Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 27, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation Watch

Netanyahu 'Confident' Trump's Settlement Annexation Pledge Will Be Fulfilled Within Months,

““President Trump pledged to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there [in the West Bank] and in the Jordan Valley,’ Netanyahu told an evangelical crowd at a special broadcast marking the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference, which gave the United Kingdom a mandate over Palestine and formally recognized the Jewish people’s right to a national home there. ‘A couple of months from now I’m confident that that pledge will be honored, that we will be able to celebrate another historic moment in the history of Zionism,’ Netanyahu said during the broadcast by christian television networks CBN and Revelation TV to mark the occasion, as the official ceremony planned in Italy for the centenary of the San Remo conference was canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.”

No, Gantz, Democracy and Annexation Don't Go Together,

Hagai El-Ad said, “The practical implications of this act of annexation are not clear at this stage – since Israel, in any case, acts in the territories as within its own borders; it has in effect already annexed them, and its intention to perpetuate its rule over the Palestinians has long been clear. But its contribution is great in both contexts: First, by exposing the fact that nothing separates Kahol Lavan from Likud when it comes to the cynical use of democracy as a hollow label, including dealing with the Palestinians not as human beings but as political merchandise in coalition negotiations. And second, when it comes to reducing the gap between what Israel does, with America’s patronage, and what these two are saying. Apartheid isn’t waiting for July 1 – it’s already been here for quite a while – but with an official Israeli declaration it will be harder to look away from the reflection in the mirror.”

Trump now has the power to forever alter Israel’s character,

Jackson Diehl writes, “In practice, if Israeli annexation goes forward without Palestinian or Arab agreement, it will not only kill Trump’s plan; it will make a two-state settlement impossible. If there is no Palestine, Israel will be doomed to become a binational state rather than a Jewish one, or else adopt an apartheid system in which millions of Palestinians are ruled by Israel but lack full political rights….So will Trump deliver the green light Netanyahu needs? There’s plenty of reason to suppose that he will. Trump has already granted the Israeli leader a string of unprecedented concessions, including recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without regard for the geopolitical consequences. Trump’s motivation is transparent: In this election year, he wishes to galvanize the evangelical Christians and minority of U.S. Jews who support a ‘greater Israel,’ while casting Democrats who disagree as anti-Zionist. The long-term impact on Israel, or Israel’s relations with the United States, doesn’t interest him.”

Israel courts needless disaster with annexation,

“Netanyahu’s interest is perhaps to leave some sort of legacy that will impress the right-wing base. He may need them for yet another election. But why would Gantz risk it? His people argue that the project enjoyed a majority anyway, despite the anti-Netanyahu camp having 61 out of 120 in the Knesset. The reason for this is that Gantz’s Blue and White contains several right-wingers who oppose Netanyahu because of his corruption scandals but still support adventurism in the occupied territories. They blocked Gantz from making his own Likud-free coalition, and they will support annexations. So will Avigdor Liberman, whose 7 Knesset members are otherwise part of the Gantz bloc now because they hate religious coercion that results from Netanyahu’s alliance with the Haredim. So the excuse is based on solid foundation. The lunatic move indeed enjoys a Knesset majority. And the Israeli public will probably support it too, unless the explosion comes faster than I foresee. Count on Netanyahu to argue eloquently that the annexed areas ‘would be part of Israel in any negotiated solution anyway.’ So they’ll start with places like Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adumim, close to the pre-1967 border. Will the Palestinians be given reciprocal full sovereignty in areas that “anyway” would be Palestine, like Ramallah, without a deal? I do not think so.”

Arab League to meet over Israel’s plans to annex parts of West Bank,

“The Arab League said Monday it will convene an urgent virtual meeting this week to discuss how to galvanize opposition to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank. The extraordinary meeting — scheduled for Thursday at the request of the Palestinian leadership — will bring together Arab foreign ministers via videoconference, rather than a face-to-face meeting, due to the global coronavirus pandemic.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

A-G: I will give view on whether Bibi can form gov't after parties respond,

“Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday told the High Court of Justice he should only have to give his view on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form the next government, as well as other controversial aspects of the coalition deal, after the parties involved respond.  Last Thursday, the High Court ordered Mandelblit to give his opinion on the disputed issues by Tuesday, including the implications for Netanyahu of the bribery indictment pending against him. However, Mandelblit on Monday said since the issue at hand is coalition politics and not a government position, he must be a neutral arbiter on behalf of the public interest. As such, it would be improper to place himself in the position of the defender of the coalition deal and of Netanyahu serving as prime minister, he said.”

Israeli Labor’s Agreement With Gantz: Backing Netanyahu, Voting With Government on Annexation,

“According to the Labor-Kahol Lavan agreement, lawmakers from Peretz’s left-wing party would have to vote with the government on issues considered controversial, including annexation of parts of the West Bank. Party members also agreed to avoid any moves to dissolve the coalition, the government or the parliament.”

