Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 29, 2020

What We’re Reading

US Policy & Politics

US delegation in Israel to continue sovereignty talks,

“U.S. special Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz is in Israel for meetings with senior Israeli officials to continue the discussions held last week at the White House and to further scrutinize Israel’s plans to extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria. In a meeting Monday morning with Berkowitz and Scott Leith of the U.S. National Security Council, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that he does not consider July 1 to be a ‘holy date’ and that his current priorities are fighting the coronavirus pandemic and bringing down unemployment, according to Israel’s Walla news.” Also see: Israel Hayom – American, Israeli teams reconvene to discuss scope of sovereignty bid & Jerusalem Post – Annexation will not happen on July 1 – US sources

Meretz chief: US ambassador to Israel has ‘obsession with annexation’,

“The head of the left-wing Meretz party issues strong criticism of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, accusing him of acting on his own initiative to push Israel to annex parts of the West Bank. ‘Besides the US Ambassador David Friedman… no one understands the obsession with annexation,’ MK Nitzan Horowitz says at the start of a Knesset faction meeting. ‘This is an issue in which Ambassador Friedman only represents himself,’ Horowitz adds.”

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’.”

Leaked Memo Details ADL’s Annexation Response,

“The ‘stakeholders analysis memo,’ which was issued by the ADL’s Government Relations, Advocacy, and Community Engagement department and marked as a draft, warns that the group will need to find a way to defend Israel from criticism without alienating other civil rights organizations, elected officials of color, and Black Lives Matter activists and supporters. The memo suggests that the group hopes to avoid appearing openly hostile to public criticism of annexation while it works to block legislation that harshly censures Israel or leads to material consequences, such as conditioning United States military support.”

Coalition Against Annexation Meets Israeli Diplomats in 18 Cities Worldwide,

“An international coalition of progressive Jewish organizations has reached out in recent weeks to Israeli diplomats in 18 consulates and embassies around the world, in order to present a message of opposition to unilateral Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank. Representatives of the group have met with diplomats in large American cities and in European capitals, and are planning more such meetings in the coming days. The coalition, which includes 50 Jewish organizations in 17 countries, was formed earlier this year. According to Kenneth Bob, president of the liberal North American Zionist organization Ameinu, ‘this action against annexation has been our first test. We realized a few months ago that this is how things were going to unfold, and that we need to prepare to take action on this issue.’”

'We demand change': US Palestinians issue list of principles for candidates,

“A group of prominent Palestinian Americans has issued a list of ‘principles’ outlining its demands of candidates running in US elections. It includes imposing conditions on military aid to Israel, recognising the right to boycott and relocating the embassy from Jerusalem. The statement, released on Friday, effectively renews calls for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to ensure accountability for Israel’s abuses against Palestinians.”

'We shouldn't settle for crumbs': Palestinian Americans stage virtual walkout of Biden meeting,

“Several high-profile Palestinian-American activists and organisers staged a virtual walkout of a meeting with an adviser to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in early June over the campaign’s approach to Palestine, Middle East Eye can reveal. The walkout on 3 June took place minutes into the meeting, following a heated exchange between Amer Zahr, a well-known Palestinian activist and Farooq Mitha, Biden’s Muslim outreach manager, in which Zahr accused the campaign of not taking the Palestinian issue seriously.  The exchange on Zoom, which was recorded, shows Zahr condemning the Biden campaign’s decision to send its Muslim outreach manager to engage Palestinian activists on a foreign policy issue like Palestine.”

Israeli Policy & Politics

IDF hits Hamas targets after two rockets are launched at Israel from Gaza,

“Israel hit multiple Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning after two rockets were launched at Israel from the coastal enclave on Friday evening, according to the Israeli military. Israeli fighter jets struck a rocket manufacturing workshop and a weapons manufacturing infrastructure, the military said in a statement.”

Netanyahu says Blue and White have no say on annexation,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a closed discussion of the Likud party that Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party have no say regarding annexation. ‘We are in talks with an American team here in Israel. We are doing so discreetly,’ Netanyahu said. ‘The matter doesn’t depend on Blue and White. They are not a factor, they’re neither here nor there.’”

