News Roundup for November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023
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J Street In the News

J Street Welcomes Hostage Release and Pause in Fighting; Urges Us to Set Red Lines for Netanyahu, J Street
“That is why we believe it is absolutely critical – for the sake of US, Israeli and Palestinian interests and for the goal of defeating Hamas – that the Biden Administration set clear red lines and insist on a significant change in the conduct of this military operation. President Biden has rightly demonstrated that US support for Israel’s security is ironclad. He should also make clear that the US will not provide unbounded support for a war with no limits and no exit strategy. Our ongoing backing and aid to Israel is not a blank check for Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

For US Officials, Israeli Hostage Deal Brings Joy – And Hard Questions About How Much More War to Support, JTA
“Watching how those Democrats respond during the anticipated pause in fighting will be key to understanding whether support for Israel will further erode, said Kevin Rachlin, the vice president of public affairs for J Street, the liberal Jewish Israel lobby that is influential among Democrats. He pointed to a letter signed this week by 13 Senate Democrats, including leaders in the caucus, calling on Biden to press Israel to come up with a detailed plan for “sustained humanitarian aid” for the Gaza Palestinians. “The growing pressure that we’re seeing right now is not just [because of] the civilian death toll but also on the finite definition of what does success look like with this military operation?” Rachlin said.”

With Gaza Hostage Deal, Biden Notches up Win but Faces Pressure for More, Al-Monitor
“J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel US advocacy group often critical of Netanyahu, said Biden should use the pause to “set clear red lines and insist on a significant change in the conduct of this military operation.” “President Biden has rightly demonstrated that US support for Israel’s security is ironclad. He should also make clear that the US will not provide unbounded support for a war with no limits and no exit strategy,” it said in a statement.”

The Two-State Solution Returns to the Table as a Political Route to End Israel-Palestine Conflict, El País
J Street’s Israel Director Nadav Tamir says, “What October 7 showed us all is that you can’t keep the conflict going, that it needs to be resolved.” Tamir is confident that “moderates on both sides” will reach a new agreement and that one of the conditions for this is “a change of government in Israel, which is definitely going to happen after this huge failure, and Palestinian elections in which a legitimate leader is elected for both Gaza and the West Bank.”

Top News and Analysis

These Are Some of the Hostages Hamas Released From Gaza, The Washington Post
Hamas released 58 hostages over the first three days of a planned four-day pause in fighting with Israel. Both sides have expressed openness to extending the pause so they can exchange more hostages and prisoners. The estimated 240 people who were kidnapped and held in Gaza are from several countries, but most have Israeli citizenship. Not all are believed to be held by Hamas; smaller militant groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad are potentially in control of some. Here’s what we know about the people who have been released.

Gaza Has Become a Moonscape in War. When the Battles Stop, Many Fear It Will Remain Uninhabitable, AP
Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells. Nearly 1 million Palestinians have fled the north, including its urban center, Gaza City, as ground combat intensified. When the war ends, any relief will quickly be overshadowed by dread as displaced families come to terms with the scale of the calamity and what it means for their future. Where would they live? Who would eventually run Gaza and pick up the pieces?

Israel and Hamas Hint at Extending Truce as More Captives Are Slated to Be Freed, NPR
After Sunday night’s exchange of another 17 hostages by Hamas for an additional 39 Palestinians jailed by Israel — the third of four such daily swaps agreed to as part of the original cease-fire deal — Hamas issued a statement saying it was “seeking to extend the truce after the end of the four-day period” which began on Friday. In a video posted later, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was also open to the idea of extending the pause by 24 hours for every 10 hostages released.

In West Bank, Cheers and Worries After Prisoners Are Released, The New York Times
For hours on Friday afternoon into the early evening, hundreds of Palestinians had waited outside Ofer for the first group of Palestinian prisoners and detainees to be released as part of an exchange laid out in a deal between Israel and Hamas for a temporary cease-fire in Gaza. The hours of anticipation had been tinged both with grief for the devastation wrought by the war in Gaza, and with elation for a moment that many saw as a small victory for Palestinians — one that many in the crowd attributed to Hamas.

Three Palestinian Students Shot Near the University of Vermont, CNBC
Three Palestinian students were shot and wounded near the University of Vermont Saturday night, police said. Two of the three 20-year-old men are in stable condition, while the other is facing more serious injuries, according to a report from the Burlington Police Department in Vermont. The victims were on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner at one of their relative’s homes and two of them were wearing Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, according to the report. The shooter fired at least four rounds from a pistol, striking all three students.

