Top News from Israel & Palestine: October 29, 2020

What We’re Reading

Settlements/Occupation/De Facto Annexation/Apartheid/Human Rights

Destroying Palestinian Jerusalem, One Institution at a Time,

Executive Summary: The Israeli state has actively sought to destroy Palestinian Jerusalem since its creation in 1948. Al-Shabaka’s Senior Palestine Policy Fellow, Yara Hawari, examines the July 2020 attacks on three Palestinian cultural institutions in East Jerusalem as part of the Israeli regime’s systematic destruction of the city’s Palestinian identity. She offers policy recommendations for protecting Jerusalem’s Palestinian cultural and political institutions.

U.S. to allow 'Israel' to be added to passports of Americans born in Jerusalem,

The Trump administration is expected to soon announce that the U.S. passports of Americans born in Jerusalem can now mention Israel as the country of birth. The decision, confirmed by a U.S. official Wednesday, is the latest by President Donald Trump that favors Israel in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It could be revealed as early as Thursday, just days before next week’s U.S. presidential election, and it could help Trump as he seeks to turn out evangelical Christians and other voters in his base who strongly support Israel.

A Week to Election, Israel, U.S. Make Play at Legitimizing Settlements Before It May Be Too Late,

A common saying in Judaism is: “We don’t rely on miracles.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S Ambassador to Israel David Friedman know it even better than most people. For four years they have been creating a long list of their own miracles that were all made possible for them thanks to he who sits on high in the White House. So about a week before the most crucial election in the history of the United States, and maybe the world, the two have hurried to safeguard in ink what may be the very last opportunistic grab in the settlements – just in case the Trump administration episode nonetheless soon reaches its end. Because you don’t rely on a miracle to keep him in office…The signing of the agreements that will benefit Ariel University is clear pre-election opportunism on the part of Netanyahu, Friedman and Adelson – who are not counting on a miracle that would leave Trump in the White House. The settlements have not become legal in the eyes of international law just because Pompeo said so, the peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not blossom thanks to funding for the settlements just because Friedman said so, and that which is political from its very foundation has not undergone “de-politicization.” This is yet more more creeping de facto annexation of the settlements under the auspices of an administration that fears it will soon disappear.

Did the US just recognize Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank? – analysis,

Did the United States just recognize Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements during Wednesday’s low-key ceremony at Ariel University announcing joint scientific cooperation? Ask the Palestinians and their answer would be a resounding “yes.”…Laura [sic] Friedman, president of the US-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, charged: “To be clear: this is, in effect, Trump admin[istration’s] official recognition of Israeli sovereignty over [the] West Bank.”…But if something as momentous as annexation has just taken place, where was the celebratory clinking of champagne glasses on the Israeli Right, along with the multiple congratulatory declarations? Some of the right-wing silence, of course, can be chalked up to the fact that two of the leading settler politicians were not invited to the event – Yesha Council head David Elhayani and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan.

Settler leaders boycott West Bank ceremony meeting over snub,

More than one dozen heads of West Bank settlement councils boycotted a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, after he refused to invite two senior settler leaders….Elhayani has publicly criticized Netanyahu’s cooperation with U.S. President Donald Trump, whom the Yesha leader claims is not a friend of Israel. Dagan meanwhile has repeatedly attacked Trump’s self-styled “deal of the century” plan for Middle East peace, which includes provisions for a Palestinian state, saying it could lead to “the establishment of a Palestinian terrorist state in the heart of the country.”

