Top News from Israel & Palestine: October 15, 2020

What We’re Reading

Settlements/Occupation/De Facto Annexation

Israel pushes forward with plans for 2,166 settler homes in West Bank,

“The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria advanced or approved plans for 2,166 settler homes when it met Wednesday, according to a report from the office of the Coordinator for Governmental Affairs in the Territories (COGAT).The council, which convened for the first time since February, is scheduled to meet again on Thursday – the day the Knesset is set to approve the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates – to advance or approve another 2,500 housing units. Israel has agreed to suspend any plans to annex West Bank settlements as part of its deal with the UAE and has not set a date when it would apply sovereignty.Until Wednesday, settlers had feared that building plans would also be frozen, but their advancement has assuaged some of those fears.”

Also see:

Settler leaders praise decision to approve new construction (Israel Hayom)

Aboul Gheit [Arab League SYG] condemns Israel’s approval of 2,000 settlement housing units (WAFA)

Jordan decries Israeli plan to build new settler homes (Middle East Monitor)

Presidential spokesman urges the international community to stop Israel’s settlement madness (WAFA)

Israel approves new West Bank housing, just weeks after ‘peace’ deals with UAE, Bahrain (Middle East Eye)

Peace Now furious at ‘record construction’ in Judea and Samaria (Arutz Sheva)

After 20 years [settlement of] Pnei Kedem officially recognized in Land Registry,

“A festive atmosphere today is discernible in Gush Etzion, following yesterday’s approval of 1,100 housing units in the communities in Metzad, Kfar Eldad, and Har Gilo. This, after the meeting of the Higher Planning Council approved 120 units the community, along with official Land Registry recognition after two decades. The Higher Planning Council today issued the second part of their historical decision: 80 new housing units were approved, while the existing 40 units were officially recognized bringing the total to 120 homes.”

Three months after seizing Palestinian land and planting it with trees, Israeli settlers set up caravan on that land,

“Three months after Israeli settlers had seized Palestinian land in the occupied northern Jordan Valley and planted it with trees, the settlers today set up a caravan on that land, which is a prelude to establishing an illegal settlement outpost, according to a local rights activist. Aref Daraghma, who is active in the Jordan Valley against Israel’s settlement plans, told WAFA that the settlers had set up a caravan in Khirbet Ehmair in al-Farisieh village.”

“Another BDS Fail: Chemistry Journal Upholds Its Neutrality”,

“On October 5, the journal posted an announcement explaining the removal of the website and expressing the desire to discuss the situation directly with Dr. Levine and Ariel University. The page was reinstated — with the author’s full geographic affiliation — and the announcement was updated two days later to express the journal’s ‘Statement of Political Neutrality with Regards to Affiliation of Scientists at Ariel University’…” Also see Lara Friedman Tweet: “Who needs official annexation? Pro-Greater Israel activists succeed in getting intl academic journal to adopt policy that “neutral” position is to refer to university located in settlement **literally in the middle of West Bank** as located in Israel.

Israel to demolish EU-funded school in West Bank,

“The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) announced on Wednesday that it is deeply concerned about the Israeli military’s planned demolition of a European-funded Palestinian primary school in the West Bank, a press release reported. The NRC noted that the Palestinian school is located in Ras At-Tin herding community in central West Bank. ‘These are some of the most vulnerable children, whose lives are already extremely hard, and Israel as the occupying power has a duty to ensure that they get their education and basic services,’ expressed NRC Regional Director Carsten Hansen.”

Also see:

Bedouin students fear losing their school in Area C (Al-Monitor)
While the Palestinian Authority is taking over ‘Area C’ with EU money, where are you? – A call to action and list of on-the-ground initiatives for Judea and Samaria that readers can join or support” (Jewish News Syndicate)

MK Naftali Bennett: 'Cancellation of sovereignty plans is painful',

“Speaking at today’s special Knesset session to discuss and vote on the Israel-UAE treaty, Yamina party leader MK Naftali Bennett described the treaty as the result of pursuing the policies espoused by Jabotinsky…. ‘I congratulate Netanyahu for this historic achievement. The Jewish People thanks you, but I have to add that the cancellation of plans to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is deeply painful to me. Even if the Prime Minister does not end up applying sovereignty, we will do so. We will base sovereignty on Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel. We will strengthen the settlement enterprise and we will not give up so much as a millimeter of the Land of Israel.’”

