Sarah Stern: Thank you so much for joining in this incredibly, critically important webinar today. As you all know, this past Saturday, October 7th, was perhaps the darkest day in Israel’s history since the days of the Holocaust.
In what can only be described as a savage massacre, scores of Hamas terrorists entered Israel by land, air, and sea, and conducted a barbaric massacre. This massacre resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,300 Israelis and the wounding of 2,500 others. The death toll also includes 260 young people who participated in a rave peace concert, Holocaust survivors, elderly people and well over forty children and babies some of whom had their heads decapitated.
We never thought that we would resurrect a proud Jewish nation in our homeland, on ancient soil, only to witness such a monstrous pogrom in modern Israel. As many of you know, Amit has never, for one second, believed in the insanely flawed logic of the land-for-peace paradigm. Please Hussein can you complete the introduction while I find out the status of our guest speaker.
Hussein: Well, thank you everyone for joining us today on this webinar. We do not usually hold webinars at this time of the week but this is, of course, is not a regular webinar. We are holding this additional webinar because of the tragic criminal assaults by Hamas terrorists against innocent civilians in Israel that started over the weekend.
My name is Hussein Abubakr Mansour. I am a project director here at the Endowment of Middle East Truth (EMET). Our guest is Brigadier General Amir Avivi. Those who have been following Israel know he has been very busy given the demand for his expertise in security issues and his engagement with the group of the of security experts that he’s been leading. He has actually been constantly on Israeli TV for the past few days, so I have no doubt that he has been detained for good reason given the situation in Israel.
Meanwhile, since I have to fill in unexpectedly until our guest is here, let me update you on what EMET has been doing since the beginning of the crisis. We have been on Capitol Hill every day meeting with officials in order to tell them about what’s going on and to ask them for unequivocal and strong congressional support for the state of Israel and for the people of Israel. We are asking them to condemn Hamas terrorism, and condemn the incredibly toxic voices that we hear from many parts in the United States. These voices are coming from political institution, politicians, college campuses, faculties, university presidents, student groups, and chapters of movements like Black Lives Matter from all over the country. These groups are not just silent on what Hamas has done but are actively supporting and celebrating the murder of Jews. This was an anti-Semitic pogrom and they are actively supporting it as a form of glorious decolonization and the war for social justice liberation. We are going to be working very closely with a lot of officials in Congress to confront this. This expression of hatred has been brewing in the United States for quite some time. I believe that probably every single person on this webinar right now knows that this has been happening for a long time in American universities or institutions, and the political establishment has been silent. They have been trying to find a compromise. They do not want to lose the vote, but enough is enough. So, it means it’s going to Congress. It means talking to officials. It is time that this ends and we are exploring action items for the U.S. Congress to address this problem directly.
We have also been working with Congress on two main issues. The first is Qatar which is, sadly, a major non-NATO U.S. ally. Qatar hosts our Central Command Regional Headquarters in Doha. Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world with very deep pockets. Their lavish patronage is everywhere in Washington D.C. They use that influence to get away with supporting and aiding terrorism and spreading anti-Semitic and terrorist propaganda in the Middle East. I have been watching Al Jazeera on my TV since this entire thing started and I have wanted to throw up every time I looked at the screen. The amount of venom, lack of moral responsibility, celebration of the murder of Jews and incitement is just unbelievable.
So, we are working with Congress to put an end to this, especially since Qatar also hosts the leader of the Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh. This Hamas leader made his speech to celebrate the Hamas so-called victory over toddlers and babies, the elderly, innocent civilians and young people who were singing and dancing. He aired his victory speech from Doha, Qatar, from a very nice, luxurious penthouse on the dime of the Emirati families. We have been working with a lot of officials in Congress to find ways to deliver an ultimatum to Qatar. This ultimatum will require them to expel the Hamas leadership immediately if they wish to maintain a strategic relationship with the United States. We have been working with representative Andy Ogles, a Republican from Tennessee, for the past two days. He is sending a very strong letter to the Qatari ambassador with exactly this ultimatum and advising him that the U.S. Congress will lead an effort to make this ultimatum a reality. You either expel Hamas leadership immediately or risk all your strategic ties with the United States.
Of course, the second issue is the 8,000-ton elephant in the room, Iran. Iran paid for this. What we watched, what we saw, the videos that you saw were financed by Iran. We’re very grateful for the response of the Biden administration, despite all of our criticisms and the concerns that we’ve had for a very long time. We are very grateful that only a few hours ago, the administration announced that they agreed to freeze the $6 billion and prevent it from being transferred to Iran.
