News Roundup for February 14, 2024

February 14, 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

First in NatSec Daily – J Street Wants Palestinian Recognition [Scroll Down], Politico
The US should signal a willingness to recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state, the progressive pro-Israel group J Street announced today, a major policy shift for the group with deep ties to senior Biden administration officials. “We can’t go back to the status quo pre-Oct. 7, the president himself has said as much. It’s time for real action toward a two-state solution and a comprehensive vision to end this devastating conflict and integrate both states in the region,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told us. A lot of work should be done before such recognition is given, including guarantees for Israel’s security and other measures, Ben-Ami said. But, he added, “by outlining a peaceful path to freedom, independence and statehood, the US can bolster moderate Palestinian leadership, disempower Hamas and reduce the levels of despair and disenfranchisement upon which extremists feed.”

President Biden: Be Bold, J Street
“For too long, the Middle East has been mired in conflict not because the differences fueling it are unresolvable, but because of failures of vision and political leadership. In this moment of despair and anguish, President Biden has the opportunity to show that vision and leadership. […] That’s why J Street is urging President Biden to boldly state America’s readiness to recognize a demilitarized state of Palestine as the centerpiece of a comprehensive regional diplomatic initiative.”

Spoiler – We Are Not Russia, The Times of Israel
J Street Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “There are those who suggest that we should act like Russia. They want Israel to starve, destroy and kill as much as possible. And what will happen if we are sanctioned, they are asked? If Russia has survived, we will also survive. Those who argue that we should adopt the Russian example of brutal conduct in war and simply ignore moral considerations, as if there are no basic norms to which Israel is obligated to follow as a liberal democracy, and a country that wishes to be part of the West and to earn international legitimacy.”

J Street Welcomes Senate Security Package, Urges House Passage, J Street
“The package furthers important American geostrategic interests including the defense of our allies Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and the provision of significant global humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people in Gaza and others who are suffering in a dire humanitarian crisis. Together with President Biden and the House Democratic leadership, J Street opposed efforts by House Republicans to strip humanitarian and Ukraine assistance and appropriate solely military assistance to Israel.”

Top News and Analysis

US Won’t Punish Israel for Rafah Op That Doesn’t Protect Civilians, Politico
The Biden administration is not planning to punish Israel if it launches a military campaign in Rafah without ensuring civilian safety. Three US officials, granted anonymity to detail internal discussions, told NatSec Daily no reprimand plans are in the works, meaning Israeli forces could enter the city and harm civilians without facing American consequences. Asked Monday if the president ever threatened to strip Israel of military aid, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said “we’re going to continue to support Israel … And we’re going to continue to make sure they have the tools and the capabilities to do that.”

If Israel Invades, Hell Looms in Rafah, The Economist
The Economist reports, “Attacking Rafah would squeeze Hamas further and yet the toll could be huge. The generals know that there may be no effective way of moving civilians out of harm’s way. In the previous stages of the war, Israel urged residents of Gaza city and Khan Younis to move south, away from the war zone. Now it would have to get those who had fled to Rafah to move again, this time to the shrinking “safe areas”— makeshift tent-cities on the coast.”

Short of Options, Gazans Try to Flee Rafah Ahead of Israeli Operation, The Washington Post
Gazans living in the overcrowded border city of Rafah are attempting to flee ahead of an expected military operation by Israeli forces, despite uncertainty about where to go next and dwindling resources. “We’ve been living in a state of terror for about a week now,” Anwaar al-Rai, 48, said. Rai, who was traveling with her husband Mahmoud al-Rai, 49, and their two daughters, said she and her husband had been reaching out to everyone they knew in the western areas of Gaza’s central region, north of Khan Younis. “We urgently need a safe haven,” she said.

Only the US Can Stop an Israeli Move Into Rafah, Financial Times
Michael Wahid Hanna writes, “While the White House has counseled Israeli leaders against a ground invasion of Rafah, it has privately pushed Israel on a number of issues, such as the reduction of civilian harm and the expansion of humanitarian access, and failed. America’s pressure on Israel must go beyond stern words and leaked angry conversations. The US today is complicit in the destruction of Gazan society, the immiseration of much of the strip. But even at this late stage, there are choices to be made and further catastrophe to be avoided.”

Family Grieves After American Teenager Shot Dead in West Bank, The Washington Post
A 17-year-old Palestinian American was killed in the West Bank on Saturday, a family member told The Washington Post, making him the second known US citizen killed there since the start of the war. The US State Department confirmed the death, adding that it was seeking additional information from the Israeli government. Israeli forces were allegedly behind the shooting, according to human rights group Defense for Children International – Palestine and Mohammad’s aunt.

Israel Is Surveilling US Data on Settler Attacks to Thwart Sanctions, Sources Reveal, +972
Yuval Abraham reports, “Sources in Israeli intelligence told +972 and Local Call that they have been tracking materials passed through private channels by the PA to the Office of US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem in order to “understand what the US knows about settler violence.” The intention, they explained, is not to act against the perpetrators but to prevent the collected information from “developing into sanctions.’”


