U.S. – Israel

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Policy brief in light of the deepening crisis in relations between the United States and Israel
INSS researchers: “Israel’s strategic importance to the United States is relevant only as long as the shared values are safeguarded. At this time, the special relations are in danger, especially given the widening gaps on the perception of democracy, Israeli policy on the Palestinian issue, and the growing alienation between the American Jewish community and the State of Israel.” (19 July 2023)
Israel-Hamas is getting worse. There’s no obvious way to end the fighting, and whatever the military outcome, a dramatic increase in radicalization is guaranteed. Of Israeli Jews, feeling themselves globally isolated and even hated after facing the worst violence against them since the Holocaust. Of Palestinians, facing what they consider a genocide, with no opportunities for peace and no prospects of escape. Deep political divisions over the conflict run throughout the Middle East and across over one billion people in the broader Muslim world, not to mention in the United States and Europe. -8 January 2024

Why the U.S. and Saudis Want a Two-State Solution, and Israel Doesn’t
How hard is the White House willing to push a resolution of the Palestinian issue?
By Hussein Ibish
(The Atlantic) Amid the war in Gaza, a major crisis has been brewing, largely behind the scenes, between the United States and Israel over the need for a Palestinian state. The two governments’ positions have long diverged—except during the administration of Donald Trump, whose peace proposal envisaged Israel annexing an additional 30 percent of the occupied West Bank and enveloping a conditional Palestinian state in an even more empowered Greater Israel. Now that divergence has a harder, sharper edge than ever: Washington’s strategic goals in the region require a Palestinian state in the long run and Israeli acknowledgment of that aim in the short run; the Israeli government is having none of it.

20-22 February
As Gaza Death Toll Mounts, Israel’s Isolation Grows
A worsening humanitarian crisis has brought a wave of condemnation against Israel’s ongoing military operation, and is testing the support of even its staunchest ally, the United States.
(NYT) Israel faces another wave of condemnation in the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and from dozens of countries over its military operation in Gaza, which has killed an estimated 29,000 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and left much of the territory in ruins.
The huge swell in global pressure has left the Israeli government and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, deeply isolated, if not yet bowed, largely because it still has the support of its staunchest ally, the United States.
This time, though, Israel faces a rare break with Washington. The Biden administration is circulating a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council that would warn the Israeli military not to carry out a ground offensive in Rafah, near Egypt, where more than a million Palestinian refugees are sheltering. It would also call for a temporary cease-fire as soon as practical.
U.S. stands with Israel at U.N. court as Biden-Netanyahu tension simmers
(WaPo) The United States backed Israel in a hearing Wednesday at the International Court of Justice, once again diverging from allies despite growing tension between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israel-Gaza war.
In a presentation in The Hague, the United States said that an advisory opinion from the U.N.’s top court had the potential to frustrate peace efforts if it did not account for Israel’s needs. “A movement toward Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza requires consideration of Israel’s very real security needs,” State Department official Richard Visek told the court.
The remarks came on the third day of historic hearings on Israel’s control over the West Bank, Gaza and annexed East Jerusalem.
U.S. vetoes U.N. proposal for immediate Gaza cease-fire, drawing ire
Washington quashed a third call for a cessation of hostilities at the Security Council, circulating its own draft resolution supporting hostage negotiations
The United States for the third time on Tuesday vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, arguing that it would undercut ongoing U.S.-led negotiations for a six-week pause in fighting that would see Hamas release more than 100 remaining Israeli hostages in exchange for jailed Palestinians and additional humanitarian aid for civilians.

13-14 February
Biden inches away from Netanyahu as Israeli PM fails to heed US on Gaza
After walking fine line between Israel and US Arab community, experts say Biden has justification to take ‘harder line’ before election
The US could stop the horror in Rafah today. Why won’t it?
Paul Rogers
Joe Biden has called on Benjamin Netanyahu to show restraint – but he is still too wary of alienating voters in an election year
… The main Israeli lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), is very effective but there are also American Jewish organisations, such as the J Street group in Washington, that are very unhappy about the direction of the war. What remains missing from an understanding of Biden’s position is the benefit Israel gains from the support of Christian Zionists in the US.
Rarely, if ever, has Australia or the US said no to Israel. Now is the time
Of about 100 million evangelical Christians in the US, a substantial minority do hold fast to the belief that Israel is an essential part of the Christian God’s plan for the end times. Many believe that it will be in the land of Israel that the final battle will be fought between good and evil, and that it is part of God’s plan for Israel to be a Jewish state. Evangelical Christians are more likely to vote than others and Christian Zionists are more likely to vote Republican. That alone bodes ill for an early end to the war – which makes it all the more important for US allies to speak some truth to power.
President Biden and his top aides are closer to a breach with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than at any time since the Gaza War began, no longer viewing him as a productive partner who can be influenced even in private, according to several people familiar with their internal discussions. The mounting frustration with Netanyahu has prompted some of Biden’s aides to urge him to be more publicly critical of the prime minister over his country’s military operation in Gaza, according to six people familiar with the conversations

