• Words count:
    3224 words
  • Type of content:
    Analysis
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    July 21, 2024

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to address, for the fourth time, a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday. There is a strong possibility this will be the last such address for Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

The address comes amid one of the most challenging periods in the 76-year existence of the modern State of Israel, and for Netanyahu himself.

Netanyahu has been struggling to maintain his nation’s confidence as he guides Israel through a multifront war launched by Hamas in what is without question one of the worst security failings in Israel’s history. The Oct. 7 attack, in which over 1,200 were brutally murdered, many in their homes, with thousands more injured and over 260 taken hostage.

The massacre exposed Israel’s military and intelligence agencies, and the government for ignoring both long-term and immediate warning signs of a large-scale attack. It also exposed an inability to quickly combat the Hamas terrorist army once the border with Gaza was breached, and difficulty mobilizing hundreds of thousands of troops with sufficient up-to-date equipment and battle plans. The Hamas attack was not merely a terror incident, it was a declaration of war.

Following the surprise Hamas success and Israel’s stunning failure, and with roughly 250 kidnapped Israelis, there was no choice but to respond with overwhelming force. The Iron Swords military campaign was launched.

Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, both Iranian terror proxies like Hamas, immediately joined in to attack Israel. Hezbollah has fired over 20,000 rockets, drones and anti-tank guided missiles at Israel. The rockets have killed Israeli servicemen and civilians and have caused significant property damage. Israel has evacuated over 80,000 residents living within five kilometers (three miles) of the Lebanese border.

Houthis have fired ballistic and cruise missiles, and explosive-laden drones from Yemen, including a drone attack that exploded close to the Tel Aviv branch office of the U.S. Embassy. The Iranian-made drone killed one Israeli and left several injured. Houthis have attacked commercial vessels traveling through the Red Sea with U.S. naval vessels patrolling the waters.

While the majority of Israel’s efforts have been focused on Hamas in Gaza, the IDF has been extremely active in attacking Hezbollah by air. And for the first time, this weekend, Israel attacked fuel storage depots and an oil refinery in Yemen, in response to the deadly Tel Aviv drone attack.

Back on April 13, Israel and a coalition of militaries, including the U.S., intercepted over 300 drones, cruise and ballistic missiles fired from Iran at Israel.  Several ballistic missiles were intercepted over Israeli airspace, with as many as four missiles striking near a military airbase in the south. Israel responded with a symbolic strike within Iran, taking out Iranian missile defense systems, stopping short of escalating to a full-fledged war directly with Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.

The diplomatic battlefield

Since the war began, demonstrations against Israel have popped up in cities across the West, along with pro-Palestinian encampments on university campuses across North America. Antisemitic incidents have soared in the U.S. and Europe, while Jew-hatred has saturated social media.

While according to most polls, most Americans continue to support Israel, anti-Israel sentiment is clearly on the rise, particularly among the younger demographics. Bipartisan support for Israel continues to wane as progressive elements of the Democratic Party throw their support behind illiberal Palestinians as a liberal cause.

International bodies including the U.N. Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, continue to project that Israel is the primary source of evil in the Middle East, and possibly the world over.

As all this has been happening, and as Netanyahu leads a military and diplomatic effort to defeat Israel’s attacking enemies and maintain international support, he is maligned the world over, both at home and abroad.

Members of the longstanding Democratic establishment—including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton—have openly called for Netanyahu to be removed by an election. And a continuous stream of “leaks” to the press from within the White House has also berated the prime minister.

Gifted statesman

Netanyahu has often taken advantage of international addresses, at Congress and at the U.N., where he previously served as ambassador, to make Israel’s case to the world. A gifted statesman and orator, Netanyahu has a reputation for brilliantly making his country’s case.

This time, Netanyahu’s trip to Washington comes amid significant chaos, not only in Israel and the greater Middle East; but also in the U.S., where it appears increasingly likely that current President, and Democratic candidate, Joe Biden will drop out of the 2024 presidential race with former president and Republican candidate Donald Trump, who survived an assassination attempt, soaring in polls.

A just war

Netanyahu will use his speech to Congress, and his tentative meetings with Biden, Trump and Vice President Kamala Harris, to reestablish that Israel is fighting a just war, one that it did not start. That the war is not just the latest round of an intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather a larger conflict funded and launched by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its terror proxies.

Netanyahu will both insist and demonstrate that Israel has been conducting the war as carefully as possible, even sometimes to Israel’s detriment. Whether Israel’s critics want to believe it or not, the IDF has been setting a new military standard for reducing civilian casualties in an urban fighting environment.

Netanyahu understands that the entire world will be paying attention to this high-stakes address, even amid other global crises. Multiple audiences will be watching closely both live and on-demand. Netanyahu is likely writing his speech specifically with several different audiences in mind.

The media

Over the years, Netanyahu has been a master of getting the media to work for him to broadcast the highlights of his speeches far and wide. This is ironic because he is known to generally distrust the media, both at home and abroad, which tend to give him more negative press than positive.

But to get the world to pay attention, and particularly those who do not watch the speech live, Netanyahu will craft parts of his speech around the goal of creating a headline and a photo opportunity, using one-liners and visual devices.

Over the years, Netanyahu has brought maps of the Middle East, and a picture of a road-runner/coyote bomb on which he drew a bright red line to signal Iranian progress on its nuclear program. When he presented to the public details of an Iranian nuclear archive, lifted by the Mossad from deep inside Iran, Netanyahu delivered a press conference in front of a replica of an archive.

Of course, creating headlines and photo opportunities is only a means to an end. Media stunts in this case will only travel as far as the messages behind them.

