News Roundup for May 19, 2021

May 19, 2021

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J Street in the News

Biden Said to Have Taken Firmer Line on Call With Netanyahu, New York Times
“President Biden on Monday delivered a firmer message in private to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel than he has done in public, warning that he could put off growing pressure from the international community and from Congress to call on Israel to change its approach to Hamas for only so long, according to two people familiar with the call. […] ‘While a large number of congressional Democrats and at least one senior Senate Republican have called on both Israelis and Palestinians to reach an immediate cease-fire, the Biden administration has still not publicly done so,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J-Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group that has worked for years to shift the debate as a counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

Biden is increasingly at odds with other Democrats over Israel, Washington Post
“President Biden is increasingly coming into conflict with fellow Democrats as he resists a shift in his party toward a tougher stand on Israel and stronger support for the Palestinians […] ‘It’s certainly been years in the coming,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal, peace-oriented Jewish organization. ‘The Democratic Party is clearly now willing and able to speak out in a much more balanced manner about issues related to Israel.’ […] Ben-Ami said he thinks that liberal politicians of color — who have become more influential in recent years — have a keen sensitivity to structural racism and challenges faced by various disadvantaged communities, leading them to sympathize with Palestinians living in Gaza and Israel.”

The Memo: In Democratic divide, two visions of Israel, The Hill
“The Democratic divide on Israel was thrown into sharp relief Tuesday when President Biden and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) got into an animated exchange on the tarmac at a Michigan airport. […] ‘The Occupation has existed since 1967, but every year and decade it goes on, it looks less like an excusable temporary reality and more like a permanent system of injustice,’ Logan Bayroff, vice president of communications at the progressive lobby group J Street, told this column. […] J Street’s Bayroff bemoaned ‘the ideology of Netanyahu and the Israeli right, as it has embraced more of the tactics of a right-wing ethnonationalism. … You could call it ‘illiberal democracy.”‘ ‘That ideology,’ he added, ‘is anathema to American liberals and progressives who want to build a diverse, liberal democracy rooted in equal rights for everyone.’”

House Democrats to Urge Blinken: Provide More Humanitarian Relief for Palestinians in Gaza, Haaretz
“House Democrats are circulating a letter urging the Biden administration to provide additional humanitarian relief for Palestinians in Gaza and work to secure a cease-fire in the current round of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, Haaretz has learned. […] J Street is lending its support to the letter, as well. ‘This letter is one of several important recent initiatives showing that Members of Congress feel a deep sense of urgency around the need for a ceasefire and for more balanced, vocal and effective American leadership to defend the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians,’ J Street Vice President of Communications Logan Bayroff said.

Top Democrat won’t urge delay of $735m sale of precision missiles to Israel, Times of Israel
“US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks will not be sending the White House a letter asking to delay a $735 million sale of precision-guided missiles to Israel, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. ‘Chairman Meeks has indicated that he’s going to [instead] pursue discussions with the administration on this,’ Hoyer said. Last month, prominent progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both used their addresses at the J Street lobby’s national conference to call for regulating US aid to Israel, asserting that such assistance should not be allowed to bankroll Israeli policies that damage prospects for a two-state solution.”

Top News and Analysis

Gaza War Deepens a Long-Running Humanitarian Crisis, New York Times
The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has damaged 17 hospitals and clinics in Gaza, wrecked its only coronavirus test laboratory, sent fetid wastewater into its streets and broke water pipes serving at least 800,000 people, setting off a humanitarian crisis that is touching nearly every civilian in the crowded enclave of about two million people. Sewage systems inside Gaza have been destroyed. A desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people in the territory is offline. Dozens of schools have been damaged or closed, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes. Some 72,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes. And at least 213 Palestinians have been killed, including dozens of children.

AP source: US encouraging Israel to wind down Gaza offensive, AP
President Joe Biden and administration officials have encouraged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials to wind down the bombardment of Gaza, a person with knowledge of the discussions said Tuesday, as the Israeli and Palestinian death tolls mounted and pressure grew on Biden to move more forcefully to stop the fighting. Top Biden administration officials underscored to the Israelis on Monday and Tuesday that time is not on their side in terms of international objections to nine days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets, and that it is in their interest to wind down the operations soon, according to the official, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the private talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Daily: Nine Days in Gaza (podcast), New York Times
“You never get used to the sound of bombings,” Rahf Hallaq tells us. Ms. Hallaq, an English language and literature student, lives in the northwestern area of Gaza City, where she shares a home with her parents and five siblings. She turns 22 next month. […] We talk with Ms. Hallaq about her life, her dreams and what the last nine days have been like in Gaza.


Gaza children bearing the brunt in Israel-Hamas conflict, AP
Children are being subjected to extensive trauma in Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip. For some, it’s trauma they’ve seen repeatedly throughout their short lives. This is the fourth time in 12 years Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers have gone to war. Each time, Israel has unleashed heavy airstrikes at the densely populated Gaza Strip as it vows to stop Hamas rocket barrages launched toward Israel.

