News Roundup for March 15, 2024

March 15, 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

How Biden Could Dial Up the Pressure on Israel — If He Really Wanted To, Vox
“It’s still a safe bet that [Biden’s] more popular than Netanyahu [in Israel], who only 15 percent of Israelis say should stay in office after the war. “The president of the United States, as a lifelong friend of Israel, has a well of political capital right now with the Israeli people because he was so there for them in a moment of need and crisis,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal Middle East peace lobbying group J Street, told Vox. Ben-Ami feels that a high-profile speech in Israel that affirmed US support for the country and acknowledged the atrocities of October 7, but also laid a case for why Israel’s current course of action in Gaza is ultimately undermining the country’s security, would be a more effective way to exert influence.”

Schumer Calls Netanyahu an Obstacle to Peace, Calls for New Israeli Elections, Jewish Insider
J Street praised Schumer’s speech. The group’s director of government affairs, Hannah Morris, said that it “signals a historic shift from those in the Democratic party who care deeply about Israel’s future.” “He showed clear recognition that US policy needs to change, that we must seek to shape better Israeli and Palestinian policy by more forcefully using our leverage. That we must do more to press the Netanyahu government to live up to our shared values,” Morris said. “We must stand up to extremists and those seeking to further only their own political survival at the expense of their own people’s future.”

Israel Rebukes ‘Unhelpful’ Comments After Chuck Schumer Attacks Netanyahu, Newsweek
J Street, a nonprofit aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully and diplomatically, commended Schumer’s speech. J Street’s Director of Government Affairs Hannah Morris said, “This was a forceful call for President Biden to press forward with a regional peace agreement resulting in a viable Palestinian state.” Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, told Newsweek via email on Thursday: “We agree with Senator Schumer and believe that Israel needs new leadership that hasn’t failed to provide security, protect democracy and promote a sustainable long-term future of peace with its neighbors.”

J Street Welcomes Second Round of Settler Violence Sanctions, J Street
“J Street urges President Biden and his administration to remain vigilant in identifying and sanctioning instances of violent or destabilizing activity that run counter to US policy, international law and both Palestinian and Israeli interests. We note that demolitions in Palestinian communities, forced displacement, discriminatory evictions in East Jerusalem and ongoing harassment and intimidation – often with the tacit support of the Israeli government and security services – are all sanctionable under the plain meaning of the policy, and should be consistently dealt with as such.”

Top News and Analysis

Schumer Urges New Leadership in Israel, Calling Netanyahu an Obstacle to Peace, The New York Times
The top Senate Democrat, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the United States, spoke from the Senate floor to condemn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and call for elections to replace him. Schumer said the only solution to the decades-old conflict was a two-state solution: “a demilitarized Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in equal measures of peace, security, prosperity and dignity.” He said Netanyahu, who has rejected the idea of Palestinian statehood, was jeopardizing Israel’s future.

US Announces New Sanctions Against Occupied West Bank Settler Outposts, Axios
It is the first time US sanctions are being imposed against entire outposts and not just against individuals.The move comes as the Biden administration ratchets up pressure on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a range of issues, including settler violence against Palestinians and the war in Gaza.

AIPAC Talking Points Revealed, The American Prospect
According to documents obtained by The Prospect, AIPAC is telling Members of Congress that “Israel is not blocking the delivery of aid to Gaza,” and that “reports that people are starving in Gaza are false.” Neither claim is supported by findings of international authorities, nor by recent actions undertaken by the United States government. The documents also reveal AIPAC’s legislative strategy and the talking points support an unconditional $14 billion military funding package and numerous positions on aspects of the US response to the war that have not previously been made public, from abolishing UNRWA to opposing recent restrictions imposed by the Biden administration on Israeli settlers.

With Schumer’s Israel Remarks, the American Gloves Are Off, Politico
“Schumer’s speech today marks a historic moment in US-Israel relations. He is not only telling Israelis that the time has come to replace their leader, but he is opening the door to the possibility that the US may condition future aid to Israel,” said Guy Ziv, a professor of Israeli politics at American University in Washington and former Schumer intern. Schumer’s address wouldn’t have been possible without the Biden administration’s own shifts in recent weeks, prompted by mounting political pressure from Democrats and pro-Palestinian voices in and outside of Washington.

How Biden Can Get Tough on Netanyahu, Foreign Affairs
Jonah Blank writes, “If the president wants to get tough with Netanyahu, he has an array of options, from withholding military aid to recognizing a Palestinian state. Such moves may not be easy politically, but they could become more feasible as the war’s death toll rises and starvation spreads in Gaza. […] Support for a two-state solution has been the official position of the US government, under Democrats and Republicans alike, for decades. Recognizing a Palestinian state would just formalize what has been a bipartisan aspiration.”

Hamas Presents Truce Deal Detailing Exchange of Hostages, Prisoners to Mediators, Haaretz
Hamas said the initial release of Israelis would include women, children, elderly, and ill hostages in exchange for the release of 700-1000 Palestinian prisoners, according to the proposal. The release of Israeli “female recruits” is included. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Thursday a new Gaza truce proposal presented by Hamas to mediators was still based on “unrealistic demands.”


