Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 12, 2020

What We’re Reading

New Israeli Govt & Opposition Take Shape

Erdan receives UN post as next government slowly takes shape,

“Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan will serve as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations for the next four years, the prime minister announced, and will also be Israel’s ambassador in Washington while Netanyahu serves out his term as prime minister within the framework of the rotational government with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Erdan could continue serving in both diplomatic roles even after Gantz takes office in two years, depending on what the Blue and White leader decides. ‘I’m proud and excited about the privilege of fighting for our justice in the international arena and defending Israel against the challenges ahead in the coming years,’ Erdan said after receiving the appointment. Speaking to Israel Hayom, Erdan added: ‘In the near future Israel will face significant diplomatic challenges, specifically the application of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and settlements in Judea and Samaria, along with the actions against Israel in the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which is a subordinate body to the UN. On these two issues and others, I will enlist all my strength to represent Israel proudly and stand for the righteousness of our path. I know I have hard work ahead of me, but I am up to the task.’”

Pro-Israel groups react to Erdan’s appointment as next Israeli ambassador to US and UN,

“…Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein told JNS that Erdan is ‘an inspired and brilliant choice.’ Klein said Erdan is ‘a very hard-working, smart, articulate Zionist who knows how to effectively present Israel’s case and defend Israel from all the propaganda lies against it.’ He added that he ‘was a leader against the Israel-bashing BDS movement and understands all the issues in the Arab/Islamic war against Israel.’ As strategic affairs minister, Erdan carved out a high-profile role in combating the BDS movement. Most notably, Erdan’s ministry was behind a two-year campaign aimed at exposing connections between anti-Israel BDS groups and terrorist organizations….”

Bennett's opening salvo against Palestinian statehood, Trump peace plan,

“Support for Palestinian statehood ‘is a point of no-return. One can’t recognize and then un-recognize Palestinian statehood. It’s like un-cooking scrambled eggs,’ Bennett said.”

Likud: Bennett betrayed religious Zionism,

“The Likud accused Yamina leader Naftali Bennett on Tuesday morning of ‘leaving the right-wing bloc” and refusing to help religious Zionist causes of his own party. Likud’s attack came after a late-night phone conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bennett.  The Likud released the statement after Bennett burned bridges with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by harshly criticizing him in an online press conference. Bennett said Netanyahu would create a Palestinian state, missed his chances to annex Judea and Samaria and cared only about his own criminal cases, not reforms in the Justice Ministry.”

Annexation on the Agenda

Ahead of visit, Pompeo says sovereignty is 'in the end, an Israeli decision',

“Pompeo’s visit is short because of the coronavirus crisis. He plans to discuss the implementation of the administration’s newly unveiled peace plan. In his interview, Pompeo implies that there is a green light for extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.”

West Bank annexation will be the end of Israeli-Jordanian peace ,

“…As far as the Jordanian response to the proposed annexation, it would not be limited just to condemnation or to a diplomatic downgrading of relations. It would be much more dramatic. At this point, there is no need to take any steps vis-a-vis the peace treaty between the two countries, but I do call for a reevaluation of Jordan’s position towards its neighbor. The move would clearly resonate in all aspects of the relationship, including economic agreements, such as Jordan’s purchase of natural gas from Israel and other financial and security aspects. The Arab world would not stand on the sidelines if Israel moves to annex the Jordan Valley, West Bank settlements, and parts of East Jerusalem.”

Palestinians Pay the Price for Israel’s Slavery to the Memory of the Holocaust,

“When saying ‘Never again’ is the only way Israel engages with the past, it can be used to justify undemocratic, militaristic rule over the Palestinians – and now, annexation.”

Poll: Most Israeli Jews support annexing parts of West Bank,

“A majority of Israeli Jews back annexing parts of the West Bank, according to an Israeli research center. An April survey released Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute found 52% of Israeli Jews support applying Israeli sovereignty over parts of the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Only 9% of Israeli Arabs, also known as Palestinian citizens of Israel, supported the territory’s annexation.” Full poll by the Israel Democracy Institute is here.

