Sarah: Good afternoon, and welcome to another informative and timely Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) Webinar. As you know, October 7th saw some of the most sadistic savage attacks on Jews since the Holocaust. This has been a very, very difficult period for Jews throughout the world. Many of us are wrestling with a fear, anger, and feelings of abandonment and betrayal. Right now, we have seen our institutions of higher education, or maybe I should call it lower education, erupt in sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Yesterday we heard UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres call for an immediate ceasefire. He said that the Palestinians have been under Israeli occupation for 56 years and totally ignored the Gaza withdrawal of 2005. We are here today to speak with one of the most intelligent, thoughtful analysts that I know, Alex Traiman.
Alex and I have been friends for several years. Alex is the CEO and the Jerusalem Bureau chief of the wonderful Jewish News Syndicate (JNS). He provides coverage and analysis of everything important in Israel. He produced two award-winning films, (1) Iranium, a film exposing the dangerous ideology guiding the Iranian regime and (2) Honor Diaries, a film addressing the treatment of Muslim women. It is always an honor and a pleasure to be able to discuss events with Alex Traiman.
I want to talk first about the failed premise of Land for Peace. This has been a predicate for most foreign policy decisions concerning Israel and the Middle East and has resulted in our withdrawal from Gaza. What have we learned about this Alex?
Alex: Thank you so much, Sarah. The work you do at EMET is essential to educating people on the Hill about what’s going on in the Middle East. The people you interact with are influencing policy and impacting what congressmen and senators say and do. So, the work you’re doing is critical, it is felt here in Israel, it is greatly appreciated and everybody should continue to support what you are doing.
In answer to your question, there have been a number of failed policies here that have led to this moment. I think there is a great opportunity now to reevaluate a lot of the inherent misconceptions. At the same time, however, there are going to be a lot of people who will try to double down on the mistakes that led us to this moment. I think that there are numerous misconceptions here in Israel I will discuss a number of them.
Let us start with the ones with the widest implications. The ones these affect the United States and Europe, and the rest of the international community, in addition to impacting Israel. There are two fundamental misconceptions I want to discuss.
The first one is the concept of the Land for Peace. Gaza was the pilot project for an independent Palestinian entity. Israel used to have a military presence in Gaza. There were 21vibrant Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip with 8,500 citizens. These were beautiful communities. I had been down to them. There were salt of the earth Jews living in an area called Gush Katif. In 2005, Israel withdrew the entire civilian and military presence in Gush Katif. It essentially bulldozed the towns and handed the area to the Palestinian Authority. The hope was this would be a successful pilot for an independent Palestinian entity. If the Palestinians could be nice and normal neighbors, this would lead to a successful two-state solution. People were hoping Gaza could turn into the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead of it turning into the Singapore of the Middle East, however, it turned into the Beirut and the Syria and the Lebanon and the Egypt of the Middle East. In 2006, there were parliamentary elections in Gaza, and Hamas won those elections. By 2007, Hamas had orchestrated a complete takeover of the Gaza strip, and Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, was expelled. At the time of the disengagement, people said, “If even one rocket gets fired on Israel, we’re going to go back in.” Well, here we are, tens of thousands of rockets later. Only now, after the worst massacre in Israeli history, is the Israel Defense Force (IDF) even discussing the idea of putting boots on the ground inside Gaza. They have not even done it yet. I think the concept of Land for Peace has proven itself to be an utter failure.
We signed the Oslo Accords thirty years ago. The Oslo Accords cover all of Judea and Samaria, the Bible Belt, and the heart of the state of Israel. Jews are called Jews because they are from Judea. Every biblical story in the Torah took place in Judea and Samaria. The Oslo Accords broke Judea and Samaria into three non-contiguous zones, A, B, and C, and gave authority to the Palestinian authority. Not only has Oslo failed but it perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the worst possible outcome.
