Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 18, 2019

What We’re Reading

“Deal of the Century” [sic] Watch

Jerusalem to remain united in 'Deal of the Century' - report,

“Jerusalem will remain united under mostly Israeli control with some responsibilities shared with a Palestinian state including the West Bank and Gaza, according to a purported draft copy of US President Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ peace plan for the Middle East published by the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel on Monday. The unconfirmed reported draft details the timetable and methods of the plan. The parts that were released by the TV channel, which is based in Lebanon and affiliated with Hezbollah, discuss a trilateral peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel in which a ‘new Palestinian state’ would be established in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, excluding the settlement blocs which would remain as a part of Israel.”

US denies report of 3-way deal between Israel, PA, Hamas in peace plan,

“White House official says rumors about content of plan are false, day after Lebanese outlet says deal could see Israel keep settlements, Saudis gain Temple Mount role.”

Congress rejects White House request for $175 million to advance Mideast peace plan,

“The U.S. Congress rejected a request for $175 million to be spent on pushing ahead with President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, a bipartisan spending bill published Monday showed. In March, the White House sent its budget proposal to Congress, including a sum for what the administration called a ‘Diplomatic Progress Fund’ that would give Trump more flexibility in Middle East diplomacy. The budget proposal explicitly stated that the money would most likely be invested in aid for Palestinians. After Washington cut aid to the Palestinian Authority the fund was to be kept as a pool to tap into if relations with them were to improve. However, the $1.4 trillion spending bill, which the lawmakers were hoping to approve by Saturday before the U.S. government runs out of funds, explicitly rejects the request.”


Expansion of Nof Zion in the heart of Jabal Mukkaber ,

“It is widely assumed that if there ever will be a permanent status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, it will require a Palestinian national capital in East Jerusalem. Put bluntly, Jabal Mukkaber will fall under Palestinian sovereignty or there will be no agreement. The Nof Zion settlement will pose a major impediment to such an agreement – which is in no small part the motivation of the right wing developers for constructing the neighborhood in this location.”

Renewed effort to advance Atarot settlement ,

“the implications of this project are not to be dismissed as this is a project that could have ramifications similar than the construction of E1. Hence, as we wrote in 2012, ‘If this plan is actually carried out, the implications for the two-state solution will be extremely serious.  Not only will the project destroy the chances for the Palestinians to have their own airport anywhere near Jerusalem, but the project will – in a manner much like the E1 plan – block contiguity between the West Bank and any future Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. It will effectively form a buffer between Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and this area of the West Bank (Shu’afat and Beit Hanina from the south; Bir Nabala, Al Judeira, Al Jib, Rafat and Qalandia from the west; Ar-Ram, Dahiyat al Bareed and Jaba’ from the east; and Qalandia Refugee Camp, Kafr ‘Aqab and Ramallah from the north) and Ramallah.  It will turn many of these neighborhoods into ghettos sandwiched between Israeli settlements to the north (Atarot), east (Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yaacov) and the West (Givat Zeev, Ramot).’”

The prospect of the approval of E-1 and the demolition of Khan al Ahmar has just become more serious ,

“On December 10, Gideon Sa’ar, who is vying to replace Netanyahu as head of the Likud and Prime Minister, launched his campaign. He did not launch it at Israel’s collapsing hospitals, or dysfunctional public transportation, or at an Israeli school system with the lowest achievements at the OECD. He launched his campaign at E-1 and Khan al Ahmar…Netanyahu is fighting for his political life and is determined to avoid criminal prosecution and prison time. There is very little he will not do in order to remain Prime Minister under indictment. His failure to approve E-1 and to evacuate Khan al Ahmar has become a rallying point for the settler right, with periodic advertisements appearing in the right wing press calling on him to implement both. The fact that he has refrained thus far from carrying out both these schemes is testimony to the impact that EU engagement on these issues. Sensing Netanyahu’s vulnerability, Sa’ar is attempting to use E-1 and Khan al Ahmar to embarrass and pressure the Prime Minister, and to shift votes to himself. Under circumstances like these, Netanyahu may find the price of ignoring Sa’ar’s pressure to be greater than the anticipated harsh EU response.”

