Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 29, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation Watch

Can anyone stop Netanyahu’s annexation plans?,

“Senior members of Commanders for Israel’s Security are not overly hopeful that pledges by Gantz and Ashkenazi to try to block the move using logic, common sense and risk assessments will carry the day. They believe more realistic prospects lie with the quartet of Jordanian King Abdullah II, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Military Intelligence chief Tamir Hayman and Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman. They are not counting too much on Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who is perceived as a close Netanyahu associate and potential heir and as someone unlikely to sound the alarm against annexation as long as Netanyahu does not want him to do so. Still, Cohen is more independent than people give him credit, and he could end up surprising them.A few more names can be added to the list of influential anti-annexation figures: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his foreign policy staff and top Pentagon officials intimately familiar with the threat annexing the Jordan Valley poses, for example, to the Jordanian monarchy and to vital Jordan-Israel peace agreement (1994). Then there is President Donald Trump, who could find himself torn between pressure from his Christian evangelical base for immediate annexation by force, and some of his national security advisers, who could issue a stark warning against such a move.”

Israel nears a point of no return,

“Nestled in the agreement between Gantz and Netanyahu is a clause to advance plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, along with the historic river valley that borders Jordan, starting as soon as July 1. This has long been in the works: With the blessing of the Trump administration’s widely-derided ‘vision’ for “peace and prosperity” in the region, Netanyahu and his allies in the Israeli right hope to extend Israel’s sovereignty over at least some of the 128 Jewish settlements that now dot the West Bank.”

COVID-19 & Palestine/Israel

West Bank, Gaza Eye Return to Normal After Two Days Without New Coronavirus Cases,

“The Palestinian Authority is preparing for a gradual return to normal in the West Bank after no new patients were diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past two days in the territory that it governs there or in the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority is also considering how to address the economic crisis that the coronavirus outbreak has caused…Palestinian Authority government offices, including the land authority and water authority, are due to gradually return to work at the beginning of next week, and factories and workshops will be allowed to operate at 50 percent of normal levels, the prime minister said. Schools are not yet resuming classes, but food and candy stores are allowed to remain open until the evening during the current holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast during daylight hours. Restaurants and cafes, which are usually packed in the evening during Ramadan fast, are still closed, as are mosques and other houses of worship.”

For first time, Israelis recovered from coronavirus outnumber those still sick,

“There have been a total of 15,782 confirmed carriers of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, of whom 7,929 have recovered. Of the 7,641 still sick, 120 have serious symptoms, 91 of them on ventilators, and 85 are in moderate condition.”

High Court Petition Demands Health Insurance for Palestinian Laborers in Israel,

“The petition seeks to address the situation of large numbers of Palestinians who have been staying in Israel for more than a month rather than commuting to and from Israel for the day from their homes in the West Bank. They have been required to remain in Israel if they are to continue on the job out of concern that daily commutes could result in the spread of the coronavirus in Israel and in the West Bank. The petition is also seeking an order requiring that Israeli employers in the construction field stop the practice of holding onto their Palestinian employees’ identity cards, a procedure that had been ordered by the Israeli Construction and Housing Ministry. Palestinian laborers working in Israel are entitled to worker’s compensation coverage for accidents on the job, but not regular medical coverage. The three petitioners in the case, Kav LaOved, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights, stated in their petition that a legislative memorandum has been drafted for a proposed amendment to the law and that would require that the Palestinians receive medical coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, but the matter has not moved ahead.

High Court gives media protection from Shin Bet corona surveillance,

“Israel’s press association had petitioned that if the Shin Bet was given unlimited access to hack members of the media’s cellphones, they would compromise sources and undermine the most basic tenet of freedom of the press. While the High Court did not issue a blanket prohibition protecting the media, it did say that members of the media can refuse to grant the Health Ministry access to their cellphone and appeal to the courts within 24 hours regarding any dispute.”