Netanyahu also knows that Israel’s enemies, some within Congress itself, will attempt to steal the spotlight, with protests, walkouts and signage.  Netanyahu believes that his version of the story will beat that of his detractors.

The American people

A major reason that Netanyahu accepted an invitation to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress is to make Israel’s case to the American public. Reading the New York Times and other publications would lead one to believe that Israel is on the receiving end of billions in aid while offering nothing but trouble in return.

Netanyahu will reinforce the contention that Israel is among America’s best and strongest allies. Israel is among the top countries in which the overwhelming majority of its public holds America in high regard, possibly as high or even higher than many of America’s own citizens.

Israelis share these positive viewpoints even as American foreign policy in the region over the last two decades in particular has emboldened bad actors in the region. Israelis wholeheartedly believe they share common values with America. Israelis value the free market and a free press.

If wars were not forced upon it, Israelis would gladly choose peace. And if Israel had two large oceans for borders, and peaceful nations like Canada and Mexico to its north and south, Israel, like America would not be engaged in military adventures.

But more important than sentiments, Israel offers tangible assets back to America as part of a strategic alliance.  Israel provides key intelligence to the U.S. and provides real-time feedback on military systems including aircraft and missile defense. And Israelis develop solutions to key problems including patents, technology, businesses that are often bought up by major American multinationals.

They not only hate Israel; they also hate America

Netanyahu will be sure to express how grateful Israelis are for America’s longstanding bipartisan friendship and support. The last thing Israelis want is for the Jewish State to be used as a political football. Israelis have enough politics back home.

Netanyahu will simultaneously attempt to further anchor the support of Christian conservatives who have remained steadfast in their backing for Israel, as well as moderate liberals who have long been strong allies of the Jewish State. Netanyahu will try to convince isolationist Republicans that Israel is an important strategic asset that keeps American boots off the ground in the Middle East.

And Netanyahu will likely try to isolate extreme progressives who see Israel primarily through the lens of intersectionality and critical race theory, in an attempt to keep moderate liberals from drifting further to the left.

He will try to convince liberals that Israel is the most liberal state in the Middle East and one of the most liberal in the world and that the enemies of Israel that many progressives have thrown their support behind, are illiberal and oppressive fanatics.

They not only hate Israel; they also hate America.

Netanyahu will try and anchor Congressional support for Israel’s defense, in a bid to ensure that weapons systems that have been held up by the Biden administration will quickly make their way to Israel, and that replenishments for missile defense systems and artillery will be ordered and fast-tracked.

President Joe Biden

In the days before the Congressional address, the prime minister is tentatively scheduled to meet an American president, who has bowed out of his re-election race. The meeting may depend on Biden’s recovery from COVID.

Netanyahu has a four-decades-old relationship with Biden, who as recently as last week called himself a Zionist. If this is the last meeting between the two as sitting heads of state, Netanyahu will thank Biden for his years of support, including an important visit to Israel following Oct. 7.

It is clear that Joe Biden has not been personally guiding the intricate details of U.S. foreign policy in the region, leaving that portfolio to a cast of holdovers from the Obama administration, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, among others.

Yet, as the world watches, Biden will likely try to demonstrate that he remains in command. And for as long as Biden is still president, he retains the last word. He may try to show Netanyahu who is the senior partner and who is the junior in the relationship.

If Biden attempts to pressure Netanyahu in a one-on-one Oval Office meeting, Netanyahu will have the benefit of his address to Congress to respond or correct any misunderstandings.

Vice President Kamala Harris

Much maligned Vice President turned Democratic frontrunner Kamala Harris is also scheduled to meet Netanyahu.

Whether or not a meeting with Biden takes place, Harris will be allowed to shine on the world stage in a one-on-one with seasoned statesman and influential world leader Netanyahu. She may use the meeting to establish pro-Israel bona fides, while also showing that she can talk tough to other heads of state.

“President Donald Trump”

Arguably, no other pair of American president and Israeli prime minister did more to strengthen Israel and transform the Middle East than Donald Trump and Netanyahu. Trump, working together with former U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, boldly recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state (to the exclusion of any other state), moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic Golan Heights, which is currently being pummeled by Hezbollah rockets.

Trump pulled out of the JCPOA Iran nuclear deal, withholding much-needed capital from the Islamic Republic, hampering its nuclear ambitions, and funding of terror proxies. Trump similarly defunded the Palestinian Authority, as well as the U.N. agencies that do its bidding.

Working with former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration recognized that Israeli settlements in the so-called "West Bank" are not illegal under international law, and do not present an obstacle to peace in the region.

(Meanwhile, members of the Biden administration refuse to visit these areas, and this week the International Court of Justice, which is simultaneously trying Israel genocide, offered an advisory ruling that settlements are illegal and must be dismantled as soon as possible.)

And perhaps most impressive of all, the Trump administration authored a complete paradigm shift in the trajectory of the Middle East and created the pathway to the end of a greater Arab-Israeli conflict by brokering the Abraham Accords agreements between Israel, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan. The accords likely would have grown to include other nations including Oman and Saudi Arabia had Trump remained in office.

And yet for all of the accomplishments made together by Trump and Netanyahu, the pair had a falling out. Trump has openly accused Netanyahu of refusing to participate in the targeted assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. He became sour when Netanyahu caved into immense international pressure to congratulate Biden on the election results, even as Trump had yet to concede defeat. 

In both episodes, it is easy to understand why Netanyahu made the decisions he did. Certainly, Netanyahu hopes that a second Trump presidency could yield significant positive momentum for Israel, and help bring nearly a year of war in the region to a halt.

Recently, Netanyahu’s advisors have shown selections of immense praise for Trump in Netanyahu’s autobiography. A meeting between Israel’s prime minister and America’s Republican presidential nominee could go a long way to repairing the relationship.

