News Roundup for February 27, 2024

February 27, 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

Hope Amid the Pain, J Street
Upon returning from Israel and the West Bank with a delegation of Members of Congress, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami shares, “The time has come for President Biden to pose that choice directly to the Israeli people, understanding which path the present government would choose. Similarly, he must put to Palestinians the choices they must make – renouncing violence and terror, recognizing Israel and settling all claims. The moment is so dire, the stakes so high that President Biden – one of the best friends Israel has ever had in the Oval Office – must put forth a bold, clear vision and make the case to all in the region to take the road that leads to peace, safety and freedom for all.”

Top News and Analysis

Biden Says Israel Is Ready to Pause Gaza Fighting; Hamas Says Deal Not Done Yet, Reuters
“Ramadan is coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan, as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said on NBC. Two senior Hamas officials said Biden’s remarks suggesting the agreement had already been reached in principle were premature. There were “still big gaps to be bridged”, one Hamas official told Reuters.

Palestinian Prime Minister Submits Government’s Resignation, a Move That Could Open Door to Reforms, AP
Palestinian President Abbas has made clear that he would like the PA to govern the enclave after the war. But it is deeply unpopular among Palestinians, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has roundly rejected the idea of putting the authority in charge of the territory. Abbas is expected to choose Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, as the next prime minister. Palestinian officials say he has a good, longstanding working relationship with American officials.

Bird-Feed Loaf and a Date Wrapped in Gauze: What Children Eat in Gaza, Reuters
“When we were in Gaza City, we used to eat nothing. We would eat every two days,” said 8-year-old Seraj Shehada. “We would eat bird and donkey food, just anything,” he said, referring to loaves made from grains and seeds meant for animal consumption. “Day after day, not this food.” Food shortages have been a problem across the Palestinian enclave since the Oct. 7 start of the war between Israel and Hamas, but are particularly acute in northern Gaza, where aid deliveries have been rarer for longer.

US Intelligence Casts Doubt on Israeli Claims of UNRWA-Hamas Links, Report Says, The Guardian
According to the Wall Street Journal, the intelligence report, released last week, assessed with “low confidence” that a handful of staff had participated in the attack, indicating that it considered the accusations to be credible though it could not independently confirm their veracity. In addition, the report notes Israel’s dislike towards the UNRWA, two sources familiar with it told the Journal. “There is a specific section that mentions how Israeli bias serves to mischaracterize much of their assessments on UNRWA and says this has resulted in distortions,” one source reportedly said.

Israeli Intelligence Agencies Detected Israeli SIM Cards Activated by Hamas Hours Before Oct. 7 Assault, Haaretz
This was a sign of unusual activity, which triggered a meeting of the defense establishment during those early hours. The prevailing assessment during the discussions was that it was an exercise by Hamas or, in an extreme scenario, preparation for a limited-scale hostage-taking attempt. The Prime Minister’s Office, in response to Haaretz’s inquiry, stated that “Netanyahu was not aware of this until now.”

Myth and Reality in Israel’s Hostage Negotiations, The New York Times
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “The aims of a safe return of hostages and an unconstrained, endless war cannot be reconciled. This miscalculation is reflected in Israel’s approach to the conflict at large. Israel has clung to logically irreconcilable pairs for decades. One is that Israel can permanently occupy Palestinian areas, but still be a Jewish state by having a Jewish majority. Another false pairing is that Israel can indefinitely remain an occupying power and remain a democracy. The most violent myth of all holds that Israel can stifle Palestinian freedom forever, while living in peace.”

As Israel Waits for Hamas Response, Netanyahu Hardens His Stance Again, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “At the moment, Netanyahu has avoided making statements in Hebrew following the developments in the negotiations. But he has not kept completely silent. On Sunday night, Channel 12 News reported that the prime minister belatedly added a new demand, that “heavy” prisoners who are released would be deported to Qatar. It’s a demand that apparently won’t be acceptable to Hamas and the Qataris. It’s doubtful that Israel’s security agencies support it professionally, as they are also concerned that a hardening in the prime minister’s position would hinder finalizing the agreement.”


Israel Files Report with World Court on Gaza Measures, Israeli Official Says, Reuters
Israel on Monday filed a report with the International Court of Justice about measures taken to comply with an interim ruling that called on it to prevent Gaza war actions that might amount to genocide, an Israeli official said. The official did not provide details on the content of the report, which was filed hours before the deadline for its submission.

Nazis Mingle Openly at CPAC, Spreading Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories and Finding Allies, NBC News
At the Young Republican mixer Friday evening, a group of Nazis who openly identified as national socialists mingled with mainstream conservative personalities, including some from Turning Point USA, and discussed “race science” and antisemitic conspiracy theories. One member of the group, Greg Conte, who attended the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, said that his group showed up to talk to the media.

