News Roundup for March 21, 2024

March 21, 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

The Democrats Are Right. Being Pro-Israel Means Being Pro-Palestinian, Haaretz
Rabbis John L. Rosove and Elliott Tepperman, national co-chairs of the J Street’s Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet, write, “What is clear to us, as Jewish leaders who care deeply for the safety of Israelis and the country’s future, is that the Democratic lawmakers mentioned have a deep, nuanced understanding of what it means to be pro-Israel. Faced with an increasingly recalcitrant Netanyahu government, it is not enough to spout platitudes or support symbolic resolutions. The U.S.-Israel relationship deserves and is strengthened by a more substantive approach.”

A Response to a Wall Street Journal Amit Segal Article, The Times of Israel
Executive Director of J Street Israel Nadav Tamir writes,”Biden understands the political problem that a lack of hope presents. He understands the intolerable grief and destruction this conflict continues to inflict on Israelis and Palestinians. He also understands the global consequences if this conflict endures. He knows that the answer isn’t to double-down on hopelessness and cynicism and accept a never-ending status quo – as Amit Segal seems to argue for – it’s to use the power and strength of US leadership to chart a better path forward.”

Top News and Analysis

Dozens of Former US Officials Urge Biden to Take Harder Line With Israel, Reuters
Nearly 70 former US officials, diplomats and military officers on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to warn Israel of serious consequences if it denies civil rights and basic necessities to Palestinians and expands settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. “The United States must be willing to take concrete action to oppose” such practices, the group said in an open letter to Biden, “including restrictions on provision of [US] assistance [to Israel] consistent with US law and policy.”

Government Funding Deal Includes Ban on US Aid to UNRWA Until 2025, Sources Say, CBS News
The deal on a massive appropriations bill reached between Congress and the White House will include a ban on all direct US funding for the main humanitarian agency operating in Gaza, UNRWA, until March 2025, three sources with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to CBS News. The White House did not mention the cut in aid when it voiced broad support Tuesday for the deal in principle reached with Congress, which President Biden pledged to sign immediately if passed. “This will undermine the effort to assist starving Gazans and potentially further weaken regional stability,” the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

Biden Administration Split on Suspending Arms Sales to Israel Ahead of Deadline on Sunday, Haaretz
Amid congressional pressure last month, President Biden issued a national security memorandum requiring recipients of US military assistance to commit to abide by international law while using US weapons. Such beneficiaries would also have to pledge to facilitate and not obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid. Arms sales would be suspended if Israel failed to provide a written commitment on time. Israel has fallen dramatically short of its vows to “flood” Gaza with aid, putting in jeopardy the arms flow from the US.

Senate Democrats Press Biden to Establish Two-State Solution for Israel, Palestine, The Hill
“We call on you to publicly outline a path for the United States to recognize a nonmilitarized Palestinian state,” 19 Democratic senators led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) wrote in a letter to President Biden. The letter comes amid mounting Democratic concern over civilian casualties in the Gazan war and reports that children are suffering from starvation and malnutrition because humanitarian supplies have been blocked by the fighting.

The Israeli Settlers Shrugging off Sanctions to Menace the West Bank, The Financial Times
“Ely Federman, an Israeli settler accused of violent attacks against his Palestinian neighbors, was unaware he had been sanctioned by the UK because he was away serving as a soldier in Gaza.  When he finally heard the news via WhatsApp two weeks later, according to his father, Ely was surprised but unfazed. “He didn’t have plans to visit Buckingham Palace,” Noam Federman, himself detained multiple times for racist and extremist violence, said in an interview. […]The curbs have barely scratched a settler movement that, more than five months into Israel’s offensive in Gaza, is feeling more empowered and emboldened than ever.”


Israeli Military Says It Killed 90 Gunmen at Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, Reuters
Israel’s military said on Wednesday it had killed around 90 gunmen and arrested 160 in a raid on Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital, an allegation the Islamist Hamas group denied. Al Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital before the war, is now one of the few healthcare facilities even partially operational in the north of the territory, and had also been housing displaced civilians.

Blinken Adds Israel Stop to Latest Mideast Tour as Tensions Rise Over Gaza War, AP
“In Israel, Secretary Blinken will discuss with the leadership of the government of Israel the ongoing negotiations to secure the release of all hostages,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. “He will discuss the need to ensure the defeat of Hamas, including in Rafah, in a way that protects the civilian population, does not hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and advances Israel’s overall security.”

Hostage Mother Calls on Diaspora Jews to Pressure Israel for Hostage Deal, The Jerusalem Post
Goldberg-Polin criticized the Israeli government for not doing enough to ensure a hostage deal. She called on Jewish communities in the Diaspora to “speak resolutely and with conviction to the men in power who will be deciding the destiny and identity of the Jewish people going forward forever more.”

Israeli Supreme Court Halts Removal of Palestinians From East Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Hospitals After Doctors Appeal, CNN
The decision follows a petition by the Israeli non-profit organization Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which decided to take action following a CNN report on the Palestinian hospital patients. “Returning residents to Gaza during a military conflict and a humanitarian crisis is against international law and poses a deliberate risk to innocent lives” the organization’s spokesperson Ran Yaron said Wednesday.

