June 2, 2023


Government Affairs News Digest

I’m writing to share J Street’s statements and news updates.

Topping the news, Israeli settlers – assisted by Israeli authorities – took steps toward reestablishing the unauthorized outpost of Homesh in the northern part of the occupied West Bank. Legalizing the outpost is a priority for the far-right Netanyahu government. The Biden administration has consistently stated its opposition to legalization of the Homesh outpost (and other outposts) and to the repeal of key portions of the 2005 Disengagement Law that barred Israelis from living in the region of the West Bank from which Homesh and three other settlements were evacuated. Indeed, it has said that the repeal of the Disengagement Law and reestablishment of settlements in Homesh and surrounding areas violate key Israeli commitments made to the US both in 2004 and earlier this year. For background and analysis, see “Why the Netanyahu Government’s Disengagement Repeal Is So Problematic for the Biden Administration.”

An additional troubling development is the warning from the UN that World Food Program funds for Gaza – which feeds 200,000 Palestinians in the impoverished enclave – will soon run out. A spokesman for the UN Secretary General has indicated that food assistance will be suspended this month if additional funds are not urgently secured. This comes on the heels of the latest escalation last month between Israel and Islamic Jihad that made Gaza’s economic situation even more dire. Israeli security officials are concerned about the impact a looming catastrophe in Gaza could have on Israel.

Be sure to check out our continously updated dossier on the Netanyahu government. As always, you can find our Congressional briefing book, background information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recordings of previous briefings and more at J Street’s Congressional Resource Page.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

All the best,

Debra Shushan, PhD
Director of Policy, J Street
mobile: (757) 746-0366 | [email protected] | @DrShushan

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What we’re reading

US, EU slam construction of new yeshiva building in illegal Homesh outpost

The US State Department on Monday slammed Israel for allowing the construction of a new yeshiva building overnight in the illegal West Bank outpost of Homesh. A spokesperson for the State Department reiterated that the US is “deeply troubled” by the move, “which is inconsistent with both former prime minister Sharon’s written commitment to the Bush administration in 2004 and the current Israeli government’s commitments to the Biden administration.” The Civil Administration, which has authority over planning and construction in the West Bank, did not provide permits for the construction of the yeshiva, and the building is illegal under Israeli law. The government hopes the outpost can be legalized, as do Homesh activists, in line with the position the state adopted in its most recent filing to the High Court.
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Low on Cash, UN Warns of Looming Humanitarian Disaster in Gaza

The United Nations is warning that humanitarian aid supporting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will come to a halt in the coming days. A spokesperson for the UN Secretary General warned on Tuesday that without an urgent influx of cash, the money funding its world food program in Gaza, which feeds some 200,000 Gazans daily, will run out. Israel’s defense establishment is aware of the issue, and Western diplomats, who believe that closing the program will cause a humanitarian crisis and will raise the risk of a security escalation, have expressed concern.
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Israeli army says Palestinian gunmen kills Israeli civilian in West Bank shooting

Palestinian gunmen shot and killed an Israeli man on Tuesday near the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army said. The Israeli military said the man was shot near the settlement of Hermesh, in the northern West Bank. Local officials identified the man as Meir Tamari, a 32-year-old resident of the settlement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the family and said forces were pursuing the gunmen “ in order to settle accounts with them.” Dimiter Tzantchev, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, condemned the attack, calling it a “cowardly and brutal act of violence.”
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Israel Tempers Expectations of a Breakthrough in Normalization Talks With Saudi Arabia

Senior Israeli officials have clarified that ongoing talks aimed at normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel are far from maturing due to several issues that would affect Israel’s military superiority and nuclear hegemony in the region. Additionally, any hopes for confidence building measures before any major agreements are made, such as enabling a direct flight during the Hajj for Israeli Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca, may not materialize this year. A senior Israeli official who spoke with Haaretz noted that the talk’s two main challenges stem from the Saudi request for advanced American weaponry, alongside the Saudi demand for American permission to start a civilian nuclear program. Both items pose a problem for Israel: The first is the fear of eroding Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East, and the second is due to the potential of a civilian nuclear program later becoming the basis for Saudi nuclear arms manufacturing, ending the regional nuclear monopoly attributed to Israel.
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International Atomic Energy Agency reports seen by AP say Iran resolves 2 inquiries by inspectors

Iran has resolved two outstanding inquiries from the International Atomic Energy Agency over highly enriched uranium particles and a site where man-made uranium was found, according to confidential reports seen Wednesday by The Associated Press. The IAEA reports ease pressure slightly on Tehran, which has been escalating its program for years since the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from its nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. However, it continues to amass more uranium nearer than ever to weapons-grade level, worrying nonproliferation experts. The two confidential quarterly reports by the Vienna-based IAEA, distributed to member states of the organization, said inspectors no longer had questions on uranium particles found to be enriched to 83.7% at its underground Fordo facility. That had sparked tensions over the last several months as uranium enriched to 90% is weapons-grade material. The report said investigators also have closed off their investigation of traces of man-made uranium found at Marivan, near the city of Abadeh, some 525 kilometers (325 miles) southeast of Tehran.
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