Top News from Israel & Palestine: October 28, 2020

What We’re Reading

U.S. Recognizes Israeli Sovereignty Over West Bank Settlements

U.S., Israel Expand Reach of Binational Foundations and Establish New Scientific and Technological Cooperation Agreement,

“Today, the United States and Israel agreed to remove geographic restrictions in each of the agreements that established the three U.S. –Israel Binational Foundations…Established in the 1970s, the BIRD, BARD, and BSF Agreements for each of the three Foundations have not permitted support for projects conducted in areas that came under the administration of the Government of Israel after June 5, 1967.  These geographic restrictions are no longer consistent with U.S. policy following (i) the Administration’s opposition to the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, (ii) the Administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, (iii) the Administration’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and (iv) the Administration’s announcement that the U.S. will no longer consider that the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank is per se inconsistent with international law.”

U.S. policy shift will allow taxpayer funding for projects in West Bank settlements,

“The U.S. and Israel will announce tomorrow that they are expanding three agreements on scientific cooperation to include Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me…This is a substantial policy shift for the U.S., which did not previously allow its taxpayers’ money to be spent in the Israeli settlements…This policy shift was driven by Friedman, Israeli officials say. He intended it as a gesture to Netanyahu and to Israeli settlers after Netanyahu’s vow to annex parts of the West Bank was taken off the table as part of Israel’s normalization deal with the UAE…An Israeli official told me this move is a signal of U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank. I asked Friedman about that claim and he denied it, saying the deal was only meant to enhance scientific cooperation. But Israeli higher education minister Zeev Elkin had a different view. He tweeted that the deal was “a big achievement for Israel’s sovereignty” in the West Bank and “another step towards international recognition of our rights” there.”

US acts on declaration settlements are legal, extends deal to West Bank,

“The US is set to turn its declaration that settlements in Judea and Samaria are not necessarily illegal into action for the first time on Wednesday, expanding a set of scientific cooperation agreements with Israel to include those areas and the Golan Heights…“This is really quite momentous,” [Eugene Kontorovich] said on Tuesday. “It is the first time the US has adopted a policy that explicitly and clearly authorizes the use of funds across the green line… It’s a very strong recognition that settlements are not illegal. They announced that, but now they’re putting meat on the bones.””

Also See – “Friedman: US-Israel ‘righting old wrongs’ by extending W. Bank agreements” (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu, Ambassador Friedman Ink Deal Expanding Scientific Cooperation to Settlements,

“”This is an important victory over everyone who seeks to delegitimize anything Israeli over 67 lines,” Netanyahu said. Turning to “those malevolent boycotters,” he added, “you are wrong and you will fail, because we are resolved to build our lives and our ancestral homeland and to never be uprooted from here again.”…Sources involved in the agreement said, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to Ariel University and President Donald Trump, pressured the American administration to hold the ceremony ahead of the U.S. election on Tuesday.”

US will now fund research in Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria,

“Past scientific accords with the US government stipulated that Israeli research projects receiving US grants could not be carried out in areas that came under Israeli administration in the 1967 Six-Day War. The Trump administration last year effectively backed Israel’s right to build Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria by abandoning a long-held US position that they were “inconsistent with international law.””

Israel and US to extend their scientific cooperation to West Bank and Golan,

“The US and Israel will expand their scientific cooperation agreements to include the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Tuesday. Three bilateral foundations established by the US and Israel to promote scientific cooperation will have their geographic restrictions removed in a signing ceremony on Wednesday in the northern West Bank city-settlement of Ariel, to be attended by Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman…The updated agreements will represent the latest nod of legitimacy by the Trump administration to Israeli settlements, which much of the international community considers illegal.”

US to extend bilateral agreements with Israel into Judea and Samaria,

“The United States and Israel will eliminate territorial restrictions for bilateral agreements in a ceremony on Wednesday. The move will build upon a policy shift made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this past November, in which America no longer recognizes Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria as illegal under international law.”

US lifts ban on funding of research in Judea, Samaria, Golan,

“The US officially dropped its opposition Wednesday to funding joint research projects in Israel which are conducted in Judea, Samaria, or the Golan Heights. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met at Ariel University in Samaria Wednesday to sign an agreement on scientific cooperation Wednesday, paving the way for US funding of Israeli projects regardless of their location…Israel’s minister for higher education Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) tweeted that the change constitutes a “big achievement for Israel’s sovereignty”.”

