Monday, July 14, 2014
“Faith and Struggle”
I’ve written about the Iron Dome, which helps protect our citizens from rocket attacks, and about the shelters that are provided, as well as about the government guidelines that are released to keep people safe.
But there is a another significant factor – from my perspective and the perspective of many Jews both here in Israel and elsewhere – that I have not yet mentioned: The Almighty is watching over us and doing miracles for us. We see it all around us.
Rabbi Lazer Brody, on his blog, gave an example of this. On Thursday, a grad rocket was launched at Ashdod. It approached the vicinity of a whole complex of hi-rise apartments and then landed in the parking lot.
Credit: Lazer Beams
Not a single person was hurt. And we see this again and again.
I am not saying that no one in Israel has been hurt in the rocket attacks – we know that isn’t so. And we cannot be sure what lies ahead in terms of casualties.
But the fact that injuries have been as minimal as they have been, and that to date there have been no deaths, strongly suggests that we are protected. Hamas was out to do maximum damage to the people of Israel, and they’re failing.
This Heavenly protection is evident more broadly in the fact that we are here at all, a thriving people in the midst of violent chaos and in the face of what would seem to be insurmountable odds.
Our task as Jews, then, is to pray, to stay united, to exhibit loving-kindness to one another, to make time for religious study and to give tzedakah (charity). It all matters enormously.
Where are we now, with regard to the war in Gaza? Wish I could tell you.
Although the message we are still receiving is that the army is totally ready for a ground invasion, and just waiting for the orders to begin, we have not begun a ground war.
Air Force chief Major General Amir Eshel is saying there is no need for a ground operation as his forces can do the job. Although I am told this is a familiar Air Force refrain, there might be re-assessments as he presents his case.
There was one quick ground sortie inside Gaza: Very early this morning, a group of IDF naval commandos entered Gaza to destroy a weapons cache and a launching site near Gaza City in the north of Gaza. On the way they encountered Hamas fighters. Four of our soldiers were lightly wounded; three Hamas fighters were killed. The commandos completed their mission and returned home.
In the short term we might, perhaps, be seeing more of these “quick in-quick out” operations that accomplish things that it is difficult to do from the air.
Over Shabbat, into last night and during the day today, there has been heavy fire in both directions, with large numbers of rockets launched and Israel doing considerable bombing in Gaza.
With all the carrying on about the civilians we’ve killed, I observe this: About 150 Arabs in Gaza are said to have been killed so far (these of course are not all civilians). The number will, clearly, shift upwards over time but this is the number I have at the moment. While over 1,200 targets have been hit by the Air Force That is (in approximate terms) one Arab in Gaza killed for every eight targets hit. This is an incredibly densely populated area, and it is, as I see it, a remarkably low casualty rate.
Among those hit in the last couple of days, by the way, have been a nephew of Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh and the chief of police, as well as a host of “activists.”
Israel took down a mosque, indicating that weapons were stored inside. There has been information that the leaders of both the military and political wings of Hamas are in hiding in schools and hospitals.
All of this has such a “déjà vu” feeling about it: I’ve written about these very same behaviors in earlier wars with Hamas. These are amoral bums who care not a bit about school children, the ill, or the sanctity of religious sites. Or anything other than their own skins, first, and then their military and political goals.
As of last night, it was announced by Israeli officials that there was going to be a change in tactics. As most of the long range rockets are fired from the north of Gaza, those who live in the north were going to be advised to leave, so that there could be very heavy bombing in the region. Israeli lawyers have said this is legal according to international law. (Sad, that we should be so nervous about this, but there it is.)
Phone calls and leaflets dropped from planes were being used; residents were being advised that terrorists were operating amongst them.
As I write, some 4,000 Arabs have moved south – with UNRWA having opened facilities for them - and many more on the way.
Credit: AP/Thomas Coex
Hamas is telling those fleeing to go back, and those who have not yet fled to stay put. Israeli’s warnings, Hamas officials are saying, is no more than “psychological warfare...
“Until now, there is no reason to evacuate homes in these regions... Obeying Israeli instructions assists the enemy.” Unspoken: While staying helps Hamas by upping the number of casualties.