The second of these fundamental misconceptions was the premise Iran could be brought into the community of nations. This policy in this regard assumed the leaders of Iran are responsible actors who just want to be treated like leaders of every other country and who have been treated too hard for too long. We assumed that if we gave them some money and allowed them to have a civilian nuclear program, they would begin moderating themselves and behave like normal state actors. Instead, they took every last penny from the international community and pumped it into a network of terror proxies all over the Middle East. These include, the Houthis in Yemen, Iranian proxies in Iraq, in Syria, Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, and, of course, Hamas in Gaza. They have created a ring of fire around the state of Israel.
To this day the United States continues to pursue a reduction in sanctions on Iran to try and achieve their policy objective. Just a month ago, they promised $6 billion to Iran via Qatar in exchange for five US hostages. Five hostages came back but Iran has a promise of $6 billion while their terror proxy, Hamas has 222 additional hostages.
These are the two main fallacies have been the primary foreign policy objectives of the United States for decades. They are responsible for this moment, this massacre of 1400 Jews and 200 kidnapped and over 4,000 injured. There are also a number of fallacies inside of Israel that need to be reevaluated.
The first is that Israel can deter terror organizations from attacking by being stronger than they are. Well, guess what? Two weeks ago, on October 7th, the Israeli’s learned they did not have deterrence. They learned no amount of technology is going to be good enough to overcome Hamas and Hezbollah’s jihadi mentality and desire to kill Jews. The threat is not just on the borders. The danger is not just in Gaza in the southwest of Israel and from Hezbollah in the North. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and radical elements of Fatah are operating inside Israel itself. The are operational in Judea and Samaria and in the mixed cities like Jerusalem. The Jihad is not just right on Israel’s borders, but is inside its borders and affecting the state itself.
You can have F35s and surveillance but surveillance and intelligence can be fallible and the desire to kill Jews and wipe Israel off the map cannot be deterred. The idea that every time Hamas fires rockets, we can just shoot back proportionally and restore deterrence, has been proven incorrect. The idea you can just put that little jihadi genie back into the bottle and think that it is not going to come out again, is a fallacy. All these concepts have failed, and they are all going to be revisited once this conflict is over.
Sarah: I am really glad that you mentioned Palestinian Authority or Fatah. Another misconception many people in the West have, is that the Palestinian Authority, or Fatah, is the moderate alternative to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Can you address that?
Alex: Yeah. One of the biggest false narratives of this conflict so far is that Hamas is not the Palestinians and the Palestinians are not Hamas. The Palestinians have a horrific track record of selecting terrorists as their leaders. That record started with Yasser Arafat and continues with Mahmood Abbas. Abbas, the mastermind of the 1972 Munich massacre, has a doctoral thesis on Holocaust denial. He continues to incite Palestinians to attack Jews. He names squares in Palestinian controlled areas after, so-called martyrs who died in the act of killing Jews. His organization pays salaries to Palestinians in Israeli jails for committing acts of terror and stipends to the families of those killed while committing first-degree murder against Israelis.
Mahmood Abbas is in year 18 of his four-year term. He has not held elections because he knows that if did Hamas would win. Why would Hamas win the elections if the Palestinian people are peaceful people? Hamas’ charter is to destroy the state of Israel and people would vote for Hamas over the Palestinian authority. At what point do you hold the people responsible? The people voted for Hamas in Gaza in 2006 and continue to vote for them there. We have not witnessed a single Palestinian protest against Hamas since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. The Palestinians all know Hamas is using funds from the international community to build terror tunnels and rockets, yet we have not seen one mass protest against the government in Gaza. This is different from what we have seen in Iran, for example, where people come out into the streets and protest their regime. That does not happen in the areas governed by the Palestinian authority and it does not happen in Hamas controlled Gaza.
Palestinians, who today are 30 years old, grew up learning math with problems asking, if you have five Jews and you kill two, how many Jews are left. They grew up watching Mickey Mouse dying as a suicide bomber and a martyr. UNRWA, the UN Agency dedicated to the Palestinian refugees, runs many of their schools and is responsible for many of the textbooks fostering this Jew hatred. In the Gaza strip, there are summer camps for six-year-old kids where they are dressed up as terrorists, and perform plays where they shoot Jews.
