Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s edition of the Daily Kickoff, we look at the apparent failure of Israel’s security establishment to thwart last weekend’s Hamas attacks in southern Israel, and report on potential fissures within the Democratic Party over the response to the tragedy in Israel. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Natan Sharansky, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an address on Monday to the nation about the “war on our homes…forced on us by a despicable enemy,” vowed that Israel will emerge victorious, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports. “We always knew who Hamas was, and now the world knows: Hamas is ISIS, and we will defeat them just as the enlightened world did to ISIS,” Netanyahu said.
Israel will first make sure to “purify” its territory of terrorists, and then move on to attack Hamas “with force we haven’t seen before,” which has already begun, Netanyahu said. Israel will also move to bolster forces on the northern border, in the West Bank and the rest of Israel.
Netanyahu also called for a unity government: “The divisions between us are over…The leadership must also be united.”
The prime minister thanked President Joe Biden for his support for Israel “in words and actions,” and noted that a U.S. aircraft carrier – the world’s largest – is being sent to the region. “Our shared enemies understand what this step means,” Netanyahu said.
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu appointed Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Gal Hirsch to be the point person for the captives and missing. Hirsch said he is working on a full assessment of the situation and to create a point of contact for all families whose loved ones are missing. “Our hearts are in great pain…I am with you in the campaign to bring the captives and the missing back home to Israel.” The FBI is assisting Israeli security agencies in identifying Americans among the hostages.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen spoke to journalists on Monday, saying, “Hamas executed a massacre the world will not forget. We want to thank the international community for their solidarity and their firm support of Israel. We trust this support will continue as we meet the challenge of fighting terror…It will take a long time. We cannot allow it for ourselves and for the region for such inhumanity to remain. The people who did this should pay the price, and it will be a high price.”
And in Washington, Biden is slated to deliver an address on the events in Israel at 1 p.m. ET today. Biden on Monday united with Washington’s closest allies to unequivocally condemn Hamas’ deadly attacks on Israel and offer further support to Israel as the country defends itself, JI’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Biden, along with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, wrote that they “express our steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism,” in a rare joint statement. “Our countries will support Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities.”
Former President Barack Obama issued a statement on Monday afternoon addressing the attacks. “All Americans should be horrified and outraged by the brazen terrorist attacks on Israel and the slaughter of innocent civilians,” Obama wrote on X. “We grieve for those who died, pray for the safe return of those who’ve been held hostage, and stand squarely alongside our ally, Israel, as it dismantles Hamas. As we support Israel’s right to defend itself against terror, we must keep striving for a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
An hour later, former President Bill Clinton said that he condemned “the horrific terrorist assault carried out by Hamas in Israel, and mourn the senseless loss of life. My heart is with all those affected by the violence, including American families. Now is a time for the world to rally against terrorism and to support Israeli democracy. I stand with the government of Israel and all Israelis, and urge them to stand together. This is a moment to focus on purpose over politics.”
A senior Department of Defense official outlined American efforts to support Israel in its response to “ISIS level savagery,” telling reporters that Washington is “working as fast as possible to provide critically needed munitions of various types and other equipment.”
The White House also released further information on Monday about Americans affected by the attacks, although details remained unclear. At least 11 Americans have been killed in the attacks, and many more are unaccounted for. John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said that the White House is still working to confirm if Americans are indeed among the hostages in Gaza. Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, a press conference is set for later today with families of American hostages believed to be held in Gaza.
After securing the border, Israel’s military turns to destroying terrorist infrastructure in Gaza
After finally securing its southern border, the Israeli military is now turning its attention to destroying critical points belonging to Hamas and other terrorist groups inside the Palestinian enclave, IDF international spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told journalists on Tuesday morning. Hecht said that a total of 34 army battalions — four divisions — had already been fully deployed to the area and were in the process of building infrastructure for future operations. Some 300,000 reservist soldiers have been called up so far. In addition, he said, the evacuation of the remaining civilian residents from Israeli communities around the Gaza border had nearly been completed, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Overnight: Dozens of IDF fighter jets struck more than 200 targets belonging to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, with a focus on the neighborhoods of Rimal and Khan Yunis, which are “used as terror hubs for the Hamas terrorist organization” and are where many of the terror attacks against Israel originated, the army said in a statement.
