wisdom of our leaders, for the safety of our soldiers, and for the rescue of our hostages.  Pray with a heart filled with hope.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.