Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 5, 2020

What We’re Reading

The Trump Plan & Realities on the Ground

Netanyahu suggests he’ll move annexation forward only after elections,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday suggested that he would advance applying Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank only after the March 2 elections. At a campaign event in Beit Shemesh, Netanyahu urged attendees to help him get elected in the upcoming national vote, saying that a victory would allow his Likud party to gain approval for the Trump administration peace plan.”

The sanctification of antiquity sites in the Jerusalem section of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan,

“In our opinion, the assumption articulated in President Trump’s plan, according to which Israel optimally or equitably protects historical and holy sites, is mistaken. Over the past 20 years we have witnessed the opposite phenomenon, in which the Jewish narrative at heritage sites has been highlighted while non-Jewish connections to sites have been played down or ignored. Settler organizations and the Israeli government have initiated several plans, most notably the Shalem Plan, which aims to reinforce the Jewish connection to Jerusalem through archaeological excavations and tourism. To our knowledge, no projects exist that aim to strengthen Christian or Muslim connections to the city.”

A Case Study Exploring the Reality on the Ground Hidden Within Trump's "Vision for Peace" Map [Twitter Thread] ,

“Last week the Trump admin published its plan predicated on the idea that none of the 130 or so Israeli settlements in the West Bank will be dismantled. Israeli settlements are illegal. They are war crimes. Trump’s one-sided proposal fails to recognize this. Today we offer a case study exploring the reality on the ground hidden within Trump’s “Vision for Peace” map.

In Abu Dis, the notion of becoming capital of Palestine is deemed ‘preposterous’,

“Abu Hilal added that while his national convictions would never permit him to accept turning Abu Dis into a core part of the Palestinian capital, it also does not make practical sense. ‘We have no room to expand, except for a small part in the east, because we are surrounded by settlements and the wall,’ he said, noting that 40,000 people live on the neighborhood’s 3,600 dunams. Both the Kedar and Ma’ale Adumim settlements are located to the east of Abu Dis, while the barrier is to the west and other Palestinian towns and villages are north and south of it…Two other areas that the US initiative explicitly identifies as part of Palestine’s capital include the Shuafat refugee camp and Kafr Aqab, which suffer from rampant violence, poor planning and inadequate infrastructure…Khatib argued that the Trump plan seeks to provide Israel with a path to free itself of responsibility for the two neighborhoods. ‘Israel has not undertaken its responsibilities in providing services to these areas. It has also caused many problems in them that it does not want to solve,’ he said. ‘This plan clearly attempts to allow Israel to rid itself of all its responsibilities to them’.”

Trump peace plan offers land without people to people who don’t want the land,

“Left in the dark by the PMO and Trump administration, the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council has put together its own map, using the exact same scaling as the American version, in order to determine where exactly their five border communities would fit between the new enclaves. The municipality discovered that Nitzana and Nitzanei Sinai would be cut off from the rest of Israel by the highway connecting the two enclaves, that the road would run right through Moshav Be’er Milka and that the tourism community of Ezuz would be located inside the southern Palestinian enclave. ‘Does this look like a map that was put together by serious people?’ Ramat Hanegev’s research and development head Yankale Moskovich scoffed. ‘It looks like it was done by people who do not understand the area.’ A US official speaking on the condition of anonymity clarified in a statement that ‘the map is a conceptual map. Actual boundaries or borders will take detailed examination’. But beyond the drawing of the borders, residents argued that the purposes designated for each of the enclaves show a lack of understanding of the topography of the region. Moskovich explained that while the northern enclave consists of land that is either already being used for agricultural purposes or slated for such use by the municipality, the southern reserve is far more hilly and not at all conducive to farming. Nonetheless, it was the latter chunk that was labeled as ‘residential and agricultural’ on the US map.”

The Trump Plan: Analysis & Commentary

The Palestinian Authority Is a Sinking Ship,

Zena Agha writes, “The real lesson here is the disposability of the Palestinian partner — no matter how acquiescent it may be. The marginalization of the Palestinian Authority by Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu has demonstrated once and for all that Palestinians have no place in any future plans. This dynamic is not unique to the current administration in Washington, although it has been made especially explicit by it. American presidents from both parties have pursued policies that ignored, undermined and weakened Palestinian leaders for decades. As was the case in the negotiations before Oslo, the options for Palestinians are limited to either accepting permanent occupation, or having it imposed on them against their will. The Trump peace plan and Mr. Abbas’s response show that Palestinians have no way to hold their occupier to account through their current political leadership.”

