Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 1, 2021

What We’re Reading


After harsh criticism, Israel says it will vaccinate Palestinians who hold work permits.,

“Israeli medical teams will soon begin vaccinating Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel or in settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to a statement by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry unit that is responsible for liaising with the Palestinians. There are approximately 80,000 Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel, and about 30,000 who have permits for work in the settlements. Most are construction workers, but some have jobs on farms or in factories, stores, restaurants and other workplaces. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel without official documents would not be eligible for inoculations.” Also See:

  • “This is 2.5% of the Israeli Occupied Palestinian population that Israel is legally obligated to. The remaining 97.5% continue to wait as Palestinian hospitals are at capacity. Worth noting that the vast majority of these workers are between 20 & 55. Instead of prioritizing the most vulnerable Palestinians to covid, (the elderly) Israel is prioritizing the captive labor force they both need and see as a risk to them. Entirely about Israel’s interests.” (Yousef Munayyer on Twitter)
  • “Palestinians Go Into New Lockdown While Awaiting Vaccines” (New York Times)
  • “Oxfam: Israel’s vaccine export deal “shameful” as nearly 5m Palestinians wait” (WAFA)

Palestinian Authority to impose partial 12-day lockdown over West Bank,

“Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Saturday declared a partial lockdown in the West Bank planned for at least 12 days as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the territory. The confinement plan is set to start on Sunday along with a nightly curfew from scheduled for 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Schools and universities will remain closed and classes will take place by Zoom. Companies will only 50 percent of their employees to be present at work. In addition, Palestinian citizens will not be allowed to move from city to city, and Arab-Israelis will not be able to travel to the West Bank…According to the Palestinian Authority’s Health Ministry, 12,015 active patients have been identified in the West Bank, twice as many from the previous two weeks. The ministry also said that an estimated 24 percent of the screening tests came back positive on Saturday.” Also See: “Palestinians shut West Bank schools to contain coronavirus variants” (Israel Hayom)

Purim celebrations threaten fresh virus outbreak in Israel,

“Mass gatherings took place in Jerusalem on Sunday as Israelis celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in violation of coronavirus restrictions. Authorities had been concerned about a repeat of last year, when Purim celebrations helped fuel an initial wave of the coronavirus in the earliest days of the global pandemic. The government urged people to celebrate at home this year, and police attempted to block traffic from entering Jerusalem and declared strict limits on public gatherings. But the restrictions were not able to prevent street parties as well as mass prayer celebrations in ultra-Orthodox areas, which have repeatedly flouted safety rules. With traffic clogged at the entrance of Jerusalem, Israeli TV stations showed videos of ultra-Orthodox families walking along the side of the highway into the city.” Also See: “With Rise in Infections, Health Officials Weigh Slowing Down Israel’s COVID Lockdown Exit Plan” (Haaretz)

Gaza launches vaccination drive amid low turnout,

“The few numbers — 10,000 so far — that were registered with the Ministry of Health to receive the vaccine are due to concerns over complications by the recently manufactured vaccine. Citizens also fear counterfeit vaccines that have begun to spread in some countries around the world.”

In East Jerusalem, vaccine turnout climbs — but lags behind infection rates,

“Issawiya, one of East Jerusalem’s poorest neighborhoods, has led the coronavirus vaccination charge over the past two weeks, health officials say. The surge in vaccinations was aided by Magen David Adom, together with local leaders, who worked together to set up a vaccination center in a local middle school. “People here have started to realize that the vaccine is not going to hurt them. They saw their relatives get vaccinated and there was no harm done,” said local leader Omar Atiyeh. East Jerusalem Palestinians have lagged behind the rest of the capital in being immunized. Around 61% of Jerusalemites currently eligible for a vaccine have received at least one dose: 45% among Palestinians, 54% among ultra-Orthodox, and 76% among those who belong to the so-called “general public” — neither Arab nor Haredi.”

As Vaccination Rates Among Israeli Arabs Increase, So Do Coronavirus Cases,

“Dr. Mohammad Khatib, an expert in public health at the Zefat Academic College, explains that most of the newly infected people were not inoculated, a fact that attests to the effectiveness of the vaccine. However, he said, “We’re seeing an increase in the number of infections, mainly among young people.” He attributes the rise among this demographic to the more contagious U.K. COVID strain.”

