White House and Congress Affirm Support for Israel in Gaza Crisis

November 20, 2012 in Top News, World News

Southern Israel from Gaza Border

A Palestinian missile is seen being launched in Southern Israel near the Gaza border, Thursday, Nov 15. Source: Ariel Schalit/AP.

Israeli Government Fights Both Rockets and Hack Attacks

Last Wednesday, U.S. senators from both major parties responded to a briefing by Ambassador Michael Oren on the situation in the Gaza Strip. Against the backdrop of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Senators Bob Casey, D-Penn.,  Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.,  Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., released the following statement:

“This afternoon, we were briefed by Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren on the security situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Over the past week, more than 100 rockets have been fired from Gaza into southern Israel, some of which have been repelled by the Iron Dome air defense system. As a bipartisan group of Senators committed to Israel’s security, we express our solidarity with Israel during this deeply challenging period and denounce the reprehensible and indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad against innocent Israeli citizens. We strongly support Israel’s right to defend its people and call on those responsible for the violence to cease their attacks against Israel immediately. Escalation will only lead to further suffering on both sides.”

On Thursday, the White House threw its full support behind Israel with regard to the U.S. ally’s military response to rocket fire by Hamas. Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes indicated it remained up to the Israeli government whether to launch a ground assault to stop the current barrage of rocket attacks on Israeli citizens.

Rhodes commented, “ultimately, it’s up to the Israeli government to make determinations about how they’re going to carry out their military objectives.” On Friday Israel began signaling more visibly its readiness to organize for a ground invasion.

Also on Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution affirming support for Israel’s “inherent right to act in self-defense”. On Friday, the House of Representatives passed an identical non-binding resolution. The resolutions were initiated by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., in the Senate, and by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Howard Berman, D-Calif., in the House.

As reported prominently in The Jerusalem Times, the pair of resolutions affirms on record that each chamber “expresses unwavering commitment to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and recognizes and strongly supports its inherent right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism.”

A statement by American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised “the leadership of Senators Gillibrand and Kirk, and the extraordinary show of support by the Senate for Israel’s struggle against terrorist attacks on its citizens.”

Again on Saturday, the White House “backed Israel’s right to defend itself against attack and decide how to respond to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, blaming the ruling Islamic militant Hamas group for starting the conflict” according to newsmax.com.

President Barack Obama commented Sunday that while Israel has the right to defend itself against current attacks, it would be “preferable” to avoid a military thrust into Gaza— to avoid the risk of high casualties that would result amid a densely populated area.

In an exclusive interview on Saturday with Breitbart News, Israeli Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser commented “enough is enough.” Kuperwasser, Israel’s Director General of the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, confirmed the government’s approval to mobilize 75,000 Israeli reservists for a ground invasion of Gaza. According to the director general, Hamas is firing Iranian long-range rockets among other weaponry. Iran has denied such allegations.

On Sunday, an Israeli missile fired into Gaza killed at least 11 civilian Palestinians, including four children. The attack was intended for a top Hamas militant. This was the most deadly single event since rocket attacks on Israel and consequent counter-attacks began on Wednesday.

Reuters reported, “Israel rushed a fifth Iron Dome air defense battery into service in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday, using it within hours to shoot down a rocket fired at the coastal metropolis from the Gaza Strip.”

Observers in Israel have commented that Israeli response capacity may be stretched at this stage in the conflict, rendering a ground assault the only viable means to stop the rocket attacks.

Amid the conflict Egypt has taken the lead in efforts to broker a cease-fire. Israeli media reported a delegation from Israel has been to Cairo for talks on ending the fighting. Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has met with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal and Islamic Jihad’s head Ramadan Shallah in support of mediation efforts.

Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was en route to Israel.  By Tuesday morning at least tentative reports of cease-fire discussions appeared to be making some headway.

On a parallel war front, Israel faced a large-scale onslaught of cyber-attacks last week. News agencies and political blogs have speculated about Iranian responsibility for widespread hacking of Israeli web servers, but responsibility may not be so clear-cut. Online activists with Anonymous claim to have crashed or deleted nearly 700 Israeli websites between Wednesday and Saturday, including databases of both governmental and private websites. Both Bank of Jerusalem and dozens of Israeli state agencies including foreign ministry servers were affected by the hack attacks.

Anonymous claimed responsibility in a statement asserting, “For far too long, Anonymous has stood by with the rest of the world and watched in despair the barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people in the so called ‘Occupied Territories’ by the Israel Defence Force … But when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all Internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand.”

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz confirmed in a statement leading up to Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting that the Israeli government was now waging war on “a second front ─ of cyber attacks against Israel”. According to Steinitz, Israel had “deflected 44 million cyber attacks on government websites.” Steinitz made no specific reference to Anonymous, but reported the government had successfully deflected almost every attack.

“This is an unprecedented attack,” Steinitz said, “and our success has been greater than we anticipated.”