News Digest — 12/14/23

White House Spokesperson: Israel Is Protecting Civilians In Ways Even We Wouldn’t

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday (13th) highlighted some of the steps the IDF has taken to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza, noting that some of Israel’s steps might go farther than what the US would do.

“They moved into southern Gaza on the ground in a way that was much smaller than they planned to do,” he told reporters.  “We think that was an output of some of the advice and counsel we provided them about urban warfare.”

A reporter suggested that Kirby was giving the Israelis more of a benefit of the doubt than President Joe Biden who on Tuesday, (12th) during a conversation with donors, characterized Israel’s bombing against Hamas in Gaza as “indiscriminate.”

“They have published online maps of places where people can go or not go.  That’s basically telegraphing your punches!   There’s very few modern militaries in the world that would do that!  I don’t know that we would do that!” replied Kirby.

Asked by CNN why the White House insists on saying Israel has the “intent” to minimize civilian casualties, Kirby replied, “Sometimes in war, your best plans, your best execution of those plans don’t always go the way you want them to go – don’t always go the way you expect them to go.  We know that from bitter experience and our own military, no matter how precise and targeted we tried to be in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There were times we caused civilian casualties as well.”

He added that there was “a clear intent by the Israelis – an intent that they have admitted publicly – that they are doing everything they can to reduce civilian casualties.”



Poll Shows Support For Hamas Surging In Palestinian Authority After October 7th Invasion

Support for the Hamas terror organization is on the rise in both the Palestinian Authority and in the Gaza Strip, according to a new poll released Wednesday, (13th).

The poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, surveyed 1,231 Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip from November 22nd, to December 2nd, and focused primarily on the October 7th invasion and the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas sparked by the Oct. 7 massacre.

According to the poll, Hamas made marginal gains in popularity in the Gaza Strip, where it is the most favored faction of 42% of residents, compared to 38% in September.

Fatah, the ruling faction in Ramallah, is preferred  by just 18% of Gazans, down from 25% in September.

In Judea and Samaria, however, the rise in support for Hamas was far more dramatic, surging from just 12% in September to 44% in December, while support for Fatah sank from 26% to 16% over the same period.

More than nine-out-of-ten (92%) Arabs in Judea and Samaria say Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas should resign, up from 78% in September, while 81% of Gazans also believe Abbas should resign, up from 79% in September.

The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs say they support Hamas’ October 7th invasion of Israel, which resulted in the massacre of over 1,200 Israelis – the vast majority of them civilians.

In Judea and Samaria, 62% of respondents said the invasion was the “correct” decision, compared to just 12% who said it was “incorrect.”

In Gaza, 57% said the invasion was the “correct” decision, compared to 37% who said it was “incorrect.”  Seventy-two percent of all Palestinians endorsed the invasion, compared to 22% who said it was “incorrect.”

While over a third of Gazans said the decision to invade Israel was “incorrect,” far fewer Gazans said they believe Hamas committed war crimes in Israel.

Just 17% of Gazans acknowledged terrorists committed war crimes against Israelis on October 7th, compared to 5% of Arabs in Judea and Samaria.  Combined, just 10% of Palestinians believe Hamas committed war crimes on October 7.

By comparison, Palestinians in both areas were virtually unanimous in believing Israel had committed war crimes in its military response to the October 7th invasion.

Ninety-seven percent of Gazans, 94% of Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and 95% of all Palestinians say they believe Israel has committed war crimes in the current war against Hamas.

If new elections were held today for leadership of the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas candidate, Ismail Haniyeh, would win in the Gaza Strip with 49%, compared to 35% for Marwan Barghouti, a member of Fatah and a terrorist mastermind jailed for the murder of Israelis in a series of suicide bombings.

Barghouti leads in Judea and Samaria with 55% to Haniyeh’s 39%, though the combined results point to a statistical dead-heat of 43% to 47%, in favor of Barghouti.



Ambassador Hotovely: ‘A Palestinian State?  Absolutely No!’

Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, told Sky News  on Wednesday (13th ) that Israel would not accept a two-state solution when the war with Hamas  ends.

Pressed by interviewer Mark Austin on the question of Palestinian Arabs having their own state, Hotovely replied, “Absolutely not.”

Asked how there can be peace without a Palestinian state, she said, “Israel knows today, and the world should know now…that the Palestinians never wanted to have a state next to Israel.”

“They want to have a state from the river to the sea.  They are saying it loud and clear,” she added.

Hotovely also noted that the Palestinian Authority, led by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has refused to condemn the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the PA, which pays families of terrorists, will not be part of the solution in Gaza after the war, putting him at odds with the position of the US which favors the PA as ruler of the Strip after the war.

In the Sky News interview, Hotovely was asked about UN demands for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, after the General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution on the issue.

“Ceasefire?  No.  It just basically means we would like to welcome another attack like that seen on October 7,” she responded.

She also pushed back on US President Joe Biden’s comments to donors on Tuesday (12th), suggesting Israel was bombing Gaza “indiscriminately.”

“Do you remember any country in the world creating a humanitarian corridor for the enemy?  I don’t remember you helping Nazi Germany during the war.  And I don’t remember America helping the Japanese during the Second World War,” said Hotovely.   



