News Roundup for February 15, 2024

February 15, 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

[Today at 1pm Eastern | 10am Pacific] Palestinian Statehood Proposal: What You Need to Know, J Street
This week, J Street unveiled a new proposal, calling on President Biden to boldly state America’s readiness to recognize a demilitarized state of Palestine as the centerpiece of a comprehensive regional diplomatic initiative. Join us today for a panel discussion with J Street Policy Director Dr. Debra Shushan, former Israeli diplomat and J Street Israel Executive Director Nadav Tamir, and Director-General of the Palestinian Peace Coalition-Geneva Initiative Nidal Foqaha. Register now for today’s discussion >>

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Declines to Send Israeli Delegation to Egypt for More Hostage Talks, Axios
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not approve sending an Israeli delegation to Cairo on Thursday for follow-up talks over a possible hostage deal, two Israeli officials said. Proposing follow-up talks appears to be an attempt by Egyptian and Qatari mediators to make progress on issues unrelated to the main sticking point in the talks — the number of prisoners Hamas wants to be released — in order to create continuity and momentum for the negotiations.

Hundreds Flee Southern Gaza Hospital After Israel Orders Evacuation, The New York Times
Thousands of Gazans have been sheltering at the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis for weeks, having been forced to flee their homes and other parts of Gaza by Israel’s intense bombardment of the territory and military orders to leave their towns and cities. Hospitals have become places of refuge during the war, even as they have often become a focus of Israel’s military offensive.

US, Arab Nations Plan for Postwar Gaza, Timeline for Palestinian State, The Washington Post
The Biden administration and a small group of Middle East partners are rushing to complete a detailed, comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and Palestinians, including a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, that could be announced as early as the next several weeks. The urgency of the effort is tied directly to a proposed pause in the fighting and release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.

Biden’s Calls for Israel to Mind the Laws Appear Feeble, and Ignored, Responsible Statecraft
Daniel Larison writes, “The president’s “no daylight” approach to Israel and the war in Gaza was a serious mistake from the start, and it has clearly failed on its own terms. Far from gaining the Israeli government’s trust, this approach signaled to Netanyahu that he could safely ignore all US complaints and concerns. The assumption that uncritical support for the war would buy the US greater influence with the Israeli government has been tested and proven wrong.”

US Probes Israeli Strikes That Killed Civilians in Gaza, Possible Use of White Phosphorus in Lebanon, The Wall Street Journal
One attack the State Department is currently investigating is an Oct. 31 airstrike on the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp near Gaza City that killed more than 125 people, the US officials said. Israel said it targeted a Hamas commander in a tunnel under a high-rise building. Weapons investigators suspect that Israel used a 2,000-pound bomb in the strike, which could have been provided by the US.

Hostages’ Families Slam Netanyahu for Ordering Israeli Delegation Not to Return to Cairo for Further Talks, Haaretz
In light of the move, the Hostage and Missing Families Forum announced that they intend to demonstrate on Thursday in front of the IDF headquarters in central Tel Aviv in protest of “the decision to sacrifice the lives of the hostages.” “If the prime minister and some members of the cabinet are thinking of abandoning hostages to death in agony [due to their] indifference, they will encounter millions of Israelis who understand that tomorrow they and their children will be abandoned again by the same people,” they said.

Secret Peace Talks Are Underway for Israelis and Palestinians. Here’s What’s on the Table, Newsweek
Dan Perry and Gilead Sher detail a proposal by a group of experts, both from Israel and from the Palestinian side, and with the participation of Western countries. They share, “The framework lays out three bedrock principles. It starts with mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine; it involves regional and international actors in key aspects of the agreement to incentivize, ensure accountability, and facilitate implementation; and it demands front-loading the process to seize the momentum created by the current crisis, while taking into consideration the need for phased though enforceable implementation.”

Rafah Was Supposed to Offer Refuge. Now, the City Waits for a Possible Israeli Attack, NPR
As of Wednesday, roughly 1.4 million Palestinians sheltering in cramped conditions in Rafah were bracing for the potential of an Israeli assault on the city, but hoping for a diplomatic breakthrough as negotiators from the US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar were said to be meeting in Cairo for talks on a plan to pause the fighting. In Rafah, which sits on the border with Egypt, families that barely had time to set up their tents are already packing up. Many have arrived in Rafah after fleeing Israeli military strikes in the northern swath of the Gaza Strip.


Israeli Jets Hit Lebanon in Heaviest Strike Since Gaza War Began, The Washington Post
Israel on Wednesday launched its longest and heaviest attack in years on neighboring Lebanon since the start of the Gaza war, striking several locations in the south, killing at least one Hezbollah fighter and three civilians, and raising further the specter of war between the two long-standing enemies.

