Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 10, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Settlements

Jerusalem Section of al-Walajeh under Threat of Forced Displacement,

“The residents of the northern part of al-Walajeh, located on the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem (see map below), are under acute threat of being forcibly uprooted from their village, where they have lived and cultivated the land for decades. A court injunction, currently preventing the demolition of 38 homes,  could be lifted by the end of April, subjecting residents to wide-scale displacement. The Israeli authorities have neglected to prepare an outline plan for this area, which precludes the possibility of obtaining building permits. As a result, many families have no choice, but to build without permits, thereby placing their homes at risk of demolition…

This section of al-Walajeh has for years been at risk of being uprooted (for a second time) as a result of combined Israeli measures carried out in the past decade. Israel has been gradually confiscating al-Walajeh lands and detaching it from the Palestinian space around it. While its northern segment is situated within the Jerusalem municipal borders, the construction of the Separation Barrier between 2010 and 2017 around three sides of the village turned it into a nearly isolated enclave. The barrier severed it from the rest of the city, while likewise separating it from some 1200 dunams of the village’s agricultural lands now located on the Israeli side of the barrier. In tandem, these lands were declared by the Israeli Authorities as the Nahal Refaim National Park, a form of “touristic settlement,” which would serve to create Israeli territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and the Har Gilo settlement (part of the Gush Etzion bloc), constituting another link in the de facto annexation of “Greater Jerusalem.” If approved, the plan for the new Har Gilo West settlement—designated on al-Walajeh lands southeast of the village—would lead to the extension of the Separation Barrier, which will encompass and seal off the village entirely, completely cutting it off from its surroundings.

The District Committee’s final rejection of the resident-initiated outline plan is hence a culmination of a series of Israeli efforts to create an untenable environment to forcibly drive its residents out and seize their land in service to Israel’s longstanding territorial and demographic goals, including the actualization of the “Greater Jerusalem” vision. In this way, Israel furthers its consolidation of control along the southern perimeter, while carrying out grave human rights violations and sabotaging any prospect of a negotiated agreement in Jerusalem.”

Settlers assault farmer, his wife in natural area near Salfit,

“sraeli settlers Tuesday evening assaulted a Palestinian farmer and his wife in Wadi Qana area, north of Deit Istya town, northwest of Salfit city, according to an official. Mayor of Deir Istiya, Sa‘id Zeidan, told WAFA that some 80 settlers forced their way into the nature reserve, where they hurled stones at Jihad Mansour, a local farmer, and his wife. Several other farmers and livestock herders intervened and confronted the settlers.”

Israel to demolish 10 structures northeast of occupied Jerusalem,

“Israeli authorities distributed notices for the demolition of several structures and homes belonging to Palestinian families in the town of Jib to the northwest of occupied Jerusalem, according to activist Samer Abu Hamoud. He told WAFA Israeli forces raided several structures located near the separation barrier that runs through the town of Jib, including homes, storage rooms, and a wedding hall, where they photographed the structures before leaving behind the demolition notices. Meanwhile, Israeli forces handed a Palestinian resident in al-Walaja town, southwest of the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, a notice to demolish his agricultural room.”


Palestinian hospitals fill up as Israel loosens COVID-19 restrictions,

” Palestinian hospitals are overfull and intensive-care units operating at 100% capacity with coronavirus patients in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday. Palestinian cities have introduced full lockdowns over the last two weeks to control soaring COVID-19 infections, even as neighbouring Israel has begun to lift restrictions as it proceeds with one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns. “The percentage of hospital occupancy in some areas has reached more than 100%,” Shtayyeh said in Ramallah, one of the West Bank cities where his Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises limited self-rule. “The number of casualties is increasing and the number of deaths is increasing on a daily basis, forcing us to take strict, direct and unprecedented measures.”” Als0 See – “West Bank Faces Overcrowded Hospitals, Vaccine Shortage as COVID Cases Surge” (Haaretz)

Israel to Vaccinate Palestinians Without Legal Residency Against COVID,

“Palestinians who are living in Israel without legal residency may receive the coronavirus vaccine, the Health Ministry told Physicians for Human Rights on Tuesday.The group, which Physicians for Human Rights estimates number in the thousands, comprises of Palestinians in many different situations: at-risk groups such as suspected collaborators with Israel and those who left the Palestinian territories because of their sexuality, as well as Palestinians who lack legal residency status but whose “center of life” is in Israel because of marriage.”

Netanyahu Took a Gamble on Reopening, and the Cost of His COVID Policy Will Only Be Clear After Election,

“It’s impossible to separate the hasty, large-scale reopening of the economy and the schools at the start of this week, following months of lockdowns that caused major economic and psychological damage, from the Knesset election that will take place on March 23. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coronavirus policy is meant primarily to create an appearance of returning to normalcy.”

The Palestinian Scene

Yahya Sinwar wins second term as Hamas’s Gaza leader,

“Hamas mouthpiece al-Resalah confirms that Yahya Sinwar has won a second term as the organization’s Gaza leader. Three rounds of voting were reportedly conducted last night, with neither Sinwar nor his chief opponent Nizar Awadullah able to clinch victory. Sinwar received more than 50 percent of the vote in today’s voting, leading him to a second four-year term. Sinwar, who first became notorious for his enthusiastic executions of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel, rose to prominence in Hamas while serving a life sentence in Israeli prison. He was released in 2011 during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel.”

