Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 30, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation & Negotiations on the Agenda - Palestinians

In counter to US peace plan, Palestinians say ready for direct talks with Israel,

“The Palestinians are prepared to renew long-stalled peace talks with Israel and to agree to “minor” territorial concessions, according to a counter-proposal to a contentious US plan. A Palestinian Authority text sent to the international peacemaking Quartet, and seen Monday by AFP, said that the Palestinians are “ready to resume direct bilateral negotiations where they stopped,” in 2014. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on June 9 that the PA had drafted a response to the US proposal, but did not previously mention a new readiness for resume direct talks with Israel.” Also See – “Report: PA ready to resume negotiations with Israel” (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 plans,

“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…But on the Palestinian street, mobilization against looming Israeli actions has been muted. ‘There is fatigue,’ Palestinian analyst Nour Odeh told AFP. ‘Fatigue from the usual — to stand in Ramallah and wait for the cameras to show how angry we are,’ she added. ‘You’re talking to yourself, and then what?’ There was a substantially larger rally in the West Bank city of Jericho on Monday, where crowds sang in unison and hoisted banners declaring ‘Palestine is not for sale,’ in condemnation of the Trump plan. The crowd of several thousand was brought to the protest site on buses chartered by the event organizers — the Palestine Liberation Organization and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party — but many left even before the speeches began.”

Palestinians are fighting to dismantle apartheid, not just annexation,

“If you ask Palestinians in the Jordan Valley how they feel about annexation, many will tell you that they thought we had already been annexed long ago. This is why we cannot help but ridicule the world’s growing, alarmist, and existential outcry as we approach July 1 — the date the Israeli government has pledged to begin advancing ‘de jure’ annexation. This outrage is not about us Palestinians. If it was, the world would have listened to us years ago. Rather, it is about those who are keeping alive a grand illusion that allows them to sleep at night instead of addressing the systematic oppression Palestinians face. That grand illusion is the failed Oslo paradigm that never reflected the horrific reality Israel was shaping on the ground, together with the bankrupt ‘peace process’ that was designed to satisfy the world’s imagination and remove its imperative to act. For those protecting that illusion, the façade of the two-state solution is far more important than the suffering of millions.”

Once an oasis of peace, Jericho now fears Israeli annexation,

“In Jericho, the most populous town in the mainly agricultural Jordan Valley, there is concern among the 22,000 residents that expanded areas of Israeli control will make daily life unbearable.

Annexation on the Agenda - Israel

Netanyahu: I am ready for peace talks with Palestinians,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said overnight Sunday he is ready to sit down with the Palestinians for peace talks. ‘Israel is ready for negotiations, I am ready for negotiations and believe that many Arab states hope we will enter such negotiations with the Palestinians,’ Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded video aired at the virtual summit organized by the ‘Christians United for Israel’ group.”

After dissing Gantz, Netanyahu meets with US envoys a day before annexation date,

“Speaking in an interview with the Ynet news site Tuesday morning, Gantz said he believed that Israel had not yet gained the necessary diplomatic backing for implementing annexation plans, even as he defended his tacit support for such a move under certain conditions. ‘I believe that the Trump plan is the right political and security framework to be promoted in the State of Israel,’ Gantz said of the US administration’s plan, which envisions a Palestinian state in some 70 percent of the West Bank, with the rest being annexed by Israel. But, he added, ‘this needs to be done correctly in bringing as many partners to this discussion from the countries of the region, with international backing. [We must] make every effort to connect with them and only then continue. And I think all the means to bring in the players have not yet been exhausted’.” Also See – “PM Netanyahu meets with Avi Berkowitz, David Friedman” (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu said to hint annexation won’t begin July 1, as he’d previously pledged,

Netanyahu: “I have a positive and topical line of communication with the Americans and when I have something to report, I’ll report [it],” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by the public broadcaster. “This is a complicated process with lots of diplomatic and security considerations that I can’t get into. We said that [annexation] would be after July 1.”

Likud minister signals major West Bank annexation move not imminent,

“Ze’ev Elkin, Likud minister for higher education, said Israel still did not have the green light it seeks from Washington to begin extending its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, territory Palestinians seek for a state.”

Israeli leaders at odds over West Bank annexation plan,

“Israel’s top two leaders appeared to feud Monday about the timing of the country’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, complicating the task of American officials who were in Jerusalem trying to finalize a plan…Netanyahu appeared to dismiss Gantz’s concerns Monday, telling Likud members that he was working ‘discretely’ with the Americans. ‘The issue does not depend on Blue and White,’ he said.”

