(JTA) — The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has restarted after a weeklong ceasefire ended at 7 a.m. local time, with Hamas firing rockets into Israel and Israel resuming its military campaign to dismantle the terror group.
The truce, which began on Friday, Nov. 24, saw Hamas release more than 100 of the hostages it held, nearly all of them women and children, in exchange for a pause in the fighting and the release of Palestinian security prisoners. Originally set to last four days, it was extended through international mediation. But efforts to continue the truce fell short as Hamas did not provide Israel with a list of 10 hostages it would have released Friday in return for one more day of quiet.
“Upon the resumption of fighting, we emphasize: The Government of Israel is committed to achieving the goals of the war: Releasing the hostages, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to the residents of Israel,” read a statement Friday morning from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas invaded Israel, killing 1,200 and taking more than 240 people hostage. Israel’s counterattack aims to depose Hamas from its control of Gaza and has included airstrikes and a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip’s northern half. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, more than 14,500 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, a number that does not distinguish between civilians and combatants and does not denote casualties from misfired Palestinian rockets. The ministry said dozens of Gazans had been killed in the hours after the truce ended.
Israel vowed to continue the fight following the truce and is expected to expand its operations against Hamas into the southern half of the Gaza Strip, where most of the territory’s population has fled.
Visiting Israel on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israeli leaders that they had to take increased measures to protect civilian life in the next stage of the war. The Biden administration has supported Israel’s vow to resume fighting in the face of mounting international pressure for a ceasefire.
But in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken also reportedly said Israel may only have “weeks” left to fight, rather than months. He also pledged to continue efforts to retrieve Israeli hostages, an estimated 137 of whom remain in Gaza.
“The way Israel defends itself matters,” he said, according to the Times of Israel. “I made clear that before Israel resumes major military operations, it must put in place humanitarian, civilian protection plans that minimize further casualties of innocent Palestinians. That means taking more effective steps to protect the lives of civilians, including by clearly and precisely designating areas and places in southern and central Gaza where they can be safe and out of the line of fire.”
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Should Israel’s Fate Be Decided by a US Law from 1845?
JNS.org – The Biden administration reportedly is pressuring Israel to ends its war against Hamas before America’s presidential election in November.
The news agency Axios quotes “a source close to the White House” as saying “Biden can’t have the war and the growing death toll continue dominating the news cycle as the elections get closer” because then he might “lose support among younger voters.”
According to this somewhat condescending perspective, Biden’s advisers perceive young voters as being so shallow and uninformed that they will choose their candidate based on whatever image they happen to see on Instagram the day before they vote.
While Biden is understandably focused on his re-election campaign, it certainly would be a curious development if Israel’s military strategy, which is literally a matter of life and death for its citizens, were to be determined by something as arbitrary as the American political calendar.
After all, there’s nothing holy about the U.S. presidential election taking place on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. That rule originated in 1845. Before that, each state set its own election date.
Voting for the first presidential election, in 1788, was held in some states as early as Dec. 15 and as late as the following Jan. 7 in others. Four years later, voters cast their ballots as early as Nov. 2 and as late as Dec. 5.
Imagine if it was still done that way. Would Biden be telling Israel to change its military strategy every few days, depending on how he was doing in the polls in each particular state?
The need for a uniform national voting day became apparent because of a type of election fraud that was nicknamed “pipelaying.” Congressman James Duncan of Pennsylvania, speaking on behalf of legislation introduced in late 1844 to establish a single voting day, explained that because different states had different voting days, “poor laborers” were being offered “two dollars a day and good roast beef” to go from state to state, casting ballots for a particular candidate (voter registration was not yet required). The traveling voters were instructed that if they were caught, they should say they were visiting the state in order to lay pipes.
Why did Congress pick November? And why a particular Tuesday? Those choices had to do with very specific factors that were relevant in the mid-19th century but are completely irrelevant today.
