“President Donald Trump pushed for Congressional leaders to unseat Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week by citing a letter signed by organizations he described as “Jewish groups” calling for her removal. But the coalition behind the letter — described by conservative media to be ‘leading Jewish organizations’ — includes groups that maintain no relationship to the American Jewish community and peddle anti-Muslim conspiracy theories….Muslim and Jewish groups alike have questioned whether the push is motivated solely by rooting out anti-Semitism, or scaremongering against one of the first Muslim congresswomen ever elected. ‘There’s no doubt that, rather than seriously confronting the issue of anti-Semitism, President Trump and his allies want to weaponize the debate to advance their own agendas — agendas rife with xenophobia and Islamophobia,’ said Logan Bayroff, director of communications for J Street, a Jewish group that endorses a two-state solution.”
“House Democrats argued acrimoniously Wednesday over whether to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar for alleged anti-Semitic remarks, forcing party leaders to confront a growing rift over race and religion that threatened to hamstring the newfound majority. Omar (D-Minn.) suggested last week that Israel’s supporters have an ‘allegiance to a foreign country,’ remarks that angered some Democrats who saw them as hateful tropes and pushed to condemn the freshman lawmaker. Her defenders argued that leadership was applying a double standard in singling out one of the two Muslim women in Congress. In a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday morning, lawmakers debated whether to vote on an anti-hate measure in response to Omar. The session quickly became rancorous, reflecting splinters over wider issues such as America’s long-standing support for Israel, the appropriate response to racial and religious grievances and a new generation’s reliance on social media. Plans for a quick vote appeared to fade amid the uproar.”
Attacks by Israeli settlers surge as West Bank tensions boil, Washington Post
“Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, documented 295 of what it calls ‘Jewish terror’ incidents last year, a 40 percent increase. Although no Israeli government figures were available for January, the United Nations had recorded at least 30 incidents this year in which Israeli settlers were accused of causing casualties or damaging property, with a total of 14 Palestinians injured and one killed….Israeli monitoring groups say the surge in settler violence, in part, reflects a lack of Israeli law enforcement and a response to a rash of particularly distressing attacks by Palestinians against Israelis….The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem stresses that the activity goes beyond a few ‘rotten apples’ and says the Israeli government ignores extremist violence because it helps settlers expand their West Bank presence.”
“Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris on Wednesday defended Rep. Ilhan Omar against the backlash to her comments slamming pro-Israel groups and politicians, which have been called anti-Semitic. Sanders, who is Jewish, said criticism of Omar and efforts to get her taken off the House Foreign Affairs Committee, primarily from House Republicans, are aimed at stopping a discussion about American’s foreign policy toward Israel. ‘What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,’ the Vermont independent said in a statement. ‘That’s wrong.’ In her own statement, Harris called out all instances of bigotry and expressed concern that the focus on Omar ‘may put her at risk.’”
The Central Election Committee disqualified the Arab joint slate Balad-United Arab List and Ofer Cassif, a member of polticial alliance Hadash-Ta’al, from running in the election on Wednesday, opposing the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. The committee approved Hadash-Ta’al itself. Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Kahanist, far-right Otzma Yehudit party, who the committee approved to run in the election earlier Wednesday, petitioned against both lists.
The centrist Blue and White party on Wednesday released its long-awaited political platform, laying out for the first time its positions on major policy issues in a detailed document that includes promises to retain Israeli control of major settlement blocs and a series of proposals challenging the current Orthodox hold on religion and state issues. The diplomatic program set out in the manifesto includes support for a “united” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, continued Israeli control over the Jordan Valley, and retaining settlement blocs in the West Bank, along with a willingness to enter negotiations with the Palestinians.
High-level Israeli and Jordanian officials held talks Wednesday evening in an effort to end the conflict over a contested religious area on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The longstanding closure of an area near the Golden Gate has ignited tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police in recent weeks. Worshipers have forced it open and entered on several occasions.
A 15-year-old Palestinian died from Israeli gunfire during nighttime skirmishes along the Israel-Gaza border, the Strip’s Health Ministry said. Saif A-Din Abu Zaied was wounded in the head Wednesday and died at a hospital, the ministry said early Thursday. The circumstances were not immediately known, but the incident occurred as dozens of youths engaged in “nighttime confusion,” a more violent form of protests involving firebombs and laser lights directed at Israeli forces along the border fence.
Israel said to strike Gaza after rocket fire sets off Iron Dome, Times of Israel
Israeli warplanes bombed a site in the Gaza Strip early Thursday, hours after the military said at least one projectile was fired from the Palestinian enclave. The Hamas-linked Shehab news site said Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a “resistance” site northwest of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, in the latest tit-for-tat reprisal as the region continued to heat up over the last several days.
Ben Caspit writes, “A consensus continues to grow in Israel that another round of violence with the Palestinians is in the offing. The signs are evident in a series of events and escalations on all fronts. Despite this evidence and warnings by professionals and the heads of Israel’s security agencies, no one is lifting a finger to prevent a conflagration despite the potential for heavy losses on both sides. Why? Israel’s April 9 elections….In recent weeks, Bennett, Liberman, Smotrich and Netanyahu have been going at each other with combative declarations, vehemently right-wing positions and blatant contempt for the Palestinians even as tensions with the Palestinians increase. All that remains is to pray that the explosion can somehow be staved off until April 10 and hope that after election day someone somewhere will come to his or her senses and try to restore calm. For now, only the Egyptians are attempting to do so.”
Chemi Shalev writes, “A combination of sheer desperation and the unique Israeli relationship between civilians and military has thrust former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, along with his two predecessors and sidekicks, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, into the front lines of Israeli history. They constitute the best and possibly last chance to save Israel from Benjamin Netanyahu’s final assault on Israel’s democracy, rule of law and whatever remains of its liberal values….Israeli lefties might wish that Israel could elect a moderate centrist with a civilian background who supports peace and protects freedoms, but that Israel doesn’t exist, if it ever did. It will take not one but three former army officers with proven records as warriors to persuade middle of the road Israelis that there is an acceptable alternative to Netanyahu and that the center-left won’t make the dangerous and deadly concessions that the right routinely accuses them of.”