News Roundup for February 21, 2024

February 21, 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 — CODEL to Israel, Politico
A group of Democratic lawmakers landed in Israel on Sunday on a congressional delegation sponsored by J Street, during which they’ll be meeting with Israeli and Palestinian Authority leadership. Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Mark Takano and Salud Carbajal of California, Sean Casten of Illinois, Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, and Becca Balint of Vermont will travel to the Gaza border to meet with displaced Israelis, families of hostages, and Palestinian victims of settler violence.

“This trip comes as Speaker Johnson holds up critical support for Israel and humanitarian aid,” DeLauro said in a statement. “By sending members home before giving us the chance to vote on the Senate’s bipartisan security funding package, House Republican leadership has sent the clear message that getting these funds to the region is not a priority for him.”

Top News and Analysis

A UN Agency Says It Can’t Deliver Aid to Northern Gaza Because of Chaos, and Famine Fears Are Rising, AP
Entry of aid trucks into the besieged territory has sharply declined by more than half the past two weeks, according to UN figures. Overwhelmed UN and relief workers said aid intake and distribution has been crippled by Israeli failure to ensure convoys’ safety amid its bombardment and ground offensive and by a breakdown in security, with hungry Palestinians frequently overwhelming trucks to take food.

US Vetoes UN Resolution Calling for Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza, CBS News
It was the third US veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and came a day after the US circulated a rival resolution that would support a temporary ceasefire in Gaza linked to the release of all hostages and call for the lifting of all restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid. US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US understands the council’s desire for urgent action but believes the resolution would “negatively impact” sensitive negotiations on a hostage deal and pause in fighting for at least six weeks.

Israeli Finance Minister Sparks Outrage After Saying Returning Gaza Hostages ‘Not Most Important Thing’, Haaretz
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was asked on Tuesday in an interview if returning the hostages was the most important thing, and he replied: “No, it’s not the most important thing. Why do you want competition? Everything is important.” The far-right minister added that calls to release the hostages at any cost are “incorrect and irresponsible statements.” According to Smotrich, the only way to get them back is to defeat Hamas “and increase military pressure even more.”

Two Hospitals in Southern Gaza Are Left Barely Functioning, The New York Times
An Israeli raid last week has reduced one of Gaza’s biggest hospitals to little more than a shelter for a small, terrified crew of patients and medical staff, while health officials warned on Monday that food and fuel supplies were almost gone at another hospital that has endured a nearly monthlong siege in the same city, Khan Younis. Israel says it is rooting out Hamas activity at the medical centers, which it says Hamas has used to hide military operations.

Why Recognizing a Palestinian State Is Not a Reward for Terror, Haaretz
Dahlia Scheindlin argues, “In fact, recognition of Palestine is hardly unilateral. Over 100 countries have already recognized Palestine in the past and the current effort would be unusually multilateral; it’s more accurate to speak of Israel’s unilateral rejection of Palestinian statehood. […] Now I think a political horizon for Palestinians is of the utmost urgency, before Palestinian society implodes in despair. A declaration can be an aspirational marker, worth more than past words, if the plans fill up with substance.”

How Israel’s War Went Wrong, Vox
Zack Beauchamp writes, “Things did not have to be this way. After the horrific events of October 7, Israel had an obviously just claim to wage a defensive war against Hamas — and the tactical and strategic capabilities to execute a smarter, more limited, and more humane war plan. The blame for this failure lies with Israel’s terrible wartime leadership: an extremist government headed by Netanyahu. […] While Netanyahu won’t change course voluntarily, both Israeli voters and the Biden administration have significant leverage over their policies. Their combined pressure might produce either a change in policy or a change in government, pulling Israel away from the abyss.”


Father of Hostage Liri Albag to Smotrich: Let Them Kidnap Your Children and Then You Can Talk, The Times of Israel
The father of 18-year-old Liri Albag, who was taken captive by Hamas on October 7, decries Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for suggesting that the efforts to return the hostages to Israel are less important than destroying Hamas. “Let them kidnap your children!” Eli Albag declares. “Let them kidnap your children, and I will shout in the street, ‘It’s not the most important thing!’”

