State Department Official Resigns Over US Policy in Gaza

US State Department offices in Washington (Reuters)
US State Department offices in Washington (Reuters)
TT

State Department Official Resigns Over US Policy in Gaza

US State Department offices in Washington (Reuters)
US State Department offices in Washington (Reuters)

A senior US State Department official resigned this week over disagreements with a newly published report by the Biden administration concluding Israel was not blocking aid into Gaza.

Meanwhile, recent analyses revealed that munitions manufactured in the US were used in the deadly Israeli airstrike Sunday on a displacement camp in the Gaza Strip's southernmost city of Rafah.

Despite these developments, US officials still refuse to say Israel had crossed a red line set weeks ago by US President Joe Biden who had warned the Israeli government of Benjamin Nentanyahu from invading Rafah. But the Israeli Prime Minister didn't heed the US warning.

This week, the resignation of Stacy Gilbert adds to a list of State Department officials who quit the administration in protest at Biden’s support for Israel.

Josh Paul, the director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and Hala Rharrit, the Arabic Language Spokesperson for the State Department, in addition to several State Department employees, have resigned over the US support for Tel Aviv.

Gilbert sent an e-mail to the State Department employees, saying the department report that Israel did not obstruct aid to Gaza was incorrect.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller declined to discuss Gilbert's resignation. But he said the US administration welcomes diverse viewpoints.

Later, in a LinkedIn post, Josh Paul, who was the first State Department official to quit in protest against US support for Israel, welcomed Gilbert’s departure.

“On the day when the White House announced that the latest atrocity in Rafah did not cross its red line, this resignation demonstrates that the Biden Administration will do anything to avoid the truth,” he wrote.

Paul added, “But this is not just a story of bureaucratic complicity or ineptitude - there are people signing off on arms transfers, people drafting arms transfer approval memos, people turning a blind eye.”

He also spoke about people “who could be speaking up, people who have an immense responsibility to do good, and a lifelong commitment to human rights - whose choice is to let the bureaucracy function as though it were business as usual.”

In February, Biden issued a national security memorandum (NSM-20) on whether the administration finds credible Israel's assurances that its use of US weapons does not violate either US or international law.

Lately, the administration paused a shipment of weapons, including some bombs and precision-guided equipment, to Israel in opposition to apparent moves by its forces to invade Rafah.

However, despite the rising death toll and increased military operations, the administration kept the flow of most weapons unchanged, declaring that Israel's actions in the crowded border city of Rafah have still not crossed the "red line" set by Biden.

Meanwhile, analysis published by CNN on Wednesday revealed that munitions made in the United States were used in the deadly Israeli strike on a displacement camp in Rafah on Sunday.

At least 45 people were killed and more than 250 others injured after a fire broke out following the Israeli army’s strike on the outskirts of the city, most of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and Palestinian medics.

In video shared on social media, which CNN geolocated to the same scene by matching details including the camp’s entrance sign and the tiles on the ground, the tail of a US-made GBU-39 small diameter bomb (SDB) is visible, according to four explosive weapons experts who reviewed the video for CNN.

The GBU-39, which is manufactured by Boeing, is a high-precision munition “designed to attack strategically important point targets,” and result in low collateral damage, explosive weapons expert Chris Cobb-Smith told the channel on Tuesday.



Israeli Supreme Court Says Ultra-Orthodox Men Must Serve in Military

A man carries an Israeli flag next to an ultra-Orthodox Jew as protesters gather for a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, near the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem June 17, 2024. (Reuters)
A man carries an Israeli flag next to an ultra-Orthodox Jew as protesters gather for a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, near the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem June 17, 2024. (Reuters)
TT

Israeli Supreme Court Says Ultra-Orthodox Men Must Serve in Military

A man carries an Israeli flag next to an ultra-Orthodox Jew as protesters gather for a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, near the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem June 17, 2024. (Reuters)
A man carries an Israeli flag next to an ultra-Orthodox Jew as protesters gather for a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, near the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem June 17, 2024. (Reuters)

Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that the military must begin drafting ultra-Orthodox men for military service, a decision that could lead to the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition as Israel continues to wage war in Gaza. 

The court ruled that in the absence of a law that distinguishes between Jewish seminary students and other draftees, Israel’s compulsory military service system applies to the ultra-Orthodox like any other citizens. 

Under longstanding arrangements, ultra-Orthodox men have been exempt from the draft, which is compulsory for most Jewish men and women. These exemptions have long been a source of anger among the secular public, a divide that has widened during the eight-month-old war, as the military has called up tens of thousands of soldiers and says it needs all the manpower it can get. Over 600 soldiers have been killed. 

Politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties, key partners in Netanyahu’s governing coalition, oppose any change in the current system. If the exemptions are ended, they could bolt the coalition, causing the government to collapse and leading to new elections. 

During arguments, government lawyers told the court that forcing ultra-Orthodox men to enlist would “tear Israeli society apart.” 

The court decision comes at a sensitive time, as the war in Gaza drags on into its ninth month and the number of dead soldiers continues to mount. 

The court found that the state was carrying out “invalid selective enforcement, which represents a serious violation of the rule of law, and the principle according to which all individuals are equal before the law.” 

It did not say how many ultra-Orthodox should be drafted. 

The court also ruled that state subsidies for seminaries where exempted ultra-Orthodox men study should remain suspended. The court temporarily froze the seminary budgets earlier this year. 

In a post on the social media platform X, cabinet minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, who heads one of the ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition, called the ruling “very unfortunate and disappointing.” He did not say whether his party would bolt the government. 

“The state of Israel was established in order to be a home for the Jewish people whose Torah is the bedrock of its existence. The Holy Torah will prevail,” he wrote. 

The ultra-Orthodox see their full-time religious study as their part in protecting the state of Israel. Many fear that greater contact with secular society through the military will distance adherents from strict observance of the faith. 

Ultra-Orthodox men attend special seminaries that focus on religious studies, with little attention on secular topics like math, English or science. Critics have said they are ill-prepared to serve in the military or enter the secular work force. 

Religious women generally receive blanket exemptions that are not as controversial, in part because women are not expected to serve in combat units. 

The ruling now sets the stage for growing friction within the coalition between those who support drafting more ultra-Orthodox and those who oppose the idea. Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers are likely to face intense pressure from religious leaders and their constituents and may have to choose whether remaining in the government is worthwhile for them. 

Shuki Friedman, vice-president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank said the ultra-Orthodox “understand that they don’t have a better political alternative, but at same time their public is saying ‘why did we vote for you?’” 

The exemptions have faced years of legal challenges and a string of court decisions has found the system unjust. But Israeli leaders, under pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, have repeatedly stalled. It remains unclear whether Netanyahu will be able to do so again. 

Netanyahu’s coalition is buoyed by two ultra-Orthodox parties who oppose increasing enlistment for their constituents. The long-serving Israeli leader has tried to adhere to the court’s rulings while also scrambling to preserve his coalition. But with a slim majority of 64 seats in the 120-member parliament, he's often beholden to the pet issues of smaller parties. 

Netanyahu has been promoting a bill tabled by a previous government in 2022 that sought to address the issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment. 

But critics say that bill was crafted before the war and doesn’t do enough to address a pressing manpower shortfall as the army seeks to maintain its forces in the Gaza Strip while also preparing for potential war with the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which has been fighting with Israel since the war in Gaza erupted last October. 

With its high birthrate, the ultra-Orthodox community is the fastest-growing segment of the population, at about 4% annually. Each year, roughly 13,000 ultra-Orthodox males reach the conscription age of 18, but less than 10% enlist, according to the Israeli parliament’s State Control Committee.