News Roundup for February 16, 2024

February 16, 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

Why Rafah Is a Key Flashpoint in the Gaza War, The Hill
“The situation in Rafah could quickly unspool, leading to a humanitarian disaster that could further damage Biden’s political standing over his support for Israel. Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a nonprofit liberal advocacy group pushing for peace in the Middle East, said the US must do more than deliver timid messages to protect civilians. “It’s important for the president to reiterate that the United States will not and should not provide Israel with blanket immunity,” he said.”

The­ Scorpion, The Times of Israel
J Street Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “Netanyahu is like a scorpion, trying to sting whoever tries to help us. But whereas the scorpion acts against its own interests, Netanyahu, in his attempts to save his own skin, sacrifices the country’s interests for his own. […] In the face of such a massive failure, his attempt to escape responsibility, coupled with a lack of basic empathy and human decency, leads him to blame whomever he can and to further his own selfish interests including maliciously targeting the hostage’s families themselves.”

President Biden Must Forcefully Oppose Netanyahu’s Rafah Escalation Plans, Stress Unavoidable Consequences, J Street
“The impact of such an escalation on a range of diplomatic efforts and on regional stability cannot be underestimated. […] We call on President Biden to bring immediate and effective US pressure to bear to deter Prime Minister Netanyahu from this catastrophic course for Israelis and Palestinians, as well as for US interests.”

J Street’s Statehood Proposal: What You Need to Know [Video], J Street
Earlier this week, J Street called on the Biden Administration to chart a clear, peaceful course to the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state as the centerpiece of a comprehensive regional diplomatic peace initiative. View a discussion on the proposal moderated by J Street VP and Chief of Staff Adina-Vogel Ayalon and featuring 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.

Top News and Analysis

Top Israeli Ministers Reject Palestinian Statehood as Part of Post War Plan, Reuters
Top ministers in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government rejected Palestinian statehood on Thursday following a Washington Post report that Israel’s main ally the United States was advancing plans to establish a Palestinian state. “We will in no way agree to this plan, which says Palestinians deserve a prize for the terrible massacre they carried out against us: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said.

Two Killed, Four Wounded in Terror Attack in Southern Israel, Haaretz
According to Magen David Adom emergency services, two people are in serious condition and two are in moderate condition. A preliminary investigation by police revealed that the shooter arrived at the intersection by car and opened fire at a busy bus stop. The shooter was then shot by an armed civilian.

5 Patients Die as Oxygen Runs Out in Gaza Hospital Seized by Israeli Forces, Health Officials Say, AP
Five patients in intensive care died after their oxygen cut off in southern Gaza’s main hospital that was stormed by Israeli troops, causing chaos for hundreds of staff and wounded inside, health officials said Friday. Troops were searching the complex where the military said it believes the remains of hostages abducted by Hamas might be located.

IDF Sent in Handcuffed Prisoner to Evacuate Hospital, Then Killed Him When He Left, The Intercept
Kavitha Chekuru reports, “It was early in the afternoon on Tuesday when a young man dressed head to toe in white PPE arrived at the entrance of Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, one of two hospitals in the city that was under a prolonged siege by the invading Israeli military. A band was tied around the man’s forehead and his hands were bound in front of his stomach. In a video taken shortly after his arrival, his eyes are wide, dazed, and scared all at once. He had something to tell the thousands sheltering at the facility.”

Biden Holds Back Action on Israel Despite Dire Gaza Warnings, The Hill
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the driving force behind the memorandum, called for Biden to take concrete action. “Unless and until the Netanyahu government allows more relief into Gaza, President Biden needs to invoke section 620-I of the Foreign Assistance Act,” he said from the Senate floor Monday, referring to the provision that blocks US military assistance to any country hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid.

‘What if They Were Your Children?’: Families Demand Cabinet Return to Cairo Talks, The Times of Israel
Speaking to media outside the building, released hostage Moran Stela Yanai said, “I came here with all the pain, the devastation and a broken soul, to give you one clear message: These are our children. These are our parents. These are all of our lives. Today it’s us, tomorrow it could be any one of you.”

The Trauma of Giving Birth in Gaza, The New Yorker
Isaac Chotiner interviews Deborah Harrington, a British doctor who recently spent two weeks at Gaza’s Al-Aqsa Hospital. Harrington shares, “They’re already psychologically traumatized, and they may be nutritionally depleted. The normal complications that could have happened have ticked up. For all of those reasons, they’re entering labor in a very precarious medical condition. And then, if you give birth in a plastic-covered temporary shelter, there’s no privacy. If you bleed — which you’re more likely to do if you give birth to a preterm child, which you’re more likely to do in these circumstances, and it’s dirty and there’s no sanitation and there’s no pain relief — you are much more likely to have major complications or more likely to die.”

As Israel Corners Rafah, Netanyahu Defies the World, The Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “Serious analysts, including a member of Netanyahu’s own war cabinet, believe Israel will never be able to fully eradicate Hamas. But it is inflicting untold harm on civilians and has provoked a humanitarian crisis unprecedented in its combined scale and speed. Critics also lay the blame at the foot of a Biden administration that is unwilling to use what leverage it has to rein in Netanyahu.”


