Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 11, 2020

What We’re Reading

Normalization, Arms Deals, and Annexation by Other Means

Morocco to normalize ties with Israel in deal with Trump over Western Sahara,

“Morocco has agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, President Trump announced on Thursday. The Moroccan decision comes as part of a deal that includes U.S. recognition of the disputed territory of Western Sahara as part of Morocco…While the normalization deal is a win for Israel and a significant achievement for Trump, recognition of Western Sahara as part of Morocco is a big shift in U.S. policy — and a major diplomatic achievement for Morocco…The U.S. is now the only Western country to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. President-elect Biden will have to decide whether to reverse Trump’s decision after taking office in January…King Mohammed spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today and stressed that his country “stands by a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and sees negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians as the only way to resolve the conflict, according to the royal court statement.”

Also See

Kushner: Saudi normalization ‘inevitable’; TV: Another deal may come within days,

“Israel and Saudi Arabia coming together and having full normalization at this point is an inevitability, but the timeframe… is something that has to be worked out,” Kushner told reporters in a briefing following Trump’s announcement of the fourth Arab-Israel agreement in four months…Also following the Moroccan announcement, a senior Israeli official told Kan news that an additional unnamed country could announce a normalization deal with Israel within days.”

Also See

Disputed Western Sahara in the spotlight after US-brokered Israel-Morocco deal,

“The disputed territory of Western Sahara was central to a deal announced by US President Donald Trump on Thursday establishing diplomatic ties between Morocco and Israel.”

Also See

Exclusive: U.S. nears sale of four sophisticated drones to Morocco - sources,

“The United States is negotiating the sale of at least four sophisticated large aerial drones to Morocco, according to three U.S. sources familiar with the negotiations, and is expected to discuss the deal with members of Congress in the coming days. The sources did not indicate whether the deal, which has been in the works for several months, was related to the agreement brokered with U.S. help for Morocco to normalize relations with Israel.”

UAE, Bahrain welcome Morocco-Israel agreement,

“The United Arab Emirates on Thursday welcomed the agreement on normalization of ties between Israel and Morocco. “This step, a sovereign move, contributes to strengthening our common quest for stability, prosperity, and just and lasting peace in the region,” the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, wrote on Twitter. The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, also praised Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s decision to establish diplomatic relations and official connections with Israel, Reuters reported.”

GOP Ally Blasts Trump’s Decision to ‘Trade Away’ Western Sahara to Morocco,

The Chairman of the  Senate Armed Services Committee and a close ally of President Donald Trump on Thursday blasted the White House decision to declare the contested Western Sahara territory as part of Morocco along with an announcement that the Arab country established relations with Israel.” “Today’s White House announcement alleging Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara is shocking and deeply disappointing. I am saddened that the rights of the Western Saharan people have been traded away,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said in a statement. “The president has been poorly advised by his team; he could have made this deal without trading the rights of a voiceless people.” Inhofe’s condemnation comes amid growing concern about what the U.S. has potentially given away in return for a string of Arab countries’ formally recognizing the Jewish state.

Top House Democrat warns against Trump's Western Sahara designation,

“Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the outgoing chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the move forward in open relations between Jerusalem and Rabat, but warned against “casting aside legitimate multilateral avenues of conflict resolution.” “I welcome the news that Israel and Morocco have normalized relations,” Engel said in a statement. “At the same time, I am concerned this announcement upends a credible, internationally supported UN process to address the territorial dispute over Western Sahara, which successive administrations of both parties have supported,” he added.”

US Senator to continue fighting UAE weapons sale,

“On Wednesday, two resolutions blocking the sale of F-35 fighter jets and MQ-9B drones to the UAE were defeated in the Senate. On Thursday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that he will continue to press for a review of the sale once US President Donald Trump leaves office. “I am eager to work with the incoming administration to take a closer look at each of these sales before any transfers are completed,” Murphy said in a statement.”

