News Digest — 2/8/24

Netanyahu Says ‘Delusional’ Hamas Demands In Hostage Deal Would ‘Be Refused By Anyone’

In a press conference on Wednesday night (7th) , Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas’ terms for accepting a hostage deal were ‘delusional’ and that ‘anyone would refuse them.’

In response to the framework agreement negotiated 10 days ago in Paris by Egypt, Qatar, the US and Israel, Hamas said it would release Israeli prisoners only in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and a four and a half month ceasefire, requiring a total withdrawal of Israeli troops and ultimately  a permanent ceasefire, ending the war.

Responding to a journalist asking about the terms Hamas demanded, including the release of convicted terrorists who murdered Israelis, the Israeli Prime Minister responded, “From what I saw, even you would say no” to the Hamas offer. 

He strongly rejected Hamas’ terms and said Israel would agree to nothing less than a “total victory” over Hamas which he said could be achieved “within months.”

“We won’t settle for less,” he added.

Netanyahu stressed that only military pressure would result in hostage releases and the prevention of a similar attack like October 7th from happening again.

“Surrendering to Hamas’ delusional demands… if Hamas survives in Gaza, it will not only not lead to the release of hostages, but will invite another massacre,” he said.

“The evil axis of Iran and its affiliates will continue unhindered, its campaign of killing and aggression,” Netanyahu explained.

He added, “We have no obligation to the crazy terms Hamas is talking about…including the part about [releasing terrorists] with “blood on their hands.”

There is supposed to now be “a process of negotiation through mediations, but from what I have seen, Hamas is not there,” he concluded.

The Hamas terms for the hostage agreement included a four and a half month pause in fighting which is intended to ultimately lead to a permanent ceasefire to secure the release of the last group of  hostages, including the men and the bodies of deceased captives.

During the first phase of the war, Hamas demanded more humanitarian aid, including fuel and the withdrawal of Israeli troops including surveillance, and the release of female and teenage Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israel’s elderly, wounded, and female prisoners.



The Green Prince: Son Of Hamas Founder Joins Israel’s Public Diplomacy Efforts

This week, Israel’s public diplomacy efforts received a single boost: The Green Prince, Mosab Hassan Yousef, arrived for an interview with the Prime Minister’s Arabic Media spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman, and toured the areas of the October 7 massacre in the Western Negev.

In the personal interview, Mosab Hassan Yousef told about his childhood as the son of one of the founders of Hamas, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, and about his studies in a UNRWA high school in Judea and Samaria, where he was educated to hate.  He referred to the Hamas terrorist organization’s use of UNRWA institutions: “In the mosques, the schools, the streets and at home, everywhere you go, there is hatred of Israel and of the Jewish people.”

In referring to the Hamas Charter, which calls for the killing of Jews, he said: “The people that wrote the Hamas Charter are a bunch of lunatics.”

Hassan Yousef also referred to what is happening in the Arab world: “The Arab world needs to pay attention to the dangers within; Hamas does not care about people.  In effect, they are sacrificing the lives of children and non-combatants in order to achieve cheap political goals”

In conclusion, he said, “The concept of jihad must be stopped, and it must be stopped now.”

The interview was conducted by the Prime Minister’s Arabic Media Spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman, in the National Public Diplomacy studio; clips of it will be broadcast and promoted on the various digital platforms to both the Arab and international communities.

The Green Prince, together with IDF Arabic Spokesperson Lt.-Col. Avichay Adraee, also toured the Western Negev and visited the kibbutzim that were attacked during the October 7 massacre, as well as the area of the party at Re’im.



In Holocaust Museum Visit, Argentina President Lauds ‘The Greatness Of The Jewish People’

Argentinian President Javier Milei visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance  Center in Jerusalem Wednesday (7th), a day after he arrived in the Jewish state for his first foreign trip since taking office,

Milei was accompanied during his tour of Yad Vashem by the museum’s native Argentinian chairman, Dani Dayan.

Following a guided tour, President Milei participated in a solemn memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance and signed the Yad Vashem guestbook outside the Hall.

In his entry in the Yad Vashem guestbook , Milei lauded the  “greatness” of the Jewish people, while alluding to the October 7th massacre, adding “Never again is now.”

“In this symbolic and transcendent place, where darkness reaches unimaginable extremes of cruelty, it is precisely here that we can see the greatness of a people.  The greatness of going through the pain and rising up again, even stronger than before.  We all bear the duty not to remain silent.  Never again is now”

At the end of the visit, Dayan touted Milei’s visit in increasing Holocaust awareness in Latin America.

“This visit was especially pertinent, given the fact that there have been Latin American leaders who have used rhetoric in the last months with clear anti-Semitic tones, including ‘Holocaust trivialization.’  For the President of Argentina to visit Israel and Yad Vashem and commit so clearly to uphold the values and lessons of the Holocaust, is extremely important.  Yad Vashem continues to work closely with the educational authorities in the Argentine Republic in order to increase Holocaust awareness and education for the Argentine people and the Spanish-speaking world,” Dayan added.



IDF To Increase Mandatory Service, Reserve Duty Amid Gaza War

The IDF revealed plans on Wednesday (7th) to increase the length of both mandatory and reservist service in the military due to the needs presented by the war and troop losses.  The planned changes are to already existing laws, which will need to be approved by the Knesset.

