US Senate passes anti-BDS bills, sending them to House, Times of Israel
“Shortly after the bill passed, J Street sent an email to its supporters urging them to lobby their House members to oppose the legislation. ‘J Street has been clear about our opposition to the Global BDS Movement,’ the group told its supporters. ‘But we’ve also been clear that this bill is a disaster that would undermine America’s commitment to a two-state solution and violate free speech. We aren’t alone. MoveOn, the ACLU and Indivisible are all fighting this legislation on the grounds that it suppresses constitutionally protected political expression.’….Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer voted in favor of the bill while every Senate Democrats eyeing a 2020 bid voted against it, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who previously co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”
“AIPAC said on Tuesday that….‘the legislation has no impact on the right of Americans to personally boycott Israel or oppose Israeli policies’ – a statement that opponents of the law, including the left-wing Jewish group J Street, said was untrue. J Street called the legislation ‘deeply flawed’ and asked its own supporters to contact their representatives in the House and call on them to oppose the bill.”
“We were very disappointed today to see the Senate pass the Combating BDS Act, which undermines longstanding bipartisan policy on Israeli settlements and threatens the First Amendment rights of Americans. While J Street opposes the Global BDS Movement, we know that the erroneously named ‘Combating BDS Act’ does nothing to help Israel or to effectively counter the BDS movement. Instead, it extends US legal protections to settlements and alienates average Americans by infringing on constitutional rights….The ACLU, Indivisible and MoveOn have also opposed this legislation. We urge the House of Representatives not to take up S.1 as passed by the Senate and to oppose the Combatting BDS Act.”
“We welcome Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s long-awaited decision to fill the position of US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism….In this position, the newly appointed envoy, Elan Carr, will be charged with defending the safety and dignity of all Jews, regardless of their political views and regardless of the motivation for attacks against them. Amidst a climate in which some seek to conflate legitimate criticism of Israel’s actions and policies with anti-Semitism, we believe it is critical to reject that formulation, which risks sowing division within the Jewish community around an issue that should unite it and undercutting the fight against anti-Semitism.”
Senate Passes Bill That Rebukes Trump and Opposes Israel Boycott, The New York Times
“The Senate overwhelmingly approved a Middle East policy bill on Tuesday that included both a rebuke to President Trump over his withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan and a contested measure to allow state and municipal governments to punish companies that boycott, divest from or place sanctions on Israel….Most senators considering a presidential run voted against the legislation, including Mr. Sanders and Mr. Brown as well as Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California.”
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dealt a blow Wednesday in the Likud primary, having both failed to oust archrival Gideon Sa’ar and seeing his loyalists pushed back on the list, amid the prime minister’s re-election campaign ahead of the April 9 general election. Sa’ar, the former interior minister who has been accused by Netanyahu of undermining him, is set to receive the third-highest vote count in the ruling Likud Party’s primary, with 448 out of 587 ballot boxes from Tuesday’s vote counted….Near-final results indicate that Knesset members who showed loyalty to Netanyahu and publicly defended him did not reap the benefits.”
Former Army Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday that he is actively working to form a center-left joint slate ahead of the April 9 Knesset election, saying that unity is “what’s needed right now.” It has been reported in recent weeks that Benny Gantz, the head of the new Hosen L’Yisrael party and a fellow former chief of staff, is hoping to recruit Ashkenazi to his party. At this stage, Ashkenazi is seeking to predicate his entry into politics on Gantz’s party joining forces with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is expected to share an update about the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan during a public session at the Warsaw Middle East conference next Thursday. A White House official told me Kushner will be participating in a discussion hosted by former Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende on efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abbas asks Europeans to recognize Palestinian state, Times of Israel
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged European Union countries to recognize a Palestinian state Tuesday. Abbas made the request at a joint press conference with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
President Trump is set to name a Los Angeles prosecutor to be the State Department’s envoy for anti-Semitism, filling a post that sat empty for two years despite protests from lawmakers and Jewish groups. Elan Carr, 50, is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and was national president of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. Trump will name Carr on Tuesday.
“The serious condition of Gaza’s health system – on the verge of collapse – would make it difficult for the Israeli army to fight in the Strip for long and could lead to intense international intervention, defense officials said in an assessment presented to the security cabinet. The ministers were told, for example, that wounded civilians – who would presumably comprise most of the casualties in a military clash – would not be able to receive initial medical care. Senior officials told Haaretz that in light of the report, it would be difficult to wage war and receive international support for the operation. The report comes as all parties try to come to an arrangement for the Gaza Strip that would maintain long-term quiet.”
“The White House is not interested in being considered an ‘honest broker’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a senior US official said this week, rejecting the notion that some sort of ‘equivalency’ between the two sides was required to successfully mediate a peace deal. Rather, the administration is proudly supportive of Israel and does not feel the need to try to counterbalance any pro-Israel statement with some carrots for the Palestinians, or to add a line about Palestinian grievances every time it laments Israeli victims of terror attacks, according to the senior official.”
“In recent months, Israel has let cash flow through its borders to one of its biggest enemies, Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip. The money – millions of dollars – is from the country of Qatar. It was used to help Hamas pay the salaries of workers in their government. Both Israelis and Palestinians have criticized the practice, and now it’s being changed. NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Gaza City.”
Islamic Jihad, the new lord of Gaza?, Al-Monitor
Shlomi Eldar writes, “Who’s leading whom in the Gaza Strip? Does Hamas lord over the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a militant movement supported by Iran, or is it the other way around? Over the past few months, Israeli security forces have noted the growing influence of the Islamic Jihad on Hamas. Seeking to avoid problems with Iran, the Hamas leadership feels it has little choice but to follow the Islamic Jihad’s dictates in their actions when dealing with Israel and Egypt.”