Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 6, 2021

What We’re Reading


Amnesty calls on Israel to give Palestinians virus vaccine,

“Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Israel to provide coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, saying the Jewish state was obligated to do so under international law…But UK-based rights group Amnesty said Israel needed to “stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”” Also See – “Israel offers aggressive COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but Palestinians left behind” (LA Times)

Ministers approve full lockdown starting Thursday,

“After hourslong deliberations, ministers voted on Tuesday to tighten the lockdown, shuttering schools and nonessential businesses, starting overnight Thursday for two weeks. As part of the new measures, gatherings will be limited to five people indoors and ten people outdoors, only essential workers will be allowed to leave for work, and all professional sports activities will be canceled.”

Palestine confirms 1,088 new coronavirus cases, 14 deaths,

“Among the new 1,088 cases, 478 cases were recorded in the West Bank and 610 others in the besieged Gaza Strip.”

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Non-Violent Activist Issa Amro Convicted by Israeli Military Court,

“Breaking news: I was convicted on 6 military charges. The judge said I am not allowed to protest peacefully without a permit from the occupation forces. Thanks for all your support, the judge and the prosecutor followed your online support. They mentioned that to me.”

  • EuroMed Monitor via Twitter: “An Israeli court has just convicted Palestinian activist @Issaamro  with 6 lawsuits over his human rights work and documenting & exposing Israeli violations in the Palestinian territories. We strongly condemn the ruling and call on #Israel to stop pursuing peaceful activists…This is not the first time activist @Issaamro gets subjected to Israeli harassment for his peaceful work. #Israel has been targeting Amro with arbitrary measures to silence him and restrict his work for years. Stop targeting peaceful activity in the Palestinian territories!”
  • Omar Shakir (Human Rights Watch) via Twitter: “Today’s outrageous conviction of Palestinian activist @Issaamro  by an Israeli military court on charges stemming from his participation in a nonviolent protest highlights how Israel deprives generations of Palestinians of their basic civil rights. Sentencing hearing set for Feb 8″
  • Breaking the Silence via Twitter: “.@Issaamro, a Palestinian resident of Hebron, has been nonviolently resisting the occupation & settler violence for years. Today he again paid a price for his struggle—the IDF military court convicted him of 6 out of 16 charges brought against him stretching back to 2010…Issa’s insistence on fighting for the basic rights of his community is apparently what makes Israel see him as such a significant threat. He was put on trial today so that other Palestinians wouldn’t follow in his path. Want to organize a protest? You’ll need a license!”
  • Background on Issa’s case by Amnesty International: “The Israeli authorities must end their campaign of persecution against Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who is a prominent voice against Israel’s regime of discrimination and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), particularly in Hebron. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to drop all the charges they have imposed on Issa Amro. It considers them all to be politically motivated and linked to his peaceful work in exposing Israel’s human rights violations.”

Israeli Officer Shoots Dead Palestinian After Suspected Knife Attack, Officials Say,

“An Israeli security officer shot a Palestinian who threw a knife towards him in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, Israel’s military said, and Palestinian officials said the man had been killed. The incident occurred at a road junction situated near a cluster of Israeli settlements southwest of the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, the military said in a statement…The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the man’s death, identifying his as 24-year-old Ahed Quqas from the town of Beit Ummar, near Hebron. According to reports on Palestinian media, Israeli army forces raided Quqas’ town after the incident.”

Gantz visits family of Esther Horgen, says Israel should hold territory,

“Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the family of Esther Horgen, who was murdered last week, in the settlement of Tel Menashe and said that Israel must “continue to hold on to the territory in the beautiful place where you live,” according to Israeli media.”

