Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 30, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation Watch

Trump’s OK on Israeli Annexation Is Like His Clorox Prescription: Toxic and Lethal,

“If his current slide in the polls continues, by July — when Netanyahu plans to advance his annexation plans — Trump will need Evangelicals like a critical coronavirus patient needs a ventilator. He couldn’t care less about the ramifications of Israel’s proposed annexation, with its potential damage to the peace treaty with Jordan and threat of undermining the already strained ties with the Palestinians…But even without Netanyahu’s perceived threat, chances are that his assessment is correct: Trump is likely to give the Israeli government, in whatever makeup, a green light for annexation. Not because he has the slightest interest in the ‘fulfillment of Zionism,’ as Netanyahu described annexation, but because he is a reckless and irresponsible president who couldn’t care less about Israel’s wellbeing; the kind of president who prescribes Clorox as a remedy for coronavirus.”

Israeli Politics

Attorney General Tells Court No Reason to Block Netanyahu From Forming Government,

“According to Mendelblit, the petitions point to ‘significant difficulties,’ but they don’t constitute a valid legal reason to undo the agreement or prevent Netanyahu from heading the proposed unity government. Mendelblit also told the court he thinks all petitions against the proposed agreement should be rejected, adding that looking into the legality of its components ‘should be done at the time of executing it’.”

Likud, Blue and White: Coalition definite next week,

“A filibuster by Yesh Atid-Telem put making that deadline into jeopardy. But Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who is now Knesset Speaker, added three extra voting days in the Knesset plenum on Thursday, Sunday and next Sunday to ensure that the bills will be passed. ‘I am cautiously optimistic we will accomplish our goal of passing the bills on time,’ said Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg, who chairs a special Knesset committee formed to pass the bills. ‘We knew there would be a filibuster, but we are actually ahead of schedule.'”

The Challenge Facing Israel's New Opposition,

“Now, for the first time in his political career, Lapid is about to become the official leader of the opposition. He’ll be good at one part of the job: Holding the government to account, with a noisy campaign of attrition in the Knesset and the media. But can he fulfill the other role of an opposition leader: To try to bring down and replace the government? Lapid can present an alternative to the Netanyahu-Gantz government in two ways. He can join forces with Lieberman and attack the coalition for bowing to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox at the expense of the rest of Israeli society. Or, he can link up with what’s left of Meretz and try to build an alliance with at least some of the political representatives of the Israeli Arabs to build an Israeli civilian front. Both courses of action, however, are unlikely to create a wider base that would attract defectors from the new coalition and earn more votes in the next election, whenever it takes place. Can Lapid do both? Can he build a wider opposition camp that targets both the narrow special interest lobby of the Haredi politicians while at the same time promoting a truly “centrist” vision of Israeli citizenship that has room for Israeli Arabs (and ordinary ultra-Orthodox people)?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Bennett meet again, no progress made,

“According to the report, when the Defense Minister told Netanyahu that in order to join the rotation government, ‘all the parties would have to have their say,’ the prime minister retorted that Yamina only deserved two ministerial posts due to its poor election showing. Bennett replied that his party’s achievements over the past year should not be measured according to the amount of votes it had received.”

What happened to Israel’s Labor party?,

“Labor’s fall from grace has been so dramatic that many Israeli political commentators, as well as many party veterans, say the party, once central to the history of Zionism, is no more. ‘The Labor party, as a political body with some influence, has disappeared,’ former minister and MK Uzi Baram told Israeli news site Local Call. How did ‘the party that founded Israel’, as it is commonly referred to in the Israeli press, the political heir of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, find itself on the path towards extinction?”

High Court freezes extension for acting state prosecutor,

“Acting State Prosecutor Dan Eldad will end his term in office Friday after the High Court on Thursday issued an injunction against extending his tenure, following a petition by a group of lawyers. The court also issued a temporary stay on appointing an interim replacement and ruled the government must respond to the petition against Eldad within two weeks. The ruling comes in response to a petition by 10 lawyers against the extension of Eldad’s term by Justice Minister Amir Ohana on the grounds that the latter was appointed as a caretaker minister and is coming to the end of his own term in the post. In their petition, the group of attorneys said that given the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to go on trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, it is inappropriate for a political appointee whose job depends on the prime minister and his close ally in the Justice Ministry to hold the post.”

Palestinian Politics

Palestinian PM's COVID-19 response gets high marks, but will it be enough?,

“Less than a year after being tapped for prime minister, the head of the Palestinian government, Mohammad Shtayyeh, who was sworn into office on April 13, 2019, was confronted along with the rest of the globe with an unprecedented crisis. Early evaluation gives Shtayyeh and his team high marks for their performance. The praise has been so overwhelming that it has led some to predict that he can potentially fill the shoes of President Mahmoud Abbas once the current 84-year-old Palestinian leader moves out of the political stage. Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian government and its head have gained in popularity, but added, ‘This doesn’t mean, however, that his ability to compete for the presidency has necessarily improved.’ Shikaki, the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, notes that the Palestinian public differentiates between managing daily issues and political leadership. He said, “In terms of political leadership, Prime Minister Shtayyeh has yet to be tested; therefore, it is too early to determine if his performance in dealing with the effects of the pandemic can be translated to better chances for the presidency.’”

