U.S. – Israel 11 March 2024-

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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

23 May
ICC gives Biden a big headache
The International Criminal Court has announced it’s seeking arrest warrants for both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
… The decision to go after both parties to the conflict puts Israel’s friends — particularly the United States — in a difficult political position since the Biden administration is already struggling to hold the support of young American voters upset with Biden’s position on the Gaza war.
On Wednesday, at least 37 members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored a bill that would sanction prosecutors and staff at the ICC. While it was introduced by a Republican member, the Biden administration has expressed support, with the president calling the warrant applications “outrageous.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised to work with Congress on the issue.
House Speaker Mike Johnson intends to invite Bibi to address Congress, and most Democrats are on board (though not all), which could hurt them further with voters who think he is guilty of war crimes.

20 May
Biden: What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide
By Nandita Bose and Steve Holland
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden strongly defended Israel on Monday, saying Israeli forces are not committing genocide in their military campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza in a rejection of criticism from pro-Palestinian protesters.
“What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide. We reject that,” Biden said at a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House.
In remarks at the White House event, Biden stressed his belief that Israel was the victim dating back to the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants who killed 1,200 people and took hundreds of hostages.
He said U.S. support for the safety and security of Israelis is “ironclad.”
“We stand with Israel to take out (Hamas leader Yahya) Sinwar and the rest of the butchers of Hamas. We want Hamas defeated. We’re working with Israel to make that happen,” he said.
Biden in recent months has faced growing political pressure from his own party over his handling of the Gaza conflict, as the Palestinian death toll climbed to more than 35,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and Israel’s siege has created dire humanitarian conditions in the territory.

16 May
U.S. officials see strategic failure in Israel’s Rafah invasion
White House and U.S. intelligence officials doubt that Hamas can be fully defeated and worry the widening invasion will frustrate attempts at a peace deal.
(WaPo) Top Biden administration officials traveling to Israel this weekend are running out of chances to persuade the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt their vision of how to end the war in Gaza and bring lasting peace.
Their profound differences range from whether it is possible for Israel Defense Forces to militarily destroy every vestige of Hamas — razing most of Gaza along with it — to whether the establishment of a Palestinian state is capitulation to terrorists or the only way to end the decades-long cycle of violence.

15 May
Biden administration is moving ahead on new $1 billion arms sale to Israel, congressional aides say
(AP) — The Biden administration has told key lawmakers it plans to move forward on a new $1 billion sale of arms and ammunition to Israel, three congressional aides say.
It’s the first arms shipment to Israel to be pushed ahead since the administration put another arms transfer, consisting of 3,500 bombs of up to 2,000 pounds each, on hold this month. The Biden administration, citing concern for civilian casualties in Gaza, has said it paused that bomb transfer to keep Israel from using those particular munitions in its offensive in the crowded southern Gaza city of Rafah.
The new package disclosed Tuesday includes about $700 million for tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar rounds, the congressional aides said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an arms transfer that has not yet been made public.

13 May
‘Total outrage’: White House condemns Israeli settlers’ attack on Gaza aid trucks
Protesters block convoy, throw food into road and set fire to vehicles at Tarqumiya checkpoint near Hebron
(The Guardian) “It is a total outrage that there are people who are attacking and looting these convoys coming from Jordan, going to Gaza to deliver humanitarian assistance,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.
“We are looking at the tools that we have to respond to this,” he added. “We are also raising our concerns at the highest level of the Israeli government and it’s something that we make no bones about – this is completely and utterly unacceptable behaviour.”
Referring to a US report issued on Friday on Israeli compliance with international humanitarian law, Sullivan said that the Israeli state had hindered aid deliveries in the recent past but had improved the flow sufficiently, so as not to be subject to restrictions on military aid that might have been required under US law.

10 May
US finds Israel’s use of weapons in Gaza ‘inconsistent’ with human rights law, but will not cut flow of arms
State department also says not enough concrete evidence to link specific US-supplied weapons to violations
The US says it is “reasonable to assess” that the weapons it has provided to Israel have been used in ways that are “inconsistent” with international human rights law, but that there is not enough concrete evidence to link specific US-supplied weapons to violations or warrant cutting the supply of arms.

