Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 30, 2021

What We’re Reading

The Palestinian Scene

Abbas delays Palestinian elections; Hamas slams ‘coup’,

“President Mahmoud Abbas announced early Friday that the first Palestinian elections in 15 years will be delayed, citing a dispute with Israel to call off a vote in which his fractured Fatah party was expected to suffer another embarrassing defeat to the Hamas militant group. Hamas slammed the move as a “coup.” But the indefinite postponement will be quietly welcomed by Israel and Western countries, which view the Islamic militant group as a terrorist organization and are concerned about its growing strength…Abbas insisted elections could not be held without the full participation of Palestinians in east Jerusalem. Israel has yet to say whether it would allow voting by mail there as in past elections and has enforced a ban on Palestinian Authority activities, including campaign events.”


More Headlines, Reactions, & Analysis

  • “Abbas Delays Palestinian Elections, Citing Israel’s Refusal to Allow Jerusalem Vote” (Haaretz)
  • “Palestinian Vote Delayed, Prolonging Split for West Bank and Gaza” (New York Times)
  • “Abbas delays Palestinian parliamentary polls, blaming Israel” (Al Jazeera)
  • “Palestinian president decides — on his own — to postpone election” (Al-Monitor)
  • “‘A coup’: Palestinian factions slam parliamentary poll delay” (Al Jazeera)
  • “EU ‘disappointed’ in delay of ‘Palestinian’ elections” (Arutz Sheva)
  • “Hamas slams Abbas’s decision to delay Palestinian vote as a ‘coup’” (The Times of Israel)

Elections or not, the PA is intensifying its authoritarian rule online,

“Even if elections are canceled again, the limited political organization that has taken place since they were decreed underscores just how much Palestinian political space has shrunk in the last two decades. This is largely a result of the PA’s restrictions and abuses on the ground, including the intimidation and harassment of journalists and activists, as well as the arbitrary detention and systematic torture of Palestinians who are critical of their government. More recently, the PA has been relentlessly clamping down on dissenters in yet another space: the internet.”

The Israeli Scene

45 dead, 150 injured in Lag B'Omer stampede on Mount Meron,

“At least 45 people, including children, were crushed to death in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning at the conclusion of a Lag B’Omer celebration on Mount Meron, according to Magen David Adom (MDA). Medical emergency units also said that 150 were injured, including many in critical condition, during the incident.  The Israeli army said a roof had collapsed in a “mass-casualty event,” while rescue operations are currently underway to evacuate thousands who are still at the scene.”


Further Reading

  • “Israel’s Netanyahu booed by bereaved protesters at stampede site” (Al Jazeera)
  • “Warnings foreshadowed deadly stampede in Israel” (Al-Monitor)
  • “Israel Turned a Blind Eye to the ultra-Orthodox Autonomy – Until Disaster Struck” (Haaretz)
  • “Stampede at Israel Religious Celebration Kills at Least 44” (New York Times)

Bennett, Lapid, Sa'ar hold marathon talks to build gov't when mandate ends,

“Negotiating teams from Yamina, Yesh Atid and New Hope met for four-and-a-half hours on Thursday, in an effort to build a coalition by the time Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu’s mandate to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin ends on Tuesday night at midnight. The negotiating teams dealt with the demands of the parties to form a government, starting with the demands of Yesh Atid and its leader, Yair Lapid. Marathon talks will be held over the weekend that will deal with the demands of Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar.”


More on Coalition Negotiations

  • “Netanyahu Rivals Hope to Reach Coalition Deal by Tuesday, but Talks Plagued by Disagreements” (Haaretz)
  • “Yamina demands Justice Ministry for Shaked” (Arutz Sheva)

Gantz said to hold coalition talks with Netanyahu despite vowing to replace him,

“Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz has engaged in negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government, going against his pledge not to again form a coalition with the premier, according to a Thursday report. Blue and White categorically rejected the story.”

