Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 19, 2020

What We’re Reading

Israel vs. Iran (Cyber)

Alleged Israeli cyberattack on Iranian port causes 'total disarray',

“Israel appears to be behind a cyberattack earlier this month on computers at Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port that caused massive backups on waterways and roads leading to the facility, the Washington Post reported on Monday. Citing unnamed US and foreign government officials, the Post said the May 9 disruption of Iranian computers was presumably in retaliation for an earlier attempted cyberattack on rural water distribution systems in Israel. The managing director of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, Mohammad Rastad, told Iran’s ILNA news agency last week that the cyberattack did not penetrate the organization’s computers and was only able to infiltrate and damage a number of private operating systems. A foreign government security official said, however, the attack was ‘highly accurate’ and the damage to the Iranian port was more serious than described in official Iranian accounts, according to the Post. ‘There was total disarray,’ said the official.”

Cyberattack on port suggests Israeli tit-for-tat strategy, shows Iran vulnerable,

“The former head of Military Intelligence on Tuesday said a sophisticated cyberattack on an Iranian port last week appeared to be an Israeli retaliation to Tehran’s failed attempted hacking of Israel’s water companies last month, sending a message that Jerusalem could significantly harm Iran’s economy if attacks on Israeli civilian infrastructure continued. This appears to indicate that Israel has adopted a ‘tit-for-tat’ strategy in responding to Iranian cyber aggression — a tactic already used by the Israeli military with physical, or kinetic, attacks — as the digital realm becomes increasingly important in modern warfare. Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, an influential former IDF intelligence chief and current head of the leading Institute for National Security Studies think tank, said the alleged Israeli cyberattack could be seen as a message to Iran that Jerusalem would not accept attempts to damage its civilian infrastructure.”

Cyber warfare, Israel, Iran and the new way of total war,

“Amos Yadlin, a former general in the air force, once head of military intelligence and now at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, tweeted on May 19 that this seems to be an Israeli response to the Iranian attack on Israeli water infrastructure. He notes that Iran, the US and other countries have shown they may use cyber rather than escalating in the field, meaning cyber instead of guns. If Israel did respond, he notes, then it shows that the Jewish state has made it clear that civilian infrastructure is an unacceptable target for cyber. This raises questions, he argues. Does Iran control its army of cyber hackers, many of them linked to the IRGC? What are the new rules of this cyber front? What is deterrence in cyber and what is its interaction with other aspects of war?”

U.S. Politics

Biden will not condition aid to Israel 'period, full stop', campaign adviser says,

“Joe Biden will shield Israel from criticism at the United Nations if elected president, a senior adviser to the vice president’s campaign has said, stressing that US aid to Israel will be guaranteed no matter what the Israeli government does. In a briefing with the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) on Monday, top Biden aide Tony Blinken talked up the former vice president’s pro-Israel credentials restating the campaign’s commitment to the partnership with Israel. ‘He would not tie military assistance to Israel to any political decisions that it makes. Period. Full stop. He said it; he’s committed to it. And that would be the policy of the Biden administration,’ said Blinken, who served as deputy national security adviser under Barack Obama.”

Top Biden advisor: As president, former VP would keep disagreements with Israel private,

“Joe Biden’s senior foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken touted the former vice president’s longstanding ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday as he addressed possible unilateral Israeli annexation of some West Bank settlements. ‘Joe Biden believes strongly in keeping your differences — to the greatest extent possible — between friends behind doors,’ Blinken said on a webcast hosted by Democratic Majority for Israel. ‘When it comes to your friends and partners, you’re much more effective when you disagree on policy matters in dealing with it in private — doing it clearly, forcefully, effectively, but not airing, to the greatest extent possible, any dirty laundry in public. I think one of the great strengths that a president Biden would bring to the relationship with Israel is, he goes back a long, long time with Israel. He’s known, respected and liked across the body politic in Israel, and that gives him a huge amount of credibility when it comes to engaging with our partners, including on hard questions when we might disagree, and to do it in a way that doesn’t harm the relationship.’”

