News Digest — 3/21/24

Netanyahu To Republicans: Israel Will Continue Its Efforts To Defeat Hamas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Republican senators on Wednesday (20th) that Israel will continue its efforts to defeat Hamas in the Gaza Strip, senators told reporters after he addressed a party lunch, according to Reuters.

“He’s going to do what he said he’s going to do.  He’s going to finish it.” Senator Jim Risch said.

Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Netanyahu had addressed civilian casualties and the need to get more aid into Gaza.  He said Netanyahu was very supportive of plans to build a temporary pier and bring in aid by sea.”

“We asked … him for an update and we got it on the war, on the release of the hostages and in the effort to defeat Hamas.  We told him Israel has every right to defend themselves and he said that’s exactly what they continue to do,” Senator John Barrasso said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Netanyahu had made a presentation and then taken questions from senators.

“I made it clear to him that it’s not the business of the United States to be giving a democratic ally advice about when to have an election or what kind of military campaign they may be conducting,” McConnell told reporters, according to Reuters.

Netanyahu spoke to the Republican lawmakers via videolink during their regular lunch meeting.  Netanyahu was slated to talk with Republicans during their policy retreat last week but that plan fell through.  Axios reported on Tuesday (19th) that both times he has been invited by Barrasso, the third-ranked Senate Republican.

The Prime Minister’s discussion came a week after the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer gave a speech branding Netanyahu an obstacle to peace and urging new elections in Israel.

Meanwhile it was reported on Wednesday (20th) that Netanyahu had also requested to address Senate democrats at their caucus lunch, but was denied by Schumer.

Netanyahu’s virtual meeting with the Republican lawmakers also came amid growing tension between President Joe Biden and Netanyahu.  While Biden was initially supportive of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, he has changed his tone recently.

During a recent interview on MSNBC, Biden said that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be a red line but also said in the same breath that crossing it would not result in punitive measures against Israel.

“It is a red line, but I am never going to leave Israel,” Biden said.  “The defense of Israel is still critical, so there’s no red line that I’m going to cut off all weapons.”

Meanwhile, US House Speaker, Mike Johnson said on Wednesday (20th) that he is considering inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress after House members raised the idea in a closed-door conference meeting.

“It’s one of the things we have in mind, and we may try to arrange for that,” Johnson told reporters when asked about inviting Netanyahu to address Congress, according to CNN.  

“I think it’s very important for us to show solidarity and support for Israel right now in their time of great struggle, and we certainly stand for that position, and we’ll try to advance that in every way that we can,” added Johnson, who said he spoke with Netanyahu Wednesday morning (20th).

“I had a lengthy conversation this morning with the Prime Minister and reiterated to him the House Republicans’ strong support for Israel,” he told reporters.   




IDF Arrests Terrorist Involved In 2014 Kidnapping of Teens, In Shifa Hospital Return

The IDF and the Shin Bet on Wednesday (20th) announced that they had captured Mahmoud Kawasme – the last remaining conspirator at large from the Hamas murder of three Israeli teenagers in 2014 – as part of their operations to retake Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza.

In 2014, the IDF Judea military court convicted Hussam  Hassam Kawasme of being the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens.

Hussam was convicted based on his own confession of planning and financing the attack, including receiving NIS 200,000 from Hamas in Gaza, purchasing and providing weapons for the other terrorists, hiding the bodies and destroying evidence.

The IDF Prosecution filed an indictment against Hussam with the Judea Military Court in September 2014.

The Shin Bet arrested him on July 11, 2014, on suspicion of assisting the killers and of hiding the victims’ bodies in land he owned in Hebron, security forces said.

On June 12, 2014, Hamas members kidnapped Gilad Sha’er, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16. And Eyal Yifrah, 19, as they waited for a ride outside the Alon Shvut settlement in Judea.  The Shin Bet named the killers Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aisha.

The two were killed in a shootout with the IDF near Hebron in September 2014.

Hussam, a resident of Hebron, was in Israeli prison from 1995 to 2002 after being convicted of involvement in Hamas terrorist offenses, including being part of a cell that carried out bomb attacks.

“He is the son of a family whose sons have all been involved in severe terrorist attacks on behalf of Hamas,” the domestic intelligence agency said at the time.

Hussam’s brother Hassin Kawasme is serving a life sentence for his role in a bomb attack on a bus stop across from the Jerusalem International Conference Center in March 2011.  Scottish tourist Mary Jane Gardner, 59, was killed in the attack, and 39 people were wounded.

His other brother was Mahmoud Kawasme, who had served a 20-year prison sentence for his role in a twin suicide bombing attack aboard busses in Beersheba in August 2004, which killed 16 residents of the city and wounded more than 100 people.  However, Mahmoud was released as part of the Gilad Shalit exchange with Hamas and expelled to the Gaza Strip.

