Top News from Israel/Palestine: October 26, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation/Annexation/Apartheid/Human Rights

In lieu of annexation, settlers pressure PM to legalize outposts,

“But now that annexation has been suspended, the attention of the Right has once more turned to the outposts. Of particular concern is not just the fear of further court-ordered demolitions or the absence of utilities, but the possibility that the outposts might be outside the contours of Trump’s annexation map. The Right is, therefore, pressuring Netanyahu to once more become active on this issue, particularly through a government or security cabinet decision to authorize the communities. They see this as necessary compensation for his failure to fulfill his annexation pledge, and the Trump administration’s supportive policy toward Israeli rights in Judea and Samaria creates a climate that makes such a move possible. The Knesset Land of Israel Caucus is also preparing legislation to support authorization of the outposts. Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman have both promised that no settlers would be uprooted from their homes and Yesha Council CEO Yigal Dilmoni said that this pledge can’t just be about the settlements, it must also be applied to the outposts.”

Israeli bulldozers and settlers uproot Palestinian olive trees in West Bank,

“Israeli soldiers and bulldozers blocked an area in Taybeh village and demolished a house, which was close to the Israeli separation wall that runs through the village’s land. In the town of Salfit, north of the West Bank, Israeli bulldozers razed and uprooted almost 60 olive trees on Sunday. Salfit’s mayor, Abdel-Karim Fattash, told Wafa that the olive crops were owned by a resident from the town. The last days of October are traditionally the season for harvesting olives in Palestine.”

[Interview] US amb. to Israel: Change of administration can damage Abraham Accords,

“TML: The Abraham Fund that was just announced. Will that trickle down to the small businesses, because really the entire Middle East is made up predominantly of the small business owners?

Ambassador Friedman: Well, I think that the answer is, I’m not sure because this is just getting started, how the projects will be funded. But look, if you run a small business, this is sort of, if you run a small business whether it’s in Judea and Samaria or in Israel or in Jordan, you need to be able to move goods freely. You need to be able to move people freely. That’s perhaps the most important component of it. Now, you heard yesterday that one of the things that’s going to happen is the modernization of the checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel. It’s a very big deal. I mean, you’ve seen what the old-fashioned checkpoints look like, and there already are some modern checkpoints. The modern checkpoints, it takes you, it’s like going through a toll booth. I mean, you put your ID card, they scan your face, you put your bag on the detector and you go through. It’s very, very quick. And I think that that will certainly trickle down to small businesses because it’s very important. Beyond that, I mean, a lot of infrastructure is contemplated by this, all those things, whether it’s energy, whether it’s electric, water, [etc.]. I think these things are all going to be very important to small businesses.”

Palestinian beaten to death by Israeli settlers in occupied West Bank,

“Amer Snobar, 18, from the town of Yatma, south of Nablus city, was attacked by settlers guarding a Jewish settlement and succumbed to his injuries, witnesses said. A medical source said the teen was admitted to the hospital with signs of assault on his body. An Israeli military statement said a Palestinian fell while escaping and hit his head while being chased by army forces. According to the army, the chase ensued following complaints from settlers that Palestinians were throwing stones at their cars.”

Government extends multi-billion dollar plan for Arab municipalities,

“The cabinet voted on Sunday to extend by a year a multi-billion dollar program aimed at closing extensive gaps between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel. The program, known as the 922 plan was set to expire in December, with over a third of its funds still unused. The decision was widely praised by Arab politicians, but also sparked accusations that one Arab MK may have collaborated a little too closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to secure the extension…”Removing obstacles to receiving the budgets constitute an essential step in reducing the gaps which hurt all Arab citizens. The path to equality is long, but we will not give up,” Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said in a statement.”

[Opinion] Israelis Who Pillage Palestinian Olive Harvesters Are Not My Brothers,

“…it’s all happening less than an hour’s drive from the center of Israel, in these places whose existence indifferent Israelis prefer to ignore, places that probably less than 1 percent of the population has heard of but where our finest sons and daughters have been sent to deepen our control for over five decades now. Evil has roots; its appearance reflects something much deeper. Youths seethe with the hatred to tell a poor Palestinian old enough to be their father who has come to harvest his olives that they are the children of God and he is their servant. They are not lone wolves. For this to happen, it takes rabbis and parents, political leaders and spiritual mentors, who sanction such behavior or even direct it. It takes the indoctrination of a vile ideology and a community that supports it. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a racist fascist, too. Behind every masked Jewish arsonist is an entire village of guilty people; behind every self-styled sheriff who chases a family off its land is a village of people responsible. Of course, not everyone is like that, but many are. On the Israeli side of the Green Line, too, hatred and racism are flourishing, but the mountains of Samaria, the northern West Bank, and the hills of Binyamin and Hebron in the center and south, are the real training ground for hate crimes.”