Why November? America was largely agrarian in the early 1800s. Spring and early summer were the planting season, so farmers were too busy to vote. Same for late summer and early fall, when harvesting took place. The choice of November was a way to squeeze in an election between picking cucumbers and the first signs of frost.
Why Tuesday? Once again, agricultural considerations. Many farmers brought their crops to market on Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. So lawmakers decided Tuesday would make sense for voting.
And why “the first Tuesday after the first Monday”? So that election day would never occur on the first day of the month. Congress was sensitive to the feelings of Catholics, who had a religious holiday, All Saints Day—also known as All Hallows’ Day—on Nov. 1 (the secular version is today called Halloween). Also, the first day of the month traditionally was when many businesspeople took care of their bookkeeping for the previous month.
But what about special elections? If a president leaves office, the vice president serves the remainder of his four year-term and the next election takes place in November of the regularly scheduled year. If a U.S. senator or member of the House of Representatives leaves office, however, a special election is held on a date chosen by the governor. Some of those elections are extremely important to the White House, especially these days when both the Senate and the House are so closely divided between the parties.
So, imagine for a moment that a particularly crucial special election for a Senate seat was due to take place this coming July—a seat that would determine which party controls the Senate. Would Biden be demanding that Israel cease firing at Hamas by then, in order to help his party win that race? What if it was going to be held in May? Or March? How soon would the president be demanding Israel halt its counter-terror operations? Would a date that was arbitrarily chosen by some governor decide a matter of life and death for Israel’s citizens?
The America-Israel alliance is important. And Israel is of course sensitive to the president’s domestic concerns and political interests. But is it reasonable to expect Israeli voters to risk their nation’s security based on a schedule determined according to when pumpkins were harvested in 19th century Rhode Island?
Originally published by The Jewish Journal.
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America Turns the Tables on Iran
JNS.org – In a decisive move that marks a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. has initiated a series of targeted airstrikes against Iran-backed terrorist proxies in Iraq and Syria. This signifies the beginning of a broader campaign against Iran’s terror network in the Middle East.
For years, the U.S. has grappled with the challenge of Iran-backed terrorism. The recent drone strike by Shiite proxies in Jordan, resulting in the tragic loss of three American service members and injuries to over 40, prompted America’s robust response. President Joe Biden, demonstrating resolve, honored the fallen in a ceremony in Jordan, sending a clear message: The U.S. will no longer stand idly by.
The scale of the strikes surpasses previous responses to Iranian provocations, targeting the very heart of Iran’s terrorist proxy network—the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force and its military and training facilities. The strikes appear to be aimed at curbing further terrorist activities without sparking a full-scale conflict; a delicate balancing act given the volatile backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, where Iran’s shadowy involvement is no secret.
The need to dismantle the IRGC’s terrorist network cannot be overstated. Its malign influence, if left unchecked, threatens to extend its reach far beyond the Middle East, endangering peace and stability on a global scale. The Biden administration’s shift from a policy of appeasement to one of decisive action is a welcome change, signaling a readiness to confront and neutralize threats regardless of the cost.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s announcement of a “multi-tiered” campaign against Iran’s terrorist network underscores the multifaceted approach the U.S. is prepared to take. With a vast array of capabilities at its disposal, the Pentagon is well-equipped to address the challenge, leveraging intelligence and military might to neutralize threats and protect American interests.
The urgency of the situation is compounded by Iran’s continued belligerence, as evidenced by the relentless attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed militias. These provocations have now been answered, with growing bipartisan support for a more assertive stance that sends an unequivocal message to Tehran: Acts of terrorism will not be tolerated.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has maintained a facade of non-aggression, but Iranian actions speak louder than words. The regime’s support for terrorist proxies and its pursuit of regional dominance through subversion and violence reveal its true intentions. The U.S.’s strategic response, while measured, leaves no doubt about its commitment to defending its interests and those of its allies against Iranian aggression.
However, the international community as a whole must recognize the gravity of the threat posed by Iran and its proxies. The suspension of military operations by groups like Kataib Hezbollah is but a temporary reprieve. The path to stability in the Middle East requires unwavering resolve and a united front against the forces of tyranny and terrorism.
