Top IDF Spokesperson Tells U.S. Jews: Israel Failed to Minimize Gaza Casualties, Hamas Won PR War by Knockout

By Uri Blau

Israeli military’s international spokesman says some Palestinians ‘that weren’t the target’ were hit, but fiercely defended the military’s response

A senior Israeli army spokesman admitted Tuesday that Israel failed to minimize the number of Palestinian casualties during the recent deadly protests on the Gaza border, and that some were hit by mistake. He added that Hamas won the PR war by a “knockout.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the international spokesman and head of social media for the Israel Defense Forces, made the comments during a Jewish community briefing organized by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

The officer fiercely defended the military’s response to the recent protests along the Gaza border, in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands more wounded, most of them by live fire.

skip – IDF spokesman responds to Gaza Strip border scenes

IDF spokesman responds to Gaza Strip border scenes – דלג

Many commentators have said Hamas won a PR victory following the worldwide media coverage given to the bloody scenes, especially following Monday’s juxtaposition of scenes on the Gaza border and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Conricus said Israel hasn’t been able to explain the situation on the border well enough to the international media.

“We haven’t been able to get that message out of how it is from our side, what we are defending – and the ‘winning picture’ overwhelmingly, by a knockout, unfortunately, have been the graphics from the Palestinian side. The amount of casualties has done us a tremendous disservice, unfortunately, and it has been very difficult to tell our story.”

Conricus acknowledged that the IDF had failed to minimize the number of casualties. However, he noted that “Hamas wanted the casualties. Hamas wanted people to die. Hamas wanted the pictures of the wounded and the overflowing hospitals … and they had no problems sending the human shields forward. That is the sad reality of what we have been facing,” he said.

While blaming Hamas for sending “rioters” to the border area and using civilians as human shields, Conricus also conceded that the army snipers didn’t always hit their intended targets.

Palestinian protesters carrying a wounded woman during a protest on the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, May 15, 2018.
Palestinian protesters carrying a wounded woman during a protest on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, May 15, 2018.Khalil Hamra/AP

On the border, he said, the army deploys “combat soldiers, devoted, [who] understand what they are defending,” and are not “trigger-happy, undisciplined.” The soldiers “take orders from their superior officers” and are “executing their missions with discipline, with professionalism and using their weapons proportionately and as they are intented according to the rules of engagement,” Conricus said.

“Now, have there been mistakes? Have there been bullets that missed their target and hit people that weren’t the target?” he continued. “Of course they have. But I can tell you that it is a chaotic environment on the border. There is tear gas. There is smoke from the tires. There is screaming. There is loudspeakers, there’s the sirens from the ambulances and, most importantly, there’s masses of rioters trying to tear down the fence, throwing rocks, throwing molotov cocktails, throwing grenades.”

Conricus said Israel could not afford to let the risk of letting the protesters break through the fence, for fear they might attack kibbutzim and communities that are mere hundreds of meters from the border.

“When the dilemma came to, on one hand, defending the Israeli border and Israeli communities immediately behind the border, or allowing the rioters through and having a lower amount of Palestinian casualties, there’s no dilemma,” Conricus said.

“There is no dilemma for soldiers and commanders in the IDF,” he added. “On the other hand, we have tried to be as accurate, as deliberate and as specific as possible, using only sniper rifles … with standard NATO ammunition … so we have done a lot to try and minimize casualties. Have we been successful at it? Unfortunately, no. ”

Conricus also said a number of IDF investigations into events on the Gaza border were opened in the past few weeks.

“We have a fact-finding mission … with full authority to investigate and question and to flag events that the commander of that team thinks are problematic. And they also have the authority to recommend criminal investigations against Israeli officers and soldiers,” he explained. “That mechanism has been in place for more than four weeks. It has investigated a few events,” he added.

skip – IDF international spokesman’s full briefing to Jewish Federations of North America

In response to this article, the IDF spokesperson’s unit sent a clarification paragraph saying:

“The things partially quoted were taken out of context , distort the broader context in which they were said and do not reflect the spirit of discourse nor the stance of the IDF. This was a conversation with leaders of Jewish organizations in the U.S., a part of the call to action conducted by IDF spokesperson with different elements around the world.”

