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Ceasefire Negotiations Again Sputter Between Israel and Hamas
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Ceasefire Negotiations Again Sputter Between Israel and Hamas

The U.S. increases calls for a humanitarian pause and the return of hostages.

Happy Tuesday! In perhaps the wildest literary twist of the modern era, it turns out that tortured 21st-century American poet Taylor Swift is, according to Ancestry, distantly related to the tortured 19th-century American poet, Emily Dickinson. How’s that for a mashup?

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • In a unanimous decision on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that states do not have the power to remove presidential candidates from the ballot on the grounds that they may have engaged in insurrection or rebellion, holding that only Congress has such authority. Former President Donald Trump will therefore remain on the ballot in Colorado and other states that attempted to remove him on the grounds that he violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment with his involvement in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The ruling did not touch the questions of whether Trump “engaged in insurrection” on January 6 or if the president is considered an “officer of the United States.” Though the ruling was backed by all nine justices, four—the three liberals on the bench as well as Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump appointed—argued that the majority opinion was too broad. However, Barrett also criticized her liberal colleagues for writing their own concurring opinion, insisting that the justices agreed on the essential question. “In my judgment, this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency,” she wrote. “The Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up.” 
  • NATO began military drills in the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland on Monday, bringing together more than 20,000 troops from 13 countries—including the U.S.—for cold-weather exercises lasting two weeks. The Norwegian-led exercise will include its largest-ever Finnish contingent, expanding due to the recent accession of Finland and, soon, Sweden
  • French lawmakers voted on Monday to enshrine the right to an abortion in the nation’s constitution—the first country in the world to do so. The constitutional change easily cleared the three-fifths majority of both houses needed to pass the measure by more than 200 votes. Many lawmakers who opposed the change did so because they felt the constitutional amendment was unnecessary, given the strong existing support for abortion access in the country. Abortion was legalized in France in 1975, and the procedure is allowed for any reason until 14 weeks of gestation, which this new measure will not change.
  • Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira—who was arrested last April for leaking dozens of classified Pentagon documents on the messaging app Discord—pleaded guilty on Monday to six counts of willful retention and transmission of classified information relating to national defense under a plea deal that would have the 22-year-old serve a 16-year jail sentence. “Jack Teixeira will never get a sniff of a classified piece of information for the rest of his life,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Josh Levy. 
  • Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, pleaded guilty to perjury on Monday, admitting he lied under oath during the testimony he gave as part of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud case against the former president and his associates, including Weisselberg. He will go to prison for five months; it’s the second time Weisselberg has faced jail time in relation to his activity for the Trump Organization, after he served three months of a five-month sentence for evading taxes on nearly $2 million in income, including fringe benefits, from the company. 
  • Former President Donald Trump won the North Dakota Republican caucuses on Monday, bringing in 84 percent of the vote and capturing all 29 of the state’s delegates. Trump now has 273 delegates to former Ambassador Nikki Haley’s 43 heading into today’s Super Tuesday contests.
  • Sen. John Thune of South Dakota formally entered the race to become the next Senate Republican leader on Monday, joining Sen. John Cornyn of Texas in the contest to replace Sen. Mitch McConnell, who will officially step down from his leadership position in November. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who told The Charlie Kirk Show that he was “seriously considering” running for McConnell’s job, met with Trump last night.
  • The European Commission—the EU’s executive body—fined Apple nearly $2 billion Monday, accusing the company of “abusing” its control over the App Store to set unfair rules for Spotify and other music streaming services. According to the EU, Apple’s policy, which keeps developers from informing users about cheaper subscription prices available outside the App Store, amounts to “unfair trading conditions.” This is the largest antitrust fine the EU has ever imposed on a tech company, and Apple has said it will appeal the decision.
  • Budget airlines JetBlue and Spirit called off their planned $3.8 billion merger on Monday after a federal judge in January blocked the union on antitrust grounds, siding with the Justice Department in a lawsuit to halt the merger. JetBlue, which had planned to acquire the struggling Spirit, will instead pay $69 million to Spirit—and $400 million to Spirit’s shareholders—to end the deal.

Another Hostage Negotiation Falters

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz departs the White House after meeting with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on March 4, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz departs the White House after meeting with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on March 4, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli war cabinet member and opposition leader Benny Gantz met with Biden administration officials in Washington, D.C., on Monday to discuss Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. In a perceived slight, Gantz did not inform Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his planned trip, Israeli media outlet Ynet reported on Friday, prompting Netanyahu to clarify to Gantz—and perhaps his Western allies—that “the state of Israel has only one prime minister.”