Jerusalem's Orthodox church accused of selling off land for 'settlement belt',

“The Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem has sparked outrage over newly revealed plans to sell around 27 acres of church property to two Israeli companies seeking to connect a Bethlehem-area settlement to Jerusalem. The Orthodox Central Council in Palestine (OCCP), a Palestinian Christian grassroots group, slammed the decision during a news conference on Tuesday, which also happens to mark the Orthodox church’s Christmas Eve. The property in question is a dependent of the Mar Elias monastery, located on a hill overlooking Bethlehem to the south. “This is a new deal, dating from last September, [that] aims to complete an Israeli settlement belt, extending from the Gilo settlement near the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, all the way to Talpiot in Jerusalem,” OCCP spokesman Jalal Barham told Middle East Eye.”

They took everything from me’: Israel destroyed his house. A month later they shot and paralyzed his son.,

“When Israeli soldiers arrived to the tiny hamlet of Khirbet al-Rakeez in the southern Hebron hills on Friday morning, the Palestinian residents braced themselves for the next misfortune to face their small village. Things like home demolitions, settler attacks, and land confiscation are nothing new to the residents of the hamlet and the surrounding villages. Rather, it’s an unfortunate reality of everyday life living under Israeli occupation. In fact, in November, Israeli forces embarked on a demolition campaign in the village, destroying seven homes and structures belonging to the village’s residents. One of those residents was Rasmi Abu Aram.”

A Women’s Boxing Team Grows in Gaza,

“The Israeli government has continued its 14-year blockade against Gaza for reasons beyond the military and the strategic. The blockade—alongside bombings and selective assassinations—also accomplishes the political and ideological goal of killing hope. It crushes the aspirations that Palestinian people might have for justice, self-determination, or even a better life. That’s what makes sports so potent and popular among young people in Gaza. When playing soccer or basketball—two extremely popular pastimes—they feel that another world may indeed be possible. That is why I found it to be potent, powerful, and profoundly moving to learn that, for the first time, there is a women’s and girl’s boxing program in Gaza. Such a team has the capacity to build the reserves of hope and in addition smash gender norms as well as knockout the very idea of passivity.”

Settlers launch hunger strike, call on Netanyahu to legalize West Bank outposts,

“A group of settlers called the Young Settlements Forum launched Jan. 4 a hunger strike outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The activists are calling on Netanyahu to abandon his latest rapprochement with Israeli-Arab legislator Mansour Abbas and to legalize West Bank outposts before the March 23 elections. Head of the Young Settlement Forum Eliyahu Atia explained that he and three others from the group plan to start a hunger strike. He expressed his hopes that the number of people embarking on the strike will grow over the coming days.”


Sudan says it signed ‘Abraham Accords’ with US,

“Sudan on Wednesday said it signed the “Abraham Accords” with the U.S., paving the way for the African country to normalize ties with Israel. A statement from the office of Sudan’s prime minister said Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the accord Wednesday with visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.” Also See – “Sudan signs Abraham Accords, paving way for Israel ties” (Ynet)

Israel's Normalization Deal With Sudan Won't See Asylum Seekers Deported, Top Official Says,

“Israel does not intend to deport Sudanese asylum seekers after signing its normalization agreement with Khartoum, the head of the Population and Immigration Authority said Tuesday. Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef thereby contradicted other senior officials who have asserted over the past few months that an agreement would make it easier to deport them.”

Israel appoints diplomat to UAE ahead of embassy opening,

“Israel has appointed Eitan Na’eh, its former ambassador to Turkey, as the country’s top diplomat to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in preparation for the establishment of a permanent embassy in the oil-rich nation, the Jerusalem Post reported. Israel’s foreign ministry announced that Na’eh will be the country’s first official diplomat to serve in the UAE and will arrive in Abu Dhabi in the coming days. His posting is expected to be temporary until an official ambassador is appointed by the government, which will most likely take place after elections in March.” Also See – “Israel to announce two temporary missions in the UAE” (Ynet)