At Best, Some U.S. House and Senate Members Lack Even an Elementary Understanding of the International Criminal Court,

“This past week, certain members of the US House and Senate released two letters (here and (here) that demonstrate, at best, a woeful lack of comprehension of the International Criminal Court.  The letters suggest that the ICC’s preliminary examination regarding crimes in Israel/Palestine and its investigation regarding crimes in Afghanistan are politicized and baseless. Critically, these views rest on numerous, elementary misunderstandings about the Court—or are themselves an effort to misleadingly represent the institution.  The letters also, and troublingly, could be interpreted as encouraging Secretary of State Pompeo to renew his prior efforts to obstruct the work of the Court, which included threats towards Court officials and their families.”

Congress enables Israeli impunity at ICC,

“…Earlier this week, a bipartisan grouping of 69 United States senators sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter encouraging him to continue his ‘vigorous support of Israel as it faces the growing possibility of investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court.’ The letter was spearheaded by senators Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, and Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland….Metadata on the PDF copy of the letter linked from Portman’s website lists the document’s “author” as Ester Kurz, the legislative director of the powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC…”


Hamas: US moves against freed prisoners might damage prisoner swap talks,

“Member of Hamas Political Bureau Musa Dodeen has warned that American moves against freed Palestinian prisoner Ahlam Al-Tamimi might undermine efforts to reach prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported yesterday. His remarks came following a letter signed by seven American congressmen sent to the Jordanian embassy in Washington requesting Al-Tamimi be handed over to Israel for retrial. 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.”

Israel: Annexation on the Agenda

Future US, UN ambassador Erdan is ready to defend annexation to the world,

“‘We promised it to our voters,’ Erdan said of annexation. ‘I believe in it with all my heart that we have a biblical and legal right to Judea and Samaria. It cannot be that the citizens of Israel who live there have to live under a military government just because the Palestinians have refused to reach a compromise with us for decades.””

A very dangerous government,

“…what is at the top of this government’s priority list? Annexation. It could officially annex large swaths of the West Bank under Israeli law, a move that could ignite the region and worsen Israel’s relations with Jordan and the European Union. Or it could continue to annex the occupied territories quietly and gradually, without any official statements, as has been Israel’s practice for decades. As Israel deals with both a health and economic crisis, it needs to be reminded that it still controls the lives of millions of Palestinians through a tyrannical military regime in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In these places, too, COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on people’s livelihoods and brought many families to the brink of starvation. The Israeli right has succeeded in turning the system of racial segregation and apartheid in the occupied territories — and the violence necessary to maintain it — into a non-issue for most Israelis. In fact, it has managed to consolidate a consensus around entrenching Jewish supremacy across Israel-Palestine. And there is no sign that the new government will reject such supremacy anytime soon.”

A guide to the perplexed: What does Israel's sovereignty move mean?,

“…What does applying sovereignty mean? Israel has regarded Judea and Samaria as disputed territories since their capture in the 1967 Six-Day War. If it was to extend its sovereignty to certain areas, they would become Israeli territory. How do you apply sovereignty? In a basic sense, through a cabinet resolution or Knesset law stipulating that the laws of the State of Israel apply in those areas. Another step could have Israel announce that it no longer considers those areas to be in dispute but rather as part of Israel. Where will sovereignty be applied? The Trump plan grants Israel 30% of Judea and Samaria. A mapping committee is working to delineate the exact borders. It is likely that sovereignty would be applied on the Jordan Valley and on the Israeli communities in Samaria, Binyamin region, Gush Etzion and Mount Hebron. The roads leading to those communities will also be defined as part of Israel.”

