News Roundup for November 20, 2023

November 20, 2023
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Top News and Analysis

The War Turns Gaza Into a ‘Graveyard’ for Children, The New York Times
Thousands of children have been killed in the enclave since the Israeli assault began, officials in Gaza say. The Israeli military says it takes “all feasible precautions” to avoid civilian deaths. Barefoot and weeping, Khaled Joudeh, 9, hurried toward the dozens of bodies wrapped in white burial shrouds, blankets and rugs outside the overcrowded morgue. “Where’s my mom?” he cried next to a photographer for The New York Times. “I want to see my mom.” “Where is Khalil?” he continued, barely audible between sobs as he asked for his 12-year-old brother. A morgue worker opened a white shroud, so Khaled could kiss his brother one final time.

Hamas Resumes Hostage Talks and Narrows Gaps With Israel, Sources Say, Axios
Negotiations to secure a deal for the release of dozens of hostages being held in Gaza are back on and showing modest progress after a pause lasting several days, three sources with direct knowledge of the issue tell Axios. Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, went silent and stopped engaging with Hamas representatives at the talks in Doha after the Israeli military raided Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital last week, leading to a suspension of the talks. Within the last 24 hours, Sinwar has re-engaged, the sources say.

Israel Told Palestinians to Evacuate to Southern Gaza — And Stepped up Attacks There, NPR
Israeli bombardment has killed thousands of civilians in the areas of the Gaza Strip that Israel has ordered them to move to, Gaza health ministry death tolls show. Witnesses’ accounts, satellite data and expert assessment gathered by NPR show that Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire occur daily in the areas Israel has said are “safer” for civilians, and have hit schools, residential towers and overcrowded United Nations refugee shelters. What awaits Palestinians who move south is still life-threatening. The “evacuation” areas are both heavily bombarded and in a dire humanitarian crisis, as Israel’s blockade of fuel and control of aid into the Gaza Strip leaves people searching for food and access to clean water.

Biden Orders Top Aides to Prepare Reprimands for Violent Israeli Settlers in West Bank, Politico
President Joe Biden directed top officials to prepare visa bans and sanctions for extremist Israeli settlers attacking and displacing Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an internal document read to POLITICO. The Cabinet memo, sent to senior aides like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday, orders their agencies “to develop policy options for expeditious action against those responsible for the conduct of violence in the West Bank.”

Hostages’ Families Fight to Be Heard, Jewish Currents
Maya Rosen writes, “The efforts of these captives’ families to secure their loved ones’ return have reached a fever pitch in recent days, as they seek to pressure the Israeli government to accept a seemingly imminent prisoner exchange deal. The deal would reportedly involve the release of some 50 women and children currently held in Gaza in return for a several-day ceasefire and the freedom of a number of Palestinian women and children incarcerated by Israel; many hostages, however, would remain in Gaza even if negotiators succeed. Frustrations are running high among hostages’ families as it has become clear that the Israeli government has rejected similar offers that would have prioritized the hostages’ release over the continued attack on Gaza.”

Most of Israel’s Weapons Imports Come From the US. Now Biden Is Rushing Even More Arms, Vox
Jonathan Guyer writes, “Which weapons, exactly, the US is sending to fill Israel’s requests since October 7 has been hitherto kept secret — in contrast to how the US publicizes the weapons it delivers to Ukraine. But Bloomberg this week published a leaked Pentagon document that showed the US has delivered 2,000 Hellfire missiles that can be launched from Apache helicopters, as well as an array of other mortars and ammo, including “36,000 rounds of 30mm cannon ammunition, 1,800 of the requested M141 bunker-buster munitions and at least 3,500 night-vision devices.”

Is Israel’s Military Strategy to Eradicate Hamas Working?, The New York Times
The New York Times reports, “So far it is not clear that the Israeli strategy is working. US military officials said their Israeli counterparts tell them to expect more weeks of clearing operations in the north before Israel prepares a separate initiative in southern Gaza, widening the offensive. The Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said late Friday that its troops would continue their offensive “in every place that Hamas is, and it is in the south of the strip.” And although the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said in a video statement on Monday that Israel had “accelerated our activities against the tunnels” and that Hamas militants had lost control in the north and were fleeing south, military analysts said Mr. Gallant’s statements raised many questions.”

