Top News from Israel/Palestine: May 5, 2020

What We’re Reading

Israeli Politics

After hearings, Likud, Blue and White set to announce coalition deal revisions,

“The justices repeatedly pressed Netanyau’s representative, Michael Rabilo, on why the coalition deal doesn’t allow for most non-coronavirus-related legislation to be advanced for the first six months of the government. The lawyer backed down and said an amendment would be made to make the requirement less binding and allow other legislation to be advanced when necessary. The judges also knocked a clause that bars the appointment of senior officials during the first six months, arguing that the coronavirus crisis had nothing to do with that and that after three consecutive elections and 18 months of being ruled by an interim government that cannot make full-time senior appointments, such appointments couldn’t wait any longer. The justices said the inclusion of the emergency period itself was also problematic, since there was no definition of its duration or of what exactly would cause it to end…The court invited Likud and Blue and White to consider changing all the problematic clauses and come back with a response within 24 hours.” See Also: “Government formation bills on track for Thursday deadline” (Ynet)

Netanyahu: Court's Intervention in Deal With Gantz Could Lead to Fourth Election,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday evening that the High Court of Justice’s intervention in the coalition agreement between his Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan ‘could increase the likelihood of a fourth election.’ Earlier on Monday, the High Court picked apart the coalition agreement between Kahol Lavan party and Likud, in the second day of discussions over the broader topic of Netanyahu’s continued role in government with three criminal indictments.”

COVID-19 & Palestine/Israel

Israel, PA agree on return of construction workers,

“In the past 10 days, things have calmed a bit, with the help of the mediation of United Nations envoy to the region Nickolay Mladenov, especially because of the urgent common interest of the two sides to allow the workers to get back to work in Israel. Before the pandemic, about 130,000 Palestinian workers were employed in Israel as well as in the West Bank settlements, mostly in construction, manufacturing and agriculture…According to the agreements, Israel and the PA coordinated the entry of about 50,000 Palestinian workers for early this week. The workers will stay within the Green Line for three weeks until Eid al-Fitr (May 24), the holiday that concludes the month of Ramadan…However, Israel refused the request of the PA to provide health care for workers infected with the virus, and so any workers who fall sick will return to the West Bank and get treated there.”

PA extends coronavirus state of emergency in occupied West Bank,

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) has announced a one-month extension of a state of emergency imposed in the occupied West Bank to try and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. In place since March, the emergency measure has introduced a full lockdown that confined Palestinians to their homes, except for essential travel. Restrictions have since been eased, with some businesses allowed to open in a bid to revive the weakened economy.”

Despite cafes opening, Gazans still reluctant to go out,

“The Ministry of National Economy in the Gaza Strip allowed on April 27 restaurants and cafes to reopen. This comes as part of the government measures to ease restrictions previously imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the enclave. The Gaza Strip is still maintaining a low number of cases, as the Ministry of Health recorded 17 infections since March 21. As of the end of April, 12 individuals had recovered and seven remain under medical observation in Gaza hospitals. No confirmed cases have been registered since April 23.”

Israel eases coronavirus rules: It’s back to the malls and visits with the grandkids (but no hugs),

“In a nationally televised address Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in Israel. The new rules permit visits by first-degree relatives – without hugs — and cancel the restriction on movement beyond the immediate vicinity of one’s home. This means that grandchildren and their grandparents to get together for the first time in weeks.” See Also: “Coronavirus: Israel approves extension of Shin Bet surveillance powers” (Middle East Eye)

Gov't extends Shin Bet coronavirus surveillance, advances Knesset bill,

“The government on Monday voted to extend Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) surveillance of citizens infected with coronavirus. It also is trying to move legislation forward to permanently regulate the program in accordance with the High Court of Justice. The current plan is to ask the Knesset Intelligence Subcommittee to extend the program until June 16 or until a new Knesset law is passed to regulate it.”

Israel's Gatekeepers Have Become Enablers of a Dangerous Coronavirus Policy,

“…the end result to which the High Court’s ruling is pushing us is that this tracking will be enshrined in regular legislation – “the high road,” as jurists call it. Instead of focusing on the substance of this tactic, that is, the use of extremely invasive tracking technology against Israeli citizens, the justices have once again chosen to focus on procedure – the process by which the regulations were adopted, without the checks and balances that ostensibly exist in the standard legislative process.”