Inside Biden’s Broken Relationship With Muslim and Arab American Leaders
Even as the president piles new pressure on Israel to end the war in Gaza, those who have called most passionately for him to change course say it is too little, too late.

7-9 May
Breach Grows Between Biden and Israel’s Leaders Over Rafah Invasion
Defiant Israelis have vowed to do “whatever is necessary” in the Gaza Strip despite the American president’s threat to withhold weapons.
(NYT) Defiant and at times disdainful of the Biden administration’s stance, their comments made clear the widening rift between Israel and the United States over the war and the prospect of a full-scale invasion of Rafah, where about a million Palestinians are sheltering.
The Biden-Netanyahu relationship is strained like never before. Can the two leaders move forward?
(AP) President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have long managed a complicated relationship, but they’re running out of space to maneuver as their views on the Gaza war diverge and their political futures hang in the balance.
Their ties have hit a low point as Biden holds up the delivery of heavy bombs to Israel — and warns that the provision of artillery and other weaponry also could be suspended if Netanyahu moves forward with a widescale operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
Netanyahu, for his part, is brushing off Biden’s warnings and vowing to press ahead, saying, “If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone.”
Biden has long prided himself on being able to manage Netanyahu more with carrots than sticks. But the escalation of friction over the past seven months suggests that his approach may be long past its best-by date.

Battles rage around Rafah after US halts some weapons to Israel
(Reuters) Hamas battled Israeli troops on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip’s crowded southern city of Rafah on Wednesday and Washington said it had held up a shipment of powerful bombs to Israel to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties.
US signals to Israel more arms shipments could be paused over Rafah offensive
Move would mark significant pivot in relations as pressure builds on Israel to pull back from attack
US officials have signalled to Israel that more arms shipments could be delayed if the Israeli military pushes ahead with an offensive in Rafah, Gaza, in what would mark the start of a major pivot in relations between the two countries.
Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, confirmed on Wednesday that the Biden administration had paused the supply of thousands of large bombs to Israel, in opposition to apparent moves by the Israelis to invade the city.
“We’ve been very clear … from the very beginning that Israel shouldn’t launch a major attack into Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battle space,” Austin told a Senate hearing.
U.S. paused shipment of thousands of bombs to Israel amid Rafah rift
One U.S. official described the move as a “shot across the bow” intended to underscore the seriousness of Washington’s concerns about the looming offensive.
The Biden administration paused the shipment of thousands of weapons to Israel, including controversial 2,000-pound bombs, amid mounting concern about the country’s plan to expand a military operation in southern Gaza that could dramatically increase the conflict’s death toll, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
“Israel should not launch a major ground operation in Rafah, where more than a million people are sheltering with nowhere else to go,” said a senior administration official, explaining the U.S. decision to pause the weapons shipments. “We are especially focused on the end-use of the 2,000-pound bombs and the impact they could have in dense urban settings as we have seen in other parts of Gaza.”

30 April
U.S. diplomat explains why she quit Biden administration over Gaza war
Hala Rharrit, who resigned from the State Department last week, tells The Post, ‘I will not be the reason why someone hates America more’
(WaPo) Nearly seven months into the administration’s unstinting support for Israel in its war against Hamas, Rharrit became the first career diplomat to resign in protest of what she called a policy that will set back Washington’s interests in the Arab world for a generation. She told The Washington Post she felt the continued flow of U.S. arms to Israel was enabling the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and inflaming anger toward Washington in the Arab world. Inside the State Department, she said, diplomats are afraid to express viewpoints contrary to official policy, unlike most other issues during her career, where robust discussion was the norm.

28 April
Biden and Netanyahu speak as pressure grows over Rafah and Gaza ceasefire talks
US president and Israeli PM talk as Israel vows to invade southern Gaza city despite global concern for 1 million Palestinians sheltering there
(The Guardian) Joe Biden “reiterated his clear” opposition to an invasion of Rafah in a conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, as pressure builds on Israel and Hamas to reach a deal that would free some Israeli hostages and bring a ceasefire to the nearly seven-month-long war in Gaza.
In the face of global concern for the more than 1 million Palestinians sheltering in the southern city, the White House said Biden told the Israeli prime minister that the US would oppose the offensive unless adequate provisions were made to move and care for the more than a million Palestinians sheltering there.

