Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 23, 2021

What We’re Reading

Israeli Election Day

Top Headlines,

  • “Israel votes as Netanyahu hopes vaccine rollout overcomes corruption trial” (Reuters)
  • “Saar reportedly open to power-sharing agreement with Lapid or Bennett” (i24 News)
  • “Israeli election seen as referendum on divisive Netanyahu” (AP)
  • “This Time, Arabs Are the Target – Not the Subject – of Disinformation” (Haaretz)
  • “Israel Elections: 34.6% of ballots cast, 3.5% decrease from last year” (Jerusalem Post)
  • “Rivlin to ‘Post’: Israel has never been in a political crisis like now” (Jerusalem Post)

Analysis & Commentary,

  • “Can she handle it? How the Israeli media covers women politicians” (+972 Magazine)
  • “Netanyahu’s fate rests on Arab votes” (Al-Monitor)
  • “For Israeli Voters on the Center-left, a Gray Election Day in More Ways Than One” (Haaretz)
  • “Israelis Think Netanyahu Has Already Won the Election – but a Few Thousand Votes Could Tip the Balance” (Haaretz)

Likud-linked NGO Spreading Fake News About Poll Oversight,

“Right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu says oversight app not functioning, while election committee calls claims an attempt ‘to undermine public faith in the election results and in the committee'”

Occupation, Settlements, & Annexation

IDF to close West Bank, Gaza crossings on Elections Day,

“The IDF announced Monday that all crossings between Israel and the Palestinian territories will be shuttered during Election Day on Tuesday. The closure will begin Monday at midnight, during which all crossings to the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be shut.”

Israel planning to relocate Khan al-Ahmar residents to new area in West Bank,

“Israeli officials are planning to remove Palestinians from the village of Khan al-Ahmar and relocate them a few hundred metres away to a location between occupied Jerusalem and Jericho in the occupied West Bank, Yedioth Ahronoth has revealed. Khan al-Ahmar is sited in the West Bank near Route 1, which connects East Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, and stands near the illegal Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim…The Khan al-Ahmar community comprises some 35 families, whose makeshift homes and schools, mostly made of corrugated metal and wood, have been demolished by the Israeli army several times in recent years. The Jahalin tribe is currently studying the Israeli proposal, according to Yedioth Ahronoth, as the demolition of their village looms large, and could take place any time based on the court order. Israel intends to demolish Khan al-Ahmar as part of the so-called E1 plan, which involves building hundreds of units to link the settlements of Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim with East Jerusalem in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.”

Save Sheikh Jarrah: The online campaign giving hope to Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem,

“The Sheikh Jarrah district is inhabited by refugees who were expelled from their towns and villages by Zionist militia during the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948. But due to Israel’s push to populate the area with Israeli settlers, Palestinian residents are now, once again, facing the spectre of expulsion. In an effort to garner international support, activists launched an online campaign, #SaveSheikhJarrah, in Karm al-Jaouni on Monday to help save the residents, who have lived in the neighbourhood for decades, from forcible removable, which many of their neighbours have already endured. “

Israeli forces block entrances to villages northwest of Ramallah,

“Israeli forces sealed off the entrances to a number of villages to the northwest of Ramallah, in occupied West Bank, said WAFA correspondent. Israeli forces sealed off entrances to the villages and towns of Nabi Saleh, Beit Rima, Dir Ghassaneh, Kafr Ein, Qarawat Bani Zeid, Deir Nidham, Deir Abu Mashaal, and Aboud, and prevented traffic in both directions, causing a major traffic jam. Clashes reportedly broke out between the forces and Palestinians in Deir Abu Mashaal, during which forces fired tear gas canisters toward the Palestinians, however, no injuries or arrests were reported.”

Israeli police beat up, detain three Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem area,

“Israeli police detained today noon three Palestinian youth after physically assaulting them in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, according to local sources. Sources said Israeli police stormed the Bir Ayoub area in Silwan and proceeded to stop Palestinian-registered vehicles and check passengers’ ID cards. Three youth were detained after being subjected to body searches and beatings.”