Yellen Urges Israel to Restore Economic Ties to West Bank, The New York Times
Yellen’s plea was outlined in a letter that she sent to Netanyahu on Sunday. It represented her most explicit public expression of concern about the economic consequences of the war between Israel and Hamas. In the letter, Yellen warned about the consequences of the erosion of basic services in the West Bank and called for Israel to reinstate work permits for Palestinians and reduce barriers to commerce within the West Bank.

Majority of Countries Argue Israel Violated International Law in Last Historic Hearing at UN Court, AP
The UN’s highest court on Monday wrapped up historic proceedings into the legality of Israel’s 57-year occupation of lands sought by Palestinians for a future state, with most voices at the hearing arguing against the Israeli government. Over six days, the International Court of Justice heard from an unprecedented number of countries and the majority argued Israel was violating international law and called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Israelis Vote in Local Elections Amid Public Apathy and Gaza War Delay, Haaretz
Voter turnout overall is expected to be low, as the public is preoccupied with the Gaza war and tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from their homes. Voting in 11 evacuated municipalities has been postponed to November 19. In addition, the number of absentee ballots is expected to be especially high because so many people are doing army service as enlistees or in the reserves. Because of this, the results are likely to be issued as late as March 3.

Israel Launches Its Deepest Airstrikes in Lebanon in Years, The New York Times
During a meeting with military officials on Sunday, the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that his country was “planning to increase the firepower against Hezbollah,” adding that it would not pause operations along the border with Lebanon even if there were a temporary halt to the fighting in Gaza. “We will increase the fire in the north separately and will continue until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah and the return of Israeli civilians to their homes,” he said.

Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel of Ignoring UN Top Court Order, HuffPost
Human Rights Watch said Israel was not adhering to the court’s order on aid provision, citing a 30% drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza in the weeks following the court’s ruling. It said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north

ADL to Honor Jared Kushner for Israel Work, Calling It ‘Pivotal’ for Hostage Negotiations, The Forward
Kushner, the son-in-law of former president Donald Trump — the presumptive Republican nominee for president — served as a senior adviser in Trump’s White House where he was charged to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ADL is honoring Kushner for his “vital and deeply impactful work on the Abraham Accords.” He also championed the decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Opinion and Analysis

The Israeli Settlers Attacking Their Palestinian Neighbors, The New Yorker
Shane Bauer reports, “The first time that Ma’amar witnessed settler violence was in 1996. It was in the wake of the first election to Prime Minister of Benjamin Netanyahu, who was intent on blocking any progress toward a two-state solution. Shilo took even more land from Qaryut, to make a vineyard. The village staged a protest, which Ma’amar filmed. The Army and settlers rushed in, firing shots into the air, and settlers beat people and tried to take cameras from anyone documenting the scene. An Israeli court ruled that the land should be returned to Qaryut, but Ma’amar said that settlers continued to attack people who approached, so the land was effectively lost.”

Why the US And Saudis Want a Two-State Solution, and Israel Doesn’t, The Atlantic
Hussein Ibish writes, “The US can’t force Israel to do anything it regards as anathema to its interests. All Washington can do is lay down its own markers, including open recognition of a Palestinian state and a clear warning to Israel that its rejectionism will do significant damage to bilateral relations. The bear hug of support that Biden has provided for Israel over Gaza, at times with no international backing, cannot be gratis. The US has a right, indeed a responsibility, to demand Israeli cooperation on this indispensable priority. Failing that, Washington will have to reevaluate the merits of America’s special relationship with Israel.”

On Israeli TV, You’re an Antisemite if You Dare Mention the Occupation, Haaretz
Sheren Falah Saab shares, “Labeling critics of the occupation as antisemites is a pattern of behavior imported from the far-right Otzma Yehudit party and its ilk. According to this playbook, anyone who levels criticism at Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians and the occupation must immediately be branded a “supporter of terror,” “antisemitic” or a “Jew-hater.” On Channel 11, meanwhile, they’re shocked that the audience in Berlin applauds, and conceal the full facts from their viewers.”

The Saudis, the UAE and a Golden Post-Gaza-War Opportunity, The Times of Israel
Ephraim Sneh writes, “The opportunity exists for a historic package combining a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, eradication of Hamas’s military capabilities, reconstruction of Gaza and Saudi-Israeli normalization. It would generate significant geopolitical and financial benefits for all involved. Seizing this opportunity is primarily up to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with the active support of Biden. It could well be their finest hour on the world stage.”