Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with ISRAEL; fight against those who fight against ISRAEL!
Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for ISRAEL'S help! Draw the spear and javelin against ISRAEL'S pursuers!
Morning Jolt: What to Expect from the Israel–Hamas Hostage Deal
If the Israelis believed a four-day pause in fighting would leave them with a significant military
On the menu today: I had wanted today's newsletter to be an ode to everything we should be thankful for and a reminder that, for all the problems we face, we still live in a country that people will risk sailing through shark-infested waters in rickety boats to get to, just to have a slim chance of living here. But the Israel–Hamas deal on hostages is a big deal and warrants a detailed look.
A Hostage Deal for Thanksgiving
As of this writing, there is a deal in place between Israel and Hamas to exchange some hostages for prisoners and stop fighting for several days, with a potential extension of the pause and additional hostage releases. The terms of the deal, as laid out by the Times of Israel:
In a pivotal vote early Wednesday morning, the full Israeli cabinet approved an agreement to secure the release by Hamas of roughly 50 Israeli hostages who were abducted and taken into Gaza during the terror group's October 7 terror onslaught. Some 240 hostages are being held overall. The deal was approved by 35 votes to three. A first group of some 12-13 hostages could be released as soon as Thursday. . . .
An Israeli government official briefing reporters on Tuesday said the deal was expected to see the release of 50 living Israeli citizens — children, mothers and other women — in groups of 12-13 people over four days. In exchange, Israel has agreed to a ceasefire for those four days, for the first time since the outbreak of the war, as well as the release of 150 teenage and female Palestinian security prisoners. The halt in fighting could be extended by one additional day for each additional group of 10 hostages freed, after which Israel's campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza is to resume.
The exact starting time of the fighting pause has yet to be nailed down but is expected to be soon; the statement from Qatar said the starting time will be announced in the next 24 hours.
First, as discussed on yesterday's episode of The Editors — the 600th! — those of us who are not at the highest levels of the Israeli government are operating with less information than those who are. The Mossad and IDF don't have perfect intelligence on everything in the battlefield, but they know how many casualties they've suffered and how far into Gaza their forces have advanced, and they likely have at least a partial sense of where the remaining targets are and whether those remaining targets can escape from northern Gaza to southern Gaza.
If the Israelis believed that a four-day pause in the fighting would leave them with a significant military disadvantage, they would be unlikely to agree to it. If they believed that a four-day pause would give some high-value Hamas target an opportunity to escape, they would be unlikely to agree to it.
The Israelis also likely have some sense of how many casualties they have inflicted on Hamas. If you listen to the numbers out of the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, every Israeli offensive results in killing tens of thousands of infants and two Hamas militants.
That is only a mild exaggeration; the numbers provided by the Palestinian Information Center do not acknowledge any actual Hamas military casualties. The closest you can get is to subtract their claims of the women and children casualties from their claim of the total casualties and get a remaining roughly 4,300 adult men killed. The English version of the statement on the center's website says: "The government media office in the Gaza Strip said that the number of martyrs of the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip for the forty-sixth day reached more than (14,128) martyrs, including more than (5,840) children and (3,920) women. This means that 69 percent of the martyrs [sic] They are in the categories of children and women." The center also breaks down the number of deaths of doctors, nurses, and paramedics (205) and journalists (62), schools destroyed, ambulances destroyed, mosques destroyed, and residential units destroyed. In this assessment, Israel never hits a legitimate military target or kills a legitimate military combatant.
You notice the coverage of the war tells us a lot about the Palestinian civilian casualties — and they are real, and newsworthy — but there is almost no mention of how many Hamas fighters were killed. A publication of the U.S. director of national intelligence estimated that as of 2022, Hamas had between 20,000 and 25,000 members. A source close to Hamas in the Gaza Strip told Reuters that Hamas had a "40,000-strong military wing." In the past seven weeks or so, it is reasonable to surmise that the IDF has inflicted significant casualties on Hamas. One of the more intriguing indicators of Hamas's remaining capacity is the steadily dwindling number of rockets being fired into Israel. Hamas is likely running low on rockets, or men to fire the rockets, or both.
Alas, as I wrote 20 days ago, Hamas has a long history of breaking cease-fires. If this pause in the fighting remains in place for the full four days, I will be pleasantly surprised. History indicates that the moment Hamas believes it has a military advantage, it will break the cease-fire with a surprise attack.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius is much more optimistic than I am, pointing out that Hamas could extend the pause for quite a while if it agrees to release more hostages:
The basic idea driving the hostage-release agreement, approved by Israel's cabinet early Wednesday in Jerusalem, is "more for more," a formula that's well known in arms-control negotiations. If Hamas delivers more hostages, Israel would be willing to extend the pause, a senior Israeli official told me. There is no cap on how long Israel might halt its Gaza operations, he said, as Israel seeks eventual release of all captives, including those in the military.
"If they use the pause to get more hostages and release more, then we'll give them more time," the Israeli official said. It's a surprisingly pragmatic formula for easing a conflict that began with Hamas's brutal Oct. 7 terrorist attack and continued through Israel's relentless six-week assault that caught Palestinian civilians in the crossfire.
Ignatius also writes, "This truce might allow Hamas to regroup, but it could also ease the mounting international criticism of Israel that was beginning to threaten Israeli national interests."
As I said, optimistic. I think Noah Rothman's prediction is more likely: "The Jewish state will be blamed for not deferring to the elementary logic of hostage-taking and extending the cease-fire indefinitely. Israel will be blamed for retaliating against trigger-happy terrorists, who can't be expected to observe the terms of the cease-fire at all operational levels."
Israel believes Hamas could potentially locate some 30 more Israeli women and children beyond the initial 50, and that the halt in fighting could be extended by a day for each group of 10 more Israeli hostages who are located and freed, the government official said. Hamas is claiming it cannot immediately track down around 10 children taken from Israel during its October 7 onslaught.
How the hell do you misplace ten child hostages?
It is not much of an exaggeration to say that almost everything Hamas does is a war crime. Just about every choice Hamas leaders make blurs the distinction between themselves and the Palestinian civilians they claim to be fighting for, and maximizes the chances of Palestinian civilian casualties instead of minimizing them. Hamas's philosophy is abundantly clear: a belief that a lot of dead Palestinian civilians is worth it if it gets Israel denounced on the world stage. (The world stage, infuriatingly, plays along almost every time, blaming Israel and hand-waving away Hamas's role.)
There is no conceivable peaceful coexistence with Hamas, any more than there could have been any peaceful coexistence with al-Qaeda or ISIS. The entire purpose of the organization is the destruction of innocent civilians that it deems its enemies. We can welcome the release of some hostages and the temporary respite in the fighting to help bring in humanitarian relief. But the overall task, needed for a safer world, remains.
ADDENDUM: Hug your loved ones and skip the political arguments this Thanksgiving. Even the relatives who see the political world differently than you, and who can drive you crazy sometimes, are a blessing in their own way. We'll miss each other when we're gone.
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A left-wing writer and racial-justice activist who has claimed that American society was "instituted by racist ideas and maintained by racist policies" published a black history book for kids earlier this year that appears to be filled with content plagiarized from other sources, according to a review of the book by National Review . Confronted with the apparent plagiarism, the book’s publisher said it would be pulled from circulation pending an investigation. Rann Miller, a New Jersey-based activist and educator, published Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids in March. According to the book, it is designed to be a "place of entry" into the history of the African people so readers will be "empowered to fight" injustices in the world. Miller, a former teacher who has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Rutgers University, also writes opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer , the Progressive Magazine, and education websites
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