Legislative Round-Up- January 19, 2024

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

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Defeat Hamas or Rescue the Hostages? (Hard Questions, Tough Answers- January 22, 2024)

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Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

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Statement: APN Welcomes Senate Vote on Resolution Regarding Israel's Human Rights Practices

Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes tonight’s scheduled vote on Senator Bernie Sanders’ resolution under section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act requesting information on Israel’s human rights practices, and urges the Senate to adopt it.

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Legislative Roundup - January 12th, 2024

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

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With Government Support, Violent Settlers Escalate Tension in the West Bank 

By Ori Nir

Leaders and supporters of the ideological settlers in the West Bank are disputing the veracity of a leaked IDF report which shows a 54% increase in settler violence since the beginning of the current Gaza war on October 7th. One right-wing Israeli columnist called the report “a blood libel,” arguing that the data have been manipulated or even fabricated and that in actual fact there has been a recent drop in incidents of settler violence.

I follow reports by human rights organizations, both Israeli and international. I noticed that Israel’s Yesh Din organization, which documents settler violence, found that 2023 was a record year in settler violence. I am also closely familiar with the dynamics of settler violence and Palestinians’ tendency to avoid reporting such incidents for fear of retribution. I would be surprised if the figures are not significantly higher than the IDF reported.

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Action Alert- Oppose Any Forced Displacement of Palestinians

The October 7 Hamas attack and the months since have been devastating for both Israeli and Palestinian societies. After months of war in Gaza, Israel has begun to signal a shift in strategy towards a new phase of this conflict. This shift has raised questions of what comes next for Gaza. Far-right ministers in Netanyahu’s government, such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, have made concerning remarks calling for the expulsion of Palestinians. Ben-Gvir even asserted that such a move would pave the way for Israel to rebuild Jewish settlements in Gaza. 

The Times of Israel reported last week that the “voluntary” resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza is slowly becoming an official policy of the government, with conversations taking place with several countries about the potential absorption of Palestinians from Gaza.

Any ideas of expelling Palestinians from Gaza or establishing Israeli settlements within the strip are unacceptable. The Biden administration has called such rhetoric “inflammatory and irresponsible,” and Vice President Harris’ has stated that “under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza.” Still these comments have done little to curb the far-right. 

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Reps. Pressley and Raskin's Letter to Secretary Blinken

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We write to support the Biden administration’s continued strong opposition to any consideration of the idea of forced transfer of Palestinians out of Gaza. We appreciate President Biden’s clear commitment, in calls with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II, to ensure that Palestinians in Gaza will not be displaced to any other nation.[1] We also welcome Vice President Harris’ assurance that “under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza.” [2] Additionally, we were glad to see you reiterate the administration’s firm opposition to the forcible displacement of Palestinians during a recent press conference in Doha.[3]

We urge you to continue to reiterate the United States’ firm commitment to this position and ask that you provide clarification regarding certain provisions of the administration’s supplemental humanitarian and security funding request. Any forced expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza would only exacerbate the trauma and pain Palestinian civilians in Gaza are already experiencing as a result of this conflict and cause more regional tension and conflict for decades to come.

We have serious concerns both about extremist rhetoric from some Israeli officials and about proposals being floated by some in the Israeli government for the transfer of Palestinian civilians out of Gaza. For instance, the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence, in a document dated October 13, 2023, proposed the forcible and permanent transfer of 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.[4] The document understandably raised fears among Palestinians of permanent displacement from Gaza. These fears were exacerbated by a report in November that the Israeli government “has quietly tried to build international support in recent weeks for the transfer of several hundred thousand civilians from Gaza to Egypt for the duration of its war.” [5] Continued extremist rhetoric by Israeli government officials, such as calling for “Nakba 2023,” is also deeply alarming and further heightens concerns that some members of the Israeli government support forcibly transferring Palestinians out of Gaza. [6]

Due to the ongoing conflict, over 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, nearly 80% of the population, have been internally displaced in the Gaza Strip. Worsening sanitary conditions, shortages of food, water, fuel, and medicines, and thousands of cases of acute respiratory infections, diarrhea and chicken pox reflect an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis.[7] The Israeli government must urgently increase the amount of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip in order to address this humanitarian catastrophe. If Palestinian civilians choose to leave Gaza voluntarily in search of safety, they must be guaranteed to be allowed to return. Many in Gaza fear that any temporary displacement would become permanent. The United States must ensure that there is no question that Palestinian civilians who wish to remain in the Gaza Strip have the right to do so.

In light of these concerns, we are also seeking clarity around President Biden’s supplemental humanitarian and security funding request transmitted to Congress on October 20, which asks for funding to “address potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries.”[8] In light of the President’s recognition of the importance of preventing Palestinian displacement, we aim to prevent any confusion or misinterpretation that this funding request could in any way signal U.S. support for potential transfer of Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip. We ask for a clarification of the U.S. position on this question and that you continue to make clear American opposition to any forced transfer of population to both the Israeli government and the Palestinian people.