Israel's Vaccine Apartheid,

“While we are in the respectable first place worldwide in inoculating citizens and residents – the fact remains that Israel has excluded some 4.5 million Palestinians from the population it inoculates, although they all live under its rule. The government continues to claim that it is not responsible for their health. And so here’s a reminder: Each of those 4.5 million people is registered in the Palestinian population registry controlled by Israel .”

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation, & Human Rights

Jordan, PA accuse ‘Jewish extremists’ of storming Temple Mount,

230 Jewish extremists stormed the mosque (on Sunday), conducted tours, and practiced public Talmudic rituals and prayers inside its yards.

“Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have condemned visits by Jews to al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or the Temple Mount, dubbing them provocations and a violation of the status quo at the site. The visits were “an incursion by extremists into the mosque’s premises,” the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Sunday.”

Israel Hands Palestinian Lawmaker Khalida Jarrar Two-year Prison Term for PFLP Membership,

“Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian lawmaker, was sentenced on Monday by an Israeli military court to two years in prison. Known for her fiery speeches against Israel, Jarrar has been held in administrative detention by Israel since October 2019. In a plea deal, Jarrar was charged with holding a position in an illegal organization; she is a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel considers a terror group. Because she was arrested nearly two years ago, Jarrar will only serve seven months. The court also ordered her to pay a 4,000 shekel (about $1,200) fine.”

Report on Suspected Execution of Palestinian Should Alarm Every Israeli,

“Erekat was not the only senseless Palestinian victim in recent months, but for the first time an international organization thoroughly investigated the circumstances of his death, using sophisticated means. One might expect that the Israel Police would conduct a similar investigation, but of course that hasn’t happened, nor will it. The government must now give the family back the body of its son, who was killed on the day of his sister’s wedding.” Also See/Watch/Listen:

  • “PODCAST: Reconstructing the fatal shooting of Ahmad Erekat” (+972 Magazine)

Occupation routine : my home is not my castle - Kobar, Ramallah District,

“Every day — and especially every night — Israeli soldiers may enter Palestinian homes. Such invasions of Palestinians’ private space have long been an integral part of security forces’ operations in the West Bank. West Bank residents know full well that soldiers may enter their homes at will. They can invade a bedroom and rummage through residents’ personal belongings. They can wake children in the middle of the night and pull them out of bed. They can order the occupants to go outside or lock them in a room for hours – until the soldiers decide they have had enough. Routine. Testimonies of dozens of soldiers have made it clear that these invasions are carried out primarily to create a show of force and instill a sense of fear and terror. Yet the routine remains the same: In 2020 alone, security forces entered 2,480 homes throughout the West Bank. For most of us, the home is a safe and secure space. This is not the case for Palestinians. Control, humiliation, and oppression penetrate the very sanctity of the home. Such invasions – so blatantly infringing upon residents’ rights and privacy – are yet another example of how the military controls subjects devoid of political rights.

In the coming days, we [B’Tselem] will present cases that occurred throughout October and November 2020 across the West Bank. During these two months, security forces entered some 493 homes.

Israeli settlers attack youth in East Jerusalem area, minor injured,

“A seventeen-year-old Palestinian minor sustained today evening a critical facial injury after being attacked by Israeli settlers in the occupied East Jerusalem area, local sources confirmed. Sources told WAFA a group of extremist settlers attacked with stones Palestinian youth in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of the French Hill, critically injuring Mohammad Abu al-Hummos, from Jerusalem’s al-Issawiya town, in the face.”

Israeli forces severally beat up, detain Palestinian teenager near Qalqilia,

” Israeli forces today evening detained a Palestinian teenager after severally beating him up in the town of Jayyous to the east of Qalqilia, according to local sources. Sources told WAFA Israeli forces detained Majd Baida, 15, after severally beating him up while he was present near the metal gate to the south of the town of Jayyous.”

Hundreds of European Parliamentarians Protest Israel's 'De Facto Annexation',

“Nearly 450 European parliamentarians have signed a letter sent Sunday evening to foreign ministers in Europe, urging them to take advantage of the change in U.S. administration to renew pressure on Israel to stop its “de facto annexation” of the West Bank…The parliamentarians note in their letter that the normalization agreements recently signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain caused the Israeli government to suspend its plans to annex large chunks of the West Bank. “However, developments on the ground clearly point to a reality of rapidly progressing de facto annexation, especially through accelerated settlement expansion and demolitions of Palestinian structures,” they wrote.”