Brazil’s other Bolsonaro sees future embassy move as start of pro-Israel shift,

“Brazilian parliamentarian Eduardo Bolsonaro came to Israel on Sunday for a half-day visit to open Brazil’s trade office in Jerusalem, which, he declared, was the first step toward moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem some time next year. But the senior lawmaker and son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is open to many additional and not less dramatic changes on Brasilia’s Middle East policies. In a wide-ranging interview with The Times of Israel minutes before he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated the Jerusalem trade office, Eduardo Bolsonaro vowed to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, said he can imagine his government recognizing the legality of Israeli settlements, and toyed with the idea of closing the Palestinian embassy in Brazil.”

PA requests urgent Arab League meeting over Brazil trade mission,

“PA envoy to Cairo Diab al-Louh said on Tuesday that, acting on instructions from PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Riad Malki, he requested an emergency meeting of the Arab League ‘to discuss the steps and measures that the Arab states could take in response to Brazil’s illegal decision to open a trade office in Jerusalem.’ Louh told the PA news agency Wafa that the purpose of the meeting would be to discuss ways of exerting pressure on Brazil to backtrack on its move and refrain from taking similar measures in the future.Brazil’s decision to open a trade office in Jerusalem, he said, ‘contradicts international law and disregards the decisions of the Arab League, whose representatives had, more than once, warned Brazil against breaching the legal status of Jerusalem.’”

Occupation, Human Rights, Free Speech

Dozens of Palestinian Farmers Lose Access to their Lands,

“Some one hundred Palestinian farmers from communities in Qalqiliya District lost access to their farmlands last week, after an Israeli officer confiscated their permits to cross the Separation Wall into the “seam zone”, without an acceptable explanation and with no due process. This wholesale confiscation was carried out one week after farmers from these communities petitioned the High Court of Justice via HaMoked over the military’s routine failure to open the Separation Wall gate closest to their lands…’The timing of this capricious and wholesale permit confiscation suggests that it’s retribution for their petitioning the High Court,’ says Jessica Montell, Executive Director of HaMoked. ‘Regardless of the motive, this behavior blatantly violates the military’s legal obligations and these permits must be returned immediately.’”

As price tag attacks increase, Shin Bet calls on rabbis, teachers for help,

“Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials met with several rabbis and educators from the religious-Zionist sector to discuss a recent surge in hate crimes, according to KAN.The meeting was scheduled to brainstorm ways to stop such crimes. The rabbis dubbed the phenomenon a ‘slippery slope,’ while the education staff condemned the attacks. ‘We are looking at ways with the security forces to rehabilitate this youth before it is too late. We suggested admitting them to a cattle farm as well as request assistance from welfare authorities,’ one of the officials said.The official added that ‘We are also examining the possibility of preventing these youths of any support and legal aid, help them cease violent activities and even trying to recruit them to the IDF.’”

Shin Bet nabs 50-strong Palestinian terror cell, including killers of Israeli teen,

“Israel has in recent weeks rounded up 50 Palestinian terror suspects, including those believed to have murdered 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in an attack at a West Bank tourist spot in August, the Shin Bet security service announced Wednesday. The detained men belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and plotted to carry out ‘major terrorist attacks,’ the Shin Bet said, following the joint operation with the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police.” Also see: Home of the [family of] terrorist who murdered Rene Schnever mapped for demolition

Trump’s anti-Semitism czar: ‘Americans need philo-Semitic education’,

Elan Carr “spent the most time talking about anti-Semitism emanating from the left, which he says is often described as ‘the new anti-Semitism,’ but is not new at all. Rather, he claims, it is a ‘medieval hatred, repackaged and rebranded,’ comparing the call for economic boycotts of Israel by the left to Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses in the 1930s (‘What is BDS if not that — don’t buy from Jews’). He then called Jewish Voice for Peace a group that ‘openly traffics in anti-Semitism’ and accused those who call Israel an ‘apartheid state’ of peddling in old blood libels. While Carr did say that criticism of Israeli policies is acceptable, he repeatedly conflated Judaism and Israel during his talk. ‘It’s not about being a Zionist, it’s about being Jew.’”

Israel in US Politics

Trump uses Jerusalem, Golan as accomplishments in protesting impeachment,

“President Donald Trump named recognizing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital and its sovereignty over the Golan Heights as accomplishments in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi protesting impeachment proceedings…In a long paragraph listing his purported accomplishments as president, he includes ‘recognition of Israel’s capital, opening the American Embassy in Jerusalem, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.’”