11 February
Biden moving closer than ever to a breach with Netanyahu over war in Gaza
Some of Biden’s aides are urging him to publicly criticize the Israeli prime minister as casualties mount
The mounting frustration with Netanyahu has prompted some of Biden’s aides to urge him to be more publicly critical of the prime minister over his country’s military operation in Gaza, according to six people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

8-9 February
Netanyahu’s delusional, deadly quest for ‘total victory’
Analysis by Ishaan Tharoor
The United States’ top diplomat returned home from his fifth wartime trip to the Middle East with a virtual slap in the face from Israel’s leader. After conducting a diplomatic blitz through Arab capitals, Secretary of State Antony Blinken took a new set of proposals outlining a possible truce between Israel and Hamas and the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza to Tel Aviv. Blinken also relayed his “profound concerns” to Israeli officials about the toll exacted by their war on militant group Hamas, following the Palestinian faction’s Oct. 7 terrorist strike on southern Israel. Since then, at least 27,708 people have been killed in Gaza — the majority women and children — and 67,147 injured, according to local health authorities.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telegraphed his opposition to a deal throughout the week and outright rejected it Wednesday, casting Hamas’s demands as “delusional” and vowing to press ahead with Israel’s military offensives in Gaza. Blinken told reporters that there remained “space to continue to pursue an agreement … and we’re intent on pursuing it.” But Netanyahu made clear his priorities, claiming that “total victory” over Hamas was “within touching distance” and promised the “eternal disarmament of Gaza.”

1 February
This Is Biden’s New Middle East Doctrine, According to NYT’s Thomas Friedman
New York Times columnist and Biden-whisperer Thomas Friedman, in his latest column, lays out what he is calling “The Biden Doctrine,” a three-pronged approach for what he sees as the steps U.S. President Joe Biden has started to take, but also must decisively continue, to ensure that the crisis in the Middle East does not devolve into a full-blown catastrophe.
The Biden Doctrine, in Friedman’s view according to his latest opinion piece, would begin with “a strong and resolute stand on Iran, including a robust military retaliation against Iran’s proxies and agents in the region.”
The second “track,” as he calls it, involves a diplomatic initiative by the U.S. for a Palestinian state, “NOW,” Friedman writes, stressing the urgency with which the U.S. must recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
The third track of Friedman’s plan would involve an expanded security alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, including Saudi normalization of relations with Israel.
31 January
Thomas L. Friedman: A Biden Doctrine for the Middle East Is Forming. And It’s Big

Biden sanctions Israeli settlers accused of attacking Palestinians and peace activists in West Bank
(AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday issued an executive order that targets Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been accused of attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the occupied territory, imposing financial sanctions and visa bans in an initial round against four individuals.
Those settlers were involved in acts of violence, as well as threats and attempts to destroy or seize Palestinian property, according to the order. The penalties aim to block the four from using the U.S. financial system and bar American citizens from dealing with them. U.S. officials said they were evaluating whether to punish others involved in attacks that have intensified during the Israel-Hamas war.
Biden’s order is a rare step against America’s closest ally in the Mideast who, Biden says, has the right to defend itself. But the Democratic president has pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to show greater restraint in its military operations aimed at rooting out Hamas.
20 November 2023
With the world’s eyes on Gaza, attacks are on the rise in the West Bank, which faces its own war
When Israeli warplanes swooped over the Gaza Strip following Hamas militants’ deadly attack on southern Israel, Palestinians say a different kind of war took hold in the occupied West Bank.
Overnight, the territory was closed off. Towns were raided, curfews imposed, teenagers arrested, detainees beaten, and villages stormed by Jewish vigilantes.

31 January
A Biden Doctrine for the Middle East Is Forming. And It’s Big.
Thomas Friedman
There are two things I believe about the widening crisis in the Middle East.
We are about to see a new Biden administration strategy unfold to address this multifront war involving Gaza, Iran, Israel and the region — what I hope will be a “Biden Doctrine” that meets the seriousness and complexity of this dangerous moment.
And if we don’t see such a big, bold doctrine, the crisis in the region is going to metastasize in ways that will strengthen Iran, isolate Israel and leave America’s ability to influence events there for the better in tatters.

30 January
The Middle East’s arc of conflict is spiraling
Analysis by Ishaan Tharoor
(WaPo) As much as the White House may be seeking restraint, events on the ground in the Middle East are accelerating in a worrying direction. Israel continues its onslaught in Gaza that has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians and provoked a ruinous humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, flash points are erupting elsewhere in the shadow of the ongoing war.