Trump Won't Just 'Allow' Netanyahu’s West Bank Annexation – He'll Force It,

“…the very thought – or hope – that Trump will behave like a responsible statesman and stop the new Netanyahu government from annexing the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in the West Bank is ludicrous. With a crumbling economy, an ongoing epidemic and the death of tens of thousands of Americans blamed on his mismanagement; with his back to the wall, polls in free fall and GOP colleagues starting to voice concerns about losing the Senate – Trump won’t dare disappoint his loyal evangelical legions. They want annexation, and annexation they will get.”

EU ministers expected to weigh punitive response to West Bank annexation,

“European Union foreign ministers will meet in Brussels Friday, a day after the swearing-in of Israel’s new government, to consider punitive responses to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, multiple reports have indicated. Several European nations led by France, and including Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg, have reportedly expressed support for threats of punitive action in a bid to deter the new Israeli government from carrying out the move with a green light from Washington. The EU bloc is Israel’s largest trading partner, grants Israel favored trading status, and helps fund Israeli scientific research and development through its massive Horizon 2020 program. According to the Haaretz daily, the proposed steps include announcing that Israel would be prevented from entering into trade agreements with the bloc, receiving EU grants or participating in other forms of cooperation with the union. It is not clear if the steps would apply to future agreement or freeze existing ones.” Also see: Haaretz – EU Countries Mull Slapping Sanctions on Israel to Deter West Bank Annexation

Israel’s annexation plan, the Gulf and the status quo,

“Jerusalem has been focusing on ‘third circle’ threats from Iran while annexation agendas could stir up trouble with Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf at an unhelpful time.”

Occupation, Human Rights, Violence

IDF soldier killed during arrest raid in West Bank,

“An IDF soldier was killed after a large rock was thrown at his head while troops were carrying out arrests in the Palestinian town of Ya’bad in the northern West Bank on Tuesday morning.The soldier was identified as 21-year-old St.-Sgt. Amit Ben Yigal from Ramat Gan. Troops from the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion had been carrying out a series of arrests in the village and had detained four wanted Palestinians – two suspected of involvement in a terrorist organization, and two suspected of throwing stones. At around 4.30 a.m., after completing the arrests, troops began to leave the village when a group of 10 locals began throwing stones towards the troops who were making their way out of the village by foot. ‘The rock hit the soldier directly in the head,’ IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman told reporters….Ben Yigal received treatment from medics at the scene before being evacuated to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center’s intensive care unit by helicopter, where he succumbed to his wounds. He is the first IDF soldier killed in the past year. The military has opened a preliminary investigation and troops are currently in the village searching for the Palestinians who threw the rock. Palestinians reported that clashes broke out in the village, injuring dozens. Several Palestinians were reported to have been arrested.” Also see: Israel Hayom – PM vows to bring terrorist to justice after soldier killed in rock-throwing attack

Palestinian Shot in Attempted Stabbing Attack Hours After Soldier Killed,

“A security officer shot and wounded a Palestinian man who tried to stab the officer with a sharp object Tuesday at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, the Israel Police said. The officer was unharmed and the Palestinian man was evacuated for medical care. The incident occurred within hours of the killing of IDF soldier, Staff Sgt. Amit Ben Ygal, 21, of Ramat Gan. He was struck on the head by a stone during an arrest raid near the West Bank city of Jenin.”

Coronavirus: UN calls for release of Palestinian children detained by Israel,

“The UN agency for children has called on Israel to release imprisoned Palestinian children amid the spread of the coronavirus, warning that children in detention ‘face heightened risk of contracting Covid-19’. In a joint statement released on Monday, three UN officials based in the region, including the Unicef special representative for Palestine, Genevieve Boutin, said 194 Palestinian minors were in Israeli detention by the end of March, an increase from the monthly average last year. ‘The rights of children to protection, safety and wellbeing must be upheld at all times,’ the statement said.”

