Sherwin Pomerantz

The 195th Day of War in Israel

The US has approved a potential Israeli Rafah operation in exchange for Israel not conducting counterstrikes on Iran, according to a Thursday report from the Qatari newspaper The New Arab.  A senior official told the paper that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to obtain American approval for a military operation in Rafah, in exchange for [Israel] refraining from carrying out a wide military operation against Iran in response to its recent attack.”

The Qatar report also noted that Egypt is exemplifying “full readiness and preparedness of [its] forces stationed in northern Sinai, along the 14-kilometer border strip with the Gaza Strip, as part of a plan to deal with the scenario of a ground invasion in Rafah.”   Speaking about the potential Israeli ground invasion, Egyptian law professor Dr. Ayman Salama stated that any modification in the military situation requires Egypt’s approval, “and Israel will not be able to establish buffer zones on the Egyptian-Israeli border or modify the security annex of the peace treaty between the two countries under the pretext of urgent security needs in cases of direct threats.”

Regarding the humanitarian concerns in Gaza, as the United States and other countries pressure Israel to increase food aid to Gaza, Israeli officials familiar with the situation say Gaza has been overwhelmed by food aid. Israeli officials harshly criticize American representatives, led by Ambassador David Schenker, accusing them of echoing the lie about “starvation in Gaza.”

“There is no food shortage in Gaza, and there never was,” said an Israeli official familiar with the details. “The stores are full, the markets are bursting with goods, fruits, vegetables, shawarma, pitas—there is everything. Do you know why they no longer loot convoys? Because there is no shortage. The quantities entering are not normal.”  Recently, COGAT Commander Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian issued an unusual statement: “Israel does not constitute a bottleneck when it comes to providing humanitarian aid. The U.N. needs to do the job it is charged with and do it properly.”

Despite this data, last week UN officials told the American Jewish Committee (AJC) that “there is an immediate risk of starvation, for most if not all 2.2 million people in Gaza.” This, despite the fact that in the three previous days, around 300 trucks entered the Strip per day.

In the continuing attempt to deal with antisemitism on campus, Columbia University’s president, its two board co-chairs and a co-chair of its antisemitism taskforce testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Wednesday about Jew-hatred on campus since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.  Members of the House committed asked Dr. Minouche Shafik, Columbia’s president, about Joseph Massad, a tenured professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, who wrote an article on Oct. 8 describing the Hamas massacre as a “stunning victory” that was “awesome.”

“I am appalled by what he said,“ Shafik said. “He has been spoken to.”  Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) was incredulous that Massad continues to teach and that a “talking to” was the extent of his punishment.

The hearing is part of the House committee’s investigation into antisemitism on college campuses in the wake of Oct. 7. In December, it grilled the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about what actions they’ve taken to combat Jew-hatred.

Regarding the hostages, Time magazine on Wednesday featured Rachel Goldberg-Polin, the mother of 23-year-old Hamas captive Hersh Goldberg-Polin, in its 2024 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.  Goldberg-Polin appeared in the “Leaders” section of the list, which also includes Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

“I want to thank Time for my inclusion on the TIME100 and for recognizing the significance and gravity of the hostage crisis and the need for the world to advocate on their behalf, until each one is returned home,” said Goldberg-Polin.   Since the events on October 7th Rachel has become one of the most emblematic figures in the fight to bring the hostages home. She was invited to speak at U.N. headquarters in New York and Geneva, and met with world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, Pope Francis in Rome and U.S. entrepreneur Elon Musk.

I am particularly proud of what she has done for keeping the issue of the hostages on the front page as I knew the Polon family well during the 20 years I lived in Chicago.  I join with people of conscience everywhere in recognizing her and her husband Jon’s courage and determination during an indescribably difficult journey which still has no end in sight.   May their son Hersh and all those still held captive be released soon.

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.