Israel envoy to US lobbies for annexation, fearing Biden victory,

“Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, has been lobbying in favour of Israel’s annexation plans, fearful of the plan being scrapped should Joe Biden become US president. Three sources reported by the Israeli TV Channel 13 said that Dermer is leading a campaign targeting Trump administration officials, congressmen and women, journalists and other influencers to convince them that Israel must move forward on annexation plans. Dermer believes annexation must be carried out before the US’ November election because if Joe Biden wins the presidency, he may change White House policy related to Israel and Palestine. In an off-record speech to US experts and reporters, Dermer said: ‘Israel has to move on annexation now because we do not know what is going to happen in the elections and Biden might win.’” Also see: Arutz Sheva – Ambassador Ron Dermer: Apply sovereignty quickly because Biden may win

Israel’s new foreign minister endorses Trump’s plan, mindful on annexation,

“Israel’s new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi embraced today US President Donald Trump’s peace plan with the Palestinians, yet stopped short of supporting any unilateral annexation by Israel of West Bank lands. Speaking at the May 18 changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, Ashkenazi said, ‘President Trump presented us with a historic opportunity to shape the future of the State of Israel and its boundaries for decades to come.’” Also see – Israel Hayom – FM Ashkenazi: Trump’s peace plan is a historic opportunity

International Community vs. Annexation

Israel counting on European friends to thwart EU sanctions,

“…Israeli diplomats have been campaigning the past two weeks in various European capitals to thwart any EU decision to punish Israel over annexation plans. While the diplomats cannot offer guarantees that the plans will not be implemented, they are arguing that with the new government sworn in May 17, sanctions would be counterproductive for all sides. Jerusalem’s diplomatic efforts were focused on European countries considered friendly to Israel, such as Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, with the idea of preventing a consensus among EU members for advancing sanctions against Israel. For the moment, this strategy seems to be working, as the EU has not made a decision on a broad statement against Israel, which would require unanimity, or on pushing a resolution in that vein in the United Nations.”

After EU’s warnings against annexation, Israel slams ‘megaphone diplomacy’,

“The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday hit back against the European Union’s ‘megaphone diplomacy’ after the bloc’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, again warned Jerusalem against the unilateral annexation of West Bank territory in a message congratulating the Jewish state on its new government. ‘The Israeli Foreign Ministry would like to thank the EU for their message congratulating Israel on the swearing-in of a new government,’ spokesperson Lior Haiat said in a statement. ‘Israel and the EU share history, values, interests, opportunities and both face threats. It is regrettable that once again, the security of Israel, a key partner of the EU, and the threats that Israel face, were not mentioned at all and were not given the centrality that they should be in such a message,’ he said. ‘This ‘megaphone diplomacy’ is not a substitute for intimate diplomatic dialogue and will not advance the role the EU is seeking to fulfill,’ Haiat added.”

EU will not recognise unilateral Israel annexation of West Bank,

“The EU foreign policy coordinator, Josep Borrell, warned Israel that the body will not recognise any unagreed on changes to the 1967 borders. Borrell pledged EU support to help reignite the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that included ‘meaningful negotiations between the two parties’. ‘International law is a fundamental pillar of the international rules-based order. In this respect, the EU and its member states recall that they will not recognise any changes to the 1967 borders unless agreed by Israelis and Palestinians,’ Borrell said, adding: ‘The two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the future capital for both states, is the only way to ensure sustainable peace and stability in the region.’”

France: Applying sovereignty will have consequences,

“The French government issued a strongly-worded statement Tuesday urging Israel not to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. The statement calls on Prime Minister Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister Gantz not to ‘annex’, as the move ‘will have significant implications for Israel’s relations with the EU.’ The French foreign ministry is aligning with the European foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, who is regarded as the most senior official in Europe who actively opposes the move. ‘We support the announcement by EU Foreign Minister Borrrell that annexation would be in violation of international law, and would not proceed without implications for EU-Israel relations,’ the ministry’s statement said.”

Canada's Trudeau Joins International Opposition to Israel's Annexation Plans,

“Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday in a statement congratulating Israel’s new government that ‘in these times of uncertainty, our commitment to international law and the rules-based international order is more important than ever,’ hinting at the government’s pledge to annex parts of the West Bank. Trudeau’s remarks, touting Canada and Israel’s ‘long history as close friends,’ is the latest in statements made by leaders and international groups, warning the new government, sworn in on Sunday, against its annexation proposal.”