A Population Transfer Under the Cover of War: A Visit to the Forsaken Land of Settler Militias, Haaretz
Gideon Levy and Alex Levac write, “On the perpetually deserted roads of the South Hebron Hills, what you mainly see now are cars with yellow flasher lights – the standby squad vehicles that have significantly multiplied in number recently. Under the cover of the war, settlers have grown wilder than ever. New shacks turn up on every hilltop, flying an Israeli flag, harbingers of a forthcoming outpost. Settlers are armed and wear IDF uniforms instead of civilian clothing over their fringed religious garments. Nawaj’ah calls them “criminals in uniform.” In recent weeks, all of the roads leading to the shepherding communities and other villages here have been blocked by settlers with large boulders.”

Joe Biden: The US Won’t Back Down From the Challenge of Putin and Hamas, The Washington Post
President Joe Biden writes, “To start, Gaza must never again be used as a platform for terrorism. There must be no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade, and no reduction in territory. And after this war is over, the voices of Palestinian people and their aspirations must be at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza. As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution.”


Israel Says Soldier Executed, Foreign Hostages Held at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, Reuters
Israel stepped up accusations of Hamas abuses at the Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital on Sunday, saying a captive soldier had been executed and two foreign hostages held at a site that has been a focus of its devastating six-week-old offensive. At one point a shelter for tens of thousands of Palestinian war refugees, Al Shifa Hospital has been evacuating patients and staff since Israeli troops swept in last week on what they called a mission to root out hidden Hamas facilities.

Israeli Opposition Leader Lapid Trying to Muster Support From Likud MKs to Topple Netanyahu, Haaretz
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid has spoken last week with Knesset members from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, who in private talks voiced harsh criticism of the PM, and suggested that they split from their party, support a vote of no confidence against the government and help establish a new government headed by another lawmaker from Likud.

Thousands March in Jerusalem to Press Israel’s Government to Do More to Free Hostages Held in Gaza, AP
Thousands of family members and supporters of some 240 hostages held in Gaza streamed into Jerusalem on Saturday, castigating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over his management of the war with Hamas and pleading with the government to do whatever it takes to bring their loved ones home. The march capped a five-day trek from Tel Aviv and represented the largest protest on behalf of the hostages since they were dragged into Gaza by Hamas on Oct. 7 as part of the militants’ deadly attack in southern Israel.

Poll: Biden’s Standing Hits New Lows Amid Israel-Hamas War, NBC News
President Biden’s approval rating has declined to the lowest level of his presidency — 40% — as strong majorities of all voters disapprove of his handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. What’s more, the poll finds Biden behind former President Donald Trump for the first time in a hypothetical general-election matchup, although the deficit is well within the poll’s margin of error for a contest that’s still more than 11 months away.

Israeli Military Actions Must Align With American “Interests and Values,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen [Video], CBS News
Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, tells “Face the Nation” that the White House did not indicate that the US has any “red lines” in dealing with the Israeli military, but that cannot mean “anything goes” and we “want to work with the president to get more assurances that our interests and values will be protected.”

For Years, Two Men Shuttled Messages Between Israel and Hamas. No Longer, The New York Times
On Oct. 24, Mr. Hamad began publicly justifying Hamas’s assault and calling for additional attacks. “The existence of Israel is what causes all that pain, blood and tears. It is Israel, not us,” he said in a televised interview, adding, “Everything we do is justified.” A week later, Mr. Baskin watched the interview, aghast. “I think you have lost your mind and you have lost your moral code,” he wrote in a text message to Mr. Hamad that Mr. Baskin later showed to The New York Times. “I never want to speak to you again,” Mr. Baskin added.

