Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 16, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Israeli Settler Group Funneled Half a Million Dollars in Public Money to Illegal Settlements,

“The Gush Etzion Regional Council, which administers the bloc of West Bank settlements south of Jerusalem, transferred 1.6 million shekels ($490,000) in 2018 and 2019 to a movement in charge of the development of unauthorized outposts in the area under the council’s jurisdiction. More than 900,000 shekels of the funds were earmarked for the development of shepherd outposts there and to pay 20 percent of the salary of the Amana staff person working as the coordinator for the outposts. The council provided the figures in response to an administrative petition filed by the Movement for Freedom of Information.”

Law regulating outposts passes preliminary reading,

“The Knesset plenum approved on Wednesday afternoon a bill which aims to regulate the outposts and so-called ‘young Settlements’ in Judea and Samaria. MK Bezalel Smotrich, who proposed the bill, stated that efforts should be made to promote the legislation at record speed, before the Knesset dissolves itself. “This is the first victory for the young settlement. But this is only the beginning. We will have to pass this law in three readings as early as next week and at a government decision tomorrow. Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu, you have the ball. Do not allow Ganz to bring anything to the government without it.” Said Smotrich.”

"Poll: 73% of center, Blue & White voters support legalizing new settlements" [i.e. de facto annexation],

“Ahead of Wednesday’s Knesset vote on a bill to regularize the status of small communities in Judea and Samaria, a new survey has indicated that there is an absolute majority among Blue & White voters and those who consider themselves politically centrist, in favor of passing the legislation. The poll, conducted by the Direct Polls Institute, found that among those who define their political position as centrist or Blue & White supporters, 73.1% agree that the State should be obligated to accord equal rights to all Jews in Judea and Samaria who have been emboldened by consecutive administrations to establish new communities. Just 22.9% disagreed, while 4.1% said they were undecided.”

Public Opinion Poll,

“Yet, despite the optimism generated by the election of Biden, support for the two-state solution remains low, unchanged from September. Moreover, three quarters do not expect the creation of a Palestinian state along side Israel in the next five years, and the majority thinks the two-state solution is no longer practical or realistic because of settlement expansion. Nonetheless, we see in this poll an increase in the percentage of those who prefer to reach a peace agreement with Israel compared to three months ago while the percentage of those who prefer waging an armed struggle against occupation declines during the same period. Still, the largest percentage of the public views armed struggle as the most effective means of ending occupation.”

Tourism and Israel’s Settler Colonial Project Seeking Ethical Alternatives,

“The role of tourism in advancing Israel’s settler colonial project dates back to the arrival of Zionists in Palestine. Today, it is most clearly articulated through religious tours that legitimize the Israeli regime’s continued theft of Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people. How does religious tourism in Palestine serve the Israeli regime’s colonial aspirations? How does it obstruct Palestinian economic self-determination and liberation? Which alternatives exist for those who wish to visit Palestine ethically? In our final policy lab of 2020, analysts Halah Ahmad and Marya Farah join host Nur Arafeh to address these questions and explore possibilities for ethical tourism in Palestine.”

Israeli settler attacks on church sanctities in Palestine continue amid lax international response,

“Issa said that the attacks against Christian sanctities are carried out by the “price tag” and Lehava groups that target Christians and call to set their churches on fire and breach religious sanctities. The groups’ activities are not only limited to the West Bank, as they also extend to inside the Green Line, as happened in 2015 with the burning of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in Tiberias, according to Issa.”

Occupiers of the World Unite!,

“It’s hard to expect a country like Israel, which itself occupies a nation and denies it elementary rights, sucking in its land and using it for its own needs, to behave with empathy towards other occupied people – and in Western Sahara yet. Who has even heard of them, the nomadic tribes (and perhaps semi-nomadic) there in the Sahara? How do you even say it? Saharans? No. The Israelis sleep well at night with their occupation, and therefore there’s no reason to assume that they will lose sleep because they helped make another occupation permanent. And an occupation of quasi-Bedouin in Africa yet.”

Palestine’s ungrievable protesters,

“A key reason for this belief among Israelis — a heartbreaking outcome of the prolonged occupation — is that Israel’s decades-long control has normalized these types of killings of Palestinians to the extent that they are not perceived as uncommon. The repeated loss of life, which turns humans into nothing more than numbers and statistics in the eyes of Israelis, has drowned out the names of slain Palestinians and trapped them in anonymity, unable to fuel enough anger to halt these absurd deaths. All the while, the Israeli and global public collaborate with these practices through their apathy or blind acceptance of the army’s reasoning for its own brutality.”

Normalization & News from the Region

Israel signals openness to future joint missile defence with Gulf partners,

“Israel could be open to future cooperation on missile defence with Gulf Arab states that share its concerns about Iran, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday. But Moshe Patel, who heads the Israeli Missile Defence Organisation that is part of the Defence Ministry, said it was still premature to pursue any such deals. He said Washington’s approval would be needed if Israeli systems developed with U.S. technology were involved.” Also See – “Israel open to teaming up with Gulf states on missile defense, official says” (Al-Monitor)

Kushner to lead U.S. delegation to Israel, Morocco,

“White House senior adviser Jared Kushner will lead a U.S. delegation to Israel and Morocco next week for discussions on the normalization deal the two Middle East countries reached last week, a senior administration official said on Tuesday. The U.S. delegation and an Israeli team will join together and take a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Rabat as a sign of progress after the Israel-Morocco deal that Kushner helped broker, the official told Reuters. Kushner, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and Adam Boehler, chief executive officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, will arrive in Israel on Monday. While in Jerusalem, Kushner, who is U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the official said.” Also See – “Kushner to Lead American-Israeli Delegation to Morocco Next Week” (Haaretz) 

US may invite Saudi Arabia, Oman and PA to energy conference with Israel,

“The United States hopes to invite Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Palestinian Authority to participate in a virtual regional conference with Israel on energy to be held in January during the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration. It is part of the Trump administration’s flurry of activity to expand and solidify regional alliances, including through the rubric of its Abraham Accords that normalize ties between Israel and the Arab and Muslim world.”

