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How Can Israel Hold a Real Discussion on Values Promoted by National Security?

Thousands of Jews gather for a mass prayer for the hostages in Gaza at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Jan. 10, 2024. Photo: Yaacov Cohen

Protecting a country from threats, or, in the case of Israel, ensuring its survival, is the organic and self-evident essence of national security. It is clear, for example, that the existence of the State of Israel in the Middle East for years to come depends on its ability to eradicate Hamas after the October 7 massacre.

But national security is also a way to promote the values ​​of a state — especially in Israel, which bases its existence on the two values of being both Jewish and democratic. The values ​​that national security promotes are determined by the elected political echelon and are expressed in guidelines (the “directive”) given to the security echelon.

These values, about which there is now much public debate, extend the remit of national security beyond protection from threats. Three cases of such public discussion arising from the Iron Swords War are the struggle over how to return the hostages from Gaza, the movement pushing for the re-establishment of settlements in the Gaza Strip, and the call to take advantage of the eradication of Hamas to advance Israel’s relations in the region and promote peace through the establishment of a Palestinian state.

This is essentially a debate over three values: Israel’s commitment to human life, the importance of a Jewish presence in the entire Biblical land of Israel, and the promotion of peace. These discussions are wrapped in seemingly security-related arguments: “The return of the hostages is a national security need because it confirms Israel’s political commitment to the personal security of its citizens”; “Only settlements in Gaza will ensure the presence of the IDF in a way that promotes Israel’s security”; and “the establishment of a Palestinian state is the key to ensuring Israel’s security over time.”

In practice, these statements express the beliefs of those who hold them, not a deep and professional national security analysis. Therefore, they are not of much use to national decision-makers as to what values to promote ​​within the framework of national security. They express an empty and pointless debate that wraps fundamental beliefs in a non-systemic security argument and are therefore not relevant to the government’s decisions.

So how should we discuss the values ​​national security should promote?

We need to separate the discussion into three levels:

Why? It is critical to clearly identify the value that is being promoted and determine how high it is in the hierarchy of values ​​that the State of Israel, in the eyes of the believer, must promote. For example, belief in the supremacy of the value of human life over all other considerations reflects belief in the assertion that the hostages must be released at any cost. Belief in the connection between the people of Israel and the complete biblical Land of Israel reflects belief in the need to settle all parts of the Land of Israel. The desire to maintain a quiet, comfortable, advanced and Western life and to reduce the bloodshed reflects belief in the pursuit of peace through the establishment of a Palestinian state. It is difficult to hold debates on this level because it is in the domain of belief, not realistic decisions.
What? The various ways these beliefs can be promoted must be defined. For example, the supremacy of the value of human life in the context of the hostages can be expressed in a deal, in bold actions for their release within the framework of the “Entebbe doctrine,” or in avoiding deals that surrender to terrorism in the current round in order to eliminate the logic of the other side holding hostages in the next ones. The belief in a Jewish presence in the entire biblical Land of Israel can be expressed in the establishment of settlements, but also in the military possession of territory, the establishment of “Garinei Nahal” (small settlements populated by soldiers), forestry and agriculture, or the establishment of nature reserves. The pursuit of a peaceful life and the reduction of bloodshed can manifest in the pursuit of regional peace agreements, the establishment of a Palestinian state, a separation and seclusion policy, or the development of economic-civil relations. At this level, a substantive debate on the different alternatives can begin.
How? The practical methods of implementation of the different alternatives must be defined. For instance, a deep commitment to human life can be promoted in a combined form of local swap agreements and military operations. Control over land can be divided between areas where there is a distinct advantage to civilian settlements and areas where it is more logical to establish control in other ways. The pursuit of a peaceful life and the reduction of bloodshed, which requires partners on the other side, can be promoted through various lines of cooperation with them.

The segmentation of belief into the three levels of Why, What, and How is only the first step. The more essential need is to examine the broad considerations and decide if to promote these values in the first place. In this framework, several principles should be maintained:

Analysis of tensions and similarities among variables: The differences between the values, the various ways of realizing them, ​​and the defensive requirements of national security must all be analyzed. To move forward toward a decision, these concepts must be mapped and prioritized. For example, some of the possible components of a hostage deal are in inherent tension with the need for national security to eradicate Hamas and prevent it as much as possible from restoring its military, political and civil power and status. The establishment of settlements in the Gaza Strip stands in tension with a realistic assessment of the severe international opposition there would inevitably be to such a move. The promotion of peace agreements with the Palestinians stands in tension with Israel’s operational need to protect against terrorist threats. But good decisions cannot be made based on partial statements. In order to enable good decisions to be made, these tensions and the connections between them must be mapped.

A realistic assessment of the situation: These tensions and connections must be presented in a way that corresponds with a professional and realistic assessment of the strategic and practical situation. Statements like “We can thwart the senior terrorists we release after the deal is completed”; “The world will accept our view on the establishment of settlements in Gaza if we are determined enough”; or “The Palestinians will lose their desire for terrorism as a result of the dynamics of peace” express not a realistic assessment of the situation but the wishful thinking of the believers. They do not promote real discussion but instead constitute second and third lines of defense to help believers deal with the tensions between their desires and reality.

To make brave decisions and stick to them: Adapting a value and manifesting its expression in national security efforts is an inherent part of national conduct in every country and in Israel even more so. If, after a complex and deep discussion, the What and How of a value ​​are identified and viable efforts are found to protect it, it is logical to accept the decision and stick to its implementation. A vague approach of “both this and that” may be convenient for the postponing of difficult decisions but causes lasting damage to national security. One can decide to resort to ambiguity on certain issues, but that decision must represent a conscious choice, not the avoidance of one.