Palestinians slam US funding of science projects in 'illegal' settlements,

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday denounced the decision to expand US funding of Israeli scientific cooperation to include research projects in the settlements as “a serious precedent that is condemned, rejected and could not be tolerated.”…“This step indicates an active US complicity in the occupation of the Palestinian territories and a consolidation of [US President Donald] Trump’s administration of violating the international law and the United Nations resolutions which have condemned settlement activities in all their forms, most recently of which was [UN] Resolution 2334,” said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency. “All settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, and any US action in this respect is illegal and constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Israel to issue building permits for 31 Hebron homes before US election,

The IDF is set to issue a building permit for 31 apartment units for what will be a new Jewish apartment complex, in the Hizkiyahu quarter in the West Bank city of Hebron. The decision to allow the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria to push forward the project, follows its advancement and approval earlier this month of plans for 5,288 settler homes. These steps belie claims that a de facto freeze is in place with regard to settlement planning in light of the Israeli normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. They also come in advance of the November 3 presidential election in the United States. Support for Israel and the settlement movement is viewed as part of incumbent US President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Israel to Allow Palestinian Farmers More Access to Their Lands Near Green Line,

Israel has informed the High Court of Justice that it will revoke certain regulations issued last year that restricted Palestinian farmers’ ability to access their lands located between the separation barrier and Israeli territory, and in particular, the annual quota limiting the number of entries. In response to a petition filed in February by Palestinian farmers and Israeli human rights organization HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual against the restrictions, the state indicated that the regulations were part of a pilot program that has since been cancelled following its expiration.

Israel is subjecting Palestinian children to physical and psychological abuse,

Israel is the only country in the world to prosecute children routinely in military courts that lack basic safeguards for a fair trial. Moreover, Palestinian children detained by Israel face abuse and systematic torture, which has been legitimised by the judiciary and government. The plight of these youngsters is well documented. The scale of the problem has been captured by NGO Save the Children in a new report.

Palestinian Maher Al-Akhras Demands: Freedom or Death,

Under the cover of chaos from the coronavirus crisis, Palestinian Maher Al-Akhras is on the brink of death in an Israeli hospital, on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention in Israeli prison. Would you like to know why he’s in prison? So would he. In fact, he decided to give the Israeli Security Agency (Shabak) and military a choice: his freedom, or his death….Under administrative detention, a person can be held without trial and without even being accused of having committed an offense, merely as a preventive mechanism. And with no fixed time limit, administrative detention can last months and sometimes years. According to B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, there are currently 355 Palestinian administrative detainees, two of whom are minors. Over the years, thousands of Palestinians have been detained under this provision….With subordination coming at us from every angle, a hunger strike offers a rare opportunity to take back control. It is a paradoxical move, asserting the essence of your freedom by denying your oppressor control over your body. The prisoner resists measures meant to keep him alive in order to force his oppressors to choose: either grant my freedom, or bear the responsibility for my death. Most of the time, the death of a single Palestinian prisoner does not show up on the radar screen of Israeli or world consciousness. Maher Al-Akhras is using hunger to demand that change, that his life must mean something. Charged without cause, he is risking his life for a very clear one.

Opinion | Israel's Execution of Palestinian Hunger Striker Maher Akhras Is Taking Place Now,

Maher Akhras is still clinging to life. He struggles with every breath, but even 95 days of starvation have not defeated him. However, as far as Israeli High Court justices Uzi Vogelman, George Karra and Alex Stein are concerned, the Israeli hospital bed on which he lies is already occupied by a dead man. He is now on the 95th day of his hunger strike, after he was kidnapped from his home in the dead of night by armed men and jailed without charge or due process; without even being told what he is suspected of or being confronted with any evidence of wrongdoing….At death’s door, the judges were inclined to save face and temporarily suspend Akhras’ detention, on medical grounds and on condition that he remains confined to the specific Israeli hospital he is currently in. But one cage, albeit bigger and more comfortable, is not inherently different than the other, and Akhras continues to refuse any food, until he is truly set free. When declining to order his release – again, for the third time – the judges knew full well that their ruling is, in the most literal way, a death sentence.

Israel Seeks to Expand Jewish Town in Bid to Prevent Arab Majority in the Region,

The Israeli government is requesting to expand the jurisdiction of the northern Jewish town of Harish by nearly 50 percent, even though hundreds of its homes are vacant, after a report projected that the area’s Arab population will overtake its Jewish population.