16-17 January
Team Biden Needs a Reset on Israel
By Daniel Levy, president of the U.S./Middle East Project and a former Israeli peace negotiator.
(NYT opinion) …as the war has entered its fourth month, the Biden administration has achieved almost none of its goals regarding Israeli policies and actions. … Israel’s government has rejected any horizon for peace, and, after an initial pause in fighting and a hostage/prisoner exchange, such talks seem now to be at an impasse. The only “success” the United States can claim is in its steadfast support for Israel. And yet the unconditional nature of that backing stands in the way of any prospect of achieving its other policy goals and finding a path out of this horror.
… Rather than slowly amplifying expressions of disquiet, Team Biden should make a course correction — starting with exercising the very real diplomatic and military leverage at its disposal to move Israel in the direction of U.S. interests, rather than vice versa.
The first and most critical shift required is for the administration to embrace the need for a full cease-fire now. That demand cannot be one of rhetoric alone. The administration should condition the transfer of further military supplies on Israel ending the war and stopping the collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population, and should create oversight mechanisms for the use of American weaponry that is already at Israel’s disposal. Ending Israel’s Gaza operation is also the surest way to avoid a regional war and the key to concluding negotiations for the release of hostages.

At Davos, Blinken calls pathway to Palestinian state a necessity for Israeli security
(AP via CTV) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the need for a “pathway to a Palestinian state” Wednesday at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos, saying that Israel would not “get genuine security absent that.”
If Israel can be brought into the fold of the Middle East, Blinken said, the region would be coming together to isolate Iran, which he called “the biggest concern in terms of security,” as well as its proxies, which include Yemen’s Houthi rebels who have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea.
Sullivan: U.S. post-war strategy links Saudi-Israel peace deal with two-state solution
Barak Ravid
(Axios) White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday that the Biden administration’s strategy for post-war Gaza is to link normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia to the creation of a pathway for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Why it matters: Sullivan’s comments echoed Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s private message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv last week. The Biden administration is hoping to use a potential historic peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia as leverage for getting Israel on board with its plan for what happens in Gaza after the war.
Under the U.S. strategy, Netanyahu would ultimately have to decide what kind of political hit to take domestically in order to get a historic normalization deal.
What they’re saying: “The strategy post-October 7 is that we want to see normalization [between Israel and Saudi Arabia] tied to a political horizon for the Palestinians,” Sullivan said.

11 January
David Ignatius: The path to peace in the Mideast could be paved by fuzzy language
Secretary of State Antony Blinken decided to try something different last week on his fourth trip to the Middle East since the Gaza war exploded in October. Rather than stopping first in Israel, as he often does, he began by visiting Arab capitals.
Blinken was hoping to gather some bargaining chips that might persuade Israel to move toward peace, and he got what he wanted from the Arabs. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other key leaders pledged they would support a postwar reconstruction of Gaza — and normalize relations with Israel — but only if Israel ended the conflict in Gaza and committed to a process for creating a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t agree to either demand. So, in that respect, Blinken’s gambit failed. But knowledgeable U.S. and Israeli sources say the diplomatic situation could be more promising than it might appear.
… The Biden administration is scrambling to craft a deal that would send the Lebanese Army into this buffer and defuse the border crisis. Amos Hochstein, a White House aide, has been shuttling between Beirut and Jerusalem, and Israeli officials think a diplomatic settlement is possible. Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah hinted that he might support such a deal in a speech last week.
With Mohammed bin Salman’s offer on the table, the question is how to get to yes. Diplomats are skilled at devising language that fuzzes, say, the process of transition to a Palestinian state or the definition of the interim governing entity in Gaza. We can expect some fuzzy language ahead, but that won’t soften the hard choices.

8 January
From Houthis to Hezbollah, a look at the Iran-allied groups rallying to arms around Middle East
(AP) Together, Israel and its U.S. allies were facing two realities they knew all too well going into the war in Gaza: The Gaza-based Hamas militant group is far from alone as it battles for its survival. And by launching an all-out campaign to eliminate Hamas as a fighting force, Israeli and American leaders also are confronting simultaneous attacks from a strengthening defensive alliance of other armed militant groups linked with Hamas and Iran.

