News Roundup for February 13, 2024

February 13, 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

Biden Delivers Tough Love, Takes Historic Step: Conditioning Aid to Israel, The Washington Post
Post columnist Jennifer Rubin shares, “J Street has for years called for greater oversight and accountability over arms and materiel provided by the United States to other countries, including Israel. American assistance — even to our closest allies — must not be provided in the form of a blank check,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told Jewish Insider. “This memorandum also confirms America’s commitment to ensuring that its partners and allies do not restrict or impede the transport or delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

Biden Faces New Problem Over Israel’s Rafah Offensive, Newsweek
“Middle East analysts and humanitarian aid groups said an Israeli offensive in Rafah could further destabilize the entire region. “Diplomacy is the best way to get the hostages back and ensure that there isn’t significant further humanitarian suffering,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal advocacy organization, told Newsweek.”

Top News and Analysis

US Brokering Israel-Hamas Hostage Deal to Include 6-Week Pause in Fighting, Biden Says, The Hill
“As [King Abdullah II of Jordan] and I discussed today, the United States is working on hostage deal between Israel and Hamas, which would bring an immediate and sustained period of calm to Gaza for at least six weeks,” Biden said. “Which we could then take the time to build something more enduring.” “The key elements of the deal are on the table. There’s gaps that remain, but I’ve encouraged Israeli leaders to keep working to achieve the deal. The United States will do everything possible to make it happen,” he said.

Palestinians in Rafah Describe ‘Night Full of Horror’ During Israeli Hostage Rescue, The New York Times
“I swear to God it was an indescribable night,” said Ghada al-Kurd, 37, who is among more than a million people sheltering in the southern Gaza city. “The bombing was everywhere — we were convinced that the Israeli army was invading Rafah.” Israel’s military said early Monday that it had conducted a “wave of attacks” on Rafah to provide cover for soldiers who freed two hostages held by Hamas. The health ministry in Gaza said that at least 67 people had been killed in the strikes, and that the toll was likely to rise.

Biden Disparages Netanyahu in Private but Hasn’t Significantly Changed US Policy Toward Israel and Gaza, NBC News
NBC reports, “President Joe Biden has been venting his frustration in recent private conversations, some of them with campaign donors, over his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in the Gaza Strip, and he has named Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the primary obstacle, according to five people directly familiar with his comments. Biden has said he is trying to get Israel to agree to a ceasefire, but Netanyahu is “giving him hell” and is impossible to deal with, said the people familiar with Biden’s comments, who all asked not to be named.”

Senate Passes $95 Billion Package With Aid for Ukraine and Israel, Setting up Showdown With the House, CNN
The foreign aid package includes billions of dollars to support Ukraine and for security assistance for Israel, as well as humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine, among other priorities. It’s unclear whether Johnson would hold a vote on it and many House Republicans are opposed to further aid to Ukraine.

Netanyahu Protests to Biden, Criticizes Order Targeting Israeli Settler Violence, Axios
Netanyahu’s initial response to Biden’s executive order was very mild. But his protest to Biden this weekend signals he increasingly believes the order, which also allows sanctions on Israeli officials directly or indirectly involved in settler violence, could have unprecedented implications for the entire settlements enterprise in the West Bank.

She Survived an Airstrike That Killed Her Entire Family in Gaza [Video], The New York Times
Eleven-year-old Dareen al-Bayaa lost dozens of her family members in a single airstrike in Gaza. She is one of at least 17,000 children across the territory who have been orphaned or separated from their parents.

Thin, Pale, but Happy: Freed Israeli Hostages Reunited With Family, The Guardian
“They looked very thin and very faint and for us it was a bit shocking to see how much weight they had lost. But the happiness on their faces and the look in their eyes made us understand that really they are very happy and they are somehow in an OK condition,” said Idan Begerano, son-in-law of freed hostage Louis Har.


ICC Prosecutor ‘Deeply Concerned’ by Situation in Gaza’s Rafah, Reuters
International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he was deeply concerned about reports of bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Khan posted on X after airstrikes in the city that is the last refuge of about a million displaced civilians.