Labor leader Peretz wins his party’s backing to join Netanyahu-led government,

“The Labor party’s central committee on Sunday voted in favor of joining the unity government on the basis agreed last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, upending repeated campaign promises to never serve under a prime minister facing criminal indictments…’I thank all the committee members, those who supported [the move] and those who opposed,’ said Peretz in a statement. ‘Tonight, we won sweeping backing from party members to… change the government’s agenda and economic policy to a democratic socialist one. We are not joining a right-wing government,’ he argued. ‘We are joining an egalitarian unity government with a rotating premiership. Our strategic cooperation with Benny Gantz will return Labor to its place as a leading and influential political movement.’”

Lapid says he’d vote with Netanyahu to stop Gantz becoming PM in rotation deal,

“In a move that threatens to block his former ally becoming Israel’s prime minister, Yesh Atid-Telem leader Yair Lapid on Monday promised to vote with Benjamin Netanyahu if the prime minister seeks to cancel his rotation agreement with Benny Gantz, which is supposed to take effect 18 months into the lifespan of the planned Netanyahu-Gantz coalition. Lapid would thus help ensure the necessary majority to cancel the law anchoring the Netanyahu-Gantz power-sharing deal, and bring down the government.”

Lapid says his former running mate Gantz is ‘unfit to be prime minister’,

“Yesh Atid-Telem party leader Yair Lapid on Sunday lambasted his former running mate, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, calling him unfit to be prime minister. ‘This government shouldn’t be formed,’ the centrist leader said of the imminent unity government set to be formed after a deal was reached last week between Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…’The moment of truth came, and they crumbled,’ Lapid charged during a press conference broadcast online. ‘Therefore, they are unfit for leadership, and Benny Gantz is unfit to be prime minister.’”

Watch: Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg forcibly removed from Knesset committee,

“Meretz MK and former Meretz party chairwoman Tamar Zandberg was ejected from a Knesset committee room Monday, during deliberations on changes to Israel’s Basic Law. Following lengthy deliberations last night on proposed changes to the Basic Law of Israel regarding transitional governments, the special committee reconvened Monday morning to discuss changes recommended during Sunday night’s meeting. During the deliberations Monday, shouting erupted between coalition and opposition lawmakers, prompting committee chairman Eitan Ginzburg to order several MKs to leave the room.”

‘Netanyahu May Be Involved’: Israeli AG Says Justice Minister, Prosecutor Collude to Topple Him,

“Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has privately charged that both Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Acting State Prosecutor Dan Eldad are trying to oust him, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be involved as well, according to a senior Justice Ministry official who was present during these conversations…The attorney general denies the reports that he expressed these suspicions, and Eldad called the idea of such a plot “inconceivable.” Eldad added that the claim that prosecution officials were told to report on his actions is ‘a grave act of spying on their manager.'”

COVID-19 in Palestine/Israel

High Court halts Shin Bet tracking of coronavirus patients,

“The High Court on Sunday ordered a freeze on tracking of the cell phones of coronavirus patients by the Shin Bet domestic security service, with judges saying such a move requires legislation. The court ruling said, however, that if the legislative process was begun, it would be possible to extend for a limited period the use of the security service in efforts to stem the spread of the virus.”

Coronavirus gives Israel the perfect cover to tighten its grip over Palestinians,

“What initially began as disregard by the Israeli government to the fate of Palestinians during the pandemic, quickly turned into an active attempt to utilize the chaos of the health crisis to maximize Israel’s gains at the expense of Palestinians. The government’s latest push for annexation is a continuation — and escalation — of this trend…Israel’s attempts to benefit from the coronavirus crisis at the Palestinians’ expense is no surprise to many observers. Still, the trajectory of its actions over the course of the outbreak suggests that its policies could seriously escalate in the coming months.”

Hamas quietly allows Gaza doctors to get COVID-19 training in Israel,

“Fathi Abu Warda, an adviser to the Ramallah Health Ministry, told Al-Monitor the ministry coordinated a meeting for 10 doctors from Gaza and 10 from Jericho with Israeli doctors to address COVID-19 and the medical measures needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He said that the training took place March 23 on the Israeli side of the Erez crossing, noting, ‘The doctors were chosen according to their specialties, which included preventive medicine, epidemiology and intensive care.’ However, Abu Warda said he found it odd that another group of doctors and nurses from the Hamas-run Gaza government had later received training inside Israel without coordination with the Health Ministry in Ramallah.”

Coronavirus reveals Palestinian economic dependence on Israel,

“Naser Abdel Karim, an economics professor at the Arab American University of Jenin, told Al-Monitor, ‘The coronavirus crisis has increased the Palestinian economic dependence on Israel, especially after the Palestinians complained about the fact that their workers have stopped going to Israel amid a decline in foreign trade movement due to the Israeli control of the crossings. This has put their ability to provide goods and food at risk. The PA — unable to provide economic alternatives to its citizens — has concerns over the eruption of a popular Palestinian revolt against the economic closure and the emergence of an anarchic and disorganized economic activity, which will make it difficult for it to control the movement of money in the market.'”

