Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 7, 2020

What We’re Reading

Israeli Politics

Israel's Supreme Court clears Netanyahu to form government despite corruption charges,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment on corruption charges does not disqualify him from forming a government, Israel’s top court said on Wednesday, paving the way for the veteran leader to remain in power. In its ruling against opposition petitioners, the Supreme Court also found that Netanyahu’s unity government deal with his election rival Benny Gantz does not violate the law, dismissing arguments that it unlawfully shields him in a corruption trial.” See Also: “Israel’s High Court allows Netanyahu to form a government despite indictment” (Washington Post)

Knesset Amends Basic Laws, Clearing Path for Netanyahu-Gantz Government,

“The Knesset approved on Thursday amendments to two basic laws which allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan to fulfill their coalition agreement and enshrine in law the rotation between the two men as prime minister…The amendments were approved by a majority of 72 to 36. The far-right Yamina party, lawmakers from Yisrael Beiteinu, including Avigdor Lieberman and Merav Michaeli from the Labor party abstained. With the amendments approved, President Reuven Rivlin is now expected to task Netanyahu with putting together a governing coalition after the Knesset hands him 61 signatures backing the premier…On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s Likud party and Kahol Lavan released a joint statement saying the two  agreed on the formation of a government and its swearing-in next Wednesday, on May 13, ‘after completing the necessary legislation on Wednesday night.'” See Also: “Knesset okays full legislative package anchoring new unity coalition” (The Times of Israel)

Annexation/"Deal of the Century" Watch

Pompeo to come to Israel next week,

“Pompeo would not confirm the trip at his press briefing on Wednesday, but said there will be an announcement in the coming days. In relation to Israel, the Secretary of State spoke of a need for Iran to leave Syria, where they are endangering the Golan.” See Also: “Pompeo to Visit Israel as West Bank Annexation Looms, Report Says” (Haaretz)

US ambassador’s annexation comments please Israeli right,

“In a May 6 interview with the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper, Friedman explained that when the process of mapping the area to be annexed is completed, Israel would need to suspend settlement construction in the areas not to be annexed, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would need to propose to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that they open negotiations on the basis of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan. Then, and assuming that Netanyahu will get Knesset approval for an annexation plan, the United States will recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the areas that the plan outlined. Israel Hayom will publish the full text of the interview on Friday. Friedman also gave an interview to the Jerusalem Post, making sure that his annexation statements got into the headlines. It’s the perfect gift for Netanyahu just a day before the deadline for presenting the new government to the Knesset. ‘We will be ready to address this issue if Israel is ready. Ultimately, as Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo said, it’s Israel’s decision. They have to decide what they want to do,’ said the ambassador.” See Also: “US will recognize Israel’s West Bank annexation with conditions, US ambassador says” (JTA)

PA slams US envoy over annexation remarks,

“The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday accused US Ambassador to Israel David Freidman of making ‘false’ statements about Israel’s plan to apply Israeli law to parts of the West Bank. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA presidency, said the Palestinians rejected Friedman’s claim that it was up to Israel to decide on the plan…Abu Rudaineh said in response that ‘neither Israel nor the US have the right or legitimacy to take any steps contradicting international law and legitimacy.’…On Monday night Abbas repeated his threat during a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee in Ramallah. It was Abbas’s first appearance in public since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the West Bank in early March. ‘I say before you that in the event that the Israeli government begins with this annexation, we will no longer be bound by all the agreements signed between us and them, as well as the American administration,’ Abbas said during the meeting. ‘It was the Americans who came up with the Deal of the Century and inspired the Israelis about the annexation issue. The Americans were the ones who drove the Israelis towards this issue. Now the Americans are saying that they have nothing to do with this and that it’s Israel that makes the decisions.’”

Majority of Israel's Jews oppose West Bank annexation, survey says,

“The survey, conducted by the Commanders for Israel’s Security movement (comprised of senior security officials who oppose the extension of Israeli sovereignty to Palestinian-held lands), examined a sample of 1,000 people from the Jewish public alone…According to the poll, only a quarter of the respondents (26%) said they support the potential annexation, while 40% prefer a permanent two-state solution, 22% favor unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians, while only 13% are content with the current situation…Some 21% of Likud voters said they preferred a permanent two-state solution, while 25% favor unilateral pullout, and 18% are content with the current situation. The survey also shows that most Jewish citizens, including most Likud voters, do not support the annexation of the Jordan Valley if the move would put a strain on relations with Jordan. Only 28% said they were willing to risk the peace agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom. Among Blue & White voters, only 10% are willing to risk the peace agreement and 41% of Likud voters said they would agree to the move.”