Hamas leadership vote turns into dramatic standoff as Sinwar seeks reelection,

“Three rounds of voting for the leadership of Hamas’s Gaza office were said to end in a stalemate on Tuesday night, potentially threatening the leadership of Hamas’s Gaza governor, Yahya Sinwar. No official confirmation was immediately made by the Hamas terror group, which is in the midst of holding clandestine elections for its top spots. The Palestinian movement’s internal elections are normally conducted in utter secrecy over a period of months. The winner of the vote will lead Hamas’s Gaza office, effectively becoming the Strip’s de facto ruler. Sinwar has held the role since 2017. Initial reports from Lebanese media indicated that Sinwar had been defeated by another senior Hamas official, Nizar Awadallah. A source in Gaza, however, indicated that three rounds of internal voting by senior Hamas members had failed to see any candidate win a majority of votes — with Awadallah and Sinwar neck and neck. According to the Ma’an News Agency, the vote has been delayed to “a later date” due to the standoff.”

Also See

Palestinian PM: We’re prepared to fully cooperate with ICC war crimes probe,

“Ramallah is prepared to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s probe against Israel and Hamas over alleged war crimes in 2014 in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told his cabinet ministers on Tuesday. “We will cooperate with the investigation and provide the prosecutor with every detail, which will accelerate the investigations and bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice,” Shtayyeh said.”

Al-Haq Position Paper on the Law by Decree Concerning the Amendment of the Law on Charitable Associations,

“On 28 February 2021, President Abbas promulgated the Law by Decree Amending the CSO Law, based on a recommendation made by the Council of Ministers, headed by Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, on 11 January 2021. It was published in the Official Gazette on 2 March 2021. A review of the Law by Decree Amending the CSO Law demonstrates large-scale flagrant violations of the Palestinian Basic Law and international conventions, which the State of Palestine acceded to without reservations, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and international standards of the fundamental right to freedom of association. Contrary to the National Policy Agenda 2017-2022 and good governance requirements, the Law by Decree also infringes on the pillars of transparency and openness to civil society. It reflects a consistent approach of absolute secrecy in the making of laws by decrees, which have undermined the Palestinian political system. “

Palestinians want Biden's backing for elections,

“The Palestinian Authority is trying to convince the Biden administration to support the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections, planned for May 22, and not to object to the participation of Hamas. Why it matters: The elections currently appear to be a low priority for the Biden administration — but that will change if they actually take place, and in particular, if they’re won by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror organization.”

The Israeli Scene

Netanyahu heading to UAE to meet crown prince,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to fly to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, for the first time since its normalization agreement with Israel last year. Netanyahu is expected to meet with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed. The trip is set to take place less than two weeks before the March 23 election, despite reports that officials in the UAE were hesitant to host Netanyahu at a date that would be viewed as political. A well-connected source in Abu Dhabi confirmed that the election was a consideration, but the UAE decided to welcome Netanyahu regardless of the date.”

Investigation Into Netanyahu’s Arabic Facebook Push Reveals Fake Users,

“On February 1, 2020 Netanyahu’s digital division joined the election campaign, in the guise of an official Arabic-language Facebook account for the prime minister. This is the first time that the prime minister’s staff is opening an account that addresses the Arab public. Since it opened, the page has accumulated almost 5,000 followers, but apparently quite a few are fake profiles. According to the Fake Reporter project, an investigative platform run by volunteers whose objective is to expose the dissemination of fake news on social media, many of the followers on the page are actually fake profiles.”

Iran, conversion, Biden, Lapid - Netanyahu's full 'Post' interview,

“[Netanyahu]: Well, first of all, let me say that President Biden, Joe and I, have had a very close relationship for close to 40 years. I’m not just saying that. It’s real. He delivered a wonderful eulogy for my father; I spoke to him after the tragic death of his son Beau. We have a close relationship, and that’s important for the country. But beyond that, I have a close relationship with the American public. I know them very well, I spend some formative years in America, and they know me every well, and they respect me. Many of them respect me a lot. And some of them disagree with me, but that happens in the mishpoche. So that can happen, but when I deal with the US, our indispensable ally under changing administrations, I always remember one thing: I represent the State of Israel. I don’t represent Republican interests; I don’t represent Democratic interests; I represent Israeli interests. And when I need to take a stand for something that I think is important for Israel’s survival and security, I don’t hesitate to do it under any administration.”

Likud, Yesh Atid see boost in latest poll, New Hope plunges to under 10 seats,

“With exactly two weeks until election day, a poll released Tuesday showed the Likud and Yesh Atid parties enjoying a boost in support as Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope plunged to below 10 seats in the Knesset for the first time. The political deadlock was predicted to continue with no bloc gaining a majority in the next Knesset, in line with other recent surveys.”

More Election News

Why the Upcoming Election Will Determine the Fate of U.S. Bipartisan Support for Israel,

“Trumpist Republicans marveled at the opportunity to proclaim to be “better friends” of Israel, supposedly more supportive than Democrats. That is, of course, profoundly false. Some Democrats exploited Netanyahu’s flagrant pro-Republican proclivities and felt vindicated in their criticism of Israel. Making Israel a political football is inexcusable, and that’s exactly what Netanyahu did. Is bipartisanship irreparably broken? No. It’s been dented and cracked, but the fundamental support for Israel among American voters and elected officials remains broadly bipartisan and is led by opinion leaders in both parties who share a genuine support for Israel. Can it be restored to previous levels? Perhaps, taking into account both changes in policies and changes in American society and politics. One thing is certain, however: Such a restoration is very unlikely to happen if, two weeks from today, Netanyahu remains prime minister.”

Bonus Read

When Israel supported boycotts against a white supremacist regime,

“Israel not only boycotted Rhodesia in the 1960s, it fully backed the armed liberation movement that would eventually overthrow its white-led regime.”