News Roundup for March 7, 2024

March 7, 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

‘Right Time’: J Street, Reconstructionist Movement Join Liberal Zionist Call for Ceasefire, The Forward
A coalition of leading liberal Zionist groups are backing a “bilateral ceasefire,” including the release of Israeli hostages, to end the Israel-Hamas war. The ten members of the Progressive Israel Network, which includes J Street and the Reconstructionist movement, made the call in a Tuesday letter to President Joe Biden. “We firmly believe that there is no military solution to this conflict,” the coalition wrote in the letter.

‘This Stuff Keeps Me Up Late at Night:’ Salud Carbajal Reflects on Gaza, Humanitarian Aid, Netanyahu and His Trip to Holy Land, The Santa Barbara Independent
Carbajal had just returned from a five-day trip to the region with five other congressional Democrats that had been organized by J Street. Long-term, he said, the one thing everyone agreed upon was that the US needed to play a bigger leadership role fashioning some long-term solution where the safety of Israelis and Palestinians is assured. In the short term, he said, the most pressing need is humanitarian aid.

Top News and Analysis

Hamas Says Ceasefire Talks to Resume Next Week, Making a Truce Before Ramadan Unlikely, AP
The US, Egypt and Qatar have been trying for weeks to broker an agreement on a six-week cease-fire and the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. The Egyptian officials said Hamas has agreed on the main terms of such an agreement as a first stage, but wants commitments that it will lead to an eventual, more permanent cease-fire.

16 Children Have Died of Malnutrition in Aid-Starved Gaza, Health Officials Say, The Washington Post
Sahar al-Zebdda was born in a hospital with no electricity. She died 47 days later from complications of malnutrition, her doctor said — her short life a chronicle of the deprivation overwhelming Gaza. Post reporters found the families in this story through doctors at hospitals in northern Gaza, which aid experts say is nearing a dangerous tipping point. Without a ceasefire and a dramatic increase in aid, humanitarian officials warn that malnutrition and disease are likely to claim a growing number of lives.

US Floods Arms Into Israel Despite Mounting Alarm Over War’s Conduct, The Washington Post
The weapons packages amount to a massive transfer of firepower at a time when senior US officials have complained that Israeli officials have fallen short on their appeals to limit civilian casualties, allow more aid into Gaza, and refrain from rhetoric calling for the permanent displacement of Palestinians. “That’s an extraordinary number of sales over the course of a pretty short amount of time, which really strongly suggests that the Israeli campaign would not be sustainable without this level of US support,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a former senior Biden administration official and current president of Refugees International.

Families Join Lawmakers to Call for Release of Hostages in Gaza Ahead of State of the Union, The Hill
Families of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip joined a group of bipartisan House lawmakers to call for their release Wednesday, one day before President Biden is set to deliver the State of the Union address. Orna Neutra, the mother of American hostage Omer Neutra, pleaded for the release of her son, whom she said serves in the IDF and has been held captive for 152 days. “We are running out of words and running out of strength,” Neutra said.

Democrats Say Rafah Invasion ‘Likely’ Violates US Military Aid Rules, Axios
More than three dozen House Democrats, in a letter to Biden, cited a memorandum he signed last month requiring any recipient of US aid to provide “credible and reliable written assurances” it will comply with international law. The letter reflects growing concern among Democrats across the ideological spectrum towards the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has seen tens of thousands of Palestinians killed.

US Brands Latest Israeli Settlement Approvals as Illegal, The Times of Israel
“Settlements continue to be a barrier to peace. Settlements continue to be inconsistent with international law,” US State Department Matthew Miller says, reiterating a stance that was voiced for the first time last month by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when Israel announced its intention to advance plans for thousands of new settlement homes, which were formally green-lit earlier today.

Why Ramadan Matters in the Israel-Hamas War, Foreign Policy
Amy Mackinnon writes, “Without a cease-fire, scenes of ongoing death and destruction in Gaza are likely to weigh heavily on the minds of Muslims across the region going into Ramadan, the most sacred period in the Islamic calendar, which is marked by prayer, reflection, and charity. “It adds a layer of distastefulness and outrage to an already pretty horrendous situation,” said Khaled Elgindy, the director of the Middle East Institute’s program on Palestine. “It adds more pressure on Arab governments to at least look like they’re doing something,” he continued.”

For Gazans, Truce Talks Bring Tangle of Emotions, The New York Times
When President Biden suggested last week that a cease-fire was imminent, Khalil el-Halabi was elated. Halabi, a 70-year-old retired UN official, paraded through a cluster of tents in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, delivering the news to people displaced by the war, prompting cheers and claps. But the joy didn’t last: The next morning, reports that gaps remained between Israel and Hamas brought him back down to earth. “It’s a form of psychological torture,” Halabi said. “It’s unbearable. We’re told one day that the war is ending and then the opposite the next day.”


