Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 17, 2020

What We’re Reading


Democratic lobby group defends Israel’s demolition of Palestinian hamlet,

“Blaming Palestinians for their own displacement, Democratic Majority for Israel is pushing back against its party’s criticism of the largest West Bank demolition in a decade, memo reveals.”

Knesset gives initial approval to legalization of 65 West Bank outposts,

“In a move that could expand Israel’s footprint in Area C of the West Bank, the Knesset gave an initial 60-40 approval to legislation that would legalize some 65 West Bank outposts…That bill provides de facto recognition to the outposts until the legalization process is complete within a two-year time frame. Effectively it transforms the outposts from illegal endeavors to communities awaiting authorization. The legislation would allow for those outpost to be hooked up to utility grids and for its residents to receive mortgages for their homes. According to the Caucus there is a list of 65 outpost that would be authorized a result of the bill, either as neighborhoods of existing settlements or as new settlements.” Also see: Law regulating outposts passes preliminary reading (Arutz Sheva); Poll: 73% of center, Blue & White voters support legalizing new settlements (Arutz Sheva); Jordan condemns Israeli law legalizing outposts in the occupied West Bank (WAFA)

Is the window closing for Israel to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria?,

“A new campaign has been launched by Israel’s Sovereignty Movement to encourage the application of Israeli law over those areas by the government, starting with the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area, before Donald Trump’s presidency comes to an end.”

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.”

Gantz: Jerusalem Won't Be Divided, but It Has Room for a Palestinian Capital,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz told a Saudi-owned newspaper that Palestinians should have an independent ‘entity’ with territorial continuity and that there is room in Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital, but reiterated that Israel ‘won’t go back to the 1967 borders’ and ‘Jerusalem must stay united.’ ‘Palestinians deserve an entity to live in independently,’ Gantz told Asharq al-Awsat in an interview published on Thursday, adding that they can call it ‘a state, or an empire, or however they like.’ Regarding the borders of a future Palestinian state, Gantz emphasized that ‘Israel needs the Jordan Valley for its defense needs,’ but that Israel would not need to annex all of the valley, which constitutes about 30 percent of the West Bank’s area. He added that the area Israel would eventually annex can be agreed upon in negotiations and include several ‘strategic’ points, so as to still allow for Palestinian territorial continuity.” Also see: Right livid with Gantz saying Jerusalem has ‘room’ for Palestinian capital (Israel Hayom)

Palestine decries Israel’s East Jerusalem policy,

“Palestinian authorities condemned Israel’s expansionist and aggressive policy in occupied East Jerusalem early Wednesday. Israel aims to create a new reality that makes realizing the two-state solution and Palestine’s sovereignty over its territories impossible, said Palestinian Presidential Spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeina in a statement. The Tel Aviv administration is targeting around 30 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem who were ordered to be evicted from their homes in favor of far-right Jewish settler associations, said Abu Rudeina. He also called on the international community to urgently intervene and take concrete and immediate measures to deter Israel and stop its violations.”

In struggles for West Sahara and West Bank, thorny parallels may loom for Israel,

“But while some see the similarities possibly foreshadowing a similar step for Israel’s currently suspended plan to annex the West Bank, others note that Washington’s recognition of Morocco’s claims over the territory may have far-reaching implications that may not necessarily work in Israel’s favor.”

The Israeli war continues against Palestinian trees: Settlers uproot hundreds of olive saplings in West Bank,

“In part of the Israeli war against Palestinian trees, settlers today uprooted hundreds of olive saplings in Kisan village, east of southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, according to a local official. Head of Kisan village council, Ahmad Ghazzal, told WAFA that settlers from the illegal settlement of Ibei Hanahal uprooted and seized 250 olive saplings a local villager planted two weeks ago in his land west of Kisan. The saplings’ vandalism came one day after Israeli settlers from the same illegal settlement attacked Palestinian shepherds while herding in the open pastures as their dogs attacked the sheep. The settlers then chased the shepherds into the village and pelted homes with stones before they were confronted by the residents and pushed out of the village.” Also see: Israeli Settlers Attack Palestinian Homes, Shepherds in Kisan Village (IMEMC); Israeli Forces Level Palestinian-owned Farmland near Hebron (IMEMC)

MEPs call for EU-wide ban on trade with 'illegal settlements',

“A letter signed by 40 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) calls for preventing the entry of goods produced in ‘illegal’ Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories into Europe. MEP Billy Kelleher posted the letter on Twitter with a comment reading: ‘The EU must use its economic power to ensure adherence to international law.’ The letter addresses the EU Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis and says: ‘We write to you with regard to the issue of produce entering the European Union from, and trade with, illegal settlements in territories deemed occupied by other states.’”

