Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 13, 2020

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FMEP Resources

FMEP Legislative Round-Up: January 10, 2020,

 S. 3176: Introduced 1/9 by Rubio (R-FL) and Coons (D-DE), the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020, aka, “A bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 to make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and to authorize the appropriations of funds to Israel, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Note: According to Rubio’s press release, this bill authorizes $3.3 billion in annual security assistance and “supports Israel’s ability to address both conventional and emerging threats.” What that precisely means will not be known until the text is available. It is worth recalling that in 2019, the House passed legislation introduced by Deuch (D-FL), HR 1837,  that was similarly described in terms of merely codifying the US-Israel MOU – when in fact, that legislation went much further, including giving the President authority to provide unlimited (in quantity and type) defense articles and services to Israel — with no accountability to any U.S. law, no financial limits, and no oversight by Congress — in cases where he determines there is an ongoing or imminent military attack (with that term not defined).”

Settlement Report: January 10, 2020,

“On December 20, 2019 the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda announced that the court has found a reasonable basis upon which to open an investigation into Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Bensouda said that the preliminary investigation, launched five years ago, established sufficient evidence of war crimes, citing Israeli settlements and Israel’s conduct during its 2014 incursion into the Gaza Strip, which Israel gave the title “Operation Protective Edge”. The statement said that the Court found evidence that Hamas and armed Palestinian groups also committed war crimes during the 50 days of hostilities in 2014.”

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Israel Picks Up Pace, Grants Citizenship to 1,200 East Jerusalem Palestinians,

“Around 1,200 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem received Israeli citizenship last year, the largest number since Israel captured the eastern half of the city in 1967. The number of citizenship applications that were rejected also rose sharply in 2019…The Population Authority invokes many reasons for refusing citizenship, including insufficient knowledge of Hebrew, suspicion that the applicant’s center of life isn’t in Israel (for instance, if the applicant owns property in the West Bank) or a close relationship with someone involved in terrorism. Moreover, the process is both long and expensive; applicants must produce countless documents and usually need a lawyer’s help.”

Why Jerusalem's ancient past is once again the battleground for its future,

“Awiedah, 57, and other Palestinians blame a major U.S.-backed Israeli archaeological dig, the so-called Pilgrimage Road, among others beneath the crowded hillside, for making this and other homes unlivable. Palestinian rights activists say the excavations are part of a much broader campaign to strengthen Israel’s claim to east Jerusalem, encourage right-wing Jewish settlers and eventually doom a future Palestinian state.”

Small Nablus school holds firm despite settler attacks,

“Although the village takes its name from the Canaanite word for “calm” or “serene,” life in Yanoun has been anything but. Situated amid five Israeli settlements — Gedonim, Givat ‘Alam and settlements 777, 776 and 778 —Yanoun has had to battle for survival. Rashed Morar, head of the village, told Al-Monitor, “Israel took over 80% of the village’s agricultural lands. Yanoun residents can access 10% [of those] lands after obtaining prior licenses from the occupation authorities, because they are close to Israeli settlements, and the remaining 10% is the area where Yanoun residents live and conduct their agricultural and sheep-raising activities.”

Israel pushes forward with plans for new gas pipeline to Gaza – report,

“A long-percolating plan to build a gas pipeline to the Gaza Strip, which would greatly reduce the Palestinian enclave’s dependency on outside electricity, is moving forward after a pledge of European funding for the project’s planning, the Calcalist business daily reported Monday. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has instructed government-owned Israel Natural Gas Lines to finalize plans for the project, following a series of meetings on the initiative, the paper said. Funding of the planning stage, estimated at some NIS 10 million ($2.8 million), is set to be provided by European sources, probably the Netherlands, it added.”

Israeli Politics

In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset adviser rules immunity debate can go ahead,

“The ruling allows the parliament to consider — and, with the current balance of power, almost certainly reject — Netanyahu’s request to receive immunity from the indictment he faces in the three criminal cases against him. Responding to the decision, Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, said he had instructed his faction chairman, MK Avi Nissenkorn, “to convene the Arrangements Committee as soon as possible in order to establish the Knesset committee to discuss Netanyahu’s immunity. ‘Netanyahu asked for it, and Netanyahu will get it,’ he said.”

With Mergers From Left and Right, This Should Be the Most Fateful Israeli Election,

“This must be one the most fateful and fascinating periods in Israeli politics. Everywhere you look on the political spectrum, groundbreaking discussions are taking place…The intra-party machinations may have some influence on the ultimate results, but they won’t change the campaign’s dynamics. Once the party slates are locked, Israel will settle back into the old and depressing dichotomy of being either for Bibi or against him. Netanyahu knows this, and is already tailoring his message accordingly. He is accusing his opponent, Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, of only caring about removing him from power and ignoring his governments’ many wonderful achievements.”

