Senators Urge Pompeo to Avoid Trump’s ‘Worst Instincts’ at State Department, The New York Times
“Senators on Thursday implored Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director nominated to be secretary of state, to stabilize the Trump administration’s erratic diplomacy by standing up to Russia and other adversaries and reviving American influence among allies….In a week when President Trump issued a fusillade of tweets about Syria, Russia and China that set a new standard for contradictory and inconsistent policy positions, the hearing kicked off with the question of how Mr. Pompeo would manage White House impulses that can have global effects.”
Reports in Gaza say thirty Palestinians were hurt by Israeli fire as thousands protested along the border with the Strip on Friday, burning tires and Israeli flags. The army says live rounds were fired, but noted that no attempts to enter Israel were made by the Palestinians….According to the army, in the past hours, numerous attempts to destroy obstacles erected by the army were made. They also said that a number of attacks were attempted, with explosives and firebombs thrown at the border, as well as gunfire. The army reiterated it is opening fire only according to its protocols and will not allow anyone to harm Israel’s ‘defense infrastructures’, calling demonstrators ‘violent rioters and terrorists.’”
Israel’s Violent Response to Nonviolent Protests, The New York Times
The editorial board writes, “An independent investigation into the killings is needed. But on March 31, after the first deaths, the United States, in support of Israel, blocked a proposed United Nations Security Council statement condemning the Israeli response, urging a transparent inquiry and affirming the right of Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully. Such ideas should not be controversial. But ordinary Palestinians have few defenders, and much of the world has been shockingly mute about what’s happening in Gaza. Journalists have a right to work, and people have a right to demonstrate peacefully — and to assume that responsible authorities will ensure that they can do so without being shot. Israel, a democracy with its own vigorous press and engaged citizenry, should understand that better than most.”
Yossi Verter writes, “Now Benjamin Netanyahu once again is interested in an early election, according to people who have talked with him. The new date: early September. For that purpose he has to get the Knesset dissolved no later than the end of May, about three weeks after its return from its current recess. Logic dictates that it will be worth his while. The polls predict a strengthening of Likud under Netanyahu, despite the corruption investigations against him, and perhaps because of them. The attorney general will not have had time to decide on whether to indict him in any of the cases, and during the summer there won’t be a real election campaign. Only the government will dictate the agenda.”
In an unprecedented move, a senior Palestinian official sent a letter on Thursday to all foreign diplomats stationed in Ramallah assailing the American envoy to the peace process, Jason Greenblatt. Saeb Erekat, who has met with Greenblatt many times since the latter took office, charged that since the mass demonstrations near the Israel-Gaza border began a few weeks ago, the U.S. envoy has “assumed the role of spokesperson of the Israeli Authorities” and “consistently repeated Israeli talking points.”
Israel responded to Russia’s claim that its alleged attack in Syria “only worsened” the situation there. “What is destabilizing Syria is the Iranian aggression and attempts by Iran to set up a military presence in Syria to threaten Israel and other nations,” a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem said Thursday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on the Israeli government to respect the rights of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border. “I am deeply concerned about the deaths and injuries in Gaza,” Warren said. “As additional protests are planned for the coming days, the Israel Defense Forces should exercise restraint and respect the rights of Palestinians to peacefully protest.”
Doctors in the Gaza Strip were forced to amputate the legs of two Palestinians who were wounded in border clashes with IDF forces, after Israel refused to allow their transfer to a West Bank hospital, two left-wing NGOs said. The organizations said Gaza doctors did not have the proper equipment to treat the two. The groups filed a petition in Israel’s top court on Sunday demanding that authorities allow them to exit the Strip to get urgent treatment in a better-equipped hospital in Ramallah to save their legs. The state responded that while the men fulfilled the medical criteria required to get approval, they were denied entry because their injuries “stemmed directly from their participation in the riots.”
A 28-year-old Palestinian man died after being shot by Israeli forces near the border with Gaza, the health ministry in the Strip said Thursday. The man, identified as Mohammad Ashkuri, was killed when he came close to the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip near the town of Khan Younis and later died in hospital, Palestinian medical officials said. An Israeli army spokeswoman had no initial details.
The United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture agreed unanimously on Thursday to delay by at least six months voting on two resolutions, one on Gaza and another on Jerusalem, that an Israeli official had denounced as “the most extreme and problematic text” ever proposed. Following negotiations on Tuesday by the Israeli delegation and the Arab nations that sponsored the resolution, the executive council of the body voted unanimously to delay a decision on the two resolutions until the next session to be held in October.
A Palestinian photographer shot dead by Israeli security forces during mass protests was seized and beaten by Hamas in 2015, apparently contradicting Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s claim that he was a paid Hamas operative, AFP reported Wednesday.
Pompeo’s diplomatic foray falls flat, Politico
“Mike Pompeo had his best chance yet Thursday to win over skeptical Democrats. But after hours of tough questions at his confirmation hearing, he had changed no new minds in his bid to become secretary of state….Several liberals in the caucus announced their opposition to the nominee after the confirmation hearing, including Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). And Menendez, the top Democrat on the panel, found plenty of fodder in Pompeo’s answers to stoke concern about the nominee, sending rapid-response notes that pointed out his seemingly contradictory responses on Iran and North Korea.”
Amos Harel asks, “Is it realistic to expect the red line against Iranian entrenchment to be enforced throughout Syria, and not only in the south, say 50 or 60 kilometers from the border in the Golan Heights? That’s the line Israel tried – and failed – to get the international powers to sign off on in last year’s agreement to reduce the friction in southern Syria. Do we have a sacred bombing right throughout Syria that must be preserved at all costs?….And is the all-out approach against Iran in Syria justified even at the cost of war, as the Prime Minister’s Office seems to believe? It’s also worth considering the growing Israeli tendency to view Iran as a unified, monolithic power system, without attaching any importance to the tension between the extremist Revolutionary Guards and President Hassan Rohani, who is uncomfortable with military adventures all over the Middle East.”
Huda Abuarqoub writes, “as a Palestinian, I must hold my leaders, both Hamas and the PA, accountable for their part in this failure. Their power games, holding Gaza hostage to domestic, regional and international political calculations, must end. They must examine their alliances, their priorities and their hubris, and, for once, place the citizens of Palestine — including and especially Gazans — at the top of their agenda. There is no justification whatsoever for our continued failure. On the contrary, if the Palestinian house is rearranged based on unity and human dignity, putting the Palestinian peoples’ interests first, then we have a chance of making Israel and the world sit up and take notice.”