Proposed US Resolution Would Back Global Efforts for an Immediate and Sustained Cease-Fire in Gaza, AP
The US circulated the final draft of a UN Security Council resolution late Thursday that would support international efforts to establish “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war as part of a deal to release hostages taken captive during Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. No time has been set for a vote, and the draft, obtained by The Associated Press, could still be changed.

With No Safety in Rafah, Palestinians Are Fleeing Back to Gaza’s Decimated Center, +972
As a result of the intensification of Israel’s bombings in the city, some Palestinians who took refuge in Rafah have fled to areas further north. “We are all terrified that we will experience what we saw in Gaza City, Khan Yunis, and other areas of the Gaza Strip here in Rafah, ” said Aya Rous, a mother of four who was already living in Rafah with her family before the war started. “Where will we go to find safety?”

Scoop: Israel Assures US Weapons Used in Gaza According to International Law, Axios
The letter of assurances is a requirement under a national security memorandum issued last month by President Biden. The Biden administration asked Israel to provide the signed letter of assurances by mid-March. Secretary of State Antony Blinken now has until March 25 to certify that Israel’s written commitments are credible. If certification isn’t given, US weapons transfers to Israel will be suspended.

Australian Foreign Minister Says Government Will Restore Funding to UNRWA After Review [Video], AP
Penny Wong announced on Friday that her government will restore funding to UNRWA following a review, weeks after more than a dozen countries halted hundreds of millions of dollars of support in response to Israeli allegations against the organization. Israel had accused 12 of UNRWA’s thousands of employees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

Freed Israeli Hostage Describes ‘Psychological Warfare’ by Hamas Captors, The Guardian
During the 54 days that Itay Regev, 19, was held in Gaza, he was told the Israeli government did not want him back and that hostages were being killed by Israeli strikes. This, he said, was how Hamas militants attempted to make him fear the IDF more than them. “It was a process and they would do it slowly,” he said during a visit to London. “It was kind of like psychological warfare where they wanted to make me fear more of the strikes rather than my captors.”

Palestinian Leader Appoints Longtime Adviser as Prime Minister in the Face of Calls for Reform, AP
Mohammad Mustafa, a United States-educated economist and political independent, will head a technocratic government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that could potentially administer Gaza ahead of eventual statehood. But those plans face major obstacles, including strong opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Israel-Hamas war that is still grinding on with no end in sight.

Netanyahu Maintains IDF Will Enter Rafah Despite International Pressure, The Times of Israel
Netanyahu on Thursday assured soldiers that the military will operate in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah despite international pressure to hold off on such action. During a visit with fighters, the premier said: “While you and the IDF are preparing to continue fighting, there is international pressure to keep us from entering Rafah and finishing the job. As prime minister of Israel, I am deflecting these pressures, and I will continue to do so.”

Road, Sea and Air: How Is Aid Entering Gaza?, The New York Times
Roads are by far the most important delivery route: More than 15,000 trucks of aid have entered the territory since Oct. 7 at two entry points in the enclave’s south. Most have entered through Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt. A ship carrying 200 metric tons of aid from the charity group World Central Kitchen departed Cyprus for Gaza on Tuesday in what European officials called a pilot project for the new route. This week Germany became the latest country to announce plans to airdrop aid to Gaza. But aid officials say air drops are costly and ineffective.

Opinion and Analysis

Violence Has Failed Palestinians, Foreign Policy
John Aziz shares, “Reliance on violence fuels a cycle of violence. This cycle of violence has led to severe Israeli retaliation, exacerbating the suffering of civilians and leading to deep humanitarian crises, cruelly visible in Gaza today. The use of violence has sabotaged the Palestinian cause on the international stage. Violent tactics have frequently been used to justify the delegitimization of Palestinians, and serve as an excuse to prolong the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by Israel. Horrific acts such as those of Oct. 7 alienate potential allies and supporters, particularly in the Western world.”

Israel Faces Crisis of Its Own Making as Chaos and Hunger Engulf Gaza, The Washington Post
Shira Rubin and Yasmeen Abutaleb write, “For three months, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly celebrated the fall of Hamas in northern Gaza, brushing aside warnings that severe food scarcity and a widening power vacuum were creating a state of anarchy. But after a recent aid convoy disaster in Gaza City, and amid reports of Palestinian children dying of malnutrition, Netanyahu faces an international reckoning — under growing pressure from the US to stave off a famine and restore order to the ravaged enclave. The crisis, current and former officials say, stems from Israel’s failure to develop a workable postwar strategy, or to plan for the consequences of an open-ended military occupation.”

Netanyahu Must Resist the Messianic Bullies and Avert a Third Lebanon War, Haaretz
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert writes, “I advise Israel’s leaders – the prime minister, defense minister and the military’s high command – to end their own fierce threats against Hezbollah. They do not project self-confidence and are unlikely to return a single evacuee to his home. There’s a good chance that these threats and warnings and the frequent media appearances of tough-talking government spokesmen will only encourage Hezbollah to keep firing rockets at numerous targets in the north.”