There are many Palestinians, by the way, who think their leaders are corrupt and believe peace with Israel would be better than what they have. For them to come to that conclusion, they have to go through a great deal of mental gymnastics and be able to think differently. The reason that takes a huge amount of effort is because they have been taught Jew hatred for decades. The problem in Israel is that we cannot differentiate between those who want peace and those who are jihadis. Hamas also hides among civilians. There were tons of civilians who came across the border with the so-called armed militants to participate in the October 7th Jihad. There are also horrific stories of Gazan workers, with Israeli work permits and visas, who provided intelligence to Hamas. There are stories of Gazans who had previously visited Kibbutzim in the South on a regular basis as handymen, for example. In these cases, Israelis are saying, “This guy used to eat in my house, we’d have coffee together. We were friends. We thought we were friends.” They saw these same people in their Kibbutz, on October 7th, however, showing Hamas where all the houses were. These same people provided Hamas with information about they Kibbutz. The told Hamas, how many houses there were on the Kibbutz, which houses had guns and which houses had dogs. Given all of the factors that need to be considered, differentiating between innocent Palestinian civilians and militants in Gaza, is virtually impossible.
Sarah: So glad you brought that up. We hear frequently how Israel must follow the rules of warfare and proportionality. We also hear the term moral equivalence used a lot. How do you define proportionality and moral equivalence?
Alex: We did not initiate the war. Hamas declared war on the state of Israel. They murdered 1400 people and kidnapped 200 others on one day. The last thing Israel wanted to do was go to war. It was a holiday, many Jews were in synagogue, and were not thinking about war. Hamas launched a war in Israel, and now Israel is being asked to make sure Gaza gets humanitarian aid. First of all, the Gaza Strip is not landlocked by Israel alone. Gaza has another border with Egypt. The Egyptians and others should be tasked with providing humanitarian assistance. That is number one. Number two is that nobody is allowing the Gazans to leave. Israel’s saying, “We do not want to harm civilians, and civilians should leave so we can fight Hamas.” The international community, on the other hand is locking the border and not allowing anyone to leave. Egypt will not allow one Palestinian on their soil. Jordan also will not provide sanctuary for Palestinians from Gaza. The international community resettled 13 million refugees during the Syrian Civil War, and they are not willing to take a single Palestinian. They want to keep the Palestinians in Gaza and they want Israel to be responsible for humanitarian aid. All of this enables Hamas to play psychological warfare games and Israel is held responsible for every civilian that gets killed.
However, there can be no such thing as proportionality when 1400 of your people are slaughtered in attacks conjuring up images of the Holocaust, ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Netanyahu, who is so good at doing using visual aids at the UN, should have walked over to a chalkboard and written the number one and written equals, and on the other side, written a thousand. He should have said that proportionality is a thousand to one. But he is not going to do that and that is not the standard that Israel is being held to.
Natan Sharansky developed the 3Ds of antisemitism to assess when condemnation of Israel crosses the line from valid criticism into denigration. The 3Ds are delegitimization, demonization, and double standards When Israel is denied the right to exist, this is delegitimization. When Israel, the victim on October 7th, is quickly turned into the aggressor, this is demonization. Now, this idea that Israel has to protect Gazan civilians, provide them with humanitarian aid and operate according to rules of proportionality that nobody follows, is a gross double standard. Ukraine is not operating according to rules of proportionality. Nobody even mentions that word with respect to the Ukrainian war.
Sarah: The United States is estimating that 100 to 300 people were killed in that errant rocket attack launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Hamas-controlled Gazan health ministry, on the other hand, claimed that there were 500 innocent civilians. How can anybody actually take seriously the reports of Hamas-controlled health ministers?
