Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 19, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation on the Agenda

3 former top IDF officers said to reject Gantz offer to oversee annexation plans,

“Three former senior military officers reportedly all turned down an offer from Defense Minister Benny Gantz to lead an administrative headquarters overseeing Israel’s planned annexation of territory in the West Bank. Major generals (Ret.) Roni Numa and Avi Mizrahi both headed the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, and Major General (Ret.) Yaacov Ayish was formerly head of the IDF Operations Branch and Israel’s military attache to the US. All have extensive experience in the West Bank. The three officers were put off because the position is so political and because some of them have ties to the security industry through private companies, the report said, apparently creating a conflict of interest, Channel 12 reported Wednesday night. According to the report there is still no formal central headquarters assessing the possible outcomes of applying sovereignty. As a result, the report said there is no groundwork being done on what the response could be in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or in Jordan and Egypt.”

Palestinians vs. Annexation

Palestinians in Jordan Valley fear annexation heralds displacement,

“Many of the region’s lands have already been taken over by settlements or fenced off by the IDF; residents, analysts believe process could accelerate under Israeli sovereignty.” [Also see informative and powerful Twitter thread from PIPD’s Salem Barahmeh on the situation in the Jordan Valley even without formal annexation]

Hamas slams Mossad chief’s plans to visit Arab countries to persuade them to accept West Bank annexation,

“A spokesman for the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, Abdel Latif Al-Qanoua, has criticised the Chief of Israeli Mossad Yossi Cohen’s plans to visit a number of Arab countries in the coming period, to convince them to accept Israel’s annexation of large areas in the West Bank. Al-Qanoua told Palestinian Donia Al-Watan news agency that the Israeli official’s visit is a crime against the Palestinian people and must be rejected. ‘While the Palestinians are facing the annexation plan and are fighting a battle with the occupation to restore their land and obtain their rights, the chief of Mossad announces his intention to visit a number of Arab countries to clarify the occupation’s position in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain false legitimacy over the Palestinian territories, in the implementation of the deal of the century,’ Al-Qanoua asserted, stressing that any reception of the occupation leaders by Arab and Islamic countries, as well as normalisation with Israel, are crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Caught between annexation and his public’s apathy, Abbas hopes for symbolic wins,

“It was not actually annexation that awakened the beast, but rather the pandemic: Fatah leaders who sent the field operators into villages, often armed, in order to enforce COVID-19 discipline, are now finding it difficult to remove them again. In isolated locations such strongmen can claim more and more autonomy, engage in criminal activities and become a nuisance for both residents and Israeli security forces. Understanding that the public is not seeking another intifada, and that it will find it hard to manufacture a true crisis, the PA is now aiming for more symbolic achievements. In the event of annexation, it could lodge a fresh appeal to the UN Security Council, in an attempt to gain international recognition of a Palestinian state under occupation. The US is expected to veto any initiative of the sort. But that won’t stop the initiatives, a Palestinian official says.”

PA urges Greece to take position against sovereignty,

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday urged Greece to take a position against Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, the Xinhua news agency reports. PA cabinet leader Mohammed Shtayyeh phoned Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, urging him not to undermine international law and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, according to the report. The phone conversation came a day after an official visit by Mitsotakis to Israel, where he met with President Reuven Rivlin as well as with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”

International Community vs. Annexation

With annexation looming, Canada’s UNSC upset is bad news for Israel, US,

“Canada’s lost bid for a United Nations Security Council seat is bad news for Israel, particularly in light of pending plans to annex portions of the West Bank and the expected renewed Palestinian drive for UN membership.Outside of the United States, Canada has been one of the staunchest friends Israel has at the United Nations. Like the United States, it holds that the UN’s treatment of Israeli is biased. Canada has risen unequivocally to its defense, casting ‘no’ votes, almost as dependably and frequently as the United States. It’s reputation as a friend of Israel, is so strong, that there is much speculation that it failed to obtain a UNSC seat, its second loss in ten years, specifically due to its pro-Israel stances.”

EU’s elder statesman: Annexation flouts biblical tenet ‘Thou shalt not steal’,

“Luxembourg FM Jean Asselborn warns move would ‘make it very difficult’ for the EU to sign future agreements with Israel, explains why his country would recognize Palestinian state.”

Mixed Signals? Saudi Strips a Citizen of Nationality After He Called for Diplomatic Ties With Israel,

“…Last Monday, Saudi journalist and political analyst ‎‎‎‎‎‎‎Abdul Hameed Al-Ghabin took to Twitter to protest hiding his personal data from government’s records, a move many linked to his political stances supporting full diplomatic ties and cooperation with Israel, a country he thinks ‘can be a strong ally to Saudi Arabia.’ Al-Ghabin, who had published an op-ed last December entitled ‘The road between Saudi Arabia and Israel passes through Al-Aqsa’ in The Times of Israel, has urged the Saudi Crown Prince for protection, saying that ‘his life is threatened.’”

