Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 5, 2021

What We’re Reading

The ICC Investigation into the "Situation in Palestine"

U.S. opposed to ICC probe of Israel, Harris tells Netanyahu,

Vice President Kamala Harris, in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, reaffirmed U.S. opposition to an International Criminal Court probe of possible war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, the White House said. The call, the first between the two since Harris and President Joe Biden took office in January, came a day after the ICC prosecutor said she would launch the probe, prompting swift rejections by Washington and Jerusalem.” Also See: “Netanyahu speaks to Harris, tells her he won’t allow Iran to obtain nukes” (The Times of Israel)

Abbas praises ICC prosecutor’s ‘courage’ in opening Israel war crimes probe,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by Israelis and Palestinians. “The Palestinian Presidency expresses its great appreciation for the [ICC] prosecutor’s decision regarding the opening of a criminal investigation into the situation in Palestine, which includes the Gaza war, settlements, and the issue of prisoners in the Israeli occupation’s jails,” Abbas’s office said in a statement.”

Israel still weighing cooperation with ICC investigation,

“Israel has yet to decide whether it will cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, a senior Justice Ministry official said Thursday.”

Also See – “Mandelblit says ICC’s investigation of Israel undermines legitimacy of court” (The Times of Israel)

Bereaved Palestinians urge ICC to advance war crimes probe,

“One of those killed in the border protests was Razan Al-Najar, a 21-year-old volunteer medic shot by Israeli troops in June 2018 at a protest near Khan Younis in southern Gaza. Her mother welcomed the decision, calling it “a victory for (all) Palestinians”. “I hope the ICC achieves justice for my daughter, Razan, and for all other martyrs Israel has killed,” Sabreen Al-Najar, 47, told Reuters. “I hope the court takes it seriously, and that it reveals the truth behind the Israeli occupation.””

'Sickening': Palestine advocates slam Biden administration for rebuking ICC,

“After denouncing the International Criminal Court’s probe into alleged Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, US Department of State spokesman Ned Price struggled to answer a question over where Palestinians should seek accountability for abuses carried out by Israel…Jonathan Kuttab, a Palestinian-American lawyer specialising in international law, said the administration was not merely questioning the methods Palestinians were using to fight for their rights; it was implying that Palestinians don’t have any rights at all. “They can’t use armed struggle obviously; they call that terrorism. They can’t use BDS and nonviolent methods because that’s somehow not good,” Kuttab told MEE. “The whole issue is that Palestinians are not being considered in this equation. The only thing that’s being considered is Israel.””

Statement on ICC Prosecutors Decision to Investigate Alleged Violations of International Law in Palestinian Territories,

“We take no position on the merits of the ICC’s decision on jurisdiction vis-a-vis “the Situation in Palestine,” nor on its decision to formally open an investigation into the situation. These are questions which involve legal complexities beyond the scope of our expertise. We do, however, believe that Palestinians have the right to seek redress for alleged violations of their legal rights (as do Israelis), and that the ICC has a mandate to review these types of allegations, decide jurisdiction, and investigate per their own long-standing procedures…The latest ICC decisions are already being met with vitriol, including charges of antisemitism and a belief that pursuit of legal redress in a court of law is in some way an attack on the state of Israel or the Israeli people. Those mounting such attacks are saying, in effect, that the Israeli government has the right to take whatever actions it wants in the occupied territory without ever facing accountability for its actions or consequences if it is violating international law. We cannot support such a claim of total impunity.”


