Sherwin Pomerantz

Israel’s 65th Day of War

On the 65th day of the war authorities here predict that the war will take until the end of February to complete Israel’s mission.  Meanwhile the IDF reports that 559 soldiers have ben wounded since the beginning of the ground invasion of Gaza with 1,600 wounded since October 7th, and the daily casualty reports keep coming in as well.

The good news is that the US has used an emergency authority to allow the sale of about 14,000 tank shells to Israel without the need for congressional review, the Pentagon said on Saturday.  The State Department on Friday used an Arms Export Control Act emergency declaration for the tank rounds worth $106.5 million for immediate delivery to Israel.  This is a welcome piece of news as Israel does not have the capacity to produce enough materiel to conduct a war of this length without the support of the US.  An important point to remember by those people who argue for us to make all of our own decisions without regard for what Washington says.

The shells are part of a bigger sale that was first reported by Reuters on Friday that the US administration is asking Congress to approve. The larger package is worth more than $500 million and includes 45,000 shells for Israel’s Merkava tanks. As the war intensifies, how and where exactly the U.S. weapons are used in the conflict continues to come under more scrutiny, even though US officials say there are no plans to put conditions on military aid to Israel or to consider withholding some of it.  Rights advocates, as expected, expressed concern over the sale, saying it doesn’t align with Washington’s effort to press Israel to minimize civilian casualties.  A State Department official said on Saturday that Washington continues to be clear with the Israeli government that it must comply with international humanitarian law and take every feasible step to avoid harm to civilians.

Four people were killed in an alleged Israeli drone strike against a vehicle near the Syrian border in the Golan Heights, Syrian media reported Friday as Israel and Hezbollah traded fire across the Lebanese frontier, with several Israelis reported injured. According to the Syrian pro-government Sham FM station, the strike took place in Madinat al-Baath in the Quneitra province. It published a picture purportedly showing the car in flames that was hit by the drone. There was no comment from the IDF on the alleged attack. However, the military did confirm that it struck targets in Syria early Friday morning, in response to rocket fire the night before.  The IDF says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for our enemies, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

The IDF needs another three to four weeks to complete its current offensive in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis and a similar amount of time after that to wrap up the first stage of the war against Hamas, according to a senior Israeli defense official.  The official told Axios in a report on Friday that while the US has not given Israel a deadline on ending its military operations in Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 massacres, Washington has expressed that time was running out.

The defense official who spoke to Axios said the US and Israel disagreed by about a month on how long the war should continue, without further specificity.

According to the official, the Biden administration would be happy for Israel to finish intensive operations by the end of the month, but Jerusalem believes it needs until at least the end of January.

“The American message is that they would like to see us finish the fighting sooner, with less harm to Palestinian civilians and more humanitarian assistance for Gaza. We would also like this to happen, but the enemy does not always agree,” the official was quoted as saying.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said Saturday they would start targeting any ship passing through the Red Sea en route to Israel, regardless of whether the ship’s ownership is linked to the Jewish state, as they continued to escalate attacks amid the Israel-Hamas war.  The Iran-backed rebel group has fired several ballistic missiles and drones at Eilat since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October, all of which were intercepted or missed their targets. The latest attack came last Wednesday when Israel shot down a ballistic missile over the Red Sea.  They have also assaulted a number of ships, thus far targeting vessels allegedly owned by Israeli firms or with ties to Israeli businessmen.  “If Gaza does not receive the food and medicine it needs, all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces,” Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sare’e announced in a video statement.

Tonight is the fourth night of Chanukah, the holiday that celebrates the Maccabean victory over Hellenistic forces who had taken control of the land and laid waste to the Temple.  It was one of the many times in history that our enemies has sought do destroy us.  In each case we prevailed and, in each case as well, our enemies no longer exist as a nation.  Hopefully we will be privileged to see the same result in the current battle.  May it be so.

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.