News Roundup for December 18, 2023

December 18, 2023
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J Street In the News

Extremists on Both Sides of Israel-Hamas War Are Determined to Kill a Two-State Solution, The Chicago Tribune
“The only way we believe there can be a successful vision for the day after is with a different Israeli government,” said Adina Vogel-Ayalon, chief of staff of J Street in Washington, DC, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization advocating for US policies that promote Jewish and democratic values for Israel. “That is one of the many obstacles at this moment in time,” she told me. “This Israeli government is resisting every plan for the day after that this administration has been promoting.” J Street advocates for post-conflict arrangements that establish a path to an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the future, and steps to get there successfully.

Long the Heart of Liberal Judaism, Reform Judaism Shaken by Israel-Gaza War, The Washington Post
“Reform leaders, like the leaders of several other prominent progressive Jewish groups, including J Street and Americans for Peace Now, have not emphasized a cease-fire and have said an Israeli military response in Gaza was appropriate. Instead, they have focused on calling for a more just execution of military attacks, more humanitarian aid to Gazans and a prioritizing of freeing the hostages.”

J Street Expresses Deep Sympathy Over Hostage Deaths, Urges Renewed Approach, J Street
“There is a strong and growing desire from hostage families and from Israelis more broadly for another effort at negotiations to bring the remaining hostages to safety. It is clear from this and other recent news that the scope, scale, and tactics of the present Israeli operation are putting the lives and safety of those hostages – and thousands of Palestinian civilians – continually at risk. We too add our voices to those in Israel and around the world who ask that the Netanyahu government put the safety and well-being of the hostages front and center.”

Top News and Analysis

Anger at Israeli Government Mounts After Military Admits to Mistakenly Killing Hostages, NBC News
Mounting anger at the Israeli government spilled onto the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday after it emerged that the country’s military had mistakenly killed three hostages in Gaza who “had a stick with a white cloth on it.” In a plaza in downtown Tel Aviv known as “Hostage Square,” Raz Ben Ami, who was released from captivity late last month, told a crowd of hundreds that she had “warned” the Israeli government that military operations in Gaza were putting hostages at risk and had “unfortunately” been proven right.

Israel Found the Hamas Money Machine Years Ago. Nobody Turned It Off, The New York Times
The New York Times reports, “A Times investigation found that both senior Israeli and American officials failed to prioritize financial intelligence — which they had in hand — showing that tens of millions of dollars flowed from the companies to Hamas at the exact moment that it was buying new weapons and preparing an attack. That money, American and Israeli officials now say, helped Hamas build up its military infrastructure and helped lay the groundwork for the Oct. 7 attacks.”

Gaza, Smashed by Israeli Strikes, Sees New Threat: Disease, The Washington Post
Israeli strikes killed one of Tahani Abu Taima’s sons and one of her brothers, she says. But she fears a different killer is stalking what’s left of her family: disease. Abu Taima’s 2-year-old daughter is suffering from diarrhea, vomits, sneezes and is “shaking from the cold and lack of food.” The child “asks me for food all the time, but I am unable to provide,” she said. Abu Taima, 42, herself has thyroid cancer. But she has also developed a severe respiratory infection, she says, caused, she believes, by the pollution of war: dust and other particles that linger long after Israeli bombardments.

‘The Hostages Weren’t Our Top Priority’: How Israel’s Bombing Frenzy Endangered Captives in Gaza, +972
Yuval Abraham reports, “Intelligence sources who spoke to +972 and Local Call on the condition of anonymity, before the shooting of the three abductees on Friday, affirmed that during the initial stages of the war, the Israeli army’s intense bombardment of Gaza was conducted without having a clear picture of where many of the more than 240 hostages were being held. […] Echoing this sense of an indiscriminate and haphazard policy, testimonies from newly freed Israeli hostages, who were released as part of exchange deals for Palestinian prisoners during a temporary ceasefire in late November, as well as from some of the hostages’ families, indicate that one of the main fears of those held captive in Gaza was the threat of being hit by Israeli airstrikes and shelling.”

Netanyahu: I’m Proud I Blocked a Palestinian State. Looking at Gaza, Everyone Sees What Would Have Happened, The Times of Israel
“I inherited the Oslo Accords,” Netanyahu said. “The decision to bring the PLO from Tunis, and plant it in the heart of Judea and Samaria [West Bank], and in Gaza, was a decision made and implemented before I became prime minister. I thought it was a terrible mistake and I still do.” Turning on the reporter, he says: “You and your journalist friends have been blaming me for almost 30 years for putting the brakes on the Oslo Accords and preventing the Palestinian state. That’s true,” he says.

Palestinian Boys and Men Detained Without Charge by Israeli Military Describe 5 Days of Alleged Abuse, CNN
Nimer Abu Ras’ wrists are bruised and lacerated. His hands are swollen. He is one of hundreds of Palestinian men and boys who have been detained, many of them stripped and blindfolded, in recent weeks by Israeli forces conducting clearing operations in northern Gaza. Many of those detained have already been identified as civilians by relatives and employers after images of the mass detentions circulated on social media.

Is Netanyahu Putting His Own Political Future Ahead of the Good of Israel?, NBC News
Anna Schecter and Dan De Luce report, “US and Israeli officials told NBC News that they fear Netanyahu has adopted some positions in the war against Hamas to prolong his own political survival. Given his weak political position and the widespread expectation that he could be sidelined once the fighting ends in Gaza, they said, Netanyahu has a strong motive to prolong the military offensive. “He has every incentive to keep the war going, to ensure his political survival,” one US lawmaker who asked not to be named told NBC News.”


