Top News from Israel & Palestine: August 3, 2020

What We’re Reading

Israeli Domestic Scene

Court override bill dead in the water as Haredim, Liberman rule out support,

“The Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu parties all came out Sunday against a proposed measure to limit the power of the High Court Justice to strike down laws, effectively consigning the bill to the scrap heap for lack of legislative support. In an interview with Kan radio on Sunday morning, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said he would oppose the controversial override clause pushed by the right-wing opposition Yamina party, which would amend the country’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws in order to allow the Knesset to overrule judicial rulings against legislation. Focusing on such a bill was ‘a distraction from the main thing,’ Liberman said, referring to the struggle against the coronavirus, which he said should be the government’s number one priority at this time.”

Netanyahu: Protesters are trampling on democracy; Gantz: They must be protected,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz clashed at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, with the premier accusing protesters against him of “trampling on democracy,” while the Blue and White chief responded that people had a right to demonstrate and must be protected.”

Israeli Court Rebukes Prime Minister’s Son Over Harassing Protest Leaders,

“An Israeli court on Sunday ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s older son to stop harassing three people helping to lead protests against his father’s administration after he tweeted out their home addresses and cellphone numbers. Judge Dorit Feinstein of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court also ordered Yair Netanyahu, to delete the tweet, which called on his more than 88,000 followers to demonstrate in front of the homes of the protest leaders.”

Anti-Netanyahu Protests Have No Leaders. That's Why They're Getting Stronger,

“‘The leadership of the people here goes up to the [maximum of] 256 people in a WhatsApp group,’ a key activist told Haaretz, referring to the popular cellphone group messaging service. ‘They drive the protest behind the scenes, but on the ground, they are just more people holding signs. The importance of the protests is in their compartmentalization. There’s no front line.’ Another prominent activist added: ‘They’re always looking for leaders, but this isn’t a media gimmick. There really is no leadership.’ There are, in fact, three rather organized groups involved in the demonstrations: Ein Matzav (“No Way”), a protest movement that coalesced around retired army Brig. Gen. Amir Haskel; the Hozeh Hadash protest movement, which uses the “Crime Minister” slogan and is made up of long-time protesters against corruption who staged regular demonstrations near Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s home; and the Black Flag movement, which coalesced around individuals from around the country. But none of the groups leads the protest or sets its agenda.”

Miki Zohar: Likud and Blue & White headed for divorce,

“Coalition chairman MK Miki Zohar was asked by Kan News Monday regarding tensions between the Likud and Blue and White parties, and predicted the coalition’s collapse in the near future. ‘There is a chasm between [the Likud] and Blue and White on numerous issues on an ideological level. It’s like a couple looking to divorce, and realizing that it’s just a matter of time before they sign the paperwork,’ he said”

Israel Confirms Settlement Affairs Minister as Ambassador to London,

“The cabinet on Sunday approved the appointments of six new ambassadors and consuls at Israeli missions abroad, including the appointment of Settlement Affairs Minister Tzipi Hotovely as ambassador to London. The decision made at a weekly session accepted the recommendations of the Foreign Ministry appointments committee.”

Also See: “Israel approves raft of new envoys, including controversial ambassador to UK” (Middle East Eye) 

Netanyahu’s decline benefits pro-settler Bennett,

“Yamina leader Naftali Bennett is showing signs that he intends to run for prime minister in the next elections. His associates are also spreading hints. They say that when the next elections take place, Bennett might actually recommend someone other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to compose the new government…The current conventional wisdom holds that Netanyahu intends to move the next elections up to November 2020, and Bennett is becoming the biggest player on the electoral battlefield. According to current polls, Netanyahu won’t be able to cobble together a majority coalition without Bennett. That means that in future negotiations, Bennett will able to demand any role he wants — even a rotation for the premiership. Bennett is now preparing for early elections and is seeking support from the wider public. Some two weeks ago he shrewdly founded an apolitical and all-inclusive volunteer movement with one goal: beating the coronavirus.”

Occupation, De Facto Annexation, & Human Rights in the OPT

Jerusalem Court Rules Israel Must Allow Three Gazans Stranded Abroad to Return Home,

“The three petitioners in the case are an elderly couple who went to the United States in February to visit their son and a psychologist who went to Tunisia in September for additional studies there. According to the permit procedure, which is provided for in the Oslo Accords signed in the 1990s between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Gaza residents who wished to travel abroad from Jordan through Israel and the West Bank would apply to the Palestinian Authority’s so-called Civilian Committee for a permit. The committee has served as an intermediary between Gaza residents and Israel and set priorities regarding the issuing of the permits…In his ruling on Sunday, Jerusalem District Court deputy president Moshe Sobel ruled that when the Palestinian Authority suspended the work of the Civilian Committee, Israeli authorities had an obligation to find an alternative to enable the petitioners in the case to return to Gaza after leaving the Strip legally. The ruling in the case applies only to the petitioners and not anyone else who may be in similar circumstances, as the judge stated that he had no authority to make a blanket ruling.”

Peace Now asks Gantz, Ashkenazi to halt east Jerusalem Givat Hamatos homes,

Peace Now on Sunday urged Alternative Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to put a halt to the controversial east Jerusalem Jewish Givat Hamatos housing project before it destroyed any possibility of a two-state resolution to the conflict…The tender for 1,077 new homes was published in February, but the details necessary for project submissions have yet to be posted on the Lands Authority website. Initially, the tender was slated to be opened from May 3 to June 20. That date, however, was pushed back to Sunday, August 2 until September 7. According to Peace Now, as of Sunday evening, no such details had been posted on the Lands Authority site.”

