House GOP scrambling with days to avert a government shutdown.
Gaza health centers under threat; Israeli West Bank settlers target Arabs.
House GOP scrambling with one week to avert a government shutdown
As is often the case, the effort to avert a government shutdown on Nov. 17 looks like it will come down to the wire. Factions within the House Republican caucus have so far not been able to reach a consensus on any plan.
This weekend, House Speaker Mike Johnson unveiled his proposal for what is being called a “laddered” continuing resolution. This is a combination of two plans, one for a clean CR, favored by Democrats and most Republicans, and a “laddered” CR favored by some hardliners in the GOP. Johnson’s plan would divide the federal budget in two, funding each bundle at current 2023 levels but with separate deadlines to decide on the next tranche of funding, whether that is another CR or a full-year budget.
The first bundle expires on Jan. 19, 2023 includes: military construction, veterans benefits, transportation, housing, urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and energy and water programs . All other federal operations, including defense, fall under the second bundle, which would expire on Feb. 2, 2023.
Already, 7 hardliners in the House GOP conference have come out against Johnson’s plan, dissatisfied that it doesn’t include any “policy wins” for them. They are unhappy that it funds the government at current levels rather than immediately slashing $120 billion from the budget, in line with their wishes. Hardliners also want provisions for more border security.
Johnson can only afford to lose 4 Republican votes to pass his plan in the House, meaning that he will need Democratic support. This will of course anger many Republicans. It’s also not yet clear whether House Democrats will support this plan. Crucially, there’s no indication whether it will find the votes to pass the Democratic controlled Senate. The White House also hasn’t commented on whether Biden will sign it. A vote is set to take place tomorrow.
Gaza health centers under threat; Israeli West Bank settlers target Arabs
This week, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) encircled Gaza City, the main population center in the north of the Gaza Strip. Israel had warned civilians in this area to move south some weeks ago. However, many were unable to make the journey, either because they had no fuel or because they were caring for sick or elderly people. Many also stayed put because the IDF continued shelling the south despite calling it a safe zone, and even shelled people evacuating in vehicles.
Now that the IDF has entered the city, more than 50,000 people have been forced to leave on foot. Many have young children in tow while others push wheelchairs with injured or elderly loved ones. Carrying white flags or anything they can fashion to look like one, they are marching in a procession southward, where there are already shortages of aid and supplies. There are reports that some of those fleeing have been fired upon by IDF forces.
The Palestinians have compared this march and the overall expulsion of Palestinians from northern Gaza to the Nakba of 1947 and 1948. “Nakba” is Arabic for “catastrophe” and describes the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their lands and homes. They were driven out by Jewish Israeli settlers who used violence and tactics that would meet most conventional definitions of terrorism. Some Israeli politicians have dismissed this comparison, but at least one, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, has openly supported the “2023 Gaza Nakba”.
Health centers under threat
One group that cannot evacuate are healthcare workers. At Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, there have been tens of thousands of civilians sheltering, and care has continued in some capacity for the injured despite a lack of supplies. But there are confirmed reports of Israeli shells striking the hospital and its surrounding complex for days. This included an attack that struck an ambulance and killed 15 people and injured dozens of others.
That shelling is now intensifying, triggering a mass exodus of people. Workers at the hospital say they have nowhere to evacuate their patients to, among them about 100 ICU patients. Doctors at Al-Shifa say that infants born prematurely at the hospital have had to be taken out of incubators as the hospital is no longer able to function, both due to repeated IDF attacks and a lack of fuel.
The IDF claims there is a Hamas command center beneath the hospital, which both hospital administrators and Hamas denies. Bizarrely, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog is now even denying that the IDF is striking the facility!
Netanyahu admits he wants Gaza under total IDF control, but claims that isn’t occupation
In an ABC News interview on Monday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the war, “I think Israel will, for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility, because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it”. However, he has claimed repeatedly (as recently as today) that Israel does not intend to “occupy” or “govern” Gaza. No one in the Israeli Knesset seems to have any idea or plan for who will govern Gaza.
It would seem that they’re hoping to replicate in Gaza the situation which has prevailed in the West Bank for years. In the West Bank, the IDF has total military supremacy, while the Palestinian Authority (run by the Arab party Fatah) serves as a sort of sub-contractor to govern in civilian matters.
Since the October 7th attack, Israeli Defense Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has been handing out M-16s and other military-grade assault weapons to illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Some of these weapons likely came from the US. Since then, settlers have been rampaging through Arab villages, burning homes and killing people, with the help of the IDF. One incident that has gained international attention was the death of Bilal Saleh, 40, who was fatally shot by a settler while he was out harvesting his olive trees.