Skip to content

Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad: June 9 The Washington Post says freed hostages are good, now it's time for a truce Some 245 days after Hamas kidnapped them from an outdoor music festival on Oct.

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

June 9

The Washington Post says freed hostages are good, now it's time for a truce

Some 245 days after Hamas kidnapped them from an outdoor music festival on Oct. 7, 2023, four Israeli hostages are free, liberated in a daring daylight Israeli commando raid. Israel erupted in rejoicing at the news that Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, are safe in their loved ones’ arms. Many around the world shared the feeling.

A triumph for an Israeli security establishment that has appeared otherwise bogged down in a long war against Hamas, the hostage rescue is also a tactical victory for the United States, which supplied Israel with crucial intelligence. Deliverance for all 116 remaining hostages is a legitimate Israeli objective and a high Biden administration priority — as it should be because five of those being held against their will are U.S. citizens.

There is much we still do not know about what happened as Israeli forces fought their way in and out of the crowded Nuseirat area of central Gaza Saturday. One key data point is the precise Palestinian death toll; alas, it is surely substantial. Hamas officials in Gaza report more than 200 killed; Israeli sources speak of fewer than 100. Neither said how many were noncombatants or fighters. Clearly, though, Palestinian civilians lost their lives as the Israelis, supported by tanks and airstrikes, maneuvered in a carefully selected battle zone. (The combat cost one Israeli officer his life.)

What is safe to say is that everyone killed Saturday would likely still be alive if Hamas’s forces had not seized hostages — as part of an operation on Oct. 7 in which they also intentionally killed hundreds of civilians — and deliberately held them in a densely populated area.

Equally certain, but the opposite of a reason to rejoice, is the fact that the civilian body count in Gaza was already far too high. And the enclave’s physical destruction after months of Israeli air and artillery strikes against deeply embedded Hamas troops was far too extensive. Some dozens of food trucks are able to enter Gaza per day but Israel continues to impose tight conditions on humanitarian shipments, and the aid is well below what’s needed; perhaps most important, lawlessness and war continue to hamper its distribution. Two United Nations agencies said Wednesday that, if hostilities continue, at least 1 million Palestinians in Gaza are at risk of starvation by the middle of July. That is nearly half the enclave’s prewar population of 2.3 million.

These numbers bespeak immense human suffering — especially for Gaza’s children — and the urgency of halting the fighting. There is a way to achieve that, at least temporarily: the plan President Biden unveiled, under which a six-week truce would enable a surge of humanitarian aid and an initial exchange of Hamas’s hostages (Israel believes 41 of the 116 are dead) for hundreds of Palestinian militants held in Israeli prisons, as well as an Israeli pullback from populated areas. Two subsequent phases would allow for talks on a more permanent cease-fire, a final hostage release and reconstruction.

Mr. Biden said that it is an “Israeli” plan — an assertion promptly undermined when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government quibbled about the terms. Mr. Netanyahu is loath to agree to commit to a path toward a permanent cease-fire while Hamas controls Gaza. Opposition leader Benny Gantz’s Sunday resignation from Israel’s war cabinet, in protest of the prime minister’s lack of a long-term plan for ending the war or freeing all the hostages, is a sign of Israeli disagreement with Mr. Netanyahu’s posture that still runs deep even after the hostage rescue.

Yet the Biden-backed plan represents the most forthcoming one Israel has entertained so far. For its part, Hamas has balked, with its military leader in Gaza, Yehiya Sinwar, reportedly telling Arab mediators that he will accept nothing less than a permanent cease-fire and total Israeli withdrawal. This, despite the suffering of Gaza’s people and, reportedly, threats from Qatar’s government to expel Hamas political leaders and freeze their assets. On Sunday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan portrayed Hamas as the main obstacle to a deal, telling CBS News’s Margaret Brennan that “if Hamas would say yes … a better day for the Palestinian people would begin to unfold.”

The impact of Saturday’s hostage rescue on prospects for a deal is unclear. It might harden both sides’ positions, by making Mr. Netanyahu confident of military victory and Hamas determined to avenge an embarrassing defeat. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returns to the Middle East this week for more long-shot negotiation. Those who genuinely seek a better day for the Palestinians — and Israelis — will be wishing him success.



June 9

The Wall Street Journal on soaring home and car insurance rates

Most readers by now have experienced the sticker shock when their latest auto and homeowner insurance policies arrive. The Washington solution? Expand political control over insurers, naturally. But that misdiagnosis won’t solve the problem.

