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15 Jewish House Democrats blast Netanyahu for rejecting two-state solution

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Fifteen Jewish Democrats, including some pro-Israel stalwarts, slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he rejected the idea of creating an independent Palestinian state after the Israel-Hamas war.

“We strongly disagree with the prime minister,” said the brief statement released Friday morning by the office of Rep. Jerry Nadler, the New York representative who is the unofficial dean of Jewish House Democrats. “A two-state solution is the path forward.”

The statement — which comes amid rising  calls from some Jewish lawmakers for a ceasefire — signifies growing impatience among Democrats with Netanyahu as the war persists indefinitely. The prime minister, who heads a coalition with far-right elements, has openly rejected the Biden administration’s hopes of forging a postwar two-state outcome. 

In a press conference Thursday, Netanyahu used unusually clear language in opposing Biden administration initiatives.

“Therefore, I make clear in any future foreseeable arrangement — with an agreement or without an agreement — the state of Israel must have security control of the entire area west of the Jordan,” he said, referring to territory that includes the West Bank, where some 3 million Palestinians live. “It’s a necessary requirement, and it clashes with the idea of sovereignty, what can you do?”

He continued: “This truth I tell our American friends. And I also obstructed an attempt to coerce us into a reality that would harm the security of Israel. An Israeli prime minister must be able to say no even to our best friends, to say no when necessary and to say yes when possible.”

Netanyahu’s statement was an especially strong rejection of the idea of Palestinian sovereignty, and its substance also reflects what he has said for years about the future of the West Bank. In 2018, he gave a speech proposing a “state-minus” for Palestinians in which Israel retained a military presence across the West Bank. The same idea was reflected in the 2020 plan proposed by then-President Donald Trump, in which Israel would retain security control over the territory of a future Palestinian state. Palestinian leadership roundly rejects that idea.  

Netanyahu endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state in a landmark speech in 2009, then backtracked on the eve of an election six years later.

John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, was not surprised by Netanyahu’s statement. 

“This is not a new comment by Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he told reporters Thursday.  “We obviously see it differently. We believe that the Palestinians have every right to live in an independent state with peace and security. And the President and his team is going to continue to work on that.”

Netanyahu and Biden spoke on Friday for the first time since Dec. 23.

Netanyahu’s tough talk appears to have triggered the two-sentence statement, along with other notes of reproval from pro-Israel Democrats. It also drew fire from at least one Jewish Democrat in the Senate, Brian Schatz of Hawaii. “He is, at every opportunity, making things worse,” Schatz told NBC.

Rep. Ritchie Torres, a progressive New York Democrat who is not Jewish and is known for his outspoken defense of Israel, said that closing off any prospect of a Palestinian state was unsustainable.

“I am under no illusion that a two-state solution will happen in the immediate future but to assert that it should NEVER happen — that either Jews or Palestinians should never have self-determination — is morally wrong,” he said Friday on X, formerly Twitter, without directly naming Netanyahu.

The list of 15 Jewish Democrats who issued Friday’s statement was significant for including at least seven lawmakers endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s affiliated political action committee. AIPAC discourages open disagreement with Israeli governments on security issues.

Those seven are Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts, Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Dan Goldman of New York, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Mike Levin, Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman of California. (AIPAC endorsed Schiff and Slotkin in 2022; they are running for Senate this year, and the lobby is waiting to see who emerges from the primaries before giving an endorsement.)

Sherman, long one of Israel’s fiercest defenders in Congress, is a standout: He helped found the now defunct Israel Project, launched in the early 2000s to push back against negative portrayals of the country in the media. In a contentious primary race between two Jewish incumbents in 2012, he accused his rival, Howard Berman, of being weak on Iran, and was one of a minority of Democrats who in 2015 opposed the Iran nuclear deal.

Now Sherman has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of Netanyahu. In a post on X, he lashed out at the prime minister. 

“First #Netanyahu fails #Israel by basing a highly inadequate portion of the IDF near Gaza in the months before October 7,” Sherman wrote, echoing a critique from Netanyahu’s Israeli critics. “Then he ignores the warnings of October 6. Then this.” 

He linked to a Guardian article about Netanyahu’s statements. Reports have said the Israeli establishment ignored substantive intelligence from lower-level officials ahead of Oct. 7 showing that Hamas terrorists were preparing for the massacre they carried out that day, which began the current war.

Slotkin, a CIA veteran, also was outspoken in a post. 

“This is plain wrong,” she wrote. “A two-state solution has been official US policy for decades for a reason: because however far away it feels right now, it’s the only way to bring dignity to both Israelis and Palestinians, and lasting stability to the Middle East.”

Sherman and Slotkin did not respond to requests for further comment, nor did spokespeople for a number of the others, including Nadler.

