Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 2, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation & De Facto Annexation Continues...

Video shows Israeli soldier kneeling on protester’s neck,

“A video circulating on social media appears to show an Israeli soldier kneeling on a Palestinian protester’s neck while arresting him during a demonstration in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday. The 65-year-old protester said he was not seriously injured and acknowledged shoving an Israeli soldier. The Israeli military said troops were “forced to apprehend” a suspect who had “repeatedly assaulted them.””

Soldiers shoot at Palestinian teens suspected of throwing Molotov cocktail and kill passerby,

“On Thursday night, 9 July 2020, at around 10:00 P.M., Israeli soldiers opened fire at two 15-year-old Palestinians near a military watchtower that lies at the southern entrance to the village of Kifl Hares, in Salfit District. Israeli media reported that, according to the military, the soldiers had fired at Palestinians who had thrown a Molotov cocktail at an army force near an entrance to the village. B’Tselem’s investigation indicates that the soldiers opened fire while in pursuit, putting the teens’ lives at unjustified risk. The shooting injured one of them in the leg, and he required surgery. The other youth escaped.”

Cabinet approves Israel holding onto all bodies of [alleged] Palestinian attackers,

“Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal by Defense Minister Benny Gantz that the bodies of all Palestinian attackers be withheld and not returned to their families as a deterrent against terror attacks. While Israel has not returned the bodies of attackers in recent months, the policy that Gantz wanted changed states that Israel can only hold on the bodies of attackers who belong to Hamas. Gantz presented the demand to change the policy to the Security Cabinet so that the bodies of any Palestinian attacker, even those who don’t belong to a terror group, will remain in Israeli hands.”

Israel-UAE deal: Abu Dhabi-bound plane named after Israeli city sparks controversy,

“Kiryat Gat, the Israeli municipality after which the plane is named, was highlighted by some Palestinians who took to social media to discuss the history of the land upon which it was built. The city, which lies almost 70km southwest of Jerusalem, was built in 1954 on the foundations of the Palestinian village of Iraq al-Manshiyya. Iraq al-Manshiyya and nearby al-Faluja were among at least 418 Palestinian villages depopulated around the time of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 – referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba, or catastrophe – during which thousands of Palestinians were killed and hundreds of thousands of inhabitants were forced to flee, only to later be denied the right of return. Iraq al-Manshiyya and al-Faluja also hold particular significance as the places where an armistice was agreed upon between Israel and Egypt on 24 February 1949.”

Tourist Attractions in 'Yesha-stan': A Display of Israel's Apartheid Mindset,

“The PR piece about tourism in “Yesha-stan” – i.e., the Israeli settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank – in Haaretz (“An occupation vacation,” August 29) was a welcome one. First of all because it’s important to get to know the other face of the settlers. Not everyone gets to do this.”


Hamas deputy: We’ll give Israel two months to implement ceasefire,

“If Israel does not fulfill the terms of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas by the end of two months, there could be another round of escalation of violence on the southern border, a senior official in the Gaza-based terror group, Khalil al-Hayya, said on Tuesday night.”

DM Gantz signs four seizure orders for Hamas funds and property,

“Israel’s Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz signed four seizure orders for Hamas funds and property in Gaza around the world on Wednesday. The decision, which came several days after Israel and Hamas agreed to a Qatari-brokered ceasefire to calm the escalating tensions between the two.”

Gantz: Israel has changed ‘equation of response’ to Gaza, will strike if needed,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that with a forceful response to waves of incendiary balloons launched at Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip over recent weeks, the military had altered the balance in exchanges of fire with Palestinian territory. “We changed the equation of response. In Gaza they were surprised and realized that we were taking the ballooin issue seriously, so we attacked as we attacked,” Gantz told Army Radio. “We will continue with both defense and offensive activity as needed.””

