Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 13, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

45% of those living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea believe “apartheid” is an appropriate description of the regime,

“The poll found that 45% of the overall river-to-the-sea population say that the definition of “apartheid” proposed in the survey question is fitting or very fitting as a description of the Israeli regime. A strong majority among Palestinian respondents believe that the apartheid definition fits the Israeli regime (57% “strongly” and 18% “somewhat” – three-quarters in total) and a mirror image among Jews reject it (50% say it doesn’t fit at all and 25% doesn’t really fit – three-quarters in total)…Together, these findings reflect a widespread understanding on both sides that the Israeli government intends to continue the status quo or formalize it through de jure annexation.” Also See – “More Palestinians think Israel supports apartheid than two states” (Jerusalem Post)

The Threat of Mass Demolitions in al-Bustan and The Crumbling Status Quo on the Temple Mount,

“On February 26, 2021, the legal counsel for the Jerusalem Municipality filed a motion to the Jerusalem Local Affairs Court requesting that the Court rescinds the stay of execution of demolition orders that had until now prevented the demolition of tens of homes in al-Bustan area of Silwan. This motion was no routine event as it reverses a three years-old arrangement between the municipality and the residents. Indeed, since 2017, the Municipality has been adhering to a formal, albeit unwritten understanding, according to which the residents would pursue a planning process with the authorities, durin”

JNF Board Members Demand Immediate Halt to West Bank Land Purchases,

“Members of the board of directors of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund demanded Tuesday an immediate halt to all plans by the organization to purchase land in the West Bank on the grounds that such acquisitions violate its constitution. The board members cited a new legal opinion, written by former Deputy Attorney General Yehoshua Shoffman, stipulating that the JNF is only authorized to purchase land in sovereign Israeli territory. The West Bank is not under Israeli sovereignty.”

In first, IAF flyover to include Judea, Samaria, and Jordan Valley,

“Yesha Council CEO Yigal Dilmoni said: “We were happy to see that the flyover passes over new locations in our area. This year, hundreds of thousands more residents in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley will be able to watch the celebratory Air Force flyover and an aerobatic show pass above their heads.”

Former Israeli spy join settlers intrusion in Nablus’ Joseph’s Tomb,

“A former Israeli spy Tuesday overnight joined scores of settlers in storming Joseph’s Tomb in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, according to Israeli media. Jonathan Pollard, an American who served a 30-year sentence for spying for Israel, joined a convoy of buses packed with scores of fanatic Jewish settlers who broke into the site, located in the Palestinian-controlled area, where they performed religious rituals as Israeli forces secured the road and location for them. The site of Joseph’s Tomb is contentious. Palestinians believe the site to be the funerary monument to Sheikh Yousef Dweikat, a local religious figure, while Israeli settlers believe it belongs to the Biblical Patriarch Joseph.”


Palestine records 1,911 Covid-19 cases, 18 deaths,

“Palestine today recorded 1,911 new Covid-19 cases and 18 deaths, according to Health Minister Mai Al-Kaileh. She announced that 1,911 Palestinians tested positive for the highly contagious virus and 18 others died of it in the occupied territories, raising the total number of confirmed cases and fatalities since the pandemic outbreak to 299,636 and 3,150 respectively.”

Government eases lockdown measures during Ramadan, keeps night curfew,

“The Palestinian Government announced today a partial easing of the lockdown measures taken over the COVID-19 outbreak during the upcoming holy fasting month of Ramadan”

Less than 3,370 active coronavirus cases in Israel,

“Israel on Monday diagnosed a total of 217 new coronavirus cases, representing 0.4% of the 60,766 test results received that day, Health Ministry data showed. A total of five people have died since Monday – three on Monday and two so far – on Tuesday, bringing the number of coronavirus deaths in Israel to 6,304.”

Vaccinated foreigners to be allowed into Israel in May,

“Vaccinated tourists are going to be allowed into Israel starting from May 23, the Health and Tourism ministries announced on Tuesday. In the first phase, only individuals traveling in groups will be able to enter the country, as they are considered easier to monitor. According to the statement, the authorities will decide whether to also include regular visitors based on the results of the pilot with groups.”

Top health official: Israel to drop outdoor mask requirement,

“Head of public health Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis says people must still wear masks in enclosed spaces, public gatherings; says Health Ministry mulling vaccinations for children aged 12+, a move backed by national pediatrics society”


Scoop: U.S. and Israel to hold strategic Iran talks on Tuesday,

“Top national security officials from the U.S. and Israel will convene virtually on Tuesday for a second round of strategic talks on Iran, three Israeli officials tell me. Why it matters: The talks come two days after an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility that experts consider a likely act of Israeli sabotage, and one day before the U.S. resumes indirect nuclear talks in Vienna over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal — a prospect that has raised anxiety levels in Jerusalem. Detail: The strategic dialogue is led by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, with officials from various national security and intelligence agencies participating. It will be held via a secure video link.”