Israeli Minister Blocking Flour Netanyahu Promised Biden Would Be Allowed Into Gaza, Axios
Ultranationalist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is blocking a US-funded flour shipment to Gaza because its recipient is UNRWA, two Israeli and US officials told Axios. US officials said this is a violation of a commitment Benjamin Netanyahu personally made to President Biden several weeks ago and another reason the US leader is frustrated with the Israeli prime minister.

Biden Forcefully Condemns Trump’s NATO Comments as ‘Un-American’, The Washington Post
Donald Trump said he would encourage Russia to invade NATO allies if those countries did not spend enough money on defense. Speaking from the White House, Biden said Trump’s comments had sent a dangerous and “shameful” signal to the world.

Israel in Breach of International Law if It Denies Gaza Food and Water, Says Cameron, The Guardian
Israel is in breach of international law as the occupying power if it fails to provide food and water to the people of Gaza, the UK foreign secretary, Lord Cameron, told peers on Tuesday in his clearest warning yet over Israel’s conduct. He also said it was simply not possible for people in Rafah to leave as proposed by the IDF, remarks that suggest the UK would not endorse any Israeli plan to mount a full-scale attack on the area.

Antisemitism and Safety Fears Surge Among US Jews, Survey Finds, AP
The survey released Tuesday found one quarter of American Jews said they have been the target of antisemitism in the past year. Almost half of American Jews responding to the survey said they had altered their behavior during the past year to avoid antisemitism – changing what they wore, what they posted online or where they went so other people wouldn’t know they were Jewish.

One Israeli Killed, Eight Wounded by Rocket Barrage Fired From Lebanon on Northern Israel, Haaretz
According to the IDF, the launches were detected coming from Lebanon towards a military base in northern Israel, as part of a rocket barrage fired at the upper and western Galilee regions. The army said that they were attacking the sources of the launches.

Families of Israeli Hostages to File War Crimes Complaint Against Hamas in the Hague, The Times of Israel
Over the past four months, lawyers for the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which is representing the hostages’ relatives, have prepared a legal submission demanding that arrest warrants be issued against the Hamas leadership for the October 7 atrocities. Several dozen lawyers, together with around 100 representatives of the families of the hostages, will file the complaint.

France to Impose Travel Bans on Violent Israeli Settlers, Reuters
France will ban 28 Israeli settlers from entering the country, accusing them of attacking Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, its foreign ministry said on Tuesday. “These measures come as violence perpetrated by settlers against the Palestinian population has increased in recent months. France reaffirms its firm condemnation of this unacceptable violence,” the ministry said in a statement.

UN Warns of ‘Slaughter’ if Israel Launches Ground Assault on Rafah, BBC
Humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Palestinians in Gaza were already suffering an “assault that is unparalleled in its intensity, brutality and scope.” In an unusually strongly worded statement, Mr Griffiths said over a million people were “crammed in Rafah, staring death in the face”. He said civilians in the city had little food or access to medicine and “nowhere safe to go.”

US Reviewing Reports of Civilian Harm by Israel, State Dept Says, Reuters
The Biden administration has faced criticism for continuing to supply arms to Israel as allegations pile up that American-made weapons have been used in strikes that have killed or injured civilians. “We do seek to thoroughly assess reports of civilian harm by authorized recipients of US-provided defense articles around the world,” Miller said at a press briefing.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Plan for Endless War Must Force a Reckoning for American Jews, The Forward
Rob Eshman writes, “Netanyahu and his government have long pushed one sort of vision, advancing policies that are anathema to a growing number of Israelis, and to a majority of Americans and American Jews. The war has reached a stage where it is no longer enough just to say, “I support Israel.” The struggle for Israel’s future is the real endgame of this war, and you need to pick a side.”

The Israeli Occupation Took Our Daughters. Now It Won’t Let Us Speak, Haaertz
Rami Elhanan, a bereaved father and a member of the Parents Circle – Family Forum, shares, ” The pain of bereavement has the power of nuclear energy. This pain can explode with atomic force. It is an Arab pain. It is a Jewish pain. And it is a human pain. These days, we see the result of this pain erupting in front of our very eyes. […] But a healthy society is one that provides a stage to a variety of voices, sometimes contradictory ones – a society in which justice and freedom of expression go hand in hand.”

Israel’s Future Is Tied to the Hostages’ Fate – and Netanyahu Doesn’t Get It, Haaretz
Netta Ahituv shares, “If the decision-makers fail to do everything – absolutely everything – with full honesty and intention to bring the hostages home alive, they will never be able to restore Israelis’ sense of security. […] What we’ve been seeing, however, is that they’d rather see us dead. If they don’t immediately make every last effort to bring the hostages home alive now, there can be no revival for the State of Israel.”