Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 4, 2021

What We’re Reading

Annexation, Settlements, Human Rights

Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers,

“Israel is celebrating an impressive, record-setting vaccination drive, having given initial jabs of coronavirus shots to more than a 10th of the population. But Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza can only watch and wait. As the world ramps up what is already on track to become a highly unequal vaccination push – with people in richer nations first to be inoculated – the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories provides a stark example of the divide. Israel transports batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine deep inside the West Bank. But they are only distributed to Jewish settlers, and not the roughly 2.7 million Palestinians living around them who may have to wait for weeks or months.”

Israel said planning to advance settlement building before Biden enters office,

“The Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction is expected to convene in the next two weeks — for the first time since the November US election — to advance plans for building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Kan public broadcaster…The panel had not convened in over seven months, in what settler leaders complained was a de-facto building freeze sanctioned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, against the backdrop of brewing normalization agreements — since signed — with the UAE and Bahrain. Given that delay, Peace Now speculated that the Defense Ministry body might meet once again before the end of 2020, allowing for the possibility of the further padding of the record-breaking total of plan advancements.”

He grabbed his generator. They shot him in the neck,

“On Friday afternoon, an Israeli soldier shot a 26-year-old Palestinian named Harun Abu Aram in the neck from point blank range. Abu Aram is now in critical condition in a hospital in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, should he be responsive, Abu Aram will likely be paralyzed. The shooting took place near the Palestinian village of al-Rakiz in the South Hebron Hills. Just a month ago, the army came with bulldozers to demolish four homes in the community; Abu Aram’s was one of those homes. Contrary to the Israeli army’s claims, the residents of al-Rakiz are no criminals. They built their homes on their land in accordance with the law. The army destroyed them because the Civil Administration — the arm of Israel’s military government that runs the day-to-day life of 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank — refuses to issue building permits to the community.”

Also See

  • “Israeli Troops Shot Palestinian When He Tried to Stop Them From Seizing a Generator, Witness Says” (Haaretz)
  • “EU demands probe into IDF shooting of Palestinian” (Jerusalem Post)
  • “Israeli forces shoot Palestinian in neck as they attempt to confiscate generator” (Middle East Eye)
  • “When Israeli Soldiers Moonlight as Armed Robbers” (Haaretz)

East Jerusalem Palestinians Petition Top Court Against Israeli Unit Used to Justify Evictions,

“A group of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem has asked the High Court of Justice to require the Justice Ministry department that handles abandoned property to recognize their rights as tenants and to end what they say is its secret cooperation with settler organizations. The petition was submitted by attorneys Adi Lustigman and Tamir Blank on behalf of residents of the Um Haroun neighborhood in Sheikh Jarrah and Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that promotes equality between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.” Also See – “Ir Amim with Sheikh Jarrah Residents Submit Legal Petition against the Israeli General Custodian” (Ir Amim)

Magistrate Court Rules to Evict Four More Families from Batan al-Hawa, Silwan,

“On December 23, the Jerusalem Magistrate Court handed down a ruling in favor of the Ateret Cohanim settler organization, upholding the eviction demands against four more Palestinian families, numbering 22 individuals, from Batan al-Hawa, Silwan. The court decision against the Ghaith family (three nuclear families) and the Jawad Abu Nab family follows recent rulings by the Jerusalem District Court against eight other Palestinian families, comprised of 45 people. According to the decision, the Ghaith and Abu Nab families must vacate their homes by March 1. The four families plan on submitting an appeal to the Jerusalem District Court.”

25 settler attacks on Palestinians reported since teen died in police chase,

“Yesh Din, a left-wing rights group that documents settler violence in the West Bank, has recorded 25 attacks against Palestinians and their property since an Israeli teenager was killed in a car chase with police after allegedly throwing stones at Palestinians.”

2020 in the Occupied Territories: Heinous killings, settler violence and a home demolitions spike,

“Over the course of 2020, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians, seven of them minors: one in the Gaza Strip, 23 in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and three inside Israel. In the West Bank, in at least 11 of the 16 incidents B’Tselem investigated, the Palestinians killed posed no threat to the lives of the forces or any other person at the time they were shot, if at all, and the forces fired at them with no justification…The ongoing occupation of the West Bank is not merely a theoretical or political issue. It has constant, daily ramifications for the lives of Palestinians and entails a routine of violence – sometimes explicit, but often hidden from view.”