The U.S. Scene

Press Briefing – March 3, 2021,


MR PRICE: Well, let me just start generally and say that we firmly oppose and are disappointed by the ICC prosecutor’s announcement of an investigation into the Palestinian situation. We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly. The ICC, as we have said, has no jurisdiction over this matter. Israel is not a party to the ICC, and it has not consented to the court’s jurisdiction. And we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.
The Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state and therefore are not qualified to obtain membership as a state in or to participate as a state in or to delegate jurisdiction to the ICC. The current ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, indicated that her office would need to assess priorities and resources before determining when and how to proceed. We noted that.
The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it or that are referred by the UN Security Council. As we made clear when the Palestinians purported to join the Rome Statute in 2015, again, we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state and therefore are not qualified to obtain membership as a state or to participate as a state in international organizations and that includes in the ICC.
The United States – we are committed to promoting accountability, respect for human rights, and justice for the victims of atrocities.
When it comes to the sanctions you mentioned, look, much as we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Palestinian situation and of course to Afghanistan, the administration – we are thoroughly reviewing sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13928 as we determine our next steps.
QUESTION: Considering your position on the Palestinians now, so where – where do the – where should the Palestinians go to get accountability for what they claim to be problems? To Israeli courts? Where do they go?
MR PRICE: Matt, look, we – of course the United States is always going to stand up for human rights. We’re always going to stand up —
QUESTION: Where do they go? Where do they go?
MR PRICE: Matt, that is why I think you have —
MR PRICE: That is why you have heard us continue to endorse and —
QUESTION: Ned, where?
MR PRICE: — to call for a two-state solution to this long-running conflict. A two-state solution —
QUESTION: Should they go to the Israeli courts? Where do they go?
MR PRICE: — because it protects Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state, but also because it will give the Palestinians —
QUESTION: Where do they go?
MR PRICE: — a viable state of their own and fulfill —
QUESTION: Where do they go?
MR PRICE: — their legitimate aspirations for dignity and self-determination.
QUESTION: Where do they go? Where do they go?

Senate Foreign Relations Committee announces subcommittee assignments,

“Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism // Chair: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) came under fire last year for leading a group of Democratic senators in a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister. He’s also called for easing sanctions on humanitarian aid. Murphy was a leading opponent of Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, co-authoring a letter in May 2020 opposing the move. Ranking member: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) supported a 2020 bill limiting Trump’s powers to declare war against Iran. He was also an original sponsor of a resolution supporting the Abraham Accords.”

Matt Duss expected to remain on Bernie Sanders’ staff,

“Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) foreign policy advisor Matt Duss, who was previously rumored to be under consideration for a position in the Biden State Department, is expected to remain with Sanders instead of making the move to Foggy Bottom, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. This comes as Duss has boosted a series of tweets this week critical of the Biden administration’s handling of foreign policy issues, including the decision not to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and U.S. condemnation of the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into Israel. On Wednesday, Duss retweeted a post from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) criticizing Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s opposition to a recently announced investigation into Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Biden Still Hasn’t Reversed Trump’s Most Ridiculous Assault on International Law,

“The Biden administration has already reversed many of the Trump administration’s retreats from international agreements and organizations, rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change and the World Health Organization, planning a return to the U.N. Human Rights Council, and attempting to resuscitate the six-country 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. But, notably, the administration has not yet undone one of Trump’s most egregious assaults on a multilateral institution: the sanctions on the International Criminal Court.” Also See – “Biden faces calls to lift Trump’s controversial ICC sanctions” (Al-Monitor)

ZOA urges Biden to keep in place new ‘Made in Israel’ labeling policy,

“The Zionist Organization of America called on U.S. President Joe Biden not to succumb to pressure by anti-Israel organizations that want him to revoke a new U.S. policy on labeling goods from Judea and Samaria as “Made in Israel.” ZOA national president Mort Klein, chair Mark Levenson and director of special projects Elizabeth Berney said in a statement on Wednesday that they “strongly urge” the Biden administration to retain the product-labeling regulations put in place by the Trump administration.”

For Background, see:

Rep. Andy Levin addresses left-wing antisemitism, foreign policy and his own approach to Judaism,

““I don’t really [think left-wing antisemitism is an issue],” Levin said initially, then continued, “On one level, yes, it’s an issue everywhere. Because antisemitism is so alive in this world. And I think like other forms of bigotry and othering of people — many folks aren’t aware of that, even. It’s not to say there isn’t.” Accusations of antisemitism against the left, Levin said, are “part of a larger machinery to stoke fear and division and, in particular, to divide progressive forces.” …Levin attempted to address concerns about comments made by progressive activists and legislators by defending Tlaib, the Palestinian-American congresswoman who represents another Detroit-area district. “I’ve known Rashida since long before either of us thought about running for Congress. And she has been a comrade in the battle for racial and economic justice,” he said. “Rashida is not antisemitic, full stop. Full stop. Rashida has no use for [Nation of Islam founder Louis] Farrakhan, full stop.””

