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American-Israeli Buries IDF Soldier Son, Addresses Biden in Eulogy: Don’t Pressure Us to Stop Until We Defeat Hamas

US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS

The father of an Israeli reserve soldier who was killed in Gaza over the weekend eulogized his son by calling on US President Joe Biden to “cease and desist” from any attempts to stop Israel from “fighting your fight” and defeating the Hamas terror group.

Maj. (res.) Moshe Yedidyah Leiter, who had US citizenship, was killed on Friday by an explosion from a rigged tunnel shaft located near a mosque in the Beit Hanoun region.

Four other reserve soldiers from his battalion were also killed in the blast, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Saturday night, raising the number of soldiers who have lost their lives in Israel’s ground operation in Gaza to 42. The soldiers were not in the tunnel at the time of the explosion.

Leiter, a 39-year-old father of six from kibbutz Ein Tzurim in the Gush Etzion bloc outside of Jerusalem, was laid to rest at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday. His father, Yehiel Leiter, a former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivered a powerful eulogy addressed directly at Biden.

Leiter opened his eulogy by drawing parallels between their origins and their shared experiences of loss.

“We were both born in Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Leiter began, “and as of last Friday, I, like you, am a bereaved parent; you lost a son, and I lost a son.”

“You know the pain that I’m feeling now. The harrowing sense of darkness, the stabbing at the heart, the longing to once again hug your boy, to talk to him about life,” he said, before outlining his son’s multifaceted life — including his 15 years in the IDF’s special forces, his medical studies, and his role as a father of six, with a newborn son “who will never know his father.”

“So we have two things in common. That’s why I’m taking the liberty,” Leiter said. “He was fighting your fight, Mr. President.”

Leiter then laid out what he saw as the stakes in the current Israel-Hamas war and the greater cause for which his son fought.

“He gave his life so the barbarians wouldn’t get through the gates of democracy and the Judeo-Christian Western values. He was fighting for human freedom and against all the lies and distortions of the freedom deniers who fooled so many Americans with their double talk. He was fighting against Hamas-ISIS,” said Leiter.

Yehiel Leiter. Photo: Screenshot

Addressing rumors of US pressure on Israel to cease its military offensive, Leiter urged Biden: “I respectfully ask of you, here on my son’s grave, cease and desist. Stand back, Mr. President, don’t pressure us. Let us do what we know how to do and what we must do: defeat evil.”

Leiter made similar comments to Netanyahu during a condolence call from the prime minister to his former aide on Saturday night.

“When the prime minister called me this evening to console me, I told him only one thing: ‘Bibi, my son’s blood was not spilled in vain. Finish this job. Don’t let any pressure in the world stop you. Because the only consolation of this loss is banishing evil,’” he told the Israel Hayom daily.

The other soldiers killed by the booby-trapped shaft were identified as Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, and Master Sgt. (res.) Sergey Shmerkin, all from the 551st Reserve Paratrooper Brigade’s 697th Battalion. Also on Friday, Master Sgt. (res.) Netanel Harush, a soldier in the Givati Brigade’s logistics unit, was killed in a separate incident in Gaza.

Including Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israeli communities, the death toll among Israeli troops stands at 361.

At his son’s funeral, Leiter described the Gaza battlefront as “a war of light against darkness, of truth against lies.”

Leiter concluded his eulogy by appealing to Biden’s leadership, suggesting that his entire career was a preparation for this moment. “It is the whole reason you are the leader of the free world,” he said.

“Stand with Moshe, who loved America,” he urged, highlighting Moshe’s connection with the US, including training with the US Army’s Delta Force. “Those who stand with us will be blessed. Those who do not stand with us will fail.”

Noting that Israel has never before been so united, the grieving father told Biden: “We’re going to win this one, with you or without. We’re going to win it hands down.”

Debbie Weiss is a freelance journalist based in Israel.

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Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News

We’ve produced a collection of feature articles four times a year since 2022. A special edition of this magazine will appear in mid-September—with reflections on the Jewish year that was. And in December, look out for a reimagined publication with a name of its own. Get future copies delivered to your door as a thank-you […]

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Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl

Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, attends a meeting with people at a hall on the seashore in Gaza City. Photo: Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa via Reuters Connect

A senior US official said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is the Palestinian terrorist group’s ultimate decision maker and has little interest in reaching a ceasefire deal with Israel, in testimony before a US Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, there’s one guy 10 stories below the ground: a psychopath, messianic in his own belief that he has established himself in history, and [he believes that] there’s a sunk cost of having lost thousands of fighters and carnage in Gaza,” said Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Sinwar, the top Hamas official in Gaza and the mastermind behind the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has reportedly been hiding in Hamas’ extensive network of underground tunnels during Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the coastal enclave.