IDF demolishes West Bank home of [family of] suspected killer of Rina Shnerb,

“The Israel Defense Forces destroyed the home of a suspected terrorist in the Ramallah area in the predawn hours of Monday morning, the military said. Bulldozers tore down the top floors of the Kobar home of Qassem Shibli, a suspect in last August’s killing of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in a bombing attack at a natural spring near the West Bank settlement of Dolev. The family had appealed the army’s intention to wreck their home, but the court overruled them.”

Under new deal, Israel to loan PA up to NIS 800m to cover virus losses,

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed off Monday on an agreement that will see Jerusalem set aside NIS 800 million ($228 million) for potential loans to Ramallah, in order to offset expected losses due to the coronavirus crisis, officials on both sides told The Times of Israel…Over the last two years, Israel has deducted funds from the tax revenues it collects, per the amount that the PA pays to Palestinians security prisoners and their families. PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said during a Monday cabinet meeting that the total sum of last year’s withheld funds amounted to NIS 700 million ($200 million). At one point last year, the PA rejected the entirety of the tax transfers in protest of the Knesset legislation requiring this deduction, but it relented months later, upon facing further economic turmoil. Late last week, several banks in the West Bank blocked access to accounts of Palestinians convicted of security-related offenses, days before an Israeli military decree entered into effect imposing sanctions on banks that financially reward terrorism.”

Experimental drilling starts for controversial train route to Jerusalem Old City,

“Exploratory drilling has started just outside the Old City for a project to extend the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem fast rail to the Old City’s Dung Gate — the main entrance to the Western Wall. If implemented, this would speed tourists from Ben Gurion Airport straight to the holiest site at which Jews can pray, The idea of extending the railway to the Old City was first mooted by Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz during his decade-long tenure at the Transportation Ministry, which ended in 2019.”

Arab World

US lawmakers threaten Jordan over refusal to extradite ex-Palestinian prisoner,

“A group of Republican members of Congress have threatened Jordan with sanctions if it fails to extradite Ahlam Al-Tamimi, in a campaign lead by an American pro-Israel lobby group demanding Amman hand over the former Palestinian prisoner. Al-Tamimi, who was convicted over the 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria, was freed ten years later as part of a mass prisoner exchange to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In 2013 the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against her. Four years later the FBI placed the 40-year-old Jordanian national on its “most wanted” list and formally requested her extradition. Al-Tamimi can be tried in the US as two of the victims of the 2001 bombing of a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem were American citizens. Jordan has, however, refused to extradite Al-Tamimi, citing the fact that parliament has not yet ratified an extradition treaty signed between the two allied nations. Washington maintains that the treaty is valid and must be abided by.”

Egypt withdraws from FIFA online friendlies,

“Two Egyptian soccer players have withdrawn from the FIFA eNations StayAndPlay Friendlies, over Israel’s participation.”

Saudi writer: We care about national interests, not the Palestinians,

“Saudi writer Abdulhameed Al-Ghobain said in a May 10, 2020 interview on BBC Arabic TV (U.K.) that the Saudi public is well-informed today and that it no longer cares about the Palestinian cause or about Arab interests. Saying that the Palestinians ‘have lost,’ Al-Ghobain explained that Saudis care about their national, strategic and economic interests, and that Saudi Arabia can benefit from establishing relations with Israel because of how advanced Israel is. He added that relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have gone ‘beyond normalization’ and are now very warm.”

Daniel Pipes Clarifies His Views on Annexation

I believe in compromise, says hawkish pundit under fire for opposing annexation,

“…Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum, a hawkish think tank based in Philadelphia, insists that he’s as pro-Israel and principled as ever but simply believes the planned annexation does Israel no favors….’My goal is to force, compel, coerce the Palestinians to understand that in this century-and-more-long war they have lost. They need to understand that. And they have to come to terms with the Jewish state,’ he said…’I believe in compromise,’ he said. ‘But, I also believe in convincing the Palestinians they’ve lost. I want to go for the jugular. I want to go for the kill.’”