Labor Party, Meretz Announce Merger Ahead of Israel Election,

“Israel’s two mainstream left-wing parties, Labor-Gesher and Meretz, announced Monday that they would run together in Israel’s March 2 general election. Labor chairman Amir Peretz and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz agreed overnight Sunday that Peretz would lead the joint slate and Gesher head Orli Levi-Abekasis would be placed in the second spot on the roster.”

Will Israel get Republican/Democrat-style big parties?,

“Is Israel ready for a new political model? Is the divided, torn Jewish state, split by internal and external disputes, able to forge a model of two political blocs similar to the one of the US Republican and Democratic parties? Probably not, but that did not prevent the idea from germinating and taking over the political agenda and discourse of the past week. It was orchestrated by two people: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the right, and Labor-Gesher party Chair Amir Peretz, on the left…the fate of Israel’s third elections within less than a year will be determined in the coming days by the alliances that will or will not be forged on the right and the left. The side achieving the most skillful mergers and thereby preventing the waste of fewer votes cast for parties that fail to get elected will have a distinct advantage over the other. Netanyahu is deeply invested in this move and engaged in it around the clock. Benny Gantz is signaling relative equanimity. He is “relying” on Peretz to do the right thing at the last minute and agree to run jointly with Meretz. The remaining question is whether Peretz relies on himself.”

Israel’s Top Arab Politician: Gantz's Party Wanted to Treat Us Like a Mistress,

“Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List of Arab parties, is one of the few Israeli politicians expected to benefit from the third Knesset election within a year. The Joint List is gaining strength, and Odeh is enjoying great popularity. It’s hard to walk down the street in Haifa without both Arabs and Jews hugging and kissing him – at least those who don’t call him a terrorist, of course.”

Palestinian Politics

Palestinian Fatah camps jockeying for post-Abbas leadership,

“A Ramallah-based analyst who requested anonymity told Al-Monitor, ‘[Key Fatah leaders] are more interested in the succession issue than elections.’ The source also asserted, however, ‘Fatah leaders realize that elections, should they take place, could be a strong indicator of which wing of Fatah is the strongest.’ Abbas himself appears to favor the group headed by deputy Fatah leader Mahmoud al-Aloul, a Central Committee member and former governor of Nablus, Palestine’s leading city and business center. The other group is led by Fatah secretary and former head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Maj. Gen. Jibril Rajoub, who is also a Central Committee member and head of the Palestinian Football Association. The Aloul faction appears to also have the backing of the current prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh; the powerful minister of civil affairs (that is, the person charged with direct contact with Israel), Hussein Sheikh, who is also a Fatah Central Committee member; and the powerful head of Palestinian intelligence, Majed Faraj, who is not a Central Committee member. Meanwhile, Rajoub has attracted backing in the southern West Bank, especially in the Hebron area, as well as among Gazans whose leaders in Fatah support Qudwa and those who support the dismissed Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan. Backing by Dahlan for Rajoub remains quiet because of its toxicity within Fatah stemming from Abbas’ animosity toward Dahlan. Abbas has used all the legal and political means available to keep Dahlan outside Fatah and away from the occupied territories.”

Hamas unfazed by Israel warnings,

“Hamas leader Yahya Moussa told Al-Monitor, ‘The Israeli warnings have no value and we do not take them into consideration. What we take into account is Israel’s commitment to the truce understandings, which means stopping the targeting of our people in the Gaza Strip and breaking the blockade it imposed.’ Speaking about whether or not Hamas was able to prevent the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, Moussa said, ‘Rockets can be fired individually by any given faction and they usually come in response to an Israeli aggression against our people; Hamas is not a police force working to protect Israel from these rockets. It must not target our people in order to avoid these rockets.’ Islamic Jihad leader Ahmad al-Mudallal told Al-Monitor, ‘The Israeli warnings aim to cover up the ongoing Israeli attempts to avoid implementing the understandings of breaking the siege [the truce]’.”

U.S. Politics/The "Deal of the Century"

Top Trump Official Rejects Claims Releasing Peace Plan Before Israel Election Is 'Interference',

“U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien told Axios that releasing the Mideast peace plan before Israel’s March 2 general election wouldn’t harm Israel’s electoral process…The U.S. security adviser, however, added in an interview published Monday that the Trump administration has ‘no illusion’ that releasing the long-awaited plan ‘will be an easy process’.”

'Jeopardy!' Sparks Controversy After Ruling Church of Nativity Is Not in Palestine,

“American gameshow ‘Jeopardy!’ has sparked international controversy after contestants were asked to identify where the Church of Nativity was located on an episode that aired Friday. During a round under the category ‘Where’s that Church?’ contestants where given the clue ‘Built in the 300s A.D., the Church of the Nativity.’ Contestant Katie Needle answered ‘What is Palestine.’ The trivia show’s host Alex Trebek said the answer was wrong and contestant Jack McGuire answered ‘What is Israel,’ being awarded points for the correct answer.”