Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 7, 2021

What We’re Reading

US Policy

Joe Biden is not planning to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,

“It’s the ultimate prize in diplomacy, and almost every modern president has sought it despite the long, treacherous odds: a resolution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Joe Biden, though, isn’t all that interested…some warn that by de-prioritizing the issue or moving too slowly, Biden could be putting a two-state solution out of reach, especially if Israel keeps expanding its settlements in territory claimed by the Palestinians.” Also see:

US boosts aid to Palestinians as some in Congress cry foul,

“The Biden administration is moving again to increase U.S. assistance to the Palestinians as it fires up a new Mideast policy that is directly opposite of the one pursued by its predecessor. For the third time in two weeks, the administration has either publicly announced or quietly notified Congress of its intent to provide the Palestinians with tens of millions of dollars in aid. On Monday, the administration informed lawmakers that it would give the Palestinians $40 million for law enforcement and security costs in the West Bank and Gaza…Pro-Israel lawmakers are signaling opposition to the renewed funding, noting in particular that federal laws prohibit direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority or the provision of aid that benefits the PA as long as it continues to pay stipends to people convicted of anti-U.S. or anti-Israel attacks and their families.” Also see: Twitter thread from FMEP’s Lara Friedman reminding the world that Congress explicitly appropriated the funding for Palestinains in the FY21 Consolidated Appropriations bill, passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Trump on 12/26/20

Scoop: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to visit Israel next week,

“U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to travel to Israel next week, Israeli officials tell me. Why it matters: This will be the first Cabinet-level visit to the Middle East from the Biden administration, which has been shifting attention away from the region and toward China and Russia. Driving the news: Austin is expected to arrive on Sunday and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. The agenda will include Iran and other regional issues like Syria and Lebanon, Israeli officials say.”

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Settler kills 73-year-old Palestinian woman,

“An elderly Palestinian woman died this morning after she succumbed to injuries she sustained when an Israeli settler rammed his car into her on a road in southern Hebron in the occupied West Bank. According to local sources, a settler driving at high speed ran over 73-year-old Shafiqa Mohamed Abu Aqeel leaving her with serious injuries. The victim was rushed to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba where she was pronounced dead.”

Israel Issues Five Times More Demolition Orders for Palestinians Than Settlers,

“Of the 187 orders to remove new structures issued by Israel in the West Bank in the past two years, 159 were issued to Palestinians and only 28 to settlers. This emerged from Civil Administration data released in response to a freedom of information request submitted by Qamar Mashriqi-Assad of Haqel: In Defense of Human Rights, and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights. This is a new type of order that went into effect in 2019 and is considered especially draconian because it cannot be appealed.”

Israeli authorities demolish structures in Jerusalem neighborhood,

“The Israeli occupation authorities today demolished several Palestinian structures in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, according to local sources. Jameel Abul-Hummus, the owner of one of the demolished structures, said that Israeli police and municipal crews escorted bulldozers into the neighborhood, where the heavy machineries tore down his own car repair stores purportedly for being built without licenses. He added that the machineries also tore down a car garage and two rooms belonging to Majed al-Mazra‘awi and Darwish Darwish under the same pretext. Meanwhile, police and municipal crews harassed a number of vendors and seized their stalls at Bab al-Majles, one of the gates leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Using the pretext of illegal building, Israel demolishes houses on a regular basis to restrict Palestinian expansion in occupied Jerusalem.”

Israeli court upholds travel ban on Amnesty International campaigner,

“An Israeli court has upheld a travel ban against a Palestinian campaigner for Amnesty International who has been barred from leaving the occupied West Bank. The rights group said in a statement on Tuesday that a judge at the Jerusalem District Court accepted the Israeli security agency’s position that Laith Abu Zeyad constitutes a security threat, effectively ‘rubber-stamping’ the ban…’For the second time in less than a year, Israeli authorities, including the judiciary, have demonstrated their wanton disregard for international human rights law,’ said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general. ‘Laith has now been living under these arbitrary restrictions for more than 500 days and the Israeli authorities have yet to provide an adequate explanation beyond the bogus claim that Laith poses a ‘security threat’ which they never specified,’ continued Callamard, who formally served as a special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

Warnings of serious attempts to push Palestine refugees to leave Lebanon,

“Palestinian factions yesterday warned of plans being drawn up behind closed doors aimed at pushing Palestine refugees out of Lebanon, Arabi21 reported. According to the news site, many lawyers have started carrying out candid and systematic work aimed at encouraging desperate refugees to accept compensation and agree to move abroad in search of a better life. These activities, Arabi21 warned, are in fact attempts to push them to concede their right of return and to leave the refugee camps which have been a symbol of Palestinian resilience.”