Israel weighs strategic implications of coronavirus crisis,

“…the directorate continues its routine tasks of intelligence collection, guided by the assumption that the coronavirus crisis will last through 2021. The short and mid-term effects of the crisis on Israel’s strategic profile, on the threats it faces and on the determination of its enemies are all unknown, and the military intelligence team is working to determine these factors…The intelligence directorate is considering the likelihood of three scenarios. The first, dubbed the ‘inertia option,’ predicts that the epidemic will not affect the forces arrayed against Israel. The second scenario foresees the disease having a chilling effect, lowering the threat level and reducing investment in fighting Israel for a period. The third scenario foresees the opposite — that rather than a calming effect on Israel’s enemies, the epidemic will egg them on. This possibility was supported by an unusually daring April 17 operation by a Hezbollah team that cut through the Lebanon border fence with Israel at three different places under the nose of the IDF forces stationed there. The operation was a rare risk by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah that could have easily set off a military confrontation with Israel and military intelligence analysts believe it was made possible by the confusion of the coronavirus crisis.”

Palestinian Researchers Develop Their Own Ventilator Amid Virus Shortage,

“Palestinian researchers at Al-Quds University in the West Bank unveiled on last week a computerised model of a ventilator device that could treat coronavirus patients. The machine was produced and developed by a team of doctors and engineers from the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Engineering. The team hopes the device will be used to supposed coronavirus patients in intensive care units. Production is said to start after it is approved by the Health Ministry.”

Occupation in the Time of COVID-19

Right-wing Jerusalem Settler Activist to Be Appointed Deputy Mayor,

“Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon is to seek on Thursday the city council’s approval for the appointment of right-wing activist Arieh King as his deputy. A representative on the city council on behalf of left-wing party Meretz is considering leaving the coalition if the appointment goes through. King is best known for settling Jews in East Jerusalem and evicting Palestinian families from the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. He has dealt extensively with attempts to find heirs to Jewish property in Palestinian neighborhoods in the city and bringing in investors to fund settlements.”

Israel Evicts Palestinian Family Amid Coronavirus Crisis, Despite Assurances,

“Israeli authorities seized a mobile home near Jericho in the West Bank on April 23, leaving a family of seven homeless. The move violates Israel’s commitment made in early April to stop confiscating or demolishing structures deemed illegal until the end of the coronavirus crisis. The Kaabna family lives in Ein a-Duyuk a-Tahta, an area also known as the Hasmonean Palaces archeological site on the western outskirts of Jericho. The West Bank Protection Consortium, which donated the mobile home, said this is the first building in which Palestinians live that has been confiscated or demolished by the Israeli military’s Civil Administration in the West Bank since the announcement made earlier this month.”

Business & Human Rights

Business and Human Rights in Occupied Territory: Guidance for Upholding Human Rights,

“Following their unanimous adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011, many States, multilateral institutions, and businesses have demonstrated their commitment to upholding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the ‘Protect, Respect, and Remedy’ framework laid out within them. While the practical implementation of the UNGPs has been extensively explored, including as related to conducting human rights due diligence in conflict-affected areas, situations of occupation in particular continue to be met with inconsistent approaches by both businesses and States. Such incoherence is exacerbated by the already challenging legal and administrative environment present in occupied territories, where businesses must not only consider international human rights law (IHRL) but also international humanitarian law (IHL), alongside other frameworks, when assessing their business activities and relationships. Central to this assessment is the manner in which an Occupying Power administers the occupied territory, where IHL regulates the Occupying Power’s use and exploitation of natural resources, including land, and prohibits measures aimed at the permanent retention of the occupied territory, including the transfer of populations, amongst other principles. Given the heightened risks of abuse in conflict–affected areas in general, alongside the prevalence of unlawfully administered and prolonged situations of occupation, businesses may be unable to mitigate adverse human rights impacts in a specific setting.”

Are YouTube's Policies Biased Towards Palestinians,

Dr. Amal Nazzal, the researcher stated, “This research is a call to encourage collaboration and mobilization at the international, and in particular the Palestinian, levels to show how YouTube violates Palestinian rights and to resist it. Counter to YouTube’s promise to be a space where every user has equal rights of participating and belonging, this research reveals how YouTube’s policies and practices are biased and discriminate against Palestinians. This discrimination includes techniques of high-surveillance, which lead to incidents of exclusion, isolation, and demotivation.”

FMEP Resources

Settlement Report: April 24, 2020 [The Bibi/Gantz Annexation Agreement],

“Under the new emergency unity government agreement, the issue of annexation is at the total discretion of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Per the coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu and Gantz on April 20th, the stipulations related to annexation are:

  1. The U.S. must give its “full agreement” to the annexation plan…
  2. Netanyahu and Gantz must “engage in dialogue” with (but are not obligated to secure any form of consent from) the international community…
  3. On July 1, 2020, Prime Minister Netanyahu can bring the U.S-approved annexation plan up for discussion in the Cabinet and/or for a vote in the Knesset, – without the support/approval of Gantz….
  4. Only a Likud member of the Knesset is permitted to introduce an annexation plan in the Knesset, provided that the plan is identical to the one promoted by Prime Minister Netanyahu…
  5. Once introduced into the Knesset, the annexation legislation cannot be delayed or vetoed.”