News Roundup for March 12, 2024

March 12, 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

Even When It Criticizes Israel, the Liberal World Is Not Against Us, The Jerusalem Post
J Street Israel Executive Director Nadav Tamir writes, “At this dangerous time for the future of Israel, our good friends are actually those who are critical of our government and who are trying to effect a change in its policies. They expect us to act in a manner consistent with the values we share with liberal democracies and against the policies that impair the chance to arrive at a reasonable agreement that will safeguard the state’s security and will ensure its democratic values, for our own good and for the stability of the region and of the world.”

Top News and Analysis

Biden and Bibi ‘Red Lines’ for Rafah Put Them on a Collision Course, Axios
US officials say an Israeli military operation in Rafah would likely lead to a significant shift in US policy – including an end to the defense of Israel at the UN and restrictions on the use of US weapons by the IDF in Gaza. Biden and Netanyahu haven’t spoken since Feb. 15. In their last call, Biden expressed concern about a possible Israeli operation in Rafah.

Senators Urge Biden to Stop Arming Israel, Citing Violation of US Aid Law, The New York Times
In a letter to Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders and seven Democrats argued that by continuing to arm Israel, Biden was violating the Foreign Assistance Act, which bars military support from going to any nation that restricts the delivery of humanitarian aid. The letter, written by Senators Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, is signed by some of the Democratic Party’s most progressive members: Senators Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, Peter Welch of Vermont and Tina Smith of Minnesota.

A Path Toward Peace Requires More US Engagement, Not Less, Foreign Policy
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons write, “The United States is the only nation that has the credibility to send this message to Israel. If Netanyahu fails to listen, the Biden administration and Congress will be prepared to take more persuasive steps to ensure compliance with US policy on civilian protection and humanitarian assistance. However difficult, we need to hold even our closest allies accountable. […] We can set the Israel-Hamas war on a path to peace by making it clear to the Israelis what we expect from them in the region and taking steps to ensure a real Palestinian future.”

Ramadan in Gaza Begins with Hunger Worsening and No End to War in Sight, AP
Prayers were held outside amid the rubble of demolished buildings. Fairy lights and decorations were hung in packed tent camps, and a video from a UN-school-turned-shelter showed children dancing and spraying foam in celebration as a man sang into a loudspeaker. But there was little to celebrate after five months of war that has killed over 30,000 Palestinians and left much of Gaza in ruins. Families would ordinarily break the daily sunrise-to-sundown fast with holiday feasts, but even where food is available, there is little beyond canned goods, and the prices are too high for many.

Dear Israel, This Is Your Friend Joe: The Speech Biden Must Give to Set Israel on the Path to Peace, Haaretz
Speaking as President Bident, Alon Pinkas writes, “As the war developed and the dangers of escalation became evident, it was clear to me that October 7 had become an inflection point with implications for Israel’s future. The idea that you can revert to the status quo is false, misguided and also plainly impossible. The idea that you can sustain the current reality of relations with the Palestinians is patently wrong. You cannot and should not. This would be adverse to Israel’s short- and long-term security and prosperity.”

If Israel Invades Rafah, Biden Will Consider Conditioning Military Aid to Israel, Politico
Biden’s openness to taking this step reflects the extreme strains in his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has rejected subtler efforts by the Biden administration to rein in his conduct of the war with Hamas. Early in the war, Biden pursued a hug-in-public-push-in-private strategy with Israel. But Israel continuously rejected the White House’s advice by pursuing an all-out military campaign.

Israeli Human Rights Groups Accuse Country of Failing to Abide by ICJ’s Gaza Aid Ruling, The Guardian
In their letter, the rights groups say Israel was legally obliged to implement the measures ordered by the court but had so far failed to do so. Signatories to the letter include the military whistleblower group Breaking the Silence and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “The ICJ order is a legal obligation to end the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. It must be abided by, not only to ease the urgent suffering of civilians but for the sake of humanity as a whole,” the letter says.

On the Tripwire of a ‘Red Line,’ It’s Often Presidents Who Trip, The New York Times
David E. Sanger writes, “When President Biden declared over the weekend that he was drawing a “red line” for Israel’s military action in Gaza, he appeared to be trying to raise the potential cost for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as their relationship plummets to new depths. But he never said what would happen, exactly, if Netanyahu ignored him. […] The seemingly obvious implication of Biden’s threat was that if the Israelis went ahead with their plans and conducted another military operation with high civilian casualties, Biden would for the first time place restrictions on how Israel could make use of the arms the US is supplying.”


UN Envoy Patten Says She Saw ‘Unspeakable’ Sexual Violence Perpetrated by Hamas, Haaretz
Patten added that taking people hostage is “prohibited according to international law” and emphasized that the report findings state that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred at several locations during the attack by Hamas. She added that these findings, however, do not “legitimize further hostilities” but “create a moral imperative for a humanitarian cease-fire.”

