Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 25, 2021

What We’re Reading

Targeting Palestinians

Reignited Plan for "King's Garden" Park Threatens to Displace Over 1000 Palestinians from Al Bustan, Silwan,

“Some 70 homes in the Al Bustan area of Silwan are under acute threat of demolition, placing over 1000 individuals of one community at risk of mass displacement. In late February, the Jerusalem Municipality filed an objection to the Local Affairs Court against the residents’ request to extend a demolition freeze currently protecting approximately 70 homes in the area from demolition. It likewise stated its unwillingness to continue discussions with the residents concerning an agreed planning solution for the neighborhood. Dozens of houses in Al Bustan built without building permits due to the lack of an outline plan were marked for demolition as part of a national park plan the Municipality advanced for the area in 2010. Although the homes were constructed by residents on land they privately own, they were unable to secure the required building permits due to the absence of a proper outline plan which would allow for residential development of the neighborhood.”

‘Expel or kill’: Dozens of cars vandalized in Arab Israeli town,

“Dozens of cars had their tires punctured and a number of vehicles were graffitied in a suspected hate crime in the central city of Kafr Qasim overnight Wednesday. One of the vehicles in the Arab town was sprayed with the slogan ‘expel or kill’ while another was daubed with a Star of David. Police said they opened an investigation into the attack.”


NGOs ask court to force Israel to provide vaccines for all Palestinians,

“Six left-wing NGOs have petitioned the High Court of Justice to force the state of Israel to provide enough vaccines to the Palestinian Authority to inoculate its entire population. ‘Evidently, the Palestinian Authority has an insufficient number of vaccines, whereas in what is practically the same area, the population of Israeli citizens and residents is almost fully vaccinated, apart from those who decline it’ the NGOs stated in the petition submitted Thursday by attorney Adi Lustigman. Those signed onto the petition were: Physicians for Human Rights Israel; HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual; Al Mezan Center for Human Rights; Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement; Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; and Rabbis for Human Rights.”

Israeli Elections - News

Netanyahu fails to gain right-wing majority in final election tally ,

“The Central Elections Committee completed the process of counting all the votes cast in Tuesday’s election on Thursday afternoon, a committee spokeswoman announced. The spokeswoman said it would now take time to verify the counting and to upload the new numbers to the system. But Channel 12 reported that there were no new changes in the mandates of the parties since Thursday morning, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s camp with Yamina remained at 59 seats. The Likud won 30 seats, Yesh Atid 17, Shas 9 and Blue and White 8.  There are four parties with seven seats: Yamina, Labor, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu. The four parties with six seats are the Joint List, Meretz, New Hope and the Religious Zionist Party. Ra’am (United Arab List) narrowly crossed the electoral threshold with four seats. New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar tweeted that it was now clear that Netanyahu could not build a coalition, so a ‘government of change’ should be built. He said he would set aside his ego to allow that to happen.”

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Coalition Machinations

Gulf officials warn Israel against forming gov't with far-right candidates: report,

“Officials from Gulf states have warned Israel that a coalition consisting of far-right figures could hamper diplomatic efforts between Jerusalem and the Arab world, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported on Wednesday night. Without specifying which countries the unnamed officials were from, the report suggested that they notified Israeli diplomats that forming a government on the votes of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim lawmakers could jeopardize the recently signed normalization deals. ‘A right-wing policy is one thing,’ the officials were quoted as saying. ‘But expressions against Muslims and Arabs by Members of Knesset [Israel Parliament] that are a part of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s government will harm and sabotage the normalization between Israel and Arab countries.’” Also see: Palestinian PM condemns ‘hopelessly right-wing’ Israeli election results (New Arab)

Smotrich: There will be no gov't with support from Ra'am,

“The chairman of the Religious Zionist Party made it clear this morning, Thursday, that he will in no way lend a hand to the formation of a right-wing government that will rely on the support of the Ra’am party. ‘A right-wing government will not be formed based on Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am. Period. Not from the inside, not from the outside, not through abstention, and not on any other Israbluff,’ Smotrich declared. According to him, ‘Supporters of terrorism who deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state are not a legitimate partner in any government.’”

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Meretz lawmaker says party doesn't rule out joining Bennett-led coalition,

“A lawmaker from the left-wing Meretz party said Thursday the faction does not rule out joining a government led by Yamina leader Naftali Bennett. Following Tuesday’s elections, no clear winner has emerged and the Knesset’s future now hangs in the balance. Bennett, along with Ra’am’s leader Mansour Abbas, have emerged as kingmakers, holding key seats for a chance to form a government as neither bloc appears as it can form a coalition.”