Arab governments denounce Israel’s plans to annex the West Bank, warning it will imperil regional security and peace building. But will Israel listen?,

“’I’m definitely pleased they are saying something, because there have been years when they said nothing,’ said Diana Buttu, an activist and former negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization now living in Haifa. But it remains to be seen whether Arab leaders will go beyond mere statements of solidarity for Palestinians and take concrete measures in the event of annexation, Palestinians and regional analysts say. Pressure from the streets to do so could be limited, as Arabs across the region are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, economic instability, civil wars and other woes. Additionally, the gradual warming of relations between the Jewish state and its neighbors is based on common goals — containing Iranian expansionism, countering extremist movements — that will probably remain priorities regardless of Israel’s actions in the West Bank. ‘I have no faith in the statements they are making,” added Buttu, referring to Arab leaders. “The rapprochement is on the level of governments where their interests are the same’.”

Israel undeterred by international opposition to annexation,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to carry out his pledge to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, possibly as soon as Wednesday. His vision of redrawing the map of the Holy Land, in line with President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan, has been welcomed by Israel’s religious and nationalist right wing and condemned by the Palestinians and the international community. But with opponents offering little more than condemnations, there seems little to prevent Netanyahu from embarking on a plan that could permanently alter the Mideast landscape.”

Jerusalem 1967-2020: The Truth About Annexation,

“In order to understand the consequences of annexation it is pertinent to learn from the case of East Jerusalem which Israel unilaterally – and in contravention of international law – annexed. Since 1967 East Jerusalem has been subject to the Jerusalem municipality and to Israeli law. In the decades since 1967, Israeli policy in the city has been driven by massive settlement construction and consistent steps to reduce the city’s Palestinian population. The combination of these two methods is considered by Israel the key to solidifying its control over the annexed territory and to asserting its sovereignty. Examining Israeli policies in East Jerusalem can therefore teach us the dangers of what can take place if the current annexation plan of the Israeli government actually takes place.”

Israel’s Gantz warns Hamas on retaliating against annexation,

“Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Hamas against retaliating against Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank. ‘If Hamas tests us, they will pay a heavy price,’ Gantz said Monday. The Gaza-based militant group fired rockets last Friday in Israel’s direction a day after its spokesperson warned that annexation would be seen as a ‘declaration of war.’ Israel’s air force responded by striking two Hamas sites in the southern Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said Thursday Israel would ‘regret bitterly’ extending sovereignty over the Palestinian territory. ‘The occupation and those who stand behind it need to understand very well: The resistance considers this decision a declaration of war on our Palestinian people,’ Obeida said in a statement. Gantz, who also serves as Israel’s alternate prime minister, said Lebanon would be held responsible for any actions Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah takes in response to annexation. ‘Israel will not accept any excuses,’ Gantz said.”

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.”

Annexation in Palestine and Netanyahu's calculus,

“The right-wing ideologues who preceded Netanyahu, such as Prime Ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon, adhered to a policy of quiet, creeping annexation. After the occupation of East Jerusalem and the application of Israeli law to it in 1967 and its annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981, they adopted the recommendations of jurists, demographers, senior security officials and veteran diplomats, and claimed Israel is just a temporary custodian of the West Bank lands until their fate can be determined in negotiations. Netanyahu himself had been following this strategy until recently. One explanation for Netanyahu’s rush to move from de facto to de jure annexation is the upcoming United States presidential election that could remove US President Donald Trump from power and bury the “peace” plan bearing his name, which for the first time in 53 years gave Israel the green light to annex Palestinian territories.”

Jewish legal experts claim: 'Annexation will harm Palestinians' rights',

“Over 100 Jewish legal experts from around the world sent a letter to Knesset members and government ministers, expressing their opposition to Israel’s plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria. In the letter, the signatories noted that they are ‘committed to the right of Israel to exist and to flourish, and to live in security without armed threats to its people, like any other state under the rule of international law’.”

Mandy Patinkin lends his voice to the growing chorus of West Bank annexation opponents,

“People who watched geopolitical events unfold on the TV series “Homeland” will recognize a familiar voice if they watch the New Israel Fund’s new video opposing Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. Mandy Patinkin, the actor who played longtime CIA operative Saul Berenson, is the animated spot’s narrator.”

Annexation on the Agenda - U.S. Politics

Four progressive congresswomen circulate letter threatening to condition aid to Israel over annexation,

“Four Democratic members of Congress are said to be circulating a letter among their House colleagues warning of the political implications that could result from Israel’s planned annexation of portions of the West Bank. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Jewish Insider, is addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is being circulated by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN). The letter suggests that annexation, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said could begin as soon as this week, would ‘lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state’.” Als0 See – “Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib among 4 Dems calling to cut aid if annexation goes ahead” (The Times of Israel); “Ocasio-Cortez spearheads letter vowing to condition US aid to Israel over annexation” (Middle East Eye)

What Americans think about the looming Israeli annexation and Trump’s Middle East plan,

“The main story is to be found in the attitudes of Democrats. The strong opposition to annexation, and the pervasive sense that Trump’s plan is too favorable to Israel, adds to other recent findings suggesting a shift taking place — one that could be solidified by Israeli annexation of West Bank territories. In an October poll for example, we found that 66% of Democrats back sanctions or stronger measures against Israeli settlements; in a March poll, we found that 81% of Democrats say it’s “acceptable” or even the “duty” of members of Congress to question the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Recent Democratic primaries may point to the consequences: In New York’s 16th District, progressive candidate Jamaal Bowman apparently unseated long-time Congressman Elliot Engel, who has been one of the most reliable supporters of Israel in Congress. One remarkable thing about that race is that Bowman made an issue of Engel’s support for Israel and his lack of support for Palestinian rights. Polling suggests annexation will likely energize Democratic critics of Israel further.”

