Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 24, 2021

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Israeli Elections

Israel Election Live: With Nearly 90 Percent of Vote Counted, Netanyahu Lacks Clear Path to Majority,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud has emerged as the largest party with the majority of the vote counted in Israel’s unprecedented fourth election in two years. However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition. The vote count is expected to continue through Friday. The anti-Netanyahu bloc, a motley crew of left, right and centrist factions, was also just shy of a majority. The Islamist United Arab List party, headed by Mansour Abbas, and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina have not yet declared their support for either bloc.”

See also 

Israel Election Results: Kahanist Racism, Homophobia Enter Knesset After Far-right Party's Strong Showing,

“The far-right Religious Zionism party exceeded expectations Tuesday night, with exit polls showing the party garnering between six and seven seats in the Knesset….Ben-Gvir, the controversial leader of the Otzma Yehudit faction, advocates encouraging the emigration of Arab citizens who refuse to declare loyalty and accept sub-equal status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank — the biblical Judea and Samaria….In addition to Ben-Gvir, Avi Maoz, who occupies the number six on the Religious Zionism list, also appears to be headed for the Knesset. Maoz is the leader of the Noam Party. Noam was founded in 2019 by followers of Rabbi Tzvi Tau. The party has called to rid Israel of what it views as un-Jewish and “foreign” influences – which it blamed for the growing acceptance of LGBTQ lifestyles.”

See also

Against poll predictions, United Arab List wins 5 Knesset seats,

“The United Arab List (Ra’am) defied the vast majority of polling predictions of failing to enter the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to win five seats as 90% of votes were counted….On the other hand, the Joint List, an alliance of three Arab parties led by Ayman Odeh, won six seats despite projections that it would gain 8-9 seats.”

'Not in Anyone's Pocket': Islamist Party Leader Not Ruling Out Joining Netanyahu After Surprising Election Result,

“United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas said Wednesday that he is not “obligated to any bloc or any candidate,” after the Islamist party surpassed the electoral threshold, with almost 90 percent of the vote counted in Israel’s unprecedented fourth election in under two  years….The party chairman said that the United Arab List would only join a government that would commit to finding a solution to the problems of Arab society, and said he will ask to have influence “not only with parliamentary tools but with government ones.””

See also 

Analysis | Israel Election Results: Bennett Has a Historic Choice to Make,

“If the final results remain close to the numbers predicted by the pollsters, and that’s a serious IF because each and every Knesset seat moving one way or the other can totally change the picture, then Bennett is the person who can decide on his own to steer the country either to the “full right” or toward a “sane government”; to a government of indictments and Kahanists, headed by a person who in Bennett’s words has failed in his handling of the coronavirus crisis, or to a government of change. Whether to hook up the ventilators to the bygone “brotherly alliance” with Yair Lapid, or surrender to the man he personally despises and who has greatly humiliated him and his family.”

Israel Election, the Day After: The Right Gears Up for Massive 'The Left Stole the Vote' Campaign,

“Over closed Telegram and WhatsApp groups, on Twitter and Facebook, and even on the evening news, members of Netanyahu’s Likud party, his son Yair and prominent supporters have over the past three election cycles systematically cast doubt on the integrity of Israel’s electoral process. “They laid the groundwork for an Israeli version of the Stop the Steal campaign – just like Trump,” says Achiya Schatz from the disinformation watchdog group Fake Reporter, warning that in the coming days, much like in the U.S., its proponents may take things into their own hands should the final results be presented as a fraud.”

Israel Election: Arab community turnout reported at a low 37%,

“As Israelis hit the polls Tuesday for the fourth election in less than two years, Hebrew media reported an especially low turnout in the Arab community, with figures of 35 to 37 percent. In the previous elections in March 2020, 43.3 percent of Israeli Arabs cast their ballots.”

Liberman said planning to rally anti-Netanyahu bloc to pass law disqualifying PM,

“Yisrael Beytenu party leader has been urging other party leaders in the bloc of opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to use their apparent majority — including Ra’am, which is still on the fence — to “take over the Knesset” and pass a law disqualifying Netanyahu and other criminal defendants from forming a government, according to the Maariv daily.”


China to Invite Israelis and Palestinians for Talks, Report Says,

“The Chinese government plans to invite Israelis and Palestinians to hold talks in China, Al-Arabiya TV channel cited on Wednesday Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying in an interview.”


Mideast quartet discusses reviving Israel, Palestinian peace talks,

“The Middle East quartet of mediators – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – discussed on Tuesday reviving “meaningful negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians with the aim of a two-state solution. In a statement following their meeting, the quartet said that both Israel and the Palestinians need “to refrain from unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve.” It appeared to be the first time since September 2018 that envoys from the four mediators have met. Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped there would be a quartet meeting in coming weeks, now that there was a new president in the White House.”

See also “Quartet discusses resuming ‘meaningful’ Palestinian-Israeli talks” (WAFA)

Morocco, Israel ink deal on business ties,

“Morocco and Israel yesterday signed a strategic partnership pact to strengthen economic and commercial relations between the countries’ business sectors, according to local media.”

UNHRC arms embargo call against Israel passes with EU OK, Bahrain absence,

“The United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel that had the support of many of the European countries but received a nod of disapproval from Bahrain, which was absent for Tuesday’s vote. The measure, dubbed the accountability resolution, passed 32-6, with eight abstentions. It included some of the harshest language against Israel out of the four resolutions that the 47-member UNHRC is expected to approve, as the 46th session ends this week.”

