Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 13, 2020

What We’re Reading

Pompeo in Israel

Ahead of Pompeo trip, US official says annexation can wait until after July 1,

“The official, who spoke to Channel 13 news on condition of anonymity, said July 1, when the country’s nascent coalition agreed it could kick off the annexation drive, ‘is not a sacred date’ for the United States. The official said the message had been passed to Israeli officials.”

Pompeo in Israel for Meetings on Annexation, Virus, Iran and China,

“The State Department has in recent weeks sought to downplay the Trump administration’s role in shaping Israel’s annexation plans. ‘That’s an Israeli decision,’ Mr. Pompeo said in April. But a mapping committee of American and Israeli officials — not including Palestinian leaders — is drawing the boundaries of the roughly 30 percent of West Bank territory that is expected to be annexed. Ambassador David M. Friedman, the American envoy to Jerusalem, sits on that panel, but he skipped Wednesday’s meeting with Mr. Pompeo after experiencing “mild upper-respiratory symptoms,” though he tested negative for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, the United States Embassy said.”

In Israel, Pompeo calls for ‘progress’ on Trump peace plan, assails Iran,

“Various reports suggested that the administration may want to ask the Israeli government not to rush into applying sovereignty, but Pompeo has repeatedly said that annexation is an Israeli decision.

Why Mike Pompeo Is an Immediate Threat to the Middle East,

“The fact that we may be entering the End Times for the alliance between extremist political actors and actions in the U.S. and in Israel may be a source of optimism to some. But as with all apocalyptic story twists, it is best to proceed with caution and perhaps even a healthy dose of apprehension. If Bibi knows that there are only six months left to act with impunity on annexing settlements or in blasting Iranian positions in Syria or those of their proxies or in turning up the pressure on the Tehran regime, it is likely that they will push to achieve as much as they can on these agendas in the months ahead…Pompeo knows this, too, and as a politician who has big ambitions with or without Trump in office, striking out at Iran and expanding the land controlled by the Israeli government would both accrue to his lasting credit with both evangelicals and the right wing of the Republican Party…A desperate Trump, his cynical and opportunistic enablers like Pompeo, and an Israeli leader who is in an equally precarious position, may use the distractions of this grim moment in history…to make it even grimmer. So too does the fact that Pompeo, though pompous, arrogant and sycophantic, is also smart and more capable than many in Trumpland.   It is at moments like this that one can only hope that the profound incompetence of the rest of the Trump administration limits what damage he and his Israeli interlocutors can actually do. It is a fragile hope, however, as doing damage turns out to be the one thing that both Trump and Netanyahu are really good at.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Palestinian teenager shot dead in West Bank as Pompeo arrives in Israel,

“Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenager during an army raid in an occupied West Bank refugee camp on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel. The health ministry identified the slain youth as Zaid Qaysia, 15, adding that he was “killed by a live bullet in the head fired by the Israeli soldiers in al-Fawwar camp” in the southern West Bank district of Hebron. The ministry added that a further four Palestinians were injured during the raid, including two youths who were moderately wounded after being shot in the stomach with live bullets. A witness told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the soldiers entered the refugee camp under the cover of a Palestinian van. Meanwhile, six Palestinians were wounded overnight Tuesday during an Israeli raid in the village of Yaabad, where an Israeli soldier was killed on Tuesday.”

Palestinian teen killed in clashes with IDF amid uptick in West Bank violence,

“A Palestinian teenager was shot dead during predawn clashes with Israeli troops in the al-Fawar refugee camp near Hebron on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said, amid a general uptick in violence in the West Bank in recent days. The Israel Defense Forces said a riot broke out during an arrest raid, forcing troops to use live fire as well as less lethal riot dispersal weapons. The military said a soldier was lightly wounded by a rock thrown at him during the clashes.”

Hebrew Graffiti Found in West Bank Village in Suspected Hate Crime as Tensions Escalate,

“Hebrew graffiti was found in the West Bank village of Bilin overnight in a suspected “price tag” hate crime against the Palestinian residents overnight Wednesday, a day after an Israeli soldier was killed during an arrest raid. Messages reading ‘I do not sleep when blood has been spilled here’ and ‘The lives of our soldiers come before the lives of the enemy,’ along with stars of David, were found spray painted on a wall and a fence in Bilin, south of Beit El.”

Two Gaza fishermen arrested, boat confiscated - report,

“Two fishermen from Gaza were arrested by the IDF and their boat was confiscated off the coast of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, according to Palestinian media. The report claimed that the arrest took place about three nautical miles off the coast.”

Israel approved entry of some communication equipment into Gaza, but supply still falls short of demand,

“In early April, Gisha reported about the immediate impact of Israel’s decision to ban the entry of all items it defines as ‘communication equipment’ into Gaza and the resultant shortage it had created at a time when people needed it most for working and studying from home. Just like everywhere else in the world, Gaza’s economy, industries and healthcare system depend on regular, uninterrupted access to electronic devices and spare parts. Although it appears that Israel has relaxed the ban, the non-transparent and arbitrary permit regime remains in place, restricting access to essential items. Israel must take action to ensure communications equipment can enter Gaza quickly, efficiently, and in quantities that meet demand.”

Israeli Politics

Swearing-in of Netanyahu-Gantz Government Delayed at Least Until Thursday Night,

“The swearing-in of Israel’s new government will not take place on Wednesday afternoon as initially planned, and is now scheduled for no earlier than Wednesday at 10 P.M. The reason for the delay is that the Knesset can only vote on a new government after a new Knesset speaker is elected. Although Benny Gantz resigned from his post on Tuesday, he did so close to 10 P.M. – and the resignation goes into effect only after 48 hours.”

