Top News from Israel and Palestine: February 3, 2020

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[Podcast] Occupied Thoughts: “What Israel can Learn from the American History on Race”,

Peter Beinart is joined by Tel Aviv University Professor Yael Sternhell to have a deep and rich conversation about how teaching about the history of race and inequality in the United States leads to important, sometimes explosive, conversations with her students.

In Their Own Words: Trump Admin Explains Its 'Vision'

Kushner defends conditions for Palestinians to get a state and 'take control of themselves',

“In contrast, Palestinians ‘are trapped under the rule that you have now,’ Kushner said, describing the system as ‘a police state’ and noting that ‘it’s not exactly a thriving democracy. For the Palestinians, if they want their people to live better lives, we now have a framework to do it,’ Kushner said. ‘If they don’t think that they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognize them as a state, to allow them to take control of themselves, because the only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state’.”

Kushner Blasts Erekat, Says Trump's Deal Is Last Chance for Palestinian State,

“Kushner further said that the plan was the last opportunity for the creation of a Palestinian state with some contiguity. He also said that U.S. recognition of Israeli settlements would be in exchange for Israel halting the expansion of settlements, and that ‘if we didn’t do this, Israel will continue to grow at this pace and there will never be an opportunity to create a Palestinian state. There’s over 500,000 people now who are in the West Bank, so what we’re trying to do is figure out – how can you stop the growth of Israel there in a way where you can give Israel the land in a way where you can give Israel the land that they’re never going to leave anyway,’ Kushner said.”

Jared Kushner Boasts Middle East Plan Credentials: ‘I’ve Read 25 Books On It’,

“During an interview with Sky News Arabic, Kushner claimed, ‘I’ve been studying this now for three years. I’ve read 25 books on it, I’ve spoken to every leader in the region, I’ve spoken to everyone who’s been involved in this’…’What he’s been able to do today is deliver for the Palestinians a pathway to a state, a contiguous territory, and conditions where they can earn their way to their independence, their dignity,’ claimed Kushner on President Trump, Tuesday, before claiming the Palestinians have ‘a perfect track record of blowing every opportunity they’ve had in their past.’ On Wednesday, following Palestinian protests over the plan, Kushner declared, ‘they are proving, through their reaction, they are not ready to have a state.’

‘God puts people in places, including Trump,’ says US Ambassador to Israel,

“The Trump administration’s peace plan preserves Israel’s sovereignty and offers Palestinians an opportunity to leave in peace and prosperity, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told American Evangelical outlet Christian Broadcasting Network on Thursday. Friedman also said that the presidency of Donald Trump was an act of God. ‘When it comes to events that transpire, whether it’s in regard to Israel or anything else, I’m a believer. I believe that God runs the world, so that would apply to the president, you, me, and the cameraman so that’s not news to me,’ he said, adding that ‘I think God puts people in places for certain times at all times’.”

Fallout from the Trump Plan

Savaging Trump plan, Abbas says Palestinians cutting all ties with Israel, US,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was cutting all ties, including security coordination, with both Israel and the US on Saturday, in a lengthy speech delivered at an Arab League meeting in Egypt’s capital denouncing the new White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘We’ve informed the Israeli side…that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States, including security ties,’ Abbas declared. The PA leader said he’d stated as much in letters sent to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and CIA Director Gina Haspel. The PA currently cooperates with Israeli security services and US intelligence agencies against terrorism. Abbas has threatened to cut security ties in the past on several occasions though he has not followed through with action on the ground.”

CIA chief secretly traveled to Ramallah after peace plan announcement,

“CIA director Gina Haspel secretly traveled to Ramallah on Thursday, the day after US President Donald Trump’s peace plan was announced, Israeli public radio Kan reported on Sunday . Haspel met with Palestinian officials, who told her of their intention to sever all ties, including security, with Israel and the United States. Kan reports that the CIA chief, who came to probe the PA after the announcement of the US peace plan, did not meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during her visit.  However, Haspel did meet with Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Farage, who told her that, despite Ramallah’s opposition to the American proposal, the exchange of information with the CIA will continue.”

Backing Abbas, Arab League unanimously rejects Trump’s Middle East peace plan,

“The Arab League on Saturday unanimously rejected US President Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East plan, calling it ‘unfair’ to Palestinians. The pan-Arab bloc said in a statement that it “rejects the US-Israeli ‘deal of the century’ considering that it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.’Arab leaders also vowed ‘not to… cooperate with the US administration to implement this plan.’ The League warned that Israel must not act on the plan unilaterally — a reference to Israel’s stated intention to move on annexation as soon as possible. ‘Israel will be solely responsible for the consequences of such policies,’ the bloc said. It said it would call on international powers to take steps to prevent any such action.”