75-year-old Palestinian olive picker injured by Israel settlers,

“Palestinian olive farmers were attacked by Israeli settlers with stones and pepper spray while in the village Nilin, based in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, reported Wafa news agency. In the process, the settlers severely assaulted a 75-year-old Palestinian with stones while he near the illegal Separation Wall, injuring him in the head. The olive harvest is a main source of livelihood for thousands of Palestinian families in the occupied territories, but they face many obstacles due to the Israeli occupation – including Israeli restrictions on land access and settler attacks. Moreover, the Israeli settlers destroyed the ladders and blankets which olive pickers place on the ground to catch the olives.”

Also see:

The obstacles Palestinian farmers face to harvest their olives (VIDEO – Middle East Eye)
With the olive harvest season in Palestine in full force, Israeli settlers vandalize hundreds of trees (WAFA)

A world turned upside-down: The residents of Burqa’s struggle to return to their land, where the evacuated Israeli settlement Homesh once stood,

“For 42 years Israel has denied residents of the Palestinian village Burqa is located in the Nablus District, unrestricted access to their privately-owned land where the Israeli settlement Homesh once stood. This position paper addresses Burqa residents’ struggle to return to their land – a struggle which Yesh Din has accompanied for nearly a decade.”

Human Rights/Violence

EXCLUSIVE: Israel stops granting visas to UN human rights workers,

“Israel has stopped granting any visas to employees at the United Nations’ human rights agency, effectively forcing the body’s top staff to leave, Middle East Eye can reveal. In February, Israel announced it was suspending ties with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) after a report highlighted more than 100 companies that work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Since June all requests for new visas have gone unanswered, with passports sent off for renewals coming back empty. Nine of the organisation’s 12 foreign staff have now left Israel and the Palestinian territories for fear of being undocumented there, the OHCHR confirmed. Among those is country director James Heenan.”

Palestinian, Israeli rights groups fear for life of Palestinian hunger striker,

“Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups voiced concern on Tuesday over the condition of a Palestinian who began a hunger strike 79 days ago against his detention without charge by Israel. Maher Al-Akhras, 49, is now in an Israeli hospital suffering from heart pain and convulsions and has slipped occasionally into a coma, his wife said. A resident of Jenin, Akhras was taken into custody in July under an Israeli administrative detention order.”

Also see:

Hamas: Resistance will force Israel to meet demands of hunger striking prisoners (Middle East Monitor)

‘On verge of dying’: Calls to release Palestinian prisoner on 80th day of hunger strike – VIDEO (Middle East Eye)

UNRWA: $130m budget deficit is a threat to peace, stability,

“Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has warned that the $130 million funding gap the organisation is experiencing threatens core services and programmes. Lazzarini said on Monday that the total number of Palestine refugees infected by COVID-19 has surged from fewer than 200 cases in July to more than 10,000 last week. Beyond the health crisis, COVID-19 is also unleashing a brutal pandemic of abject poverty that is making Palestine refugees feel hopeless, Lazzarini warned. ‘Despair is a threat to peace and stability,’ he added.He said that rising poverty among refugees is leading a growing number of them to rely solely on UNRWA’s services, stressing that maintaining quality services requires adequate resources.”

Hamas, Egypt discuss opening Rafah crossing permanently,

“Gaza’s interior ministry said on Monday it was in contact with the Egyptian government to discuss opening the Rafah crossing ‘permanently’. ‘The Rafah crossing has been partially operational since March, which represents hurdles for traveling citizens,’ the spokesperson of the Gaza interior ministry, Iyad Al-Bazm, told the official Hamas-run Al-Aqsa. Al-Bazm pointed out that the ministry was in contact with the Egyptian government ‘to agree on a formula to open the crossing permanently in accordance with safety and prevention measures,’ adding that the talks were ‘still ongoing.’”

PA/PLO/Palestinian Politics

Palestinians holding off policy change until Nov. 3,

“The latest press reports about European Union pressure on the Palestinian government to accept the truncated customs and tax funds that Israel collects on behalf of Palestinians appear to be serious. While EU officials have denied there is any pressure on Ramallah, reliable Palestinian sources in Ramallah told Al-Monitor the pressure is real. “Everyone is looking for a solution, and the EU was supposed to help find a bridging formula. The media coverage is perhaps part of the process to help bring this situation to a resolution,” the source, who asked not to be identified, said. The source insisted no Palestinian position will be taken until the results of the US Nov. 3 elections become clear.”

