Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 19, 2021

What We’re Reading

Palestinian Elections

President Abbas enacts decree-law on holding general elections,

“President Mahmoud Abbas enacted today a decree-law on holding legislative, presidential and National Council elections on three phases later this year. Under the decree-law, legislative elections will be held on May 22, 2021, presidential elections on July 31, 2021, and the Palestinian National Council elections on August 31, 2021. The decree-law considers the legislative elections — which will be held in the areas administered by the Palestinian Authority — as the first phase for the subsequent formation of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO legislature which represents the Palestinian people at home, abroad and in the diaspora. The decree-law states that the elections of the Palestinian National Council will be held wherever possible. The signing ceremony of the decree-law came as President Abbas received the Chairman of the Central Elections Commission (CEC), Hanna Nasser, at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, in the center of the West Bank. The President asked the CEC and all the relevant state agencies to be well prepared for a democratic process which will take place in all the governorates of Palestine, including East Jerusalem.”

Abbas Announces Palestinian Elections After Years of Paralysis,

“Sixteen years after he was elected for what was meant to be a four-year term, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority announced on Friday that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held in the spring and summer. The announcement appeared to be part of an effort to get the divided Palestinian house in order and project at least a semblance of unity as the Palestinian Authority prepares to repair ties with Washington and the incoming Biden administration after a disastrous few years of discord and disconnect under President Trump. The presidential decree stated that the voting for the long-defunct Palestinian Legislative Council would take place on May 22, followed by presidential elections on July 31. Mr. Abbas, 85, the leader of Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian party, was last elected to office in early 2005 after the death of his predecessor, Yasir Arafat.”

PA demands Israel allow East Jerusalemites to take part in Palestinian elections,

“The Palestinian Authority is set to formally request that Israel allow East Jerusalem Palestinians to participate in scheduled Palestinian national elections, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday. “We will officially ask Israel to allow our people in Jerusalem to formally participate in the elections, whether as voters or as candidates,” Shtayyeh said. On Friday night, PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree setting dates for three consecutive Palestinian national elections. If held, they would be the first Palestinian national elections in 15 years.”

Abbas Declares Palestinian Elections, but They’re Unlikely to Actually Happen,

“The decree by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announcing parliamentary and presidential elections for the Palestinian Authority in May and July, respectively – 14 and 15 years after the previous ones, which were both supposed to be four-year terms – was welcomed across the spectrum. And for good reason: Despite the division and segregation dictated by Israel, the Palestinian political forces and professional bodies such as the Palestinian Central Elections Commission continue to address the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as a single entity with common interests that must be expressed – including at the polls.”

PA: Abbas rival won’t be allowed to run in Palestinian election,

“Deposed Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan will not be allowed to run in the upcoming Palestinian presidential election, because he is a convicted criminal, two senior Palestinian officials said on Saturday. Dahlan loyalists, meanwhile, welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to call new elections and said that they intend to participate in the electoral process. They warned that Dahlan supporters would run in an independent list if the Fatah leadership refuses to include them in its list for the parliamentary election.  It’s worth noting that divisions and bickering in Fatah were one of the reasons why the ruling faction lost the parliamentary election to Hamas in 2006. The election for the parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, is scheduled to be held on May 22. The presidential election will be held on July 31, according to a decree issued by Abbas on Friday evening.”

Distrust, division and doubt cloud Palestinian election call,

“Beset by political infighting, split between three territories and distrustful of their institutions, many Palestinians are sceptical that their first national elections in 15 years will bring change – or even happen at all. President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that parliamentary and presidential elections would be held later this year in a bid to heal long-standing divisions. His main rival, the militant Islamist group Hamas, welcomed the move. The announcement is widely seen as a gesture aimed at pleasing U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, with whom the Palestinians want to reset relations after they reached a low under Donald Trump. But a December poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 52% of Palestinians think elections held under present conditions would not be fair and free. If Hamas won, 76% thought Fatah – the party led by Abbas – would not accept the result and 58% believed Hamas would reject a Fatah victory.”

Uncertainty as Palestine’s Abbas announces elections,

“Beset by political infighting, split between three territories, and distrustful of their institutions, many Palestinians are sceptical their first national elections in 15 years will bring change – or even happen at all. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that parliamentary and presidential elections would be held later this year in a bid to heal long-standing divisions. The PA’s main rival, Hamas, welcomed the move.”