Jordan in the Spotlight

Jordan says Israel is choosing 'conflict and escalation' with West Bank annexation,

“Jordan’s foreign minister warned that Israel ‘will be choosing conflict and escalation’ if it proceeds with plans to annex large parts of the occupied Palestinian territories next month. During a meeting on Thursday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Ayman Safadi said Israel will ‘have to deal with consequences – not just in its relationship with Jordan… it will also be harming regional efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive solution.’ ‘Jordan will stand by the Palestinians and will use any means at its disposal to guarantee them rights,’ the foreign minister said, adding that annexation will ‘kill the two-state solution and all principles of a peace process.’” [Also see: Haaretz – Jordanian Foreign Minister: Israel Will Have to Deal With Consequences of Annexation; Al Jazeera – Meeting Abbas, Jordan foreign minister warns against annexation

Jordanian king warns US lawmakers that annexation would bolster Hamas,

“Jordan’s king is warning congressional leaders that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank would strengthen Hamas and damage Israel’s ability to normalize relations with the rest of the region, according to a source familiar with the discussions. King Abdullah II has been leading a lobbying campaign against Israeli plans to begin annexing the West Bank settlements and the entire Jordan Valley under the Trump administration’s peace proposal, taking his case to US lawmakers in multiple teleconference meetings this week. ‘He urged members to understand that annexation would affect the daily lives of Palestinians and that he feared that it would radicalize Palestinians and empower violent extremists. Hamas would benefit from annexation,’ the Washington-based source told The Times of Israel.”

'Close the file': Jordan king urged to deny US extradition demand,

“The family of Ahlam al-Tamimi who is wanted by the United States for her role in a suicide bombing in Israel in 2001 has appealed to King Abdullah II to resist American pressure to extradite her…Her family acknowledged that Jordan was under pressure by the US government to extradite her, but urged the king to work to ‘close the file’ and ‘reject the US demands that are based on political considerations, not legal ones’. Tamimi’s case is also a hot button issue in Jordan where the majority of Jordanians view Israel as an enemy. Scores of Jordanians on social media voiced their support for her case and urged the government to reject her extradition request. Seven members of the US Congress sent a letter to the Jordanian embassy in Washington DC last May demanding that Jordan ‘hand over’ al-Tamimi to the US government.”

Occupation/De Facto Annexation Continues

IDF soldier gets community service after killing Gazan,

“An IDF soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman near the Gaza frontier in 2018 has been given 45 days of community service after an army investigation concluded he fired without authorization, the military said Thursday…Nawaf al-Attar, a 23-year-old fisherman was shot and killed by Israeli troops near the northern beach frontier on Nov. 14, 2018, when the military said the shooting occurred. It happened a few hours after a ceasefire took effect following a brief round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants. The area near the fence had seen weekly protests at the time that often turned violent, but there were no demonstrations that day.”

Israel’s ‘strangling’ of Bethlehem tightens as world debates annexation,

“…Even as attention focuses on the upcoming annexation plan, the construction of Efrat’s Givat Eitam neighborhood in al-Nahla has already been approved. If built, it would effectively cut off 14 southern West Bank villages from their natural connection with Bethlehem and further cut off the city from Highway 60, a main road that connects it to the southern West Bank, including with Hebron. It would also prevent Bethlehem’s development southward — the only direction that is not yet blocked by Israeli settlements or infrastructure…Israel’s approval of the new settlement in al-Nahla does not come as a surprise, says Dr. Jad Isaac, general director of the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem/Society based in Bethlehem. Israel has been intent on strangling Bethlehem since 1967, he says, surrounding the core Bethlehem areas with strategically located settlements. Now it is aiming to connect the west and east Gush Etzion settlements, turning the Bethlehem area into a large prison…”

As East Jerusalem Suffers Powers Cuts, Settlers Were Put on Israeli Grid – but Palestinians Not,

“The Jewish neighborhood of Nof Tzion in East Jerusalem was connected to the Israeli electricity grid this week, switching from the Palestinian energy provider that had supplied it previously. After the change, most of the Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem now receive their electricity from the Israel Electric Corporation. The vast majority of the Arab residents in that part of the city are customers of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company, which in addition to East Jerusalem provides power to the cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho and environs…”