From Gaza, Mahmoud transferred funds to his brother in Hebron for the attack on the three teenagers.

Gilad Sha’er’s parents responded to the IDF operation by saying, “Justice has finally come to light, and the heroic IDF soldiers and all the security forces are doing it bravely.  We do not deal with terrorists and death but with life, with unity, with the order of life left by our son and all those who have fallen over the years,” they said.

“Our personal security is strengthened by the knowledge that there will not be a terrorist left with whom we will not reckon.  All our enemies should know that we will reach every terrorist, every one.” they concluded.



Complaint: ‘Reprehensible, Non-Stop’ Anti-Semitism In California Schools

Jewish civil rights groups lodged a federal complaint against the Berkeley United School District, located in California’s Bay Area, for allowing unchecked anti-Semitism on its elementary, middle and high school campuses.

Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, charging that the schools had permitted “non-stop bullying and harassment” of Jewish students, teachers, and staff since the October 7th Hamas massacre.

The complaint also states that rather than take action to rectify the hostile environment for Israeli and Jewish students, administrators ignored parent complaints, and even allowed teachers to use school hours and resources to encourage anti-Zionist protests.

Described within the complaint are numerous examples of anti-semitic bullying, including teachers not intervening while students chanted “Kill the Jews, “Kill Israel, and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”

Dozens of students reported suffering peer-on-peer harassment in which they were singled out for their Jewish heritage, along with several teachers taking time out of their lessons to go on anti-Semitic rants against Israel and Zionists.

“The eruption of anti-Semitism in Berkeley’s elementary and high schools is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Kenneth L. Marcus, chairman of the Brandeis Center and the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for the George W, Bush and Donald Trump administrations, in a media statement.

“It is dangerous enough to see faculty fanning the flames of anti-Semitism on college campuses, but to see teachers inciting hate in the youngest of grades while Berkeley administrators sit idly by as it continues to escalate by the day is reprehensible.  Where is the accountability?  Where are the people who are supposed to protect and educate students?”

By not taking action, the Berkeley School District is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity or religion in federally-funded institutions, the complaint asserts.



The People Who Start Wars Bear The Blame, Not The People Who Finish Them – Hugh Hewitt

• In World War II, the people of the United States did not worry about the devastation of civilian neighborhoods in Berlin brought about by Allied bombers or hardships visited upon “innocent Germans.”  Millions of Germans were killed or injured because of the war begun by Hitler, and the same is true of Japanese civilians killed by the Allied bombings of the Japanese home islands: the rulers of imperial Japan brought that upon themselves.

• Now intense pressure is being brought to bear on the Israel Defense Forces to limit their offensive as a result of “reports” of casualties in Gaza put out by Hamas.  We cannot believe the Hamas numbers.  What we do know is that Israel has no choice but to prosecute the war in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed, its senior leadership dead or fled, and a semblance of security returned to the people of Israel.

• For 17 years, Israel pursued a policy of co-existence with the terror organization that controlled Gaza, with Israeli government after government counting on the evolution of Hamas into a governing authoritarian regime, but not one devoted to massacring Jews.  Now we know that Hamas is a death cult.  If allowed to remain in Gaza in any significant size and with its underground fortress intact, it will be a matter of time until Hamas unleashes another wave of horrific barbarism.

• Israel must absolutely enter and subdue all of Rafah, must absolutely destroy the underground fortress, and must retake the Philadelphi  Corridor  between Gaza and Egypt to prevent smuggling the mind-boggling amount of weaponry that Hamas amassed in Gaza since Israel withdrew from the Strip in 2005.

• The war in Gaza must be won by Israel and the only reason there is a war at all is because of Hamas.  Only the end of Hamas in Gaza – which means a ground operation in Rafah – will bring peace to that devastated region. 



Israel’s “Allies” Should Reckon With Reality – Stephen Daisley

Everyone wants an end to the fighting in Gaza.  The urgency is understandable.  Yet, Israel intends to continue fighting until it has a.) freed its hostages or their bodies and b.) sufficiently incapacitated Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to delay a repeat of October 7 in the near future.

Hamas understands that Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was its greatest-ever success, killing 1,200 Jews, turning the West against Israel and derailing progress towards Israeli-Saudi normalization.  Support for Hamas is surging in the West Bank.

If the international community wants Israel to stop bombing Gaza, the international community should take over Gaza and stop Hamas attacking Israel.  But the global community, with its cherished norms and spottily applied international law, much prefers to chastise Israel from afar.  Get any closer and it would have to confront some unpleasant truths about those it caricatures as villains and those it fetishes as victims.

It would find itself in Israel’s shoes, learning on the job that messy as Jerusalem’s military strategy sometimes is, it is based on bitter experience of the enemy and a necessary ruthlessness that matches the nature of the threat.