Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 24, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation/De Facto Annexation Continues

Israeli forces kill young Palestinian en route to his sister's wedding,

“It was just hours before her wedding, and Eman Erekat was having the finishing touches done to her hair and makeup at a salon in Bethlehem when her mother’s phone rang. Her mother answered, expecting to hear her son letting them know he was outside and ready to take them home. Instead, she listened as the voice on the other end relayed the devastating news: her son had been killed. While on his way to pick up his mother and sister, Ahmad, 27, had been shot and killed by Israeli forces at the ‘Container’ military checkpoint between Bethlehem and the Erekats’ family home in the town of Abu Dis outside of East Jerusalem. Israeli police claimed in a statement that Ahmad had attempted to ram armed Israeli officers stationed at the checkpoint when he was shot. One female soldier was reportedly lightly injured and evacuated to a hospital in Jerusalem. But his family said they couldn’t fathom the idea of Ahmad ever committing such an attack, let alone on his sister’s wedding day. ‘When we heard the news we didn’t believe it. Until now we are in shock,’ Emad Erekat, Ahmad’s cousin, told Middle East Eye. ‘Ahmad would never, ever plan to attack the soldiers as they are claiming.’ The more logical explanation for Ahmad’s car veering off the road, the family said, was that Ahmad was clearly in a rush, and might have had a minor accident or lost control of his car, which the soldiers mistook for an attack.”

Also see:
Haaretz: Israeli War Criminals Shot My Cousin, Then Let Him Bleed to Death
Times of Israel: PLO’s Erekat says cop ‘executed’ cousin en route to pick up sister for wedding
Al Jazeera: Palestinians condemn ‘execution’ of youth by Israeli forces, call for int’l probe
Times of Israel: Amid questions over shooting, police release video of driver ramming checkpoint
The New Arab: Tributes pour in for Palestinian shot dead by Israeli police while driving to sister’s wedding

Israel fines Palestinian $30,000 after demolishing his East Jerusalem home,

“A Palestinian home located in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan was demolished because it allegedly lacked the necessary construction permit, reported Wafa news agency. Palestinians are rarely granted building permits by the Israeli occupation authorities, especially in occupied East Jerusalem.”

‘Silicon Wadi’: Israel’s latest plans to impose control over Jerusalem’s occupied Old City,

“Many Palestinian businesses have received eviction orders as Israel plans its technology park in East Jerusalem.”

Gaza & Palestinian Refugees

Donors pledge $130 million for Palestinian refugee agency,

“International donors pledged over $130 million Tuesday to the United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees, an amount the organization’s head says is encouraging but not enough to keep operations running through the end of the year.”

End of medical referrals in Gaza impacts Palestinian patients,

“…For years, the PA has been responsible for the bill to treat serious and incurable disease of Palestinians. Cancer constitutes between 30 and 40 percent of it, with a financial value of about $120 million annually, with most of that going to Israeli hospitals. Al-Shawaf believes that Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank are less able to deal with many complex medical conditions than their Israeli counterparts, but they remain well ahead of those in Gaza. But now, even this option is no longer available to patients in Gaza, after President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision on May 20 to dissolve all agreements and understandings with Israel and the US, including on security coordination, meaning patients are no longer able to obtain exit permits for treatment outside Gaza.” Also see: Times of Israel – Gaza sick suffer as PA cuts coordination with Israel to fight annexation

NGO: 73% of Gaza families suffer food insecurity,

“At least 73 percent of Gaza families suffer food insecurity due to the 13-year Israeli siege imposed on the Strip, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights revealed yesterday. In a statement, the rights group said that this number has recently increased from 70 per cent due to the coronavirus measures put in place, in addition to the delay in paying the salaries of civil servants and the weak flow of cash and humanitarian aid entering the coastal enclave. The rights group said that commercial activities witnessed a sharp decrease in light of the ongoing dire situation, noting that thousands of families are currently living in abject poverty.”

Annexation on the Agenda - the US

Trump aides begin discussions on Israel's West Bank annexation plan: sources,

“Senior aides to U.S. President Donald Trump began discussions on Tuesday on whether to give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a green light for his plan to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to a U.S. official and a person familiar with the deliberations.”

Majority of House Republicans Sign Letter Endorsing Israeli Annexation,

“A majority of Republican members of the House of Representatives have signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsing Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank.”

