Top News from Israel/Palestine: October 27, 2020

What We’re Reading

Settlements/Occupation/De Facto Annexation

New B’tselem Report: With or without flights to Abu Dhabi, Israel annexed the West Bank long ago,

“As part of its normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Israel has decided, at least for the time being, not to officially annex the West Bank – and remain with the de-facto annexation already in place. The uproar over official annexation subsided, the international community has breathed a sigh of relief, and the Palestinians remain oppressed under occupation, while Israel continues to establish facts on the ground without paying any price.”

Israel to approve settler homes in flashpoint Hebron area, group says,

“Peace Now says attempts by Israeli authorities ‘to squeeze in’ building permit ahead of U.S. elections is an ‘unscrupulous act that threatens Israel’s national interest and relations on the world stage.’”

The Israeli right’s new vision of Jewish political supremacy,

The settlement project’s success has led to an intertwined Jewish and Palestinian population, reviving the problem Israel tried to solve through expulsion in 1948. Now, the right’s priority is segregation.

Western Wall cable car planners meet with developers despite High Court case,

“Planners tasked with building a controversial cable car that will link West Jerusalem and the Old City have held a meeting for interested developers despite the fact that the High Court has not yet ruled whether planning approval of the project was legal. With the aim of providing information about the project before a tender is formally issued, the Jerusalem Development Authority — a joint agency of the government and the Jerusalem Municipality — held its first meeting for potential bidders on Sunday. It was attended by major companies such as Dania Sibus and Y.D. Barazani. Another confab is planned for next week.”

Telecom minister accuses Israel of violating Palestinian sovereignty,

“Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology Ishac Sidr today accused Israel of violating Palestinian sovereignty and control over its territory after a decision was made to grant the Israeli telecommunications company, Bezeq, a license to operate in the occupied West Bank. He said during a press conference held at the Ministry in Ramallah that granting an Israeli telecommunication company a permit to work in the West Bank is a violation of Palestinian sovereignty and international law, noting that this is a clear theft considering that these are occupied territories. He said losses to the Palestinian companies as a result of the Israeli violation have reached $1.1 billion in the last four years, while losses to the Palestinian treasury amounted to $400 million.” Also see: PA Telecom Sector Braces for Losses After Israeli Firm Bezeq Given West Bank License (The Media Line); Bezeq operating license for Area C formalized after 36 years (Jerusalem Post)

Human Rights/Humanitarian Issues

Hamas Releases Gazan Peace Activists Jailed for Zoom with Israel,

“Gaza’s Hamas authorities released two Gazan peace activists Monday imprisoned since April 2020 for participating in an online videoconference with Israelis. Eight members of the Gaza Youth Committee were detained after taking part in a Zoom teleconference with peace activists, including some from Israel. Though five were released days after the event and one paid bail in July, the final two were held until Monday, some seven months after their detention on charges of treason and ‘weakening revolutionary sprit.’ The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a local group that defended the three prisoners, said a military court freed them on the basis of time served of a one-year sentence. Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, told The Media Line, ‘The fact that he [activist Rami Aman] spent more than six months in custody for a video chat highlights Hamas’ larger persecution of journalists, opponents and activists who do not toe the party line. So long as Hamas continues on this path, we’ll continue to hear about activists like Rami jailed for their nonviolent speech.’ Hamas’ political and military control of Gaza began in 2007. Since then, Hamas and Israel have fought three wars, the latest in 2014.” Also see: Gaza Court Convicts Peace Activists for Video Call With Israelis (New York Times)

Report: Qatar to send more economic aid to Gaza Strip in coming days,

“The Qatari government will reportedly send a desperately needed cash infusion to the struggling Gaza Strip to provide economic relief to needy families in the coming days, Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday.  The sum, which was not disclosed but will reportedly come in two installments, is being donated with Jerusalem’s consent after discussions between Israeli and Qatari officials.”

Gaza unemployment rate reaches 70%,

“The unemployment rate in the besieged Gaza Strip has hit 70 per cent as a result of Israel’s ongoing siege of the enclave and the lockdowns which have resulted from coronavirus, the head of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Sami Al-Ammasi, said yesterday.”


PA/PLO/Palestinian Politics

Palestinians push for international conference, US is open,

“The Palestinian foreign minister said Monday an international peace conference is the only way to generate momentum to bring Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a peace agreement. The US ambassador said the Trump administration has ‘no objection’ to meeting international partners.”

Egypt worried about Hamas-Turkey close ties,

“Egypt has demanded that Turkey stay away from issues the Egyptians are dealing with, including efforts to end the dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction.”

Mladenov: PA at risk of economic collapse unless ties with Israel renewed,

“UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov urged Israel to lift some of its restrictions on the movement of goods and people between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”


Peace Deals or Arms Deals?

Israeli and American defense establishments agree on accelerated defense deliveries,

“While a battle over the narrative continues between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about how Israel gave its blessing to the sale of F-35s to the UAE, the Jewish state moves forward with the procurement of advanced military equipment.”

