Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 23, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation on the Agenda

Thousands of Palestinians Protest Against Israeli Annexation in Jordan Valley,

“Thousands of Palestinians rallied Monday against Israel’s planned annexation of areas of the West Bank in a mass protest organized by the Fatah political party. In the protest were Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’s Middle East envoy, Arab and other foreign diplomats, including the ambassadors of the European Union, China, Russia and Jordan…Palestinian activists said the Israeli army had erected checkpoints en route to Jericho, was questioning drivers about their destinations and preventing busses from arriving at the rally. The Israeli army confirmed that it prevented several buses from reaching the protest, in accordance with ‘a continuous evaluation of the situation.’”

Trump set to make decision on annexation,

“US President Donald Trump is poised to make a final decision on Tuesday as to whether and how Israel should apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman headed to Washington, DC for a meeting with special adviser to the president Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz to discuss how to move forward with the Israeli plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank as early as July 1.”

US mulling phased annexation, starting with areas close to Jerusalem – report,

“Concerned about the collateral damage that could follow from allowing Israel to move ahead with its planned annexation of areas of the West Bank, Washington is reportedly considering backing the annexation of only a handful of settlements close to Jerusalem. Officials in the Trump administration are set to hold a decisive meeting this week on whether to approve Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared plan to start annexing the 132 West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley — the 30 percent of the territory allocated to Israel under the administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.”

Top House Republicans Back Netanyahu as He Pushes to Annex West Bank Territory,

“A delegation of congressional Republicans wrote to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to express its support for the Israeli leader’s decision to annex portions of Palestinian territory in the West Bank, saying Israel has the right to execute any policy it sees as integral to its security. One-hundred-sixteen Republicans led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and other senior lawmakers told Netanyahu that they fully support Israel’s move, which would see the country take over several contested territories long-controlled by the Palestinians.” Also see: JTA – Republicans sign letter backing Israel’s right to set its own borders; Haaretz – Majority of House Republicans Sign Letter Endorsing Israeli Annexation; Israel Hayom – Letter from Republican lawmakers voices firm support for sovereignty bid

Pompeo adviser ‘confident’ Israel will weigh risk to UAE ties before annexation,

“A senior adviser to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told an Israeli radio station Monday that he was ‘confident’ that Israel would consider the reaction of Arab Gulf states and the ramifications such a move would have on ties with them before it went ahead with a plan to annex parts of the West Bank. The veiled warning from David Schenker, who heads the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the US State Department, came as the US enthusiasm for such a move has appeared to cool amid vociferous opposition from American allies in the Middle East, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”

'Jordan, Egypt will make only symbolic condemnation of sovereignty',

“‘There is complete synchronicity between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and King Abdullah. The national and security interests of Egypt and Jordan are the top priority for both leaders, even at the expense of Palestinian interests,’ a senior Egyptian official tells Israel Hayom.”

Joseph's Tomb [in the heart of the West Bank]: 2,500 pray overnight for success of annexation plan,

“Around 2,500 people gathered at Joseph’s Tomb Monday night to pray for the success of the potential annexation of parts of the West Bank, as part of US President Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared he will apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank as early as July 1. The large crowd gathered, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, at Joseph’s Tomb located just outside the city of Nablus in the West Bank, on what also happened to be Joseph’s yahrzeit (the anniversary of death)…Following the visit, a number of Palestinians were injured in conflict with IDF soldiers, according to Maariv, The Jerusalem Post‘s sister publication.”

Occupation/De Facto Annexation Continues

IDF soldier sentenced [to community service] over killing of Gaza man in 2018,

“An Israel Defense Forces paratrooper who shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman near the Gaza border in 2018 has been given 45 days of community service after an army investigation concluded he fired without authorization, the military said Thursday. The IDF said a group of Palestinians had approached the fence but were far away when the soldier opened fire, striking one of them.”

Israel builds new settler-only road near Bethlehem to link settlements,

“A new road for Israeli settlers is being built illegally by the Israeli occupation forces on Palestinian land in the village of Nahalin, west of Bethlehem, Wafa news agency reported. The new road will link the two illegal Jewish settlements: Beitar Illit and Modi’in Illit, situated west of Bethlehem and east of Lod (Lydda) respectively. Deputy-Mayor of Nahalin village, Hani Fanoun, told Wafa that Israeli army bulldozers and equipment began expanding the bypass road by a width of ten metres and a length of two kilometres, thus grabbing Palestinian lands in the Ein Fares area. Fanoun added that the area of Palestinian land confiscated for the purpose of the expansion of the settler-only bypass road would divide 3,000 dunams (741 acres) of Palestinian farm lands, thus making it difficult for local farmers and residents to reach their farmlands.”

When an Archaeological ‘Find’ Can Evict Palestinians From Their Home,

“West Bankers are being issued more and more demolition orders for building on land that Israel designated as an archaeological site. Is it connected to a new organization that’s taken it upon itself to monitor such areas?”

