Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 11, 2021

What We’re Reading

The Lede

Strong Views and ‘Close to the Boss’: How U.S. Envoy Reshaped a Conflict,

“Looking back on his four years, Mr. Friedman exulted in how prolifically and, he argued, irrevocably the administration had altered the way the conflict is seen. “There’s no going back on what we’ve been able to do,” he said in an interview Monday in a building that had been home to the U.S. mission to the Palestinians until he disbanded it. “I’m frankly somewhere between addicted and intoxicated with what I’ve been able to do, and how much joy it gives me.””

Further Reading

Outgoing US Ambassador David Friedman honored at Knesset,

““I am happy to host Ambassador David Friedman for a special meeting,” said Zvi Hauser, chairman of the committee. “This meeting is not a routine event here in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. It seems to me that it’s even a unique and rare event, but the ambassador is also unique and rare. In Jerusalem, not only will we hear but also say thank you, and we will acknowledge the good of an extraordinary contribution to strengthening the ties between the United States and the State of Israel.”” Also See – “Jerusalem recognition ‘led to explosion of peace,’ departing US envoy tells MKs” (The Times of Israel)

Occupation/Settlements/Annexation/Human Rights

Israel Announces New Settlement Construction Days Before Biden Inauguration,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are advancing the construction of some 850 Jewish housing units in West Bank settlements, days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20. The Administration’s Supreme Planning Council is expected to advance construction of the housing units, currently in various stages of approval, during its next meeting, but the date for the meeting hasn’t been set yet. At that meeting, 100 housing units are expected to be advanced in Tal Menashe, where Esther Horgan resided until she was murdered last month by a Palestinian in the neighboring Reihan Forest.” Also See – “Netanyahu authorizes 800 new housing units in Judea & Samaria” (Arutz Sheva); “Netanyahu to advance plans for 800 settler homes prior to Biden” (Jerusalem Post); “Israel announces new illegal settler homes in occupied West Bank” (Al Jazeera); “Israel announces new settlements 10 days before Biden’s inauguration” (Middle East Eye)

Israeli Defense Officials Alarmed by Rise in Settler Violence Against Police, Soldiers,

“Defense officials are concerned about a rise in settler violence against soldiers and police officers in the West Bank over the past year, which has only accelerated since 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak was killed in a police pursuit last month. Last year, there were 42 instances of violence against soldiers and police by right-wing extremists, marking a significant increase over 2019’s 29 incidents – which was also a significant escalation over previous years. The attacks in 2020 were primarily committed by radical young settlers – the so-called hilltop youth. But the violence has escalated significantly since the death of Sandak, a resident of an unauthorized West Bank outpost, on December 21. Sandak was killed when a police car hit the car he was riding in, causing the driver to lose control. Police had been chasing the car because they suspected the occupants of throwing stones at Palestinians. Defense officials said that since then, there have been around 60 violent incidents involving right-wing extremists. Most targeted Palestinians, but the number of incidents targeting soldiers and police also rose sharply.” Also See – “Settler Suspected of Assaulting Military Commander in Demo Over Teen’s Death” (Haaretz); “Gantz denounces terror, condemns settler attack on Golani officer” (Jerusalem Post)

A Teen Died in a Police Chase. In His Outpost, Steadfast Settlers Want Arabs to 'Keep Their Heads Down',

“Someone very familiar with some of these stories is Elisha Yered, a former resident of Maoz Esther, and a prominent hilltop activist. He also serves as a kind of spokesman for the hilltop youth – who these days rarely speak to the media without the mediation of one of the spokespersons in the area. Yered, 21, came to the outpost about three years ago, and one of the founders of its present incarnation. “The path of the hilltop youths is one of faith and a sense of mission to settle the land, because that’s what God wants,” says Yered, now married. He also believes that “we must expel the goyim.” The goyim, meaning the Palestinians, can live in the country, he says, on condition that they respect Judaism, observe the seven Noahide laws and “keep their heads down.””

'Call Anytime': The Settlers' New 'Snitch Line' Is Targeting Palestinians,

“Israel’s Civil Administration has opened a telephone hotline for receiving information about construction that is being done in the West Bank without permits. The website of the settlement of Kokhav Yaakov calls it a “snitch-line” – and leaves no room for guesswork: The target of the snitching is Palestinians.”