Unity government struggling to survive, insiders say,

“With only a few weeks under its belt, Israel’s hard-earned national unity government is struggling to survive, political insiders told Israel Hayom Sunday, citing the growing distrust between leading parties Likud and Blue and White…A Likud official warned Sunday that ‘the way they [Blue and White] are conducting themselves will make it very difficult for this government to carry on. Will the government fall apart? Probably not in the coming weeks, but I’m not sure it will make it through the winter session.’ Also on Sunday, a poll aired by Channel 13 News predicted that were elections held at this time, Likud would win 38 seats and Blue and White – in its current form – would shrink to a mere nine Knesset seats.”

'Netanyahu caved to Arab pressure, gave up on Jordan Valley',

“Former Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday morning, accusing him of ‘caving’ to pressure from his coalition partners and Arab states, reducing the scope of his plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria. Speaking with Galei Tzahal Monday morning, MK Shaked claimed that the Jordan Valley had been removed from the latest version of the sovereignty plan. ‘The plan that is now under consideration doesn’t include sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. “Netanyahu caved in to pressure from the Arabs and Blue and White, giving up on [the Jordan Valley].’”

A settlement-bloc-only annexation plan? Nobody told Ma’aleh Adumim,

“Conversations about a partial annexation plan, which could include settlement blocs such as Ma’aleh Adumim, have not included their official leaders, such as the city’s mayor, Benny Kashriel. ‘No one has spoken to us or shown us maps,’ he said.”

Netanyahu: Applying Israeli law in Judea and Samaria will advance peace,

“In a recorded address to the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Virtual Summit 2020 on Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touted the application of Israeli law to areas of Judea and Samaria—part of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan unveiled by U.S. President Donald Trump in January. ‘President Trump’s plan confronts a lie head on: that the Jewish people are foreign colonialists in our own ancestral homeland,’ Netanyahu said. ‘It makes clear that the Jewish people have a valid, legal, historic and moral claim to Judea and Samaria. Applying Israeli law to places in Judea and Samaria will not set back the cause of peace; it will advance the cause of peace. I encourage the Palestinians not to lose another opportunity, not to waste another century trying to destroy Israel. They should embrace President Trump’s vision and negotiate in good faith towards a historic compromise.’” Also see: Times of Israel – As annexation looms, PM urges Palestinians to talks on basis of Trump plan & Israel Hayom – Netanyahu to evangelicals: We have no greater friends

Will Beit El and Shilo be first in annexation plan? - Analysis,

“Addressing a virtual summit Sunday night of the rabidly pro-Israel Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which boasts some 8.5 million members and is headed by the charismatic Pastor John Hagee, Netanyahu lofted a softball to their breadbasket. Referring to the biblical sites of Beit El and Shiloh, he made his pitch to the already convinced disciples of the Greater Israel concept for the virtues of his and US President Donald Trump’s annexation plan in language that spoke to their hearts: ‘These places are an integral part of the historic Jewish homeland… but also an integral part of Christian identity. They are part of your heritage, part of our common civilization, and under Israel sovereignty our common heritage will be forever protected.’ That statement could have been Bibi playing up his TV evangelical preacher persona to the hilt, working up the flock into a frenzy at the thought of those historic sites becoming a sovereign part of Israel and no longer disputed territory. One step closer on the road to redemption and the Messianic era. However, if you want to interpret the statement differently, it represents a considerable shift from the reports that have been circulating in the lead-up to July 1, when Israeli is supposedly receiving the green light from the US to begin its annexation plans.”

IDF said readying reinforcements in case of Palestinian violence over annexation,

“The military is readying to deploy additional troops to the West Bank and Gaza Strip area ahead of Israel’s potential annexation of settlements and the Jordan Valley, Israeli television reported Friday. According to Channel 13 news, the military has placed several battalions on standby in case of a violent response to the extension of Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to begin advancing on July 1. The report said the Israel Defense Forces had not already deployed the troops because it was concerned the move could be met with a Palestinian response and was therefore keeping the reinforcements in reserve.”

Illegal building at Einot Anar must be razed after Settlement Law voided,

“In the aftermath of the annulment of the Settlement Regulations Law, the illegal settler building at the site of the West Bank natural spring Einot Anar must be removed within three months, the state told the High Court of Justice. It made its statement to the court in response to a 2017 petition to the High Court of Justice against light building at the spring on private Palestinian property, which included benches, terraces, paths, picnic benches and a pergola that dated back to at least 2014. Movement on the petition had been held up pending an understanding of the impact of the Settlement Regulations Law on the petition.”