Gideon Saar spurns coalition talks with Netanyahu,

“New Hope leader Gideon Saar rejected proposals from associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold coalition talks, Ynet has learned on Wednesday. The former Likudnik reiterated he had no intention of joining a government led by his erstwhile boss, which he also emphasized in his speech Tuesday night following the publication of the election exit polls, even at the cost of sitting in the opposition.”

A New Government Seems Unlikely. Here Are Five Scenarios to Break Deadlock,

“Among the options, Naftali Bennett could agree to bring Netanyahu down, while Israel’s center-left politicians might break their election promises and join up with the premier.”


A look at Israel’s caretaker government after stalemate vote,

“Until a new government is sworn in after an election, the previous administration continues to serve in a caretaker role. Caretaker governments are only supposed to maintain the status quo and avoid making major policy decisions or moves that would hobble a future government. Once the final election results are given to the figurehead president, Reuven Rivlin, he will have a week to tap the party with the best chance of building a coalition. That party has up to six weeks to build a 61-seat majority out of the disparate factions that won seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. In the event no party manages to form a government — which was the case following 2019′s back-to-back parliamentary elections — the Knesset is dissolved and new elections are called within three months. The caretaker government would continue to hold the reins.” Also see: Netanyahu banned from top law enforcement appointments – High Court (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Elections - Commentary/Analysis

'The Forgery’s Begun': Israel's Stop the Steal Campaign Is On,

“‘The forgery has begun,’ tweeted Yair Netanyahu, the son of Israel’s prime minister. He swiftly deleted the tweet within a minute of putting it up, and reposted it within a minute with an alternative, less provocative wording: ‘The tricks have begun.’ He’s not alone. In the 72 hours since polls closed in Israel’s fourth election in two years, right-wing groups affiliated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling party have been abuzz with claims of voter fraud. On social media platforms like Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp and Twitter, accounts – some real, some fake – have been awash with posts claiming irregularities and spreading disinformation about the vote. ‘The time between the exit polls and the final results are the most dangerous in terms of disinformation about the election,” explains Achiya Schatz from the disinformation watchdog group Fake Reporter. Along with his group, Haaretz revealed this week that 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.”

How an Islamist became Israel’s unlikely political kingmaker,

“A few months ago, the majority of Jewish Israelis had no clue who Mansour Abbas was. The head of the Islamist Ra’am party —  one of the four Palestinian-led factions that had formerly made up the Joint List — largely lived in the shadow of the likes of the List’s Chairman Ayman Odeh and longtime MK Ahmad Tibi, two of the most prominent Palestinian politicians in Israel. Over the past months, however, the dentist-turned-politician has become a household name. And on Wednesday morning — when it became clear that neither Netanyahu nor his rivals had the numbers to form a coalition after Tuesday’s election — it appeared that Abbas, who is currently projected to win five Knesset seats, may have the power to decide whether Israel will go to a fifth round of elections in two years, or swear in a new government. The outcome was no stroke of luck; Abbas has been building up to this moment for months. In January, he pushed his Ra’am party to split off from the Joint List; and unlike in previous elections, in which Abbas promoted a moderate political and religious agenda, Ra’am made conservatism a cornerstone of its new political program, including an emphasis on its opposition to LGBTQ rights.”

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Is It Kahanist Ben-Gvir That Bothers You?,

“It’s very easy to be horrified by Ben-Gvir, the convicted thug, but he needn’t scare anyone anymore. What is truly scary is that Israel is executing his policy and has been dancing to his tune for quite some time. So it is hypocritical and self-righteous to be appalled by his election when we haven’t heard the same people expressing similar horror when the IDF shoots unarmed protesters in the head, as happened just last Friday.”