Israel Said 32 Countries Confirmed They’d Attend U.S. Embassy Gala. Here’s Who Really Came

By Noa Landau

After an initial attendance list was published in Haaretz, several countries – including Serbia, Vietnam, Peru, El Salvador and the Ivory Coast – denied they had confirmed their attendance and said they weren’t planning to come.

Twenty-two foreign envoys attended the Foreign Ministry receptionon Sunday in honor of the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem the following day, according to the final list of participants submitted to Haaretz at its request. Before the event, the ministry had said 32 foreign representatives had confirmed they would attend, of the 86 who were invited.

Besides the four representatives from Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, which bucked the European Union’s stanceagainst the U.S. Embassy move, ambassadors or other representatives attended from the following countries: Guatemala, Paraguay, Honduras, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia , Myanmar, Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania. The other EU nations boycotted the reception.

Also Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority announced it was recalling its ambassadors from Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic because their representatives attended the reception. On Tuesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recalled the Palestinian Authority representative in Washington.

1.6095517.702334890

The earlier list of the countries confirming attendance at the Foreign Ministry reception had included Albania, Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Serbia, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam. After the earlier list was published in Haaretz, several of these countries – Serbia, Vietnam, Peru, El Salvador and the Ivory Coast – denied they had confirmed their attendance and said they weren’t planning to come. Bulgaria was also first mentioned as a European planning to attend, but its local representatives denied this. Bosnia had not appeared in the previous list.

Particularly striking was the absence of representatives from Russia, India and Japan, whose leaders recently held widely publicized meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and had made speeches about upgrading relations with Israel. The Foreign Ministry believes the countries that had confirmed attendance but later denied it had been pressured not to participate.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Palestinian leadership would not stand for having Palestinian rights become bargaining chips with the U.S. administration or Israel.

“We have recalled for consultation the ambassadors in Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria, all of them European Union countries,” said Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Amal Jadou. “We are taking this step after the ambassadors of these countries in Tel Aviv attended the Israeli celebrations for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.”

Jadou added, “We cherish our relations with all the countries of the European Union. These relationships are based on a commitment to international law, UN resolutions and human rights. We believe that attending this event contradicts those values. The transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem was not only a hostile step against the Palestinian people mourning the 70 years of the Nakba [when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the War of Independence], but also a violation of international law.”

At the reception held at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said to the foreign envoys: “Do you know how to identify real leadership? It’s when people follow you, and people follow [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump. I call upon all countries to join the United States and transfer their embassies to Jerusalem, which is the right thing to do because it promotes peace.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said at the event, “Everyone gathered here understands that opening the embassy is a recognition of reality that should have already happened.”

The event was attended by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband and Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, along with a delegation of senators and congressmen.

The Israelis in attendance included government ministers, MKs (mostly from the coalition), Foreign Service officials, the Mossad chief, as well as associates of Netanyahu, including Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu’s former adviser Natan Eshel and even Sara Netanyahu’s personal stylist, Sandra Ringler.

 

Ashamed to Be Jewish’: As Trump Base Celebrates Embassy Move, Horrified U.S. Jews Mourn Gaza Deaths

After being shut out of embassy celebrations by evangelicals and ultra-Orthodox, many mainstream Jews face crisis and anguish over Israeli response to Palestinian protests

Left: A wounded Palestinian demonstrator being evacuated during the protest against the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem; right, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the embassy inauguration, May 14, 2018.
Left: A wounded Palestinian demonstrator being evacuated during the protest against the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem; right, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the embassy inauguration, May 14, 2018.REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, AFP PHOTO / Menahem KAHANA

The opening ceremony for the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was, essentially, an invitation-only Trump campaign rally.

Those in attendance had all sworn loyalty to the president and belonged to one of the groups that has hailed him as a modern-day Cyrus the Great: Orthodox Jews, right-wing Israelis (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) and the pro-Trump Republican base – particularly those in the evangelical community.

This was all on display from the ceremony’s opening blessing, by Texan Baptist megachurch pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress. His eyes squeezed closed in prayer, he thanked God for “our great president, Donald Trump,” lauded how Israel “has blessed this world by pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, her scriptures, and the Messiah,” and praying for Jerusalem “in the name of the spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our lord.”