Palestinian Policy & Politics

Palestinians: No comment on ‘rumors’ concerning annexation,

“‘There are many rumors swirling around about the annexation,’ the official said. ‘So far, we haven’t received any official confirmation about the possibility that the plan would be delayed. We are waiting to hear what the Israeli government will say on Wednesday.’ On Sunday, Palestinian officials said they were opposed to any form of annexation, including a partial one of some areas of the West Bank.”

Abbas refuses to accept phone call from Pompeo,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has allegedly refused to accept a telephone call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss Israel’s annexation plan, Israeli General Radio reported on Sunday.”

Israel trying to 'lull Palestinians to sleep,' says PA official,

“’Israel is trying to exploit the Palestinian street’s ambivalence about Israel’s intentions to implement annexation on July 1,’ a senior Palestinian Authority official tells Israel Hayom.”

Top PA officials slam 'confused' response to West Bank annexation,

“Senior Palestinian Authority officials have voiced criticism of the PA leadership’s ‘confusing’ response to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. According to senior Palestinian sources, PA officials have expressed dissatisfaction behind closed doors over what they call ‘conflicting and confusing positions of the political leadership when it comes to combating annexation.’”

Palestinian leaders struggle to mobilize street against annexation ,

“With loudspeakers mounted, Palestinian flags unfurled and civil servants allowed off work, everything appeared set for a large protest in Ramallah against Israel’s annexation plans in the West Bank. But only 200 people turned up for the June 8 demonstration, in a sign of the struggles the Palestinian Authority has faced generating outrage on the street against the prospective Israeli moves. “ Also see: Times of Israel – Jericho rally highlights PA’s efforts to wake up an apathetic Palestinian public

Tough choices for Hamas over Israeli annexation plans,

“…’There is no doubt that Hamas’ options are complex because any response to the annexation will have consequences for the Gaza Strip,’ said Palestinian analyst Adnan Abu Amer… ‘Tensions at the border fence may resume, with the launch of incendiary and explosive devices,’ said Mukhaimar Abu Saada, professor of political science at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University. But he ruled out ‘the option of military activities’ against Israel by Hamas, which rules over a territory already impoverished and under a crippling Israeli blockade. The movement ‘does not want Gaza to pay the price, and wants to wait to see what is going on, organize popular protests and not have to engage in confrontation with Israel,’ he added. Also see: Jerusalem Post – Hamas: We have powerful cards to force Israel to free prisoners and Times of Israel – Hamas says Gaza strikes after rocket fire ‘increase resolve against annexation’

Hamas calls on PA to protect Parliament Speaker after attacks,

“The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement called on Sunday for the Palestinian Authority to protect the Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, Dr Aziz Dweik. The call by Hamas comes after unknown armed militants attacked Dr Dweik’s house in Ramallah.”

Europe & the UN

Human Rights Groups Submit to UN experts on the Israeli policy of withholding the mortal remains of indigenous Palestinians,

“The organisations argue that the Israeli practices of withholding the bodies of indigenous Palestinians, either in the cemeteries of number or in military morgues, and the imposition of restrictions and conditions on funerals and mourning rites violate Article 12(2) of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They also contravene customary international humanitarian law rules on the disposal of the war dead’s bodies, in addition to the human rights to dignity, family life, religious freedom, and cultural customs, and the prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Furthermore, withholding the mortal remains and imposing strict conditions on funerals amount to unlawful collective punishment…”

ICC to launch investigation into war crimes by Israel (video report),

“The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is expected to launch an investigation into potential war crimes committed by Israelis. The court’s pre-trial chamber is looking at what jurisdiction it has over illegally occupied Palestinian territory. Palestinians have long called for the ICC to begin examining cases. Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim spoke to a family whose son was killed near Bethlehem.”

UN: Any Israeli annexation plan is illegal, whether limited or unlimited,

“Any Israeli West Bank annexation plan is illegal irrespective of whether it includes all or only some of the settlements, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet clarified on Monday. ‘Annexation is illegal. Period,’ Bachelet said.” Also see: Times of Israel – UN rights chief says annexation plans ‘illegal,’ consequences will last decades

UN official calls for ‘menu of countermeasures’ to Israel’s sovereignty bid,

“The European Union must ‘review and be willing to suspend or downgrade’ trade and cooperation agreements with the Jewish state, says the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories.”

