Top News from Israel & Palestine: November 13, 2020

What We’re Reading

U.S. Policy

Pompeo plans unprecedented visit to West Bank settlement,

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to visit the Golan Heights and an Israeli settlement in the West Bank next week, both firsts for a U.S. secretary of state…The trip seems intended to highlight the Trump administration’s policy shifts on Israel. For Pompeo, it also has domestic political significance ahead of a possible presidential run in 2024…Last November, Pompeo annulled a State Department legal opinion from 1978 which deemed Israeli settlements in the West Bank “inconsistent with international law.” He and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman were the driving forces behind that shift…After Pompeo’s announcement, the owner of the winery named a new series of wine after Pompeo and sent him a case of wine bottles…It’s unclear whether it will be designated as an official visit or a private visit, or whether any Israeli officials will accompany him.”

Also See

How Biden will roll back Trump’s ‘America First’ legacy on foreign aid,

“The Biden administration will also pursue a restoration of aid to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which Trump pulled all funding from in 2018. Since losing its biggest donor, the cash-strapped agency has been forced to scale back on health care, education and other critical services. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has said the Biden administration would “take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance” to the Palestinians, in addition to reopening the US consulate in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian mission in Washington. Elizabeth Campbell, UNRWA’s director in Washington, says her agency is optimistic and believes the new administration will provide assistance “on the basis of need and need alone, not for political reasons.””

Annexation, Occupation, & Human Rights

Jerusalem municipality okays new homes in neighborhood that chafed Biden in 2010,

“The Jerusalem municipality has approved the construction of 108 housing units in a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem that has in the past rocked ties with Washington, with a source reportedly saying further building projects may be advanced before US President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in at the beginning of the year. The housing approved Tuesday is to be built in the ultra-Orthodox Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, an area that became the focus of a diplomatic spat between Israel and the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, over a previous massive construction project there.”

Occupation forces injure three Palestinians in Kafr Qaddum,

“Israeli occupation forces injured three Palestinians today as they attacked dozens of activists protesting in the village of Kafr Qaddum, near the city of Qalqilia in the occupied West Bank, against the Israeli colonial settlements. Morad Shtewi, coordinator of the popular resistance in the village, said Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated rounds and teargas at the protesters, injuring three of them and causing many cases of suffocation from gas inhalation.”

Dozens suffocate as Israeli forces crackdown on anti-settlement rally east of Nablus,

“They confirmed that a large Israeli military force violently dispersed the participants of the rally called for to defend the villagers’ lands threatened with confiscation, northeast of the village, to make room for Israeli colonial settlement construction. Soldiers fired tear gas canisters, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets towards the participants, causing dozens to suffocate and injuring a number of others with rubber-coated steel bullets.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Court challenges legislation holding already brittle unity government,

“The High Court of Justice on Thursday has ordered the state to justify within 21 days legislation that stands at the core of the current unity government that regulates its power-sharing deal and the institution of the alternate prime minister. The petition argues that the alternate prime minister institution as stipulated in the Basic Law: The Government substantially changes the system of government in Israel which stipulates that the country has only one prime minister.”

Right bloc soars to record-high 70 parliament seats, poll shows,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party climbed back to 30 mandates after lingering in the upper 20s mark, while former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party maintained its surging momentum with 23 mandates. Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction remained the third largest party, according to the poll, with 17 seats.”

Netanyahu's Biggest Fear: What if Gantz Decides to Decide?,

“Gantz is still pondering, in part because of the concern that this will be an irreversible move that will bring about the government’s dissolution. Based on the experience of the past year, it’s likely that he, and not Netanyahu, will blink first. But in the meantime, many present and past members of the defense establishment are apparently finding it pleasant to fantasize about what might happen, if only the minister dares this time and makes a decision. “

Top Analysis & Opinion

Trump was great for Netanyahu. Biden will be better for Israel.,

“With admiration and respect around the world for the United States, particularly in the Middle East, Israel is stronger. And on that score, President-elect Joe Biden will be better for Israel — strengthening bipartisan American support for the Jewish state and pursuing policies abroad far more effective in enhancing Israel’s security and well-being.”

Israel’s settlements could test ties with Biden,

“Settler leaders, disappointed to be losing a friend in Trump, said they hope Biden will be different than Obama and not push for curbs on construction. “I would hope that they don’t fall back into the old approach that led us into a deadlock,” said Oded Revivi, mayor of the Efrat settlement. For now, Israel seems unlikely to make too many bold moves in the settlements if it wants to curry favor with an administration likely to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal. “The No. 1 issue for Israel is Iran. Not the settlements, not the peace process, not the Palestinians,” said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations. “Anything that could disrupt collaboration with the United States on Iran is going to be off.””

Who are Biden’s potential senior appointees, and what are their views on Israel?,

“On the issue of Israel, multiple sources involved in the campaign said that all of Biden’s picks will be closely aligned with the position of the president-elect. Biden does not see eye-to-eye with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on West Bank settlements and the need for a two-state solution, but views safeguarding the security of the Jewish state as an issue of utmost importance in the region.

Israeli settlers disappointed over Trump’s defeat, worry over Biden,

“Damari claims that the real problem is actually Biden’s Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris. “What worries us most is not the president-elect, but the team surrounding him, especially the vice president-elect. It bothers me when I read interviews with Harris saying that she will take steps to bring the Palestinian delegation back to Washington and halt construction in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. I have nothing against the president-elect. I don’t think he will be that bad for Israel. But he is an elderly man, and the way it looks now, it will be the people surrounding him who will be running things. That’s why I believe that things will be tough, even though we also realize that we have a long way ahead of us.””

Israeli Settlers Want to Make Business Deals in Dubai. Pity They Have Nothing to Offer,

“Yossi Dagan, the head of the West Bank regional council who led the delegation to Dubai, isn’t exactly an apolitical businessman looking for capital wherever he can find it. Only three months ago he had joined other settler leaders in calling the UAE deal a stab in the back, because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly traded his promised West Bank annexation for the agreement. This week, Dagan spoke as if he could enjoy the best of both worlds. “Most of the citizens of Israel, myself included, continue to call for and even demand that Prime Minister Netanyahu apply full sovereignty in Judea and Samaria,” he wrote in a Facebook post, referring to the annexation of West Bank lands. Dagan even declared that there is “no contradiction between our demand to impose sovereignty and the strengthening of commercial and industrial ties for businesses in Samaria [the northern West Bank].” Setting aside whether Dagan’s political reasoning is hypocritical or delusional, an examination of the commercial angle reveals a far simpler reality: There are no businesses in the settlements for Emiratis to make deals with.”

Biden’s victory prompts great expectations in Ramallah, quite possibly too great,

“Joe Biden’s US presidential victory has restored some color to the cheeks of senior officials in the PA, Fatah, and mainly Abbas’s close circle. The hope is that four years of diplomatic drought are ending, and the expectation is that the PA is back in business. It is doubtful that Biden will prove as accommodating as the PA would like to believe, however. Ramallah will need to demonstrate an abundance of readiness to progress in order to avoid angering the incoming American administration.”