7-10 January
The Israeli right undermines Biden’s Middle East agenda
Ishaan Tharoor
(WaPo) The Biden administration is trying to thread the trickiest of needles in the Middle East. While remaining steadfast in its support for Israel as it pursues its war against militant group Hamas, the United States is also trying to lessen the harm inflicted on Palestinian civilians in Gaza and minimize the scope of the conflict, which is threatening to widen across the region. Critics…argue that those efforts at mitigation are broadly failing, and that the White House is either deliberately or witlessly presiding over a vast slaughter of Palestinians (at least 23,210 people, at last count) and the de facto ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip.
On a tour of Middle Eastern capitals this week that included a stop in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed ahead. He delivered messages from Arab counterparts to Israeli officials, urging the wartime government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scale back the intensity of its military operations and expand humanitarian assistance for a population wracked by hunger and disease. Blinken also reiterated the U.S. backing of Israel’s campaign and shrugged off a South African-led initiative at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide as “meritless.”
The White House’s Netanyahu problem
(Politico Nightly) As Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Israel today after meetings with Arab leaders, his task will be to manage a strained relationship between the two historic allies.
With the bloody war in the region — which has included Israel killing tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza — leading the Pope to rebuke the Israeli government, some U.S. officials are getting increasingly frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And according to POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi, some of those officials are “starting to wonder if he’s really in charge.”As Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Israel today after meetings with Arab leaders, his task will be to manage a strained relationship between the two historic allies.
It all adds up to an unstable leader that some in the White House are increasingly beginning to question, as Toosi writes today in her newly launched column “Compass.” To get a better sense of where the U.S.-Israel relationship stands and understand Netanyahu’s political prospects, Nightly spoke with Toosi. This conversation has been edited.
Just how strained is the White House’s relationship with Netanyahu at the moment?
It’s not great. It’s certainly worse than both sides are letting on publicly. The U.S. remains sympathetic to Israel’s deep pain over the Oct. 7 Hamas atrocities, and overall it’s supportive of the goal of destroying the group. But it’s been three months now, and Netanyahu appears unable or unwilling to make decisions that the U.S. — including President Joe Biden — believes are important to the long-term prospects for peace, such as helping in ways to repair the Palestinian Authority. And it seems like he’s holding back because he’s worried his coalition partners further to his right will abandon him, ending his prime ministership and possibly making it more likely he’ll go to prison on corruption charges.
Nahal Toosi: The US Is Dealing With an Israeli Leader Who’s Losing Control
Benjamin Netanyahu is waging a war while struggling to avoid prison, salvage his legacy and keep his political partners happy.
Blinken to meet Saudi crown prince as he warns Palestinians ‘must not be pressed to leave Gaza’
The US secretary of state was speaking in Qatar on the latest leg of his Middle East tour and has also warned that the Israel-Gaza war could ‘metastasise
(The Guardian) The US secretary of state Antony Blinken is continuing his fourth tour of the Middle East since the 7 October attacks by Hamas.
He’s due to visit the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Monday where he’ll speak with crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. He’ll then head to Israel where he’ll hold talks there on Tuesday.
Before leaving Doha in Qatar, Antony Blinken gave a news conference where he made several comments about the Israel-Gaza war including that:
Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow … They cannot, they must not be pressed to leave Gaza.

2-3 January
White House debated appointing more powerful Middle East envoy
Biden administration officials have weighed a proposal to name a new top diplomat to focus on long-term Israeli-Palestinian relations, but for now are sticking with a post that is focused on the more immediate humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, a U.S. official told NatSecDaily.
However, if the conditions on the ground change and the current post is vacated, the administration could once again consider creating a position with the broader mandate.
The post that the administration decided to create in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel is “special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues” and is held by David Satterfield, a veteran diplomat and regional specialist who returned to government for the role. He has focused on finding ways to provide Palestinians in Gaza with more food, water and medical aid as the territory faces Israeli bombardment.

Biden under pressure to act amid new fears of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Gaza
Remarks from far-right ministers renew concerns that Israel aims to force Palestinians out of Gaza amid ongoing war.
The United Nations estimates about 1.9 million Palestinians are internally displaced in Gaza after months of Israeli bombardment
Rights advocates in the United States are urging President Joe Biden to end his administration’s “complicity” in Israeli rights abuses after key members of Israel’s government backed the idea of pushing Palestinians out of Gaza.
Far-right Israeli ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich said this week that Israel should “encourage emigration” from the coastal enclave, home to an estimated 2.3 million Palestinians.
… Their remarks are the latest by Israeli officials alluding to the prospect of resettling Palestinians outside of Gaza. Human rights and legal experts have warned that forced displacement constitutes a war crime under international law and could lead to ethnic cleansing.


