Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 22, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation on the Agenda

Scoop: White House to discuss this week whether to approve Israeli annexations,

“The White House is expected to hold high-level meetings this week to discuss whether to give the Israeli government a “green light” on annexing parts of the West Bank, American and Israeli sources tell me…The meetings are expected to take place Monday or Tuesday and include Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who is expected to travel to Washington to attend. White House envoy Avi Berkowitz had been expected to travel to Israel but stayed in Washington to attend the meetings. President Trump is expected to join the discussion at a certain stage, and will make the final call on any decision.”

Trump Administration and Netanyahu Discussing 'Gradual' West Bank Annexation Plan,

“The Trump administration and the Netanyahu government are discussing a plan for ‘gradual’ Israeli annexation in the West Bank, which would take place in several installments over the coming months, according to sources who have knowledge of the debate within the American administration. This, they have said, is one of the options that will be considered this week at the White House when Trump convenes a meeting on the issue with his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and with the American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and other senior officials.”

Envoy to US: Annexation will help Ramallah abandon ‘illusions,’ accept 2 states,

“Ron Dermer argued, in his opinion piece (paywall) for The Washington Post, that the international community’s policies have inadvertently helped the Palestinians foster false hopes of one day overthrowing the Jewish state…The result, he said, was a ‘two-state illusion’ that has “proved disastrous for peace,” maintaining Palestinian refusal to generous offers from Israel over the years while losing the Israeli public as each overture was met with more and more terrorism. The Trump peace plan, Dermer argued, offered a true course to peace by demanding Palestinian recognition of Israel’s legitimacy and addressing its security concerns, while seeking realistic solutions to the situation on the ground.”

Netanyahu memo: Evacuating settlements would pose ‘immediate existential threat’,

“The evacuation of settlements in the West Bank would pose an “immediate existential threat” to Israel, according to a memo sent by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Knesset members from his Likud party on Sunday. The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Times of Israel, lists several talking points to help lawmakers justify Netanyahu’s unilateral planned annexation of parts of the West Bank — namely all Jewish settlements along with the strategic Jordan Valley — in the context of the US administration’s peace proposal. ‘Relinquishing these territories would not only constitute a historic injustice; such a move would create an immediate existential threat to the Jewish state since Judea and Samaria border central Israeli cities,’ it says. Jewish settlements in the West Bank ‘constitute an integral part of the Jewish homeland and Jewish identity,’ the memo reads.”

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.”

Giving Palestinians citizenship doesn’t make Israel any less colonial,

“It is not for naught that the word ‘apartheid’ has entered the Israeli lexicon since annexation became Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy vis-à-vis the occupied territories. It is clear to all that either way, Israel is not planning on granting citizenship to the Palestinian residents whose lands it will plunder. Obsessively agonizing over Jewish demographic supremacy has been a cornerstone of Israeli policy since the state’s founding. Surely one must assume that annexation won’t stray very far from that organizing principle….A struggle for citizenship, however, will signify a larger strategy for popular struggle, rather than a desire to become Israelis. More importantly, in the far-fetched scenario that Israel does grant citizenship to annexed Palestinians, it will not bring Israel any closer to being the thriving democracy it claims to be…One need only look at East Jerusalem to understand why.”

The Global Problem with Israeli Annexation,

“Despite the fact that outlawing territorial conquest has made the world safer, this core principle is under threat. In fact, it has never been a perfect system. Open violations are sparse; for example, China effectively annexed Tibet in the 1950s, and Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1975; Morocco invaded Western Sahara at the same time; and Iraq declared its annexation of Kuwait following the invasion that prompted the first Gulf War. Creeping, undeclared annexation or ongoing occupation in other cases represents another threat to the core international principle. In recent years, Russia is among the top perpetrators, after annexing Crimea in 2014, while invading eastern Ukraine at the same time. But Russia was dismantling territorial integrity of Georgia well before that, quietly inching the borders of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia deeper into Georgia, sometimes literally overnight.14 Even if Israel fails to go forward with its maximalist policy on July 1, its decades-long de facto annexation is still undermining the international system and Palestinian self-determination—perhaps more so, since it will keep international punishment at bay. Why should Russia cease its actions in Georgia, if the international norms are unequally applied? Observers on either side of the local debate should recall that the consequences of normalizing annexation will be felt for years to come, the world over. Those American policymakers who care about global alliances, and who will one day need to reconstruct America’s credibility in a post-Trump world, should re-commit to policies that have helped reduce war over time—instead of helping ignite a new one.”

