Top News from Israel & Palestine: November 21, 2019

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Israel shuts down Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem,

“Israeli authorities today morning closed several Palestinian institutions in the occupied city of Jerusalem for a period of six months, according to WAFA correspondent. He reported that Israeli police raided the offices of Palestine TV, and posted a notice issued by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, closing the office for six months purportedly for planning to hold activities under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority. Police confiscated material from the office and handed its director, Ayman Abu Rumoz besides to Palestine TV correspondent Christine Rinawi orders to appear before the Israeli intelligence. Meanwhile, police stormed the Education and Higher Education Directorate in Jerusalem, posted a similar notice closing it for six months under the same pretext and detained its head Samir Jibril. Police also barged their way to the Islamic Orphanage School, known in Arabic as Dar al-Aytam al-Islamiya, in Jerusalem’s Old City besides to the Arab Health Center in Sultan Ibrahim Street, and seized all records and surveillance cameras.”

Israel Police Raids Jerusalem School It Claims Used by Palestinian Authority,

“Israel Police raided a Palestinian school in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday on allegations that the Palestinian Authority was operating a branch of the Palestinian Education Ministry from within the school, allegedly violating agreements with Israel. According to Palestinian sources, in the course of the raid on the Dar al-Aytam school, the police removed students and teachers from the building in the middle of the school day and classes were cancelled for the rest of the day. Three school administration employees were arrested, one of them while being at home at the time of the raid.”

The isolation of Gaza is also a primary obstacle to peace,

“I am certain that many of you will want to make statements today reaffirming the illegality of settlements and citing that they are the primary obstacle to peace. I encourage you to note that the isolation of Gaza is also a primary obstacle, aggravated by Palestinian division but also driven by deliberate choices on the part of Israel. In March of this year, in defending his decision to allow funds from Qatar to enter the Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was cited as saying that, ‘whoever is against a Palestinian state should be for’ transferring the funds to Gaza, because maintaining a separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helps prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state’.”

The Two-State Solution Is Not A Gift To Us Palestinians. It’s The Only Way Israel Survives.,

“From the very beginning of the peace process, it’s been crystal clear that working toward a two-state solution and upholding Palestinian rights over our territory is undoubtedly in Israel’s national interest to secure its future if it’s to be a democratic and Jewish state and live in peace and security. This is why no American president has dared to write off the official policy of condemning the settlements.”

With softening of US settlement policy, is annexation train leaving the station?,

“To be clear, Pompeo did not come out in favor of annexation on Monday. And ahead of the Israel’s September election, US officials called on Jerusalem to refrain from applying Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank while it was preparing to unveil its peace plan. But such requests have not been heard in recent weeks as speculation has grown that the US plan will be shelved entirely. As a result, one left-wing MK who spoke on the condition of anonymity admitted that Pompeo’s announcement will make it more difficult for him to come out against annexation. ‘It doesn’t make us look very good when we oppose something that even the US government doesn’t seem to have a problem with,’ the MK said.”

Trump Crushes Palestinian Hopes Again,

“The U.S. Middle East peace plan may be in a coma. But that hasn’t stopped Washington from handing major diplomatic victories to Israel.”

UN Security Council members rebuke US on Israel settlements,

“After speeches by the 15 council members, Israel’s Danon and Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour, the council held closed consultations. When that session ended, ambassadors from the 10 non-permanent council members who serve two-year terms stood before reporters while Deputy German Ambassador Jurgen Shultz read a critical joint statement. ‘Israeli settlement activities are illegal, erode the viability of the two-state solution and undermine the prospect for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace’ as affirmed by the 2016 council resolution, the statement said. It also called on Israel to end all settlement activity and expressed concern at calls for possible annexation of areas in the West Bank.”

Don't legalize the illegal,

Gershon Baskin writes, “If the international community is not prepared, like Sweden, to recognize the State of Palestine on the basis of the (so-called) 1967 lines, and is not prepared to declare that since Israeli settlements are illegal and therefore settlers and settlement products are illegal and should not be allowed to enter countries that respect international law, then there is no point of continuing to talk about a two-state solution. If the Trump administration’s policies vis-à-vis the illegal actions of Israel can set the tone and behavior of the international community, then what is the point of international law? And what is the point of continuing to talk about a two-state solution that has zero chance of emerging?”

