Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 11, 2020

What We’re Reading

Annexation Watch

US Secretary of State plans to visit Israel for annexation talks,

“Pompeo will make the lightning trip to Jerusalem to see Netanyahu and his new coalition partner Benny Gantz on Wednesday as the Trump administration tries to return to business as normal by resuming governmental travel and reopening an economy devastated by the COVID-19 outbreak. The State Department formally announced the trip more than a week after plans for it first surfaced and a day after some Israeli media outlets reported it.” See Also: “Pompeo confirms plans to visit Israel next week” (Washington Post)

Let Israel Annex the West Bank. It's the Least Worst Option for Palestinians,

“Annexation has always been presented as the mother of all disasters, but we have to stop fearing it, and even say yes to it. It is shaping up as the only way out of the deadlock, the only possible shake­­-up that could end this status quo of despair we’ve gotten stuck in, which can no longer lead anywhere good. Annexation is indeed an intolerable prize for the occupier and an outrageous punishment for the occupied. It legitimizes the most serious crimes and severs the most just of dreams – but the alternative is even worse. It would eternalize the criminal situation – this situation has long been perpetuated; it would establish a reality of apartheid – a reality that has existed for quite some time. But annexation would also put an end to the lies, and require everyone to look the truth straight in the eye. And the truth is that the occupation is here to stay, there were never any intentions to do otherwise; it has already created an irreversible situation, some 700,000 settlers, including those in East Jerusalem, who will never be removed, and without their removal the Palestinians will be left with nothing but Bantustans, neither a state nor even a joke of a state.”

Palestinians Under the Israeli Boot: A Formula for Tyranny in Cheap Makeup,

Avner Gvaryahu writes, “Israeli politicians have hoped for 53 years, and counting, that the Palestinians would quietly live under the Israeli boot, if we could just find a way of improving the boot. Goodman is basically the latest in a chain. However, the truth doesn’t always lie at the centerpoint of political debate. The truth wasn’t at the midpoint of the political debate in South Africa of the 1980s nor in the South in the United States of the 19th century. People live in the territories. Real people, with hands, organs, a shape, senses, desires, feelings. Anyone who promises that we can ignore them and obtain peace is selling the public a fantasy disguised as pragmatism, tyranny covered in cheap makeup.”

The United States Doesn’t Get Israel Anymore,

“There’s indeed something shocking about this—but it’s less the annexation itself than Washington’s red-alert reaction to it. There should be nothing surprising about either Israel’s intention to annex territory that does not belong to it or Gantz’s willingness to consent to that policy. (His problem with the prime minister was always mostly about Netanyahu’s personal conduct.) What we really need an explanation for is the dismayed reaction to the coming annexation among observers in the United States.”

Bennett’s Area C ‘tsunami’ in advance of West Bank annexation - analysis,

“Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett’s brief sojourn as defense minister – just six months – was nothing short of a tsunami when it came to entrenching Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria in advance of pending plans to annex 30% of the West Bank…Bennett was defense minister just long enough to link himself to high-level projects, but not long enough to garner criticism should they fail to advance. The savvy accumulation of such an action list means Bennett leaves the Defense Ministry with an enormous amount of capital to use for any future political campaign.”

How will Hamas respond to Israel’s ‘annexation’ plan? – analysis,

“’Hamas believes there are only two ways to confront the Israeli plan,’ the Hamas official said. ‘First, by achieving national unity. Second, by escalating the resistance against Israel, especially in the West Bank.’ The official added, nonetheless, that he does not believe Abbas is interested in ending his dispute with Hamas. Nor is Abbas interested in a new wave of violence in the West Bank, because he is afraid that anarchy and lawlessness would undermine the PA, the Hamas official explained. Musa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas ‘political bureau,’ said the Palestinians need to agree on a ‘unified national program’ if they want to succeed in thwarting the Israeli plan. That program, he said, should be based on carrying out “resistance” activities and abandoning the option of a peaceful settlement with Israel. When Hamas talks about ‘resistance’ activities, it means it wants to see Palestinians resort to armed attacks against Israel, preferably in the context of a new intifada (uprising). But Hamas knows that as long as security coordination between the PA and Israel continues, it would be almost impossible for its members to resume major terrorist attacks.”