In Rare Move, Palestinian Forces Go Into East Jerusalem Neighborhood After Triple Murder,

“Three men were shot to death on Saturday in Kafr Aqab, a neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. Following the incident, which is said to be part of an ongoing family dispute, Israel took the unusual step of allowing armed Palestinian forces into the neighborhood, according to sources in the village. Kafr Aqab is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and falles under Israel Police’s authority, but sits on the West Bank side of a barrier Israel built two decades ago.” Also See – “PA arrests suspects in East Jerusalem triple homicide, hands them to Israel” (The Times of Israel)

Palestinian says he 'miraculously survived' attack in Jerusalem by Israeli mob,

“A Palestinian attacked on Friday by an angry crowd of Israelis in West Jerusalem told Middle East Eye that he had “miraculously” survived after stones were thrown at his vehicle and one person attempted to stab him. Ahmed Jaber, a resident of East Jerusalem, was on his way to work early on Friday at 3:30am, commuting through the Givat Shaul neighbourhood in West Jerusalem, when a mob of Israelis stopped his car and started attacking him and his brother. A video of the attack went viral on Palestinian social media platforms.”

Israeli Troops Shot a Palestinian With a Rubber Bullet, Then Tried to Snatch Him From the Ambulance,

“But Fahdi’s life did not resume its normal course. Far from it. Since the incident, whenever he hears soldiers entering the town, his impulse is to escape, and he tries to find a place to hide in the house. For the first three nights after the event he couldn’t sleep a wink. During the first week he didn’t leave home; only afterward did he gradually start to go out to work again. He used to work with his uncle in fields near Jericho, but since the incident he doesn’t dare approach the Tayasir checkpoint, afraid that the soldiers will try to grab him again. These days he works only near Tubas, in a place that doesn’t necessitate crossing an army checkpoint. Every so often, he views the video of the attempt to pull him from the ambulance. He says he’s already seen it hundreds of times.”

Suspects Arrested After Israeli Seriously Wounded by Stones Thrown at Her Car in West Bank,

“A 30-year-old Israeli woman has been seriously wounded, sustaining injuries to her head after stones were thrown at her car when driving on Route 465 near the West Bank settlement of Halamish on Sunday morning. While still conscious, the young woman was evacuated to Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer by Magen David Adom rescue personnel and Israel Defense Forces.”

He Calmed Gaza, Aided Israel’s Arab Ties and Preserved Hopes for Peace,

“In his nearly six years as the top United Nations envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nickolay E. Mladenov worked quietly behind the scenes to help keep the Gaza Strip from boiling over, preserve the possibility of a two-state solution and build support for Israeli-Arab normalization as a vastly preferable alternative to the Israeli annexation of West Bank land. But he did notch at least one achievement that qualifies as eye-catching: He earned the respect of just about everyone he dealt with, many of whom view one another as enemies.”


Palestinian Authority to Roll Out Strict Nighttime, Weekend Curfew, Ban on Gatherings,

“The Palestinian Authority announced a series of new measures to go into effect on Sunday, in a bid to curb the rise in coronavirus cases in the West Bank. These new guidelines include a nighttime curfew starting Sunday, from 7 P.M. to 6 A.M., and a weekend curfew on Friday and Saturday. All gatherings, including weddings and funerals, are banned under the new restrictions. The Palestinian authorities have also banned Arab Israelis from entering the West Bank, Palestinian laborers from moving between Israel and the West Bank, and all residents from moving between Palestinian cities.” Also See – “PA extends lockdown restrictions as infections remain high in West Bank” (The Times of Israel)

ICYMI – “Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers” (The Guardian)

Netanyahu to convene cabinet within 48 hours to decide on new lockdown steps,

“The prime minister says he’ll call a cabinet meeting in the next 48 hours to decide on tightening the country’s coronavirus lockdown, as the nation’s infections continue their upward trend. “With a short, tight lockdown we will save many lives, and be the first in the world to bring back the economy,” he says.”