Pompeo rejects ‘foolish’ criticism from Democrats on settlement stance,

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at 106 Democratic lawmakers who wrote to him criticizing the Trump administration’s recent determination that Israel’s West Bank settlements are not illegal. In a letter to the Congress members published in the Jerusalem Post, Pompeo described their concerns as “foolish” and accused former US president Barack Obama of betraying the Jewish state. The letter derided claims that his statement that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements is not per se inconsistent with international law” was a reversal of longtime American policy and harmed the prospects for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Rep. Levin to Pompeo: Settlement policy shift 'simply distorts history',

“Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan responded on Monday to a letter from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that the Secretary’s letter rejecting criticism of his announcement calling Israeli settlements legal under international law “simply distorts history.”“My colleagues and I continue to stand on the side of truth and peace,” Levin added. Pompeo’s letter also took aim at another letter sent by 107 members of the House Democratic caucus regarding the illegality of settlements in the West Bank, calling the criticism foolish, while also adding that former President Obama and former Secretary Kerry were the ones who changed the longstanding US position towards the settlements. ‘I am deeply saddened by Secretary Pompeo’s response to 106 of my colleagues and me regarding the Trump Administration’s policy on Israeli settlements,’ Rep. Levin said in a post he shared on Twitter. ‘This response ignores decades of history – most importantly, that bipartisan administrations have repeatedly pointed to settlements as a barrier to peace,’ he added.”

Top Iowa Democrat enforces state anti-BDS law,

“A rising star in Iowa politics announced what may be the first enforcement action of the state’s anti-BDS law on Tuesday. Rob Sand, the Democratic state auditor, issued a report Tuesday stating that the Municipal Fire & Police Retirement System of Iowa (MFPRSI) was in violation of the provision of Iowa code that required it to report any transactions “pertaining to companies boycotting Israel.” Sand told Jewish Insider that this was “definitely the first audit” done to ensure compliance with the state’s anti-BDS law. Twenty-six other states have passed similar legislation in recent years. Iowa passed an anti-BDS law in 2016 with overwhelming bipartisan support. It prevents state pension funds from directly investing in companies that boycott Israel.”

Israeli Politics

Gantz hails US recognition of Golan sovereignty, vows to develop Heights,

“Benny Gantz tours the Golan Heights and praises Washington for recognizing Israel’ sovereignty over the plateau, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, while accusing the government of failing to develop it. ‘I welcome the American recognition of the Golan Heights and the state’s intention to develop it,’ says Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party and is Netanyahu’s main rival for the premiership.‘But the numbers tell a different story — twenty or thirty thousand residents without significant growth is too little,” he continues. “The Golan is an important place, and we will do everything to speed up its annexation and development.’”

Courting Shaked, Yisrael Beytenu dangles offer to join right-wing bloc,

“Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman has offered Ayelet Shaked the number two spot on his party’s list and said that if she joins his slate, he will commit to joining the right-wing bloc after the March elections if the results again leave him in position of kingmaker.”

Peretz: I gave in to Shaked, and now she's undermining me,

“Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz, chairman of the Jewish Home party, pushed back against Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s (National Union) demand to hold party primaries. The two parties have run as a joint list since 2013, and currently there is a demand to unite the joint list into a true single-faction party. MK Ayelet Shaked, formerly of the joint Jewish Home-National Union list and then of the New Right party, also supports the idea of holding open primaries. Shaked led the joint list when it joined a ‘technical bloc’ with the New Right party prior to the September 2019 elections, and polls show that if the Jewish Home party held open primaries, she would win the top spot. As a result, the Jewish Home party has begun claiming that the push for primaries is intended to unseat Rabbi Peretz. In recent days, Rabbi Peretz has come out against Shaked, claiming that she nearly destroyed Religious Zionism’s political representation by creating the New Right party with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, and that she failed to win the chair of any party prior to the previous elections, but insists on trying again, at the expense of the Jewish Home.”

Darling of US Jewish Left Stav Shaffir: 'Meretz are the dinosaurs of the left',

“Knesset member Stav Shaffir is preparing for an independent run in the upcoming elections as leader of the Green Party, Channel 12 News reported on Tuesday. Before the September election, Shaffir left the Labor Party and joined the Green Party which later ran on a joint ticket with Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party, under the name Democratic Union. According to Tuesday’s report, Shaffir is in conflict with Knesset members from Meretz who are planning to place her and Major General Yair Golan in lower spots on the Democratic Union list for the March election…’The Democratic Union and the Labor Party must run together,’ she said in Tuesday’s interview. ‘In order to determine spots on the list, you do not sit in a closed room, where a bunch of wheeler-dealers arrange spots for themselves, but rather hold primaries…All the voters of the Democratic Union should be allowed to come and choose the leadership and the order of the list,’ added Shaffir, who also referred to the members of Meretz as the ‘dinosaurs of the left.’”

