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Is Israel’s new government destroying democracy? Blinken surveys situation on Middle East trip

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Is Israel’s new government destroying democracy? Blinken surveys situation on Middle East trip

As Israel in current weeks put collectively its most right-wing, religiously conservative authorities in historical past, senior U.S. officers insisted on ready and seeing simply how radical issues would get.

They emphasised “insurance policies,” not “personalities.”

Now, almost a month right into a authorities led by returning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and populated by ultra-Orthodox politicians, it’s already clear {that a} new bar is being set in controversial actions and excessive ideologies. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrives in Israel on Monday to take inventory of the scenario, however can he be efficient given the Israeli authorities’s momentum?

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Many in and out of doors of Israel worry the democracy that the nation lengthy claimed to be — typically billed the “solely democracy within the Center East” — is in peril of being badly eroded.

“The seventy fifth anniversary of Israel’s independence can be remembered because the yr wherein the nation’s democratic id was dealt a deadly blow,” the president of Israel’s Supreme Courtroom, Esther Hayut, mentioned in an angst-ridden speech earlier this month within the Israeli metropolis of Haifa.

Tens of 1000’s of Israelis — younger, outdated and principally secular — have poured into streets each weekend this month to protest the adjustments Netanyahu and his coalition are planning that opponents imagine will curtail civil liberties.

Including to the volatility of the second, there was a spasm of the deadliest violence in Israel and the West Financial institution in years. On Thursday, Israel carried out a raid within the Palestinian metropolis of Jenin, killing 9 Palestinian militants and civilians. Twenty-four hours later, a suspected Palestinian gunman shot and killed seven Israelis outdoors a synagogue in Jerusalem.

With tensions escalating, Blinken traveled to Cairo on Sunday and on Monday will maintain what are anticipated to be thorny talks in Jerusalem and the West Financial institution metropolis of Ramallah. The journey had been deliberate earlier than the current violence.

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Although Blinken is essentially the most senior U.S. official to fulfill with the brand new Israeli authorities, he’s one in every of a number of prime officers who’ve tried to sound out the incoming regime because the Biden administration seeks to de-escalate the Israeli-Palestinian battle and decrease the possibly damaging fallout from Netanyahu’s new insurance policies.

Blinken and different U.S. officers have been criticized in some quarters for being too circumspect of their method to the brand new Israeli authorities.

“We are going to gauge the federal government by the insurance policies it pursues slightly than particular person personalities,” Blinken mentioned final month. However, he added, “we may also proceed to unequivocally oppose any acts that undermine the prospects of a two-state resolution,” the imaginative and prescient of an impartial Palestinian state current alongside Israel. These acts embrace strikes the brand new Israeli authorities is already making, such because the growth of Jewish settlements within the Palestinian-claimed West Financial institution, and demolitions of and evictions from Palestinian houses.

Blinken additionally mentioned he would emphasize the “shared values” of the US and Israel — democracy and illustration.

However to this point, he has kept away from publicly criticizing the Netanyahu authorities.

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On Sunday, Netanyahu and his Cupboard had already embarked upon taking acquainted punitive actions as Jewish settlers throughout the West Financial institution attacked Palestinians and their property, in keeping with human rights screens and Palestinian media.

Within the wake of the most recent shootings, Netanyahu on Sunday introduced plans to demolish the houses of two assailants, cancel their households’ social safety advantages, broaden gun permits for Israeli Jews and “strengthen” Jewish settlements within the occupied West Financial institution — which may imply extra navy safety and different fortification.

U.S. officers say there may be an additional hazard within the newest violence. As an alternative of being the work of the militant Gaza-based Hamas group, it’s extra “natural,” orchestrated by homegrown teams within the West Financial institution whose belligerence is fed by frustration, years of occupation and a perception that Palestinian management is ineffective.

The dilemma for Blinken, who’s assembly with Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian leaders whereas on his journey to the Center East this week, is that the violence that has victimized Israelis makes it harder to lift with Netanyahu — publicly, however even privately to an extent — points such because the crucial for a Palestinian state and the preservation of democracy.

