News Roundup for January 3, 2024

January 3, 2024
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J Street In the News

J Street Welcomes Israeli Supreme Court’s Decision to Uphold Democratic Principles, Urges Netanyahu to Respect Court’s Decision, J Street
“In this critical moment for Israel’s democracy and its security, we urge Prime Minister Netanyahu and members of his government to clearly express their respect for the court’s decision and intention to abide by its ruling. […] While this ruling marks a significant victory for all those who care about a just, democratic and pluralistic homeland for the Jewish people, continued vigilance and advocacy to protect Israel’s democratic foundations will be essential as the Israeli right continues to pursue its narrow, anti-democratic, one-state vision for Israel’s future.”

Jewish American Support for Biden Stands Firm Amid Israel-Hamas War, The Hill
“Tali DeGroot, national political director of the advocacy group J Street, which supports the two-state solution, said the administration is balancing well the “need” for Israel to respond to the Oct. 7 attack while pushing for Israel to do “everything in its power” to protect civilians in Gaza amid a rising death toll. […] “I think the events of the last couple months will inspire folks to want to reelect the president. There’s so much on the line, including foreign policy and domestic issues,” DeGroot said.”

Top News and Analysis

US Condemns Israeli Ultranationalist Ministers’ Call to Push Palestinians Out of Gaza, Axios
“This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible,” State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller said. It’s the strongest public condemnation the Biden administration has voiced against Israeli government officials since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The statement signals the growing concerns in the Biden administration that Netanyahu isn’t reigning in the radical-right wing ministers in his coalition.

Israel in Talks With Congo and Other Countries on Gaza ‘Voluntary Migration’ Plan, The Times of Israel
The Times of Israel reports, “The “voluntary” resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza is slowly becoming a key official policy of the government, with a senior official saying that Israel has held talks with several countries for their potential absorption. Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, has learned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is conducting secret contacts for accepting thousands of immigrants from Gaza with Congo, in addition to other nations. “Congo will be willing to take in migrants, and we’re in talks with others,” a senior source in the security cabinet said.”

Displaced Gazans Scavenge Wood for Makeshift Shelters in Tent City, Reuters
Supplies of wood, scavenged from ruined buildings, were exhausted long ago in the devastated Palestinian enclave, and the small fires of displaced, destitute people are now fed with bits of cloth or plastic. Nearly all the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people have lost their homes, driven out by a shattering bombardment and ground offensive that Israel launched after Hamas fighters rampaged across the border on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people. More than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardment, health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza say.

Where Was the Israeli Military?, The New York Times
The New York Times reports, “A New York Times investigation found that Israel’s military was undermanned, out of position and so poorly organized that soldiers communicated in impromptu WhatsApp groups and relied on social media posts for targeting information. Commandos rushed into battle armed only for brief combat. Helicopter pilots were ordered to look to news reports and Telegram channels to choose targets. And perhaps most damning: The Israel Defense Forces did not even have a plan to respond to a large-scale Hamas attack on Israeli soil, according to current and former soldiers and officers. If such a plan existed on a shelf somewhere, the soldiers said, no one had trained on it and nobody followed it. The soldiers that day made it up as they went along.”

Israeli Drone Kills Hamas Deputy Leader in Beirut, Reuters
Saleh al-Arouri, 57, was the first senior Hamas political leader to be assassinated since Israel launched a shattering air and ground offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers almost three months ago after a shock Hamas militant rampage into Israeli towns. His killing could heighten the risk of the Israel-Hamas war spreading well beyond the Gaza Strip. Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah group, a Hamas ally, has been exchanging near-daily fire with Israel across Lebanon’s southern border since the war in Gaza began.

The Arab World Is Extending a Hand to Israel. Will It Reciprocate?, The Washington Post
Fouad Siniora, former prime minister of Lebanon, and Basem Shabb, former member of the Lebanese parliament, share, “The tragic events of Oct. 7 and the ensuing carnage in Gaza are the consequence of failed diplomacy, Western complicity, and Israel’s wishful thinking that time will erode what is left of Palestinians’ identity and aspiration for an independent state. Though the heavy death toll on Oct. 7 convinced Israelis that they are militarily vulnerable, their real vulnerability will not disappear without an equitable and just settlement. […] The hand of the Arab world is extended to Israel. A farsighted Israeli leadership would do well to reciprocate.”

As Politicians Argue the Future of Gaza, Netanyahu Is in No Hurry to Release a Plan, The Times of Israel
Sam Sokol writes, “After nearly three months of fighting in the Gaza Strip, the government has yet to articulate a clear outline for how it plans to avoid finding itself maintaining a lengthy reoccupation if and when it defeats Hamas, which has ruled the coastal enclave since 2007. Policy statements from Jerusalem have remained contradictory and nebulous, with some officials, like Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, stating that the war will end with “the removal of Israel’s responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip.” Others, like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have pushed for the reestablishment of Israeli settlements there.”