Terror targets: Among the targets were sites belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Khan Yunis, a Hamas weapons storage site that was located inside a mosque and operational terror infrastructure used by Hamas operatives, the army said. A residence belonging to a Hamas operative and buildings used by the terrorist group’s senior officials, including a multi-story building in the Al-Furqan area, were also destroyed. In Gaza, the Palestinian Health Information Center reported that some 687 people have been killed, and that there are severe shortages of critical medications, disposable medical equipment and fuel.
looking for answers
Israel’s intel failure: ‘How did this happen?’
As Israel readies for a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip following the massive surprise attack last Saturday that killed some 900 Israelis and left the country reeling, Israelis are grappling with how the soldiers in the south were left so unprotected, and how the intelligence lapse — one that carries an eerie echo of the Yom Kippur War surprise attack almost 50 years ago to the day that Hamas brazenly struck southern Israel — was so glaring. The full picture will likely become clearer when the fog of war dissipates and a commission of inquiry investigates, as has become the custom in Israel after wars in the past 50 years. In the short term, as Israelis ask themselves, “How did this happen?” several possible explanations have already come to light, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
The conceptzia: After the Yom Kippur War, one of the answers to how Israel was surprised by an attack from Egypt and Syria was the “conceptzia.” The word literally translates to “preconception,” and it refers to groupthink or an idea that captivated the whole cabinet, without consideration of the alternatives. “We were apparently dependent on a conceptzia that Hamas wanted money from Qatar and was deterred,” former IDF Military Intelligence Directorate head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin told JI. “For every surprise, the surprisers come up with a distraction, and that is what we saw.” Israel built its defense plans “on the idea that Hamas was not interested in a war. They distracted us and kept us busy with other violations on the [border] fence,” Yadlin said.
Blinded lookouts: Another element of Hamas’ attack that delayed Israel’s ability to respond effectively was its targeting of bases in the south where tatzpitaniyot, who watch cameras and other feeds of the border, are stationed. One tatzpitanit who finished her service earlier this year told JI that she was going back to her old base, because there was no one left who knew how to do the lookouts’ job. Some of the tatzpitanyiot on bases attacked by Hamas told harrowing stories on social media. “In my worst dreams, I could not have imagined something like this,” one wrote. “I woke up for a 4 a.m. shift that turned out to be a nightmare. I never thought I’d see something like this from my lookout point in my life. I did the best I can, until a sniper shot my camera.”
Harvard administration slammed by lawmakers, alums for response to pro-Hamas student letter
One day after 31 student organizations at Harvard University published a letter on social media claiming Israel is “entirely responsible” for Hamas terrorists’ murder of 900 Israelis, Jewish student leaders and alumni condemned the university’s handling of the incident and called for a stronger response from Harvard’s administration, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen and Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch report.
‘Weak statement’: Harvard President Claudine Gay and other university leaders said in a Monday night statement that the school is “heartbroken by the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas.” But Jacob Miller, the president of the student board at Harvard Hillel, called Harvard’s response a “weak statement [that] fails to capture the gravity of the moment.” He called for the university to “unequivocally condemn these terror attacks, a step they have been unwilling to take thus far.”
Writing back: Two letters from Harvard students and alumni directly call on the university’s leadership to condemn the anti-Israel statement released by the student organizations, who called themselves the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups (PSG). One, organized by Harvard Hillel and Harvard Chabad, was signed by more than 2,000 people as of Monday night. “The statement signed by the Palestine Solidarity Committee and dozens of other student groups blaming Israel for the aforementioned attacks is completely wrong and deeply offensive,” the letter states. “There are no justifications for acts of terror as we have seen in the past days. We call on all the student groups who co-signed the statement to retract their signatures from the offensive letter.”
markey’s mixed message
Pro-Israel rally in Boston hints at Democratic divide on war in Gaza
A pro-Israel rally on the Boston Common on Monday signaled a potential schism within the Democratic Party over how best to respond to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, as Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was booed for calling for de-escalation between Israel and Hamas, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
De-escalation: “Hamas wants continued instability, not normalization. They are violent extremists. They gain support when there is a crisis,” Markey said. “That is why the United States and the international community must keep pushing for diplomacy and the ending of civilian casualties on all sides. There must be a de-escalation of the current violence.” Markey’s call for de-escalation prompted loud boos from the crowd, including a chant of “it’s not equal” from someone in the crowd.