[Thread] "There was chatter that Abbas would sign today...",

There was chatter that Abbas would sign today. But given past dashed hopes, you believe it when you see it. This comes after Hamas and Fatah agreed in July to move forward…And then in December Hamas softened its positions, After 15 years of deadlock, both sides clearly feel that elections are in their interest — irrespective off who wins. Hamas sees entering the PA as a means of escaping isolation &sanctions in Gaza. But big prize is the PNC (PLO parliament). This may push them towards moderation.”

[Thread] "alestinian President Abbas issued decree on Friday setting dates for elections this year, for the first time in 15 years",

“Has to be said: Every analyst/journo/observer skeptical they’ll actually happen (and for good reason). Abbas has issued elex decrees before (10 yrs ago) only to cancel. Motivation this time 3-fold: restore legitimacy; heal divisions w Hamas; appeal to Biden (& Europeans).”


Israel approves some 800 new settlement homes ahead of Biden inauguration,

Israel approved the construction of almost 800 housing units in West Bank settlements on Sunday, three days before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, as promised last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Civil Administration said some 780 homes were okayed.” Also See – “Israel greenlights hundreds of settlement homes in last-minute push” (Israel Hayom); ICYMI – “Israel Expected to Advance Plans for (At Least) 684 Settlement Units, Grant Retroactive Approval to Outposts” (FEP Settlement Report)

Court Removes Freeze on Givat Hamatos Tender while 6 New Tenders Published for Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa ,

“In an unexpected move, today, the Jerusalem District Court unfortunately rescinded the freeze on the Givat Hamatos tender process. The temporary injunction (or restraining order), which Ir Amim succeeded in obtaining on Friday, January 15, froze the process until the court made a decision on Ir Amim’s request for an interim injunction. The interim injunction would have suspended the process until a court decision is made on the petition. The denial of the interim injunction request was not based on the merits of the underlying petition, but rather due to the fact that, according to the judge, the discriminatory conditions in the government housing scheme can be amended at a later stage and should have no bearing on the tender bidding process. A hearing on the actual petition has been scheduled for May 27, and the state is required to submit a response one month prior.”

Gantz blocks Netanyahu’s ‘irresponsible’ push to legalize West Bank outposts,

“After the government approved almost 800 new housing units in West Bank settlements this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday tried to also legalize six unrecognized outposts, but was thwarted by Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The proposal came a day before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, potentially further complicating the start of Jerusalem’s relations with the new administration. The approval of the settler homes has received widespread international attention and been condemned by the Palestinians, the European Union and the UN, among others.”

Also See

Gantz accuses PM of trying to derail permit process for Palestinian construction,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of attempting to go behind his back to block his ministry’s approval of Palestinian construction projects. Last week, Gantz announced plans to permit a number of Palestinian building projects in Area C, which makes up some 60 percent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli security and administrative control, on the same day he announced his approval of some 800 housing units in Israeli settlements. Gantz’s plans for Palestinian construction were approved by his ministry’s Civil Administration’s Planning and Licensing Subcommittee on Sunday morning.” Also See – “Gantz Says Netanyahu Tried to Stop Israeli Approval of Palestinian Construction in the West Bank” (Haaretz)

Israel moves to rein in rights group over ‘apartheid’ use,

“Israel’s education minister says he is banning groups that call Israel an “apartheid state” from lecturing at schools — a move that targets one of the country’s leading human rights groups after it began describing both Israel and its control of the Palestinian territories as a single apartheid system. The explosive term, long seen as taboo and mostly used by the country’s harshest critics, is vehemently rejected by Israel’s leaders and many ordinary Israelis. Education Minister Yoav Galant tweeted late on Sunday that he had instructed the ministry’s director general to “prevent the entry of organizations calling Israel ‘an apartheid state’ or demeaning Israeli soldiers from lecturing at schools.”…In a report released last week, the rights group B’Tselem said that while Palestinians live under different forms of Israeli control in the occupied West Bank, blockaded Gaza, annexed east Jerusalem and within Israel itself, they have fewer rights than Jews in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. B’Tselem said it would not be deterred by the minister’s announcement and that despite it, the group gave a lecture on the subject via videocall to a school in the northern city of Haifa on Monday.”

Also See

Settler Violence Continues..,

West Bank demolitions and displacement | December 2020,

“In December, the Israeli authorities demolished, forced people to demolish, or seized 67 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,
resulting in the displacement of 50 people, including 30 children, and otherwise affecting the livelihoods or access to services of over 400 others. All structures were
located in Area C or East Jerusalem and were targeted due to a lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. Seven of the structures located in three Area C communities had been provided as humanitarian aid, for a total cost of over 14,000 euros.