Iran and its proxies

The formula for transforming the Middle East for good is simple to define but difficult to implement: Defeat the terrorists and their sponsors, and normalize relations with moderate actors. Israel is currently engaged in both.

Moderates and extremists alike will be watching Netanyahu’s trip to Washington and his speech to Congress closely.  They will be looking for signals of strength or weakness from Netanyahu, and they will be looking to see how resolutely Biden, Harris and Trump stand with or against Netanyahu.

A surrender by Hamas, the release of hostages and an end to fighting in and beyond Gaza could hinge on the success or failure of Netanyahu’s visit.

Iran and its proxies are gauging their next moves based on Israel’s military might and will to win, and on who they believe might win the 2024 U.S. presidential election. If they perceive strong repercussions for their malign behavior, they may enter into a period of reevaluating their paramilitary adventures. If they perceive strong pressure on Israel free of consequences, they will continue to terrorize the region.

The Saudis

The Biden Administration threw a wrench in the momentum of the Abraham Accords. The normalization agreements flew in the face of longstanding State Department assessments that the Arab-Israeli conflict could not be solved from the outside-in, but only if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were first to end with a two-state solution.

Further, the Biden Administration isolated and maligned the Saudis over the murder of Saudi political opponent and dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Even as Israel pressed the Biden administration to attempt to recover momentum, it became clear that the Saudis would not give Biden and company a major diplomatic accomplishment without paying an extraordinary price.

The Saudis will be waiting to see who wins the upcoming presidential election before deciding how to proceed.

Netanyahu’s 2015 speech 

But it should be noted that Netanyahu’s last speech to a joint session of Congress was a foundational element in the signing of the historic normalization agreements. At the time, Netanyahu greatly angered then-president Barack Obama by coming to directly oppose America’s entry into the Iran nuclear deal.

While that speech soured Netanyahu’s relationship with Democrats loyal to Obama, it sent a shockwave across the Middle East.  Here was an Israeli prime minister standing up to an American president to defend not only Israel’s existential interests, but the interests of the Saudis, the Emiratis and Bahrain.

Within moments of the speech, senior Israeli officials received calls from Middle Eastern leaders. And while it took some time, those calls led to the formation of the historic Abraham Accords.

And while Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize, with little to show for it in the years before or the years that followed, neither Trump, Netanyahu, nor the brave Arab leaders that entered into the agreements won Nobel prizes—simply because they were Trump and Netanyahu. Perhaps the pair will get another opportunity following Bibi’s 2024 speech to Congress.

Israel’s public

Perhaps Netanyahu has been maligned more at home than anywhere else. The opposition, which also includes most of Israel’s media, the Supreme Court and the upper echelons of the military and intelligence services all want Netanyahu out of office.

Anti-Netanyahu protests which gained steam during five consecutive election cycles over the past six years, and reached a crescendo during Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms have again taken to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, even as the reforms have been shelved. Now protestors have tried to link up with some of the families of hostages, who blame Netanyahu for their present fate, and desperately want him to cave into Hamas demands to set their loved ones free.

Many Israelis, including longtime supporters, now wonder whether it is finally time for Netanyahu to retire. Yet, while Netanyahu’s popularity dropped to historic lows following the Oct. 7 failures, he and his Likud Party have been steadily climbing in recent polls, as chief opponent Benny Gantz’s popularity has slid.

Gantz resigned weeks ago from a unity government he joined to help prosecute the war, and most Israelis no longer see him as a viable alternative. And as many Israelis are hoping for anyone but Netanyahu, a clear candidate the opposition can rally around has yet to emerge.

The embattled prime minister certainly aims to show that he is still the most capable Israeli leader. He hopes to gain the opportunity to see the successful conclusion to the current war, and potentially the signing of further normalization agreements to cement his legacy as one of Israel’s greatest prime ministers.

While Netanyahu has steered relatively clear of public press appearances over the past several months as the war has progressed, the speech to Congress is another opportunity to try to convince Israelis, who will be closely monitoring the developments of his trip, that Bibi, for better or worse, remains Israel’s indispensable man.

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U.S. President Joe Biden will not seek re-election this November and is stepping aside for another Democratic candidate for the White House, the 81-year-old president announced on Sunday.

"It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your president, and while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my
term," Biden stated.

The president promised to address the American people "later this week" and explain his decision further.

The president, who has faced increasing calls to quit the race from his own side of the aisle since a widely-criticized performance at a debate with former president Donald Trump, noted that hist decision as nominee in 2020 was to pick Kamala Harris as his vice president.

"It’s been the best decision I’ve made," he stated. "Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year. Democrats—it’s time to come together and beat Trump. Let’s do this."

"America has never been better positioned to lead than we are today," Biden added.

Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social that "Crooked Joe Biden was not fit to run for president, and is certainly not fit to serve—and never was."

"He only attained the position of president by lies, fake news and not leaving his basement," Trump wrote. "All those around him, including his doctor and the media, knew that he wasn’t capable of being president, and he wasn’t—and now, look what he’s done to our country, with millions of people coming across our border, totally unchecked and unvetted, many from prisons, mental institutions and record numbers of terrorists."

Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California who has been discussed as a potential Democratic candidate to challenge Trump, wrote that Biden "has been an extraordinary, history-making president—a leader who has fought hard for working people and delivered astonishing results for all Americans."

"He will go down in history as one of the most impactful and selfless presidents," Newsom wrote.

Earlier in the day, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Trump's running mate for vice president, wrote that "If Joe Biden ends his reelection campaign, how can he justify remaining president?"

"Not running for reelection would be a clear admission that President Trump was right all along about Biden not being mentally fit enough to serve as commander-in-chief," Vance wrote. "There is no middle ground."

