Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 25, 2020

What We’re Reading

Palestinian Politics

Palestinian Factions Agree to Hold Election in Six Months,

“Fatah official Jibril Al-Rajoub confirmed the agreement and said Abbas would issue a decree setting a date. But he said the vote would be in stages – starting with parliament, then electing a new president, and finally choosing members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinians’ highest decision-making body.”


Also See:

Hamas, Fatah agree to hold Palestinian elections within six months” (Al-Monitor)

Palestinian groups Fatah, Hamas agree to first elections in nearly 15 years” (Deutsche Welle)

Fatah, Hamas say deal reached on new Palestinian elections” (Ynet/AFP)

In UN address, Abbas criticizes normalization with Israel, pledges elections,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the recent normalization deals Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and said the Palestinians were preparing to hold elections at all levels for the first time since 2006, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday afternoon. “Here we are… preparing to hold parliamentary elections, followed by presidential elections, with the participation of all factions and political parties,” Abbas told the UN.”

Palestinian power games: Speculation and accusations swirl around Dahlan,

“Mohammed Dahlan, the exiled former leader of the Fatah movement in the besieged Gaza Strip, has become a focus of Palestinian anger and accusations of treachery amid speculation over his role in the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. His close links to the Emirati leadership have led members of his former party to suggest that he may have been among the main architects of the agreement and prompted many Palestinians to wonder what he stands to gain from the deal. Those suspicions have been sharpened by rumours of secret clauses and hints in the Israeli media about the prospect of Dahlan’s return to Palestinian political life.”

Palestinians pivot to Turkey, Qatar for support in wake of normalization deals,

A senior Palestinian official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “It is no longer a secret that we are facing harsh conditions from the traditional Arab axis linked to the US, in exchange for their political cover and their financial support for us, the least of which is agreeing to normalization with Israel, and this is what we cannot do. This is why we have recently increased our contacts with influential players in the region such as Turkey and Qatar, even though they are affiliated with Hamas.”

Hamas opens up on arms, missile supplies from Iran,

Rami Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian military expert and part-time researcher at the Egyptian Institute for Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas’ sudden disclosure aims to prove that the [Israeli] siege on Gaza has not prevented it from developing its military infrastructure, given the strenuous efforts it has been deploying to confront Israeli plans to prevent the arrival of weapons and ammunition supplies and to manufacture whatever missile components are available locally. This comes at a time when Arab-Israeli cooperation has emerged in a bid to weaken the Iranian-led axis of resistance that includes Syria, Gaza and Lebanon. It also comes in light of new alliances in the region to place pressure on Hamas.””

Hamas charges three Gaza activists for pro-peace video call with Israelis,

“Hamas military prosecutors on Thursday charged three Palestinian activists in the Gaza Strip with “weakening revolutionary spirit” — a charge that could lead to years in prison — for holding a video conference with Israelis. Rami Aman, a 38-year-old peace activist and Gaza resident, was detained in early April after holding a public “Skype With Your Enemy” video call in which Israelis participated. He has said his organization seeks to empower young Palestinians and that many in Gaza share his view that speaking to Israelis should not be forbidden…The activists are members of the Gaza Youth Committee, an organization that sponsors peace-building initiatives. Before Aman’s arrest, the group become a member of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, a coalition of Israeli and Arab nonprofit organizations.”

Israel & Regional Normalization

Bahrain king calls for ‘intensified efforts’ to implement two-state solution,

“Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Thursday hailed his decision to normalize relations with Israel but also called for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on previous peace plans. “From of our keenness to preserve the security and stability of the region, and as an embodiment of our resolute approach to openness and coexistence with all, we have announced the establishment of relations with the State of Israel, sending a civilized message affirming that our hand is extended for a just and comprehensive peace, as it is the best guarantee for the future of all peoples of the region,” he declared in a taped speech screened to UN delegates in New York.”

Normalizing Sudan-Israel relations now is a dangerous game,

“Unfortunately, much of the debate around the prospects for an improvement in the Israel-Sudan bilateral relationship has ignored the fragility of Sudan’s political transition and the risks that premature normalization could pose for the strategic interests of the United States, Israel, and the UAE. No one wants a repetition of the 1983 Israeli-Lebanese peace agreement, which, signed by a Lebanese government without popular legitimacy, collapsed in less than a year.”