27 April
Campus arrests spread as students press on with pro-Palestinian protests
Some universities say they are cracking down on demonstrations after reports of antisemitic statements and actions
From Boston to California, student groups are demanding schools cut any financial ties to Israel, calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and defying pressure from administrators to disperse. The turmoil has prompted schools to dispense with graduation ceremonies and cancel in-person classes. Zoomed out, it has put a sharp focus on American college campuses as the war in Gaza intensifies.

23 April
It began with defiance at Columbia. Now students nationwide are upping their Gaza war protests
(AP) — What began last week when Columbia University students refused to end their protest against Israel’s war with Hamas had turned into a much larger movement by Tuesday as students across the nation set up encampments, occupied buildings and ignored demands to leave.
Protests had been bubbling for months but kicked into a higher gear after more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia’s upper Manhattan campus were arrested Thursday. Dozens more protesters have been arrested at other campuses since, and many now face charges of trespassing or disorderly conduct.
Since the war in Gaza began, colleges and universities have struggled to balance safety with free speech rights. Many long tolerated protests but are now doling out more heavy-handed discipline.
Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said college leaders faced extremely tough decisions because they had a responsibility to ensure people could express their views, even when others found them offensive.
“But they also need to protect students from targeted harassment, threats and intimidation,” he said. “And sometimes that line can seem like a gray one.”

18 April
US vetoes widely supported UN resolution backing full UN membership for Palestine
(AP) — The United States vetoed a widely backed U.N. resolution on Thursday that would have paved the way for full United Nations membership for the state of Palestine.
The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 12 in favor, the United States opposed and two abstentions.
The resolution would have recommended that the 193-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, approve Palestine becoming the 194th member of the United Nations. Some 140 countries have already recognized the state of Palestine, so its admission would have been approved.
Before the vote, U.S. deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said the United States has “been very clear consistently that premature actions in New York — even with the best intentions — will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people.”

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to hold talks on Rafah amid Iran tensions
(Axios) The U.S. and Israel will hold a high-level virtual meeting on Thursday about a possible Israeli operation in Rafah, two U.S. officials said.
Why it matters: The Biden administration is still concerned that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would lead to massive civilian casualties, the U.S. officials said.
The intrigue: The officials flatly denied reports that Biden administration gave a green-light for an operation in Rafah if Israel declines to strike Iran in retaliation for last weekend’s unprecedented attack.
Zoom in: This will be the second such meeting in recent weeks. An in-person meeting scheduled to take place in Washington this week was postponed because of the Iranian attack.
Behind the scenes: Over the last few weeks, several lower-level working groups have met virtually to discuss the Israel Defense Forces’ operational plans for Rafah and humanitarian proposals, U.S. officials said.

14 April
Biden tells Netanyahu US would not take part in Israeli counter strike against Iran
(Reuters) – President Joe Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States would not participate in any Israeli counter-offensive against Iran, U.S. officials said on Sunday.
In a statement issued late on Saturday following the attacks, Biden said he told Netanyahu that Israel had “demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks.”

3-4 April
Biden Tells Netanyahu US Support Hinges on Protecting Civilians
After their call, Israel announces new steps to increase aid
Biden faces pressure to change position on Israel-Hamas war
President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that US support for his war in Gaza depends on new steps to protect civilians, a shift in position for the American leader who has faced increased pressure to take a harder line against Israel amid mounting deaths.
Why the WCK killings won’t soon be forgotten
(Politico Playbook) In terms of cold hard math, seven deaths shouldn’t mean much. More than 30,000 have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its counteroffensive after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, which itself claimed around 1,200 lives. More than 200 humanitarian aid workers have perished since, including nearly two dozen Americans.
But the killings of seven World Central Kitchen employees Monday in a series of Israeli airstrikes have managed to galvanize official Washington in a way that Gaza’s more routine horrors have not.
They have sparked a series of fierce reactions at the highest levels of government — and an unusually sensitive response from Israeli leaders who, till now, have become accustomed to hand-waving away questions about their scorched-earth military campaign.
To explain why, you can start with a chef: World Central Kitchen founder JOSÉ ANDRÉS, who built a D.C. tapas parlor into not only a culinary empire but a global philanthropic operation that has made him ubiquitous in circles of Washington power.

