Sherwin Pomerantz

The 156th Day of Israel’s War Against Hamas

While the war did not end on Friday as I predicted last week, things did happen at the end of the week to demonstrate that Washington is beginning to put the screws to Israel in a number of ways. At his State of the Union address on Thursday evening President Biden announced that the US intends to build a temporary pier in Gaza to allow the shipment of humanitarian aid to the strip without using land crossings from either Egypt or Israel. Theoretically, this was done in coordination with Israel which will provide security for its operation.

Over the weekend the Biden administration warned Israel of the risks of attacking Rafah, intensifying efforts to get us to rethink the conduct of the five-month-old war. Senior US officials said they are cautioning Israel against a direct ground and air attack, doubting that Israel can develop an effective plan to move the civilian population out of harm’s way ahead of the assault, according to a report in today’s New York Times. In a sign of growing White House concern about Rafah, President Biden warned Saturday that an Israeli attack would cross a “red line” and left open the possibility that the US might withhold some types of military assistance to Israel if the operation caused extensive civilian casualties. But he added that a complete cutoff of weapons shipments wasn’t an option.

“It is a red line, but I am never going to leave Israel. The defense of Israel is still critical. So, there is no red line (where) I am going to cut off all weapons, so they don’t have the Iron Dome to protect them,” Biden told MSNBC, referring to the antimissile interceptors. “But there’s red lines that if he (i.e. Netanyahu) crosses…. You cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead.” Fueling the administration’s concern is the faltering effort to secure a six-week cease-fire before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which begins this evening, when US officials fear violence will surge in the midst of Palestinian protests.

Speaking to lawmakers in the House chamber after the speech, Biden was overheard saying on a live mic that he would have even tougher words for Netanyahu in private. “I told him, Bibi, and don’t repeat this, but you and I are going to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting,” Biden confided to Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, before an aide cautioned the president that his words were being broadcast live.

Meanwhile on day 156 Israel continues its work in Gaza with the IDF finding and neutralizing additional terror cells in both Khan Yunis and Rafah. The IDF destroyed the Al Masri tower in Rafah today as Hamas was known to be using the facility to house human shields for its terror attacks on Israelis. There were no reported civilian casualties.

In the aftermath of a military operation in Rafah, Israel assesses that the Palestinians will attempt an initiative that will try freezing or suspending Israel’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly discussions, as well as its ability to vote in the debates, according to a report on Israel radio N12 made public on Saturday. For the record a suspension of membership from the General Assembly is a complicated move that requires a vote by all members of the UN Security Council, along with a two-thirds majority of the assembly. Sources at the Foreign Ministry estimate that this is the path the Palestinians will want to take, per the N12 report. The fear comes amid leaks from political officials of the Arab League, and following remarks made by Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour last week, in which he stated, “Israel cannot continue to sit among us.”

The Foreign Ministry’s legal advisers are working on a move that will show this effort to be fundamentally baseless, according to N12. However, whether the move succeeds or not – this would be very damaging for Israel’s image.  A similar step occurred only once since the UN was first established. In the 1970s, South Africa’s participation in the General Assembly discussions was suspended because of its apartheid regime.

Future Leadership 

Today I highlight another individual with potential for national leadership, Dr. Akiva Sternberg, a researcher of the history of Halacha but someone who has also served professionally in various positions of responsibility in the Israeli banking system.

Until a few years ago he was Senior Vice President and Chief Internal Auditor at Union Bank of Israel Ltd. He had served previously as Chief Risk Manager, Head of the Investment Department, Head of the Financial Management and International Banking Department as well as Deputy Head of the Foreign Business Department, Deputy Head of the Capital Market Department, Head of the Economic Planning and Analysis Department and the person in charge of the information center.

He is an expert in the development and implementation of models for assessing credit risks, liquidity, market and operational risks in the banking industry. He also developed generally accepted models for macroeconomic forecasting.

As a historian he researches the history of Halacha, from the time of Rashi and the Tosfot to the modern era. His books give the reader the ability to follow the halachic negotiations, while presenting and analyzing the social impacts in their various dimensions, the mutual consequences for the public and the thinking of the rabbis on halachic rulings

A native of Boston, he has lived in Israel for the past 43 years. He holds a BA in Economics from the Johns Hopkins University, a Master’s degree in Management Sciences from Boston University/Ben Gurion University and a Ph.D. from Bar Ilan University’s School of Business Administration.

Dr. Sternberg has taught at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (now Reichman University). His courses in banking and risk management, in the local and international program, focused on the disruptive process of banking activity and the effect of Fintech on the future of banking.

No doubt a future finance minister would be very happy to have some like Akiva as part of the country’s financial management team.

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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