Givat Hamatos Tender Reaches Final Stages in 7 Days,

“Under the assumption that the incoming administration will likely oppose such moves, rightwing groups are expected to ramp up pressure on Netanyahu to exploit the last week of the Trump administration to ensure the tender process advances unencumbered…If carried through, Givat Hamatos would become the first new settlement in East Jerusalem in 20 years and would severely undermine the prospects of a viable, contiguous and independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. Construction in Givat Hamatos would create Israeli territorial contiguity between the existing settlements of Gilo and Har Homa and effectively sever off the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem from Bethlehem and the southern part of the West Bank. By enveloping the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa with Israeli construction, it would likewise detach the neighborhood from its Palestinian environs and deplete the only remaining land reserves for further residential development in the area. Ir Amim is currently exploring legal aspects concerning the existence of discrimination in the details of the tender and will update accordingly.”

Bennett: If Netanyahu doesn't legalize outposts I'll do it when I'm PM,

“Yamina Party head Naftali Bennett pledged to authorize the West Bank outpost should he be chosen prime minister in the March elections. He urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take action on the matter prior to US President-elect Joe Biden’s entry to the White House on January 20.”

Gantz meeting with settlers has not led to outpost legalization,

“The meeting held at the home of Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch (Blue and White) was first reported on Sunday morning by Army Radio, which indicated that Gantz has spoken both in support of the outposts and in support of a meeting of the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria to advance settler housing projects. The Jerusalem Post has since confirmed the meeting, but despite Gantz’s words, no action has been taken to advance the issue.”

Palestinians, Jordan accuse Israel of ‘Judaizing’ Western Wall Plaza,

“The Jordanian-controlled Wakf Department in east Jerusalem, which oversees Muslim holy sites, said that the “excavations” were “part of the [Israeli] project to complete the Judaization of the al-Buraq Plaza, southwest of the al-Aqsa Mosque.” The Wakf claimed that the renovations contradicted international humanitarian law and decisions on this matter by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Al-Buraq is the name Muslims use to refer to the Western Wall. They believe it is the site where the prophet Mohammed tied his winged steed, al-Buraq, on his journey to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise. The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the United Nations Security Council to “halt the crimes of the Israeli occupation forces against al-Aqsa Mosque.””

FMEP's Weekly Settlement & Annexation Report: January 8, 2021,

“On December 23, 2020 the Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled in favor of the settler group Ateret Cohanim’s right to evict 22 Palestinians (two families) from their longtime home in the Batan al-Hawa section of the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. This case is part of a large scale campaign by Ateret Cohanim to take control over more properties in Silwan – a campaign which threatens the eviction of about 700 Palestinians. The Court once again upheld Ateret Cohanim’s ownership of those properties via its control of an ancient land trust, which the settlers recently revived in order to enable its eviction effort. “

How Israel Tormented Arabs in Its First Decades – and Tried to Cover It Up,

“The origins of the brutality documented in all its ugliness last week – an Israeli soldier shooting an unarmed Palestinian who was trying to protect the electric generator he needs to function, amid the abject poverty of the South Hebron Hills – date back quite a few decades, to the period of military rule in Israel proper. Testimony from recently declassified documents, together with historical records in archives, shed light on the acute violence that prevailed in the “state within a state” that Israel foisted upon extensive areas of the country where Arab citizens lived, from 1948 until 1966.”

The Lie of the “Young Settlement” that is Annexing Israel,

“As Donald Trump’s term in office comes to an end, we’ve recently seen the birth of the “Young Settlement” campaign, part of the settler right’s final attempt to promote land grabs and change the reality on the ground in the West Bank, before an adult once again assumes the seat of the President of the United States. Although in 2020 we did not see an official annexation of the West Bank, we did see the highest level per year of settlement construction plan approvals in the past two decades. Now the settlement enterprise is trying to scrape together a few more final achievements.”

IDF likely wrapping up Gaza border crisis probes - exclusive,

“With the IDF Spokesman’s Office telling The Jerusalem Post that, to date, 14 criminal investigations and two convictions resulted from the killings of more than 200 Palestinians during the 2018 Gaza border crisis, the IDF is likely close to wrapping up its probes, the Post estimates.  The IDF Spokesperson provided the most updated statistics on the probes from the 2018 conflict, which have received special attention from the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Commission…Supporters of Israel will likely applaud the IDF for 14 criminal probes and two jail sentences of its own soldiers for firing on Gazan Palestinians in tense operational situations. Critics, including B’Tselem, which released a report on Monday, have dismissed IDF probes as insufficient or a whitewash. The two convictions came on June 15, 2020, and October 28, 2019.”


