Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 12, 2021

What We’re Reading


Blackout Hits Iran Nuclear Site in What Appears to Be Israeli Sabotage,

“A power failure that appeared to have been caused by a deliberately planned explosion struck Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site on Sunday, in what Iranian officials called an act of sabotage that they suggested had been carried out by Israel. The blackout injected new uncertainty into diplomatic efforts that began last week to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal repudiated by the Trump administration. Iran did not say precisely what had caused the blackout at the heavily fortified site, which has been a target of previous sabotage, and Israel publicly declined to confirm or deny any responsibility. But American and Israeli intelligence officials said there had been an Israeli role.”

More Coverage


Blaming Israel, Iran Vows Revenge for Blackout at Nuclear Site,

“The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, vowed revenge against Israel on Monday morning, a day after a blackout at an Iranian nuclear enrichment site was attributed to an Israeli attack. Mr. Zarif’s comments highlight the risk of escalation in a yearslong shadow war between Iran and Israel. They also threaten to overshadow efforts in Vienna to encourage Iran to reimpose limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of American sanctions. In a statement broadcast by Iranian state television, Mr. Zarif was quoted as saying: “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions.” He added, “But we will take our revenge from the Zionists,” according to the broadcast.”

Netanyahu to visiting US defense secretary: We won’t let Iran obtain nukes,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Jerusalem. “As you know, the US-Israel defense partnership has continually expanded over successive administrations and our cooperation is crucial in dealing with the many threats confronting both the United States and Israel,” says Netanyahu, at a press conference. “In the Middle East, there is no threat more dangerous, serious and pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” says Netanyahu, citing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, arming of terror groups, and calls for Israel’s annihilation.”

After Natanz incident, EU warns against attempts to ‘undermine’ nuclear talks,

“The European Union warned Monday against attempts to derail talks to return the US to the Iran nuclear deal, after apparent sabotage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility that has been widely attributed to Israel. “We reject any attempts to undermine or weaken diplomatic efforts on the nuclear agreement,” EU spokesman Peter Stano said, insisting that “we still need to clarify the facts” over events at the Iranian nuclear site.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Palestinian bystander, 14, loses eye from rubber bullet allegedly fired by IDF,

“A 14-year-old Palestinian bystander lost his eye on Friday afternoon in the West Bank city of Hebron after apparently being hit by a rubber-tipped steel bullet fired by an Israeli soldier, although the Israeli army said it could neither confirm nor deny the matter…In a security camera video widely shared on social media, the boy can be seen standing in a vegetable shop when he is hit. Al-Batsh’s family claimed the clashes were not taking place next to the shop, but rather down the road. The young teenager does not seem to be participating in any demonstration, merely looking out into the street.”

Family of Palestinian Teen Who Lost an Eye Blame Israeli Sponge-tipped Bullet,

“The cousin, Abdul Karim al-Batash, told Haaretz that he and Izz al-Din were in the store in Hebron’s Andalusia Market and saw five or six uniformed soldiers clashing with young men who were throwing stones. “We didn’t get involved, we were in the store and suddenly one of the soldiers shot at us. It was clear that he aimed at us and Izz al-Din was hit in the eye,” he said.” Also See – “Witnesses Refute Israeli Army’s Claim Palestinian Killed by Soldiers Tried to Run Them Over” (Haaretz)

Intimidation. Extortion. Eviction: This Is the Brutal Reality for Palestinians in Silwan, Jerusalem,

“I am a trained social worker. I am the father of two children and a resident of a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Wadi Hilweh, in Silwan. In 1967, my neighborhood was occupied and made part of the “united city of Jerusalem.” We were annexed to Israel, but not given citizenship. 350,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem are considered permanent residents of Israel; officially enjoying some social rights, but in fact, deprived of many basic ones. In Silwan in particular, we live under an undeclared special regime. Because of our proximity to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites; because ancient Jerusalem was located on the slopes of our neighborhood, and because we are at the symbolic core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli authorities, together with the settlers, have always wanted to take over our land, to make Silwan more “Jewish,” more “theirs.”  For decades, residents of Silwan have been under tremendous pressure and constant, furious attack by the settlers, their security guards, the police, and the Israeli authorities.”

Israel to close West Bank, Gaza crossings for Memorial Day, Independence Day,

“The Israel Defense Forces announced on Sunday that it would close all crossings into Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip for two days beginning Tuesday night for the country’s Memorial and Independence days. The closure — a standard practice for religious and national holidays — was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday and last until 12:01 a.m. Friday, pending a “situational assessment,” the military said.”