31 December
The U.S. and Israel: An Embrace Shows Signs of Strain After Oct. 7
No other episode in the past half-century has tested the relationship between the United States and Israel in such an intense and consequential way as the Israel-Hamas war of 2023.
By Peter Baker, Edward Wong, Julian E. Barnes and Isabel Kershner
… Mr. Biden has seen growing internal resistance to his backing of Israel, including multiple dissent cables from State Department diplomats. In November, more than 500 political appointees and staff members representing some 40 government agencies sent a letter to Mr. Biden protesting his support of Israel’s war in Gaza. Congressional Democrats have been pressing him to curb Israel’s assault, and the United States has found itself at odds with other countries at the United Nations.
The friction appears to be coming to a head as the new year arrives. The Biden team recognizes that its challenge is not just Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, since Israelis across the board support the military operation that according to the Gaza Health Ministry has killed more than 20,000 people. But there is no serious discussion inside the administration of a meaningful change in policy, like cutting off the arms supply to Israel. Instead, Mr. Biden remains determined to navigate the crisis within the crisis by using the credibility he earned through steadfast support of Israel to shape its next chapter, although it is unclear how much leverage that gives him.
Are There No Red Lines to U.S. Support for Israel?
David Rothkopf
October 7 was a heinous crime. But how many Gazans must die, how many Israeli ministers must promote ethnic cleansing, how many failures must Netanyahu deny – for the U.S. to reconsider its immoral, unconditional support for the depraved war being waged by Israel’s government?

25 December
Has the US-led Red Sea force calmed shippers amid Houthi attacks?
Maersk will resume shipping through the Red Sea but concerns remain. Meanwhile, France, Spain and Italy have dropped out of the force.
(Al Jazeera) The decision to cobble together what is essentially an anti-Houthi coalition was almost forced on Washington. In early November, a US destroyer shot down several missiles fired from Yemen but the US tried to maintain a business-as-usual pose and not advertise that it was engaging the Yemeni group.
As long as the combative Houthis tried, unsuccessfully, to lob missiles at Israel, a country attacking Yemeni’s Arab and Muslim brethren, the US could maintain that the whole affair was not a serious regional escalation. But when their repeated attacks on ships headed to and from the Suez Canal threatened the security of international maritime routes, the US was forced to act.

20 December
Ian Bremmer: The US is allied to Israel, not Netanyahu
A widening rift between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the war in Gaza and the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now spilled into public view.
For starters, the two leaders differ on the timeline, endgame, and conduct of Israel’s military campaign.
On the timeline and endgame of the war, Israel’s war cabinet continues to assert that the Gaza ground operation could drag on not for weeks – as it had initially promised the US – but for months, or however long it takes to ensure the complete destruction of Hamas. Biden’s team is pushing for a prompt transition to a lower intensity, more targeted phase of fighting with less maximalist goals. While Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signaled yesterday that Israel is prepared to eventually make that transition, he has given no indication of when that will happen – or to what extent Israel’s government will scale down its ambitions.
On the conduct of the war, Israeli officials had privately assured the Biden administration that they had learned from their mistakes in the first weeks of the war – especially the bombing campaign in northern Gaza – and would be more restrained and deliberate in later fighting. But that is not what the Americans have seen since then, as the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has continued to mount. It has become especially hard to argue that there’s been any shift in targeting or restraint in the aftermath of the Israel Defense Forces’ killing of three Israeli hostages flying a white flag, an episode that has shaken the Israeli public’s confidence in its military.
But the divide between Biden and Netanyahu runs deeper.
Netanyahu Is Trying to Cast Biden as a Second Obama. It Won’t Work
With his polling figures nosediving, Benjamin Netanyahu has reopened the old playbook and is trying to present himself as the only one who can stand up to the Americans. U.S. President Joe Biden is too wily a politician to fall for the prime minister’s tricks

19 December
The Gaza war inches toward the day before ‘the day after’
By David Ignatius
American and Israeli officials appear to see an inflection point approaching in the Gaza war. The next stage could include a revived hostage-release negotiation with Hamas and an accompanying cease-fire lasting as long as several weeks, followed by a gradual pullback by Israeli troops, especially in northern Gaza.
Top Israeli officials have insisted that the war will last “months” longer, but that’s partly to keep Hamas off guard. Israel’s leaders know they need to transition to a new stage in the conflict, not least to allow reservists to leave the front lines and return to their jobs.
Israeli planning is still fuzzy, but officials appear to agree with the Biden administration on the basics: A postwar Gaza where Hamas cannot impose its political will, while other Palestinians, probably drawn from the Palestinian Authority, take responsibility for governance; and a peacekeeping force that has support from key moderate Arab states. The transitional body will be, in effect, a “Gaza reconstruction authority.”