Palestinian Authority Expects First Vaccines in March, Accuses Israel of 'Ignoring Its Duties',

“The Palestinian Authority said on Sunday it expects to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses in March under a deal with drugmaker AstraZeneca, and accused Israel of shirking a duty to ensure vaccines are available for all people in the territories it controls. While Israel has already become the world leader in vaccinations per capita, Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip have yet to secure their first supplies.” Also See – “Israel ‘declined WHO request’ to provide Covid-19 vaccine for Palestinian medics” (Haaretz); PA: Israel responsible for providing vaccine to Palestinians” (Jerusalem Post)

5 Human Rights Groups Petition against Minister of Public Security Ohana’s Refusal to Vaccinate Prisoners,

“In the petition, the organizations demand that the Prison Service vaccinate the entire prisoner population according to the vaccination priority set by the Ministry of Health, with an emphasis on prisoners aged 60 and over, and those in high-risk groups. Moreover, the petition demands that the IPS prevent prioritizing the vaccination of prison staff over the prisoners.” Also See – “Gantz to Netanyahu: Refusing to vaccinate prisoners who are 60+ is illegal” (Jerusalem Post); “Human rights groups petition High Court to force Israel to vaccinate inmates” (The Times of Israel)

Virus czar says there’s room for optimism as morbidity rate slows,

“National coronavirus czar Nachman Ash expressed optimism Sunday that the combination of lockdown measures and Israel’s fast-paced mass inoculation program was beginning to impact the virus’s spread, slowing down infection rates. Ash’s remarks came as the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic in the country.”

COVID Vaccines: The Most Lethal Example of Israel’s Disregard for Palestinian Lives,

“Israel’s violations towards Palestinians are often justified as protecting Israel’s security and national interests. However, failing to provide vaccines for Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has nothing to do with security, and little to do with protecting the State of Israel. It is more akin to a complete disregard for the humanity and lives of Palestinians. As people in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories continue to contract and die of COVID-19, Israel continues to deny that it has any responsibility with respect to the provision of vaccines, despite this being completely untrue under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

2020 was a bad year for Gaza hotel-turned quarantine centers,

“The Beach Hotel with its 25 rooms is among 10 large hotels the Ministry of Interior in Gaza has converted into quarantine centers. Nashwan said that he was forced to terminate work contracts with local and foreign institutions and call off several weddings and evening events due to the health crisis. He also had to lay off and terminate contracts signed with more than 30 workers during 2020, as the ministry did not cover any expenses for turning the hotels into quarantine centers, nor did it offer compensation for hotel owners. He noted that the hotel operated for only two months last year before the first case was reported in the Gaza Strip in March and was subsequently converted into a quarantine center. Nashwan pointed out that in 2020, the hotel’s losses amounted to about $250,000, adding, “Things are not likely to improve as hotels are expected to remain closed.””

Anti-Free Speech, Anti-BDS, Pro-Settlement Lawfare

Biden has new tools to fight anti-Semitism,

An oped in which Ken Marcus, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Civil Rights (2018-2020), urges the Biden Administration to continue the work he has done to weaponize antisemitism to quash criticism of Israel.


So the European Commission put out a new handbook to promote use of #IHRA definition of antisemitism across a range of policy areas & spheres of society. This despite ever-growing concern & body of serious, well argued criticism, incl from leading antisemitism experts.”

The Palestinian Scene

PA shuts down Palestinian Airlines, shuttering hopes for airport,

“The Palestinian Ministry of Transport and Communications recently announced its decision to close and end operations of the Palestinian Airlines and sell its two airliners. The decision sparked an outcry among Palestinians who considered it to be a relinquishment of a symbol of the sovereignty of the State of Palestine. The ministry said Dec. 29 that its decision was based on the high maintenance costs for the airline’s two Fokker 50 aircraft, both of which are over 30 years old. One plane has been parked in Amman and the other in Cairo, as no airline company is leasing them in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This is not to mention the costs involved at Egypt’s and Jordan’s airports.”

Hamas scrambles for relevance in post-normalization Middle East,

“Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement which governs in Gaza, has agreed to reengage in a reconciliation process with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and move toward elections in the West Bank and Gaza. This may all sound familiar. The parties have started down this road before, but this time it just might happen. Why? Well, for one, economic conditions in Gaza are grim, as we wrote last month, and a recent UN Conference on Trade and Development report warns that Gaza’s economy is “near collapse.” There are almost zero prospects that there will be a change for the better, absent a dramatic change in Gaza and the regional environment. The larger issue for Hamas is its isolation, which is increased by the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan; US-brokered reconciliation among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states; and a new push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, led by Abbas and Egypt. With a new US administration coming in, Iran, Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah find themselves even more on the outside looking in with regard to regional trends. So Hamas is looking to play as many cards as possible, to stay relevant and engaged as events unfold.”