Peace for Peace? Israel-Morocco Deal Is Occupation in Exchange for Occupation,

“Morocco has won an obvious prize as a result of its agreement to normalize relations with Israel – American recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara. Official recognition of Israeli annexation is out, but Moroccan annexation is endorsed. The new relationship with Israel will include economic and cultural cooperation, direct flights and an exchange of diplomatic missions, but not embassies for the time being…The chance that anyone in Israel cares about the Sahrawis’ right to self-determination is of course less than zero. The headlines will no doubt be filled in the next few days with stories of the new tourist packages available and the price for the move will be mentioned, if at all, only on the margins of these reports. But the point isn’t the Sahrawis, but the fact that Israel, a young state which was itself founded on the basis of international recognition of its right to self determination, is again joining the historic movement of those wishing to subvert and dismantle the multilateral system.

Analysis: Washington's Western Sahara pledge the ultimate prize for Morocco,

“Morocco’s decision to normalise ties with Israel has handed Rabat its biggest step yet towards the prize it values most – global recognition of its claim to Western Sahara. Washington’s support for Moroccan sovereignty over the desert territory represents the biggest policy concession the United States has made so far in its quest to win Arab recognition of Israel.”

Israel May Seal the Deal With Morocco, but the U.S. Is Footing the Bill,

“Netanyahu can justifiably boast about the new peace treaties, but his involvement had little to do with these deals. Rather, it’s a kind of smorgasbord in which every Arab state chooses the reward that suits it in exchange for the diplomatic price it pays. The UAE will get the F-35 planes, Bahrain will get American protection, Sudan was removed from the U.S. terror list and will receive vital aid from international financial organizations, and Morocco will win American recognition for its sovereignty on Western Sahara.”

Palestinian Politics (Waiting for Biden...)

PA silent as Hamas, Islamic Jihad condemn Morocco-Israel ties as ‘betrayal’,

“News of an American-backed agreement for Israel and Morocco to normalize ties quickly made headlines around the world on Thursday evening. But viewers of official Palestinian Authority television heard nothing about it on the hour-long nightly news broadcast, as officials in Ramallah stayed mum on the story. By contrast, the PA’s main rivals, terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, lambasted Morocco’s decision to normalize ties with Israel in a deal brokered by outgoing US President Donald Trump.”

Abbas: Palestinians ready to resume peace talks with Israel,

“The Palestinians are ready to return to the negotiating table with Israel under the auspices of the Quartet, which consists of the US, United Nations, Russia and European Union, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday. Abbas told visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González during a meeting in his office in Ramallah that the negotiations should be based on “international legitimacy resolutions,” a reference to UN resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict.”

Ashrawi’s exit of the PLO sign of organization’s demise ,

“Hamadeh Faraneh, a member of the PNC and a popular political commentator, told Al-Monitor that Ashrawi was elected by the PNC and that the fate of her resignation must be decided by the council that elected her. But Faraneh said that politically, Ashrawi’s resignation is a “protest against the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority,” noting that the PLO’s Executive Committee is not holding regular meetings and therefore the PLO is not carrying out its responsibility.”

Israeli Politics

Gantz, Ashkenazi learned of Morocco talks from White House, not Netanyahu,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again kept his senior coalition partners from the Blue and White party in the dark about a brewing accord with an Arab nation, media reports and officials statements indicated Thursday, with the White House updating Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi ahead of the Morocco normalization announcement instead of the premier’s office. A spokesman for Askenazi said in a statement that the Trump administration had updated the Blue and White ministers weeks ago as progress toward an agreement was being made. The two were then notified by the US on Wednesday when the deal was finalized, the spokesman said. Meanwhile, Netanyahu, who spoke on the phone with Gantz Thursday hours before the new deal was announced, made no mention of the normalization agreement, Channel 12 reported.”

Free Speech, Lawfare, BDS, & IHRA

Pompeo's Attack on BDS is About Protecting Settlements—Not Defending Jews,

“When Pompeo talks about Zionism, he is not referring to Theodor Herzl or to the the UN’s 1947 Palestine partition plan. He is not talking about what Zionism could have been or should have been. He is talking about Israel in 2020. He is referring to the political model of “Greater Israel”: perpetual Israeli rule over the occupied West Bank, continuous Jewish-Israeli colonisation, and limited or no political rights for Palestinians…With the demise of the Oslo peace process, the occupation has become a permanent feature in Israel’s political model. The contours of this model can be seen in Israel’s 2018 “Nation State Law”: national self-determination rights for Jews only, ongoing Jewish settlement, downgraded status for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and no citizenship for Palestinian residents in the occupied West Bank. Opposing this model— according to Israeli government and now, to its allies—is tantamount to antisemitism. This is the latest, and most extreme version of the “New Antisemitism” philosophy: the idea that opposition to Israel is today the primary mode of antisemitism, because the Jewish State is the sovereign embodiment of the Jewish people, “the Jew among nations.” If Israeli rule over the West Bank is now integral to Israel’s political model, opposing it is, by definition, antisemitic. Israel’s ethno-national Jewish character has to be defended, even if it means discrimination, exclusion and oppression of Palestinians.”