Palestinians fear Israeli annexation could further limit Dead Sea access,

“’This place is a blessing for all Palestinians, but if there will be annexation it will be hard for them to reach here. They may need permits,’ said Musa Farah, a lifeguard at one of the small, Israeli-run resorts that dot the Dead Sea’s West Bank coast. Even some owners of Israeli resorts – set up after Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war – are concerned they could lose customers under the annexation plan.”

Israeli security chiefs warn that annexation could ignite the West Bank,

“The heads of the security agencies are awaiting a directive from the political echelons. Before that happens, an in-depth discussion is planned to allow the defense and security chiefs to present decision-makers with their views on the annexation move…The Shin Bet has already formulated its opinion, and the decision-makers will not like it. According to its assessment, annexation is highly likely to set off yet another round of violence with the Palestinians. The agency experts believe rogue groups and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza will light the first spark, forcing the ruling Hamas movement to join the fray in response to the unilateral Israeli measure. An exchange of blows between Israel and Gaza could easily stir up violence in the West Bank.”

Palestinians Step Up Fight Against Annexation With Planned Rally in Jericho,

“Palestinian Authority officials intend to step up their fight against Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank with a protest rally on Monday at the entrance of Jericho. Members of the Fatah movement view the success of the protest as a leadership test, and are calling on the Palestinian public across the West Bank to participate. A member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub, called on Sunday during a press conference in Ramallah for the Palestinian public to demonstrate against the occupation.”

The reasons behind Palestinian apathy towards annexation,

“Right now, Palestinians feel less motivated to take to the streets to protest Israeli or US policies as Fatah and Hamas leaders continue to engage in an incomprehensible struggle over money and power”

Occupation & Human Rights

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.”

Gaza patients in limbo after Palestinian Authority halts coordination with Israel,

“For the past month, 14-year-old Roaa Hamdan has been waiting to be granted a permit to leave the besieged Gaza Strip and receive treatment at Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Roaa’s health deteriorates each day as Gaza hospitals remain unable to provide her with the medical treatment she urgently needs. But since the Palestinian Authority (PA) suspended its coordination with Israel a month ago, the young girl and countless others have been left in limbo.”

NSO Group spyware used against Moroccan journalist days after company pledged to respect human rights,

“NSO Group, the Israeli company marketing its technology in the fight against COVID-19, contributed to a sustained campaign by the government of Morocco to spy on Moroccan journalist Omar Radi, a new investigation by Amnesty International reveals. The organization found that Omar Radi’s phone was subjected to multiple attacks using a sophisticated new technique that silently installed NSO Group’s notorious Pegasus spyware. The attacks occurred over a period when Radi was being repeatedly harassed by the Moroccan authorities, with one attack taking place just days after NSO pledged to stop its products being used in human rights abuses and continued until at least January 2020.”

In Hebron, protecting Palestinians is not an Israeli soldier’s job,

“The truth is that the Golani soldier’s behavior is the complete opposite of what a soldier is expected to do in the West Bank…Protecting Palestinians in the occupied territories is supposed to be one of the duties of an Israeli soldier, but theory and practice are two very different things. As part of my work for Breaking the Silence, an organization made up of veteran IDF soldiers working to expose the everyday reality of the occupation, I have interviewed hundreds of soldiers about their military service. One of the themes that is common to most of them is the clear directives they received from their commanders, according to which the settlers are considered untouchable.”

In Israeli Textbooks, the Palestinians Are All but Invisible,

“…according to a study by Prof. Avner Ben-Amos of Tel Aviv University’s School of Education, the occupation is rarely a topic in schools…As Israel’s government considers annexing land in the West Bank, the country’s schools continue to use textbooks like ‘Shulamit’s’ and maps without the Green Line, while taking the children on hikes in the West Bank.”


