News Roundup for March 18, 2024

March 18, 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

Schumer’s ‘Unprecedented’ Speech, J Street
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “I suspect we may look back on this moment as the day our pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy platform cemented itself at the heart of the Democratic party. While MAGA Republicans and right-wing groups have already started a faux outrage pile-on against Senator Schumer in an effort to shut down further debate, J Street believes our elected officials have the right and the responsibility to stand up for American interests, our shared values and Israel’s own long-term interests.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel and Hamas Set Stage for New Round of Ceasefire Talks, Politico
Israel and Hamas are expected to resume stalled ceasefire talks amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip. The talks would be the first indirect negotiations between Israeli officials and Hamas leaders since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began on March 10. An earlier round of talks ended in failure after Israel rejected Hamas’ demand for a deal that would lead to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

What to Make of Schumer’s Scathing Speech on Netanyahu, CNN
Aaron David Miller writes, “Even two years ago, it would have been unimaginable for someone like Sen. Schumer to stand in Congress and all but concede that the current Israeli government of a close US ally needs to be replaced. A dozen years of Netanyahu’s reign punctuated by his abortive effort to eviscerate the independence of the country’s Supreme Court and empower two of his ministers — Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich both racists and Jewish supremacists — with key portfolios and an agenda to annex the West Bank to Israel in everything but name has brought us to this point.”

Trump Says He Would Let Netanyahu Finish the Job in Gaza, Says ‘Biden Is So Bad for Israel’, Haaretz
The 2024 Republican presidential candidate told Fox News that Biden “dumped Israel” after seeing protests, and that “the Democrats are very bad for Israel.” Netanyahu also gave an interview on Fox News, saying, “I appreciate President Trump’s tremendous support for Israel.” Trump also said Sunday that he would advise Prime Minister Netanyahu to swiftly conclude Israel’s war in Gaza.

Biden Backs Schumer After Senator Calls for New Elections in Israel, AP
“He made a good speech,” Biden said in the Oval Office during a meeting with Ireland’s prime minister. “I think he expressed serious concerns shared not only by him but by many Americans.” The Democratic president did not repeat Schumer’s appeal for Israel to hold elections, a step that would likely end Netanyahu’s tenure because of mounting discontent with his leadership. But Biden’s comments reflect his own frustration with an Israeli prime minister.

Thousands of Gazans Have Gone Missing. No One Is Accounting For Them, The Washington Post
Many disappeared under the rubble after airstrikes. Others are believed to have been detained at Israeli checkpoints while fleeing south or trying to return to the north. Some simply left one day and never came back. Their desperate families search hospitals and contact hotlines set up by International Committee of the Red Cross. They scour photos of bodies in the streets and of blindfolded men detained by Israeli forces. They share pictures of relatives online, pleading for leads. From October through February, the ICRC received reports of 5,118 Palestinians missing in Gaza.

Kirby Says US Has Not Seen Israeli Plan to Evacuate Civilians in Rafah Ahead of Offensive in Area, The Hill
“We would certainly welcome the opportunity to get a look at what their plans are before they move into Rafah. And I think it’s important for your viewers to understand they have not done that yet. They have not moved into Rafah,” Kirby said. Last week, Israel said it planned to direct Palestinians out of Rafah toward “humanitarian islands” in the center of the territory ahead of the offensive.

Israeli Troops Raid Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, Reuters
The Israeli military said soldiers had conducted a “precise operation” based on intelligence that the hospital was being used by senior Hamas leaders, and were fired upon when they entered the compound. Al Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital before the war, is now one of the only healthcare facilities that is even partially operational in the north of the territory, and is also housing hundreds of displaced civilians.


Gallant Urges Hostage Deal as Government Stalled Over Sending Delegation to Talks, The Times of Israel
“This commitment, to leave no one behind, is true for the war we are fighting today and will be true for all of Israel’s wars,” Gallant said at a memorial ceremony for Israel’s fallen soldiers whose final resting place is unknown. An Israeli delegation had been said to be ready to travel to Doha for further talks on the widely reported proposal on Saturday.

Pelosi Praises Schumer’s Speech on Israel, Says ‘Israel’s Reputation Is at Risk’, CNN
“When we give assistance to a country, we insist they do not interfere with our giving humanitarian aid,” Pelosi said. Pelosi also criticized Netanyahu for attacking Schumer over his suggestion that Israel hold new elections, considering that Netanyahu has previously inserted himself into US politics. “It’s curious to me to see Netanyahu talk the way he does when he tried to interfere in American elections,” Pelosi said, referring to Netanyahu criticizing then-President Barack Obama and the Iran nuclear deal in front of the US Congress.