Trump’s 'peace plan' rewards settler violence,

“Trump’s “peace plan” would leave 15 settlement enclaves planted in the middle of scattered Palestinian enclaves. As such, the plan constitutes a surefire recipe for the continuation of terror and of theft aimed at the Palestinians, who constantly suffer the violence of settler thugs sanctioned by the Torah and the government. The blessing given by the world’s largest power to the policy of territorial annexation is nothing less than a reward for violence.”

Trump’s Middle East plan: What does America stand for?,

Shibley Telhami writes, “Today, Israel is dominant, Palestinians are weak, and Arab states are distracted. The Palestinians will surely resist, and Arab public opinion will remain decidedly on their side, regardless of what their governments do. Israel may assess that, with Washington’s help, it can bear the cost, and keep the regional reaction “manageable” — an open question. Regardless, this will come at a cost for Washington: America will find itself championing Israeli repression of Palestinians and on the wrong side of international law and norms. And, in attempting to limit the Arab reaction, it will also find itself increasingly backing Arab governments’ repression of their own people. Is this what America stands for?”

Don’t eulogize the two-state solution just yet,

“Don’t say the two-state solution — which has hovered over Palestine-Israel since 1937 — has died. What has died is what Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh calls the ‘classic two-state solution.’ That idea was built on three inter-connected parts: a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, a capital in East Jerusalem, and return and reparations for Palestinian refugees based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194…In light of all this, the time and conditions might be ripe to adopt and promote the ‘Two States, One Homeland’ initiative. This initiative is first and foremost based on the principles of equal civil and national rights for Palestinians (including refugees) and Israeli Jews, and provides an answer to the more substantive challenges in a way that is different from any other initiative, past and present.”

The Confederation Alternative for Israel and Palestine,

Dahlia Schiendlin writes, “The broad goal of a progressive foreign policy on Israel and Palestine is to advance conflict resolution through a strategy that is clearly articulated and commensurate with political realities in Israel and Palestine. For too long, the contradictions of U.S. policy have obscured whether it really has a coherent vision, and what that vision might be. In other words, the first strategic step is to get a strategy. The first innovation of a progressive U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine should be to understand that resolving the conflict in a manner agreed by both Israel and Palestine, as a final status or end-of-claims framework, is in the interest of both parties—and in the American interest. The political framework must ensure Palestinian self-determination, and protection of human, civil, and political rights in general. Unilateral Israeli annexation of West Bank land must cease. The security needs of both sides must be addressed, and routinized violence against civilians on either side must end. Both sides have a right to their national character, as well, through mutual self-determination that cannot be challenged following the end of the conflict, other than through internal social and political debates.”

The Trump Plan & The International Community

Draft UN Resolution Condemns Israeli Annexation in Trump Peace Plan,

“A draft United Nations Security Council resolution on Tuesday condemned an Israeli plan to annex its settlements in the West Bank in a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel peace proposal. The draft text, circulated to council members by Tunisia and Indonesia, would seemingly face a U.S. veto, but nonetheless offered some members’ dim view of the peace plan that Trump rolled out last week with great fanfare. Diplomats said negotiations on the text would likely begin later this week. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to speak to the council next week about the plan, possibly coinciding with a vote on the draft resolution. The resolution ‘stresses the illegality of the annexation of any part’ of occupied Palestinian territories and “condemns recent statements calling for annexation by Israel” of these territories, according to the draft seen by Reuters.”

6 countries block EU resolution that would have condemned Trump plan, annexation,

“The European Union foreign policy chief’s unusually strident warning Tuesday that an Israeli annexation in the West Bank won’t pass ‘unchallenged’ reportedly came after he failed to convince Europe’s foreign ministers to issue a similar criticism as a unified bloc. According to Hebrew media reports, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell tried to convince the 27 European foreign ministers who are members of the union’s Foreign Affairs Council to issue a shared resolution criticizing the peace plan proposed by the Trump administration last week, and warning against Israeli leaders’ declared intention to annex significant parts of the West Bank within weeks. But Israel’s Foreign Ministry lobbied hard with European governments against the resolution, the reports said, arguing it was one-sided and encouraged Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations. At least six European member states apparently agreed and decided to oppose the resolution. They included Italy, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, and at least two other unnamed nations, the reports said. That opposition killed the joint statement, as EU foreign policy declarations must have the agreement of all 27 member nations.”

