Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 21, 2020

What We’re Reading

Palestinian Politics/Policies

The Abbas declaration: Why this time may be different ,

“While there are many reasons to be skeptical given Abbas’s record of “crying wolf,” there is good reason to believe this time may be different. If that is the case, the consequences could end up being far greater than either Abbas’s leadership or the Palestinian public had bargained for.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Calls on Ministries to Take 'Actual Steps' to Cut Ties With US, Israel,

“According to the official WAFA news agency, Shtayyeh ordered all ministries at the extraordinary cabinet meeting to take actual steps and urgent measures regarding decisions of President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Palestinian official said to reassure Israel some security cooperation still on,

“…Channel 12 news reported that an unnamed senior Palestinian official sent messages to the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service saying that some coordination would continue and that the Palestinian security organizations will continue to do their best to foil terror attacks against Israel. Even if cooperation really is ended, the official vowed that terror groups will not be permitted to act freely in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The Channel 12 report noted that some coordination between the Israeli and Palestinian security services will always be necessary as Israel controls some checkpoints and roads in the West Bank. Palestinian security forces need to coordinate with Israel to pass through those locations.”

Abbas 'Ending Agreements' With U.S., Israel Over Annexation Leaves Palestinians Skeptical,

“Palestinians have proved apathetic to President Mahmoud Abbas’ declaration Tuesday that the Palestine Liberation Organization saw itself released from its commitments to the United States and Israel – he has made announcements like that before.” [Also see: very useful Twitter thread from journalist Neri Zilber laying out the history of Abbas threats to end security cooperation.]

Using Trump’s “Vision” to Break Free of Past Frameworks,

“…Despite these obstacles, Palestinians can use the Trump “vision” to break free of the political frameworks that have limited their rights and freedoms for so long. There are many ways in which the impending disaster of further Israeli annexation and dispossession can be countered and transformed into opportunities.”

Can Abbas repudiate all agreements with Israel?,

“Unlike previous occasions, Abbas has shifted from threats to end agreements, to a declaration. However, the details remain vague and contradictory. Israeli media reported that security coordination, which Abbas has on occasions deemed ‘sacred’, has not been affected by the decision. In addition, Abbas has not declared the dissolution of the PA. If the PA – a body dependent upon Israel and foreign financial assistance – has been unable to take autonomous decisions that go beyond symbolic significance or perfunctory expectations, can its declaration to dissolve all agreements hold any ground? Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh today ordered the cabinet to start ‘work on translating this decision on the ground.’ However, Shtayyeh is already weakening the position declared by Abbas by calling the decision “the moment of truth for all who believe in the two-state solution”, based upon the rhetorical rejections of annexation which the international community has issued so far.”

Pompeo hopes Israel-Palestinian security ties persist, despite Abbas declaration,

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he hopes security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians will continue, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians were no longer bound by its agreements with Jerusalem and Washington. ‘We hope that the security arrangements will continue to be in place, that the work that’s done on the ground there to keep people in Israel and Palestinians safe will continue,’ Pompeo said during a press conference at the State Department.”

Abbas, Cornered by Israeli Annexation, Opts for ‘Judgment Day’ Scenario,

“Tuesday night, for most Palestinian Muslims, was the Night of Destiny, commemorating the revelation of the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. For Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, it was a night of reckoning. As long as he has led the Palestinian national movement, Mr. Abbas has opposed violence and espoused negotiations with Israel. But Israel’s push, with the Trump administration’s support, to annex occupied territory that the Palestinians have counted on for a future state may be steering Mr. Abbas’s strategy to a dead end. On Tuesday, citing the new Israeli government’s determination to annex West Bank territory as soon as July 1, Mr. Abbas declared an end to security cooperation with Israel — a move that Palestinian officials have referred to as a “Judgment Day” scenario because of its potential to lead to conflagration.”

From Abbas to Hamas, Palestinian Leaders Have No Strategy Against Annexation,

“A fumbling, factional, incoherent Palestinian response to Israel’s looming move on the West Bank would be a dream for annexationists. And that’s exactly what’s happening.”

