Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 9, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Settlements

This Is Ours – And This, Too : Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank,

“The State of Israel is enforcing a regime of Jewish supremacy in the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The fact that the West Bank has not been formally annexed does not stop Israel from treating it as if it were its own territory, particularly when it comes to the massive resources Israel invests in developing settlements and establishing infrastructure to serve their residents. This policy has enabled the establishment of more than 280 settlements and outposts now populated by more than 440,000 Israeli citizens (excluding East Jerusalem). Thanks to this policy, more than two million dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 square meters] of Palestinian land have been stolen, by official and unofficial means; the West Bank is crisscrossed with roads linking the settlements to one another and to Israel’s sovereign territory, west of the Green Line; and the area is dotted with Israeli industrial zones. All these have transformed the geography of the West Bank beyond recognition over the decades. This report addresses the financial, legal and planning mechanisms that Israeli authorities have been employing for more than half a century to enable the establishment and expansion of settlements and sustain them…While de-jure annexation of the West Bank may have been shelved, this is immaterial in practice – as the report demonstrates yet again. Construction and infrastructure work has recently been carried out in the West Bank on a scale not seen in decades. This large-scale development is designed to facilitate another significant spike in the number of settlers living in the West Bank, which settlement leaders predict will reach one million in the near future. This massive investment further entrenches Israel’s hold on the West Bank, clearly demonstrating the regime’s long-term plans. These include cementing the position of millions of Palestinians as subjects denied rights and protection, who are deprived of any ability to influence their own future and forced to live in disconnected, dwindling, economically suppressed enclaves. They are forced to look on as they are dispossessed of more and more land, while communities and infrastructure are built for Jewish citizens. Two decades into the 21st century, Israel appears more determined than ever to continue upholding and perpetuating an apartheid regime throughout the area under its control, well into the coming decades.”

Michaeli: No one thinks half a million settlers will be evacuated,

“Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli dismissed the idea of evacuating half-a-million setters as she clarified that her center-left party did not believe that Israel should return to its pre-1967 armistice lines. “No one thinks that half-a-million Israelis will be evacuated from Judea and Samaria,” Michaeli said, when she spoke Monday at a virtual conference, “the silent war,” sponsored by the Makor Rishon newspaper. The conference focused on the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians for control of Area C of the West Bank, which is under IDF civilian and military control. All settlements are located in that region of Judea and Samaria. Michaeli clarified that her party believes that Israel should retain the settlement blocs in any final status two-state resolution of the conflict. She said that an agreement would likely include a land swap for 4% of Area C territory. The Labor Party leader did not explicitly state that she believed that the isolated settlements should be evacuated in favor of a peace deal with the Palestinians, but the Labor Party supports such a step. Instead, she spoke of the importance of a two-state resolution to the conflict, a move that many of the mostly right-wing participants in the conference object to.”

Palestinian Dies in Jerusalem Fire After Israeli Checkpoint Holds Up Firetruck,

“A Palestinian man died on Monday in a fire in his home in a Jerusalem neighborhood, after Israeli soldiers prevented a firetruck from passing through the Qalandiyah checkpoint to reach Kafr Aqab, located in Jerusalem’s municipal borders but on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier. The fire broke out in the Dola family’s home in the early morning, seemingly from an electrical short circuit in a heater’s electric cord. Ahmad, 34, woke up and went to the neighbors to call for help, and then returned home in an attempt to rescue his wife and two-month-old son. The mother and son escaped with help from neighbors, but were later taken to hospital in serious and moderate condition, respectively, due to smoke inhalation. The father collapsed after inhaling smoke, and was later pronounced dead.”

Israeli Army Says Soldiers Shot Two Palestinians Who Threw Molotov Cocktails at Vehicles in West Bank,

“The Israeli army said on Monday evening that after carrying out an arrest protocol, soldiers opened fire on two Palestinians who threw Molotov cocktails at vehicles in the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion area, near the village of al-Khader. According to Palestinian reports, two 17-year-olds were injured in the incident and were evacuated to hospitals in Bethlehem, with one of them in serious condition, having sustained knee and hip injuries , and the other in fair condition, having sustained a leg injury. The shooting reportedly took place after soldiers entered al-Khader and local residents clashed with them.”

