The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.

President’s wife Nechama Rivlin gets lung transplant

Nechama Rivlin, wife of President Reuven Rivlin, undergoes a lung transplant today at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

Doctors say her condition is stable. Rivlin, 73, suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that has seen scar tissue accumulate in her lungs and made it difficult for her to breathe.

For several years she has traveled with an oxygen tank.

The hospital says in a statement that if the transplant is successful, Rivlin will be able to return to “a full life without dependence on an external oxygen supply.”

A lung became available after 19-year-old Yair Yehezkel Halabli drowned in Eilat. Several of his organs have been donated by his family.

Politicians line up to urge Nechama Rivlin a ‘speedy recovery’

Nechama Rivlin’s lung transplant today draws well-wishes from across the political spectrum.

“In the name of all the citizens of Israel, I wish good health and long life to the president’s wife,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says on Twitter.

“Sending a huge hug to the president and his family,” says Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in a statement.

Meretz MK Michal Rozin: “Nechama is an amazing woman, and I’m certain that all Israelis join me in wishing a speedy recovery to this precious and special woman.”

“Nechama Rivlin is one of the best and most special people I have had the honor to meet. I’m sending her all my love and prayers for a good and quick recovery,” Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin says.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri says he is “praying that you heal quickly and return, with God’s help, to your dear family.”

Iranian lawyer who defended women protesters gets 7 years

TEHRAN, Iran — A semi-official Iranian news agency says a prominent human rights lawyer has been sentenced to seven years in prison after she defended protesters against the Islamic Republic’s mandatory headscarves for women.

The report by ISNA says Judge Mohammad Moghiseh sentenced 55-year-old Nasrin Sotoudeh to five years for plotting against the state and two more years for insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It’s unclear when the sentencing took place.

Last week, an Iranian activist group that’s based abroad first reported that Sotoudeh was convicted. Her conviction has been widely criticized.

Sotoudeh previously served three years for her work and was released in 2013. She was arrested again last June. She has 20 days to appeal the verdict.

The headscarf, or hijab, is mandatory for all women in Iran.

— AP

Dozens of trains canceled amid rail workers’ strike

At least 40 trains are canceled on Monday afternoon amid a labor strike by the Israel Railways employees’ union.

Forty more trains could be canceled by tonight, and at least 38 scheduled trains are already canceled tomorrow.

Prosecutors demand life sentence for Brussels Jewish museum killer

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Prosecutors demand that a French jihadist found guilty of shooting dead four people in a terrorist attack at Brussels’ Jewish museum in 2014 be jailed for life.

A jury last week convicted 33-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche of “terrorist murder” for the anti-Semitic gun rampage in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014, a crime committed following his return from Syria’s battlefields.

“What we ask, without the slightest hesitation, is that you sentence Mehdi Nemmouche to life in prison,” prosecutor Yves Moreau tells a Brussels court, condemning him as “cowardly” and a “psychopath.”

“Mr. Nemmouche, you are just a coward, you kill people by shooting them from behind, you kill old women by shooting them with an assault rifle, you kill because it gives you pleasure to kill,” Moreau says.

After closing statements from prosecution and defense lawyers, the 12 jurors and three judges will retire again on Monday to consider sentence, with an announcement expected by the evening.

Nemmouche was found to have killed the four victims in less than 90 seconds, coldly shooting them with a handgun and a Kalashnikov rifle with what one paramedic who attended the scene called “surgical” precision.

Prosecutors also demanded a minimum 30-year prison sentence for Nacer Bendrer, 30, who was found guilty of being the co-author of the attack because he supplied the weapons Nemmouche used.


Hungary’s Orban to host European Parliament group leader over possible ouster

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister will host the leader of the main center-right faction in the European Parliament to discuss the Hungarian ruling party’s possible ouster from the group.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office says that the meeting with Manfred Weber will take place Tuesday in Budapest.