Israel looks to delay ICC probes into its crimes,

“Israeli officials are carrying out contacts with senior officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking to persuade them to put off starting investigations into Israeli war crimes in Gaza, West Bank, and Jerusalem. Kuwait’s Al Mujtama magazine reported Israeli army radio saying that the occupation state is seeking the postponement until the start of new ICC prosecutor Karim Khan’s term. According to the radio station, the Israeli officials hope that Khan will review the matter differently to outgoing prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.” Also see: Israel’s response to ICC war crimes probe delayed to Wednesday (Jerusalem Post)


Israel-Iran Sea Skirmishes Escalate as Mine Damages Iranian Military Ship,

“An Iranian military vessel stationed in the Red Sea was damaged by an apparent Israeli mine attack on Tuesday in an escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing that has characterized the two adversaries’ exchanges in recent years. The damage to the vessel, which the Iranian news media identified as the Saviz, came as progress was reported on the first day of talks to revive American participation in the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers…The Saviz, technically classified as a cargo ship, was the first vessel deployed for military use that is known to have been attacked in the Israeli-Iranian skirmishes.” Also see:

Will Red Sea incident mobilize pro-Iran-deal Israel critics in the US?,

“An article at the Wall Street Journal appeared to indicate that some US officials are concerned about the timing of an alleged attack on an Iranian ship in the Red Sea. The ship is known as an IRGC forward base, according to previous reports by expert analyst H.I Sutton. ‘It is clear what the timing intends to achieve,’ a US official was quoted saying at the WSJ. The incident could harm those who support ‘rapprochement,’ the article noted. This would cast the attack in the Red Sea as somehow harming the exploration of talks between Iran and the US that could lead to a reduction in US sanctions. This could serve those who are critical of Israel and see the Jewish state as somehow harming US-Iran relations or even causing US-Iran tensions.” Also see:

Explained: The Floating Iranian Red Sea Base Israel Hit as Naval Battle Escalates,

“An Iranian cargo ship believed to be a base for the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen has been attacked, Tehran acknowledged Wednesday. Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the attack on the MV Saviz, suspected to have been carried out by Israel. The assault came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the U.S. potentially rejoining Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, showing that challenges ahead don’t rest merely in those negotiations.”


COVID infection rate falls to lowest level since May 2020 [in Israel],

“A total of 303 new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed across Israel Tuesday, according to data released by the Health Ministry Wednesday morning. Just 0.5% of tests conducted Tuesday came back positive, down from 0.7% of tests carried out Monday. That is the lowest level recorded since May 24th last year, when the percentage of tests coming back positive hit 0.4%. There are now just 4,888 known active cases of the virus in Israel, of which 481 are being treated in hospitals.”

Palestine records 2,672 Covid-19 cases, 18 deaths,

“Palestine today recorded 2,672 new Covid-19 cases and 18 deaths, according to Health Minister Mai Al-Kaileh. She announced that 2,672 Palestinians tested positive for the highly contagious virus and 18 others died of it in the occupied territories. Among the new 2,672 cases, 756 cases were recorded in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 1,916 others in the besieged Gaza Strip.”

Miriam Adelson becomes richest Israeli as COVID year boosts world’s billionaires,

“The 2021 Forbes list of the world’s billionaires and richest people, published Tuesday, shows an unprecedented surge in wealth among global tycoons during the coronavirus pandemic, with an Israeli-American woman who wasn’t even on the list last year becoming the wealthiest new billionaire in the world. Miriam Adelson, the widow of casino mogul and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who died in January, inherited most of the latter’s fortune and leaped to a net worth of $38.2 billion, becoming the richest Israeli, fifth-richest woman and 36th-richest person in the world.”


Israeli Elections 

Israel’s 24th Knesset sworn in under cloud of coalition crisis,

“Israel’s 24th Knesset was sworn in on Tuesday with less than the customary fanfare, due to coronavirus restrictions on the number of attendees, and the political crisis that is threatening to lead to a fifth round of elections. Most of the 120 Knesset members, both veterans and newcomers—sporting the traditional flower pinned to their lapels—confirmed their oaths of office from their plenum seats: ‘I pledge myself to bear allegiance to the State of Israel and faithfully to discharge my mandate in the Knesset.’ The MKs from the Joint Arab List altered the words of the oath, each standing when his or her name was called to state: “I pledge to fight the [Israeli] occupation, racism and apartheid.’ Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin disqualified their vows, which—if not altered in a subsequent private swearing-in session—will lead to their being denied some of their rights as members of the legislative body.” Also see: Questions arise regarding protesting Arab party members right to vote in Knesset (Arutz Sheva)

With no clear coalition, Netanyahu begins forming government,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began work Wednesday on the formation of a new government, a day after President Reuven Rivlin reluctantly acknowledged that he had the best chance of cobbling together a coalition and tasked him with the job. In the coming 28 days allotted to him, the prime minister will try to maintain his partnership with ‘natural allies’ who recommended him for the premiership, court Yamina leader Naftali Bennet, who did not endorse him to Rivlin on Monday, and try to do what currently seems impossible – find nine more Knesset members to give him a majority of 61.”