Joshua’s Tomb In West Bank Vandalized With Pro-Hamas Messages

Vandals desecrated the Tomb of Joshua complex, located near the Palestinian West Bank village of Kifl Haris, Israel media reported on Wednesday (13th).

As per reports, the tomb was graffitied over with anti-Semitic phrases and calls in support  of Hamas’ October 7 massacre.

In addition, the unknown vandals spray painted the names of several terrorists who claimed the lives of  Israelis, on the burial complex, located in the Samaria region.

”This is a barbaric hate crime which amounts to a terror attack,” Samaria regional council head Yossi Dagan said in response to the incident.

“This is a reminder that the enemy in Gaza and the enemy in the West Bank have one shared goal, to destroy the State of Israel and murder Jews,” Dagan added.

“Palestinian terrorists are using ISIS-like plans to root out Israel’s historical roots in its holy places, in addition to harming Jewish souls in barbaric manners,” the Samaria regional council head charged on Israeli media.

“There is a reason these barbarians, both together, use the same methods adopted by ISIS,” he said.



4,000 Foreign Workers Hired Instead Of Palestinians – No Going Back

The employment of thousands of foreign construction and renovation workers has been approved to fill the void left by Palestinian workers.  The Population Authority has permitted contractors to hire workers from different countries in response to the ongoing war and the ban on Palestinian workers entering Israel since October 7.  The ban has halted construction and renovation work in the country.

In the upcoming allocation of foreign workers, 4,000 people will be assigned to the renovation industry and small contractors.  Additionally, an Israeli workers’ bank will be established to assist local workers and support the renovation contractors during the challenging period.  This initiative has been welcomed by Eran Siev, Chairman of the Association of Renovation Contractors, who acknowledged the need for government support in the midst of the crisis.

Committee Chairman MK Eliyahu Rabivo  explained the decision, stating that “due to the security concerns and the citizens’ long-term worries, it was necessary to replace Palestinian workers with foreign workers.  The renovation contractors play a crucial role in Israel’s construction market, and we must support them during these uncertain times.  The past is behind us, and we must adapt to the new circumstances.”

Rabivo’s assistance has been appreciated by the renovation industry, which heavily relies on the state’s support.  According to Siev, without the help of the government, there will be no one to continue renovating Gaza after the war.  He expressed gratitude to the trustees involved in promoting this initiative., including Rabivo; Einval Meshash, head of the Foreign Workers Administration at the Population Authority; and authority head Eyal Siso.



After Hamas Is destroyed In Gaza – Richard Goldberg (Commentary)

• If Washington and Jerusalem share an end-state objective of a Gaza that can never again pose a terror threat to Israel, the question about its future needs to be reframed to ask: What cannot come next?

• First, Hamas and other terror organizations cannot be part of Gaza’s future.  Demands for a ceasefire in Gaza before Hamas is dismantled would guarantee that the territory remains a base of terror operations indefinitely.

• Hamas apologists will try to persuade us there is no military solution, only a political one.  That is a lie that Israel’s military can expose if given the opportunity to finish the job.

• Second, Israel cannot repeat the mistake of unilaterally abandoning security control of Gaza.  Israel gave up security control believing it would get peace in return.  Instead it got 10,000 rockets and a metastasized Hamas threat on its border over the subsequent 15 years, leading to the massacre of October 7.

• Israel’s long-term security control over Gaza – alongside Palestinian civilian control – is the only viable path that safeguards the objective of preventing Gaza from reemerging as a staging ground for terrorism.

• Third, no political party or governing authority that pledges to destroy Israel, promotes terrorism against Israel, or pushes economic warfare against Israel can be part of a post-Hamas Gaza.  This principle excludes the Palestinian Authority (PA) from any role in Gaza.

• The PA pays people to carry out terror attacks against Israelis and promotes the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign of political and economic warfare against Israel.

The writer is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.



Argentinian President To Appoint His Rabbi As Ambassador To Israel

Argentina’s new president intends to appoint the rabbi who has served as his spiritual advisor for the last two years as the Latin American country’s new envoy to the State of Israel.

Argentine media outlets reported on Tuesday (12th) that President Javier Milei – a populist outsider who won a surprise victory in last month’s presidential election – has named Rabbi Axell Wahnish as Argentina’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv. 

Milei was introduced to Wahnish by a mutual friend in 2021.  In the intervening period, the two developed a close relationship, studying Torah and other Jewish texts together, with the Catholic Milei saying openly that were it not for the duties of his office, which requires him to work on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays, he would convert to Judaism.  After his election victory, Milei’s first visit abroad was to New York, where he visited the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe accompanied by Wahnish.

On Sunday night (10th), Wahnish was among the speakers at an inter-religious service to mark Milei’s inauguration at the Buenos Aires Cathedral that was also attended by Christian and Muslim faith leaders.

On foreign policy matters, Mille’s administration is expected to engage in a 180-degree turn, energetically supporting Israel in its war against Hamas following the October 7 terrorist atrocities.

Wahnish is reported to already be preparing for his new role, attending a meeting on Sunday (10th) with newly-appointed Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino and her Israeli counterpart  Eli Cohen.  During his election campaign, Milei spoke positively about moving the Argentine Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although that prospect has not been raised again since the victory at the polls.