Several smaller members of the European People’s Party have called for the expulsion of Orban’s Fidesz party, in part because of a government ad campaign in Hungary against the EU’s migration policies, as well as longstanding concerns over the Orban government’s perceived interference with the rule of law and the EU’s democratic principles.

The ads feature European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is an EPP politician, with Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Orban, who won a third consecutive term last year with a primarily anti-migration campaign, claims Soros is influencing EU leaders to allow large numbers of mostly Muslim migrants to come to Europe.

Weber has called for Orban to end the campaign and apologize for it, as well as allow the Soros-founded Central European University to remain in Budapest. From the next academic year, CEU is moving its US-accredited programs to Vienna because the Hungarian government has refused to sign an agreement safeguarding all of its activities in Hungary.

— AP

First kosher restaurant set to open in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan will soon be home to its first-ever kosher-certified restaurant.

The meat restaurant, named “7/40,” will open in May on Samed Vurgun street in Baku, the capital, with supervision from the city’s rabbi, Shneor Segal, the restaurant’s owner, Moshe Moiseev, tells the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The restaurant is located in the Nasimi district of Baku, which used to be the city’s Jewish neighborhood. It is located around the corner from Segal’s Chabad synagogue and 500 yards away from the Georgian synagogue.

Boasting 100 seats, the restaurant will combine Azeri cuisine with Middle Eastern Israeli dishes, says Nasiyev, who was born in Baku, a bustling metropolis on the Caspian Sea, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. He has worked in the food industry in Israel and Ukraine.

The restaurant will open at a time of decline for Baku’s Jewish population, which now numbers no more than 8,000 people. It was double that in 2000.


Iranian couple arrested after marriage proposal in public

TEHRAN, Iran — A young Iranian couple have been arrested after a marriage proposal in public that was captured on a video clip that went viral on social media. The police say the pair offended Islamic mores on public decency but were later released on bail.

The video, which spread on social media last Friday, shows the young man standing in a heart-shaped ring of flower petals next to colorful balloons in a mall in the central Iranian city of Arak.

He proposes, and after the young woman says “yes,” he slips a ring on her finger to cheers from a crowd of onlookers. The two are not identified.

Mostafa Norouzi, deputy police chief in Arak, tells the Shahrvand daily that it is unacceptable for the young “to do whatever is common in other places of the world and disregard mores, culture and religion” in Iran.

The pair’s “offense is very clear and there is no need for explanation” about the reason for their arrest, Norouzi adds.

— AP

Anti-Semitic incidents rise in the Netherlands

The Netherlands in 2018 saw a major increase in recorded anti-Semitic incidents, which totaled a record 230 cases.

Of that tally, Dutch Jewry’s watchdog group The Center for Information and Documentation recorded last year 135 incidents that did not occur online, the group says in its annual report published today.

That number represents a 19 percent increase over the 113 real-life incidents reported in 2017.

However, violent incidents decreased to only one, down from five in 2017.


Multi-million-dollar Holocaust museum opens in Macedonia

SKOPJE, Macedonia — The capital of this Balkan nation of 2 million people sees the dedication of a multi-million-dollar Holocaust museum that has been called one of the finest institutions of its kind.

Macedonia, the landlocked country north of Greece, had a Jewish population of about 8,000 before the Holocaust, “and more than 98 percent of them were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators,” Michael Berenbaum, a former director of the United States Holocaust Museum’s research institute, tells the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

That’s part of the reason that an institution of the magnitude of the new museum, which according to Macedonian media cost $23 million to build, is “appropriate” in Skopje, he says.

The museum, a three-story building located in the Macedonian capital’s museum quarter, includes unique displays such as hundreds of suitcases dangling from the ceiling, a transport wagon similar to ones used to transport the Macedonian Jews to be murdered, and a tank engine of the kind used to produce deadly gas for the gas chamber of Treblinka, where Macedonian Jews were killed.

The funding comes from restitution money paid in 2000 by the government to the local Jewish community, which now comprises about 200 members.

