News Roundup for February 26, 2024

February 26, 2024
Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

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

The US Reverses a Trump Policy on Israeli Settlements, The New York Times
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal Jewish-American advocacy group that tries to shape policy on Israel, praised Mr. Blinken’s announcement. “Now, the administration must make clear that, particularly in light of the volatility of the current situation between Israelis and Palestinians, there must be no further expansion of the settlement enterprise,” he said in a statement. He added that the Biden administration should show it “will take further steps to enforce its view — and the view of the international community — that the creeping annexation of the West Bank must stop.”

Simmering Tension Between US, Israel Over West Bank [Video], CBS News
Around 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank on occupied territory. While the settlements are widely regarded as illegal under international law, there are now several prominent settlers in Israel’s cabinet, and there has been an uptick in violent clashes in the West Bank since the Oct 7 attack on Israel. CBS followed Members of Congress traveling with J Street to Khirbet Zanuta, a Palestinian village abandoned by its residents due to settler violence.

White House Reverses West Bank Policy, Calling Israeli Settlements Illegal, The Washington Post
Since the start of the war, according to the United Nations, 399 Palestinians have been killed in conflict-related incidents across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. During the same period, 13 Israelis, including four members of the Israeli military, were killed. The Biden administration “tried very hard not to get into any of this,” calling settlements “unhelpful,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J-Street, a liberal policy group on Israeli-Palestinian issues. “These past months go to show that this is not an issue you can ignore. It is going to explode if you don’t do something.”

J Street Welcomes Resetting American Policy on Settlements: ‘Inconsistent With International Law’, J Street
This move marks an explicit rejection of the Trump-era ‘Pompeo Doctrine’ – restoring US acknowledgment that settlement construction on occupied territory is a violation of international law. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said, “J Street called on candidate Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign to reverse the Trump Administration’s permissive view of settlements, which overturned decades of bipartisan American policy. This has been a clear, consistent request by J Street over the last three years, and we welcome the Secretary’s remarks today.”

Top News and Analysis

Jake Sullivan Says US, Israel Have Agreed to ‘Basic Contours’ of a Ceasefire Deal, NPR
“It is true that the representatives of Israel, the United States, Egypt and Qatar met in Paris and came to an understanding among the four of them about what the basic contours of a hostage deal for temporary ceasefire would look like,” Sullivan said on CNN’s State of the Union. “There will have to be indirect discussions by Qatar and Egypt with Hamas, because ultimately they will have to agree to release the hostages,” he added.

Why Israel’s Police Are Ramping Up Violence Against the Families of Hostages, Haaretz
Rachel Fink reports, “When the hostages’ relatives arrived at Democracy Square, the protesters there – many of them soaked to the bone from the water cannons – made way for them, shouting cheers of “Bring them home!” in support. But just as the crowd parted, a police truck aimed its cannon directly at the hostage families, taking them by surprise and causing everyone to scurry out of the line of fire. It marked a significant change in police tactics. Until now, the families have generally been given more leeway when it comes to how the police handle their protests.”

Gaza Struggles Under Israel’s Bombardment With Few Functional Hospitals [Video], CBS News
Dr. Nahreen Ahmed, a Philadelphia-based doctor and medical director for MedGlobal, said that what she saw in Gaza before she left in January was incomparable. What most impacted Ahmed, who spent 16 days on the front lines in Gaza inside Nasser Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the territory, was seeing so many young victims. “I don’t think I’ve seen this many children affected in any of the other war zones I’ve ever been to,” Ahmed said. “I don’t think I’ve seen this many people squeezed in a small area without any ability to leave. I don’t think I’ve been this close to the sound of missile strikes — with the house shaking, where the hospital is shaking while I’m trying to operate.”

Netanyahu Says Hostage Deal Will Delay Rafah Operation, Axios
Prime Minister Netanyahu told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas will delay an IDF operation in Rafah, but stressed Israel will still conduct the operation later. The Biden administration is working to reach a hostage deal that would lead to at least six weeks of cease-fire in Gaza. “We really need this deal because we really need this pause,” a US official told Axios on Saturday.

Amid US Pressure for Reform, Entire PA Government Submits Its Resignation to Abbas, The Times of Israel
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements after the conclusion of Israel’s war against terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The move comes amid growing US pressure on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Authority, which would allow it to take a greater role in ruling postwar Gaza.

Biden Caught in a Political Bind Over Israel Policy, The New York Times
The Biden administration is increasingly fed up with the Israeli government’s conduct in the Gaza war and beyond, with officials speaking out more publicly on contentious issues, said Nimrod Novik, a fellow at the Israel Policy Forum think tank. Yet, Novik called Blinken’s remarks “too little, too late,” adding that the administration’s moves “in practice, are disjointed. The message is there, but it’s a tactical statement where the overall strategy is unclear.”

Former PM Ehud Barak Calls on Israelis to ‘Besiege the Knesset’, The Jerusalem Post
In an interview on Army Radio, Barak was quoted as saying that “30,000 citizens need to camp outside the Knesset day and night” and must do so “until Netanyahu understands that his time is up and the public no longer trusts him.” The former prime minister reiterated his claims of the growing public anger at the government’s handling of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and the lack of accountability by Netanyahu and his government over the October 7 massacre.