As annexation looms, several leading Republican lawmakers remain silent,

“The offices of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Utah Senator Mitt Romney and Idaho Senator James Risch, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, all declined requests from The Times of Israel to weigh in on Netanyahu’s annexation plans.”

The New Annexation Battle: AIPAC vs. AOC,

“The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is lobbying members of Congress against a new letter opposing unilateral Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank that is being promoted by four progressive Democratic congresswomen. The letter, spearheaded by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is more critical of Israel than previous anti-annexation letters signed by Democratic lawmakers. According to AIPAC, the letter – which is still being drafted and has not been finalized – contains a direct call for the U.S. government to place conditions and limitations on the continuation of U.S. military aid to Israel if its government goes through with unilateral annexation. An early draft of the letter indeed contains such language.”

The mainstreaming of Christian Zionism could warp foreign policy,

“Hagee believes that his movement is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. His rhetoric is often nationalistic, claiming that America plays a God-ordained role in Israel’s politics. But revisiting the historical background of CUFI’s ideology — called dispensationalism — reveals an apocalyptic motivation that should make people even more wary of CUFI’s influence than Hagee’s extremist rhetoric, which has the potential to warp U.S. policy. Most modern evangelicals who believe that the United States has a divinely sanctioned mission to secure the state of Israel can trace their worldview to William E. Blackstone, a Chicago businessman turned preacher. Between the 1870s and 1890s, Blackstone became a key proponent of dispensationalism, the theological view that Israel will play a central role in the final events of Earth’s history.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Unity government struggling to survive, insiders say,

“Under Israeli law, if the government is unable to pass the annual budget within 100 days of its formation the Knesset must dissolve, triggering elections. 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’.”

Dozens of Pro-democracy Protesters Rally Against Netanyahu Government in Tel Aviv,

“Several dozen pro-democracy demonstrators gathered Monday night in a protest area set up by activists from the “black flag” movement on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. The activists protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and corruption in government. Some protesters plan to sleep at the site for the coming days, in an act reminiscent of the 2011 social protests.”

Annexation on the Agenda - International Pushback

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, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet clarified on Monday. ‘Annexation is illegal. Period,’ Bachelet said.”

Annexation will undermine Israel-EU ties – EU foreign chief to ‘Post’,

“For us in Europe, it is painful to see the prospect of the two-state solution, the only realistic and sustainable way to end this conflict, at risk. The project of annexation as announced by the government would mean the end of this solution. EU Member States think that the annexation would violate international law, and we are using every opportunity with the Israeli government to explain this, in a spirit of friendship.”

Israel's Joint List urges British political parties to oppose annexation,

“The two letters, dated 26 June and penned by Yousef Jabareen, the head of the Joint List’s international relations committee, were sent to the UK Conservative party leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the Labour party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer. In the letters, parliamentarians said the UK needed to ‘actively oppose’ attempts by Israeli to unilaterally annex territory.”

Occupation & Human Rights

Lack of Security Camera Footage Mars Israel's Probe Into Its Killing of Autistic Palestinian,

“According to a source familiar with the investigation, the security cameras in the area, including cameras in the garbage room itself, apparently did not document the shooting. The Justice Ministry unit has only questioned the main suspect once – for five hours on the day of the shooting. His commander, who has since finished his service, has been questioned twice.”

IN PHOTOS: The Serene Jordan Valley at the Heart of the Annexation Turmoil,

“People hear about the Jordan Valley mainly in its political context, and more recently in relation to all the talk about Israel’s possible annexation of it. My own physical proximity to the valley led me to take a tour to its more out-of-the way and less-known places, toward which my eyes were drawn.I found primeval and scarred vistas containing people (not many) who don’t really pay attention to the politics surrounding them, busy with their daily routines. Apparently, the scars will deepen and expand with time – with or without an annexation.”

Despite Talk of Annexation, Fewer Immigrants to Israel Moving to West Bank Settlements,

“It would make sense, then, that the number of immigrants moving to the settlements is rising. Yet an examination of figures by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that not only has the number of immigrants moving over the Green Line not increased since Trump’s election, it has actually dropped slightly.”