There are 24 Jewish Democrats in the House, and the nine who did not sign the statement include some who are among Israel’s most outspoken defenders, among them Brad Schneider of Illinois, Jared Moskowitz and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. Spokespeople for Moskowitz and Schneider said they may issue statements later. Spokespeople for Wasserman Schultz and Gottheimer did not return requests for comment.

Four of the signatories have already made clear their unhappiness with the direction of the war, joining calls for a ceasefire, including Becca Balint of Vermont, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who is also running in a longshot campaign for president.

The other three signatories are Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Seth Magaziner of Rhode Island and Kim Schrier of Washington.

The post 15 Jewish House Democrats blast Netanyahu for rejecting two-state solution appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Amid Security Fears, Muslim Access to the Temple Mount During Ramadan Will Be Limited

Palestinians walk at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City May 21, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

i24 NewsAs the month of Ramadan approaches, concerns over security have prompted Israeli authorities to implement limitations on Muslim access to the Temple Mount site, and Al-Aqusa Mosque.

The decision, made in accordance with recommendations from the Minister of National Security Ben Gvir, comes amidst opposition from the Minister of Defense Gallant, Shin Bet, and the army.

The restrictions include a cap on the number of individuals permitted to enter the site, with additional sorting based on age. While the details regarding the authorization of Palestinians from East Jerusalem are pending, the implementation of security measures proposed by Itamar Ben Gvir, which would allow security forces to intervene in response to provocative behavior, was rejected.

Under the current plan, only Muslim pilgrims aged 60 or above with permits issued by the Shin Bet will be granted access to the Temple Mount. However, domestic intelligence agencies have expressed reservations, fearing that such restrictions could exacerbate tensions and fuel Hamas’s rhetoric about Israel’s intentions to seize the site and deny Muslims access.

This sentiment was echoed by Walid Al-Huashla, an Arab MP from the Ra’am party, who condemned the decision as dangerous and racist. Al-Huashla warned of the potential consequences of the measures, accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of capitulating to provocateurs and exacerbating tensions in Jerusalem.

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Unopened Medicine Boxes Bearing Names of Israeli Hostages Found in Hospital Raid

Some of the drugs found at the hospital. Photo: IDF

i24 NewsThe Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Shin Bet forces executed a strategic mission at Nasser Hospital in Gaza, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of terrorists and the discovery of a cache of weapons hidden within the hospital premises.

Prior to entering the hospital complex, the forces engaged in intense battles, including face-to-face combat and repelling rocket fire from within the hospital compound.

The forces apprehended numerous terrorists and terror suspects who had sought refuge within the hospital including individuals linked to the October 7th massacre. These individuals were subsequently transferred to security forces for further investigation.

IDF releases footage of soldiers uncovering unopened boxes of medicine in Al-Nasser Hospital that were meant to be transferred to Israeli hostages – some of which should have been refrigerated but was found sitting out.

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 18, 2024

During the operation, a substantial quantity of weapons was seized, with some weapons concealed in a vehicle believed to have been used in previous terrorist attacks. Additionally, a vehicle belonging to Kibbutz Nir Oz, which had apparently been stolen, was recovered from the hospital vicinity.

IDF forces also discovered un-opened boxes of medicine bearing the names of Israeli hostages. The packages were found sealed and undistributed, raising concerns about the previous breached agreement in which Qatar would distribute medicine for the chronically ill hostages.

The medical assistance includes essential treatments such as inhalers for asthma patients, medications for diabetics, insulin injections, glucometers, medications for heart disease and blood pressure, as well as treatments for intestinal infections and thyroid gland imbalances.

During talks, Qatar had committed to providing verifiable proof to Israel that the medications will indeed reach the hostages. However the IDF finding the France-sent boxes with medicine, indicates the never reached the hostages.

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The Myth of British Exceptionalism

Britain’s former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts after the general election results of the Islington North constituency were announced at a counting center in Islington, London, Dec. 13, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Hannah McKay.

JNS.orgThat old image of the Jewish family with a packed suitcase at the ready in case they are compelled to suddenly leave their home has returned with a vengeance across Europe.

In France and Germany, home to sizable Jewish communities, the “Should we leave?” debate is raging in earnest. Both of these countries experienced record levels of antisemitic incidents in 2023, most of them occurring after the Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel. Similar conversations are also being held in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium and Spain—countries with tiny Jewish communities that are nevertheless enduring a painful rise in antisemitism.

What about Britain, though? It’s a pertinent question insofar as there has always been a “British exceptionalism” with regard to the continent. During World War II, the Nazis failed in their quest to conquer the British Isles, in contrast to the rest of Europe. After the defeat of Hitler, the British supported efforts to transform Europe into an economic and political community that eventually became the European Union, even joining it. Yet Britain was never fully at peace with its identity as a European state, and as is well known, the “Brexit” referendum of 2016 resulted in the country’s full-fledged withdrawal from the European Union.

