Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 10, 2020

What We’re Reading

Settlements/Occupation/Human Rights

Bennett doubles down on Palestinian demolitions,

“Pursuant to his pledge to eradicate illegal Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday appointed Kobi Eliraz to head a task force to accomplish that goal. ‘The territorial future of the Land of Israel is at stake,’ he said, calling Eliraz a ‘bulldozer.’ Unfortunately, the Palestinians have been able to take over our territory without any interference, Bennett said. ‘The State of Israel has simply not been up to the task of stopping them,’ he said, adding: ‘We are changing direction and embarking on a battle that Israel must win… The defense establishment will fight for this territory, and it is essential for someone to lead this campaign.’ Eliraz is a resident of the Eli settlement. He spent four years as the Defense Ministry adviser on settlement affairs under the last three defense ministers prior to Bennett.”

Collective Punishment: IDF gives home demolition notice to families of 3 suspected West Bank terrorists,

“The Israel Defense Forces on Friday notified the families of three suspected Palestinian terrorists of its intention to demolish their homes. The army said it gave notice to the families of Mahmoud Atuna, Walid Hanatsheh and Yasan Majamas…Military sources said demolitions of the homes of other members of that cell were under consideration. The army also said it warned the family of Ahmad Konba, a member of the cell behind a shooting attack that killed Raziel Shevach outside Nablus in 2018, that it would once again tear down construction work at the family home after they began rebuilding it following its first demolition. The army’s policy is not to allow demolished homes to be rebuilt, and it has carried out repeated demolition work when such attempts are made.”

[Oops!] EU pulls statement referring to settlement activity on “disputed” land,

“The European Union has recalled a statement that referred to land in Area C as ‘occupied or disputed.’ The EU holds that all of the West Bank – including Area C, where the settlements are located – is not disputed, but rather ‘occupied territory’ and part of a future Palestinian state, unless determined otherwise through negotiations. On Thursday, the office of Josep Borrell, its new foreign policy chief, issued an EU condemnation of Israeli settlement activity, in the aftermath of the announcement earlier this week that the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samara had advanced plans for 1,669 new settler homes. ‘We call on the government of Israel to fully comply with international law, [and] end all settlement activity on occupied or disputed lands, and related actions,’ stated the original release by the EU External Action’s office.The call to halt settlement activity was part of a larger statement which affirmed the EU stance that settlements were illegal under international law.The EU has since recalled the statement and reissued it without the word ‘disputed,’ with its spokesman Peter Stano clarifying the word had been placed there in error.”

Israel Arrests Hundreds of Palestinian Minors in Jerusalem, Violating Children's Rights,

“The use of force, nighttime arrests, questioning not in the presence of their parents, rides in patrol cars for intimidation and unnecessary handcuffing – these are just some of the violations of the rights of minors arrested by police in the Isawiyah neighborhood of Jerusalem over the past few months. More than 600 residents have been arrested since the launch of regular police raids in Isawiyeh, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said. Residents and lawyers say about a third of those who have been held are minors.”

Turning BDS into 'Buy directly from Samaria',

“Israel may underestimate its friends’ willingness to help and what harnessing their buying power could mean. Fighting BDS is important. Israel and its supporters may want to press forward with at least as much effort in an offensive long-term strategy. Increased labeling and disclosure can provide important results for Israel.”

The trauma of sending children from Gaza to fight illness alone,

“Fewer children from Gaza were separated from their parents when receiving treatment outside the strip in 2019 than in the previous year, according to statistics by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military body responsible for administering the occupation and blockade. This appears to be an improvement, but what the data fails to show is the anxiety and trauma inflicted on these children and their families as a result of Israel’s restrictions on movement. Between October 2018 and July 2019, 21 percent of children who were treated outside the strip were not accompanied by their parents, compared to 56 percent between February and September 2018. Even with this positive development — that’s one in five children from Gaza who had to receive treatment without their mother or father at their side.”

Anti-BDS/Anti-Free Speech/Lawfare

New “study” Suggests “Pro-BDS Faculty Promote Their Views in Class”,

“A new study from the AMCHA Initiative published on Jan. 8 suggests that college faculty who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement utilize their classrooms to promote their views…”given the clear and present harm that such politicization can cause to our schools, our students and society, it is time for tuition and taxpayers, as well as state and federal legislators, to demand that faculty address this question forthrightly, and to hold them accountable for their answer.’” [FMEP’s Lara Friedman commented on Twitter: “The report argues these syllabi prove there is an effort to “ensure that Israel is not ‘normalized’ in academia. Reality is that this report is part of campaign to prevent Israel being normalized in academia — i.e., being discussed critically, like any other country or issue.”

NY Private School fires [Jewish] teacher who posted anti-Zionist tweets,

“The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an elite New York City prep school, has fired a teacher who posted tweets opposing Zionism. JB Brager, who taught history at Fieldston, was fired Thursday, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned. The termination comes after Brager, who is Jewish, posted multiple tweets disparaging Zionism amid a controversy over anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism at the school.”

