Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 22, 2020

What We’re Reading

Palestinians v. Annexation

Israeli officials: Abbas has ended security coordination,

“Israeli officials confirm Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has followed through on his threats and halted all security coordination with Israel. The ramifications of the decision are far-reaching, with Israeli and Palestinian forces setting up for a military clash in the West Bank. Abbas, in a speech earlier this week, said all agreements with the US and Israel were off due to the talk of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.” Also See: “Palestinian Authority withdraws forces as end to Israel coordination begins” (Middle East Eye); PA removes police stationed near Jerusalem, as Gaza said to freeze ties too” (The Times of Israel)

Palestinians Notified CIA About Stopping Security Coordination With Israel, Senior Official Says,

“The Palestinian Authority has notified the Central Intelligence Agency it is halting security coordination with Israel and the United States, according to Saeb Erekat, the chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization…’We are not closing the door, we are asking the international community to help convene an international conference to relaunch negotiations based on international law and a two- state solution,’ he said, adding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has addressed this directly with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gueterres.” Also See: “Palestinians shun CIA after declaring end to security coordination with U.S. and Israel” (Reuters)

Cutting security ties, Abbas shows he’s serious — even if it risks everything,

“Under the new conditions, an armed showdown between Palestinian forces and Israeli troops could be just around the corner, and could easily turn into a pitched battle with casualties. So why did Abbas put his money where his mouth is this time? It seems that, faced with unprecedented steps by Washington and Jerusalem to cement Israeli rule in the West Bank, the Palestinian leadership has finally had enough. Ignored and humiliated repeatedly in recent years by both Israel and the US, PA leaders are now flexing their muscles, wishing to demonstrate they are willing to gamble everything, even to cause real harm to themselves, to prove they will not capitulate to American and Israeli pressure. Encouraged by the words of Jordans’s King Abdullah, who last week warned of “massive conflict” and a possible end to peace should annexation move forward, Palestinian officials are now openly speaking of further desperate measures: even a willingness to collapse and disintegrate their very structures of power in the West Bank if annexation moves forward.”

Palestinian leaders' confused messaging over next steps with Israel,

“Some say the PA’s announcement that it is absolved of all the agreements is a leap in the dark, as there is no clear-cut Palestinian plan for how to dissolve the agreements with Israel, most notably the Oslo Accords concluded on Sept. 13, 1993, in virtue of which the PA was established.”


Crossings update: Number of verified coronavirus cases jumps to 49, all of them having entered Gaza via Rafah Crossing,

“The cases announced today are from three separate government-run quarantine centers throughout the Strip. There is concern that some of the individuals may have come into contact with others in the quarantine centers and possibly also individuals outside the centers. According to media reports, the local authorities are considering intensifying the lockdown in the Strip in response. This weeks’ cases bring the total number of individuals with confirmed cases in the Strip to 49, 16 of which have recovered from the virus.”

Annexation Watch

How fast will Israel’s new government proceed with annexation?,

“Mr Netanyahu’s supporters want him to push ahead while Mr Trump is still in office. Lately, though, the White House, under pressure from Arab leaders, has sounded less gung-ho about annexation. When Mike Pompeo, America’s secretary of state, visited Israel on May 13th, he said Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gantz, a former army chief who opposes unilateral annexation, ‘will have to find the way forward together’. Israeli diplomats say the administration has asked Mr Netanyahu to put things on hold, for now. Some on the Israeli right hope that Mr Trump, who is up for re-election in November, may yet push for annexation in order to win over evangelicals and right-wing Jewish voters.”

Is Netanyahu hoping for an ‘out’ from annexation?,

“These delays are leading some to question whether – despite his promises – Netanyahu even wants to extend sovereignty over all the settlements and the Jordan Valley, as he promised in his campaign. Perhaps he is looking for an elegant way to continue kicking this particular can down the road, worried about how such a move now would impact on efforts to deepen ties with the Persian Gulf countries; worried what it would do to the invaluable security cooperation with Jordan; concerned what it would mean in terms of the relations with the US in the event of a Biden victory in November. Asked about the annexation issue by reporters in the Knesset on Sunday after the government swearing-in ceremony, Netanyahu said he ‘intends to move forward’ on the matter. The big question, however, is to what degree his largest coalition partner – Blue and White – will let him do so.”