Israeli Politics

Gantz concedes failure to form coalition, all but assuring new elections,

“With the declaration, the country’s year-long spiraling political chaos entered uncharted territory, formally laid out in law but never before exercised: Israeli lawmakers now have 21 days during which any 61 Knesset members can back any MK as prime minister, including Netanyahu or Gantz. If that doesn’t occur, Israel will go to unprecedented third elections in under a year.”

Likud’s Sa’ar calls for leadership primaries, declares bid to unseat Netanyahu,

Asked why he believes that he should be Likud’s new chairman, Sa’ar replied: ‘I think I will be able to form a government and unite the country and the nation.’

Netanyahu Indictment Imminent: Bribery, Fraud or Breach of Trust?,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be indicted for corruption either later Thursday or Sunday. The move follows a four-day pre-indictment hearing in October in which Netanyahu’s legal team tried to persuade Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to drop the charges against him. If indicted, Netanyahu will face dual challenges:  Fighting to remain prime minister while grappling with the frustrating political deadlock that appears to be leading Israel to a third election in the space of a year.”

Israeli politicians prefer chaos over Jewish-Arab partnership,

” ‘Coexistence presents challenges that are not easy for either side. It obliges each side to listen to the other, understand its sensitivities and respect its basic rights,’ said the official commission of inquiry headed by the late Justice Theodore Or, which investigated the killing of 12 Arab citizens (and one non-Israeli Palestinian) by police in riots that broke out in October 2000. Along with urging the Arab citizens to remember that Israel constitutes the realization of the Jewish people’s yearnings for a state of their own, the Or commission members suggested that the Jewish majority keep in mind that the state is not only Jewish but also democratic, that equality is one of the central pillars of the state’s constitutional structure and that the prohibition of discrimination applies to all its citizens. ‘The Jewish majority must respect the identity, the culture and language of the Arab citizens,’ the commission wrote. In order to block the deterioration of Jewish-Arab relations, the commission recommended finding ways to boost the Arab citizens’ sense of belonging to the state without undermining their affinity for their culture and community. Not only that, ‘perhaps it is time to give expression in public life to the common denominator that links the entire population,’ the panel members wrote. A look at the political arena in recent weeks suggests that these important suggestions fell on deaf ears, and not only on those on the right side of the divide.”

U.S. Policy

Assessing the New U.S. “View” on the Legality of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank,

“Then again, it’s obvious that Pompeo’s pronouncement of a ‘legal’ conclusion isn’t designed to convince anyone of anything, let alone of the proper reading of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Its manifest purpose is something else entirely.  Whether it’ll be at all effective as a matter of statecraft remains to be seen.  (Color me dubious.)  In the meantime, however, the Secretary’s use of such an obvious and unconvincing legal figleaf in such a cavalier way must make for some dark and solemn days over at ‘L,’ as they reportedly are at Foggy Bottom more broadly.”

Palestinian Politics

Hamas sets some demands for elections, concedes others,

“Despite the optimism surrounding efforts to hold elections, Hamas’ stance toward Abbas’ memo will have the next say in the issue of elections. If Hamas approves of the memo, Abbas will have to issue a presidential decree setting the date of elections and launch a national dialogue to discuss all the details. If Hamas rejects the memo, hopes to hold elections will collapse once again.”

Fatah, Hamas fight over Turkey,

“These developments indicate a clear Palestinian focus, both from Fatah and Hamas, on Turkey, rather than on Arab and other Islamic countries. It seems Ankara is seeking a role in making these elections a success. Hamas and Fatah will now have to decide whether Turkey is an acceptable mediator in any potential future electoral problem. This could possibly be at the expense of the Egyptian role. Turkish influence has been growing in the Palestinian arena since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Ankara in 2002, raising the level of relations with both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. Turkey has not only been pushing for the success of the electoral process being prepared at this stage, but Turkish influence among Palestinians has taken on multiple political, economic and cultural dimensions.”

Netherlands Cuts Aid to Palestinian Authority Over Terrorist Salaries,

“The Netherlands spends several million dollars each year on aid to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian populations elsewhere in the Middle East but most of that money is given to agencies and nongovernmental organizations. The country had given about $1.6 million directly to the Palestinian Authority annually to pay the salaries of justice ministry employees. The aid ministry said that talks with the Palestinian body “did not lead to the desired outcome.”