Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 19, 2019

What We’re Reading


Latest Target of NY-Based Lawfare Warrior: The New Israel Fund,

Facebook Post by David Abrams/the Zionist Advocacy Center: “This week my $110 million case against the New Israel Fund was unsealed. The claim, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, alleges that the New Israel Fund violated tax laws by unlawfully interfering in Israeli elections. As always, message me if you would like a copy of the papers.” [For background on TZAC’s lawfare campaign, see: The Surprising New Battleground In the War Against Palestinian Rights: Your Local Courthouse]

'New regional partnerships to counter Iran’s malign influence',

“US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien on Wednesday welcomed Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat to the White House and reaffirmed the special relationship and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel…Ambassador O’Brien observed that ‘common interests between Israel and Arab states, as highlighted in the recent conference in Warsaw, have made new regional partnerships possible to counter Iran’s malign influence and create a more prosperous and peaceful future for all.’”

'Harassment Is Not Free Speech': Trump's anti-Semitism Czar Rejects Criticism Over Executive Order,

“…The executive order was ‘deeply significant,’ he said, in that it clarified the U.S. government’s view that “denying the Jewish people self-determination is an example of anti-Semitism, targeting Israel as a Jewish collective is an example of anti-Semitism, comparing Israel to the Nazis is an example of anti-Semitism, and applying a double standard to the Jewish state is anti-Semitism.”

Of Course They’re Accusing Bernie Sanders Of Anti-Semitism - Because He Supports Palestinians,

“Given Bernie Sanders’ endurance as a top-tier presidential contender, and his support for Palestinian rights, it was almost inevitable that conservatives would start labelling his campaign anti-Semitic. Last week’s election in Britain—and the alleged similarities between Sanders and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn—provided the pretext.”

US Seeks to Denaturalize Man Convicted in Israel of Supporting Hamas,

“The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, seeking to revoke the naturalized United States citizenship of Abdul Jabbar Naji Shalabi, who allegedly concealed from U.S. immigration authorities his provision of material support to the Hamas Islamic organization by twice concealing bomb-making materials on behalf of a known Hamas bomb maker. According to the Department’s civil complaint, Shalabi, a native of Jordan, was convicted in Israel of providing such support to the Islamic organization. The complaint alleges that throughout his naturalization proceedings Shalabi concealed both his provision of support to Hamas and his Israeli conviction.”

Occupation, Human Rights

Dozens of UN envoys tour Samaria [northern West Bank] for first time,

“Twenty-three UN ambassadors who visited Israel last week toured Judea and Samaria, Israel Hayom has learned. It was the first time a delegation of this magnitude staged an official visit to the area. The tour took place as part of the Samaria Regional Council’s foreign relations and public diplomacy efforts. It was led by Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon. UN ambassadors from Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Guatemala, and Haiti, among others, participated in the tour…’ ‘We have seen Arab and Israeli coexistence in factories and we think this is a very important project. By buying these products, we can give peace a real chance,’ said Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador to the UN Sven Alkalaj.”

UN: Israel has advanced 22,000 housing units since 2016 anti-settlement measure,

“The UN Mideast envoy said Wednesday that Israel advanced or approved plans for over 22,000 housing units in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem in the three years since the Security Council adopted a resolution condemning settlements in lands the Palestinians want for their future state. Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that in addition, Israel issued tenders for some 8,000 housing units since the December 2016 resolution, which also declared that the settlements have ‘no legal validity.’ He said the numbers ‘should be of serious concern to all those who continue to support the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.’”

France to support Palestinian agriculture in West Bank areas under Israeli control,

“The Palestinian government and the French Development Agency (AFD), a representative of the French government, signed two agreements worth 20 million euros (about $22 million) to support agricultural development and the water sector in Palestinian communities in the portion of the West Bank under Israeli civil and security control, known as Area C…The first agreement provides 10 million euros to support infrastructure and road construction in 19 Palestinian communities in Area C of Salfit in the central West Bank, and Tubas and al-Jiftlik in the northern West Bank. The other agreement aims to develop water networks in the Aboud area and the villages in western Ramallah governorate, with a value of 10 million euros, to be followed by an additional 12 million euros from the EU, which is separate from the two agreements with France, [Palestinian Prime Minister] Shtayyeh explained.”