Israel, UAE initiative sets up LinkedIn community to promote tech ties,

“Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit organization that aims to connect Israeli startup firms to corporations, governments and organizations around the world, is setting up a network of over 1,000 business and tech leaders from the UAE and Israel. Called the UAE-IL Tech Zone and touted as “the first community of its kind,” the aim is to link the innovation ecosystems of both sides, the founders said in a statement. The community, which already has people from the business, innovation and technology sectors, including investors, developers and government entities from both countries, hopes to make connections to help Israeli entrepreneurs deepen their understanding of the business and innovation culture in the UAE, the statement said.”

Assassination, Bribes and Smuggling Jews: Inside the Israeli Mossad's Long Secret Alliance With Morocco,

“Six decades of secret intelligence, military, political and cultural ties between Israel and Morocco finally bore public fruit with last week’s announcement of the normalizing of relations between the two countries. Every single Mossad chief since the 1960’s – Amit, Zamir, Hofi, Admoni, Shavit, Yatom, Halevy, Dagan, Pardo and current chief Yossi Cohen – have visited the north African nation and met with its leaders and heads of intelligence. But on what is this long-term relationship, perhaps the most steadfast between Israel and any country in the Arab world, built?”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Gabi Ashkenazi said set to quit Blue and White, as Gantz’s party crumbles,

“Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is about to bolt the Blue and White party in the highly likely scenario of elections being called by next week, according to a senior source in the party. As Benny Gantz’s party loses more and more ground in opinion polls, two members of its parliamentary bloc, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, have already announced they are quitting the party and then have been promptly fired from their government positions.”

Gideon Sa'ar's Party Would Be Second Largest in Knesset, Election Poll Shows,

“The party led by Sa’ar, a rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would garner 21 seats, trailing Likud by just six seats. This represents an increase of five seats since Channel 12’s previous poll last week, which awarded the new party 16 seats. If Sa’ar keeps his promise not to join a Netanyahu government, it would be difficult for the prime minister to form a coalition with the current poll numbers.”

Liberman urges Sa’ar, Lapid, Bennett to join with him against Netanyahu: reports,

“MK Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beytenu party, has called on other leading opposition politicians to form a new bloc to oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in the next round of elections, according to Wednesday reports. Liberman made the offer to opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar, who recently broke from Likud to establish the New Hope party, according to multiple Hebrew media reports…Liberman made the proposal in a letter to the three other party chiefs, the reports said. “The establishment of a liberal, Zionist coalition is the order of the day, especially in light of the growing cooperation between Netanyahu and representatives of the Islamic movement,” Liberman wrote, according to Channel 12, apparently referring to Netanyahu’s ties with Joint List lawmaker Mansour Abbas.”

Paradox: Netanyahu now protected by Israeli Arab legislator,

“As for Netanyahu, this means that the pool of seats that he would have to form a future government is shrinking. To counter this, Netanyahu has been looking around for some of the strange bedfellows politics is known for. One such case can be found in the common interests he shares with Knesset member Mansour Abbas of the Arab Joint List. The relationship between the two men is becoming critical for Netanyahu’s survival.”

Israeli Lawmaker Shasha-Biton Leaving Netanyahu's Party to Join His Rival's,

“Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton has announced that she is joining the new party being set up by MK Gideon Sa’ar, who has left Likud. Shasha-Biton tweeted a photo of the two of them together, with the caption: “We’re on our way.” Last week, lawmakers Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser from the Derech Eretz faction also said they would be joining Sa’ar in the next election and that they support his candidacy for prime minister. Following their announcement, Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz fired the two on Monday. He informed Hendel that he was no longer minister of communications, and told Hauser that he was initiating steps to remove him as chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The two lawmakers were part of Kahol Lavan in the last election.”

Stifling Dissent, Lawfare, BDS & the Weaponization of Antisemitism

Dismantling Antisemitism, Winning Justice: A Panel Discussion,

A panel discussion featuring Peter Beinart, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Barbara Ransby, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, and Rabbi Alissa Wise.

Also See

A liberal Jewish group just de-platformed a Muslim leader. That’s not OK.,

“Al-Marayati praised the ADL for its leadership on civil rights in the OpEd, including standing up against anti-Muslim policies of the Trump administration. But he also said the group has “weaponized antisemitism to marginalize those who criticize Israel” and threatened free speech by trying to criminalize support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.”

U.S. Policy

Three Pillars for a New U.S. Approach to Peace in Israel-Palestine,

“What is needed today is not a Nobel Prize-grabbing reach for a final peace deal but rather patiently putting in place those building blocks that are required to steer future generations of Israelis and Palestinians to a more peaceful and just future. Those building blocks include: an Israeli public that understands the consequences of permanent occupation and that the only way to avoid those consequences is to engage Palestinians both individually as equals and as a collective with aspirations to national self-determination; a coherent Palestinian polity with a leadership that can effectively chart a path forward and challenge the status quo by non-violent means and in ways consistent with international law; and a reversal of on-the-ground, legal and political trends that have savaged the diplomatic landscape and failed to ensure Palestinians their most basic human rights.”