Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 8, 2021

What We’re Reading

Israeli Politics

Israel’s Parliament to Vote on New Government on Sunday,

” The immediate political future of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is set to be decided on Sunday, after the speaker of Israel’s Parliament said that lawmakers would hold a vote of confidence in a new coalition government that afternoon. If the fragile coalition can hold together until then, it will be the first time in 12 years that the country will be led by someone other than Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. The announcement, by the Parliament speaker, Yariv Levin, on Tuesday, clears the way for Mr. Netanyahu to be replaced by Naftali Bennett, a former high-tech entrepreneur and settler leader who opposes a Palestinian state and believes Israel should annex much of the occupied West Bank. If confirmed by Parliament, Mr. Bennett will lead an ideologically varied alliance that ranges from the far left to the hard right and includes — for the first time in Israeli history — an independent Arab party.” Also Covered By: Haaretz; The Times of Israel

Tiff over West Bank construction a last-minute obstacle to coalition,

“According to the Tuesday report, Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party is demanding the formation of a new body to oversee the sensitive matter of enforcement of alleged illegal construction by Palestinians in the West Bank’s Area C, which constitutes some 60 percent of the territory and is under full Israeli security and civil control…New Hope says this was agreed to as part of its deal when it joined the new government. Gantz objects to this, as the matter is traditionally under his ministry’s Civil Administration. Channel 12 news reported that officials from both New Hope and Gantz’s Blue and White were claiming their party’s position on the matter had been accepted. The network cited sources involved in the negotiations as saying New Hope MK Ze’ev Elkin was attempting to veto the matter and warned that “without this, the government won’t be formed.””

‘Change government’ agenda: Electoral reform, budget and Jerusalem building boom,

“The document outlining the government agenda was publicized by Hebrew media on Monday night. It does not address specific religion-state issues and refers only vaguely to the peace process. The parties in the so-called “change bloc” are all backing the terms laid out in the document, according to Channel 12. According to the document, the eight parties in the prospective coalition have agreed to introduce a term limit for prime ministers, capping it at two terms or eight years, whichever is longer. But a clause in the agreement pledging to advance a law banning a prime minister who is under criminal indictment from serving or running has been struck from the draft, Channel 12 said…The coalition has also agreed to “significantly advance construction in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, turning it into a dynamic and innovative metropolis,” the document said, without differentiating between west Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. “The government will work to strengthen Israel’s national security and safeguard the security of all Israeli citizens, alongside its constant pursuit of peace,” it said. Channel 12 said a clause, appearing in previous drafts, which pledged not to take any unilateral steps that could sabotage peace, was excised from the later version…“The government will work to mend the rifts between the various parts of Israeli society and fortify Israel’s foundations as a Jewish and democratic state, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and will advance various plans that aim to bring Israel out of the economic crisis into which it has plunged, along with the entire world,” the document said.”

More reports on coalition details:

  • “Yamina denies seeking law that would bar Netanyahu from running for Knesset” (The Times of Israel)
  • “Lapid-Bennett coalition deal gives both veto power” (Haaretz)
  • “Bennett, Lapid said to share veto powers under coalition deal” (Ynet)

Yamina's Orbach to vote for new government, accept settlement portfolio,

“Israeli lawmaker Nir Orbach of the right-wing Yamina party is expected to vote for the new “change bloc” government and accept the portfolio of settlement affairs minister, Globes reports. The member of Knesset (Israel Parliament) has been debating over the past week whether to support the coalition that could oust Benjamin Netanyahu from power after 12 years as the country’s longest-serving prime minister and catapult Yamina leader Naftali Bennett into the position in a rotation agreement with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.”

