News Roundup for February 12, 2024

February 12, 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

The Way to Defeat Hamas: Recognition of a Palestinian State, The Jerusalem Post
Nadav Tamir, J Street’s Israel Director, and Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, program director at Mitvim, write, “Recognition by the international “moral majority” of a Palestinian state is a Zionist imperative if Israel is to ensure its future as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people. It would serve as a lifeline against the nightmarish government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Bezalel Smotritch and the world’s lifeline against Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Iran’s regional influence.”

Storer H. Rowley: A Match Has Been Lit in the Middle East. President Joe Biden Is Trying to Control the Fire, The Chicago Tribune
“The most challenging thing now as this continues, and more and more people are dying, is the question of the day after,” said Adina Vogel-Ayalon, chief of staff of J Street in Washington. “I find it so cynical that this Israeli government continues to dismiss any real discussion for what a viable, stable and secure future would look like — in favor of their own survival.” J Street advocates a diplomatic solution. Vogel-Ayalon said groups like hers endorse growing efforts in Congress to put guardrails on future US funding to Israel to ensure the aid is not spent on actions at odds with US policies.

J Street Welcomes New Oversight and Transparency Measures for Military Aid, J Street
“The White House is sending a clear message to the Netanyahu government that US support will no longer come in the form of a blank check,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “These measures give additional muscle to President Biden’s continued efforts to press the Israeli government to protect civilians, facilitate aid and comply with international law.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli Forces Rescue 2 Hostages in Dramatic Gaza Raid That Killed at Least 67 Palestinians, AP
Israeli forces rescued two hostages early Monday, storming a heavily guarded apartment in the Gaza Strip and extracting the captives under fire in a dramatic raid that was a small but symbolically significant success for Israel. Heavy airstrikes that provided cover for the operation killed at least 67 Palestinians, according to health officials in the beleaguered territory.

Biden Tells Netanyahu to ‘Not Proceed’ in Rafah Without Plan to Protect Civilians, NPR
This is the first time Biden has publicly cautioned Israel against its planned operation in Rafah. Other administration officials have said Israel has an obligation to keep civilians safe, and, as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN told NPR, that under current conditions, Israel’s planned military operation in Rafah “cannot proceed.”

Almost 10 Percent of Gaza’s Under-fives Now Acutely Malnourished, UN Says, Haaretz
The food supplies that Gaza depends on have shrivelled from their pre-war level, and aid workers have reported visible signs of starvation, especially in areas of northern and central Gaza worst hit by Israel’s war on Hamas since October 7. The charity ActionAid said some Gazans were eating grass. “Every single person in Gaza is now hungry.”

‘Time Running Out’: Relatives of Rescued Hostages Call For Deal to Get Back the Rest, The Times of Israel
Relatives of two Israeli hostages freed overnight from Gaza appealed Monday for a broader deal between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of others still held in the Palestinian territory. “Luckily for us, as a family, they were saved tonight. But I must say that the job is not done,” Idan Bejerano, son-in-law of freed hostage Louis Har, told journalists. “We are happy today, but we didn’t win.”

Biden Is Starting to Talk Tough on Israel. But Doubts Persist That He’ll Use US Leverage, HuffPost
Akbar Shahid Ahmed writes, “Experts and officials tell HuffPost they are extremely skeptical of suggestions this week from the Biden administration that it is adjusting US policy to prevent further devastation in Gaza. […] Though his new memo directing officials to ensure US weapon transfers abide by the law sounds nice on paper, the administration is unlikely to actually enforce it in this case because Washington is so wary of steps that appear unsupportive toward Israel. Even in the best-case scenario, the memo would not affect hostilities in the days ahead.”

Netanyahu Prefers Hollow Slogans About ‘Total Victory’ in Gaza Over the Lives of Israeli Hostages, Haaretz
Amos Harel reports, “Netanyahu’s intentions are also obvious in the manner in which his mouthpieces have been behaving. TV Channel 13 has reported that his office has pressured Likud cabinet members to come out publicly against the proposed hostage deal. In studios at his “house” Channel 14 – a privately owned commercial Israeli broadcaster – commentators are preparing public opinion for the need to relinquish the idea of bringing hostages home, for the sake of a final victory.”

Egypt Threatens to Suspend Camp David Accords if Israel Pushes Into Gaza Border Town, Politico
The threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly a half-century, came after Prime Minister Netanyahu said sending troops into Rafah was necessary to win the war against Hamas. Egypt fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who may never be allowed to return.


Young Israelis Block Aid to Gaza While IDF Soldiers Stand and Watch, The Washington Post
Before Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Kerem Shalom was the main commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza. Today, it’s one of just two entry points for lifesaving food and medicine to the besieged enclave, where aid agencies say civilians are on the brink of famine. But West Bank settler Yosef De Bresser and his three companions are determined to keep any trucks from getting through, and they aren’t bothered if innocents suffer.