Israeli Politics

How Israel is feeding fire of US-Iran escalation,

“Israel’s behavior in the Iranian arena is very similar to its conduct in the Palestinian one. In both cases, it prefers to stoke the fires that bolster extremists rather than support the pragmatists trying to douse the flames. Israel places obstacles on the road to a two-state solution with pragmatist Palestinians and proves to the Palestinian public that the Oslo Accord only resulted in more settlements. In the same manner, Israel is warning the world against Iran’s nuclear ambitions and at the same time turning the United States against Iran and proving to the Iranian public that a deal with a global superpower only resulted in more sanctions.”

A fourth election? New poll shows no clear winner in March vote,

“An Israel Hayom poll, conducted by the Maagar Mochot polling institute among a representative sample of 508 Israeli adults, has the two blocs falling short of a Knesset majority, making it virtually impossible to swear in a government. The Center-Left, along with the Arab parties, is expected to garner 59 seats out of the total 120 seats, whereas the right-wing and haredi parties are expected to win 54 seats together. Yisrael Beytenu, which has refused to align with any bloc after the past two elections, is expected to get 7 seats (down from 8). This means that Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Lieberman is once again in a position of kingmaker, but he has so far insisted that his party would not back any party and will only join a unity government comprising Blue and White and Likud.”

Heads of Two Right-wing Parties Promoting Merger Ahead of Israeli Election,

“The heads of two right-wing parties are negotiating over a joint ticket that would include all the parties to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud ahead of Israel’s March 2 general election. Hayamin Hehadash Chairman Naftali Bennett and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Rafi Peretz, met on Wednesday and on Thursday to discuss the issue. The joint slate would include the far-right National Union party and the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit. But senior Habayit Hayehudi officials said National Union Chairman Bezalel Smotrich is blocking this idea. The officials said Smotrich is refusing to run together with Habayit Hayehudi and has even refused pleas to negotiate with Peretz from mediators in the religious-Zionist community. Smotrich has said any union between the two parties – which ran on a joint ticket in the past two general elections – is impossible without a primary to decide whether he or Peretz should head the ticket.”

US withdrawal from Iraq is Israel’s worst-case scenario,

“The letter of Gen. William H. Sili, commander of US military operations in Iraq, was leaked and then rapidly disseminated among Israel’s most senior security figures Jan. 6. In fact, a translated version in Hebrew appeared only minutes after the letter was leaked to the media, sweeping up the WhatsApp groups of Israel’s most top-secret (coded) defense systems. The content of the letter — that the Americans were preparing to withdraw from Iraq immediately — turned on all the alarm systems throughout the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. More so, the publication was about to set in motion an Israeli “nightmare scenario” in which ahead of the upcoming US elections President Donald Trump would rapidly evacuate all US forces from Iraq and Syria.

Palestinian Politics

PA continues to “threaten” Israel,

“Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee, said on Thursday that the Palestinian Arabs are demanding that the EU pressure Israel to allow elections to take place in eastern Jerusalem. The Palestinian Arabs rejected a European proposal to allow electronic voting of Arab residents of Jerusalem, he said. ‘If Israel refuses,’ Ahmad warned, ‘the Palestinians will look at the option of a harsh response, as there is a consensus on holding a general election. It may be decided to turn the Palestinian National Council into the parliament of the State of Palestine.’”

Is high-profile Meshaal setting stage to lead Hamas again?,

“The name of one-time Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has been popping up lately in speculation that he is considering a return to head the group or even a run for president of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Meshaal, however, has made no such announcement.”

U.S. Scene

'What's in It for Trump?': White House Debating Release of Mideast Peace Plan Before Third Israeli Election,

“Despite Israel being in the midst of another election campaign, the Trump administration is once again considering whether to publish its Middle East peace plan. While no decision has been made, there is real debate within the White House about releasing the plan in the next few weeks. Some in the administration believe this is the very last opportunity to publish it. However, there are concerns over how it will be received during a contentious election – the third within the space of less than a year in Israel.”

Dueling Middle East lobbyists rush to praise Trump for Soleimani killing,

“The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, praised Trump’s ‘decisive action” that “brought to justice one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.’ And perhaps no group has been as celebratory as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which recently registered to lobby for the first time. Announcing his return to the organization last week, Richard Goldberg, an Iran hawk on Trump’s National Security Council, thanked Trump for his ‘bold and decisive leadership to keep America safe and strong’ and said he was looking forward to ‘keep up the fight’ for the president’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign.”

Trump floats expanding NATO to add Middle East,

““I think that NATO should be expanded and we should include the Middle East, absolutely,” Trump told reporters at the White House…Trump joked that the organization could be called NATO-ME, or NATO plus the Middle East. He said he floated the possible name to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a call on Wednesday.”

Ivanka Trump presented the ‘Friend of Israel Award’,

“US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka was awarded the “Friend of Israel Award” by the Israeli American Council (IAC) in Las Vegas on Tuesday, reported by the Jerusalem Post. As a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, Ivanka has been an inspiration for both women leadership and family value..“We thank her for her commitment to strengthening the bond between Israel and the United States, and being a role model for so many over the years.”