Scoop: Senators back away from threatening Israel with end of bipartisan support,

“Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) are now pushing a revised, watered-down letter to Senate offices after circulating an initial draft — obtained by JI and published below — warning that annexation of the West Bank would end bipartisan support for Israel. The original letter, addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz, warned the Israeli leaders that ‘If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we could not support that action and would sadly conclude that Israel no longer values the bipartisan support that Congress has provided it for decades.’ The latest version of the letter, obtained by JI, reads: “If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we could not support that action. This is consistent with long-standing American policy opposing unilateral actions by either party to the conflict. Pursuit of a viable, negotiated two state solution is essential to ensuring our shared democratic values and lasting bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.”

Israeli Politics

Netanyahu-Gantz Coalition Government to Be Sworn in Thursday,

“Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz informed the Knesset on Monday that the swearing in of the new coalition government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be held this Thursday, May 14 at 1:00 P.M., according to an announcement by the Knesset’s spokesperson.  In addition, Gantz has instructed the Chairman of the Knesset’s Organizing Committee to convene and determine the procedures for the meeting accordingly.”

In dramatic shift, Yamina breaks with right-wing bloc to join the opposition,

“In a statement laced with scathing criticism, Yamina accused the prime minister of showing ‘gross disrespect’ towards its members and said unity government Likud plans on forming with Blue and White would be ‘leftist.’  ‘Given the makeup of the government that is shaping up and its apparent policies as a left-wing government headed by Netanyahu, and in light of the gross disrespect the prime minister has shown toward Yamina and its electorate, the party has decided to serve the public and the nationalist camp as part of the opposition in the coming [Knesset] term’, Yamina’s statement said.”

Explained: Why Israel’s Attorney General Believes Netanyahu Is Out to Destroy Him,

“The battle against the entire legal system is being led by Netanyahu loyalists, including Amir Ohana, who is in his final days as justice minister before being replaced when the new Netanyahu-Gantz unity government is sworn-in on Thursday…Events came to a head on Sunday when Ohana met State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman and called on him to investigate Mendelblit’s role in the so-called Harpaz affair from nearly a decade ago. The groundwork for this fight has been long in the making: Mendelblit and Ohana have been antagonists since the day the acting justice minister entered office last June. While the rhetoric by Ohana against Mendelblit specifically, and state prosecutors in general, has become particularly bruising as the clock ticks down to the end of his tenure – it is hardly new. The latest round of activity began in February, when Haaretz’s Gidi Weitz reported on initial efforts by the Netanyahu camp to ‘dig up dirt’ on Mendelblit – or, as they say in the world of U.S. President Donald Trump, to ‘investigate the investigators.’ The apparent goal of the exercise: Undermining Mendelblit’s credibility ahead of Netanyahu’s trial, which at that time was set to begin in March, just after Israel’s third round of elections in the space of a year.”

Occupation & Human Rights

Israel demolishes homes of 2 alleged Palestinian attackers,

“The Israeli military on Thursday said its forces demolished the homes of two Palestinians accused of being behind a deadly blast in the West Bank last year. Israel says Walid Hanatsheh and Yazan Mughamis were part of a cell that carried out the attack in August, which killed 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb and injured her father and brother as they hiked down to a spring in the occupied West Bank. Hanatsheh and Mughamis, along with other alleged members of the cell, are currently facing trial in an Israeli court. Bulldozers tore down one home in the West Bank city of Bir Zeit. At the second home in the city of Ramallah, soldiers used jackhammers to destroy the interior walls of the apartment.”

