Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 31, 2020

What We’re Reading

Fallout from the Trump Plan

Army, police gird for possible violence amid fury over Trump plan,

“The last several days have seen an uptick in low-level clashes with troops in the West Bank and increased tensions along the Gaza border, following the release of the American proposal, which Palestinian leaders have roundly rejected as one-sided toward Israel. The army said this week they were deploying extra troops to the West Bank and along the Gaza border out of concerns of increased violence over the plan. On Thursday, police said they would bolster a contingent of officers on and around the Temple Mount on Friday. The army now believes any disturbances will be mostly restrained, especially since the US has put the brakes on Israel’s plans to swiftly annex chunks of the West Bank, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.”

Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza after rocket attack, as region heats up,

“Israeli aircraft carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Friday, hours after three rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel. Palestinians reported large explosions near Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip…No injuries were reported as a result of the strikes. Widespread power outages were reported in Rafah…Tensions between Israel and Gaza have been steadily rising over the past two weeks after several months of relative calm. Fears have mounted in recent days of an escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank following the release of a US peace plan that is seen as heavily favoring Israel.”

Senior Defense Officials Warn Annexation Would Endanger Israel's Peace With Jordan,

“According to this assessment, which has been conveyed to the senior politicians, King Abdullah of Jordan is under a host of domestic pressures that are making things difficult for his regime. The main concern of the security establishment is the impact on the relations with Jordan. In the Palestinian arena, there is currently no focused warning of a plan to destabilize the territories following the Trump initiative. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas may have condemned the U.S. move and the Israeli annexation comments, but the “day of rage” called for Wednesday in the territories passed with few incidents and relatively minor demonstrations. In the longer term, the Palestinian response will probably be influenced by what Israel actually does. An annexation announcement could make more extensive and violent riots more likely.”

Gulf Arabs back Trump's Mideast efforts, but not peace plan,

“A tectonic shift in relations quietly underway for years now was on full display as representatives of Gulf Arab states attended U.S. President Donald Trump’s unveiling this week of an Israeli-Palestinian plan that heavily sides with Israel and all but crushes Palestinian aspirations…For the Arab perspective, however, Saudi Arabia’s reaction was the one most closely watched. The kingdom expressed support for the Trump administration’s efforts, but did not sends its ambassador to attend the ceremony. The Saudi response was also significant for what it didn’t say – the kingdom did not endorse the plan, but also made no explicit mention of long-held Arab demands for a Palestinian state on occupied land with east Jerusalem as its capital. Rather, Saudi Arabia encouraged Palestinians to start ‘direct peace negotiations,’ essentially urging the Palestinians to accept the White House’s framework as the starting point for talks.”

How long can Abbas hold firm on security coordination with Israel?,

“Despite the outrage among the Palestinian leadership over the Trump peace plan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rush to annex parts of the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has thus far withstood the pressure on him from all directions and does not appear eager to cancel security coordination with Israel. The current assessment is that as long as there are no wide-scale or violent clashes between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Palestinians, and not many casualties resulting from impending demonstrations, he will continue to be able to withstand the pressure. For that to happen, however, Israel must exert intense efforts to assist him.”

Hamas's Meshal Says United Palestinians Working to Foil Trump Plan,

” ‘We completely reject this deal and we are confident it will fail. But we will not wait for its failure, we will make it fail,’ Meshal told Reuters from his residence in Qatar’s capital Doha…Meshal criticised certain Arab states for turning their back on the Palestinian cause in endorsing the proposal, saying this was ‘not an honorable position’…’No country, Arab, Muslim or international, has the right to accept something the Palestinians have rejected,’ said Meshal, calling for a ‘return to the traditional, Arab, Islamic position which holds onto Palestinian rights’.”

On the streets of Ramallah, Palestinians shrug at Trump’s peace plan,

“Rather than displaying an openness to engage with the peace plan, or a deep rage against it, which Palestinian leaders have encouraged, the prevailing sense among the people here who would be materially affected is one of resignation.”