US lawmakers to roll out bipartisan bill handing Israel bunker-buster bombs: report,

“Two US lawmakers are expected to unveil a bipartisan bill that would open the door to the US transferring bunker-buster munitions to Israel if the Iranian nuclear threat escalates, the Jewish Insider reported Tuesday. According to the report, the bill, co-sponsored by Democratic New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer and Florida Republican Brian Mast, zooms in on the so-called Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). The MOP is a munition with a weight of some 14,000 kilograms (30,000 pounds) that is specifically designed to destroy targets hidden deep underground. Other bunker-buster munitions in the US arsenal include missiles capable of breaching through meters of concrete; in 2015, such weapons were part of a massive $1.9 billion US arms sale to the IDF meant to quell the Israeli concerns about the nuclear deal with Iran. Under the legislation the two are reportedly planning to roll out on Friday, the munitions will be handed over to Israel if Iran develops a so-called breakout capability, the capacity to quickly and secretly produce one or more nuclear weapons.” Also see: Gottheimer, Mast drafting bill to provide Israel with bunker busters (Jewish Insider)

New Report: Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and Possible U.S. Arms Sales to the United Arab Emirates,

“This report provides background and analysis on a possible U.S. sale of the F-35Joint Strike Fighter and other advanced weaponry to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in light of select U.S. policy considerations, including Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) over neighboring militaries, as well as concerns about an arms race and strategic competition with other arms suppliers. The F-35 is the United States’ most advanced stealthy,fifth generation combat aircraft. Its proposed sale, along with other items, to the UAE comes amidst broad support in Congress for an Israel-UAE normalization agreement announced in August 2020 and signed in September 2020. UAE’s National Day holiday, December 2, 2020, may be a target date for formalization of a U.S.-UAE arms sale.”

Gantz, Netanyahu split again over US F-35 sale to UAE,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of withholding knowledge of US-Emirates negotiations on the sale of F-35 stealth jets.” Also see: What did Gantz bring back with him from Washington? (Jerusalem Post)

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

“The American F-22 Raptor is the most advanced fighter plane in the world, and defense officials who claim to have been left out of the loop on the sale of the F-35s to the UAE are now trying to press their case for it.” Also see: After OKing UAE F-35s, Israel Asks For F-22 Raptors—Here’s Why That’s Not Likely To Fly (Forbes)

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

“There has been speculation in Israeli media that the Trump administration could hold out the F-35 as an inducement for Qatar to normalize ties with Israel. Qatar has ruled out such a diplomatic move without a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”


Arab World/Normalization

Israel’s Repressive Diplomacy ,

“Although Israel’s diplomatic breakthroughs in the Persian Gulf have elicited bipartisan praise in Washington, they rely on—and contribute to—brutal repression. In Sudan, which is undergoing a fragile transition after three decades of dictatorial rule, normalization imperils democracy too. The reason is simple. In a region where sympathy for the Palestinian cause still runs deep, recognizing Israel elicits fierce popular opposition. To implement normalization agreements, therefore, Netanyahu and Trump need their Arab partners to quash domestic dissent. For years, Israel’s boosters have bemoaned the lack of democracy in the Middle East. Ironically, it is that lack of democracy on which Israel’s peace diplomacy largely depends.” Also see: Israeli delegations bask in UAE glow, even as details few (Associated Press)

New Report: Muslim Pilgrimage To Haram Al Sharif/The Temple Mount: Tinkering With Explosives,

“In recent days, the first visit to Al Aqsa Mosque by Muslim pilgrims after the Israel-UAE and Israel-Bahrain normalization agreements took place. The visit by a group of businessmen and women from the United Arab Emirates has exposed the dynamics of a potentially explosive situation evolving on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif. The approaching large-scale Muslim pilgrimage under the auspices of normalized relation between Israel and Arab states is not a routine event and raises the prospects of violent confrontations between Muslim and Muslim on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif in the near future. This analysis seeks to explore the ramifications of these developments, and to assure they receive the attention they deserve.”

Israeli Democrats, Republicans spar over election impact on normalization deals,

“Israeli representatives of the two major US parties on Monday sparred over the question of whether the current trend of Arab states normalizing ties with Jerusalem would continue, if Democratic candidate Joe Biden were to win the November 3 presidential elections.”

In Tel Aviv, Sudanese migrants say Israel making peace with a rotten regime,

“‘We want peace, God willing Sudan will have peace with Israel,’ said Alteyb Hhmad, whom this reporter met in a grocery store. ‘But Bibi (Netanyahu) is making peace with Abdul al-Fattah al-Burhan. He was one of [Omar] Al-Bashir’s military commanders and carried out genocide. Why is Netanyahu making peace with that guy? Something smells fishy,’ cautioned Hhmad. According to papers published by The Jamestown Foundation and Middle East Institute, many Darfurians accuse al-Burhan of being “the architect of the genocide” in Darfur. He is reportedly ‘well known in Darfur for his threats to exterminate the Fur people.’ Both al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’ Dagolo, Sudan’s top two military leaders, have reportedly ‘earned reputations for their roles in the brutal Darfur conflict.’”