Netherlands asks Israel about reported confiscation of Palestinian minister's travel pass,

“The Netherlands said on Tuesday it had asked Israel to clarify the status of the Palestinian foreign minister after his travel credentials were revoked following a visit to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”

Podcast: In Pursuit of Justice at the ICC with Rania Muhareb,

“Rania Muhareb joins host Yara Hawari to discuss Palestine’s case at the International Criminal Court. Whilst many legal experts see optimism at the possibility of pursuing justice for Palestinians, some are less optimistic citing the many challenges the lay ahead in terms of international pressure, Israeli lobbying as well as institutional issues within the ICC itself.”

Human Rights, Annexation, Occupation

Israeli authorities tear down two houses in Jerusalem,

“The Israeli occupation authorities today demolished two Palestinian houses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, according to local sources. They said that Israeli police and staff of the Israeli municipality forced their way into Jabal al-Sal‘a area of the neighborhood, cordoned two houses before a bulldozer demolished them, purportedly for being built without licenses.”

Also from WAFA:

Palestinians in Hebron’s Old City build fence to prevent settlers’ attacks ,

“In the Old City of Hebron in the southern West Bank, Palestinians built an iron fence in a number of alleys and squares to protect themselves from the stones and trash constantly thrown by settlers in a bid to drive Palestinians to other Palestinian towns.”

Israeli warplanes strike parts of Gaza Strip,

“Israeli warplanes have carried out attacks on points in the Gaza Strip, an Anadolu Agency correspondent reported Wednesday from the region. No information has been released so far on casualties or injuries in the attacks on the northern and central parts of Gaza. Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee announced on his social media account that their warplanes and helicopters had attacked a rocket-producing point and a Hamas military position.”

See also Israel military hits ‘Hamas positions’ in Gaza” (Al Jazeera)

Israeli Army Accidentally Reveals Secret Bases in Online Map,

“An Israeli military unit posted on its website recently a map with the precise locations of most of the country’s bases, including ones about which the army is usually silent. The Home Front Command of the Israel Defense Forces removed the classified information from the map after Haaretz asked about it.”


Palestine records 2,032 new coronavirus cases, 23 deaths,

“Palestine today recorded 2,032 new Covid-19 cases and 23 deaths, according to Health Minister Mai Al-Kaileh. She announced that 2,032 Palestinians tested positive for the highly contagious virus and 23 others died of it in the occupied territories. Among the new 2,032 cases, 1,518 cases were recorded in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 514 others in the besieged Gaza Strip.”

Podcast: LRB Conversations, "Separateness" ,

“Mouin Rabbani and Nathan Thrall talk to Adam Shatz about Israel’s vaccination programme, the system of apartheid that now effectively exists between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, the legacy of Trump’s policies, and how the Biden administration may or may not exert its influence.”

Palestinian Elections & Scene

Press Release: Public Opinion Poll No (79),

“With rising confidence that parliamentary elections will indeed take place soon, and given clear anxieties about the possibility that the siege and blockade over the Gaza Strip could then be tightened, the split consolidated, and that economic conditions could worsen, and given concerns about the potential reaction from the international community and Israel, public attitudes seem to shift a little in favor of Fatah and away from Hamas.”

Former Palestinian foreign minister unveils 25-point election program,

“Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Qudwa revealed March 22 a three-level political program for the Palestinian Democratic Assembly (PDA) that he helped establish in order to participate in the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections….A five-item program includes calling for respecting the integrity and rights of citizens, rule of law, democracy and equality, fighting corruption, reclaiming Palestinian lands, resisting colonial settlement, ending the Israeli occupation and accomplishing national liberation in the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. Qudwa also talked about working in the long term on advancing the lives of Palestinians and providing them with prosperity, reclaiming the rights of Palestinian refugees to return and be compensated, and reclaiming Palestinian national rights.”

Palestinians using postal bank for 'pay-for-slay' to avoid Israeli law,

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) will use the government’s postal bank to distribute “pay-for-slay” payments to Palestinian terrorists to avoid penalties by Israeli law that could be imposed on Palestinian banks that distribute the payments, Qadri Abu Bakr, the PLO’s Director for Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, told the Turkish Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.”

American Scene

Samantha Power questioned over U.N. 2334 resolution at confirmation hearing,

“At Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) questioned Power about the resolution, which he called “the most shameful moment of the Obama administration,” “a pile of lies” and “motivated by antisemitism, by hatred of Israel.” Power repeatedly dodged Cruz’s questions about whether she personally supports the resolution, but defended the abstention as “in keeping with President [Barack] Obama’s desire to encourage the parties to avoid unilateral steps, including terrorism, incitement to violence and the building of settlements.” “The problem with the resolution,” Power explained, “was by and large the venue, because the U.N. has been so biased.”

Lawfare // Silencing criticism of Israel

Criticizing a country’s policies is not bigotry,

“Now apply the same principles to a criticism-stifling campaign that has been stronger than anything applied to discussion of China and that exceeds the impact of other “cancel culture” efforts: the attempts to silence criticism of Israel by tarring such criticism with the label of anti-Semitism. This labeling has long been a tactic of the right-wing government of Israel and its most fervent followers in the United States. The glaring fault of this labeling is that anti-Semitism is not in fact a form of foreign policy criticism; it instead is prejudice against, or hatred of, Jews.”