It’s been a week since President Joe Biden, in an ice cream shop with late-night host Seth Meyers, predicted a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas before the end of the weekend. Negotiations in Egypt, however, are on the verge of collapse, with Israel holding back its delegation after Hamas refused to release a list of surviving hostages. Meanwhile, as the humanitarian crisis worsens in Gaza, the U.S. has begun airdropping aid to civilians living in the terrorist-controlled enclave, and leaders have more forcefully begun calling on both Israel and Hamas to come to an agreement.

Exactly 150 days since the war began, Israel continues its mission to eradicate the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists from Gaza—and though the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have made significant progress, cells have survived underground. “Hamas is in a much weaker position now than they were two months ago,” Greg Brew, an Iran analyst at Eurasia Group, told TMD. “But they are still holding onto a significant number of hostages, and they do feel that they’re in a position to negotiate a ceasefire. So they’re not going to surrender. And so long as there is resistance on the Israeli side to a deal that preserves Hamas in Gaza, reaching any kind of ceasefire is going to be very difficult.”

International pressure for a ceasefire agreement has recently grown, particularly in response to an incident last week where dozens of Palestinians were killed as they swarmed a humanitarian aid convoy in Gaza—some were shot by IDF forces and many were trampled in a stampede. Israel and Hamas have negotiated back and forth for weeks, but in a matter of days the process went from an “endorsed framework” to the brink of failure. As The Dispatch’s Charlotte Lawson reports from Tel Aviv today:

Hamas negotiators rejected Israel’s proposed framework, doubling down on the terrorist group’s demands for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip. Days later, in Cairo, Israel’s delegation sat out U.S.- and Qatar-brokered talks after Hamas refused to provide a list of the hostages who are still alive. The temporary ceasefire on the table would secure the release of up to 40 of the estimated 100 living hostages in various phases. In exchange, Israel would halt its advances for six weeks, release at least 300 Palestinian prisoners from its jails, increase humanitarian aid deliveries, and allow displaced Gazans to return to specified areas in the northern part of the Strip.

To some observers, Israel’s demand to know which hostages still remain in Hamas’ captivity represents the bare minimum requirement for a deal. “If you’re going to be negotiating for hostages,” said Raphael Cohen, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, “you want to know which ones are alive and which ones are not.”

But refusing to provide a list of living hostages wasn’t the only hang-up: Axios reported yesterday that Hamas was also seeking an agreement that would allow Palestinian civilians to return to northern Gaza. “Israel is wary of that,” Brew said, “because that suggests that Hamas wants to reestablish its control over north Gaza, which would undo what Israel feels that it has accomplished in its offensive.”

Ultimately, however, the fate of the hostages plays the most pivotal role in negotiations for both sides. “The bottom line is, and the sad truth about whatever hostage exchange comes at last, is that Israel is not going to get all the hostages back,” Enia Krivine, senior director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Israel Program, told TMD. “As long as the Hamas leadership is alive and is hiding underneath Gaza, it needs to surround itself with Israeli hostages to protect itself, as its insurance policy and its last piece of leverage, and they’re not going to willingly let go of that.”

The dwindling prospects of a truce led to the most forceful comments so far by the Biden administration in its push for a temporary resolution. At an event commemorating Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, this past weekend, Vice President Kamala Harris called for “an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks” to “get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in,” putting the onus on Hamas “to agree to that deal.” Harris also pushed for greater efforts by the Israeli government to combat civilian suffering in Gaza. “No excuses,” she said. “They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites, and convoys are not targeted. And they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza so more food, water, and fuel can reach those in need.” Over the weekend, the U.S. military airdropped 38,000 ready-to-eat meals into Gaza, the first of such planned packages. “We will continue to pull out every stop we can to get more aid in,” Biden tweeted on Saturday. (Congressional Republicans have opposed the airdrops so far, citing concerns that aid could fall into the hands of terrorists.)

Harris’ remarks reflected the Biden administration’s frustration with the lack of progress on a ceasefire that seemed within reach, Cohen told TMD. “Biden came out last week saying that he thought a ceasefire by Ramadan was likely,” he said, referring to the month of fasting and reflection for Muslims that this year begins on March 10. “The way I view Harris’ remarks is, in some ways, trying to push the sides to that desired outcome.”

Enter Benny Gantz, one of Netanyahu’s top political rivals who joined Israel’s war cabinet after the October 7 attacks in an effort to project unity to a mourning nation. As Netanyahu has faced renewed criticism at home and blame from Israelis for the October 7 attacks, Gantz’s popularity has grown—so much so that many see him as Netanyahu’s likely replacement. So far, the coalition war cabinet has largely been able to leave politics behind, Krivine said, “which is a true feat in Israel, where everything is so highly political right now and polarized and has been for years.” Still, Gantz’s reportedly unsanctioned trip to the U.S. came as a surprise. “It’s a break of diplomatic protocols for him to go without Netanyahu’s sign-off,” Krivine continued, “and we don’t know what he hopes to achieve while he’s there.”