The big question remains whether Israel will stay the course – in the face of huge international pressure – until Hamas is genuinely weakened or destroyed.
It’s difficult not to feel unease about this especially as the UN Security Council finally called for ceasefire yesterday. Netanyahu began making noises about receptivity to the “possibility” of a ceasefire, while Hamas remained adamant that it would not stop firing.
However, when I began to look at the terms Netanyahu was laying out for a ceasefire, such as a diplomatic process for dismantling Hamas’s rocket arsenal (as Syria’s chemical weapon stores were dismantled), or turning Gaza over to the PA, I understood that they were not terms Hamas was about to agree to, no matter what. Then it began to seem more a matter of Netanyahu showing his “willingness” to the international community, as is his wont, and not a weakening by the prime minister. He has said he would “consider” various proposals, and I’ve read that he has already rejected two out of hand. So it does not seem a matter of his settling at this point.
Aaron Lerner, who is somewhat the skeptic, if not an outright cynic, on this question, seems to be optimistic. He pointed out what he saw a very significant shift in Netanyahu’s position as spelled out at today’s Cabinet meeting. He has gone, says Lerner, from saying that the goal of the operation was "the restoration of quiet for a long period." to saying the goal of the operation was “the restoration of quiet for a long period while inflicting a significant blow on Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip." (Emphasis added) This would preclude any “quiet for quiet” deal.
See Netanyahu’s full statement here:
He says this war might last a long time, and Ya’alon’s statements reflect a similar position.
I mention here a couple of news items that lead me to believe that the situation truly is different this time around.
Khaled abu Toameh reports that:
“Over the past week there are voices coming out of Egypt and some Arab countries - voices that publicly support the Israeli military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“They see the atrocities and massacres committed by Islamists on a daily basis in Iraq and Syria and are beginning to ask themselves if these serve the interests of the Arabs and Muslims.
"’Thank you Netanyahu and may God give us more [people] like you to destroy Hamas!’ — Azza Sami of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.”
And here we have a major Egyptian news announcer calling on Egypt to join Israel in destroying Hamas.
What is significant here is that these pronouncements were made boldly for public consumption – these were not the usual whispers under the table.
Perhaps even more incredible:
The Palestinian Authority's envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has said the PA has no hope of pressing charges against Israel in international courts - because Palestinian terrorist groups are far worse violators of international law themselves.
“...contrasting Israel's conduct during Operation Protective Edge to stop rocket fire from Gaza - in which Israeli forces always warn civilians before launching airstrikes - to the actions of Hamas and other armed groups, Ibrahim Khreisheh said any such move would surely backfire.
“...’the missiles that are now being launched against Israel - each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets,’ said Khreisheh.” (Emphasis added)
Khreisheh spoke last week on PA TV, in Arabic, of course. See the story here and the TV segment, with translation by MEMRI:
So hang on, and pray!
Worth considering, as well, on a related but slightly different issue, is what David Horovitz, editor of Times of Israel, has just written about Netanyahu’s position on a Palestinian state. I note here that what he laments – because he is a “two-stater” far to my left – is for me a cause for genuine hope, as it likely will be for many of my readers as well.
“’The priority right now, Netanyahu stressed, was to ‘take care of Hamas.’ But the wider lesson of the current escalation was that Israel has to ensure that ‘we don’t get another Gaza in Judea and Samaria.’ Amide the current conflict, he elaborated, ‘I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.’
“Not relinquishing security control west of the Jordan, it should be emphasized, means not giving a Palestinian entity full sovereignty there. It means not acceding to Mahmoud Abba’s demands, to Barack Obama’s demands, to the international community’s demands. This is not merely demanding a demilitarized Palestine...That sentence quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state...” (Emphasis added)
Horovitz says this is Netanyahu finally revealing what he really intends. I would prefer even more: A Netanyahu who speaks about our rights to build in all of the territory west of the River Jordan, but this is a step in the right direction.
Note: When a handful of rockets had been launched over the border with Lebanon into the Galil. there was talk about Hezbollah trying to open a second front. But it has since been determined that it was not Hezbollah that launched the rockets but some Palestinian Arab group.
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