PA blasts building plan for eastern Jerusalem,

“The Palestinian Authority “foreign ministry” on Sunday condemned the decision of the Jerusalem Local Planning and Construction Committee to establish an employment complex in the Issawiya neighborhood, in the eastern part of the city. In a statement, the “foreign ministry” called on the international community to take responsibility for this issue in light of the “dangerous settlement escalation” and condemned the remarks of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion regarding the plan to “Judaize” the Old City. “The announcement by the Jerusalem Municipality to begin implementing a new Judaization plan in the east of the city is part of a series of ongoing Israeli attacks on the Holy City, and is being carried out in an attempt to establish the annexation of the city, make it Israeli, change its reality and identity and separate it from the Palestinian space,” the statement added. The “foreign ministry” described the Israeli policy as “an open war against Jerusalem and the Palestinian national and physical presence in it.””

‘A queer cry for freedom’: Meet the LGBTQ Palestinians demanding liberation,

“’I have no faith in those who demand freedom for a people and want to liberate the land, but are okay with discrimination,’ says Hamdan, one of the founders of Urfod, a movement advocating for draft refusal among Druze citizens in Israel [Druze citizens regularly serve in the Israeli army]. ‘I don’t believe in this hierarchy in which freeing a country comes before freedom for women or LGBTQ people. I believe everyone has the right to live in dignity. We are not only their last priority, but the LBGTQ issue is not even on their agendas. They are silent when we are attacked, as if we are not part of Arab society. How can we have faith in them?'”

Gaza grape farmers struggle with Israeli blockade, pandemic,

“Despite good rainfall and fertile soil, Gaza’s grape farmers are struggling amid the continuing blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. ‘It’s a great season in terms of the output of grapes, but not many people are buying them, so we try to bring the prices down,’ Abdullah Abu Afash, a street vendor, said. ‘You can also see that not many people are selling grapes this year…Gazan grapes have a special taste, but I can’t buy as much as I used to,” Saadi Abu Abed, a shopper, said. “Still, I’m one of the lucky ones. Many people in Gaza are poor, which means they can’t afford to buy grapes and opt for more essential purchases instead, like chicken’.”

Israel extends detention of Palestinian BDS activist by 15 days,

“Israel has extended the detention of a prominent Palestinian activist for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. An Israeli military court near Jenin granted a request by Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, to keep Mahmoud Nawajaa in detention for a further 15 days, according to a statement released by the BDS Movement website. Nawajaa, who is general coordinator of the Palestinian National BDS Committee, was arrested in his home in the occupied West Bank village of Abu Qash, near Ramallah, in the early hours of Thursday. The raid came just a day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Israeli forces reportedly detained at least 17 other Palestinians on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.”

U.S. Policy

Biden eyes major shifts in US foreign policy, including restored Palestinian aid,

“Biden and his surrogates say they intend to act quickly on the following: Middle East: Restore assistance to the Palestinian Authority that the Trump administration has eliminated, as well as to agencies that support Palestinian refugees. Biden hasn’t said he will reverse Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or return the embassy to Tel Aviv.”

Palestinians shouldn’t bet on Biden to deliver peace or a state – opinion,

“From a Palestinian perspective, a Biden presidency brings with it these positive elements. Biden: a) does not support unilateral Israeli annexation of any parts of the West Bank; b) opposes Israel’s settlement activity; c) opposes the anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign but would not criminalize it under US law; d) warns Israel that the US ‘cannot fully safeguard Israelis without peace,’ and e) supports a two-state solution…Palestinian leaders have to remember that despite the vast difference in policies between Trump and Biden, Biden’s policy positions do not necessarily guarantee that he is willing to exert any pressure on Israel to agree to a Palestinian state that meets the minimal demands of the Palestinians.”

The Man Who Made Stephen Miller,

“‘The language he [Miller] would use occasionally sounded exactly like Horowitz,’ he says. (Horowitz has long denied that Palestinians have a right to a national identity, tweeting in 2018: ‘There is no Palestine. There are no Palestinians.’) Burness defended the decision to host the conference, saying the organizers had followed the proper channels. He thought it was ironic that Miller, relying on academic freedom arguments, took issue with them applied to the opposite side. ‘He conveyed a sense that he had all the answers and that mine were made up,’ Burness says.”

Israelis in US join anti-Netanyahu protests as sweeping rallies take place at home,

“About 150 Israeli expats demonstrated at Crissy Field next to the Golden Gate bridge on Friday night, an organizer, Rachel Batish, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The demonstrators carried Israeli flags and signs in Hebrew, as well as black flags representing the anti-Netanyahu “Black Flag Movement” in Israel. A protest was also scheduled for Sunday in New York City’s Washington Square Park, and Haaretz reports that rallies are also being organized in Los Angeles, Seattle and other US cities, as well as in international cities including Berlin, London and Melbourne.”

Top Analysis & Commentary

The Palestinian Authority Is Harming Its Own People in the Name of National Pride,

“The halting of civil coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel doesn’t harm Israel but it does harm the Palestinians. The move was supposed to strengthen the PA’s standing in the eyes of the Palestinians. Instead, it yet again exposes the PA as an entity that only reacts and doesn’t plan, one that demands sacrifices from the people without sharing its decisions with them and without any ability to defend them.”