Sherwin Pomerantz

Israel’s 131st day of war

On this, the 131st day of the war in Israel, it appears that the leadership of Hamas headquartered in southern Gaza is on the run fearful of being captured or killed by the IDF.  The IDF continues to pursue the Hamas leadership as our death toll rises, which now indicates that 232 soldiers have died in the battle for Gaza.

Negotiators from multiple countries met in Cairo on Tuesday, struggling to reach an agreement to temporarily stop the war in the Gaza Strip, as international concern mounted over Israel’s plan to press its ground offensive into the city of Rafah, where more than half of the territory’s population has sought refuge. Talks involving lower-level officials will continue for another three days, according to an Egyptian and an American official briefed on the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. They described the negotiations on Tuesday as promising, but that Israel and Hamas were still not close to a deal.

A primary obstacle, according to another US official, is a disagreement on how many Palestinians Israel would release from its prisons in exchange for the release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and its allies. A series of exchanges in late November saw three Palestinians released for each hostage returned. President Biden sent the CIA director, William J. Burns, to join the talks, and said that he had spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the leaders of Egypt and Qatar to “push this forward” over the past month. Officials of Hamas, the armed group fighting Israel, were taking part in the negotiations indirectly, using Qatar and Egypt as intermediaries.

It was reported this morning that Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has urged Hamas to make a deal with the Israel for the release of the remaining hostages and the release of Palestinian prisoners being held in local jails.

Deadly rocket fire targeting northern Israel yesterday illustrates that Hezbollah is not deterred and is escalating attacks on Israel, seeking to target communities deeper inside Israel. Israel evacuated 80,000 people from northern communities in early October because of Hezbollah attacks.  Hezbollah believes it has impunity to attack Israel and has launched more than 2,000 rockets at Israel. Rockets fired by the Iranian-backed terrorist group wounded a woman and her son on February 13. So far, there has been no attempt to fully deter and prevent Hezbollah’s attacks. Instead, Israel prefers precision and proportional response. Hezbollah gambled in early October that it could attack Israel with impunity and that Israel, focused on the war against Hamas, would not be willing to start a two-front war. Indeed, this is not the Israel of 1967 or 1973, when it successfully defeated multiple conventional armies on multiple fronts in a week or two of fighting, despite many obstacles.

Reports have come out of France that the government there is about ready to suggest a truce agreement between Israel and Lebanon that would push Hezbollah forces 10km away from the border with Israel to create a buffer zone between Israel and Hezbollah.

A Qatari source conveyed to Palestinian Authority president Abbas that Hamas has agreed to form a technocratic government in Gaza after the war, according to a Tuesday report from Sky News Arabia citing a Palestinian source in Ramallah. On Sunday, the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Abbas was set to discuss a new Palestinian unity government with the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

According to the report, Hamas has shown initial acceptance of the idea of the Islamist terror organization’s joining the PLO on the basis that this merging be attached to a political horizon wherein a Palestinian State is formed along the 1967 borders.

Further, the technocratic government, that is, a government composed of individuals based on their technical expertise and knowledge rather than political ideologies, that would theoretically oversee Gaza would not have any Hamas pre-stipulated members.

The Palestinian source conveyed to Sky News Arabia that this supposed agreement is based on three points laid out in an “Arab principles paper.” The paper was followed up on by a Palestinian-delegated Saudi team. It remains unclear what Israel’s reaction to this might be.

Future Leadership

Our quest for the Israel leaders of the future takes us today to Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, a Policy Fellow at the Mitvim Institute who serves as a strategy consultant and public opinion expert for political and social campaigns in Israel and around the world. She completed her PhD in political science at the University of Tel Aviv, where she researched “non-existent states” – that is, entities that were created out of ethno-national conflicts and which declared independence unilaterally, but have not received official recognition by the international community.

She has previously worked as a public opinion and political campaign analyst for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, one of the world’s preeminent leaders in the field. She was also Director of International Studies at the GCS Campaign Management Company and a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute. As an independent consultant, she develops strategies rooted in public opinion research for social issues, including sector relations, democracy and the transition to democracy, political disputes and negotiations, and human rights both in Israel and other countries.

Dr. Scheindlin has advised five national election campaigns in Israel, in addition to political and societal projects in Austria, Italy, the US, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia and Zanzibar, among others. Dr. Scheindlin is an external lecturer at Tel Aviv University, and previously taught at the Jezreel Valley College and Ben Gurion University. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from McGill University in Montreal, and her Master’s degree from Harvard University. She writes a regular column for +972 Magazine, an independent website; contributes from time to time to other newspapers; and serves as an interpreter for the Israeli and international media.

Israel could clearly benefit from the intellect of people like here as we move to a new government after the war.

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.
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