Sullivan: We Expect Israel to Adhere to Commitment to Get US-Funded Flour to Gaza, Axios
Ultranationalist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is blocking a US-funded flour shipment to Gaza because its recipient is UNRWA, Axios first reported Tuesday.The “flour has not moved the way that we had expected it would move and we expect that Israel will follow through on its commitment to get that flour into Gaza,” Sullivan said.

Israel Authorities Demolish Home of East Jerusalem Social Activist, Drawing US Ire, Haaretz
Masked officers forcibly moved Abu Diab, his wife and son and a number of journalists away from the house. Shortly afterward, a municipal bulldozer demolished the house. Until recently, the building was home to 10 family members, including children, the youngest of whom was three months old.

Palestinian UNRWA Agency Faces ‘Deep’ Cash Crunch in April, Chief Says, Reuters
“Our operation will start to be compromised as from March but April will be really the month where we will be under deep, deep, deep negative cashflow,” Lazzarini told a news conference, describing the agency as being under an “existential threat.”

Families of Hostages Visit International Court to Urge the Arrest of Hamas Leaders, AP
Shelly Aviv Yeini, a lawyer for the group that organized Wednesday’s visit, The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, said the evidence includes details supporting “allegations of genocide, taking hostages, enforced disappearances, torture, gender-based violence and sexual violence. It’s a very detailed submission and I hope it can help the prosecutor in delivering justice.”

Hamas Recruiter Tells CBS News That Israel’s Actions in Gaza Are Fueling a West Bank Recruiting Boom, CBS News
A masked Hamas commander who agreed to speak with CBS News at an undisclosed location in the West Bank was proud to confirm that he’s a wanted man. We asked him if his job had become easier, with more recruits signing on in the West Bank since Hamas launched its brutal terror attack. “For sure,” he said, grinning.

Biden Signs Order to Shield Palestinians in US From Deportation, The Guardian
The move grants “deferred enforced departure” to an estimated 6,000 Palestinians, a Biden administration official said. In a statement, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that following “the horrific October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel, and Israel’s ensuing military response, humanitarian conditions in Gaza have significantly deteriorated.”

25 Democratic Senators Call for Temporary Ceasefire, Hostage Release, Jewish Insider
The letter highlights the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as well as the continuing plight of hostages. The lawmakers said that they also “continue to support Israel’s pursuit” of its “vital national interest that Hamas — a brutal terrorist organization — be removed from power in Gaza.” But they added that “without a break in the fighting, humanitarian conditions” in Gaza will deteriorate further and kill thousands, and that “the prospects are dim for the survival of hostages” without a diplomatic agreement.

Opinion and Analysis

Only Biden and MBS Can Redirect the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, The New York Times
Thomas Friedman writes, “Your job now, Joe, is to carry those ideas forward to forge two states for two peoples in one land. This is your time to make bold moves that will signal to Israelis and Palestinians, to the Middle East and the world: America is serious about seeing through the two-state solution. Since Netanyahu won’t negotiate a Palestinian state, you can recognize the Palestinian Authority as a state unilaterally.”

Biden’s New Plan for the Middle East Is More of the Same, Foreign Policy
Matthew Duss argues, “Ultimately, any serious effort to promote Palestinian liberation will require Biden to pressure Israel in a way he has thus far shown no willingness to do. There’s no getting around that. But it also requires the administration to see the current crisis not just as a challenge to its regional policy but to the entire “rules-based international order” that it claims to uphold.”

A Good Year for Settlements; A Bad Year for Israel: Summary of Settlement Activity in 2023, Peace Now
Peace Now reports, “The year 2023 in the West Bank was one of the most challenging years for the prospects of a political resolution based on two states between Israel and the Palestinians. However, for the settlement enterprise, it was probably the best year since the Oslo Accords. The formation of the Netanyahu government in December 2022 created unprecedented conditions for the expansion of settlements, including the promotion of a record number of construction plans, minimal law enforcement against illegal settler activity, substantial budgets, and, most significantly, almost unconditional political support for settlers, even in cases involving violence against Palestinians.”

Hamas is Not Israel’s Core Enemy, Yale Journal
DJ Rosenthal shares, “As with other acts of violent extremism, it is both natural and comforting to want to believe that the perpetrators are inherently evil. They are “barbarians” and “monsters”; they think thoughts and commit acts that are incompatible with a civilized society. But, both history and social sciences prove this reasoning wrong and suggest the importance of a more holistic counterterrorism strategy, one that not only seeks to address the near-term threats posed by terrorists but also works to undermine the underlying causes that give rise to violent extremism.”