Standing beside him, also offering prayers in praise of Trump and Netanyahu, was ultra-Orthodox Chabad Rabbi Zalman Wolowik – a personal friend of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Members of IfNotNow and rabbinical school students blocking traffic while protesting the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, Washington, May 14, 2018.
Members of IfNotNow and rabbinical school students blocking traffic while protesting the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, Washington, May 14, 2018.Gili Getz

The ceremony was bookended with a benediction by another Trump stalwart: The televangelist founder of Christians United For Israel, Pastor John Hagee, who noted that “Jerusalem is where [the] Messiah will come and establish a kingdom that will never end,” and led the crowd in a final shout of “Hallelujah!”

In the front row, flanking Netanyahu and his wife Sara, were Jewish first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner – who attend a Chabad synagogue – as well as Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who has just committed $30 million to GOP election races across the country and offered to pay for at least part of the new Jerusalem embassy himself. (His offer was ultimately declined).

Prominent Democratic political leaders – even the long-term, pro-Israel Jewish ones – were nowhere to be found. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who still lives in Israel, was pointedly not invited to the event, despite the fact he went against many of his former colleagues from the Obama White House by supporting and praising the embassy move. No matter: As a non-Orthodox Democrat, he too was persona non grata.

For mainstream American Jewry, being so visibly shut out of an event that many had previously hoped and lobbied for – allied to the event’s dominance by evangelical leaders with controversial views on Jews, Muslims, Mormons and homosexuality – was disturbing enough.

But the fact they were being represented by the likes of Ivanka, Kushner and Adelson, while simultaneously being bombarded with disturbing images of the violence on the Gaza border, triggered a full-on crisis for many.

Sadness and confusion permeated the statements of Jewish leaders, and these sentiments – intensified with anger – exploded across social media

Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said he was “alarmed, concerned, and profoundly saddened by the growing number of Gazan dead and wounded. It does not have to be this way.”

Regarding the embassy ceremony, Jacobs said, “The Trump Administration declared its commitment to promoting a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict by celebrating the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. We also celebrate the opening of the Embassy as an affirmation of the deep and lasting ties between the U.S. and Israel. However, we remain very much aware of the lack of progress toward a long-term just solution for Israelis and Palestinians

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami harshly criticized the timing of the ceremony, saying the decision to hold it to “coincide with both the anniversary of Israeli independence and the Palestinian ‘Naqba’ [sic]” has “thrown more fuel on an already raging fire.” Ben-Ami was referring to the Palestinian term for the establishment of the State of Israel, which means “Catastrophe” in Arabic and is marked yearly on May 15.

Ben-Ami added that “opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and official American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should be a moment of celebration for all of us who feel deeply connected to Jerusalem and recognize its importance to the Jewish people over the millenia [sic]. However, the manner and timing of this move were designed to advance the agenda of right-wing political leaders in the US and Israel, rather than the interest of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians in resolving the conflict.”

He continued: “One only has to observe the campaign rally atmosphere in Jerusalem today to realize that the greatest interest being served is President Trump’s desire to fulfill a campaign promise – and to cater to the views of ‘Greater Israel’ advocates like Ambassador David Friedman, Sheldon Adelson, bigoted pastor Robert Jeffress and their friends in the Israeli government.”

The views of American Jews were expressed in far rawer form on Twitter, with many confessing to feelings of shame about events in Jerusalem and Gaza.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner, meanwhile, were targeted by Jewish celebrities like Chelsea Handler and Bette Midler, who took aim at the couple on Twitter.

Handler wrote, “I’m glad Ivanka and Jared could take time away from their busy schedules of not being qualified to represent the US to go represent the US, and celebrate moving the capital in exchange for the adelson’s donations, while 50+ Palestinians have been killed.” Midler added, “You lose the PR advantage on this one, #MrTrump, with those two images side be [sic] side, Ivanka and Jared yukking it up in Jerusalem while the Palestinians get shot at. Perfect, you moron.”

Ultimately, though, any criticism by American Jews, liberals or the media about the embassy ceremony or distress over U.S. responsibility for the deaths in Gaza was utterly irrelevant, as far as the White House was concerned.

If Adelson was happy enough to continue plowing his millions into Republican campaigns, and if Jeffress, Hagee and the rest of the pro-Trump evangelical base believe the embassy move has brought them one step closer to redemption and will turn out in force for the 2018 midterms – for President Trump, his mission has been accomplished.

