Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 26, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation on the Agenda - The United States

White House punts on Israel annexation; more talks planned,

“President Donald Trump’s top national security aides have been unable to reach a decision on whether to support an Israeli plan to annex significant parts of land the Palestinians claim for a future state, an impasse that could affect the timing of any action by Prime Minister Benjaimin Netanyahu. The White House said Thursday that consultations with Israeli officials will continue as they try to formulate a proposal that would support Trump’s plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal…The official said the White House meetings had been ‘productive’ but added that ‘here is yet no final decision on next steps for implementing the Trump plan.’ The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.” Also See – “No final decision at White House talks on Israeli annexation moves, U.S. officials say” (Reuters); “Trump administration meetings on whether to back annexation end without a conclusion” (JTA); “No final decision on Israeli annexation after 3 days of White House talks” (The Times of Israel)

Overwhelming Majority of House Democrats Sign New Letter Opposing West Bank Annexation,

“In a new public letter, the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus joined a growing chorus of opposition to possible Israeli unilateral annexation of the occupied West Bank, which could move forward as early as next week. House members who signed the letter written and circulated by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Ted Deutch, David Price and Brad Schneider added their voices to those of other Democratic leaders and lawmakers, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, over three quarters of Senate Democrats and 10 Senate challengers competing in key races across the country.”

Palestinian-Israeli Joint List urges US Democrats to stop annexation,

“Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament are calling on US Democrats to ‘take a firm stand’ against Israel’s plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, and use ‘all the tools’ at their disposal to prevent it. In a letter addressed to Democratic members of the US Congress on Thursday, members of the Joint List, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, said annexation would be a violation of ‘universal values and norms’. ‘We would respectfully suggest that this undermines American interests. We caution that any such move will destabilise the region further and will heighten the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and its neighbors, notably Jordan,’ reads the letter, led by Knesset Member Aida Touma-Sliman and signed by all 15 Joint list legislators. The Joint List is the third-largest party in the Israeli parliament. The bloc’s statement comes less than a week before the 1 July deadline for the Israeli government to start the process of annexing parts of the occupied West Bank. “

Annexation on the Agenda - Israel

Report: Israel has told Abbas it will limit annexation to 2-3 settlement blocs,

“Israel has conveyed a message to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that its annexation plans have been greatly reduced, will no longer apply to the Jordan Valley and will be limited to only two or three settlements blocs, Channel 12 reported Friday, citing a senior official in Ramallah. The official told the network the message was delivered via Jordan, following Mossad chief Yossi Cohen’s reported meeting on the matter with King Abdullah this week.”

Report: Netanyahu sovereignty plan won't include Jordan Valley,

“Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s sovereignty plan will cover a far smaller area than originally envisioned, according to a report by Channel 12 Friday. But a report by Channel 12 citing a senior Palestinian Authority official claims that Israel has signaled that it is preparing to pursue a scaled-down sovereignty plan, one which will extend only to a handful of settlement blocs – and exclude the Jordan Valley entirely. According to the senior PA official, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen’s recent visit to Jordan relayed a message to the Hashemite Kingdom that Israel will not apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley – a major bone of contention between Israel and Jordan’s government.”

Security chiefs said split on whether annexation will cause Palestinian violence,

“Security chiefs are reportedly deeply divided on the possible ramifications of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank, with the chiefs of the military and Mossad at odds on whether the move will be met with significant Palestinian violence or not. According to a Channel 12 news report Thursday, the heads of the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet and Mossad took part in a meeting of the high-level security cabinet Wednesday, during which ministers discussed annexation and the potential consequences of extending sovereignty over West Bank lands.”

Jason Greenblatt to settler leaders: Stop attacking Trump,

“Less than a week before the apparent annexation, Shurat HaDin, the human rights organization that specializes in the legal and economic struggle against terrorist organizations, held a virtual roundtable on Thursday evening with a panel of legal experts discussing US President Donald Trump’s peace plan and the implications of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria….Former US special envoy Jason Greenblatt noted during the hearing: ‘Settlement leaders and the right-wing leadership should not attack President Trump and Jared Kushner. They need to explain what their concerns are without simply criticizing. It’s not fair. A future Palestinian state will not pose a threat to Israel.'” Also See – “Ex-Trump envoy: ‘Unfair’ of settlers to rap Palestinian state envisioned by plan” (The Times of Israel)

Israeli teens to Netanyahu: ‘Stop annexation as soon as possible’,

“Four hundred Israeli teenagers from around the country have signed a letter demanding Israel halt its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. Titled ‘Teens Against Annexation,’ the letter, which was sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of Israel’s ministers, outlines the devastating consequences that annexation could have on both Palestinians and Israelis. It further notes that the signatories who are planning to enlist in the Israeli military will be the same ones forced to carry out the policies of annexation.”

