News Roundup for February 5, 2024

February 5, 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

Israel’s Netanyahu Cautious on Hostage Deal Amid Coalition Rifts, Reuters
Netanyahu said on Sunday Israel was not ready to accept a deal at any price to release hostages held by Hamas amid rifts in his coalition over a US push to get more aid into Gaza. The comments came during the latest episode in a rumbling coalition row between religious nationalist parties opposed to any concessions to the Palestinians and a centrist group including former army generals.

Hamas Said to Insist on Deal That Will End War, Withdraw IDF Troops From Gaza, The Times of Israel
Hamas on Sunday night appeared set to rebuff a deal that would free Israeli hostages without bringing a full halt to the nearly four-month war in Gaza, with a senior official from the terror group telling Al-Jazeera that internal discussions over a proposed agreement were continuing.

Israel Says It Will Expand Operations in Rafah, Gaza’s Last Refuge, The Washington Post
Israel’s defense minister has signaled that Israeli ground forces could advance on Rafah — one of the last southern Gaza cities that Israeli ground forces have not yet reached — raising concerns in a corner of the enclave where hundreds of thousands of people have crowded for shelter from the war. Roughly half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have crammed into the area surrounding Rafah, a city where about 200,000 lived before the war, the UN said Friday.

Analysis Shows Destruction and Possible Buffer Zone Along Gaza Strip’s Border With Israel, AP
Satellite photos show new demolition along a 1-kilometer-wide path on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, according an analysis by The Associated Press and expert reports. The destruction comes as Israel has said it wants to establish a buffer zone there, over international objections, further tearing away at land the Palestinians want for a state.

Forget No Labels. Biden’s Third-Party Peril is on the Left, Politico
Jonathan Martin reports on a conversation with a House Democrat who told Politico of a dinner last month with about eight other Members of Congress, a cross-section of the caucus ideologically and generationally. “It was unanimous that this Israel-Gaza war needed to end now and that Biden needed to stand up to Bibi,” this lawmaker told Martin, before offering his own view. “This is a disaster politically,” said this House Democrat, who rarely criticizes Israel. “The base is really pissed — and it’s not just the leftists. I have never seen such a depth of anguish as I’ve seen over this Gaza issue. Bibi is toxic among many Democratic voters and Biden must distance himself from him — yesterday.”

Hamas Reemerges in Northern Gaza in Bid to Demonstrate Control, Haaretz
Recent reports say fighting in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip has intensified over the last few days. This indicates that Hamas, as well as other factions, have somewhat renewed their mobility across these areas and are able to exchange fire with the IDF troops still present, causing damage and casualties.

House Democrat Calls Johnson’s Israel Standalone Aid Bill ‘Act of Staggering Bad Faith’, The Hill
Johnson announced Saturday that the House would vote on a “clean, standalone” $17.6 billion Israel aid bill this coming week. This comes as bipartisan Senate negotiators are rushing to reach an agreement on a potential border security package that could unlock funding for Ukraine [and humanitarian aid to Gaza] if passed.

Epidemics on the Rise and Masses Injured and Ill – Yet Gaza’s Healthcare System Is Barely Functioning, B’Tselem
B’Tselem reports, “The lack of basic medical services is especially worrying given the steady spread of infectious diseases, due to harsh conditions in the overcrowded IDP camps: more than 1 million people huddled together without clean water, enough food or conditions for maintaining basic hygienic. Tens of thousands of cases have already been reported of respiratory infections, diarrhea (especially in children under 5) and Hepatitis-A – all going untreated.”


Senate Unveils $118 Billion Bill on Border Security, Aid for Ukraine, Israel, Reuters
The Senate on Sunday unveiled a $118 billion bipartisan border security bill that would also provide aid to Ukraine and Israel, but it promptly slammed into opposition from the House of Representatives. An additional $10 billion would provide humanitarian assistance for civilians in conflict zones including in Ukraine, Gaza and the West Bank, although the bill includes a provision barring its funds from going to the UN agency for Palestinians, UNRWA.