AIPAC Pans US Directive Requiring Aid Recipients to Provide Assurance of Adherence to Int’l Law, The Times of Israel
AIPAC came out against the memorandum issued last week by the Biden administration requiring all allies who receive military aid from the US to provide “credible and reliable written assurances” of their adherence to international law, including international human rights law.

UN Agency Struggles to Serve Gaza as Scrutiny Mounts Over Alleged Hamas Links, The Washington Post
Political pressure on the UNRWA mounted further on Saturday after Israel said it had uncovered a tunnel passing under its main headquarters in Gaza City. The Israeli military posted pictures of what it called an electrical supply hub powering a vast Hamas underground network in the area and said “large quantities of weapons” had been recovered there. UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said Saturday that the agency had no knowledge of the underground tunnel.

‘I’m So Scared, Please Come’: Hind Rajab, Six, Found Dead in Gaza 12 Days After Cry for Help, The Guardian
Trapped in the vehicle and surrounded by her dead relatives, for three hours she pleaded with the Red Crescent to save her. But the aid agency lost contact with the ambulance dispatched to her aid on January 29. Now Hind’s family has said that she was found dead inside the car in Gaza City on Saturday morning. The Red Crescent said that it had located its bombed-out ambulance just metres away, and that its two paramedics had also been killed.

Israel Is Holding up Food for 1.1 Million Palestinians in Gaza, the Main UN Aid Agency There Says, AP
UNRWA’s director, Philippe Lazzarini, said Friday that that a convoy of food donated by Turkey has been sitting for weeks in the Israeli port city of Ashdod. The agency said that the Israeli contractor they work with received a call from Israeli customs authorities “ordering them not to process any UNRWA goods.” That stoppage means 1,049 shipping containers of rice, flour, chickpeas, sugar and cooking oil — enough to feed 1.1 million people for one month — are stuck, even as an estimated 25% of families in Gaza face catastrophic hunger.

Senate Moves One Step Closer to Passing Package With Aid to Ukraine and Israel Despite Trump’s Opposition, CNN
The foreign aid package includes billions of dollars to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia and for security assistance for Israel, as well as humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine. The vote was 67 to 27.

In Private Remarks to Arab Americans, Biden Aide Expresses Regrets on Gaza, The New York Times
In a closed-door meeting with Arab American leaders in Michigan this week, one of President Biden’s top foreign policy aides acknowledged mistakes in the administration’s response to the war in Gaza, saying he did not have “any confidence” that Israel’s government was willing to take “meaningful steps” toward Palestinian statehood.

Under the Cover of War, Israel Plans to Build a New Neighborhood for Jews in East Jerusalem, Haaretz
According to organizations that monitor construction in the West Bank’s settlements, all of these neighborhoods – planned to have a combined 3,000 residential units – are being swiftly advanced. Since the war in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, these neighborhoods have particularly benefited from exceptionally rapid approvals by zoning authorities.

Opinion and Analysis

The US and UK Should Recognize a Palestinian State Now, Haaretz
Larry Garber and R. David Harden write, “Together, both the Abraham Accords and the October 7 events and their aftermath create a unique opportunity to bring all the regional actors together in an effort to end the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. The first step requires that the US and UK initiate an irreversible commitment to Palestinian aspirations, and that begins with recognition of the state of Palestine.”

Destroying Gaza’s Health Care System Is a War Crime, Foreign Policy
Annie Sparrow and Kenneth Roth argue, “Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s health care system is not only an important part of the genocide charges — it is also a blatant war crime that should be prosecuted outright by the ICC, which has an active investigation underway of war crimes in Palestine. Targeting health care achieves little militarily while amplifying the death toll and suffering caused by indiscriminate bombardment.”

Israeli Settlements Stand in the Way of Peace. Biden Can Defund Them All, The Guardian
Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man writes, “[Biden’s] sanctions, however, are arguably the softest of the economic weapons created in the executive. If the president ever wants to use the full range of sanctions he signed into, it could very well defund the entire Israeli settlement enterprise. However, because the Israeli economy is in reality not at all distinct from the settler economy, sanctions of that scale could force a reckoning for which Israelis are entirely unprepared.”

Gazans Fled Their Homes. They Have Nowhere to Return, Haaretz
Yarden Michaeli and Avi Scharf report, “An accurate estimation of the destruction is a challenging task due to the fog of war – and as the IDF restricts entry by journalists. But it’s possible to create a map of the destruction using satellite data, which shows that at least half of all the buildings in the enclave are likely to have been damaged or destroyed, according to American researchers. Most of the destruction is in the north, but bitter fighting is also underway in the south, as is seen in the satellite data.”