Rejection: Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), who spoke minutes after Markey, elicited loud cheers from the crowd for comments explicitly rejecting de-escalation — an apparent repudiation of Markey’s remarks. “This will be a hard war. Israel needs the support of its most important ally, the United States,” Auchincloss said. “Israel needs moral support from Americans. Now is not the time for equivocation. Hamas is an internationally recognized terrorist organization that is executing and raping civilians. Israel is a liberal democracy with the right and responsibility to defend itself and its citizens. De-escalation is not possible when [Hamas] are taking hostages.”
Strong support: But in a sign of the strong support that Israel continues to see across the political spectrum in the U.S., Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a staunch progressive who has in the past floated the possibility of restricting aid to Israel, delivered a tearful speech offering strong support for the Jewish state. “I’m here today to say unequivocally, there is no justification for terrorism ever,” Warren said. “I am here to grieve with you. I am here to stand in solidarity. But standing in solidarity does not mean standing still. Standing in solidarity means action. It means shouldering the obligations of a strong and faithful ally.”
30,000-foot view: Nearly every member of Congress has issued a statement on the situation in Israel, including every member of the Senate, almost all offering support for Israel. The only ones who’ve been silent: Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) and Maxine Waters (D-CA).
American Jewish leaders visit southern Israel as they direct assistance after unprecedented terror attacks
A delegation of top officials from the Jewish Federations of North America, UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Agency for Israel toured Israel’s war-torn south on Monday, visiting a hospital in the city of Ashkelon that has treated hundreds of casualties since Saturday morning, eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Judah Ari Gross reports from Ashkelon.
Hearing from victims: During their tour of Barzilai Medical Center, JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut, director general of JFNA’s Israel office Rebecca Caspi, UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Agency’s Budget and Finance Committee Bruce Sholk and the director of the Jewish Agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, met with hospital staff, spoke with victims and families of victims and saw new casualties coming in as a rocket directly struck a car a few blocks away from the hospital during their visit. eJP accompanied them on the tour. (Fingerhut, Goldstein and Sholk were already in the country when the war broke out; Caspi and Nahmias-Verbin live in Israel.)
Millions pledged: The visit came as the Jewish Agency prepares to distribute grants to victims of the war — both the initial assaults and continued rocket fire — through its Fund for Victims of Terror. Each survivor or their family is entitled to an immediate NIS 4,000 ($1,014) grant and up to NIS 25,000 ($6,340) in payments for up to three years. In the 21 years that the fund has been in existence, it has given grants to roughly 9,000 victims; after Saturday alone, it will have to distribute grants to well over 3,000 victims, with numbers expected to rise as fighting continues. Fingerhut told eJP that JFNA, which is the prime donor to the fund, will ensure that everyone entitled to a grant, receives one. “There are millions that have already been pledged to the Fund for Victims of Terror,” he said.
