Sherwin Pomerantz

Israel: Unique Among the Nations Yet Again

Ahead of the planned visit here by US Secretary of State Blinken this week, a senior Hamas official urged the United States on Monday to pressure Israel to end the war in Gaza and push forward ceasefire efforts.  Blinken is set to visit Egypt and Israel today. He also aims to ensure the war does not expand into Lebanon. “We call upon the US administration to put pressure on the occupation to stop the war on Gaza, and the Hamas movement is ready to deal positively with any initiative that secures an end to the war,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said.

It is actually quite amazing and really the height of “chutzpah” (i.e. unmitigated gall) for Hamas to make this demand when, if they would put down their arms and release the hostages the war would simply end.  The IDF has done sufficient damage to the Hamas military capability to render them simply an undisciplined band of guerrilla fighters rather than an organized fighting force. So under these conditions and with Hamas laying down their arms/releasing the hostages, there would be no reason to continue fighting.  

In his eighth visit to the region since Oct 7th, Blinken is also set to travel to Jordan and Qatar this week.  He is set to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo before traveling to Israel late today, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to a State Department schedule.

Politically, Minister-without-portfolio Benny Gantz resigned on Sunday from the emergency government in a move that will not collapse the coalition but leaves Netanyahu more dependent on his right wing partners.  “Netanyahu is preventing us from moving forward to a real victory,” said Gantz in a press conference. “And so today, we are leaving the emergency government with a heavy heart – but with our whole heart.  Fateful, strategic decisions are met with hesitance and procrastination due to political considerations,” Gantz added (in criticism of the current government’s recent behavior). He called for elections to be held in the fall, urging Netanyahu to set an agreed-upon date for them to occur.

The departure of his National Unity Party, which had entered the government at the start of the war purely due to the emergency nature of the government, will impact the small war cabinet of which he and the number two in his party, former IDF chief-of-staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, were members. His presence in the government as one of the “adults” in the room will be missed.

Information from Washington seems to indicate that officials from the Biden administration are drawing up plans for the opening of an alternative diplomatic channel to Hamas for the negotiation of a possible hostage deal which would include only American-Israeli captives held in Gaza, and would be done without input from the Israeli government, two former senior U.S. officials said. On Monday, NBC News cited the two anonymous officials, who said that the Biden White House is growing increasingly frustrated with the failure to reach a deal between Israel and Hamas for the return of the remaining captives taken hostage on October 7th.

The administration is, according to the two sources, considering opening an alternative channel with Hamas which would not include Israel.  Rather than include efforts for the return of all the remaining captives, the new channel under consideration would only seek the return of those hostages with American citizenship, in particular the five who are believed to still be alive.0:00

Eight Americans remain in captivity in Gaza, including Itay Chen, Gadi Haggai, and Judith Weinstein Haggai, who were all killed on October 7th.  The remaining five, including Edan Alexander, Sagui Dekel-Chen, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Omer Neutra, and Keith Siegel are believed to be alive, though Goldberg-Polin suffered severe injuries during the October 7th attacks.  The Biden administration refused to confirm or deny Monday’s report.  The officials cited had no details regarding the possible terms of a deal between the US and Hamas, or what the Biden administration might offer as part of an agreement.

While the Israeli army expands counter-terror operations in the Gaza Strip aimed at ousting Hamas from power, the military is also gearing up for a potential conflict with Hezbollah along the northern border with Lebanon.  According to a report from Hebrew-language media outlet Ma’ariv, several brigades have prepared for a “boots on the ground” invasion of southern Lebanon, in order to root out Hezbollah from the area.

A senior IDF official told Ma’ariv that several brigades of combat soldiers, who had previously fought in Gaza, recently completed operational training for war in Lebanon. “There are operational considerations regarding timing, what targets to attack, and when. You can see that currently we’re hitting them seriously, whether it’s targeting terrorists or significant infrastructure,” said Lt. Col. B, who was identified by only his first initial.  “We are continuing to keep Hezbollah vulnerable, and not play all of our cards at once.”  Lt. Col. B said that while he “can’t provide numbers” regarding Israel’s firepower capabilities for battling Hezbollah in an all-out war, he did say that the IDF’s plans for the terror group “are robust.”

In a statement, the IDF’s Northern Command stressed that the military’s focus remains in Gaza, but that troops are ready for an escalation on the northern front. Once a “political decision is made to refocus on the north and expand the battle there, of course the type and scope of our attacks will increase accordingly,” the division said in a media statement.  “We are still in intense fighting but within the framework of what a political level allows to do. The same exercises we did at the end of last month were designed to practice for escalation” with Hezbollah, they added. Last week, Hezbollah rocket and missile launches sparked massive fires in northern Israel, burning tens of thousands of acres of land and damaging homes and businesses.

In a word, Israel remains on alert on all of its borders while simultaneously dealing with internal political divisions and a world turned against us.  As always, our position is unique among nations.

In a word, Israel remains on alert on all of its borders while simultaneously dealing with internal political divisions and a world turned against us.  As always, our position is unique among nations.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.