Top PA official says Arab response to Trump peace plan disappointing,

“Hussein al-Sheikh, PA Civil Affairs Minister, member of the Fatah Central Committee and a close confidant of President Mahmoud Abbas, said there was concern that Arab nations, who the PA had hoped would back their position, may become a ‘dagger in Palestinian people’s side’. ‘We were hoping that the Arab position would be much better than that,’ Sheikh told Al Jazeera Thursday night. ‘But the real test is on Saturday at the Arab League meeting. In every meeting with our Arab brothers, we did not demand that the Arabs fight America or Israel on our behalf,’ Sheikh said. ‘We asked them for the minimum position…We asked them to tell the Americans: ‘What the Palestinians accept, we accept. And what the Palestinians reject, we reject.’”

Implementation of the Trump Plan

Upcoming Sunday cabinet meeting cancelled amid uncertainty over annexation plans,

“The upcoming Sunday cabinet meeting, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed would approve extending Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, has been cancelled with no new date set, Hebrew media reported Friday. Since Netanyahu made the pledge following the release of the Trump peace plan on Tuesday, Israeli officials have walked back the idea after the US administration indicated that while it does not oppose annexation, it was not ready to see it happen until at least after the coming Israeli elections on March 2.”

Israel claims disagreement with US over West Bank annexation merely ‘technical’,

“Netanyahu told reporters this week that he would bring the annexation bid to a vote in Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Initially, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman indicated there was no impediment to this, but Jared Kushner and other senior US officials later said that they expected Israel to hold off until at least after the country’s March 2 elections. The senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Israel wanted to perform the annexation in one, two or possibly three stages — first the Jordan Valley and the settlements, and their immediate surroundings later. ‘The Americans don’t want to do it in several rounds, because they don’t want to extend recognition several times. They want to do it one time,’ the Israeli official told reporters on Netanyahu’s flight from Moscow to Tel Aviv. ‘Trump will recognize’ Israel’s right to annex all territories the peace plan envisions as being part of Israel, he said. ‘This is a technical issue only,’ he added.”

Friedman Pushed Netanyahu to Annex, Then Kushner Stepped In,

“Obviously, this ‘technical’ explanation doesn’t reflect the whole reality. In numerous briefings and interviews in recent days, senior U.S. officials – including current and former members of the ‘peace team’ headed by Jared Kushner – made it clear that there’s a more fundamental problem: Netanyahu’s rush to annex is ruining the launch of the plan on which they labored for three years. Immediate annexation wasn’t their intention. And the announcement wasn’t even coordinated with them.”

Why Jordan Valley settlers fear annexation more than Palestinians do,

“Beyond Yair’s arrogance and racism, it is worth reflecting on the reservations expressed by the residents of Tomer over changing the status quo. After all, according to official Israeli policy, the military regime in the West Bank is considered temporary and will come to an end when the fate of the territories is decided upon. According to the Israeli left, that will occur following the evacuation of all or parts of the West Bank. The right believes it will happen after full or partial annexation of the area. The residents of Tomer know full well that all of it is nonsense. The discussion over annexation or evacuation is used as cover for the ugly truth: Israel’s military occupation is the end goal itself.”

Israelis and Palestinians consider how annexation of Jordan Valley could affect them,

“’There will be no safety or stability for Palestinians’ if the plan is enacted, maintained Ghrouf, who said that he is waiting for the Palestinian leadership to specify ‘the next step’…Daiq, a Palestinian himself, employees 500 Palestinians in season and 250 off season at his date farms in the Jordan Valley. His concern, he said, is that if the land is annexed, his Palestinian workers might not be allowed to continue to work there, and because of a boycott on Israeli dates, his company would suffer as he would need to label more of his dates as ‘Made in Israel’.”

‘Annexation’ vs. ‘applying Israeli law’ in the West Bank: Why people are using different terms,

“No matter what term is used, the practical result would be the same: Israel’s laws, jurisdiction (namely courts) and administration would be the same in the settlements as in the rest of the country. Among the potentially significant implications: Israel’s building rules would apply, allowing for more construction in the settlements.”