Lyndon B. Johnson was the last U.S. president to announce—on March 31, 1968—that he wasn't seeking re-election, 295 days before his term ended. Harry S. Truman did the same on March 29, 1952, which was 297 days prior to his term ending.

Biden's announcement comes 183 days before his term ends.

Naomi Biden wrote that her grandfather "has served our country with every bit of his soul and with unmatched distinction."

"Not only has he been—and will continue to be—the most effective president of our lifetime, but he has likely already cemented himself as the most effective and impactful public servant in our nation’s history," she wrote. "He has been at the center of, and had a material impact on, literally every single major issue that our country and world has faced for 50 years. Our world is better today in so many ways thanks to him."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, wrote that the president is "an American hero, a true statesman and he'll go down in history as one of the greatest champions of working families our nation has ever known."

Ben Shapiro, co-founder of the Daily Wire, wrote that the idea that Biden is a "selfless hero" ignores "the simple fact that if Joe Biden were up in the polls, there would have been zero pressure for him to get out, and he never would have dropped, no matter how senile he is."

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  • Words count:
    1026 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    July 21, 2024

In the wake of the Hamas hostage crisis, a central and often-heard rallying cry has emerged from the Israeli and Diaspora Jewish communities: "Bring them home."

While this phrase is rooted in the profound desire to see our Jewish brothers and sisters safely returned, it inadvertently misplaces the onus of responsibility.

Instead, the call should be: "Let them go." This nuanced difference is critical, as it rightly places the burden on Hamas, the terrorist organization that took the hostages, rather than on the Israeli government and the IDF.

The misplaced onus in 'bring them home'

"Bring them home" implies that the primary responsibility for the safe return of the hostages lies with the IDF and the Israeli government. It suggests a proactive action on the part of these entities to physically bring the hostages back, which often translates to military operations or negotiations.

This framing can inadvertently place undue pressure and expectations on the Israeli authorities, potentially leading to decisions that could risk further loss of life or strategic disadvantage.

While the IDF and the government continue to do everything humanly possible to extract these innocent people, their efforts are either underappreciated or worse, criticized by far too many.

Moreover, this phrasing overlooks the root cause of the situation: the terrorist actions of Hamas. By focusing on "bringing" the hostages home, the narrative subtly shifts the burden of resolution onto the victims' side, rather than squarely on the perpetrators.

This can create a misleading perception that the resolution of the issue is primarily a matter of Israeli capability and willingness, rather than an act of justice and humanity that should be demanded from Hamas.

The correct focus: 'Let them go'

In contrast, "Let them go" directly addresses the actions of Hamas. It places the responsibility and moral obligation where it belongs: On the terrorists who have taken innocent people hostage. This phrase calls out the injustice and criminality of Hamas's actions, making it clear that the primary demand is for the perpetrators to release their captives.

This shift in language helps to highlight the criminal nature of Hamas's tactics and strengthens the moral and legal argument against them. It reinforces that the hostages should never have been taken in the first place and that their immediate release is the only acceptable resolution.

Moral clarity and international perception

Using "Let them go" instead of "Bring them home" provides greater moral clarity. It unequivocally condemns the act of hostage-taking and emphasizes the fundamental human rights violation committed by Hamas.

This clarity is essential in garnering international support and pressure on the terrorist organization. When the demand is for Hamas to "let them go," it is an appeal to universal principles of human rights and dignity, which are more likely to resonate with the global community.

This clarity is particularly important in a world where narratives can easily be distorted, and usually are when it comes to Jews and Israel. By focusing the demand on the actions of Hamas, we ensure that the international community remains aware of the true nature of the crisis. This awareness can lead to more unified and decisive actions against the perpetrators.

Shifting the narrative

The narrative shift from "Bring them home" to "Let them go" also impacts the psychological and strategic dimensions of the conflict. It reframes the situation in a way that delegitimizes Hamas's actions and undermines their propaganda efforts.

Hamas often seeks to portray itself as a defender against Israeli aggression, but when the focus is on their responsibility to release hostages, it becomes harder for them to maintain this ludicrous facade.

This reframing can also influence public opinion within Arab communities. Emphasizing the unlawful and immoral actions of Hamas can help to erode support for the organization among those who may otherwise view them as legitimate resistance fighters.

Such internal pressure is crucial in weakening Hamas's hold over the region and reducing its capacity to carry out such heinous acts in the future.

Practical implications

From a practical standpoint, the call to "Let them go" aligns with international legal standards and humanitarian principles. Hostage-taking is a clear violation of international law, and the demand for their release is a straightforward assertion of this fact. It reinforces the position that the international community should take against such actions, making it harder for any state or organization to justify or support Hamas's behavior.

Furthermore, this approach can enhance diplomatic efforts. When the international community rallies around the call to "Let them go," it strengthens diplomatic pressure on Hamas and their supporters. This unified stance can lead to more effective sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and potentially, the mobilization of international resources to assist in the hostages' release.

Supporting Israel's efforts

While it is important to highlight the need for Hamas to release the hostages, this does not diminish the role of Israel in ensuring the safety and security of its citizens. The IDF and the Israeli government have the challenging task of navigating this crisis with strategic precision.

However, by shifting the primary demand to "Let them go," we support Israel's efforts without placing unrealistic expectations on their shoulders. It acknowledges that while Israel will do everything in its power to protect its people, the fundamental responsibility for this crisis lies with Hamas.

Conclusion

The distinction between "Bring them home" and "Let them go" is not merely semantic; it is a crucial reframing that places responsibility where it belongs and enhances the moral clarity of the call for action.

By demanding "Let them go," Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities can more effectively rally international support, apply appropriate pressure on Hamas and ensure that the focus remains on the perpetrators of this grave injustice.