Cruz, Cotton: Trump should support annexation,

“Eight Republican senators called on US President Donald Trump to support Israel extending its laws to parts of the West Bank in a letter sent on Tuesday. American recognition of Israel applying sovereignty is ‘critical to locking in the progress your administration has made reversing the Obama-Biden legacy, restoring the US-Israel relationship and establishing a realistic basis for peace,’ the letter reads. The letter’s signatories are Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Kevin Cramer, Thom Tillis, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Barrasso and Joni Ernst.” Also see: JNS – Senate Republicans send letter to Trump in support of Israeli annexation

Pro-Israel think tank with influence on Trump administration supports Jordan Valley annexation,

“A conservative pro-Israel think tank known to be influential with the Trump administration is set to publish a study that supports Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley. The study from the Jewish Institute for the National Security of America, or JINSA, comes as the Trump administration’s top Middle East negotiators are set to meet to consider whether to back Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to launch annexation as soon as July 1.”

From Schumer to Susan Rice, Democrats Unite Against Israeli Annexation,

“Two leaders represent very different approaches to Israeli settlements within the Democratic Party, and their agreement shows the degree to which the party is united against Netanyahu’s proposed annexation.” Also see: Jerusalem Post – Rice: Annexation would make bipartisan support for Israel hard to sustain

Former Obama official: Netanyahu ‘playing with fire’ by ignoring congressional opposition to annexation,

“Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy warned Israeli leaders not to ignore the objections to West Bank annexation plans raised by nearly 150 Democratic senators and members of Congress. Flournoy, speaking during a panel discussion on the topic hosted by Israel Policy Forum, suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ‘playing with fire, not only in terms of fracturing the region and their relationships with Israel, but also fracturing American political support, which would be terrible and disastrous.’”

Annexation on the Agenda - Israel

Gantz on annexation: 'We won't get into Palestinian deep sh*t',

“With a week to go until the earliest date Israel can apply its sovereignty to portions of the West Bank, the government will not wait for Palestinian cooperation to move forward with the plan, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday. Moves toward annexation could break the long-term political stagnation between Israel and the Palestinians, which is one of the core ideas behind US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, said a source familiar with Gantz’s thinking on the matter. If the Palestinians choose not to take part in talks with Israel about annexation, ‘then we will have to move forward without them,’ he said.’We won’t get into Palestinian deep sh**,’ Gantz said. ‘The Palestinians continue to reject dialogue and to remain in their deep sh**.’ Trump’s peace plan is ‘the first to look at what’s happening on the ground in a realistic way,’ he said, adding that ‘what we will do will have consequences, and what we will not do will also have consequences.’” Also see: Haaretz – Gantz Is Begging the Palestinians to Pull Him Out of ‘Deep Shit’ of Annexation

Hundreds of Israelis Protest in Tel Aviv Against Netanyahu’s West Bank Annexation Plan,

“Hundreds of people protested Tuesday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square against annexation of territory in the West Bank, with the number of demonstrators limited to 1,500 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the speakers were Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, and former National Security Council chairman Uzi Arad.” Also see: Jerusalem Post – Thousands gather in Tel Aviv to protest Jordan Valley annexation

IDF chief warns anti-annexation unrest in West Bank could spill over to Gaza,

“IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kovahi warned Wednesday Israel could soon face violent unrest in the West Bank, which could easily spread to Gaza, as the army preps for possible violence in response to the government’s plans to begin annexing lands claimed by the Palestinians. Speaking at a military exercise in the north, Kohavi did not mention the controversial plan by name, but told soldiers they may soon need to shift their attention toward the West Bank should predictions of fighting in reaction to the move prove true.”

Annexation on the Agenda - the Palestinains

Poll shows Palestinians reject annexation, but divided on how best to oppose it,

“Eighty-eight percent of Palestinians reject US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, but the Palestinian public remains divided on how best to oppose it, according to a new survey of Palestinian political attitudes published Tuesday.” Also see: Haaretz – Most Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Believe Israel Will Go Forward With Annexation, Poll Finds

Why we need elections to the Palestinian National Council,

“Frustrated by the failure of their leadership to push back against Israeli apartheid, Palestinians are signing a petition to give themselves a stronger voice.”

Annexation on the agenda - the world

Jordanian ambassador said to warn he could be recalled if annexation goes ahead,

“Amman reportedly also threatening to send Israeli envoy home, close embassy in Tel Aviv, freeze lucrative gas deal, and scale back border security.”

UN envoy at Palestinian rally against annexation: Don’t give up statehood dream,

“Representatives from EU, Japan, Russia and China also address crowd of thousands, who arrive despite coronavirus spike and IDF turning away buses at Jordan Valley checkpoint.”