Navigating the Storms at the UN Security Council,

“Council members also see the prospect of more diplomatic storms over the Middle East that could divide the P5 this year. President Donald Trump’s long-delayed announcement of his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan at the end of January, featuring a highly imbalanced version of what he misleadingly labels a two-state solution, can hardly be expected to serve as the foundation for cooperative work in New York. In quick succession, the plan’s author Jared Kushner will brief a closed meeting of the Council on 6 February, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the UN early next week to condemn the U.S. approach.  Tunisia, the only Arab state on the Council at present, is working on a resolution that is likely to reaffirm past Security Council resolutions on the two-state solution as a basis for talks and implicitly dismiss the American effort – a text which the U.S. would surely veto. Nevertheless, and although British and French diplomats would probably prefer not to have to vote on the issue, as the dispute is liable to do little more than illustrate the Council’s diminished importance for Middle East peacemaking, a showdown seems almost inevitable. A showdown could also be coming to the General Assembly – where the U.S. both lacks a veto and traditionally finds itself in a distinct minority on Israeli-Palestinian issues.”


After Week of Escalation, Israel Limits Gaza Fishing Zone,

“Israel has reduced Gaza’s fishing zone from 10 to 15 nautical miles after a week of escalation sparked by the unveiling of the Trump administration’s peace plan in Washington, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday. The move, which came into effect on Wednesday at 4 P.M. and is said to last ‘until further notice,’ comes after rockets and explosive-laden balloons were launched from the coastal enclave at southern Israel. The Israeli army has responded with airstrikes.”

Gaza Escalation: Three Rockets Hit Israel, Army Strikes Hamas,

“Three projectiles were fired Wednesday overnight from Gaza into Israeli territory, the Israeli army said. Rocket alert sirens rang out shortly after midnight in southern Israeli towns east of the Gaza Strip. There were no casualties reported. Israeli air force struck Hamas positions near Khan Younis in the south of the Strip, Hamas-affiliated media channels in Gaza reported around an hour later. The IDF issued a statement confirming the strikes. ‘IDF fighter jets struck targets belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the southern Gaza Strip [including] a site used to manufacture weapons,’ the statement said. It stopped short of blaming Hamas directly for the original attack, but said it holds Hamas ‘responsible for what is happening in and coming out of the Gaza Strip.’ This comes amid an ongoing escalation between Israel and Gaza-based militant groups following the release of the Trump peace plan last Tuesday. At least 13 rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory on seven different occasions.”

US peace plan quashes hopes for Israel-Hamas cease-fire,

“A member of the PLO’s Executive Committee told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Palestinian leadership is concerned that the understandings between Hamas and Israel will pave the way for implementing an important part of the US peace plan: politically separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank under the pretext of economic concessions for Strip residents. The source added that President Mahmoud Abbas invited the Hamas leadership to attend the Jan. 28 emergency meeting in Ramallah to discuss the repercussions of the US peace plan. The aim was to unite the Palestinian internal ranks and hear from Hamas leaders, who attended the meeting, given their clear stance on the US peace plan. In addition, Abbas wanted to get some details on the talks the mediators are conducting between Hamas and Israel, the source noted. The source stressed that the Hamas leaders clearly told the Palestinian leadership that there is no settlement agreement with Israel, and noted that their movement stood behind the Palestinian leadership in the face of the US peace plan.”

Hamas Encouraging Attacks to Pressure Israel Before Election, Officials Believe,

“By allowing these attacks on Israel to continue, while making sure they do not hit actual targets, Hamas’s aim is not to cause escalation, defense officials assess, but rather embarrass Netanyahu’s cabinet. Last week, Bennett approved a shipment of cement into the Strip for the first time since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The material, which is crucial for the reconstruction of Gaza, is also a concern for Israelis, as it could be used to build cross-border tunnels. Import of tires was also approved, as well as an increase in the number of entry permits granted to Gazan merchants, and the sale of agricultural produce in Israel. On Saturday, it is these latest overtures that the Israeli government decided to close down. If the situation does not deteriorate, they will likely be restored in the coming days.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Why is the Palestinian Authority unable to mobilise its people?,

“Because for more than 20 years now the PA has actively participated in the repression of the Palestinian people, while maintaining a close relationship with Israeli security forces. Its attitude, rhetoric, and policies in the past and in the present have always been directed not at protecting the rights and wellbeing of the Palestinian people, but at maintaining power at any cost. The ‘deal of the century’ has unmasked the PA’s duplicity and the toll it has taken on Palestinian mass mobilisation.”