Alex: It has taken days, or even weeks for Israel to come up with a final tally of how many people died on October 7th. In fact, the number of those killed has not yet been completed finalized. Yet within seconds of an explosion in Gaza, there were reports the IDF struck a Baptist hospital in the Gaza Strip and 500 people died. Both CNN, New York Times and other members of the mainstream media ran with this story. Not only, was it not an IDF strike on the hospital, it was an errant rocket fired either by Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. It was a long-range missile intended to reach Haifa and was a very powerful rocket. The rocket did not even hit the hospital but rather a parking lot outside the hospital. There has not been a single photo provided of a hospital being hit but there are photos of the parking lot. In those photos, one can see the entire hospital still standing with shrapnel marks on the building façade. The rocket hit the hospital parking lot at 1:30 in the morning when few people were outside. Although there are estimates that around 20 people were killed, and we cannot confirm these numbers because we have no real evidence. I think there were people killed but every single part of the narrative was wrong. The IDF did not hit the hospital and the number of people killed was nowhere close to the 500 reported initially.
I will provide my own case study of how reporting of the incident evolved at JNS that night. Around 1.30 am in the morning, word had spread that the IDF had hit this hospital. Everybody was putting their heads in their hands saying, “Wow, this is such a disaster. I can’t believe this happened. The IDF would never want to do that. It’s unbelievable. This can’t be true.” Sure enough, rumblings soon emerged that the IDF was not responsible. I, at JNS, was texting real-time with a lead IDF spokesperson and an advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking for a rebuttal statement if, in fact, the IDF was not responsible.
It took them time to respond because they had to validate their response. Because the IDF is firing from so many different points, they had to ensure no missile was fired into the Gaza Strip from any of those points in the time period in question. They had to rule out each and every one of them and then obtain the surveillance footage proving the IDF did not cause the disaster. It took some time for them to obtain the footage of a phone call between Hamas operatives admitting to firing the rocket and it is unbelievable how fast they did it overall. I had the statements from the IDF and the Prime Minister’s office before they even tweeted them out and we had the article ready to go. We inserted their response it in the article the second we got it. JNS was actually the first media outlet to report that it was not an IDF strike on the hospital.
Sarah: Now is a great time for me to put in a plug for JNS. I really want all of our listeners to please support jns.org. EMET is all about truth, and JNS reports on the truth. They have amazing journalists and their work is outstanding. Also speaking about truth, I want to emphasize the work EMET is doing right now. Part of our team is taking a wonderful person, Or Got, around Capitol Hill right now. Or Got’s mother, from a kibbutz in the Negev, was killed in the October 7th attacks. His sister and sister-in-law are still being held hostage. We are working to ensure people do not forget about the horrific atrocities of October 7th. So, please support https://emetonline.org/. We have a dinner coming up on December 5th. If you reserve your seats early, you will be able to take advantage of a discount. We have some amazing honorees and we really do need to fill up the room.
With that, I will read some questions from our audience.
Is the Biden administration prioritizing the hostages and pressuring Israel to delay the ground invasion or is it actually Israel that’s causing the delay? Great question from my friend Ellen Haman.
Alex: I think that both can be true at the same time. There were certainly a lot of logistical issues which, I think, delayed the ground campaign. It took time to mobilize 360,000 reserves in addition to the to the 180,000 members of the standing army. It also took time to get them equipment like vests, helmets and guns and to put battle plans into place. The IDF wanted to gather as much intelligence as possible before beginning the ground operation. They wanted to know where senior Hamas leaders were, to obtain more information about the tunnel networks and to understand where Hamas operatives might be hiding. They also wanted to try and learn where the hostages are located.
Even over the past couple of days, the number of individuals reported as officially held hostage by Hamas, has increased. This is because Israel conducted less-reported small incursions inside the Gaza Strip and recovered numerous dead bodies near the Gaza border. Until you know who died, you cannot know who is alive inside the strip. This took time, and the Biden administration clearly wanted to work on getting the hostages out as well.