Time to Speak Out: Israeli President Isaac Herzog pens an essay in Time magazine calling for the international community to stand with Israel in its darkest hours. “History will judge Hamas for its crimes against humanity, along with all those who fail to stand against them. I urge all the international community, those who have always stood by us, and those who have traditionally taken a different stance. Now is the time to speak out. Now is the time to take action in support of Israel by word and deed — at home and in the international institutions. To our Muslim neighbors and friends in the region who represent a different face of Islam — I say now is the time to show that we all share an inalienable and mutual respect for human life.” [Time]
Having Israel’s Back: In The Wall Street Journal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lays out a series of steps the U.S. can take to support Israel. “The civilized world must impose real costs on terrorists and those who support or condone them. There should be no haven for Iran’s agents of death. The West should reimpose extensive multilateral sanctions on Tehran and deny Iranian planes overflight rights. Impound the shipping vessels Iran uses to circumvent sanctions. Close Iranian banks with access to the West, and cease the Iranian operations of European businesses. Treat Iranian officials like pariahs and sink Iranian naval boats that threaten international shipping. In the days and weeks ahead, the brave people of Israel will continue to reclaim their territory, rescue their countrymen, and mourn the innocent men, women and children the terrorists have slaughtered. They deserve the support of the free world, in both word and deed.” [WSJ]
Bracing for Shift of Opinion: In the Washington Post, former Jewish Agency chair and Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky cautions that world opinion could shift against Israel in the coming days, as it has in previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas. “Right now, we have to destroy the organization that seeks to destroy us, and for that we must fight a war. Today, the world seems to understand this. World leaders have denounced Hamas’s barbarism and affirmed the legitimacy of Israel’s right to self-defense. But what about tomorrow? What will happen as the Palestinian death toll rises? At that point, I fear, the same leaders will forget that Israel and Hamas are fighting on radically different terms and focus their efforts on restraining Israel instead of condemning Hamas. The reason this will happen — as it always does — is that Hamas has a powerful unconventional weapon, one far more sophisticated and effective than missiles and drones: Palestinian civilians, used as human shields. The more Palestinians who die because Hamas terrorists cynically hide behind them, the more the free world will turn against Israel. It is only a matter of weeks, or days, or even hours, until articles will appear in major publications depicting the Israeli government as indiscriminately targeting innocent Palestinians. Human Rights Watch will yet again vilify Israel as an international outlaw, and the United Nations will pass resolutions demanding that we cease our war of self-defense.” [WashPost]
An IDF Unprepared: In The Atlantic, Andrew Exum, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, assesses the Israeli military’s training and readiness to handle armed conflict. “Israel does an excellent job — arguably better than the U.S. military — of learning from its tactical and operational failures. But the country’s semiprofessional military relies heavily on conscripts and reservists, which places it at a disadvantage in many respects. Full-time, professional militaries can dedicate themselves to rehearsing collective tasks that high-intensity combat situations often require: reacting to ambushes, conducting raids, incorporating artillery and airpower into maneuvers. Conscript militaries, by contrast, are forever bringing on and training new people. The turnover is often too high to allow units to develop proficiency in the most complicated military tasks. Israel’s conventional forces, moreover, seem to spend less time rehearsing combined arms operations than they do policing the occupied territories. Indeed, what few active-duty battalions Israel has appear to have been deployed away from the south and to the West Bank to safeguard settlers during the holiday. Such policing operations, in addition to pulling needed units away from other priorities, are poor practice for more high-intensity combat.” [TheAtlantic]
The Enemy Within: In The New York Times, Shimrit Meir, a former senior advisor to then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, considers how years of political infighting has left Israel vulnerable to outside threats. “As a nation, Israelis acted as if we could afford the luxury of a vicious internal fight, the kind in which your political rival becomes your enemy. We let animosity, demagogy and the poisonous discourse of social media take over our society, rip apart the only Jewish army in the world. This is our tragedy. And it carries a lesson for other polarized democracies: There is someone out there waiting to gain from your self-made weakness. This someone is your enemy. If there can be one conciliation after this darkest of days, it will be Israel returning to its senses, ending the political crisis and forming a unity government. There are many hard decisions that await us after the funerals, chief among them how to bring back home the young children and many others taken hostage by Hamas’s terrorists.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
Moving on Lew: The White House is working to expedite the nomination of former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to be ambassador to Israel.
Speaker Saga: Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) didn’t rule out the possibility of being reelected to his former office on Monday at a press conference responding to the war in Israel.
Deep Freeze: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley suggested the refreezing of Iran’s access to $6 billion in funds being held in Qatar.
Dropping Out: Former Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) ended his presidential bid and endorsed Nikki Haley for the GOP nomination.
Campus Conundrum: Less than two weeks ago, the Biden administration awarded a grant of $100,000 to Al-Quds Open University, which praised the weekend attacks in Israel and referred to the Hamas terrorists as “righteous martyrs.”
Joint Measure: The White House and top Democratic and Republican officials are considering linking aid to Israel to funding for Ukraine, as a way to push both through Congress.
Photo Gallery: The Atlanticpublished photos of Israelis being kidnapped during the Tribe of Nova music festival.