Arab Israelis fear that Ramadan could bring a coronavirus surge,

“The ban on mass communal prayer in Israel and the Palestinian territories is among the sobering restrictions accompanying Islam’s holiest month, during which Muslims fast during daylight hours and typically pray, feast and socialize with extended families at night. Israel’s emergency coronavirus measures have closed mosques, shuttered shops and implemented nighttime curfews in many Muslim-majority cities. But many of Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens say it’s nowhere near enough. Ahead of the monthlong holiday, a period during which families often celebrate together in the dozens or hundreds, most Arab-Israeli towns and villages fear a coronavirus peak is still ahead — and some are making an unprecedented plea for more government intervention.” See Also: “Arab Israelis partner with police, IDF to avert Ramadan coronavirus surge” (The Times of Israel)

Palestinians working in Israel face coronavirus dilemma,

“Before dawn, Palestinian security officers put on protective masks and gloves as they set up a hidden roadblock by the start of a dirt track through fields west of Hebron. Their task is to stop labourers from crossing illegally to Israel through gaps in its separation barrier. They would not normally do this, but these are unusual times. ‘We’ll prevent workers from sneaking into Israel until this pandemic is over,’ says intelligence officer Raed Zghayar. ‘We must protect our mothers, wives and children.’ Of the 326 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, most have been traced to workers in Israel and its settlements, which have been dealing with a much larger outbreak. The Palestinian Authority (PA) tells those returning from their jobs to spend two weeks in self-isolation, but some try to go back and forth.”

Occupation/Settlements/Human Rights

Hebron Settlers Close Off Area in the City to Celebrate Independence Day,

“Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron closed off an area in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in order to celebrate Israel’s 72nd Independence Day, upsetting local Palestinian inhabitants. Prominent Palestinian activist Issa Amro said the area closed off by the settlers in privately owned Palestinian land, but Israeli security forces nevertheless asked him to return home when the incident started…Palestinian residents say this is the first time the area, which is near some settlers’ homes, is closed off by Israelis.”

The olive trees that tell the story of Palestinian dispossession,

“In short, the ‘hundreds of ancient olive trees’ did not just grow out of thin air. The Palestinian residents of Saffuriya planted and cultivated them for centuries. The trees were stolen from them by force. The state leases those trees after claiming the village’s land as its own. Some of that land is now part of a man-made forest planted by the Jewish National Fund.”

‘Nour was returned to us dead’: Mystery surrounds death of Palestinian prisoner,

“In testimonies to the Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs, the prisoners said it took the Israeli prison authorities 45 minutes to arrive and intervene, by which time Nour had lost any chance of surviving. The commission said Israel was responsible for Nour’s death, which it attributed to medical negligence, a widespread phenomenon in Israeli prisons. ‘They [Israelis] know very well why Nour reached the point of taking his own life. This happened because of the interrogation that he underwent and due to the horrible conditions inside the Naqab prison, which we all suffer from,’ the source said. Barghouti’s death brings the total number of Palestinians who have died in Israeli prisons since 1967 to 223. In 2019 alone, three prisoners died in Israeli custody.”

Palestinian wounded as explosive device goes off in his hand near Hebron,

“Israel’s Kan public broadcaster said he had been trying to throw a pipe bomb at Israeli motorists at the nearby Tarkumiya junction when it exploded. There were no Israeli casualties. The attempted attack came as Israelis celebrated Independence Day and hours after a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli woman in the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba, in what police called a terror attack, before he was shot by a security guard. The woman, 62, was in moderate-to-serious condition and received treatment on the scene before being taken to Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.”