The United States must remain committed, as you have stated on many occasions, to a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians live in peace with equal rights, dignity, and freedom. We thank you for your time and consideration, and we look forward to your response.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-08)

<additional signatures>

 

[1] Readout of President Biden’s Call with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, White House, (October 2023) https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/10/31/readout-of-president-bidens-call-with-his-majesty-king-abdullah-ii-of-jordan-2/

[2] Harris says US will ‘under no circumstances’ permit forced relocation of Palestinians, CNN, (December, 2023) https://www.cnn.com/2023/12/02/politics/harris-cop28-israel-gaza/index.html

[3] U.S. Opposes Displacement of Palestinians, Blinken Says, Reuters, (January, 2024) https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/blinken-presses-arab-states-discuss-future-gaza-2024-01-07/

[4] An Israeli ministry, in a ‘concept paper,’ proposes transferring Gaza civilians to Egypt’s Sinai, Associated Press, (October, 2023) https://apnews.com/article/israel-gaza-population-transfer-hamas-egypt-palestinians-refugees-5f99378c0af6aca183a90c631fa4da5a       

[5] Israel Quietly Pushed for Egypt to Admit Large Numbers of Gazans, New York Times, (November, 2023) https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/05/world/middleeast/israel-egypt-gaza.html 

[6] ‘Erase Gaza’: War Unleashes Incendiary Rhetoric in Israel, New York Times, (November, 2023) https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/15/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-war-rhetoric.html; Israel’s Ben-Gvir: ‘Voluntary’ Transfer of Gazans Is the Solution, Israelis Should Resettle Trip, Haaretz, (January 2024), https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2024-01-07/ty-article/ben-gvir-voluntary-transfer-of-gazans-is-the-solution-israelis-should-re-settle-strip/0000018c-e2f0-d751-ad8d-fff4fb4d0000

[7] Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – OCHA Flash Update #52, United Nations, (November, 2023) https://www.un.org/unispal/document/hostilities-in-the-gaza-strip-and-israel-ocha-flash-update-52/

[8] Letter regarding critical national security funding needs for FY 2024, White House, (October, 2023)  https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Letter-regarding-critical-national-security-funding-needs-for-FY-2024.pdf

Recording: Mending our Broken Hearts with Rabbi Sharon Brous

At a time when we direly need to collectively heal our broken hearts, we were joined by one of America’s leading rabbis, Sharon Brous, for a conversation on humanity, human connection, compassion, and community.

Rabbi Brous is the author of a new, highly acclaimed book, The Amen Effect, Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World. The book pairs heart-driven anecdotes from Rabbi Brous’ experience building and pastoring her faith community over the past two decades with ancient Jewish wisdom and contemporary science.

Sharon Brous is the founding and senior rabbi of IKAR, a trail-blazing Jewish community based in Los Angeles. A leading voice at the intersection of faith and justice in America, she has been named #1 Most Influential Rabbi in the U.S. by Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

Watch the recording on our YouTube channel- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4KGF4BZWeA

Listen to the audio on PeaceCasthttps://peacenow.libsyn.com/310-mending-our-broken-hearts-with-rabbi-sharon-brous

Read the transcript- https://peacenow.org/entry.php?id=42789

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Webinar Transcript- The End of Israel: A Book Talk with Bradley Burston

Hadar Susskind 00:00 

Welcome to our first webinar of 2024. For those of you who are regulars with us, you know, first of all, I'm Hadar Susskind. I'm the president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. And this is the part of the webinar where I participate in the time honored Washington DC tradition of filibustering, because it takes a moment or two for everyone to join the webinar room, the Zoom Room. So again, happy New Year. Lord knows we all need it. Welcome to our first APN webinar of 2024. One more time, I see our numbers are still ticking up. So I'll keep rambling for a moment or two. Again, I'm Hadar Susskind. I'm the president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. I'm very pleased to be joined by our guest today, Bradley Burston, and I think I am going to go ahead and get us started. So, I know that many if not all of you are familiar with Bradley and his work. But on the off chance someone's joining us who isn't you get a little intro. For almost four decades, he has been a reporter and a columnist, documenting Israel's conflict with the Palestinians and commenting on it. He has written for many different sources that all of us have read for years and years from the Jerusalem Post, Reuters in Israel, and of course, Haaretz in English, and recently has come out with his new book entitled, The End of Israel. The book is a roadmap, really, to the current crisis in Israeli society, in many ways, culminating with the events of October 7 and the following months. You know, the book really was introduced as a documentation of the consequences of the choices that Netanyahu has made over the years to really prioritize himself and his own political longevity over the country. And it says here as Burston writes: "He chose, Israel lost, end of story." But it is not the end of story. It's a much longer story than that, obviously. And, Bradley, thank you for joining us today. I really appreciate it. I appreciate your taking time out of your evening there in Israel. So please, I think I just want to hand it off to you. Tell us more about the book. Tell us a little bit about how you're doing now. We've got a lot to talk about. Let's jump in. 

 

