The consul general speaks: A conference call with Andy David

The consul general speaks: A conference call with Andy David

By Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound

During a lunchtime conference call today with members of Seattle’s Jewish community, Andy David, Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest, laid out the issues of the war that erupted this week between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This is what he had to say:

With these attacks, Hamas, David said, is trying to do something out of the ordinary. “A multi-faceted attack,” he said. “Of course the missiles, the rockets, and the long-range rockets that reached Hadera and Zichron Yakov in the north, Tel Aviv, of course Jerusalem. At the same time they tried to attack with Navy SEALs, or commandos from the sea, and the same time also with an explosive tunnel that was dug close to the Kerem Shalom crossing. They tried to attack an Israeli tank, an army outpost, perhaps to kidnap another soldier.

“That was also a combined attack and part of what they described as the fireball or the big managed attack on Israel,” David added.

Israel has three goals in resolving this conflict: To restore the quiet, “meaning if it will be quiet in Israel it will be quiet in Gaza,” David said.

Second is to go back to the cease-fire understanding Israel and Hamas reached at the end of the Pillar of Defense skirmishes that took place in 2012, and third is deterrence.

“In 2013 we only had 70 rockets fired at Israel,” David said, the majority fired by the Islamic Jihad group, not Hamas. “From the beginning of July, we’re talking about 10 times that number.”

A reported 40,000 reserves from the Israeli side have been called, but most of those reserves are to take the place of duty officers and soldiers, who are at this point better trained and ready to go into combat should the need arise.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been emphatic about disabling Hamas because there’s a bigger picture: “What we are witnessing, this axis of chaos that starts with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with Hamas, Hezbollah, going all the way to Nigeria with Boko Haram, it’s part of this whole phenomenon, and one of the reasons why our government immediately objected to the formation of the unity government between the PLO and Hamas was because it was against Western interests. Israeli interests, of course, is part of it,” David said. “There’s certainly no way that we want to strengthen that axis of chaos.”

While they’re remaining on the sidelines, David said Israel believes Arab countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, some of the gulf states — with the possible exclusion of Qatar — oppose Hamas.

At this point, even Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority is beginning to think creating the unity government was a bad idea, David said.

“The whole Palestinian agenda, which just a few months ago was about negotiations, was hijacked with the abduction…of the three Israeli boys. Now the whole agenda is about conflict,” he said. “They have turned [Abbas] into irrelevant. That was a big mistake. I think he realizes that now.”

As far as what Israel is doing outside of combat, the police and military coordination between Israeli and Palestinian Authority forces is still active.

“The reason for that is that it still serves their purpose and it serves our purpose,” David said. In addition, “We still continue to pass the money for salaries to the…Palestinian authority, minus 22 million shekels.”

That money being withheld is what David called “the money they’re paying the terrorist activists and their families.”

In addition, the border is still open to allow hospital patients from Gaza to pass through to get care in Israel, and “every day loads of trucks — we’re talking about 150, 180 sometimes 200 trucks — are coming to the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel carrying food, supplies, fuel, medicine, feed an fodder for animals, everything they need,” David said.

While the markets are full, “the crisis that may be present is shortage of cash, from loss of jobs. There may be food but you can’t buy it,” David said. “That’s the responsibility of Hamas.”

The call was organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.