Pro-Israel groups condemn massive rocket barrage against Israel by Hamas, Cleveland Jewish News
“[The] left-wing group J Street called for both sides to exercise restraint. ‘At this time, our thoughts are with the residents of southern Israel, with the IDF forces working to keep them safe and with civilians on both sides of the divide,’ the organization said in a statement. ‘We fear that, as has been the case so many times in the past, civilians will be engulfed in a rapid escalation of violence—causing mass devastation and ending in a stalemate that will only set back Israel’s long-term security and exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Gaza.’ ‘It is frustrating and troubling that this new escalation of violence has come just as the parties were reportedly making major progress toward a diplomatic breakthrough,’ added J Street. ‘We urge all parties to take immediate steps to restore calm and return to this process.”
Oliver Holmes and Hazem Balousha report, “Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups have accepted an Egyptian-mediated agreement to halt two days of intense fighting with Israel sparked by a botched Israeli special forces raid miles inside Gaza. The sudden announcement late on Tuesday brought a lull to the outbreak of violence in which both sides launched scores of bombings and reprisal attacks. Israeli civilians hid overnight in shelters from relentless rocket barrages and Palestinians cowered in basements from thundering airstrikes. Hamas and other smaller militant groups released a statement saying they had accepted the deal brokered by the UN and Egypt.”
Chaim Levinson reports, “Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday and called for elections to be held as soon as possible, saying he hopes a date will be set by Sunday. Lieberman said all of the members of his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, will quit the coalition. However, a senior source in Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, said that elections are not necessarily the next step and added that Netanyahu will initially take on Lieberman’s portfolio. Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beiteinu, will retake his Knesset seat following his resignation, as provided for by law.”
Jewish Home in ultimatum to Netanyahu: Give us Defense Ministry or we leave, Times of Israel
The Jewish Home presented an ultimatum to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, with the party saying it will leave the coalition and force new elections if its leader Naftali Bennett is not made defense minister following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation from the position.
Netanyahu defends ‘unpopular’ ceasefire decision in critical times, i24NEWS
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended on Wednesday the ceasefire with Hamas and Gaza-based militant groups that provided some temporary respite from the dangerous escalation on the border, adding that “our enemies begged for a ceasefire.”
The army has tried to evade responsibility for the incident in which an empty bus that transported soldiers minutes earlier was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza as it parked at an observation post near the border.
The Hamas militant group celebrated the resignation of Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday, calling it a “victory for Gaza” and a “recognition of defeat against Palestinian resistance.”
One of the tensest mayoral races came to an end on Wednesday as Moshe Leon defeated rival Ofer Berkovitch with a tight 51.5% of the vote to become Jerusalem’s new mayor. Based on the latest figures, with 99.88% of the vote counted, Leon led by 6,528 votes. Leon, a former accountant, is politically close to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s director general in his first term.
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s announcement Wednesday that he is resigning and his Yisrael Beiteinu party is leaving Israel’s ruling coalition, in the wake of the cease-fire agreements with Hamas, will almost certainly spell elections in early 2019 – at least six months earlier than their scheduled date. It will force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to defend his unpopular decisions on Gaza during the election campaign, which is exactly what the prime minister had hoped to avoid. In his surprise press conference in the Knesset, Lieberman avoided blaming the prime minister directly as part of his long list of disagreements with the government’s defense policies, but it was clear who Lieberman was gunning for. Nonetheless, his statements were a blanket accusation against all the other cabinet ministers – his political rivals in the looming election.”
Israeli incursions into Gaza are the rule, not the exception, +972 Magazine
Henriette Chacar writes, “Since Israeli special forces troops got into a deadly firefight with Hamas commandos deep inside the Gaza Strip Sunday night, Israel has dropped dozens of bombs and missiles into Gaza and Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. The New York Times described the special forces raid as ‘the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014.’ That couldn’t be further from the truth. Since the start of 2015 through the end of October 2018, the Israeli army made 262 known ground incursions and operations to level land inside the Gaza Strip, including over 70 this year alone. This does not include the unknown number of covert operations like the one that went awry on Sunday.”
A Saudi Murder Becomes a Gift to Iran, The New York Times
Vali R. Nasr writes, “The Trump administration is not ready to admit it, but its Middle East strategy is in deep trouble, now compounded by the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month. The administration’s recent pressure on the Saudis to seek a truce in their war in Yemen is a clear signal of just how much the credibility of Saudi Arabia, which is at the heart of that strategy, has shrunk, perhaps even in President Trump’s eyes. The strategy’s goal was to work with the Saudis to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East. Instead, we can now expect a growing sense of ease in Tehran about exerting its influence, even as it adjusts to the tough economic sanctions that were reimposed last week. That freedom is more likely to be used through maneuvering and deal-making, rather than through aggressions.It’s not as if Iran expects a change in American policy toward it in the aftermath of the Khashoggi affair. Instead, the weakening of confidence in Saudi Arabia throughout the region is more likely to confirm to Iran’s leaders the wisdom of their own current strategy — manage pressure from America by mobilizing domestic resources; rely on Europe, China and Russia to keep economic channels with Iran open; and consolidate Iran’s alliances and positions of influence politically.”