Bradley Burston 02:30 

Okay sure. Okay, so the question the book is looking at is: how did Netanyahu's policies and behavior enable and invite the war that began on October 7? To me, what's astonishing is in how many ways and for how long Hamas benefited directly from Netanyahu's words and actions, and in fact, Netanyahu benefited from Hamas' declarations and actions almost from the beginning of his political career. I mean, Hamas served Netanyahu's purpose because he believed and he still believes in a balance of terror. And Hamas was useful. First because its charter was flagrantly antisemitic. Its fundamental goal was the annihilation of the State of Israel in its entirety, and the expulsion or worse of the whole of the Jewish population. And in other words, Hamas was Netanyahu's dream example of why Israel needed to block, obstruct, and if possible, kill off the struggle for a Palestinian state. And if I may add, on a personal note, when I was starting out as a reporter, I was the Gaza reporter for The Jerusalem Post. And Gaza was a sleepy place until December of 1987 when the First Intifada began, and also in the same week, Hamas was founded. So I thought it would be a good idea to talk to Hamas people to see what they were interested in doing, what their plans were because Hamas set itself up as a social welfare organization. It was part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the idea was that it would set up soup kitchens, and it had schools and and all kinds of welfare facilities and health clinics under its aegis. And so I went to a mosque in North Gaza with my colleague and translator who was a stringer for the Jerusalem Post and for the New York Times. And he was a very personable fellow and he spoke to the Imam, the religious leader who was Hamas through and through, even though Hamas was brand new. And he told them what I was interested in knowing, about the social welfare work and what their plans were and what people said about them. And is it true that they actually were tremendously militant and fanatically religious and blah blah? Sure enough, his answer to this long, long, detailed question was: he looked at my colleague, and he said in Arabic (it was fairly clear what he was saying), "Is this guy a Jew?" Meaning me. And then he looked at me. And there are times when you realize that an expression is not only an expression, because suddenly, for the first time in my life, never before or since, did I understand what if looks could kill, had to do with. This guy was not going to abide my presence anywhere in the Holy Land. And he made that very clear. And my colleague said, "Look, you know, he's an American, right?" But this was definitely the end of the conversation. And that was my introduction to Hamas. And over the years, even though the charter has changed a bit, and here and there they've modified their point of view about Jews, I'm still of the belief (and this is as a fairly decided leftist and certainly as a proponent of an eventual peace between Israelis and Palestinians), I've truly decided that if you're wondering whether Hamas is antisemitic and murderous, from my standpoint, you can stop wondering. So anyway, so that's an introduction to the book because the book weaves back and forth, it's an arc. We're all familiar with the suitcases stuffed with cash that came in from Qatar with billions of dollars for 10 years so that Hamas could build up, turns out, build up its infrastructure. It turned out it wasn't such a great social welfare agency, because there was food insecurity and water insecurity beforehand, to some extent, also because of Israel. But it's instructive that one of the things we found out, one of the things we gleaned from this absolutely horrific war campaign that Netanyahu has compacted, is the extent of what Hamas was doing underground. And just to give you an idea, the Gaza Strip is 25 miles long and about six miles wide. And there are at least 310 miles of tunnels underneath, some of them two levels. And so we're facing an extremely industrious and also an extremely hateful foe. And I think that they kind of have their mirror in the Israeli government, except that it's not industrious. So with that, I think I'll turn it back over to you by me. 

 

Hadar Susskind 08:35 

Quite, quite aligned. Thank you. Thank you for also sharing that story. Somebody asked, by the way, I think you said it was 1987 when you started reporting in Gaza? 

 

Bradley Burston 08:46 

Yeah, I started the year before, but then it was really sleeping. 

 

Hadar Susskind 08:50 

Yeah. That reminds me, and I of course neglected to do so at the beginning, because it's beginning of year and you know, we're all still waking up. Please do use the Q&A function for questions. And again, we will get to as many of those as we can, and we will share them with Bradley afterward if we don't get a chance to get to any of them. But you know, those technical details that I neglected: the webinar is being recorded, we will share it both as the webinar and Ori will of course make a podcast episode out of it. And please do use the Q&A function for questions. But I am going to kick off the first question actually, which is sort of picking up where you left off talking about Hamas and the Israeli government and the current iteration of the conflict. You know, obviously after the atrocities of October 7, the Israeli government, and I think it's fair to say, many in Israel, said that Israel had no choice but to respond and respond in the fashion in which they did. Do you agree with that? What do you think about that assertion? 

 

Bradley Burston 09:59 

My answer is absolutely not. Okay, so in general war is a three letter word for failure. And this war is a synonym for catastrophic failure. One of the options, that had this been a different government - and you can say that Israel couldn't have responded differently - you can say that this government couldn't have responded differently because of its makeup. I mean, that I would understand because considering that they're speaking in terms of, at this point, a genocidal future for 2 million Gazans, maybe there wasn't, they didn't see an alternative. But I think that had it been a government of a modicum of rationality, one option would have been to immediately leverage the overwhelming international sympathy for Israel amid the October 7 atrocities. Netanyahu certainly had the skills and the intelligence to have been able to (along with Biden, the EU, even the UN, and certainly many of the Gulf states) craft a coalition that would have been able to carry out some form of combined diplomatic, economic, political offensive that would have delegitimized Hamas, dried it up, undermined it, and dismantled it while causing a minimum harm to noncombatant Gazans. And they would have, I believe, they would have first of all demanded immediate return of the hostages, and forcefully so. And I think that there would have been overwhelming international support for that. And I think there's a very, very strong possibility that it might have worked. There would probably have had to have been some sort of prisoner exchange, but it would have saved many lives, which have already been lost among the hostages. But again, this is the government that is coming out with a new statement every day about what to do with the Gazans. And it becomes more and more dire, you know, as they go on. And there's new members of the coalition joining because they feel they need to say something. So for example, this guy, Moshe Saada for the Likud came out with a statement saying, say, "Well, you know, even the kibbutznikim now say to me: 'Get rid of all of them', you know, 'destroy them all.' The state prosecutor says, you know, 'destroy them all,'" which is actually not true, but he's saying his friends in the prosecution that used to argue with him politically are now saying, you know, "Yeah, you're right, destroy them all." And he was speaking on what's called the poison station, Channel 14, it's Bibi's station. And what he was saying was that this proves that the right wing was right all along, that you shouldn't have a Palestinian state, and that you should treat them just like this, right. And they're all, you know, they're all worth killing. And we're in a terrible position now. But we're making our terrible position worse. It's not bad enough what we've already done in this bombing campaign, and the, you know, the number of civilian casualties and casualties among children is enormous. But the idea that there is a case, there's going to be a case before the International Court of Justice that's being brought by the South African government, accusing Israel of genocide. It's very significant that one of the elements of a judgement about a government being interested in genocide is intention, intent. And if one after another of the members of the coalition comes out with these statements about "flatten Gaza" and "kill them all," "finish them off," the future is as bleak as it gets. 

