Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 18, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation on the Agenda

Jason Greenblatt: Israeli sovereignty actions 'consistent with plan we released',

“…What Israel is considering doing is consistent with the plan we released. It’s consistent with the idea that this area should not remain in limbo forever, just because the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and the so-called leadership in Gaza, the terrorist thugs that are Iran-funded, are unable or unwilling to negotiate under any circumstance. It wasn’t just our peace plan that they rejected. So I think that if Israel were to move forward and embrace the plan that would include application of Israeli sovereignty over these areas, it is something that I personally believe in and that’s why I wrote what I did together with our Ambassador David Friedman and Jared Kushner and so many others in the U.S. government.”

Biden Adviser Says Israeli Annexation Would Be a 'Huge Mistake',

“A foreign policy adviser for Joe Biden has warned that Israeli annexation of West Bank lands would be ‘a huge mistake.’ Nicholas Burns told The Arena, the online magazine of the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy, that annexation ‘is the one issue which could most harm the U.S.-Israel relationship.’”

PM: Gov't will pass sovereignty next week, even if Blue and White opposes bid,

“Behind closed doors this week, the prime minister said he no longer intends to wait for Blue and White’s consent. Moreover, he has said, even if Blue and White opposes the sovereignty initiative – he will raise the matter for government approval, where it will pass by the slimmest of margins on the vote of Communications Minister Yoaz Handel (Derech Eretz), who will give the right-wing bloc the required majority. Netanyahu plans to skip the Knesset altogether. The prime minister believes he cannot currently trust the Yamina and Israel Beytenu parties to secure approval for the plan in the Knesset. Knesset approval is not a requirement for implementing sovereignty, government approval is sufficient.”

PM said to present Gantz with 4 annexation options, including only symbolic move,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly presented Defense Minister Benny Gantz with four scenarios for annexing West Bank lands, ranging from a symbolic move all the way to extending sovereignty over all areas slated for Israel under the Trump administration’s peace plan. Netanyahu and Gantz met Wednesday for further talks on planned annexation ahead of July 1, when the premier has pledged to begin moving forward with annexing parts of the West Bank. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin also took part in the meeting.”

Gantz won’t support annexation of areas with Palestinian residents,

“Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed opposition on Thursday to Israel extending its laws to parts of the West Bank with large Palestinian populations.’Prior to any measure, we will make sure all professional factors voice their opinion, and in any scenario, we will not support applying sovereignty to areas with a Palestinian population in order to prevent friction,’ Gantz said at a meeting with defense officials, N12 reported. ‘I am sure Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] will not jeopardize the peace treaty with Jordan and the strategic relations of the State of Israel with the US with an irresponsible move,’ he added.”

Member of Blue and White-led bloc says he’ll back annexation even if Gantz won’t,

“A right-wing lawmaker allied with the Blue and White party said Thursday he would back annexing parts of the West Bank even if Defense Minister Benny Gantz opposes doing so. In an interview with Army Radio, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel was asked if he would vote against annexation if Gantz’s Blue and White does. ‘I’ll vote in favor of applying the law to areas of the West Bank,’ Hendel said.”

Blue and White lawmakers said to support staged annexation,

“According to June 17 reports in the Israeli press, Blue and White Knesset members are quietly promoting a staged annexation plan. The unnamed parliamentarians are willing to support annexation of the two settlement blocs of Etzion and Ma’ale Adumim. Israeli pundits have estimated over the years that these two settlement blocs, which are both near Jerusalem, would stay under Israel’s sovereignty in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. The popular assessment is that a majority within the party would now agree to the idea.”

Israel's annexations plans stoke fears of fresh Gaza conflict,

“The prospect that Israel will annex areas of the occupied West Bank has stoked fears across the region of impending unrest, with Jordan’s king going so far as to warn of ‘massive conflict’. Though eyes will naturally be drawn to the West Bank, where Israel has identified illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley as areas it could unilaterally claim as its own, fears of escalation with the besieged Gaza Strip are becoming more profound. Various groups in Gaza, such as the Hamas movement that rules the coastal enclave, have issued statements rejecting the annexation plan, without explicitly predicting a confrontation with Israel once the move comes into effect.”

Arab World/Int’l Community & Annexation

EU foreign policy chief: Sovereignty will have consequences for EU-Israel relationship,

“EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on Thursday warned Israel against taking unilateral steps toward applying sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria. Speaking to members of the European Parliament, Borrell emphasized that ‘our position is clear, although once again it is difficult to find unanimity but there is a strong, very strong majority of countries that continue supporting a negotiated two-state solution, based on international parameters and considering that any annexation would be against international law. Consequently, we strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory,’ he said, noting he ‘had the opportunity of expressing this point of view in my phone calls with the new Ministers of Foreign Affairs [Ashkenazi] and Defense [Gantz] of Israel.’”

EU okays landmark Israel ‘Open Skies’ aviation deal, despite annexation tensions,

“The European Parliament on Wednesday evening ratified a major aviation agreement with Israel. The Open Skies agreement is seen as a major boost for the Israeli economy, since it reduces airfares and promotes the creation of additional routes. Jerusalem hailed the vote on the deal, which concluded a seven-year process, as a major diplomatic achievement. At the same time, the European Union on Thursday indicated that the vote should not be seen as prejudging its response to a possible Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. It vowed to ‘closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly.’”

