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January 20, 2009: Faith and Courage

March 23, 2009

I’ve written so much about the war. I want very much to include a tribute to the spiritual strength of our very special soldiers. Several stories have come to me over the past several days about the eagerness of our fighting men, many not nominally “religious,” to pray, to wear tzizit (ritual fringes), to carry a volume of tehillim (psalms) with them. This is the source of our power, which is from Heaven.

There is, for example, the story — shared with me by readers Bud and Phyllis — of the military rabbi, Zev Roness, who, along with two other rabbis, went with our soldiers from their base to the staging area, as they prepared to enter Gaza. They carried a Torah so that they could conduct a service before the soldiers left. When Rabbi Roness asked that the Torah be passed forward from the back of the bus they were riding in, it wasn’t forthcoming. He then turned and looked, to see each soldier taking it in turn, and embracing it tightly.


I share these photos, discovered via jerusalemdiaries.blogspot.com (Judy Balint), with credit to YNet. I find them beautiful.



We certainly need to look to Heaven, because here men and women seem to be making a good mess of things. As I surveyed the news today, I was heavy hearted, wondering how the magnificent accomplishments of our IDF could morph into the situation as it currently stands.

We’re caught, once again, in a world that does not confront reality, but instead deals in fantasy. Yet the reality that breathes at our backs is formidable.


I read an article this morning (in the Post: “Symbolism is the substance”) that spoke about what a victory it was for Olmert that several European heads of state came here to offer us support and have their pictures taken with him. But this is pathetic:

First of all, while they nominally offered support, in truth they came here to make sure we stopped fighting. Yes, they are on our side, to some considerable degree (as long as we stop fighting), with regard to Hamas, but it’s going to be a whole other story regarding our relationship with the PA.

They are surely not going to come here and pose with our prime minister in order to back our right to our land, or our right to a united Jerusalem, or even our right to retain some land in Judea and Samaria for security purposes. They are going to pat Mahmoud Abbas on the back for being “moderate” and demand that we surrender what is ours so there can be a Palestinian state.


Then I wonder WHY they (the EU, the UN, the left) even think there can be a Palestinian state now. A corrupt Fatah is in shambles: no adequate civil infrastructure is in place; they’ve squandered the incredible sums — billions! — received from the international community so that there is no solid economic development; the PA legislature has a solid Hamas majority (something people forget); and Abbas’s term as president is challenged.


I read about forging a unity government between Hamas and Fatah and wonder how they (the same “they” as above) are able to ignore this evidence that it’s not going to take place:

Hamas has rounded up members of Fatah in Gaza, on suspicion of “collaboration” with Israel, and brought them to schools and hospitals that have been turned into temporary interrogation centers. At least 100 have been killed, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, and many severely tortured — three have had their eyes put out and several have been shot in their legs.


Additionally, we have this significant observation with regard to Hamas from Bret Stephens.

There is, he says, a fundamental error in the West in characterizing Hamas as a nationalist Palestinian movement, when in fact it is nothing of the sort.

Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, does not even mention the goal of Palestinian as a state in its charter, although it does mention jihad and the Koran. For them the land is an Islamic Wakf, an Islamic trust, to be part of a pan-Islamic, totalitarian caliphate. Their issues are religious, not territorial.

When we see their position from this perspective, it becomes even more clear that Hamas is not going to merge with the PA and negotiate with Israel.



I would, however, add something to what Stephens has written:

Just because Fatah, by comparison, seems “moderate” and nationalistic — ready to negotiate with Israel to achieve a “two-state solution” — does not mean that this is actually the case. The Fatah charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. The incitement generated by the PA — most notably in its school texts — denies the legitimacy of Israel and promotes jihad. A map of Palestine on the wall of Abbas’s office, exposed by Palestinian Media Watch, does not demarcate any area for Israel.

The Fatah goal, insofar as it is nationalistic, is a Palestinian state from the river to the sea. If they had truly wanted a state, side by side with Israel, they would have had it by now, as one has been offered several times. Rather, they are after parameters that squeeze us and weaken us, and a policy of “return” of refugees that would swallow us up internally.


There is considerable speculation, including from Military Intelligence, that we’re now in a better position to get back Shalit because we’re holding hundreds of Hamas fighters that they’re going to want back.

First of all, I’m not sure they care that much about these fighters. What they were after were high level terrorists already in our prisons, some with blood on their hands.

But the fact that I keep reading this concerns me, as if this proves we’re in a good position now — even though we were in a war and concluded it without securing Shalit. This feels to me like more fantasy.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that all is lost, all was in vain. We have gained a considerable advantage, and scored some very solid hits. We may have changed the balance and the dynamic in this part of the world. Or may have the potential to do so.

A good deal now depends on our readiness to stand strong for ourselves from this point on. There are, it seems to me, certain measures of our success in this war that are still to come:

One is our ability to achieve Shalit’s release, and how we do it.

Two — and connected to this — is our readiness (or refusal) to fully open crossings, which certainly should not be opened as long as they hold Shalit.

Livni made this link in a talk today: “We sent [Shalit] to defend the country and we have an obligation to bring him back….If Hamas thinks it wants to get something beyond humanitarian assistance, which we will give regardless, we have someone who is very important to us, and, for me, one thing is contingent upon the other.”