 

Hadar Susskind 14:53 

Yeah, it is. I mean, just the conversations that so many of us are part of with people who are not always deeply engaged in this. Where you see people saying on the one hand: here is not one or two, but series of Israeli government ministers (not, you know, just some yahoo out on the street), ministers calling for, you know, pushing them all into Sinai, calling for genocidal actions, things like that. And then people defending that by saying, "Oh, those guys aren't serious, they're just, you know, ridiculous people." But those ridiculous people are ministers in this government. We have a lot of questions coming in about, you know, sort of the politics afterwards, so to speak. But before we get to that, I want to ask you a little bit about your thoughts on, really, what comes next, because unfortunately, we're not finished with the war. I mean, we've seen two phases, basically: the airstrikes and then the ground invasion. So we're at what I think is sort of the waiting period for Phase Three right now. What do you expect to see next? 

 

Bradley Burston 15:58 

Alright so it's indicative of this government, I think, that today is the 90th day of the war, and only tonight, for the first time since the beginning of the war, the government is meeting to discuss the day after, how this could possibly end. After three months, this is a real indication of them having gone about it the wrong way to begin with. In any case, I think that because we know that the third phase will have to do with massive - my English is failing me - but there are 360,000 reservists. And they've been there for a long time, and they're going to start, I forget the word, but they're gonna start freeing them to go back home. Yeah, releasing, right, fair enough. Anyway. So when that happens, this is the thing that Netanyahu has been dreading. So there's a number of possibilities. I think you can bet that a lot of these guys (I think chances are both you and I have some experience of going through the military and being disgruntled, I'm guessing) - when these guys come back, they're going to be mad as hell. Some of them are going to be mad because they were not told that they were supposed to be killing large numbers of civilians, or possibly paving the way for mass expulsions and a second Nakba. Or maybe renewing Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, for example, stuff that the government has talked about. Some people are going to be very, very upset about that. Others will be upset because there isn't an immediate move to settle Gaza. So there's going to be - and these guys have had plenty of time to collect their thoughts, because I have done a 60 day reserves then, I did it in Lebanon. And I remember what my mood was like when I came back. And so alright, so here's what I'm thinking if Bibi is really threatened. Okay, so nobody smells blood like the far right, the Israeli far right, especially the veterans of the settler movement, the militant settlers. And so what you could have is a palace coup. If Bibi is scared enough, he could become a figurehead. And what we've seen as just declarative moves by one after another of the extreme right wingers could turn into facts on the ground, because facts on the ground is how the settlement movement (nobody knows this better than Peace Now) - that's how the settlement movement works. Alright, so that's one possibility. But I think another possibility is the overwhelming power that we saw earlier this year, of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of Israelis taking to the streets. I think you can be assured that that's going to come back in some form. And it's going there and they're going to be calling for Netanyahu's ouster before anything else. And it's going to be very, very, very difficult for Netanyahu to navigate this. That's why he's trying to keep the war going as long as possible. 

 

Hadar Susskind 15:59 

So I'm gonna ask you two questions together here that have come in a variety of versions through the Q&A. So one is actually just people asking for you to explain the title of the book. Obviously, it's pretty dramatic. So what do you mean by that? And then I'll ask you the second one, because maybe it'll lead into this. There are a number of questions here that are around the topic of - like when Ben Gvir and company say outrageous and dangerous things about the future of Gazans, when they're talking about genocide and forced migration, etc. - is there a response from the opposition? And if so, why aren't we hearing about it here in the US or outside of Israel? And then I have like 11 questions that are all basically: when are there going to be elections? And how do we get to that? And I think they'll all connect, so I'll throw them all at you. 

 

Bradley Burston 20:12 

They're definitely connected. Alright, which would you like to hear first? 

 

Hadar Susskind 20:50 

Start with the book title. 

 

Bradley Burston 20:50 

Okay, so, alright. So I will reveal to you that the book title, I came up with the book title during the summer. This book was supposed to be a book about the judicial reform, and that being the end of democracy in Israel. But the idea of the title was twofold. Because it's the idea, first of all, that the ideals that were embodied in the Declaration of Independence, primarily democracy, equality, and peace with your neighbors, were - starting in 2018 with the nation state law and just with the slippery slope, you know, gradually gaining momentum and ending with a judicial reform - that was the end of Israel as we knew it. But there was another explanation for the title, which is what is the end of Israel, which is to say, what is the goal of Israel? What is the idea? What does Israel exist for? And if Israel exists for the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that's one possibility. The other possibility is Israel exists to make it possible for certain sectors of the electorate to live unsustainable lives paid for by the rest of us. Especially illegal settlements, yeshivas where they don't serve in the army or do national service of some other kind, and finally the Likud, which Miki Zohar, a Likud member of Knesset (he's actually a cabinet minister now, Culture and Sport) - 

 

Hadar Susskind 20:58 

They're all ministers. 

 

Bradley Burston 21:10 

And he's actually become one of the more affable and honest of the Likud people, which is a low bar, but he said on an interview, he essentially said: "What the Likud is after is Koach, Kesef and Kavod”. In other words, power, money, and respect or honor in a in a kind of a sleazy, you know, 

 

Hadar Susskind 23:26 

Mafia kind of way. 

 

Bradley Burston 23:28

Bidiuk, exactly. So those are the three wings of the government, right? And if that's the be all and end all of Israel, that will probably be the end of Israel. 