Western Diplomats: Gaza ‘On the Verge of Medical Catastrophe,’ Signs of Disease Outbreak, Haaretz
Western diplomats warn that the southern Gaza strip is showing early signs of disease outbreaks, mainly in the area to which residents of the northern Gaza strip evacuated. Representatives of aid organizations active in Gaza said in a briefing for a group of European diplomats that the number of people seeking medical attention for gastrointestinal and dermatological issues is rising. The aid workers also said they fear a dysentery outbreak due to the high density and the poor quality of drinking water and sanitary conditions.

‘If You Don’t Leave, We’ll Kill You’: Hundreds Flee Israeli Settler Violence in Hebron Area, +972
This violent campaign is unfolding with full force in rural areas around Hebron in the southern West Bank. In multiple places, Palestinians were forced to leave their residences under the weight of settler attacks launched day and night. The settlers have burned homes, stolen sheep, blocked roads, and vandalized property. They have shot, beaten, threatened, and body searched Palestinian residents. Even the city of Hebron has not been spared from this campaign, with the Israeli army and settlers imposing a lockdown in the area known as H2, and emergency laws further extricating perpetrators from accountability.

Netanyahu and Hamas Depended on Each Other. Both May Be on the Way Out, The Washington Post
Steve Hendrix and Hazem Balousha write, “From the beginning, Hamas vowed to destroy Israel and, in his 2009 campaign, Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas. What happened instead was a decade and a half of uneasy coexistence, during which Netanyahu’s serial governments and Hamas’s leaders found each other useful for their own purposes. The odd symbiosis endured — through years of escalations and accommodations, hopes of calm and periods of chaos — until now, when both Hamas and Netanyahu face a possible end to their hold on power.”

Extend the Cease-Fire in Gaza – but Don’t Stop There, Foreign Affairs
Matthew Duss and Nancy Okail write, “The Biden administration must make clear why such an extension is in the interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people, as well as the interests of the United States and its international partners. An extended cease-fire could facilitate the return of more Israeli hostages and reduce the risk of deepening the humanitarian catastrophe among Gaza’s civilians. It could also help calm tensions in the West Bank and reduce the risk that the war could escalate by drawing in outside actors, such as the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and its patron, Iran. But extending the cease-fire should be just the first step in a larger process that would require intensive US-backed regional diplomacy—and an overhaul of American policy.”


4-Year-Old American Abigail Edan Among Hostages Hamas Released, Axios
Hamas released more than a dozen hostages on Sunday, including at least one American — 4-year-old Abigail Edan — as part of the deal between Israel and the militant group. The Biden administration at the highest levels was involved in the Qatar-mediated talks that led to the deal. “Thank God she’s home,” Biden told reporters in Nantucket on Sunday, referring to dual national Abigail Edan. “I wish I was there to hold her.”

As Cease-Fire Takes Hold, Some Gazans Attempt a Treacherous Return Home, The New York Times
When the cease-fire in Gaza took effect early Friday morning, Palestinians across the Gaza Strip prepared to go back to the homes they fled to see if they were still intact, to check on relatives left behind and in some cases, to finally bury their dead. But as some tried to return home to northern Gaza from parts farther south on foot, Israeli forces on the ground opened fire on them, according to witnesses, an Egyptian official and some of those injured.

Families of Hostages Not Slated for Release From Gaza During Current Truce Face Enduring Nightmare, AP
The deal will bring relief to dozens whose relatives are captive — as well as to Palestinians in Gaza who have endured weeks of bombardment and dire conditions. But with some 240 hostages in militant hands, only a fraction of families will be reunited under the current arrangement. There is some hope that the agreement could be expanded: Israel has said it will extend the truce one day for every 10 hostages freed. Many families are expected to be left to endure the torment of not knowing the fate of their loved ones.

Senior Fatah Official Justifies Oct. 7 Massacre as ‘Defensive War’ Against Israel, The Times of Israel
Jibril Rajoub, secretary general of Fatah’s Central Committee, on Sunday justified the October 7 massacre by Hamas that killed over a thousand people in Israel, mostly civilians, as an act “in the context of the defensive war our people are waging.” In a speech, Rajoub also said that Israel is responsible for causing October 7, the worst single-day killing of Jewish people since the Holocaust, due to its “aggression on all the Palestinian lands.”

‘We Will Choose a New Path’: How Israel’s Peace Activists Are Responding to the War in Gaza, JTA
For those in what is known as Israel’s “peace movement” or “shared society movement,” who have dedicated their lives to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence and a diplomatic accord between the two peoples, Oct. 7 has caused immense pain and presented a formidable challenge. A number of peace activists were killed or taken hostage from the kibbutz communities that bore the brunt of the attack, plunging the movement into mourning. Added onto that, they must now reimagine what a peaceful future can one day look like.