Arab world, Normalization, Peace “Dividends”

Intel: New bill in Congress would push for Israel to get bunker-busting bombs,

A pair of US lawmakers are set to introduce a bill this week that would require the Pentagon to consult with Israel and report to Congress about whether transferring bunker-busting bombs to Israel could help prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon….The bill comes one day after the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran has started building an underground nuclear centrifuge facility at Natanz, after an explosion at the site in July that Tehran called “sabotage.” If passed, the bill may help clear some obstacles to Israel realizing its interest in acquiring the United States’ 30,000-lb. Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bunker-busting super bombs. Foreign sale of the massive weapon is currently barred by US law. The MOP is six times as heavy as the largest bunker-buster the United States is known to have sold to Israel — the 5,000-lb. GBU-28. The US Air Force is only authorized to deploy the MOP on the B-2 bomber, which Israel does not possess.

Avi Berkowitz: Annexation is not off the table, just pushed off for now,

US Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz said on Thursday morning that “annexation is not off the table, just pushed off for now” with regard to the recent peace deals signed between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel-Emirates peace: An inside look,

Dubai is gulping the dividends of the peace with Israel with great thirst. Business people, investors and the top echelons of the Emirati economy are rushing to forge promising Israeli connections, and vice versa. A four-day visit to the emirate this week reveals the intense potential that lies in the recent outing of Israel’s covert relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “It’s like someone wandering in the desert for years, tired, thirsty and hungry, and suddenly arriving at a perfect oasis,” enthused the director of a major Israeli firm on a Dubai visit with a delegation of Israeli high-tech and cyber experts. “And it’s not one-directional. They need us as much as we need them, there is mutual inspiration without the typical, regrettable condescension on our part [toward Arabs]. Dubai is not some forsaken desert principality thirsting for Israeli technology. It’s an amazing regional hub of investment, high-tech, industry and knowledge, a unique and influential leverage for investment and the connection between us and them could be a profit multiplier for both sides,” the director said on condition of anonymity….Israel and the UAE are forging a different kind of peace. A cordial peace that is growing warmer with every passing day. The Israeli delegation that visited the Emirates this week was led by former Labor Knesset member Erel Margalit, a high-tech and social entrepreneur and chair of Jerusalem Venture Partners capital fund. He and the 13 CEOs and other leading business people he brought with him were greeted with enthusiasm. There was no need for small talk to break the ice. Margalit and the delegation members hit the ground running. They have been doing business in the Emirates for several years, but kept a low profile and used various covers. The affair has now burst into the open, big time.

Soccer leagues in Israel, UAE sign working agreement,

Soccer leagues in Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a working agreement Tuesday that follows moves to normalize diplomatic relations between the countries. Leaders of the Israeli Professional Football League and UAE Pro League signed a memorandum of understanding by video conference that includes exploring ideas for competitions between their teams.

Second round of maritime-border talks between Israel, Lebanon,

Israel and Lebanon began Oct. 28 a second round of talks for demarcating their maritime border. The negotiations are being mediated by the US ambassador to Algeria, John Desrocher, under the auspices of the United Nations….The maritime border dispute is several years old, revolving around Israeli and Lebanese plans to exploit natural gas underwater reserves off their shores.

Analysis | With Sudan Normalization, What Would Happen to Darfuri Refugees in Israel?,

Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration that Israel and Sudan had agreed to normalize their relations, this community of asylum seekers was stricken with anxiety. Will Israel force their repatriation to Sudan? Sudan’s former president, the tyrant Omar al-Bashir, the man directly responsible for the war crimes in Darfur, was deposed in April 2019, but he was replaced by a military council for a predetermined time. Its leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, was the one who led the murderous ethnic cleansing sweeps in Darfur, with the commander of the Janjaweed, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemetti) serving under him….The community of asylum seekers in Israel is anxiously following the raids and ethnic cleansing that is still taking place in Darfur. It is now more vulnerable than ever to the malice of those wishing to deport them. Even though the new fence along the border with Egypt prevents other refugees from arriving in Israel – and they avoid coming here anyway – there is always a risk that some political public performance will be translated into political gains at their expense.