 

Hadar Susskind 23:41 

That's quite an answer. Oh, boy. Okay, so let's go from there into the second part of that question, which again, was about, you know, starting with the opposition. Are they really speaking out in opposition, pardon the pun, to what's happening in Gaza, to what this government is doing? We know, obviously, they were very clear, they were unequivocal in their views around, you know, the judicial coup, etc. But when it comes to the war, you know, one of the things that I think people here in the US have been feeling increasingly, is the distance between, let's call it the left in the US and the left in Israel. I'm not even talking about the right, I'm talking about the left. And so, you know, has the opposition been acting as an opposition and where do you see that going? And how do we get there in terms of, you know, the electoral process? 

 

Bradley Burston 24:30 

Right so I think because part of the opposition is in the government (Bibi co-opted Gantz and Eisenkot), it's kind of emotional blackmail because these are guys who will, you know, rally to the flag. You know, they really believe sincerely that it's their job to serve the country and to serve this government and to make it - I realize it's gonna sound ludicrous - more moderate, you know, given what's happened. 

 

Hadar Susskind 25:10

 I agree that they believe that. 

 

Bradley Burston 25:11 

I think they believe it. Oh, by the way, I think it's fair to point out, in their defense, that a lot of the terrible bombing went on before they joined the government. If you look at, just really briefly, the statements that were made by Bibi and by Gallant and by the IDF spokesman the first three days of the war, you see what they were planning. And you also see - by the way, in terms of the question of could it have been different - Bibi on the evening of October 7 is talking revenge, and he's talking about flattening Gaza, turning it into rubble. Gallant is talking the next day about cutting off water, electricity, food supplies. 

 

Hadar Susskind 26:00 

Not just talking about it, he did so. 

 

Bradley Burston 26:02 

Yeah, and then on October 10, the IDF spokesman uttered this, I can't believe that he said this. They were asking him about the bombing. And because for years, since the Goldstone Report, the Air Force had been trying to limit civilian casualties, and they've done all kinds of things to try to limit them and they did to some degree. But he said, the IDF spokesman, that the emphasis is more on damage than it is on accuracy. Which is kind of one of these laundered statements and hiding behind it is horror. You know, it was an absolute, you know, monstrous thing to say. Alright, anyways. So Gallant and Eisenkot and Matan Kahana, and many other people who are very reasonable people, in fact, joined the government and to some extent had a modifying influence in helping with Biden to try to, you know, keep down the killing, but it doesn't help very much. But they're restricted in what they can say. I think Lapid is restricted in what he can say. I think other people have been restricted by the government in what they can say. So what you're seeing now is a number of statements that are coming out as private initiatives. So for example, a statement just came out from artists, saying that they should really think about pursuing the war differently. A statement came out from human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard. And that was a statement to the Attorney General asking them to go after this incitement to genocide and expulsion from the highest level of government - full disclosure, I am a signatory to that letter. And so there are private initiatives. But I don't think anything's really going to blow apart until the reservists come back. Because as long as you have that enormous number of army people in Gaza, nobody wants to appear to be undermining them. The problem, of course, is that the hostages are really suffering from this directly. Because the more Bibi says push on, push on, push on, almost every day, we learn of another hostage who died in captivity, and that's just unbearable. It's absolutely unbearable. Okay, so in terms of an election, clearly, it's in the interest of almost everybody in the government to keep this government going forever. They thought, actually, with the judicial reform, that they could keep it going forever. And there was this feeling that, you know, Bibi would wind up being a president for life. You know, he kind of toyed with the idea. They can go on until October 27, 2026, depressingly enough, because even though 2023, you know, it seems like it lasted for about 10 years - 

 

Hadar Susskind 26:06 

It was one year. 

 

Bradley Burston 29:32 

- but the government is a year old. 

 

Hadar Susskind 29:51 

Sorry to interrupt, I want to clarify for folks. When he said they can go on until 2026, that's the term for which they were elected. So obviously, in a minute we'll talk about how to get to early elections. But if there are not early elections, that's when the next election is scheduled. 

 

Bradley Burston 30:04

 So the best hope for an election is, ironically enough, the fact that Ben Gvir, the most, you know, maniacal and ridiculous person in the government, has been gaining some support, as opposed to almost every other party the Likud is bottoming out. And most of the others - Shas is hanging on and the ultra-Orthodox kind of stay the same. But the only party that you can imagine would sink this government is Ben Gvir. He's crazy enough to do it. Or he's Machiavellian enough to do it, take your pick. Or both. But, the government's strong. What Bibi is thinking is "we've got to stay in here so long, that something else will happen. Maybe we will be hit by an asteroid. And you know, and we'll have to deal with that. And we'll forget about you know, October 7." He wants people to forget. So that's the problem. He wants to stay in office as long as he can.

 

Hadar Susskind 31:18

Because in office, of course, also means not in jail. 

 

Bradley Burston 31:21

In office means not in jail, oddly enough. Just for added spice, the High Court wasn't finished this week with reinstating the unreasonableness laws, forgive me, which was, which is one of only two pieces of legislation that the judicial reform actually managed to pass. The other one was to limit the ways that you can get rid of a prime minister who is unfit to serve and the High Court just got rid of that thing by postponing it. So it'll only apply after the next election. So in other words, if the Attorney General, which I don't think is going to happen, but if the Attorney General makes a determination that Bibi is unfit for office, he can still be declared unfit. 