Israel Cracks Down on Banks Over Payments to Palestinian Inmates,

“Even as Israel is collaborating with West Bank officials to fight the coronavirus, a new Israeli military order taking effect on Saturday forbids banks in the occupied territory from processing payments that the Palestinian Authority distributes to the families of thousands of Palestinians who have spent time in Israeli jails. The Palestinians defend the funds as vital welfare that compensate for an unfair military-run justice system, provide income for families who have lost their primary breadwinners and enable released prisoners to reintegrate into society. But the Israelis denounce the practice as rewarding terrorism. The decree apparently also bans financial institutions from dealing with stipends that the Palestine Liberation Organization gives to the families of slain assailants, whom the Palestinians refer to as “martyrs.””

Palestinian Charged With Terror Attack for Stabbing on Israel's Memorial Day,

“Mohammed Reisha, a 20-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Tulkarm, was indicted on Monday for the attempted murder of a 62-year-old woman in Kfar Sava on Israel’s Memorial Day in April. Reisha was charged with attempted murder with the intention of committing a terrorist act.  The indictment was filed in the Central District Court in Lod.”

UNRWA launches emergency coronavirus appeal for Palestinian refugees,

“The UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has launched an emergency appeal to fund its response for the coronavirus pandemic. The money will go towards health care, sanitation, hygiene and education for the next three months, the agency said in a statement. ‘We have seen how the crisis is disproportionally hitting the poorest and most destitute communities around the world,’ said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. ‘This is sadly also true for Palestine refugees who are amongst the most vulnerable populations in the Middle East,’ Lazzarini said.”

COVID-19 & Israel/Palestine

Israel Set to Approve $230m Loan to the Palestinian Authority for Its Coronavirus Response,

“Israel will approve an 800 million shekel (about $230 million) payment to the Palestinian Authority Sunday evening to help it cope with the coronavirus, Finance Ministry officials confirmed Sunday.

Government sources say the payment is an advance on the tax revenue Israel collects on the PA’s behalf. Under the agreement that is slated to be signed with the PA Sunday evening, the money will be transferred in four monthly installments. The first installment will be delivered at the end of this month.

Coronavirus imposes different reality for Palestinians during Ramadan,

“Despite some easing of the restrictions imposed to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak in Gaza and the West Bank, mosques will remain closed and public gatherings banned during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which lasts from April 24 to May 23. The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced the closure of all West Bank mosques on March 17, and Hamas followed suit in Gaza on March 24, and the two governments had previously announced the closure of all halls and public markets earlier in March.”

U.S. Politics

For Palestinian rights movement, Biden poses a familiar quandary,

“Now, the Palestinian rights movement in the United States is confronting an old, familiar question: how do we engage with a Democratic presidential campaign that has never given us anything to praise, and much to criticize?”


Attacks From Pro-Israel Groups Threaten California’s Ethnic Studies Curriculum,

“The campaign by Zionist groups to neutralize the ESMC echoes fierce debates that have played out on campuses across the country over Israel/Palestine, as well as earlier campus cultural wars that date back to ethnic studies’ founding. In their attack on the curriculum, Jewish Zionist groups have raised questions about how Jewish experience should be categorized and taught in relation to concepts of whiteness, power, and privilege. Jewish Zionist groups opposed to the curriculum have claimed that the Jewish experience deserves a place in an ethnic studies curriculum, but their vision for change involves refashioning ethnic studies into a largely toothless, multicultural diversity initiative, rather than actually integrating an analysis of antisemitism into ethnic studies’ radical framework. Additionally, conversations with almost a dozen ethnic studies faculty, graduate students, K-12 teachers, and community supporters—many of whom were directly involved in the draft curriculum’s development—revealed that even before the backlash from pro-Israel groups, structural problems with the state’s approach to the ESMC raised concerns that the curriculum would be “watered down” and stripped of a potent power analysis.”