The cumulative number of structures demolished or seized in 2020 (849) across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the number of Palestinians displaced as a result (996), are the largest since 2016. The number of donor-funded aid structures targeted in 2020 (156) is also the highest since 2016. Commitments made by the Israeli authorities to halt the demolition of inhabited homes during the COVID-19 crisis have been largely disregarded. Along with the repeated targeting of water and sanitation facilities, these practices have undermined the ability of already vulnerable families to adequately cope with the pandemic. One of the major trends observed in 2020 was the increased use of military orders and other legislation, preventing or limiting people’s ability to legally challenge the targeting of their homes and sources of livelihood in Israeli courts. In Area C, 30 per cent of the structures targeted in 2020 (202 out of 666) were seized without prior warning, up from 11 per cent in 2017 and 8 per cent in 2016. Another 13 per cent of the structures in Area C (88) were demolished on the basis of Military Order 1797, which provides a 96-hour notice and very limited grounds for legally challenging a demolition. In East Jerusalem, there was a major increase in the proportion of structures demolished by their owners, following the issuance of demolition orders, which reached 47 per cent in 2020, up from an average of 23 per cent in the previous four years. This is attributed to new Israeli legislation, which limited the authority of Israeli courts to intervene and enabled the ability of the Jerusalem Municipality to exert pressure on affected families to demolish their properties by themselves.”

Not ‘Apartheid in the West Bank.’ Apartheid,

“It’s impossible to separate the territories and Israel, and it’s impossible to consider the occupation temporary. The conclusion: Israel is an apartheid state. Just as in South Africa it was ludicrous to talk about democracy, even though elections were held, it’s ridiculous to view Israel as a democracy. If part of it is tyranny, all of it is tyranny. It’s impossible to argue with the fact that in the occupied territories two systems of rights and laws exist based on the separating of nationalities. No fact is more certain. The temporariness of the occupation is also an outdated argument. That’s why we have to stop trying to terrify people and claim that the right wing is leading us to apartheid. Apartheid has been here since 1948. Only then will we be able to recognize that the occupation defines the Israeli regime – not the High Court of Justice, not the elections and not the freedoms for Jews, and also a bit for non-Jewish citizens. Jewish supremacy is in everything, as B’Tselem puts it. It’s impossible to separate the “good” Israel and the “bad” occupation, as Thrall states. Get to know it: apartheid. An apartheid state. We live in one, we are part of it, we are partners to it. It’s our country.”

Why did Israel’s Hebrew media ignore B’Tselem’s apartheid statement?,

“Yet while B’Tselem’s statement received major coverage across the world, the Hebrew media in Israel was almost entirely silent. Although one can agree or disagree with B’Tselem’s position, one cannot help but wonder why Israel’s top news outlets refrained from reporting on it. By ignoring the report, those outlets prevented the very people living under what B’Tselem calls an apartheid regime to be exposed to its opinion. After all, it is far more crucial that Israelis learn about the reality they live in than readers of El País, Le Monde, or The Washington Post.”

Foreign Ministry pledges to legally pursue US ambassador to Israel for recognizing settlement project,

“The Ministry said in a statement that all of East Jerusalem is a Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and “it is the eternal capital of the State of Palestine despite Friedman and his outgoing administration, which has deviated from every legal, diplomatic or ethical norm.” It considered that “Friedman’s bigoted statements are a flagrant violation of international legitimacy and its resolutions, and international law and diplomatic traditions.” The Ministry affirmed that it will take responsibility to follow up this matter with legal experts and the concerned authorities to discuss the possibility of holding Friedman accountable before international and specialized courts.”


Gaza Between Occupation, Division, and COVID-19: Confronting Total Collapse,

“Gaza has always been unique among the different parts of Palestine. Its current particularity stems from being caught between three major variables exacerbating its collapse: the Israeli occupation, division in Palestinian leadership, and the COVID-19 pandemic. This reality raises socio-political questions about the role of these factors in advancing social collapse in Gaza, and about changes in the values of resilience and steadfastness among Palestinians in Gaza. Despite the attempts of Gaza’s inhabitants to survive and achieve stability in their daily lives, the consequences of occupation, political division, and the pandemic have eroded the foundations of perseverance amongst them. Indeed, Palestinians in Gaza have suffered from societal fragility, uncertainty, and turbulence that have forced them to live in imaginary communities that cling to fantasy in order to survive. This commentary describes Gaza’s reality in light of the three major variables. It explores unfolding transformations within Gaza’s civil society to counter impending collapse, including social initiatives such as the Great March of Return, the “We Want to Live” movement, and other initiatives on social media. It concludes with reflections on the future of Gaza based on interviews with activists and young Palestinians who have lived this reality since their childhood.”