Netanyahu offered American right-wing rabbi senior role in 4th election campaign,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Aryeh Lightstone, a former senior aide to David Friedman, who served as the US ambassador to Israel under President Donald Trump, a senior role in his most recent election campaign, sources told The Times of Israel. Lightstone, an Orthodox rabbi who joined Friedman in 2017 as a political appointee, turned the offer down, indicating that it would be unbecoming of him to join a local campaign so soon after serving as an official in a US administration.”

The U.S. Scene

Approaching Peace: Centering Rights in Israel-Palestine Conflict Resolution,

“The United States is at a pivotal moment in its relations with the world, seeking to reassert its leadership and support a rules-based international order. This moment calls for a new approach that puts human rights at the center of policymaking in regard to the Israel-Palestine issue. This approach is not only a moral imperative given the grave and long-lasting human rights crisis on the ground but also an opportunity for the United States to advance its broader policy objectives in the region and beyond.”

Blinken meets Israel’s Mossad spy chief for talks on Iran,

“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and its ambassador to Washington on Thursday, and the Israeli officials expressed “deep concern” about Iran’s nuclear activities, according to a person familiar with the matter. The meeting in Washington followed talks this week between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart in which the Israeli delegation stressed their “freedom to operate” against Iran as they see fit, the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Palestine activists reflect on the Biden administration’s first 100 days,

“Joe Biden has now been President for 100 days. We know the moment is largely an arbitrary Beltway obsession, but we’re also confident that Palestine will barely be covered in the mainstream assessments. In that spirit I reached out to some activists, authors, and organizations to get their thoughts on the administration so far.”

Biden’s first 100 days according to the Saban Forum crowd,

“Since the Saban Forum won’t gather its distinct selection of Middle East experts this year, Jewish Insider polled the Saban Forum crowd with a simple question: When it comes to foreign policy and the Middle East, how is Biden doing?”

Biden hasn’t picked an ambassador to Israel. What does that say of U.S.-Israeli relations,

“Definitely, say veteran diplomats and experts in the region, Biden is making known that Israel, while still an important ally to the U.S., will no longer have the carte blanche it enjoyed under Trump nor become an obsessed-upon foil as it was under President Obama. “The air has been let out of that balloon,” said former Middle East envoy Aaron David Miller, who worked for Democratic and Republican administrations…It is likely that Biden will nominate his ambassador to Israel as part of a package of other nominees, another attempt to put the diplomatic relationship in a new context.”

Apartheid, COVID-19, Settlements, Human Rights

Israel reopens Gaza fishing zone closed over rocket fire,

“Israel reopened a fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip, days after closing it in response to repeated rocket fire blamed on Hamas. A statement Thursday from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, said the zone would be reopened to its normal 15 nautical miles. “Following security consultation, it was decided today to reopen the fishing zone,” COGAT said. “The return of this civilian policy toward the Gaza Strip is conditional upon continued calm and security stability.” Fishing is a major source of revenue for the impoverished Palestinian enclave. Israel, which maintains a blockade on Hamas-run Gaza, has over the years placed limits on how far Gazan fishermen can go to fish, as a way of pressuring the militant group.”

Gaza’s COVID Crisis: Vaccine Shortage, Domestic Violence and Few Hospital Beds,

“A doctor and humanitarian worker in the Gaza Strip tell of hospitals at breaking point, children collecting plastic from junkyards, and the feud between Hamas and Fatah hampering the distribution of COVID vaccines.”

A Month Later, Israeli Military Admits Detention of Palestinian Children Was Improper,

“The military said Thursday that the troops involved were unaware of the children’s ages and could not determine them because of “a lack of cooperation” by those present, but that soldiers should have refrained from detaining “some of the minors” who appeared as though they may be under the age of 12. The military initially claimed that the boys were suspected of stealing parrots from the outpost and that troops chased them following a report by residents that they had run into a house’s yard. The soldiers brought the children to the main police station in Kiryat Arba, where they spent several hours before being released. However, the claim about an attempted theft was not mentioned in subsequent army statements. In the letter sent by the military on Wednesday to attorney Gaby Lasky, who is representing the children and their parents, made no mention of this allegation, and acknowledged that a number of “mistakes” had been made regarding the incident, without specifying what these were.” Also See – “IDF says detention of 5 Palestinian children near illegal outpost was a mistake” (The Times of Israel)

Israeli Troops Shot a Palestinian Boy in the Eye, and Didn't Even Try to Save It,

“A 14-year-old Palestinian, standing at the entrance to the vegetable store where he worked in the heart of Hebron, took a sponge-tipped bullet in the eye. The soldiers didn’t bother to give him first aid, and it took 11 hours for him to reach an East Jerusalem hospital. Now he is half-blind.”