The Israeli Scene

Israelis protest Netanyahu amid 3rd virus lockdown,

“Thousands of Israelis on Saturday renewed weekly demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for the long-serving leader to resign over corruption charges against him and his alleged mishandling of the coronavirus crisis. Protesters held signs reading “Go,” and “Bibi, let my people go,” referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. The protest in a Jerusalem square near Netanyahu’s official residence comes as Israel is the midst of its third national lockdown, which was recently tightened to shutter schools, and as the country presses forward with a world-leading vaccination drive. Netanyahu’s trial was set to resume this week, but was postponed indefinitely amid the tighter restrictions.” Also See – “Israelis resume corruption protests against Netanyahu amid third Covid-19 lockdown” (Middle East Eye)

Israel Election: Ex-Defense Minister Ya'alon Breaks Up With Lapid, Builds Up His Party,

“Telem Chairman Moshe Ya’alon announced Sunday that he will be separating from Yesh Atid in the upcoming election, delivering a statement meant to increase his party’s bargaining power in creating a new alliance with an existing party. “If you are loyal Israeli citizens, if you are Zionists who love the Israeli people and fear for the future of democracy and preserving the country’s Jewish identity, today I am here to tell you that there is a responsible adult, and there is a worthy party,” Ya’alon said in his announcement of the split, vowing that Telem would emphasize public health, education, transportation, the economy, welfare, and fighting corruption.””

Netanyahu's Corruption Trial to Resume February 8 After Being Postponed Due to COVID Lockdown,

“The next hearing in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will be held on February 8, the panel of judges presiding over the prime minister’s trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust said on Monday. On Friday, the court announced that Netanyahu’s hearing, initially scheduled for Wednesday, would be postponed “indefinitely,” citing coronavirus lockdown restrictions, even though, just days prior, the court had rejected a request made by the premier’s defense counsel to postpone the hearing. “

TV poll shows Likud rising, but Netanyahu lacks clear majority; Huldai fading,

“A new television poll over the weekend suggested Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is regaining support ahead of the March 23 national election, but the premier remained without a clear path to forming a new government. Meanwhile, excitement around Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Hauldai’s The Israelis party appeared to be fading since the launch of the center-left platform last month. Likud would pick up 31 seats if voting was held today, down from its current tally of 36 but up by several seats over previous polls, according to the Channel 13 news survey aired Friday.

Lapid: Ready to cooperate with Sa'ar in government,

“Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid expressed willingness on Sunday to cooperate with New Hope candidate Gideon Sa’ar in the next government, which they both hope to form. Lapid said during a media briefing that on issues like annexation and matters of religion and state, Sa’ar has opposite views, but that those issues would not prevent cooperating in the formation of a future government. He said they had good relations, had served in the same government before and could work together in the future.”

Over half of Israelis believe democratic system is in danger — poll,

“Israelis are losing trust in public institutions, with over half saying the country’s democracy is in danger, according to an annual Democracy Index poll released Monday. The Israel Democracy Institute survey also recorded a decline in social solidarity amid the coronavirus pandemic and in the number of Israelis who believe the Jewish state is a good place to live.”

Israel is having yet another election — could Netanyahu lose? Here are the basics.,

“This is the first Israeli election amid a spiking COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent vote, in March, took place as cases had only begun to rise in Israel and worldwide. This one comes after a year of sickness, death, lockdowns and economic crisis — but also as Israel is racing to vaccinate a large portion of its population. Why is Israel having another election? Will Netanyahu win again? Who’s running against him? And how might COVID-19 factor in? Here’s what you need to know. “

The Palestinians’ moment is coming,

“When the Likud courts the Arab vote, and the Saudis prioritize the Palestinian question, you know the ‘peace process’ is headed back to the top of the national agenda”

Netanyahu's rivals liken him to Trump as world reels from Capitol riots,

“On Jan. 8, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak posted a photo of a massive billboard from a previous Israeli election campaign showing a beaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing alongside a broadly smiling US President Donald Trump. Next to the photo Barak tweeted, “The conmen’s league. Political Siamese twins. Both narcissists, both claiming to have been framed, both serial liars contemptuous of their followers, inciting against the legal system. Both fraudsters insanely self-centered and willing to assassinate democracy. The Americans have already disposed of theirs, at a heavy cost. It is now our turn.” In a Haaretz article run the same day, Barak urged President Reuven Rivlin to declare that Netanyahu cannot serve as prime minister given his indictment and ongoing trial on a charge of bribery, even though the law does not forbid him from running for office. Barak said the president must make the pronouncement before the Feb. 4 deadline for submitting the parties’ candidate lists for the March 23 elections “so that those compiling the lists take it into account and citizens are aware of it before they head for the ballot box.””