So, this is a major step. This is something that we’ve been talking about since the beginning of this event. These are some of the things that EMET has been working very hard on, and we’re going to continue to work hard on them. In summary, what we have been doing on the Hill is working with congressional offices to condemn Hamas, support Israel, condemn Qatar, and, of course, address the big issues with U.S. Iran policy. I think General Amir is ready to join us.
Sarah: Thank you, Amir. I think you were called away and you were on Israel National Television. I don’t know if you could hear us.
General Amir Avivi: Now I can hear you, Sarah.
Sarah: So, we were explaining, Amir, what it is that EMET has been working on and how we have never believed in the terribly flawed land-for-peace paradigm. We have now seen with Gaza how dangerous this kind of thinking is and I think people are beginning to understand us. So, Amir, many of our audience know you. You’re the founder and CEO of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF) and you have at least 17,000 senior reserve officers and commanders, who are national security experts, working with you. Please tell us, first of all, what are the immediate objectives of this war?
General Amir: Well, the objectives are very clear. The objectives are to destroy Hamas completely, to eradicate it from the Gaza Strip, and to make sure that they’ll never be able to build themselves again. To do that, we need to regain control of Gaza. We need to conquer Gaza. For need a few months at least to really remove any terrorist presence from Gaza. We are finding all the tunnels, the headquarters, and the rocket launchers, and it’s a lot of work. We drafted 300,000 reservists, the biggest draft ever in the history of Israel. 130% of the soldiers called arrived in each unit – more than we can really handle. The whole society is really together, volunteering, helping, and assisting since everybody wants to revenge this horrendous criminal attack. It’s unbelievable.
I’m watching a lot on TV and everybody is crying. We find it hard to believe every time we hear survivors of this massacre, and we hear the stories of the raping, the beheading, the killing of babies and families and the burning alive of people. It’s unbelievable.
I want to explain what I think the big picture is of what is really going on. Several hours after this attack started, we understood that this was a war and we declared war. We have not declared war since the Yom Kippur War. This war is much more devastating than the Yom Kippur War. I noticed that Hezbollah didn’t attack us as well on the morning that it started. My understanding is that Iran basically launched a Hamas attack to try and prevent the U.S. from building an alliance in the Middle East between Israel and the Sunni world. They let Hamas attack in order to disrupt the buildup of a force that would be able to counter Russia, Iran, and China. It is all the buildup that we have been seeing in the last year in the Middle East.
So, Iran is behind it. Iran is funding Hamas, running Hamas, equipping Hamas, and also giving orders. Of course, Hamas carried it out itself. Now, from a U.S. perspective, Iran is trying to prevent the U.S. from building this alliance and the attack hurts the most basic interests of the U.S. It comes as no surprise then that the administration has sent warships to serve as a military threat to Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria.
Of course, it’s true we and the U.S. are allies and very good friends. It’s also true that, after this horrendous attack, everybody is shocked. That said, this support is also about the critical interests of the U.S. and we therefore see a whole change in U.S. posture. I think that now that the U.S. is involved almost militarily, it changes everything in the Middle East. Once we win against Hamas, this will enable the continuation of planned peace agreements and also build a coalition to help defeat Hezbollah and Iran. We cannot have any more of these enemies around us. And I think this is something that is also clear to the U.S.
Sarah: Right now, we are very concerned with our GIs who are going into Gaza where the houses are booby-trapped and there is going to be a horrible urban conflict. We are also quite concerned about Hezbollah. They have 150,000 missiles that could reach very critically important places within Israel’s infrastructure. Some of these are converted into precision-guided missiles. Please could you could speak to that.
General Amir: So, basically, of course, it is very dangerous to go into Gaza. We are going to send the troops with a lot of air force cover, with artillery, and everything that we need to secure the soldiers. It’s going to be a tough war, but I can assure everybody that Israel is going to win decisively. Everybody’s ready. Everybody’s motivated. Everybody’s equipped. And we also have all the ammunition and everything we need to really go in and destroy this terrible organization. This is exactly what’s going to happen. I assume there’s a good chance that Hezbollah is not going to intervene for many reasons including: the Americans being here, Israel being in full readiness in the North and Iran wanting to keep them intact. It is not a good time for them to attack. It is not going to be a multi-front war. It is going to be a war in Gaza, and it is going to be the first Gaza war and the last Gaza war. Gaza will be completely different after this war ends.