Israel pledges $60 million to global effort to find coronavirus vaccine,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday pledged $60 million (about NIS 210 million) at an international donors conference raising funds for the joint fight against the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Like all countries, Israel is now trying to find the right balance between protecting the health of our citizens by preventing another spike in infections, and enabling the reopening of our economy, but, ultimately, to ensure both the public health and national prosperity, we must all work together on improving diagnostics, accelerating therapies and ultimately developing a vaccine,’ he said in a prerecorded message to the virtual pledging event.”

Annexation, Occupation, Human Rights

7 east Jerusalem residents arrested for conducting PA operations in Israel,

“Seven east Jerusalem residents were arrested on Tuesday after an undercover investigation by Israel Police found evidence that they had been working for and funded by the Palestinian Authority within Israeli territory. Police detectives went to the homes of the suspects early on Tuesday morning to conduct the arrests. Searches in the homes found more evidence to back the suspicions against the suspects.”

Jerusalem mayor hands out food in Shuafat, promises improvements,

“While meeting with residents of Shuafat, the mayor announced plans to increase the city’s investments in the neighborhood’s in the sports, education and social sectors with the goal of narrowing decades’ old gaps between the neighborhood and other neighborhoods in Jerusalem.”

Israel's Top Court Denies Settlers' Appeals in 'Terrorist' anti-Palestinian Attacks,

“The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday denied the appeals of five young Israelis, including two who were convicted of terrorist offenses in connection with attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank with firebombs and gas grenades and the torching of Palestinian cars. The defendants, some of whom were juveniles, had appealed the severity of their sentences, which ranged from one to five years in prison. Two also appealed their conviction for membership in a terrorist organization. Writing for the court, Justice Menachem Mazuz stated that ‘in light of the history of the Jewish people, which is replete with persecution, we have a special obligation in the fight against acts of persecution and racism.’”

100 years of shame: Annexation of Palestine began in San Remo,

“One hundred years ago, representatives from a few powerful countries convened at San Remo, a sleepy town on the Italian Riviera. Together, they sealed the fate of the massive territories confiscated from the Ottoman Empire following its defeat in World War I. It was on April 25, 1920, that the San Remo Conference Resolution was passed by the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council. Western Mandates were established over Palestine, Syria and ‘Mesopotamia’ – Iraq. The latter two were theoretically designated for provisional independence, while Palestine was granted to the Zionist movement to establish a Jewish homeland there…The Resolution gave greater international recognition to Britain’s unilateral decision, three years earlier, to grant Palestine to the Zionist Federation for the purpose of establishing a Jewish homeland, in exchange for Zionist support of Britain during the Great War.”

U.S. Politics

National Security Veterans Urge Democrats To Go Farther In Opposition To Israel's Trump-Approved Land Grab,

“The group wants the party and its presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden to loudly oppose unilateral Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank, the area that would be integral to a full-fledged Palestinian state, as well as Israel’s military occupation of that region and its policy of building Israeli settlements there. Biden faces a greater challenge than past Democratic nominees because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to begin annexation this summer with Trump’s blessing ― making the U.S. role in the Israel-Palestine dispute a major issue in the news just months before the November election. ” See Also: “Former national security officials say Democrats should oppose Israeli occupation, settlement expansion in platform

American Jews: You are desperately needed in the fight against annexation.,

Daoud Kuttab and Ori Nir write: “Pro-peace American Jewish groups, who strongly oppose annexation, must vociferously ramp up their efforts to foil the plan, making common cause with other Americans who support the two-state solution. These groups have partners in Israel, including a coalition of five Israeli peace movements, who vociferously oppose the Gantz-Netanyahu annexation plan. A unified Arab opposition to the deal, the only possible firewall to prevent annexation, deserves the support of anyone who supports Israeli-Palestinian peace, including progressive American Jews.”

Intel: J Street launches push to include Palestinian rights in Democratic Party platform,

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a significant point of contention in the battle over the 2016 Democratic platform between the centrist and progressive wings of the party. Pro-Israel delegates loyal to the nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, won out over delegates pledged to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who had sought to references Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its settlements. As in prior years, the 2016 Democratic platform contained no reference to either.”


Syria says Israeli jets hit military outposts in Aleppo province,

“Syrian air defences thwarted an Israeli missile attack on a research centre and a military base in the northern province of Aleppo, state media said on Monday, in the fifth such attack in two weeks on suspected Iranian targets. The Syrian army said in a statement that Israel hit military barracks in al-Safirah in the eastern Aleppo countryside. Earlier, state television had said a research centre was hit. The army said it was now assessing the damage caused by the raids.”