“Al-Monitor has learned that the State Department has reached a negotiating impasse with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the author of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which Congress passed last year….Meanwhile, several aid organizations and lobbyists today asked Congress to save humanitarian and economic aid for the Palestinians at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s foreign aid panel. ‘We greatly appreciate the efforts being undertaken right now by leadership of relevant committees to find a workable fix to the unintended consequences of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal lobbying group J Street. He argued that ‘it is essential that any such fix allow both security and non-security aid to resume.’”
“Trump’s goading of the Democrats comes just two weeks before the annual AIPAC policy conference. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak at the conference and also meet with Trump. The Israeli leader has stridently defended Trump against charges that he encourages anti-Semitism….Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for J Street, said Trump should not rely too heavily on Netanyahu to garner Jewish support. Netanyahu, he said, has alienated American Jews with his own sharp rightward turn in recent years. ‘As Netanyahu in his own scramble to ensure his own political survival is digging deeper into racist attacks on Arab Israelis, you’re going to see more and more American Jews pushed toward where J Street is,’ Bayroff told JTA.”
“Clashes broke out Tuesday on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between Israeli police forces and Muslim worshipers after a firebomb was hurled toward a police post, causing a blaze to break out at the holy site. This adds to heightened tension around the Temple Mount in recent weeks over attempts to reopen a contested building closed off by Israel. Police broke into the compound following the incident and arrested three people on suspicion of hurling the firebomb. All gates to the Temple Mount were closed, and police evacuated everyone present. In a rare measure, entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City have also been blocked. The police announced later on Tuesday that the compound will be reopened to worshipers and other visitors on Wednesday morning.”
Gantz avoids endorsing two-state solution in meeting with EU envoys, Times of Israel
Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz avoided endorsing a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians in a meeting with European envoys, and expressed hardline views toward Iran and the Gaza Strip. In his conversation with the EU ambassadors, Gantz did not explicitly endorse a two-state solution, but indicated that both Israelis and Palestinians “are here to stay” and that an arrangement needs to be found, a participant in the meeting told The Times of Israel. Commenting on the current controversy surrounding the controversial Jewish nation-state law, Gantz said that “obviously, Israel is a state for all its citizens,” according to the source. A spokesperson for Blue and White denied that Gantz made that statement, but did not elaborate on what he did say.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told the High Court of Justice on Tuesday that there is no cause to disqualify Hadash candidate Ofer Cassif from running in the April 9 general election. Mendelblit noted in his memo to the court that he and the state prosecutor take issue with Cassif’s controversial statements, “including his remarks, in an interview with Haaretz, about Israeli soldiers, remarks about Nazism and a comparison with Nazi Germany.” Nevertheless, the attorney general wrote, the “critical mass of evidence” required for a candidate’s disqualification was not present.
Palestinian killed in West Bank clashes with Israeli troops, Times of Israel
A Palestinian man died after being shot by Israeli forces during clashes Tuesday in the West Bank, medics and the Palestinian Authority health ministry said. The army said dozens of Palestinians rioted in the village of Salfit and threw rocks at Israeli troops, who responded with riot dispersal means.
In first, settler leader to address upcoming AIPAC conference, Times of Israel
A senior leader of the Yesha Council is set to appear at the upcoming AIPAC Policy Conference, marking the first time a representative of the settlement umbrella organization has been invited to the powerful lobby’s annual summit.
Amir Tibon reports, “While most of the conversation in Israel has focused on the April 9 election in recent weeks, the White House has been holding meetings with people it hopes to turn into supporters of its Middle East peace plan. The small team working on it is looking at whether it is possible to convince people to support a plan without telling them what’s in it…. ‘They’re meeting with people who used to work for George W. Bush’s administration, but also with former officials in the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations,’ said one source who has participated in discussions with Trump’s advisers.”
Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka write, “Any Israeli-Palestinian deal must create a political horizon for the entire Palestinian society—including the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, whose humanitarian crisis must be alleviated through a rehabilitation program. But this must happen within the two-states context. Concessions to Hamas outside it would strengthen militant Palestinian factions by demonstrating that violent tactics produce results for Palestinians. Moreover, a Gaza arrangement has to involve the Palestinian Authority and require its reconciliation with Hamas, subordinate to the PA, and disarmed.”
“In another rather entertaining, but not so significant, development Monday, Likud’s main rival, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid’s Kahol Lavan party demanded that Netanyahu ‘gain control of your son Yair’s mouth and keyboard,’ accusing the prime minister’s son of making inflammatory remarks against President Reuven Rivlin. Yair Netanyahu had slammed Rivlin on Twitter for supporting actress Rotem Sela’s criticism of his father’s claim that Israel is a ‘nation state of the Jewish people and it alone.’ The weight of Yair’s Twitter account in the campaign is minimal, but Kahol Lavan’s rebuttal suggests Gantz’s party will be moving full steam ahead in negative campaign messaging.”
Shlomo Swirski observes, “ Israel’s self-imposed austerity policy was adopted partly due to the heavy cost of maintaining the occupation: the Second Intifada, for instance, brought with it Israel’s longest ever economic crisis. The frequent violent confrontations threaten Israel’s image as a financially stable economy — an image essential to maintenance of the “Start-Up Nation” moniker and more importantly, Israel’s international credit rating. It was to convey the image of fiscal stability in the face of political-military instability that Israel opted for fiscal austerity.”