Trump Says Some Migrants Are ‘Not People’, and Warns of ‘Bloodbath’ if He Loses, NPR
“If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country,” he warned, while talking about the impact of offshoring on the country’s auto industry and his plans to increase tariffs on foreign-made cars. Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer accused Trump of doubling “down on his threats of political violence.” “He wants another January 6, but the American people are going to give him another electoral defeat this November.”

As Ministers Meet, Protesters Block Roads in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Urge Hostage Deal, The Times of Israel
Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who was at the Knesset at the time of the protests, was forced to make his way to Netanyahu’s office by foot due to the disruptions. Earlier during the demonstration in the capital, protesters attempted to block cars escorting Likud ministers Avi Dichter and Miri Regev from entering. The demonstrators were led by family members of the hostages, including Ayala Metzger, the daughter-in-law of 80-year-old hostage Yoram Metzger.

Claims That UNRWA Is Hamas ‘Proxy’ Are ‘Just Flat-Out Lies,’ Sen. Chris Van Hollen Says [Video], CBS News
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, tells “Face the Nation” that claims by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others that the relief group UNRWA, which provides relief for Palestinian refugees, is a “proxy” for Hamas are “just flat-out lies.”

After Oct. 7, Israeli Solidarity Surges Dramatically, Trust in Government Plummets, Survey Finds, Haaretz
The results of the Israel Democracy Institute’s annual Democracy Index found a high degree of trust in the army and a substantial improvement in trust in the police after the outbreak of the war with Hamas but a persisitent political divide. Between June and December, trust in the government dropped from 28 percent to 23 percent and in the Knesset from 24 percent to 19 percent.

Smotrich Seeks to Cede West Bank Construction Enforcement From Israeli Army to Settler Confidant, Haaretz
The far-right minister aims to appoint a resident of the hardline settlement of Yitzhar as deputy head of the civil administration, and shifting current policy so that regional IDF officers will need to justify decisions of demolitions of settler outposts in front of him, and not to the IDF’s top commander.

Iran and US Held Secret Talks on Proxy Attacks and Ceasefire, The New York Times
The January meeting, first reported by The Financial Times this week, was the first time Iranian and American officials had held in-person negotiations — albeit indirectly — in nearly eight months. American officials said Iran requested the meeting in January and the Omanis strongly recommended that the United States accept.

Opinion and Analysis

President Biden, You Have Leverage That Can Save Lives in Gaza. Please Use It, The New York Times
Nicholas Kristof shares, “Diplomacy is about arm-twisting as much as persuasion, but Biden seems unwilling to act in ways that give force to his words. Simply put, Netanyahu ignores the White House because there is no cost to doing so. […] He could attach end-use restrictions to shipments of offensive arms, limiting how they can be used (as he does with Ukraine). He could simply adhere, as eight senators have urged, to American law that ends military support to any country when the president finds that it ‘restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.’”

Schumer Said Out Loud What Many of Israel’s Friends Are Thinking, The Washington Post
EJ Dionne Jr. writes, “What the speech does represent is a watershed, as the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz called it. It’s hard to find anyone who has been as pro-Israel as Schumer during his 43-year congressional career. For him to split with Netanyahu so sharply and so publicly speaks to the profound change in opinion among Israel’s sympathizers since the Gaza war began. But this shift builds upon on a far longer estrangement between Netanyahu and American liberals.”

Schumer Spoke for the Majority of American Jews, The Forward
Halie Soifer writes, “According to the same poll, 91% of Jewish voters agree that one can be both “pro-Israel” and critical of Israeli government policy, and 76% responded that the same applied to criticism of Israel’s conduct of war. Criticism of Israeli government policies and support of Israel are not zero-sum or mutually exclusive. According to a clear trend in the past five years of polling data, the views of self-identified “pro-Israel” Jewish American voters have become less aligned with those of the Netanyahu government the longer he’s stayed in power.”

It’s Time for Israel’s Leaders to Resign From Office. All of Them, Haaretz
Raviv Drucker argues, “They must announce when they’re going home. All of them. The Israel Defense Force’s chief of staff, the Shin Ben security service director, the head of Military Intelligence, the chief of Southern Command, the commander of the Gaza Division. There must be a downpour of resignation announcements. Not tomorrow morning, because you don’t jump ship in the middle of a shift. Assume responsibility, tell the army and political leadership to find replacements, and in the process of several months, the top brass will be renewed.”