More on Settlers/Settlements & the incoming Israeli government:

  • “Settler leaders fighting for Netanyahu despite freeze on housing plans” (Jerusalem Post)

Edelstein said poised to challenge Netanyahu for Likud leadership,

“Party sources say other senior members likely to join health minister and former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat in succession fight for top job, while Finance Minister Israel Katz fumes at what he calls moves to undermine outgoing PM”


Security cabinet to decide whether to allow rerouted Jerusalem flag march,

“The high-level security cabinet is set to meet Tuesday evening to discuss a contentious flag march planned in Jerusalem for Thursday, reportedly after Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to leave the decision on the sensitive matter to a smaller forum. Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai is to present several alternatives in a bid to allow the march to go forward after police initially refused to authorize the event, which was set to follow a path through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.”

Also See – “MK Ohana announces intention to override police cancellation of flag march” (Jerusalem Post)

‘We Will Never Leave Our Land’: The Palestinian Families Facing Eviction in Sheikh Jarrah,

“Altogether, some 300 Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah – all members of these 28 families – could face eviction if the Supreme Court ultimately rules against them. Who are these people, and how has this struggle affected them? Haaretz sat down recently with representatives of several of the families to hear their personal stories.”

Israel Is Shirking Its Responsibility for Residents of Sheikh Jarrah,

“The decision by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit not to intervene in the eviction cases in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood gives apparent support to the settler thesis that this is a simple civil case of landowners trying to remove squatters. But the decision ignores the decisive role that state authorities have played in turning a right-wing settlement organization into the owner of a neighborhood where hundreds of Palestinians live…The enlistment of the state employees, from the attorney general to the last of the policemen, for the benefit of the expulsion and settlement enterprise in Sheikh Jarrah is an embarrassment for Israel. It causes moral damage, harms public diplomacy and poses a security risk to all Israelis. Let us hope the new government will have broader considerations and will order the attorney general to intervene for the sake of common sense and justice.”

A House Divided: A Palestinian, a Settler and the Struggle for East Jerusalem,

“Few places in East Jerusalem show the struggle over the city more intimately than a four-story house on a narrow alley in the Silwan district. Nasser Rajabi, a Palestinian, and his family live in the basement, third floor and part of the second. Boaz Tanami, an Israeli settler, and his family live on the first floor and the rest of the second. Each claims the right to live there. Each wants the other out.”

The West Bank

In Just a Month, Illegal Settler Outpost Sprouts Up on Palestinian Lands,

“In the past month, in the heart of a Palestinian rural area south of Nablus in the West Bank, a new/old outpost called Evyatar is being constructed and expanded. Although only a short period of time has passed, there are already around 40 structures on the site. The massive construction is being carried out overtly, at the initiative of the Nahala settlement movement, which is providing financing and logistical assistance, and with the backing of the Samaria Regional Council. However, this past Sunday, two days after this article was first published in Hebrew, a military order was issued that is supposed to prevent entry to the site and to enable its demolition. The settlers vow to defy the order.”

Settler Leader Moves Headquarters to Illegal West Bank Outpost,

“Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan temporarily moved his office to the Evyatar settlement in the West Bank on Monday, after the Israeli military issued a demarcation order giving the residents of the recently established illegal outpost eight days to vacate the premises. The outpost, built on the site of an army base on land owned by the villages of Beita, Qabalan and Yatma, was established in response to the shooting attack at the junction at the beginning of May, in which a yeshiva student, Yehuda Guetta, was murdered.”

Israeli bulldozers raze lands near Nablus,

“Israeli bulldozers Tuesday demolished large areas of Palestinian-owned lands in the village of Jalud, south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, in favor of expanding a nearby settlement. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli colonial settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told WAFA that a number of villages near Nablus are currently undergoing wide-scale razing operation in favor of expanding eight settlements and outposts, including Shvut Rachel, within a framework of expanding their structures and building more settlement units.”