Attending the museum’s opening was Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Robert Singer, the executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, and other dignitaries.


Two Israelis held in Berlin for carrying large amounts of the drug qat

Two Israelis, one a 17-year-old minor, are arrested in a Berlin airport after “commercial” amounts of the drug qat are found in their luggage.

The leaves of the qat plant include a stimulant that induces a mild high. The plant is legal in large parts of the Middle East, but is illegal in many Western nations.

After the arrests, the Foreign Ministry says Monday young Israelis should be wary of anyone asking them to transport the leaves of the plant to Western nations.

Transporting qat is a crime, the ministry says, and those doing so “are running the risk of prison terms and high fines, according to local laws.”

While offering no further details, the ministry statement says the two Israelis’ “naivete and vulnerability were exploited” by another party.

German soccer club Chemnitzer fires staff over neo-Nazi tribute

BERLIN, Germany — Fourth-tier German soccer club Chemnitzer FC has filed a complaint with local prosecutors and fired several staff members over a pre-match tribute to a recently deceased fan with neo-Nazi links.

Chemnitz’s CEO Thomas Uhlig resigned yesterday over the scandal and today the club sacks a member of the communications department and the stadium announcer.

A political storm was whipped up in Saxony state before Saturday’s 4-4 draw at home to Altglienicke when Chemnitz fans paid tribute before kickoff to Thomas Haller, a leading figure in eastern Germany’s far-right scene.

Haller reportedly took part in racist riots that rocked the city last year following the fatal stabbing of a German man, allegedly by immigrant men.

Haller had for years provided security for the club and co-founded the “HooNaRa” (Hooligans-Nazis-Racists) group in the 1990s that was disbanded in 2007, local broadcaster MDR reports.

Before Saturday’s match, a picture of Haller was displayed on a video screen at the stadium, there was a minute’s silence and banners — one saying “Rest in peace Tommy” — were rolled out, while Haller was praised in a speech.

Klaus Siemon, the club’s administrator, claims some of the club’s staff were threatened with violence, reportedly by supporters, unless the tribute took place.


EasyJet plane safe after hitting flock of birds 20 kilometers from Ben Gurion

An easyJet flight from Geneva to Tel Aviv slams into a flock of birds just 20 kilometers out from Ben Gurion Airport, when the plane is still 3,000 feet up.

The plane is damaged in the collision, but is brought in for a safe landing at Ben Gurion.

Officials then order the plane grounded for repairs.

The plane’s planned return flight, number EZY1526, from Tel Aviv to Geneva later today is canceled until a replacement plane can be flown in, the airline says.

Dozens protest statue in defeated Syria cradle of uprising

Dozens demonstrate in the defeated cradle of Syria’s uprising against a statue of the late father of President Bashar Assad being reinstated eight years after protesters demolished it.

Assad’s forces secured full control of Daraa from rebels in July, in a massive blow to the country’s ill-fated revolt that erupted in the southern city.

“We protested in a number of streets… denouncing a statue of Hafez Assad being erected in the center of Daraa,” a protester tells AFP.

“The statue was erected by regime supporters,” says Mohammed, who does not give his second name to avoid reprisals.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, confirms the protest had happened nearly eight years after the original statue was dragged down.

In March 2011, demonstrators tore down the statue of the father of the current president, prompting security forces to open fire. Days after, some 300 bare-chested young men climbed on the rubble shouting anti-regime slogans.


Incendiary balloons from Gaza spark two fires in Be’eri forest

Incendiary balloons spark at least two brush fires near Gaza today.

Both fires start in the Be’eri forest across the border from the central Gaza Strip.

No one is hurt in the fires.

Gay Knesset candidates file incitement complaint against Haredi rabbi

Three gay Knesset candidates on the Blue and White party slate file an incitement complaint today against a prominent Haredi rabbi, Meir Mazuz, who said gay relationships “cause diseases.”

The anti-gay comments were in a campaign video for the Yahad party, headed by former Shas chairman Eli Yishai.

