Monday, August 04, 2014

Politics – July 2014 -- War!!

Politics – July 2014 -- War!!

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at

I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See

Thank you

Thanks for all those who contact me to voice sympathy, concern and good wishes for our families and friends who are put under the line of fire in Israel. I appreciate it.

For all that Israel has accomplished, for all that Israel will achieve, Israel cannot be complete and it cannot be secure without peace. It is never too late to seed the ground for peace—a true and living peace that exists not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of all Israelis and Palestinians. That is the future the United States remains committed to, as Israel’s first friend, Israel’s oldest friend, and Israel’s strongest friend.

~ Barack Obama

See David Grossman, Stop the Grindstone of Israeli-Palestinian Violence, NYT

Michael Walzer, “Israel Must Defeat Hamas, But Also Must Do More to Limit Civilian Deaths: The moral calculus of a messy war”. The New Republic, July 30, 2014

I agree with the Washington Post's Editorial: The U.S. should push for the disarming of Hamas in Gaza-Israel cease-fire,

Professor Asa Kasher sent me two articles he co-authored with Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, “Assassination and Preventive Killing”, SAIS Review, Vol. XXV, No. 1 (Winter-Spring 2005): 41-57, and “Military Ethics of Fighting Terror: An Israeli Perspective”, J. of Military Ethics, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2005): 3-32. I’d be happy to send them to interested parties.

R. Cohen-Almagor, “Israel Cannot Be Complete and It Cannot Be Secure Without Just Peace”, in Sharnoff’s Global Views (July 18, 2014),

Thanks for the many letters and comments I received about my article. It was republished in “Israel versus Palestine? Who do you support?”, The Daily Journalist, World Wide Experts,

Your comments prompted me to write “Is Israel’s Operation Protective Edge Justified?”, in Sharnoff’s Global Views (July 25, 2014),

Operation Protective Edge

War Diary

July 19, 2014

Exchange with Professor Joyce Appelby

Reflections on Is Israel’s Operation Protective Edge Justified?

Reflections on June Newsletter

Exchange with Florence Biano

Rocket Fire on Israel

Life in the Gaza Strip


Abu Mazen

On the British and Israeli Media

When the Artillery Is Firing, the Muses Are Silent ?

On Politics of Numbers

US-Israel Relations

When Dust Settles

Washington DC

More Thanks

Monthly Poems

New Books

Light Side

Operation Protective Edge

Once triggered, violence can escalate rapidly.

Following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys, some Israeli-Jews decided to take the law into their hands to revenge by killing an innocent Palestinian. They picked 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair, murdered him and burned his body. The Israeli police acted swiftly. Six Jews have been arrested. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned the father of a murdered Palestinian teenager to promise that the attackers would be prosecuted: "I wish to express my shock and the shock of Israel's citizens over the despicable murder of your son," Prime Minister Netanyahu told the father, Hussein Abu Khudair. "The murderers will be brought to trial and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Israel targeted Hamas terrorists as the organization is deemed responsible for the abduction of the three slained young boys. Dozens of air strikes were launched against Hamas targets. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire on Israeli towns. Rockets and mortars were fired at Israel on July 7, 2014. On July 8, 2014, Israel responded with a military operation against Gaza. The offensive, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” is aimed at striking Hamas and ending the rocket fire.

War Diary

I have been written a war diary, reflecting on events, expressing my own mood. Venting thoughts. I will publish it one day. Here is a glimpse.

July 19, 2014

July 19 seems to be a watershed in this military campaign. It was a horrific day. From then on, things got worse.

From my diary: Four soldiers died in combat and one Israeli civilian died as a result of rocket fire. 30 soldiers were injured. The death toll in Gaza increased to 350 Palestinians, most of them civilians. The IDF intensified its artillery and pushed forward into Gaza. More tunnels are uncovered and destroyed. The rocket fire does not stop on Israeli cities. 112 rockets were fired on Israel.

This seems to be, until now, the harshest day of the operation. Israeli decision-makers are fed up with the situation, the constant barrage of rockets on Israel, and with the machinery of terrorism the IDF has uncovered in Gaza. All hell broke loose. Now the aim is to break Hamas.

