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UJA briefing: Why Gaza suffers

Why is there no water in Gaza? Because Hamas commandeers the water pipes for projectiles.

Michael Oren, pictured in the Knesset, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Michael Oren, pictured in the Knesset, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Why is there no electricity in Gaza? Because Hamas diverts the money designated for electricity to military purposes.

Why do children die in Gaza? Because among the tunnels that Hamas builds, some collapse and children die.

Where are the Hamas tunnels? Everywhere in Gaza, including underneath hospitals. The only way to destroy those tunnels is through the hospitals and other civilian locations, such as schools.

What is the capacity for humanitarian deliveries at the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is run by Hamas? 1,200 flatbed trucks. How many got in before the current war? 400 trucks.

“Hamas keeps Gaza in a permanent state of misery to stoke the hatred of Israel.”

These were among the observations of Michael Oren, the former Israel ambassador to the US, in a briefing for the New York UJA, held Oct. 20.

More observations:

Israel’s mobilized reserves and permanent army is now twice as large as the armies of Britain and France combined.

Israel must goes beyond its air campaign and undertake a ground operation in Gaza for three reasons:

• to restore order on Israel’s southern border;

• to restore Israel’s deterrence — to instill fear in Israel’s enemies. “That’s how we live in this area.”

• to restore the contract between the state of Israel and the people of Israel: “Never again.” That needs to be restored.

A prolonged ground operation could cause irreparable damage to Israel’s economy, but Israel is holding back from launching it for two reasons:

• to get Gaza civilians out of the way, down to southern Gaza;

• the difficulty of the operation. Gaza is criss-crossed with small alleys and hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, all of which are mined and bobby-trapped.

These two reasons add up to this: The Gaza ground operation requires time and space. There will be many dead, which will translate into pressure for a ceasefire.

The Israeli hostages held by Hamas are another level of human shields.

The level of Hamas barbarism is worse than ISIS. “Animals don’t mutilate people and then post the pictures.”

The danger on Israel’s northern border is this: 
 Hezbollah has 150,000 rockets, and they are more accurate than Hamas rockets. This makes the threat from Hezbollah “strategic, not tactical.”

Once Israel comes close to defeating Hamas, this is the most likely time for Hezbollah to launch a war against Israel, if it does.

Israel needs to prepare for a multi-front war: from Hamas, Hezbollah, forces in western Iraq and Yemen.
“This is the greatest challenge to Israel since 1948.”

And yet, Hamas “reminded us who we are — one state, one people, one family. We stand together. It’s our secret of survival.”

In this vein Oren issued a plea to American Jews to defend Israel against “the anti-Semitism of silence.”
Oren, who has written a 778 page book on the history of America in the Middle East, said that he has never seen the level of support for Israel from an American president that he has seen from President Biden.

Biden’s speech, Oren noted, referred to the “evil” of Hamas, telling it exactly like it is. Then came his visit to Israel in wartime.

“Biden is from a generation that remembers the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War. He connected his personal pain to the dead Israel children.”

He put two aircraft carriers into a war zone. He took down missiles fired at Israel from Yemen. This was American military involvement!”

Oren saluted Biden’s moral clarity.

Whereupon, a touch of humor invaded a weighted moment and presentation. About criticism of Biden for appeasing Iran, Oren called that “Monday morning quarterbacking — which I cannot translate into Hebrew.”

He noted the dramatic contrast between Biden and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s approach to Israel.

Oren said that as time unfolds the “smoking gun” of Iran’s direction of Hamas’ invasion of Israel will become clear.

Why did Iran act now?

“Iranians saw Israel divided internally.

“Iranians saw the isolationist sentiment in the US.

“Iranians saw the US-Saudi-Israeli rapprochement.”

The circumstantial evidence for the “smoking gun” is the sophistication of the rockets fired at Israel. They were “made in Iran or engineered by Iran. The Oct. 7 attack was beyond Hamas’ capacities.”

He said that the strategic and economic interests of the Abraham Accords countries will carry them forward.

He noted the arrest of many Hamas operatives on the West Bank and the discovery of many weapons factories there.

On media bias, Oren said:

“Do not be silent. Let your voices be heard. We have to brace ourselves for criticism. We need you to defend us in the US.”

He also urged support for Hatzalah, which he said is desperate for medical equipment; and support for “your own community security.”

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