The Palestinian Scene

Palestinian Elections in East Jerusalem: Lessons Learned, Anticipated Challenges,

“Not unexpectedly, the question of conducting elections in East Jerusalem is considered to be one of the key issues which could seal the fate of the very possibility of holding elections. Since the onset of negotiations regarding the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza decades ago, matters relating to East Jerusalem elections have traditionally been highly sensitive and hotly contested. Ironically, the intense controversy regarding the elections and their results, is inversely proportionate to their impact on daily life in East Jerusalem and the lives of its Palestinian residents.

We will examine how the issue of East Jerusalem elections was addressed in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (“the Interim Agreement”), how it played out in the three rounds of elections (1996, 2005 and 2006), and what can be learned from these precedents regarding the challenges of holding elections in the near or distant future.

  1. The Provisions of the Interim Agreement
  2. The Three Rounds of Elections – 1996, 2005 and 2006
  3. The Voter Turnout
  4. Hamas Participation in the Elections
  5. The Prospects for PLC Elections in 2021″

Hamas holds internal elections ahead of Palestinian general elections,

“The last elections were held in May 2017, following which Ismail Haniyeh became politburo chief, succeeding Khaled Meshaal. But this time, despite the secretive aspect of the elections, Hamas published pictures of the voting in different areas of the Gaza Strip. Of note, Hamas members in Israeli prisons elected a leadership body on Dec. 10, 2020. A Hamas source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “This year’s internal elections included for the first time the listing of names of those who have been in Hamas for 15 years so that they would be among those eligible to be elected. In previous years, only those with a sergeant rank were able to run, which is the highest rank within Hamas. The movement’s bylaws prevent self-nomination; the elections rather depend on voters spontaneously choosing names, and whoever ends up with the highest number of votes takes over leadership positions.”

Despite international support, obstacles threaten Palestinian elections,

“Ghassan al-Khatib, a former Palestinian planning minister and a former director of the government media office in Ramallah, told Al-Monitor that it remains unclear whether the Palestinian elections will be take place. He said, “I believe that the odds of holding the elections do not exceed 50% due to the many obstacles.” He pointed out that tension continues to prevail over the Fatah-Hamas relations, as the two movements clash and exchange accusations at every occasion. Khatib pointed to several obstacles that could prevent the elections, including whether Israel will facilitate the election or prevent it from taking place. He also said the agreements that were reached during the Cairo talks must be translated into presidential decrees on amending the electoral law. Also, he mentioned Fatah’s internal problems, with Barghouti and Kidwa considering running on separate lists.”

The Israeli Scene

A Scandal Over Flights to Israel Is Rocking the Country, and Could Upend Next Month's Election,

“Though the country’s borders are supposed to be ‘hermetically sealed,’ a TV news report alleges that ultra-Orthodox citizens can more easily obtain special permission to fly back from abroad ahead of the March 23 election.”

Sa'ar: Palestinians must be stopped from seizing control of Area C,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned the open areas in Area C of the West Bank to the Palestinians, New Hope party head Gideon Sa’ar charged on Sunday. “The central challenge for the settlements is to block the Palestinians from seizing control of the open areas in Judea and Samaria, and in Area C in particular,” Sa’ar said during a campaign visit to the Gush Etzion region.”

Supreme Court paves way for controversial Labor candidate to run for Knesset,

“The Supreme Court on Sunday overturned a ruling by the Central Election Committee that banned Ibtisam Mara’ana, No. 7 on Labor’s Knesset slate, from vying in the March 23 election. Mara’ana, an Arab Israeli filmmaker from Jaffa, has made highly controversial anti-Zionist statements. She has also faced criticism for slamming the IDF, and over her public refusal to observe the two-minute siren on Memorial Day – for which she later apologized on social media. Her nomination on Labor’s Knesset list sparked a public uproar, prompting the far-right Otzma Yehudit party to petition the Central Elections Committee to have her disqualified, which the committee backed.”

Gantz holds secret talks with Jordan's King Abdullah,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently travelled secretly to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah on Iran and other issues concerning the region, Ynet has learned.”

UAE’s 1st ambassador meets with FM Ashkenazi during visit to Israel,

“Al Khajah, who came with a small team of staffers, was scheduled to present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in an official ceremony at the President’s House. He tweeted that he had arrived in Tel Aviv and met with Ashkenazi to discuss “growing bilateral relations”, as well as enhancing cooperation in various fields.”