If Hamas wanted to press Israel to extend the operation and to inflict more damage on Gaza, then it certainly has achieved its target. Netanyahu, who seemed to be calculated until now, seems to lose his breaks. A responsible government is required to ponder the consequences of its decisions and to calculate the cost-benefits of conduct before and during conflict. It should be in control of events and not allow snow-balling, rapid escalation when events control you rather than you control them.

My heart is heavy. Military achievements need to be supplemented with diplomatic efforts to explain and reason Israeli actions. It is difficult to understand what Lieberman is doing in the diplomatic sphere. People who are ignorant of the situation might not even know that Lieberman is Israel’s Foreign Minister. I expected him to embark on a diplomatic tour. Lieberman prefers to remain in Israel.

Exchange with Professor Joyce Appelby

Commenting on “Israel Cannot Be Complete and It Cannot Be Secure Without Just Peace”.

July 18, 2014

Missing from your analysis, Rafi, are three key elements: Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Israeli blockade of Gaza, and the casualties the Palestinians have sustained. Joyce

July 20, 2014

I began formulating the principles that guide my thinking and sent Joyce an early draft of “Is Israel’s Operation Protective Edge Justified?”

July 21, 2014

I appreciate your principles, Rafi, but they all operate to benefit Israel. If nations have the right of self-defence, do occupied territories have the right of resistance? Gaza may not be occupied, but it's not an independent state either. Israel not only limits concrete imports, but determines how much food can be received. It's a terrible situation with deep-rooted hatred felt on all sides. My realistic streak tells me that the resolution of hostilities lies in some far off future.

July 21, 2014


We are all product of upbringing, culture, family. At the same time, I think these principles may resonate with non-Israelis as well.

The historical string of events was as follows: Israel evacuated its forces and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The Israeli aim was to enable a case test for Palestinian independence.

A year later Hamas came to power. Hamas consistently opposed the Oslo Accords and any form of reconciliation with Israel. It upholds uncompromising zeal to destroy Israel. From the moment they took over, they launched terrorist attacks on Israel. Does Israel have the right to defend itself?

As you know, I criticized Israel for constricting the delivery of essential products into Gaza. I have addressed this issue on my blog and in other forums a number of times. Mistakenly, I should say, I also criticized Israel for restricting building material. Now we know that Hamas was using this material to build more underground, terror tunnels, than above the ground for the benefit and welfare of Palestinian civilians.

Every society, including yours, has the right of self-defence. You are living in New Mexico. Suppose Mexico decides to reclaim its territory from the USA. USA would not have it, and Mexico would launch rockets on New Mexico. Would you tolerate this?

I agree it is a terrible situation with deep-rooted hatred felt on all sides. I also agree with your realistic streak that the resolution of hostilities lies in some far off future.

Hamas is a bitter enemy that has no qualms. It is fully resolved to destroy Israel. But no leadership can live by the sword forever. People want normal life. Hamas days in Gaza are numbered. The question is who will replace it. I hope the Gazans will opt for a more reconciliatory party than Hamas.

With your permission, I would like to publish our exchange in my next Newsletter.


July 23, 2014

Today's letter to the New York Times gave a nice sweep of opinion about Palestine and Israel, Rafi. You may certainly use our correspondence in your newsletter. Joyce

A Clash of Views Over the Mideast NY Times (July 21, 2014)

Reflections on Is Israel’s Operation Protective Edge Justified?

in Sharnoff’s Global Views (July 25, 2014),


Professor Steve Newman wrote from Toronto:

Hi Rafi,

Good piece.

I am concerned that so many Palestinian deaths will lose Israel friends in the West. The action may be justified, both in terms of the laws of war and the moral requirements of a just war, and still be ill-considered. Yes, Hamas bears responsibility for hiding its warriors and weapons among civilians. What the world sees, however, are the deaths of hundreds of civilians, many of them children. What the world sees are Israeli strikes targeting places of worship, schools and hospitals. Again, Hamas bears responsibility for hiding its warriors and weapons in or near these facilities. And what answer do we give when the world asks if it is necessary to inflict horrendous collateral damage on the civilian population in order to strike at Hamas? Hamas fires one barrage of rockets after another, but there are few Israeli casualties. Luck, perhaps, or testimony to the effectiveness of Israel's anti-missile technology. What the world knows is that few have died and little damage has been done to people's homes or public buildings. In contrast, Israel's militarily proportionate response brings disproportionate casualties among the residents of Gaza. Who is so hardened that their heart does not bleed at the sights displayed night after night on the evening news? I'm no geo-strategist, but it occurs to me that this campaign is not going well for Israel even if, in a strictly military sense, it looks to be achieving its goals. You can win the battle and lose the war.