UN Secretary General calls on Israel to abandon sovereignty plan,

“UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Israel to drop plans to apply its sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, saying it would be a ‘most serious violation of international law,’ in a report made public Tuesday. The report to the Security Council comes ahead of its twice-yearly meeting on the Arab-Israeli conflict, set for Wednesday. Several ministers are set to take part at the request of the Arab League.”

Belgium to vote on recognizing Palestinian state, sanctions on Israel,

“One resolution calls on Belgium ‘to formally recognize the State of Palestine…and to consider this recognition as a contribution from Belgium to the solution based on the coexistence of two states.’”

Over 1,000 MPs from across Europe call for ‘decisive action’ against annexation,

“More than a thousand lawmakers from across Europe on Tuesday signed a statement against Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank, urging decisive action to prevent the move and punitive measures if it goes ahead. ‘We, parliamentarians from across Europe committed to a rules-based global order, share serious concerns about [US] President [Donald] Trump’s plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the imminent prospect of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory. We are deeply worried about the precedent this would set for international relations at large,’ the statement read.” Also see: Haaretz – Lawmakers From 25 European States Sign Statement Opposing Israeli Annexation; Al Jazeera – Letter by 1,080 parliamentarians from 25 nations urges leaders to prevent Netanyahu’s controversial land seizure

Vexed by annexation: The battle inside the EU over Israel,

“…a Reuters examination based on internal documents and interviews with more than two dozen diplomats and officials shows there is no clear EU strategy either on how to stop Israel’s plan or to respond in a meaningful way if annexation goes ahead. Where once the European Union spoke with unanimity on Middle East peace, with bigger nations like France and Britain able to dominate discussion, such unity has proved hard to maintain over the past decade as smaller countries became more assertive and Israel successfully forged strong ties with newer member states, EU diplomats said.” Also see: JNS – European, Israeli parliamentarians demand renewed EU-Israel dialogue

Ashkenazi meets Cypriot counterpart, discusses sovereignty,

“The foreign ministers of Israel and Cyprus met on Tuesday as Israel seeks to defuse European opposition to its plan to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.” Also see: Ynet/AFP – Israel courts Cypriot help on EU opposition to annexation

Qatar said threatening to end aid to Gaza in bid to press Israel on annexation,

“Qatar is reportedly threatening to cut off millions of dollars in aid to the Gaza Strip if Israel goes ahead with annexation, in an apparent bid to pressure Jerusalem to rethink the plan. Qatari payments to the impoverished, Hamas-controlled Strip have been key to maintaining quiet there, as well as an unofficial truce between Israel and terror group, and Qatar is reluctant to be seen as enabling any West Bank annexation, Channel 13 reported Tuesday. Quoting several Western diplomats, the report said Qatar has conveyed its message through multiple channels over the past two week, including in a recent meeting of donor countries to the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials were present in that meeting, held over Zoom.” Also see: Axios – Qatar to suspend Gaza payments to pressure Israel over annexation

Writing in Saudi paper, Israel intelligence minister calls for normalisation,

“Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen has called on Arab states to normalise relations with the occupation state and not wait for the Palestinian issue to be resolved, the New Khaleej reported yesterday. According to the news website, Cohen spoke with the Saudi online daily Elaph and reiterated Israel’s intelligence capabilities and cooperation with the Gulf States against Iran.‘I appreciate the cooperation of the Arab states,’ he said. ‘There is importance for security relations in front of the common enemy,’ he added, pointing to Iran. ‘There is importance for mutual economic cooperation among these countries [Israel and the Gulf States],’ he said, stressing: ‘We could work together.’ Regarding the Israeli relations with the Arab states in light of the planned Israeli annexation of large parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, Cohen stressed the importance of dialogue to reach an agreement.”

New Zealand urges Israel to reconsider West Bank annexation plan,

“FM Peters says measure would breach international law and ‘pose significant risks to regional security’; Israeli envoy to Wellington rejects statement as ‘based on a prediction.’”

Lawfare/Targeting Free Speech/Targeting Palestinians & NGOs

Bereaved families petition court to force government to implement 'Pay to Slay' law,

“Families of terror victims and Zionist watchdog groups join in petition urging court to force government to implement ‘Pay to Slay’ law.”

Facebook appoints ex-Israel official to its Oversight Board,

“Facebook’s recent appointment to its Oversight Board of a former Israeli official with a history of tracking Palestinians on social media has raised concern over its neutrality on occupied Palestine. Emi Palmor, Israel’s former Justice Ministry director-general, was appointed to the 20-member Oversight Board last month, fuelling concerns over further escalation on the clamp-down of Palestinian free speech. The Board, described by CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’, will have a mandate to take ‘final and binding decisions on whether specific content should be allowed or removed’ from Facebook and also Instagram, which is owned by the social media giant. In her five-year stint at the Israeli Justice Ministry, working alongside Ayelet Shaked, a member of the extreme rightist Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, Palmor is said to have set about tracking Palestinians on social media. Palmor, according to Jean Stern a contributor to Amnesty International’s magazine La Chronique, saw the creation of ‘Cyber Unit’ in 2016 which was used to supress, limit and suspend Palestinian content on Facebook.”