Netanyahu to start coalition talks to form right-wing government,

“…Bennett told his faction he would negotiate with Netanyahu. But he also hinted he would continue coalition talks for a government led by himself and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, saying he would do all he can to prevent a fifth election. ‘During the campaign I refused to lie even though it would help me, and I still refuse to lie,’ Bennett said. ‘Israel needs a stable, right-wing government that will end chaos and hate and reflect the national consensus. That is the will of the nation.’” Also see:

Lapid urges ‘leap of faith’ to build ‘national consensus government’,

“A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally tasked with assembling a government, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid urged party leaders from across the political spectrum to take a ‘leap of faith’ and agree to form a ‘national consensus government’ instead of one headed by Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu's Far-right Ally: Israel Belongs to the Jews. Arabs Who Don't Recognize That Won't Stay Here,

“The chairman of the far-right Religious Zionism party, lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich, wrote on Wednesday that he will make sure that Arabs who do not recognize the Jewish people’s legitimate rule over the Land of Israel ‘will not remain here.’ His comments came on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the last election Benjamin Netanyahu threw his weight behind the Religious Zionism party. The party, which includes a Kahanist faction, ended up gaining seven seats in the Knesset partly thanks to his backing.”


Other elections reading:

Palestinian Scene/Elections

Egyptian Security Delegation Visits Gaza Strip,

“An Egyptian security delegation carried out a brief visit to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to hold talks with Hamas officials. The unannounced hours-long visit was part of the delegation’s following up on several issues, including bilateral relations, common security issues, calm with Israel, internal reconciliation and a prisoner exchange. Major General Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, chief of the Palestinian affairs in the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, headed the delegation, the Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint’s media department reported. Discussions focused on Palestinian reconciliation and efforts to ensure the success of the upcoming elections, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.”

Hamas: 'No elections without Jerusalem',

“Hamas on Monday stressed it would not accept holding Palestinian parliamentary election without the participation of Palestinians in Jerusalem. In a statement, member of the movement’s political bureau Ezzat Al-Reshq said: ‘We insist that the Palestinian people in Jerusalem have the right to participate in the coming elections, as candidates and as voters, exactly as in 2006.’ Al-Reshq added: ‘This is the unwavering position of Hamas towards the elections, which shall not be held without Jerusalem. If the Israeli occupation attempts to prevent Palestinians in Jerusalem from participating in the elections, the Palestinian people will launch a national battle against the Israeli occupation.’”

Israel detains Hamas official in West Bank, dozens more Palestinians,

“Israeli occupation forces last night detained several Palestinian citizens, including a senior Hamas official and his son, in the occupied West Bank. According to local sources, Hamas official Sheikh Jihad Nawahdeh and his son Osaid were taken from their home after it was ransacked in Al-Yamun town, west of occupied Jenin. Jamal Yaseen, from Anin village in Jenin, was also assaulted by occupation forces upon his return from work in Israel, with soldiers returning at dawn to ransack his home. Another young man identified as Fuaad Abul-Rab was taken prisoner during a raid on his home in Jalbun town, east of Jenin. In Hebron, four citizens, including teenagers, were detained, while occupation forces raided other homes in the area. In Ramallah, seven Palestinians were taken from their homes in Ras Karkar village. The Director of Al-Raheem (Down Syndrome Friends) Association Haider Abu Makho was also taken from his home in Deir Jarir village, northeast of Ramallah.” Also see: Israeli forces detain 20 Palestinians in West Bank raids (WAFA)

Bonus Reads

Israeli Snoop-for-Hire Posed as a Fox News Journalist for a Spy Operation,

“An Israeli private intel firm constructed two fake personas, a Fox News reporter and an Italian journalist, tasked with digging up info on people feuding with a UAE emirate.”

On a Trip to Israel, Slovenian PM Met With Notorious Spyware Firm       ,

“During a state visit to Israel in December, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša met for several hours with five Israeli companies, including a controversial spyware firm with a history of hacking phones of human rights activists and journalists, Slovenian investigative outlet Oštro revealed. Among the companies Janša spoke to a day before he met with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu was the NSO Group – a firm specialized in surveillance software and founded by graduates of the Israeli army’s elite cyber intelligence squad known as Unit 8200 (also known in Hebrew as Shmona-Matayim).”