Gazans Say They Fear a Fate Worse Than Bombs: Permanent Exile, Reuters
With Israeli bombs pounding the length of the Gaza Strip, Gazans have been squeezed up against the border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula at the town of Rafah and say they have practically nowhere left to flee. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes and as the bombardment comes closer again many fear the only option to keep them alive is exile to Sinai. But they don’t want that. They say if that happened, they might never come back.

Israel Finds Large Tunnel Adjacent to Gaza, Raising New Questions About Prewar Intelligence, Politico
The military said the tunnel stretches for over 2.5 miles, links up with a sprawling tunnel network across Gaza and is wide enough for cars to pass through. The army said Sunday that the tunnel facilitated the transit of vehicles, militants, and supplies in preparation for the Oct. 7 attack. While the military was aware that Hamas had an extensive tunnel network, Dinar said they did not think the militants would be able to carry out their plans for a large-scale attack.

Palestinian Americans Sue Biden Administration Over Relatives Stuck in Gaza, Reuters
Two Palestinian American families have sued the Biden administration, claiming the government has not done as much to evacuate their US relatives stuck in Gaza as it did for Israeli dual nationals. In the days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault in southern Israel, the US government organized charter flights from Tel Aviv to Europe to help Americans leave Israel. The State Department says it has helped around 1,300 US Palestinians leave Gaza in part by coordinating their exit to neighboring Egypt. But the United States has not taken steps to organize dedicated flights or otherwise help secure the exit of an estimated 900 US citizens, residents and family members who remain trapped in Gaza.

Israeli Strike on School Kills Al Jazeera Cameraman in Southern Gaza, Network Says, AP
Cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa and correspondent Wael Dahdouh had gone to the school in the southern city of Khan Younis after it was hit by a strike earlier in the day. While they were there, an Israeli drone hit the school with a second strike, the network said. Dahdouh was heavily wounded in his arm and shoulder, while Abu Daqqa fell bleeding to the ground.

Hostage Samar Talalka, Mistakenly Killed by IDF, Buried; No Government Reps on Hand, The Times of Israel
Talalka was shot dead on Friday along with two other hostages, Yotam Haim and Alon Lulu Shamriz, after they escaped from captivity and approached a group of Israeli soldiers, shirtless and waving a white flag. Around 1,500 people attended his funeral, but Hebrew media outlets reported that no official representatives from the government or the military attended. Talalka, from the Bedouin town of Hura, was kidnapped on October 7 from Nir Am where he worked.

Israeli Woman Moderately Wounded in West Bank Shooting Attack, Haaretz
A 27-year-old Israeli woman was moderately wounded in a shooting attack near the West Bank settlement of Ateret on Monday. The IDF believes that the shooting was carried out from a passing vehicle, and a search for the shooter is ongoing. This is the third shooting attack targeting Israelis in the West Bank in the last two months.

Palestinian Farmers in the West Bank Say Israel Is Blocking Access to Their Harvests, NPR
Olives and olive byproducts are vital revenue sources for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, but some of the land owned by the farmers stands behind a barrier built by Israel 20 years ago. And the Israel-Hamas war has made access to that land even more difficult than usual.

CIA Chief to Meet Israeli, Qatari Officials for New Hostage Deal Talks, Axios
CIA director Bill Burns is set to meet Monday with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency in Warsaw to discuss a potential new deal to secure the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, two US and Israeli officials told Axios. Burns played a key role in brokering the previous deal that led to the release of more than 100 hostages last month, among them several Americans.

Opinion and Analysis

Free My Son’s Palestinian Killer to Free the Israeli Hostages Held by Hamas, Haaretz
Robi Damelin writes, “I think about David, my beloved son, who was killed by a Palestinian sniper while on reserve duty in the West Bank in 2002. I am sure, if he were still with us, that he would have been with you demonstrating for all these terrible days that have passed since the October 7. I think about that sniper who is in jail for killing him along with nine other soldiers and civilians. I say free him if it will bring back even one of your loved ones. He is not my prisoner to hold on to. The pain he caused me be with me forever. So will the pain of imagining him living freely again, as it will be for the families of the other Israelis he killed.”

In the West Bank, I Saw How Peace Will Require Confrontation With Israel, The Washington Post
David Ignatius shares, “President Biden and other world leaders speak hopefully about creating a Palestinian state once Hamas is defeated. I’d love to see that happen, too. But people need to get real about the obstacles that are in front of our eyes. On the ground, amid the grinding daily pressure of Israeli occupation, the shared hope for a Palestinian state can seem like a fairy tale — soothing to hear but a version of magical thinking. Standing in the way are the Israeli settlements and outposts laid across the hilltops of the West Bank, their high fences and concrete walls symbolizing their apparent immovability.”

What We Mean When We Say ‘Ceasefire’, ARZA
Josh Weinberg argues, “At the risk of stating the obvious, Jewish values call for preserving human life at almost all costs, and for reminding us that it is upon us, as Jews, to take care of the vulnerable in our midst. We must hold our universal values of care for all those created in the image of God and for all humanity. Our concern for all of God’s children must be a core concern, but that cannot come at the expense of the well-being and security of our own people. However, the logic of those calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire is insufficient and sadly, simplistically unsophisticated in that there is rarely any mention of Israeli security needs, vulnerabilities, or the need for Israel to take preventative precautions.”