16-17 December
U.S. to Push Israel to Scale Back War
The defense secretary will visit Israel and plans to tell officials to change strategy within weeks. Nearly 20,000 people have been killed in the enclave since Israel started its assault.
U.S. defense secretary travels to Israel to push leaders there to scale back war.
Friendly-fire killings of hostages may force Israel to reconsider Gaza strategy.
The deaths highlight the dire risks faced by the remaining hostages.
Mr. Austin will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant to discuss in detail when and how Israeli forces will carry out a new phase that American officials envision would involve smaller groups of elite forces that would move in and out of population centers in Gaza, conducting more precise, intelligence-driven missions to find and kill Hamas leaders, rescue hostages and destroy tunnels, U.S. officials said.
Biden’s support of Israel could come at a cost to U.S. foreign policy
America’s partners and allies are increasingly frustrated that the United States isn’t using enough leverage to protect Palestinian lives
(WaPo) It is not just friendly foreign partners who are urging the Biden administration to do more. Some White House, State Department and U.S. aid officials have now gone public with their objections to Biden’s unwavering support for Israel, arguing that the Gaza conflict could have larger ramifications for U.S. leadership.

15 December
The U.S. Must Embrace Palestinian Statehood Now
By R. David Harden, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace, and Larry Garber, who served as the USAID mission director to the West Bank and Gaza.
(NYT) … U.S. recognition of Palestine would make diplomatic and political sense now, especially since Mr. Biden’s national security team is devising a plan for Gaza after the conflict. … The president this week said international support for Israel was weakening because of its “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza.
There are four main benefits to recognition. First, American recognition of Palestine would demonstrate to the Palestinian people that the United States is finally matching its talk of peace with meaningful action.
Second, U.S. recognition of Palestine would undercut Hamas’s ambitions to establish an Islamic state “from the river to the sea.” Hamas appears uninterested in governing, building a modern economy or connecting the Palestinian people to the community of nations. Its goal remains the destruction of Israel.
Third, recognition would send a strong message of repudiation of the Netanyahu administration, which has done everything possible to diminish the Palestinian Authority, has looked away from settler violence and has damaged the prospects of a two-state solution.
By recognizing Palestine, the administration would demonstrate that it does not view all Palestinians as Hamas sympathizers. A U.S. policy in support of that desire, including commitments to help rebuild Gaza and to improve the quality of life there, would give the population an incentive to choose new leaders who would work toward achieving the long-deferred Palestinian dream of independence.

Ahead of meeting with US envoy, Israeli president says now isn’t time to discuss 2-state solution
(AP) — Israel’s president has joined the ranks of high-ranking Israeli officials to speak out against a two-state solution after the war in Gaza.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Isaac Herzog said it is not the time to be talking about establishing an independent Palestinian state when the country’s pain from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack is still fresh.
US envoy meets with Palestinian president
The Palestinian president met on Friday with US officials to discuss postwar arrangements for Gaza that could include reactivating Palestinian security forces driven out by Hamas in its 2007 takeover of the territory. Any role for Palestinian security forces in Gaza is bound to elicit strong opposition from Israel, which seeks to maintain an open-ended security presence there. The Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank but is deeply unpopular with Palestinians. Israel has vowed to keep fighting until it wipes out Gaza’s Hamas rulers, while international calls for a ceasefire have continued to grow. Israel has drawn international outrage and rare criticism from its principal ally, the US, over the killing of civilians

14 December
Israeli defense minister says war on Hamas will last months as US envoy discusses timetable
(AP) — Israel’s defense minister said it will take months to destroy Hamas, predicting a drawn-out war even as his country and its top ally, the United States, face increasing international isolation and alarm over the devastation from the campaign in Gaza.
Yoav Gallant’s comments came as U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Israeli leaders to discuss a timetable for winding down major combat in Gaza. Israeli leaders repeated their determination to pursue the military assault until they crush the militant group for its Oct. 7 attack.
The exchange seemed to continue a dynamic the two allies have been locked in for weeks. President Joe Biden’s administration has shown unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza, but the White House continues to offer wholehearted support for Israel with weapons shipments and diplomatic backing.

Trudeau, Biden weigh Israel support amid changing sentiments
Only 10 countries voted against the Gaza ceasefire at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, including…the United States.
The last time the UN voted on a similar measure in late October, Canada voted with the US and Israel, but this time Canada, Australia, and New Zealand flipped their votes.
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has provided “rock solid” support for Israel, expanding arms exports to Israel and using its UN Security Council veto power to thwart international censure. But Biden did voice rare US criticism of Israel’s military approach this week, publicly noting that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated on the international stage.
“Right now (Israel) has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting it,” Biden said Tuesday. “But they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”
Biden’s strong support for Israel may haunt him on Election Day. Polling indicates that younger US voters are disenchanted with his position on the war, and if voters of Middle Eastern descent refuse to cast ballots in protest, it could cost Biden precious votes in tight races.