But losing the battle for world opinion is not my only concern. It troubles me that Israel's leaders do not appear to have considered the inevitability of large numbers of civilian casualties or the morality of inflicting such casualties in response to rockets that have, thus far, proven largely ineffective. Yes, the terror inflicted by the rockets is real. And yes, every state has the right to defend against such attacks. But if my neighbor, who is my declared enemy, is firing shots in the air in the direction of my house --shots that could injure or kill me or members of my family but haven't, because his gun is of a primitive design and his aim is bad --should my initial response be to target his house with a sophisticated canon that will not only obliterate his dwelling but inevitably send shrapnel into homes on either side of his? Is that a responsible use of my power? I'm not so sure. Maybe there is another way to handle the situation.

A further concern of mine has to do with the control Israel exercises over who and what enters or leaves Gaza. I've heard Gaza described as a "prison camp" because Israel and Egypt control the points of entry and have effectively strangled the local economy. Again, Israel acts in self-defense and with justification. Why should Israel permit the importation of goods and resources into Gaza that are used to wage war against the Jewish state? At the same time, however, these restrictions render the lives of ordinary Palestinians miserable, which only benefits Hamas. And by the way, this is something else that turns world opinion against Israel. It doesn't matter that Hamas has failed to improve the lot of the people of Gaza or even to have tried; the worse things are in Gaza, the worse Israel looks in the eyes of the world.

Frankly, a part of me doesn't believe that the present government of Israel cares a fig about the people of Gaza. It doesn't care about civilian casualties or about the miserable conditions that prevail even in the absence of armed conflict. And this perhaps is why Israel finds "collateral damage" acceptable. I can imagine Netanyahu saying "Palestinian problems are for Palestinians to solve." But I think he's wrong. Peace requires that leaders on both sides start to care about the well being of the other. It's not enough for Israel to be on the right side of the laws of war.

Or so it seems to me from the safety of my study in Toronto.



Mr Tim Friedman wrote from Leeds:

Hi Rafi

Again I find myself in total agreement with your clear analysis and assume you highlight the “Collateral Damage” passage because this is what the rest of the world COULD do to help but which it is not doing.

The first responsibility of any government is to ensure its population may live in safety and most of the world accepts Israel is entitled to live in peace within secure borders. It cannot do so with continual rocket attacks from Gaza or tunnels facilitating armed incursions into its territory.

If, because of the pressure of the Arab countries and their automatic criticism of Israel and because other countries’ concerns in the light of the dreadful carnage in Gaza, Israel is compelled to pull out without stopping rockets and closing tunnels, this will be the green light for all terrorist organisations to use their unfortunate peoples as expendable pawns.

The world has obligations which it wilfully ignores, finding it more comfortable to pontificate than to assume responsibility by strongly condemning breaches of international law by terrorists. Failure to take such a stance imposes an immense burden on those countries which observe international law and the Geneva Conventions and makes future similar incidents more likely.

Best wishes


Reflections on the June Newsletter

Ms. Yumi Arima wrote from Japan:

Dear Rafi,

The news of consecutive teenagers perishing has frightened us and inflicted deep sorrow even in the Far East in Japan.

For me, as a mother, I hope to stop these awful clashes in East Jerusalem immediately.

I admire your efforts to build peace between Israel and Palestine. “Never give up”.

Please give my regards to Zaavit.

Lots of my love,


Regarding the poll that showed that Palestinian support for a two-state solution with Israel has dropped to below the 30 percent mark, and that 60 percent wish to eliminate Israel, Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig ( commented:


I too am for a two-state solution. But how does one even begin to get there if a majority of the other side (the general public) does not even recognize our right to exist? I am not talking about the "blame game", but reality. Two sides cannot agree on anything if one side doesn't accept the existence of the other side -- and this is expressed not only in "public opinion" but in all the educational materials etc. Good will is not enough in such a situation. I know that sounds awfully pessimistic (and I am known as a VERY optimistic person), but reality is stronger than "hope".