High Court limits Shin Bet coronavirus surveillance to those who won’t cooperate,

“The High Court of Justice ruled on Monday that the Shin Bet security service’s controversial phone tracking program, designed to detect coronavirus carriers and those who came in contact with them, can only be used for those who don’t cooperate with epidemiological investigations. After four rights groups petitioned against the mass surveillance program, the court ruled that starting March 14 the security agency’s authority will be limited to using its tracking as a “complementary tool only,” for individual cases, as necessary. The ruling by Israel’s top court stated the security agency will not be able to conduct epidemiological investigations “in a sweeping manner,” but instead only in individual cases of those refusing to cooperate or failing to provide details of their contacts.”

The U.S. Scene

US said probing Israeli spyware firm NSO following WhatsApp lawsuit,

“The US Department of Justice is investigating the NSO group following a 2020 ruling that a lawsuit brought by WhatsApp against the Israeli spyware firm can go ahead, The Guardian reported Monday. According to the report, lawyers from the Department of Justice approached the messaging app with questions regarding the alleged 1,400 users targeted by NSO Group’s government clients in 2019. WhatsApp is suing NSO Group, accusing it of using the Facebook-owned messaging service to conduct cyber-espionage on journalists, human rights activists, and others.”

Biden faces growing pressure to lift Trump's sanctions on ICC prosecutors,

“But despite disagreeing with the ICC’s move to open the investigations, the US State Department had vowed to lift the sanctions after Biden was sworn into office. A month later, no movement has been made to lift the sanctions. Earlier this month, dozens of academic institutions, faith groups, and human rights organisations urged Biden to lift the sanctions and described them as an “unprecedented attack on the court’s mandate to deliver justice”. “

Yang walks back tough anti-BDS stance during Muslim Democratic Club forum,

“Linda Sarsour, a pro-Palestinian BDS activist, who questioned Yang at the mayoral forum, said she believes that his stance does not come from a place of “bad intentions,” but that it was a “stretch” to say BDS is similar to Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses, according to Politico. Yang said he would “be happy to sit with Palestinian leaders, activists, folks who are engaged” in the issue. “I am very eager to learn, I’m very open-minded, and I would appreciate the opportunity.””

Armed Conflict

U.S. air strikes in Syria target Iranian-backed militia - Pentagon,

“The United States carried out air strikes authorised by President Joe Biden against facilities belonging to Iranian-backed militia in eastern Syria on Thursday, in response to rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq, the Pentagon said. The strikes appeared limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.” Also See:

  • “Biden administration conducts strike on Iranian-linked fighters in Syria”  (Washington Post)
  • “Satellite images reveal extent of damage caused by Biden administration’s first military action” (CNN)
  • “Biden sends letter to congressional leadership explaining justification for Syria strike” (CNN)
  • “Biden: Strikes in Syria sent warning to Iran to ‘be careful’”(AP)


Israeli-owned cargo ship rocked by explosion in Gulf of Oman,

“An Israeli-owned cargo ship suffered at least one explosion while sailing in the Gulf of Oman on Friday in the latest such maritime incident in the Middle East. The vessel, the MV Helios Ray, quickly turned around and headed for port around 1 a.m. morning after departing from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. The crew reported no injuries and the vessel continues to sail back toward the strait, according to an open-source maritime tracking website. It was believe that the vehicle carrier was headed to Dubai to assess the damage. Reuters reported that an explosion above the ship’s water line caused holes in both sides of its hull, but that the vessel and crew were safe.”

Syria Says Israel Attacks Areas Around Southern Damascus,

“The Syrian army said on Sunday evening that Israeli-fired rockets struck parts of southern Damascus in escalating attacks that regional intelligence sources say target Iran-linked assets. A Syrian army statement said the attack came from the Golan Heights and that it had downed most of the missiles, in the second such strike in less than a month on the outskirts of the capital. There was no immediate report of any casualties or damage, and no comment from Israel. Tensions in the region have spiked following recent U.S. airstrikes in Syria that it said targeted facilities used by Iranian-backed militant groups and an attack on Friday against an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman that Israel said Iran was behind.”

Israeli private arms export is too terrible even for Tel Aviv,

“At least 20 Israeli arms dealers have been arrested by Israel’s secret police over several months, in what is now being revealed as one of Israel’s biggest arms-industry scandals in history. The story is under a gag-order in Israel, and only a few scant facts have been printed by Israeli newspapers. Even the destination country for the arms remains unnamed. Even so, there have been enough details coming out for the Israeli public to pick up the pieces and foreign platforms to publish what everyone already knew: suicide drones appear to have been developed in Israel to be sold to China.”