Preserving the established order will rankle opponents of the Netanyahu authorities.

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“Enterprise as regular” is now not ample, mentioned Nimrod Goren, a fellow on the Center East Institute in Washington and president of Mitvim, a assume tank in Israel that research regional politics.

“We wish to see the ‘values-based relationship’ in motion,” he mentioned. “We see our democracy being shattered in a short time and wish to hear help from [Western] liberal politicians.”

Netanyahu and his coalition have launched their precedent-breaking marketing campaign beginning with Israel’s judiciary and authorized system. They contend that a lot of the courtroom system is overly politicized and are transferring to cut back the Supreme Courtroom’s place as a stability to the ability of the Knesset, or parliament.

Below the proposal, a Knesset majority would have the ability to override Supreme Courtroom selections. Politicians would even have a better function in deciding on judges.

Many in Israel suspect this so-called reform is a ploy by Netanyahu to make a legal corruption case towards him disappear. However its implications go a lot additional, in keeping with critics who say the courtroom has typically been the arbiter that pushed human rights laws and held the federal government and navy accountable for his or her actions.

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As well as, ultra-Orthodox members of the Cupboard, having fun with unprecedented energy because of Netanyahu’s deal-making coalition-building, wish to inject extra faith into training and make it tougher for non-Orthodox overseas Jews to acquire Israeli citizenship. They have additionally condemned LGBTQ rights.

“What [Netanyahu] is doing is nothing in need of waging battle on Israeli democracy, and if he succeeds, Israel might change perpetually,” retired veteran Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas mentioned, writing within the Haaretz newspaper. “Relaxation assured, that is patently an effort to result in regime change.”

Preferring to deal with safety, Blinken is reluctant to assault home Israeli coverage such because the judicial overhaul, aides say, and is prone to persist with extra generic advocacy for democracy and civil rights.

Netanyahu and conservative supporters of his authorities dismiss many of the complaints as hyperbolic spin.

“The bulk in Israel at present is correct wing and spiritual, and the minority is apprehensive about their future,” mentioned David Eliezrie, an Orange County rabbi who’s director of the North County Chabad Heart and is energetic in Israeli affairs.

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Israel’s Supreme Courtroom, for instance, has lengthy favored the left and the adjustments will impose “stability,” he mentioned.

At an illustration in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, protesters held a minute of silence for these killed in Friday’s synagogue taking pictures earlier than talking out on the harmful trajectory they imagine their authorities is following. The air was stuffed with each anger and resignation — and a way of impotence.

”I really feel that my nation is coming aside,” mentioned Yonatan Hazut, 29, a tech employee who lives in Tel Aviv. “Huge demonstrations might not make a distinction for politicians, however they’d for buyers and businessmen.”

Although Saturday’s protest was extra subdued than the earlier ones due to the synagogue assault, it was emphatic however.

“I’ve voted for Bibi Netanyahu all my life,” mentioned Neta Naor, 65, referring to the prime minister by his nickname. “I don’t desire a spiritual state right here. It is vitally troublesome for me to listen to that many younger individuals wish to depart the nation, that they really feel they don’t have any future.”

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Particular correspondent Tami Zer contributed from Tel Aviv.

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Trump maintains grip on GOP nod with victory in North Dakota caucuses

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Trump maintains grip on GOP nod with victory in North Dakota caucuses

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Former President Donald Trump inched closer to becoming the Republican nominee for president with another primary victory Monday, this time with a win in the North Dakota caucuses.

Trump won North Dakota’s caucuses, finishing first in voting conducted at 12 caucus sites, according to an Associated Press call of the race shortly after polls closed Sunday, earning the former president 29 delegates. 

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The win continues Trump’s dominant streak in this year’s GOP primary races, marking the 9th win in 10 tries for the former president as he closes in on representing the Republican Party for a third time. 

The only contest Trump has lost so far was last weekend’s primary in Washington D.C.