Families of Hostages Complain of Online Abuse From Truce Deal Opponents, The Times of Israel
Representatives of families reportedly described the harassment Monday during a meeting with war cabinet Minister Benny Gantz and war cabinet observers Gadi Eisenkot and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri. “We receive quite a few curses on the networks, people who call us traitorous leftists and say ‘I hope they die there,’” a representative said during the meeting, according to Channel 12 news.

‘This Is Where I Want to Be:’ Israeli Family Returns to Kibbutz Kfar Azza, The New York Times
Ms. Khon, 56, and Mr. Shnurman, 62, are the only residents who have returned so far. At night, the silence is eerie, punctured episodically by the thunderous sound of bombs exploding in Gaza. “We came back for the most basic reason: This is our home,” said Mr. Shnurman. “This is where I want to be. It’s the most logical thing, to want to be home.”

Israel’s West Bank Settler Population Grew Nearly 3%. Supporters Say Gaza War Could Give New Push, AP
This year’s report predicted “accelerated growth” in the coming years, claiming the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which triggered the current war in Gaza, persuaded many Israelis who were formerly opposed to settlement-building on occupied land to change positions.

Defense Official Says Extremist Israeli Settlers Torched Car, Tried to Set Home on Fire in West Bank, Haaretz
An Israeli security official reported Tuesday that a group of some 15 Jewish settlers arrived from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar to the village of Asira al-Qibliya, setting a car on fire and attempting to set a building ablaze. The source added that settlers also threw rocks at Palestinians near the village of Madama and that another group of settlers later set vehicles on fire in the West Bank town of Hawara on Monday.

A Left-vs-Left House Battle, Funded by a Split Over Israel, The New York Times
But unlike many of the primary contests fueled by various groups — like the AIPAC; its political affiliate, the United Democracy Project; and the independent Democratic Majority for Israel — the Bush vs. Bell battle in Missouri’s First District pits progressive against progressive, each with a considerable record to run on that has little to do with Israel.

A Court Orders Netherlands to Halt Fighter Jet Part Exports to Israel Over Gaza War, NPR
“The court finds that there is a clear risk that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the court said on Monday. The Dutch affiliate of the international humanitarian group Oxfam, along with two other nongovernmental human rights groups that sued the government in December, welcomed the decision.

Opinion and Analysis

We Find It Easy to Accept War, Peace Not So Much, Haaretz
Yonatan Zeigen, son of peace activist Vivian Silver who was killed by Hamas on Oct. 7, shares, “We have to stop the tactics of divide and conquer, of oppression and of settlement expansion. We need to adopt the humility of victors, and together with the Palestinians and other countries formulate a peace agreement that acknowledges the injustices and creates a sustainable solution for the two peoples – security for Israel within defined borders, and liberty, sovereignty and contiguous territory for the Palestinians.”

Rafah Was Gaza’s Last Safe Zone. The Israeli Assault Will Lead to a Humanitarian Disaster There, The Forward
Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib writes, “Launching an invasion of Rafah without serious efforts and plans to protect civilians will be disastrous for the coastal enclave’s hungry and battered people, who have been inhumanely squeezed into a small, crowded and ill-equipped city after suffering months of devastating bombardment. And it will have worldwide political, diplomatic and geostrategic consequences for Israel, ones that would create irreversible damage. Plans to protect and evacuate civilians in Rafah must be quickly and transparently articulated and implemented.”

New Evidence of Unlawful Israeli Attacks in Gaza Causing Mass Civilian Casualties Amid Real Risk of Genocide, Amnesty International
Amnesty International reports, “The organization carried out an investigation into four Israeli strikes, three in December 2023, after the humanitarian pause ended, and one in January 2024, that killed at least 95 civilians, including 42 children, in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost governorate at a time when it was supposedly the “safest” area in the strip, but where Israeli forces are currently gearing up for a ground operation.”

Israel’s Assault on Gaza Is Exposing the Holes in Everything Liberal Politicians Claim to Believe, The Guardian
Nesrine Malik shares, “Events there have exposed the flaws in an entire model of politics and the assumptions that underpin it. If liberalism cannot offer a moral and stabilising form of governance, then what is it for? In the midst of such a historically bloody and disruptive conflict, if liberalism shows no ability or desire to protect civilian life, regional security and its own electoral prospects, then its mission-defining claims of principle and competence collapse.”