Netanyahu’s Coalition ‘May Be in Jeopardy,’ Intelligence Report Says, The New York Times
The 2024 Annual Threat Assessment expressed concerns about Israel’s vision for the end of the war and said that Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition “may be in jeopardy.” “Distrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule has deepened and broadened across the public from its already high levels before the war, and we expect large protests demanding his resignation and new elections,” the report said.

Israel Moves to Dismantle UNRWA Without Replacement Body to Manage Aid for Palestinians in Gaza, Haaretz
The plan presented follows a decision on the part of the IDF to wage a campaign in Israel and abroad to damage UNRWA’s reputation and expose its employees’ involvement in Hamas. Five months since the outbreak of the war, the political establishment has still not responded to requests from the defense establishment to find a replacement for UNRWA, and it has not found any organization willing to assume responsibility.

Progressive Groups Launch ‘Reject AIPAC’ Effort as Democratic Divides Over Israel Deepen, ABC News
A coalition of nearly two-dozen progressive groups on Monday launched a seven-figure effort to defend progressive Democrats in Congress who have criticized both Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and continued US support for Israel. In a statement to ABC News, the anti-AIPAC coalition accused AIPAC of working to “silence growing dissent in Congress” over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, “even as Democratic voters overwhelmingly support a ceasefire and oppose sending more blank checks to the Israeli military.”

This Is ‘Certainly Not the Kind of War’ That Many Israelis ‘Would Have Liked to Fight Against Hamas,’ Says Israeli Historian [Video], CNN
Christiane Amanpour speaks to Israeli historian and writer Fania Oz-Salzberger about the morality of this war.

IDF Said to Transport Gazan Orphans to West Bank via Israel Without Cabinet’s Ok, The Times of Israel
The IDF reportedly rescued over 70 orphans from the Gaza Strip and facilitated their transport to the West Bank in an unusual operation that started on Sunday and continued into Monday. Far-right ministers were quick to criticize the reported move. “He who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

First Aid Ship to Gaza Leaves Cyprus Port in Pilot Project, The Guardian
The boat is towing a barge containing flour, rice and protein as well as water and medicines – provisions that are desperately needed in the besieged coastal strip. The mission, mostly funded by the UAE, is being organized by the US-based charity World Central Kitchen, while a Spanish charity is supplying the ship.

Israel Urges UN Security Council to Pressure Hamas on Hostages, Reuters
Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Monday demanded the UN Security Council “put as much pressure as possible” on Hamas to release the people it took hostage during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The Security Council has called for the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages in resolutions adopted in November and December. It is currently considering a US-drafted resolution that includes a condemnation of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas “as well as its taking and killing of hostages, murder of civilians, and sexual violence including rape.”

Opinion and Analysis

US and Western Recognition of a Palestinian State Would Ultimately Make Israel Safer, The Daily Beast
Daniel Bral writes, “All Israelis have known since their miracle of statehood is the curse of conflict. Not by choice, of course. Parents – Israeli and Palestinian – could finally raise the first generation of children who truly know peace. Bouts of violence or lone wolf attacks wouldn’t cease, as is the case elsewhere, but the foreseeable tragedies of endless conflict would be rendered a relic. Recognition is, therefore, the most “pro-Israel” thing President Joe Biden and Western leaders can do. The understandable anxieties of traumatized Israelis notwithstanding, Netanyahu’s protestations should be taken with Dead Sea-size grains of salt.”

How Israeli and Palestinian Medical Volunteers Work Across Borders to Save Lives, Time
Astha Rajvanshi reports, “Days before Vivian Silver was killed by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attacks, the 74-year-old Israeli-Canadian peace activist was planning to drive six critically ill Palestinian patients to a hospital in Jerusalem. A longtime member of Kibbutz Be’eri, Silver often volunteered with Road to Recovery, an Israeli NGO that enlists volunteers to drive buses of Palestinian patients who are unable to access specialized medical care in the West Bank and Gaza to Israeli hospitals. “You could see that my mother was doing something very significant for Palestinians in need of those services,” says Yonatan Zeigen, Vivian Silver’s son.”

Where Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism Collide, The New York Times
Michelle Goldberg shares, “Plenty of leftists will swear up and down that they’re not being antisemitic when they use “Zionist” as the most contemptuous of epithets. […] But the vast majority of Jews disagree, and the longing for a return to Israel is deeply intertwined with Jewish religious practice; rituals for the two most important Jewish holidays, Passover and Yom Kippur, culminate with the words “next year in Jerusalem.” There is a long history of Jews being asked to excise what they see as crucial parts of their identity as a condition of acceptance. There is an equally long history of such acceptance, if it’s granted at all, being fleeting.”