Israel to Defend Itself at World Court After South Africa Files Genocide Accusations, PBS News
South Africa launched the case Friday at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, saying the Israeli military campaign targeting Hamas has resulted in enough death, destruction and humanitarian crisis in Gaza to meet the threshold of genocide under international law. Israel rarely cooperates in international court cases against it, dismissing the United Nations and international tribunals as unfair and biased. Its decision to respond to the charge signals that the government is concerned about the potential damage to its reputation.

75% of Jewish Israelis Reject US Demand to Shift Gaza War to New Phase, Poll Finds, Haaretz
Sixty-six percent of the respondents opposed following Washington’s advice, with a significant split between Jews and Arabs and between Jews on the left and the right. Only 23 percent answered that Israel should agree to the US demand “that Israel shifts to a different phase of the war in Gaza, with an emphasis on reducing the heavy bombing of densely populated areas.” A full 75 percent of Jewish respondents said Israel should ignore the US pressure, while 56 percent of Arabs said Israel should do as the US asks.

Only 15% of Israelis Want Netanyahu to Keep Job After Gaza War, Poll Finds, Reuters
Only 15% of Israelis want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay in office after the war on Hamas in Gaza ends, though many more still support his strategy of crushing the militants in the Palestinian enclave, according to a poll published on Tuesday.

It’s Clear to Everyone Gazans Must Be Destroyed, Israeli Lawmaker Says, Haaretz
Israeli lawmaker Moshe Saada from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said on Tuesday that recent widespread calls to “destroy” the residents of the Gaza Strip affirm that the right-wing was correct “all along.” Saada’s comments come in the wake of South Africa’s petition to the International Court of Justice for an urgent order, declaring that Israel was in breach of its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

Israel Says Withdrawal of Some Troops Doesn’t Mean the Conflict in Gaza Is Over, NPR
As Israel begins to wind down its air-and-ground assault in northern Gaza after weeks of fighting there, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is rejecting suggestion that the pullout of some troops is part of a wider plan to end the military campaign to eliminate Hamas. Speaking during a visit with troops in central Gaza, Gallant said that an assumption that the withdrawal from the north presaged an end to the conflict was “wrong.”

All Eyes on Nasrallah as Hezbollah Chief Set to Address Israel-attributed Killing of Hamas Official, Haaretz
Hezbollah said on Tuesday that al-Arouri’s killing – widely attributed to Israel – will not go unanswered. Some in the organization, however, don’t believe the retaliation will be immediate. Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas-affiliated newspaper Al Ahkbar, reported extensively on al-Arouri’s death, yet refrained from airing or printing messages calling for an immediate response.

Senators Head to Israel for Planned Meeting With Netanyahu, Politico
Several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are headed to the Middle East this week, including a planned meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told reporters on Tuesday. The New York Democrat said she has two goals for the trip: Find out how much of a threat Hamas still is and what it will take to eventually end the war.

Opinion and Analysis

Why Gaza Matters, Foreign Affairs
Jean-Pierre Filiu writes, “Any attempt at rebuilding Gaza after such a devastating war will be unlikely to succeed if it does not take account of the territory’s strategic position in the region. The demilitarization of this enclave can be achieved only by lifting the disastrous siege and putting forward a positive vision for its economic development. Rather than trying to cut off the territory or isolate it politically, international powers must work together to allow Gaza to reclaim its historic role as a flourishing oasis and a thriving crossroads, connecting the Mediterranean with North Africa and the Levant. The United States and its allies must recognize that Gaza will need to have a central part in any lasting solution to the Palestinian struggle.”

Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Antisemitism. Here’s the History, The Washington Post
Benjamin Moser shares, “Beneath this apparent unanimity, Zionism remained controversial. It was controversial among certain strict religious communities, who believed that only the Messiah could usher the Jews back into the Holy Land, and who rejected what they saw as the materialism and impiety of the Zionist settlers. It was controversial among socialists and communists, who rejected all forms of nationalism. But after the foundation of the state of Israel, the debate took a different turn. The heart of the objection was among those horrified by what Israel had meant for the native population of Palestine.”

How a Proxy Fight Over Campus Politics Brought Down Harvard’s President, The New York Times
Nicholas Confessore writes, “Until last month, conservative-inspired efforts to remake higher education had unfolded primarily at public universities in right-leaning states such as Florida and Texas, where GOP lawmakers and state officials could exercise their legislative and executive powers to ban diversity offices, set up right-leaning academic centers and demand changes to curriculum. But Dr. Gay’s resignation on Tuesday secured their movement a signal victory at the country’s most storied private university, which had for weeks resisted calls for a change in leadership.”

Israel Knows the Number of Calories Needed for Gazans’ Survival. How Few Is a War Crime?, Haaretz
Zvi Bar’el writes, “Two weeks after the complete blockade imposed on Gaza at the beginning of the current war, Israel began to allow 20 trucks to enter every day (compared to about 500 before the war). The number kept increasing, until recently it reached 100 and then doubled following heavy pressure by Washington. Apparently, the 2009 calculation shows that Israel now meets the threshold of preventing starvation that was established in 2007. However, when the “calorie table” was drawn up in the “red lines” document about 1.4 million people lived in the Gaza Strip. Today, their number is estimated at 2.2 million. To this, must be added the complete disappearance of local food production, agricultural or otherwise.”