TRUMP WINS THE MICHIGAN GOP PRIMARY, BRINGING HIM ONE STEP CLOSER TO SECURING REPUBLICAN NOMINATION

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he departs after speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2024.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The win comes as Trump’s campaign has largely shifted its attention to the general election and an all-but-certain rematch of 2020’s matchup against President Biden, with the Trump campaign telling Fox News Digital before this week’s slate of contests that the primary race is “over.”

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“Republican voters have delivered resounding wins for President Trump in every single primary contest and this race is over,” a spokesperson for the campaign said. “Our focus is now on Joe Biden and the general election.”

Nikki Haley, left, and Donald Trump, right

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, left, will be the only remaining candidate challenging former President Donald Trump, right.

DC PRIMARY REPRESENTS HALEY’S BEST CHANCE YET TO BEAT TRUMP

The former president already had a commanding lead heading into this week, holding ten times as many delegates as Haley before earning 29 in Monday’s North Dakota win.

The loss marked another blow to Haley’s campaign, though the former South Carolina governor has vowed to stay in the race as long as there is a path to victory.

Nikki Haley

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks at a rally during the District of Columbias Republican presidential primary at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 1, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

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That path will likely have to start appearing on Super Tuesday, where voters in 15 more states will head to the polls to determine who gets a share of 865 total delegates. While neither candidate can reach the needed 1,215 delegates to secure the nomination this week, continued dominance by Trump would give Haley a near impossible uphill climb. 

For its part, the Haley Campaign has invested heavily in a Super Tuesday turnaround, announcing a seven-figure ad buy earlier this month meant to target many of the states on the Tuesday slate.

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Column: For the second time in days, the Supreme Court helped make another Trump presidency possible

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Column: For the second time in days, the Supreme Court helped make another Trump presidency possible

The Supreme Court held Monday that a single state such as Colorado can’t prohibit Donald Trump from running for president as an insurrectionist under the 14th Amendment. It was the second time in less than a week that the court provided a crucial boost to the former president’s campaign to return to the White House.

The court’s strong inclination to restore Trump to the ballot was clear from the oral argument in the case last month, and indeed the justices reversed the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously. The “per curiam,” or “by the court,” opinion further emphasized that the court was speaking with a single voice.

But the justices were far from united on the rationale for reversal. There was a clear 5-4 split with two concurrences, one by the liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — and the other by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

The narrow, right-wing majority within the unanimous decision held that congressional legislation is needed to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits elected officials who engage in insurrection from holding office again. This clearly restricts the amendment’s force going forward.

All four of the concurring justices parted from requiring a federal law to enforce Section 3. For them, it was sufficient that the Colorado decision would impose an inconsistent and intolerable patchwork in which a major presidential candidate appeared on the ballot in some states but not in others. As the court wrote, “Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos.”

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The opinion signed by the three Democratic-appointed justices, though styled as a concurrence, was fairly sharp in its differences with the majority. Most pointedly, they quoted Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissent in Bush vs. Gore, the 2000 opinion that remains a bête noire for liberals: “What it does today, the Court should have left undone.”

Barrett similarly felt that her five fellow conservatives had overreached. But she sounded a conciliatory note, writing that “this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency.”

So although the court was able to come together as to the result, surely a priority for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., its political divisions were evident just beneath the surface. It was no kumbaya moment.

In cases of this magnitude and political stakes, the court is better off when it’s unanimous or nearly so. Kagan and Jackson, who seemed to be leaning toward reversal at oral argument, and even Sotomayor, whose inclination was less clear, thereby stepped up in the service of the court’s institutional interest. Notwithstanding their fundamental differences with the majority, their concurrences permitted the court to conclude with a feel-good paragraph noting that “All nine Members of the Court agree with that result.” They were good soldiers and team players, which may engender goodwill with Roberts going forward.

Of course, with the rock-ribbed conservatives to the chief justice’s right, there may be scant prospect of similar goodwill. The court’s right has been in lockstep on ideologically divisive matters, and there’s no reason to expect that to change.