Palestinian courts to look at legal action against Israeli settlers,

“For the first time, Palestinian Authority courts are going to look at cases filed by Palestinian citizens related to violations alleged to have been committed by Israeli settlers, Wafa news agency has reported. Minister of Justice Mohammed Al-Shalaldeh said that the PA will ‘facilitate the task of victims whose rights have been violated by settlers.’ The courts will cooperate with other government agencies and civil society institutions, he added…‘Work is underway to collect criminal evidence and to file the first case against settlers, whose names are known, for committing crimes and violations against citizens in the Old City of Hebron and the town of Burin, south of Nablus,’ explained the minister.” Also see: PA: Palestinians can sue settlers in Palestinian courts (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian factions condemn PA crackdown on West Bank protests,

“Palestinian factions condemned on Wednesday the Palestinian Authority’s ‘violent’ crackdown on protests at Red Cross offices across the occupied West Bank in solidarity with a Palestinian hunger striker held by Israel. Maher Al-Akhras is being held indefinitely with neither charge nor trial and has been on hunger strike for 80 days.”

Fatah: No agreement with Hamas on joint electoral list,

“Deputy Secretary-General of Fatah’s Central Committee Sabri Saidam announced on Wednesday that there is no agreement with Hamas on the joint electoral list for the parliamentary elections, Wafa News Agency reported. Saidam confirmed that the issue was not discussed during the national dialogue rounds: ‘No names or lists were proposed at all.’ Saidam reiterated that Fatah, ordered by President Mahmoud Abbas, is progressing towards ending the internal divisions and achieving reconciliation. He stressed that the reports mentioning the joint list are ‘false’, calling for mass media to report news only from credible sources. The senior Fatah official expressed hope that all factions work towards the success of the elections, noting the ‘positive atmosphere’.”

PA instructs its officials not to attack Arab leaders, countries,

“The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday instructed its official spokesmen and representatives around the world not to attack Arab heads of state and Arab countries in the aftermath of the normalization agreements signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The instruction came after the PA ambassador to France, Salman el-Herfi, launched a scathing attack on Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, dubbing him a ‘little dictator who wants to make himself known.'” Also see: Palestinian envoy: UAE, Bahrain ‘more Israeli than Israelis’ (Middle East Monitor)

Arab World/Normalization

Netanyahu hails ‘warm peace’ with UAE as Knesset debates normalization deal,

“Opening the Knesset debate on Israel’s normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday hailed a ‘warm peace’ coming amid a paradigm shift in the way Middle Eastern countries view Israel.”

Israel-UAE deal: Arab Joint List to vote against the agreement in Knesset,

“The Arab Joint List, the third largest political bloc in Israel’s parliament, has said it will vote against the normalisation deal between Israel and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Knesset on Thursday…In a statement on Thursday, the Joint Arab List said ‘replacing the principle of land for peace with Netanyahu’s deceptive vision of peace for peace will bring disaster to the country and all its people. This approach ensures the continuation of the conflict, suffering and bloodshed.’”

Bahrain to take ‘legal steps’ against critics of deal with Israel,

“The Bahraini Interior Ministry has pledged to take ‘legal steps’ against social media activists who criticise the normalisation deal with Israel, news agencies reported yesterday. The General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Crimes, affiliated to the Interior Ministry, said in a statement that it was monitoring social media accounts that are working to ‘defame’ Bahrain as a result of its agreement with Israel. It claimed that these accounts ‘spread sedition’ and pose a threat to national peace and stability and are run by ‘fugitives’ out of the country.”

US Congressman: Israel Will Maintain Qualitative Military Edge Over Mideast Neighbors,

“US Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) said on Tuesday that bipartisan consensus in Washington will ensure Israel will maintain its qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East and gave his assurance that the Jewish state’s security concerns are a top priority on Capitol Hill. Speaking with Calev Ben-David, host of i24NEWS‘s flagship program ‘The Rundown,’ the Jewish lawmaker shed light on a new bill he introduced in Congress that seeks to enshrine America’s commitment to Israel’s QME into law after numerous media outlets reported that the US is preparing to sell highly advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.”

