Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 25, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation on the Agenda - U.S.

Kellyanne Conway says Trump to make ‘big announcement’ on West Bank annexation,

“Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to Donald Trump, said on Wednesday the US president would soon have a “big announcement” about Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank…’There are conversations being had. Obviously the president will have an announcement. He’s talked about this in the past and I’ll leave it to him to give you a big announcement. Very happy those talks continue,’ Conway told reporters at the White House.”

Trump aide: Concerns over occupied West Bank annexation overblown,

“Conway compared the situation to Trump’s controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2017, as well as his decision to withdraw the US from climate change reduction commitments in the Paris Accord that same year, suggesting that regional and international concerns over those actions have not borne out. ‘The same thing was predicted. That there would be mayhem and murder and death and destruction … When he pulled out of the Paris Accord, we’re all going to die the next day, we’re going to melt to death,’ she said. ‘He moves the embassy to Jerusalem, the Arab world was going to disappear. Thank God that wasn’t true. There’s always this scare tactic, shock the conscious tactic of all the bad that’s going to happen, and then it doesn’t happen,’ she said.”

Intel: Pompeo echoes Gantz by bashing Palestinians for refusal to negotiate on annexation,

“’Decisions about Israel and extending sovereignty to other places are decisions for the Israelis to make,’ Pompeo told reporters at a press conference today. ‘I regret only that the Palestinian Authority has refused to participate in that. They have simply rejected this out of hand. We simply ask that they come to the negotiating table based on what’s outlined in the vision for peace, and they have chosen not to. They have chosen to threaten, to bluster, to assert that they’re going to deny the ability to do security cooperation’.”

US State Department accuses Abbas of inconsistency on non-violence pledges,

“An annual US State Department report on counter-terrorism, published Wednesday, singled out Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as failing to consistently maintain a stance of non-violence. ‘President Mahmoud Abbas has stated in the past a commitment to non-violence, a two-state solution and previous PLO commitments, but he has also made inconsistent statements that appear to contradict and undermine his prior commitments,’ the report stated.”

Progressives debate whether to be hopeful about Biden’s Mideast policy,

“Duss received pushback from Foundation for Middle East Peace president Lara Friedman, who said the Biden campaign has been reluctant to take a strong stance on issues related to Israel. ‘I’d love to see more constructive, more courageous, more visionary thoughts, particularly at a time when Israel is getting set to do something like annexation,’” Friedman explained. ‘But essentially what they’ve articulated is as close to a status quo — ‘don’t upset the apple cart, we’ll deal with things as they happen, we’re solid, we’re going to give the rhetoric of progressives just like every other previous administration has, and we’re not going to shake things up,’ she posited. ‘Anyone who is hoping for a Biden administration to come in and save the Palestinians, I think, one, should take a [deep] breath,’ Friedman continued”

Annexation on the Agenda - Israel

FM Ashkenazi says Israel unlikely to annex Jordan Valley — report,

“Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has reportedly said that Israel will not annex the Jordan Valley under the Trump administration’s peace plan, according to a television report on Wednesday evening. ‘I assume the annexation will not include the Jordan Valley. Everyone understands this,’ Ashkenazi told officials in closed-door talks in recent days, according to the Kan public broadcaster.”

How settler groups could use annexation to deepen Palestinian dispossession,

“The most direct meaning of annexation is the application of Israeli civil law to a particular territory, including, as settler organizations quickly understood, the Absentee Property Law. This law was passed in 1950 to retroactively legitimize the formation of the State of Israel on Palestinian land, whose owners had fled or were expelled during the Nakba. In essence, it states that any property owners who leave to an ‘enemy entity’ (meaning, an Arab country) lose all ownership rights to their property…It is not clear if, when, and what kind of annexation the government is plotting, but the battle that the Sumarins have been waging to stay in their home — and the laws they are fighting against, which were made possible by annexation — could become a battle that thousands of families in the West Bank might have to face after suddenly finding themselves under a new legal system. Different systems of occupation create different battlegrounds for people to fight for their rights, and this story provides a glimpse of one possible consequence of annexation.”

Yair Lapid is betting he’ll be Israel’s prime minister before Benny Gantz,

“Lapid said he was surprised to see Gantz imply this week that he would support Netanyahu’s plans to unilaterally annex portions of the West Bank. ‘I sat with Benny Gantz on numerous occasions and he spoke about the fact that unilateral annexation is a bad idea for Israel’s security and that without coordinating it and with the agreement of the Jordanians while maintaining security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, this is a move that might threaten Israel’s security,’ Lapid recalled. ‘The fact that someone — on something that serious — can change his mind so quickly for no obvious reasons, aside from politics, worries me quite a bit.’ “

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

“Whatever may be the motivations, one thing is certain: the annexation that Netanyahu and his settler allies are pushing forward now is nothing less than official apartheid. In an interview with right-wing newspaper Israel Hayom in May, Netanyahu made it very clear: Palestinians living in the areas annexed by Israel will not get Israeli citizenship or even a permanent residency status, as was the case for Jerusalemite Palestinians after 1967.”