Diplomatic pressure mounts for a cease-fire as Israel, Hamas continue attacks, Washington Post
Fighting between Israel and Hamas dragged into a 10th day Wednesday even as international demands for a cease-fire mounted, with France pushing a United Nations Security Council resolution and Democrats piling pressure on President Biden to do more to stop the conflict. “The shooting must stop,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement after speaking with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, who he said were in agreement. “The time has come for a cease-fire.” Even as calls for a truce have widened, Israel has said it will not stop until it achieves its military objectives.

In Show of Unity, Palestinians Strike Across West Bank, Gaza and Israel, New York Times
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel stopped work for the day on Tuesday, as did other Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and in Gaza, protesting violence against Arab Israelis, the unfolding Israeli military campaign targeting Hamas militants in Gaza and the looming eviction of several families from their homes in East Jerusalem.

GOP seeks political opening amid tense Israel-Hamas fighting, AP
Republicans trying to drive a wedge between Democrats and chip away at President Joe Biden’s support are zeroing in on the violence in the Middle East, laying blame on his administration and aiming to make his liberal critics the face of the party heading into the midterm elections.

Source: U.S. helped avert Israeli ground invasion of Gaza; hopes rise conflict could end soon, Politico
The Biden administration is increasingly hopeful that the deadly conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants is in its final stages, and U.S. officials are confident their mostly behind-the-scenes intervention helped avert an early Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. American officials have privately urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides to wind down his country’s operations against the Gaza Strip, which have included airstrikes and killed more than 200 Palestinians, a person familiar with the situation told POLITICO on Tuesday.

Mob Violence Against Palestinians in Israel Is Fueled by Groups on WhatsApp, New York Times
Jewish extremists have formed more than 100 new groups on the Facebook-owned encrypted messaging app in recent days to target attacks.

Israel Destroyed Offices of More Than 20 Palestinian Media Outlets in Gaza, The Intercept
The bombing of global media offices in Gaza caused a stir, while few noted the Palestinian journalists left to work with targets on their backs.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel has no coherent strategy for the Palestinians. The U.S. should push for a reset, Washington Post
David Ignatius writes, “Israel stumbled into the current war in Gaza, and its military commanders are now doing their job of inflicting maximum pain on their adversary, Hamas. But there’s no sign of a coherent strategy that will bring long-term peace and stability any closer. That’s a problem that should worry Israel and its friends.”

When Palestine Shook, New York Times
Youssef Munayyer writes, “For those who periodically tune in and tune out of the Israel-Palestine situation, the events of recent days and weeks might seem like a replay of a movie they have seen before: Palestinians are being forced from their homes; Israel drops bombs on Gaza; Palestinians fire rockets from Gaza; Israel destroys most of the rockets with an air defense system that is largely paid for by American taxpayers. All familiar. But the truth is, this moment is different. And it may prove a transformational one in the Palestinian struggle for freedom.”

Israel-Gaza violence means Biden must avoid emboldening Hamas in any cease-fire deal, NBC News
Ghaith Al-Omari writes, “But it’s not as simple as stopping the bloodshed triggered when Hamas started firing rockets at Jerusalem last week: Biden needs to ensure that the terms of the cease-fire don’t allow Hamas to claim a victory. Such an outcome would embolden Hamas and significantly empower the terrorist organization in its intra-Palestinian contest with the secular Palestinian Authority, which is in charge in the West Bank.”

What’s so unnerving about how Israel runs its Twitter account, Washington Post
Molly Roberts writes, “Move over, Donald Trump. There’s a new terrible tweeter in town. And it isn’t a single disgruntled politician, or a celebrity, or a commentator fed up with the ‘wokeness’ of the kids these days. The culprit is a country: The state of Israel loves to post and recently, even its missives have warheads.”

Gaza Lives Erased: Israel Is Wiping Out Entire Palestinian Families on Purpose, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “The numerous incidents of killing entire families in Israeli bombings in Gaza – Parents and children, babies, grandparents, siblings – attest that these were not mistakes. The bombings follow a decision from higher up, backed by the approval of military jurists”

This is a war Israel can’t win, Washington Post
Max Boot writes, “Once the bombs and rockets stop falling, the Israeli government will have some major fence-mending to do with its nearly 1.9 million Arab citizens (20 percent of the population). Israel would also be well-advised to make concessions, such as stopping evictions in East Jerusalem and settlement growth in the West Bank, to bolster the moderate Palestinian Authority at the expense of the more radical Hamas. At the end of the day, Israel will not defeat the Palestinians militarily. It needs to reach a political accommodation with them.”

Biden Is Wasting His Precious Time on Israel-Palestine, and That Can’t Make Him Happy, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “I haven’t spoken to U.S. President Joe Biden in the last few days, but I’m certain he’s irritated, agitated and impatient. And rightly so. One hundred and twenty days into his term, the last thing he expected or wanted was to have to speak to Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu three times, to Mr. Mahmoud Abbas once, and be subjected to harsh criticism from many within his own party.”

As a doctor in Gaza, these have been the most difficult days of my life, +972 Magazine
Jamil Suleiman writes, “Dozens of the dead or wounded have arrived at my hospital for treatment. We are witnessing entire families being wiped off the face of the earth.”