Israeli Politics

High Court to Hear Petitions Against Netanyahu-Gantz Unity Government Next Week,

“The High Court of Justice is set to hear on Sunday and Monday eight petitions filed to it against the coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan, and against allowing a person who is under criminal indictment – as Netanyahu currently is – to form a new government. Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut announced on Tuesday that 11 out of the court’s 15 justices will hear the petitions. Earlier on Tuesday, Likud and Kahol Lavan submitted their official responses to the petitions, arguing that the High Court must not intervene in political matters.” See Also: “Blue and White tells High Court indicted Netanyahu should be PM” (The Times of Israel)

Lashing coalition deal, Ya’alon says Israel doesn’t deserve sacrifice of fallen,

“In searing criticism of Blue and White’s willingness to join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former party member Moshe Ya’alon said Monday, the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day, that the country was not worthy of the sacrifice of those who died under its flag. ‘This year, we do not deserve the sacrifice of our fallen,’ said Yesh Atid-Telem’s Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff and defense minister under Netanyahu, in a rebuke of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Responding in a Tuesday morning interview with Channel 12, Gantz, also a former IDF chief, condemned Ya’alon’s remarks. ‘This is a harsh statement that I do not accept. It would have been better had it not been said,’ said Gantz. ‘I do not intend to soil the holiness of Memorial Day with a political debate, no matter what they say,’ he added.”

U.S. Politics

Biden opposes West Bank annexation, will keep US embassy in Jerusalem, says aide,

“Blinken said that a potential Biden administration would aim to revive and ‘ultimately advance’ the two-state solution. ‘In many ways, pulling the plug on a two-state solution is pulling the plug, potentially, on an Israel that is not only secure but is Jewish and democratic — for the future. That’s not something any of us, who are ardent supporters of Israel, would want to see,’ said Blinken.” See Also: “Biden would keep US Embassy in Jerusalem if elected, advisor says” (Jewish Insider)

Palestine at the ICC

Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Publish Detailed Review Paper on Submissions Made to International Criminal Court on Territorial Jurisdiction,

“This report follows an amicus submission made by Al-Haq, PCHR, Al Mezan, and Al-Dameer to the Court, arguing that Palestine does constitute a State, has validly acceded to the Rome Statute, and may confer the ICC with full jurisdiction over both Israelis and Palestinians within the OPT. Our organisations, having analysed legal objections to this position, ultimately find such analyses unpersuasive, and conclude that the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC may not prevent the Prosecutor from conducting a full, free, and detailed investigation into international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in the OPT.”

Palestine at the ICC: Prospects and Limitations ,

“While the world remains fixated on the latest developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Palestine’s case at the International Criminal Court presses on. In this policy lab, international legal experts Ardi Imseis and Halla Shoaibi join host Nur Arafeh to weigh in on the current status of the case, its prognosis, and how actions taken at the ICC fit into a larger Palestinian legal strategy.”


Fifth Circuit Anti-BDS Lawsuit Dismissed as Moot,

“The Fifth Circuit panel held that, because Texas’s law had been narrowed in a way that excluded these particular plaintiffs, the challenge should be dismissed: ‘This appeal touches on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2017, Texas enacted a law that forbids its governmental entities from contracting with companies who engage in economic boycotts of Israel. The plaintiffs, who support the Palestinian side of the conflict, then brought two separate suits for declaratory and injunctive relief in federal district court, alleging that requiring “No Boycott of Israel” clauses in Texas government contracts violates the First Amendment. After the two suits were consolidated, the district court held that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims that the First Amendment prohibited Texas’s “No Boycott of Israel” certification requirement. The district court then preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of “No Boycott of Israel” clauses in all contracts with Texas governmental entities. Whether that ruling was correct has been the subject of wide and intense debate, as demonstrated by the fourteen amicus briefs filed in this appeal. This opinion will not address that debate, however. Instead, we have decided that this appeal is moot because, twelve days after the district court’s ruling, Texas enacted final legislation that exempts sole proprietors [and certain other businesses] from the “No Boycott of Israel” certification requirement. The plaintiffs are all sole proprietors….'”

Conservative, Pro-Israel DePaul U. Prof. Jason Hill sues University for Defamation,

“On April 20, 2020, Hill filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court in Cook County, Illinois, for defamation against DePaul University, Provost Salma Ghanem, and Scott Paeth, the President of the DePaul Faculty Council at the time of the resolution.”