Leaf’s comments echo others made by Biden administration officials.

In April, a US official told reporters that Sinwar is single-handedly holding up any progress on a potential hostage deal.

The senior Biden administration official said that while Hamas’ political bureau has shown some willingness to compromise on the terrorist group’s most hardline positions, Sinwar’s maximalist demands continuously win out.

“Sinwar has made the decision he’d rather hold [the hostages seized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7] than secure a ceasefire, and that’s just the truth of the situation,” the official said.

Leaf, in her testimony on Tuesday, said that Qatar — where many top Hamas political officials are based — has been “squeezing” the group — though to little effect, according to a report from Axios.

“There’s a cadre of political officials of Hamas in Doha, and boy do they squeeze them, I can assure you they squeeze them,” Leaf said.

Israel has described Hamas’ response to the new US ceasefire proposal as total rejection. But efforts to secure an agreement are still continuing, according to mediators in Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

The Axios report added that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met on Tuesday in Doha — Qatar’s capital — with senior Hamas officials in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the talks about the hostage and ceasefire deal.

Egypt and Qatar — which along with the United States have been mediating between Hamas and Israel — said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan, without giving further details.

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Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold a joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday confirmed the US was still withholding a shipment of bombs to Israel, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Washington to remove restrictions on arms deliveries to the Jewish state and asserted that the top American diplomat had assured him the Biden administration was working to lift any halts on weapons.

The Biden administration is “continuing to review one shipment that President [Joe] Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah. That remains under review,” Blinken said at a news conference at the US State Department.

However, he added, the administration is committed to making sure “that Israel has what it needs to effectively defend itself.”

Blinken’s remarks came after Netanyahu posted a video online earlier in the day in which he lamented that the US recently paused a weapons shipment to Israel and threatened to block more but said Blinken told him that Washington was seeking to end any halts on arms deliveries.

“When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu said.

“But I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel,” he continued. “Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

The Israeli premier then asserted that Blinken told him the issue would be addressed.

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu said. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case. During World War II, Churchill told the US: ‘Give us the tools; we’ll do the job.’ And I say, ‘Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job much faster.’”

Following Netanyahu’s comments, both the White House and the US State Department refuted his apparent claim that Washington was withholding more than a single shipment of bombs.

“Everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again, with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges,” Blinken said.

The White House echoed Blinken’s comments, saying that only one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs had been withheld and nothing else.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We just don’t.”

Jean-Pierre added that the US and Israel have been having discussions about the release of the shipment but that there was no update at this time.

“There are no other pauses, none,” Jean-Pierre said. “No other pauses or holds in place.”

On Monday, unconfirmed reports in both Israeli and German media said that during Netanyahu’s meeting with Blinken in Jerusalem last week, the Israeli premier urged the US to return the frequency of its arms shipments to the level immediately after Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas launched the war in Gaza with its massacre across southern Israel. According to the reports, Blinken said that Washington would remove all restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel in the coming days.

Netanyahu also reportedly warned Blinken that the slowing of aid and the perception of America’s weakened support for Israel benefits Iran and its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, including Hamas, emboldening them to intensify attacks against Israel and potentially resulting in a broader regional war.

The Biden administration has been under intense pressure from Democrats, especially those on the progressive left, to condition if not outright withhold US military support for Israel. Critics of Israel have argued the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed too many civilians and led to a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave. Israel has said Hamas is to blame for starting the war, stealing aid, and intentionally placing its operation centers inside or underneath civilian sites.

Hamas started the war with its surprise invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorist group murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped over 250 others as hostages. Israel responded with its ongoing campaign aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas, which rules Gaza.

In recent months, the Biden administration has become increasingly critical of Israel’s operations both in public and private, pressuring Jerusalem to change its military strategy and seek a ceasefire.

The issue came to a head last month, when Biden announced that it would cease a bomb shipment to Israel and threatened to halt more weapons deliveries if the Israeli army launched an offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza and Hamas’ last major military stronghold.

I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden told CNN.

Israeli officials and experts have said operating in Rafah is essential to eliminating the last remaining Hamas battalions. Netanyahu said the Jewish state appreciates US support but “will stand alone” if necessary.

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