TV Talk: Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt blasted MSNBC while a guest on the network’s “Morning Joe” program over its framing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Administration Angle: In The Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead considers the options facing President Joe Biden as the conflict between Israel and Hamas shows no signs of stopping.
Call for Unity: The New York Times editorial board calls for elected officials in both the U.S. and Israel to put aside partisan politics in the interest of Israel’s safety.
Watching With Caution: The Washington Postspotlights concerns by American Jewish communities that they might be targeted by an uptick in antisemitism as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
End Game: The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker suggests that Hamas’ end goal “is truly indiscriminate destruction.”
A Father Speaks Out: Brandeis professor emeritus Ilan Troen called Saturday’s attack on Jewish communities, in which his daughter and son-in-law were killed, a “pogrom.”
Pitch Perfect: Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer, whose parents are Israeli and who holds Israeli citizenship, will make his playoff debut tonight against the Texas Rangers.
Sunak’s Synagogue Speech: U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed “unequivocal” support for Israel in an address last night at the Finchley United Synagogue in North London.
Across the Pond: U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman plans to renew efforts to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
Xi on Israel: Chinese President Xi Jinping released an updated statement taking a stronger position on the situation in Israel and Gaza after facing criticism from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) over Beijing’s top diplomat showing “no sympathy or support for Israel during these tough, troubled times.”
Abu Dhabi Warning: The United Arab Emirates cautioned Syria against getting involved in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Oil Woes: Crude oil prices spiked following Hamas’ invasion of Israel, amid concerns over the broader regional implications of the conflict.
Catching Flights: Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman left Israel for Moscow a week after arriving from the U.K., but said he plans to return to Israel once the conflict winds down.
DNA Dilemma: Genetic testing company 23andMe confirmed that its system had been broken into, after an internet hacker attempted to sell leaked information about Ashkenazi Jewish users.
Pic of the Day
The White House is illuminated in the blue and white colors of the Israeli flag on Monday night.
Israel resident and op-ed contributor for The New York Times, he is the author of four acclaimed books, Matti Friedman turns 46…
Professor emeritus of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, he has argued 35 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, Laurence Tribe turns 82… Past chairman and CEO of KB Home, Bruce Karatz turns 78… Physician, philanthropist and the majority owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Miriam Adelson turns 78… Director of the Center for Information and Documentation Israel in The Hague, promoting a positive view of Israel within Dutch society, Ronald Maurice (Ronny) Naftaniel turns 75… Former member of the Knesset for 30 years on behalf of three political parties, he has served in six ministerial roles, Meir Sheetrit turns 75… Long-time IDF Chaplain, Yedidya Atlas… Award-winning writer and photographer based in Albuquerque, N.M., Diane Joy Schmidt… Vocalist and songwriter best known as the lead singer of Van Halen, he is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, David Lee Roth turns 69… Co-chairman and chief investment officer of Oaktree Capital Management, Bruce Karsh turns 68… Former NASA astronaut who flew on five Space Shuttle missions, he has held many positions at NASA including chief scientist, John M. Grunsfeld turns 65… Shareholder at the Bethesda, Maryland law firm of Selzer Gurvitch, Neil Gurvitch… Founder and principal of two Los Angeles-based real estate firms, Freeman Group and Metro Properties, Rodney Freeman… Governmental relations and strategic communications principal at BMWL Public Affairs, Sam Lauter… Governor of California since 2019, Gavin Newsom turns 56… Israeli comedian and actor, twice voted as the funniest Israeli, Asi Cohen turns 49… Former Jewish liaison in the Obama and Biden administrations, now the director of The Sapir Institute, Chanan Weissman… President at the Alliance to Combat Extremism Fund, Ian Sugar… Head of U.S. government relations and corporate affairs at Glencore, Seth Levey… VP in the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs, Avi Davidoff… Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, N.J., Elliot Schrier turns 34… North American campus director at CAMERA, Hali Haber Spiegel… Winner of Israel’s National Bible Quiz as a teen and then a soldier in the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, he is a son of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Avner Netanyahu turns 29… Adviser for human rights at Israel’s Mission at the United Nations, Or Shaked…