Israeli Bus Pelted With Stones, Torched in East Jerusalem Neighborhood,

“A bus that entered the Palestinian neighborhood of Isawiyah in East Jerusalem was pelted with stones and fire bombs on Saturday evening. The Egged bus entered the neighborhood after the driver finished his shift. Local residents began to gather around the vehicle, some of them throwing stones and fire bombs. The driver and his family members, who were passengers on the bus, managed to flee unharmed and ran towards police officers in the area. After the incident, Isawiyah residents clashed with police. Overnight, police arrested three local residents suspected of involvement in the attack, two of them minors.”

Jewish National Fund Pushes Forward Plan to Legalize West Bank Land Purchases,

“The management of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund approved on Sunday a plan allowing it to buy land in the West Bank even for isolated settlements. The decision of the organization, which is also known by its Hebrew name Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and which is separate from JNF in the United States, still requires approval from the board of directors, which is set to convene April 22.” Also See: “KKL-JNF approves West Bank land purchases, pending final authorization” (Jerusalem Post); “KKL-JNF leadership approves purchase of West Bank land for isolated settlements” (The Times of Israel)

A Palestinian who had been put on trial for entering Israel without a permit couldn't appear before the court because Israel has refused to issue him an entry pass.,

“A Palestinian who had been put on trial for entering Israel without a permit couldn’t appear before the court because Israel has refused to issue him an entry pass.”

‘The settlers brought caravans and put them on a hill next to us’,

“When I went with Saleh to the new outpost, where the caravans were indeed parked, I realized that the Israeli authorities were building a new farm there. Saleh’s brother, soldiers, members of the Civil Administration, and settlers all stood there on a new, paved road that connects the new outpost to the regional council. The road stretches over private Palestinian agricultural land, from which people make a living. A Civil Administration representative told the Palestinian landowners who came to the new outpost: “This is your private land. The settlers are not allowed to enter or expel you from it.” An electric cable and water pipe dug into the ground to connect the outpost to the South Hebron Hills Regional Council’s electricity and water grid. This is how it happens. Settlers bring in caravans and take over land with ease. Before they even move in, they have their own paved road and are connected to electricity and water, with the support of the regional council. The Civil Administration, the same body that destroys our homes, pastures, and wells on a weekly basis, turns a blind eye. The same Civil Administration that for years has prevented the tens of thousands of Palestinians living on our privately-owned land in Area C of the West Bank from connecting to water and electricity, or paving a road. The same Civil Administration that refuses to prepare master plans for our communities and rejects all our applications for building permits based on the fact that “we do not have an outline plan.””


Israel Tells ICC It Has No Jurisdiction to Probe Alleged War Crimes,

“Israel told the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Friday that it has no jurisdiction to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Israel has decided to adopt the recommendations of the inter-ministerial team headed by the National Security Council not to cooperate with the ICC. “However, Israel has decided to respond to the notice sent by the ICC and make clear it is acting without having the jurisdiction to do so. Moreover, it should be noted that Israel is a law-abiding country that is capable of carrying out its own investigation,” the statement said. “Israel vehemently rejects the claim that is committing war crimes and stresses its unequivocal stance that the ICC has no jurisdiction to open a probe against it. This stance has been made clear to the ICC through other countries and world-renowned experts,” the statement added.”

Settlers to tell ICC West Bank not occupied, Israel good for Palestinians,

“The Yesha Council plans to launch their own diplomatic initiative against any International Criminal Court war crimes suits, including sending a folder to The Hague explaining that the West Bank is not occupied and that Israel’s presence there is good for the Palestinian.”

The Israeli Scene

Israeli police beat up and kneel on the face of left-wing Jewish lawmaker,

“Israeli police beat up a left-wing member of parliament and one officer knelt on his face, drawing outcry from across the political spectrum. Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Arab-Israeli Joint List party in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, was at a protest against evictions in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah Friday when he became involved in an altercation with police. The police shoved him to the ground and video from the protest shared on social media shows an officer placing his knee on Cassif’s face.” Also See – “Joint List MK files complaint after police beat him at protest” (The Times of Israel)

Bennett Says Ready to Join Right-wing Gov't With Netanyahu's Likud,

“Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett said on Monday that he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his Likud party can count on his faction’s vote to form a right-wing government. The two are currently meeting the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. “As you may already know, I could’ve already been a prime minister by now,” Bennett said on the matter on Monday. “But, my main objective is to thwart a fifth election round,” he added.” Also See – “Bennett: Reports I’m preventing government are ‘fake news’” (Jerusalem Post)

Amid frosty ties, Israel okays extra water supply to Jordan — reports,

“Israel has approved a request from Jordan for increased water supply, according to Hebrew media reports. The request was submitted several weeks ago through the joint Israeli-Jordanian water committee, established after the 1994 peace deal between the countries. The Walla news site says the Biden administration encouraged Israel to provide the water to the Hashemite kingdom. Relations between Jerusalem and Amman became frosty after Netanyahu’s planned visit to the United Arab Emirates for the first official trip by an Israeli leader, half a year after the countries established formal relations, was scrapped last month over difficulties coordinating the flight to the UAE over Jordanian airspace.”