Hussein: Thank you. Thank you, General Avivi. I want to follow up with what you just said. I think there is an overwhelming consensus around the objective of the war Let me ask you, what are the discussions about the day after? Are there talks about what happens after Hamas is destroyed? What happens afterwards? Will we return control to the Palestinian Administration or perhaps have an Israeli administration.
General Amir: I think it’s too early to talk about the day after. I want to make sure that there will no longer be any terror entities in Gaza from a military perspective. We need to create a reality similar to what we have in Judea and Samaria. We need complete freedom of operation for the IDF everywhere. Jenin and Gaza need to be exactly the same.
The IDF can and should be able to maneuver and apprehend terrorists in the center of Gaza every night if we need to. At the time of the Oslo Accords, we retreated from all the cities in Gaza. We were still inside Gaza but we didn’t operate in the cities anymore. The fact that we could not operate created the reality that in seven years, Gaza went from the Stone Age to rockets. They did not even have one rocket factory and they began shooting rockets within seven years. This is all Hamas; this is Fatah; this is the Palestinian Authority that did that.
This is not a reality we can have. We need full freedom of operation to ensure that there will be no more buildup of terror inside the Gaza Strip. Because it’s going to be a very violent war zone, we are trying to get civilians out to the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptians don’t like it, but I think they have no choice eventually. I think, by the way, that many Gazans will leave and will not come back because I don’t know what will be left of Gaza after we finish this war.
We are spending hours on national TV communicating the terms needed to ensure there will never be a terror organization in Gaza again. While people agree we need to destroy Hamas and they don’t want any more terror in the future, they often don’t accept what it means to achieve those objectives. They do not want Israel to control Gaza have the army in Gaza. This, however, is physics. There is no other way, and this is what we need. Some people had difficulty realizing we need a ground operation but I think that there is a growing understanding and acceptance that it is needed.
With respect to the North, there were soldiers who were killed by an anti-tank missile there and there is terror on the northern border all the time. However, it not war-like terror. If Hezbollah wanted to fight, they would shoot tens of thousands of rockets and not one anti-tank missile or one drone or something like that. There is a lot of tension in the North but it is not a front.
General Amir: So, Sarah, why don’t you ask me the most important question you have; what is on your mind?
Sarah: Okay, all right. The conventional wisdom is very hard to dislodge in America. There are a lot of maxims and little slogans like “land for peace” and a “two state solution”. There is also the perception that Fatah is the better alternative to Hamas and that we have to get rid of Hamas and Gaza and install Fatah. What’s your response to all of those?
General Amir: The Palestinian Authority did not condemn these atrocities. The Palestinian Authority have laws under which terrorists are paid to kill Jews. They have a designated budget for killing Jews. They are inciting and building a society wanting to annihilate us as Jews. So, how are they different from Hamas? On top of that, most of Palestinian society in Judea and Samaria are Hamas supporters. If they conduct elections now, then Hamas wins easily.
Also, Abu Mazen is almost ninety years old. We have been doing in-depth research about the day after Abu Mazen. We understand that there will be no Palestinian Authority the day after Abbas dies. This is because the Palestinian people are fed up with this corrupt, terrible organization. This is why the IDF will advise the government not to hand the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. We can build on local municipalities and let the municipalities handle everyday life in the cities but these two entities must go in both Gaza and in Judea and Samaria. I don’t think there is any future with them.
Sarah: Colonel Itzik, do you want to add to this?
General Amir: So, Sarah, I will leave Colonel Itzik to continue the webinar. I’m sorry, guys, but it’s war in Israel, and it’s really hectic. I will be happy to do another webinar with EMET, and maybe even next week, Okay?
Sarah: Excellent. Thank you so much, Amir.
General Amir: You’re welcome. Bye, Sarah.
Hussein: Bye, Amir.
Sarah: Colonel Itzik, what are your feelings about Fatah? I know that on October 9th, they were encouraging that the last son of apes and pigs should be eliminated and they are encouraging Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. What are your feelings about Fatah as opposed to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad?
Colonel Ronen Itzik: Well, first of all, Sarah, it’s an honor to meet you. I retired eight years ago from the Israel Defense Forces. I was an armor brigade commander, and after that, I constructed a study and conducted research about our civilian and military relations. My research has been published by the University of Florida.
Personally, I’m not surprised about what happened. In Israel, we have two differing points of view that have been in major conflict for the last thirty years. This did not start yesterday or last Saturday. In Israeli society, we have had a major conflict about this issue since the Oslo Agreements. What happened here? Thirty years ago, Israel had a strategic depth in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza as well. Our settlements were not just settlements on the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Our settlements, in all our short history, were our strategic depth. In 1967, we understood that Israel is very small and any attack suffered causes immediate danger to the population.