Such comments lead “in a clear line” to “violence against gays in the Israeli public space,” the three candidates, Idan Rol, Eitan Ginsburg and Yorai Lahav Hertzno, say after filing the complaint.

“The gay community won’t be anyone’s punching bag,” they say. “We’re done being silent.”

Unarmed Palestinian man held after crossing into Israel from Gaza

An unarmed Palestinian man is arrested after crossing the border fence from northern Gaza into Israel a short time ago.

The man’s motives are not yet clear.

Prosecutors drop case against two far-right Jewish terror suspects

State prosecutors announce that they will be dropping their case against two Jewish far-right activists who were indicted on a series of charges, including membership in a terror organization and vandalizing a prominent Jerusalem church.

The prosecutors inform the Central District Court that they do not have enough evidence to prosecute Eyal Reuveni, 23, and a second suspect, 21, whose name has been barred from publication as he was a minor at the time of the 2014 arson incident.

The announcement comes just over two months after the Central District Court threw out the confessions given under extreme duress by the younger suspect, in a decision seen as a major blow to the Shin Bet security service, which had led the investigation.

— Jacob Magid

AG accepts Netanyahu’s request not to release evidence before elections

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says the investigation materials in the corruption probes into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be withheld from prosecutors until after the April 9 elections, citing a fear of leaks to the media by political actors.

“The legal counsel of the prime minister sought to delay the delivery of materials due to their fear that the evidence documents will find their way into media outlets and will be publicized during the elections,” a statement from the Justice Ministry says.

The attorney general accepted the argument, the statement says.

The pre-indictment hearings for all suspects in cases 1000, 2000, and 4000, including the prime minister, will be held no later than three months after the documents are released, or some time before July 10, the Justice Ministry says.

PM to US senator: US should recognize Israeli sovereignty on Golan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Golan Heights with US Senator Lindsey Graham, and asks that the US recognize Israeli sovereignty there.

“Every time you come here you can appreciate the strategic importance of Israel being on the Golan Heights, and the fact that we’re creating here new life, green life — a future, which is very different, obviously, from what existed before,” Netanyahu says.

“The most important observation that I’d make is that the Golan has always been part of Israel, from the earliest days of our history, and has certainly been part of the State of Israel since 1967, and more recently 1981. The Golan is part of Israel. The Golan must stay part of Israel — forever. It’s very important that the international community recognize this fact and accept it, and most especially our great friend, the United States of America… We have no greater friend, and we appreciate it.”

— Raphael Ahren

Lindsey Graham: Israel must keep Golan or face ‘strategic nightmare’

US Senator Lindsey Graham, visiting the Golan Heights with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vows to “start an effort to recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel, now and forever.”

“I come here as an American. I come here to try to figure our what’s best for America. What’s best for America is a safe, secure and prosperous Israel,” Graham says.

“Why? Common values, common enemies. And from a military point of view, the best friend the United States can possibly ever have in a troubled region. I cannot tell you how much intelligence has been given to the US from our friends in Israel to protect the American homeland. So if you believe, as I do, [that] the State of Israel is a strategic partner to the United States, and its survival and its prosperity and security is relevant to American national security, you would come here, to the Golan.”

He then backs Israeli sovereignty on the plateau.

“For decades, this was one of the more peaceful parts of the border that Israel has to police. Not so much now. So I’ve got a simple message: I will go back the US Senate, working with Senator [Ted] Cruz, I will start an effort to recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel, now and forever. Because to give this territory up would be a strategic nightmare for the State of Israel. And who would you give it to?”

— Raphael Ahren

PM praises Graham’s Golan comments as ‘important to our national security’

After US Senator Lindsey Graham vows to work to bring US recognition for Israel’s claims to sovereignty on the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a Hebrew-language statement to Israelis that the comments “reflect American policy, the policy of President [Donald] Trump, to support Israel.”

“What you heard here from Senator Graham are very strong words that reflect American policy, the policy of President [Donald] Trump, to support Israel,” Netanyahu says.