Annexation on the Agenda - Palestinians

Abbas hints at dissolving PA in response to annexation,

“In a speech via video conference before the Arab Parliament, the legislative body of the Arab League, Abbas said that, if implemented, the annexation plan would mean that Israel would have ‘to assume its responsibilities over the occupied territories in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.’…A PA official said that Abbas’s talk about Israel ‘assuming its responsibilities over the occupied territories’ is a clear message that he intends to dissolve the PA if and when the annexation plan is implemented.”

Hamas: Annexation of West Bank lands is a declaration of war,

“Hamas said on Thursday that it views Israel’s intentions to extend its sovereignty over parts of the West Bank as a declaration of war. ‘This wretched decision and plan, we’ll not talk at length, but say it shortly and clearly – the resistance considers the decision as a declaration of war on the Palestinian people. The resistance is ready to protect its people and its holy places,’ said Abu Ubaida, the spokesman of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of the Hamas movement.”

Annexation on the Agenda - The International World Order

UN takes lead against Israel’s annexation plan,

“It appears clear that the UN and the European Union are employing their heaviest artillery in a last-ditch effort to curb Netanyahu’s intention of bringing his plan for a Knesset vote July 1. Even the UK minister, representing one of Israel’s closest and strongest allies, tweeted, ‘The UK position on annexation is clear: it would be contrary to international law and deeply damaging to peace prospects.'”

UN and Arab League call on Israel to 'abandon' West Bank annexation,

“Wednesday’s UN meeting will likely be the last international summit before the Israeli government begins its discussions next week.”

Occupation & Human Rights

A child patient dies in Gaza after his family was unable to secure an exit permit,

“Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the beginning of 2020, three patients, including one child, have died after they could not secure the requisite Israeli-issued permits to leave Gaza for medical care. The healthcare system in Gaza faces severe shortages of drugs, medical supplies, and equipment, pushing thousands of patients with life-threatening conditions to seek treatment outside of Gaza through an onerous, complex, and opaque permit process imposed by the Israeli authorities, which severely deprives Palestinians of their right to health, and in the most serious cases of their right to life.”

Jerusalem court nixes Greek church bid to stop property sale to right-wing group,

“The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday denied a request by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to block the transfer of rights over three buildings in the Old City to a right-wing group as part of a long-simmering conflict over a disputed 2004 sale. Ateret Cohanim, a religious-Zionist organization that works to populate the Old City and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods with Jewish residents by purchasing properties from non-Jewish owners, sought long-term leases to the disputed properties via shell companies in 2004, setting off years of legal wrangling.”

11 months after announcement, Israeli building permits for Palestinians stalled,

“Eleven months after the security cabinet, in a rare decision, approved granting 700 building permits to Palestinians in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, an examination by The Times of Israel found that only a handful of such approvals have been issued. The top ministerial body’s debate on the matter last July — under the former interim government — was highly charged, with several of its more hardline members opposing what they called a ‘reward’ for illegal construction carried out by Palestinians in the most sensitive area of the West Bank.” Also See – Peace Now, “Cabinet ‘approved’ 700 units for Palestinians last year – in practice only 6 were built

Israel's High Court Is Willfully Blind to Theft of Palestinian Land,

‘The High Court has a founding share in the settlement enterprise and in creating the situation. There have been a small number of cases in which the justices blocked settlement construction on land that was proved to be privately owned, but the theft of hundreds of thousands of dunams was approved on the basis of a variety of arguments ­– ‘state lands,’ ‘nature reserves,’ ‘military training zones’ or other ‘military needs.’ It’s hard to imagine the creation of the current situation in the West Bank without the appearance of legality granted by the court…You won’t find here justice for the Palestinians or the protection of their rights; you will find validation for continued complicity.”

Battle rages over Israel's plan for industrial zone in unique West Bank landscape,

“Peace activists and environmental groups are campaigning against an industrial zone to be established near the West Bank settlement town Beitar Ilit. They say that the project endangers water sources used by local Palestinians for traditional terraced agriculture.”


Israel, Palestinians tighten restrictions as COVID-19 spreads,

“Israel’s cabinet on Wednesday moved ahead with legislation to resume the use of the Shin Bet security agency counter-terrorism surveillance technology to track infections, a practice that had been halted on June 9 amid objections by privacy watchdogs, officials said. The bill still has to pass a vote in the Knesset. A partial lockdown went into effect in a town in a small town in central Israel and several neighborhoods in the city of Tiberias where infection rates were particularly high. The Palestinian Authority put the city of Hebron on lockdown and announced that this Friday’s public prayers would be suspended, though mosques would otherwise remain open in line with health precautions.”