There are other reasons why a ground incursion has not been launched straight away. The first is the conditions under which a ground incursion would be launched. The Gaza Strip is going to be, without question, a highly booby-trapped, difficult urban fighting environment. Right now, morale in Israel for a swift victory is very high. The one thing that could sour morale is if IDF troops start going in to Gaza and, God forbid, meet the assault rifles of Hamas operatives and terrorists waiting for them to come in.
The Israelis value the life of every soldier. This is a major difference between Israelis and Hamas. Hamas glorifies death and their greatest honor is to murder Jews or be murdered by Jews. We do not have those beliefs in Israel. Every family with a child, father, brother or best friend on the border wants their soldier home alive and safe. That is a very serious consideration for the Israeli prime minister. He is responsible for 400,000 troops. He has to be very certain he can accomplish his mission without suffering huge losses. The other aspect to consider is that Hezbollah and Iran have both threatened to get involved in the war if the IDF sends ground troops into Gaza. Israel needs to consider whether it can it fight on two fronts simultaneously. There is also the American consideration. The Americans want to see this conflict contained in Gaza. All of these are considerations that need to be taken into account.
As discussed, I think that there are internal Israeli pressures for not launching the ground operation as of yet and there are also foreign pressures preventing Israel from launching the ground operation. It should be noted though that thousands upon thousands of military targets have been identified and hit with precision accuracy in the Gaza Strip. You would not want to live in the Gaza Strip right now. The amount of destruction that the Air Force has leveled in the strip against Hamas and its infrastructure has been devastating. I think perhaps the IDF is failing to communicate how hard they are hitting Hamas and just how many losses Hamas has taken. The IDF and government should engage more effectively in the psychological warfare game and should make the world see Israel is flexing its military might. They should stop allowing Hamas to dictate the narrative about what is happening in the strip and stop allowing them to report whatever number of casualties they choose.
Sarah: Yeah, to survive in the Middle East, Israel has got to display its strength. If we listened to Antonio Guterres and others we could just roll over and play dead or actually be dead. Let us talk a little bit about the threat from Hezbollah. Hezbollah has 150,000 missiles, some of which have been converted into precision-guided missiles. Does Israel have enough Iron Dome batteries to be able to cover both the south and the north?
Alex: The threat posed by Hezbollah is a much more potent threat than that posed by Hamas in Gaza. To a large extent, the southern arena is contained. There is probably not much more damage Hamas can do to the home front than it has already done. They continue to fire Kassam rockets and the Iron Dome shoots them out of the sky. Israel has actually put their laser defense system into testing mode and we have seen some videos of that. It looks like Star Wars. Israel is shooting Kassam rockets out of the sky with lasers. Obviously Kassam rockets should not be underestimated as each one could kill dozens of people. It is miraculous that Israel has technology that can shoot those rockets out of the sky and that the 400 rockets that have actually hit the ground in Israel, have not caused mass casualty events.
Even though the Kassam rockets could do significant damage, Hezbollah has long-range precision-guided missiles that can deliver much larger payloads. These rockets could do immense damage and could mean that Israelis would need to stay in shelters for extended time periods. The other issue is that Iron Dome is not capable of shooting down these long-range missiles, even with sufficient batteries. There are other technologies like the Arrow 3, David Sling and Patriot Missiles, that may be able to shoot down the long-range missiles. However, if Hezbollah starts firing rockets in rapid-fire sequence, there may not be time to replenish these systems. Even if the system is functioning, it could become overloaded. In addition, there is the threat of Hezbollah ground troops. They have a much larger army than Hamas. On October 7th, Hamas sent over maybe as many as 2,500 into Israel. Hezbollah could send tens of thousands of terrorists into Israel. The border in this case is a lot longer and a lot more challenging. The Gaza border is a flat border. The Hezbollah border is a hilly border. Southern Lebanon overlooks Northern Israel, so they have a strategic height advantage. There are also a lot of trees in the area which could hide terrorists as they get close to the fence and then come into Israel. That is the reason why Israel evacuated all communities within five kilometers of the border.
