Top News from Israel & Palestine: August 6, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation (de facto & de jure) Watch

Foreign minister: Annexation ‘right now not on the agenda, everyone’s busy’,

“Plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank are currently not on the government’s agenda, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday, two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud party the move could still take place if the US administration gave it a green light. ‘Right now it’s not on the agenda, because everyone is busy,’ Ashkenazi told a group of ambassadors from Latin American countries hosted by the Foreign Ministry…On Monday morning, Netanyahu said his plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank land is still on the cards, but is being held up by the US administration.”

Only Half of Requests to Exit Gaza for Medical Care Approved by Israel,

“Just half of urgent requests by Palestinians asking Israel to let them leave Gaza for medical treatment are being approved, according to Physicians for Human Rights Israel, two and a half months after the Palestinian Authority stopped issuing such permits when it halted coordination with Israel over plans to annex parts of the West Bank. Many patients from Gaza say that in addition to their inability to request permits from the PA, Israeli authorities have been creating obstacles throughout the process of requesting and receiving a permit.”

Israel extends detention of BDS coordinator Mahmoud Nawajaa,

“Israeli authorities extended the detention of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist Mahmoud Nawajaa for 15 more days over the weekend, in addition to holding him without charge and denying him the right to see his lawyer.  Nawajaa, the General Coordinator of the Palestinian National BDS Committee, was arrested by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night from his home in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on July 30th.”

In an effort to block Israeli settlers from taking over land near a water well, Palestinians clash with soldiers,

“He said Palestinians from both villages went to the area where settlers had set up a tent and a caravan near the well, which is often a prelude for taking over the land to expand their illegal colonial settlements. He added that the occupation soldiers and settlers attacked the Palestinians and kicked them out of the area where the local villagers plan to hold the Friday prayer tomorrow in an effort to prevent the establishment of a new colonial outpost on their lands.”

Israeli occupation forces detain 23 Palestinians from West Bank,

“Israeli occupation forces detained today 23 Palestinians from various parts of the West Bank, said the Palestine Prisoner’s Society (PPS). It said in a press release that the forces conducted multiple raids across Ramallah and al-Bireh district, resulting in the detention of seven Palestinians.”

Palestinian Politics

Fatah leader: Contacts underway to resume peace process,

“Several parties are trying to resume contacts between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and the US administration, Mahmoud Aloul, deputy chairman of the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, said on Wednesday. Aloul did not name the parties that are reportedly seeking to resume contacts between the Palestinians and the Israelis and Americans. ‘There are many parties that are in touch with us and the Americans and Israelis in order to find solutions,’ he said without elaborating.”

Israeli Domestic Scene

Netanyahu May Have Just Kicked Off His New Election Campaign,

“If we find ourselves facing a fourth election after the August 24 deadline for passing a state budget goes unmet, Netanyahu’s address in the Knesset Wednesday will go down as the campaign’s opening volley. The obtuseness and the disconnectedness of the man who will be responsible for this crime against the people and the country – and there is no other word for it – couldn’t be clearer.”

Jerusalem mayor: Anti-Netanyahu protests more dangerous than huge Haredi wedding,

“Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion on Thursday pushed back against criticism of a mass Hasidic wedding, claiming the weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the capital constituted a more grave health violation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He spoke a day after thousands of people attended a wedding for the grandson of the leader of the Belz Hasidic sect in Jerusalem. Under the existing government rules, weddings are capped at 20 people outdoors, while protests are exempt from limitations though social distancing must be observed. “We must enforce the rules. But it isn’t fair. Every Thursday and Saturday there are more serious violations. Is the entire area of Balfour [the street Netanyahu lives on in the Rehavia neighborhood] free of coronavirus? When it comes to a Haredi area, there are headlines and photos right way. I certainly don’t support it, but let’s not enforce things selectively,” Lion told the Kan public broadcaster.


Woman, 57, victim number 93 from coronavirus in Palestine,

“A woman, identified as 57-years-old from Nablus in the north of the West Bank, has died today of coronavirus, according to the Ministry of Health. It said that with her death, total corona-related fatalities in Palestine have reached 93, among them 89 in the West Bank, three in East Jerusalem, and one in the Gaza Strip, since the outbreak of the disease in March.”

1,751 new virus cases found in 24 hours as death toll climbs to 569,

“The government decided on Wednesday to cancel weekend closures on shopping centers, stores and markets that had been implemented to stymie the spread of the coronavirus, after establishing that the regulations weren’t driving down COVID-19 infection rates. The so-called coronavirus cabinet announced the move, which will take effect this weekend, after an hours-long meeting that also saw ministers agree to work to resume air travel in 11 days, and lift restrictions on recreational activities in public parks. But the official tasked with handling the virus response warned the country could yet see a nationwide lockdown in two weeks’ time if infection rates — currently holding at around 2,000 daily — don’t drop.”