Human Rights

Woman, university student among eight Palestinians Israel detains in the occupied territories,

“Israeli forces today detained eight Palestinians, including a woman and a university student, from various parts of the occupied territories, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society /PPS/. It said Israeli occupation forces detained 24-year-old Asma Oweis, after storming her family home in Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Oweis’ brother was also detained three weeks ago. The PPS said in a press release that Israeli forces rounded up two Palestinians after ransacking their homes in Deheisheh refugee camp, south of Bethlehem. During the raid into the camp, soldiers broke into and thoroughly searched Ibda‘a Cultural Center after blowing up its main door.” Also see: Israeli occupation forces fire teargas grenades inside West Bank school suffocating students, teachers (WAFA); Soldiers Abduct Ten Palestinians, Confiscate Two Tractors, In West Bank (IMEMC); Israeli Police Detain Young Palestinian Couple in Jersualem (IMEMC)

Criminalization of Palestinians in the Military Courts & Use of Civil Proceedings Against Human Rights Defenders,

“While the efforts of the Israeli authorities to criminalize peaceful opposition to the occupation persist, the Human Rights Defenders Fund continues to support Palestinian defenders and human rights attorneys in the Military Courts. Alongside, one of the leading trends we are witnessing is the rise of civil lawsuits against human rights NGOs and defenders, filed by the state, right-wing NGOs or individuals, with the intention to silence and deter defenders and create a chilling effect. In order to protect the defenders from these attacks and enable them to carry out their human rights work, HRDF has recruited leading expert lawyers to provide them with the finest legal defense.”

When Israeli Soldiers Invade Palestinian Houses at Night,

“…since 1967, since we captured the West Bank, our soldiers are sent on a nightly basis to invade the private homes of endless numbers of families. No injunction is necessary: The idea of judicial oversight would make any young platoon commander or sergeant laugh. The pretexts for invading the private realm of subjects/residents are many and myriad. In fact, they are limitless. A search, an arrest, observation or mapping: These are the common categories. But in fact, anything will do. Even the need to stop for a rest in the middle of a village, or the perennial need to demonstrate one’s presence. ‘The overarching goal was to instill a sense of persecution among the Palestinians. These weren’t my words; they were screened or written in briefings we received,’ said one of the dozens of soldiers and officers who testified before Breaking the Silence.”

Palestinian Domestic Scene

Poll: 66% of Palestinians want PA President Abbas to resign,

“Two thirds of Palestinians want Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to resign over his latest decision to resume security cooperation with Israel, a recent poll conducted in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip found. Carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 8-11 December, the study found that 66 per cent of respondents wanted Abbas to resign, while 56 per cent believe there is little or no chance that the PA will reverse its decision and once again suspend security coordination with Israel. It also found that 53 per cent believe that Israel came out as the winner following the PA decision to stop and then resume coordination. Only nine per cent think the PA was the winner. Meanwhile, 60 per cent believe Palestinians have paid a heavier price for stopping civil and security coordination with Israel while only 12 per cent think Israel paid a heavier price. Resumption of security coordination, 61 per cent of respondents said, would increase Arab normalisation with the occupation state.”

Report: Israel identifies 300 Hamas, resistance members to target in next war,

“Chief of staff of the Israeli army, Aviv Kochavi, has identified 300 members of Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions, including Islamic Jihad, to target in any future war, Israel’s Maariv reported yesterday. ‘Israel has a plan that aims to disrupt the enemy’s [Hamas] operations and shorten the duration of the fighting, unlike previous operations on the Gaza Strip, which lasted for more than a month,’ the newspaper added. ‘While the option of collapsing the Hamas rule is not on the table, the Israeli army could achieve a clear victory against the Islamic movement,’ the report said.” Also see: ‘Next Gaza conflict will see IDF deal terror groups crushing blow’ (Israel Hayom/i24 News)

Will Israel Help a pro-Iran Hardliner Win Control of Hamas?,

“The competition between Hamas factions is intense enough without Israel putting its finger on the scale on behalf of the hardliners. As Israel is clearly uninterested in taking responsibility for the occupied , besieged population of Gaza, it should at the very least not cause it further harm to Gaza (and to itself) by incentivizing a more radical, pro-Iranian and violent Hamas.” Also see: Meshaal: Hamas is holding internal elections soon (Middle East Monitor)

COVID-19 Emergency Situation Report 24 (3-16 December 2020),

“The reporting period witnessed a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases in the oPt, with over 25,000 additional Palestinians testing positive, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH)…Gaza accounts for 35 per cent of all active cases in the oPt, followed by the governorates of Nablus (16 per cent), Hebron (eight per cent), Jenin (7.6 per cent), Ramallah (7.6 per cent) and the East Jerusalem area (5.8 per cent). The continuing rise in infections has led to new restrictions in both the West Bank and Gaza…” Also see: Palestinians left waiting as Israel is set to deploy vaccine (AP), Israel may hand Palestinians COVID-19 vaccines, deputy health minister says (Times of Israel)

Gunmen attack Palestinian Authority headquarters in Jenin,

“Unidentified gunmen carried out a shooting attack on Palestinian Authority headquarters in Jenin on Monday night. No one was hurt, but some offices and vehicles were damaged.The compound houses the headquarters of the PA security forces in the Jenin area of the northern West Bank.”