US Democrats Question Arms to Israel Over Gaza Concerns, Reuters
Van Hollen and other lawmakers have called upon the administration to hold back military assistance to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government does not take steps such as opening crossings into Gaza for aid shipments. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The administration has so far declined to put conditions on assistance for Israel.

Shin Bet Debunks Idea That Gazan Workers Spied en Masse for Hamas Pre-Oct. 7, The Times of Israel
The revelation came after media outlets for months repeated the claim, which was also reported by The Washington Post, that some laborers had aided Hamas in its plans for the attack. According to a Channel 12 report on Wednesday, the Shin Bet has investigated some 3,000 Gazans who had permits to work in Israel to assess if they had provided the terror group with information about the communities it was planning on attacking and has concluded that no such concerted effort was made.

27 Gaza Detainees Have Died in Custody at Israeli Military Facilities Since the Start of the War, Haaretz
Since the start of the war, the army has held Gazan detainees in temporary prison camps. Under an amendment to the law that was passed during the war, detainees may be held for up to 75 days without seeing a judge. A source told Haaretz that at least one of them, a diabetic, died there, after not receiving medical treatment.

Houthi Missile Strike Kills Three Civilian Mariners, US Says, The Washington Post
A missile launched by Houthi militants in Yemen struck a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, killing three people and marking the first known fatalities in the group’s months-long campaign of violence against maritime traffic. The Houthis, an Iranian proxy group that receives weapons and other military support from Tehran, took responsibility for the attack.

Food Aid Convoy for Northern Gaza Looted After Delay at Israeli Checkpoint, The Guardian
As the convoy turned back after the delay, it was attacked and 200 tonnes of food looted by “a large crowd of desperate people.” Insecurity, logistical bottlenecks, ongoing fighting and restrictions on movement imposed by Israel have combined to limit aid deliveries to a fraction of what is needed, aid officials said.

Israeli Soldier Killed in South Gaza Strip Fighting; 13 Wounded, Five Seriously, Haaretz
The soldier is Staff Sgt. David Sasson, 21, from Ganot Hadar. Sasson served in the canine special forces Oketz unit, and was killed in combat in southern Gaza. The army said that 12 other soldiers were also wounded in the incident, including five who sustained serious injuries.

Newsroom at ‘New York Times’ Fractures Over Story on Hamas Attacks, NPR
The Guild’s announcement said its members “faced extensive questions about the involvement in [Middle Eastern North African employee group] events and discussions and about their views of the Times’ Middle East coverage.” The New York Times has denied the union’s claims. Many reporters have become more outspoken since the social protest movements of 2020 in ways that have altered newsrooms and discomfited some of their peers.

‘Shocked and Profoundly Troubled’: American Jewish Leaders Decry ADL’s Honoring of Jared Kushner, Haaretz
Greenblatt acknowledged the inherent tension in honoring the son-in-law and former senior advisor of former President Donald Trump, whom the ADL frequently criticized up through the January 6 insurrection, when it called for his removal from office. Admitting he faced pushback from ADL board members and members of the Jewish community, to which many in the crowd shouted “why,” Greenblatt stressed the need for unity in a post-October 7 world.

Opinion and Analysis

The State of the Union Gives Biden a Key Chance to Pivot on Gaza, The Washington Post
Josh Rogin writes, “It’s time for Biden to reset both the policy and message. Conveniently, he will have the attention of the entire Congress and millions of Americans Thursday evening. Typically, State of the Union speeches tout previous accomplishments and don’t break much new ground. However, if Biden seizes the opportunity, he could lay out for domestic and international audiences exactly what he thinks should be done to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe, how he thinks the war should end, and how he envisions establishing Palestinian governance in Gaza after.”

Biden’s New Doomsday Option Against Israeli Settlers, The Atlantic
Yair Rosenberg argues, “Biden is unlikely to immediately use his new authority in such a sweeping manner. The order, like other US sanctions, is meant as a tool to apply pressure on a foreign government judiciously, allowing the administration to gradually tighten the vise in order to get results. And the new directive serves two overarching goals. First, it destabilizes Netanyahu’s governing coalition. […] Second, the executive order advances the cause of the two-state solution.”

Netanyahu Might Be Losing Ground, but His Politics Still Resonate With Most Israelis, Atlantic Council
Ksenia Svetlova shares, “Polls show that the Israeli public is torn on many issues, but trust in Netanyahu’s government is not one of them. Israelis repeatedly show a historically low level of confidence in the prime minister, while support for his Likud party keeps dwindling. At the same time, it’s also clear that the general public in Israel supports Netanyahu’s policies. According to a poll conducted by the daily newspaper Israel Hayom, the public is almost equally divided about “which of the two goals of the war is more important”: 46.6 percent prioritized securing the release of hostages, while 44.8 percent said “victory in the war against Hamas” is more important.”