News Roundup for January 5, 2024

January 5, 2024
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J Street In the News

Palestinian Public Opinion with Dr. Khalil Shikaki [Video], J Street
A recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) revealed that in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas’ popularity has risen since its October 7 attack against Israel, while support for the Palestinian Authority, its President Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah party has descended to new lows. To help us understand key dynamics in Palestinian public opinion, we held a conversation between J Street’s Director of Policy Dr. Debra Shushan and leading Palestinian pollster and Director of PCPSR, Dr. Khalil Shikaki.

Top News and Analysis

Strike Kills 12 People, Mostly Children, in Gaza Area Declared Safe Zone by Israel, PBS News
An Israeli strike flattened a home Thursday in an area of southern Gaza that the military had declared a safe zone, killing at least 12 people, almost all of them children, Palestinian hospital officials said as Israeli troops pressed their assault in the nearby city of Khan Younis.

Israeli Defense Minister Outlines New Phase in Gaza War, Reuters
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday outlined Israel’s plans for the next stage of its war in Gaza, with a new more targeted approach in the northern section of the enclave and a continuing pursuit of Hamas leaders in the south. The announcement came as Israel continued drawing down its forces in Gaza to allow thousands of reservists to return to their jobs after growing international pressure to shift to less intense combat operations.

As Gazans Return to Destroyed Homes, Israeli Ministers Push Resettlement, The Washington Post
Amid the gradual downshift from full-scale war in some parts of Gaza, the fate of the enclave and its 2.1 million inhabitants remains far from clear. As some residents trickle back to their ruined neighborhoods, prominent politicians in Israel have questioned whether they should go home at all. Controversial proposals from some Israeli officials to evacuate Gazans to camps in Egypt or other countries are causing rifts with Washington, Europe and the United Nations, and have been included in a case filed against Israel at the International Court of Justice alleging “genocide” in Gaza.

Blinken Embarking On High-Stakes Middle East Trip as Tensions Boil, The Hill
Secretary of State Antony Blinken departed Thursday evening for the Middle East with an intensive diplomatic agenda as tensions have spiked surrounding Israel’s war against Hamas. The assassination in Lebanon of a top Hamas leader on Tuesday, a terrorist attack in Iran on Wednesday and attacks on US bases in Iraq and on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea have put the region on heightened alert.

In Gaza ‘Safe Zone,’ Palestinians Are Living Out Their Nightmares, +972
Residents displaced to Al-Mawasi, which was designated by Israel as a humanitarian zone, did not find any shelter or infrastructure there. Instead, they were left to find an empty area where they could pitch a tent, waiting out the fighting and staving off the increasingly cold weather. All the while, the masses of people arriving in this small area are growing. It was not possible to confirm the exact number of people who have moved to Al-Mawasi in recent weeks, but the figure is estimated at around 300,000.

The Hostages’ Families Expose Israel’s Failures, The New York Times
Mairav Zonszein writes, “The hostages who have returned and are gradually telling their stories also represent a unique group of Israelis: those who have been on the receiving end of Israeli airstrikes and thus have a small sense of what Gazans are going through. You can see on some of their faces the trauma and sense of betrayal. Several released hostages have said that Israeli airstrikes were one of their greatest fears while being held in Gaza. On their return, some warned the cabinet that Israel’s military offensive is endangering the remaining hostages.”


Freed Israeli Hostage Says She Endured ‘Psychological Warfare’ During 50 Days of Hamas Captivity, CNN
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Doron Katz Asher described her nearly 50 days in captivity, the “psychological warfare” to which she was subjected, the conditions in which she was kept, and her sense of guilt after being freed while scores of others – including 79-year-old Gadi Moses, her daughters’ grandfather – remain in captivity.

$100 for 25 Kg of Flour: Gaza Families Scramble to Find Food, Water and Medicine, The Times of Israel
Nouman, an accountant, sleeps on the nylon-covered floor with his wife, sister, six daughters and one grandchild. They sleep on their sides to conserve space. He said the tent cost NIS 1,000, about $276. In Rafah’s demand-driven war economy, larger pre-built family tents now range from $800 to $1,400. A gallon of drinking water costs one shekel, or 28 cents. Some, so desperate for cash, wait in line just to sell their space.

Unauthorized Settlement Surges in Occupied West Bank, Advocacy Group Says, The New York Times
Under the cover of the war in Gaza, Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank have carried out a “surge” of unauthorized moves to expand their footprint in the territory, according to a report by Peace Now, an Israeli advocacy group that opposes settlements and tracks their progress. Peace Now’s settlement watch team said it had recorded the establishment of nine new so-called wildcat settlement outposts, not authorized by the Israeli government.

Senate Democrats Scoff at Biden’s Israel Arms Sale, The Hill
Some Senate Democrats say the transfer of weapons to Israel without congressional oversight undermines transparency, marking the latest rift among Democrats when it comes to the Israel-Hamas war. “The US must not write a blank check for [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s] war in Gaza and his right-wing government, which has demonstrated a gross disregard for Palestinian civilians,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told The Hill in a statement.

Government Aims for Nearly All Southern Evacuees to Return by September, Source Says, The Times of Israel
The government is preparing to complete the resettling of nearly all of the communities it has evacuated from the Gaza border area by September, The Times of Israel has learned. Evacuated communities whose homes are situated 4-7 kilometers (2.5-4.3 miles) from the border will begin to return in the second half of February, a source involved in planning the resettlement strategy told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

Israeli Army Raids West Bank Refugee Camp, Interrogates Hundreds of Palestinians, Haaretz
Israeli forces operated for 40 hours in the Nur al-Shams refugee camp near the West Bank town of Tulkarm, and left there on Thursday after having interrogated hundreds of the Palestinian residents. According to several residents, it was not possible to enter or exit the camp throughout the extended operation.

US Soldier’s Family Rescued From Gaza in Secret Operation, The Guardian
The mother and uncle of a US service member were rescued from the fighting in Gaza in a secret operation coordinated by the US, Israel, Egypt and others. It is the only known operation of its kind to extract American citizens and their close family members during the months of devastating ground fighting and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Opinion and Analysis

America Must Face Up to Israel’s Extremism, The New York Times
Michelle Goldberg argues, “By acting as if Ben-Gvir and Smotrich can be hived off from the government in which they serve, US policymakers are fostering denial about the character of Netanyahu’s rule. Joe Biden often speaks of his 1973 meeting with Golda Meir, then the prime minister, and like many American Zionists, his view of Israel sometimes seems stuck in that era. […] I’m tempted to say that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich said the quiet part out loud, but in truth they just said the loud part louder.”

Jews Shouldn’t Celebrate the Resignation of Harvard University’s President, Haaretz
Etan Nechin writes, “This tactic weaponized genuine concerns for Jewish safety in wake of the Israel-Hamas war and some campus groups’ reaction to it, to attack elite liberal institutions like Harvard. It was part of concerted efforts to undermine teaching for example, critical race theory (CRT) and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to artificially enflame the culture war conservatives have been waging against liberal America for years. Have no doubt: this maneuver is less about safeguarding Jewish safety and combating hate and more about catering to a right-wing base.”

Israel’s High Court Might Have Saved Israel From Netanyahu, The Washington Post
Jennifer Rubin shares, “Both Israelis and American friends of Israel have reason to be grateful that the Israeli high court acted as it did. In reaffirming Israel’s democratic and law-based identity, the court’s decision simultaneously hastens Netanyahu’s departure and reaffirms the strength of the United States’ historic ties — not with an incompetent, unpopular and authoritarian coalition on its last legs but with the nation of Israel and its people.”