13 December
Biden to Meet Families of Hostages as Rift Opens With Israel Over War
(NYT) President Biden said Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombardment of the Gaza Strip was eroding what had been broad international support for its war on Hamas.
The U.S. criticizes Israel for ‘indiscriminate’ bombing in Gaza.
Demonstrators rally outside Netanyahu’s office to urge the return of the remaining hostages.
The U.N. General Assembly counters a U.S. veto with a mass vote for a cease-fire.
U.N. peacekeepers are facing increased attacks along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Beleaguered hospitals in Gaza’s north and south face new distress from Israeli advances.

12 December
UN General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to demand a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza
(AP) The General Assembly vote reflect the growing isolation of the United States as it refuses to join demands for a cease-fire. More than the United Nations or any other international organization, the United States is seen as the only entity capable of persuading Israel to accept a cease-fire as its closest ally and biggest supplier of weaponry.
Israel and US show sharp divisions over mounting casualties and future of war against Hamas
(AP) — Israel and the United States on Tuesday showed their sharpest public disagreement yet over the conduct and future of the war against Hamas as the two allies became increasingly isolated by global calls for a cease-fire.
The dispute emerged while Israeli forces carried out strikes across Gaza, crushing Palestinians in homes.
President Joe Biden said he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel was losing international support because of its “indiscriminate bombing” and that Netanyahu should change his government, which is dominated by hard-right parties.
Biden criticizes Netanyahu government, says Israel is losing support
(WaPo) President Biden offered sharp criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Tuesday, calling for a change to the approach embraced by Israel’s government — which Biden described as “the most conservative” in Israel’s history.

U.S. won’t vote for ‘ceasefire that leaves Hamas in place,’ former state department official says (YouTube)
(CBC) Rosemary Barton talks to David Hale, former U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, about Washington’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
8 December
U.S. vetoes U.N. cease-fire resolution; aid system in Gaza near collapse
(WaPo) Apart from calling for a cease-fire, the eight-paragraph resolution demanded that all hostages be immediately and unconditionally released, that humanitarian access be ensured and “that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians.”
In explaining the veto, Robert A. Wood, the alternate U.S. representative, described the resolution as “rushed” and lacking consultation. As with the previous vetoes on similar measures, he criticized the absence of a condemnation of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel and affirmation of Israel’s right to defend itself. He said the measure was “conspicuously silent in response to reports that Hamas committed sexual- and gender-based violence” in its attack and called it “not only unrealistic but dangerous” in leaving Hamas “in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on Oct. 7.”

Will Israel defy Washington and target Hezbollah?
Part of the logic of the war on Hamas is to ensure the permanent safety of kibbutzim in southern Israel — and now Israelis who’ve been evacuated from near the Lebanese border are demanding the same.
(Politico Eu) The message coming from Israel’s leaders remains unwavering and uncompromising. Come what may, they’re determined to smash Hamas for good, so it can never again carry out a pogrom like it did on October 7.

6 December
Ian Bremmer: Biden’s Israel policy hurts his 2024 reelection chances from all angles
Why is Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war hurting his reelection bid?
…there is virtually no position he can take on Israel and not alienate a significant piece of his own support base in the United States. He is presently stapled to the Netanyahu government and policy, which is really antagonizing more than 50% of committed Democrats, people who say they’re going to vote for Biden. On the other hand, strongly pro-Israel Biden, Israel being America’s most important ally in the Middle East, is seen as soft on that policy vis-a-vis the Republicans. The only way this is a winning issue for Biden is if it’s no longer anywhere close to the headlines when the election hits.

4 December
Ian Bremmer: US-Israel relations strained as Gaza war continues
…we are still talking about the ongoing war in the Middle East, which is very much on again, as there is inability to get further deals on hostages for prisoners and aid. And that means the Gaza War is not only in the north, but now across the south as well. And this is a significant problem for the United States which, increasingly, is finding itself isolated on this issue. In fact, I would say in terms of global support for the US on Israel, it’s about as opposed as we saw in the initial weeks of the world against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It’s a shocking place to be, given, first of all, how important and how deep the US Military alliance is and has been with Israel. And, also, given that it is in response to horrific, unprecedented terrorist attacks and unspeakable atrocities on October 7th.
But the reality is that, as the war has pressed on, the information war is being won by Hamas internationally. And the level of atrocities that are being committed on the ground, and impossible to remove Hamas, short of that, is hurting Israel’s position. We are seeing the Americans start to move publicly towards a position of pressuring Israel more. And I specifically note, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who came out in recent hours saying that the Palestinian civilian population would be the center of the future of whether or not there’s resolution and peace and stability following this war. And that Israel was in danger of winning the tactical battle, but losing the strategic battle, as Palestinians continue to be devastated in large, large numbers. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a US Secretary of Defense talk about the potential strategic loss in a war of a principal US ally, certainly in my lifetime. And it was said pointedly and certainly with preparation. In other words, this was a message, even like a brushback against Bibi Netanyahu and the war cabinet.
Two other things I would mention quickly. One is that the cases against Bibi Netanyahu at home in Israel, you’d think these aren’t relevant to the war, but they have been reopened. And those investigations are restarting now in the Jerusalem District Court. And certainly Bibi understands that unless he’s able… Very unpopular right now, not likely to last very much beyond the war. Unless he’s able to get his political allies to find a way to make those crimes not crimes, legislatively, then he’s facing jail time. So he has an incentive to keep the war going domestically, in addition to removing Hamas.
There’s also the question of what it means to destroy Hamas. Is it you have to kill the leadership, but you can still have a lot of people running around with weapons? Is that you have to get rid of all of the tunnel infrastructure and all of their military infrastructure? At some point, someone’s going to make that decision inside the Israeli war cabinet, and it’s not going to be 100 or zero. It’s going to be 50% or 60% or 70% or 80%. And that decision is going to be not just about what the Israeli generals think, but also the level of international pressure on the country. So it’s a tough one.