This approach not only aligns with legal and humanitarian principles but also strengthens the strategic position of those advocating for the hostages' freedom.

The call of "Let them go" reminds us and the world that the ultimate accountability lies with Hamas. It is a call for justice, human rights and the immediate and unconditional release of those who have been wrongfully taken.

In this critical time, let us unite our voices to demand what is right and just: "Let them go."

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  • Words count:
    513 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    July 21, 2024

Following Israel's recent strike on Houthi targets, White House National Security Communications Advisor John F. Kirby said: "We did not participate in today's Israeli attack on Yemen and did not help Israel."

This is wonderful news. It shows to the Iranians, Arab states and others that Israel is an independent actor, not a "client state" of America. It also demonstrates that Israel is willing to go it alone against the advice or demands of the Americans. 

It shows the Sunni Arab countries that Israel is a reliable partner against the Iranian regime because Israel will do what it must to protect itself and stop Iran and its proxies. As Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer often says, even if the Sunnis can't have the 800-pound gorilla (the U.S.) to defend them against Iranian aggression, the 250-pound gorilla (Israel) has proved a reliable alternative.

What more can we learn from Israel's attack on the (Shi'ite) Houthis? 

First, the distance between Iran and Israel's target in Hodeida, Yemen (about 2,000 kilometers) is beyond the flight range of the F-35 fighter jet. That means the Israelis had to refuel during the trip. Since America didn't help them, the Israelis either figured out a way to do so by themselves or another country (Saudi Arabia, perhaps?) may have allowed them to refuel in or over their country or elsewhere. This is devastating news for the Iranians.  

The flight distance between Israel and Hodeida is the same as between Israel and most of Iran. Tehran, for example, is only 1,200 kilometers from Israel. Thus, the strike is a serious warning to Iran. Iran’s government talks a big game, but given Iranian and Arab culture, when people brag about their abilities, they usually do so out of fear. They hope their enemy will be deterred. Thus, such braggadocio amounts to saying, “Hold me back because I’m afraid my enemy will destroy me.”

Israel's raid and the damage it caused to the Shi'ite Houthis has allowed the Sunni Yemenis, who are the majority of the country's population and formerly ran the country, to raise their heads in revolt. There are suddenly many more videos on X showing Sunnis revolting against the Houthis and Iran.

Will the Sunnis succeed in overthrowing Houthi-Iranian control of Yemen? If not now, then quite possibly in the future. In the Middle East, when people sense their enemy is weak (which Israel demonstrated in its attack) violence soon follows. If I were a Yemeni Shi'ite or a member of the Iranian government, I'd be, to put it mildly, concerned. Moreover, the Iranian people are surely encouraged by the fact that their government could not stop the Israeli strike.

Sadly, however, what Kirby stated signals weakness to Middle Easterners. They despise weakness. Israel's successful attack on Iran and the Houthis in Yemen demonstrates strength.

This is a huge win for Israel, but very much not for the Biden administration. Middle Easterners will undoubtedly draw the appropriate conclusions. Israel has gained new respect for its willingness to decimate its enemies.

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  • Words count:
    619 words
  • Type of content:
    Update Desk
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  • Publication Date:
    July 21, 2024

The Israeli Air Force on Sunday afternoon published video footage of Saturday's "Operation Long Arm," in which IAF fighter jets attacked a series of terrorist targets in Yemen's Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah.

The military released cockpit footage showing the apparent destruction of cranes and an oil terminal used by the Iranian-backed terrorist group.

"We see the cranes," one of the pilots who participated in the attack can be heard saying, before another confirms, "Everything is dismantled."

The Israel Defense Forces also published a video showing the fighter jets refueling during the 2,250-mile round trip to western Yemen, as well as footage of the planes landing after the mission.

In a separate audio clip released by the Israeli military, IAF head Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar can be heard telling the pilots on their way back to base, "To all who took part in the mission, well done on the attack. We are very proud of you. Have a safe journey home."

https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/1815024380772057301

The IAF confirmed that it struck "dual-use infrastructure used for terrorist activities, including energy infrastructures," as part of Saturday's attack, which came after a Houthi suicide drone killed one Israeli civilian and wounded several others in Tel Aviv the previous day.

The strikes appeared to be the first on Yemeni soil since the terrorist group joined the war against Israel in support of Hamas last year.

"From the beginning of the war, I made it clear that Israel would harm anyone who harms us," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks on Saturday night. "Accordingly, earlier today, I convened the Security Cabinet and asked it to support my proposal to attack the Houthi targets in Yemen."

Netanyahu said the strikes were a "direct response to the drone attack that killed an Israeli citizen and wounded several others. It also followed the Houthi's aggression against the State of Israel since the start of the war. Over the past eight months, the Houthis have launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones towards Israel."

An initial IDF probe has concluded that "human error" by air traffic control operators led the military on Friday morning to not classify the Houthi drone as an aerial threat and intercept it.

According to the IAF investigation, the explosive UAV flew from western Yemen over the Red Sea area, reaching Eritrea, before flying north over Sudan and Egypt and reaching the Mediterranean Sea. The drone then approached Israeli airspace from the west.

According to the probe, the drone was in the air for roughly 16 hours, flying at a speed of between 80 and 100 knots, or 92-115 miles per hour.

Reports added that the Air Force was preoccupied at the time with tracking a suicide drone launched by Iran-backed militias from Iraq and that the IAF's focus had mainly been on targets approaching Israel from the north, east and south, and less so from the west.

On Sunday morning, the IDF's Arrow 3 anti-missile defense system intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis from Yemen. The surface-to-surface missile was downed outside of Israeli airspace, but air-raid sirens were activated in Eilat due to the risk of falling shrapnel.