Organization of Islamic Cooperation rejects Trump peace plan,

“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation said on Monday it rejects U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. The 57-member organisation which held a summit to discuss the plan in Jeddah said it ‘calls on all member states not to engage with this plan or to cooperate with the U.S. administration in implementing it in any form’.”

EU diplomat: US 'so-called peace plan' challenges international law,

“European Union High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said that US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace deal, ‘challenges many of the internationally agreed parameters: the 1967 border, as agreed by both parties, with a state of Israel and an independent, viable State of Palestine, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition.’ Borrell referred to the ‘Deal of the Century’ as ‘the so-called peace plan,’ mocking the United States’ efforts.”

Cutting Israel-PA coordination: The ace in the sleeve Mahmoud Abbas can't use,

“On a most basic level, the Israel-PA security coordination affects the stability and maintenance of Palestinian Authority-run areas of the West Bank daily. ‘How does security coordination work? When Israeli forces enter one of our areas, something that happens almost every night, the Israeli side informs us of the entry time so we can withdraw all our policemen from the streets,’ the Fatah official said. ‘And if that channel stops, the armed policeman might clash with the armed Israeli soldiers in any square, any street, in any city, which would lead to a breakdown in the security system.’ Even Abbas’ movements are dictated by the security coordination. The president’s convoy moves between his Ramallah office and residence about four times a day. Around 10 security vehicles and dozens of armed men are deployed to accompany the 84-year-old, and before he sets off on any journey Israel is kept in the loop, to avoid the embarrassment of being stopped by any Israeli military patrols. If there are ongoing Israeli operations, Abbas delays departures so as not to be caught up in them.”

Analysis of the Trump Plan

Capital in Trump Mideast Plan Makes ‘a Joke’ of Palestinian Aspirations,

“Palestinians have long aspired to an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, but the proposal does away with the long-held notion that the two sides would negotiate Jerusalem’s future. Instead, it gives all the desirable parts of the city to Israel and proposes a group of obscure, outlying areas as the closest thing to a capital in Jerusalem that the Palestinians should ever get. It offers Palestinians the tiny, crowded Abu Dis, along with troubled faraway neighborhoods technically in East Jerusalem, but also on the other side of the security barrier. One of the neighborhoods designated for the capital, the Shuafat refugee camp, is a gang-ridden slum where the Palestinian police have no jurisdiction and the Israeli police fear to tread. Another, Kufr Aqab, became a Wild West of unregulated and unsafe construction when Israeli policies and sky-high housing prices drove middle-class Arabs to seek homes beyond the security barrier but still inside the Jerusalem municipality. And then there is Abu Dis, the hilly home of Al-Quds University, which opened in the 1980s when the village was just a 10-minute drive from Damascus Gate — one of the portals leading into Jerusalem’s Old City. Most of Abu Dis was never inside the Jerusalem city limits.”

Israel's Arab Citizens Aren't Pawns in the Hands of Netanyahu and Trump,

“Incitement and delegitimization have since become the sole language spoken by Netanyahu governments. But the idea of transferring hundreds of thousands of residents from the Little Triangle and revoking their citizenship is a new height. At bottom, the transfer’s goal is racist: reducing the number of Arab citizens, weakening their position and their struggle for equality. The Mideast peace plan – the love child of U.S. President Donald Trump and Netanyahu – ‘contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties … that the Triangle Communities [will] become part of the State of Palestine’.”

A Threat, Not an Offer,

“The Trump proposal is also consistent with the logic that has guided nearly all earlier US attempts to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, including the Oslo Accords: an absolute commitment to the primacy of Israeli security paired with an at best tentative committment to the full realization of Palestinian human rights. Supporters of a two-state solution have always claimed to be opposed to the permanent subordination of the Palestinians, even as they allowed steady Israeli settlement construction without any economic or diplomatic consequences. On Tuesday, Trump, whether intentionally or not, called their bluff, revealing the two-state solution and Palestinian dispossession to be one and the same.”

Trump Vilifies Palestinians for Using the Same Violence That Birthed Israel,

“The president’s caricature of Palestinians as terrorists is also familiar. From Israel’s very founding, Palestinians were portrayed as violent revolutionaries whose sole purpose in life was to annihilate the Jewish state and Jews writ large. That view was fostered at the very top of the Israeli political establishment — including Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, who ordered Israeli soldiers to implement a “free fire policy” along the country’s borders. That mean they could shoot and kill Palestinian “infiltrators,” many of whom were refugees trying to return to their land. What is peculiar about these mantras of Arabs as “violent savages” is that they elide Zionism’s own history of terrorism, which played a central role in Israel’s establishment. This amnesia, particularly among the Israeli public, is what cultural studies scholar Marita Sturken terms “strategic forgetting,” in which nations choose what histories to overlook while favoring more positive national or cultural memories.”

