News Roundup for April 4, 2024

April 4, 2024
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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

J Street In the News

Calls for Israeli ‘Accountability’ After Deadly Strike, Politico
The investigation should address a broader issue than this single strike, Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the progressive pro-Israel group J Street, told NatSec Daily. “It’s about how do we prevent things like this from happening going forward,” Ben-Ami said, pointing us to an article outlining Israel’s use of artificial intelligence to target suspected militants in Gaza. “It is a structural problem that has to look at the way in which the targets are identified.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel War Cabinet Member Gantz Calls for September Elections Amid Gaza Assault, Reuters
“We must agree on a date for elections in September, towards a year to the war if you will,” Gantz said in a televised briefing. “Setting such a date will allow us to continue the military effort while signaling to the citizens of Israel that we will soon renew their trust in us.” Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets in recent days demanding new elections. Many have criticized Netanyahu and expressed anger at his government’s handling of the 134 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza six months into the war.

Biden Blasts Israel Over Aid Workers, but His Gaza Policy Is Unchanged, The Washington Post
“This is not a stand-alone incident. This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” Biden said. “This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult — because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.” Yet there is no indication that the Monday deaths of the workers — who included one American — will result in any significant changes to the Biden administration’s unwavering support of Israel. The president’s sharp condemnation stands as the latest example in what experts, outside advisers and even some Biden officials say is an increasingly contradictory approach to Israel’s six-month assault in Gaza.

‘Lavender’: The AI Machine Directing Israel’s Bombing Spree in Gaza, +972 Magazine
Yuval Abraham reports, “A new investigation reveals that the Israeli army has developed an artificial intelligence-based program known as “Lavender,” unveiled here for the first time. According to six Israeli intelligence officers, who have all served in the army during the current war on the Gaza Strip and had first-hand involvement with the use of AI to generate targets for assassination, Lavender has played a central role in the unprecedented bombing of Palestinians, especially during the early stages of the war. In fact, according to the sources, its influence on the military’s operations was such that they essentially treated the outputs of the AI machine ‘as if it were a human decision.’”


Attack on Aid Workers Is Already Slowing the Flow of Aid Into Gaza, The New York Times
In the wake of the attack that killed seven of its workers, World Central Kitchen stopped its work in Gaza and sent three ships with hundreds of tons of food back to port in Cyprus. Another aid group, American Near East Refugee Aid, or Anera, which said it had operated in the Palestinian territories for more than 55 years, also announced that it was suspending its work in Gaza.

‘Netanyahu is the Problem.’ Why Tens of Thousands Are Protesting in Israel, Time
Public anger over the failure to achieve a hostage deal reached a boiling point on March 30 in the biggest protests the country has seen since the start of its war with Hamas six months ago. A turning point came Saturday when some family members of former or current hostages tell TIME they began calling for the resignation of Netanyahu in order to free their loved ones, joining forces with anti-government protesters.

American Killed in Israeli Strike in Gaza Was Father, Military Veteran, The Washington Post
When Jacob Flickinger went to the Gaza Strip three weeks ago to distribute food with World Central Kitchen, he asked his father to tell his mother he was in Cyprus instead. He didn’t want her to worry. He planned to leave at the end of this week, he told his father, John, on Sunday via text. The next day, the 33-year-old dual US-Canadian citizen was dead, one of seven World Central Kitchen workers killed by Israeli airstrikes on the aid group’s convoy.

US Signals Opposition to Renewed Palestinian Bid for Statehood Status at UN, The Times of Israel
“We have always made clear that, while we support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state… that is something that should be done through direct negotiations through the parties — something we are pursuing at this time — and not at the United Nations,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said during a press briefing.

Lidor Levy, 34, Dies of Wounds Sustained in Terror Attack in Southern Israel, Haaretz
Levy is one of three people who were wounded in the shopping mall stabbing attack in Gan Yavne on Sunday, leaving behind a pregnant wife, six-month-old baby, parents, and two siblings. “His life’s purpose was to help others with modesty and humility,” the family’s statement continued. “Lidor leaves a huge void in our hearts. We will continue living according to the values he instilled in us as an everlasting memory.”

White House Temperature Is ‘Very High’ Ahead of Biden-Bibi Call, Axios
“Biden is pissed. The temperature regarding Bibi is very high,” one US official said. A second US official confirmed that is the atmosphere at the White House ahead of the call with Netanyahu. “I think you could sense the frustration in that statement yesterday,” White House spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

Iran Ramps up Threats Against Israel Following Consulate Airstrike, Politico
In a statement made on Iranian state television Wednesday, President Ebrahim Raisi said the attack “will not remain without answer,” and in both a televised statement and in posts to his social media, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that Israel “will be punished.”

Senior Israeli Official Warns of Growing ‘Shoot First, Ask Later’ Culture in IDF, The Times of Israel
The senior Israeli official pointed to both the killing of the WCK staffers and a December incident in which troops opened fire on and killed three Israeli hostages who managed to escape captivity and were waving a white flag. “Soldiers are operating under immense pressure in very difficult conditions in which Hamas embeds itself within the civilian population, but the rules of engagement are designed to help deal with such conditions, and they’re too often being ignored,” said the senior Israeli official.

Opinion and Analysis

Let People Eat, The New York Times
Chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, writes, “The Israeli government needs to open more land routes for food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today. It needs to start the long journey to peace today. In the worst conditions, after the worst terrorist attack in its history, it’s time for the best of Israel to show up. You cannot save the hostages by bombing every building in Gaza. You cannot win this war by starving an entire population.”

As Famine Looms in Gaza, the US Humanitarian Strategy Is Failing, The Washington Post
Josh Rogin argues, “It is past time for the Biden administration to use real pressure — including the threat of withholding weapons — to persuade the Israeli government to do what the International Court of Justice demanded: Allow “unhindered provision” of food, hygiene and medical aid. The Biden team’s latest approval of thousands of more bombs for the Israeli army, before Israel complies, sends exactly the wrong signal. If the United States can watch children being starved by its ally, what leg does it have to stand on when it criticizes dictators such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for using food as a weapon of war?”

J Street Is Committed to Electing Officials Who Are Pro-Israel and Pro-democracy, Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle
J Street leader Mark Fichman shares, “J Street believes that on the other side of destruction must lie peace. Our broader pro-Israel community must understand that providing Palestinians with safety and self-determination — basic rights that detract from terror and violence — is in Israel’s best interest and is the only solution to preserving the character of the Jewish homeland’s founding values.”

Gantz and Eisenkot: Stop Saving Netanyahu and Get Out of His Government, Haaretz
The Haaretz Editorial Board writes, “[Gantz and Eisenkot] are clinging to the concept that they’re saving Israel in its time of need, while they’re mainly saving Netanyahu from an election. The hostages rotting in captivity don’t have until September. Neither does Israel. So what’s expected today of Gantz and his party is one thing only: to leave the government and take up the demand for an early election. Six months is plenty. Things have gone far enough.”

Israel Unleashed?, Foreign Affairs
Dalia Dassa Kaye writes, “The Gaza war seems to be reinforcing already strong Israeli incentives for more, not less, military escalation with Iran. Israeli leaders have been working under the assumption—both before and after Gaza—that the conflict with Iran can remain contained as Israel accomplishes its goals of degrading the Iranian axis while improving ties with Arab states similarly wary of Iran. Those assumptions were flawed even before October 7. But in the midst of a sustained assault on Gaza and the killing of Palestinian civilians at a previously unimaginable scale, Israel is playing with fire.”