‘Not safe to go back’: Sudanese in Israel fear deportation,

Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel are worried they will be kicked out once the normalisation agreement between the two countries is signed, though some hope their presence will be seen as an advantage. Technically at war with Israel for decades, Sudan, last Friday, became the third Arab country this year to announce it is normalising ties with Israel, following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain… In Israel, the announcement was welcomed with mixed feelings among members of the Sudanese community who have been “very afraid” of being sent back, 26-year-old Barik Saleh, a Sudanese asylum seeker who lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. Israel says nearly 6,000 Sudanese live in the country, most of them asylum seekers who are not always allowed to work and cannot take up Israeli citizenship.

Israel-Sudan accord is bad news for Hamas,

Hamas is very concerned about the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel. Sudan, a Sunni Muslim state, has for many years been a convenient setting for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and a vital smuggling route for weapons from Iran into the Gaza Strip because of its location along the Red Sea. The Israel-Sudan agreement is a double whammy to Iran and Hamas alike.

Palestinians furious as Israel escorts Arab delegations to Al-Aqsa,

Conflicts have been erupting at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the city of Jerusalem between Jerusalemite worshipers and some Arab and Islamic delegations visiting the mosque under the protection of the Israeli police. These visits, which are bound to become more frequent in the coming weeks in light of the normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, have provoked angry public and official Palestinian reactions.

U.S. Elections and Israel/Palestine

Palestinian Leaders Are Banking on Biden Win Next Week,

Isolated diplomatically and running out of money, plagued by old internal ideological divisions and by new threats like the coronavirus, the Palestinians are looking to Tuesday’s election more desperate than ever for a change in Washington. At the same time, senior members of Mr. Abbas’s Fatah party are increasingly looking ahead to his eventual exit from the stage and positioning themselves to try to succeed him. Above all, Mr. Abbas, 84, and his lieutenants are counting on a President Biden to shelve the Trump administration’s lopsidedly pro-Israel plan for resolving the conflict. They are expecting a return to United States support for a two-state solution that Palestinians would consider viable. They are hoping for a thaw with the White House, and wishing for the reinstatement of at least some financial aid. Rolling back other moves by Mr. Trump, however, would be more complicated, like reopening a Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington. And Mr. Biden has already ruled out undoing Mr. Trump’s move of the United States embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. … Allowing the reopening of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission in Washington or restoring much of the aid to projects that directly benefited the Palestinian Authority would require Mr. Biden to overcome a number of legal obstacles, some of which might require Congressional approval. And re-establishing the United States Consulate in Jerusalem, which until 2019 functioned as the American diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, would require Israel’s permission — something it may not be too quick to grant in a city that Mr. Trump himself formally recognized as Israel’s capital. “These are all possible but they would require heavy political lifting,” said Lara Friedman, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and an expert on the role of Congress in the region.

Israeli zeal for second Trump term matched by Palestinian enmity,

Salem Barahmeh, the executive director of the Ramallah-based Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, said Trump had been “extremely dangerous for the entire world, especially for Palestine and our struggle for freedom and rights”. He added, however, that Trump had merely accelerated long-standing US policy from both Republican and Democrat administrations that allowed Israel to continue the occupation with few significant consequences. “The Obama administration and Biden were part of that trajectory,” he said. A Biden win may even be counterproductive for the Palestinian rights movement, he added, arguing that Trump exposed US policy in the region for the facade that it was. “Trump is a polarising figure, he mobilises a lot of resistance,” he said. “With Biden, it would be going back to that normal, but that normal was never good for Palestine and the Palestinians.”