 

Hadar Susskind 31:37

At least we have that. So let's come back for a minute to the current conflict, to Gaza. One of the things that I think I'm getting asked a lot from people in this country is that, you know, you've got this unbelievable, as you said, horrific humanitarian catastrophe taking place in Gaza. And you're hearing, of course, obviously, Netanyahu is supporting it. We're hearing all these horrific statements from people in his government, we're hearing, here at least, very minimal opposition statements. So there's, you know, there are a lot of people saying that the Israeli public is in general, either unaware of it, there's been some things written saying that people in Israel aren't really hearing what's happening in Gaza, or that they frankly are, you know, in support of it. What do you think? Do you think it's one of those two? Is it something else? 

 

Bradley Burston 33:22

Well, first of all, I have to say, and it saddens me to say, that journalists have done a poor job of letting Israelis know the consequences of what they've done. The humanitarian crisis - you don't see it, except for Haaretz, +972, and a few other media outlets, but you don't see it. But there's something much deeper than that. We can't see it because we can't heal. It hurts too much. Still. We're still too deep in mourning, and we're deeper in mourning every single day, people go from funeral to Shiva to funeral to Shiva. And that hurts tremendously. They have no sense that anyone in the world sees their suffering. They see Hamas as monsters, which is not necessarily untrue. The world sees Israelis as monsters. And in general, they're not. They didn't ask for this bombing campaign. They didn't ask for the Gazans to be starved. No one asked. Right? It's true that there are Israelis who are mad as hell, and they are out for revenge. That's true. But it's a mistake to think that the reason that Israelis seem insensitive, as a whole, to the suffering going on in Gaza is simply because they want these people to suffer. I don't believe that that's true, I think that they are suffering themselves. I think nobody can imagine how absolutely wounded the Israeli public is at this point. And they can't apologize, because it hurts too much. 

 

Hadar Susskind 35:51

I think that is very true. And it's very, I think, you know, for a lot of us on this call who I think share or at least feel like we understand a lot of those feelings, it's very difficult to explain that to other people here. That, you know, if you didn't know anything about this before October 7, or even if you did, but you're just reading an article here or there, or you're seeing the very real, very horrible things that are happening you know, in Gaza - I think that one of the things that we have been spending a lot of our time talking about to folks (you know, elected officials and others) is trying to really understand how people on both sides of this are suffering and how that's impacting the the decision making. You know, there's a piece of it that's the cynical politics of how Bibi wants the war to go on because he wants to stay in office. But there are also parts of it that are not cynical, they're still horrible, but they're very real in terms of people's pain and suffering, trying to deal with all of these issues going forward. 

 

Bradley Burston 37:02 

Yeah, I think that what you're looking at here - and this is hard to see from a distance - what you're looking at here are millions of people in the Holy Land whose main interest is in their family, and the safety and the well being of their family, and who are people with huge hearts for one another. And then they are, unfortunately, led by two men who are Sinwar and Netanyahu, who have proven themselves in this war to be completely heartless. And I don't know how we got to this. I mean, I have an idea mechanically. But the idea of these people with so much heart and so much feeling being led by these guys that are, you know, heartless is beyond me. 

 

Hadar Susskind 37:59 

So what's next? How do we get out of that? That connects, obviously, to the electoral question but there's no order.

 

Bradley Burston 38:10 

Alright, so there are ways to look at it that are not completely bleak. Because I think that for the first time in maybe 10 years, people have started to discuss the possibility of a two state solution not as some kind of, you know, Marvel Comics fantasy, but as a situation which actually could come about. But again, it would require regime change, both in Gaza and in Israel. And because you cannot have a two state solution with these leaders who are only interested in one state and that state is their side and not the other one. And you need a leader, also who's willing to get killed for peace. That's what we've seen. And Bibi is not that leader. That's one of the recurring themes of the book, is that there were a number of times when Bibi was exactly the guy that could have put a two state solution over the top along with the American administration, which was very, very supportive. He could have done it - first of all, you had to have a Likud guy to do it. You know, and the entire rest of the electorate would have gone along. There was a great deal of support at the beginning for the two state solution. He could have done it, but he wasn't going to do it because his way of thinking is, well, you know, if there's terrorism, then you can't really make peace. And if there's no terrorism, there's no point in making peace. And that's how he operates. 

 

Hadar Susskind 40:03 

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, as we all look for shreds of hope, right - how do we get to something better? - one of the conversations that I've had with people is about the fact that I do think there are a large number of Israelis who are feeling (and as you were talking about, maybe more as the reservists are released and come home) that October 7 and the persecution of the war afterward has demonstrated the failure of Netanyahu. In the literal sense of, you know, government's first and primary role is protecting its citizens, and they failed in that, but also in the broader sense of the failure of Netanyahu's worldview. The failure of the idea that, you know, this conflict can just be managed: we can build a wall here, we can build a wall there, most of us can ignore it, and we don't have to worry about it, you know, in an extremely horrific, horrific way it has been made clear that that's not true. And so I think, to your point about the two state solution, there are people who haven't said that word in a decade, or who thought that that was, oh, just off the table, who are coming back and saying, Look, you know, what Netanyahu has been selling us, that this is sustainable, is not true. So what are we going to do? And we're seeing, you know, our own colleagues at Shalom Achshav, others in the grassroots, you know, coming together and saying: we have to find a way out of this war, out of this horror, not just back where we were on October 6, but towards something better. 