Occupation, Annexation, Settlements & Human Rights

The JNF is no innocent charity,

“Davidi Ben Zion, a JNF board member who lives in a West Bank settlement, recently contextualized the new policy succinctly: “The only change is [that] we’re done with the Israbluff.” In other words, the organization’s efforts to take Palestinian land, which were previously conducted quietly or via subsidiaries, will now happen out in the open. None of this is especially surprising to those of us who have been following the gradual Judaization of occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967. And yet, many people would never guess that the JNF has anything to do with colonization and land grabs from how the organization presents its work abroad — including in Germany, from where I write.”

Israeli navy targets fishermen offshore Gaza, injures two,

“Israeli navy today targeted Palestinian fishermen offshore Beit Lahia town in the northern besieged Gaza Strip, injuring two fishermen, according to WAFA correspondent. He confirmed that the fishermen were sailing only three nautical miles offshore the area when Israeli naval boats opened gunfire towards them, injuring two. The casualties were rushed to the Indonesian Hospital, east of the town, where medics described their condition as light and moderate.”

Palestinians suffocate as Israeli forces suppress Kufr Qaddoum weekly march,

“Several Palestinians suffocated today by tear gas during the Israeli army crackdown on the weekly anti-settlements protest in the northern West Bank village of Kufr Qaddoum, according to the coordinator of the popular resistance committee in the village, Murab Shtawi.”

Israeli forces detain seven Palestinians from Hebron,

“Israeli forces today detained nine Palestinians from the West Bank districts of Hebron and Jerusalem, according to security sources. They said that Israeli forces rounded up two Palestinians after storming their families’ houses in al-Arrub refugee camp, north of Hebron city. They also detained two others after breaking into and ransacking their houses in Halhul town, north of the city. Israeli soldiers barged their way into Yatta town, south of the city, where they rounded up two brothers.”

The Palestinian Scene

Israel's Security Service Presses Hamas Activists Not to Run in Palestinian Elections,

“With the growing likelihood that Hamas will be the largest party in the Palestinian parliament, mainly due to the splits in the rival Fatah movement, Israeli intelligence agents are warning Hamas activists not to run in the election for the Palestinian Legislative Council, scheduled for May 22.”

PLO says $15 million per month being paid in terror stipends,

“Ramallah may have paid as much as NIS 600 million ($181 million) in 2020 in salaries to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for security offenses — including terrorism — and their families, a Palestine Liberation Organization official said on Thursday. “We pay around NIS 50 million ($15 million) per month in salaries,” PLO Commissioner for Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr said in a phone call with The Times of Israel. Ramallah has a longstanding policy of compensating Palestinians jailed by Israel for security offenses, as well as those wounded or killed by Israeli forces — including those killed while committing violent terror attacks.”

For Background, see: “Why the discourse about Palestinian payments to prisoners’ families is distorted and misleading” (Brookings // Shibley Telhami)

In blow to Abbas, senior Fatah official to form separate bloc to run in election,

“Fatah Central Committee member Nasser al-Qidwa on Wednesday declared his support for a separate bloc to run in the scheduled Palestinian elections, in the latest blow to the unity of the West Bank’s ruling faction. “I am in favor of forming an electoral slate within the framework of a broad democratic forum that includes various segments of society, not the Fatah movement alone,” al-Qidwa wrote on Twitter.”…Al-Qidwa and other activists call their new slate the National Democratic Forum. In a tweet, Al-Qidwa said he hoped that convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti “will stand at the head of it.” Barghouti, who has yet to formally declare his candidacy, is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for masterminding terror attacks during the Second Intifada.”