Israeli forces detain five Palestinian women and guard at al-Aqsa mosque,

“Islamic Waqf endowment in occupied East Jerusalem has warned that Israel is ‘on the verge of changing’ the status quo at al-Aqsa mosque. The warning comes a day after Israeli forces entered the compound and detained five Palestinian women (video).”

UN: 90 Palestinians homeless as Israel demolishes 70 buildings in 2 weeks,

“Israeli occupation forces demolished at least 70 Palestinian buildings in the occupied West Bank and displaced 90 Palestinians, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has revealed. The international organisation said in its biweekly report, which covers the period between 2-15 June, that the demolitions took place over alleged lack of construction permits. ‘This represents a 250 per cent increase compared with the weekly average of structures targeted since the beginning of the year,’ the report said, noting that ‘61 of the affected structures were located in Area C, including nine previously provided as humanitarian assistance.’”

Israel wounds 25 Palestinians in West Bank, including 9 children, UN says,

“Israeli occupation forces wounded 25 Palestinian civilians, including nine children between 2 and 15 June 2020, UNOCHA revealed in its latest publication. In the report, UNOCHA said: ‘22 of these injuries were recorded during the longstanding weekly demonstrations in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya), held to protest against access restrictions and settlement expansion.’ One of the Palestinians, the report said, was wounded during a protest near Tubas against the expected annexation of parts of the West Bank and the other two during search and arrest operations in East Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighbourhood and the town of Qabatiya. During the reporting period, Israeli forces carried out 120 search-and-arrest operations and arrested around 190 Palestinians.”

Over half of east Jerusalem civil society groups oppose dialogue with Israel,

“Of the 300 or so civil society organizations operating in east Jerusalem, 188 vigorously oppose any dialogue with Israel, Ben Avrahami of the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research reveals in a new study. Avrahami, who formerly served as an advisor on east Jerusalem issues in the Jerusalem Municipality, mapped the activity of some 300 civil society groups operating in the east of the city. He determined that 244 of the groups actively operate, and another 60 or so others provide support or funding for, activities in the fields of community service, sports and education, as well as projects focusing on employment, economic issues, culture, health services, and urban planning and development.”

The Bedouin Village at the Center of a Storm With Israeli Right-wingers,

“The village of Bir Hadaj in the Negev, home to some 7,000 Bedouin, is facing a crackdown from authorities for illegal construction. Its residents, though, say they just want the same rights as their Jewish neighbors.”

'The terrorists you free today will return to murdering Jews',

“With rumors that Israel is preparing to free more Palestinian terrorists to secure to secure the release of its captives being held in Gaza, bereaved families are organizing against a policy they say only gives terrorism a tailwind and leads to more casualties.”

US Politics/Policy

More than 100 progressive groups push Biden to support Palestinian rights ,

“A diverse array of over 100 groups that support Palestinian rights announced today that they had sent a letter to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, urging him to adopt policies toward Israel and the Palestinians ‘based on the principles of equality and justice for all.’ The letter, which was initiated by the activist group CODEPINK, advocates a policy approach based on ‘respecting human rights and international law, promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, supporting diplomacy over military intervention, and utilizing multilateralism and multilateral institutions for dispute resolution,’ and calls on Biden not only to adopt these principles in Israel and Palestine, but as the basis of U.S. foreign policy in general.”

Bolton: Trump told Netanyahu he’d back Israeli military action against Iran,

“In a leaked manuscript of his forthcoming book, former US National Security Adviser John Bolton said US President Donald Trump gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the green light to attack Iran.”

Two thirds of Americans think it's okay to question US-Israeli ties - poll,

“Some two-thirds of Americans believe it is acceptable to question the US-Israel relationship, a new Washington Post poll has found. The poll was conducted online by Prof. Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland, among 2,395 participants. According to the poll, 43% of the participants believe that ‘it is acceptable for a member of the US Congress to question the US-Israel relationship,’ (42% of Republicans, 46% of Democrats, and 39% of independents). An additional 24% said that ‘it is the duty” of a member of the House to question the relationship between the two countries.’”


Liberal Zionism paved the Israeli right’s path to annexation,

“…Intentionally or not, liberal Zionism has always been a key accomplice in the right’s achievements. Today, it is the grease that keeps the machinery of Israeli expansionism running smoothly. Remember the goal of ending the occupation? Now it is about stopping annexation. And if anyone thinks that annexation is the hill that liberal Zionism will die on, they are wrong; it will simply move to the next hilltop.”

New York primary puts Democratic divide over Israel in the spotlight,

“…The race is not centered on Israel. It has largely been fought over Engel’s absence from the district through the height of the coronavirus pandemic — an absence that the Bowman campaign says shows how out-of-touch Engel is with the majority Black and Latino district…But Engel and Bowman do have starkly different visions for what U.S. policy toward Israel should look like. Engel has criticized Bowman’s position that U.S. military funding to Israel should be conditioned on respect for Palestinian human rights…Engel’s status as one of Israel’s most ardent defenders in the Democratic Party has led pro-Israel lobby groups to swoop in and try to save him from what would be an embarrassing defeat.”