Palestinians vs. Annexation

PA cabinet leader: Israeli sovereignty would be 'illegal',

“Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday slammed the Israeli plan to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria as ‘illegal.’ The plans of the Israeli new government to annex the Jordan Valley, Jewish settlements and territories in the Dead Sea area will result in ‘dangerous repercussions’ that ‘would undermine the foundations of peace in the entire region,’ Shtayyeh said in a press statement quoted by the Xinhua news agency. He called on the international community ‘to take quick practical steps to halt the Israeli plans and recognize the independent state of Palestine on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.’ Shtayyeh said that the PA leadership will convene on Tuesday to discuss how the Palestinians will confront the Israeli plan.”

Palestinians in the Jordan Valley face threat of displacement amid annexation push (VIDEO),

“The only thing left is to hang us.” Rafi Faqha, a Palestinian who lived through the Nakba and Naksa, faces the threat of displacement from the Jordan Valley under Israel’s annexation plans.”

How Can The Palestinians Confront Israel’s Annexation Plans?,

“Palestinian leaders will convene on Tuesday to discuss a response to the new Israeli government’s prospective move to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, officials confirmed Monday. Wassel Abu Yusuf, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, said the meeting will discuss the Palestinian measures that need to be done to confront the Israeli plans, including the termination of agreements and declaration of Palestinian statehood.”

Palestine: The third way forward,

“The continuing debate about the singularity or duality of states is not only premature, it may prove divisive and debilitating. Israel will certainly oppose a one-state solution with the same if not stronger determination it opposes a sovereign Palestinian state with. The sooner the Palestinian leaders realise there are no short cuts or off-the-shelf solutions the better they will be prepared for the long haul. That is why the Palestinian endgame should be justice and freedom. They are not only an attainable goal that everyone will rally behind, but also a prerequisite for peace and security in the region.”

Occupation & Discrimination

Hundreds of international artists call for end to Gaza blockade,

“More than 250 artists and writers from around the world called on Israel to end its blockade of Gaza in an online letter late last week, which has been enforced by Israel and Egypt since 2007 following Hamas’s take over the Strip, according to a report by AlJazeera. Some of the prominent names pressuring for an end to the blockade include Peter Gabriel, British filmmaker Ken Loach, and Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen, who called on Israel to end its ‘siege’ of the Gaza Strip, while also saying that the coronavirus pandemic will have disastrous results in ‘the world’s largest open-air prison’. Other famous signatories include poet Taha Adnan, Jewish-Canadian writer Naomi Klein, and the British Trip-hop group Massive Attack.”

'I lit the firebomb and threw it in the house',

“Recordings of Amiram Ben Uliel, convicted today of the Dawabasha family murder in the Palestinian Authority town of Duma, were revealed on Channel 11 News tonight. In the recordings, Ben Uliel tells of the night he threw a Molotov cocktail at the house: ‘I entered the grove here at some point I think; I walked through the trees. I jumped over the wall, walked here on the road, here I heard the goats,’ said Ben Uliel, who, according to the verdict, sought to avenge the murder of Malachi Rosenfeld. ‘At first I did a round, I circumvented the house, I examined it. Then I went with the second bottle, I jumped through the wall. I try to open the window first, I couldn’t. I try the second window, I can’t. I move to the third window, where I succeed, that is to say, it’s open; I move the screen and light the second bottle and throw it in. Same as the first bottle, green,’ Ben Uliel recalled.”

What an Exceptional Verdict in Palestinian Family's Murder Proves About Israel's Judiciary,

“…Serious Crime Case 932-01-16: The State of Israel vs. A. Ben-Uliel. In theory one could sigh with relief and even feel some satisfaction and pride. Justice was done, the murderer was convicted, and the legal system worked, even though the victims were Palestinians and the murderer was a Jew. Indeed, even a broken clock gets the time right twice a day. Monday was one of those times – the other one, if you will, was when the murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir were convicted. In both these murders, Israel acted as if its law enforcement system was equitable and just. But the clock was and still is broken, even if in this instance it showed the right time with Swiss precision. It’s no coincidence that both Ben-Uliel and Yosef Haim Ben David, Abu Khdeir’s murderer, came from the margins of the nationalist camp, nor is it a coincidence that in both cases there were minors involved. These are the dregs of the settlement-harassment enterprise, the wild weeds that render the rest of it supposedly kosher.”

