Top News from Israel/Palestine: November 6, 2020

What We’re Reading

U.S. Elections and Its Implications

Biden presidency means early Israeli election - Senior coalition member,

“If former vice president Joe Biden is declared the victor in the US presidential vote, “it will hasten new elections in Israel,” a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s parliamentary coalition tells The Media Line. “Netanyahu has an open door to the [Donald Trump] White House. He may no longer have such strong ties with a Biden White House,” the Knesset member elaborated. “It would be easier for Netanyahu to [hold an election and then] deal with a Biden White House while leading an ultra-right-wing coalition rather than today’s centrist coalition.”

Yamina lawmaker urges Israel to apply sovereignty in West Bank before Biden takeover,

“Yamina NK Bezalel Smotrich called for Israel to apply sovereignty over the West Bank before the next U.S. presidential term begins, in the event Democrat nominee Joe Biden wins the 2020 presidential elections….’If Trump indeed loses,” Smotrich said in an interview with Army Radio, “we will have to pressure Netanyahu to apply sovereignty and establish it before Biden arrives. I have no doubt that Biden will also continue the American administration’s long-standing friendly policy toward Israel,’ he said, despite Biden’s position on settlements.”

Likud officials worry Biden victory could damage Netanyahu, Israel’s UN standing,

“‘Now they will tell Netanyahu: Your friend is gone, against all odds, so you will go too,’ a senior Likud official said, referring to the premier’s opponents. ‘Now they will talk about how Netanyahu severed ties with the Democrats, what price we will all pay and how he — who knows America better than anyone — gambled on the wrong horse,’ the official said, speaking anonymously.”

Biden win means war with Iran, warns Israeli minister,

“An Israeli minister said there could be an Israel-Iran war if Joe Biden wins the US presidency. Settlements Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Wednesday that if Biden returns to the Iran deal, Israel and Iran will go to war.”

Former Israeli minister accuses US Jews who voted for Biden of 'betrayal',

“A former Israeli communications minister accused American Jews of “betrayal” after they overwhelmingly voted for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Ayoob Kara, a member of Israel’s Druze minority who served in the Knesset as a member of the Likud Party until last year, said on Thursday that President Donald Trump was the “best American President” for Israel. “Feels a big disappointment that 72% of the American Jews do not have the gratitude and chose Joe Biden,” Kara tweeted. “I was expecting they will support President Trump who is the best American President for the State of Israel has had.””

Pro-Israel groups say new congressional makeup bodes well for bipartisanship,

“According to Joel Rubin, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, the moderate Democrats who prevailed on Tuesday were, in large part, House members with national security backgrounds who made the argument that they could work in a bipartisan manner, including Luria, Spanberger and Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ).Rubin, who served as director of Jewish outreach for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) 2020 presidential campaign, said that despite the losses, he saw it as a “good sign” that the Democratic candidates who prevailed on Tuesday were in favor of bipartisanship. “Clearly it worked for a number of them and they actually did well in the numbers,” he told JI, adding that, for those who are able to work across parties and within their different constituencies, “there’s going to be a real opportunity for those of us who can effectively engage the diverse segments of the pro-Israel community.” Soifer was equally sanguine in her appraisal of the new Congress and the approach she believes it will take to the Jewish state. “When it comes to the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” she said, “this election will be very good for Israel.””

J Street Condemns Israeli Government's Major Demolitions in West Bank Palestinian Community - Urges Next Administration, Congress to Take Action,

“Without clear transparency about how US security assistance to Israel is being used, it’s not known whether American-sourced military equipment was used to help carry out this displacement — which would be a violation of existing US law…It is vital that the next administration and Congress take action to clearly condemn and push back on the occupation and these ongoing, destructive violations of international law and Palestinian rights, which also clearly and deliberately undermine the prospects for a peaceful, comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They must act to ensure that US security assistance is not and cannot be used to facilitate them.”

[Film Review] An unholy alliance,

“That underbelly of the Judeo-Christian partnership, which downplays antisemitism so long as it is accompanied by Zionism, haunts both documentaries. The brokers of this project, those in the Trump and Netanyahu governments above all, seem willing to deny that “Judeo-Christian” is in fact a stand-in for Christian hegemony with an optional, and disposable, Jewish filter.

What American writer Gore Vidal once characterized as a “series of demented alliances with the Christian (anti-semitic) right,” currently embodied by the alignment of AIPAC and CUFI, is not new. But it has become a high-profile cause for progressive American Jewish activists who have witnessed antisemitism proliferate at the upper echelons of their government, even as many of their communal representatives praise Trump’s ratification of Israel’s military occupation.