At Trump’s Jewish ‘enclaves,’ fear of Palestinian encirclement, plans to expand,

“…under the Trump peace plan released Tuesday, settlers living in the Gav HaHar (Hebrew for ‘back of the mountain’) will receive exclusive access routes connecting them to the rest of Israel — a significant improvement over the bypass roads currently in the works. Such highways will be necessary because the US proposal envisions those four settlements, along with 11 others throughout the West Bank, becoming ‘enclaves’ almost completely surrounded by a future Palestinian state. These communities will come under full Israeli sovereignty — a longtime goal of the settlement movement, which many believed would at most be achieved for towns closer to the Green Line. Accordingly, residents of these 15 settlements have hailed the deal as a major step forward. However, while the Trump administration may be expecting them to accept the enclave-status the plan envisions for them, they have no intention of doing so.”

Commentary & Analysis of the Trump Plan

Implications of the US Peace Plan on the Future of Jerusalem,

“…the long anticipated US Peace Plan was formally released and underscored the myriad of concerns associated with it. The plan includes neither an element of negotiation nor an agreement between two parties and therefore cannot be considered a peace plan. The stark congruence between the plan and the settler rightwing agenda indicates the vast gap between the plan and a fair and viable solution which recognizes the demands and rights of both Israelis and Palestinians alike. Even if the plan pays lip service to a configuration of a two-state solution, the conditions stipulated render it no less than futile and unviable. In Jerusalem in particular, where two peoples share a common urban space with immense historical, political and religious significance for both sides, unilateral moves that do not take into account the mutual physical and symbolic attachments to the city, will only generate more conflict and hostility and ultimately jeopardize an agreed resolution.”

Jimmy Carter says Trump plan dooms two-state solution,

“Jimmy Carter said Thursday that US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan would violate international law and urged the United Nations to stop Israel from annexing Palestinian land…His office said in a statement that Trump’s plan, unveiled Tuesday, ‘breaches international law regarding self-determination, the acquisition of land by force, and annexation of occupied territories. By calling Israel ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people,’ the plan also encourages the denial of equal rights to the Palestinian citizens of Israel,’ it said.”

Trump’s plan revokes Israeli Arabs' citizenship,

“Anyone delving further into the details of the 80-plus-page proposal could not have missed the surprising clause allowing Israel to transfer to a future Palestinian state the populated Arab communities in the so-called Triangle of central Israel: Kufr Qara, Arara, Baka al-Garbiyeh, Umm al-Fahm, Kalansua, Taybeh, Kafr Qasem, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulya. This is not the first time an Israeli government during the Netanyahu era has tried to trade away its Arab citizens in the Triangle, which borders the West Bank, by moving the border and thereby turning them into nationals of a future Palestinian state. The idea previously arose in 2013 when US Secretary of State John Kerry mediated peace talks between the two sides, with the clear goal of finding a solution to the land swap issue. There also appears to have been a hidden agenda — reducing the number of Israel’s Arab citizens — an estimated 300,000 of who live in the Triangle communities. ‘Just as with many earlier initiatives, this one too does not have any hold or acceptance among the Arab Israeli or Palestinian public,” Jamal Mjadlah, a social activist from Baka al-Garbiyeh, told Al-Monitor. “This is an initiative devoid of justice and logic, which will not be accepted and will not be adopted’.”

From Clinton to Obama, U.S. peace deals have paved the path to apartheid,

“What is needed now is not chest-pounding or handwringing about returning to bilateral negotiations and a viable two-state solution. What is needed is for policy-makers in the U.S. and abroad to reassess their support for political solutions that would sanction the supremacy of one people over another. If that conversation does not take place now, in a world where ethno-nationalism is on the rise, Trump’s “Deal of the Century” will become the shame of the century.”

Trump’s deal gives Israel a superpower endorsement of apartheid,

“For years Israel has backed itself into a morally and politically unjustifiable position regarding its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Now, Israel is turning to the U.S. to help defend it. The country’s relentless pursuit to settle its Jewish citizens across the West Bank has precluded any chance of partitioning the land into two independent polities, leaving millions of Palestinians stateless and living under an interminable military regime, with no civil or political rights. As such, Trump’s ‘deal’ is designed to support Israeli sovereignty over the entirety of historic Palestine, while allowing it to absorb the portions of territory it deems most desirable. The most Palestinians are offered is limited autonomy over an archipelago of ghettoized enclaves. Knowing the Palestinians would unquestioningly reject this, it was clear from the outset that this was never intended to be a peace plan, but rather a position paper masquerading as a diplomatic initiative. Put bluntly, the plan is an endorsement of the indefensible by the world’s most powerful state.”

