Top News from Israel & Palestine: November 27, 2019

What We’re Reading

Israeli Politics

Netanyahu unleashes populist fury over indictments as party members back away,

“According to Israeli media reports, Likud officials cautioned Netanyahu and his proxies to back off the incendiary rhetoric, warning that a war on law enforcement would come back to hurt the party politically. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who oversaw the three-year investigation into the prime minister’s dealings with wealthy business executives, decried the attacks on his office at a gathering of prosecutors Tuesday.”

Likud sans Netanyahu would result in sweeping Blue and White victory, poll shows,

“One of the poll’s most interesting findings, and the one that ensures the political stalemate is likely to continue, is the strong showing for Yisrael Beytenu, whose leader Avigdor Liberman has refused to join any coalition except a secularist national unity government with both Likud and Blue and White.”

Coalition talks: Why Netanyahu jumped off the wagon,

“But on Nov. 15, the negotiations collapsed. According to Blue and White’s version, Netanyahu retreated from several of the agreements, especially regarding the date he would declare incapacity. He demanded to serve as prime minister until the beginning of his trial, which could take place in a year — that is, serving even under indictment. Blue and White refused and asked the president to clarify the incapacity plan. Rivlin determined that the incapacity period would start at the official date of the submission of the indictment to the court — that is, within a month or two. In the internal debate within Blue and White, Lapid said Netanyahu would not accept this plan, and even if he would he should not be trusted because he would try to arrange immunity for himself. When Blue and White sent a demand to Netanyahu to agree to forgo immunity, they didn’t receive an unequivocal response. Thus, on Nov. 19 we went back to the starting point. Al-Monitor was informed that when Netanyahu and his staff met with Rivlin, the prime minister declared that he demands to serve in the role for a year until his trial actually starts. When Gantz came to the president and heard this, it was clear to him that he couldn’t convince Lapid to go along with this.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

An Archaeologist's Nightmare: NGO Petitions High Court Against Jerusalem Cable Car Plan,

“Archaeologists, architects and scholars have filed a High Court petition against the plan to build a cable car line to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, contesting the authority of the nation’s interim government to decide on carrying out such a significant project. The petition also alleges that planning bodies have not seen realistic simulations of how the cable car line will look against the backdrop of the Old City. Three weeks ago the ministerial committee on housing approved the blueprint for the cable car, planned to connect the Jerusalem train station at the end of Emek Rephaim Street, with Mount Zion and the City of David National Park, not far from the Dung Gate and the Western Wall. The project was approved by the National Infrastructure Committee over the objections of archaeologists, architects and conservation activists, who fear the cable car line will damage the historic landscape. The petition was filed by the NGO Emek Shaveh, and joined by Israel Prize laureates, archaeologists Prof. Amihai Mazar, Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, and Prof. Benjamin Kedar, a former head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and many other academic figures and architects.”

Abbas threatens to cut all ties with Israel if Jordan Valley annexed,

“’We are closely monitoring” Netanyahu’s actions regarding the potential annexation of the territory,’ Abbas was quoted by Russian website Sputnik as telling Russian journalists. ‘If the Israeli premier really does something like this, we will turn to the UN, the International Criminal Court (ICC), and we’ll finally and irrevocably sever all relations with Israel’.”

Pompeo reinforces Netanyahu’s occupation policies,

“Attorney Michael Sfard, the legal adviser of the anti-occupation Yesh Din who specializes in legal issues concerning the occupied territories, agrees with him. He pointed out that Pompeo’s declaration was not underpinned by any legal opinion explaining why findings of the settlements’ illegality, backed by a very rare international consensus of virtually all world states and international law experts, are false. ‘While the declaration will not change the legal situation,’ Sfard told Al-Monitor, he warned that unless it is revoked soon, it will entrench Israel’s rejection of territorial compromise, which is already undermining a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Latest Trend in Conflict Tourism: Airbnbs in Palestinian Refugee Camps in the West Bank,

“Palestinian Ahmad Nader Alfararja always picks up the tourists when they come to stay at his home. While the 25-year-old is a very hospitable host, there are more practical reasons for this particular service. He lives in Deheisheh (near Bethlehem), where the streets literally have no name. ‘Locals know them by the names of the families who live there or by the villages they originally came from, before they were displaced in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war,’ he says. He pauses for a second. ‘Running Airbnbs in a refugee camp is not easy.’ Ahmad is one of a growing number of Palestinians in West Bank refugee camps who are listing rooms on the accommodation-sharing website, offering adventurous tourists a experience like no other in the Holy Land. ‘My goal is to show foreigners how we live in Palestinian refugee camps, show the reality of this conflict from a completely alternative viewpoint,’ the happy-go-lucky host says. ‘I initially rented out a separate apartment, but now we’re hosting in a room at our family home. The guests enjoy staying with us more and love my mother’s cooking,’ he says, smiling. (Ahmad lives with his parents and two sisters, renting out a room with an en-suite bathroom.)”

A decade in, Palestinian family fights on against East Jerusalem eviction,

“Amy Cohen, director of international relations and advocacy for the Israeli NGO Ir Amim, says the Israeli judicial system is following the law narrowly when it comes to attempts by settlers to establish Jewish compounds in East Jerusalem. ‘They are not taking a stand on behalf of justice. They are just ruling on the letter of the law. We are seeing complicity with the settlement activities at all levels and stages within state policy and measure, although in terms of implementation, the action is taken by settlers,’ Cohen said. Moreover, she argued, most of the Jewish families who lost their properties in 1948 already received compensation: if they succeed in the eviction process, they will be compensated twice; while the Palestinian families, and the Sabbaghs specifically, risk being made refugees again.”

Anti-BDS/Pro-Settlement Lawfare

Dutch Gov't Defends Labeling Israeli Settlement Products Despite Challenge From Parliament,

“The Dutch government told parliament on Tuesday it would maintain its support for the European Union’s policy of labeling goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and act to enforce it. In a letter to parliament, which was obtained by Haaretz, the government says it rejects the claim that labeling the origin of settlement products constitutes unequal treatment of Israel. A motion tabled last week in parliament called on the government not to implement the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice, unless similar policies applied to all disputed occupied territories around the world.”