Senior UK Labour lawmaker calls for settlement product ban after annexation,

“A senior lawmaker for the UK’s Labour party has called for a boycott of products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank if Israel goes ahead with its planned annexation of parts of the territory. MP Lisa Nandy, who is shadow foreign secretary, said that Britain cannot be ‘a silent witness’ to Israel’s planned extension of sovereignty to some 30 percent of the West Bank, as outlined in the Trump administration peace proposal. The peace plan envisions Palestinian rule over the remaining 70%. ’The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East’ Nandy said, according to The Guardian newspaper. ‘It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness,’ she said.”

West Bank annexation could alienate Gulf, but won’t incur EU sanctions – experts,

“If Israel presses ahead with annexations in the West Bank, it risks undermining improved ties with key Arab states and alienating European powers, but the real diplomatic costs remain uncertain, experts said. The possible scope of international backlash against the Jewish state is unclear, as it is not yet known what action Israel plans to take toward implementing a US-proposed peace plan in the coming days.”

Belgium calls for sanctions against Israel if it annexes West Bank,

“The Belgian Chamber of Representatives voted to create a list of potential ‘counter-measures’ that could be implemented should Israel go forward with its West Bank annexation plans. In a 101-0 vote, with 39 abstentions, Belgium’s parliament on Friday called for the government to create a series of reactive proposals to come into play if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with annexing parts of the occupied West Bank on 1 July. The proposed measures, which have yet to be published, will be ‘geared at responding in a proportional manner to any Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian territory’, according to the resolution.”

Is a Netanyahu-Kurz bromance responsible for Austria’s new direction on Israel?,

“One of the fellow world leaders Kurz feels closest to is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That could help explain why Kurz has reversed his country’s stance toward Israel during his tenure from very critical to very supportive. Austria is the only Western European nation whose government is actively shielding the Jewish state from sanctions by the European Union over Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. New sanctions would require complete consensus among its 27 members.”

The Arab World

Arab ministers call for collective action for Palestinians amid COVID-19 pandemic,

“The council of Arab ministers of social affairs has urged regional governments and organizations to help vulnerable groups fight COVID-19, including Palestinians. The ministers issued on Sunday a statement calling for collective action to help Palestinian authorities in the face of the pandemic – as they are already embattled with internal conflicts. They highlighted the importance of tending to vulnerable communities in the region, including internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees, state-run KUNA has reported.”

Gaza families begin receiving Qatari aid payments,

“Hamas rulers say they received $30 million from Doha, whose leaders are reportedly threatening to cut off assistance if Israel annexes West Bank lands.”

Erekat warns of Arab normalisation with Israel in return for abolishing annexation,

“The Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, on Saturday warned Arab countries against taking any steps to normalise relations with Israel in return for the latter abolishing its plans to annex the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.”

Jordan said to warn Israel of harsh response to even minimal annexation,

“Jordan has reportedly made clear to Israel that it will not accept even a limited annexation of West Bank land and will respond to any such move in the same way it would react to the unilateral annexation of all settlements and the Jordan Valley, as initially intended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jordan has conveyed this uncompromising message to Jerusalem via several channels, Channel 13 reported Sunday evening, citing unnamed Israeli officials. The report said one of those channels was a meeting last week between King Abdullah II and the visiting Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who asked him how Amman would react to a limited Israeli annexation of several settlements or of settlement blocs from July 1.”

Why aren't Jordanians protesting against Israeli annexation plan?,

“For a public usually swift to express solidarity with their Palestinian neighbours, the recent popular silence has been deafening in Jordan, with nary a protest since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on 1 March that his government was planning to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank by 1 July.”