Israel's Lockdown 'Isn't Effective,' Coronavirus Czar Says Amid Calls for Tighter Measures,

“Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said that the current lockdown measures in place “aren’t effective enough” and told the Kann public broadcaster that the Health Ministry intends to “demand a complete closure of the education system.” “In order for it to influence [infection rates] as much as possible and last as little time as possible, it has to be effective,” Ash said. The initial proposal for Israel’s third lockdown included restrictions on schools, but that changed under political and public pressure, and the education system largely operates as it did before the lockdown started a week ago.”

Health Ministry says vaccinated, recovered to get ‘green passport’ for 6 months,

“The Health Ministry on Monday unveiled details of its proposed “green passport” for Israelis who have been inoculated against the coronavirus or recovered from COVID-19, which would grant holders of the document access to large gatherings and cultural venues. Health officials said those who test negative for the virus could receive a temporary green passport for 72 hours, while passports granted to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will be valid for six months.”

Israel's virus surveillance tool tests its democratic norms,

“A ministerial committee decided last month that Israel would begin scaling back the tool and limiting its use. But the decision is not final and more recently Israel has indicated it will seek to continue its widespread use, despite a Supreme Court challenge against the technology. With the tool having been used on its citizens in a health crisis, critics say the door is open for it to be used again in other matters unrelated to state security.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Ashkenazi quits Blue & White, takes 'break' from politics,

“The Blue & White party’s No. 2, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, announced Wednesday that he will retire from the party and “take a break” from politics. “I have decided to not continue with Blue & White and to take a break and calculate my future life,” the former IDF chief said. “I want to thank Benny [Gantz] for the partnership and wish him the best of luck. I will continue my role [as foreign minister] to the best of my capabilities.” Ashkenazi is the latest in a line of Blue & White officials to depart ahead of the March 23 elections, including Asaf Zamir, Miki Haimovich and outgoing justice minister Avi Nissenkorn. As his party appeared to fall apart around his ears, a defiant Benny Gantz held a press conference Tuesday night to announce that he would remain as the head of Blue & White and would work to oust his current coalition partner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Gideon Sa’ar says he won’t agree to power-sharing coalition with Netanyahu,

“New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar said Sunday that he would not agree to join a power-sharing government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party he recently left to form his new faction. Sa’ar, a longtime internal rival of the premier, has previously vowed not to enter a government headed by Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu says he wants to break Joint List’s monopoly on Arab Israeli vote,

“Following a number of high-profile visits to Arab Israeli towns last week and reports that his Likud party is planning to campaign heavily for Arab votes in the coming election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he hopes Arab Israelis will cast a ballot for him…The new messaging marks a shift in tone by Netanyahu, whose Likud has campaigned in the past on unfounded claims of electoral fraud in Arab communities. He has repeatedly demonized Arab lawmakers in the Knesset and gained global notoriety for attempting to spur his supporters to go vote by warning them on election day 2015 that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”..Joint List leader Ayman Odeh accused Netanyahu of insulting Arab voters’ intelligence. “We already knew that Netanyahu doesn’t believe we’re equal, but his new effort to garner votes also proves that he disparages the intelligence of Arab society. A decade of indifference to crime, inciting violence, fanning hate won’t be erased in an election campaign,” Odeh tweeted…Hoping to break the traditional paradigm in elections that has led to gridlock and paralysis after three consecutive elections, Netanyahu told Channel 13 on Friday that the Arab vote had “huge potential.”” Also See – “Israeli Arabs desperate as crime, violence break new records” (Al-Monitor)

Guess Who's in Charge of Whitewashing Israeli Settlements,

“Just before they disappear, to become a historical footnote, the explainers of Kahol Lavan are working overtime to try to convince us that liberal voters will “miss us yet,” because they were the only ones who prevented a great harm to Israeli democracy. They don’t see that in fact they repeatedly sugarcoated that harm. Self-deception, as Hannah Arendt once wrote about the Pentagon Papers – “The deceivers started with self-deception” – is a fundamental prerequisite for being able to deceive the rest of us.”