Could the Pandemic Jump-Start National Reconciliation in Palestine?,

“SummaryPalestinian grassroots organizations are leading the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Many factors will weigh on this new activism’s longevity…”

Israel: Annexation on the Agenda

Settler umbrella group adopts motion against Trump plan, but opposition builds,

“In what is effectively a gesture against the Trump peace plan, the Yesha Council umbrella group of settlement mayors has adopted a series of principles that include supporting West Bank annexation while vehemently opposing the establishment of any Palestinian state…Hours after the Yesha Council published the list of six principles that it approved last week, a group of eight settler leaders published their own statement calling for supporting the Trump plan.”

Odeh warns of intifada, Liberman asks 'why aren’t you in Ramallah?',

“Joint List leader Ayman Odeh addressed possible outcomes to Israel annexing a portion of the West Bank on Thursday and warned that, should Israel do so, an intifada is only a matter of time, Ynet reported. ‘It will come,’ he warned, ‘it is a natural response to any [sort of] occupation.’ He added that polls show half among the Israelis support a two-state solution based on Israel returning to the pre-1967 borders. He claimed to ‘represent these people, the Palestinians, and Israelis who seek peace.’ Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman tweeted in response that the only thing that’s insane is that Odeh is a member of the Knesset and not sitting in Ramallah.”

Playing Along With Netanyahu's Annexation Fantasy, Gantz Is Rebranding Apartheid ,

“…Gantz and Ashkenazi are former chiefs of staff and are familiar with the warnings about the collapse of the peace treaty with Jordan and an undermining of that country’s stability. They heard the discussions in the European Union about imposing sanctions against Israel and they are aware of the potential of escalation. They know that “annexation” is nothing more than new branding for an apartheid regime and unilateral withdrawal, and that Israel is risking turning the Palestinian enclaves into areas of escalation, which will make Gaza pale in comparison.”

International Community vs. Annexation

Hungary, Austria, warn EU against ‘double standard’ on Israel,

“Hungary and Austria on Wednesday warned their counterparts in the European Union against endorsing a double standard against Israel with regard to E.U. resolutions. Budapest and Vienna have consistently been the sole opponents of the harsh criticism expressed by E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell against the Jewish state since Israel’s government said it plans to go ahead with plans to apply Israeli law to large parts of Judea and Samaria.” Also see: Jerusalem Post – Hungary, Austria stand against rest of EU blasting Israel; Haaretz – Hungary ‘Shares National Values,’ Agrees on ‘Importance of Sovereignty’ With Israel, Top Diplomat Says; Jerusalem Post – Hungarian foreign minister: Israel can rely on us in the EU, UN

Russia, UN and Vatican condemn unilateral Israeli annexation plan,

“International opposition to Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank continued to gain momentum Wednesday as representatives of the UN, Russia and the Vatican all expressed strong objections to the plan that could be implemented as early as July.”

EU Members at UN Security Council: Israeli Annexation Would Violate International Law,

“…At the start of the session, European Union representatives addressed the formation of a new Israeli government and expressed concern over its declared intent to annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, saying it would be a violation of international law.” Also see: Joint Statement by Current and Former EU Members of the UNSC (Germany, Belgium France, Estonia, Poland) before the UN Security Council VTC Meeting on the Middle East

Mladenov: Palestinians' withdrawal from agreements is a ‘cry for help’,

“The Palestinian Authority decision to withdraw from its agreements with Israel is a ‘cry or help’ with regard to pending Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Wednesday. ‘Whatever our individual assessments of the Palestinian reaction to the Israeli threat of annexation may be, it is certainly one thing – it is a desperate cry for help. It is a call for immediate action. It is a cry for help from a generation of a leadership that has invested its life in building institutions and preparing for statehood for over a quarter of a century,’ Mladenov said. Mladenov spoke in a video conference meeting of the UN Security Council, which held is monthly debate on the Middle East peace process. ‘The Palestinian leadership is not threatening, it is calling for urgent action to preserve the prospect peace,’ he added.”