3 chunks of Israeli land for Palestine, and 5 more overlooked parts of US plan,

“At the same time, the discussion around the American proposal has sometimes overlooked some of its key stipulations and suggestions — some of them favorable to Israel, but not all. These include a re-examination of the prohibition on Jewish prayer on the ultra-sensitive Temple Mount, the idea of a deeply controversial remarcating of a handful of Arab Israeli towns adjacent to the West Bank to the new Palestinian state, the transfer of a section of Israeli territory south of the West Bank to the Palestinian state, the release of many Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, and a strangely shaped new section of the Palestinian state that runs nearly half the length of the Israel-Egypt border — but does not touch the border, which remains in Israeli control.”

Realities on the Ground

Thousands of Palestinian citizens protest Trump’s ‘transfer plan’,

“Over 2,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrated Saturday in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye against U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ which could see the population transfer of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the “Triangle” region in central Israel to a future Palestinian state. The protest, organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and the Baqa al-Gharbiyye municipality, came days after the release of Trump’s plan, which included a clause that proposes redrawing Israel’s borders so that cities, towns, and villages in the Triangle — home to over 200,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel — would no longer be part of Israel. ‘Netanyahu will pass, Trump will pass, and we will remain here,’ said MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List, himself a resident of Taybeh, a city that is also expected to be transferred to Palestine under Trump’s plan.”

Shoot and abandon: 155 amputees and 27 paralyzed in two years - "How Israel punishes those who dare protest the siege of the Gaza Strip",

“In March 2018, the Great March of Return demonstrations began along the Gaza Strip perimeter fence, protesting against Israel’s siege and calling for the realization of the right of return. As documented by B’Tselem previously, the unlawful open-fire policy Israel is using against these demonstrations, allowing soldiers to shoot live fire at unarmed protesters who endanger no one, has led to horrific results: in addition to more than 200 Palestinians who were killed, by the end of January 2020, some 8,000 demonstrators were wounded by live ammunition, including 1,500 minors and 150 women. According to World Health Organization (WHO) figures, by the end of 2019, physicians had to perform limb amputations on 155 protesters, including 30 minors. Twenty-seven demonstrators are paralyzed as a result of spinal injuries.”

How Israel Is Abusing a Gaza Couple That Just Lost Three Babies,

“Two months have passed since the birth that ended so tragically. Since then, the parents, Wafa and Mohammed Ralaban, have had to grapple not only with the death of their children and with the battle to save the life of their surviving daughter. They were also forced to fight for the right to be by their babies’ side in the hospital. If it had been up to the occupation authorities, they would long since have been expelled back to Gaza, leaving the preemies behind for the doctors to save. Had it not been for a determined and devoted struggle by the Physicians for Human Rights Israel NGO – along with the mobilization of the staff at Makassed – the parents and their tiny offspring would have been separated at birth.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Pro-Netanyahu media turns on Jared Kushner,

“Pro-Netanyahu commentators in the Israeli media started on Sunday what looked like an orchestrated campaign against President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, attacking him for stopping the Israeli prime minister from annexing parts of the West Bank after the unveiling of the White House peace plan last Tuesday. The right-wing commentators who were attacking Kushner on various media outlets in Israel on Sunday are Netanyahu supporters and surrogates. When comparing their tweets and remarks on the air, they largely used many of the same talking points…The main talking pointsfrom the pro-Netanyahu commentators include:

  • Kushner is the main obstacle who, in opposition to prior understandings, is blocking Netanyahu from annexing parts of the West Bank.
  • Trump could lose support from evangelicals who are angry about his peace plan and want annexation.
  • Netanyahu wants Trump to allow him to annex some parts of the West Bank before the March 2 elections.”

Netanyahu wants/needs annexation before elections,

“The settlers, leaders of the political right and Netanyahu’s Likud party had agreed to ‘swallow’ the bitter pill of a future Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem by washing it down with the elixir of annexation. On the morning after, they found themselves facing Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state, but without the annexation, which had been postponed to an unknown date ‘after the elections.'”