German cement giant involved in serious violations against Palestinians,

“The German multinational HeidelbergCement is complicit in the pillaging of natural resources from the Nahal Raba quarry in the occupied West Bank, with serious human rights violations against Palestinians, a new report by SOMO and Al-Haq shows…Palestinian communities are being affected by land grabbing, stealing of natural resources, and dust pollution as a result of HeidelbergCement’s activities. The company is breaching international law in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territory, while avoiding responsibility for the violations it has been involved in. For more than 13 years, the Nahal Raba quarry, located in Salfit on the West Bank, has denied Palestinian communities access to their lands and sources of livelihoods. Moreover, Hanson Israel, the subsidiary of HeidelbergCement operating the quarry, sold products from the quarry to illegal Israeli settlements. The German multinational also pays royalties to the Israeli Civil Administration, the body administering the occupied Palestinian territory. HeidelbergCement’s presence in the area is a clear example of multinational corporations’ involvement in Israel’s prolonged occupation, systemic human rights abuses and the denial of citizen’s fundamental right to self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources.”

Israeli activist persecuted by far-right group marks one month in custody,

“A private prosecution of the kind filed by Ad Kan is a rare procedure in which an individual citizen can file a criminal lawsuit via the state. Pollak is one of three Israelis being sued by Ad Kan for allegedly “attacking IDF soldiers and Border Police officers.” The group has in the past infiltrated and secretly taped Israeli human rights organizations, Pollak’s attorneys, Reham Nasra and Gabi Lasky, demanded last Thursday that the court release him unconditionally. ‘Pollak has been detained for almost a month as part of the private prosecution procedure, which we claim that the complainants have no authority to begin in the first place,” Nasra told the court. “Because the procedure itself is unlawful, so is the arrest warrant’.”

3 arrested in clashes with security forces as tents removed from illegal outpost,

“Three people were arrested Wednesday morning during clashes as security forces removed two tents at an illegal outpost near the Kochav Hashahar settlement in the central West Bank. Dozens of protesters confronted Border Police and civil administration officials — the Defense Ministry body that authorizes West Bank construction — when they arrived at the Ma’ale Shlomo outpost to take down the tents. The three arrests were made for entering a closed military zone and for attacking security forces, police said in a statement.

Israeli Domestic Politics

Four Weeks From Israeli Election, Even Netanyahu’s Political Stunts Can’t Rouse Voters,

“Netanyahu is convinced there is an unexploited mine of dormant Likudniks who didn’t vote in the last two elections, and all he needs to do is to somehow awaken them and drag them to the polling places. That is why he is trying to engineer as many grandiose spectacles as possible in the final few weeks of the campaign: the Trump peace plan; the annexation of settlements; bringing imprisoned Israeli backpacker Naama Issachar back from Moscow on his plane; a “third country” arrangement with Uganda to deport African asylum seekers from south Tel Aviv. The plan is to throw so much red meat at the base that even the laziest Likudnik will rise from his slumbers on Election Day.”

Israeli Arabs alarmed over Benny Gantz supporting Trump’s plan,

“Gantz did not stop for a minute to think about how this would affect him on Israel’s political map. It seems that in order to woo one mandate or half a mandate from the “soft right” to Blue and White, Gantz is willing to divorce about 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel. These Arab citizens get the point: that Gantz is willing to toe the line with the right, and transfer Israeli cities with their Arab residents to the PA. By adopting the Trump plan unconditionally, Gantz erected a giant obstacle between Blue and White and the Joint List — and he needs the latter faction in order to make his way to the prime minister’s office. It is doubtful that he would be able to remove this rift after the elections. In fact, Trump’s transfer plan of widespread annexation has been to unite Israel’s Arab citizens against it. The Joint List hopes that this will energize the Arab voters to make their way to the voting booths in order to neutralize the ‘plot.’ Tibi said, “According to our clear indications in the territory, the Joint List will grow and strengthen to 16 mandates. This is a realistic goal that we set [for ourselves] and is based on field work.’ If, indeed, this is what will happen, Gantz will have a very hard time establishing a government without any support at all from the Joint List. In reply to the question whether the Joint List will condition its support of Gantz, only if he will backtrack from Trump’s plan, Tibi said, ‘I don’t want to talk about that now.’ His hint was clear: Tibi will not forget Gantz’s support of the US plan.”

Israel is only country where the majority approves of Trump’s major foreign policies, survey finds,

“Israel is the only one of 33 non-U.S. countries where a majority expresses net approval of President Donald Trump’s major foreign policies, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Some 55 percent of Israelis in the spring 2019 poll expressed net approval of the policies – meaning they back more of the policies than they are against. The share of net approvers is 18 percentage points higher in Israel than in the United States, the country with the second-most approvals. A median of the 33 countries surveyed other than the United States showed that only 18 percent of people expressed net approval of Trump’s policies and a median of 67 percent of people expressed net disapproval.”