Dr Alan Roth wrote from London:

Dear Rafi,

Please find attached, yet again, an official statement from the German MP and Speaker of the German Foreign Ministry Philipp Mißfelder supporting Israel in this terrible time.

As far as anyone can see, he is the SOLE official voice in Europe/UK who comes out loud and clear in an unconditional support of Israel defending itself against Hamas.

Please see press releases attached (German and English).

I am certain you have also noted that he, like his boss Chancellor Merkel, is also a supporter of the two-state solution in addition to being a staunch friend of Israel. Philipp Mißfelder writes: “Israel’s military action against those behind the attacks, Hamas, is justified. The terrorist organisation Hamas, which has been ostracised by the EU, rejects the Jewish state’s right to exist and is unabatedly preaching hatred against Israel. This hatred is leading to the murder of innocent people and obstructing the peace process. Germany stands side by side with Israel. We support a two-state solution which lays down the final borders between the two states.”

Shabat Shalom and best regards,

Exchange with Ms. Florence Biano

Florence wrote from Haifa:

Good morning Rafi,
Life in our region is too sad to deserve any comments.
The 3 boys found after 19 days shattered us.
How can we dream? Do you know how???

Hi Florence

It is very hard. I know. But I must have hope; otherwise reality is far too frustrating.

Reality can be better. We should do our best to make it better. Reality is not only for others to change. We need to make a contribution, small as it is. Providing hope is a contribution.

Dreaming can be very nice. It might also end up in a nightmare. Positive thoughts are more likely to lead to sweet dreams.

Sleep with no dreams is dull. It is preferable to having nightmares, but it lacks so much compared to those who experience beautiful, colourful, zestful dreams.

I continue to dream for my children, and for other children. Israeli and Palestinian kids can have a life similar to life in the UK, Canada and the USA. Inshallah one day….

Best wishes


Hi Rafi,

Would love to dream again, I have grandchildren but I can't,

We're so far from peace unfortunately!


Rocket Fire on Israel

In red: number of rockets per day.

In blue: number of intercepted rockets by the Iron Dome.

Ynet, August 1, 2014

Life in the Gaza Strip

Read the BBC report on Gaza,


Peace? Hmmm… No. Two-state solution? No.

Do I still believe that two-state solution is the best solution for this dreadful conflict? Absolutely.

Peace is the key for Israel’s security. Two-state solution is the key for peace.

But this is not going to happen soon. Now all I see is long, dark terror tunnels. I do not see the light at the end of the tunnels.

I have been arguing that for such a momentous achievement of resolving a deep, entrenched conflict, three things are absolutely essential:

An Israeli leader who is committed to bring peace to his people and is willing to pay the necessary price;

A Palestinian leader who is committed to bring peace to his people and is willing to pay the necessary price;

Shared belief by both leaders that the time is ripe for peace. By “time is ripe” it is meant that both leaders believe that enough blood was shed, that they need to seize the moment because things might worsen for their people, and that they have the ability to lead their respective people to accept the peace agreement and change reality for the better.

I let you judge the leaders’ commitment to peace. The present seems far riper for war and violence than for peace.

As I wrote to Florence, peace will come, Inshallah one day…

We must remain realistic, and hopeful.

Prime Minister Netanyahu argues that destroying the terror tunnels will provide a solution.

A short-term solution.

The core problems and issues need to be addressed. It is difficult to address them with a terrorist organization that does not even recognize your right to exist and that wishes to eradicate you from the map. You may argue that the core issues should be addressed by the Palestinian Authority. But…

Abu Mazen

Abu Mazen is the President of the Palestinian Authority and the leader of the Palestinian people. He heads a Hamas-Fatah government. There is staggering dissonance between his formal position and his real, actual powers.

Abu Mazen cannot deliver, fears for his own position, or is content to see the downfall of Hamas.

Bleak future, for the time being.

On the British and Israeli Media

The British media show time and again distressing pictures of dead and maimed children, and people covered in blood in Gaza. In the war on public awareness and public sympathy, Hamas is winning.