Gantz’s visit poses a welcome opportunity for a frustrated Biden administration. “It’s become very, very clear that the Biden administration does not have much confidence left in Bibi [Netanyahu] and probably wants to talk to somebody new on the Israeli side to try to figure out how they can work with Israel on a day-after scenario,” Brew told TMD. Krivine also pointed to the rift between the Biden administration and Netanyahu’s government. “[Biden] still has not invited Netanyahu to Washington, D.C.,” she said. “There’s definitely some politics in the air, both in Washington and in Jerusalem. And I think that the administration folks will warmly receive Gantz and be happy for that photo-op, whereas I don’t expect Netanyahu to receive an invitation any time soon.”

In a meeting with Gantz on Monday, Harris pushed again for a hostage deal, a pause in fighting, and increased aid to Gaza. “I think the Biden administration is now comfortable expressing its dissatisfaction with the Netanyahu government and its dissatisfaction with Israeli policy in Gaza,” Brew said, “but this does not suggest a major break in the U.S. approach to the conflict.” Despite her elevated rhetoric over the weekend, Harris reiterated the administration’s “unwavering support” for Israel.

Without a list of living hostages from Hamas, a ceasefire seems a long way off—and that lack of a proper count of how many Israelis remain in Hamas’ capture leaves Krivine wary of a lasting agreement. “In order to provide a ceasefire to Hamas, Israel is going to have to bring back enough hostages to justify pausing the war,” she said. “I’m not convinced that Hamas will be able to fulfill any kind of hostage agreement.”

Worth Your Time

  • What is motivating President Joe Biden, now 81 years old, to run for president again? In a comprehensive profile of the president for the New Yorker, Biden biographer Evan Osnos tries to answer that question. “Near the end of my conversation with Biden, he said, ‘There’s only one reason, I think, to be involved in elective office, and that’s to be able to do what you think is the right thing,’” Osnos wrote. “The sentiment is noble but incomplete. In this election, the right thing is to win. If Biden succeeds, his critics will say that their alarms nudged him to victory. If he loses, they will say that he was captive to hubris. History will be harsh. Biden believes that he is doing the most essential work of his life. To some, this is a dangerous rationalization. He is at peace with that. In the election, he is betting that Americans will reward him for his achievements: ejecting [former President Donald] Trump from the White House, getting the nation out of the pandemic, rescuing the economy, reviving NATO—not to mention passing significant legislation on climate change, gun control, drug prices, manufacturing, and infrastructure. But achievement is not the same as inspiration, and Americans are not in a mood of gratitude toward our leaders. Having entered the Senate at the age of thirty, one of the youngest members in its history, Biden formed an idea of himself as a wunderkind, and he has never quite shed it. He often says, ‘I feel so much younger than my age.’ In the early years of his Presidency, when people asked him about his age, his stock response was ‘Watch me.’ He doesn’t say that as much anymore. Grudgingly, painfully, he may be coming to terms with the reality that people don’t see him the way he hopes they will.”

Presented Without Comment 

Financial Times: U.N. Finds ‘Grounds to Believe’ Hamas Committed Sexual Violence on October 7

Also Presented Without Comment

New York Post: Larry Hogan Says Trump Ordering GOP to Block Bipartisan Border Bill Made Him ‘Angry Enough’ to Run for Senate

Toeing the Company Line

  • It’s Tuesday, which means Dispatch Live (🔒) returns tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT! The team will discuss the news of the week and, of course, take plenty of viewer questions. Keep an eye out for an email later today with information on how to tune in.
  • Alex’s latest Dispatch Fact Check dove into what we do and don’t know about the death of American journalist Gonzalo Lira in a Ukrainian prison.
  • In the newsletters: Kevin panned (🔒) Slate’s firearms coverage as intellectually dishonest, David and Mike previewed Super Tuesday and recapped The Dispatch’s interview with former Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Nick analyzed (🔒) the weirdly rational populist strategy of purging conservatives.
  • On the podcasts: On the latest episode of Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David discuss the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision dismissing efforts to block former President Donald Trump from the Colorado ballot.
  • On the site today: Charlotte reports on the state of the Israel-Hamas war after 150 days, and Chris explains how the kooks in the Republican Party can lose and real conservatives can still win.

Let Us Know

Do you agree with the Biden administration’s decision to continue pushing for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas?

James Scimecca works on editorial partnerships for The Dispatch, and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he served as the director of communications at the Empire Center for Public Policy. When James is not promoting the work of his Dispatch colleagues, he can usually be found running along the Potomac River, cooking up a new recipe, or rooting for a beleaguered New York sports team.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.