Since Hamas's Oct. 7 massacre, the Houthis have fired several missiles and drones at the Jewish state, the great majority of which were intercepted by Israeli, U.S. or Saudi forces or missed their targets.

The Houthis since mid-November have also carried out many drone and missile attacks on ships in the Red Sea, in addition to numerous acts of piracy against commercial and military vessels.

The Iran-backed terrorist organization's official slogan is "Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam."

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  • Words count:
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    Update Desk
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    July 21, 2024
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Fifty-five Israeli lawmakers, including government ministers, on Sunday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to use his address to the U.S. Congress this week to denounce the Biden administration's sanctions against Israeli citizens and entities in Judea and Samaria.

The letter, an initiative of the Knesset's Land of Israel Caucus, also urged the premier to invite the heads of local authorities in Judea and Samaria to join the delegation scheduled to leave for Washington on Monday.

"We, the undersigned members of Knesset, are deeply shocked by the decision of the U.S. administration to impose economic sanctions on Israeli citizens and entities," the missive reads.

The signatories include Interior Minister Moshe Arbel (Shas Party), Religious Services Minister Michael Malchiel (Shas), Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer (Religious Zionism), Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf (Otzma Yehudit), Economy Minister Nir Barkat (Likud), Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chair Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and MK Gideon Sa'ar (New Hope-National Right).

https://twitter.com/Segev_Yuval/status/1814914035621539899

According to the lawmakers, the U.S. government's recent blacklisting of Israelis amounts to "a blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty, as well as the long-standing friendship between the two countries and the democratic values that America has always been the flag bearer of."

The MKs said that "not a single" sanction was imposed on Gaza's Hamas terrorist group and the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, which they noted are "immersed up to their necks into terrorism.

They added, "It is inconceivable that movements, organizations and individuals that work to promote our rights to the land, whom we are all grateful for due to their many years of blessed activity on behalf of our land, will be denounced and harmed by our great friend, the U.S.

"Ahead of your address to Congress, we urge you to express our position in your speech and make it clear that Israel will not be able to let such severe decisions go unanswered," the letter to Netanyahu concludes.

Israeli media reported on Sunday night that Netanyahu canceled a meeting with Israel Ganz, who heads the Yesha Council that represents some 500,000 Israelis in Judea and Samaria, and other local leaders.

According to the Ynet news outlet, the group had planned to ask the prime minister to address the issue of sanctions. Reports said that the Yesha Council was outraged by the move and that it would meet to discuss further steps.

In response, the Prime Minister's Office claimed that no tête-à-tête had been scheduled with Judea and Samaria leaders. However, Israel Hayom reported that the group had already received visitor passes and was waiting outside Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem ahead of the meeting.

Netanyahu is set to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday at the invitation of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The invite "symbolizes the U.S. and Israel's enduring relationship and will offer Prime Minister Netanyahu the opportunity to share the Israeli government's vision for defending their democracy, combating terror, and establishing just and lasting peace in the region," the U.S. lawmakers said.

In February, President Joe Biden issued an executive order allowing for sanctions on "persons undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank," citing "high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages and property destruction."

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department sanctioned five Israeli entities and three people for what it said is support of acts of "violent extremism" in Judea and Samaria, in the latest in a series of such decisions.

Last week, the U.S. announced that it is sanctioning an Israeli and his family six years after the man served a prison term in the Jewish state.

Data shows that the number of violent incidents committed by Israelis against Palestinians has dropped significantly, while Judea and Samaria saw a dramatic rise in Palestinian terrorist attacks in recent months.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich criticized the Biden administration after Axios reported that Washington is considering placing sanctions on him, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and others over their policies vis-à-vis Arabs in Judea and Samaria.

Imposing sanctions on a Cabinet minister would deal "a fatal injury to Israeli sovereignty and relations between the countries and this will have serious consequences in many areas," Smotrich said.

Last week, the Land of Israel Caucus helped initiate a Knesset motion formally rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state. The resolution, which was put forward by MK Ze'ev Elkin of the New Hope-National Right Party with support from MK Yisrael Beiteinu Party, passed by 68 to 9. 

The caucus, the mission of which is to bolster Israeli control of Judea and Samaria, includes members from Netanyahu's coalition of right-wing parties, as well as Benny Gantz's centrist National Unity Party.

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  • Words count:
    1101 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
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  • Publication Date:
    July 21, 2024

During President Joe Biden's recent Q&A with reporters, he said Hamas's popularity in Judea and Samaria is decreasing. Unfortunately, Hamas's popularity is growing in Judea and Samaria and is still strong in Gaza, where Palestinians overwhelmingly support the Oct. 7 massacre, according to Palestinian polls.

Haaretz stated: “A new poll of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank shows that eight months of bloodshed and destruction have done little to undercut support for Hamas and its October 7 attacks.”

Factual errors need to be corrected before they receive four Pinocchios from the Washington Post fact checker. Perhaps I am naive, but presidential leadership requires dealing with facts in context and retraction of apparent mistakes in a timely fashion to keep the public's trust.

My travels in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Oman, etc. continue to reveal the negative consequences of one of America’s most consequential actions: The withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, the repercussions of which are still reverberating from Tehran to Taipei to Riyadh to Kabul to Moscow and beyond. American national security decisions today do not happen in a vacuum; their success or failure is directly related to our past actions, for good or ill.

According to Long War Journal, Al-Qaeda is on the rise again, operating terrorist camps in 12 provinces in Afghanistan, plotting mayhem and terror for a possible attack on the United States at home or abroad. That remains a long-stated goal of the perpetrators of 9/11, forgotten by recent administrators who think 9/11 is ancient history. The resurgence of Al-Qaeda is a direct and tangible result of our choice to withdraw from one of our "forever wars," which may be good in the short term, kicking the can down the road, but will likely bring much worse challenges for our security interests in the Middle East in the future. 