For Netanyahu, Annexation May Spell Little Gain, and Lots of Pain,

“The assessment that’s increasingly taking hold in the defense establishment and in the political arena is that Netanyahu is considering a symbolic, limited annexation, possibly of the Ma’aleh Adumim area, which is close to Jerusalem and deep within the Israeli national consensus. In the prime minister’s meeting with the settlers’ leaders, the idea was raised of a two-pronged annexation. But a good many in the Yesha leadership are opposed to a partial annexation (of even 30 percent of the territory), suspecting that Netanyahu will not keep his promise of a second annexation in the future. They have already been stung by him in the past. Netanyahu’s political gain from annexation is now in doubt, as the strategic risks pile up. The United Nations and the European Union have stepped up their opposition to the plan. The Defense Ministry, which this week tallied the 2019 security exports ($7.2 billion) is worried about a possible freeze on additional deals in Europe, if annexation goes ahead. Many eyes in the Middle East are looking to Jordan, which is extremely perturbed about possible Israeli annexation in the West Bank and particularly in the Jordan Rift Valley. The kingdom is highly unstable, in the light of an economic crisis and ongoing corruption scandals. The leaders of the Gulf states, who are very friendly to Netanyahu, will not forgive him if annexation snowballs into a threat to King Abdullah’s regime. Netanyahu appears to be preparing a possible alibi for freezing annexation, by blaming Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. In practice, his threat to bring about a new election over the annexation issue, which is occasionally echoed in Israel Hayom, his freebie mouthpiece, is of doubtful credence. It’s not annexation that interests Israel’s voters, it’s the coronavirus and more pointedly the vast economic crisis that the pandemic has engendered.”

Annexation on the Agenda (Or Not) - The Arab World

Mossad head met with Jordan's King Abdullah, discussed annexation - report,

“Mossad chief Yossi Cohen recently visited Jordan and met with King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in order to pass a message along from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the expected annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, Israel’s Channel 13 reported, citing a senior Israeli official. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has also spoken out about the planned annexation, which is intended to span over 30% of Judea and Samaria, during an interview with the Jordanian news show Al-Mamlakah.”

Netanyahu says Israel, UAE to cooperate in fight against coronavirus,

“Netanyahu said a formal announcement on working together with the UAE on confronting the COVID-19 pandemic was imminent and would be made by the UAE and Israeli health ministers. There was no immediate confirmation from the UAE about an agreement. Such cooperation would come at a time of strong Arab opposition to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank – territory Palestinians seek for a state – under a U.S. peace plan. Last week, the UAE’s minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said it could work with Israel on some areas, including the battle against the coronavirus and on technology, despite political differences.” Also See – “Israel Announces Partnership With U.A.E., Which Throws Cold Water On It” (New York Times)

The International Criminal Court

Israel Preparing for International Court to Launch Probe Into War Crimes 'Within Days,' Officials Say,

“Israeli officials are preparing for an International Criminal Court’s decision on whether it can open an investigation into potential war crimes committed by Israel in the Palestinian Territories ‘within days.’ The decision, which they expect will be made public shortly, will come after a years-long process in The Hague to determine the extent of the Court’s jurisdiction in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

Israel said to expect ICC ruling on jurisdiction in war crimes probe within days,

“Israel expects a decision by the International Criminal Court in the next few days on whether it has jurisdiction to launch a war crimes probe against Israel and the Palestinians, an unnamed Israeli diplomatic official told multiple Hebrew-language news outlets Thursday. The reports said Israel had begun preparing for such an announcement, which could come as early as this weekend. The response was being overseen by a team including officials from the National Security Council, the justice and foreign ministries, and the international department of the IDF military prosecution.”

Occupation Continues...

Settlers Assault Palestinians on Their Own Land, as Israeli Soldiers Watch,

“Moussa and Issa Ktash open their mouths: Each of the brothers is missing three or four front teeth. Two months have passed since the brutal attack they endured at the hands of seven settlers, who were armed with clubs and chains, threatened them with a submachine gun, and beat them until they were bloody. The two are still badly shaken. Their children, who were with them on the land they own during the assault, are also traumatized. Now, whenever Israel Defense Forces troops enter the Jalazun refugee camp, north of Ramallah, where they live, 9-year-old Salah, Moussa’s son, and 8-year-old Hamzi, Issa’s son, go into panic mode and become wild. They both also wet their beds at night.”

Welcome to the occupation, where making a mistake can be a death sentence,

“Like an incantation, the words “car-ramming attack” absolve everyone involved in Ahmed’s killing. Invoke those words, call him a terrorist, and you no longer need an investigation or examination of the circumstances that led to Ahmed’s death. Case closed. It’s true that Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank have been subject to car-ramming attacks in recent years, often by despairing young Palestinians. Like the knife attacks from a few years ago, these have occurred at checkpoints and led to horrible tragedies. But members of Ahmed’s family say it extremely unlikely that Ahmed — a successful business-owner about to get married — would undertake a suicidal assault on the day of his sister’s wedding…The truth of Ahmed’s motivations will be buried with him. Given that these kinds of attacks do happen, one can understand being on high alert. But we cannot excuse what happened at the checkpoint, in which Ahmed was summarily executed — while running away from the scene, posing no threat to anyone’s life…This system whereby Israeli soldiers appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner over Palestinian lives is a horrifying if all too common abuse of civil rights. Even more appalling is that according to a complaint by the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry and the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, the officers refused him first aid after he was shot, and even closed off the road to prevent him from getting medical treatment. Noura Erekat, the legal scholar and Ahmed’s cousin, said they let him bleed alone for an hour until he died in front of other Palestinians stuck at the checkpoint, including his own father, Abu Faisal, who begged the soldiers to let him reach his son.”


Coronavirus Israel Live: Cabinet Approves More Restricted Zones as Cases Surge,

“Israel and the West Bank are dealing with a renewed outbreak. This has led to the closure of a large number of schools throughout the country, and the imposition of new restrictions on specific areas. As the prospect of an Israeli annexation of the West Bank looms, Israel has also brought back the rule demanding that Palestinian workers do not travel back to the West Bank, this time until July 17, under their employer’s reponsibility.”