The Campaign to Quash Criticism/Scrutiny of Israel

Jewish, Israeli scholars back African intellectual smeared for Israel criticism,

“A group of prominent Israeli and Jewish scholars, many of whom specialize in the study of the Holocaust, antisemitism, and Israel, have called on Germany’s interior minister to fire Felix Klein, the federal commissioner for Jewish life and the fight against antisemitism, following what they described as his “shameful attack” on renowned African professor Achille Mbembe. In what has become a major controversy capturing headlines across Germany, Mbembe, a Cameroonian political philosopher, scholar of African history, and one of the most prominent theorists on post-colonialism, has been smeared as an antisemite for drawing parallels between apartheid South Africa and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Klein accused Mbembe of “relativizing” the Holocaust and questioning Israel’s right to exist, and demanded Mbembe’s keynote address at the popular Ruhrtriennale arts and music festival this summer be cancelled.” Letter signed by scholars is here.

ICC Prosecutor: ‘Smear campaigns’ won’t stop probe into Israel war crimes,

“The International Criminal Court has responded to Israeli criticisms over the prosecutor’s decision to probe Israeli war crimes allegedly committed in the occupied West Bank, besieged Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was quoted on the court’s official Twitter account as saying that ‘misinformation and smear campaigns do not change facts about the conduct of my Office’s work concerning the situation in Palestine.’ ‘Fact: my office is executing its mandate concerning Palestine situation with utmost professionalism, independence & objectivity in strict conformity with the Rome Statute. Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is simply misled & unfounded.’”

NGO Sector - New Reports, Letter

Annexing A City: Israel’s Illegal Measures to Annex Jerusalem Since 1948,

“This report seeks to highlight the legal status of the city of Jerusalem, as well as to outline Israel’s policies imposed on Palestinians in Jerusalem, which have changed the physical, social, economic, and cultural landscape of the city, and the effects such changes have had on the Palestinian population. The report also highlights Israel’s legislative measures that aim to drastically alter the character and demographic composition of the city, and to fast-track the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population from occupied East Jerusalem. Specifically, this report will illustrate how the shift in United States’ policy on Jerusalem after December 2017, effectively green-lighted a number of illegal unilateral measures by Israel, including bills and laws, that aim to secure Israel’s full and exclusive control over Jerusalem, the continuous oppression of Palestinians, and the systematic denial of their rights, as enshrined in international law.”

Israel: Discriminatory Land Policies Hem in Palestinians,

“The Israeli government’s policy of boxing in Palestinian communities extends beyond the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian towns and villages inside Israel, Human Rights Watch said today. The policy discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel and in favor of Jewish citizens, sharply restricting Palestinians’ access to land for housing to accommodate natural population growth…”

Letter concerning attack on EU funding for Palestinian NGOs ,

This ministry has waged aggressive campaigns against the EU itself, accusing it of financing incitement and terrorism. In response, former EU High Representative Mogherini sent an angry letter to Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Erdan, a key proponent of annexation, condemning such accusations as ‘unfounded and unacceptable’ and adding that ‘vague and unsubstantiated accusations serve only to contribute to disinformation campaigns’. The tactics used by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and NGO Monitor are highly similar. In the past years, NGO Monitor’s methods and campaigns have been denounced by several European governments… NGO Monitor has become a catalyst of shrinking civic space. As such, it is part of a wider problem. Around the globe, in particular in conflict areas, the manoeuvring space of civil society organizations is shrinking. Fundamental freedoms and democratic rights that any vibrant civil society relies and depends on, are at risk…More than ever, we urge the EU to deliver on this commitment and to uphold its support and funding for Palestinian civil society. Regarding the immediate concerns expressed in this letter, we call on the EU to condemn and dismiss NGO Monitor’s escalating defamation and disinformation, as well as the Israeli government coordinated campaign against the integrity, reputation and organizational sustainability of organizations promoting human rights and international law in Palestine.”