More from WAFA:

  • “Occupation forces detain nine Palestinians in West Bank” (WAFA)
  • “Israel embarks on construction of settler-only road near Jerusalem” (WAFA)

Israeli Army Reopens Probe Into 2010 Wounding of Left-wing Activist,

“In 2019, attorney Michael Sfard and the Yesh Din organization petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding that the soldier be charged. Attached to the petition was a video and a photo documenting the event. The video, taken by Bil’in resident Haitham Abu Rahma, shows Rizka falling on the ground, while in the photo, taken by Ido Madiks, one sees a soldier aiming and firing. During questioning, a soldier named Gavriel (his last name was not released) identified himself in the photo, but said he could not recall if had fired directly at anyone or not. Rizka’s attorneys checked the time stamps on both the photo and the video, and while at first it seemed they’d been taken two hours apart, it turned out that the video camera’s clock had been off by two hours and that the video and the photo had actually been taken at the same time. In response to the petition, the prosecution said last week that the military advocate-general would reopen the investigation and that the original video and photo would be sent to be evaluated by experts.”


Israel continues to ban exit of goods from Gaza. Cancer patients exit in first since May 11,

“The Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza halts sale of Israeli produce in Gaza in protest of the ongoing blanket ban on the exit of goods from the Strip. Israeli-imposed restrictions at Erez halt postal delivery to Gaza. Navy harassment of fishermen increases.”

Israel’s UN envoy to AP: Hamas tried to jam Iron Dome from your Gaza tower,

“The Israel Defense Forces says Hamas was operating within a Gaza media tower housing the offices of international media outlets, including The Associated Press, to develop a system to disrupt the Iron Dome missile defense system. The army’s statement comes shortly after Israel’s UN ambassador makes similar comments explaining the IDF’s widely condemned May 15 strike leveling the tower during last month’s 11-day conflict.”

Palestine records 311 new coronavirus cases, three deaths,

“Among the new 311 cases, 38 cases were recorded in the West Bank, and 273 others in the Gaza Strip.”

Former Mossad chief says Qatari payments to Hamas got ‘out of control’,

“Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen suggested on Monday that it was a mistake to rely on Qatari funds in an effort to bring calm to the Gaza Strip. “Until Operation Guardian of the Walls, we had hoped that Qatari involvement and Qatari money would lead us to a settlement with Hamas,” Cohen said in a speech to the Israeli Friends of Bar-Ilan University on Monday evening, according to the Walla news site. “But things got a little out of control.””

Palestinian Politics

Hamas chief in Egypt for talks ahead of meeting of Palestinian factions,

“Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for the first in a series of talks this week between Egyptian authorities and Palestinian factions that aims to reinforce a ceasefire with Israel, Palestinian and Egyptian sources said. Haniyeh’s visit came in response to a special invitation from Cairo, in advance of a broader meeting of Palestinian factions that could begin as early as next week, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Reuters.”

The U.S.

[Podcast] Shifts in US discourse on Israel/Palestine & Black-Palestinian solidarity w/ Dr. Maha Nassar & Lara Friedman,

In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” Lara Friedman speaks with Dr. Maha Nassar about changes in the U.S. discourse on Palestine and Israel, shifts in US media that make room for Palestinian voices, and the history and dynamics of Black-Palestinian solidarity.

How a West Bank Trip Turned This Congressman Into One of Israel’s Strongest Critics,

““Having a chance to see things from that perspective opened my eyes about what was going on, and the barriers in getting to a two-state solution that I have advocated for,” he tells Haaretz. “Seeing and talking to people in Palestine firsthand and walking through all the different issues really mattered a lot.””

Congressman: NYT’s coverage of dead Palestinian children is a ‘smear against Israel’,

“A Republican congressman called news coverage of Palestinian and Israeli children killed by violence a “sickening” libel against Israel at a congressional hearing Monday. During the hearing, Republican members not only criticized the Palestinian militant group Hamas, but also attacked the idea of sending humanitarian aid to the Palestinians of Gaza. Last month, fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas killed 13 people in Israel and 256 people in Gaza. After the fighting ended, the New York Times ran a cover story featuring the photos and life stories of children killed by both Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket fire. Rep. Joe Wilson (R–S.C.) called the front page photo display “a disgusting smear of Israel and the people of Israel.” “American media of the left have become a propaganda arm of Hamas,” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The sickening proof is the front page of the New York Times…picturing 64 dead children of Gaza and Israel, ignoring total Hamas responsibility.” Wilson argued that no children would be dead but for Hamas’s rocket attacks and use of civilians as “human shields.””