UAE terror chief to 'Post': We must pool resources with Israel to fight terror,

“The Abraham Accords, bringing peace between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, are a victory for defeating extremism in the Middle East, a counterterror adviser to the UAE government told The Jerusalem Post. He said a new approach was long overdue and the time had come to finally acknowledge the central place of Jews and Christians in the region’s history. ‘We need to pool all resources to work together, to counter terrorism. They [terrorists] are across borders, they are everywhere,’ Dr. Ali al Nuaimi told the Post. ‘It’s our responsibility as Muslims to get back our religion and to show it to our kids as a religion of peace.’”

Lebanon and Israel hold unprecedented talks on disputed maritime border,

“Lebanon and Israel on Wednesday held brief talks on their disputed maritime border in a rare diplomatic interaction between the two Middle Eastern foes. The meeting was mediated by the United States and hosted by the United Nations, which has monitored the land boundary since Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 and ended a 22-year occupation. The talks were held at a base of the UN peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. The next meeting is due to be held on 28 October. In a joint statement afterwards, the US and the UN said the talks had been ‘productive’ and that the delegates had ‘reaffirmed their commitment to continue negotiations later this month’.”

Also see:

What’s in a photo? A lot for Lebanon as talks with Israel begin (Al Jazeera)
Lebanon and Israel conclude first round of demarcation talks (Middle East Eye)
Lebanese team refuses to talk to Israelis in maritime border negotiations (Jerusalem Post)

Pompeo encourages Saudi Arabia to normalise ties with Israel,

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Saudi Arabia to normalise relations with Israel and said Washington supports a ‘robust programme of arms sales’ to Riyadh. Speaking alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud at the State Department on Wednesday, Pompeo said he hoped the kingdom would follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and normalise diplomatic ties with Israel. ‘We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalising its relationships as well, and we want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far,” Pompeo said, adding he hopes Riyadh will encourage Palestinian leaders or the Palestinian Authority to “return to dialogue and negotiation with Israel’.”

Also see:

Pompeo urges Saudi Arabia to normalise ties with Israel (Al Jazeera)
Israelis favor peace deal with Saudi Arabia next, survey finds (Israel Hayom)
Poll: 79% of Saudis ‘see pathway to peace with Israel’ (i24 News)

Netanyahu calls for peace with Lebanon during vote on Israel-UAE deal,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for peace with Lebanon during Thursday’s historic Knesset vote to ratify the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates that was initially signed in Washington last month. ‘Since the dawn of Zionism we have held a defensive weapon in one hand, while the other has been outstretched in peace — to anyone that wants peace,’ Netanyahu said. ‘It is said that peace is made with an enemy. No – peace is made with someone who has ceased to be an enemy. Peace is made with those who want peace and not with those who remain committed to your destruction.’ An example of such an enemy, he said, is Hezbollah, which continues to exercise de facto control in Lebanon, and whose presence makes peace with that neighboring country impossible. Still, Netanyahu said, he saw a ray of hope in the talks that began Wednesday between Israel and Lebanon to resolve the maritime dispute between them.”

IDF Special Forces carry out covert operation, destroy two Syrian outposts,

“Israeli special forces entered the demilitarized zone on the Syrian border last week and destroyed two enemy outposts, the IDF said Tuesday. The covert operation was carried out following repeated Syrian violations of the disengagement agreement. The 1974 agreement between Israel and Syria stipulates that the border buffer zone be occupied only by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).”

Russia: Normalisation with Israel should not harm Palestinians,

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Wednesday that Moscow welcomes normalisation deals between Arab nations and Israel, insisting that they should not harm Palestinian interests. ‘We support Israel’s normalisation of ties with its neighbours and with other countries in the region, but we reject this at the expense of the Palestinian rights stipulated in the UN General Assembly’s resolution which declared the creation of Israel,’ RT reported Lavrov speaking to Russian radio stations.”