Netanyahu's land of the settlers,

“For Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett this is an opening to promise the same core of settlers that he would force the prime minister, and this is exactly the last thing Netanyahu needs right now. Bennett’s party, Yamina, issued a statement that said: ‘Missing the opportunity [of annexation] will be a hard blow to the settlement enterprise. Half a million residents of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and the Jordan Valley long for sovereignty.’ It is not really clear what the hard blow was that the settlers suffered aside from disappointment, perhaps. On the other hand, the mentioning of the number of settlers, half a million, had a clear purpose. To remind who ever needs a reminder that the settlers make up a significant electoral power. Netanyahu has built his campaign to count on them for three election campaigns in a row. Bennett, for his part, is now working to draw them to himself. “I’m going to exert all the pressure possible to push for sovereignty now,” he said in the statement. It seems that Bennett does not truly believe that Israel could annex now, certainly not after the Trump administration’s clear statement. But in an election you have to play the game. From now on, Netanyahu on the one hand and Bennett on the other will shower consolation prizes on the disappointed settlers.”

Kahol Lavan’s Bind Over a Knesset Vote on Annexation,

“Members of Netanyahu’s Likud and the left of center Labor-Gesher-Meretz slate have identified Kahol Lavan’s Achilles’ heel, in which it finds it difficult to present a clear position on unilateral annexation. The two factions have begun targeting Kahol Lavan voters from both the left and the right.”


Criminalizing Palestinian Resistance: The EU’s New Conditions on Aid to Palestine,

“Israel has in fact adopted a wide range of aggressive measures to restrict civil society space in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including arbitrary detentions and arrests of civil society activists, ‘security’ justifications to hinder the work of local organizations, waging smear campaigns to delegitimize these organizations’ work, and pressuring international organizations and donors to defund Palestinian NGOs. This is particularly evident with regard to legal organizations that use international law to report human rights violations such as Al-Haq and Addameer, and development organizations that implement projects in Area C to support the steadfastness of local communities suffering from the Israeli military and settlers such as the Bisan Center for Research and Development, whose director, Ubai Aboudi, was recently arrested by Israel and is being held without charge in administrative detention. Some influential right-wing organizations in Israel, such as NGO Monitor, which attacks Palestinian nonprofits and their international partners with false claims of, for instance, ‘terrorism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’ and which has the support of the Israeli government, have also been lobbying and mobilizing against funding even the most moderate currents within Palestinian civil society. Problematically, the EU definition of ‘terrorism’ echoes the Israeli perspective and therefore largely serves these interests to suppress Palestinian critical voices.”

U.S. Domestic Politics

Trump’s Mideast peace plan puts heat on Biden, Buttigieg ahead of Iowa caucuses,

“The release of President Donald Trump’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal this week has thrown a curveball into the Democratic presidential primary in the crucial days ahead of the Iowa caucuses Monday. In the wake of Trump’s proposal — which would allow Israel to retain all its West Bank settlements and annex the Jordan Valley — the left-wing Jewish activist group IfNotNow put former Vice President Joe Biden and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, on the spot as part of a campaign to cut Israeli military aid. IfNotNow highlighted two videos on Twitter featuring one of its activists, Elias Newman, confronting Biden and Buttigieg at their respective Iowa campaign events.”

Democratic leaders hold fire on Trump’s Mideast peace plan,

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and pro-Israel Democratic leaders sounded a cautiously optimistic note today after President Donald Trump finally unveiled his long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Pelosi said that ‘there appears to be a basis for negotiation’ during a press conference to discuss the recent congressional delegation she led to Israel to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp. A group of pro-Israel Democrats who accompanied Pelosi on the trip — including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York and Middle East panel Chairman Ted Deutch of Florida — also expressed hope that Trump’s proposal could lead to direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to ultimately result in a two-state solution. ‘The devil is in the details,’ said Engel. ‘I hope it follows through and that we can try to bring an end to this horrific Israeli-Palestinian crisis once and for all, but again, it’s the details that we have to see’.”

Sign Up for Trump's Peace Plan, Sign Away Israel's Special Status in America,

“In the short-term, the Trump vision allows Israel to avoid painful compromises on difficult issues like settlement withdrawals or giving the Palestinians a true capital in East Jerusalem. But in the longer run – by denying Palestinians a genuinely sovereign state and subjecting them to eternal Israeli rule, it threatens Israel’s very future as a democracy. And that, in turn, will make it increasingly difficult for many Americans – especially Democrats – to support it as strongly as in the past.”

Congress Weighs in on the “Deal of the Century”,

“What can be gleaned from the responses from Members of Congress to President Trump’s “Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People”? Based on examination of members’ statements, press releases, and tweets, here are 6 initial observations.”