Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 18, 2020

What We’re Reading

The New Israeli Government

After 508-day crisis, Israel’s new government finally sworn in by Knesset,

“The Knesset voted 73-46 in favor of the new government…In addition to Netanyahu and Gantz, 32 ministers were sworn in, including the first female ultra-Orthodox minister, Omer Yankelevich (Diaspora affairs), and the first Ethiopia-born minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata (immigration and absorption), in Israel’s history. A 35th slot, for a minister for minority affairs, has yet to be filled by Blue and White.”

After three elections and political deadlock, Israel finally swears in new government,

“Israel’s new government, headed once again by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was sworn into office on Sunday, ending nearly a year-and-a-half of political stalemate involving three stormy elections and multiple rounds of coalition negotiations. The ceremony, which took place in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in accordance with coronavirus social distancing directives, marked a fifth term for Netanyahu — his fourth consecutive term — and the first time an Israeli leader indicted on criminal charges will formally lead the country.” Also see:

Israel’s 'annexation government' sworn in,

“In his inaugural address, Netanyahu laid out his political vision for this new government. To no one’s surprise, it seemed to reflect his personal vision as leader of the ideological right. It will be a government committed to the annexation of large parts of the West Bank. ‘The time has come to apply sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. This won’t distance peace, it will bring it closer,’ he declared, using the Israeli term for the West Bank. He continued, ‘The truth is — and everybody knows it — that the hundreds of thousands of settlers living in Judea and Samaria will remain there, no matter what arrangement is reached. The only reason the whole issue of sovereignty is on the agenda is because I promoted it personally for the last three years, both overtly and covertly.’ Never before has a prime minister from the right used his inauguration address to announce his intent to annex West Bank settlements.”

Israel's Biggest Gov't Ever Takes Oath: The Complete List of Ministers,

“Netanyahu has succeeded in forming a government, which would have 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, making it the biggest in Israel’s history. Netanyahu’s trial for suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust will commence in seven days, on May 24.”

Annexation Watch

Netanyahu: Time has come for the annexation of West Bank settlements,

“Now is the time to finally apply sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed Sunday just before Israel’s 35th government was set to be sworn in. ‘The time has come to write a new and glorious chapter in the annals of Zionism,’ the premier boasted, insisting that annexation ‘would not detract from peace, on the contrary, bring us closer to it.’ Netanyahu said that Israel’s settlements are a reality on the ground that can’t be ignored and would be a part of Israel either now or in the future, whatever the scenario. ‘The time has come for our Palestinian neighbors and all the Knesset parties to recognize this,’ he added ignoring protests from members of the Joint List, a political alliance made up of four smaller Arab-majority parties.”

New Israeli FM Ashkenazi: Trump Peace Plan a Historic Opportunity to Shape Israel's Future,

“Israel’s new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan is a ‘historic opportunity to shape the future of the State of Israel for decades to come.’ Speaking at ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, Ashkenazi said Trump’s plan will be pushed forward ‘responsibly, in coordination with the United States while safeguarding peace agreements and Israel’s strategic interests.'”

What's the Real Purpose of Israel's Annexation Plan?,

“But after more than 50 years, people in Israel are ready to strike a new internal deal. The time has come to end the show, to remove the masks. No longer people being “dragged” into the situation and others doing the dragging, but broad agreement. This is the real objective of the annexation push: Making the existing situation a matter of open consensus, making it public and official, not something that is supposedly controversial, that supposedly is the subject of some meaningful internal debate.”

West Bank Annexation Will Encourage Radicalization on All Sides, Mideast UN Envoy Says,

“‘Annexation is a big threat. It is prohibited under international law, and will undermine the rules-based international order,’ said Mladenov in a conference organized by the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. ‘It will have legal, political and security implications that will be difficult to deal with, damage prospects for peace, and encourage radicalization on all sides. Annexation will also diminish the prospects for normalization of ties between Israel and Arab states.'”

As West Bank Annexation Looms, What Are Jordan's Options?,

“Jordan held talks last week with European Union foreign ministers to inform them of the danger annexation poses. A European diplomatic source told Haaretz that ‘Jordan is in a real panic not only because of the breach of international law this move provokes, but also from the public response that could arise in Jordan, not to mention in the West Bank and Gaza, if Israel decides on annexation by the beginning of July.’ The source added that ‘Jordan is in a deep economic crisis that began even before the coronavirus, a crisis that has greatly deepened as a result of the economic damage done by the pandemic. If in previous demonstrations protesters were demanding employment and economic assistance, mentioning almost on the margins their opposition to normalization with Israel, this time the rage could be directed mainly against Israel.’”

Annexation Could Kill Jordan Peace Deal, Israeli Defense Officials Believe,

“Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, chairman of the Herzliya Conference, told Haaretz on Saturday that damage to Israel’s ties with Jordan would be ‘a blow to Israel’s national security.’ Jordan, Gilad added, ‘provides us with quiet on the eastern border and keeps threats away from Israel. Annexation will erode our ties with Jordan. It would be a political move without a strategic advantage. I’m sure the IDF brass understands this’.”

Occupation & Human Rights

Israeli convicted of murders in Duma terror attack,

“The Lod District Court on Monday convicted Amiram Ben Uliel in the 2015 Jewish terror arson murders of three Palestinians in Duma. The arson attack on the Palestinian Dawabshe family home killed 18-month-old Ali and his parents, Sa’ad and Riham and destabilized Israeli-Arab relations throughout the region. Asher Ohayon, the lead lawyer for Ben Uliel, vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, saying that the court had wrongfully accepted confessions given post-torture. The court said that even though it disqualified confessions Ben Uliel gave when the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) used enhanced interrogation on him, his confessions given 36 hours later were given freely and compelling. Furthermore, the court said it was convinced by Ben Uliel’s voluntary physical reconstruction of the crime at the scene of the murders.”

Seven decades on, internally displaced Palestinians wait to return home,

“As much as the issue of return comes up in the Israeli discourse, it tends to focus on the return of Palestinian refugees currently living outside the country’s borders. Yet the Committee estimates there are some 400,000 internally-displaced people (IDPs) among Palestinian citizens of Israel.”


Defense Secretary Mark Esper wants to remove US troops from the Sinai Peninsula. Key Democrats and Republicans disagree.,

“The chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees on foreign relations, armed services and appropriations wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, saying that the international force, a lynchpin of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, ‘has been vital to the peace treaty’s durability.’ Esper reportedly has been pushing for the withdrawal of American troops from the U.S.-led force, despite opposition from Israel and the U.S. State Department. He has called for the withdrawal as a cost-cutting measure and because the soldiers are at increased risk.”


Pompeo says US will ‘exact consequences’ if International Criminal Court continues to investigate Israel,

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will ‘exact consequences’ on the International Criminal Court if it ‘continues down its current course’ of attempting to ‘assert jurisdiction over Israel’…Pompeo issued a statement on the matter on Friday, two days after a whirlwind visit to Israel to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Israeli security officials. Pompeo wrote that the U.S. does not agree that the Palestinians qualify as a ‘sovereign state.’ He also called the court a ‘political body, not a judicial institution.'”