Lawfare/Targeting Free Speech/Targeting Palestinians & NGOs

The definition of anti-Semitism has been weaponised for Israel’s benefit,

“The Ryerson Centre for Free Expression hosted a virtual forum earlier this month on the definition of anti-Semitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Professor Faisal Bhabha from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, and Dr Sheryl Nestel from Independent Jewish Voices Canada, argued against the definition and warned of its chilling effect on free speech. They voiced concerns over the way in which it is being weaponised by pro-Israel groups to suppress critics of the Zionist state, citing examples from Europe and America. Their interlocutors were Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and Richard Marceau, a Canadian politician; they defended the IHRA definition as a key instrument in the fight against anti-Semitism, offering both clarity and examples as a guideline….The debate highlighted the complexities and confusion around this contested issue; more importantly, though, it exposed the contradictions and dangers of a definition that conflates criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism in the vague and loose manner that it does…It was ironic, therefore, that following the debate, a prominent pro-Israel group demanded Bhabha’s expulsion from the teaching profession. The professor’s “crime”, claimed B’nai Brith Canada, was that he had made remarks about Zionism that the group deemed were beyond the pale of any academic debate. Confirming the very threat that Bhabha and Nestel had warned about so powerfully, the group launched a petition demanding Bhabha’s dismissal. B’nai Brith Canada, by the way, claims to be an advocate for human rights which, presumably, includes free speech.”

The Battle over BDS – Trends, Lessons, and Future Trajectories,

“The following study begins with an analysis of the evolving strategies of both the BDS and counter-BDS networks, as well as of the external factors that may affect the trajectory of the BDS campaign. It then examines two of the primary processes that have put BDS on the defensive: the exposure of the links between BDS and anti-Semitism, and between BDS and terrorism. It concludes by examining the implications of this analysis for the counter-BDS community.”

In other news

How the US Justice Department let an alleged Israeli fraud kingpin get away,

“For years, binary options operative Yossi Herzog allegedly stole millions while appearing to be above the law. Prosecutors caught up with him — then let him escape.”

Israel Pulls Plug on God TV, Evangelical Channel 'Spreading Gospel of Jesus' to Jews,

“In a landmark ruling, Israeli regulatory authorities announced on Sunday that they are shutting down an evangelical Christian television station for not disclosing in its license application that its true agenda was missionizing Jews.” Also see: Israel Hayom – Israel orders US-based Christian TV channel off air

Reports, Analysis & Commentary

Area G: From Separation to AnnexationIsrael's isolation of the Gaza Strip and how it serves annexationist goals in the West Bank,

“This position paper examines how the isolation of Gaza has been implemented over the years through Israel’s control over movement, and has served Israel in advancing West Bank annexation, at the expense of Palestinian human rights.”

Israel’s Jordan Valley Annexation explained,

“Israel is set to seize one-third of the occupied West Bank, despite international condemnation.” (video report)

The Blatant Moral Bankruptcy of U.S. Jewish Groups Shilling for Israel's Annexation,

“Why are establishment U.S. Jewish organizations like the AJC doubling down on defending Israeli government actions that violate the values they’re supposed to represent?”

Annexation is already here,

“All eyes will be on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu come July 1, when his coalition agreement allows him to bring for Knesset approval annexation of parts of the West Bank. Likely, very few eyes will be on events that same day in Israel’s High Court of Justice, when the Court will hear arguments about Palestinians’ access to their farmlands across the Separation Barrier. But those concerned about annexation would be wise to pay attention to this case, as Israel’s approach to the lands behind the Barrier is a possible prototype for annexation.”

Fight Annexation on Moral Grounds,

“We must place at the heart of the opposition to annexation two essential reasons that are not dependent on any specific scenario. Firstly, annexation is immoral. It will strengthen the apartheid nature of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, becoming a de jure apartheid regime on both sides of the Green Line…The second reason focuses on the image and character of the State of Israel. During the era of slavery in the United States, and apartheid in South Africa, there were those who profited from the social order that was enshrined in law at the time. A fair person isn’t interested in having the society in which he lives imitate their ways. Anyone living in a country that was founded as a result of a UN resolution, one based on the right to self-determination, would have to betray himself to deny the native people who live alongside us that very same right.”

In Israel, Controversial Memorials Are Everywhere but Not One Has Been Toppled,

“When historian Johnny Mansour, who specializes in the history of the Palestinian people, is asked for his address, he goes silent for a moment, looks down and mutters: ‘Yair Stern Street.’ Even after more than two decades on this street in Haifa, he’s loath to look at the entrance to his house and see the sign commemorating the commander of the Lehi – a pre-state underground, as the right calls it, or a terrorist group, as Mansour sees it.”

Explainer: Israel's annexation plan for occupied West Bank,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will begin to annex one third of the already illegally occupied West Bank, including parts of the strategic Jordan Valley, in line with US President Donald Trump’s controversial so-called ‘Middle East plan’.”

The meaning of occupation,

“What a Norwegian TV series can tell us about the occupation of Palestine.”