 

Bradley Burston 41:39 

So I want to return to that idea of this disgruntled soldier coming back, because I think what we're seeing now is, you know, that during the year until October, there were these huge, huge, huge demonstrations for democracy that barely mentioned the occupation. But now Netanyahu and his friends Ben Gvir and Smotrich are shoving the occupation in our face and down our throats, and they're saying: not only are we going to occupy the West Bank, but we're going to go on, and we're going to be in Gaza forever, right? And I think the occupation - one of the reasons there's been no move toward peace, until now and for years, was that the idea was: you can't say that word, you can't talk about what we're doing. You can't talk about occupation because it's divisive. But if it gets shoved down your throat by a minority that makes you go out there and risk your life, and if they find out that they're risking your life in order to extend the occupation, that the occupation will come back to be a huge issue in Israeli life - and it should be, and this is the worst way I can imagine doing it, at the expense of 1000s of lives. But this is one thing that could happen, you won't be able to avoid it. They shove it down your throat. There it is, you've got to do something about it. 

 

Hadar Susskind 43:13

Yeah, and I think, you know, we've seen over this past year, that parallel here in the United States. I mean, we talked about how this government has been in office for a year. January 2, 2023, we hosted a protest in front of the Israeli embassy, protesting the then incoming Israeli government, right, and Netanyahu and Ben Gvir, and Smotrich and all of the gang. And that first protest a year ago, we had, you know, a lot of great people join us, but we did not have other organizations join us. It was an APN event and other organizations that were invited, said, "Oh, we don't know if we want to do that or not." And then as the year went on, and certainly as the protest movement built in Israel, obviously, you know, it carried not only across the United States, but around the world, there were people protesting. And I think that same issue of occupation, we're seeing the parallel in the American Jewish community, we're seeing the parallel in the American political world as well. And it's one of the obviously, for us, core pieces of our work. And the question a lot of people are asking here is, you know, do you think that this war and the way this war has been carried out, do you feel it on the Israeli side that it's changing the US-Israel relationship? And I'll sharpen that to two parts, both at the political level when we're talking about President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government, but also with the American Jewish community. 

 

Bradley Burston 44:41

I'm sorry, it blipped out a bit here. If you could just repeat the question. 

 

Hadar Susskind 44:45

Sure, I think, the question - and it's a little bit vague too, so maybe it didn't blip out and it was just I didn't ask it well - but, you know, there's a lot of conversations. There's the Israeli conversation that's changing around the occupation, right, and there's a parallel American conversation, but there's also the Israeli-American conversation. And how is that changing because of this war, and there's multiple levels of that, but the two I was asking about were the political, or, you know, government to government, but then also people to people, and I would say specifically the American Jewish community. Although one of the other pieces that's actually been very interesting, in good ways and bad ways, is how much more engaged the rest of America is around this issue right now. So I'm just curious from your seat there, are you feeling that change and how? 

 

Bradley Burston 45:31

You know, I've never felt more distant from America, in general. Because I've been watching it as if from the wrong end of a telescope. I find myself completely unqualified to figure out what's going on in the American Jewish community. And I really, really, really sympathize. I think that the idea that many people are scared to death of antisemitism, and also are sickened, actually, by what's happened here - I feel for them, but I don't know if I have a sense for what's going on at all. Somebody told me there's gonna be a wave of Aliyah, you know, and immigration, and I thought, well, that could happen. Or we could just wind up with, you know, more people going to the settlements. I think there has to be - you know, the tragedy for me (part of the tragedy, one tragedy among many) is that during the summer, I felt for Americans who were coming to kind of join us in protests, I felt a tremendous commonality and a tremendous sense of moving in the same direction. And finally, I was almost like, there's some kind of weirdly messianic, not in the Orthodox sense, but kind of some kind of messianic thing of people who are yelling and screaming and came all the way over here to march for democracy. And it was just, it was better than I could have hoped. And then of course for Bibi maybe it was the worst thing. So then October 7, it just shut it down. And then shut down also, I think, that commonality, which I feel sad about, because there are many, many people here who have shared values (I realize that's a term that nobody wants to use anymore). But there are many people here with shared values with liberal Jews in the States. It's just that the government doesn't share any values with anybody except for Trump that I can think of, I think they've even gone, you know, past Trump into the overt right-wing-land. 

 

Hadar Susskind 48:08

Yeah, I mean, you know, we have some experience with that, as you just mentioned. When you talk about that concept of shared values, you know, and again, we spend a lot of time telling people here that Israel and the Israeli population is not a monolithic thing. When people say, "Oh, well, Israel is supporting this," you know, the government of Israel is doing it and has that responsibility. But obviously, the people, you know, have a diversity of views just as we do here. So, I want to try to bring us back around to coming out of this, and we know that this war is going to end not as soon as we would like, but it will come to an end. And when it comes to an end, there are still going to be millions of Israelis, both Jews and Muslims and Christians and others, there are still going to be millions of Palestinians, and they're going to need to find a way to live together, right? I do not believe, thankfully, that the population of Gaza is going to be expelled. And obviously, we still have everyone else in the West Bank, there needs to be a better answer. I think the resurgence of the conversation around the two state solution is part of that. But I think there's, you know, there are a lot of different steps. So I mean, what's the hope that you see for change? Can you imagine a scenario, or imagine for us the scenario that is better, that ends in peace, that brings us toward a direction of our shared values? 