Also see: Head of Sudan’s Ruling Council Defends Deal for Ties With Israel (The Algemeiner); Sudanese nationals in Israel fear deportation after peace deal (YNet); Sudanese Nationals in Israel Fear Deportation after Peace Deal (MediaLine); Israel, Sudan discuss draft proposal for repatriating Sudanese refugees – report (Times of Israel)

Report: Oman could be next to announce normalization with Israel,

“Channel 12 News says Trump administration would like to see move take place before the Nov. 3 elections, but other reports suggest Muscat is hesitant to rush rapprochement.”

Gantz: I hear positive voices in Lebanon talking about peace with Israel,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday welcomed the reported words of the daughter of Lebanon’s president, who said she could envision a peace deal with Israel after border disputes and issues concerning the Palestinians were resolved.Gantz spoke during a visit to a large-scale IDF exercise simulating war with Hezbollah and he said he had heard ‘positive voices in Lebanon that are maybe talking about peace and relations with Israel. These are welcome words.’ Claudine Aoun said Lebanon was ‘counting on solving these problems to advance our economy.’”

US-Israel Relations

What does a Trump or Biden presidency mean for Israel and Palestine?,

“…despite their radically different approaches to Israel/Palestine, realities on the ground under a second Trump term or a Biden administration may ultimately produce the same outcome: the death of a two-state solution and the consolidation of a one-state reality. In the end, the future of the conflict and its resolution may have less to do with who resides in the White House than with developments within the Palestinian national movement.”

'Trump brought peace to the Middle East, we want four more years of the Trump White House',

“Attorney Marc Zell, chief of Republicans Overseas Israel, spoke with Arutz Sheva Tuesday, at the end of a pro-Trump caravan which made its way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. ‘We have people who joined us from all over Israel,’ Zell said at the post caravan gathering in the capital. ‘It’s amazing.’ Dozens of vehicles took part in the caravan, which was organized by the Trump campaign’s offices in Israel. ‘We want to see him reelected for the next four years, and we’re here to tell the world that,’ Zell continued.” Also see: ‘If you care about Israel, vote for Trump,’ Israel settler chief says (Middle East Monitor)

Israel, US relations blossom as nations mark 35 years since free trade accord,

“Senior government officials and industry leaders from the US and Israel converged online on Monday to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement. In a web forum hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce’s US-Israel Business Council, speakers highlighted the historic nature of the 1985 agreement and emphasized future growth in trade, investment and innovation between the two countries.”


Lawfare/Weaponization of Accusations of Antisemitism

The State of Antisemitism in America 2020: AJC's Survey of American Jews,

“The State of Antisemitism in America 2020: Survey of American Jews, conducted by the research company SSRS, is based on telephone interviews carried out September 9 – October 4, with a national sample of 1,334 Jews over age 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2%.” Question 13a: “How familiar are you with the BDS movement?” Answer: Very familiar – 25%; Somewhat familiar 36%. Question 13b: “Do you view the BDS movement as antisemitic?” Answer: “Mostly antisemitic” – 37%, “Some antisemitic supporters” – 43%, “Not antisemitic” – 15%.

US State Department Conference Tackles Mounting Hate and Antisemitism Online,

“…Another issue is defining what constitutes antisemitism. It’s a question that vexes not only social media companies but many others as well, particularly as it relates to Israel and Zionism. That’s why many of the speakers stressed the importance of passing one standard definition of antisemitism, specifically the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition…Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a member of the interparliamentary task force to combat online antisemitism who has been a target of antisemitism online along with her family, said it’s important to demand ‘real global accountability’ in combating hate…She also pushed for the adoption of IHRA definition and said it’s vital to understand the difference between criticism of Israel and antisemitism.” Also see: US holds conference on combating online antisemitism (Jerusalem Post)

Controversies at U of T Law, York University highlight escalating suppression of moderate voices criticizing Israel,

“At the heart of a University of Toronto hiring scandal is an academic whose critique of Israeli settlements in Palestine is not what most people would call radical. At York University, a professor is facing death threats and a campaign to stop him from teaching human rights courses — a campaign that accuses him of anti-Semitism after he debated the definition of anti-Semitism. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been a flashpoint on campuses across Canada, legal experts and advocacy groups are raising concerns that these recent incidents suggest an escalation of silencing even moderate critiques of Israel, and not just in the halls of academia, but in the media, the political sphere and social interactions.”

From Palestine to China, Zoom has no business censoring dissent,

“Tech giants are acting as internet gatekeepers, dictating what narratives are permissible and who can freely express their opinions.”

Judge refuses to block ‘No Boycott of Israel’ measure,

“A federal judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit in which a Muslim civil rights group sought to block the state of Maryland from enforcing its ban on contracting with businesses that boycott Israel. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake didn’t reach a decision on whether the executive order that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed in October 2017 is constitutional. The judge ruled that a software engineer who is named as the lawsuit’s plaintiff hasn’t shown he has suffered any ‘direct injury’ giving him the legal standing to challenge the order. Hogan’s order requires contractors to certify in writing that they don’t boycott Israel. The order was called ‘Prohibiting Discriminatory Boycotts of Israel in State Procurement.’”