Iran warns sabotage could hurt Vienna talks over nuke deal,

“Iran’s foreign minister warned Tuesday that a weekend attack on its main nuclear enrichment site at Natanz could hurt ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers. Those talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to re-enter the agreement, the goal of which is to limit Iran’s enrichment of uranium in exchange relief on sanctions. Zarif separately renewed his earlier warning to Israel over the sabotage, saying that if Iran determines its archenemy was behind it, “then Israel will get its response and will see what a stupid thing it has done.” Kayhan, the hard-line Tehran newspaper, urged Iran to “walk out of the Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, retaliate against Israel and identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage.” “Despite evidence that shows the role of the U.S. as main instigator of nuclear sabotage against Iran, unfortunately some statesmen, by purging the U.S. of responsibility, (aid) Washington’s crimes against the people of Iran,” the paper said in Tuesday’s editions. While Kayhan is a small-circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.”

Ex-IDF intel chief questions Netanyahu’s authority to order attacks on Iran,

“Amos Yadlin, a former IDF chief of Military Intelligence, said on Tuesday following a blast at a key Iranian uranium enrichment site that Israel’s process for approving sensitive security-related operations was not being followed, indicating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was acting without the necessary legal authority. He further suggested that Netanyahu was dangerously stoking tensions with Iran for domestic political purposes as the prime minister tries to form a coalition following last month’s inconclusive elections.”

Why Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear facility,

“Whatever else happens in the coming hours and days in the high-stakes drama over Iran’s nuclear program, there is one thing we can all be sure of. Israel’s apparent, daring attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz will be repeatedly and widely described in U.S. media as a move intended to “set back Iran’s nuclear program.” But it was nothing of the kind. The purpose of these latest Israeli attacks on Iranian facilities was not to set back some kind of notional progress that Iran was making towards some kind of notional nuclear weapon. It was to set back diplomacy. And it was a tactic the Israelis have been using for a very long time.”

The Palestinian Scene

Palestinian factions: No elections without Jerusalem,

“There will be no Palestinian elections without Jerusalem, several Palestinian factions, including the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, announced on Monday. But Palestinian civil society activists warned the Palestinian leadership against using the issue of Jerusalem as an excuse to delay or even cancel the elections.” Also See – “Palestinian officials: No elections without participation of East Jerusalem” (The Times of Israel); “Senior Palestinian officials say legislative elections cannot be held without occupied East Jerusalem” (WAFA)

Hamas Elects Former Chief Khaled Meshal to Head Palestinian Group's Diaspora Office,

“Former Hamas chief Khaled Meshal was elected to be head of the Palestinian Islamist group’s office in the diaspora, a spokesman said on Monday. Meshal, 64, who survived an Israeli assassination attempt in 1997, was head of the political bureau until 2017 when he was replaced by Ismail Haniyeh, 59, who is based in Gaza.”

Gaza Election Court upholds Al Mezan’s challenge against the Central Elections Commission,

“On 11 April 2021, the Election Court in Gaza ruled in favor of Al Mezan’s challenge against the decision of the Central Elections Commission to disenfranchise eligible prison inmates, inpatients, care home residents, and persons under quarantine. In this significant ruling, the Court found that the Commission has the responsibility to undertake all appropriate procedures to ensure these categories of constituents are able to exercise their right to vote.”

Gold industry in Gaza booms amid coronavirus outbreak,

“Since the onset of the blockade in 2007, gold manufacturing has increased in Gaza to cover about 40% of the local market’s needs. This is due to restrictions on gold imports, which do not exceed 60% of the gold products in the local market,” Habboub told Al-Monitor. He said, “With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, however, the local gold industry began to boom and now covers 100% of the market’s needs.” Habboub, who has been managing his shop for over 30 years, said, “People in general — and not only in the Gaza Strip — like to invest in gold especially during hard times. In Gaza, we had to reprocess gold and manufacture it locally to meet the local demand.””

The Israeli Domestic Scene

Bennett to Netanyahu: Count on our votes,

“Yamina leader Naftali Bennett said on Monday that his faction would back a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, potentially nudging the incumbent towards being able to build a coalition after last month’s inconclusive election. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party “can count on the fingers of the Yamina faction for the formation of a right-wing government,” its leader Naftali Bennett, a former Israeli defense minister, told reporters.”

Likud said to offer to back Sa’ar for president in bid to get Knesset majority,

“Likud officials have offered to back New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar for the soon-to-be-vacant position of president in the hopes of pulling lawmakers from Sa’ar’s right-wing party into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc, Israeli television reported Monday…Sa’ar, a former Likud minister, has so far rebuffed Netanyahu’s appeals to junk New Hope’s campaign pledge to not join in a government led by the incumbent prime minister. According to Channel 12 news, if Sa’ar were to accept the offer, the hope in Likud was that New Hope would break apart, with some of the party’s MKs moving back to Netanyahu. But Sa’ar rejected the offer. Likud denied the report and said no such offer was ever made. The presidency is a largely ceremonial post chosen by members of Knesset. Current President Reuven Rivlin’s seven-year term expires in July.”