Israel and Hamas Spin Narrative, but Gaza Pandemic Fears Force Calm,

“As usual, this is a relatively modest deal, which will most likely hold for only a limited time. Until a new reason for a conflagration arrives, Qatar will provide monthly payments, Israel will commit to remove restrictions on Gazan infrastructure projects, and Hamas will hold its fire, meaning it will stop sending explosive-carrying balloons and rockets into Israel…Now, as always, there is a battle over the narrative. The defense establishment is saying that the harsh IDF responses are what induced Hamas to halt their fire. Hamas attributes the deal to the steadfast resistance they demonstrated. The real explanation apparently lies elsewhere. Over the last two weeks there has been a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip. From a totally “green” area, Gaza is now dealing with 300 COVID-19 patients, despite determined steps taken to quarantine anyone returning to Gaza from abroad.”

Israel-UAE Normalization

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain tell Kushner Israel ties will have to wait,

“In Bahrain, Kushner met with King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, who said stability in the region relied on Saudi Arabia, according to the official Bahrain News Agency — underlining expectations that it will not strike a deal with Israel before the region’s heavyweight acts…Saudi Arabia has said it will not normalize relations until Israel agrees on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, in keeping with the decades-old stance of most Arab nations. Kushner later met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia’s northwest Neom region, the home of a massive high tech hub being built by the oil giant and reportedly the site of the first open business deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The pair discussed “the need to resume negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides to achieve a just and lasting peace,” according to the Saudi government news agency SPA…Kushner predicted that another Arab country could establish diplomatic ties with Israel soon. “Let’s hope it’s months,” he said when asked whether such a step was foreseeable in months or years. He didn’t name the country. Speculation in Israel has centered around Oman, which hosted Netanyahu in 2018, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco being open to normalizing ties with Israel.” Also See – “Jared Kushner says in UAE that he’s ‘100%’ sure all Arab countries will normalize ties with Israel” (JTA)

Saudi Arabia officially allows all UAE-Israel flights through its airspace,

“The Saudi state news agency reported on Wednesday that all flights to and from the UAE will be permitted to use Saudi airspace, according to the aviation authority.” Also See – “In boon for Israel, Saudi Arabia gives permanent overfly rights to and from UAE” (The Times of Israel)

Senior UAE Official: We Have U.S., Israeli Assurances Annexation Is Halted,

“When asked if moving annexation foward would cause the normalization process to fall apart, Al Musharakh said, “it does not. However, as we said, one of the prerequisites of the commencing of bilateral relations was halting the annexation.” Al Musharakh said, “We cannot predict what Israel will do in the future, but we have assurances from the U.S. and through trilateral dialogue.” Al Musharakh added, “We’ve been very clear. This is for the benefit of not only two countries, but also for the Palestinians.”” Also See – “UAE official says annexation of West Bank will not end normalisation deal” (Middle East Eye)

Israel, UAE agree on financial cooperation as Israelis leave Abu Dhabi,

“Netanyahu and Gulf state’s media office announce deal aimed at joint investment and removal of financial barriers between the two states hours before El Al plane with the Israeli team on board takes off from UAE following a historic visit” Also See – “Israel, UAE sign first agreement on investment, financial services” (Al Monitor)

Israel, UAE discuss establishment of embassies,

“Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz confirmed last night from Abu Dhabi that the Israeli and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) delegations are discussing the establishments of embassies. “Before arriving here [at the negotiation table] I met for over an hour with the foreign minister of the Emirates, and here we are with a team of their Foreign Ministry. We are talking mostly about two issues. We are discussing the signature of all of the agreements that will enhance cooperation between the two countries, and we are talking about the establishment of embassies.””

Moshe Lion: I've received Emirati offers to invest in East Jerusalem,

“Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said on Monday that he will try to get the United Arab Emirates’ embassy to be established in Jerusalem, while actively trying to attract UAE entrepreneurs and investors to the city, according to the Besheva conference spokesperson. Lion also said that “we’ve received offers for investments in East Jerusalem,” expressing hopes of Jerusalem becoming a hub for business collaborations between Emiratis and Israelis and emphasizing the city’s willingness to hear out and develop foreign investment ideas.”