The presence and visibility of the evangelical leaders at Monday’s inauguration demonstrated the true source of the political muscle that made the embassy move a reality. Even the banners around Jerusalem in praise of Trump were paid for by Friends of Zion, the brainchild of evangelical leader and Christian Zionist Mike Evans.Conspicuously absent from the stage were any mainstream Orthodox, Conservative or Reform rabbis. In the audience, high-level representatives of the U.S. non-Orthodox Jewish majority were few and far between, though not entirely absent. Anti-Defamation League Director Jonathan Greenblatt was in attendance, for example.A typical tweet came from Christina Duval, who wrote: “I am very proud to be Jewish, but I am completely ashamed of what’s going on in Israel. After all our people suffered, you’d think we’d value human lives a lot more.”

Source: HAARETZ

Gaza clashes: Dozens killed as US opens Jerusalem embassy

At least 43 Palestinians have been killed and 2,200 wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

The violence came as the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has infuriated Palestinians.

They see it as clear US backing for Israeli rule over the whole city, whose eastern part Palestinians lay claim to.

But US President Donald Trump hailed the move in a video message.

He said it had been a “long time coming”, adding: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital but for many years we failed to recognise the obvious.”

The US, he added, remained “committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement”.

What happened at the border?

Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres.

The health ministry, run by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, said children were among those killed on Monday.

The Hamas-led demonstrations are part of a six-week protest dubbed the “Great March of Return”.

Emergency services and Palestinians carry a wounded protestor during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabalia on May 14, 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionHundreds of people have been injured, according to Palestinian officials

Israel says the protests are aimed at breaching the border and attacking Israeli communities nearby.

The Israeli military said 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in “violent riots” at 13 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence.

It said the Israeli military had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.

There have also been violent clashes between Israeli police and protesters who raised Palestinian flags outside the new embassy. Several protesters were detained.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has called for “utmost restraint”.

What led to the Gaza protests?

Palestinians have held weekly protests in the run-up to their annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of their people fled their homes or were displaced following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May 1948.

Scores of Palestinians have been killed since the protests began. Thousands more have been wounded.

Hamas, which is in a state of conflict with Israel, had said it would step up protests in the lead-up to Tuesday, the official Nakba commemoration.

Map

It says it wants to draw attention to what Palestinians insist is their right to return to ancestral homes in what became Israel.

“Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever,” a science teacher in Gaza, Ali, told Reuters news agency.

What was opened and who attended?

A small interim embassy will start operating from Monday inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem. A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.

Ivanka Trump at the embassy openingImage copyrightEPA
Image captionIvanka Trump spoke briefly at the embassy’s opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary.

Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner, who are both senior White House advisers, joined US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan for the ceremony.

After Ivanka Trump had unveiled the seal of the embassy, Mr Kushner said in his address: “When President Trump makes a promise he keeps it… We have shown the world that the US can be trusted. We stand with our friends and allies.”

Mr Kushner also referred to Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the “dangerous, flawed and one-sided Iran deal”, drawing applause from the guests.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “What a glorious day. Remember this moment. This is history. President Trump, by recognising history, you have made history. All of us are deeply grateful.”

US Jerusalem embassy map

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday: “With this step, the US administration has cancelled its role in the peace process and has insulted the world, the Palestinian people and the Arab and the Islamic nation and it has created incitement and instability.”

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said it was “shameful to see countries participating with the US and Israel in celebrating the former’s embassy move to occupied Jerusalem in a clear and grave violation of international law”.

Why is the embassy move so controversial?

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is not recognised internationally and, according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war. It effectively annexed the sector, though this was not recognised by any countries until Mr Trump’s declaration in December 2017.

Media captionWhy the ancient city of Jerusalem is so important

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Various countries once had embassies based in Jerusalem but many moved after Israel passed a law in 1980 formally making Jerusalem its capital.


A boost for Netanyahu

By Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor, Jerusalem

The embassy move is the culmination of one of the best weeks in the political life of Mr Netanyahu.

First President Trump kept his promise to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Now the US embassy is moving.

Placards in Jerusalem praise Mr Trump. The local football club, Beitar, infamous for fans who chant “death to Arabs”, has included “Trump” in its name.

The embassy move has been rejected by the main allies of Israel and the US. Palestinians are protesting in their thousands in Gaza.

It is much more low-key in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

The embassy move is good for the Netanyahu government, good for President Trump’s base and makes most Israelis pleased but there is no evidence to back Mr Netanyahu’s claim that it is good for peace.