November 27, 2023
Today Hamas released 11 more hostages into Israel; in exchange, Israel released 33 Palestinians from prison. Both sides have agreed to extend the truce for two days and to continue the exchanges. Hamas has committed to releasing an additional 20 women and children, and if the past pattern holds, Israeli releases will be three times that number.
The four-day pause in fighting has permitted aid to Gaza to increase. Since the 21st of October, when the first aid trucks began to cross into Gaza, more than 2,000 trucks of aid and assistance have gone in.
Once the deal was secure, President Joe Biden issued a statement: “I have remained deeply engaged over the last few days to ensure that this deal—brokered and sustained through extensive U.S. mediation and diplomacy—can continue to deliver results.” He noted that more than 50 hostages have been released and that the U.S. “has led the humanitarian response into Gaza—building on years of work as the largest funder of humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people.”
In his third trip to the region since the October 7 attack, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel and the West Bank later this week. He is currently in Brussels for a meeting of foreign ministers in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and will go to the Middle East from there. The State Department says that, among other things, Blinken will “discuss the principles he outlined in Tokyo on November 8, tangible steps to further the creation of a future Palestinian state, and the need to prevent the conflict from widening.”
In that November 8 address, Blinken outlined the U.S. administration’s policy for the future of Gaza. “[K]ey elements,” he said, are “no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza—not now, not after the war. No use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza. We must also ensure no terrorist threats can emanate from the West Bank.”
Blinken said that “the Palestinian people’s voices and aspirations” must be “at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza” and that “Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority” are U.S. requirements.
Gaza will need a “sustained mechanism for reconstruction,” Blinken said on November 8, “and a pathway to Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in states of their own, with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity, and dignity.”
At home, the administration today announced nearly 30 new actions to strengthen the country’s supply chains, both because smoother supply chains should reduce consumer prices and because stronger supply chains should ensure that the U.S. doesn’t fall short of critical supplies, such as medicines.
On February 24, 2021, about a month after he took office, Biden established a task force across more than a dozen departments and agencies to figure out where supply chains were vulnerable. After research and analysis, as well as input from industry leaders, experts, and the public, the task force issued a 250-page report in June 2021.
Their recommendations, along with investments in key industries such as semiconductors and in infrastructure, helped to untangle the supply chains that remained snarled through 2021 (remember the 100 cargo ships waiting to dock in fall 2021? Now, two years later, there are fewer than 10). From October 2021 to October 2023, supply chain pressure, which is tracked by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, fell from near-record highs to a record low. That, in turn, has helped to lower inflation.
Now Biden has established a new White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience to make sure those supply chains stay strong. He will also use the Defense Production Act—a law from 1950 that requires companies to make a certain product deemed necessary to national defense in exchange for guarantees that the product will have a buyer—to make more essential medicines in the United States and to increase production of new clean energy technologies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of the many government entities involved in supply chains, will invest $196 million to strengthen domestic food supply chains.
The country is also working with other countries on this issue: two weeks ago, Biden signed a supply chain agreement with 13 countries in the Indo-Pacific that he said will enable the countries to identify supply chain bottlenecks “before they become the kind of full-scale disruptions we saw during the pandemic.”
Clearly staking out positions for the upcoming election, Biden in his explanation of his new supply chain policy warned that MAGA Republicans want to cut the recent investments in roads, bridges, the Internet, and so on, that have created so many new jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing. (Those measures are popular: House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) joined members of the Florida congressional delegation today to view an expansion project at the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law although Johnson voted against it.)
“[T]hey want to go back to the ‘bad old days,’” Biden said, “when corporations looked around the world to find the cheapest labor they could find, to send the jobs overseas, and then import the products back to the United States. Now we’re building the products here and exporting products overseas.”
In contrast to the governance Democrats have been delivering, the Republicans appear to be doubling down on their grievances. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who chairs the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government, announced today the committee will hold another hearing on Thursday concerning “the federal government’s involvement in social media censorship, as well as the recent attacks on independent journalism and free expression.”
The idea that the federal government is silencing right-wing speech is an article of faith among MAGA Republicans, although their committee’s last hearing, eight months ago, turned up nothing. Thursday’s hearing will feature three witnesses, two of whom also testified in the last hearing.
MAGA Republicans might be keen to create distraction after Colorado District Judge Sarah B. Wallace found that Trump “engaged in an insurrection on January 6, 2021.” Wallace found that “Trump acted with the specific intent to incite political violence and direct it at the Capitol with the purpose of disrupting the electoral certification.” She did not disqualify him from the ballot, but the decision will continue to move up through the court system.
Meanwhile, former president Trump appears to be getting nervous that former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley is gaining momentum. On Saturday he showed up at the University of South Carolina–Clemson football game, South Carolina’s main football rivalry. As Isaac Bailey of The State wrote, that Trump felt he had to try to upstage Haley suggests not strength, but weakness. Indeed, while there were cheers for him, there were also boos.
Yesterday, on Face the Nation, Representative Ken Buck (R-CO), who is not running for reelection, went after Trump. “Everybody who thinks that the election was stolen or talks about the election being stolen is lying to America,” Buck said. “Everyone who makes the argument that January 6 was, you know, an unguided tour of the Capitol is lying to America. Everyone who says that the prisoners who are being prosecuted right now for their involvement in January 6, that they are somehow political prisoners or that they didn’t commit crimes, those folks are lying to America.”
As pressure on him increases, Trump is playing hard to his base, promising on Saturday, for example, that he was “seriously looking at alternatives” to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more popularly known as Obamacare. He suggested the law should be overturned.
Democratic National Committee chair Jamie Harrison noted on social media that more than 40 million Americans depend on the ACA for their health insurance and that the law also protects as many as 135 million Americans with preexisting conditions from losing their health insurance.