Yamina, New Hope sign vote-sharing agreement,

“Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar signed a surplus-vote agreement Monday which would allow one party to share its ‘surplus votes’ with the other to allow it to gain an extra Knesset seat or overcome the electoral threshold in the event one party fails to gather enough votes to make it into the next Knesset. Earlier, the Jewish Home Party announced that it was in talks to rejoin Yamina and run with it in the Knesset elections.”

Yesh Atid-Telem said planning to split, as Yamina courts Jewish Home,

“Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon will reportedly split from the Yesh Atid party ahead of the upcoming March election, preparing instead to run separately with his Telem faction as the political arena fills up with more and more parties. Ya’alon and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid met Sunday to discuss the possibility of remaining together for the election but were unable to come to an agreement on the terms of a continued partnership, Channel 12 news reported Monday.”

The Palestinian Scene

Set to amend ‘pay to slay,’ PA hopes Biden will shun law deeming PLO ‘terrorist’,

“With just three weeks until US President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is putting together a strategy for a reset of ties with Washington after three years of boycotting the Trump administration. The centerpiece of the effort will be convincing the Biden administration to designate as unconstitutional congressional legislation from 1987 that labeled the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) “and its affiliates” a terror group, senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel. They hope that doing so will set the stage for a renewed bilateral relationship — one in which Ramallah is viewed as a more equal partner, and that isn’t entirely tied to the peace process with Israel.”

Abbas announces agreement with Hamas to hold elections,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Saturday that he had reached agreement with the rival Hamas movement to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. Hamas did not immediately comment on Abbas’s announcement. Abbas’s announcement came after he received a letter from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh about ending the dispute between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction. Since 2007, Fatah and Hamas have reached several “reconciliation” agreements but plans since then to hold elections have never materialized.”

Palestinian groups conduct first-ever joint military drill,

“Palestinian armed groups conducted what was described as an unprecedented joint military drill in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. The exercise was the first of its kind and included all Palestinian “resistance” groups in Gaza, the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV reported. The drill sought to prepare the Palestinian groups for a future conflict with Israel, according to the outlet. The factions shot eight rockets from Gaza into the Mediterranean Sea in the drill. The exercise will also include simulated land and sea operations, Reuters reported.”


Trump administration working on another normalization deal in January,

“The US is pushing for another Arab or Muslim state to normalize relations with Israel in the three weeks before US President  Donald Trump leaves office, a Trump administration source said on Wednesday. “We’re working very hard on making it happen,” said the source, who has been involved in negotiations for the Abraham Accords, as the agreements are called. A second Trump administration source confirmed the ongoing efforts…Sources in Jerusalem and Washington have said in recent weeks that Indonesia, Mauritania, Niger or Oman could be next to join the accords. All three have had a certain level of secret or unofficial ties with Jerusalem in the past. There have also been persistent reports of progress with Pakistan.”

Trump administration pushes last-minute arms deals to Middle East,

“The Trump administration approved major arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait on Tuesday in a last-minute push before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. The US State Department approved a proposed $290 million sale of 3,000 precision-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. The Royal Saudi Air Force has relied on such US-made munitions for its air campaign over Yemen. The kingdom has drawn allegations of war crimes for repeatedly bombing civilian targets. Congress was formally notified of the sale proposal on Tuesday, a week after Bloomberg reported that the Trump administration told lawmakers it was moving ahead on plans to grant a license allowing Raytheon to sell 7,500 precision-guided bombs directly to Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon on Tuesday also announced a $4 billion sale of eight Apache AH-64E helicopters to Kuwait and the upgrade of 16 of the Gulf country’s existing Apaches. Spare parts for Kuwait’s Patriot air defense missile batteries and targeting systems for Egyptian military aircraft were also announced.”

IAF chief expresses lingering concerns, hopes over US sale of F-35 to Emirates,

“Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin on Wednesday expressed the military’s lingering ambivalence toward the planned sale of F-35 fighter jets by the United States to the United Arab Emirates following its normalization agreement with Israel. “It’s less good that there are advanced aircraft in the region. It is not a direct threat to us, but it is a trend that will have an influence on us,” Norkin said, speaking at an event at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.”