While these “demented alliances” increasingly put Jews in the crosshairs, they have also, as Isaac points out in Zinshtein’s film, deepened and broadened Israel’s crushing of Palestinian rights and freedoms. Yet one would not think it looking at both documentaries. Palestinian interviewees are entirely absent from “Kings of Capitol Hill,” and, with the notable exception of Isaac, are largely peripheral in “‘Till Kingdom Come.” Tragically, this is a reflection of the current state of the U.S. conversation on Israel-Palestine, which mostly considers Palestinians surplus to discussions regarding their fate. Whether that will change under a Biden presidency remains to be seen.”

[Analysis] Is Netanyahu ready for Biden?,

“If Netanyahu could have voted, he would have faced a tough dilemma. I would venture a guess that Netanyahu would have ultimately voted for Trump, but not without agonizing long and hard over his choice. Going along with a second-term president is a gamble. Nonetheless, it is hard to ignore the endless, unbelievable strategic gifts with which Trump showered Netanyahu throughout his term, and the fact that Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, enjoys almost unfettered White House access and takes part in formulating highly sensitive policy papers prepared by the president’s top aides. Trump is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, and Netanyahu loves presents. Netanyahu got addicted to the influence he wields on the White House and will have a hard time weaning himself off this heady drug.”

[Analysis] The post-Trump Era: What Would Netanyahu Do if He Loses His Best Buddy in D.C.,

“The adjustment period will be difficult for Netanyahu for other reasons, too: The world leaders who knocked on his doorstep, begging him to put in a good word for them with Trump, his “best buddy,” will wait to see the new relationship. The enormous, rare power Netanyahu built up for himself over the past four years was based mainly on the degree of intimacy he had with Trump. With Biden (assuming …), that will be gone. The White House will no longer be the second home of Ambassador Ron Dermer. And the next U.S. ambassador to Israel won’t be a messianic settler at heart, like David Friedman. It was well for Netanyahu that he didn’t annex the territories, as Trump’s peace deal allowed him to do. That saved him from a bitter confrontation with the new administration. The annexation, though ostensibly “still on the table,” will never be mentioned again.”

[Analysis] A Biden Revolution in the Middle East Will Have to Wait,

“Will Biden make up with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, back him as Trump did, forget about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and ignore the war in Yemen, now run mainly by Riyadh, in exchange for a normalization between Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states? And will the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once again get the United States’ attention, or will Biden put it on the list of conflicts Washington can’t resolve and suffice with reopening America’s wallet for the Palestinian Authority? The man from Scranton isn’t the only one who must answer these questions, and it would be a mistake, not for the first time, to think or hope that Biden is carrying a magic wand for achieving what generations of American presidents failed to do.”

[Analysis] Trump’s unconscionable assault on American democracy, and its ripples for Israel,

“It is unlikely that many Israelis were up at 2 a.m. here to watch Trump’s inflammatory and dispiriting performance. Even if they were, they might well largely stick with their original answer to that poll question on presidential “preferability.” But Israel’s interests when it comes to the US are centrally based on the reliable functioning of American democracy. And America’s president struck an unconscionable blow against that democracy on Thursday night, with ripples around the world.”

[Analysis] A Biden presidency would bring huge pressure on liberal Zionists from pro-BDS Jews,

“The big news from the Jewish world on election day was: 1, the Jewish community is overwhelmingly liberal/progressive and 2, that 22 percent of Jews under 40 support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. What this means is, if the inevitable comes to pass and there is a Biden presidency, we are about to see a dramatic shift in the Israel lobby, which is a Jewish communal institution. The liberal Zionist group J Street, which fought Trump and Netanyahu at every turn, will take over as the centrist Israel lobby, with a lot of friends in the Democratic Congress. AIPAC, which supported Netanyahu blindly and Trump quietly, will become more marginalized on the right. And with Trump gone, J Street will lose its rightwing bogeyman and find itself on the right side of the liberal Jewish discussion. Young left communal Jews who support Palestinian human rights are going to be demanding real action. Not just lip service to a “two-state solution.”

Occupation/Annexation/Human Rights

[Opinion] The Israeli Occupation Is Making the Most of One More Day of Trump,

“The debris of Husma al-Fuqa now lies scattered on the ground. Israel exploited an opportunity, and is waiting for more of them. Other Palestinian communities in the West Bank know it’s only a matter of time, scale and pretext. Dust in the wind.”

UN and EU slam Israel after West Bank demolition leaves 73 Palestinians homeless,

“The United Nations and the European Union have criticized the demolition by the Israeli military of a large portion of a Palestinian community in the West Bank that left 73 people, including 41 children, homeless. The UN described the demolition in the community of Khirbet Humsa as “the largest forced displacement incident in over four years.” Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which administers the occupied West Bank, said seven tents and eight pens were destroyed because they were built illegally in a firing zone in the Jordan Valley.”

