Amos Harel reports, “Army sources say that every day that passes without broader escalation in the West Bank is a happy surprise; in the Gaza Strip, much depends on the damage done by the bombs thrown at Israeli soldiers during the night-time protests. Bloodshed could lead to a stronger Israeli response; the Israel Defense Forces have already stepped up the intensity of their reactions, which now include, after bombs are thrown, tank fire towards Hamas positions….The components for escalation in the territories, even before the elections, are obvious. The government would probably prefer to steer clear of a clash, which could develop in any direction and which could affect the outcome of the election. But the fear of appearing weak to the Palestinians could induce the government to escalate matters – and on the Palestinian side too, some evidently view the situation as a tempting opportunity to drive Netanyahu into a corner.”
Joshua Keating writes, “As with the investigation into Trump, the charges hanging over Netanyahu could either lead to his removal from office, or—if he beats the odds as he has time and again in his long career and wins re-election—leave the country’s politics even more fractured, destabilized, and open to extremists. Americans should be paying close attention this April.”
Ilhan Omar’s Criticism Raises the Question: Is Aipac Too Powerful?, The New York Times
“[T]he increasing willingness of Democrats like Ms. Omar to accuse Israel of human rights abuses — coupled with the far-right policies of Mr. Netanyahu and his embrace of President Trump — is challenging Aipac’s claim to bipartisanship. Some liberal Democrats, including young Jews, are abandoning the organization….When Israel demolished Palestinian communities in the West Bank last year, Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, gathered signatures from 76 members of Congress to criticize the move. Aipac was silent. When President Barack Obama secured a nuclear accord with Iran over Aipac’s vehement opposition, Senate Democrats delivered for him, despite the work of an Aipac spinoff that vowed to spend $20 million to oppose it. (Mr. Trump has since backed out of the deal.) And when the Senate last month passed an Aipac-backed bill aimed at crippling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement to hurt Israel’s economy, roughly half the Senate Democrats — including most of those running for president — voted against it.”
A series of what defense officials term election-driven decisions against the Palestinians could spark violence in the West Bank, especially when combined with the territory’s poor economy, these officials warned the government recently. Among the most important of these was the decision to deduct all the money the Palestinian Authority pays jailed terrorists from the tax revenue Israel collects on the PA’s behalf. Defense officials attribute this decision to rightist parties’ need to woo their bases ahead of April’s election.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democrats will take floor action Wednesday in response to controversial remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar about Israel, the second such rebuke of the freshman Democrat from party leaders in recent weeks. Pelosi and other senior Democrats have drafted a resolution to address the controversy, which ballooned over the weekend following a public clash between Omar and senior Jewish lawmakers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched the Likud election campaign on Monday night, presenting the upcoming national ballot as a choice between his own “miracle” premiership that has brought untold prosperity to Israel and “dangerous and irresponsible leftists” who threaten to destroy it.
Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz vowed on Monday “never to withdraw” from the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War, adding he will work to promote American, European Union and United Nations recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed territory. During a tour along Israel’s northern border, ex-military chief Gantz said his party, co-led by former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, “will know how to handle threats” to Israel’s security “on all fronts.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed in his Wednesday meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow to host him and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a summit on the Middle East peace process, Russia’s top diplomat said on Monday, with the aim of “resuming direct dialogue without any preconditions.”
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Kahol Lavan is a party with a self-destruct mechanism that will go off sooner or later, whether or not it fulfills its mission of replacing Netanyahu. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Very few new Israeli parties have ever lasted very long. The handful of relatively successful centrist parties lasted less than a decade and then faded away. Only one ever won power. None fully survived the departure of the founder. Meanwhile, the original parties of the first Knesset have achieved remarkable longevity.”
Yossi Beilin writes, “One cannot ignore the link between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Sometimes, anti-Zionism is, indeed, a guise for anti-Semitism, but we are not doing anyone any favors by insisting on equating the two terms. They are partially congruent, but not identical. It would be a mistake to enshrine this in law and a mistake to consider it some sort of Israeli achievement.”