Israeli Electric Company cuts power to West Bank over Palestinian debt,

“The state-owned Israel Electric Company said on Wednesday it was continuing power cuts to several cities in the West Bank to press for payment of what it said was $519 million owed by a Palestinian electricity company. Israel Electric Corp (IEC) began daily, three-hour power cuts on Sunday, a spokeswoman said, adding that the company is ‘determined to collect the debt but disconnects the power in a reasonable and proportionate way’. The cuts have led to afternoon power outages in the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, affecting an estimated 130,000 people, said Hisham Omari, who heads the Palestinians’ main electric company in the West Bank. ‘When you have no electricity, there is no life. You stop life, you stop work, you feel the winter cold, for three hours,’ added Omari, chairman of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO). Palestinians in the West Bank are largely dependent on electricity supplied by Israel.”

18 cars vandalized in price tag attack in Arab neighborhood near Jerusalem,

“Police were called to the Arab neighborhood of Khalayleh near Givat Ze’ev outside Jerusalem after residents reported that about 18 cars had their tires slashed and [Hebrew-language anti-Palestinian] graffiti was found at the scene…Last week, a ‘price tag’ attack was carried out in Jerusalem’s Shu’afat neighborhood where over 160 vehicles had their tires slashed and graffiti was painted.” Also see: Haaretz: ‘Arabs? Expel or Kill’: Cars Vandalized, Graffiti Sprayed in West Bank Hate Crime

Israel Said Expelled Hebron Monitors Caused 'Friction,' but Provided No Evidence,

“When Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan recommended not renewing the mandate of the international observer task force that monitored the divided West Bank town of Hebron, he based his position on an Israel Police report that claimed that employees of the observer force, which was known as the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH, of ‘creating situations showing friction’ to justify their pay. But the police report cited only three specific incidents in 2017 and 2018, which included two investigations into violence against TIPH observers by Jewish residents of the city. The third case involved alleged violence by an observer against a Jewish teenager. Despite the small number of incidents cited, the report made sweeping conclusions, including the assertion that ‘the delegation members interfere with and confront soldiers at crossing points’ and that ‘the delegation members have high salaries, and it appears that they are trying to justify their presence and activity in the area through situations reflecting friction ….’”

Israel's Top Court Okays Barring Two Suspects of Security Offenses From Seeing Lawyer ,

“The Supreme Court has allowed the Shin Bet security service to prevent two suspects of security offenses from meeting with their lawyers this week…Preventing suspects from seeing a lawyer is a measure generally employed in investigations of Palestinian terror suspects or against Jews being questioned by the Shin Bet’s Jewish division. The fact that it is being used in this case indicates that the defense establishment considers it extremely sensitive.”

Documentary on Israeli Lawyer Defending Palestinians Accused of Terrorism Shortlisted for Oscar,

“The Israeli documentary ‘Advocate,’ directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche, is one of 15 films short-listed for the documentary feature category at the 2020 Oscars, the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Tuesday… At the center of ‘Advocate’ is Israeli attorney Lea Tsemel, who defends Palestinians accused of terror attacks. It was named best picture at Tel Aviv’s Docaviv film festival, after which a group of bereaved Israeli parents launched a campaign against it, asserting it hurt their feelings. Culture Minister Miri Regev then criticized the film as anti-Israeli. Channel 8, which produced the film and broadcast it in Israel, released it on YouTube so that it would be accessible to all.”

Remembering Ahed Tamimi’s arrest,

“What: Imprisonment of Ahed Tamimi; When: 19 December 2017; Where: Nabi Saleh village, occupied West Bank. When most people think of Palestinian protesters, a young, blue-eyed and blonde-haired girl doesn’t come to mind. But two years ago, fair-haired Ahed Tamimi changed that. At just 16, after a video of her confronting an Israeli soldier and her subsequent arrest went viral, she caught the world’s attention after making international headlines and became a symbol of resistance overnight.


Israel strikes Gaza targets in response to Sderot rocket fire, reduces fishing zone,

“Israeli aircrafts struck a number of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Thursday in response to a rocket fired by Palestinian militants at southern Israel just hours earlier. The Israeli military said the Iron Dome defense system intercepted the rocket that was fired toward the city of Sderot at around 2:30 am…Two hours later, successive airstrikes targeted militant sites in Gaza City. The Israeli military issued a statement saying that the target was ‘a Hamas weapons manufacturing site.’ In addition…the military has reduced the fishing zone of the coast of Gaza to ten nautical miles in response to the overnight rocket attack. Israel has refrained from using the punitive measure since last month’s Operation Black Belt, which began with the assassination of Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu-al Ata.”

Israel fears fallout of Qatar freeze on Gaza aid,

“As Qatar threatens to cut off funds to Gaza, Israel is concerned that the move will lead to an eruption of violence. Past experience has shown any delay of the aid had resulted in an immediate hike in tensions along the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli officials are preparing for the repercussions of a possible financial crisis both on the border and in ongoing efforts to achieve a long-term ceasefire agreement with the ruling Hamas. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives were in Cairo earlier this month, for talks on a possible five-year ceasefire deal with Israel. A fatal blow to Gaza’s economy could destabilize Hamas’s hold on the enclave and bring about a renewal of hostilities.”

