Top News from Israel & Palestine: July 20, 2020

What We’re Reading


Gantz pushing for halt to West Bank areas sovereignty plan: report,

“Israel’s Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz is pushing for a halt for Jerusalem’s plans to apply its laws to a number of West Bank areas, Israel Hayom reported Saturday. The newspaper cited two cabinet ministers as saying that Gantz wants Israel to focus on the health crisis it has on its hands, with new COVID-19 cases surging and tensions mounting over the government’s response to the pandemic.”

Fatah and Hamas to hold ‘historic’ joint rally in Gaza against annexation,

“Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub announced on Monday that rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas will hold a joint rally in the Gaza Strip against Israeli annexation “in the coming days,” according to a statement published by the Palestinian Authority’s official WAFA news agency. ‘The rally will be a historic point in consolidating the united Palestinian position in the face of the annexation project,’ Rajoub said, referring to Israel’s declared plan to annex parts of the West Bank in accordance with US President Donald Trump’s controversial peace plan — a plan that in recent weeks appear to have been put on the back burner amid a resurgent coronavirus and a hesitant White House.”

Occupation, De Facto Annexation, & Human Rights

IDF arrests 3 Palestinians said planning to attack West Bank settlement,

“Israeli soldiers arrested three Palestinians in the Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah, who were planning to carry out a terror attack on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the army said Saturday.The Israel Defense Forces said the suspects had planned an attack that would begin by them ‘hurling an explosive device from their vehicle toward the community of Beit-El, as well as an attempted drive-by shooting’.”

Two Palestinian Cyclists Injured in Alleged Assault by West Bank Settlers,

“Two Palestinians were wounded when settlers threw stones at them on Saturday near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh, according to their police testimony…The Palestinians, both men in their thirties who sustained light injuries, are members of a group of cyclists who go on trips around the West Bank. On Saturday, they were riding with three others towards a village in the Jenin area. Loai, 33, from Ramallah, said the group had used Kamoot, a navigation app for cyclists, that led them to a bike path near the Palestinian town of Turmus Ayya, not far from Shiloh. According to the men, they were unaware that the area was surrounded by settlements and settler outposts and known to Israelis as Shiloh Valley.”

Gaza band plays music to uplift spirits, bring hope,

“In an attempt to spread positive energy among the local residents, three young Palestinian men from the impoverished and blockaded Gaza Strip, home to 2 million people, play music in outdoor public places for free…He said that he and his bandmates are self-taught through YouTube videos. They play the music of classical Arab singers such as Egyptian singer Abdul Halim Hafez and Lebanese singer Fayrouz, in addition to Western singers. He and the bandmates, he added, are proud of themselves when they see people smile.”

Cameras Broke Just When Israeli Forces Killed a Palestinian. Yeah, Right,

“It’s a sure thing that if Hallaq had attacked the cops, or even hiccupped in their direction, all the security footage of all the cameras would have been forwarded immediately to the TV stations and the news sites – and only then to the Justice Ministry unit that investigates the police, if at all. ‘The terrorist charged, the soldiers neutralized,’ ‘Watch the moments of terror,’ ‘I thought about mom who’s waiting for me at home – and I shot.’ The automatic headline generator will produce them at the rate of one a minute.”

FMEP's Settlement & Annexation Report: July 17, 2020,

“On July 13th, MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) and Haim Katz (Likud), co-chairs of the Israel Land Caucus — a pro-Greater Israel body within the Knesset — filed a bill in the Knesset to have Israel both annex all of its settlements in the West Bank and preserve its control over Area C (in anticipation of future annexation).”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Protests rock Tel Aviv and Jerusalem amid calls for Netanyahu to go,

“Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Jerusalem residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, demanding his resignation over alleged corruption and his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Hit by high unemployment, a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases and reimposed coronavirus restrictions, Israelis have taken to the streets in almost daily demonstrations against the government.”