Auto insurance rates are up 46.2% since January 2020, more than in the eight previous years combined. Homeowner premiums have increased 37.8% since 2019 and 5.8% in the first three months this year. Arizona (62.1%), Illinois (56.9%), Texas (54.5%), California (48.4%) and Florida (42.5%) have seen even higher increases. (See nearby chart.)

Insurers are withdrawing from states, forcing policy holders to scramble for alternative coverage. State-backed insurers of last resort are swelling. Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is now the largest insurer in the Sunshine State.

Progressives blame—what else?—climate change and corporate greed. Insurers have “underwritten financing fossil fuels, and then they profit from selling protection from the impacts of those fossil fuels on climate,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren proclaims. “And now when climate risks are rising, they’re trying to hang American families out to dry here and demanding either higher premiums or to get out of the market altogether.”

Well, no. The actual culprit is a bad storm of inflation, litigation abuse and government-made dysfunctions, which have been exacerbated by a string of bad weather.

Start with auto insurance rates, which have increased in tandem with accident claims and vehicle values. Used and new vehicle prices have increased 29.5% and 20.4%, respectively, since January 2020. More expensive cars cost more to insure. Prices for vehicle parts have risen 21.7% since the start of the pandemic while repair costs are up 48%.

The progressive anti-police movement has reduced traffic enforcement, resulting in more reckless driving and accidents. Deaths from alcohol-related crashes have risen by a third since 2019 even as arrests for driving under the influence and traffic citations have fallen 20%. Effect, meet cause.

Litigation abuse is also growing as plaintiff firms sue insurers for inflated damages. This is one reason, in addition to rising medical costs, that the average bodily injury claim has increased by some 80% since 2014. Excessive litigation accounted for about $4 billion in commercial auto insurance claim costs in 2021.

Unscrupulous plaintiff attorneys are also driving up homeowner premiums, using a playbook they developed in Florida. In 2021 Florida property and casualty insurers faced more than 100,000 lawsuits claiming $7.8 billion in damages—more than three times as much as in the other 49 states combined.

Insurers use “catastrophe models” to project potential damage from natural disasters. Harder to manage is regulatory and legal uncertainty, which is why insurers are retreating from some states. California regulators don’t allow insurers to fully price rising wildfire risk and reinsurance costs into premiums. They have also been slow to approve rate increases.

Gov. Ron DeSantis ’s legal reforms in 2022 are helping to stabilize Florida’s market after numerous insurers exited. Florida experienced the second smallest increase in homeowner premiums during the first three months of this year, though its rates are still nearly 40% higher than the U.S. average. Don’t blame hurricanes alone.

Storms and wildfires are causing more damage, but this is largely because building values and repair costs have soared. Home construction material prices and labor costs have climbed by roughly 38% over the last five years. Insurers are also paying more for reinsurance against catastrophic events.

Higher interest rates and declining profitability are making it more expensive for insurers to raise capital, further pushing up premiums. Property and casualty insurers last year paid out $101.70 for every $100 they collected in premiums. Such losses are unsustainable, which means premiums will continue rising as insurers price in their growing costs.

Cue Democrats, who hope to exploit these problems to expand Washington’s control over property and casualty insurers, as they did over health insurers with ObamaCare. While the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act enshrined state regulatory authority over insurance, the Dodd-Frank Act created a Federal Insurance Office to “monitor” insurers.

Ms. Warren and 23 Democratic Members of Congress last month urged the FIO to subpoena data from insurers and states “to monitor issues and gaps in insurance regulations that could contribute to a systemic crisis and leave traditionally underserved communities without access to affordable insurance products.”

Progressives want to establish a national insurer of last resort and empower the feds to regulate rates, putting Pennsylvanians on the hook for mansions in Napa Valley. Don’t discount the odds in a second Biden term.



June 7

The Los Angeles Times on Senate contraception bill, reproductive rights

It is infuriating as well as alarming that the U.S. Senate on Wednesday failed to pass the Right to Contraception Act, a straightforward bill that would guarantee a federal right to safe and legal contraception.

The bill needed 60 votes to proceed but only received 51, all but two coming from Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a staunch supporter of the bill, changed his vote to a “no” so as to allow him to bring up the bill again.

Americans should be appalled that nearly half of the people elected to represent them in the Senate are so spineless they couldn’t vote for something as simple as a right to contraception, which 90% of women have used at one point in their lives and is considered basic preventive healthcare.

Only two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted for it. Good for them. Their Republican colleagues, on the other hand, blustered variously about the bill being a political move, too broad or unnecessary.