Hamas, Islamic Jihad agree to stand together in future fight with Israel,

“Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas will join forces in the next round of fighting with Israel, PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah said on Thursday. During the last flare-up between PIJ and Israel, Hamas mostly stayed out of the fighting in a move that drew criticism from several Palestinian factions and some PIJ officials.”

Is proposed site in Gaza really a hospital, or spy station?,

“A field hospital being established in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip continues  to stir animosity between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas officials. Abbas pledged twice within three days to work against the project, which Hamas says is a US-backed field hospital and the Palestinian Authority (PA) insists is a US military intelligence facility with ties to Israel…The hospital is being established on about 10 acres in northern Gaza with Qatari funding and using the expertise of FriendShips, a US nongovernmental organization (NGO) described as a pro-Israel evangelical Christian group. The facility, according to the NGO website, will provide medical services for the public four days a week and will eventually be able to offer services in family medicine, pediatrics, OB-GYN, ophthalmology, dental, physical therapy, hippotherapy (therapeutic horse riding), post-traumatic stress disorder therapy and cancer treatment.”

Israeli Politics

Shas' campaign: Aryeh needs a strong Bibi,

“Shas is launching its 2020 election campaign with a large outdoor campaign including the message ‘Aryeh needs a strong Bibi – guarding the right-wing bloc’. The campaign is a continuation of the consistent line of Shas, headed by Minister Aryeh Deri, who led the support for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as the right-wing bloc’s candidate for prime minister in the last two election campaigns and as the one who initiated and led the ‘right-wing bloc’ after the elections.”

Blue and White's nightmare scenario: Saar defeating Netanyahu,

“Despite his precisely targeted campaign and some unexpected support, the chances of Gideon Saar engineering a surprise defeat of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Dec. 26 primaries for the Likud party leadership are still considered modest. Netanyahu is campaigning intensely and enjoys strong support among party members, even if some of them realize this is the end of an era. But as strange as it sounds, not only Netanyahu’s close associates and sworn fans are praying for his victory; so are his political rivals, especially leaders of the opposition Blue and White party. A resounding Netanyahu defeat with Saar assuming the party leadership and candidacy for prime minister would deal Blue and White a strategic blow.”

Palestinian Affairs

Israel worried by Erdogan's meddling in Palestinian affairs,

“…an Israeli defense source told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity, ‘Turning Mohammed Dahlan into a ‘wanted’ figure is, without doubt, part of the succession struggle within the Palestinian Authority, which is now gaining ground.’ According to the source, this is not the first time that Erdogan has tried to influence Palestinian issues. For example, in recent years, Erdogan has been active in East Jerusalem affairs, using the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency to funnel money to local merchants and to try to take control of properties…’”

Will Turkey rid Abbas of Dahlan before Palestinian elections?,

“…Moin Naim, a writer and political analyst based in Turkey and specializing in Turkish affairs, told Al-Monitor that Turkey justified listing Dahlan on its terrorist list by invoking his alleged role in the military coup that took place in July 2016. But he believes that there are deeper reasons. ‘The coup is old news,’ he said. ‘Ankara believes Dahlan is the arm of the UAE and is linked to the counterrevolution in the region that Turkey sees as against its political interests,’ he argued. ‘This is why Turkey is trying to tighten the noose on Dahlan. It wants to weaken the arm of the UAE.’ Naim continued, ‘This appeals to the PA, which fears Dahlan’s competition in the upcoming Palestinian elections.’ …Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Fatah leader told Al-Monitor that the issue of Dahlan is very intriguing to Abbas, who seeks to erase all traces related to Dahlan within Fatah. He noted that the Turkish judicial procedures to arrest Dahlan would be a ‘gift to the PA.’”

Israel to further tighten the noose on Hamas,

“Israel continues its attempts to tighten the noose on the Palestinians, mainly on Hamas, financially by pursuing money smuggling networks and funders. Israeli Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett issued Dec. 3 a decision to economically pursue Palestinian and foreign figures whom Israel accuses of funding terrorism. The decision includes imposing restrictions on the accused to limit their ability to use their financial assets inside Israel and abroad to fund and support terrorist organizations. Mohammed Jamil Hersh, president of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) in the United Kingdom, was the first target out of hundreds, whom Israel said would be added to an online database that anyone could access. Israel accused Hersh of being a member of Hamas.”