“The left-wing Jewish group J Street is collecting signatures for a petition calling on President Trump to fire his counter-terrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, in light of revelations on his alleged ties with far-right anti-Semitic organizations in his native Hungary….In the petition published on Wednesday, J Street wrote that ‘every day that goes by, we learn more about his disturbing ties to anti-Semitic organizations and Nazi-allied political parties, which make his role in the White House even more shocking. We cannot let President Trump continue to employ Gorka without strong public resistance.’ The group also accused Gorka of having ‘Islamophobic views.’ Earlier this week, students in Georgetown University – including members of J Street – protested against Gorka when he appeared at a panel in the university.”
“The Palestinian Authority notified Israel on Thursday that it will stop paying for the electricity Israel provides to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, effective immediately. The PA told the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, that it will immediately stop paying for the electricity Israel provides the Gaza strip, Mordechai’s bureau said. This is the first significant step taken by the Palestinian Authority as part of its change of policy toward the Hamas government in Gaza.”
The Prime Minister’s Bureau and the White House are discussing a possible visit in Israel by U.S. President Donald Trump, a senior official in Jerusalem said. The official said several dates toward the end of May are being examined. A preliminary delegation from the White House, State Department and Secret Service will arrive in Israel on Thursday to discuss preparations for a possible presidential visit in May. The discussions will be held in the Foreign Ministry and President’s Residence in Jerusalem, and will deal mostly with issues of logistics and security. Trump will make his first trip abroad as president at the end of May when he will take part in a summit of leaders of NATO nations in Brussels.
“The Reform Movement, the largest stream of Judaism in North America, has warned that a new Israeli law, barring entry to foreign citizens who have called for boycotting Israel or the settlements, could harm support for the country among young North American Jews. In a letter that was sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs wrote that the law, which was passed in March, is causing upcoming participants in Taglit-Birthright Israel from North America to be ‘worried that based on their opposition to settlement expansion, they will be stopped at the border when they land in Israel.’”
The Islamophobic Administration, Brennan Center for Justice
A Brennan Center report “examines the Trump presidency through the lens of its impact on American Muslims,” finding that “Trump has created the most Islamophobic administration our country has seen.”
Israel struck an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah near Damascus airport on Thursday, Syrian rebel and regional sources said, targeting weapons regularly sent from Iran via commercial and military cargo planes.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday during his daily press briefing that human rights groups such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem are an important part of “any functioning civil society.” Toner made the comment in reply to a question about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision earlier this week to cancel his meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel because the latter met with representatives of the two organizations.
Israel gave a one-year work visa to a Human Rights Watch researcher on Wednesday after initially denying him a permit and accusing the organization of engaging in “Palestinian propaganda,” the group said. The decision in February to deny Omar Shakir a work permit was criticized by the United States. Shakir, a U.S. citizen, received the visa on arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport and he will take up his position as the New York-based rights group’s Israel and Palestine director.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman backed the country’s foreign minister on Wednesday in a spat over his meeting with a rights group in Israel, saying it must be possible to meet critical organizations in a democracy.
Israel thwarted a major attack on the country’s computer networks in recent days. The Cyber Defense Authority was responsible for defending against the attacks, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a highly unusual announcement on Wednesday. The notice from the PMO comes only two days after the heads of the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad and the IDF’s deputy chief of staff, along with other senior defense officials, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that the numerous powers given to the Cyber Defense Authority could hamper the ability to thwart cyber attacks on Israel.
PM’s Ex-Commander: Netanyahu Must Go, Jerusalem Post
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s commander in the IDF, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amiram Levin, joined the crowded Labor Party leadership race Tuesday, saying that the prime minister must be replaced to fix the country. Speaking in a live address and chat on Facebook, Levin said Israel is going in the wrong direction and that the Labor Party, which he joined in January, needs to be saved.
Hagai El-Ad writes, “We don’t take orders from Netanyahu. Nor does the world. Above all, one cannot order the facts to disappear, nor can one instruct evil to masquerade as justice. Today, just weeks before the 50th anniversary of the occupation, there is a hope that by resolutely pursuing the struggle here and in every important international arena, it can be brought to an end.”
Eschewing Diplomacy Will Have Long-Term Consequences, J Street Blog
J Street’s Hannah Morris writes, “Israel’s response – the cancellation and ensuing tweetstorm from the official Prime Minister’s account – is reckless and troubling. Netanyahu completely ignores the fact that the German government not only has a vested interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is the largest funder of the Palestinian Authority within the EU. That Netanyahu would sideline these critical issues for domestic political gain is concerning…. The German government is staunchly against settlement expansion and views Israel’s long-term security as contingent on achieving a two-state solution. Israel knows this. So, when Netanyahu cancels diplomatic meetings due to Germany’s desire to hear a wide array of perspectives on the conflict, I worry Israel is unnecessarily harming an alliance that is crucial for its standing in Europe and damaging relations with a partner that is able and willing to help advance peace.”
Miriam Berger reports, “In much the same way Checkpoint Charlie was an infamous symbol of division between East and West Berlin in the Cold War, Qalandiya Checkpoint has become notorious for Palestinians who need to cross between the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, whether for work, to get to school, visit a hospital, or see relatives. Around 26,000 Palestinians pass through Qalandiya daily, on foot, by car or by bus, Israeli authorities say. While checks are often quick, in other cases there is lengthy questioning or delays as permits and backgrounds are verified. Queues form at the checkpoint from before dawn.”
Abbas versus Barghouti, Round 2, Al-Monitor
Shlomi Eldar reports, “Fatah activists considered Barghouti supporters in the West Bank are concerned that the strike will fizzle out, and Barghouti’s standing as a challenger to Abbas’ leadership will be seriously undermined. As previously reported in Al-Monitor, both Israel and Abbas’ people saw the declaration of the strike as a desperate attempt by Barghouti to beef up his standing after failing to be chosen in the movement’s February convention as Fatah deputy leader. Going over Abbas’ head and declaring a Day of Rage, which could generate an additional round of violence between the Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), exposes a rare confrontation between Fatah seniors and their chief.”
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