Police release all 28 arrested at anti-government rallies in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv,

“Judges on Sunday ordered the release of all 28 anti-government protesters who were arrested during mass demonstrations on Saturday evening in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which turned violent as they came to a close.Twenty-two of the protesters were conditionally released, while six were placed under house arrest, including one demonstrator suspected of assaulting a police officer at the demonstration outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence; another suspected of hurling a lit torch at police officers after the Charles Clore Park protest in Tel Aviv; one suspected of setting a dumpster ablaze at the same rally; and two more accused of attempting to do the same.”

Police Clash With Jaffa Residents Protesting Construction on Muslim Cemetery; 4 Arrested,

“Police used flash grenades and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in Jaffa Sunday night, as some 200 residents gathered to protest the construction of a homeless shelter atop a Muslim cemetery that has inflamed tensions between the Tel Aviv municipality and its Muslim residents. Four protesters were arrested, according to police…Mohammad Edrei, the elected chairman of the board of trustees for Muslim charitable trust properties, said ‘esterday, just hours ago, on Rothschild Boulevard we saw on television how the same police force – even the same department – disperses thousands of protesters’ referring to Saturday’s protests against the prime minister in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. ‘All the officers were only armed with gloves, not clubs and flash grenades and assault rifles. They want to disperse protesters in Jaffa who are coming to preserve the sanctity of graves with a heavy hand and without patience or tolerance,’ he said. ‘Yesterday the police turned away protesters with their hands,’ Edrei added. ‘I’m embarrassed to put these things into proportion because here it’s several dozen protesters compared to thousands on Rothschild. If this isn’t police racism in action, what is?'”

Netanyahu Losing His Grip as Coronavirus Tremors Rattle Israel,

“Netanyahu is encountering the downside of his decade-long personal domination of Israeli governance and politics.  After systematically purging formidable Likud figures perceived as potential threats, seizing control of the entire right-wing and claiming credit for any and all of his successive governments’ achievements, Netanyahu assumed a larger than life presence in Israeli lives, which is now coming back to haunt him. Alone at the top, Netanyahu is bearing the brunt of Israel’s summer of fear, loathing and discontent.”

Netanyahu's corruption trial to hear first witnesses in January,

“Lawyers for Netanyahu, the first serving prime minister in Israel to go on trial, had asked for a six-month postponement to prepare their strategy. They suggested it would be difficult to gauge the truthfulness of witnesses wearing anti-coronavirus masks, currently compulsory in Israel. Netanyahu’s legal troubles have partly fuelled mounting street protests against him, with demonstrators citing his alleged corruption and handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a turn for the worse in Israel.” Also See – “Calling of witnesses in Netanyahu’s trail fixed for January 2021” (Al-Monitor)

Likud official claims Blue and White is hindering virus response to harm PM,

“Amid deep disagreements between ministers over closure measures and economic policies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party launched a broadside Sunday against its main coalition partner, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. Blue and White ‘wants the coronavirus to stay here for a long time, thinking that if the medical and economic crisis continues, Bibi will fall,’ an unnamed senior Likud member was quoted as saying by Channel 12 news, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.”


PA announces alarming coronavirus infection rates in the West Bank,

“465 people were infected with coronavirus in the Palestinian Authority (PA) territory in the past 24 hours, totaling 6,566 active patients and 63 deceased in the West Bank since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, according to data released by the PA health organizations and reported by Walla.”

Government said to weigh weeknight lockdowns as cases pass 50,000,

“Senior government officials on Sunday were reportedly weighing imposing weeknight lockdowns in addition to the ones planned for weekends, amid concerns that young Israelis will resort to gathering at public parks and squares, as a result of the shuttering of restaurants, bars and cafes. The news came as Israel’s case count passed 50,000, standing at 50,289 Sunday night, with 28,205 of them active, and serious cases reached 252, of which 70 were on ventilators. The Health Ministry said 1,438 had been diagnosed in the past 24 hours.”

Israel to remain closed to foreign visitors until at least September,

“Restrictions preventing foreign visitors from entering the country due to the coronavirus pandemic will be extended until the the beginning of September, the Israel Airports Authority announced Monday…The ongoing ban allows only returning Israeli citizens or those who obtain special permission from the Population Immigration and Border Authority to enter the country. All those who do arrive are required to self-quarantine for two weeks.”

