News Roundup for February 22, 2024

February 22, 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.

Top News and Analysis

Israeli Parliament Backs Netanyahu’s Rejection of ‘Unilateral’ Recognition of Palestinian State, Reuters
Israeli lawmakers voted on Wednesday to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of any “unilateral” recognition of a Palestinian state as international calls have grown for the revival of Palestinian statehood negotiations. Issued amid the war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the symbolic declaration also received backing from members of the opposition, with 99 of 120 lawmakers voting in support, the Knesset spokesperson said.

One Killed, 11 Wounded in Terror Shooting Attack Near Jerusalem Checkpoint, The Times of Israel
An Israeli man was killed and 11 others were wounded in a terror shooting attack carried out by three Palestinian gunmen near a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement city of Ma’ale Adumim on Thursday morning, police and medics said. According to police, the trio opened fire with automatic weapons at Israelis waiting in traffic while heading toward Jerusalem.

Stranded in Rafah as an Israeli Invasion Looms [Audio], The New York Times
After months of telling residents in the Gaza Strip to move south for safety, Israel now says it plans to invade Rafah, the territory’s southernmost city. More than a million people are effectively trapped there without any clear idea of where to go. Two Gazans describe what it is like to live in Rafah right now.

Negotiators Race to Secure Israel-Hamas Hostage and Ceasefire Deal Ahead of Ramadan, CNN
With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan beginning on March 10, the next two weeks of negotiations are “pivotal,” a source familiar with the ongoing efforts told CNN. An aggressive military push by Israel during Ramadan would only further inflame tensions across the region.

US Stands With Israel at UN Court as Biden-Netanyahu Tension Simmers, The Washington Post
The US backed Israel in a hearing Wednesday at the International Court of Justice, once again diverging from allies despite growing tension between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over the Israel-Gaza war. In a presentation in The Hague, the US said that an advisory opinion from the UN’s top court had the potential to frustrate peace efforts if it did not account for Israel’s needs.

Exclusive: Israeli Forces Fired on Food Convoy in Gaza, UN Documents and Satellite Analysis Reveals, CNN
CNN reports, “Israeli forces fired on a United Nations convoy carrying vital food supplies in central Gaza on February 5, before ultimately blocking the trucks from progressing to the northern part of the territory, where Palestinians are on the verge of famine, according to documents shared exclusively by the UN and CNN’s own analysis. CNN has seen correspondence between the UN and the Israeli military that show the convoy’s route was agreed upon by both parties prior to the strike.”

US Readying to Issue 2nd Round of Settler Sanctions in Coming Weeks, Sources Say, The Times of Israel
The planned second round of sanctions indicates that Washington intends to hold Jerusalem’s feet to the fire to address the phenomenon, which has continued in the weeks since the executive order was signed without a single arrest. It would be a further demonstration of the lack of US trust in Israeli law enforcement, which rarely succeeds in prosecuting Israeli suspects while Palestinian perpetrators are convicted of attacks against Israelis at far higher rates.


Top IDF Lawyer: Some Soldiers’ Behavior in Gaza Has ‘Crossed the Criminal Threshold’, Haaretz
Military Advocate General, Major General Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, sent a letter to IDF commanders on Wednesday morning, in which she wrote that during the war in Gaza she had encountered actions by IDF soldiers that “do not meet IDF values, deviate from orders and disciplinary boundaries – and have crossed the criminal threshold.”

Far-Right Ministers Demand More Settlements, Checkpoints, After Deadly Terror Attack, The Times of Israel
Speaking at the scene of the attack, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said the shooting was further proof of the need to arm the Israeli population and limit freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. “An extremely large disaster was avoided here, thanks to the police and the armed citizens,” Ben Gvir said. “We’re distributing more and more guns. I think that today everyone understands that guns save lives.”

Most Israelis Say ‘Absolute Victory’ in Gaza Unlikely, According to New Poll, Haaretz
Of those polled, 51 percent of Jewish respondents and 77.5 percent of Arab respondents said there is a low likelihood of achieving absolute victory. The term “absolute victory” was deliberately chosen as it has become a phrase favored by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during press conferences and foreign language interviews, although he is disinclined to define what that actually means strategically.

