Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 20, 2019

What We’re Reading

**FMEP’s daily news round-up will be taking a break until the new year. Happy holidays to all who celebrate.**

Occupation, Annexation, and Human Rights

Fearing Investigation, Israel Says Hague Has No Jurisdiction in West Bank or Gaza,

“Israel’s attorney general published a legal opinion Friday that the International Criminal court has no jurisdiction in the West Bank or in Gaza, amid fears that the ICC would open an investigation into Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza. ‘For several years now, the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been conducting a preliminary examination further to a request submitted by the Palestinians,’ Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit wrote. ‘The principaled legal position of the State of Israel, which is not a party to the ICC, is that the Court lacks jurisdiction in relation to Israel and that any Palestinian actions with respect to the Court are legally invalid.’ Mendelblit was responding to a statement made by the ICC Prosecutor’s Office in early December, saying that there was significant progress toward a decision on investigating Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza.”

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. After the agreements were signed Dec. 5 in Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh’s office in Ramallah, he said, “France’s support for a number of communities and villages in Area C is at the heart of the government’s work strategy aimed at stabilizing these areas as an integral part of the Palestinian territories,” the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported.”

High Court: Israel Police Handling of Palestinian Complaint 'Troubling, to Say the Least',

“The High Court of Justice on Thursday blasted Israel Police’s handling of a Palestinian’s complaint of property destruction by settlers, saying the police behaved with disregard and contempt.. The court said that if this was typical of how West Bank police handled Palestinian complaints, ‘it is troubling, to say the least.’ The justices also wrote that the petition demonstrated “contempt in checking the complaint and that except for taking the Palestinian plaintiff’s statement, the police did virtually nothing.”

Cars Set Ablaze, Hateful Slogans Sprayed in West Bank Hate Crime,

“Fara’ata mayor Abdul Munaem Sana’ah told the Palestinian Authority’s news agency Wafa Friday that two cars torched overnight were owned by two young residents of the village. This is not the first time that settlers have carried out these kinds of acts, he said, and that their goal is to sow fear and encourage residents to leave the village.  “

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.”

The Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin | November 2019,

“With the onset of winter, an estimated 235,000 people, living in low-lying areas in the Gaza Strip lacking adequate infrastructure, are at risk of flooding, due to the possible overflow of stormwater facilities and sewage pumping stations. Initial reports indicate that approximately 2,000 homes have already been flooded, following heavy rains recorded on 8 and 9 December 2019. As the first article in this month’s Humanitarian Bulletin explains, this is due to the lack of maintenance and repair of these facilities, compounded by a shortage of fuel to operate backup generators. Underfunding drives these deficits: in 2019, less than 74 per cent of the $68 million needed to operate Gaza’s 484 public water and sanitation facilities was secured.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Jabbing at Netanyahu from right, challenger Sa’ar rips Jerusalem-area ‘freeze’,

“MK Gideon Sa’ar on Thursday called for Israel to ramp up construction in contested areas around Jerusalem, in a further apparent effort to outflank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the right ahead of Likud party leadership primaries next week. Touring Givat Hamatos, situated between Gilo Talpiot and Beit Safafa neighborhoods, Sa’ar called for an end to the ‘construction freeze’ there and in the E1 area near Jerusalem, suggesting Netanyahu’s vows to build have been empty ones.”

Left-wing MK Shaffir says planning to run independently in elections,

“Left-wing MK Stav Shaffir said Thursday that she will run in the upcoming elections at the head of her own party following political infighting in the Democratic Camp alliance of left-wing parties. ‘I’ll be running with the faction that I lead, called the Green Party,’ Shaffir said in an interview with Army Radio.”

U.S. Domestic Politics

Sanders Says Netanyahu Is 'Racist', Biden Calls for Two-state Solution in Democratic Debate,

“Sanders added, however, that ‘U.S. foreign policy is not just being pro-Israeli; we must be pro-Palestinian as well.’ Sanders criticized Netanyahu, saying that “we must understand that right now in Israel we have the leadership of Netanyahu who has recently been indicted for corruption, and who in my view is a racist.”

Sanders and Buttigieg sidestep aid to Israel question in debate,

“Just weeks after saying they would leverage aid to pressure Israel, Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg sidestepped the question in a nationally televised debate. Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden went out of his way to affirm that he would not touch defense assistance to Israel, while saying he disagreed with its current policies. Yamiche Alcindor, a PBS correspondent, directly asked Sanders, a Vermont senator, and Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor whether settlement expansion in the West Bank would lead them to reconsider assistance to Israel. Israel currently receives $3.8 billion each year in U.S. defense assistance. Both candidates had said in October at the annual conference of J Street — a Jewish group that recently decided to back leveraging aid to pressure Israel — that they would consider the gambit.But in the PBS-Politico debate in Los Angeles on Thursday night, both candidates did not say in their answers whether they would leverage aid.”

Lawfare and Antisemitism

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’.”