'Obama boycotted Ariel University - but Trump corrected the injustice,

“Today’s agreements are another fulfillment of the doctrine of peace for prosperity – the catalyst for peace will be when Israelis and Palestinians see each other as partners in the future. Ariel University is an economic opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians. “

Occupation/Annexation/Apartheid/Human Rights

Israel to okay permits for 31 settler homes in Hebron — watchdog,

“The Jerusalem District Court had told the state that the project cannot go ahead until the legal challenge is resolved, with a hearing set for January 31, Peace Now said. But Israeli authorities told the court on Sunday that they would issue the permits within a week, the non-government group said. “The state was quick to issue the building permit even though the court has explicitly ruled that work should not start until the… hearing takes place,” said Peace Now’s statement. “The state explains to the court that although the court order prohibits the commencement of the works, it does not prohibit the issuance of the permit itself,” it added. Peace Now linked the timing of the approvals to next week’s US presidential election.”

Israel Strips East Jerusalem Cancer Patient of Insurance, Claiming He Lives in the West Bank,

“A year ago, the National Insurance Institute informed Farouk Jubran, a resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, that it concluded he no longer lives in the city. It therefore stripped him of his benefits, including his coverage under the national health insurance program. It also demanded that he repay 50,000 shekels ($14,700) of the old-age pension payments he had received. Consequently, Jubran is now being forced to finance his treatment on his own…the institute has stepped up its investigations of East Jerusalem Palestinians and revokes their benefits if it concludes they have moved to the West Bank. These investigations include making home visits to their registered Jerusalem address, tracking their water and electricity bills and getting reports on their movement through checkpoints between Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

Hamas releases Palestinian peace activists arrested after Zoom call with Israelis,

“Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas convicted three Palestinian peace activists of “weakening revolutionary spirit” for having held a Zoom call with Israelis peace campaigners, but ordered the release of two of them after six months in jail. Hamas arrested Rami Aman, 39, and seven other activists in April after the conference call, describing it as “treason”.”

Palestinian Farmer Accuses West Bank Settlers of Cutting Down 100 Olive Trees,

“Abu Alia said he filed a complaint with the Israeli police and Haaretz has seen documentation confirming the complaint, but police argued that no report of the incident had been received and therefore they were not investigating the case.”

Israel arrests Palestinian journalist in West Bank,

“Israeli forces on Tuesday arrested Palestinian journalist and filmmaker Abdelrahman al-Thaher at his home in the city of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank…Thaher’s arrest by Israeli forces came shortly after the 38-year-old filmmaker had been detained by the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) preventive security apparatus on 19 August, as he was leaving his workplace at the An-Najah media centre in Nablus, where he produces and presents a number of TV programmes…The charges behind Thaher’s arrest by Israeli forces had yet to be made public.”

[Opinion] Israeli High Court's Ruling on Palestinian Hunger Striker Is No Surprise,

“The number of administrative detainees has been more or less constant over the last few years, about 350. It’s a convenient arrangement: It saves the system the headache of convening a military court, the calling of witnesses, providing evidence, moving people around. But this can’t be stated openly. Even in today’s Israel, more complacent than ever with regard to the implications of ruling over another people, the Shin Bet cannot openly declare that this is what security forces do in every military, dictatorial, authoritarian regime that rules over subjects who did not elect it. That’s why the Shin Bet poses as an omniscient god. And with god, you don’t argue. As an omniscient entity, the Shin Bet knew in early October that by November 26 Akhras would no longer pose a danger to security. How? On October 12, it suggested that he stop his strike in exchange for a promise to release him in two months, unless “new information” about him showed up. Akhras rejected the offer, and no miracle happened. Apparently the judges never wondered what kind of security risk includes an expiration date.”

Normalization: Peace or Arms Deals?

Trump Says 'We Have 10' Countries Waiting to Join Israeli-Arab Deals After U.S. Election,

“When asked whether other countries will normalize ties with Israel while boarding Air Force for campaign travel at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Trump replied: “We have five, but we really have probably nine or 10 that are right in the mix. I’ll think well have all of them… It will be after the election. We’re doing a lot of work right now…Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is expected to arrive in Israel on Thursday and meet with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz.”