'It's still too early to discuss sanctions against Israel',

“Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn warns the new government against applying Israeli law in parts of Judea and Samaria. ‘We are working vigorously to prevent the annexation of occupied Palestinian territories,’ he says.”

Saudi Arabia rejects Israel’s plans to annex land in the West Bank,

“Saudi Arabia confirmed, on Thursday, its rejection of Israeli plans and measures to annex lands in the West Bank. In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Kingdom expresses its rejection of what was issued regarding Israel’s plans and measures to annex lands in the West Bank and impose Israeli sovereignty over them. The ministry stressed the kingdom’s condemnation of any unilateral actions, and any violations of international legitimacy decisions, and of all that might undermine the chances of resuming the peace process to achieve security and stability in the region…”

Russia said pushing ‘mini-summit’ to mend ties between US, Palestinians,

“Russia is reportedly seeking to arrange a meeting in the coming weeks between US and Palestinian officials to help renew ties between Washington and Ramallah, which have frayed during US President Donald Trump’s presidency. Citing unnamed Western diplomats, Channel 13 news reported Wednesday the planned meeting in Geneva is also aimed at preventing an escalation of violence in the West Bank and allowing the Palestinian Authority to propose changes to US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which it has rejected out of hand.”

Turkey: Annexation of West Bank is a crime,

“Turkey today called on the international community to condemn Israel’s plan to annex the West Bank. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the occupation and annexation are crimes, calling on the world to take a stand. ‘We reject Israel’s plan to annex the West Bank and call for the world to take a stand against it. Occupation and annexation is a crime,’ Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.”

Division, mixed international support sap Palestinian resources in face of annexation,

“As Israel’s possible annexation approaches, Palestinians are struggling to unite behind a realistic plan.”

Occupation & Human Rights

Convicting Jewish terrorists is the exception that proves the rule,

“This week’s conviction of Israeli far-right extremist Amiram Ben-Uliel over the 2015 arson attack that killed three Palestinians in the West Bank village of Duma may have offered some comfort to the family members of the deceased. What is certain is that the conviction will be used by Israel to demonstrate that its law enforcement system does, in fact, take crimes against Palestinians seriously. To borrow from legal terminology: this is misrepresentation. The investigation of the horrific attack that killed three members of the Dawabshe family in their sleep is the exception that proves the rule. That rule is that Israeli law enforcement authorities do not ascribe great importance to the investigation of crimes against Palestinians. This is true both in cases of severe violence and in day-to-day settler violence that has become the norm for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”

Will minor from Duma terror attack get prison time?,

“…The main culprit, Amiram Ben-Uliel, was convicted of murder on Monday; a sentencing hearing, in which life in prison will be considered, will be held for him in June.In May 2019, the minor cut a plea bargain deal leading to a conviction on reduced charges.On the one hand, the minor was not only acquitted of murdering the Dawabshe family from the 2015 arson-murder incident, but he was not even convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.On the other hand, he did confess to a background narrative in which he clearly admits to participating in planning some kind of attack on Duma, including surveillance of that village specifically.In addition, for those who say that the minor did nothing but discuss, he was convicted of other arson and price tag attacks, even as they did not involve murder.”

Rights groups call on Israel to stop its ‘military attacks’ on Palestine fishermen,

“Israeli and Palestinian rights groups have called on the Israeli Navy to stop its ‘military attacks’ on Palestinian fishermen and fishing boats in the Gaza Strip. Israeli rights groups Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, Adalah – Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel jointly and the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights highlighted in a statement the Israeli violations against fishermen. ‘In recent weeks, the Israeli navy has increasingly used violent enforcement measures at sea, with incidents of fire on fishermen off the coast of Gaza rising by 70 percent in April compared to January-March 2020,’ the statement said.”