As Palestinians Face the Pandemic Unprotected, Israel's Vaccination Rate Is Worthless,

“Israel’s impressive and remarkable achievement of vaccinating most of its population against the coronavirus cannot be considered complete as long as millions of Palestinians living alongside Israel and under its control remain exposed to the pandemic, without the protection of a vaccine. This is not only a matter of Israel’s moral and legal obligation as an occupying power, which must not be minimized, but also of its own medical and epidemiological requirements.”

Palestinian tries to stab cop, soldier in W. Bank, is shot and hurt, police say,

“A spokesperson for the police said the suspect was walking quickly toward an officer and an Israel Defense Force soldier while holding a broken glass shard near the Efrat junction, south of Bethlehem.”

Palestinians suspected of firebombing cabin at illegal outpost; man lightly hurt,

“The Israeli military launched a search for a group of Palestinians suspected of firebombing a cabin at an illegal outpost in the central West Bank in the predawn hours of Thursday morning while four people were inside, the Israel Defense Forces said. One of the four young men who was sleeping in the cabin was lightly injured as he jumped out of a window to escape the flames.”

Top Analysis & Opinion

Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas try to hold on to power,

“Binyamin netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas (pictured, right and left) have ruled for so long that it is hard to imagine other people in their places. Yet neither is looking very secure at the moment. Mr Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel since 2009, is struggling to form a new government, as the opposition inches closer to a deal that would unseat him. Mr Abbas, the Palestinian president since 2005, is increasingly unpopular. Were he to hold a free and fair election, as he promised to do this year, he would probably lose. Could both men soon be out of a job? Neither is giving up. “

So Israel’s an Apartheid State. What’s Next?,

“Perhaps it isn’t actually Israel that has crossed the threshold. The situation in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza could have been assessed as apartheid 10 years ago. Some have long been calling it that. It is Human Rights Watch that has crossed the threshold, as the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem did a few months ago, by deciding to use the A-word. Which raises the question, now that you’ve crossed the threshold, what next? After a short flurry of news reports and opinion pieces, what do you do once you’ve spent so much of your organization’s resources on fancy online presentations and a public relations campaign rolling out the report? There’s no going back. And you can’t do it all over again next year. You’ve already crossed the threshold. You can’t cross it again.”

The Weaponization of Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

Letters to the Editor: How Not to Fight Antisemitism,

“The following letters were received regarding the Spring 2021 issue responsa by the editors titled “How Not to Fight Antisemitism,” which argued that the Jewish left’s appropriation of the right’s strategy regarding antisemitism has further muddled the discourse while reinforcing the idea of Jews as paradigmatic victims, thus inhibiting coalition work.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on the state of antisemitism,

“Greenblatt weighed in on the controversy over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, and the proliferation of other definitions, which he called a “great example of a tempest in a teapot.” The IHRA definition, he said, “was an intellectually honest and objective and scholarly effort to develop a consensus definition.” ADL adopted the IHRA definition in 2018, Greenblatt said, but he doesn’t believe it should be used “as a piece of policy… it’s intended to inform a process, not to be a process.” The ADL CEO added that he therefore views efforts to create new definitions to be “a real waste of time.””

A response to Greenblatt’s interview from If Not Now: “.@JGreenblattADL says the new definitions of antisemitism — meant to undo the damage that the IHRA definition has done on the actual fight against antisemitism and on Palestinian activism — are “a real waste of time.” We’ll translate what he means: “Shut up and stay in line.””