Netanyahu: 'Jerusalem has always and will always remain with us',

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday delivered remarks at a Jerusalem Day ceremony marking the 53rd anniversary of the capital’s reunification following the Six-Day War. Netanyahu stressed that ‘Jerusalem is developing in an extraordinary way, especially since [US President] Donald Trump recognized it as the capital of Israel and decided to move the American embassy here.’ He notably stressed that other countries ‘are beginning to understand that this is what must be done to bring justice to the truth and to peace. Jerusalem has always been and will remain with us. It is important for Israel,’ he insisted.”

Occupation Continues...

Israeli Settlers Throw Rocks Along West Bank Main Road, Clashes Erupt With Palestinians,

“Israeli settlers threw rocks along the main road between a mountain near Yitzhar settlement and the Palestinian village of Hawara on Thursday evening, resulting in clashes and mutual rock throwing with Palestinians. Police and soldiers who arrived at the scene dispersed the Palestinians using stun grenades and detained one Palestinian…The army is also investigating an incident that occurred on Wednesday, in which a Palestinian tried to shoot at a car carrying Israelis on the main road through Hawara. The owner of the car chased the Palestinian and fired in the air. The Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman’s Office said the incident is being investigated as an attempted terrorist attack.”

Israelis, drop your denial and recognize the Nakba,

“No country wants to accept the blood of the ‘others’ it shed to be born. In 1945 — three years before Palestinians were scattered and exiled from their land — George Orwell wrote in his essay, ‘Notes on Nationalism,’ that ‘There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when ‘our’ side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified — still one cannot feel that it is wrong.’ So, what do we do when one denies that the crime has been committed? As an American and a Canadian, it seemed obvious to me why the destruction of indigenous populations required acknowledgment, remembrance, and redress. Perhaps for these reasons, I used to think that Israel’s denial of its own dark past would come to a natural end.”

Issawiya and the myth of a united Jerusalem,

“On Jerusalem Day, Israelis are bombarded with clichés about the “unification” and “liberation” of the city. There is no better time to examine Israeli policy in what is actually a divided city. There is no better place to look than the Palestinian neighborhood of Issawiya. Fifty-three years after Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem, this neighborhood is now one of the poorest and most overcrowded in the city. “

Israeli Politics

AP Interview: Opposition leader says PM embarrassing Israel,

“In his first English-language interview since assuming the post, Yair Lapid said he was uncomfortable addressing Netanyahu’s troubles before a foreign audience. Despite their rivalry, he said he takes no joy in watching a sitting prime minister walking into a courtroom defendant’s dock and said he felt bad that it would attract worldwide attention when the trial begins Sunday.”

How an indicted Netanyahu put his attorney general on trial,

“That Netanyahu’s campaign against his accusers is a political act is a given. The trial set to begin Sunday is a double challenge for the prime minister: a personal legal challenge of proving his innocence and avoiding jail time, and a political challenge to prevent the trial from toppling him from the premiership and becoming the central truth of his legacy. Most defendants claim they are innocent, but few can wield a major-party political campaign across three election cycles devoted to making the case. Netanyahu has done so successfully, with roughly half of Israeli voters demonstrating repeatedly either that they believe he is an innocent man or that they think his strengths as a leader outweigh whatever misdeeds he stands accused of.”

U.S. Politics

No Bark, No Bite,

“With each passing week, it becomes clearer that Joe Biden’s victory over Bernie Sanders is making it easier for Israel to annex the West Bank…’The fundamental message of this episode,” argues Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (where I’m a non-resident fellow) and Jewish Currents contributing writer, “is that Congress is not going to do anything if Israel annexes.” A staffer at an activist organization who has followed the letter’s progress puts it more pungently: “Bibi and [Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron] Dermer must be laughing their asses off.”

18 Democratic senators warn annexation will damage, erode US-Israel relations,

“In a letter to Israel’s leaders, a group of 18 Democratic senators have warned of the detrimental consequences of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank to the Jewish state’s “bilateral and bipartisan relationship” with the United States.”