The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism: A Webinar Series,

“The IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) working definition of antisemitism — and its examples — is on its way to being adopted and used across the globe to restrict free speech. From the State Department to English Premier League soccer teams, from universities to social media platforms, concerted campaigns to label criticism of Israeli policies and challenges to Zionism as antisemitism — and to impose formal/legal consequences — continue to gain momentum. In state legislatures and Congress in the United States, across Europe and in Latin America, the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and its examples is being used to quash criticism of Israel, to delegitimize advocates for Palestinian rights, and to undermine civil society organizations — including human rights and humanitarian groups — for their work with or support for Palestinians. This politicization and weaponization of the fight against antisemitism has grave implications, not just for Israel-Palestine activism but for free speech and civil society writ large, as well as for the battle against real and rising antisemitism around the world.

FMEP is proud to announce an ongoing webinar series exploring these efforts to redefine antisemitism in this problematic manner, as well as arguments and efforts to oppose it. For more information follow the link above”

Occupation, Annexation, Settlements, & Human Rights

Highways to Annexation: Across the West Bank, Israel Is Bulldozing a Bright Future for Jewish Settlers,

“Dozens of plans for highway construction projects have been drafted and various projects have already gotten underway. But all of this has been just a preview for last month’s announcement by the Transportation Ministry of a highway and transportation master plan through 2045, the first of its kind for the West Bank. If there are no major surprises, the plan is expected to get final approval in the near future. A source involved in the plan told Haaretz that what is new in the proposal is that it links up with the master plan within the Green Line – in Israel proper. Beyond the rhetorical level, it reflects a change in approach by Israeli officials, who up to now had avoided including the West Bank in long-term planning. According to those involved in developing it, the new plan creates a network of east-west and north-south highways. Some will be entirely new while other plans involve the widening of existing roads. On paper, they are to benefit all the residents of the West Bank, both Jewish and Palestinian, but an unstated aspect of the plan is the expansion of the settlements themselves. It complements a Yesha Council plan from last year to boost the Jewish population of the West Bank to a million people in 15 years. From a wider perspective, it can be viewed as an annexation plan of a different kind – one involving the creation of infrastructure rather than a diplomatic initiative to bring about actual Israeli annexation of the settlements.”

ICYMI: “Highway to Annexation: Israeli Road and Infrastructure Development in the West Bank” (Israeli Centre for Public Affairs, Breaking the Silence)

Dozens protest administrative detention, torture outside Shin Bet offices,

“Dozens of Israeli activists demonstrated Thursday evening outside the Shin Bet’s offices in Tel Aviv, demanding the internal security agency cease using administrative detention and torture, particularly against Palestinian minors. To mark Human Rights Day, the protesters held a display in which several of them demonstrators were blindfolded and tied in various positions to resemble the torture Palestinians undergo at the hands of the Shin Bet. The protest was the first of its kind outside the agency’s offices.”

Local EU statement on the imminent risk of eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem,

In the last several years, the number of eviction decisions has increased in particular in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, where entire communities of close to 200 families are at risk. In Batan al-Hawa alone, 14 families have already lost their homes since 2015 and over 80 other households are facing eviction demands and are at imminent risk of displacement. Israeli domestic laws, creating the basis for the claims to evict the families, do not exempt Israel, as the occupying power, from meeting its obligations to administer the occupied territory in a manner that provides for and protects the local population. Israel has not acquired sovereignty over the territory in the course of its administration. In line with the EU’s long-standing position on Israel’s settlement policy, illegal under international law, and actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes, the EU calls on the Israeli authorities to reverse the rulings on the intended evictions.”

Gantz delays government vote on West Bank outpost legalization,

“Text of a government decision on the legalization of West Bank outposts is waiting the approval of Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi had hope to submit to the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday, so that it could be placed on Sunday’s agenda, but is waiting for Gantz to approve it.,”