“They convey that [policy] through a very concrete step — to secure the Golan as part of Israel. Otherwise our border with Iran will be on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and we aren’t willing to accept that.”

The prime minister adds: “I was very happy to hear him say those words. I think this is a very important direction, and very, very promising to our national security.”

Map of Palestine displacing Israel shown at Atlanta school’s multicultural night

A map that shows Palestine in place of present-day Israel was displayed at a multicultural night at a suburban Atlanta middle school.

The map was placed on a table dedicated to Palestinian culture at the annual event at the Autrey Mill Middle School in Alpharetta. There was no contextual information displayed with the map, which did not mention Israel, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“I am extremely disappointed and disgusted with the individuals who presented an insensitive political and geographic representation,” the school’s principal, Trey Martin, writes in a letter to parents. “This display does not represent our school culture, which is one that values inclusion and unity.”

Martin notes that more than 500 people and 15 countries were represented at the event Thursday evening.

“We condemn this attempt to use our Multicultural Night for one’s own political or religious agenda,” he writes. “Please know that this type of display is not acceptable nor supported by the faculty and staff of Autrey Mill Middle School. This school is here for kids, not politics.”

The middle school is located near several synagogues and a community Chabad building, the Atlanta Jewish Times reports.


Litzman questioned on suspected aid to sex offenders

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, head of the United Torah Judaism political party, is questioned by police today at the headquarters of the Israel Police’s corruption investigation unit Lahav 433.

Litzman is suspected of illegally aiding a series of sex offenders linked to his Gerrer Hasidic sect to evade justice, including accused child sex abuser Malka Leifer.

He has denied wrongdoing in all cases.

Brussels Jewish museum killer facing jail says ‘life goes on’

BRUSSELS, Belgium — A French jihadist found guilty of shooting dead four people in a terrorist attack at Brussels’ Jewish museum jokes Monday “life goes on” as prosecutors demand he be jailed for life.

A jury last week convicted Mehdi Nemmouche of “terrorist murder” for the anti-Semitic gun rampage in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014, a crime committed following his return from Syria’s battlefields.

The 33-year-old says “life goes on” with a smirk in his final words before the jury retires to consider his sentence, after prosecutors brand him a “coward” and a “psychopath” and demand a tough sentence.

“What we ask, without the slightest hesitation, is that you sentence Mehdi Nemmouche to life in prison,” prosecutor Yves Moreau told the Brussels criminal court.

After hearing closing statements from prosecution and defense lawyers, the 12 jurors and three judges leave to decide what punishment he should face, with an announcement expected by the evening.


State Department: US policy on Golan has not changed

After US Senator Lindsey Graham tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he will work to convince the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, a State Department spokesperson says US policy has not changed.

“I refer you to Senator Graham for more information about his remarks to the PM (prime minister). Our policy on the Golan Heights has not changed,” the spokesperson says.

Iran awards highest honor to Guards elite force chief

TEHRAN, Iran — The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, a key figure in the battle against the Islamic State group and in Iran’s backing of Hezbollah and entrenchment in Syria, has received Iran’s highest military award, the regime’s supreme leader announces.

The major general, whose unit runs foreign operations, is regarded as the mastermind of Iran’s military strategy in the region.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awards him with the “Order of Zulfaqar,” the leader’s office tweets. Soleimani became the first to receive the award since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Tasnim news agency.

In Islamic tradition, Zulfaqar is the name of the double-pointed sword said to have been given by Prophet Mohammed to his son-in-law Ali.


Netanyahu promises to consider legalizing cannabis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will look into the possibility of legalizing cannabis in Israel.

Asked what his opinion is on the issue on the “Likud TV” Facebook stream, run by his party as part of his 2019 election campaign, Netanyahu says he is “looking into it and will have an answer soon.”

The statement comes after a recent surge of support for the right-wing and pro-cannabis Zehut party, led by firebrand former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin.

