Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 10, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Apartheid

Infrastructures of Dispossession and Control: Transport Development in East Jerusalem,

“This flash report focuses on five large scale transport infrastructure projects in East Jerusalem currently at various stages of development, and exposes the private corporations involved in their implementation. These projects are part and parcel of a broader Israeli strategy to promote the economic and spatial integration of the West Bank in terms of dispossession, segregation and control.”

IDF demolishes home of Esther Horgen’s suspected killer in rare daytime op,

“On Wednesday afternoon, the IDF said that its troops — assisted by the Border Police — had begun destroying the two floors in which Kabha lived with his family. It is very uncommon for the military to perform a home demolition during the daytime, preferring instead to operate late at night or early in the morning, when residents of the area are less likely to protest or interfere. Photographs from the scene that were shared on social media showed armed Israeli troops spread throughout Tura al-Gharbiya to protect the combat engineers performing the demolition. It was not immediately explained why the IDF chose to conduct the operation in the daytime.”The military first announced its intention to demolish the two floors where Kabha lived last month, but his family appealed to the High Court of Justice to prevent the move. A panel of three judges upheld the military’s plan, saying that although he had yet to be convicted, Kabha had admitted to committing the crime and there was “strong, external, objective evidence” to corroborate his confession. According to the Shin Bet security agency, Kabha is suspected of carrying out the terror attack as a form of vengeance for the death of a security prisoner, Kamel Abu Waer, who died of cancer six weeks before.”

Egypt reopens border crossing with Gaza,

“Egypt has opened its border with the Gaza Strip. Travel resumed at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian territory on Tuesday. People can now enter Gaza via Egypt and vice versa, according to WAFA News Agency. The border will remain open until further notice, and some buses have already departed for Egypt, the Palestinian Authority-run news outlet reported. Rafah is Gaza’s only border crossing that is not controlled by Israel. Recently, Egypt had only been opening the border for a few days at a time before closing it again, according to Reuters.”

Contractors urge Israel to vaccinate 65,000 Palestinian construction workers,

“Contractors in the construction industry are demanding that Israel vaccinate some 65,000 Palestinian workers who regularly come from the West Bank, citing a tax they say is meant for covering such health treatments, a report said Tuesday. Israel has vaccinated more than 3.5 million out of its population of 9.29 million against the coronavirus with at least one dose — the highest rate in the world — while attempting to curb travel between the country and the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, where it will take more time until widespread inoculations are available.”

Israeli officials brace for UN condemnation over Palestinian vaccination,

“Israeli officials voiced their concern on Wednesday over possible condemnation by the UN Human Rights Council for not providing coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority. Israel has faced criticism for not extending its fast-paced vaccination drive to the Palestinian Territories even though under the terms of the Oslo Accords  Ramallah is responsible for the healthcare of its own population and has repeatedly said it is obtaining its Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines via a UN scheme.”

Israeli forces demolish water collection pond near Jericho,

“Israeli forces Wednesday demolished a water collection pond in the village of Marj Na‘ja, to the north of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, according to local sources. Head of the Marj Na‘ja Village Council, Kayed Masoud, told WAFA that Israeli forces escorted a bulldozer to the north of the village, where the heavy machinery demolished a pond used to collect water for the irrigation of a nearby palm farm belonging to Saleh Abu Hashem. He pointed that the pond had the capacity of some 1,400 cubic meters and used to supply water for the irrigation of scores of donums planted with palm trees, benefiting some 20 families. He denounced the demolition as part of Israel’s systematic policy designed to tighten restrictions on Palestinian farmers and sabotage their sources of livelihood in the Jordan Valley.”

Drug Companies Must Address Israeli Discrimination in Vaccine Distribution,

“Discrimination in COVID-19 vaccine distribution means a 19-year-old Jewish resident of the Beit El settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank can get vaccinated, but her 85-year-old Palestinian neighbor across the street cannot. The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca must insist that the Israeli government use medical, rather than ethnic, criteria to determine distribution priorities.”