Egypt Setting up Area at Gaza Border Which Could Be Used to Shelter Palestinians, Sources Say, Reuters
Egypt is preparing an area at the Gaza border which could accommodate Palestinians in case an Israeli offensive into Rafah prompts an exodus across the frontier, four sources said, in what they described as a contingency move by Cairo. Egypt, which denied making any such preparations, has repeatedly raised the alarm over the possibility that Israel’s devastating Gaza offensive could displace Palestinians into Sinai.

US Investigators Visit Homes of Two Palestinian-American Teens Killed in the West Bank, AP
Launching American probes into the killings of Mohammad Khdour and Tawfic Abdel Jabbar reflects what appears to be a lack of confidence in the Israeli justice system to properly investigate the cases. Rights groups have long said that Israeli investigations into killings of Palestinians rarely lead to prosecutions, and the State Department has previously called for an “expeditious” and “thorough” Israeli investigation into Abdel Jabbar’s killing.

How 2 American Families Became Activists After Hamas Captured Their Sons, The New York Times
For the Neutras and the Alexanders, the capture and imprisonment of their sons has thrust their families into a new, public life. Almost every week, the families fly to Israel or to Washington. The two families share one urgent goal: the immediate release of their sons. So they have upended their lives, enduring fatigue and forsaking privacy to keep their sons’ shared plight near the forefront of policymakers’ minds.

Leaders of Canada, Australia and New Zealand Jointly Call for ‘Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire’ in Gaza, JTA
The leaders — Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Australia’s Anthony Albanese and New Zealand’s Christopher Luxon — say in their statement that “a negotiated political solution is needed to achieve lasting peace and security” and call for Hamas, which they condemn, to “lay down its arms and release all hostages immediately.” But, they say, “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is urgently needed.”

Foreign Aid Bill Resurfaces House Democrats’ Israel Tensions, Axios
While progressive votes would likely not be needed to pass the bill, their opposition could undercut a possible Democratic effort to force a vote on it. Democrats appear far short of the 218 signatures needed for what is known as a discharge petition, however. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries dismissed questions about the lack of progressive support on Tuesday, saying the “overwhelming majority” of Democrats support the bill.

US Could Target Israel’s Ben-Gvir, Smotrich in Latest Sanctions , The Jerusalem Post
The United States is considering imposing sanctions on Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. According to the report, the US was preparing a package of sanctions that would include actions taken against the two far-right ministers who are influential members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet.

Palestinian Doctor Flees Hospital Stormed by IDF Only to Go Back to Work in Overcrowded Rafah, NBC News
Harara said some of his colleagues were arrested after the Israeli army ordered Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis to evacuate. Some of the patients had to be moved by car, “because we don’t have ambulances to take them to another hospital.” Other patients, too weak and ill to move, were left behind, he said. Before working in Nasser, Harara was at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital in the enclave’s north. In November, it too was stormed by Israeli troops, provoking international shock and alarm.

Arab Muslims From a Bedouin Community Want a Deal to End Israel-Hamas War, NPR
When Hamas took hostages from Israel on October 7, among the kidnapped were several Arab Muslims. They’re from a Bedouin community whose roots in the region long predate Israel’s founding in 1948. Last week, Ali Ziyadne traveled to Capitol Hill to plead for a deal that would stop the war between Israel and Hamas and bring home his loved ones. His 53-year-old brother Yousef and 22-year-old nephew Hamza are still being held in Gaza.

Opinion and Analysis

Who Should Lead the Palestinians After the Gaza War, and How?, Haaretz
Mahmoud Jabari and Dahlia Scheindlin share, “Day-after plans should focus on strengthening good processes and better governance instead. International policymakers should stop presuming that Palestinians will be led by a strongman, and assume that Palestinian leaders will earn credibility through good governance, checks and balances and functional institutions. Palestinians deserve more than the soft prejudice of low democratic expectations. After all, this is a society that displays avid engagement in democratic processes.”

Israel Used the Gaza War to Impose Extreme Restrictions on the Annual West Bank Olive Harvest, B’Tselem
B’Tselem reports, “The annual olive harvest in the West Bank is a key element of the Palestinian economy and a crucial source of income for tens of thousands of families. However, every year, Israel extensively restricts Palestinians’ ability to carry out the harvest, using official and unofficial means. In 2023, while the war in the Gaza Strip was underway, these restrictions reached new heights, leaving about 50% of Palestinian farmers unable to harvest their trees, according to estimates of the Palestinian Farmers’ Union.”

The Sleight of Hand in Dismissing Settler Violence, Israel Policy Forum
Michael J. Koplow argues, “The US cannot help Israel to effectively combat terrorism and rout Hamas if a small group of extraordinarily violent Israeli vigilantes in the West Bank do everything they can to set off a third intifada. It is in the US’ clear interests to safeguard West Bank stability, protect civilians on both sides from harm, and help create conditions for some sort of political resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. Settler violence makes these things harder, if not impossible, and do not be fooled by anyone who tries to distract you into believing otherwise.