Top News from Israel & Palestine: July 27, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation Watch

Israel's Second Coronavirus Wave Stalled Annexation, but Netanyahu Still Wants It,

“The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed annexation off the agenda for now, but if the pandemic is halted Netanyahu is likely to reintroduce it in September, in a last-ditch attempt to advance it before the November election in the United States. It would be a dirty last-minute play, of course, but beyond that, the failures in managing the coronavirus crisis should prove even to supporters of annexation Netanyahu’s limitations when it comes to managing such a dramatic maneuver.”

Annexation will threaten region’s water and food security, report says,

“Potential Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank is likely to intensify the effects of climate change, threaten the region’s strategic water supplies, endanger the food security of the region’s Palestinians and halt essential cross-border environmental cooperation, a new report has warned. Issued Sunday by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the paper said: ‘Unilateral approaches like annexation of parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley threaten to block any possible cooperative regional approach to solving the water, energy and food security issues which currently plague the region and will be exacerbated by the growing population and climate change’.”

Occupation, De Facto Annexation, & Human Rights Violations

Mosque torched near Ramallah in apparent extremist hate crime,

“Vandals set fire to a mosque in the city of el-Bireh outside Ramallah in the West Bank overnight, according to Palestinian reports Monday morning, in an apparent hate attack by extremist Israelis. Photos from the scene showed charred walls and a blackened row of sinks, as well as graffiti on an outer wall of the mosque reading, ‘Siege for Arabs, not for Jews’ and “’the Land of Israel for the people of Israel’…Recent months have seen a surge in racist attacks against Palestinians and their property allegedly committed by far-right settlers, according to the Yesh Din rights group.”

High Court demands proof controversial Old City cable car will boost tourism,

“In what could be the beginning of the end for a highly controversial plan to string a cable car between West Jerusalem and the Old City, the High Court of Justice on Sunday ordered the government and other involved bodies to detail the “factual basis” on which they have claimed that the project will boost tourism.The cable car, an idea pushed by the Tourism Ministry, is due to start at the First Station Cultural Center in southern Jerusalem, pass over the historic Hinnom Valley to Mount Zion, then float along, parallel to the Old City walls, before reaching Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the Western Wall.”

Peace Now warns of de facto annexation as E1 planning,

“Israeli promotion of plans for 3,412 settler homes in the unbuilt and contentious area of the West Bank Ma’aleh Adumim settlement known as E1 continues and is a form of “de facto annexation,” according to Peace Now executive director Shaqued Morag. ‘The government has continued to advance de facto annexation,’ she told a small group of activists, politicians and reporters on Sunday as she stood on the primarily sandy E1 hilltop.”

How Israel’s archaeological excavations work to rewrite history in Jerusalem,

“Just as the ‘Path of the Pilgrims’ was unveiled last year, Israel’s former mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat said anyone visiting the tunnel ‘knows exactly who the landlord of this city is’. Descending into one of these tunnels, visitors are surrounded by signs representing what would have once existed there. But while Jerusalem has a long, culturally and religiously diverse history, the information conveyed in the tunnels focuses exclusively on the city’s Jewish history…According to the Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center, due to the recent excavations, the area of Ein al-Hilweh has suffered landslides, with ground in playgrounds, parking lots, and lands belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church collapsing. Damage to infrastructure has become more severe during the winter season at times of heavy rain.

Controlling Palestinian Bodies in Life and Death,

“Diana Buttu speaks with Sawsan Zaher, an attorney at Adalah, a Haifa-based organization that promotes the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, about the July 22 Israeli Supreme Court hearing in which she sought the release of Ahmad Erakat’s body. Ahmad Erekat was killed by Israeli soldiers over a month ago at a checkpoint. Israel continues to hold onto the body of Ahmad, denying his family their right to bury him and say their final goodbyes. Israel has a long history of post mortem punishment of Palestinians. Whether by holding onto Palestinian bodies, burying them in unmarked graves, or degrading handling of their remains. Over the decades, we’ve seen that Israel has enacted various policies of withholding Palestinian bodies and imposing restrictions on funerals, as a means of punishment and control, even in death.”