Israel's Top Court Suspends Administrative Detention of Palestinian Hunger Striker,

“Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled Sunday to suspend the administrative detention of Palestinian prisoner Maher Akhras, who is on a three-month hunger strike. Akhras, 49, who hails from the village of Silat ad-Dhahr near Nablus, will remain in Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot. The justices ruled that if Akhras is released from the hospital, the remainder of his detention will be reconsidered, and the prosecution will need to make this announcement at least 48 hours in advance.”

In East Jerusalem, the settler project is expanding underground,

“Accordingly, Israeli archaeology — which has long served as a staple of Zionist consciousness-making — has become increasingly subject to the ministrations of state and settler factions. These groups are determined to present the narrative of Jewish presence in the land as one of irrefutable millennial ownership, interrupted by an interim period of exile before being restored with the State of Israel’s establishment. In the course of this instrumentalization, archaeology is used to counter the narrative of occupation — and of the Nakba — through action as well as symbolism. Few entities have been as central to this politicization of archaeology as Elad, most notably through its flagship project, the City of David park.”

The Arab World, Normalization, Peace “Dividends”, and a Regional Arms Race?

Trump Announces Sudan Will Move to Normalize Relations With Israel,

“But the deal appears to fall short of full diplomatic ties, since there was no mention of opening embassies in the others’ capitals, as Israel is planning to do with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.”

Also See – “Sudan to recognize Israel after US rescinds Khartoum’s terror designation” (Al-Monitor)

Sudan says it will discuss trade, migration deals with Israel,

“The U.S.-brokered accord made Khartoum the third Arab government to establish relations with Israel in the last two months, and only the fifth since 1948. But prominent political factions in Sudan have rejected the accord. Some Sudanese officials have said it should be approved by a transitional parliament that has yet to be formed over a year after mass unrest ousted Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir. Khartoum’s foreign ministry said Sudanese and Israeli delegations would meet in the coming weeks to negotiate deals for agriculture, aviation, trade and migration. It gave no details or time frame for the talks.”

Also See – “Sudanese torn on Israel ties between loyalty to Palestinians, economic benefits” (The Times of Israel); “Israel preoccupied with domestic ills as ties warm with Khartoum” (Al-Monitor)

Israel expects Oman to normalize next, Mossad chief says Saudi deal soon — TV,

“Meanwhile, Channel 12 also reported that Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen has stated he believes Saudi Arabia will normalize ties with Israel, but will do so after the US election, to capitalize fully on such a decision with whoever is the next president. The report said Israel believes any such Saudi decision will be cushioned by a significant arms deal with Washington, similar to the US agreement to sell advanced weaponry to the United Arab Emirates, which Israel has approved, but which has proven highly controversial in Jerusalem.”

In sharp about-face, Netanyahu, Gantz approve US sale of F-35s to UAE,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday that he would not oppose the US sale of “certain weapon systems” to the UAE, an apparent reference to the advanced F-35 stealth fighter jets, saying that Washington had given Israel assurances that it would “significantly upgrade” Israel’s military capabilities in exchange. The circumspect language of the statement comes after he had previously vehemently denied a media report that Israel had given a green light for Washington to sell the advanced jets to the United Arab Emirates as part of the normalization deal with Israel”

Also See – “Israel will not oppose US sale of ‘certain weapon systems’ to United Arab Emirates” (Al-Monitor)

After UAE Deal, Israel Asks U.S. for F-22 Stealth Jets to Preserve Military Edge,

“Israeli defense officials have confirmed that Jerusalem has asked senior American officials to consider removing obstacles hindering the sale of F-22 fighter jets to the Israeli Air Force to preserve its air superiority following the agreement of the United States to sell the F-35s to the UAE. Senior Israeli defense officials say the purported concealment of the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE complicated a possible sale to Israel of the world’s most advanced fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, as well as other advanced equipment.”

Qatar might get F-35s despite Israel's objections, cabinet minister says,

“Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that a U.S. sale of advanced F-35 warplanes to Qatar could be possible despite Israel’s objections to such a deal given the Gulf state’s links to Iran and Palestinian Hamas….Reuters reported on Oct. 7 that gas-rich Qatar had submitted a formal request to buy the F-35, a Lockheed Martin plane that has so far been supplied only to Israel in the region. Israel, with which Washington consults on such sales, said it would be opposed….U.S. officials have been open to selling the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates after it and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel on Sept. 15. But they have been tight-lipped on Qatar’s bid to buy the jet.”

[Analysis] How Israel's String of Peace Deals Triggered a Mideast Arms Race,

“Israel has reached three peace agreements over the last six weeks with Arab or Muslim-majority countries. Meanwhile, another five countries are reportedly on their way to signing agreements with Israel, say U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…The agreements are actually being accompanied by increased Israeli defense spending. Perversely, they have created an aggressive new arms race between Israel and its new partners in the Gulf that promises to enrich the U.S. arms industry. Evidence of this will likely emerge on Monday when the ministers committee for procurement meets to discuss what Defense Minister Benny Gantz accomplished during his Washington trip, namely a list of aircraft and other armaments that the United States will generously allow Israel to buy. The shopping list is compensation for Israel’s acceptance of a deal for the U.S. to sell the UAE advanced F-35 fighter jets.”