Gulf reconciliation agreement: What we know so far,

“The Arab nations that blockaded Qatar for more than three years have lifted the boycott against its Gulf neighbour and Doha in response froze all state-related legal action against the countries, sources familiar with the negotiations say. Saudi Arabia on Monday announced the restoration of ties with Qatar after the three-and-a-half-year spat saw the kingdom, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties and impose a land, sea and air blockade on the Gulf state…The Washington Post, citing a person with knowledge of the agreement, reported that Saudi Arabia and its allies dropped the list of 13 demands. Qatar then agreed to freeze a litany of lawsuits against the blockading states, said the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Also See – “The blockade of Qatar has ended, but the Gulf rift persists” (Responsible Statecraft)

Anti-Free Speech Lawfare

Palestine media Calls for two-hour pause on Facebook to protest bias against Palestinians,

“The Palestinian Content Protection Initiative has called on the Palestinian media outlets and activists to observe a two-hour pause next Saturday by not posting on their Facebook pages and accounts from 5 pm to 7 pm, in protest of the social media’s crackdown on the Palestinian content.
The Initiative said in a statement issued by the Palestinian non-governmental organization, Sada Social, that the Saturday campaign includes a halt on publishing from 5 pm to 7 pm, in addition to a focused media coverage and campaign to explain the reasons and justifications for this pause. “The administrations of social media websites have been pursuing, targeting, and restricting the publishing and access of Palestinian pages and accounts, and in full coordination with the Israeli occupation government,” said the Initiative. “As a result, Palestinian media have been restricted, and were unable to convey their national message.” The Initiative pointed out that “the Facebook campaign has even expanded further to removing and blocking pages and restricting the access to the publications of media pages and news networks. Specialized centers have monitored a 50 percent drop in access.””

Israeli Domestic Politics

Gantz reportedly considering alliance with Bennett’s hard-right Yamina party,

“Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz is considering joining his faction with Naftali Bennett’s national-religious Yamina party to form an alliance for the coming March elections, according to a Channel 12 report Monday evening. The report drew cries of false news from Blue and White, scorn from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and a cryptic response from Yamina that didn’t reject the notion.”

Yamina set to split as Bennett, Smotrich fail to bridge differences,

“A poll published Tuesday by Channel 12 indicated that Smotrich’s faction could be an electoral liability for Bennett, with Yamina predicted to get 14 seats in the event of a joint run and 16 if it runs without National Union, taking one seat each from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope. National Union, if it ran alone, would fail to enter the Knesset with 2.3 percent of the votes, below the 3.25% electoral threshold…Smotrich has been demanding four slots for his faction in the top 10 of Yamina’s electoral slate, while Bennett is refusing to give more than two. “Smotrich is worth one and a half seats,” a source close to Bennett told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site. “How come they want four seats? They’ll chase away all our voters. We must bring votes from the center and marginalize Smotrich, his image and his opinions.”” Also See – “Blue and White: Gantz will not drop out or run with Yamina” (Jerusalem Post)

Does Netanyahu really think he can win over Israel’s Arabs?,

“He isn’t just courting the voters on television. Netanyahu has been pounding the pavement in Arab towns, and has even begun to seek allies among the very political parties that have long represented Israel’s Arab citizens, especially the Islamic Ra’am party…It must be said: Netanyahu has reason to hope that a campaign among the Arabs can win him some sorely needed seats. Siphoning just two Knesset seats’ worth of Arab voters from one side of the aisle to the other is nothing to sneeze at in a close race. Back in March, that four-seat advantage could have won him the race. And it seems that Netanyahu really believes he can do it. Yosef Maklada, a well-known pollster specializing in the Arab community, told Channel 12 news on Monday that his polls are finding Likud drawing 1.6 to 2.1 Knesset seats from Arab voters, or approximately 60,000 to 80,000 votes.”

Jewish Home leader and minister Rafi Peretz quits politics,

“Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage Affairs Rafi Peretz announced on Tuesday he will not run for Knesset in the upcoming March 2021 elections and that he is quitting political life. Peretz’s resignation comes in the wake of a possible union with Yamina, the relatively new party led by former Jewish Home chief Naftali Bennett. Bennett had demanded Peretz’ resignation as a prerequisite for any alliance that would see the two parties running together in the upcoming elections. Jewish Home ran in the March 2020 elections as part of an alliance with Yamina, but ended the partnership in order to join the government formed in May 2020. Under Bennett, Yamina entered the opposition. “We are negotiating with Yamina to run together and restore unity to religious Zionism,” said the Jewish Home in a statement on Monday.”