Bibi Hits Back at Schumer in Talk With GOP Senators, Axios
Netanyahu told Senate Republicans on Wednesday that invading Rafah is necessary to defeat Hamas — and criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for Israeli elections as “wholly inappropriate.” Despite his criticism of Schumer, senators said Netanyahu did not go after President Biden.

Conference of Presidents Members Rebut Statement on Majority Leader Schumer Meeting, Union for Reform Judaism
“Following Sen. Schumer’s meeting yesterday with COP members, COP leaders chose to independently issue their unduly harsh missive, which was divisive and unfair. Their statement does not reflect the views of several member entities who support much of the important content of Sen. Schumer’s speech, or even those who disagreed with some of what he said but understood that this speech was a constructive critique made by one of the US Congress’ most passionate champions of a strong and safe Israel.”

Israeli Airstrikes Kill 28 in Urban Refugee Camps in Central Gaza, PBS
Nineteen people, including five women and nine children, were killed when a strike flattened a family home late Tuesday in the urban Nuseirat refugee camp. Another person was killed in a separate strike in the camp. A strike in the nearby Bureij camp killed eight people, including three women. The dead were brought to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital, the main medical facility in central Gaza. An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies and their names in hospital records.

US Speaker Says House GOP Weighing Asking Netanyahu to Address Congress, The Times of Israel
To address a joint session of Congress, though, Netanyahu would also need buy-in from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer’s office confirmed on Wednesday that he had declined a request by Netanyahu to speak at the Senate Democratic Caucus about the war in Gaza.

19 Senate Dems Urge Biden to Publicize Framework for Establishing Palestinian State, The Times of Israel
More than a third of the US Senate’s Democrats called on President Joe Biden’s administration Wednesday to take “bold” action toward establishing a Palestinian state, in the latest pushback against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. […] Nineteen Democratic senators led by Tom Carper, a longtime ally of Biden from his home state of Delaware, wrote that the Middle East crisis had “reached an inflection point” that required US leadership beyond past “facilitation” of Israeli-Palestinian talks. “As such, we request the Biden administration promptly establish a bold, public framework outlining the steps necessary” to establish a Palestinian state over both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the senators wrote.

Israel No Longer Considered Liberal Democracy; Global Index Cites Judicial Coup, Haaretz
The 2024 V-Dem Democracy Report, published last week, stated, “Notably, Israel lost its long-time status as liberal democracy in 2023. It is now classified as an electoral democracy – for the first time in over 50 years. This is primarily due to substantial declines in the indicators measuring the transparency and predictability of the law, and government attacks on the judiciary.

Opinion and Analysis

In Netanyahu’s Israel, the Gaza War Is Wrecking What Remains of Democratic Values, Haaretz
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “The government’s overall aim is to “further restrict democratic freedoms and move to a more authoritarian rule,” says Limor Yehuda, a legal scholar and senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Adam Shinar, a professor of constitutional law at Reichman University, described the regime coup to me as anything the government does to “strengthen its power at the expense of other branches of government, including the Knesset and professional [public] service.”

The Grandmother Who Wants to Lead Israelis Back to a Gaza Without Palestinians, CNN
“Weiss was blunt in her wishes for Gaza when CNN interviewed her at her home in the  West Bank settlement of  Kedumim, where she was once mayor. “No Arab, I’m speaking about more than two million Arabs. They will not stay there,” Weiss said. “We Jews will be in Gaza.” We said that sounded like ethnic cleansing. Weiss responded: “The Arabs want to annihilate the state of Israel so you can call them monsters. You can call them cleansing of Jews. We are not doing to them; they are doing to us.” Weiss said a return to Gaza became a priority for her after the October 7 attacks. Her views, traditionally seen as extreme in Israel, have become more popular since that day.”

‘Man-Made Famine’ Charge Against Israel Is Backed by Mounting Body of Evidence, The Guardian
Peter Beaumont writes, “The accusation by the UN and other humanitarians that Israel may be committing a war crime by deliberately starving Gaza’s population is likely to significantly increase the prospect of legal culpability for the country, including at the international court of justice. Amid reports that the IDF are hiring dozens of lawyers to defend against anticipated cases and legal challenges, the charge that Israel has triggered a “man-made famine” by deliberately obstructing the entry of aid into Gaza is backed by an increasing body of evidence.”

The Israeli Public Is Dispirited. So Why Is the Right Euphoric?, 972
Meron Rapoport shares, “Since October 7, elements of the Israeli right have been exuding an excitement that borders on outright euphoria. The most prominent example, of course, is the dance party that took place during the Gaza resettlement conference in January, which was attended by 11 cabinet ministers, 15 other members of the governing coalition, and thousands of enthusiastic participants. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich claimed that the accusations that they danced while soldiers’ blood was spilled in Gaza are “outrageous.” Yet it’s hard to deny that many on the right see everything that has happened since October 7 through the lens of biblical redemption.”