Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 6, 2020

What We’re Reading


Israel Lauds Suleimani Assassination, Though With Caution,

“General Suleimani, who led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, oversaw an Iranian program to surround Israel with tens of thousands of missiles, according to experts. He was also the architect of Iran’s recent entrenchment in Syria and of an ambitious plan to build an Iranian front against Israel across its northern frontier, in the Golan Heights. Amid the heightened tensions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel cut short an official visit to Greece and returned home on Friday afternoon, while his ministers mostly kept a low profile in an apparent effort to avoid undue Iranian attention. Before boarding a plane home, Mr. Netanyahu praised President Trump for ‘acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense,’ he said.”

Blowback: Iran abandons nuclear limits after US killing,

“The blowback over the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general mounted Sunday as Iran announced it will no longer abide by the limits contained in the 2015 nuclear deal and Iraq’s Parliament called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil. The twin developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb and enable the Islamic State group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place. Adding to the tensions, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose ‘sanctions like they’ve never seen before” if it goes through with expelling U.S. troops’.”

Pelosi says House will introduce 'War Power Resolution' aimed to limit Trump's Iran military action,

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday sent a letter to Democratic members of Congress announcing the House will introduce and vote on a ‘War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran’ amid rising tension. The resolution, Pelosi writes, ‘reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.’ The letter comes as the US is deploying thousands of additional troops to the Middle East following the airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. Earlier Sunday, President Donald Trump reiterated his threat to target Iranian cultural sites. ‘Last week, the Trump Administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials. This action endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran,’ Pelosi writes.”

IDF general distances Israel from Soleimani killing in first public comment,

“A senior Israeli military officer on Monday commented publicly for the first time on the operation that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani over the weekend, distancing the Jewish state from the US drone strike in Iraq that has left Tehran fuming and vowing revenge. ‘Soleimani hurt American interests and represented a significant danger to Americans in the region. We must look at the assassination as part of a fight between Iran and the United States over Iraq’s character. That is the story,’ said IDF Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi. ‘The assassination also has ramifications for us as Israelis, and we must follow it closely, but we aren’t the main story here — and it’s good that it happened far away,’ he said at a conference in Jerusalem organized by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily and the Ynet news website.”

Hamas Chief Attends Soleimani Funeral in Tehran: 'He Is a Martyr of Jerusalem',

“Speaking at the funeral Haniyeh said, ‘I declare that the martyred commander Soleimani is a martyr of Jerusalem. We came from Palestine to comfort the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian nation for the fall of commander Soleimani,’ he said. ‘The assassination requires condemnation from all over the world, opposition to U.S. and Israeli policies is not weakened but will continue as we are strengthened in our principles and in our faith in the liberation of Jerusalem,’ he added.”

Mourners flood Tehran as calls for revenge over Soleimani grow,

“Huge crowds of mourners have poured onto the streets of Tehran to pay their respects to Qassem Soleimani, the country’s most powerful military commander who was assassinated in a US air attack in Iraq. State television said on Monday there was a “several million-strong” turnout for the funeral proceedings for Soleimani, who was the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s (IRGC) overseas forces.”

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Despite Hague Warnings, Israeli Panel to Discuss Annexing the Jordan Valley,

“Sources familiar with the establishment of the inter-ministerial committee told Haaretz that the insistence on moving forward with the discussions are mainly to show that the idea has not been abandoned due to international pressure. The committee, the sources say, convened for the first time since its establishment, will discuss preparations ahead of submitting an official proposal to annex the Jordan Valley when it’s feasibly legal. Members of the committee are expected to craft an official annexation proposal to the government or the Knesset. The committee is headed by the Prime Minister’s Office Director General Ronen Peretz and its members include representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and the National Security Council.”

Palestinians face mounting barriers to peaceful protest,

“Abdullah Abu Rahma has been arrested by Israeli soldiers eight times in the last 15 years, spending weeks or months in prison and paying tens of thousands of dollars in fines for organizing protests. He’s among a growing number of Palestinians who have embraced non-violent means of protesting Israel’s military rule and expanding settlements, and who are increasingly finding those avenues of dissent blocked.”