The party is presenting a broad plan to “end the persecution of cannabis users” through “full and regulated legalization of cannabis, based on the restrictions on the sale of alcohol and on the restrictions already in use where cannabis is legal.”

Netanyahu says that he has “led some changes in this area,” citing loosened regulations on the use of medical marijuana and government approval for the export of Israeli grown medical marijuana.

He then promises to look into it and offer answers “soon.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Netanyahu: Arab Israelis have 22 Arab nation-states, they don’t need another

Amid accusations that he is using anti-Arab rhetoric as part of his election campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel’s Arab-Israeli citizens have “22 nation-states around them and they do not need another.”

Responding to a question on the “Likud TV” Facebook stream about how the controversial nation-state law impacts Arab-Israeli and Druze citizens of Israel, Netanyahu says the legislation “does not relate to the rights of the individual, because there are equal rights for all. The Basic Law deals only with fundamental questions of the rights of the Jewish people, a blue-and-white flag, the Hatikva [national anthem] and so on.”

After facing criticism for saying that Israel “was not a state of all its citizens” in reference to the country’s Arab population, the prime minister says that there are plenty of Arab states but only one Jewish state.

“The Arab citizens have 22 nation states around them and they do not need another. We define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the nation-state of the Jewish people, with equal rights for all.”

— Raoul Wootliff

American Jewish comedic rapper Lil Dicky is getting his own FX show

Lil Dicky, the Jewish rapper known for his comedy and collaborating with the likes of Snoop Dogg, is going to star in a show based on his life.

As of now, the show is untitled (it is called “Untitled Lil Dicky Project” on the IMDB website), but it’s centered on a “suburban neurotic man in his late 20s who has convinced himself that he’s destined to be one of the best rappers of all time,” according to a news release.

Lil Dicky’s real name is David Burd. He was raised in an upper-middle-class Jewish home in suburban Philadelphia. His big break came in 2013, when the YouTube video for his song “Ex-Boyfriend” — think Woody Allen meets late-2000s hip-hop — went viral.

He has since garnered hundreds of millions of Spotify streams, and his debut album “Professional Rapper,” which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, featured stars like Snoop, Fetty Wap, and Brandon Urie of Panic! At The Disco.

Burd plays on his Jewish identity on social media and occasionally in songs such as “Jewish Flow.”


Gantz urges Netanyahu to resign rather than be a ‘part-time PM’

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz opens his first town hall event with a call that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign due to potential criminal charges against him, which Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit said earlier today could be filed as early as July.

“The announcement of the attorney general of such a short hearing process is no small matter,” he tells some 500 supporters in the southern city of Beersheba.

“We cannot be left with a part-time prime minister.”

In a statement from the Justice Ministry, Mandelblit announced that pre-indictment hearings in the three cases against Netanyahu will be completed no later than three months after the documents are released to prosecutors overseeing the hearings on April 10.

Charging that Netanyahu will have to spend a significant amount of his time fighting the charges in court, Gantz says, “the right thing to do would be if he resigned and showed that the State of Israel came before everything else…If you care about this country, take responsibility for its citizens and stop dealing only with yourself.”

Mandelblit announced last month he intended to indict Netanyahu pending a hearing in three separate criminal cases for fraud, bribery and breach of trust, six weeks ahead of national elections.

“On the prime minister’s agenda is bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His agenda is Netanyahu before everything else. Our agenda is Israel before everything else,” Gantz says to the cheers of the crowd.

Attacking Netnayhu’s claims of a conspiracy and witch hunt against him, Gantz addresses the prime minister: “You have brought all of this on yourself. This was not the work of the head of the police you appointed, nor the head of the state prosecution who you appointed, nor the attorney general who you appointed. None of them. It’s only you.”

— Raoul Wootliff

J Street slams Netanyahu’s ‘incitement against Arab-Israelis’

J Street slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “campaign of incitement against Arab-Israelis.”