Don't dress like Palestinians! Israeli comedian gives hints to Gulf tourists following normalisation deals,

“An Israeli comedian has made a mockumentary video targetting Arab tourists but poking fun at widespread anti-Arab and anti-African racism in Israel, provoking some backlash from Israelis left unimpressed by her caustic wit. Noam Shuster made the video for Israeli public broadcaster Kani, ostensibly to explain to Arab tourists what they might expect when they arrive and some other useful hints, as a host of Arab nations normalise relations with Israel, and tourists, particularly from the Emirates, are expected to flock to the self-proclaimed Jewish state…some Israelis have taken umbrage with the public broadcaster using airtime to paint such a ‘negative’ portrait of Israel and Israelis. In the segment, which was broadcast on ‘From the Other Side with Guy Zohar’, Shuster welcomes potential Arab tourists to Israel, before explaining that to ease their journey through Ben Gurion Airport, they should let it be known that they are not Palestinian, so as to avoid a lengthy detention.”

US treasury secretary to tour Middle East in final push for Abraham Accords,

“US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will head to Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Sudan on his final official trip abroad in the waning days of the Donald Trump presidency. Mnuchin’s visit comes as the Trump administration seeks to cement gains in convincing Middle Eastern leaders to recognize Israel in a strategic initiative dubbed the Abraham Accords. The administration has also pushed Egypt and Arab Gulf countries to patch up their dispute with Qatar, a rift seen by US officials as a weak link in regional security given Iran’s shifting ambitions in the region. The trip, tentatively set for early January, was first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed to Al-Monitor by a source familiar with the matter.”

Sudan welcomes US move to clear $1 bln in arrears to World Bank,

“Sudan’s finance ministry said on Wednesday that it welcomed the US Treasury’s move to clear $1 billion in Sudanese arrears to the World Bank after its removal from Washington’s list of terrorism sponsors.” Also see: Report: Sudan revokes citizenship of former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal (i24 News)

Second US lawsuit hits Qatar National Bank over terrorist finances,

“A new lawsuit filed in the United States naming institutions tied to Qatar’s royal family is seeking damages for victims of terrorist attacks in Israel.”

Israeli Domestic Scene

Despite Internal Israeli Disputes, Still No Support for Two States,

“…The main takeaway here is that if and when Israel holds its next election, the issue dividing the voters will be whether Netanyahu will remain in office, not whether the country’s policies should be changed. All the possible outcomes of the next election will produce a large majority for saying ‘no’ to the kind of territorial withdrawals and a two-state solution for the foreseeable future.”

Sa’ar registers new party, says it’ll back settlements and judicial reform,

“Recently resigned lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar on Thursday officially registered his new party, after splitting from the ruling Likud party ahead of likely new elections. The statement also published a list of the party’s aims, including backing West Bank settlements and reforming the judicial system, both causes championed by the Israeli right. ‘Supporting settlement and agriculture in the Galilee and Negev, in Judea and Samaria, and along the eastern spine — from the Golan Heights, along the Jordan [River] and the Araba down to Eilat,’ the statement said, using the biblical names for the West Bank.” Also see: Gideon Sa’ar names party ‘New Hope,’ puts settlements as high priority (Jerusalem Post)

Attorney General: Citing Israel's Nation-state Law in Ruling on Busing Arab Kids Was Flawed,

“Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit believes the dismissal, based on the so-called nation-state law, of a lawsuit filed by two Arab siblings against their town expressed a misinterpretation of that law. A brother and sister, aged 6 and 10, had asked the Krayot Magistrate’s Court to order the city of Carmiel to reimburse their daily travel expenses to and from Arabic-language schools outside of the town, which has no such schools. In his ruling Court Registrar Yaniv Luzon wrote that finding for the plaintiffs could ;’amage the city’s character’ by encouraging Arabs to live in Carmiel, thus violating one of the articles in the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.”

New elections seen as a virtual certainty as Knesset dispersal deadline looms,

“Legal officials say coalition must agree on budget by midnight next Tuesday — not Wednesday as previously thought — as sources report no contact between Likud, Blue and White.”

Bennett rejects Liberman bid for united front against Netanyahu,

“Yisrael Beytenu chair had called on leaders of Yesh Atid, Yamina and Likud defector Gideon Sa’ar to work together to ensure prime minister cannot form next government; Yesh Atid MK: Lapid already proven he can replace Netanyahu as PM.”

Israel: Netanyahu names new Mossad chief without Gantz's knowledge,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he had chosen deputy head of Mossad to be the next chief of the Israeli spy agency without the knowledge of his coalition partner Defence Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, local media reported. Following the announcement, Gantz hailed the Mossad official’s experience, he voiced his fury at not being consulted ahead of the decision. ‘The Mossad has great and significant challenges in safeguarding the security of the State of Israel. We will wait for the approval of the Goldberg Commission and wish Dalet success in his position,’  the Times of Israel reported Gantz saying in a statement, referencing the official by his Hebrew initial ‘Dalet’ for D.”