Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 9, 2021

What We’re Reading

New Resource

Israel, Palestine & the Role of Congress: An Accelerated Learning Series,

The Middle East Institute (MEI) and the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) hosted an eight-part series for members of the House and Senate and Congressional Staff discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. policy.

  • Part 1 – Israel & Palestine: Why It Matters in Congress | Featuring: Salem Barahmeh (Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy), Zaha Hassan (Carnegie Endowment), & Shibley Telhami (Brookings/University of Maryland)
  • Part 2 – Human Rights, Occupation & Democracy| Featuring: Issa Amro (Youth Against Settlements), Hagai El-Ad (B’Tselem), & Noura Erekat (Rutgers University)
  • Part 3 – Settlements, Annexation & the 2-State Solution | Featuring: Zena Agha (Middle East Institute), Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University), & Daniel Seidemann (Terrestrial Jerusalem)
  • Part 4 – The Gaza Strip | Featuring: Tania Hary (Gisha), Omar Shaban (PalThink), and Jehad Abusalim (American Friends Service Committee)
  • Part 5 – Palestinian Refugees and the Role of UNRWA | Featuring: Illana Feldman (George Washington University), Gwyn Lewis (UNRWA), Diba Abu Nejila (humanitarian professional)
  • Part 6 – Free Speech & Right to Protest | Featuring: Dima Khalidi (Palestine Legal), Yousef Munayyer, PhD, and Hadar Susskind (Americans for Peace Now).
  • Part 7 – U.S. Aid to Israel and the Palestinians | Featuring: Joel Braunold (S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace), Seth Binder (POMED), and Carol Daniel Kasbari (Middle East Institute)
  • Part 8 – Palestinian Governance | Featuring: Sam Bahour (Applied Information Management), Dana El Kurd (Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies), and Omar Rahman (Brookings Doha Center).

[Podcast] Israel, Palestine & the Role of Congress,

U.S. Policy

Republicans delay Biden administration’s funds to Palestinians,

“Congressional Republicans put a hold on $75 million of the newly reinstated US aid to the Palestinians, two sources in Washington confirmed on Thursday. On March 26, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Congress a “program narrative” of about $75m. in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for programs in the West Bank and Gaza that would begin 15 days after the notification was received…Risch and McCaul said, shortly after the announcement, that “resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines US interests. “The PA is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists while the international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people,” they stated. “A recent Government Accountability Office report rightly calls for increased oversight of Palestinian assistance to ensure compliance with anti-terrorism policies. The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the PA, including ending terror payments.” They added that they would ensure that the government’s move to reinstate aid does not violate the Taylor Force Act, which outlawed most aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” scheme, in which Palestinian terrorists receive monthly stipends, corresponding in size to the severity of their crimes.”

More Coverage

J Street: Republican hold on aid to Palestinians 'cruel, not pro Israel',

“J Street criticized the US Republican party delay on $75 m. in aid to Palestinians saying that “these lawmakers clearly view the Palestinian people as just another pawn to be used for partisan warfare against President Biden.” “Congressional Republicans are doubling down on the cruel policies of the Trump administration by putting a hold on the resumption of critical aid to the Palestinian people. “Holding up this aid isn’t pro-Israel. Israel’s own security establishment has repeatedly made clear that robust US aid benefiting the Palestinian people helps combat extremism and makes Israelis safer.” Congressional Republicans put a hold on $75 million of the newly reinstated US aid to the Palestinians, two sources in Washington confirmed on Thursday.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin to Meet With Netanyahu, Gantz, in First Visit by Biden Official,

“U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Israel, the Pentagon said Wednesday, in the first official visit since President Joe Biden took office in January. Austin, Netanyahu and Gantz will “continue close consultations on shared priorities, and reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership and Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge,” the Pentagon statement said. Austin will embark from Washington on Saturday. Following his time in Israel, Austin will visit Germany, NATO Headquarters in Belgium, and the United Kingdom to discuss “the importance of international defense relationships.”

Blinken voices support for Jordan's King Abdullah in call,

“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called and voiced support for Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday, a day after President Joe Biden held a phone conversation with the Jordanian monarch, the State Department said. The two calls from the US administration over two days come amid an alleged plot against the Jordanian King whose exact details remain unknown. “The Secretary reaffirmed the US commitment to its strategic partnership with Jordan and commended King Abdullah II for Jordan’s steadfast leadership promoting peace and stability in the Middle East,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement describing the call between Blinken and the monarch.”