Jordan’s king: Israel’s annexation undermines stability in the Middle East,

“Jordan’s King Abdulllah II warned on Tuesday that Israel’s planned annexation of large parts of occupied West Bank would threaten stability in the Middle East, news agencies reported. King Abdullah ‘warned that any unilateral Israeli measure to annex lands in the West Bank is unacceptable and undermines the prospects of achieving peace and stability in the region,’ a statement issued by the Royal Palace reported. His remarks came during a video conference with US congressional leaders and committees, Reuters said. The king told US lawmakers that peace would only come with the creation of a “independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state” with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Also see: Haaretz – King Abdullah Goes on the Attack, Brings Annexation Fight to the Heart of Washington

Jordanian official: We won't damage security ties with Israel for Palestinians,

“The senior official tells Israel Hayom: ‘From the perspective of the Jordanian security interest, we prefer an IDF presence west of the kingdom in the Jordan Valley over any other alternative.’”

UAE official: Israeli annexation may increase calls for single binational state,

“A senior Emirati official warned Wednesday that Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank could lead Arab states to call for a single binational state for Israelis and Palestinians. The Arab minister’s remarks, delivered to an influential Washington think tank, struck a new setback to Israel’s hopes of normalizing relations with the Arab world and added to the increasingly vocal international opposition to the Israeli annexation plan…”

UAE could strengthen Israel ties even after West Bank annexation, says Gargash,

“One of the UAE’s most senior diplomats has said that the Israeli annexation of huge parts of the West Bank would not affect relations between the countries, as anger mounts in the Arab world about the move. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, told the American Jewish Committee on Tuesday that the UAE is looking for greater cooperation with Israel, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing international criticism for the plans. ‘Can I have a political disagreement with Israel but at the same time try and bridge other areas of the relationship? I think I can. I think that is fundamentally where we are,’ Gargash told the pro-Israel panel, according to Emirati and Israeli media.”

Jordanian FM makes surprise visit to Ramallah,

“Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi made a surprise visit to Ramallah in the West Bank on Thursday, multiple media sources reported. According to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, Safadi is holding an emergency meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the start of formal debates on annexation in the Knesset on July 1.”

Palestinian Affairs

Palestine seeks $100M loan from Arab League,

“Palestine’s Ambassador to Egypt and permanent representative to the Arab League, Diab al-Louh, said Wednesday that Palestinian authorities formally requested the regional group provide a $100 million loan, Anadolu reports. The request was submitted because of the financial crisis brought on by the interruption of clearance revenues with Israel…The Palestinian diplomat said his country’s request ‘came after the Arab countries did not respond to the decisions of the successive Arab League sessions regarding providing an Arab safety network with the value of $100 million per month.’”

In first, EU nixes grant to Palestinian NGO refusing to sign anti-terror clause,

“The European Union last week for the first time canceled a grant to a Palestinian nonprofit for refusing to sign a clause that would obligate it to ensure no terrorist organizations benefit from the funded programs…Badil refused to sign the clause because it ‘criminalizes the Palestinian struggle against oppression and requires the recipient organization to perform ‘screening’ procedures which amounts to policing its own people,’ according to its press release. ‘The inclusion of this article to contracts with Palestinian organizations contradicts the national role of Palestinian civil society institutions in the struggle for freedom from Israeli colonialism and apartheid,’ Badil’s statement read. ‘Further, the article violates both Palestinian and international law, as well as the declared obligations of the EU itself.’”

Occupation/De Facto Annexation Continues

Amid sharp criticism, Finance Ministry cancels tax breaks for controversial foreign NGOs,

“The Finance Ministry announced Wednesday that was cancelling its plan to grant a tax exemption on fuel to government-recognized ‘international aid NGOs’ operating in the Palestinian Authority…Included in the organizations that were set to receive the tax exemption are ‘Diakonia’ and ‘Mennonite Central Committee,’ which fund NGOs that support BDS and have ties to terrorist groups, and the ‘Lutheran World Federation’ and the ‘Catholic Relief Services’ that promote highly politicized anti-Israel rhetoric and projects.”

Israel begins work on road linking Jerusalem with Judea, Samaria (video),

“Massive road project dubbed the ‘American Road’ linking towns in Judea & Samaria with Jerusalem accused of being de facto act of annexation.”


Palestinians are tired of proving Israeli apartheid exists,

“…Foreign officials, mainstream analysts, and local activists — many well-intentioned — have spent years warning that Israel could become an “apartheid state” if it officially absorbs these territories. Now they are sounding the alarm that next month could be the tipping point that finally seals this fate. It is rather obscene, however, that many people are still waiting for a specific piece of legislation, or a certain government order, to validate the accounts of millions of Palestinians experiencing apartheid as we speak. Like South Africa, Israel’s complex regime was not created by a single dramatic “moment”: it was meticulously designed over decades, fueled by an ideology that rejected equality between the natives and the settlers who, in Reitz’s words, had ‘made this land their home.’”

Remembering the Destruction of Jerusalem's Moroccan Quarter,

“…What was once a dense, diverse neighborhood built by the Western Wall is now an expansive public square; room for tourists and religious individuals to congregate near the holy site. The Quarter was torn down to make room for religious pilgrimages, and to allow them to walk to the Western Wall without needing to go through a predominantly Arab neighborhood. The razing of the Moroccan Quarter is little-known today, but the process that led to its obliteration and the quiet legacy it leaves behind is a microcosm of what annexation will bring. Not only will people be deprived of their homes and livelihoods, but the cultural memory of Palestine as a place will continue to be paved over.”

Why Israelis Backed the Civil Rights Movement but Fear Black Lives Matter,

“…Fifty-three years of occupation since the Six Day War have fundamentally changed Israel. After more than 40 years of right-wing rule, Israelis identify and are identified more with ruling whites than with oppressed Blacks. Ethnocentrism, Jewish fundamentalism and hostility towards Palestinians, it seems, have spawned blatant racism towards minorities in general, as Israel’s own black minority of Ethiopian Jews can attest. Sympathy for Africa and Third World liberation movements have been supplanted by increasing admiration for strong, authoritarian and often racist leaders, led by President Trump.”