Israel warns there will be consequences for Palestinian actions at ICC,

“Ties between Jerusalem and Ramallah will not be “business as usual,” in light of the Palestinian Authority’s successful appeal to have the International Criminal Court  investigate Israel for alleged war crimes, a senior Israeli official said on Monday. “The Palestinian leadership has to understand there are consequences for their actions,” the Israeli official said. Asked if Israel rejected recent proposals by other countries to launch joint economic projects with the Palestinians unless the PA says it will not cooperate with the ICC, as first reported by KAN, the official said: “For them to suppose that they can go to the ICC and it will be business as usual from Israel is a very questionable proposition.” The remarks came a day after the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) confiscated PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki’s VIP border crossing pass, upon his return from a meeting at the ICC in The Hague. Malki retains his rights as a resident of the PA, but will no longer have any special privileges that had been granted to him as a top official. “No one has limited his freedom of movement,” the official said, “but he is using the extra privileges he received from Israel to seek to prevent the freedom of movement from Israelis as we travel abroad. Did he really expect us just to sit on our hands?””

The Palestinian Scene

Top Abbas advisers urge Palestinian statehood with ‘soft’ sovereignty,

“Two of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s top advisers on negotiations with Israel urged in an editorial that Palestinians abandon their campaign for an independent state and instead aim for a “soft” sovereignty that would see Jordan and Egypt take over responsibility for border security affairs. Writing in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi said that the normalization deals between Arab states and Israel require that Palestinians rethink their approach to obtaining peace and statehood…They argued that the pan-Arab confrontation with Israel was coming to a close with the agreements that had recently been signed between some countries and the Jewish state. In the meantime, the Palestinians, they warned, are being left behind.”

Palestine’s ICC envoy says legal efforts to seek justice for Palestinians will continue despite Israeli threats,

“Palestine’s Permanent Representative of to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Rawan Sulaiman, said today that legal efforts to seek justice for Palestinians will continue despite Israeli intimidation steps. “We will not be subject to intimidation as we seek justice for victims of atrocity crimes committed in Palestine,” said Sulaiman in a statement following Israel’s revocation of the VIP card for Foreign Minister Riyad Malki and interrogation of two of his aides upon their return home following a meeting with the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “Israel, the occupying power, has consistently been obstructing access to justice and doing all within its power to avoid any form of accountability for the crimes that continue to be committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” said the Palestinian diplomat.”

Normalization & News from the Region

Former top Saudi adviser: No Israel normalization before Palestinian statehood,

“A former senior adviser to the Saudi Arabian government said in an editorial published Monday that the kingdom would not normalize ties with Israel until a peace agreement is reached that establishes an independent Palestinian state. Nawaf Obaid’s editorial, published in the Palestinian Al Quds newspaper one day before Israelis go to the polls, was seen by analysts as an open message to Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials have recently indicated that Riyadh is on its way to normalizing relations with Israel. Obaid, who said the views he was expressing were those held by the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, asserted that Saudi Arabia would see normalization as a way to pressure Israel on behalf of the Palestinians and that current Israeli policies showed it was therefore not an option.”


Gaza reporting a rise in COVID-19 cases, while numbers drop in East Jerusalem,

“The Gaza Strip recorded 450 new cases, one death, and 106 recoveries also in 24 hours, while East Jerusalem reported 191 new cases, no deaths, and 486 recoveries recorded over three days…A total of 8157 people have been vaccinated so far in the West Bank since the start of the vaccination on Sunday, and 13,576 people were vaccinated in the Gaza Strip.”

Palestinian Authority ups COVID-19 vaccination drive,

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) greatly increased its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Sunday after receiving thousands of doses via the World Health Organization. The Palestinian Health Ministry began administering its vaccine doses obtained through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program to health workers and the elderly in the West Bank and Gaza, The Associated Press reported. COVAX is an initiative to provide less-wealthy countries with vaccines against the coronavirus. Last week, the PA received more than 60,000 doses through the program. The shipment contained both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. The PA plans to obtain enough doses through COVAX to vaccinate 1 million people, which would be 20% of its population, according to the PA’s WAFA News Agency. “

Lawfare & Silencing Criticism of Israel

The Israeli lawyer on Facebook’s independent Oversight Board,

“Emi Palmor, former director-general of Israel’s Justice Ministry….As the only Israeli and one of the few on the Oversight Board, Palmor hopes to bring her mix of humor, chutzpah and Holocaust history to the body, which has been referred to as “Facebook’s Supreme Court.” According to the body’s website, it was created to “promote free expression by making principled, independent decisions regarding content on Facebook and Instagram.”

Opinion: Using the label ‘anti-Semitism’ to stifle free speech,

“Under the IHRA definition as applied by the Trump administration, before I am permitted to criticize Israel or the U.S. government, I would have to catalogue the failures of the other 50 or 60 democracies. This is absurd. Under this definition, I assure you that I could be branded as anti-Semitic, as my hate mail already attests.”