Settler leaders accuse Trump of ‘scamming’ Israel with peace plan,

“Settler leaders on Thursday lashed out at the Trump administration for seeking to ‘scam’ Israel with its peace plan. ‘Representatives of the US government are [trying to] sell Plan A under the guise of Plan B. There is no greater scam than this,’ Yesha settlement umbrella council chairman David Elhayani told the Ynet news site, claiming that Washington is trying to use its support for annexation to force Israel to agree to the formation of a Palestinian state.”

As Israel considers annexation, Biden calls to keep the two-state solution alive,

“Joe Biden said the U.S. should press Israel not to take any actions that jeopardize a two-state solution, a reference to reports that Israel may try to annex part of the West Bank. Biden, in a statement Tuesday to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, also said that as president he would resume U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, reopen the U.S. consulate in eastern Jerusalem that administers primarily to the Palestinians and would seek to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington.” See Also: “Joe Biden pledges to restore US assistance to Palestinians if elected president” (Middle East Eye)

A lesson in fighting apartheid from a Jewish South African dissident,

“The dilemmas he had raised were mirror reflections of how Palestinians experience Israel’s legal regime, both as citizens under civil law and as occupied subjects under military law. Far from being a check on state power, Israeli courts, like in South Africa, have been key architects and enablers of land seizures, racist legislation, family separation, military impunity, and much more. And although Israel’s laws are arguably more nuanced than apartheid South Africa’s, they effectively achieve the same purpose: the supremacy and privilege of one group over others. Goldberg agreed. Like many leaders of the fight against South African apartheid, he asserted that ‘There is no doubt in my mind that Israel is an apartheid state… I cannot allow in my name the same kind of oppression to go on.’”

COVID-19 & Palestine/Israel

Despite State of Emergency, PA Seeks Return to Normal,

“On Wednesday, several watchdog groups in Israel – Kav LaOved−Worker’s Hotline, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Physicians for Human Rights – announced that the country had agreed to provide insurance and accommodations for Palestinian construction workers staying in Israel due to the COVID-19 epidemic rather than going home nightly. There will also be government oversight of their living conditions. The announcement came a day after the three groups filed a petition with Israel’s High Court of Justice. Under the new directives, Palestinian workers will be treated in Israeli clinics or hospitals when needed. The court also obligated Israeli employers to provide certain living conditions, as specified in emergency regulations. Additionally, the practice of taking personal documents from employees to restrict their movement was canceled. Abir Joubran Dakwar, a lawyer and head of the Occupied Palestinian Territories unit at ACRI, told The Media Line that the Israeli government accepted almost all of the petitioners’ demands regarding accommodations, insurance and work conditions. ‘It’s a huge success, where the decision took effect yesterday [May 5],’ she said. ‘Employers are now obligated to secure the workers and equip them with needed preventive measures [against coronavirus], just like any other foreign workers in Israel.’”

Coronavirus Israel Live: Israel Relaxes Emergency Regulations for Those Returning From Abroad,

“The Israeli government approved a series of steps to ease the lockdown restrictions, including allowing group prayer, partial reopening of the economy and stores, and fines for not wearing masks in public. Some coronavirus wards started closing as cases decline.”

Israel & International Community

Saudi TV network accused of 'promoting normalisation' with Israel,

“Two Saudi television series airing during the holy month of Ramadan have caused an uproar in the Arab world as critics accuse the network behind the series of trying to change Arab views of Israel. The Dubai-based, Saudi-owned MBC network has also received criticism for trying to cast Palestinians in a negative light on its programmes, critics say. MBC, a Saudi-owned network, was accused of ‘promoting normalisation’ with Israel despite its decades-long occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories, as well as its systematic abuse of Palestinians still under its military control. Facing criticism from across the Arab world, the Saudi press agency carried a statement by the Saudi government during a cabinet meeting, chaired by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on Wednesday, reiterating its ‘full support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause’.”

Netanyahu's Son Becomes Star of German Nationalist Party After Calling EU 'Evil',

“Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister, has become the new campaign face for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party after calling the European Union an ‘evil globalist organization’ last week. Senior AfD lawmaker Joachim Kuhs tweeted on Wednesday a poster of Netanyahu, echoing his calls for “a free, democratic and Christian” Europe. ‘#Christianity is the #Remedy for the evils of the globalist #EU, writes Yair Netanyahu,’ Kuhs tweeted alongside a poster that reads: ‘Schengen is dead. Hopefully, the globalist EU will be too. Then, Europe will again be free, democratic and Christian’.”