 

Bradley Burston 49:39 

Oh, yeah, no, I really can. But unfortunately, the timeline is tremendously distressing. Because you know, there's a chapter in the book about how we'll all be better off when my generation has died out. Israel will be better off. But it's going to take more than that. Unfortunately, it's going to take more time than that because of the tremendous pain that everybody feels and the tremendous anger that everybody feels. And it's driving people apart. But I really believe that the pendulum will swing back. I always say that, I mean, I grew up at a time when we managed to change the country, because a huge number of young people realized that their parents were idiots. And what it's gonna take here is a huge number of young people on both sides saying, "Our parents were idiots, we have to find a way to live together." And it could be, by the way, any number of combinations of things, including climate change, which could have an effect, where we actually have to work together or we won't survive. There could be a situation in which women take power. I have a feeling that if women took power, we might have a better chance for peace. There are all kinds of things that could happen. But it's going to be very gradual, because nobody gives up, especially these guys. They don't want to give up power. If they can help it, I think they would literally rather die. And some of them, in some cases exactly that. 

 

Hadar Susskind 51:33

They'd certainly rather let many other people die. 

 

Bradley Burston 51:35 

You know, no that's for sure. Yeah, that's for sure. And, but I think the problem - I'm very hopeful, but the timeline is distressing. I am a grandfather, and I could see my grandchildren doing this, I can see my children doing this too. But I think that their generation, unfortunately, for my children's generation, they grew up at a time of suicide bombings. And they were very injured by that psychically. And it's very hard for them to take that leap of faith, especially now after October 7. It's very hard to take that leap of faith and say, "Alright, so let's, you know, let's try this, this thing." But I think, you know, the more that Bibi lies and says, "Oslo was the mother of all sins," and when this guy Saada is basically saying "Peace kills, and it's about time you figured it out leftists." Right? I think people are getting tired of this rhetoric. I think that the idea that peace is the problem is wearing thin, but it rides on this current of anger, which, you know, is going to be with us for a long time. So it's like, you know, it's like this Dor Midbar idea that, you know, that people have to - the generation of the wilderness. And we've been, you know, when they left Egypt, a lot of them didn't want to leave Egypt, and they thought, you know, "Slavery wasn't that bad, and I don't want to listen to this guy Moses," and all this, because they had a certain mentality. And we have a certain mentality, and I'm not proud of the mentality of my generation at all. But I really think that time could heal us. It's just going to take too much time. 

 

Hadar Susskind 53:37 

Yeah. And I mean, I think you're right, because again, I think there is, in many ways, there's no other option, right? There is not an option but to live together. And it's just a question of, you know, who are the people, which is the generation that's going to be able to, to actualize that, to make it real? All right, I'm gonna ask you the really unfair question. 

 

Bradley Burston 54:04 

Oh good.

 

Hadar Susskind 54:04

Because, you know, nobody makes money betting on, you know, elections and electoral results, or at least not consistently. I was having a conversation with some people here the other day, you know, we've got a US election coming up, as you I'm sure are aware of, and this is, in fact, this conversation is going to play a not insignificant role in that, I believe. But do you think there's going to be an Israeli election before the US election? And obviously, all the polling right now, like you said, shows, you know, Likud being decimated, the right wing, you know, the current members of the government getting, you know, 37 seats or 41 seats or very low, low numbers. But take a crack at it. I promise not to hold you to this for posterity. But what do you think is the timeline for that and what it will look like? 

 

Bradley Burston 54:58 

I think that this government is going to do everything it possibly can to make Biden look bad, for as long as they can. To do that, they have to stay in power until November. Right? And because I think this government really wants the Republicans to come in and certainly would love to have Trump come in, and it doesn't have to be Trump. And if Trump winds up going to jail, they've got this whole other roster of other people who they can find valuable. So I think the government will do everything in its power to stay in power through the American election in order to influence it, which is terrible. And I'm not enjoying saying this, but that's what I would say. And then depending on the result of the election, that might have an effect on what would happen here. It wouldn't be the first time, depending on what happens, depending on who wins, depending on how Congress goes. We'll see. But that would be my bet, that they will do everything they can to stay in power until at least until after November. 

 

Hadar Susskind 56:20 

We shall see. Yeah, I mean, I have no doubt you're right about that. They will do everything they can to stay in power. 

 

Bradley Burston 56:26

 I think they will. I mean, I think chances are, if you want me to bet, you know, I would bet that they would. But of course, you know, an asteroid could hit in the meantime. It's been happening regularly lately [laughs]

 

Hadar Susskind 56:41 

We just had an earthquake here the other day, which is very weird. 

 

Bradley Burston 56:45 

Oh, I'm from California. That's not that weird. 

 

Hadar Susskind 56:47 

Yeah well, in Washington, it's weird. It was a small one. All right, listen, I wanna thank you. I want to thank you for being with us for this hour. And thank you for the book. For those of you, if you didn't see it, Ori put a link to the book in the chat, but I'm sure it can be found. I know Ori put an Amazon link, I'm sure it can be found in a variety of other ways as well. But I would encourage folks to check it out. And, you know, I thank you for all your continuing writing and your continuing work. 

 

Bradley Burston 57:20

Thank you. 

 

Hadar Susskind 57:21

And hopefully we'll see you when we're there. We're coming, we're bringing an APN trip, for those of you on the call if anyone wants to join us, we will be visiting in March and hopefully we'll see you. 

 

Bradley Burston 57:32

Oh, good love that. Thank you. 

 

Hadar Susskind 57:34

All right. Thank you everyone for joining us and talk to you all soon. Goodbye. 

 

Bradley Burston 57:37

Bye bye.

Recording: How do Palestinians Envision the Future of Gaza - with Khaled Elgindy

The future of the Gaza Strip is a matter of intense discussion in Israel, Washington and around the world, and, of course, also among Palestinian policymakers and policy shapers. What is the focus of this discussion? How do the Palestinian Authority and the PLO see the future of Gaza?  How do they link it to the future of the West Bank and Palestinian society? What are the challenges facing the Palestinian political community and leadership?

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