News Roundup for May 22, 2024

May 23, 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.

Top News and AnalysisBiden at Odds With Allies as US and Israel Attack ICC Over Arrest Warrants, NBC News
France and Belgium, breaking with Biden, were among a number of countries to defend the “independence” of the International Criminal Court after prosecutor Karim Khan accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, as well as others, of war crimes. Israel called on its allies to vow not to enforce any warrants and dispatched its top diplomat, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, to Paris, according to The AP.

The US Assembles the Pieces of a Possible Gaza War Endgame, The Washington Post
David Ignatius writes, “Saudi Arabia has agreed to a ‘near final’ draft of a security agreement with the United States that would include normalization of relations with Israel. A summary of Sullivan’s talks on Sunday with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that, as part of this deal, the kingdom expected agreement on a ‘credible pathway’ toward a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem, a softening of previous Saudi language. […] The beginning of an end to the war would be a cease-fire and hostage-release deal, which the Biden administration has been seeking for months. […] Because Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition balks at many of the details, the final dealmaking might fall to a future Israeli government. But you can see, in the distance, the contours of a possible exit ramp.”

Under US Pressure, Israel Reverses Crackdown Against AP, Axios
U.S. officials spoke Tuesday with officials in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, expressing concerns about the Israeli Ministry of Communications’ crackdown on the AP and asked Israel to reverse its decision, two sources with knowledge of the issue said. NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the White House and State Department spoke to Israeli officials to “express our serious concern and ask them to reverse this action.”

US Signals Support for Possible ICC Sanctions over Israel Warrants, BBC
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has suggested he will work with lawmakers on potential sanctions against the International Criminal Court as its prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials. Blinken told a congressional hearing he was “committed” to taking action against the “profoundly wrong-headed decision.”

Ireland, Spain, Norway Announce Recognition of Palestinian State, Reuters
Ireland’s Prime Minister Simon Harris announced the decision at a news conference in Dublin. He added that Ireland was unequivocal in recognising Israel’s right to exist “securely and in peace with its neighbours”, and calling for all hostages in Gaza to be immediately returned. In Oslo, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the only possible political solution between Israelis and Palestinians is “two states living side by side in peace and security”.

Smotrich Says He’ll Cut off Transfer of PA Funds after 3 European Nations Set to Recognize Palestinian State, The Times of Israel
But despite the diplomatic move by Ireland, Spain and Norway and International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan’s decision to seek arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant along with Hamas leaders, officials in the National Security Council have pushed back against measures to punish Ramallah, Smotrich complains. Smotrich informs the prime minister that he intends to take immediate action to cut off the transfer of funds to the Palestinian administrative body and says that he will not extend the indemnity given to the Israeli banks that transfer funds to banks in the West Bank.

NewsPentagon Says None of the Aid Unloaded From US Pier off Coast of Gaza Has Been Delivered to Broader Palestinian Population, CNN
Several desperate Gazans intercepted trucks delivering aid from the pier over the weekend, leading the UN to suspend the delivery operations until the logistical challenges are resolved. The US is working with Israel and the United Nations to establish “alternative routes” for the safe delivery of the 569 tons of aid transported to Gaza since last week, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Tuesday.

Israel Tailoring Plans for Rafah in Manner Seen as Initially Satisfactory to US, Top Biden Official, The Times of Israel
Asked whether Israel could carry out an offensive in Rafah that is kept in line with the concerns of the Biden administration, the senior official says that Jerusalem is on the right path for doing so. “It’s fair to say that the Israelis have updated their plans. They’ve incorporated many of the concerns that we have expressed,” the official says, while stopping short of fully green-lighting the IDF plans.

UN Halts All Food Distribution in Rafah After Running Out of Supplies in the Southern Gaza City, AP
The United Nations suspended food distribution in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Tuesday due to a lack of supplies and an untenable security situation caused by Israel’s expanding military operation. The UN warned that humanitarian operations across the territory were nearing collapse.

ICC Prosecutor Says No Evidence Israeli Courts Genuinely Probing Alleged Crimes in Gaza, The Times of Israel
According to the ICC’s charter, and the principle of complementarity, the court cannot hold trials for nationals of countries that have independent judiciaries that are able and willing to conduct investigations and legal proceedings into the purported crimes the court is concerned with. Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster on Tuesday, an unnamed ICC official expressed similar skepticism about the Israeli court system’s abilities and activities, highlighting an absence of “real action at the local level to address the crimes which were allegedly committed, over which the judges were asked to issue a warrant.”

Trump Posts Video Referencing ‘Unified Reich’ if Reelected, CNN
President Joe Biden and his allies, meanwhile, swiftly and emphatically condemned Trump over the video, with both his campaign and the White House denouncing what it said was flagrant antisemitism. “This is the same guy that uses Hitler’s language, not America’s,” Biden told donors in Boston on Tuesday, according to reporters traveling with the president.

Israeli Forces Move Deeper Into Rafah in Night of Heavy Battle, Reuters
Israeli tanks advanced to the edge of a crowded district in the heart of Rafah on Wednesday during one of the most intense nights of bombardment of the southern Gaza city since Israel launched its offensive there this month.

Families to Release Disturbing Footage of October 7 Kidnapping of Female Soldiers, YnetNews
“It depicts the violent, humiliating and degrading treatment the women endured on the day of their abduction, reflecting the immense fear visible in their eyes,” according to a statement by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. “Every testimony from the hostages echoes the same sad truth – we must bring everyone home. The video stands as a severe indictment of a national failure to protect the hostages.”

Ben Gvir Makes First Visit to Flashpoint Temple Mount since October 7, Times of Israel
In his first visit to the Jerusalem holy site since October 7, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir declares from the Temple Mount that extending diplomatic recognition to a Palestinian state is tantamount to rewarding Hamas.

Opinion and AnalysisBiden Admin Openly Hammering Israel’s Military Strategy in Gaza, Politico
Politico reporters share that “Top officials are publicly calling Israel’s strategy in Gaza self-defeating and likely to open the door to Hamas’ return — a level of criticism of the Middle East ally not seen since the war began in October.The officials say Israel’s government has failed to hold parts of Gaza after clearing them, has turned the civilian population and the rest of the world against it with widespread bombing and inadequate humanitarian aid, and enabled Hamas to recruit more fighters.”

I Created the Leahy Law. It Should Be Applied to Israel, The Washington Post
Patrick Leahy argues, “The Leahy law is a vital tool to remind foreign officials — and our own — that American taxpayers do not want to fund human rights violations. Faced since its passage with repeated arguments that “engagement” with foreign forces is essential and that human rights problems are the result of “a few bad apples,” I have responded, in effect: “Let’s agree not to arm and train the worst bad apples until our partners clean them up.” This is hardly a pie-in-the-sky standard. In fact, it is a bare minimum about which there should be no disagreement.”

How 2 Debunked Accounts of Sexual Violence on Oct. 7 Fueled a Global Dispute Over Israel-Hamas War, AP
Tia Goldenberg and Julia Frankel discuss how, despite “numerous and well-documented atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct 7, some accounts have been shown to be untrue, encouraging skepticism and fueling a highly charged debate about the scope of what occurred on Oct. 7 — one that is still playing out on social media and in college campus protests.”