The Palestinian Scene

Palestinian elections: Fatah fails in bid to block rival candidates,

“Attempts by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction to block political rivals from running in the May 22 parliamentary elections suffered a major blow on Sunday when the Palestinian Central Elections Commission rejected its appeals against the nomination of dozens of candidates. Fatah representatives last week submitted objections to candidates whose names appeared on electoral lists belonging to Hamas, exiled Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan and Nasser al-Kidwa, a former PA foreign minister who formed an alliance with jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.”

Palestinians ‘optimistic’ about resumption of peace process,

“The Palestinians are optimistic regarding the prospects of reviving the peace process with Israel in light of the US administration’s renewed commitment to the two-state solution, a senior Palestinian official, said on Saturday. Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee, said that the Palestinian leadership has received many indications about an “upcoming political move” to resume international efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The U.S. Scene

US defense secretary lands in Israel, marking first Cabinet visit by Biden administration,

“United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Israel Sunday morning and met with Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Gantz, marking the first visit to the country by a Biden administration cabinet member. Austin touched down in Israel just hours after a power outage at an Iranian nuclear facility, in which a U.S. official said Israel played a role, according to the New York Times. The visit also comes as talks are underway for the United States to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

FMEP Legislative Round-Up: April 9, 2021,

“This week the Biden Administration moved to restore aid to the Palestinians, acting in a manner that is entirely consistent with U.S. law and with the previously expressed will of Congress, as I laid out in detail over the past two week (my explainer on U.S. aid for the Palestinians, in general, is here; my explainer on U.S. aid to UNRWA is here. For additional excellent explainers, see:Twitter thread by Joel Braunold (Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation); Analysis by Michael Koplow (IPF); Twitter thread by Ilan Goldenberger (CNAS)

Notwithstanding the fact that the Biden Administration – in restoring this funding (all of which was already appropriated by Congress explicitly for the purposes that the Biden Administration will now use it) – this week’s announcement instantly became the focus of an entirely manufactured partisan controversy. While key Democrats welcomed – cautiously, and with caveats – the move, Republicans in Congress (those who spoke out) were united in attacking the Biden Administration for a litany of sins, including more assertions that Biden is violating the law and flouting the will of Congress (he isn’t), and allegations that he is capitulating to and rewarding terrorism (he isn’t).”

With Democrats in Control, J Street Pushes New Mideast Agenda in Washington,

“This year’s conference will primarily focus on how to better define how American assistance can be used. J Street will be urging Congress to include language in its Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations package that would apply a universal standard that all countries – not just Israel – should ensure that none of the U.S.-provided funds are being used to help annex or exercise permanent control over areas that are subject to military occupation.”


The US media is touting Israel's Covid recovery. But occupied Palestinians are left out,

“At some point, potentially in the near future, the current pandemic will end. The global attention on vaccines will dissipate. The disparities between Israelis and Palestinians, however, will persist. As with the vaccine shortages, these disparities are largely artificial and induced by political decisions. Global attention must remain on the core issues causing Palestinians to be less healthy than their Israeli counterparts. Asking Palestinians, nearly half of whom are children, to pay for political stagnation with shortened and less healthy lives has been tolerated for too long and should remain unacceptable when the pandemic is over.”

Coronavirus in Israel: 86 new cases, 0.8% of tests return positive,

“Some 86 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Saturday, with 0.8% of tests returning positive, according to a Sunday morning update by the Health Ministry. Of those infected, 263 were in serious condition and 139 were on ventilators. The death toll stood at 6,294.”

Palestine records 2,762 new coronavirus cases, 26 deaths,

“Palestine today recorded 2,762 new Covid-19 cases and 26 deaths, according to Health Minister Mai Alkaila. She announced that 2,762 Palestinians tested positive for the highly contagious virus and 26 others died of it in the occupied territories. Among the new 2,762 cases, 998 cases were recorded in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 1,764 others in the besieged Gaza Strip…Regarding the Covid-19 vaccination rollout, Alkaila said that 146,986 people have received the vaccine so far; 113,958 people in the West Bank, 33,028 in the Gaza Strip, while noting that 14,674 people received the second dose of the vaccine.”