2 April
Biden and Netanyahu: A crisis in perspective
By Itamar Rabinovich, Distinguished Fellow – Foreign Policy, professor and president emeritus at Tel Aviv University and vice chair of its Institute for National Security Studies
(Brookings) Washington and Jerusalem’s profound policy differences are compounded by Biden and Netanyahu’s negative personal relationship. The Biden administration seems to believe that a change in government and prime minister in Israel is essential for the conduct of effective U.S. policy and a shift to a new regional order. Netanyahu, in turn, is clearly interested in an open confrontation with Biden, regarding it as an asset in his quest to survive Israel’s domestic political crisis. Worse, both parties are now openly interfering in each other’s domestic politics. Netanyahu abandoned a long-standing policy of working with both sides of the aisle and is leaning heavily on the Republicans, while Biden and his allies openly or implicitly express an expectation to see a new prime minister and government in Israel.
The Biden administration’s decision on March 25 not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza brought the tension between the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government to a new high. On October 7 after Hamas’s horrific terrorist attack, the administration, and President Joe Biden personally, extended remarkable support to Israel, but as the war lingered…significant disagreements emerged. They have to do with issues ranging from the war’s end, “the day after,” and the geopolitics of the Middle East, to the acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel’s prospective attack on Hamas’s remaining forces in Rafah, where over a million displaced people are currently sheltering.
Underlying the policy differences is the bad personal relationship between Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu, and Netanyahu’s calculated willingness to confront rather than accommodate his American counterpart. This was a strident reversal of Israeli prime ministers’ long-held tradition to avoid head-on collisions with U.S. presidents. Netanyahu first collided with former President Barack Obama and has taken it further with Biden during the past few months. Biden has been critical of Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing coalition since the formation of the latter’s current government. Biden viewed Netanyahu’s “judicial reform” as an attack on Israel’s democratic system and refused to invite him to Washington.

28 March
U.S. Support for Israel’s War Has Become Indefensible
A good pretext for war is not enough to make a war just.
By Phil Klay
(The Atlantic) … Friends of mine who support Israel have compared the Gaza campaign to the American and Iraqi fight against the Islamic State in Mosul, another large urban area of about 2 million people defended by an entrenched enemy hiding among civilians. At least 9,000 innocents died, many from American air strikes.
… The war Israel is actually fighting in Gaza bears little resemblance to that brutal and far from perfect, but necessary, campaign. Rather, in Gaza, Israel has shown itself willing to cause heavy civilian casualties and unwilling to care for a population left without basic necessities for survival. It has offered no realistic plan for an eventual political settlement. Far from the hypothetical war for Israeli security, this looks like a war of revenge.
… All of which calls into question America’s support for this war. Washington never even tried to make its aid conditional on Israel’s abiding by the standards of wartime conduct that Americans have come to expect. The Biden administration has twice bypassed congressional review in order to provide weapons to Israel. Senator Bernie Sanders proposed having the State Department investigate possible Israeli human-rights violations, but the Senate rejected the bid. Any policy relying on less debate and greater ignorance should raise alarms in a democracy. The administration’s policy has already hurt America’s standing globally.
…to imagine a postwar Gaza that might lead to peace, or at least to the weakening of violent forces around the region, would be to imagine a very different Israeli government—one that could credibly commit to helping facilitate the rebuilding of a Palestinian government in Gaza and the provision of full political rights to the people there. Instead, Israel has a government that just announced the largest West Bank land seizure in decades, and whose prime minister offers nothing to Palestinians but “full Israeli security control of all the territory west of the Jordan.”
The Biden administration has assured its critics that it is pressuring Israel to do better. It recently allowed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire to pass, even as it abstained and criticized the resolution for failing to condemn Hamas. But this will hardly repair the damage to America’s international reputation. Washington needs to address the war that is, not the hypothetical war U.S. officials would like to see. As Adil Haque told me, “It’s been five and a half months now, and there’s no indication that Israel will ever change its tactics in a significant way, so you either support the way it fights, or you can’t support it at all.” Washington needs to stop making excuses for Israel and stop supporting this war.