No Alternative to Palestinian Authority Ruling Gaza – Labor MK, The Jerusalem Post
The Israeli right and center’s plan to grant civil administrative power in the Gaza Strip to local Gazan groups once Hamas is defeated is “unrealistic” and “negligent,” and there is no alternative to eventually allowing the Palestinian Authority to take charge of the Strip, Labor MK Gilad Kariv said to The Jerusalem Post in an interview last week.

2-State Solution Remains Key to Ending Israel-Hamas War, Sullivan Says, Politico
“The only long-term answer to peace in the region, to Israel’s security in the region, is a two-state solution, with Israel’s security guaranteed. A Palestinian state that also has security guarantees for Israel. That’s what we’re going to keep working for,” Sullivan told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

Latest Hostage Rally Demanding Deal with Hamas Takes on Stronger Political Tones, The Times of Israel
Speakers accused the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu of being indifferent to the hostages’ fate and Netanyahu of being guided by personal considerations and stalling to avoid investigations and elections. At previous rallies at Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square, organizers and speakers had adhered to a nonpartisan line.

Israeli Bank Blocks Account of Israeli Settler Targeted by First Round of US Sanctions, Haaretz
Bank Leumi, an Israeli bank, suspended the account of Yinon Levy, an Israeli settler, who was targeted by the first round of US sanctions, which was signed off on by President Biden on Thursday. This is the first case of practical implications of the American sanctions by an Israeli body. Additional Israeli banks are expected to take similar measures against all four settlers targeted by the US sanctions.

Far-Right Israel Minister Suggests That Trump Would Give More US Support to Offensive in Gaza, AP
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that Biden was hindering Israel’s war effort. “Instead of giving us his full backing, Biden is busy with giving humanitarian aid and fuel (to Gaza), which goes to Hamas,” Ben-Gvir said. “If Trump was in power, the US conduct would be completely different.”

Dearborn Ramps up Police Patrol After ‘Bigoted’ WSJ Op-Ed as Biden Condemns Anti-Arab Hate, The Guardian
The mayor of Dearborn has ordered more police officers onto the streets, ramping up law enforcement presence across places of worship and major infrastructure points this weekend following an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal that called the Michigan city the “jihad capital” of the US.

US Strikes Iranian-Backed Targets for Third Day in a Row, The New York Times
It was the third American military action against Iranian-backed militias in as many days: The United States led strikes on Saturday against 36 Houthi targets in northern Yemen, and on Friday carried out airstrikes on more than 85 targets in Syria and Iraq.

Head of UN Agency for Palestinians Defies Israeli Calls to Quit, Financial Times
After speaking to several foreign ministers, Lazzarini believed that donors were “looking at ways to re-evaluate the situation and to go back.” He said Israel had not presented evidence of its allegations to UNRWA, adding that the UN agency had been forced to respond to leaks in the media of an Israeli intelligence assessment that at least 12 of its Palestinian employees had taken part in the Hamas raid.

Opinion and Analysis

What Can We Possibly Say to the Children of Gaza?, The New York Times
Nicholas Kristof shares, “One life, as precious as that of any American or Israeli child, belongs to a bright 10-year-old girl in Gaza who should be excitedly planning a trip to Japan. Instead, she smiles bravely through excruciating pain and must endure an amputation if her life is to be saved – and we Americans should face our complicity in her tragedy and all Gaza’s.”

Biden’s Sanctions on Israeli Settlers Are an Important Step – But Not Nearly Enough, The Guardian
Kenneth Roth argues, “The West Bank violence, devastating as it is to its immediate victims, is a sideshow when compared with the extraordinary violence being unleashed against the people of Gaza. And even in the West Bank, the focus of the sanctions is limited. They can be understood as a shot across the bow – a warning that the Biden administration is willing to act – but their modest character and evasion of the Gaza debacle leave considerable room for more decisive action.”

When the West Collectively Punishes Gaza by Suspending Funding to UNRWA, Haaretz
Amira Haas writes, “The decision to opt for collective punishment will worsen the hunger, malnutrition, thirst, and disease ravaging the Gaza Strip. These states’ quick announcement shows contempt for last month’s interim order by the International Court of Justice in The Hague after it had ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide, which include ensuring the entry of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip – something in which UNRWA plays a central role.”