MEPs call for further investigations into EU funding of Palestinian terror,

“European Parliamentarians have called for a thorough investigation into how European taxpayers’ money is ending up in the hands of Palestinian terrorists, insisting during a meeting on Tuesday that any loopholes in the law through which the money is slipping must be closed…Attendees heard from Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), who presented the findings of his organization’s recent research paper titled, ‘Two loopholes in EU anti-terror laws and regulations.’”

Other Things to Watch

Pro-Israel Democrat Engel Set to Lose to Challenger Bowman in N.Y. Primary,

“Incumbent Eliot Engel seems likely to lose to his progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman, who has garnered the endorsements from the likes of Sanders, AOC and Warren, as 92 percent of precincts report results.” Also see: Jewish Insider – Bowman holds double digit lead over Rep. Eliot Engel

Two Syrian soldiers, seven fighters killed in 'rare' Israeli strike,

“Seven Syrian soldiers were killed and four others wounded in Israeli strikes Tuesday in the southern province of Sweida, a military source cited by state media said, reporting other raids elsewhere in the war-torn country.” Also see: Al Bawaba – Israeli Warplanes Target Hama in Syria

Israel-Iran conflict enters tense waiting period until US election in November,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is praying for US President Donald Trump to win reelection, but security experts worry that he might lose interest in the Iran conflict.”

Hezbollah threatens Israel with precision guided missiles,

“The Lebanese Hezbollah movement released a new video on Saturday through which the group threatens to bomb Israel with precision-guided missiles. The video appears to show the coordinates of sensitive military sites in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Israel's defence sales reach $7.2bn,

“Israel’s arms sales reached $7.2 billion in 2019, the Defence Ministry said on Monday. ‘Despite the intense International challenges and competition, we have managed to keep Israel among the world’s top 10 security exporters with a market share of over $7 billion,’ said Yair Kulas, head of the ministry’s exports and defence cooperation division. According to a ministry report cited by the Jerusalem Post, exports to Asia Pacific made up 41 per cent of sales, Europe 26 per cent, North America 25 per cent, and four per cent each for Africa and Latin America. Exports included different types of weapons and defence systems such as radars and electronic warfare systems, missiles and air defence systems, drones and UAVs, weapon stations and launchers and ammunition and armaments. In recent years, Israel faced accusations of selling weapons to regimes that are accused of committing human rights abuses including Myanmar.”


How settler groups could use annexation to deepen Palestinian dispossession,

“For decades, settlers have used the Israeli legal system to take over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Activists fear those tactics may soon be used in the rest of the West Bank.”

With annexation plan looming nearer, Israel grapples with reality of apartheid,

“For decades, Israel was able to skirt around the issue of Palestinians’ rights under occupation. But as Netanyahu gears up for annexation, can these questions continue to be swept under the rug?”

Israeli annexation plan draws South Africa apartheid comparisons,

“For years, Israel has been labelled an apartheid state by detractors who used the term to describe its rule over Palestinians, who were denied basic rights in occupied areas. Israel has pushed back against the fraught word. But as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nears launching his annexation moves – long-discussed but given new impetus by a so-called ‘Middle East plan’ proposed by US President Donald Trump and condemned by many around the world – the term ‘apartheid’ is increasingly becoming part of Israel’s political conversation. Mainstream politicians who oppose annexation have begun to use the word. Disillusioned former military men bounce it around. Israel’s most popular political satire show, Wonderful Country, recently ran a spoof advertisement for a fictitious drone company that lifts Palestinians and flies them away from annexed land. The drone’s name: ‘Apart-High’. ‘When you start doing these unilateral actions, you actually put yourself on a very slippery slope,’ said Gadi Shamni, a retired Israeli general who once commanded Israeli forces present in the West Bank. Inevitably, Palestinians in annexed areas will demand the rights of citizens, including the right to vote, which will ‘eventually create some kind of apartheid’, he warned.”

Netanyahu's annexation plan is a sham. Apartheid has been decades in the making,

“Proposed annexation is a red herring, relieving liberal Zionists of responsibility for Israel’s broader apartheid system and ongoing Palestinian suffering.”