Sherwin Pomerantz

The 216th Day of War in Israel

President Biden said on Wednesday that he had told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the United States would halt shipments of some weapons if the Israeli military invaded Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, using his strongest public language to date in his quest to deter a full-scale Israeli assault on the refugee-packed city.  “If they go into Rafah, I’m not going to be supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, to deal with that problem,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday.

In the interview, Mr. Biden also acknowledged in a way that he has rarely done that American bombs have killed innocent Palestinians. “Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Mr. Biden said.  The president has objected to Israel’s planned Rafah operation out of fear that widespread civilian casualties could be caused by American bombs. He said on Wednesday that he would also block the delivery of artillery shells that could be fired into the urban neighborhoods of Rafah.

Earlier in the day at a hearing held by the US Senate’s Appropriations Committee, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch friend of Israel,  questioned Defense Secretary Austin who said that, at least at that time, no decision had been made about providing these weapons to Israel.  Sen. Graham’s interrogation is worth watching and you can see it here beginning at 2:00 minute mark…..

On the northern border with Lebanon, cross border activity continues with 10 attacks against Israel in the last 24 hours.  Israel has responded regularly as well.

A new House Republican bill would send any person charged and convicted for illegal activity on a US college campus to Gaza for at least six months.  Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., introduced the bill on Wednesday alongside Reps. Randy Weber, R-Texas, and Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., in response to the ongoing anti-Israel demonstration on college campuses across the country.  Several of those protests have turned violent.  While Ogles’ bill text does not mention Israel or the anti-Israel groups, it specifically targets unlawful activity on college campuses after Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas militants invaded Israel in a surprise attack that killed over 1,000 people.  Those convicted would be forced to serve a minimum six-month community service sentence in Gaza.

“Students have abandoned their classes to harass other students and disrupt campus-wide activities, including university commencement ceremonies nationwide. Enough is enough,” Ogles told Fox News Digital.  “That’s why I introduced legislation to send any person convicted of unlawful activity on the campus of an American university since October 7th, 2023, to Gaza to complete a minimum of six months of community service.”   He went on to say he doubts whether these protestors would last even one day there.  This will, of course, not pass but it is an interesting approach to the problem.

Against the backdrop of campus protests, a group of federal judges appointed by former President Donald Trump say they will blackball graduates of Columbia University, ratcheting up a pressure campaign against schools they deem hostile to conservatives. In a letter this week to Columbia University President Minouche Shafik, 13 jurists led by U.S. Circuit Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch said the New York City school’s response to pro-Palestinian protests was inadequate and that the campus had become an “incubator of bigotry” with rampant antisemitism and a lack of diverse perspectives.  “Considering recent events, and absent extraordinary change, we will not hire anyone who joins the Columbia University community—whether as undergraduates or law students—beginning with the entering class of 2024,” the letter said.

Although the fighting here continues unabated, hopefully the negotiators from both sides now in Cairo for talks will find a way out the current morass.  The Israeli delegation has been told by the Prime Minister’s Office that they are to keep in mind Israel’s specific objectives in this war, primarily to permanently defang Hamas and get all the hostages back.  Time will tell if this effort will be successful and at what level.


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.