Israel has world’s highest per capita COVID-19 morbidity rate, virus czar says,

“It was unclear what data the health official tasked with overseeing Israel’s response to the virus was basing this assessment on, and whether he was referring to the overall rate or the rate of increase in recent weeks. According to various global rankings, including Worldometer, Israel ranks 16th to 19th in terms of cases per million people — behind the US, Gulf states, and some Latin American countries — with all cases since the start of the pandemic tallied.”

Israel's skies to partially reopen August 16,

“Israel’s skies will partially reopen on August 16, the coronavirus cabinet decided last night. From that date Israelis returning home from ‘green’ countries with low infection rates will not be required to undergo 14 days self-isolation. However, it remains unclear what constitutes a ‘green’ country and whether foreign passport holders from those countries will be allowed into Israel.”

Israel to cut virus isolation to 12 days but keep phone tracking,

“The ministerial committee, which deals with overseeing the usefulness of Shin Bet’s tracking of COVID-19 carriers as part of the fight against the outbreak, is expected to recommend the government shortens the isolation period for people who came in contact with patients, Ynet learned on Thursday.”

‘I’ve no idea how we’ll survive’: Pandemic pushes Palestinians into poverty,

“There are currently 8,465 COVID-19 cases in the West Bank, according to the PA. Eighty-four people have died so far, 50 of them in Hebron…“The situation is worse than anyone can say,” he says. “There’s no tourism — not from abroad, not domestically, nor from Palestinians in Israel. Most hotels have fired almost all their staff.” Ishaq says that of the more than 28,000 people who work in tourism in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, over 95 percent are currently unemployed. “Some have become street vendors, others are trying to secure permits to work on construction sites in Israel, and others are looking for work inside the West Bank,” he notes. Ishaq adds that former tourism employees are subsisting on a bare minimum of water, rice, vegetables, and bread, and many students have had to interrupt their studies because they can’t afford tuition. The PA is also struggling to provide for everyone who requires support — its list of needy families has doubled since the start of the pandemic, Ishaq says.”

The people that Covid-19 has cut off from home,

“Covid-19 has caused havoc with the travel plans of millions across the world, ruining holidays and testing long-distance relationships. But for many people who are still unable to get back to their home countries, such problems seem trivial by comparison. Chinese students, Mongolian tourists, Palestinians from Gaza and many others have all found themselves unable to return home, often meaning separation from close family, economic hardship and uncertainty about the future.”

Thousands Attend ultra-Orthodox Wedding in Jerusalem, Violating Coronavirus Orders,

“Thousands began arriving at the hall in the afternoon hours through the back entrance of the venue in Jerusalem, most of whom not wearing protective face masks. Police officers kept their distance from the hall throughout the entire event.”

When Covid Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well.,

“As the United States and other countries anxiously consider how to reopen schools, Israel, one of the first countries to do so, illustrates the dangers of moving too precipitously. Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May. Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.”

Catastrophe in Beirut

'I have no more tears': Blast worsens crisis of Beirut residents,

“So high is the animosity between the people and the state that successive groups of civilian cleaners cheered as they walked past the destroyed skeleton of a building housing state-run power company, Electricite du Liban. Protesters had gathered outside the structure for months to denounce chronic power cuts and more than $40bn in losses the company has accrued over the past three decades, saddling the nation with debt. “May God prevent your recovery,” a woman draped in a Lebanese flag shouted at the building’s ashen facade, a symbol of corruption now in tatters. For the inhabitants of a ruined city, the initial devastation from the blast has quickly turned to rage.”

Beirut explosion: How the port blast will hit Lebanon's economy,

The huge explosion at Beirut’s port is a crippling blow to a country that had been reeling from a political and financial crisis, a depreciating currency and the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic damage from the blast is being estimated in the billions of dollars. “It’s hard to imagine the financial cost of this disaster, it is in the billions. The port is completely destroyed, and much of the city is damaged. Who will pay for the reconstruction of Beirut?” said Laury Haytayan, a Beirut-based expert at the National Resource Institute. Beirut port, which was the epicentre of the explosion, is the country’s main logistics hub and its deepest sea port.”

In blast-hit Lebanon, Macron says he wants to coordinate international relief,

“French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday he wanted to coordinate international assistance to Lebanon, where he arrived two days after a deadly blast ravaged entire neighborhoods of Beirut. “I want to organize European cooperation and, more broadly, international cooperation,” he said upon arrival in Beirut, where he will stay just a few hours to survey the site of the explosion and meet the country’s top officials…A French presidential official said Macron’s trip is meant to show that Lebanon is not alone and to give the Lebanese people confidence. Macron has said his role is to show that he believes in the country. Paris wasted no time in dispatching two planeloads of specialists, rescue workers and supplies to Beirut on Wednesday as its prosecutors also opened a probe into the blast over injuries inflicted on 24 French citizens.”