Occupation, Annexation, Settlements, & Human Rights

Israeli Troops Shot a Palestinian Teen Weeks Ago. His Parents Aren't Allowed to Talk to Him,

“Ahmed and his friend headed for the fields, a distance of around three kilometers (1.8 miles), at about 11 o’clock. There, about 100 meters from the separation barrier, is the old stone house of his great-grandfather, built in the 1950s and now an abandoned ruin. Ahmed liked to go there on Fridays. The land around it belongs to the family. In this season everything is a vivid green. Across the fence is Kfar Ruth, a moshav, in what was once the no-man’s land between Israel and Jordan. What exactly happened in that field that day? The family says they still don’t know. What is clear is that soldiers shot Ahmed a few times in his lower body and that S. wasn’t hurt…Ahmed was hospitalized for three days under guard in Hadassah. His father tried to visit him, but was rebuffed. On March 1, the teenager was transferred to Megiddo Prison. A few days later he was taken to Haemek Hospital in Afula for surgery to address a leg fracture caused by the shooting. This time a social worker from the hospital called his family, updated them and sent documents of consent to the operation for them to sign. The family signed; the next day they were again briefed about Ahmed’s condition. But to this day only the lawyer hired by them has been allowed to visit him on their behalf.“For 40 days I haven’t seen Ahmed,” his father tells us this week. “I am speaking to all kinds of people in Israel, so that someone will help me. Just so they’ll let me look at Ahmed.” The lawyer urged Abed al-Razek to wait patiently for permission to see his son. In the meantime, he is also fearful that the Shin Bet will revoke his permit to work in Israel and the family will be left without a provider. On Sunday, Ahmed’s birthday, his father prayed for only one thing: to be able to speak to his son, to wish him a happy birthday. But it was not to be.”

Settlers took over 3 new houses in Silwan,

“Settlement in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem is not only a provocation that harms the delicate fabric of life in Jerusalem and increases friction and violence, but is a severe blow to the prospect of peace. Settlers continue to try to change public domain in East Jerusalem to become more Jewish and more Israeli so that it will be much harder to reach a compromise of two capitals for two states in Jerusalem.”


Israel to tell ICC it does not recognise court's authority,

“Israel will tell the International Criminal Court it does not recognise the authority of the tribunal, which is planning to investigate possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday. Netanyahu, after meeting with senior ministers and government officials ahead of a Friday deadline to respond to an ICC notification letter, said Israel would not cooperate with the inquiry, but it will send a response. “It will be made clear that Israel is a country with rule of law that knows how to investigate itself,” he said in a statement. The response will also say Israel “completely rejects” the assertion that it was carrying out any war crimes. Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and therefore by definition not a party to the court.” Also See – “Israel ‘will not co-operate’ with ICC war crimes investigation” (BBC)

The Israeli Scene

Netanyahu, Bennett to meet again after ‘positive’ talks at PM’s residence,

“Seeking a path to securing a ruling majority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett Thursday evening in the first sit-down between the two since the premier was tasked with forming a coalition. The meeting, which began at 8:30 p.m., was held at the prime minister’s official residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street. After the meeting, Netanyahu’s Likud and and Bennett’s Yamina parties put out a joint statement saying there was a “positive atmosphere” and the two men would meet again. It was the first time Bennett had been allowed into the complex in over a decade, due to past tensions between him and Netanyahu. The premier’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, has reportedly long vetoed Bennett’s entry. But now Netanyahu depends on Bennett’s support if he wants to keep his hope of forming a government alive.”

Joint List MKs face sanctions over Knesset ceremony oath to fight ‘occupation’,

“The Knesset legal adviser said Thursday that members of the Arab-majority Joint List alliance who changed the wording of their commitment during the new parliament’s swearing-in ceremony, would be denied some of their rights as MKs until they give the proper declaration. Joint List members sparked an outcry on Tuesday when they substituted the traditional commitment to serve Israel and the Knesset with commitments to fight “apartheid,” “the occupation” and “racism.””

Israel adopts 'controlled escalation' policy for Iran,

“This week’s fast-moving events were nothing short of dramatic. Hours after the attack, US Special Envoy Robert Malley arrived in Vienna for the start of indirect European-mediated talks with Iran on reinstating the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Also on the same day, the first Emirati ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja, took up his post in Tel Aviv. That evening, Netanyahu informed Israel’s most important ally — the United States — that as far as he was concerned, the Vienna talks were irrelevant and Israel does not intend to abide by any agreement reached. Israeli analysts describe the last development in the shadow war between Iran and Israel as a “controlled escalation,” meaning the sides are upping the ante but making sure not to lose control and deteriorate into an all-out war. “The problem is that the ability to control deterioration is limited and you could find yourself deep inside a war at any given moment, without meaning to go there,” a senior Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.”