Israel settlers set fire to Palestinian fields in West Bank,

“Israeli soldiers shot Palestinians after their fields in the north of the occupied West Bank were set on fire by extremist settlers, reported Wafa news agency. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official in charge of the settlements file in the northern West Bank, told Wafa yesterday that the Israeli settlers took advantage of the hot weather to spread the fire they set in Burin village, south of Nablus. He added that settlers from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar set fire to fields in the village and when residents attempted to stop them, occupation forces shot rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at the Palestinians.” [Also see: Yesh Din Twitter thread documenting the incident with videos]

For Israeli press, surveillance is only a problem when targeting Jewish citizens,

“…It would be an understatement to say that most journalists who were horrified by the monitoring of Israeli citizens could not care less about the daily surveillance of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. Much of Israeli media also continues to ignore the story of how these surveillance technologies are exported to non-democratic countries, where states of emergency are a permanent feature of life, and where these technologies can be used to take away freedoms and sometimes even cause physical harm.”

Other News

Israel moves to placate Hamas, but won’t meet pricey prisoner swap demands,

“The rocket attack from Gaza on Monday evening (there were no casualties), which came after more than a month of relative calm and no missile launches, can be attributed to an insubordinate organization in Gaza or to the delay in transferring Qatari funds to the Strip. We have already grown accustomed to this ritual. Every time the financial aid Qatar provides for about 100,000 poor families in Gaza is delayed, someone — the Islamic Jihad Movement or one of its counterparts — attempts to accelerate the transfer of funds by using less conventional measures: one or two rockets, incendiary balloons, or in other words — escalation. Nevertheless, it seems like this time, a new element has been added to the equation: Disappointment as Hamas’s hopes to seal a prisoner exchange deal with Israel have stalled, at least for the time being.”

Report: Putin nixed Obama initiative to create Palestinian state within 1948 borders,

“In late 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin prevented former U.S. President Barack Obama’s attempt to pass a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution demanding Israel relinquish the West Bank territories and accept a two-state resolution based on 1948 borders, freshly declassified documents appear to show…”

Russia denies Israel Hayom report on UN veto threat,

“Russia’s Foreign Ministry released an official statement Thursday denying the Israel Hayom report that Moscow threatened to veto a US-led draft resolution in 2016 that would have endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel Hayom reported earlier this week that one month before leaving office, US President Barack Obama began working on a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have forced Israel to agree to a Palestinian state based on the 1948 borders. After Israel asked Russia to veto the resolution, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed, according to the Israel Hayom report.”

Israel spy plane detected near Tunisia shores,

“Press sources revealed on Tuesday that they had detected an Israeli spy plane flying near the Tunisian shores. The sources indicated that the plane from the Nachshon-Shavit intelligence unit had been launched from the Nevatim Air Force Base south of the country. The sources disclosed that the plane also flew near the shores of western Libya and that last week, military manoeuvres between Turkey and Russia took place in the Mediterranean.”


The Dark Truth Behind the Israeli Army's Reenactment of the Six-Day War,

“The popular propaganda film ‘Six Days’ glorified Israel’s achievements in the 1967 war – but a horrific price was exacted while it was being made.”

Israeli annexation: If Abbas is serious this time, Palestinians should support the PA's response,

“The PA president has laid out a road map to return the occupied West Bank to pre-Oslo days if Israel goes ahead with its planned annexation.”

With the World Focused on the Pandemic, Israel Prepares to Annex Large Swaths of the West Bank,

“…There are multiple reasons why Israel is not just willing but seemingly eager to incur condemnations from the international community by proceeding with this plan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beset by political problems as he struggles to form a governing coalition for a new term and, even more importantly, by legal problems as he stands trial on felony charges of bribery and fraud. Emboldening the Israeli population and causing them to unite behind him in the face of international denunciations could distract attention away from those crises and solidify his hold on power. Most importantly, Israel has become increasingly xenophobic, expansionist, militaristic, hostile to Arabs, and fascistic over the last decade. Aside from the Trump administration, its primary allies are no longer liberal democracies but Arab despots and far-right political movements in Central and Eastern Europe and in Latin America.”

Don’t be fooled – American Jews support sovereignty – opinion,

“Despite the noise, empirical evidence does not support the premise that engaged American Jewry opposes Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. In fact, the exact opposite is the case.”

Tzipi Hotovely Is the Ugly, Extremist Face of Israel. British Jews Should Welcome Her,

“…Hotovely is the right Israeli ambassador for our time. She will remind British Jews how powerless they are (as is the British government, to be fair) to influence matters in Israel and how distant the current Israeli leadership is from the mainstream of British Jewry. And if left-wing British Jews are serious about trying to get their community to finally wake up to the damage the occupation is doing to Israel’s soul, then having Hotovely as ambassador is the best thing that could happen to them.”