Israelis, Palestinians want separation, skeptical of solutions - study,

“Israelis and Palestinians want to separate from one another, but the major political solutions to the conflict do not appeal to them, according to an in-depth study by the RAND Corporation released to The Jerusalem Post. The research found that, overall, “mistrust, broadly defined, is likely the greatest impediment to peace.” RAND, a leading global policy think tank, conducted the peer-reviewed research via 33 focus groups from 2018 to 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, collecting detailed views of over 270 individuals. This widely used research approach combines quantitative data and qualitative insights, and is meant to complement the many random-sample polls taken on these topics. Seeking “to assess whether there were any viable alternatives to the current status quo” between Israel and the Palestinians, the researchers found that Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, West Bank Palestinians and Gazan Palestinians were more likely to be uncertain about any of the five alternative solutions to the conflict offered – two-state solution, confederation, one-state solution, Israeli annexation of area C, or the status quo – than they were to support them.”

The Biden Era: Politics, Policies, & Foreign Relations

Golan 'forever' part of Israel, Netanyahu says after Blinken comments,

“During a CNN interview, Blinken said on Monday that if the situation in Syria were to change, the administration would “look at” the Donald Trump administration’s controversial decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights…Responding to Blinken’s comments, Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the Golan will always remain a part of Israel. “With an agreement, without an agreement, we are not coming down from the Golan. It will remain a sovereign part of the State of Israel,” the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying during a visit to a health center near Nazareth.”

Important for Palestinians to Receive More COVID-19 Vaccines, U.S. Official Says,

“The United States believes it’s important for Palestinians to gain greater access to COVID-19 vaccines, a State Department official told Haaretz on Monday. “We welcome reports of Israel’s provision of vaccines for Palestinian health care workers in the West Bank,” the official said, adding that “we believe it’s important for Palestinians to achieve increased access to COVID vaccines in the weeks ahead.” The comments come as the Biden administration has called for reengagement with the Palestinians following years of deteriorated ties, as well as growing Israeli whispers surrounding the lack of contact between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the former’s inauguration last month.”

US rejoins UN rights council, but voices concern over 'focus on Israel',

“The United States has rejoined the UN Human Rights Council, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced early on Monday, pledging to push for “reform” on the international body to “promote fundamental freedoms around the globe”. The move comes more than two years after the administration of former President Donald Trump had withdrawn from the council, protesting what it called “chronic bias against Israel”. Blinken also decried the UN Human Rights Council over its criticism of Israel in a statement announcing Washington’s return to the council in an “observer” capacity. “We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said.”

New HFAC vice chair Malinowski lays out committee priorities,

“But Malinowski emphatically dismissed concerns that the Biden’s administration’s State Department could take a more hostile posture toward Israel as a result of Malley’s appointment and speculation that Matt Duss, a foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), may also be headed to Foggy Bottom. “The policy is going to be set by the president with strong support from Secretary Blinken and National Security Adviser [Jake] Sullivan. All of them are strongly pro-Israel and well known to supporters of Israel,” Malinowski emphasized. “They are all open to surrounding themselves with folks who have different points of view to their right, to their left… But I would not be concerned about the fundamental commitment of this administration to the U.S. relationship with Israel or to any other core principles that President Biden embraced during the campaign and over his long career.” Malinowski agreed with Biden officials that a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement is unlikely in the short term. The path forward, he explained, lies in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together on issues including economic partnerships, dealing with the pandemic and handling long-standing issues like the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of terrorists.“Progress on those discrete issues will create a better atmosphere for addressing the bigger questions,” the New Jersey congressman said.”

There’s Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace,

“As the Biden administration resets the United States’ posture toward Israel and the Palestinians, Congress included a bit of hope for the region in passing a bipartisan spending bill that closed out 2020. The Nita M. Lowey Partnership Fund for Peace Act provides $250 million over five years to achieve two critical objectives: bolster the Palestinian economy and support peace and reconciliation programs in the region. It is the United States’ largest investment in Israeli-Palestinian peace to date and the first effort of its kind to pass Congress since the 1993 Oslo Accords. And although it may look like a pittance to some, the fund injects a modicum of momentum into a peace process that has been backsliding for decades…By supporting peace-building initiatives now, the act sends a message that Americans on both sides of the aisle still care about advancing peace and are willing to invest in it. The fund’s structure also bolsters multilateral engagement in a way that is likely to align nicely with President Joe Biden’s preferred approach to the region. While the fund will be primarily U.S. financed and advised, it seeks complementary money from international actors. Two advisory seats are held for other countries. As Israel’s normalization agreements with some of its neighbors set in, the number of stakeholders able to help steer the parties in a positive direction grows.”

