Yoel Bin-Nun

The American Limiting Embrace – Errors and Results

Image by Yael Shahar

At this stage in the Eighth War of Independence (which broke out on Shemini Atzeret), it is very important to understand the basic assumptions made with regard to the conduct of the war. It is even more important to investigate the basic assumptions and failures that preceded the war.

The main premise is that the State of Israel must not occupy the Gaza Strip, because if Israel controls Gaza it will be responsible—according to international law—for the lives of all residents in Gaza and for managing all aspects of their lives, even if this is understood to be a temporary situation.

From the first week of the war, the American president made sure to come to embrace Israel and prevent it from even thinking about occupying Gaza. This was when the issue of the “the day after” was first raised, and when the American embrace limiting Israel in the war in Gaza was first applied. That embrace permitted damage to Hamas infrastructure and to their fighters, but included conditions like “humanitarian aid” (distributed entirely by Hamas members), and a complete prevention of an Israeli takeover of Gaza.

The Americans are making no attempt to threaten Qatar and Hamas, nor to demand—as a condition for all humanitarian aid—the release of the Israeli hostages who are being held in total violation of international law, some of whom have already been murdered in captivity. Qatar and Egypt have become “honest brokers” with a terrorist organization that also commits war crimes against its own people, under American sponsorship.

This is sad to hear and understand. It is also hard to swallow and to accept.

The shadow of the Liberty Incident

What happened off the coast of Gaza during the Six Day War?

I remember that in the days preceding the Six Day War the American government sent a spy ship, the USS Liberty (a name with deep significance), in a clear effort to gain intelligence oversight of the fighting between Israel and Egypt, especially as the Egyptians enjoyed Russian-Soviet support. The ship sailed to the edge of international waters off the coast of Gaza and from there to Port Said, back-and-forth, flying an American flag.

Due to explosions on the shores of northern Sinai, and due to a misidentification of the ship, it was mistakenly perceived as an Egyptian threat to our forces in Sinai, and the ship was attacked from the sea and from the air by Israeli forces.

The Liberty withdrew from the area with 34 dead and 171 wounded Americans on board.

The Israeli apologies soon began—from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and on down—in the common, unsophisticated language of Israelis, but the Americans did not believe the Israeli “mistake” and rejected its apologies. The Israeli attack clouded the well-known “friendly” relationship for many years.

A new “Day After” plan is needed

One of the results of the American limiting embrace of the war today is the prevention of any possibility of eliminating Hamas and its rule in the new refugee camps containing about two million Gazans in Rafah. All the talk about “the day after” has become empty of content.

When will the Americans realize that they are hurting the Gazans—and hurting themselves—with all this containment? Will they again pressure us to return the Gazans to the houses that were not destroyed in Gaza, under the rule of Hamas and without any infrastructure?

Perhaps the Americans will finally understand that the only truly humanitarian way forward is to pay Egypt—with American money—to transfer the Gaza refugees from Rafah to Egypt and allow them to immigrate to countries like Canada, or to be absorbed in Egypt with American aid. To do so they can take the money paid annually to UNRWA, which is staffed by Hamas personnel, and transfer it to Egypt. Such a change in the American approach would entirely negate the Palestinian campaign for a “right of return” to Jaffa and Ashdod under the auspices of UN Resolution 194. Perhaps it would even lead to full Egyptian control of Gaza—including Egyptian citizenship for the Gazans there—and its rehabilitation with international aid.

If this happens, perhaps the terrible failure of Shabbat Shemini Atzeret will turn into a true historical miracle!

I continue to pray with all my heart for God’s salvation of His people.

About the Author
Dr. Rabbi Yoel bin Nun is one of the founders of Yeshivat Har Etzion. He received his rabbinic training at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav and his Ph.D. from Hebrew University. In 1986, he established Michlelet Yaakov Herzog for training Jewish Studies teachers, especially in Bible instruction. Between 2000-2006 he served as the Rosh Ha-Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati in Ein Tzurim.
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