Palestinian Authority places 2 West Bank cities on lockdown over rise in coronavirus cases,

“he Palestinian Authority placed two major West Bank cities, Hebron and Nablus, on lockdown following a steep rise in COVID-19 cases. The PA said Saturday that more than 100 Palestinians in the West Bank tested positive for the coronavirus in 24 hours, Ynet reported. Over the next five days, the cities will under a strict curfew, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said. Only grocery stores and pharmacies will be permitted to open, as well as factories which produce what is described as essential products. All social gatherings in the West Bank have been cancelled. There have been a total of 1022 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank since the start of the pandemic, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. Some 41 cases were discovered in Hebron on Saturday alone.”

Despite rising infections, top health official says lockdown unnecessary,

“Levy, who took up the post last week, said younger people make up a higher percentage of the sick, relative to the period between March and May. New infections have been detected in over 50 communities, which he said indicates ‘broad community spread.’ With some 15,000 daily tests, the number of those coming back positive has climbed from 1.3 percent to over 2%, he said.”

Netanyahu warns fines for virus violators will dramatically increase,

“Israel over the past few weeks has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 as more and more businesses reopen, with the daily toll topping 300 new cases on Friday for the first time since the peak of the epidemic in mid-April.”

Coronavirus pandemic reportedly hitting female workers hardest, study says,

“According to the figures, although women represent slightly less than 50% of the working population, they have accounted for 56% of unemployment claims filed with the Israeli government since March 1. ‘This is of great concern to us,’ added Bowers, who fears that this situation will have a significant negative impact on the progress made by women in Israel concerning employment rights and equal treatment.”

Israeli Politics

Netanyahu considers fourth elections, but ultra-Orthodox object,

“Barely a month since the unity-coronavirus government was sworn in, signs are mounting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing the ground for its dispersal and for a fourth election. When and how isn’t clear as he keeps the cards close to his chest, but one can’t ignore the election atmosphere hanging over the whole political establishment. According to all estimates, early next week Netanyahu will announce his decision to bring a one-year budget for approval to the government and the Knesset in September. Such a decision would constitute a contravention of the coalition agreement between the Likud and Blue and White that a two-year budget would be approved in order to ensure political stability.”

U.S. Politics

Steny Hoyer and 115 House Dems sign letter opposing annexation,

“One hundred and fifteen Democratic House members have added their names to a letter cautioning Israeli leaders against unilaterally annexing portions of the West Bank, according to a list reviewed by Jewish Insider on Thursday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that moves to begin annexing territory could start as early as July 1. The letter, authored by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and David Price (D-NC) and shared with House members on Monday, warns the new Israeli government that annexation will complicate both Israel’s diplomatic standing and efforts to achieve Middle East peace. “

Republicans set to declare support for sovereignty bid,

“House Republicans are expected on Monday to release a declaration of support for Israel’s right to apply sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, Israel Hayom learned on Sunday night. Republican leaders in recent days have been finalizing the wording of the announcement, which is expected to comprehensively support Israel’s right to pursue its own interests in accordance with the Trump administration’s plan for Middle East peace. Also on Sunday, prominent Evangelist leader, Pastor John Hagee, issued a similar message in an op-ed appearing on Haaretz’s website in English.”

Israel is about to reveal its West Bank annexation plans. How will Congress respond?,

“But Israel will likely reveal its annexation plan as early as July 1, leaving few options for U.S. politicians to sit on the fence. Do Americans think that questioning the American relationship with Israel is unacceptable? Our recent University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll asked this important question. Here’s what we found: 67 percent of respondents in our survey said either that it is ‘acceptable’ to question the Israeli-American relationship, or that it’s the ‘duty’ of members of Congress to do so. Among Democrats, that number was an overwhelming 81 percent, but a majority of Republicans also agreed. What does this mean?”

George Soros Conspiracy Theories Surge as Protests Sweep U.S.,

“George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist who has long been a target of conspiracy theories, is now being falsely accused of orchestrating and funding the protests over police killings of Black people that have roiled the United States. Amplified by a growing number of people on the far right, including some Republican leaders, online posts about Soros have skyrocketed in recent weeks. They have been accompanied by online ads bought by conservative groups that call on authorities to ‘investigate George Soros for funding domestic terrorism and his decades-long corruption’.”