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Indeed, after last week’s decision to review the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ rejection of Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for Jan. 6, today’s decisive ruling is a second substantial victory for the president who appointed three of the justices.

Some observers speculated that the justices would view the two Trump cases, on immunity and the 14th Amendment, as a pair that they would split. Ruling for Trump on the Colorado case and against him on the Jan. 6 prosecution would communicate a sort of neutrality.

It’s difficult to see it that way now, though. Not that the court will hold that Trump is immune from the charges growing out of his perfidious attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 eleciton. The best he can hope for is a remand to the trial court and eventual loss on the merits of his immunity claim.

But the court last week gave Trump the invaluable gift of time, suspending the proceedings in Judge Tanya Chutkan’s U.S. District Court for at least several months, leaving serious doubt as to whether the case can be tried before the election.

If the polls are to be believed, a criminal conviction would likely persuade a significant number of voters to abandon Trump. That means the court’s decision to enter the fray and delay the case — when it could have let the D.C. Circuit’s thorough, bipartisan opinion stand — is probably the most important assist it could have given to Trump’s campaign.

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Moreover, while the court acted with some dispatch in the immunity case, it was nowhere near as quick as in other exigent cases. That includes the one it decided Monday, rushing to clarify the electoral landscape just in time for Colorado and other states to vote on Super Tuesday.

There’s plenty of room for debate as to why the court acted as it did in each case. But there’s no doubt about the impact. Should the country awaken on Nov. 6 to the horrifying prospect of a second Trump presidency, history will record that the Supreme Court played a critical role.

Harry Litman is the host of the “Talking Feds” podcast. @harrylitman

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Trump says Supreme Court ruling in Colorado case is 'unifying and inspirational'

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Trump says Supreme Court ruling in Colorado case is 'unifying and inspirational'

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EXCLUSIVE: Former President Trump told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview that the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Monday is “both unifying and inspirational,” while stressing the importance of the high court’s pending decision in the issue of presidential immunity. 

The Supreme Court sided unanimously with the 2024 GOP frontrunner in his challenge to Colorado’s attempt to kick him off the 2024 primary ballot. 

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The high court ruled in favor of Trump’s arguments in the case, which will impact the status of efforts in several other states to remove the likely GOP nominee from their respective ballots. 

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR TRUMP BALLOT REMOVAL CASE OUT OF COLORADO

The court considered for the first time the meaning and reach of Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office again. Challenges have been filed to remove Trump from the 2024 ballot in over 30 states.

Former President Trump told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview that the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Monday is “both unifying and inspirational.” (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

“A great win for America. Very, very important!” Trump told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview Monday morning. 

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“Equally important for our country will be the decision that they will soon make on immunity for a president — without which, the presidency would be relegated to nothing more than a ceremonial position, which is far from what the founders intended,” Trump told Fox News Digital. “No president would be able to properly and effectively function without complete and total immunity.” 

He added, “Our country would be put at great risk.” 

Former President Donald Trump

The Supreme Court sided unanimously with former President Trump in his challenge to Colorado’s attempt to kick him off the 2024 primary ballot. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

SUPREME COURT DECISION ON CASE BARRING TRUMP FROM COLORADO’S 2024 BALLOT COULD ARRIVE AS EARLY AS MONDAY

The Supreme Court last week agreed to review whether Trump has immunity from prosecution in special counsel Jack Smith’s election interference case. 

The justices moved to fast-track the appeal, and will hear oral arguments beginning April 22, with a ruling on the merits expected by late June. 

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Trump’s trial stemming from Smith’s investigation has been put on hold pending resolution of the matter. 

The decision will also impact Smith’s classified records case against the president. That trial has not yet been scheduled. 

As for Monday’s decision, Trump described it as a “big win for America.” 

“Today’s decision, especially the fact that it was unanimous, 9-0, is both unifying and inspirational for the people of the United States of America,” he told Fox News Digital. 

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In its unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that “states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office.” 

“But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency,” the Supreme Court wrote.

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