Israel in the Region

Report: Hamas plots attacks on Israel from Turkey as Erdogan turns blind eye,

“Turkey is allowing senior Hamas operatives to plot attacks against Israel from Istanbul, The Telegraph can disclose, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plays host to the terrorist group’s leaders. Transcripts of Israeli police interrogations with suspects show that senior Hamas operatives are using Turkey’s largest city to direct operations in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, including an assassination attempt earlier this year on the mayor of Jerusalem.” Also see: Barkat asks US to sanction Turkey after report of Hamas assassination plot

Lost Jewish property in Arab countries estimated at $150 billion,

“Lost Jewish property in Arab countries could amount to $150 billion, according to a government assessment obtained exclusively by Israel Hayom. The property valuation pertains to assets left behind by Jews who were expelled or fled Arab nations and Iran in the late 1940s and 1950s. The review was two years in the making and its authors stressed that it is a conservative assessment that does not account for current inflation rates…In 2010, the government passed a law by which any future peace deal with Arab countries will entail compensation for lost Jewish property, but until now the state did not actually know the extent of the property left behind or its exact location.”

Cyprus adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism,

“Cyprus has taken the historic step of adopting today (Wednesday) the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances (IHRA) definition of Antisemitism. In addition Cyprus has applied for observer statues at the IHRA.”

Bennett working to step up campaign against Iran in Syria,

“Defense Minister Naftali Bennett is working to intensify Israel’s steps against Iranian forces in Syria, with the aim of persuading the Islamic Republic to withdraw its forces from the war-torn country in the near future….Bennett believes that while there is a risk that increased steps against Iran could lead to an attack against Israel, it is better to act now than to wait, since waiting could end with Iran having a Hezbollah-style force on Syria’s Golan Heights capable of launching continuous attacks against Israel.”

Israel signs gas deal with Egypt, becomes major energy exporter,

“Israel became a major energy exporter for the first time on Monday after signing a permit to export natural gas to Egypt. The announcement comes just days before Israel’s lucrative Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean Sea is expected to go online. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called the permit a “historic landmark” for Israel. He said it’s the most significant economic cooperation project between the neighboring countries since they signed a peace deal in 1979.”

Palestinian Politics

Abbas: We're waiting for Israel's approval to hold elections in Jerusalem,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday that he’s awaiting Israel’s approval for holding Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections in Jerusalem.He also expressed hope that the next general election in Israel would ‘bring faces that believe in peace with the Palestinians.’”

Hamas: Abbas not serious about holding Palestinian elections,

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “isn’t serious about holding elections,” claims a senior Hamas official in Gaza. The president was supposed to issue a decree last week scheduling elections and he has not been forthcoming on the reason behind the delay, said the Hamas official, who asked not to be identified, by phone from Gaza City. He accused Abbas of having a ‘monopoly’ on decision-making and on the future of the Palestinian people.”


Israel allows Qatari donation of 20 emergency vehicles into Gaza,

“Israel allowed the import of around 20 rescue and firefighting vehicles into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinian officials said. The equipment, which was donated by Qatar, includes several SUVs fitted with water pumps. Gaza’s Civil Defense previously had just 33 vehicles to serve the territory’s two million people, including a single fire truck with a hydraulic platform.”

'We are all trapped': Israel bars Gaza's Christians from visiting holy sites,

“For the second year in a row, Haneen Elias al-Jilda fears that Israeli authorities will deny her the right to perform religious rituals and participate in Christmas celebrations in the city of Bethlehem. Last year she was prevented from obtaining a permit to travel from the besieged Gaza Strip to the occupied West Bank through the Erez crossing. Such disappointment and frustration are prevalent among Gaza’s Christians.”

Turning waste to gold in Gaza,

“Few opportunities await Gaza’s youth after they graduate from university. Unemployment among university graduates aged 19-29 years old in the besieged coastal enclave was just shy of 80 percent last year, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. But civil engineering graduates Tamer Abo Motlaq, 26, Usama Qudaih, 24, and Khaled Abo Motlaq, 24 were determined not to add to the grim statistic. Harnessing their degrees and their desire to create sustainable affordable energy alternatives for their cash-strapped fellow Palestinians in Gaza, the trio founded the Olive Jift Project – a startup that turns ‘jift’, byproducts from olive oil pressing, into fuel pellets for home heating and cooking.”