26 March
‘Madness’: Netanyahu’s handling of US relations under scrutiny after UN vote
Tone in parts of Israeli media borders on contempt, as prime minister’s growing friction with Biden linked to US abstention
(The Guardian) After the US abstention, prominent columnists across the Israeli media condemned Benjamin Netanyahu’s growing friction with US president Joe Biden.
While Netanyahu, who has faced plummeting public approval ratings since Hamas’s surprise 7 October attack on southern Israel, has long been a target for a large section of Israel’s commentariat, the tone in some quarters after the rare US abstention in the security council bordered on derision and contempt.
Washington’s decision not to use its veto came after a weekend in which US officials say they spoke non-stop to Israeli counterparts warning them in advance, suggesting that Netanyahu’s decision to cancel a visit by a delegation to the US in the aftermath of the vote was more calculated theatre than the result of surprise.

25 March
Biden, Netanyahu on collision course after Gaza UN vote
(Reuters) – Wartime relations between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sank to a new low on Monday with the U.S. allowing passage of a Gaza ceasefire resolution at the United Nations and drawing a sharp rebuke from the Israeli leader.
Netanyahu abruptly scrapped a visit to Washington this week by a senior delegation (Netanyahu cancels Israeli delegation to US over UN Gaza vote) to discuss Israel’s threatened offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah after Washington abstained in a Security Council vote that demanded an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and the release of all hostages held by the Palestinian militants.
The suspension of that meeting puts a major new obstacle in the way of efforts by the U.S., concerned about a deepening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, to get Netanyahu to consider alternatives to a ground invasion of Rafah, the last relatively safe haven for Palestinian civilians.
The threat of such an offensive has increased tensions between longtime allies the United States and Israel, and raised questions about whether the U.S. might restrict military aid if Netanyahu defies Biden and presses ahead anyway.
UN demand for Gaza cease-fire provokes strongest clash between US and Israel since war began
(AP) — The United Nations Security Council on Monday issued its first demand for a cease-fire in Gaza, with the U.S. angering Israel by abstaining from the vote. Israel responded by canceling a visit to Washington by a high-level delegation in the strongest public clash between the allies since the war began.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the U.S. of “retreating” from a “principled position” by allowing the vote to pass without conditioning the cease-fire on the release of hostages held by Hamas.

21-22 March
U.S. Call for Gaza Cease-Fire Runs Into Russia-China Veto at U.N.
China and Russia blocked a U.S. resolution for a cease-fire in Gaza at the United Nations Security Council.
The American draft resolution before the Security Council did not go far enough to end the Israel-Hamas war, Russia and China said, after the United States had vetoed three earlier resolutions.
The resolution reflected the Biden administration’s growing frustration both with the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel’s conduct in a war that has killed about 30,000 people and reduced much of the enclave to ruins. The administration has been pressuring Israel not to attack the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where more than a million civilians have sought refuge, and to enable more aid to enter the territory.
U.S. resolution at the United Nations calls for a sustained cease-fire in Gaza.

Blinken says ‘gaps are narrowing’ in talks toward Gaza ceasefire deal
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Egypt’s president and foreign minister on his sixth wartime trip to the Middle East.
‘We’ve closed the gaps, but there are still gaps,’ Blinken says of cease-fire talks.
Israel’s raid on Al-Shifa Hospital grows into one of the longest of the war.
House speaker says he will invite Netanyahu to address Congress.
Israel’s Supreme Court asks authorities to hold off on the deportation of Gazan cancer patients.
Blinken meets with Arab officials, calls for ‘enduring end’ to Gaza crisis
The US secretary of state, who also met with Arab diplomats from across the region in Cairo, was asked about the Biden administration’s “paradoxical” position, where Washington is pushing to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that is caused by its own weapons that it transfers to the Israeli army.
“We’re committed to Israel’s right to defend itself, and to making sure that it has what it needs to defend itself and to make sure that October 7 never happens again,” Blinken said. “We’re also committed to doing everything we possibly can to help people who are in harm’s way.”