Sudanese Sovereignty Council to normalize ties with Israel: source to i24NEWS,

“The Sudanese Sovereignty Council decided to go ahead with normalizing the country’s ties with Israel, sources close to the Sudanese leadership told i24NEWS. A source close to the council told the Arabic-language edition of i24NEWS that after a heated discussion late on Wednesday, the council decided to yield to US pressure and forge formal ties with Israel. According to reports in Sudanese and Arab media outlets, Washington gave Sudan 24 hours to respond to an ultimatum demanding that Sudan recognizes Israel and normalizes its ties with the Jewish state in exchange for being removed from the US blacklist of terrorism supporters.” Also see: Sudanese ex-MP plans delegation to ‘accelerate normalization’ with Israel (Times of Israel)


Why the ‘Pallywood’ myth endures,

“Along with its malignant racism, the problem with the ‘Pallywood’ charge — thriving two decades after the al-Durrah affair — is its duplicitous pretenses to caring about accuracy in journalism. In an era of ‘deepfakes’ and bots, efforts to ensure truth in reporting are crucial. But the innumerable “investigations” into videos of Israeli violence against Palestinians are not about getting to the bottom of specific incidents: they are about inculcating the notion that Palestinians cannot be trusted on anything they say about their experiences at the hands of Israeli soldiers and settlers. As a strategy, it long predates the ‘fake news’ accusations that accompany less-than-flattering news stories about politicians and governments. But the intent is the same: to defame the oppressed, to delegitimize their struggles, and to avert the world’s gaze from the oppressor’s violence.”

Is the normalisation deal really a win for Israel?,

“In the short-term, normalisation with Israel only adds to the isolation of the PA and could benefit Hamas – something that is not in the interest of Israel, which has long used the authorities in Ramallah to indirectly depoliticise and control the Palestinian population. In the long run, Arab normalisation with Israel without concessions on the Palestinian issue takes away the main Arab leverage to enforce a two-state solution, which could backfire…the continuing denial of statehood to the Palestinians by the Israeli right-wing ruling elite and the collapsing support for Israel among younger generations of Americans and Western Europeans puts the country even more firmly on a path towards a one-state solution, where Israelis and Palestinians would enjoy equal rights…”

Israeli settlers' racism is not an aberration. It's part of an apartheid system,

“…the racism of Yitzhar settlers can only be understood as part of, rather than extraneous to or exceptional from, historic and contemporary policies implemented and supported by Israel’s political and military leadership, judiciary, and a majority of its Jewish public. The exclusion and removal of Palestinians from land and communities by violence, legislation and de facto practice, is an integral part of Israel’s history, beginning with the displacement caused by pre-state Zionist settlers and the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba.”

The March of Folly in the Settlements Continues,

“Ultra-Orthodox society has become the motor for growth of the Jewish population in the West Bank, with Israel paying an increasingly exorbitant price for this policy.”

Endless warnings of Gaza’s collapse are why we’re failing to prevent it,

“For years, well-intentioned reports have cautioned about the strip’s ‘impending’ collapse. But this endless forecasting has only given cover to the public health crises that exist right now, stalling our impetus for action until it was too late. These crises are unacceptable in the current pandemic, but they were just as unacceptable at any point in the last 20 years. Whether it is a future war, the outcomes of climate crisis, or another pandemic, we can be sure that Gaza will face more threats to public health in the coming years. A fundamental shift in how we balance the national security of one population with the human security of another is essential. Ultimately, Gaza is an inherently livable place, as evidenced by the 2 million Palestinians residing there — but we need to make it so.”

Why the UAE deal is not ‘peacemaking’,

“In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples, ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ Christians tell this story over and over again in churches across the globe. And yet, so often, what is called peacemaking in the political world leaves peace far away and on the distant horizon. Israel’s normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which its Parliament is scheduled to approve on Thursday, was termed ‘peacemaking’ by the Trump administration that mediated it, and all involved seek credit for being peacemakers. In reality, these deals could lead to increased arms sales, more violence in the Middle East, and the perpetuation of the ongoing military occupation of the Palestinian people.”

No peace in Middle East without resolving Palestinian issue,

“…Tel Aviv needs to reexamine its actions that shape its peace illusions, admitting that by its normalization with Arab countries it cannot alienate the Palestinian cause because it is not only in the heart of the Middle East, but it is in the heart of Israel’s stability. Tel Aviv must stop its settlement activities that include actions taken in that context against the Palestinians, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes, which are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to a just solution. It is essential that to this end, meaningful negotiations on all final status issues must resume between Israelis and Palestinians. They need to built upon their agreed-to international parameters and international law with full respect and implementation of Resolution 2334 to ensure sustainable peace, security and stability in the Middle East.”