"The Zionist response to destruction of vineyards" [CORRECTED TITLE "Settlers Take More Palestinian Land"],

“About a year ago, the settlement of Migdalim in Samaria launched a project to preserve state lands and established five dunams (1.25 acres) of vineyards. Since then, farmers have suffered from repeated harassment from Arabs in the area who have continuously vandalized the vineyards. About a month ago, several Arabs stole security cameras installed by the IDF and caused significant damage to the vineyards. Shirel Harlap, one of the founders of the vineyards, decided that an appropriate Zionist response to any damage to the vineyards would be to respond by expanding the vineyards. This week, heavy machinery began to prepare another 20 dunams (5 acres) ahead of the planting, which will take place before the beginning of the shemita year next year.”

Israel established 41 herding posts in West Bank under Trump - B'Tselem,

“The Israeli Right helped solidify its hold on Area C of the West Bank through the creation of 41 herding outposts during the four years former US president Donald Trump was in the White House, according to a report by left-wing NGOs Kerem Navot and B’Tselem. “You can see that in the last four years, this trend has become the main trend of land grab in the West Bank,” Kerem Navot founder and researcher Dror Etkes told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “Most of the herding outposts have been established in the last four years during the Trump administration period,” he said. In a report on settlement activity slated to be published Tuesday, the NGOs explained this new phenomenon where settlers placed a few illegal modular structures at key points in Area C with a focus on using the larger area around it for herding or farming. It was part of a larger push in the past decade to illegally expand Israel’s hold in Area C of the West Bank, the NGOs said in the report on Israel’s overall settlement policy titled, “This is Ours – And This, Too.””

The Palestinian Scene

Gaza Rights Group Urges Hamas to Release Probe of Fishermen's Death by Errant Rocket,

“A Palestinian human rights group made an unusual public call on Tuesday for Hamas to publish the details of their investigation into the deaths of three fishermen off the coast of Khan Younis, after its own appraisal found that they were killed by gunfire from one of the enclave’s armed factions. According to the investigation by Al Mezan Center For Human Rights, the three fishermen – Yahya Mustafa al-Laham, and brothers Hamdi and Zakaria Higazi al-Laham – sailed out into a well-known training area for armed groups in Gaza at 6 A.M. on Sunday. The human rights group found that their deaths were caused by an explosion on their boat two hour later, seemingly from one of the militias operating in the area. Al Mezan said it made a public call to investigate the incident after government officials, including from the Interior Ministry, did not respond to their requests to share the findings with the group. Public calls of this nature are rare in the Gaza Strip, and do not tend to receive widespread publicity. “

The PLO is about to self-destruct by ballot box,

“What remains today of the PLO’s integrity will crumble if these elections take place as currently planned. Fatah, or at least the part of Fatah led by Abbas, has struck a deal with Hamas to break the stalemate that has held the Palestinian political system and people hostage for 14 years. And the outrageous result of this deal? Hamas members, or any other resident of the occupied territory, will be running in the PLC elections, which would grant them automatic PNC membership. How can an organization whose doors are closed to those of its people who desire to assemble in political parties and become full-fledged members of the PLO allow for a non-PLO member to assume a representative chair in the highest body of the organization, the PNC? This amounts to allowing PNC membership through a back window without any need for the entering members or party to accept the PLO Charter or represent its institutional bureaucracy, all the while ignoring those knocking at the PLO’s front door desiring to become members. This is not about Hamas; it is about the PLO itself on the verge of destroying any remaining integrity it maintains amongst its own people. What if a Palestinian resident of the West Bank who is a collaborator with Israel, and there are many, runs for PLC elections and wins? Does that collaborator now have a say in the political direction of the PLO, in other words, the national liberation movement strategy, more than those Palestinians knocking at the door trying to attain PLO membership because they are aligned with the PLO charter and strategy?”


Following pressure, Israel begins vaccination drive for Palestinian workers,

“After weeks of delays, Israel on Monday finally launched a two-week campaign to vaccinate the 100,000 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank who work in Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians arrived at the Meitar checkpoint in the southern West Bank on Monday morning to receive the vaccination. After checking their entry permits and registering them, Israeli soldiers medical personnel vaccinated the workers on the Israeli side of the checkpoint. According to the Coordinator of Government Operations in the Occupied Territories, any worker will be able to be vaccinated at six different checkpoints across the West Bank, with prior coordination between the employer and with the relevant authorities.”

