Vatican documents
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Moshe Phillipsis a past board member of the American Zionist Movement and was a delegate to the most recent World Zionist Congress.

Should a medieval pope’s ruling about our monthly calendar dictate Israel’s military strategy in Gaza?

In an interview this week, Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said that the nation’s military planners designed the counter-terror effort in Gaza “on a staged basis, with the year 2024 defined as a year of combat.” We are now “in the fifth month of 2024,” he noted, “which means we expect another seven months of fighting …”

I am not one of those know-it-alls who think they are qualified to give Israel strategic advice from thousands of miles away. Israel’s leaders need to make combat decisions, and Israel’s voters will have their say the next time they go to the ballot box.

But we American supporters of Israel should be troubled by the possibility that Israel’s life-and-death military decisions could be influenced by outside factors—whether pressure from the Biden Administration, the extremist actions and rhetoric from radical anti-Zionist American Jews, or something as arbitrary as the twelve-month calendar.

It’s called the Gregorian calendar because it was Pope Gregory XIII who, in 1582, revised the earlier, ten-month calendar into the form that is used today.

Gregory XIII wasn’t what anyone would call a friend of the Jews. Among other things, he forced the Jews of Rome to finance the construction of a “Home for Converts to Christianity,” in 1578; reimposed a ban on Jewish doctors treating Christian patients, in 1581; ordered Jews to hand over all their copies of the Talmud to the officers of the Inquisition, also in 1581; and, in 1584, required all Jews to listen to speeches by Christian missionaries who visited their synagogues every Shabbat.

Of course, even if Pope Gregory had been the Jews’ best friend, Israel is not bound by his calendar. Sure, it might be a nice, round number to have the anti-terror campaign in Gaza wrap up by December 31—but really, why does it matter? What does fighting terrorists have to do with tidy-sounding dates on somebody’s calendar?

American friends of Israel need to constantly remind Israeli leaders that polls show most Americans support the fight against Hamas, and don’t care whether that fight ends on a neat-sounding date or not.

Yes, there will be days when it seems like the whole world is against Israel. Just last week, Norway, Ireland, and Spain gave Hamas a big diplomatic and public relations boost by announcing their recognition of the non-existent State of Palestine.

But a few days later, there were two equally significant developments, which of course will receive far less media attention than the pro-Hamas recognition. I’m referring to the votes in Denmark and Australia against Palestinian Arab statehood.

In Denmark, four radical left parties in their parliament proposed a resolution urging recognition of “Palestine.” The vote wasn’t even close: 83 against, 21 in favor. To put it another way, 80% of Denmark’s lawmakers support Israel, and 20% support Hamas.

The vote was even more lopsided in Australia. The leftist Greens Party proposed recognizing “Palestine”; the members of parliament rejected the resolution by 80 to 5. That’s 94% for Israel, 6% for Hamas.

So don’t lose heart, Israel. There will be ups and downs, there will be good days and bad ones. But please ignore outside pressure and medieval calendars, and do what must be done to defend yourself against those Palestinian Arab terrorists who want to destroy you.