The media in Britain is like a mirror image of the media in Israel. In Britain, most of the reports are highly critical of Israel. The BBC is committed to the balancing principle and there you see reports that explain Israel, but they are short compared to the reports from Gaza. In Israel, most reports provide backing to the government to continue military operations. Haaretz is more critical than any other medium. Most of the people in the talk-shows I listen to support and justify the military operation.

When the Artillery Is Firing, the Muses Are Silent?

There is a saying in Hebrew: When the artillery is firing, the muses are silent. But should they?

During the past few weeks, there were loud and disturbing voices against all Arabs, and against those who dared to criticize the war. There were calls denouncing all Arabs, including the Israeli-Arabs, as a cancer that needs to be eradicated. There were calls to kill all Arabs. People say there are no innocent people in Gaza. The Palestinians are responsible for their lot. There were calls against the ever-shrinking Israeli left, portraying peace activists as defeatists at best, and as traitors at worse. Anyone who dared to mention the heavy Palestinian death-toll was attacked, including academics, musicians and actors. Academic freedom is under attack. Freedom of speech is reserved to only those who unequivocally support the war effort. People confuse caring for basic human rights, and Israel bashing. Many of those who criticize Israel care deeply about Israel. They criticize because they love Israel and wish to protect its best interest, not because they exploit the opportunity to mount an attack on Zionism and Israel’s right to exist. Attempts to silence “unfavourable” opinions should be countered. Freedom of speech is an important principle, vital for democratic life and for the promotion of civic culture.

On Politics of Numbers

Politics of Numbers holds that at some point the no. of casualties becomes intolerable. Assessment should be made beforehand as to what that number is, and measures should be taken not to reach it.

See Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war,;_ylt=AwrBJR7D_NBTpRMAnhDQtDMD?elq=03f9c850a5404b719056c93017d5b2d9&elqCampaignId=2040

US-Israel Relations

The American public shows greater sympathy for Israel than for Hamas.

Israel relations with the American legislature are solid and good.

Israel relations with the American administration reached an all-time low.

On July 29, it was embarrassing to listen to the Americans and the Israelis. As in a kindergarten, Netanyahu and Kerry leaked to the press different details of their conversations, disagreeing about content: “He said”, “No, I said”.

The wedge between Israel and the American administration is very worrying. I hope the US remains “Israel’s first friend, Israel’s oldest friend, and Israel’s strongest friend”.

When Dust Settles

Leaders of Israel and Hamas should reflect and ask themselves: Was it worth it? Did they achieve their aims? Is Israel more secure? Is Gaza freer?

Washington DC

On August 26 – September 2, 2014, I am scheduled to be in Washington for APSA. I will be happy to meet friends.

More Thanks

For the past seven years, Mr Boris Boltyansky has provided invaluable service for the dissemination of this Newsletter and the “Israeli Politics” Blog, ttp://

I thank Boris for his professionalism and caring attitude. Thanks to him this Newsletter has reached many thousands of people across the globe.

I also wish to thank the dozens of people who write to me and express interest. This Newsletter is now 14 year-old. I wanted to stop the Newsletter a number of times but each time you provided reasons for me to continue running it.

It is only thanks to you, your interest and kind encouragement that I continue writing. Right now, I am humbled and speechless by the events. My energy level and spirit are low. I want to go to sleep and wake to a new reality.

Monthly Poems

Summer Sun

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy's inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

Robert Louis Stevenson

New Books

Not this month.

Light Side

Well no. Not this month.

I was hoping to write at the end of this round of hostilities. On August 3, there was a refreshing change in the Israeli perspective. I wonder what happened on August 2 that brought such a radical change, from very militant declarations to ordering the withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza. The Israeli government wishes to bring things to a close. No change with Hamas. Is there a possibility for closure?

Until now, more than 3,000 rockets launched at Israel from Gaza. We count 67 Israeli deaths, most of them soldiers. 4,000 targets in Gaza were struck by Israel, resulting in 1,730 Palestinian deaths, 9,130 injured, mostly civilians.

My heart is heavy. What a terrible summer.

Yearning for tranquility, peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on
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