Israel releases father of 'Green Prince' after 16 months in administrative detention,

“One of the founders of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas was released Thursday by Israel after 16 months in administrative detention, his son told international media outlets…Administrative detention is a provision that allows Israel to detain Palestinians without charge or trial for renewable periods for up to half a year.”

Rights Groups Call on Palestinian Authority to Release Anti-corruption Protesters,

“Human rights organizations have harshly criticized the Palestinian Authority for arresting nearly 20 activists who had planned to demonstrate earlier this week in Ramallah against corruption. The PA denies that these were political arrests, saying the activists were arrested for violating the ban on gatherings imposed under coronavirus emergency regulations.”

'It's Like George Floyd. We Have Our Knee on the Palestinians' Necks',

“B’Tselem director-general Hagai El-Ad tells Haaretz why organizations like his have become the last form of Israeli resistance to the occupation, and how he copes with being branded a traitor”

A young man left London to join Israel's army because he wanted to defend the Jewish people but now believes the treatment of Palestinians is morally wrong,

“‘I wanted to be the moral soldier. I believed I could be that soldier who gives the Palestinians good service — service with a smile,’ Carmel said. ‘Later I realized you could be as smiley as you like. You could give Palestinian children sweets, but ultimately, you control their lives with military power.’…During his officer training, he said his doubts about the occupation began to crystallize. One morning at a Bethlehem, West Bank, crossing point, where Palestinian workers gathered to gain entry into Israel, Carmel said he witnessed an upsetting scene. ‘You’ve just got to be there to feel it,’ he said. ‘Thousands of young Palestinian men crushed into tunnel cages on the way to the security check. People forced to climb on top of one another — that was when I started to think, ‘There’s something wrong here.””

Israeli Domestic Scene

Netanyahu said eyeing loophole to ditch Gantz, form right-wing coalition,

“Channel 12 said Netanyahu will try to pull in Yoaz Hendel’s and Zvi Hauser’s Derech Eretz party and others to get a majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member Knesset, citing unnamed Likud sources.”

At least 5,000 protest Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in Jerusalem,

“An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 protesters flooded the streets near the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night in what is being called the largest of a series of demonstrations there over the past two weeks. The protesters chanted ‘Bibi go home,’ using Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname, and waved signs criticizing his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.”

Why are Palestinian citizens staying out of the anti-Netanyahu protests?,

“So why is a struggle against institutional injustice, waged by a coalition of groups, not attracting those who have historically been harmed by those same institutions? The answer lies in the Palestinian community’s existential struggle as a marginalized, discriminated national minority…We are a scarred public. Government policies have shattered our society from within over the course of many decades since the state’s founding. We are heading for a crash due to neglect, racism, and discrimination that defined our reality well before the Jewish public realized that the establishment is misleading everyone and toying with all of our futures.”

Activists to picket police minister’s home after he tells cops to quash rallies,

“Leaders of the protest movement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that they will stage a protest Tuesday evening outside the home of Public Security Minister Amir Ohana after he was recorded pressuring police brass to step up enforcement against demonstrators.”

Lapid calls on Netanyahu to fire Public Security Minister Amir Ohana,

“Leader of the Opposition and Yesh Atid chair MK Yair Lapid has called for Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to be fired for apparently seeking to reduce the size of the protests outside the prime minister’s residence and even to stop them altogether. Lapid made his comments at the Yesh Atid faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday following leaked conversations of Ohana with the police commander of the Jerusalem District Doron Yadid.”

Security Service Tightens Protection Around Netanyahu as Protests Heat Up,

“The Shin Bet security service revised parts of its protocol for protecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family in the past two weeks in response to the growing protests outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem’s Balfour Street and tensions between demonstrators, police and Netanyahu supporters. Shin Bet officials are also concerned by violent attacks against anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in recent days…Shin Bet officials are not addressing the question of whether there is any intelligence warning of an intent or attempt to hurt Netanyahu or his family. Still, they are concerned there may be what they describe as a security incident without any prior warning that would lead to a violent confrontation near the prime minister’s residence.”