Yuli Edelstein accepts Health Ministry portfolio,

“Following Edelstein’s decision, Netanyahu can proceed with more appointments in Likud. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin will replace Edelstein as Knesset speaker. Justice Minister Amir Ohana is expected to replace Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who will be Israel’s ambassador in the United Nations and starting in November, in Washington. Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev is expected to get the Transportation portfolio.”

Netanyahu to meet Bennett on coalition,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a final effort to bring the Yamina party into his governing coalition on Wednesday, when he meets with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett. Netanyahu and Bennett have criticized each other harshly in a way that was seen as burning bridges. But Netanyahu has made a point of not giving out the portfolios he offered Yamina, so the right-wing party joining the coalition is still possible. The offer includes the Education and Jerusalem and Heritage portfolios, a deputy minister in charge of issues related to religious Zionism and the chairmanship of a Knesset committee.”

Seemingly set for opposition, Yamina says this is start of Netanyahu’s downfall,

“The religious right-wing Yamina party on Tuesday launched an extraordinarily strongly worded broadside against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after coalition talks it was holding with Likud once again broke down and the six-seat faction appeared headed to the opposition. ‘Today’s date, May 12, will go down in history as the start of Netanyahu’s fall from power,’ a Yamina source told the Ynet news site. ‘This is the day that Netanyahu has cut his ties with the right wing and religious Zionism, which were his most faithful partners for decades,’ the unnamed source was quoted as saying.”

Gilad Erdan: Israel's annexation ambassador,

“’According to Mendel, Erdan’s appointments serve two purposes for Netanyahu. With both roles in the hands of one man, the promotion of annexation can be streamlined. But having one address to turn to also allows the prime minister to coordinate and control efforts, too. Erdan’s prominent role fighting the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – he has urged US campuses to crack down on student chapters and restricted entry of its activists and supporters – has also played a part, Mendel said. Not to mention his aggressive rhetoric against Palestinians. ‘He took part in the incitement against Arab-Israeli citizens and Palestinians, and repeated harsh remarks against Arab Knesset members, including Ayman Odeh, the head of Joint List, saying that he supports terrorism,’ Mendel said.”

Palestinian Politics

Report: Abbas to hold meeting with Hamas, Islamic Jihad over annexation plans,

“The decision to invite leaders of different Palestinian factions to the meeting is intended to send a warning to Israel and the Trump government, a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. ‘Palestinian Authority President [and Fatah Party chairman] Mahmoud Abbas, wants to show that there is a consensus among the Palestinians regarding the annexation plan,’ the unnamed official added.”

Annexation Watch

U.K. Lords Committee Calls to Limit Israel's Economic Access if Annexation Goes Ahead,

“In a letter addressed to Minister of State James Cleverly, Baronness Joyce Anelay expresses concern about the deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz to apply Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank, raising that annexation of occupied territory constitutes a violation of international law. Should annexation be implemented, she asks whether there would be consequences for Israel in its trade with the United Kingdom.”

Annexation in the West Bank: Dropping pretenses,

“One might ask what difference annexation will make, given that Israel already has de facto control over all of the West Bank, with the obsolete Palestinian Authority reduced to functioning as a kind of security auxiliary for Israel. That question leads to a much different line of concern about the impending annexation, among those who have no problem with, and indeed applaud, that de facto Israeli control. An example of such concern is a recent New York Times op ed by Daniel Pipes.”

EU Foreign Policy Chief: Israeli Annexation ‘Most Important Item’ in Foreign Ministers Meeting,

“The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said Tuesday that Israel’s annexation plans will be ‘the most important item on the agenda’ of the upcoming meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Friday. When asked about sanctions, Borell said he will consider the different positions that may arise within the union. “We are by the time being far away from discussing about sanctioning – but it’s important to know which is the position of the member states,’ said Borell at a press conference in Brussels.”

Disagreement among EU on sanctioning Israel over settlement annexation,

“EU member states are divided on how to respond to the possibility of Israel applying sovereignty in the West Bank, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a press conference on Tuesday. ‘Everything in [EU] foreign policy requires unanimity, especially sanctions, and we are [at this] time being far away from discussing about sanctioning,’ Borrell said in response to a journalist’s question about the matter. ‘But it’s important for me and for the European Union foreign policy to know which is the position of the member states with respect to the respect of international law and how we can judge it’.”

Commemorating the Nakba

Palestine, Today: Explore How the Nakba Transformed Palestine,

“Palestine has been transformed dramatically over the seven decades since the Nakba (‘catastrophe’) of 1947-49, when over 500 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated and over 750,000 people displaced during the creation of the State of Israel. This interactive map tells the story of many of the communities that were affected by the Nakba, including those that remained.”

Lost land: Nakba survivors recall rural struggle in Mandate-era Palestine,

“For many survivors today, the British crackdown on farmers during the Mandate played a crucial role in disempowering Palestinian society as a whole and paving the way for the Nakba. Before leaving Palestine on 15 May 1948, British forces handed over most of their weapons to Zionist militias. After decades of repression of Palestinians, the balance of power was decisively shifted, and the outcome of the battle, many Palestinians believe, was decided in advance.”

[Video] Rashid Khalidi on why a century of settler colonialism with American support has failed to defeat Palestinians,

“We wanted to hear Khalidi’s take on the history and find out how he sees the politics of the conflict changing in the U.S. generally– and at Columbia University, too. And what about Daniel Pipes’s claim that the Palestinians are a defeated people? I spoke with Khalidi by Skype on May 8.”