3 December
Politico Playbook: HARRIS IN DUBAI
…the real centerpiece of Harris’ two-day mission was direct, one-on-one talks with four of the most powerful leaders in the Middle East about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war — in particular, about what role neighboring countries will play in stabilizing Gaza after hostilities cease.
Harris’ meetings and calls with the top leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates — and her subsequent public comments — outlined some of the most candid comments to yet heard from the administration on the conduct of the war and what should happen after Hamas is ousted from power.
The White House readouts of the various tête-à-têtes reveal some notable nuances about how Biden and Harris are already thinking about the postwar landscape — and how they are promoting a post-Hamas vision significantly at odds with what Netanyahu and his right-wing allies are talking about, such as a new Israeli occupation of Gaza, the removal of Palestinian residents from the territory and the marginalization of the Palestinian Authority from any role in its governance….
• To all three, plus Qatari Emir SHEIKH TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL THANI, Harris proposed a three-legged strategy for a Gaza’s future: (1) reconstruction, with the international community dedicating “significant resources” to recovery efforts; (2) security, calling on Palestinian Authority forces “to eventually assume security responsibilities in Gaza” following a negotiated transition; and (3) governance, led by a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority “driven by the will of the Palestinian people.”
Who will run Gaza after the war? U.S. searches for best of bad options
The Biden administration says a ‘revitalized’ Palestinian Authority should govern the enclave, but the idea is deeply unpopular with Israel — and many Palestinians
By Michael Birnbaum, William Booth and Hazem Balousha
(WaPo) The Israelis say they don’t want the job. Arab nations are resisting. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas might volunteer, but the Palestinian people probably don’t want him.
As the Biden administration begins to plan for “the day after” in Gaza — confronting problematic questions such as who runs the territory once the shooting stops, how it gets rebuilt and, potentially, how it eventually becomes a part of an independent Palestinian state — the stakeholders face a host of unattractive options.
… The question of who maintains law and order after the conflict is deeply complicated, experts say. Israeli authorities acknowledge the need to make such plans, say U.S. officials who met with them last week, but they don’t have concrete proposals and appear to want others to decide.

23 November
The five ‘extremely excruciating’ weeks of talks that led to the Hamas hostage deal
“This deal was a Biden deal, not a Netanyahu deal”
By Ayman Mohyeldin, Anna Schecter and Corky Siemaszko
(NBC) It took weeks of secret negotiations involving U.S., Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials, the heads of the CIA and the Mossad, and the personal intervention of President Joe Biden to convince a reluctant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a four-day cease-fire that is expected to free 50 hostages from Hamas. …
The final agreement — the outlines of which had been on the table for weeks — wouldn’t have been accepted by Netanyahu without enormous pressure from Biden, according to a senior Israeli government official.

1 November
The American Support – and the Demands
Eldad Shavit
(INSS) Even after the start of the ground operation, the US administration continues to support Israel in the campaign against Hamas. President Biden and other administration officials emphasize repeatedly that Israel has the right and duty to protect its citizens. In response to the increasing criticism in the United States with regard to harm to civilians in the Gaza Strip, the administration has adhered to its approach that this is not the time for a ceasefire, except for the possibility of a humanitarian lull. The spokesperson for the National Security Council, John Kirby, emphasized that Israel unequivocally strives to avoid civilian casualties. Kirby even strongly rejected the comparison between the killing of Ukrainian citizens by Russia and civilian injuries caused during IDF operations in the Gaza Strip. According to the White House spokesperson, while Russia directly targets civilians and civilian infrastructure, Israel does not.
Nonetheless, the administration faces criticism and difficult questions from some Democratic legislators, the media, and public opinion, regarding its determination to support Israel. Surveys conducted in the United States indicate that the President is losing support, mainly among young people and the Muslim public

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