That’s ridiculous. There’s clearly a movement among antiabortion activists to wrongly redefine contraceptives as abortifacients. And any of their constituents should think long and hard about voting for a senator who won’t support their right to contraception. If it were enshrined into federal law, states couldn’t override it with restrictions. If the Supreme Court struck down its own precedents protecting the right to contraception, the federal law would still protect it.

And that is not out of the question. The Supreme Court has voted three times to support the right to contraception over the decades, but does anyone want to bet on the justices upholding this precedent? The court also guaranteed a right to abortion in Roe vs. Wade — and upheld it in a subsequent case — before overturning it in the Dobbs decision two years ago.

Ominously, that abortion decision also contained a concurrence written by Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested the court revisit the landmark 1965 decision in Griswold vs. Connecticut, which granted married couples the right to birth control. So there are plenty of reasons to fear that the Supreme Court could withdraw its support for birth control.

The Senate contraception bill does not force anyone to provide contraception. It allows women to access it and healthcare professionals to provide it. Nor is this bill a slippery slope to condoning abortion, as opponents claim.

Contraceptives are not abortifacients. “The medical definition of pregnancy is an embryo implanted in the wall of the uterus,” says Daniel Grossman, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Francisco. “No contraceptives end an established pregnancy — they prevent pregnancy from occurring.”

So why would Senate Republicans block a bill supporting a right to contraception? Aren’t these the same people who, for the most part, don’t want women having abortions? How do they think reproduction works? Or is this about taking away the rights of women to control their own bodies to curry favor with far-right antiabortion groups who have problems with contraception as well?

We should all work to make sure lawmakers who don’t support the right to control your own body don’t get reelected.



June 7

The Guardian on Gaza's unending war

Joe Biden insisted it was “time for this war to end and the day after to begin” as he promoted a three-phase peace deal. Hours later, Benjamin Netanyahu shot it down as a “non-starter”. One week on, an agreement looks as remote as ever.

More than 36,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, says its health ministry. More Israeli hostages seized in the murderous raid by Hamas on 7 October have died. On Thursday Israel bombed a UN school in central Gaza, killing at least 33 of the thousands of displaced people sheltering there, including 12 women and children, according to witnesses and hospital records. The Israel Defense Forces said it was a “precise” strike on Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters using it as a base. What is clear is that the IDF is fighting in places where it was supposed to have eliminated Hamas, while civilians are forced to return to those areas by the assault on Rafah.

The Israeli government has said that this conflict will last into 2025. Some in Israel can see how disastrous this is. Benny Gantz, Mr Netanyahu’s political rival and member of his war cabinet, set a deadline of Saturday for the prime minister to offer a credible plan for the day after the war ends. It has not materialised. Mr Gantz is expected to announce his resignation. But Mr Netanyahu can stumble on without him, while he could not survive without far-right coalition partners Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who said they’d quit if there was a deal before Hamas was destroyed.

Qatar has reportedly threatened to expel Hamas representatives unless they accept the proposal, under pressure from the US. But the militants will be reluctant to hand over hostages in exchange for only a temporary ceasefire unless they desperately need time to regroup. So far, that does not appear to be the case; it is Palestinian civilians who have borne the brunt.

Israel is reducing its international standing by the day. Spain said on Thursday that it would ask to join South Africa’s international court of justice case alleging genocide. A growing number of countries are recognising a Palestinian state; Britain may become one of them, with the Labour manifesto reportedly pledging recognition of Palestine “before the end of any peace process” alongside a “safe and secure Israel”.

But Israel’s actions are also dragging down its ally and chief armourer, the US. Mr Biden suggested this week that there was “every reason” for people to think Mr Netanyahu was prolonging the war for his own political self-preservation. Yet, again, the US president has failed to follow words with deeds. He declared that an invasion of Rafah would be a “red line”; now his administration plays semantic games over what constitutes a major ground operation as the Israeli assault gains strength. The US priority – avoiding a wider conflagration – is once again looking shaky. Strikes by Hezbollah from Lebanon on northern Israel are escalating, with Mr Netanyahu threatening an “extremely powerful” response.

While Mr Netanyahu hopes a Trump victory will throw him a political lifeline, people on the ground are dying. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reported this week that more than a million people – half the population of Gaza – are expected to face death and starvation by mid-July. As bleak as the prospects for a deal appear, fatalism cannot triumph. The push for a ceasefire and hostage release must intensify.


The Associated Press