Sherwin Pomerantz

The 207th Day of War in Israel

There’s been new progress in negotiations for a hostage deal, White House Press Secretary Karin Jean Pierre told reporters in Washington Monday as Israel waited for Hamas’s response to a proposal that could see the return of some but not all of the remaining captives in Gaza. “There is a deal on the table, and they need to take it. We believe that all efforts need to be brought to bear to convince Hamas to accept the proposal immediately,” she said. US President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the counters of a deal on Sunday and was expected to speak with the Emir of Qatar and the President of Egypt on Monday, Jean Pierre said.

Israel’s KAN radio reported that the deal may only include 33 live hostages. It added that as part of the deal, Israel would withdraw its forces from the Netzarim corridor and that it would agree not to personally inspect Palestinians heading to northern Gaza from the south. At the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, that an extraordinary effort had been made to arrive at a deal. The US has worked alongside the main mediators of the deal, Egypt and Qatar, to ensure that the hostages are returned.

Senior Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq mentioned on social media on Monday that Hamas was reviewing a new Israeli proposal, although he did not disclose its details.

However, according to a report in JNS, the Israel Defense Forces will enter the Hamas stronghold of Rafah in southern Gaza irrespective of the outcome of hostages-for-ceasefire-and-terrorists talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. “The notion that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” said the premier during a meeting at his office in Jerusalem with the Heroism Forum, which represents bereaved IDF families, and the Tikva Forum for Families of Hostages.

The military “will enter Rafah and eliminate the Hamas battalions there—with or without a deal—to achieve total victory,” he said. The families at the meeting urged Netanyahu “to continue achieving the goals of the war and to withstand the international pressure,” according to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office.  Not clear where this leaves us.

The Iran-backed Houthis have increased their attacks over the last several days. The terrorist group said on Tuesday that they “targeted two American destroyers and two ships in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.” The spokesman for the group said they used drones to target the US ships. This comes after a month or more in which it appeared Houthi attacks had either been reduced or plateaued.

US Central Command said, “Between 10:00 am and 5:20 pm (Sanaa time) on April 29, Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) and three UAVs from Yemen into the Red Sea towards MV Cyclades, a Malta-flagged, Greece-owned vessel. Initial reports indicate there were no injuries, and the vessel continued on its way.”

The new attacks are raising eyebrows in the region. They were front-page news at the pro-Iran Al-Mayadeen news, and this shows that Iran and its proxies view the latest attacks as important moves for the Iran-backed “axis of resistance.” Iran has been continuing to push Hamas and Hezbollah to carry out attacks on Israel. For instance, terrorists in both Lebanon and Gaza have targeted Israel with rockets in recent days.

Saudi Arabia has decided to normalize relations with Israel and is debating the timing of the announcement, a foreign diplomat familiar with the details told Haaretz on Monday. According to the source cited in the article by the daily’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Lis, Riyadh is discussing whether to make the move in the coming weeks or after the US presidential election this November, in which either Democrat Joe Biden will continue to lead the country or his challenger Republican Donald Trump will return to the White House.

“The question is when, and the decision on the timing should be made within days,” the diplomat said. While the Biden administration has been pushing to connect a pathway to Palestinian statehood as part of the Saudis joining the Abraham Accords, the source said that the kingdom would only demand guarantees on progress towards achieving that goal in return for establishing diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.

The US said on Monday that it opposed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into Israel’s conduct in Gaza, amid reports that Israeli officials fear the Hague-based tribunal could soon issue arrest warrants. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We’ve been really clear about the ICC investigation, that we don’t support it, we don’t believe that they have the jurisdiction.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday, “Israel will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defense. While the ICC will not affect Israel’s actions, it would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the soldiers and officials of all democracies fighting savage terrorism and wanton aggression.” Neither the US nor Israel is a member of the ICC. (AFP)

The talk about a hostage deal, a temporary lull in the fighting and an incursion into Rafah gives hope for some near term resolution of the issues at hand while also representing the conflict within Israel itself over the ramifications of each of the actions. There is no precedent here for any of this as we have never fought an active war for so long nor have we done so in the face of over 130 of our citizens still held hostage by the enemy.

All of these factors generate both a physical and psychological challenge to us living here as well as to those charged with making these decisions. To people living abroad things may appear black and white but here, everything is gray and, therefore, very challenging.

Hopefully our leadership, with God’s help, will make the right decisions.

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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