Everyone talks about displaced Gazans but there are over 200,000 Israelis displaced from communities along the Gazan and Southern Lebanon borders. So, there is a very strong argument to be made that Israel needs to launch a preemptive strike on Hezbollah. At this point it would actually not even be a preemptive strike because Hezbollah has been firing anti-tank guided missiles and mortars and has had its operatives coming up to the border fence on multiple occasions. They have been firing across the border and the IDF has been firing back. The IDF has killed at least 15 Hezbollah terrorists in the last week.
As discussed, the northern border is already very active. If you want to prevent 150,000 missiles from being launched into Israeli cities, you may actually have to strike them first. There is also a lot more intelligence about where these missiles are located inside Southern Lebanon then there might be in Gaza.
The Biden administration certainly does not want Israel to open up that front because they are worried about a wider regional conflict. There is also the consideration from Israel’s perspective of whether it can it fight on two fronts at the same time. I think a powerful argument could be made to contain the war to the south only right now. Once the south is contained, Israel can go to war in the north. A full-blown war in the north has not started yet but it could happen. If one trigger-happy jihadi fires two long-range missiles into Israel, and you could have a full-fledged war with Hezbollah.
Sarah: Right, the ramifications are huge. We know Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy. We have also seen recently that other Iranian proxies have struck American personnel in Syria and in Iraq. The US is sending military personnel into the region and has also sent two aircraft carriers to the area. What do you think is the role of US personnel in this conflict, and what is the potential for this to become a wider war?
Alex: Sure. Firstly, the aircraft carriers and other US ships in the region, have significant missile defense capabilities on them. The USS Kearney, positioned in the middle of the Red Sea, has shot down as many as 19 long-range missiles. These missiles were reported to be carrying over 400-kilogram payloads, which is like eight times what the Kassam rocket can deliver. The USS Kearney fired 19 of these out of the sky as they headed towards Southern Israel. If Hezbollah starts firing rockets at Israel, the US ships stationed close by can assist in providing missile defense to Israel and can be very useful to her.
Secondly, you cannot really predict the direction this war is going to go in. The United States and Israel might be trying to contain it but ultimately you can only control your own side. If Hezbollah or Iran decide that they want to be very active in this conflict, which they continually threaten to do, Israel may have no choice but to fight on the northern border. It is also possible that the United States could go to war with Iran, especially if Iran continues to strike at US targets in the region. I’m not predicting. I think it is very difficult to make any predictions here and the fastest way to lose your credibility as a journalist.
There is a strong possibility that Hezbollah and Iran could enter the war. If the United States is attacked by Iran, there is a possibility its significant military presence in the region could be called into action and may even strike back at Iran. You may ask what some of the 2,000 US troops directed to the region in a non-combat role should be doing. I think the most important thing that they could be doing is facilitating humanitarian aid for Gazan refugees on the Egyptian side of the border. I think it is imperative to try to get that border open and to let out the Gazans who do not want to be part of the conflict and do not want to be trapped in the Hamas hellhole. US troops should be there to be facilitating the relocation of refugees and humanitarian aid for refugees.
Sarah: Right. The United States is very weary of war after our disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and disastrous exit from Afghanistan. They know that Iran is in cahoots with Russia, China and North Korea. Do you think that this could explode into more of a world war? If that were the case, do you think that that would open up the door to tremendous amounts of antisemitism blaming Israel for bringing us into World War Three?
Alex: Well, we clearly see that the world is taking sides. The President of the United States, Joe Biden, Rishi Sunna, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Italian Prime Minister Maloney and the Romanian and Greek Prime Minister are all standing with Israel. They are allies of Israel and have put their flags next to the Israeli flag even if they are pressuring Israel in some ways. You have also seen many other countries around the world aligning with Iran and with Hamas. These countries include Russian and China to a certain extent. As you pointed out earlier in the conversation, we have already seen proof that North Korean missiles or explosives were confiscated from the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on October 7th. So, you have the axis and the allies. You also see individuals around the world are also taking sides with mass protests against Israel.