The U.S. Scene

J Street Urges Biden to Dump Trump’s Peace Plan, Adopt Fresh Approach to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,

“The group argues in the policy agenda document, obtained by Haaretz, that this approach begins with reversing much of the Trump administration’s moves over the past four years…The group, which endorsed Biden in the presidential election but did not back any single candidate during the Democratic primary, recommends that the incoming administration begin by dropping Trump’s peace proposal, and reversing State Department policies on the term “occupation” and legal opinions on the legality of settlements. It also hopes the Biden White House will restore the prohibition on funding for joint U.S.-Israeli scientific research at Israeli institutions located in the West Bank. J Street is also calling on Biden to remove any roadblock preventing the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington from reopening while reinstating an independent U.S. diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, separate from the U.S. Embassy. While J Street isn’t calling for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv, it is urging Biden to declare an American intent to open a U.S. embassy for a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem following a negotiated end to the conflict. Regarding the Palestinians, J Street is calling on Biden to restore U.S. aid to the Palestinians while calling on the Palestinian Authority to replace its prisoners’ payment program, which has attracted criticism from both Democrats and Republicans over the years. It is also calling on Biden to desist from blocking Palestinian efforts to seek membership or recognition in international organizations.”

New House foreign affairs head looks to resume US aid to Palestinians,

“The new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Tuesday the United States would look to resume aid to the Palestinians as he voiced hope for reviving a multilateral approach to the world under President-elect Joe Biden.”

New congresswoman criticizes Israel over vaccines for Palestinians,

“Illinois Rep. Marie Newman said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should ensure that everyone in both Israel and the Palestinian territories are vaccinated for COVID-19. “This virus does not see or care about nationality, borders, or religion — its devastating impact is everywhere,” Newman said on Twitter. “The Netanyahu administration has a moral and humanitarian obligation to ensure that both Israelis & Palestinians have access to vaccines.””

Top Analysis/Commentary

Israel Under Major Strategic Threat From Government Dysfunction, Think Tank Warns,

“According to the report, it is unlikely that Biden will reverse Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or that it would return the U.S. embassy to Tel Aviv. However, it states, “it is reasonable to assume that the new administration would withdraw recognition of the legality of Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank.” About a year ago, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the U.S. did not view Israel’s West Bank settlements as a violation of international law. The report predicts that the Biden administration will return to traditional Democratic Party policies when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The Biden administration will challenge the Israeli government on the strategic goal of a solution of two states for two peoples, and in the process put a halt to the green light that the Trump administration gave to continued construction in all of the settlements, the demolition of Palestinian structures in Area C [the portion of the West Bank under full Israeli control] and the other steps involving creeping annexation, which in our view block the possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state with territorial contiguity in the West Bank.” The report also expresses the expectation that the new U.S. administration will ignore Trump’s so-called deal of the century for ending the conflict, which included a provision for Israeli annexation of about 30 percent of the West Bank. The Institute for National Security Studies, headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, is considered one of Israel’s most influential and prominent think tanks. Academics and former army commanders are among the institute’s senior researches.”

There is no defeating the right without Israel’s oppressed groups,

“The Balfour protest movement has not tried to build new alliances that challenge the growing power of the Israeli right. Aside from several pockets of radical politics that focus on issues like racism, apartheid, climate change, and police brutality, the protests remained well within the bounds of Ashkenazi, Zionist centrism…Indeed, more than six months into the protest, the demonstrators have yet to ask themselves why Palestinian citizens of Israel, a fifth of the state’s population, are not joining their ranks. Continuing down this path will never lead to real Jewish-Arab partnership.”