Mandatory service will be lengthened to three years.  The number of mandatory reserve duty days per year will double.

New recruits’ mandatory service: Prior to Oct. 7, certain recruits served 28 months, while mandatory service soldiers were set to serve 32.  Due to the high demand prompted by the war, all new recruits and current serving soldiers will have their service extended to 36 months.

Reservists: Prior to October 7, the tracks for reservist ages were 40, 45, and 49, depending on their roles.  The IDF is suggesting extending the services from age 40-45, from 45-50 and from 49-52.  A special category of reservist volunteers would now be asked to continue up to age 66.  The plan also includes a variety of other specific extensions.

Besides the extension of service time, many operational reservists will also need to serve 40 days per year instead of 25, while others could be increased even more.  These changes would be reflected in compensation, with specific, more essential units getting higher raises in pay than others.

Mandatory service soldiers will also be paid significant bonuses comparable to initial officer pay for the additional months of service they will need to perform beyond what they originally signed up for.

Until the law is approved by the Knesset, Draft Order 8, which gives the IDF emergency temporary discretion to increase service times, is expected to remain in effect.  The spirit of the plan provides for a larger standing and reserve army over a longer period of time without the need for Draft Order 8.

These changes come as the IDF not only needs to fight more intensely than usual on more fronts than usual, but where 563 soldiers were killed during the war, 2,830 were wounded and hospitalized and another 9,053 were wounded but not hospitalized.

The IDF said it is spending more time trying to take care of reservists’ wider needs, including their families.  Many of them are parents needing assistance with their families and need to spend more time with them in creative ways.  There are 116 widows and 352 orphans as a result of the war.

At the beginning of the war, the IDF had the ability to call up 360,000 reservists.  Some 287,000 have served since the war began, including 112,000 of whom have families, 50,000 who are volunteers, and 40,000 who are women.  About 130,000 reservists are currently serving.

From a sectoral perspective, the IDF said 450 haredi men have volunteered for the war effort – separate from the already serving haredi soldiers, such as the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, formerly known as the Nahal Haredi – a miniscule participation by comparison.  Exemptions for haredim have been in place for decades, and the High Court of Justice has consistently said they are illegal.  It still has petitions pending before it on the issue, but it has repeatedly allowed governments to delay a resolution.

The Brothers in Arms NGO vowed to return the issue to the public discourse, calling the new plan a disaster in terms of inequality because it allows haredim to continue to not serve in a disproportionate manner.



Israelis Won’t Stand For Anything Short Of Victory In Gaza – Gadi Taub

Something fundamental changed in Israel on October7.  We were reminded of the mortal danger that fantasies about our neighboring enemies pose to our survival.  This in turn awakened in us a fierce determination to prevail and a spirit of self-sacrifice we thought we no longer had.  The ferocity of Israel’s instinct for self-preservation is manifest now like it has never been in our lifetime.

Very few Israelis will agree to a retreat from Gaza that leaves the Nazis on our borders.  I’ve interviewed reservists who are demanding to stay in service until the job is done.  One of them, who is also an evacuee from the Gaza envelope, said his children asked him why he’s back from the front if they all can’t return to their home.  “Call me up for a month, call me up for two months, call me up for two years,” he said. “I’ll come.” 

A forum called Mothers of IDF soldiers has just published  an open letter to President Biden.  “We are an organization of mothers of IDF soldiers, who are now serving on the front lines in the war for our nation’s survival…We accept the inherent risks our sons and daughters take, but we cannot accept placing their lives in unnecessary danger due to concerns for the enemy population…Israel has to keep fighting until…Hamas is defeated, and our 136 hostages are freed.”

You will not convince mothers or fathers who have assumed the risk of losing their sons and daughters – not to mention those who have already sacrificed a child in this war – that Israel can just leave Gaza without victory. 



Settler Colonialism: A Guide For The Sincere – Bret Stephens

Settler colonialism is often denounced in anti-Israel polemics and protests.  But if settler colonialism needs to be eliminated, why not get rid of all settler colonialism?  That would start with the US, which began as a settler-colonialism enterprise under British, Dutch, and Spanish rulers, and continued as one under American rule.  This also includes Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

To say that Israel alone must be eliminated on grounds of settler colonialism while giving a pass to other cases of settler colonialism is a double standard that is hard to describe as anything but anti-Semitic.

It’s odd that the ethnic group that is today’s most vociferously accused of settler colonialism is the one that can unmistakably trace its language, culture and religion to the same places which it now inhabits and governs.  Virtually every Israeli can read Hebrew inscriptions on Jewish coins found in archeological sites throughout Israel dating back more than 2,000 years.

Jewish nationalism – Zionism – is the oldest continuous anti-colonial movement in history, starting well before the Romans sought to de-Judaize the area by calling their colony Palestina.  Hanukkah, the festival of lights, celebrates the recovery of Jerusalem from colonizing Greeks in the second century BCE.

In the final analysis, Israel is justified by being a sovereign state that commands the loyalty of its citizens.  Ditto for the US and every other state, whatever the nature of its origins,