Israel said renewing vaccine diplomacy, to send extra shots to friendly nations,

“Israel is renewing a plan to supply surplus coronavirus vaccines to a group of friendly nations, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Monday. The report came two weeks after the effort was halted by legal officials, who said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not have the authority to authorize the moves without consulting with the cabinet. Israel is now negotiating with 20 countries and Moderna to send up to 100,000 vaccine doses abroad, according to criteria laid out by the attorney general, the report said, noting that there was some urgency to the move as the doses were due to expire by the end of May. Israel has surplus doses that it purchased from Moderna before signing an agreement with Pfizer for rapid delivery of enough doses to inoculate the entire population in exchange for sharing the medical data with Pfizer. It was the latest twist in a saga that has raised questions about Netanyahu’s decision-making authority as well as his move to help far-flung nations in Africa and Latin America at a time when the neighboring Palestinian territories are struggling to secure their own vaccine supplies. The plan has also illustrated how at a time of global shortages, the vaccine has become an asset that can be used for diplomatic gain.”

COVID Doesn't Care About the Green Line. Israel Must Vaccinate All Palestinians Share in Facebook,

“Israel has a responsibility – epidemiological, moral and legal (deriving from an occupier’s obligations under the Geneva Convention) – toward all the Palestinians in the territories, not just those who work for it. Any attempt to evade this responsibility will contribute toward continued incidence of the coronavirus within Israel. But no less important, it will provide evidence of the irrationality and immorality that underlies Israel’s occupation regime. If Israel controls the entire area – which it certainly does – and all the entrances to it, then it has a duty to ensure the welfare and well-being of everyone who lives in this area. The Palestinians are not only labor in our construction sites and factories; they are also human beings who deserve protection against the virus.”

IHRA & the Weaponization of Accusations of Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

We need to decolonise our understanding of antisemitism,

“As I’ve written before, the concept and experience of Zionism does not belong exclusively to the Jewish people, let alone a Jewish leadership elite in the UK with minimal accountability. The situation in Israel/Palestine creates a profound ethical problem for anyone who cares about justice, fairness and equality; anyone who cares about Jewish history; anyone who cares about the Jewish ethical tradition. That’s what makes Israel/Palestine the greatest challenge facing Jews, and indeed Judaism itself, in the 21st century. Simply by acknowledging the challenge and what has caused it, we begin the work of decolonising Jewish identity and can begin to formulate a progressive understanding of antisemitism.”

Cornel West Is Leaving Harvard After Tenure Dispute,

“Dr. West said in an interview with The New York Times last week that he did not know why his request to be considered for a tenured post had been rebuffed, but that he thought it could have something to do with his age and his support for the Palestinian cause, which he called a “taboo” issue at Harvard.”

The U.S. Scene

Press Briefing – March 8, 2021,

QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Happy International Women’s Day to everybody, and there are dozens of Palestinian women who languish in Israeli prisons. Most of them are there under something called administrative detention. Some of them are nursing babies, some are grandmothers, some are girls, and I wonder if you have a position on this continued awful administrative detention that is being practiced against the Palestinians.

MR PRICE: I don’t have a specific response for you. If there’s anything we would want to offer specifically on that, we’ll follow up. I think generally what I would say – and I’ve had an opportunity to speak to this in recent days – look, our goal is a two-state solution, a two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace next to a viable Palestinian state. And we stand by that two-state solution because it’s not only consistent with our values and in our interests, but it’s actually consistent with the values and interests of those in the region. A two-state solution ensures Israel’s continuing identity as a Jewish and democratic state, just as it fulfills the Palestinians’ legitimate and rightful aspirations for dignity and for self-determination in a state of their own.

QUESTION: But until then, I mean – fine. I mean, that – but until then, what – practices like these – I mean, I can go on and on and on. Last June, for instance, a young cousin of mine was shot dead in cold blood – Ahmed Erekat – on June 22nd. His body is still there. The Israelis have not turned back – this to his family just to torment them. There are 67 cases like this. I just want to ask you, I mean, what are you doing different than, let’s say, your predecessor? The embassy remains in Jerusalem despite being against international law, the office remains closed, resuming aid to UNRWA has not taken place, and I can go on and on and on. So how are you different from the previous one?