The withdrawal undermined American national security interests because our allies in the region perceived America as an unreliable partner, explaining why Saudi Arabia began a rapprochement with its nemesis Iran. Add to that President Donald Trump's decision not to respond to the Iranian attack on Saudi oil fields in 2019.

It is not only the Middle East that viewed the Afghan withdrawal as America lacking the stomach to be the leader of the free world. Allies as far away as Taiwan were worried about where the U.S. would be if China came knocking on Taiwanese shores.

Against this backdrop, forgotten by Americans but very much alive to the people and governments of the Middle East, especially the "axis of resistance" composed of Iran, Russia, North Korea and China, what should Biden's or Trump’s Middle East foreign policy be in a second term?

Ignoring the region is not an option, as the Middle East never stops calling Washington and challenging our security interests.

If an American president wants to make a significant change for the better and stabilize the region, there needs to be a focus on Iran as the head of the snake. Otherwise, American national security interests will continue to be undermined and out of our control, and the sought-after stability for the region will go down the drain.

That means understanding Iran as the primary obstacle to our and our allies’ interests. Expecting reciprocity for appeasement is a fool's game. The lack of sanctions enforcement during the Biden administration—allowing tens of billions of dollars to flow into the coffers of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps—only accelerates Iran's nuclear program and support of its proxies, one of which has shut down much international shipping in the Red Sea.

A  high-ranking source close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told me that Israel is concerned Iran is weaponizing a nuclear bomb at this time. Iran can already enrich weapons-grade uranium and has ballistic missiles capable of striking anywhere in the region, including Europe. 

Weaponization, which Iran has supposedly not achieved, involves developing computer modeling and compartmentalizing uranium gas into uranium metal spheres placed in a nuclear warhead. Iran will probably also have to test such a weapon. Weaponization can take place with a minimal footprint, so it would be easy to hide in a nation as immense as Iran.

CEO of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Mark Dubowitz has stated: “I have been led to believe that Iran’s weaponization activities have begun. … Iran is now taking preliminary steps that will help build a warhead. That is headline news.”

Would a President Trump and Vice-President J.D. Vance, who have isolationist tendencies, or Biden or Harris, whose administration again gave Iran $10 billion in sanctions waivers this month, act or be believed as a credible military threat to stop Iranian nuclear weaponization?

Suppose a Biden or Trump wants to improve the region in his second term. In that case, he should begin with a significant foreign policy statement saying America is pro-Iranian, meaning pro-Iranian people who want to throw off the shackles of their authoritarian state, which tortures, intimidates, maims and kills anyone who challenges the revolutionary regime. 

This does not mean American boots on the ground. It means sending a clear message that we are still a values-based nation that stands with people who legitimately seek freedom from tyranny.

A second-term president needs to enforce the sanctions already on the legislative books against Iran's oil sales to China with secondary sanctions that are not meaningless. The American people are unaware of the fact that we are not enforcing sanctions, thereby enabling Iran to remain a financial force impeding the stability that we seek.

Pro-Hamas protesters in the U.S. should not cow Biden and Trump should not be intimidated by isolationists in his party, as both sow discord and will bring terror to our shores sooner or later. Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, has said Iran is materially involved in the pro-Hamas movement on American campuses and social media. 

If Iran crosses the Rubicon to a nuclear weapon, a nuclear arms race will begin throughout the Middle East, with the chance that a nuclear bomb falls into the hands of radical Sunni or Shiite terrorists significantly increased. How is that good for the region or the world?

To stabilize the Middle East, protect the American homeland, advance our interests and cement the second-term legacy of either Trump or Biden is to focus on the source of all these problems: Iran.

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After weeks of protests against the Israeli Supreme Court's decision to draft haredi men into the IDF, leading haredi rabbis are threatening to unite and order their students to refuse to cooperate with the IDF when drafting begins Sunday.

This issue and the intense opposition could take down Israel’s already fragile coalition government. Whatever happens next, it is clear that this issue will likely continue to exacerbate deep divides in Israeli society. This is especially the case because Israel is fighting a war on multiple fronts and those who do or have served in the IDF justifiably feel they are unfairly shouldering the entire burden of military service.

Amid all of this strife, I recently met with some ultra-Orthodox rabbis asking about the establishment of a hesder program—which combines military service and religious study—for their sector. At this point, this is just an idea and no plans have been made one way or the other to implement such a system, which currently applies to modern-Orthodox Israelis, including at several yeshivot at Ohr Torah Stone.

But this meeting itself continues to give me hope each day because it demonstrates the idea of flexibility and compromise that must come from all parties involved, including the IDF, haredi leaders and Israeli society.

Over the years—through cooperation with the involved stakeholders—Israel has developed one of the most diverse militaries in the world, in line with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s vision of a “people’s army.”

The IDF is one of the few armies in the world that has successful conscription for women, with women making up 51% of all serving officers and 92% of all units having jobs open to women. Members of the country's Bedouin and Druze populations also serve, along with Israelis with special needs and disabilities, new immigrants who are still learning Hebrew and religiously observant women. 

Many of these populations are in the military through tailored programs and special units that have been developed over the years. There is no reason this cannot be replicated to incorporate ultra-Orthodox soldiers. In fact, even as a majority of the ultra-Orthodox remain opposed to a mandatory draft, 59% said in a recent poll that special tracks in the army that allow them to continue with their unique religious lifestyle would boost enlistment numbers.