Is Hamas using coronavirus to gain support in West Bank? – analysis,

“The Palestinian Authority believes Hamas is using the coronavirus crisis to score points with Palestinians in the West Bank. In the past week, PA security forces arrested a number of Hamas activists after they were caught distributing food parcels and cash to needy families.”

U.S. Politics

Trump must release already allocated humanitarian funds to save Palestinian lives,

“Humanitarian assistance should never be politicized, and certainly not when a pandemic threatens millions of lives. If the Trump administration is willing to send aid to North Korea and has offered to bolster Iran’s response to the coronavirus, then why has it failed to deploy sufficient and meaningful assistance already allocated by Congress to Palestine refugees in dire need?”

Biden Says Will Keep U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem if Elected,

“Biden, speaking during a virtual fundraiser, suggested relocating the embassy again would not help the stagnant peace process between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority that have fought for generations over how to divide land and power, especially Jerusalem. Trump’s decision effectively ratified the Israeli government’s claim on the disputed capital that is a holy city for Jews, Muslims and Christians. Yet rather than reversing Trump, Biden told donors he’d reopen a U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem to engage Palestinian leaders in talks about a ‘two-state solution’ that has long been the official U.S. posture toward Israel and the Palestinians.”

Palestinian-American Congressman Explains Why He Is Running for President,

“Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said Wednesday he is seeking the Libertarian nod for president because millions of Americans do not feel well represented by either major political party and their standard-bearers: President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Amash, whose father is a Palestinian Christian immigrant, has been a fierce Trump critic who left the Republican Party to become an independent and later supported his impeachment, told The Associated Press that too many people vote Republican or Democrat because they do not feel they have any other choice.”

From Left to Right, U.S. Jewish Groups Condemn De Blasio for 'Jewish Community' Tweet,

“The World Jewish Congress announced on Wednesday it would formally censure the mayor for his remarks that ‘painted the Jewish community as lawbreakers and unconcerned about the city’s public health.’ ‘This type of horrible stereotyping is dangerous and completely unacceptable at any time, but particularly while the world is gripped in fear and the worst among us are looking for scapegoats,’ President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder said in a statement. ‘Mayor de Blasio should know better than to throw gasoline on a smoldering fire’.”

Let the Right Have the Conference of Presidents,

“With right-wing groups no longer willing to play nice, there is little reason for the liberal groups that are part of the Conference of Presidents to silently take a beating in the hope of eventually winning a fraction of influence. In fact, liberal Jewish organizations have empowered those on the Trumpianized right who hope to expel them from the communal “big tent” by seeking compromise and consensus instead of standing up for their stated values. Time and again, they fall back on familiar tics: always attempting to dialogue and build bridges, and always doing so behind closed doors to maintain the facade of a unified community (leaving the dirty work of punching back, naturally, to their friends further left). The institutions of Jewish liberalism have condemned themselves to irrelevance, signing a political DNR in the hopes that things might one day go back to “normal.” Other futures, however, are more promising. To save themselves, such groups would likely be better off leaving the Conference of Presidents to form something of their own.”


HSBC accused of 'appalling moral cowardice' over blocked Palestinian aid payments,

“British bank HSBC has been drawn into a bruising political row amid mounting anger and concern over its decision to stop processing standing order payments to the Palestinian aid charity Interpal from next month. Members of Parliament from both opposition parties and the governing Conservative Party joined forces in a chorus of condemnation of HSBC, with one senior Tory MP accusing the bank of ‘appalling moral cowardice’. Andrew Slaughter, an MP for the main opposition Labour Party and a former shadow justice minister, dispatched a letter to the chief executive of HSBC, Ian Stuart, demanding an explanation for HSBC’s decision.”

Palestine activists win landmark Supreme Court ruling against UK government,

“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) won a landmark legal victory against the British government on Wednesday, as the Supreme Court ruled local pension schemes could divest from companies complicit in Israel’s military occupation. It is seen by pro-Palestinian activists as a major boost in efforts to counter the British government’s apparent attempts to criminalise support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”


It’s not over, and uncertainty abounds, but Israel’s COVID-19 stats are stunning,

“But all those numbers above underline that, turning 72 in these nightmare circumstances, Israel has at least wary cause for encouragement. They were not always perfectly executed, but the decisions Israel’s leaders and authorities made, and that its citizens overwhelmingly heeded, were designed to maximize the defense against a mysterious virus that disproportionately targeted the elderly — our parents, our pioneers. For now, the numbers and the comparisons suggest, that strategy has been remarkably effective.”

Knesset committee extends Shin Bet tracking of virus carriers till Tuesday,

“The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Thursday approved the continued controversial digital tracking of coronavirus carriers by the Shin Bet security service until Tuesday at midnight, giving the government extra time to decide if it wants to legislate the program. The High Court of Justice earlier this week ruled that the tracking must stop unless the law is changed to allow it, rather than continuing to operate under emergency regulations without Knesset oversight. But it granted the government the right to approve an extension of the tracking for the coming weeks, on condition that it begins the legislative process.”

Government lifts 500-meter restriction on exercising outdoors,

“Restrictions on physical exercise outdoors were partly lifted Thursday morning, with sports enthusiasts no longer limited to a distance of 500 meters from home, in accordance with a cabinet decision earlier this week. Group sports are still prohibited. The restriction preventing citizens from going more than 100 meters from their homes except for specified activities (work, shopping, sports etc.) is still in effect.. However, it will likely be removed early next week, as police have said they cannot enforce it with so many other restrictions eased.”