The Israeli Domestic Scene

Senior Blue and White leaders believe no chance to pass 2021 budget,

“Senior figures in Blue and White believe there is almost no chance that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud will agree to pass the 2021 budget by the December 23 deadline, meaning new elections are imminent. Trust between the two parties is at a nadir, and news of Blue and White’s loss of hope in passing a budget and averting elections comes after it was reported on Friday that it had been plotting to make Moshe Ya’alon, head of the Telem Party and a former Likud senior minister, a temporary prime minister in order to oust Netanyahu.”

Gantz accuses Netanyahu of hiding UAE F-35 talks from Israeli defense officials,

“Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of keeping him and other top defense officials in the dark over negotiations for the US to supply advanced F-35 stealth fighters to the UAE as part of the normalization deal signed with Israel. Gantz’s almost unprecedented airing of internal deliberations, and the implication that Netanyahu did not consult the military ahead of agreeing to give an Arab nation such advanced weaponry, came just after he issued a joint statement with the prime minister, saying Israel would ultimately not object to the sales.”

Poll: Bennett preferred choice for prime minister over Netanyahu,

“A new poll conducted by the Direct Polls institute and published by Channel 12 News found that more Israelis would prefer Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett as prime minister than Binyamin Netanyahu. The poll found that 31.4% would vote for Bennett for prime minister, compared to 28.6% for Netanyahu. 35% of the respondents answered that they would not support either candidate.”

Lawfare/Stifling Dissent/Free Speech

Silicon Valley takes on the pro-Palestine left,

“It should come as no surprise that a pro-Palestine webinar is the first academic event to be cancelled by Zoom. Palestine solidarity advocates have long been doxxed, denied jobs and platforms, and criminalized for calling for Palestinian liberation. Israeli officials, meanwhile, have long exported police tactics, spy tech, and weaponry that have been tested on Palestinians, and the methods they have directed at Palestinian rights advocates may also be used to crack down on other movements and struggles. In Khaled’s case, Israel and its anti-Palestinian allies used institutional means and social media trolling to pressure Zoom to cancel the event. In the aftermath, pro-Israel media framed the cancelation as the rightful deplatforming of a terrorist. If not held accountable, Zoom and other companies may continue to capitulate to right wing organizations and censor similar progressive events — which is particularly worrying at a time when much academic activity has become reliant on the surging videoconferencing conglomerate.”

BDS movement says the US is escalating its relentless war on human rights, justice and the truth,

“The Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has warned that the US administration is escalating its relentless war on human rights, justice and the truth by planning to label leading international human rights and development organizations anti-Semitic for their criticism of the Israeli occupation. According to a statement by BDS, plans to label major international human rights organizations “anti-Semitic,” cynically conflating criticism of Israeli violations of Palestinian rights with antisemitism and undermining the vital fight against real antisemitism.”

Deutch condemns Trump administration plans to label human rights NGOs as antisemitic,

“Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) condemned the Trump Administration’s reported plans to label the human rights groups Amnesty International, OxFam and Human Rights Watch as antisemitic, in a statement provided to Jewish Insider Friday morning. Rather than a legitimate attempt to fight antisemitism, the move reflects “a continuation of this Administration’s sorry withdrawal from international leadership on human rights and humanitarian assistance throughout the world,” Deutch said. Deutch, who founded the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism as well as an international Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to address online antisemitism, accused the Trump administration of “misapplying” the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to these organizations to advance its own political agenda in a way that ultimately hampers the fight against antisemitism.”

US court grants pro-Palestinian group legal victory in terrorism case,

“A federal court in Chicago ruled on Tuesday that the two groups – American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and Americans for Justice in Palestine (AJP) – are not liable to pay $156m in damages to Stanley and Joyce Boim. The husband and wife were awarded the sum of money after a 2004 court case regarding their son, David Boim, who was fatally shot in 1996 at a bus stop near Jerusalem…Following a three year legal battle, the Chicago court ruled in favour of AMP and AJP, noting that the Boims did not provide concrete evidence that the two organisations were linked to the defunct groups.”

US holds conference on combating online antisemitism,

“However, controversy threatened to overshadow the conference when Politico reported on Wednesday that under Pompeo, the State Department was expected to designate Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and Oxfam as antisemitic for their alleged support of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and withdraw funding. Accusations of antisemitism against these organizations are not new. In 2019, HRW Country Director Omar Shakir was deported from Israel under a law that allows Jerusalem to ban entry to foreigners who initiate or express solidarity with the BDS movement. In response to the report, Amnesty said in a press release: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document of our work and our guiding light, came together precisely because of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people. These accusations [against the organizations] are an affront to anyone who believes in the human rights movement.” Eric Goldstein, deputy director for HRW’s Middle East and North Africa region, used the term “preposterous” in describing the reported plan.”

Also See – “In an Arab first, Bahraini institution joins with State Dept. to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” (JTA)