Jewish Relatives, Arab Heritage – Meet Biden's Point Person on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,

“In a departure from the policy of its predecessor, the Biden administration has demonstrated that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not top its foreign policy agenda. Instead, it’s committing to rebuilding trust between the two parties and preventing further deterioration. The man responsible for shepherding that policy is Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs – and those who’ve worked with him say he’s the right person for this particularly challenging job. The Biden administration appointed Amr to his new role last month. While Indyk notes that Amr may not be the primary U.S. decision-maker, he is indeed the American point person responsible for policy implementation on matters pertaining to the conflict. “He will be responsible for focusing on improving the situation on the ground, expanding the opportunity for Palestinian economic and political development, and trying to rebuild trust. Only further down the road may it be possible to relaunch negotiations, but there’s no interest in trying now, and that’s why there’s no envoy,” Indyk says….

Since Amr’s appointment, a small yet vocal opposition emerged to his appointment due to his alleged hostility to Israel. Those who know Amr reject these allegations wholeheartedly. Wittes points to a more pernicious hostility underlying the accusations against Amr. “We’ve seen a set of people who went after Sahar Nowrouzzadeh in 2017. They went after Reema Dodin, they went after Maher Bitar. These are folks who have two things in common: They are great public servants and they are Muslim Americans. These kind of attacks tell you more about the people who are doing the attacking then it tells you about their targets,” Wittes says.”

Weaponizing Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

We disagree about the Working Definition. That’s OK. Here’s what’s not.,

“The question of the authorship is a sideshow. But my role as lead drafter has, unquestionably, given me a platform to address the intended uses and troubling abuses, especially the weaponization of the definition against political speech. I continue to believe the definition has appropriate applications for data collection, for giving guidance on hate crimes (because it says you don’t have to analyze whether someone really hated Jews, but rather if they intentionally selected a Jewish target, including in response to an event in Israel), and for diplomatic purposes, like when the leader of a country calls for wiping Israel off the map.

I disagree with my former colleagues, in particular about how the definition should be used on campus. We also apparently disagree about it being employed to suppress political speech outside the campus, for instance via laws requiring those who contract with state governments sign a new-day loyalty oath that they are against boycotting Israel, or as former Secretary of State Pompeo proposed, as a basis for declaring certain human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch anti-Semitic and threatening their funding. I remain most concerned that strong proponents of the campus application of the definition, like the Simon Wiesenthal Center, applaud when political speech is censored, and that others – including mainstream Jewish organizations and former colleagues – remain silent, apparently not seeing a problem.”

Biden's early Israel policies show he won't be much better for Palestinians than Trump,

“Far from combating Trump’s frontal attack on human rights advocacy and free speech, Biden is walking in lockstep with his predecessor. In addition to endorsing the IHRA definition, his nominee for U.N. envoy, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has pledged to combat the BDS movement. So even as the Biden administration is reinstating the United States in multilateral forums like the U.N. Human Rights Council, it still intends to further Trump’s agenda — only from the inside where, in its own words, it can “engage … in a principled fashion.” This is not to say that Biden is as bad as Trump but to emphasize that shielding Israel and punishing any critiques of U.S. empire more broadly are the norms in the United States. Having any chance to reset this moral compass means having the space to debate, protest, agitate, teach, study, disagree and struggle without reprisal. The Biden administration is aggressively trying to prevent that by changing the window dressing on U.S. policy to appear more reasonable than Trump did while continuing to do the same exact thing.

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Inside the Republicans' Phony War on Antisemitism,

“It’s not just the usual suspects backing this false equivalence. It’s hardly surprising that an extremist group that calls itself the “Coalition for Jewish Values” – a group so extreme that when GOP Rep Mary Miller quoted Hitler at the January 6 insurrection it called defending her a “moral imperative.” Mainstream rabbis, Jewish organizations and everyday Jews have piled on too. Some want to defend their continued support for the Republican Party, others want to exploit the moment to repeat their inexhaustible hatred for Representatives Omar, Tlaib and even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This is an utterly false and exceedingly dangerous comparison.”

