Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 11, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Has Netanyahu given up on annexation before the election?,

“A senior diplomatic source told Al-Monitor that Netanyahu feels misled by the Americans. Netanyahu heard clearly that if the Palestinians don’t respond positively to the offer, he could impose sovereignty on some of the settlements at the least. Later it was made clear to him that Kushner opposed immediate annexation and wanted the government formed after the March 2 elections to take the step. Netanyahu has now adjusted his campaign to emphasize that no one besides him, certainly not Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, can realize the American promise of annexation through the ‘deal of the century.’ At the same time, he is highlighting his other diplomatic achievements, like meeting with Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Uganda on Feb. 3 and furthering the possibility of normalizing relations with Khartoum, one of Israel’s enemies. Netanyahu’s advisers take solace in that even if the Likud loses mandates, they will be picked up by the parties in the right-ultra-Orthodox bloc that support Netanyahu.”

170 cars, mosque vandalized in northern Arab town, drawing rare Netanyahu rebuke,

Police on Tuesday opened an investigation into an apparent hate crime in the northern Arab town of Jish, where the tires of some 170 vehicles were slashed and Hebrew graffiti condemning interfaith coexistence was daubed on buildings. One of the phrases spray-painted on the wall of a mosque read, ‘Jews wake up. Stop assimilating!’…Anti-Arab vandalism by Jewish extremists has become a common occurrence in the West Bank but is rarer inside Israel proper. Attacks against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank are commonly referred to as ‘price tag’ incidents, with perpetrators claiming they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement. According to human rights organizations, investigations into so-called price tag attacks rarely yield an arrest or indictment, leading to accusations of systemic racism against Palestinians.

Israel Taps Settler NGO Lawyer to Handle Bankruptcy of Palestinian Firm He's Working to Evict,

“The attorney for right-wing settler group Ateret Cohanim has been named the official receiver in a bankruptcy case involving a Palestinian company in East Jerusalem, which he has also been fighting in court via shell companies. The Palestinian company in question operates a hotel in Jerusalem’s Old City that Ateret Cohanim purchased through a front company. The attorney, Avraham Moshe Segal, has also assumed a debt that the company owes one of its employees, which will enable him to pressure it to abandon the premises. A source at the Justice Ministry, under which the department of the administrator general and official receiver operates, told Haaretz that an appointment such as Segal’s demands an inquiry to determine whether there may be a conflict of interest.”

International Community

Today, Palestine Launches a Real Peace Process. Not Trump’s Ignorant, Arrogant Sham,

Saeb Erekat writes, “On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Abbas will be addressing the United Nations Security Council, the body entrusted with preserving world peace and security, with an urgent message: Give peace, not apartheid, a chance. Our vision of peace is based on ending Israel’s occupation, towards the achievement of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is the historic concession for peace we made in 1988, accepting Israel’s control over 78 percent of historic Palestine.  We call for a free Palestine that coexists in peace, security and prosperity with the rest of the region. All permanent status issues should be resolved in a just manner that honors international law and relevant UN resolutions. The Arab Peace Initiative will be the entry point for further diplomatic and trade relations between the various parties. Ensuring that the international community is aware of what both Israel and the Trump administration are doing is not enough. Saving the prospects for peace requires engagement, ending Israel’s impunity, preventing the possibility of annexation and providing the conditions for meaningful talks based on the internationally agreed-upon terms of reference for the Middle East Peace Process.”

Palestinians deny reports of pulling UN resolution on US plan,

“Palestinian officials have denied reports that a UN Security Council resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan has been withdrawn, as Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas prepared to address the Security Council on Tuesday. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said a draft resolution was ‘still being circulated’ and described rumours that the United States had exerted pressure on member states to obstruct the resolution as unfounded.”