As this new chapter in American foreign policy unfolds, it is clear that the battle against Iranian-backed aggression is far from over. The U.S.’s recent actions are not merely retaliatory; they represent a strategic, principled stand against those who would seek to destabilize the region and threaten global security. In this endeavor, the U.S. must remain vigilant and prepared to act decisively in defense of peace and democracy. It must continue its commitment not just to the immediate security of its own citizens and servicemen but to the foundational principles of freedom and justice that underpin the international order.
The campaign against Iranian aggression is not only about retribution; it’s about setting the stage for a future in which peace and stability are not just aspirations but realities.
Did UNRWA Deceive the Secretary of State to Receive US Funding?
JNS.org – During the last decade, the annual U.S. Consolidated Appropriations Act conditioned U.S. aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) upon written certification from the Secretary of State that the organization satisfies a series of requirements.
One of those criteria requires the Secretary of State to report whether UNRWA complies with section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. That section provides that the United States may not contribute to UNRWA unless the agency is taking “all possible measures to assure that no part of the U.S. contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army or any other guerrilla type organization or who has engaged in any act of terrorism.”
While the “Palestine Liberation Army”—which was the military arm of the PLO—has practically ceased to exist, “other guerrilla type organization[s],” including Hamas, Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and others continue to exist and are actively engaged in acts of terror. All of these organizations, and others, are U.S.-designated terror organizations.
In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre, in which Gazan terrorists murdered more than 1,200 people and committed wide-scale crimes of rape, torture and abduction, information has come to light indicating that at least 13 UNRWA employees actively participated in the massacre and another 1,200 UNRWA employees are active members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In a press briefing on Jan. 30 explicitly devoted to UNRWA and its connections to the massacre and terror, Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said:
“UNRWA has been aiding and abetting Hamas…. 13 UN employees participated in the Oct. 7 massacre…. UNRWA is riddled with Hamas members. Our intelligence indicates that out of approximately 12,000 UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip, about 10% are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives.”
The Biden administration announced on Jan. 26 that it was pausing all future U.S. funding for UNRWA. But, according to Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), the funding pause may have only been implemented after millions in taxpayer funds were pushed out the door.
According to the State Department spokesman, $121 million of UNRWA’s quarterly aid payment had already been provided. Only $300,000 is outstanding on the first tranche.
The U.S. aid to UNRWA is guided not only by American law but also by U.S.-UNRWA “Framework” agreements. The 2023-2024 Framework Agreement, signed May 20, 2023, similar to its predecessors included several fundamental provisions regarding UNRWA compliance with the provisions of section 301(c).
Despite the language of the law, which requires the Secretary of State himself to certify UNRWA compliance, the provisions of the Framework Agreement suggest that UNRWA serves as its own watchdog. The proverbial cat seems to be guarding the cream.
Why was Secretary Blinken unaware of Hamas members in UNRWA?
It is unreasonable to suggest that these 1,200 UNRWA employees were suddenly recruited since Secretary of State Blinken gave the previous certification last year. On the other hand, it is reasonable to assess that he was likely to have been intentionally and maliciously misled by UNRWA and its leadership on the affiliations of UNRWA staff and the recipients of UNRWA aid.
Accordingly, since UNRWA cannot meet the requirements and conditions of the Appropriations Act, particularly the requirements of section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act, it would seem that the United States is positively prohibited from transferring any additional aid to UNRWA.
Furthermore, since the last certifications of Secretary Blinken were based on an intentional deception by UNRWA—in breach of its commitments in the Framework Agreement—the United States should also demand that UNRWA or the United Nations immediately refund all U.S. donations to UNRWA for the past three years at least.
Refraining from acting on this issue would place the United States in an untenable situation where it cannot rely on agreements with the United Nations and its organizations, while breaches of its agreements with them have no consequences. Silence on the subject also raises suspicion that the State Department was negligent, at best, in fulfilling its duties regarding the UNRWA fraud.
Originally published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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