PA refuses UAE aid sent via Israel, won’t be ‘tool for normalization’ – report,

“The Palestinian Authority government has refused to accept medical aid from the United Arab Emirates after it arrived on the first known direct commercial flight between Israel and the UAE, PA sources told multiple Arab media outlets. The UAE-based airline made history Tuesday, as the plane loaded with 16 tons of coronavirus aid for Palestinians flew directly from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv. Palestinian media, as well as Russia Today Arabic, quoted a government source Thursday saying the aid had been rejected, explaining Ramallah was refusing to be used as a ‘tool for normalization’ between Israel and the UAE.”

Targeting Criticism of Israel, Palestinian Narrative, NGOs

Joe Biden and the Jewish Community: A Record and a Plan of Friendship, Support and Action ,

“A Biden Administration Will…Firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — and too often veers into anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”

[Campaign Against GW Professor Continues] Miseducation on Israel,

“In an interview, for example, she said, ‘Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestinians under occupation, discrimination against Palestinian citizens of the country, and denial of the rights of Palestinians displaced in 1948 and 1967 not only continue, but have become more extreme in recent years. Efforts to change these conditions within the framework of the so-called ‘peace process’ and under the banner of dialogue have failed miserably.’ She added her dissatisfaction that ‘the United States, and therefore American citizens, are deeply complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights, because of the enormous sums of money that our government provides Israel every year and because of the nearly unwavering support it gives Israel in international forums.’ This is a person GWU said was qualified for the position because of ‘her ‘meticulous research’ exploring the condition of Palestinians in the Middle East.’ Feldman also claimed that criticisms of the antisemitic BDS movement are often ‘hateful, attempts to frighten people into silence” and that opponents engage in “spurious charges of antisemitism, threats to individual careers (especially of vulnerable junior scholars), and threats to withhold donations from the institutions where critics work.’” [Also see: Twitter thread from FMEP’s Lara Friedman tracking attacks on Professor Feldman, including 5/21 hit piece in Newsweek].

Pro-BDS group settles lawsuit for discrimination against Israeli entities,

“In a significant legal victory against efforts to boycott Israelis and the State of Israel, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a civil rights group in the US which supports such a boycott, has come to a settlement with an Israeli organization for refusing to grant it advertising space in one of its publications.The settlement could have a sizeable impact on the viability of Boycott Divestment Sanctions activity in the US more broadly given the acceptance by NLG in the settlement that discrimination on the basis of national origin violates anti-discrimination laws. [For background/context, see this Twitter thread and links from FMEP’s Lara Friedman]

Senior EU official vows to 'look deep' into EU funding Palestinian terror.” ,

“A senior European Union official has ordered an investigation into whether EU funds are being used to finance Palestinian terror, pledging to rectify the situation if terror financing with EU funds are found to be taking place.Speaking during a May 19, 2020 meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), the Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said that he had instructed the heads of delegations in Tel Aviv, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to “look deep” into the situation, adding ‘if there is any concern, we will act immediately.’ His comments come just weeks after concerns were raised by members of the European Parliament and others regarding a letter sent on March 30, 2020 by Sven Keuhn von Burgsdorf, EU Representative Office to the West Bank and Gaza, to the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) – an umbrella organization of 135 Palestinian NGOs.”

PA amends educational curriculum under EU pressure,

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet has agreed to amend the educational curriculum in Palestinian schools on Monday, following pressure from the European Union and national European governments. PA Education Minister Prof. Marwan Awartani provided a detailed report to a Cabinet meeting on the new proposed curricula and plans for their development, which emphasized the need for the ‘preservation and protection of the curricula as based in a sovereign Palestinian matter… as they relate to the Palestinian narrative and identity, and the strategic directions of the state, including the Declaration of Independence,’ according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.”

Bonus Read

How to End the Special Relationship With Israel,

“…Normalizing ties between the United States and Israel is an acknowledgement of both success and failure. Israel’s security and existence are ensured, but peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which analysts and officials made a U.S. responsibility, remains beyond their grasp—most likely permanently. At least the United States will no longer have to bear the contradictions and burdens of peacemaking that unnecessarily raised expectation that Washington could deliver the Israelis or pressure the Palestinians in the service of goals neither side shared. That is not normal.”