When it comes to antisemitism, however, Britain is very much part of the European rule, not the exception. Again, that’s important because while the British don’t deny that antisemitism is present in their politics and culture, they don’t believe that it’s as venomous as its German or French variations. “It is generally admitted that antisemitism is on the increase, that it has been greatly exacerbated by the war, and that humane and enlightened people are not immune to it. It does not take violent forms (English people are almost invariably gentle and law-abiding),” wrote George Orwell in an essay, “Antisemitism in Britain,” penned towards the war’s close in April 1945.

At the same time, Orwell conceded that British antisemitism was “ill-natured enough, and in favorable circumstances, it could have political results.” To illustrate this point, he offered a selection of the antisemitic barbs that he had encountered over the previous year. “No, I’ve got no matches for you. I should try the lady down the street. She’s always got matches. One of the Chosen Race, you see,” a grumpy tobacconist informed him. “Well, no one could call me antisemitic, but I do think the way these Jews behave is too absolutely stinking. The way they push their way to the head of queues, and so on. They’re so abominably selfish. I think they’re responsible for a lot of what happens to them,” a “middle-class” woman said. Another woman, described by Orwell as an “intellectual,” refused to look at a book detailing the persecution of Jews in Germany on the grounds that “it will only make me hate them even more,” while a young man—a “near-Communist” in Orwell’s description—confessed that he had never made a secret of his loathing of Jews. “Mind you, I’m not antisemitic, of course,” he added.

I’d wager that were Orwell to tackle the same subject today, he would write a similar essay. The rhetoric he quotes echoes eerily in what we are hearing almost 80 years later, particularly the denial that recycling antisemitic tropes makes one an antisemite, as well as the digs against chosenness—because antisemites have never understood (or don’t want to understand) that Jewish “chosenness” is not about racial or ethnic superiority, but a duty to carry out a specific set of Divine commandments.

Last week, the Community Security Trust (CST), a voluntary security organization serving British Jews, issued its annual report on the state of antisemitism in Britain. The CST has been faithfully issuing these reports since 1984, and over the last few years, it has regularly registered new records for the number of offenses reported. 2023 was the worst year of all; there were a stomach-churning 4,103 incidents reported—an increase of 81% on the previous annual record in 2021, when 2,261 incidents were reported (largely due to that year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas for 11 days in May).

Instructively, the worst month in 2023 was October, in the days immediately following the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on that black day. Oct. 11 was, in fact, the worst day, with 80 incidents reported. As the CST pointed out, “[T]he speed at which antisemites mobilized in the U.K. on and immediately after Oct. 7 suggests that, initially at least, this increase in anti-Jewish hate was a celebration of the Hamas attack on Israel, rather than anger at Israel’s military response in Gaza.”

Of course, the present situation in the United Kingdom differs from Orwell’s time for two main reasons. Firstly, in 1945, there was no Jewish state, and antisemitism revolved around cruder tropes invoking supposed Jewish rudeness, clannishness, financial power and so forth. (Even so, Britain was also one of the first Western countries to experience antisemitic rioting linked to the Zionist movement and Israel; in 1947, after two British officers in Mandatory Palestine were executed by the Irgun, or “Etzel,” resistance organization, violence targeting Jewish communities broke out across the United Kingdom, thereby establishing the principle that all Jews, everywhere, are to blame for the alleged evils of Zionism.)

Secondly, in 1945 Britain was still largely a white, Christian society. In the interim, it has become far more diverse and is now home to nearly 4 million Muslims who constitute 6.5 percent of the population. Since the late 1980s—when the Iranian regime issued a fatwa calling for the death of the Anglo-Indian author Salman Rushdie, alleged to have slandered Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses—what was once a relatively docile population has become politically animated, with the Palestinian cause pushed front and center.

In the four months that have passed since the Hamas atrocities, with weekly demonstrations in support of Hamas in London and other cities, Muslim voices have been disproportionately loud in the opprobrium being piled not just on Israel, but on those Britons—the country’s Jewish community—most closely associated with the Jewish state. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every Muslim, and many of the worst offenders are non-Muslims on the left. Indeed, the Oct. 7 massacres have enabled the return to politics of a particularly odious individual whom I had forlornly believed had been banished to the garbage can of history; George Galloway, an ally of Hamas and one-time acolyte of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who is standing in the forthcoming parliamentary election in the northern English constituency of Rochdale for an outfit called the “Workers Party of Britain,” whose manifesto combines nationalism and socialism, but which would probably balk at the description “national socialist” in much the same way that some antisemites balk at the description “antisemitic.”

British Jews have weathered a great deal in recent years, especially the five years when the Labour Party, the main opposition, was led by the far-left Parliament member Jeremy Corbyn, who has since been turfed out of the party by his successor Sir Keir Starmer. Having survived that, the belief has spread that they can survive anything. But there’s another question to be asked: Is the effort worth it? Increasingly, and worryingly, growing numbers of British Jews are now answering “no.”

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