Israel’s Communications Minister Threatens Haaretz, Suggests Penalizing Its Gaza War Coverage, Haaretz
Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi submitted a proposal to take action against Haaretz by ending the publication of government notices in Haaretz. Karhi, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the newspaper was “sabotaging Israel in wartime” and was an “inflammatory mouthpiece for Israel’s enemies.” The proposal, which was submitted without being vetted by the ministry’s legal adviser, would immediately halt any payments to Haaretz from any state entity within his purview.

Israel’s ‘Thought Police’ Law Ramps up Dangers for Palestinian Social Media Users, +972
Emergency wartime regulations, introduced by the Attorney General’s office and the National Security Committee, have given Israeli police and other security bodies expansive and unchecked powers. Amid a spike in arrests, indictments, suspensions, and job terminations, many Palestinians have stopped using social media altogether, deleted news and messaging apps, and started turning off their phones while socializing for fear of being surveilled.

Gantz Threatens Governmental Crisis if Political Funds Not Diverted to War Needs, The Times of Israel
War Cabinet minister Benny Gantz warned Sunday that failure to divert all coalition discretionary funds to war needs would cause his National Unity party to vote against a proposed war budget and could lead it to “consider its next steps,” hinting he could bolt the government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office indicated it would not accept Gantz’s demands, saying the proposal will be brought before the cabinet Monday and “answers the needs of the war.”

White House Grapples With Internal Divisions on Israel-Gaza, The Washington Post
Earlier this month, a group of about 20 distressed White House staffers requested a meeting with President Biden’s top advisers. The diverse group of staffers had three main issues they wanted to discuss with White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, senior adviser Anita Dunn and deputy national security adviser Jon Finer: They wanted to know the administration’s strategy for curbing the number of civilian deaths, the message it plans to send on the conflict and its postwar vision for the region.

Elon Musk Visits Kibbutz Attacked by Hamas During Visit to Israel, CNN
Israeli President Isaac Herzog is expecting to meet with Elon Musk on Monday as the world’s richest man continues to face a firestorm of criticism over his public endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory on his social media platform, X. As part of his visit to Israel, Musk was taken to Kfar Azza — one of the kibbutzim attacked by Hamas on October 7 — by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Opinion and Analysis

Toxicity Doesn’t Rule the Hamas-Israel Debate on US College Campuses, Haaretz
Shachar Pinsker and Arie M. Dubnov write, “Despite some undeniably ugly attention-grabbing incidents, by both some professors and students, we must warn against a twisted image of the campus environment. Some banal truths need to be told: most of the students and colleagues, most of the time, are open-minded, curious, sensitive, and empathic to others’ suffering and pain. Reasoned debate is still alive and kicking. […] Media coverage plays a central role in generating this feeling of gloom and despair. However, in many schools, faculty responded to the challenges of the last month by going out of their way to organize lectures, panel discussions, roundtables and other pedagogical events, channeling frustration into educational initiatives.”

Hamas Is Deeply Unpopular in Gaza. The Way Israel Is Waging War Will Ensure Their Survival, The Forward
Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib shares, “While ignoring its own people, Hamas has managed to insulate itself and its patrons from the impact of Israel’s 16-year-long blockade. There is rising anger among Gazans at this reality, as well as a rejection of Hamas’ methods, beliefs, ideologies and governance of the Strip. […] The unfortunate truth, however, is that the way Israel is waging this war will prove ineffective in achieving long-term and sustainable security. It is ultimately planting seeds for further violence, extremism and hate while also making it difficult for anti-Hamas activists and the general Gazan population to express what they truly feel and to challenge the Islamist group’s rule.”

Israeli Women Count, Too, The Washington Post
Jennifer Rubin shares, “The attacks were so gruesome and barbaric that the impulse to look away can be overwhelming. And yet when other mass atrocities against women occur, there is no shortage of outrage and condemnation. One is left wondering why Israeli women and girls count for so little in the eyes of so many. Many Jews, especially Jewish women, feel betrayed by their allies with whom they have protested, lobbied, marched and advocated in support of human rights regardless of the race, ethnicity, religion or nationality of the victims. Sadly, the morally indefensible effort to deflect blame from Hamas has now entered an even more egregious period of moral blindness, cruelty and, yes, antisemitism.”

Israelis and Palestinians Can No Longer Avoid a Fateful Choice About Their Future, The Guardian
Dahlia Scheindlin notes, “In fact, the cycle of unresolved conflict dilemmas leading to life or death crises that raise even worse dilemmas characterises the conflict more broadly. When Hamas rose to power in Gaza in 2007, Israel was faced with a tough choice: tolerate its presence, or take action to try to undermine and contain it? The first could endanger everyone, and the government chose the latter – tightening a closure over Gaza to make life unbearable there, hoping that Palestinian residents would topple Hamas in anger, or at least that the closure could contain the security threat. Neither worked; instead, Israel and Hamas fought a series of wars (what Israelis call “operations,” or “escalations”).”