UK to Consider Suspending Arms Exports to Israel if Rafah Offensive Goes Ahead, The Guardian
Ministerial sources said that while no decision had been made about a suspension of arms export licences, the UK had the ability to respond quickly if the legal advice to ministers said that Israel was in breach of international humanitarian law. The UK has joined other allies in pressuring Israel to avoid a ground offensive in Rafah.

War and Illness Could Kill 85,000 Gazans in 6 Months, The New York Times
In the best of the three possibilities that the research team described — an immediate and sustained ceasefire with no outbreak of infectious disease — another 6,500 Gazans could die over the next six months. “We simply wanted to put it at the front of people’s minds and on the desks of decision-makers,” said Dr. Francesco Checchi, professor of epidemiology and international health, “so that it can be said afterward that when these decisions were taken, there was some available evidence on how this would play out.”

As Hunger Spreads in Gaza, Gangs Looting Aid Become Increasingly Brazen, Haaretz
Both individuals and organized gangs are participating in the looting. The gangs exploit the fact that Hamas police officers are unable to go out armed and in uniform to protect the aid trucks and the empty and half-destroyed homes in areas the IDF has withdrawn from, for fear of being targeted by the army. Reuters reported last week that Ambassador David Satterfield, the US special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues, said that Israeli forces had killed Palestinian police protecting a UN aid convoy in Rafah.

Israel’s Druze Arabs, Fiercely Loyal to the State, Feel Let Down After ‘Paying With Their Blood’, CNN
Abdallah, 40, a lieutenant colonel in IDF, was killed on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon on October 9, just two days after Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, kidnapping more than 250 and sending regional tensions soaring. “We had so many dreams together, we’d planned so much for the future,” Abdallah’s widow Mona told CNN in an emotional video interview.

Blinken Tells Lula That US Disagrees With His Israel Remarks, Reuters
Lula is in the middle of a diplomatic spat with Israel over comments in which he likened the war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two, leading Israel to say he was not welcome there until he takes back the comments. “I would say that it was a frank exchange, with the secretary making clear that we don’t agree with those comments,” said a senior State Department official.

Opinion and Analysis

The Strange Resurrection of the Two-State Solution, Foreign Affairs
Martin Indyk argues, “If Biden found himself in a showdown with Netanyahu, a speech to the Israeli people could give the American president the edge. The best time to deliver it would be after the United States helped broker another hostages-for-prisoners swap, for which the Israeli public would be profoundly grateful. The point would not be to sell the two-state solution to the Israelis, who are not yet ready to hear that pitch. Rather, the idea would be to offer an avuncular explanation of what the United States is trying to do to ensure a stable “day after” in Gaza that would prevent a repeat of October 7 and also provide a pathway, over time, to end the broader conflict.”

The Israeli and Palestinian Women Calling for Peace, Time
Yasmeen Serhan shares, “On Oct. 4, 2023, some 1,500 Israeli and Palestinian women descended on Jerusalem and the shores of the Dead Sea. Wielding blue and yellow flags representing two different grassroots peace organizations, they gathered to demand an end to the “cycle of bloodshed” consuming their communities and for their respective leaders to return to the negotiating table to secure a nonviolent resolution to their decades-long conflict. “This is a historic partnership of two women’s movements,” said Yael Admi, a co-founder and leader of the Israeli movement Women Wage Peace. She referred to the alliance with the Palestinian organization Women of the Sun, whose founder and director Reem Hajajreh added, “We started out as a movement with a few lone women and now we are thousands. We no longer take the back seat.’”

The Netanyahu Government’s Racist, Ultranationalist Judicial Coup Continues, Haaretz
The Haaretz Editorial Board writes, “Netanyahu’s government, notably Justice Minister Levin, is continuing the regime coup. Disqualifying Judge Tadmor-Zamir shows that the coup’s content is Kahanist, racist, ultranationalist, messianic. We must replace this government as soon as possible and send the dubious group comprising it to the fringes of Israeli society.”