The army is not the only part of Israeli society working to incorporate haredim. Educational institutions and workplaces, especially those in the high-tech sector, have created tailored programs and office spaces where ultra-Orthodox feel comfortable, resulting in rising employment rates for ultra-Orthodox men and more and better opportunities for women, who have traditionally worked in much higher numbers than men in this sector.

In addition to the IDF creating more special units for haredi soldiers—as the IDF recently announced it would release information about—additional steps must be taken within both ultra-Orthodox society and the army to make these units and haredi service successful.

One essential element is preparatory programs; especially for populations from sectors that have not traditionally served in high numbers. This is a phenomenon we have seen when it comes to religiously-observant young women, who until recently have often opted for non-military national service.

But with a preparatory program, which includes Torah learning, and allows women to enter the army in dedicated cohorts so they will not struggle socially or feel isolated by their background, more young religious women—such as 40% of recent female religious high school graduates—are opting to serve in the army due to these programs and continued sensitivity by all parties to the halachic needs of these soldiers. Similar programs are needed to successfully draft ultra-Orthodox men.

But preparatory programs alone are not enough. There should be continued spiritual guidance during military service with a dedicated representative who participants meet in the preparatory program and is available for consulting and counseling.

At the same time, the IDF needs to respect this need for ongoing spiritual guidance, keeping in touch with such liaisons and remaining aware of challenges that soldiers from different backgrounds are facing. The army must keep this in mind when building units and assessing how and where haredim will serve. Such efforts have been essential to guiding the women who graduate from our religious learning programs through their army service and at companies that have created employment opportunities for the ultra-Orthodox.

As the process begins, it is especially important to allow ultra-Orthodox soldiers to serve where they are comfortable. Over time, as the numbers of ultra-Orthodox grow, areas of service will likely also expand.

For ultra-Orthodox army service to increase and become standard, there must be post-army guidance and programs to help veterans find their place in the community and Israeli society. Serving in the military affects someone for life, not just during the years of direct service.

Due to the high levels of opposition to service, ultra-Orthodox veterans would likely face obstacles when returning to civilian life, including a lack of social acceptance in haredi society, their families and religious institutions. There could also be ramifications for their family members, including being barred from certain learning institutions or having difficulty finding spouses.

Both the military and cooperative ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionist community leaders need to make sure there is a framework for dealing with such challenges and that ultra-Orthodox veterans have communities and institutions of learning that fit their lifestyle.

There is no doubt that drafting more ultra-Orthodox will be a long and complex process for everyone involved. But those who can must serve in the military, helping to ensure the future of the state and make it secure enough to continue to be the center of Jewish life and Torah learning. Israel must also have adequate standards of living and options for social mobility.

Historical and halachic reasoning all point to the need and opportunity for ultra-Orthodox men to serve. In the 1940s, ultra-Orthodox yeshiva boys helped fight for the establishment and protection of the state. 

The argument that serving will harm Torah learning is also relevant because more than 30% of ultra-Orthodox men of service age are not even enrolled in yeshivas and the current system does not even ensure that those exempted are actually learning Torah instead.

Moreover, especially at a time of need when we are all in danger—as we are experiencing now—the majority of halachic sources, from the Mishnah in Sotah to Maimonides, as well as the commentaries on Maimonides's Mishnah Torah, command that everyone must join in to defend the country and the Jewish people.

Furthermore, the current situation is considered pikuach nefesh, when there is a responsibility to save lives—something we are obligated to do as needed.  If God forbid, our house was on fire, we would close the Gemara and work to extinguish the fire. Well, the north and parts of the south are on fire. 

At the same time, the IDF and Israeli society as a whole must understand that they too need to make efforts to pave the way for the ultra-Orthodox to successfully serve in the army, changing a social paradigm that will allow for the sharing of the burden in the long term. Haredim and their religious lifestyle must be able to find a home at all levels of the IDF.

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  • Words count:
    410 words
  • Type of content:
    Update Desk
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    July 21, 2024
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    1 file

Israeli President Isaac Herzog will depart on Wednesday to attend the opening ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris on July 26.

The president will greet the Israeli delegation at the start of the competition along with Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar. He will also visit the Olympic Village and affix a mezuzah at the Israeli delegation’s building.

On Wednesday evening, Herzog will participate in a memorial commemoration together with the Israeli delegation, members of the Olympic Committee and bereaved families marking 52 years since Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli sportsmen at the Munich Games.

The president will then watch Israel's soccer team play against Mali at the Parc des Princes Stadium.

On Thursday, Herzog will visit Rome where he will meet with President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.

He will then return to Paris to attend a reception hosted by President Emmanuel Macron for heads of state arriving for the opening of the Olympics. Herzog will meet with the French leader on Friday.

Also on Friday, Herzog will meet with members of the Jewish community in France.

“We are in the midst of a difficult and painful war, which is also reflected on the international stage. At this time, it is especially important for the State of Israel to take our place resolutely and appear on every global stage, and particularly on such an important stage as the Olympics," said Herzog on Sunday.

“Our determination to hold our heads high despite the pain we endure, and in defiance of terror and hatred, to stand firm in our right—as any sovereign nation—to participate in the Games and do so with a high profile, with honor and great pride, as an expression of the resilient and inspiring Israeli spirit," he continued.

“At every moment, our thoughts are with the hostages and their families. This is our highest mission and duty as a state—to never forget for a moment and to constantly work for their release, both in Israel and abroad.

“I am embarking on this diplomatic visit with this mission in mind, and I know that our athletes feel the same way. We have a wonderful delegation with tremendous potential, with an entire nation behind them, embracing, supporting and encouraging each and every one of them. We all hope to see the Israeli flag raised as many times as possible and know that, for us, they are already winners,” said the president.

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