Promoting values ​​within the framework of national security, if done responsibly, will always create a mixture of policies. There are few cases where the right and realistic choice is to “go all the way.” Even in the case of issues that appear to be clear-cut, not “everything” is done. The State of Israel made a realistic choice not to do “everything” to capture, try, or execute the Nazi criminals, even though it had every moral justification to do so. Decisions on issues of value such as the release of the hostages, the establishment of settlements or the promotion of peace will always be a mixture of elements the decision-makers aim to achieve and elements they do not.

Know how to analyze when the reality has changed and an update is required: A dynamic strategic environment requires renewed examinations of the What and the How along the way. The state may have decided not to make certain moves in a certain situation, but a change in the circumstances might put those moves back on the table. For example, the eradication of Hamas leadership in Gaza and perhaps outside it as well could allow Israel to be more generous in negotiations on the release of the hostages; a change of administration in the US could allow a new discussion on the characteristics of the settlements; and the establishment of a new leadership in the Palestinian Authority after Abu Mazen could change the situation regarding the peace process. Discussions on the way fundamental values ​​are realized within the framework of national security are, therefore, dynamic.

Flexibility and deniability: One of the greatest strategic problems facing the State of Israel is the fact that nearly everything is immediately broadcast openly by the media. Decision-makers must have maximum flexibility to make and implement their decisions. Unnecessary discussions in the media that bare every decision to the public damage deniability, which is an essential tool of national security. Most countries in the world – admittedly in democracies it is more difficult – use deniability to advance their national security. It cannot be that only the State of Israel is to be denied this tool because of the needs of media organizations, journalists and commentators. In the promotion of national values ​​there must always be an element of deniability: tacit consent and turning a blind eye.

Knowing when to stop and change course: Some values will remain unrealizable. The decision makers will continue to hold them but will not be able to implement them. This is a healthy part of the democratic and strategic conduct of a country. Many Israelis, including decision-makers, wanted, for moral and historical reasons, to intervene in Syria a decade ago to stop the regime’s massacre of innocent civilians, including at distances close to the Israeli border. A realistic situational assessment of the meaning of such an intervention and the aid and rescue moves it would have entailed stopped Israel from going down that path except to provide local aid, mainly civilian and medical, for residents of the Golan Heights.

A substantive discussion about which values ​​should be realized within the framework of national security during this war is important for the existence of the state. Rather than becoming a pointless series of skirmishes over beliefs, this discussion must be carried out in a professional and serious manner in accordance with the principles outlined above.

Col. (res.) Shai Shabtai is a senior researcher at the BESA Center and an expert in national security, strategic planning, and strategic communication. He is a strategist in the field of cyber security and a consultant to leading companies in Israel.

A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Welcomes Anti-Israel Campus Protesters to ‘Resistance Front’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s so-called “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, applauded the anti-Israel protesters who have thrown university campuses across the US into chaos over the past several weeks, declaring them part of a new “branch of the Resistance Front” against the Jewish state.

“Dear university students in the United States of America, this message is an expression of our empathy and solidarity with you,” Khamenei wrote in an open letter published on Thursday. “As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it.”

Rehashing antisemitic conspiracies of Jewish control, he derided “the global Zionist elite” for speaking against the campus demonstrations.

“The global Zionist elite — who owns most US and European media corporations or influences them through funding and bribery — has labeled this courageous, humane resistance movement as ‘terrorism,’” Khamenei wrote. “You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front and have begun an honorable struggle in the face of your government’s ruthless pressure — a government which openly supports the usurper and brutal Zionist regime.”

Khamenei also praised students in other countries who have launched anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, noting the leading role that faculty have played in fostering and supporting the unrest.

“Besides you students from dozens of American universities, there have also been uprisings in others countries among academics and the general public,” he wrote. “The support and solidarity of your professors is a significant and consequential development. This can offer some measure of comfort in the face of your government’s police brutality and the pressures it is exerting on you. I too am among those who empathize with you young people, and value your perseverance.”

Khamenei’s letter came amid an outpouring of praise for the anti-Zionist students by Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

“While we support the assassination of the infidel Zionists and the beheading of them, we also appreciate and value the movement of Western demonstrators and sit-in students from Western universities, who through their sit-ins and protests expressed their rejection of the genocide taking place in Gaza,” al-Qaeda leadership wrote in a recent communique

Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran, have also cheered the protests.

“Today’s students are the leaders of the future, and their suppression today means an expensive electoral bill that the Biden administration will pay sooner or later,” Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq said in a statement last month.

Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, also praised the protesters during an interview with Al-Manar TV earlier this month.

“We appreciate and value this very much. Perhaps in the future, there will be cooperation among the youth of the world — in America, France, Britain, Germany, and all the activists,” he said. “The [campus protests] are important, especially because they will have an impact on US elections. They will have an impact on the American position.”

Earlier this month, when some universities suspended students who had occupied sections of campus and refused to leave unless school officials agreed to condemn and boycott Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi militia, a terrorist organization that has repeatedly violated freedom of the seas by attacking international shipping vessels passing through the Red Sea, offered to admit the disciplined students as transfers to Sanaa University, an institution it administers.

Some anti-Zionist student groups have reciprocated the admiration.

Last week, Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) endorsed Hamas, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace Islamic extremism and antisemitism.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has re-formed under multiple names since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, was central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The anti-Zionist student movement’s support for terrorism and anti-American ideologies has been expressed before.

Footage of the protests which erupted on college campuses at the end of spring semester showed demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas at Columbia University, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

The post Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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