20 March
Israel says it has killed 90 gunmen after raid at Al-Shifa hospital, an allegation Hamas denies
Hamas says all those killed at site were patients or displaced persons
Republicans hug Netanyahu tighter as Democratic tensions with Israel war strategy boil
The Israeli PM criticized Schumer’s comments calling for a new election as ‘outrageous’ in GOP-only meeting
Netanyahu Assails Schumer, Dramatizing Partisan Split Over Israel
The prime minister addressed Senate Republicans remotely after Senator Chuck Schumer called him out in an explosive speech urging a new election in Israel.
(CBC) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel assailed Senator Chuck Schumer on Wednesday in a closed-door speech to Senate Republicans, days after the Democratic majority leader branded him an impediment to peace in the Middle East and called for a new election to replace him after the war winds down.
Mr. Netanyahu’s virtual appearance at a weekly gathering of Republican senators — and a refusal by Mr. Schumer to allow him to make a similar address to Senate Democrats — dramatized the growing partisan split on Capitol Hill and in American politics over Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership and Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

19 March
White House: US-Israel meeting on Rafah likely early next week
(Reuters) – U.S. and Israeli officials will likely meet early next week in Washington to discuss Israel’s military operation in Rafah, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday, citing deep concerns about reports of imminent famine in Gaza.
Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to send a senior team of military, intelligence and humanitarian officials to Washington for meetings in coming days for comprehensive discussions.

14-16 March
Schumer said out loud what many of Israel’s friends are thinking
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
What grabbed headlines around the world was his frank assessment of Netanyahu’s government. “As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me: The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7,” he said. “The world has changed — radically — since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.” He called for a new election as “the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future.”
Schumer Urges New Leadership in Israel, Calling Netanyahu an Obstacle to Peace
The top Senate Democrat, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the United States, spoke from the Senate floor to condemn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and call for elections to replace him
(NYT) Many Democratic lawmakers have condemned Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership and his right-wing governing coalition, and President Biden has even criticized the Israeli military’s offensive in Gaza as “over the top.” But Mr. Schumer’s speech amounted to the sharpest critique yet from a senior American elected official — effectively urging Israelis to replace Mr. Netanyahu.
With Schumer’s Israel remarks, the American gloves are off
The ‘hug in public, push in private’ strategy for Israel by the Biden administration and its allies is over.
(Politico) For Schumer, a typically pro-Israel voice and the highest-ranking Jewish official in American history, to make such comments is a green light for any Israel critic to say their piece.
How Biden Can Get Tough on Netanyahu
The Pressure Points That Give America Leverage Over Israel
By Jonah Blank
(Foreign Affairs) Throughout most of U.S. President Joe Biden’s political lifetime, conventional wisdom has held that there is no benefit—and enormous risk—to getting tough on Israel. But it is no longer that simple. After more than five months of devastating war in the Gaza Strip, there is also great risk in not getting tough.
… if the president wants to get tough with Netanyahu, he has an array of options, from withholding military aid to recognizing a Palestinian state. Such moves may not be easy politically, but they could become more feasible as the war’s death toll rises and starvation spreads in Gaza.
… Biden could call it quits with Netanyahu from the Oval Office in a prime-time televised address. If he does so, he should make it clear that his rebuke is aimed at Israel’s extreme right-wing government, not at its people. This might increase pressure on Netanyahu within Israel to moderate his positions. More important, such a speech would lay a foundation for Americans to understand Biden’s next moves. Getting tough with Israel might be politically toxic, but getting tough with Netanyahu is not.
Words Over Deeds: Why Biden Isn’t Pressuring Israel
By Aaron David Miller, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
(NYT) The “I’m unhappy with Israel but won’t do much about it” policy is Mr. Biden’s policy — driven by the president’s pro-Israel sensibilities, politics and the policy choices he faces in dealing with the current war. At the same time, Mr. Biden surely knows that there are costs both at home and abroad for allowing Mr. Netanyahu to run roughshod over U.S. interests and values. Therein lies his dilemma.
… As Israel drifted rightward in recent years, particularly during Mr. Netanyahu’s 12-year-run as prime minister, all of that grew more complicated. Mr. Netanyahu’s policies toward West Bank settlement growth and, later, his anti-democratic efforts to undermine the Israeli judiciary began to erode the two main pillars of the U.S.-Israeli relationship: shared interests and values.
… The results of the Michigan primary in February, with its significant number of uncommitted votes, reflect an inconvenient reality for Mr. Biden: In a close general election, his unwavering support for Israel could cost him the election.At the same time, Mr. Biden now finds himself in a serious political bind.