2 More US Jewish Democrats Join Growing Calls for a Gaza Ceasefire, The Times of Israel
The number of Jewish Democrats calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war now numbers three, with Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Sara Jacobs of California joining Vermont’s Becca Balint. The calls signal a growing shift in how Jewish Democrats are approaching the war as it enters its sixth week, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip intensifies and the Palestinian death toll climbs.

Former Obama and Biden Officials Sign Letter Defending US’s Israel Stance, The New York Times
More than 100 former members of the Obama and Biden administrations have sent a letter to the White House praising President Biden’s “moral clarity, courageous leadership and staunch support of Israel,” in an effort to defend Mr. Biden’s policies amid roiling dissent within the administration. The letter drew 137 signatures, fewer than an earlier letter of dissent from Biden administration officials. Organizers say the new letter should carry more weight because it is not anonymous.

Israeli Opposition Party Proposes Amending Nation-State Law With ‘Equality Clause’, Haaretz
Members of Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party have proposed amending the Nation-State Law to include a clause ensuring equal rights for all. Their proposal was delivered to cabinet secretary Yossi Fuchs and coalition chairman Ofir Katz, both members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, last week. They have yet to indicate whether they would be willing to change the law, whose full name is the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Seize Cargo Ship in Red Sea, Calling Israeli Vessels ‘Legitimate Targets’, The Guardian
Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they have seized what they called an Israeli cargo ship in the Red Sea, and warned that all vessels linked to Israel “will become a legitimate target for armed forces”. Houthi forces would “continue to carry out military operations against the Israeli enemy until the aggression against Gaza stops and the ugly crimes … against our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the West Bank stop”, said a spokesperson for the group, Yahya Saree, in a statement.

Opinion and Analysis

Arab Peace Initiative II: How Arab Leadership Could Design a Peace Plan in Israel and Palestine, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Nathan J. Brown and Amr Hamzawy write, “In today’s Middle East and international politics, Arab countries can play a key role in enabling Israelis and Palestinians to end the current violence, to avoid conditions in Gaza that prolong the lack of security and instability, and to develop a negotiation framework for conflict resolution backed by international and regional support. The United States has always been a key actor in previous Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, but it does not have a clear vision as to how to end the Gaza war and provide for new arrangements to safeguard Israel’s security and enable the Palestinians to fulfill their long-standing national aspirations.”

Trapped for 12 Hours Under Rubble in Gaza: One Woman’s Story, The Washington Post
Block after block in Gaza has been reduced to rubble. Beneath the buildings destroyed by Israeli strikes, thousands of people may be trapped, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Some have perished, while others are waiting to be rescued. Reem Ahmed, in Khan Younis, recalled the day her building shook and crumbled. Her family believed she was dead. This comic is based on her written account and subsequent interviews.

The Real ‘Conceptzia’ Is Endless Occupation, The Jerusalem Post
Avi Gil writes, “As long as maintaining the occupation guides Israel’s actions, we can expect to meet increasingly violent Palestinian resistance, not to mention the risk of sliding into a binational reality that would diminish Israel’s Jewish character. Sometimes we will succeed in subduing the attacks and sometimes, unfortunately, we will fail. As severe as the damage we inflict on Hamas may be, it will not eliminate the infrastructure that enabled the growth of the murderous organization. We find ourselves forced to “mow the lawn” repeatedly, knowing full well that the grass will continue to grow. The lawn may change names with each of Hamas’s successors.”

I’m an ADL Advisory Board Member. The CEO’s Tweet Appeasing Elon Musk Is Dangerous, The Forward
Peter Fox shares, “What Musk called “the truth” on Thursday is the same conspiracy that motivated the Pittsburgh shooter to murder 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. This is nothing you don’t already know. Following his vile tweet, Comcast/NBCU, Paramount Global, Apple, Disney, Warner and Lionsgate have all paused advertising on X. There’s no justification for playing sycophants with an unhinged leader who frequently engages in conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetoric that puts Jews and all marginalized groups at risk.”