MR PRICE: Said, we as an administration do indeed look forward to deepening our engagement with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership. I’d rather not make comparisons, but I will say that is our priority. That is our policy. As part of that, we are reviewing the diplomatic presence that you alluded to. We are ensuring that it will enable us to fully conduct our complete range of activities, including engagement with the Palestinian people, with the Palestinian authorities, public diplomacy, assistance, diplomatic reporting. We’ve talked about our commitment to – for funding for Palestinians, including Palestinian refugees. We are committed to all of that. It is – I think you will see concrete manifestations of that going forward.

Sanctions are reimposed on an Israeli billionaire for corrupt deals in Congo after being granted relief under Trump,

“The Biden administration moved on Monday to reimpose financial sanctions on an Israeli billionaire mining executive who had turned to a team of lobbyists to get the measures eased during the final days of President Donald J. Trump’s tenure. The reversal came after a chorus of complaints from human rights advocates, members of Congress and activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Israeli businessman, Dan Gertler, for decades has secured access to mining rights through what the Treasury Department during the Trump administration had called a series of corrupt deals that had shortchanged Congo of more than $1.3 billion in revenues from the sale of minerals.”

Normalization & Israeli Diplomatic Relations

Hungarian, Czech premiers to meet Israeli PM on pandemic strategy,

“The Hungarian and Czech prime ministers will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to discuss policies to fight COVID-19 as a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic sweeps central Europe. “The main topic of the meeting will be the effort to curb the pandemic,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s press chief said in a statement.”

Gulf opens door to public Jewish life amid Israel ties,

“That changed with last year’s accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain that brought thousands of Israeli tourists and business people to the region and led to a fledgling industry of Jewish weddings and other celebrations aimed at Israeli visitors. Emirati and Bahraini authorities have launched a public relations blitz to cultivate their image as Muslim havens of inclusion and tolerance for Jews, in stark contrast to regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. “A door has been opened,” said Elie Abadie, the new senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates. “I think there is more openness and more welcome and enthusiasm for the presence of a Jewish community or Jewish individuals or Jewish tradition and culture.”

The Israeli (Domestic) Scene

'I alone offer realistic alternative to Netanyahu,' Sa'ar says,

“Amid speculation regarding the makeup of Israel’s ruling coalition ahead of the country’s fourth election in two years, Hew Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar told i24NEWS on Monday that his candidacy offered the only viable and realistic alternative to long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Unlike the “divisive” Netanyahu, Sa’ar, Netanyahu’s former Likud associate, can “unite a significant range of forces on the political spectrum,” from the centrist Yair Lapid to the hard right Naftali Bennett, Sa’ar said. “I don’t have a problem with Lapid as a coalition partner,” Sa’ar insisted. “But what I’m saying is that he has tried to unseat Netanyahu in five elections, and he failed to replace the government time and again.” The latest poll ahead of the March 23 election placed New Hope in third, trailing behind Likud and Lapid’s Yesh Atid.”

Poll: Yamina surges past New Hope,

“A new poll conducted by Panels Politics for 103FM Radio shows that if the elections were held today, the Likud party would be the largest party with 28 Knesset seats. The Yesh Atid party would be second with 20 seats. The Yamina party would be third, receiving 12 seats and surpassing the New Hope party in the polls for the first time. The New Hope party would receive 11 seats. The Joint Arab List weakens to eight seats. Shas and Yisrael Beyteinu would also receive eight seats each. United Torah Judaism and Labor would receive six seats each.”

More Election News, Analysis & Opinion

  • “The Israeli Left’s Most Daunting Election Problem: Centrist Voters” (Haaretz // Anshell Pfeffer)
  • “Meretz Candidate Under Fire for Flip-flopping on LGBTQ Rights Ahead of Election” (Haaretz)
  • “Gantz: ‘Incitement’ by Netanyahu puts attorney general’s life in danger” (The Times of Israel)

Meretz Might Not Make It Into Knesset. This Is What Its Disappearance Would Mean.,

“If Meretz is not in the next Knesset, there will be no more representation for the Zionist left that recognizes the reality of the occupation and its implications, at a time when the proceedings in The Hague are likely to ramp up the persecution of anyone who dares to argue that there is a basis for investigating suspected war crimes in the territories. This would be the real effect of Meretz’s disappearance.”