I had a conversation with the people from the United Kingdom and told them that we do not have the Atlantic Ocean as a buffer. When there is an attack, it comes to our doorstep immediately. What happened with the Oslo Agreement was that our strategic depth was taken from us. This is true especially after 2005, since we withdrew from Gaza.
In Judea and Samaria we still maintain our depth even though this area is under international dispute. On the southern border, however, we don’t have any depth. As such, if you are not on alert and suffer an attack, the first thing that happens is that the civilians are murdered. You do not have time to act because you suffer casualties as soon as the attack starts. We had a failure here and this kind of thing can happen again in one or five years from now if the situation in Gaza is not changed fundamentally.
In the North we have around 24 hours to amass troops. Most of our military members are reservists who need to come from their homes, get into their tanks, and move to the front. With 24 hours to react, you have the ability to go on the offence and win. This is what happened in 1973. We think that 1973 was a catastrophe, but it cannot compare to this surprise and the accompanying slaughter of hundreds.
As I said, every defense system has its weaknesses, and this was a failure. We have to understand however that we withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and left them alone. They did go to war with us many times over the last 18 years, but not on the scale that happened most recently. We left them to live their lives, and they lived their day-to-day lives, driving in cars and going shopping.
After the withdrawal from Gaza, we told the international community and the free world that the situation was impossible and they did not believe us. They came to us to ask why we were killing civilians. We were not killing civilians. Under any international law and rules of engagement; when you are fired upon, you can fire back directly at the target. This is a tragedy for the civilians that are there but what can you do? Although Israel is covered by international law, they made it a strategic doctrine to surround themselves with civilians to gain sympathy and empathy from the free world, and the free world gave it to them. They constructed buildings and gave them schools and things are unbearable.
Now what we have to do is free Gaza because it is not just a move to secure Israel. Those civilians in Gaza are suffering from a vicious dictatorship of the cruelest humans you can imagine. The last time Jewish people suffered from this kind of attack was in 1939 in Nazi Germany, and we will not suffer it again.
Sarah: Exactly. I am sure that at this point, there is no one left in Israel that wants to withdraw from Judea and Samaria. However, how do we get this message to the international community. If you did not like what happened in Gaza, imagine what could happen in Judea and Samaria? Judia and Samaria are just a few miles away from Ben Gurion airport and they could cut off all air transit. They can absolutely immobilize the entire country. So, how do we get that message out?
Colonel Itzik: Sarah, let me be clear. Those Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria were born there and will stay there since that is there home. They will not go anywhere. Now, in the 1980s we offered autonomy to the Palestinians after the peace agreement with Egypt. We offered an
autonomy without the military, with the border controlled by Israel and with a defense zone on the eastern border with Jordan under the control of Israel. We gave them the option to go and live their lives in peace. Ten years later, as part of the Oslo Agreements, we withdraw from almost 95% of the area. We gave them full civilian control over their cities. We are not conquerors there because they are living their lives under their own control. Since 1994, 98% of the Palestinians in Jordan-Samaria have been under Palestinian authority control and the international community thinks that we are still conquerors. We are not. Their aspiration is to have the whole area After the First World War, the British gave us Israel with the border eastern of the Jordan River as part of the Balfour Declaration.
Thereafter, the Arabs went on terror attacks against the British because they controlled the area at that time. Because of the attacks, the British decided to divide the area and continued to reduce the proposed border for the state of Israel. The state of Israel, with vastly reduced borders was declared under UN resolution in 1948. 24 hours later, five Arab armies attacked young Israel and it was a miracle the state survived. So, let’s be reasonable. They will live their lives with autonomy and with security under the control of Israel. This is because history shows that they are a threat and therefore security will be under our control for the next 2,000 years.
This is the only thing that can be done now, and I think it’s a great thing. This is your home; live there. The Palestinians in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, are earning amongst the highest salaries in the Arab world. This is because they neighbor Israel. Many of them work in Israel and we collaborate with them economically. They can live and prosper. As Amir explained however, Mahmoud Abbas denies the Holocaust and pays the families of terrorists. He seems like an old grandfather but gives permission to educate children to destroy Israel and, as such, is not a partner for peace. So, live where you want to, under your own autonomy, but security will be under our control. There are other regions in the world that live like as well. After 50 or 100 years they will prosper and things will be better. Germany and France came together after killing each other for centuries so reproachment can be real but there has to be mutual agreement. The fact is that Israel is the only Jewish state and recent events show we need to be able to protect ourselves. Palestinians can live where they are living, but under an autonomous authority with no military force.