800-year-old school in Gaza gets face-lift,

“The Gaza Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Gaza municipality and the Iwan Center for Cultural Heritage in Gaza launched an initiative with activists to restore an old school in the old city of Gaza City, with the aim to preserve the enclave’s heritage and raise awareness about the importance of culture among Palestinians.”


Palestinian shipment of Russian Sputnik vaccine delayed,

“The doses had been expected to arrive on Tuesday but were delayed due to “technical issues,” according to an Israeli security official…Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh traveled to Moscow over the weekend to sign the agreement with the Russian government securing the immunizations. Al-Sheikh met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, among other officials. Russian authorities touted Sputnik V as the world’s “first registered COVID-19 vaccine” after the government approved it in early August. But the vaccine is highly controversial, with many public health experts arguing that it has not undergone proper safety trials. The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Russia, Abdel Hafiz Nofal, told the Ma’an News Agency that a technical failure relating to the transportation of the vaccines had led to the delay, which he estimated would be resolved by Friday. “Palestine has purchased 100,000 more doses. Hussein al-Sheikh signed the necessary papers for the agreement, but Russia will not be able to provide them immediately,” Nofal said.”

Israel passes 10,000 daily infections for first time since start of pandemic,

“The Health Ministry said Tuesday morning that a record 10,021 infections were confirmed the previous day, bringing the country’s total caseload since the start of the pandemic to 562,167, including 81,059 active cases…There were 1,114 serious cases, including 347 in critical condition and 277 on ventilators. The death toll grew to 4,049. Oxford University statistics cited by the Ynet news site indicated that Israel has been leading the world in new cases per capita over the past seven days, ahead of Portugal, Andorra, the Czech Republic, Ireland and Lebanon. However, that figure is affected by the fact that Israel conducted the fourth highest number of COVID-19 tests per capita in the world over the same period.”

In her daily report on coronavirus in Palestine, health minister says 19 people have died and 660 new cases recorded,

“In her daily report on coronavirus in Palestine, Minister of Health Mai Alkaila said today that 19 people have died of the disease in the last 24 hours, 660 new cases were recorded, and 1027 Patients have recovered. She said that nine people died in the West Bank, six in the Gaza Strip, and four in East Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip recorded 313 new cases and 395 recoveries, the West Bank had 225 new cases and 444 recoveries, while East Jerusalem recorded 122 new cases over two days and 188 recoveries.”

Israel’s vaccine efforts are incomplete until they include Palestinians,

“The typical perception of the relationship between the Palestinian territories and Israel is of two neighboring states in a conflict over land. Yet, as news has broken about Israel’s highly effective vaccination program, which has reached nearly 15 percent of its population in less than a month — but no more than 100 Palestinians outside of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem — the reality obscured by this basic framing has become evident. The truth is that Palestinians depend on Israel for lifesaving medical care not because of poverty but because of politics.”

WHO raises ‘concerns’ about vaccine inequity between Israel and Palestinians,

“The World Health Organization has raised “concerns” about the unequal distribution of coronavirus vaccines in Israel, which has given shots to more than 20 percent of its population, and the Palestinian territories, an official said Monday. While vaccinating its own Arab citizens and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel says it is not responsible for inoculating the Palestinians. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Israel will consider helping, once it takes care of its own citizens.”

Also See: “[VIDEO] Vaccination rates reveal divide between Israelis and Palestinians” (CNN)

Israel: Provide Vaccines to Occupied Palestinians,

“Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “Everyone in the same territory should have equitable access to the vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity.”

Israeli Elections

PM rival Saar recruits anti-Trump Republicans for campaign,

“Gideon Saar, a former member of the Likud party and now the chair of his own New Hope movement, has reportedly tapped four Republicans who worked to defeat U.S. President Donald Trump on Nov. 3 to assist his own election campaign. According to a Channel 12 television, Saar recruited communications strategist Steve Schmidt, political consultants Rick Wilson and Reed Galen and public affairs expert Stuart Stevens – all founders of the anti-Trump political action committee known as The Lincoln Project. Israeli media cited the Saar campaign as confirming the move and saying the four could visit Israel soon. The Lincoln Project was established in late 2019 by current and former GOP members to help beat Trump in the November 3 presidential election, with its founders saying “accountability” was their main goal.” Also See – “Israel’s Gideon Saar asks campaign staff to take polygraph test, following leaks” (Middle East Eye)