Sanitation Crisis in Gaza Spreads Disease, The New York Times
Daily life in Rafah is also a struggle against hunger, cold and a growing sanitation crisis. A lack of sufficient toilets and clean water, as well as open sewage, are problems that displaced Palestinians have struggled with since the early days of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Salwa al-Masri, 75, said she would walk 200 yards to reach the nearest bathroom. She might wait up to an hour to use a dirty toilet shared with thousands of other people.

Palestinian Authority Conditions New Government Formation to Israeli Gaza Withdrawal, Haaretz
A source in the Palestinian Authority told Haaretz on Sunday that any change in the composition of the Palestinian government must be conditional on international guarantees for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The source also emphasized the need for “national agreement by all the Palestinian factions,” a halt to the IDF raids in West Bank cities, and lifting the “economic embargo” on the PA.

Settlers and Army Blocking West Bank Roads to Palestinians, +972
Citing intensified security concerns and coming under pressure from settlers, the Israeli army has constructed or permitted the construction of makeshift barriers and checkpoints to prevent dozens of Palestinian villages, towns, and cities from accessing major West Bank arteries. In some cases, villages have been blocked off from every direction. Major roads are now virtually inaccessible to Palestinians, almost exclusively servicing settlers.

UN’s Palestinian Aid Agency ‘At Breaking Point’ After $450M Budget Shortfall, The Guardian
UNRWA is facing a shortfall of $450m from a budget of $880m as it confronts the biggest humanitarian crisis seen in the organisation’s 75-year history. Last week, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, said UNRWA had reached a “breaking point”. Now it reports that it has been forced to pause aid deliveries to northern Gaza – where it is currently not “possible to conduct proper humanitarian operations.”

Founder of Israel’s Black Panthers and Former MK Charlie Biton Dies at 76, Haaretz
In 1971, Biton co-founded the Mizrahi Black Panther movement and served as its secretary. The movement began when a handful of Jerusalem-based underprivileged youths joined forces to protest discrimination against working-class families of Middle-Eastern or North African descent, or Mizrahim. Later, the organization became a Mizrahi left-wing movement that combined ethnic and class struggle and sought to establish a Palestinian state.

A Re-established West Bank Settlement Symbolizes Hardened Israeli Views, The New York Times
After Oct. 7, more Israelis not only oppose an independent Palestinian state, but a larger minority favor expanding settlements further, including in a reoccupied Gaza. Emboldened, settlers like those in Homesh consider themselves a vanguard, pulling the army along in their wake. Today, they are protected by bored Israeli soldiers, who say that their orders are to keep the settlers and the local Palestinians apart, to avoid new clashes and bloodshed.

US, Britain Launch New Wave of Strikes Against Houthis in Yemen, The Washington Post
The strikes, carried out shortly before midnight in Yemen, mark the largest military action against the Houthis in weeks, though US forces have launched smaller attacks against various targets, such as Houthi missiles prepared to be launched. The new wave, US officials said, was meant to target infrastructure and weapons that the Houthis have used to carry out attacks.

Opinion and Analysis

The World Must Force Peace on Israel, Haaretz
Gideon Levy argues, “A Palestinian state may no longer be a viable solution because of the hundreds of thousands of settlers who ruined the chances for establishing one. But a world determined to find a solution must pose a clear choice for Israel: sanctions, or an end to the occupation; territories or weapons; settlements or international support; a democratic state or a Jewish one; apartheid, or an end to Zionism. When the world stands firm, posing these options in such a manner, Israel will have to decide. Now is the time to force Israel to make the most fateful decision of its life.”

Israelis Take Little Heed of Global Anger. But Their Contempt for Netanyahu Is Growing, The Guardian
Dahlia Scheindlin shares, “Protesters have been gathering force. Some strands have blocked the main highway out of Tel Aviv at night. Protests have spread to Jerusalem, at the prime minister’s residence, or to his private home in Caesarea, and other locations. External pressure probably won’t change Israelis’ minds on its own. But it can add to the public’s growing image of its leadership as fanatical, corrupt, lethally incompetent, eager to sacrifice both democracy and the hostages while turning the country and its people into global pariahs. At some point, just as they voted this ruinous government in, Israelis will have to throw that same government out.”

Yes to Biden’s Mideast Plan, Yes to a Palestinian State, No to Trump, Haaretz
Hillel Schenker writes, “It’s urgent Biden and his administration demonstrate a more “even-handed” approach to Israel-Palestine. And the truth is, such an approach is in the best interest of both Israelis and Palestinians. It’s a moment of opportunity out of crisis to finally end not just this war, but the conflict itself. It has become clear in the most tragic of ways why it cannot be “managed” or ignored. […] If the Israelis and Palestinians are not capable of embracing the proposal themselves, the Americans and their allies have to provide more than just lip-service to ensure that the plan succeeds.”