13 March
The Biden-Netanyahu rift goes much deeper than Rafah
David Ignatius
The most visible disagreement has been about Netanyahu’s plan to attack Hamas’s remaining stronghold in Rafah along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Netanyahu and a broad range of other Israeli officials believe that destroying the four Hamas battalions there, with about 3,000 fighters, is essential to break its military control in the territory.
…A deeper disagreement is about whether Netanyahu and his right-wing government really have united the country behind a clear endgame for the conflict. U.S. intelligence analysts were openly skeptical of Netanyahu’s leadership prospects in their annual threat assessment, delivered to Congress this week.
“Netanyahu’s viability as a leader as well as his governing coalition of far-right and ultraorthodox parties that pursued hardline policies on Palestinian and security issues may be in jeopardy,” the threat assessment noted. “Distrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule has deepened and broadened. … A different, more moderate government is a possibility.”

12 March
A post from our friend Tomer Avital, Sauvé alumnus and former Wednesday Nighter:
“Our government is putting us into isolation and disaster.
According to [Professor Jeffrey] Sachs, Israel completely misses the real picture: nearly all countries in the world are staunchly opposed to its policies.
Actually Israel already today – even if you request and Channel 14 tell you otherwise – is completely isolated, apart from support from the US and small countries like Micronesia and Nauro. We see it not only in demonstrations around the world but also in cultural events and festivals where we are banned.
The winds are changing, and even the American public is turning their backs on it.
According to Thomas Friedman, Joe Biden will probably be the last Democratic president to support Israel. According to Prof. Sachs, the vacancy for the US position is around the corner.
When will we understand that we are blindly running to the wall?”

Biden has huge leverage on Israel. He hasn’t really used it yet.
But there is one key area where the United States has not yet exerted its leverage on Netanyahu: Military aid.
(WaPo) President Biden has become a vocal critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership of the Israeli war in Gaza. “He must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken,” Biden said of Netanyahu in an MSNBC interview, warning that any attack on the town of Rafah, effectively the last refuge for many civilians in Gaza, could be a “red line.”
“In my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” Biden said of the Israeli prime minister in the interview, which aired on Sunday.
It was just the latest sign of how the Biden administration is at odds with Netanyahu’s government over the humanitarian situation inside Gaza. In his State of the Union address on Thursday, Biden said the United States was working to establish a cease-fire lasting at least six-weeks, despite Netanyahu’s opposition to calls for a pause in fighting. He also announced that the United States would build a temporary port in Gaza to allow maritime deliveries, an extraordinary circumvention of the Israeli restrictions on aid trucks at the Palestinian enclave’s land border….
As my colleague John Hudson reported [U.S. floods arms into Israel despite mounting alarm over war’s conduct], the United States has quietly approved and delivered more than 100 separate foreign military sales to Israel since Oct. 7, when the war began
… the mounting public anger over the huge toll in Gaza is hard for Biden to ignore. It may signify a permanent shift for Democrats. As Today’s WorldView reported last month, polling data suggests that the Democrats have become more divided on the Israel-Palestinian conflict since the conflict began on Oct. 7.  Several U.S. lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to condition aid to Israel on humanitarian grounds, if not cut if off completely.

11 March
Can Michigan save Palestine?
The road to East Jerusalem may pass through Dearborn.
Ahsan I Butt,Associate Professor, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University.
(Al Jazeera) … True to form, Washington has repeatedly blocked international efforts to impose an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Worse still, there appears little recourse to the Palestinians’ main demand for self-determination.
Yet there is a glimmer of hope. Recent events in US politics point to a potential pathway to better times for the Palestinian people. To be sure, it is not a probable or even a likely path. Much has to go right, not least the Democratic party replacing its current sclerotic leadership.
But thanks to Michigan, the pathway does exist, and it is now reasonable to conjecture that the road to East Jerusalem may run through Dearborn.
… The only pro-Palestinian voices in the US Congress and other institutions come from the Democratic party, such as Representative Rashida Tlaib. Even those expressing milquetoast bothsidesism, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are part of a political species whose presence would be unimaginable in the Republican Party.
The importance of Michigan to the Middle East
And this is where Michigan comes in. By a fortunate happenstance, there is a high concentration of Arabs and Muslims in a state that is deeply important to presidential elections. Michigan is one of the last standing bricks of the erstwhile “blue wall” in the Midwest.
In the present configuration of US politics, it is essentially impossible for a Democrat to win the presidency without Michigan’s 15 electoral college votes.


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