The UAE-Israel accord is a victory for Temple Mount extremists,

“However, hidden among the officials’ lofty language is a carefully worded exception, which reads: “As set forth in the Vision for Peace, all Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at Al Aqsa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths.” While this may appear to be an uncontroversial statement, the wording in fact has profound, and potentially dangerous, implications….On the face of things, the line in the August 13 joint statement appears to enshrine the status quo. A closer look in fact reveals the opposite.”

UAE agreement stabilizes Israel's unity government,

“For the Blue and White ministers, the normalization agreement with the UAE is justification for continuing their complicated partnership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Still, those same ministers are subject to constant criticism from their voters for participating in a government led by someone accused of bribery. Fighting within the party is taking a harsh toll on it, as evidenced by the sharp decline in support for Gantz among his center-left base. Now, however, Blue and White has a chance to participate in the realization of the vision of a “new Middle East,” which they hope will soften the sting of their partnership with Netanyahu.”

Israel-UAE Relations Will Truly Be Tested When America's Out of the Room,

“In many ways, this normalization show recalls the events of the Bahrain meeting last year. Then, too, under American pressure and mediation, the locals welcomed the Israelis very warmly. But since then they have not been especially enthusiastic to continue the relationship on the civilian level. The Emirati story is quite different at the moment, but the real test is the same: What will happen to these high-level ties after the American babysitters are out of the room – will this warm welcome really become routine? The senior Emirati officials believe and persuade others that it will. They also reiterated that although this is a “gradual” process, they would want to see it progress as fast as possible.”

The U.S. Scene

Pompeo cancels plan to film Trump campaign ad geared to US expats while in Israel,

“The decision not to participate in the campaign by Republicans Overseas Israel followed the uproar over Pompeo’s prerecorded message from Jerusalem to last week’s Republican National Convention, and following legal consultations, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported, citing sources involved in the discussions.”

How a proposed new fund to bolster the Palestinian economy stands to benefit Israeli settlers,

“While supporting Palestinian economic development is laudable, Palestinians are unlikely to participate because of a loophole that allows Israeli settlers operating businesses in and exploiting the natural resources of the West Bank to obtain U.S. financial backing. This opening for settlers is likely not accidental. In fact, earlier versions of the bill specifically prohibited “geographic discrimination” defined as denying grants to “any community or entity in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza due to its geographic location.” A 2019 Senate Appropriations Committee report discussing an earlier version of the bill explicitly stated that funds should be used “to encourage commerce between Israeli and Palestinian businesses in the West Bank.” Some may argue that if allowing some Israeli settlers to benefit from the Initiative is the only way to ensure bipartisan support for the bill’s passage then it is better than the alternative of having no such development assistance for Palestinians at all. However, if Congress believes that “building a viable Palestinian economy is central to the effort to preserve the possibility of a negotiated settlement leading to a sustainable two state solution,” than whether settlers benefit matters a great deal. It is precisely Israel’s settlement enterprise and the extensive land expropriation and restrictions on movement of goods and people it brings that prevents Palestinian economic development; it is not a lack of Palestinian ingenuity or capital.”


Schools in West Bank Settlement Defy Closure Order for Israel's Coronavirus Hot Spots,

“Ultra-Orthodox girls’ schools in the West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit opened Tuesday, flouting government orders for schools in communities with high rates of coronavirus infections to remain closed. The coronavirus cabinet issued a directive early Tuesday morning under which schools in “red cities” would not reopen September 1. Betar Ilit’s education system is operated by private associations but it must comply with Israeli government directives…A source in Betar Ilit told Haaretz that the Education Ministry never told the town not to open schools. “You’d have to actively go and check to find that the city was rated red,” said the source. The ministry said in response that it wasn’t its job to inform cities of their virus status.”