Analysis & Commentary

Netanyahu’s Likely Departure Is Not Easing the Fears of Palestinians,

“Settlers see themselves as new pioneers, inspired by Israel’s founding fathers. Many likely think that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that made possible the establishment of the Jewish state justifies the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank. A few years ago, I had an encounter with a settler from Dolev who questioned my right to walk in the valley where my nephew’s friends had been shot at by settlers. When I told him that I live in Ramallah, he said, “Unlike you, I really live here.” Today, that encounter seems peaceful compared to what has transpired since: shooting with no questions asked.”

Why a new Israeli government won’t mean justice or peace for Palestinians,

“So even if Netanyahu exits the political stage, Netanyahuism continues to dominate Israeli politics. Most of the factional leaders serving in the new government are Netanyahu proteges. Bennett himself used to work for Netanyahu. Because he has dominated the scene for so long, there are very few political figures in Israel who have not worked for or alongside Netanyahu, and his impact on Israeli institutions will be long felt…there is a silver lining. For years, people around the world have grown increasingly concerned with the direction of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and its apartheid vision for the present and future. These policies have often and mistakenly been associated with Netanyahu himself. But Palestinians know well that the policies of ethnic cleansing, discrimination and oppression long predate Netanyahu and span the Israeli political spectrum. This changing of the apartheid guard offers the world an opportunity to see that this isn’t about one man, no matter how large he loomed, but about a system of injustice perpetuated by a government. The world, as the song goes, will meet the new boss and see he’s the same as the old boss, but they should not be fooled again.”

Netanyahu is on his way out. Why am I still nervous?,

“To start, like everyone who has desperately hoped for an end to Netanyahu’s self-serving rule, I’m nervous that the new coalition will not hold together long enough for the new government to be sworn in. One lawmaker from Bennett’s Yamina party has defected. If Netanyahu pries one more defector from Yamina or Gideon Saar’s right-wing New Hope party, through enticements or through intimidation by angry crowds, Lapid’s strange creation will not win the necessary vote of confidence…I must confess, as well, to anxiety about the new government itself. What might Bennett try to show his voters that he’s still Naftali Bennett…To hold together, the coalition must avoid issues that divide it. Most of all, it is divided on the Palestinians and the future of occupied territory. Bennett must drop his annexation plan. But the parties of the left, Labor and Meretz, cannot demand a settlement freeze or negotiations. If Lapid, as foreign minister, hears in Washington or Brussels of a new initiative for peace talks, he must demur, or the government will fall and he will not take Bennett’s place as prime minister in two years. So the status quo must stay. Yet there is nothing static about it. The status quo means settlements grow, Gaza remains under blockade, Palestinians in the West Bank remain under occupation. The status quo is a deteriorating chronic condition waiting for the next fever. It needs to be cured, not ignored.”

It’s apartheid, say Israeli ambassadors to South Africa,

“During our careers in the foreign service, we both served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa. In this position, we learned firsthand about the reality of apartheid and the horrors it inflicted. But more than that – the experience and understanding we gained in South Africa helped us to understand the reality at home…The bantustans of South Africa under the apartheid regime and the map of the occupied Palestinian territories today are predicated on the same idea of concentrating the “undesirable” population in as small an area as possible, in a series of non-contiguous enclaves. By gradually driving these populations from their land and concentrating them into dense and fractured pockets, both South Africa then and Israel today worked to thwart political autonomy and true democracy.”