Hamas Sexual Violence ‘Systematic and Deliberate’ During and After October 7, New Israeli Report Says, Haaretz
The association stated: “The report is the first official research since October 7, consolidating evidence and providing conclusions. The report clearly demonstrates that this is not a ‘malfunction’ or isolated incident, but a clear operational strategy involving systematic, targeted sexual abuse.”

UN Experts Demand Investigation Into Claims Israeli Forces Killed, Raped and Sexually Assaulted Palestinian Women and Girls, CNN
The allegations include extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention, degrading treatment, rape and sexual violence, according to a statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released on Monday. It did not detail how they did their fact-finding, but they referred to photos of female detainees in degrading circumstances reportedly taken by Israeli troops and uploaded online.

One Month After They Entered Gaza, Qatar Says Hamas Has Begun Giving Meds to Hostages, The Times of Israel
Qatar has received confirmation from Hamas that the terror group has acquired medications for the Israeli hostages in Gaza and that it has begun delivering them to the abductees, Doha announced on Tuesday, over one month after the medical shipment entered the enclave. On January 17, Qatari and Hamas authorities announced that the medications had entered Gaza. Since then, there has been no confirmation that any of the hostages had received the medications.

Israeli PM ‘Missed Chance’ to Cut off Hamas Cash, Says Ex-Spy Chief, BBC
Israel’s prime minister missed the chance to starve Hamas of cash, years before its murderous attack last October, according to a former senior Israeli intelligence officer. Udi Levy has told BBC Panorama he advised Benjamin Netanyahu to target Hamas’s finances. He believes this would have hampered the group’s military build-up, but says the intelligence was not acted upon.

Gaza Health Crisis Could Kill 8,000 More by August Even if Fighting Stops, Reuters
The figures come from a report by academics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health in the United States, and are part of wider projections of the excess deaths the conflict may cause in Gaza over the next six months.

The Pro-Israel, Evangelical Money Helping Bankroll Trump’s Latest Presidential Run, Haaretz
Among the former president’s top donors in the second half of 2023 is Tim Dunn, a Texas oil executive who donated $5 million to the pro-Trump Make America Great Again Inc. super PAC. An evangelical Christian, Dunn has spent decades pushing his state’s Republican Party further to the right. However pro-Israel he claims to be, Dunn has been embroiled in controversies relating to antisemitism throughout his political activism.

Opinion and Analysis

The US Should Immediately Mobilize ‘Operation Gaza Relief’, The Washington Post
Senators Warren, Merkley, Durbin, Van Hollen and Welch write, “The Palestinians cannot wait any longer, and our country needs to act now. The role of the United States in this operation should be to get medical aid directly to hospitals by air and supplies of food, water and necessities to the shore. Humanitarian organizations must take over from there to distribute and utilize the supplies. In this intense conflict, the presence of US troops or personnel on the ground inside Gaza would be an invitation to direct involvement in the conflict. We must not make that mistake.”

Rugs, Cosmetics, Motorbikes: Israeli Soldiers Are Looting Gaza Homes en Masse, +972
Oren Ziv reports, “In November, the Palestinian singer Hamada Nasrallah was shocked to discover a TikTok of a soldier playing the guitar that his father had bought him 15 years earlier. Other videos uploaded to social media in recent months show Israeli soldiers boasting about finding wristwatches; unboxing someone’s collection of soccer shirts; and stealing rugs, groceries, and jewelry. In a Facebook group for Israeli women comprising nearly 100,000 users, someone wondered what to do with the “gifts from Gaza” that her partner, a soldier, had brought back for her. Sharing a photo of cosmetic products, she wrote: ‘Everything is sealed except for one product. Would you use these?’”

Biden Sunk Netanyahu’s Plan to Erase the Palestinian Issue, Haaretz
Nitzan Horowitz shares, “The main components of “the great American deal” for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are the establishment of a Palestinian state, release of the hostages held in Gaza, diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and a security arrangement on the Lebanese border, making it a dream deal. Any sane Israeli leadership would have adopted it, which is exactly why the current leadership will obviously reject it. In fact, it’s already trying to bury it, even before it has been officially presented.”