And three is our firm resolve to act decisively against Hamas every single time there is a rocket shot or evidence of a build-up or smuggling. We must not tie ourselves into some cease-fire deal negotiated via Egypt that ties our hands with regard to future response to doings inside of Gaza.

On Monday, Livni said that a renewal of weapons smuggling would constitute grounds for Israel to attack.


You might like to see the observations of Yossi Melman, writing in Haaretz, with regard to Israel’s hope that head of Egyptian intelligence,Omar Suleiman, will work out an “arrangement” between us and Hamas:



Our government, along with the Europeans, is also worried that the re-construction in Gaza will strengthen or legitimize Hamas. So, there have been suggestions offered regarding agencies that might oversee the re-construction. One suggestion that was made was that UNRWA might do it.

Wait, did I get that right? Yes, I actually read this. That “Jerusalem” thinks perhaps it might be UNRWA. But, come on guys, you can do better than this. This is the same UNRWA from whose facilities terrorists operate, the UNRWA that then accuses us of attacking innocents on purpose and lying about the terrorists.

This is the same UNRWA that Shlomo Dror, acting months ago as spokesman fo
r the IDF Gaza operations, spoke to me about. He said there was reluctance to allow UNRWA to bring into Gaza building materials they had requested, for fear they would end up with Hamas. Can you begin to imagine what would happen if UNRWA even assisted in oversight with regard to building in Gaza?

But perhaps this is just a ploy out of Jerusalem. For another suggestion is that the PA do it. Totally a joke, but something that Livni would probably be most pleased to facilitate.


Here’s a mark of our success in the war:

According to Military Intelligence, Iran is now assessing where Hamas’s fight — which they had engineered — had failed.

* They had hoped to hit us hard with the booby traps, surprise tunnels and roadside bombs.

* There had been plans to launch rockets that went farther than 40 km., but this didn’t happen.

* They wanted to create a “victory image” with a kidnapping or burnt-out tank, but never achieved this.

The down side, and certainly expected (from Yaakov Katz in the Post):

“The IDF is concerned that Hamas and Iran will try to smuggle long-range Fajr missiles into the Gaza Strip. Fajr missiles, manufactured in Iran, have a range of 70 km. and if fired from Gaza would easily reach Tel Aviv.

“While the Fajr is large – 10 meters in length compared to the two-meter Grads – it is believed that it would be possible to smuggle the rockets into Gaza after it was disassembled into several components and via a tunnel dug especially large for the purpose.”


Two US military analysts visiting here fully concur that we have won the war, but they say we should have hit harder:

Lt.-Gen. Thomas McInerney, a 35-year veteran of the US Air Force and Lt.-Col. Rick Francona, a former US Air Force intelligence officer, both now US TV military analysts, received briefings from Israeli defense officials and toured the Gaza periphery.

“I think you achieved what one Israeli general called ‘changing the reality’ in which Hamas operates, but I think you were too restrained and could have gone deeper into Gaza,” said McInerney.

“The Israeli public’s support for this war mutes global opinion. When a nation is united in its right to defend itself, it makes it more difficult for Europeans, the Left or the Arab media to counter that.

“Your leadership is too sensitive about world opinion. I know why Israel didn’t [drive deeper into Gaza] – you have an election coming up and a new [US] president taking office, but you need to gain the freedom of operation in Gaza that you have in the West Bank.”

Francona said he the fighting we did in Gaza was seen in the US as a healthy demonstration of Israel’s abilities. “…the conversation in the US revolves around Israeli decision making…It doesn’t question Israel’s capabilities. You’ve won the battle….[This is] just the end of this round, and that seems to be Israeli policy right now.”

Both see Israel as prepared to take on Hamas again over the long-term.

You think we might get Gen. McInerney to stay here and serve as a high level advisor to the government?


Eight mortar shells were fired from Gaza today, but misfired and landed in Palestinian areas, not Israel.


There is concern here about the intention of certain “human rights groups” to file war crimes charges in the Hague and with European courts against certain of our military personnel. Evidence is being compiled to counter such charges. But there is a travel advisory in effect for IDF officers, who are being told to check with the Judge Advocate General’s office prior to travel.

Said Attorney General Mazuz: “All the questions we have to face in Gaza have already been asked [after the Lebanon war], so the military and the State have clear guidelines when it comes to matters like targeted assassinations, returning fire and harming civilians,”


We’re turning our national attention now towards political matters. Without citing specific numbers, since polls vary, I will simply say that it is the consensus that the right wing has gained in the course of the war. Likud still runs ahead.


As I began with something beautiful, let me end with good news:

Standard and Poor has just upgraded Israel’s credit rating to an “A,” saying this reflects Israel’s strong economy in the last five years. This will draw new investors.


A huge deposit of natural gas — that might change the face of Israel’s economy — has been discovered in the Mediterranean some 90 kilometers west of Haifa. An estimated eighty-seven billion cubic meters of high-quality gas is thought to be in three deposits some 4 miles below the surface of the water.

Rights to drilling in the area belong to Yitzhak Teshuva, owner of Delek Fuel and Delek Drilling companies, who anticipates the find will “supply Israel’s energy needs for many decades to come.”

A $20 million test drill will now be run.




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