- WSJ column: Advice to Jared Kushner
- UN warns Lebanese government not to arm Hezbollah
- Another Hamas terrorist dies in Gaza tunnel collapse
- Arab, Jewish Israeli youth leaders to teach Syrian kids in Greece
The column was directed towards President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—the president’s pick as point man on Arab-Israeli issues. In it, Stephens counsels Kushner to look at various lessons from history, ranging from a cautionary “do nothing” approach to the wisdom garnered by former president George W. Bush. “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers,” Bush wrote in 2004, “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
Yet Stephens also demurred from the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace process should be the ultimate focus. “The real prize,” he wrote, “lies in further cultivating Jerusalem’s ties to Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Abu Dhabi, as part of an Alliance of Moderates and Modernizers that can defeat Sunni and Shiite radicals from Raqqa to Tehran.”
On Sunday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, said that Hezbollah’s weapons "do not contradict the state... and are an essential part of defending Lebanon. As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for (Hezbollah's) arsenal because it complements the army's role.” Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, a Sunni, countered Aoun’s statements on Tuesday by calling Hezbollah’s arsenal illegitimate.
In The Times of Israel on Monday, journalist Avi Issacharoff explained that the Israeli military is increasingly concerned about deepening cooperation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army. The IDF will have to take this into consideration in the next war against Hezbollah; it is especially delicate because the Lebanese army receives much of its weaponry from the United States.
“In southern Lebanon, it’s Hezbollah that calls the shots,” Issacharoff wrote. “There is no village in the south (with the possible exception of several Sunni villages) that has not been transformed into a fortified bastion of Hezbollah, which possesses an entire array of command and control, communications systems, and a variety of arms including rockets (of course) and anti-tank weapons.” An Israeli defense official explained that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk.
Hezbollah reportedly has an arsenal of 130,000 rockets, more than the combined total of all 27 non-U.S. NATO member states.
A senior IDF official recently told Israel’s Channel 2 that Hamas had rebuilt its tunnel infrastructure and rocket arsenal to the levels it maintained before its 2014 war against Israel. Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out last year that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, writing that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas spends some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on tunnel construction, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. An Israeli official estimated in July that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month.
This week, Hamas elected Yahya Sinwar — an influential hardliner convicted by Israel of multiple murders — to be its new Gaza-based chief.