Coronavirus: Israeli court rules Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing,

“In a ruling on Thursday, Israel’s top court rejected a petition made by the Adalah legal centre for minority rights, which called on Israel to implement Covid-19 protective guidelines for inmates at Gilboa prison, a facility in northern Israel housing about 450 Palestinians classified by Israel as ‘security prisoners’. The Supreme Court justices accepted the argument promoted by Israeli state authorities that Palestinians held in prison were no different than family members or flatmates living in the same home. Adalah attorney Myssana Morany, in a statement released following the ruling, slammed the court for accepting ‘the fiction pitched to it by Israeli authorities that Covid-19 social distancing policies – essential for everyone else – are not relevant to the Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ it holds behind bars’.”

Coronavirus wards at four of Israel’s largest hospitals are full,

“Coronavirus wards at four of Israel’s largest hospitals are full, with a fifth nearing total capacity, according to the Health Ministry, as the number of serious COVID-19 cases in the country continued to rise, placing a strain on the healthcare system. The Health Ministry also recorded general overload in the hospitals, with two major Jerusalem medical centers and the largest hospitals in Tel Aviv and nearby Ramat Gan operating near or above full capacity.”

News from the Israel - Lebanon Border

IDF thwarts Hezbollah terror cell infiltration along border with Lebanon,

“The cell fled back into Lebanon without firing at IDF troops, Zilberman said, denying reports that anti-tank guided missiles were fired during the incident. ‘We have some tense days ahead,’ the IDF general said.”

Hezbollah attack on Israeli target sparks cross-border fire,

“Hezbollah attacked an Israeli target in Lebanon’s occupied Shebaa Farms on Monday, according to multiple reports, with Israel’s military responding with shelling. The Shia movement fired a guided missile at an Israeli vehicle, a Lebanese source familiar with the operation told Reuters. The Israeli military said it thwarted an infiltation attempt by an armed squad along the Lebanese border, adding that no Israelis were hurt. Israel’s Channel 12 reported an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters and said explosions were heard in the area.”

IDF says it foiled Hezbollah attack along Lebanese border; no Israeli injuries,

“The Israel Defense Forces said it thwarted a Hezbollah attack in the Mount Dov area on Monday afternoon, opening fire at a number of fighters from the terror group that entered Israeli territory and driving them back into Lebanon. No Israel soldiers were injured, and the IDF denied Lebanese media reports that a Kornet anti-tank guided missile was fired at an Israeli tank on Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, an area that Israel, Lebanon and Syria each claim as its own.”

Israel upping alert on tensions with Hezbollah,

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) believe that Hezbollah intends to launch a terror attack against Israel soon. According to Israeli media reports this afternoon, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi held over the past 24 hours several consultations, which resulted in the decision to close transportation axes near the borders with Lebanon and Syria as of 8 p.m. local time tonight, enabling only the passage of military vehicles. Access to some agricultural areas near the border will also be restricted.”


Shin Bet said to have secretly tracked most Israelis’ phones for over 2.5 years,

“Long before the coronavirus outbreak, the Shin Bet security service was secretly tracking Israelis’ cellphones in a clandestine program to fight the Islamic State terror group that lasted for at least two and a half years, and may still be ongoing, according to a television report Sunday. The classified program, whose name is under gag order, was approved by a team of senior Justice Ministry officials, headed by then-state attorney Shai Nitzan as well as Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, but was not subject to parliamentary oversight, legislation, or any regulations, Channel 13 reported Sunday evening, without citing a source. Under the program, the cellphones of most Israelis were exposed to Shin Bet tracking. The report did not say exactly what type of data was gathered, though it stated that the security service tapped into databases held by mobile phone companies to harvest information — apparently without the companies’ knowledge.”

Also See – “Shin Bet Has Been Tracking Israeli Citizens in Recent Years, Report Says” (Haaretz); “The choice is not between Shin Bet surveillance or a lockdown” (Sarit Michaeli // The Times of Israel)


U.S. Politics

US House approves $250m for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, business development,

“The US House of Representatives on Friday approved $250 million in funding for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue programs and Palestinian business development. The Alliance for Middle East Peace, an umbrella group for dialogue programs, led lobbying for the funding. The $50 million a year over five years breaks down over time to $110 million for the dialogue programs and $140 million for the investments.”

U.S. Elections Far More Critical to Israel’s Future Than Its Own,

“One way or another, the theoretical conjunction of the two elections campaigns highlights the fact that the Israeli ballot will have only a marginal impact on the country’s future. American voters will determine Israel’s fate, one way or another.”