“The new trip is part of a larger campaign called Let Our People Know, which will be launched this week. As part of this campaign, J Street U activists will be urging Jewish-American students who might be considering traveling to Israel on organized trips to sign the following statement: ‘We pledge to only participate in organized trips to Israel that include meaningful engagement with key questions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the occupation, and the status of minority groups in Israel. We will only participate in trips that include meetings with both Israelis and Palestinians, and that show participants how the occupation impacts the daily lives of Palestinians living beyond the Green Line.’ Eva Borgwardt, president of the J Street U national student board and a student at Stanford University, said that by signing this pledge, American-Jewish students would be showing they were committed to ‘Jewish and progressive values.’ ‘We want to go to Israel and engage thoughtfully and honestly with its present reality and challenges — which means we can’t accept the omission and erasure of Palestinian voices and perspectives,’ she said.”
J Street Launching ‘Model Trip’ To Israel, NY Jewish Week
“[T]he student arm of J Street announced today that it is organizing a free “model trip” to Israel in July that will include meetings with both Israelis and Palestinians and show participants how the occupation is impacting daily life in the West Bank. At the same time, J Street said it is asking Jewish-American students to pledge not to participate in any organized trip to Israel that does not include such interactions with Palestinians….Last fall, J Street U organized a petition drive calling upon Birthright to change its itinerary to include Palestinians who would discuss the ramifications of the occupation….The petitions were forwarded to Birthright, which either did not respond or issued a statement saying no changes would be made because its trips already include ‘a general discussion about geopolitics in the region,’ according to Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for J Street…Bayroff said it is his organization’s ‘hope that Jewish leaders, philanthropists and educational groups will look at our trip as a model for the kinds of organized trips to Israel they should be putting together and funding. We also hope that Birthright will ultimately heed the call of thousands of American Jewish students, and change their own trips to finally include these vital perspectives and realities.’”
“J Street, the liberal Israel policy group, will compete with Birthright by launching its own free trip to Israel for college students. The trip will aim to introduce students firsthand to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. Organized by J Street U, the group’s college arm, it will take 40 students to Israel and the West Bank for 10 days in July. Along with visiting sites in Israel, the group will meet Palestinian activists, Israeli social justice activists and Israeli settlers.”
“The itinerary of J Street’s trip includes the kind of excursions and touring which Birthright’s trips do, but also includes two days devoted to the conflict with the Palestinians. Day 6 is entitled ‘The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Occupation 101’ and will include tours of Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages in the West Bank, a visit to Hebron and conversations with residents of the settlements, Palestinians and peace activists from both sides….J Street U, the student organizing arm of J Street, issued a ‘pledge’ on social media to only go on free Israel trips which deal in a structured and in-depth manner with the conflict.”
“J Street, a leading, US-based progressive peace advocacy group, will reportedly soon offer a free 10-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories for 40 Jewish students selected from universities across the country as an alternative to Birthright Israel. The inaugural trip is set for July, and registration will open this week, according to a statement released by the organization on Wednesday. J Street says the purpose of the trip is to give young US Jews a chance to experience Israel with a more balanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – particularly one that does not skirt around ‘occupation.’”
“For the first time, the Trump administration referred to the Golan Heights on Wednesday as ‘Israeli-controlled’ and ceased to refer to the West Bank as ‘occupied’ in the State Department’s annual report on human rights around the world….Despite the change in language vis-a-vis the Golan Heights, an administration official on Wednesday denied that it amounted to American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over that area….Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely praised the move on Wednesday afternoon, and attributed it to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic efforts. ‘The fact that the definition ‘occupied territory’ is missing from an official document of the State Department is an important step for Israel’s foreign relations and for the future of the settlements,’ she said.”
Ehud Barak writes, “History has taught that when people in power attempt to trample democracy and citizens’ fundamental freedoms, there are only two options: either fighting and putting an immediate halt to it, or being doomed to years of darkness. It is therefore our obligation to fight – certainly until the April 9 Knesset election – so we know that we have done everything possible for a Zionist and democratic vision of the State of Israel to emerge the winner. To do so all the parties of the center-left, and first of all Kahol Lavan, must shift gears, climb into the political boxing ring and confront directly – from up close – the wounded and vulnerable leader who went bad, but who will cross any line to spare himself from having to pay the price of the disgrace. To take the battle into the opponent’s territory, to attack the distortion of Judaism and Zionism caused by the racists and Kahanists who are wagging like the tail of a dog under suspicion. To strike and take blows without bending, until the day of victory.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit urged the High Court of Justice to disqualify the head of a far-right party from running in the general elections, citing his long history of “severe and extreme” racism. Michael Ben Ari, party leader of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), has faced multiple appeals to outlaw his candidacy under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which lists “incitement to racism” as one of three actions that disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset.
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that if he is elected prime minister, he would resume targeted killings in Gaza in the case of Israel being attacked. “If they attack us, we will pursue a tough policy, and if necessary, we will return to targeted killings,” he said.
Senate Votes Again to End Aid to Saudi War in Yemen, Defying Trump, The New York Times
The Senate on Wednesday again rebuked President Trump for his continued defense of Saudi Arabia after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting for a second time to end American military assistance for the kingdom’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers. The 54-to-46 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, sets the foundation for what could become Mr. Trump’s first presidential veto, with the House expected to overwhelmingly pass the measure, possibly this month.
The Supreme Court convened on Wednesday to debate the disqualification of a Jewish far-left candidate for the Arab Israeli Hadash-Ta’al party from participating in the upcoming general elections, after the Central Elections Committee ruled to keep him off the ballot. The committee, which is staffed by Knesset lawmakers and chaired by a Supreme Court justice, voted last week to prevent Ofer Kasif from running in April‘s election despite the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that his past provocative statements were not grounds for disqualification.
Amir Tibon observes, “If Netanyahu reforges his religious/right-wing coalition, the result will very likely be that the parties most responsible for the cracks in Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora will receive more influence than ever on government policy — in return for protecting Netanyahu from indictment.”
Ben Caspit reports, “One small building in the most volatile spot in the world, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, threatens the stability of Jerusalem and beyond. The tense standoff between Israelis and Palestinians over the ancient, rundown building adjacent to Bab al-Rahma, the Gate of Mercy, could set off an explosion similar to the 2017 clashes that erupted after Israel placed metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount, holy to both Muslims and Jews….Given this state of affairs, everyone is gearing up for Friday prayers. On March 12, a firebomb was thrown from the Bab al-Rahma building at the Israeli Police position on the Temple Mount, slightly injuring a policewoman. Police vacated the site and violence broke out, but did not spread beyond the compound. No one is prepared to promise that similar violence will not erupt this coming Friday when the Temple Mount is packed with Muslim worshippers and Israeli Police.”