Yesh Atid, Joint List, Meretz MKs exit Knesset plenum for Ben-Gvir speech,

“MKs from the Yesh Atid, Meretz and Joint List parties chose to exit the Knesset Plenum on Monday as far-right Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir took the podium to make remarks. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for,” Ben-Gvir said. “For the moment where I get up to speak and they, the supporters of terror, including [Joint List MK] Ahmad Tibi, are exiting.” Ben-Gvir then asked Tibi if he could set up a tent for himself on the Knesset podium, saying he would sleep in a sleeping bag on the Knesset plenum “just so the supporters of terror go home.””

Normalization & News from the Region

UAE Ambassador visits Tel Aviv innovation hub to further tech collaboration,

“The United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja visited the Start-Up Nation Central headquarters in Tel Aviv on Monday. The ambassador was present at the innovation hub to launch a partnership to further collaboration and cooperation between Israel and the UAE in the tech sector. CEO of Start-Up Nation Central Prof. Eugene Kandel met with the ambassador to discuss options such as joint events and conferences, in addition to ongoing meetings and programs to analyze each other’s tech ecosystems.” Also See – “Joint Israel-UAE taskforce to study ways to boost tech cooperation” (The Times of Israel)

Netanyahu Belatedly Approves Jordan's Request to Transfer Water, Withheld Amid Diplomatic Spat,

“Israel has approved a Jordanian request for extra water rations from the Jordan River, almost a month after Amman made the request due to water shortages in the kingdom. Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had delayed the response amid a diplomatic crisis between the countries, but in recent days he accepted Energy Minister’s Yuval Steinitz recommendation to agree to the Jordanian request.” Also See – “Israel okays Jordanian request for water after several weeks’ delay” (The Times of Israel)

Israel’s Gantz battles to preserve ties with Jordan,

“Jerusalem had hesitated on how to react to developments in Jordan in recent days, with some senior officials calling to express support of the king. It was finally Defense Minister Benny Gantz who set the tone, referring to the Hamzah affair as an internal Jordanian topic while pointing out the strong bilateral security contacts. “A strong and flourishing Jordan is a security and economic interest for us, and we need to do what we can to help them. But as I said, regarding the internal developments there, that’s an internal issue,” said Gantz. Speaking with reporters, Gantz said, “Jordan is a peaceful neighbor with extraordinary strategic importance. We will do what is necessary to maintain that relationship, which has lasted some 30 years.”…Gantz’s positive statements come as relations between Jerusalem and Amman keep deteriorating.”

Lebanese minister expands claim over disputed maritime area with Israel,

“Lebanon’s caretaker public works and transport minister said on Monday he had signed a document expanding Lebanon’s claims in its maritime border dispute with Israel. The amendment would add around 1,400 square kilometers to the exclusive economic zone claimed by Lebanon in its original submission to the United Nations…Negotiations between old foes Lebanon and Israel were launched in October to try to resolve the dispute about their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area. The talks, a culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington, have since stalled. Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.”

The U.S. Scene

Biden administration says UNRWA commits to ‘zero tolerance’ for anti-Semitism,

“The Biden official agreed that there were “significant” examples of anti-Semitism in the textbooks. The official, however, said the Biden administration rejected the precept that designating the descendants of Palestinian refugees as refugees perpetuated the conflict. The refugee problem would be addressed in a two-state solution, the official said, which was the end goal of the Biden administration.”

U.S. Ambassador to Jordan visits UNRWA Health Centre in Amman following U.S. announcement to resume financial support to UNRWA,

“During this visit to the UNRWA Health Centre, Ambassador Wooster said: “The U.S. government is proud to once again support the Palestinian refugee community in Jordan – and Health Centers like this one – through UNRWA, and in close partnership with the Government of Jordan.  Just last week, the U.S. government announced the resumption of U.S. assistance to UNRWA with US$ 150 million in new funding for UNRWA’s operations in the region, including here in Jordan.  This funding will provide healthcare and medicines, COVID-19 prevention, emergency relief, and access to education.  As with all U.S. assistance programs, our partnership with UNRWA will always embody high standards and commitment to accountability, efficiency, and transparency. We look forward to this collaborative effort to do what we all want to do is help people in need. We have no better partner than UNRWA in this effort.””

J Street to present Carter with peacemaker award for brokering Israel-Egypt deal,

“J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group, is presenting Jimmy Carter with a peacemaker award at its conference, recognizing the former president, who has frequently tangled with the mainstream pro-Israel community, for brokering the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace. “By helping to broker the incredible Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, President Carter demonstrated that determined American diplomacy can end decades of conflict and bring together even the most determined foes,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said Monday in a release sent to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.”