News Roundup for March 14, 2024

March 14, 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

Pro-Israel Lobby AIPAC Faces Challenges Amid Gaza War and Shifting Politics, The New York Times
“AIPAC has blasted its closest — though far smaller — rival, the more dovish pro-Israel group J Street, which has criticized Netanyahu and called for a negotiated stop to the war. Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president, responded, “Intra-communal bickering and organizational food fighting does nothing to advance the security and well being of the people of Israel.” […] AIPAC donors have told some candidates that if they accept J Street’s endorsement, they will not get AIPAC’s support, two people with knowledge of such warnings said. AIPAC’s tactics have had a chilling effect in Congress, according to some Democrats.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel Allows Aid Directly Into North Gaza, Raising Hopes for More, The New York Times
For five months, aid groups had been able to reach northern Gaza only by entering through one of two southern border crossings, and then attempting a difficult and hazardous drive to the north. Few had successfully made the trip to distribution points. After the convoy on Tuesday cleared Israeli inspection, it crossed into Gaza through a gate on a security fence that had not previously been used for aid deliveries, the Israeli military said. The food was only a sliver of what would be needed.

Scoop: US Expected to Impose New Sanctions Against Occupied West Bank Outposts, Axios
A US official said the sanctions against the two outposts are meant to send the message that the US is targeting not only individuals but also entities that are involved in giving logistical and financial support to attacks against Palestinian civilians. The second round of sanctions by the Biden administration to counter settler violence will also include sanctions against three Israeli settlers, the US officials said. The sanctions would freeze assets the three settlers and two outposts might have in the US, ban them from getting a visa to enter the US and block them from using the US financial system.

US Pause on Funding UN’s Main Palestinian Relief Agency May Become Permanent, Reuters
The US, which is UNRWA’s largest donor, providing $300 million to $400 million annually, said it wants to see the results of that inquiry and corrective measures taken before it will consider resuming funding. Even if the pause is lifted, only about $300,000 – what is left of already appropriated funds – would be released to UNRWA. Anything further would require congressional approval. Bipartisan opposition in Congress to funding UNRWA makes it unlikely the US will resume regular donations anytime soon, even as countries such as Sweden and Canada have said they will restart their contributions.

Israeli Aid Policies Drive Starvation, The Jewish Currents
Elisheva Goldberg and Maya Rosen report, “Even when aid trucks arrive at the available crossings and have coordinated with the Israeli military in advance, they can still be denied entry into Gaza. Sometimes an entire truck is denied entry because it is carrying a specific item that the Israeli military considers “dual use” —items Israel says could be used for either civilian or military purposes. These items have included dates, sleeping bags, oxygen machines, ventilators, and crutches.”

Biden-Bibi Clash Escalates as US Accused of Undermining Israeli Government, Axios
The public clash between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu significantly escalated Tuesday after a senior Israeli official accused the Biden administration of trying to undermine Netanyahu’s government. A top US intelligence agency in its annual threat assessment released Monday cited deepening “distrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule” since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. It is highly unusual that such an assessment on the domestic political situation of the leader of a key US ally be made in public. Israeli officials think it shouldn’t have happened without the White House clearing it in advance.

A Radical Mideast Proposal: What if the US Recognized a Palestinian State Now?, NPR
139 nations already recognize a Palestinian state. At the UN, the Palestinians have something called “nonmember observer status.” This gives the Palestinians a seat at the UN but not much more in practical terms. Notably, no Western power has recognized Palestinian statehood. So would recognition by the West, particularly by the US, be a big deal? “We need pressure [on Israel] from the United States and the rest of the world,” said Ali Jarbawi, a political science professor at Birzeit University near Ramallah.

White House Denies Biden Has Set ‘Red Lines’ for Israel-Hamas War in Gaza, The New York Times
“The president didn’t make any declarations or pronouncements or announcements,” said Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, referring to an interview Biden gave over the weekend in which he was asked whether he had a “red line” Israel should not cross in its prosecution of the war. In the interview, with MSNBC, Biden rebuked Prime Minister Netanyahu over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, saying that “he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost” and that “he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel.”

Netanyahu Didn’t Tell Biden the Whole Truth About Israelis and the Gaza War, Haaretz
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu is quite the public opinion expert these days. He was able to recall that 82 percent of Americans support Israel. More recently, he assured the president of the United States that the Israeli public supports his policies in the Gaza war. He repeated the point in a speech to AIPAC this week. […] But it will surprise no one to know that Netanyahu isn’t truly interested in public opinion, only how it can serve him. Netanyahu is trying his utmost to avoid the truth that even if Israelis support the war, they wish he was not the one leading it.”

Words Over Deeds: Why Biden Isn’t Pressuring Israel, The New York Times
Aaron David Miller writes, “Far from presaging a major shift in policy, the president’s words and the vice president’s meeting were more likely part of the now familiar passive-aggressive approach the administration has deployed against the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history. Biden has sent a number of signals […] that he’s frustrated by some of Israel’s actions, especially its inattention and even opposition at times to facilitating assistance into Gaza. He is further angered by Israel’s unwillingness to restrain settler violence and its rejection of any role for the Palestinian Authority in governing Gaza. But he has consistently refused to impose any serious consequences on Israel.”