Outgoing UN peace envoy: Palestinians can gain from Israel’s normalization deals,

““My thinking was: If this is the wrong way to go but you can see why it would be appealing to certain parts of the population, what would be appealing to a larger part that is not destructive but actually constructive?” Mladenov told the paper. While he did not claim any credit for the agreements, the report said Mladenov helped build support for using normalization as a carrot for Israel in exchange for shelving the annexation plans. “There were some people who were very much caught off guard by this,” said Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. “He saw what we were doing. We confided in him, and he would give us constructive feedback.””

The U.S. Scene

US guns are being aimed at Palestinian kids. Washington can take them away,

“This worsening pattern of Israeli forces becoming more trigger-prone with live ammunition did not emerge in a vacuum. Since 2013, Israeli authorities have issued indictments against Israeli soldiers in only three out of 155 killings of Palestinian children. And while public pressure calling for Israeli authorities to conduct investigations into killings of Palestinian children are important, we know that Israeli investigations are rarely independent or impartial. This near-complete lack of accountability — such that systemic impunity for Israeli crimes is the norm for Palestinian children — has directly fostered the violent conditions we see on the ground…Congress must not rely on Israeli authorities to investigate themselves, and it is beyond time to end unconditional funding to Israel. McCollum has urged the incoming Biden administration to investigate Ali’s killing and declared, “Committing human rights abuses with impunity and with U.S. taxpayer aid is intolerable and there must be accountability on the part of the U.S. Government.””

Aryeh Lightstone Designated as U.S. Special Envoy for Economic Normalization,

Statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “I am pleased to announce that I have designated Aryeh Lightstone to serve as the U.S. Special Envoy for Economic Normalization. As special envoy, Aryeh Lightstone will represent U.S. interests in normalizing economic relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, Kosovo, and Morocco. Designating Mr. Lightstone as Special Envoy will contribute to the speed and the efficiency of the normalization process and create momentum for the Abraham Accords. I am confident other countries will be encouraged to join and solidify the Accords against the outside factors that seek to undermine them.”

US ambassador's residence in Tel Aviv sold for $67 million,

“The US government sold its ambassador’s residence in Tel Aviv for $67 million in July, according to Israeli tax documents. The revelation adds details to months of questions surrounding the sale of the property, widely seen as part of an attempt by the Donald Trump administration to hamper any future US reversal of the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The buyer is reportedly American billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a political ally of Trump and vocal supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson is also a major financial supporter of Israeli settlements and of the Birthright program, which invites Jewish young adults to tour the country.” Also See – “Selling official residence, US leaves next envoy without a home away from home” (The Times of Israel)

US votes against UN budget, citing antisemitism and failure to pressure Iran,

“Just weeks before its exit from the White House, the Trump administration voted against the United Nations’ 2021 programme budget, citing its continued support for a pro-Palestinian anti-racism conference and its refusal to snapback sanctions against Iran. “

Jared Kushner’s company plans to raise $100 million in Israel bonds as his time as Mideast adviser nears end,

“Jared Kushner’s family real estate business wants to raise at least $100 million in capital through Israel’s bond market, according to papers filed near the end of his tenure as President Donald Trump’s main Israel and Middle East adviser. The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news first on Tuesday, said Kushner Cos. would sell the bonds on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. “The company has had years of success working with Israeli institutions as both a borrower and a partner,” a company spokesman was quoted as saying in the Journal.”

Anti-Free Speech, Pro-Settlement Lawfare

In Canada, the IHRA definition has begun to stifle pro-Palestinian voices,

“We know that IHRA definition will have a deleterious effect on free speech and pro-Palestinian activism because we can already see it happening in the United Kingdom and the United States. And it is no coincidence that, in Canada, the definition is emerging in the context of an increasingly hostile environment toward critics of Israel. Ontario was the first Canadian province to adopt the IHRA definition in October through an Order in Council — a legislative move that skipped the important step of public hearings to debate the decision. This was despite the fact that more than 100 community members and organizations, including the Canadian Arab Institute with which we are affiliated, submitted requests to testify. Other provinces may follow suit in the months to come.”