Israeli Politics

Netanyahu’s Likud signs surplus vote-sharing deal with far-right party,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Wednesday signed a surplus vote-sharing agreement with the far-right Religious Zionism, which includes the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit and the anti-LGBT Noam factions, ahead of next month’s Knesset elections. The move further aligns the premier with extremists such as Itamar Ben Gvir, a disciple of the late far-right extremist rabbi Meir Kahane. His Otzma Yehudit party — which recently joined forces with the Religious Zionism party — supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians and Arab Israelis who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state, whose sovereignty would extend throughout the West Bank.” Also See – “Netanyahu Signs Vote-sharing Deal With Far-right, Kahanist Alliance Ahead of March Election” (Haaretz)

How Israel's Netanyahu helped break apart the Joint List,

“Once again, Israeli actors have played a decisive role in manipulating internal Palestinian divisions. Netanyahu has been widely credited with offering incentives to encourage Abbas to quit the Joint List and form a rival political coalition, one bolstered by the support of popular local politicians. The rupture in the Joint List, Netanyahu appears to hope, will change the electoral maths in the Israeli parliament and help him foil his corruption trial. As Awad Abdelfattah, a former secretary-general of Balad, observed to Middle East Eye, Israel’s four main Palestinian parties – like Fatah and Hamas in the occupied territories – have been unable to find a unifying vision of where Palestinian politics is heading next. In an era when neither Washington, the Europeans or Arab states are showing the slightest interest in pushing for Palestinian statehood, the Joint List has found itself forced to concentrate on domestic issues. But those have proved far more divisive.”

Poll shows Yamina in kingmaker role, Meretz failing to enter Knesset,

“An election survey released on Tuesday forecasts a right-wing religious bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu winning enough seats to form a majority coalition if joined by the Yamina faction. The survey by the Kan public broadcaster predicted that Netanyahu’s Likud party, its ultra-Orthodox allies, Naftali Bennett’s Yamina and Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party would together win 62 seats, enough for a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.”

Palestinian Politics

Fatah and Hamas agree on terms of 1st Palestinian election in 15 years,

“Fourteen Palestinian factions attending a summit in Cairo announced on Tuesday night that they have reached an agreement that would set the guidelines for the first Palestinian national elections in nearly 15 years. Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub said in a statement that the rival Fatah and Hamas factions had reached “understandings” that would allow them to move forward with the election process. “I tell the Palestinians, trust what we have achieved,” Rajoub, who led his movement’s delegation to the Cairo summit, told reporters after the talks concluded.”

In a meeting with the UN Special Coordinator, PM Shtayyeh calls on the international community to support elections,

“Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh today called on the international community to support the Palestinian drive to hold national elections and to provide international teams to monitor the electoral process.”


Biden should let the ICC do its job,

“The ICC, which is facing similar threats and attacks, is now one of the last forums keeping the notion of a Palestinian state alive. But that is not why Palestinians are excited by the news from The Hague; many have long been disillusioned with the mirage of statehood, and know that the court’s investigation (which has yet to be opened) could take years to conclude if it survives the pressures against it.

Still, in spite of their daunting prospects, many Palestinians cannot help but hope that the court’s involvement will help to do what the world should have done long ago: obstruct Israel’s deepening apartheid, deter another vicious Gaza war, and — dare they say it — bring some justice to the victims of state crimes.

By rejecting this mission at The Hague, Biden, like his predecessors, has shown once again that he is not interested in Palestinian independence, but in Palestinian submission. The White House is right in saying that Palestine is not a “sovereign state,” but that’s because Israel and the United States are doing everything they can to make sure it can’t become one. Unless it backs up its two-state vision with meaningful action, it should step back and let the court do its job.”

German Foreign Minister Says ICC Has No Jurisdiction Over Palestinian Territories,

“Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday that the International Criminal Court “has no jurisdiction” in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, “because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law.” Maas’s remarks on Twitter follow a decision issued over the weekend by ICC judges that it did have jurisdiction in these territories, allowing for an investigation against Israel and Hamas of suspected war crimes.”

New ICC ruling ‘opens the door’ for justice in occupied Palestine – Independent UN expert,

““This offers profound hope to those who believe that consequences, not condonation, must be the answer to the commission of grave crimes”, said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.  The judgement, which includes potential war crimes, is a major move towards ending impunity in the 53-year-old occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. “The leading political organs of the United Nations have repeatedly failed to enforce their own significant body of resolutions on the Israeli occupation”, the UN expert said. “This ruling opens the door for credible allegations of Rome Statute crimes to finally be investigated and potentially reach the trial stage at the ICC.”” Also See – “UN human rights expert: ICC ruling is a major move towards ending impunity and ensuring justice” (WAFA)