These protests are being called pro-Palestinian protests. However, I am not seeing any peaceful Palestinian resistance against the occupation inside the Palestinian-controlled territories. If you are joining pro-Palestinian rallies in the wake of the massacre, you support Hamas. You support what they did, and you do not support Israel’s right to defend itself or to retaliate for those attacks. There is arguably more global discontent over this issue than there was when Russia first invaded Ukraine. You cannot predict the where this thing will go because, as discussed, you can only control your side. The international community can try and restrain Israel but cannot count on being able to restrain Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran. If Hezbollah or Iran get involved in this war to a greater degree than they have already, I think Israel is going to have no choice but to get involved more aggressively in the north. If that happens, anything is possible. If the United States gets involved, it may have enough military strength to deter others. That said, other actors may be perceiving America to be weak, and might think that this is the time to attack. You cannot rule out any possibility right now.
Sarah: We believe support for the Ukrainian cause is essential since it will facilitate a Russian defeat without needing to place American boots on the ground. Nonetheless, we are seeing certain elements grow weary of supporting the war between Russia and Ukraine. We know this is war is going to be a long and hard one. Do you have a fear that public support will fade as people’s memories of October 7th are replaced with different memories and images?
Alex: That is not a fear of the future. We are already seeing that happen. I think even from day two of this conflict, you could already see the initial signs that public support and public opinion was shifting. You already saw the Secretary General of the United Nations, Gutierrez, basically say the Hamas atrocity did not take place in a vacuum and they have been under occupation for 56 years. Of course, it is not relevant to them that Israel is not occupying the Gaza Strip. These are the double standards that Israel gets held to. When Israel was in Gaza, it was an occupation. When Israel left Gaza, it was an open-air prison. Israel is maligned constantly and labeled as an apartheid state and really cannot win. We are already seeing the tide shifting from Israel being the victim to Israel being the aggressor. This is a complete double standard.
I think Israel wishes it could actually get to the point where there would be war weariness if the war were to drag on or weeks or months. I think, however, the international community is very likely to pressure Israel not to have a war at all if civilian casualties continue to mount. This is true even if these casualties result from their own refusal to allow civilians to leave the area. You are already hearing talks that the Biden administration may be supporting a ceasefire although they are labelling it support for humanitarian pauses. If nations that supported Israel at the outset threaten to stop her missile defense replenishment, Israel will be probably forced to stop attacking Hamas.
Sarah: What is it in the history of the Palestinians that has made the governments of Egypt and Jordan so reluctant to accept them?
Alex: Sure. I will deal with them one at a time. In Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recognizes the power of his alliance with Israel for regional stability and for his own security. However, the Egyptian Street has not been educated to support the state of Israel and there is little popular support for Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. Over the last several years, El-Sisi has been acting as mediator between Israel and Hamas. I think that if he openly aligned with Israel right now, he would be wildly unpopular with the Egyptians. The political situation in Egypt is precarious and I do not think El-Sisi wants to risk a popular uprising by taking in the Palestinians and appearing to align with Israel. Also, accepting the Palestinians creates a huge security risk for Egypt. If they let everybody from Gaza into Egypt, Hamas will regroup on Egyptian soil and they do not want that.
You have a different situation in Jordan where 65% of the population is Palestinian. The last thing that they need is another million Palestinians there. Even though the majority of Jordan is Palestinian, nobody talks about Jordan as being a Palestinian state. Nobody says that the small Hashemite regime ruling over millions of Palestinians is running an apartheid regime.
Jordan was part of the original British Mandate for Palestine, all of which was supposed to be a Jewish state. The land under the original British Mandate for Palestine was later divided between Trans-Jordan, and Israel. As such, there is a strong case supporting the fact that Jordan not only should be, but is, the Palestinian state. The regime of King Abdullah relies on Israel for their security and survival. However, they continue to incite against Israel in the public sphere because they do not want to anger the Palestinian population there. They also do not want to take any more Palestinians who would tilt population more toward the Palestinians.