Coronavirus committee votes pools, beaches to stay open,

“The coronavirus Knesset committee voted on Monday for pools and beaches to remain open. Restaurants and gyms will be voted upon later this week.”

U.S. Politics

DMFI poll shows overwhelming Democratic support for pro-Israel DNC platform,

“The poll of 1,000 registered voters — conducted from July 8-13 by pollster Mark Mellman on behalf of his organization, Democratic Majority for Israel — indicated that 67% of voters describe themselves as pro-Israel, including 68% of those who identify as Democrats. Similarly, 66% of voters — including 63% of Democrats — want to see the level of security assistance to Israel remain steady or increase. Forty percent of those polled identified as Democrats, while Republicans made up 34 percent of those sampled and independents and individuals not aligned with any party comprised the remaining 26 percent. The poll, conducted via landline, cell and text-to-online, has a ±3.1% margin of error.”

Engel is out — will the new foreign affairs chairman upend his Mideast policies?,

“The writing has been on the wall for Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., for weeks after losing his primary to progressive insurgent Jamaal Bowman last month. Today, The Associated Press called the race against the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. Three lawmakers have already shown interest in becoming the next Democratic leader of the venerable committee in a race that is quickly starting to echo Bowman’s foreign policy attacks against Engel. Reps. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and dark horse candidate Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, are already pitching their cases to their colleagues as to why they should chair the committee should Democrat maintain control of the House in the November elections.” Also See – “Race to succeed defeated House Foreign Affairs chair Eliot Engel heats up” (Jewish Insider)

FMEP Legislative Round-Up: July 17, 2020,

FMEP’s round-up of Middle East happenings on Capitol Hill, sent every Friday when Congress is in session.


'We Said That Ruling Over Another People Will Come at a Price. But There's No Price',

…”she struggles to answer the question of whether or how the battle to end the occupation was lost. ‘I can’t relate to using concepts like ‘we lost’ because that takes away all my ability to continue to fight,’ she says. ‘We’re in a situation where maybe our methods of struggle have to change, and it’s possible the train has left the station regarding the two-state solution. It’s certainly irrelevant at the moment. In a different political constellation, one where Donald Trump isn’t reelected and Joe Biden is elected president, then maybe’.”

Netanyahu Has (Almost) Nothing to Fear From a President Biden,

“The idea that Joe Biden will be the first U.S. president since George H.W. Bush to bring serious pressure on Israel is based more on hope than experience. Clearly if Biden wins, the years of giving all the honey to Israel and nothing but vinegar to the Palestinians is over. A new administration would – at least rhetorically – make an issue of settlement activity. Biden has opposed annexation, without threatening consequences; accepted Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the move of the U.S. embassy there; and opposed conditioning aid. And by the looks of the more-Biden-than-Sanders Democratic party platform (two states, anti-BDS, against settlement expansion and annexation but no mention of the word ‘occupation’) – it seems pretty much pro-Israel business as usual.”

Who decided Trump was good for Israel?,

“History will judge the Trump presidency for the damage it caused the U.S., as well as the entire world in general and Israel in particular…Trump has made the U.S. irrelevant when it comes to any agreements with the Palestinians – agreements that are critical to Israel’s ability to provide a democratic national home for the Jewish people – by completely ignoring their existence and thereby reducing American sway with the other side in the conflict.”

Are UN Peacekeepers Still Keeping the Calm Between Israel and Lebanon?,

“The report recommends reforms, including reducing the number of UNIFIL bases and personnel, and instead greater use of drones and sophisticated cameras that can cover territories that at present UNIFIL can’t reach. On the other hand, the report speaks extensively of UNIFIL’s efficiency at preventing clashes between Israel and Hezbollah, its ability to mediate between the two sides, especially by means of the three-way committee that meets frequently at Rosh Hanikra and the understandings the committee has been able to reach between Israel and Lebanon.”