U.S. Politics

Trump Administration Nixes Funding for Palestinian Security Forces From 2021 Budget Plan,

“The Trump administration excluded funding for the Palestinian Security Services in its budget request for the 2021 fiscal year, after 27 years of bipartisan support and Israeli backing. However, the budget request does include $200 million for a ‘Diplomatic Progress Fund’ that could be used to support the administration’s Mideast plan, unveiled two weeks ago. According to the State Department, some of that money could go toward an ‘agreement to resume security assistance in the West Bank.’ But such an agreement would likely require the Palestinian Authority to accept the Trump plan.”

Boycott AIPAC? In Tug of War Over Israel, Democratic Candidates Are the Rope,

“The most enthusiastic of the progressive groups in this year’s expanded campaign is IfNotNow – the Jewish group that has pivoted from trying to transform the American Jewish community to working to sway the Democratic candidates on Israel. Its energetic young team has been bird-dogging the candidates on the campaign trail and, this past week, made the switch from getting the candidates to go on record regarding leveraging U.S. military aid to Israel to end the occupation, to pushing them to stay away from AIPAC.”

Report: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson to Spend $100 Million in Trump Re-election Bid,

“The Guardian on Monday quoted three Republican fundraisers it did not name as saying that the couple, known for their generosity to Republicans, pro-Israel causes and medical research, was ready to spend nearly the same amount, $124 million, as they did in the 2016 cycle. One of the Guardian’s sources said it could reach $200 million.”

How the U.S. made Palestine the exception to the rules of peacemaking,

“It is no coincidence, then, that the vision outlined by Trump last week is essentially a consolidation of the Oslo blueprint. Even the map projecting the future Palestinian “state” is a reflection of today’s Oslo realities: a shrunken, tattered collection of bantustans for which the PLO is responsible for keeping the economy afloat and preserving security coordination with Israel, all under the guise of self-rule…In theory, peace processes are supposed to prove that diplomacy is more fruitful than violence. But in the case of Palestine, the U.S. showed that both are futile ventures. No matter what Palestinians did to advance their cause, Israel’s concerns — and its desires — always came first. When Hamas agreed to integrate into the PA and won free legislative elections in 2006, the entire Palestinian government was sanctioned by the U.S. When the PLO sought statehood at the UN in 2012 — effectively fulfilling the U.S.’s declared policy goal — the White House denounced it. The Obama era was the final test of the Oslo thesis, pitting Hamas’s armed strategy in Gaza against Fatah’s diplomacy in the West Bank. Even the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) offered an alternative path for nonviolent struggle. The U.S. rejected them all.”

Israeli Politics

Now Israel's defense minister, Bennett tones down Gaza rhetoric ,

“Bennett is in a bind. Not long ago, before being nominated minister of defense, he criticized strongly Netanyahu in his role as defense minister for the IDF’s alleged weakness vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip. Bennett demanded real action against Hamas, but his vociferous declarations meant little. Bennett had also attacked Avigdor Liberman when Liberman served as defense minister with the same holy fire regarding the need to restore Israel’s deterrence and uproot terror. Liberman had also criticized his predecessor Moshe Ya’alon for the same inaction. But at least Liberman was honest enough to quit the job when it became clear to him that he was incapable of implementing his Gaza policy. Now Bennett has reached the same place as his predecessors. His close associates such as Yamina Knesset member Matan Kahana are spreading the word that Bennett is considering military action. ‘Bennett, [IDF Chief Aviv] Kochavi and the rest of the defense forces are considering a significant military operation … but it will take place when the time is right,’ Kahana told Radio 103FM Live on Feb. 6, but gave no additional details.”

Arab Israeli Leader Says Party Won't Back Gantz for PM if He Supports Annexation,

“The Joint List will not recommend that Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz form the next government unless he makes a clear statement against the annexation of West Bank settlements, said Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Arab-majority slate. ‘If we don’t hear a very clear statement from him against the transfer and annexation, there’s no way we will recommend him,’ Odeh said in an interview on Army Radio on Tuesday. ‘I want to hear from Gantz in the most explicit way that he opposes a transfer’ of Arab citizens of Israel to a Palestinian state, said Odeh. ‘They are silent about the attack on the Arab population, Netanyahu’s attack. Let Gantz say something. Does he think that we’re in his pocket?’”