Sarah: Michael Koseck asked the $64 billion question and that is, what you see as the end game for Israel? What do we do with Gaza and the West Bank?
Alex: The fear is that the international community will try to leverage what just happened as an opportunity to say that the status quo is unsustainable and that if you ever want to have quiet in the region, the only way to do that is with a Palestinian state. I think that if Israel does not utterly destroy Hamas, there could be significant diplomatic pressure to reenter into the two-state paradigm. This paradigm is exactly the opposite of the conclusion that one should reach based on what has happened. In terms of the Gaza Strip, Israel has said that it wants to completely obliterate Hamas so that when all is said and done, Hamas no longer have the military capacity or the motivation to attack Israel.
There are talks about potentially handing Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, but that should be a non-starter. The Palestinian Authority controlled Gaza before Hamas took over and they have a very tenuous hold on power in Judea and Samaria. Mahmood Abbas is already in his mid to late eighties and nobody knows what is going to happen the day after Mahmud Abbas dies. He cannot rule the Palestinian authority forever and there are fears things could get much more radicalized before they get more peaceful. I think for Israel, it is clear that they are going to need to remain in military control of the Gaza Strip. The governance model may look similar to that of area B in Judea and Samaria with Palestinian municipal control and Israeli security control. Israel does not want to govern the Palestinians of Gaza. Even if they acknowledge that it was a mistake to withdraw from Gaza, they still do not want municipal control over people who do not like them.
Israel does not want to govern other people even though in would be in their biblical homeland and they would not be occupying the land. The Jewish people are indigenous to the land and the only indigenous people in the world called occupiers for living in their indigenous homeland. I do not think Israel wants to control Gaza but we will have to see what the situation is after the war. How many Gazan civilians will be living in Gaza when it is all said and done? What state is Hamas actually in, and who else has entered the war? Everybody is asking Israel for the end game and I think it’s a little bit unfair to be asking Israel to assess what the end game is going to be when it is only one party to the war, and it cannot predict the outcome of the fighting.
Sarah: Well said. I think we’ve reached the end of our time. I want to remind everybody to please support the great work of jns.org . Also to support EMET emetonline.org. We really are working with no overhead and all our funding goes to the salaries of our people on the ground trying to tell the truth out there on Capitol Hill. Please try to come to our dinner on December 5th. We have some amazing honorees. Congressman Richie Torres, who is incredible, Senator Michelle Blackburn, Congressman Mike Lawler, Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State, wonderful Ambassador Yuri Edinger and of course, our own Hussein Ober Mansour. Please register for the dinner. It is going to be a very memorable evening.
I cannot thank Alex enough for his wonderful, brilliant insight and analysis and for the wonderful work of JNS. Thank you so much, Alex Traiman
Alex: Thank you. The one thing I want to add is that morale inside Israel is very, very strong right now. We have really seen the country come together in a powerful way after this horrific tragedy. Not only that, we’ve actually seen the Jewish Community in the United States rush to Israel’s aid as well. I think it is a very, very good opportunity to reevaluate the state of the relationship between Jews, both within Israel and in the diaspora and to use this as an opportunity for continued unity. When the Jewish people stand together as one, they can be very strong and very successful. When the Jewish people are divided, they become vulnerable to all kinds of attacks.
Sarah: Thank you so much, Alex, for ending with a ray of light and all the darkness. Thank you.
Alex: Thanks, Sarah.
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PRESS RELEASE: EMET Profoundly Thanks Representative Mike Lawler (NY), Senator Tim Scott (SC), Representative Josh Gottheimer, (NJ), Representative Max Miller, (OH), and Representative Jared Moskowitz (FL) for Introducing the Antisemitism Awareness Act Which Will Assist in the Protection of Jewish Students on American College Campuses
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