A Small Palestinian Business Is Burglarized Over and Over, and Israeli Police Stand By,

“Mohammed couldn’t go on working in Israel because his baby is sick, so he borrowed money and opened a plant nursery near his West Bank village. It has been robbed five times this past year. The thieves’ car and ritual fringes leave little room for doubt about their identity”

'I cry for my trees': Israeli settler attacks wreck Palestinian olive harvest,

“Walking between what remains of the 300 olive trees waiting to be harvested, 69-year-old Khaled Mashaaleh breaks down in tears. In one day, on 14 October, Israelis from a nearby illegal settlement attacked his land, cut down and sabotaged the 300 trees he planted 20 years ago. Settlers also cut down six 1500-year-old olive trees from the Roman period.”

Normalization: Peace Deals or Arms Deals?

US pushes $2.9bn armed drones sale to UAE: Sources,

“The United States’s State Department has given Congress notification it plans to sell 18 sophisticated armed MQ-9B aerial drones to the United Arab Emirates in a deal worth as much as $2.9bn, people briefed on the matter have told the Reuters news agency. The move came on the heels of last week’s notification of a potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the oil-rich Gulf state and one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies.”

Also See

  • “Trump administration set to advance $2.9bn drone sale to UAE” (Middle East Eye)
  • “How the UAE has used the ‘war on terror’ to crack down on its people for nine years” (Responsible Statecraft)

Free Speech/Stifling Dissent/Lawfare

Federal agencies probe SFSU for attempting to host terrorist Leila Khaled,

“The US Department of Education is probing whether San Francisco State University (SFSU) broke federal rules when they attempted to host an event with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist Leila Khaled, the New York Post reported. The Department of Education has also asked the Justice Department and the US Treasury to examine the case. The Lawfare Project, a non-profit that provides pro-bono legal services on issues of Jewish civil and human rights, pushed for the investigation, the Post reported.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Israel Has a New Secret Contact-tracing App. This Is What We Know,

“Alongside the Shin Bet app and the Health Ministry’s Hamagen app, the ministry is now developing a system called Ramzor La’asakim (“traffic light for businesses”), Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen announced last week, in a meeting of a ministerial task force charged with reauthorizing the internal security intel organization’s mandate to track citizens. According to minutes of the meeting,  its purpose is to “provide information to businesses and individuals about the level of risk and thereby curtail the chain of infection. The document provided as part of the minutes doesn’t explain exactly how the system works, but does not Ramzor La’asakim includes an app that works by scanning a QR code. It says the ministry is currently examining how the app will be disseminated for public use and what incentives will be given to encourage businesses and consumers to use it. It also says this isn’t a tracking app, but merely an “initial preventive measure,” without providing further details on how businesses and consumers are expected to use the app for this end.”

[Opinion] Defund the WZO, Defund the JNF, Defund UIA, Defund JAFI,

“The continued existence of the WZO’s quasi-governmental network of agencies will always enable these kind of cooperations, along with all the rest of the political corruption, the disenfranchisement of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens and perpetuate the money-based relationship between Israel and the Diaspora. None of this is good for Israel’s health as a democracy and a society, and for those who insist on presenting themselves as “Zionists,” it’s also antithetical to what Zionism was supposed to be. Instead of being complicit in this, liberal Jewish movements who actually support Israel should disassociate from the WZO, call for the defunding and dissolution of the “national institutions” and a transfer of their assets to the state, so all citizens can benefit from them and a healthier relationship with the Diaspora be built.”

Yair Netanyahu emerges as a media powerhouse,

“What are his messages? He is a relentless advocate of an ultra-right-wing, conservative worldview, which considers the progressive left to be a threat to international stability. Like his father, he is a zealous believer in the principles of a free market. He has nothing but contempt for socialism and considers the mainstream media as little more than an arm of an allegedly vindictive left, which (supposedly) persecutes his father and the rest of his family in an effort to topple right-wing rule in Israel. Yair can allow himself to say the kinds of things that his father would have to tone down. Whereas Netanyahu Sr. tones his message, Yair can lash out, insulting and ridiculing journalists and politicians who oppose his father. Most of all, he can do it without any filters, which is why so many have come to see him as the alter ego of his father. Whenever he crosses the line — and he does — Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office simply releases a statement that Yair is an independent adult with a right to voice his own opinions. This week, Yair, 29, recast himself in a new podcast, which looks like it was shot in his bedroom in the prime minister’s official residence. At the start of his first episode, he introduced the format for his hour-long show. In it, he plans to host someone from Israel or overseas to discuss current events and various ideas near and dear to him. It is yet one more step in his transition into a one-man media organization, an unofficial organ of his father’s campaign, unencumbered by the norms of polite politics. It will surely become an effective tool in the coming election, which observers believe will take place in the next few months.”

Also See:

  • “In his podcast debut, Yair Netanyahu interviews son of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro” (JTA)
  • “Yair Netanyahu interviews son of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro” (Jerusalem Post)