The Deepening Despair of the Families of Those Still Held Hostage in Gaza, The Times of Israel
A brother contemplated suicide. A sister stopped going to school. A father barely speaks. With each passing day, the relatives of hostages held by terrorists in Gaza since October 7 face a deepening despair. Their hopes were raised that a ceasefire deal was near to bring some of their loved ones home by the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that began Monday. But that informal deadline passed without any agreement.

‘Everything Is Difficult’: The Struggle for Life’s Basics in Rafah, The New York Times
Amid days filled with struggles to secure food, water and shelter, uncertainty has dominated people’s conversations, said Khalid Shurrab, a charity worker staying with his family in a leaky tent in Rafah. “We have two options, either to stay as we are or face our destiny — death,” said Mr. Shurrab, 36. “People literally have no other safe place to go.” Rafah is where most of Gaza’s 2.2 million people have ended up, multiplying the area’s population and exhausting its limited resources.

Israeli Tank Strike Killed ‘Clearly Identifiable’ Reuters Reporter, Reuters
An Israeli tank killed Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah in Lebanon last year by firing two 120 mm rounds at a group of “clearly identifiable journalists” in violation of international law, a UN investigation into the Oct. 13 incident has found. Besides killing Abdallah, the two tank rounds also wounded six other journalists at the scene.

Top Biden Adviser Reveals She Confronted Netanyahu, Politico
Samantha Power, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development, asked Prime Minister Netanyahu “to improve compliance with international humanitarian law” during her visit to Israel late last month. She told Politico, “Even if Hamas doesn’t care about civilian life, and it’s proven that again and again, that doesn’t relieve the obligation of a combatant to observe those principles. Clearly, more needs to be done.”

Charity Hopes to Send Second Food Aid Ship to Gaza in Next Few Days, The Guardian
Pallets containing 300 tonnes of food aid – 50% more than the first shipment – are expected to be screened and loaded by the end of Thursday, but there is no indication yet when it will leave the port of Larnaca. The first ship, which is towing a barge loaded with 200 tonnes of aid, enough for half a million meals, is expected to arrive on the Gaza coast in the coming days after leaving Larnarca on Tuesday.

Israel Says Air Strike on Gaza UN Food Center Killed Hamas Militant, Reuters
Israel said on Wednesday its airstrike on a UN food distribution center in southern Gaza killed a Hamas commander whom it targeted, and Palestinian health officials said it killed four more people, including a UN worker. The Israeli military said the strike killed Mohammad Abu Hasna, whom it described as a Hamas militant who provided intelligence to the group on Israeli troops’ positions and was “also involved in taking control of humanitarian aid and distributing it to Hamas terrorists.”

Israeli Police Back Officer Who Fatally Shot 12-year-old Palestinian. His Father Insists He Never Endangered Him, Haaretz
The father of 12-year-old Rami Hamdan witnessed his son being shot in an East Jerusalem refugee camp, insisting that he never pointed a firework he held at police forces. Justice Ministry officials estimate the cop won’t be indicted, as senior police officers privately warn that the incident could lead to an East Jerusalem escalation.

An Israeli Drone Strikes a Car in Southern Lebanon and Kills a Member of Hamas’ Military Wing, AP
An Israeli drone strike targeted a car in southern Lebanon near the coastal city of Tyre, killing a member of the Palestinian militant Hamas group and a civilian. Since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in Gaza on Oct. 7, Israeli strikes have killed or wounded several ranking members of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, as well as its ally Hamas in different parts of Lebanon.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Has Been Separating the West Bank From Gaza. During War It Becomes a Death Sentence, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “Israelis living close to the Gaza border or in the Upper Galilee moved to locations not under missile threat, going as far as Eilat or the Dead Sea. But Palestinians in Gaza are not allowed to temporarily move to a safe location away from their homes, like Hebron or Bethlehem. This is forbidden even for elderly or ill Palestinians whose children settled in the West Bank many years ago. Their children live in relative comfort and safety an hour and a half away by car, knowing that their loved ones are hungry for bread and thirsty for water. They cannot do what is so natural for every son and daughter: to rescue their parents and bring them over to live with them.”

The Biden-Netanyahu Rift Goes Much Deeper Than Rafah, The Washington Post
David Ignatius writes, “On the baseline question of what Gaza will look like “the day after,” US and Israeli officials agree there is still no clear answer. That’s one reason Biden mistrusts Netanyahu. The White House doubts the Israeli leader has a sound strategy for ending a conflict that has brutalized Israel, has had a shattering effect on Palestinian civilians and is increasingly harmful to US interests around the world.”

Israel Is 5 Months Into a Brutal War. It’s Clearer Than Ever That Netanyahu’s Government Must Go, The Forward
Dany Bahar shares, “Five months into this conflict, the demand for transparency and accountability has never been more acute. The movement for democracy and rule of law that galvanized Israel throughout 2023 must now evolve: It must demand effectiveness from a government to ensure that basic questions are answered, and results are delivered. And if this is not possible, then it must also demand early elections to elect a new leadership that is up to the task.”

The Dual Challenge Behind Israel’s Public Diplomacy Campaign, The Jerusalem Post
Tova Herzl argues, “Unfortunately, there are difficult circumstances beyond Israel’s control, which damage and undermine its international situation. These have grown monstrously in recent months. But whoever imagines that hasbara is a magic pill, take two a day and all will be well, is advised to examine the tools which Israel provides to those whose job it is to explain, as well as the obstacles it places before them.”