Trump administration twists Sudan’s arm to establish new Israel ties,

“The civilian-led component of the government mostly stands against formalizing ties with Israel, at least under current circumstances, and this may explain why the Sudan-Israel deal fell so far short of the agreements Israel signed with Bahrain and the UAE last month. The Emiratis have sought to wield strong influence in Sudan since Bashir’s ouster in April 2019 and have pressured the military leadership to make overtures to Israel. It was the UAE which orchestrated a secret meeting in February 2020 in Uganda between General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, the Chairman of the Sovereign Council and one of the military leaders who overthrew Bashir, and Netanyahu. That meeting in Entebbe was a first step toward normalization, according to Israel’s head of state.”

Palestinian Politics

Palestinian president stacks Jerusalem branch with loyalists,

“Disagreement over the leadership of the Jerusalem branch of Fatah blew up in late September as the central leadership appears to have tried to railroad a list of local leaders totally loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. The source insisted that the reason for intervention was the desire of the Fatah leadership — especially Abbas — not to give supporters of the renegade Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan any foothold in Palestine, and especially in the proposed Palestinian capital of Jerusalem.”

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

““I appeal to the Palestinian leadership to resume its coordination with Israel and accept its clearance revenues – money that belongs to the Palestinian people and cannot be replaced by donor funding,” Mladenov said. “The UN stands ready to mediate solutions to the fiscal crisis and to get the Palestinian economy on better footing. I reiterate the secretary-general’s call for both sides to re-examine the nature of their economic relationship and improve it for the benefit of both peoples,” Mladenov said. He also urged Israel to lift some of its restrictions on the movement of goods and people between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli Politics

Gantz Considering Forming Alternate Government With Opposition Over Budget, Report Says,

“Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz told his associates that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not pass the state budget for next year, he will consider establishing an alternate government with the opposition or going to elections, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Wednesday. According to the Yedioth report, Gantz told associates that he will consider supporting MK Moshe Ya’alon of Yesh Atid-Telem as a candidate for temporary prime ministership. “Bogie [Ya’alon], dissolution, re-forming [a government] – it’s all on the table,” Gantz said.”

High Court swats ‘political’ challenges to legality of alternate PM post,

“The High Court of Justice on Tuesday heard petitions against the new post of alternate prime minister, created earlier this year as part of the coalition agreement and currently filled by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, with the judges questioning and challenging most of the petitioners’ arguments but offering no ruling yet. No time has been set for the ruling.”

Also See – “High Court hears if Netanyahu can be forced to resign as alternate PM” (Jerusalem Post) 

U.S. Politics

New bipartisan legislation seeks to guarantee Israel's QME,

“A new, bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives seeks to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) AND Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced the new bill on Tuesday.”

Gottheimer, Mast drafting bill to provide Israel with bunker busters,

“Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Mast (R-FL) are expected to introduce bipartisan legislation this week that would seek to provide Israel with the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, with the ability to strike at Iran’s well-protected nuclear facilities, a source familiar with the legislation told Jewish Insider.”

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 supporters rally at US embassy in Jerusalem,

“A convoy of cars decorated with American flags and Trump 2020 banners on Tuesday drove from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, holding a rally outside the US Embassy in support of the American president ahead of next week’s election. Some two dozen vehicles joined the procession, which was organized by Republicans Overseas Israel.”

Free Speech, the Weaponization of Anti-Semitism, and Lawfare Attacks

Congressional Dems urge Biden to continue campus antisemitism protections,

“Speaking during a webinar on antisemitism alongside State Department Special Envoy Elan Carr on Tuesday, Gottheimer expressed support for continued action from the executive branch to address antisemitism and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has become widespread on U.S. college campuses. “As a policy matter, whether it’s through executive action or other forms of standing up to the BDS movement, I would hope that the next administration continues that effort, because the BDS movement is antisemitic,” said Gottheimer, who attended the executive order’s signing ceremony last year.”

C&SN Statement on State Department Plans to Label Humanitarian Groups Anti-Semitic,

“The mechanism for this retaliation is to officially label the groups as “antisemitic.” Not only is this a legally dubious move, it is a cynical ploy that attempts to raise a smokescreen to deflect attention away from serious issues about the Israel-Palestine conflict and related human rights issues by hiding behind name-calling.  In the Alice in Wonderland world of Secretary Pompeo and Prime Minister Netanyahu, criticism of Israeli policy or its leaders equals antisemitism which equals terrorism. This twisted attempt to turn human rights advocacy into a human rights violation must be rejected.”