IDF soldier indicted for car-jacking vehicles he stopped at fake check point,

“Military prosecutors filed an indictment Monday against a soldier who allegedly created dummy checkpoints near his home in the West Bank, using them as a ploy to car-jack unsuspecting Palestinian drivers. According to the indictment, the suspect, on three separate occasions in March, stood armed and uniformed in the middle of the road in the central West Bank and flagged incoming Palestinian cars to come to a halt, under the false impression that he was operating a checkpoint. He then robbed the occupants of their vehicles, managing to steal three cars using the tactic. After using the vehicles for his personal needs, the soldier left them abandoned on the side of the road, the indictment said.”

Arab councils in Israel on strike over pandemic, economic crisis,

“This was not how Israel’s 1.9 million Arab citizens had hoped to spend Ramadan. Local governments in Israel’s Arab towns and villages have been on strike since May 5, closing down schools, suspending welfare and other municipal services as well as garbage collection, policing and the local coronavirus centers tasked with curtailing the spread of the disease….The Committee of Local Arab Councils claims it had no choice but to go on strike because no one in the government was listening to them, even though their communities had been harder hit by the pandemic and its repercussions than Jewish ones.”

West Bank: Occupation forces launch massive arrest campaign,

“The occupation forces launched raids on many areas of the West Bank and arrested a number of citizens, including a prominent Hamas leader, amid an extensive campaign which started a week ago. The raids targeted the town of Ya`bad, in Jenin, after an Israeli soldier was killed during clashes with Palestinians, who protested against a massive campaign of incursions that had taken place earlier. The Israeli forces continue to impose severe restrictions on Ya`bad, such as closing many of the town’s main roads, launching arrest campaigns and raids on a regular basis, while intimidating the locals with police dogs, intentionally assaulting them and destroying their personal belongings.”

Palestinian Authority condemned for violence-promoting school textbooks,

“The European Parliament passed three resolutions that condemn the Palestinian Authority for using school textbooks that promote hate and violence. The resolutions were passed Thursday as amendments by the Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control in a budgetary report, according to the EU Reporter, and passed by a vote of 402-263, with 13 members abstaining.”

Mobster storms Palestinian town to get back beloved horse,

“One thief definitely bet on the wrong horse when he decided to steal a head mobster’s favorite equine friend. Nissim Alperon, the head of a large mob family, led his private army into a Palestinian city just to get the stolen horse back. Without consulting the IDF, Alperon led a convoy of ten vehicles into Qalqilya, located under Palestinian control in the West Bank east of Kfar Saba, to retrieve the horse, according to Channel 13.”

Free Speech vs. Israel

Burning of Israeli flag leads to German law to ban torching of all flags,

“An antisemitic rally where an Israeli flag was torched caused German lawmakers on Thursday to pass legislation outlawing the burning of all foreign flags within the borders of the federal republic. The Jerusalem Post reviewed the 16-page change in German law that imposes a criminal penalty that could lead to a three year prison term for flag burning.”

Amid the pandemic, Missouri and Oklahoma pass anti-BDS bills,

“’In the midst of a global pandemic, it is dismaying that state lawmakers in Missouri and Oklahoma have prioritized passing bills that punish those who boycott for justice,’ Palestine Legal Senior Staff Attorney Meera Shah told Mondoweiss, ‘Year after year, activists in these states successfully fought back against anti-boycott bills. This year, while legislative sessions were truncated due to COVID-19, and people sheltering in place were unable to fight back, lawmakers made the time to pass bills aiming to silence constitutionally protected speech in support of Palestinian rights. These laws will be challenged.’”

George Washington University stands by appointment of interim dean who backs boycott Israel movement,

“George Washington University is standing by an interim dean at its foreign policy school who has come under fire for past actions supporting the boycott Israel movement. A campus group, GW for Israel, launched a petition this week calling for the university to reconsider its recent naming of Ilana Feldman as the interim dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, the prestigious private Washington, D.C., university’s training school for diplomats and other foreign policy specialists. Feldman, an anthropology scholar, is currently the school’s vice dean and will serve until a replacement is named. She has joined in calling on the American Anthropological Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions, most recently in 2018.”