Palestinian, Israeli and diaspora Jewish activists reclaim spring seized by settlers,

“After they lost access to the spring, local Palestinians were forced to purchase water from tankers that came to the area, at a multiple of the price paid by settlers whose water is provided by Israel’s largest water company, Mekorot. Palestinian communities around the spring are also not connected to electricity and water. The Avigayil outpost, despite being illegal even under Israeli law, is hooked up to all basic utilities. ‘We came here to restore Palestinian access to this spring that they lost with the illegal outpost,’ Chagit Lyssy, who took part in the action, told +972 Magazine. ‘Access to water is a basic need, so we wanted to stand in solidarity with them.’ Eliana Boswell, originally from the U.S. and a member of All That’s Left, added: ‘As an American Jew and someone who grew up with strong ties to Israel, I think it’s important that we have a say in what Israel looks like and make sure that the state which speaks in the name of Jews does things that are aligned with our values. It’s important that we speak about the occupation,’ she added.”

How one hilltop became an incubator for Israeli settler violence,

“Since 2000, Yitzhar has been home to the Od Yosef Chai (‘Joseph Still Lives’) yeshiva, which has long been notorious for schooling its students on the permissibility — and even necessity — of violence against non-Jews. Founded in 1982, with its umbrella charitable organization incorporated in 1983, the yeshiva stood at the site of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus for nearly 20 years, until transferring to Yitzhar when the IDF dismantled its military outpost at the tomb during the Second Intifada. The yeshiva and the encampment at Joseph’s Tomb were a frequent flashpoint during their lifetime, and the tomb itself continues to serve as a pilgrimage site for radical settlers, whose monthly night-time expeditions often provoke violence. The spiritual figurehead of the yeshiva and the settlement is Od Yosef Chai President Yitzchak Ginsburgh, a Missouri-born ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has amassed a dedicated and extensive following over the course of his career. His students and acolytes have been at the forefront of promoting and carrying out violence against Palestinians over the past decade. And despite the condemnations made from the top ranks of government when another assault or inciteful publication is traced back to Ginsburgh’s yeshiva, it continues to operate — all while receiving a modest yearly sum from the local regional council. It is largely thanks to the teachings of Ginsburgh and his deputies, and the violence they have encouraged, that Yitzhar has become known as one of the most extreme of the radical settlements. But while reports of its residents’ physical aggression often makes the news, the ideology underlying it — and the state’s unwillingness to seriously address it — receive far less attention.”

Israel mum on permission for Palestinian vote, Hamas edgy,

“Hamas is calling for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to schedule elections and stop waiting for Israel’s approval. Abbas has yet to issue a decree to schedule the vote, as he waits for an official response from the Israeli side on his request to allow polling stations in occupied East Jerusalem. Since he first announced in September his decision to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, Abbas has said the electoral process should include all Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. ‘No elections will be held without Jerusalem,’ Abbas reiterated during a Dec. 17 speech at a Fatah Central Committee meeting. Hamas agrees with that sentiment, but on Dec. 25 senior Hamas official Salah Bardaweel demanded that the Palestinian Authority (PA) ‘impose’ elections in Jerusalem, saying Palestinians don’t need Israel’s permission. “


The UN predicted Gaza would be unlivable by 2020. They were right.,

Tania Hary writes, “In that sense, the Gaza 2020 report and Israeli officials who tried to follow its prescriptions fell very short. But the UN officials who warned that Gaza would become unlivable by 2018 were onto something. In 2018, the floodgates of hopelessness in Gaza were pried open as people realized that the plan is to preserve their isolation with no prospect of a resolution to the conflict. Through their protests at the Great March of Return, young Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of the population, showed the world that it is not just food and water that they need to survive. They need freedom, dignity and hope.”

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

New US Middle East envoy visits Israel to discuss peace plan,

“US Special Representative for the Middle East Avi Berkowitz arrived in Israel on Sunday, for a series of discussions with top Israeli officials. This will be Berkowitz’s first visit to Israel since stepping in for Jason Greenblatt, who resigned as US President Donald Trump’s emissary in November. The visit signals that Washington is still interested in pushing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, despite all but shelving its long-awaited peace plan since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government after Israel’s April 9 election. During his stay in Israel, Berkowitz is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Ambassador David Friedman and other senior officials. The White House has stated in the past that Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ has been completed, saying that it will be presented only when both the Israelis and the Palestinians are ready for it. The prolonged political stalemate has pushed the release of the plan, as the Trump administration, which was preparing to release the peace plan in the spring of 2019, has said it will do so only after a new government is formed, meaning following the March 2 elections.”