What's In It for Trump?,

“As one might expect from a document created by a family member-cum-campaign advisor and a former business associate, the Trump “peace plan” serves Trump’s personal interests far better than it serves the country’s. It doesn’t serve the US’s interest in solving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict because it has virtually zero chance of being adopted: Not only were Palestinians not consulted about the plan’s contents, but they have responded to it with near-unanimous outrage. Israeli security officials worry it ‘will be remembered as one of the causes of a violent outburst resembling the first and second intifadas.’…For Trump, however, all of this is beside the point. The goal of his Israeli–Palestinian proposal—like the goal of the Ukraine policy that led to his impeachment—isn’t to bolster US credibility overseas. It’s to bolster his reelection chances at home. Just look at who the White House invited to the announcement ceremony. The audience included no Palestinian leaders at all. But it did include Sheldon Adelson, who was among Trump’s biggest campaign contributors in 2016 and who will likely be a major source of campaign cash in this cycle. Since Trump became president, Adelson has met with him or visited the White House at least six times, and Trump has personally lobbied the Japanese government on behalf of Adelson’s casinos. Asked about Adelson’s influence in the Trump administration, Craig Holman of the good government group Public Citizen told ProPublica in 2018, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I’ve been studying money in politics for 40 years’.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Gantz's Push for Annexation 'Complicates' Possibility of Support From Arab-majority Alliance,

“While the Joint List was able to come up with the necessary rationale to recommend Gantz to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin after the last round of elections in September, this time ‘the situation is much more complicated,’ the source said on Wednesday. Members of the Joint List, a coalition of four parties, have expressed a sense that Gantz’s support for Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and of the Trump peace plan, which also provides for annexation of all West Bank settlements, presents a challenge to cooperation with Kahol Lavan.”

Proceeding Apace: Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Secret Israeli Document Reveals Plan to Keep Arabs Off Their Lands,

“The text of the secret codicil shows unequivocally that a major task of the military government was to act as a means to control the state’s lands until their permanent status could be regularized and until, with state support, Jewish settlement could begin in formerly Arab areas. Hence, one of the committee’s conclusions: ‘Until the stabilization of security settlement in the few reserve areas that can still be settled, it is essential to maintain the military government in these places and to strengthen its apparatus… so that the military government can ensure, directly and indirectly, that the lands are not lost to the state.’ The panel described the military government as a tool in the struggle against Arab ‘trespassers,’ and added that without the military government, ‘many more areas are liable to be lost to the state.’ In a reprimand to the state, the committee noted that the military government was suffering from ‘known laxness… as a result of the criticism being leveled at it’.”

In first person: A Body of Testimonies,

“Settler violence impacts the daily routine of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory. In first person brings the testimonies of Palestinians in their own words as documented by Yesh Din since 2005, describing the violence and ongoing harm to their person, property and land by Israeli settlers in the West Bank…Yesh Din’s long-term monitoring and research shows that settler violence is ideologically motivated crime. Its main purpose is to dispossess Palestinians of their land and expand the West Bank territory subject to Israelis’ control…Approximately 92% of investigation files monitored by Yesh Din concerning offenses committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the West Bank were closed since 2005 without indictments. Analysis of the reasons such investigations are closed points to the Israeli police’s failure to enforce the law upon settlers and bring offenders to trial. Clearly, in most cases the failure to locate perpetrators or consolidate sufficient evidence for bringing offenders to trial does not reflect the true capacities of investigation and enforcement agencies operating in the West Bank – the military, police, Shin Bet and State Attorney’s Office. Rather, it reflects their lack of motivation to do so. Lack of law enforcement sends a message of impunity to offending settlers and provides support for them. It enables perpetrators to repeat their actions without fearing consequences, knowing that ultimately law enforcement agencies will avoid serving indictments. Israel’s policy of tolerating ideologically motivated offences – when the offenders are settlers – effectively encourages the violence that continues to dispossess Palestinians. Further, it severely harms Palestinians’ human rights in the West Bank, primarily the right to life and bodily integrity, the right to property and to freedom of movement.”