In a statement, the dovish advocacy group says:

J Street is alarmed by the escalating campaign of incitement against Arab citizens of Israel that is now being carried out by Prime Minister Netanyahu and other right-wing Israeli politicians. The disgraceful, racist rhetoric of Netanyahu and his allies is endangering Arab-Israelis and fundamentally undermining Israel’s commitment to democracy.

As part of the ongoing effort to rally their right-wing base and win Israel’s upcoming election, Netanyahu and the Likud are stigmatizing Arab-Israeli participation in Israeli politics as fundamentally dangerous and illegitimate. They charge that their political opponents will enter into a governing coalition with or advance the interests of Arab-Israelis, as if Arab citizens have no right to influence the policies of an Israeli government.

The statement comes in the wake of Netanyahu’s online scuffle with actress Rotem Sela, who slammed Likud for its “Bibi or Tibi” campaign.

The organization adds: “The prime minister’s treatment of Arab-Israelis, along with his policies of creeping annexation in the West Bank and his partnership with the extreme Kahanist party referred to as ‘Israel’s KKK,’ fundamentally endanger Israel’s future as a democracy — and contradict the shared values at the heart of the US-Israel relationship.”

And it calls on American leaders to speak up when Netanyahu arrives in Washington, DC, later this month for the AIPAC Policy Conference.

With Netanyahu set to speak at the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC later this month, we urge US elected officials and pro-Israel leaders to denounce his destructive conduct and ideology. We stand with all those Israelis, regardless of religion or ethnicity, who continue to battle in defense of their country’s democratic institutions, rights and values.

Far-right MK Smotrich: Despite Netanyahu, we can get the education ministry

Bezalel Smotrich goes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reportedly promised the Education Ministry portfolio to the Jewish Home last month, but told his Likud party today that the portfolio would remain theirs.

Netanyahu’s statement came after Smotrich said yesterday he wished to be education minister, and would use the post to do away with the “religious coercion” in Israel’s schools toward a “religion of liberal democracy.”

Today, Smotrich slams the prime minister for apparently backtracking on the earlier promise to Jewish Home after the uproar over his words.

“Netanyahu is a talented and capable man, but not always good under pressure,” Smotrich says. “The question of which portfolios we will receive in the next government does not depend on what Netanyahu promised in the past and does not depend on what he says or does not say today. The question of which key positions we will have depends on how much power we will get in these elections,” Smotrich says at the Union of Right Wing Parties campaign launch event in Jerusalem.

— Jacob Magid

One Israeli killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash identified as Avraham Matzliah

One of the Israelis killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash near Addis Ababa yesterday is identified in the last hour as Avraham Matzliah of Ma’ale Adumim.

Matzliah, 49, leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

Meirav, his sister, tells the Walla news site that he “was a special person, a wonderful father and a funny man. We’re in shock, we can’t believe it.”

Avraham Matzliah, 49, from Ma’ale Adumim, was killed in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight near Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019. (Channel 13 screen capture)

New poll sees boost for right-wing parties as Zehut clears 3.25% threshold

A new poll shows the right-wing bloc gaining ground 29 days before election day, with a handful of small right-wing parties clearing the electoral threshold, marking a likely boost for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances to return to the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to a Channel 13 survey of 1,304 Israelis, the right-wing parties would receive 64 seats, after Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu manage to clear the 3.25% threshold and snag four seats apiece.

Netanyahu continues to lead over rival Benny Gantz of Blue and White in terms of public opinion on his suitability to serve as prime minister, with 47% of respondents backing him for the job, compared to 37% for Gantz. The remaining 16% say they don’t know.

The poll finds Blue and White leading the pack of parties with 31 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Then come Likud at 28, Labor 7, the Union of Right-Wing Parties 7, Hadash-Ta’al 7, New Right 6, United Torah Judaism 6, Meretz 6, Shas 5, Raam-Balad 5, Kulanu 4, Zehut 4, Yisrael Beytenu 4.

Orly Levy-Abecassis’ Gesher party is not clearing the threshold.

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