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US Policy

Envoy says Israel in talks with US over entry into visa waiver program,

“Israel and the United States are holding talks on the Jewish state’s entry to the US Visa Waiver Program, the Israeli ambassador in Washington said Wednesday…Israel and pro-Israel groups have long pushed for Israel’s entry into the program, which allows for 90-day visits for business or tourism…In 2017 it was reported that additionally Washington was demanding that Palestinians with American citizenship be allowed to fly out of Ben Gurion Airport as a precondition for Israel being admitted into the program. Currently, Palestinians traveling abroad do so via Jordan, using the Allenby Bridge border crossing administered by Israeli authorities. According to the report, Israeli officials were not only concerned about the potential security implications, but also about the legal precedent and the likelihood of Israel being accused of a double standard toward Palestinians with other dual nationalities.” Also see: Erdan discusses visa waiver for Israelis with US DHS Secretary (Jerusalem Post)

State Department Report Acknowledges Palestinian Authority Payments to Terrorists as Biden Administration Seeks to Resume Aid,

“The US State Department has acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not ‘terminated payments for acts of terrorism,’ according to a non-public report to Congress seen by The Algemeiner, as the Biden administration has said it intends to restart aid to the PA cut by former President Donald Trump. The March 18 report’s findings raised questions about how the Biden administration will resume US aid to the PA while complying with the Taylor Force Act (TFA), passed in 2018, which restricts such aid as long as the Palestinian Authority continues to make payments to terrorist prisoners. Also see: The Palestinian Authority’s Financial Support for Terrorism Circumvents U.S. and Israeli Law (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Pollard interview in Israel Hayom: 'American Jewry consider themselves more American than they do Jews',

Q: If a young Jewish naval intelligence officer today is asked by the Mossad to work for Israel, and calls to ask for your advice, what would you tell him? ‘I’d tell him, not doing anything is unacceptable. So simply going home is not acceptable. Making aliyah is not acceptable. You have to make a decision whether your concern for Israel and loyalty to Israel and loyalty to your fellow Jews, is more important than your life. Because you know what would probably happen to you if you get caught. It will be hell. But you have to look at yourself every morning in the mirror, and you have to live with yourself. If you do nothing, and you turn your back, or simply make aliyah, and go on with your life, you’ll be no better than those Jews who before and after the destruction of the Temple said, ‘It’s not my responsibility.'” Q: So you recommend that he should do what you did, and pay the price. ‘I need him to go in with his eyes open.’”

Palestinian Elections - News & Analysis

Israel warns Palestinian President Abbas against election pact with Hamas,

“The director of Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against running on a joint list with Hamas in the upcoming parliamentary elections or creating a power-sharing government with Hamas after the elections, Israeli and Palestinian sources say.”

Hamas claims Israel intervening in PA elections,

“Mohammed Shihab, one of the leaders of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, claims that Israel is sending messages threatening to arrest Hamas leaders in Judea and Samaria if they decide to run in the Palestinian parliamentary general election. In a statement issued on Wednesday, Shihab accused Israel of ‘persecuting’ Islamic activists and arresting several Hamas members in Ramallah and Al-Bireh. ‘The threats of the occupying forces and the repeated arrests of the leaders of the resistance will only add to the adherence of our Palestinian people to the spirit of the resistance as the strategic path,’ Shihab said.” Also see:

As Israel tallies yet another vote, Palestinians eye historic polls,

“While some Palestinians are excited to see new political faces, others say the first elections in 15 years will not bring change; at least three quarters of those polled, say they will vote in elections, set to be held in Gaza and West Bank.”

CEC, Norway signs grant agreement in support of the 2021 Palestinian elections,

“The Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC0 and Norway signed a grant agreement worth $899,000 in support of the 2021 Palestinian elections. A CEC press release said the agreement was signed by CEC Chairman, Hanna Nasir, and Erling Hoem, Deputy Representative of the Norwegian Representative Office to the Palestinian Authority. ‘This agreement takes place within the framework of a long-standing cooperation and partnership between the CEC and Norwegian government to support democracy in Palestine,’ it said. The CEC stated that the project supported by this grant is expected to be implemented between March and December 2021, and aims to support democracy in Palestine.”

Free Speech vs Weaponization of Antisemitism

A new declaration aims to fight antisemitism without curtailing free speech,

“Antisemitism is on the rise, with powerful instigators behind it, but the struggle against it is at risk of being derailed by acrimonious divisions among Jews and others over its very meaning. The drive for adoption of a single, fixed definition of antisemitism has devolved into a polemical political debate on Israel and Palestine with crucial free-speech implications. Today we introduce the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which was crafted by a group of scholars from the United States, Israel, Europe and the U.K, after more than a year of intense discussion and study. The declaration has been endorsed by 200 eminent scholars with a wide spectrum of political views. All of us agree on the need for a guide to effectively combat antisemitism that protects space for an open debate around all possibilities around the future for Israelis and Palestinians.”  Also see: The Jerusalem Declaration On Antisemitism (JDA) – text, FAQs & more