Israel’s coming election may be decided on the religious right,

“Sixty-four days out from election day, this is the point when parties disassemble and reassemble as Knesset hopefuls jockey for position in search of a political vehicle that might carry them into the parliament. New parties are forming that have no chance of making it past the 3.25 percent vote threshold for entering the Knesset, but have a reasonable hope of being scooped up by larger parties interested in thinning the competition before the February 4 party registration deadline…Few of the mergers currently under discussion are likely to meaningfully change the election results on March 23. Except, that is, in one small section of the Israeli political map where the game of political mergers and acquisitions among otherwise small players may end up determining the final winner of the March race. It is there, on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right flank, where his political future may be decided.”

Israeli-Arabs divided on Netanyahu’s electoral blitz,

“If we pause for a moment on his visit to Nazareth, we will find that while Netanyahu was delivering a speech to Arab society, promising “a new era’’ for Jews and Arabs, a protest against his visit to the city was taking place. Most of the protesters were political activists from the various Arab parties, including a few Knesset members from the predominantly Arab Joint List. The protest resulted in clashes between the police and demonstrators and, in the end, 12 arrests were made. Also, Knesset Member Sondos Saleh was taken to the hospital for what was thought to be a fractured hand. At the same time, no one who followed the protest could ignore the basic fact that a city like Nazareth, home to almost 80,000 people, was unable to get more than a few dozen people or at most a few hundred to protest against the prime minister. Many of the protesters were also activists involved in the demonstrations on Balfour Street (Netanyahu’s official residence). What this seems to indicate is that the general population of Nazareth had no real interest in protesting against the prime minister’s visit, or at least not this time. And it could mean that Arabs are weary of the same old scenario in which the members of the Joint List call them out to demonstrate against just about any prominent politician representing Israel’s Jewish sector.”

Lawfare & the Weaponization of Antisemitism to Silence Free Speech

How Israel Is Harming the War on Antisemitism,

“These examples have sparked concern among many individuals and groups, including liberal Jewish organizations, that IHRA’s definition infringes on freedom of expression in a way that allows criticism of Israel to be branded antisemitic. And Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has proven in recent years that this concern is justified. Netanyahu, the Strategic Affairs Ministry under its previous minister, Gilad Erdan, the Foreign Ministry (which has made promoting the IHRA definition a supreme diplomatic goal), and Jewish organizations funded by Israel have all argued repeatedly, citing IHRA, that the BDS movement, for example, is antisemitic. Israel has thereby proven that IHRA’s definition of antisemitism indeed has a political aspect. In addition, the Netanyahu government has deliberately blurred the Green Line between criticism of Israel and criticism of the settlements, thereby further fanning the controversy. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration then added fuel to the fire when it announced that it planned to label important human rights organizations like Amnesty International “antisemitic.””

What Biden’s antisemitism czar should learn from the Capitol riot,

“In appointing a new Special Envoy on Antisemitism, the Biden administration will be staking out its own position within this split worldview. The appointment is an opportunity to listen to and follow the leadership of this younger and significantly more diverse generation of activists that is steeped in the major social justice fights of our time. It is should also be a moment for the administration to reject the cynical “both sides” approach of the old guard — an approach that repeatedly treats the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and their supporters as an equal, if not greater, threat to Jews as the violence we saw at the Capitol. Unfortunately, Biden’s current shortlist of nominees fails to take this bold opportunity, offering a list of names as predictable as it is disappointing.”

The U.S. Scene

Netanyahu’s envoy Dermer departs US, but to Democrats he’s been gone for years,

“For over seven years as ambassador, Dermer, 49, helped steer the US-Israel relationship through the turbulence of Democratic President Barack Obama’s second term followed by the friendlier skies of Republican Donald Trump’s administration, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found a partner in Washington with whom he was politically aligned. It was Dermer’s own exceptionally close alignment with Netanyahu that made him a uniquely effective ambassador, according to Jewish community leaders, members of Congress, White House officials and Washington insiders who worked with the ambassador. However, that bond proved to be a double-edged sword, because while those speaking to Dermer could feel confident that he represented a direct line to the prime minister, Democrats sensed that the Israeli premier and his trusted envoy had made a strategic decision to place them on mute. In fact, they grew increasingly convinced that Netanyahu had aligned himself entirely with the Republican party, to the point where an opportunity to engage with an ambassador who had the prime minister’s ear was not something they found worth their while.”