Sarah: All right. So, Ronen, would it be possible to take some questions from the audience, and from my wonderful colleague, Hussein Abubakar Mansour? Hussein is a brilliant Zionist whose work you may have read.
Colonel Itzik: Of course.
Hussein: Thank you very much. We received a lot of questions from our audience. I want to thank you, Colonel Itzik, for being with us today. I want to thank all of us tuned in, and all who sent us questions.
Colonel Itzik: It is a very difficult situation. The Egyptians don’t want to discuss it and regard it as our problem. As such, the civilian population will not be able to get into Egypt. Under international community pressure, there could be some understanding, and Egypt may give them a strip in Sinai for the moment. If you ask me, there’s no problem with that, but the Egyptians don’t see it as in their interest. We are not going to shoot at civilians. We are calling civilians to go to the southern border and stay there. I think the major part of the operation to destroy Hamas will take around two or three two or three weeks. We are gathering all of our forces and declaring we are going to destroy Hamas. This is different from what we have done previously when we did not resolve to destroy them. Now we are declaring, planning it, and going to destroy them.
Some of them will fight, and some of them will surrender. I think the major military conflict will take approximately three weeks. After that, we anticipate there will be some attacks, but not major ones. So, those civilians will have to live in the south of Gaza (with relatives if possible) for approximately one or two months. It is not an ideal situation, but it is not impossible. The Egyptians have to give some humanitarian aid. I believe we will also give aid since it is in our interest and we are not against them. I want to tell you another thing, if the international community takes this conflict seriously, we can achieve a faster solution.
In 1982, we invaded Lebanon to destroy Yasser Arafat’s terrorists deployed there. After one week, we laid siege to Beirut. The goal of this siege was to force Arafat to surrender. The international community, led by the United States, provided the ships for Arafat and his troops. to go to Tunisia, and the crisis ended. We did not shoot them. If the international community provides a solution for Hamas to surrender and to leave on ships to a place like Libya, then Gaza could be freed without a major war.
Hussein: Maybe they can be happy and meet Allah there.
Colonel Itzik: Well Netanyahu, met the owner of Twitter
Hussein: Ah, Elon Musk.
Colonel Itzik: He met with Musk about a month ago. Maybe he made a deal with him. Give me a shuttle of SpaceX to the moon, take those terrorists, and send them…
Hussein: We’re running out of time. Thank you very much for being with us today, but I kept the question on everybody’s mind till the end. It is not over for all the Israelis that Hamas attacked. Hamas also took between 130 and 150 hostages who are currently in Gaza.
Colonel Itzik: 90% are civilians.
Hussein: 90% are civilians, and there are children, women, and the elderly. I heard that Filipino nursing staff for the elderly are also being held. It is a nightmare. I think the United States has identified 20 Americans hostages so far. Israel is striking Gaza and is planning a ground invasion. How is Israel going to handle the hostages? How can we ensure the safety of those hostages and, at the same time, maintain the freedom of military action?
Colonel Itzik: It is a very delicate and difficult situation. Gaza is currently under Israeli siege. Nothing moves in and nothing moves out—no electricity, no water, no food. We have not yet started our ground maneuver with ground forces. The clock is ticking because Hamas will not talk with us. This is the time for the international community to make an agreement somehow.
First of all, free women, children, and old people. Maybe if they free those innocent people, we can provide them the option of removing themselves from Gaza. The clock is ticking however and they continue to fire rockets into our cities. We are under rocket-fire and so will have to maneuver.
Sarah: Okay, thank you so much, Colonel Ronan Itzik. We are incredibly grateful for your years and years of service. EMET works unbelievably hard, educating members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. We provide the message that in order to survive in that very brutal, vicious Middle East neighborhood, Israel needs to project a great of strength. And I think that the days of foreign policy based on wishful thinking and slogans are over and we have to look at reality. We thank you so much, and we thank the IDSF. If people would like to contribute to IDSF, please access the link: https://idsf.org.il/ . We at EMET also work incredibly hard and can use any kind of contribution to be able to continue with this important work. Please contribute on our site at : https://emetonline.org/. Again, thank you so much, Colonel Itzik and let us go from strength to strength. Thank you.
Colonel Itzik: Thank you
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