Jordan, Egypt and EU urge renewal of Israel-Palestinian peace talks,

“The foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, France and Germany on Thursday urged Israel and the Palestinians to engage in “credible dialogue” to restore “hope” to the peace process. “Ending the stalemate in peace talks, the creation of political horizons and the restoration of hope through credible dialogue must be a priority,” they said in a statement.”

Report: Israel-Sudan, Oman normalization deals could be announced next week,

“Normalization deals between Israel and Sudan and Oman could be announced as soon as next week, Hebrew-language newspaper Maariv reported on Friday morning. US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft spoke at the 75th UN General Assembly in New York City this week, saying that in part of the Middle East regional peace developments another Arab country will soon sign a normalization deal with Israel. According to Maariv, Sudan and Oman are holding extensive talks with Israel, brokered by the US, in order to announce peace deals next week.”

UAE, Israeli Cyber Chiefs Discuss Joining Forces to Combat Common Threats,

“The United Arab Emirates and Israel share threats to their national online networks, the Israeli cyber-security chief said on Thursday in a rare public discussion of potential cooperation with his counterpart following the normalization of relations.”

Berkowitz: 'We feel pretty good' about normalization with other countries,

“The UAE “deserves a lot of credit” for being the first country to normalize ties with Israel since Trump laid out his “Peace for Prosperity” vision in January, Berkowitz said. “They came to Jared [Kushner] and said, ‘We would like to be first’ [to normalize ties with Israel following the plan], which is a very courageous act,” he said. “You need parties that are willing to take courageous steps, and had they not been ready to be first, we may not be where we are.””


Netanyahu may end de facto settler freeze, allow plans for 5,000 homes,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to end the de facto freeze on settler housing approvals by convening the Higher Planing Council for Judea and Samaria which has been dormant for the last eight months, according to settler reports. The move comes in the aftermath of a Channel 12 poll that showed Netanyahu’s Likud party had dropped to 29 mandates, compared to the 36 mandates it had received in the March elections.”

The Israeli right is erasing Arabic from Jerusalem, one street sign at a time,

“In most instances, these activists have covered the Arabic text on these signs with political campaign stickers belonging to various predominantly right-wing and religious parties; stickers of Otzma Yehudit, an extreme right Kahanist party, appear to be the most common…the ubiquity of this practice throughout Jerusalem today — and the impunity and disregard that it enjoys — is striking. And while it is less overt than other forms of Israeli erasure of the city’s Palestinian character — such as attempts after 1948 to give Hebrew names to the formerly Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem like Talbiye (Komemiyut), Qatamon (Gonen), Baka’a (Ge’ulim), and Musrara (Morasha) — the more subtle process on the street signs nonetheless serves a similar purpose.”

The Second Intifada, 20 Years On: Thousands Died in a Struggle That Failed,

“Israel launched its suppression of the uprising by shooting children in the head on the Temple Mount: Ala Badran, 12, lost an eye; Mohammed Joda, 13, lay dying in the intensive care ward of Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem; and Majdi Maslamani, 15, was already dead and buried in the cemetery of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina. About 10 days after the start of the intifada, 14 Palestinian children had already been killed. These cases were barely reported in the Israeli media, which as usual dealt almost exclusively with the Jewish victims, of which there were as yet only a few.”

Movement Restrictions and Repeated Arrests: Israel's Measures Against Top Palestinian Official,

“Two years have elapsed since Adnan Ghaith, a 46-year-old resident of Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, was appointed the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem governor by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. During that time, Ghaith has been arrested 18 times by Israeli police and detained or summoned for questioning on dozens of other occasions, mostly about suspected violations of the Oslo Accords, which paved the way for the establishment of the Palestinian Authority and forbid Palestinian Authority activity in Jerusalem.”


Israeli-Arab town operates its own anti-corona plan,

“But while Israel’s prime minister is busy stopping protests against him even at the economic price of a full lockdown and stopping all commercial activity, some cities have taken their own measures and decided to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 within the city bounds instead of waiting for the state. One of the cities that has excelled at this task is Kafr Qasim. Shortly after his nomination, coronavirus tzar Ronni Gamzu decided on a “traffic light plan,” categorizing Israeli towns and villages into red, orange, yellow and green, according to the rate of infection. Kafr Qasim was declared last month a “red city,” but today it is already designated a yellow city, and the mayor hopes that it will turn green in a week. This success story even won praise and a visit from former Minister of Defense and current Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, for whom the fight against COVID-19 in Israel has become a goal on the way to the next election, as today he has 21 mandates according to a Channel 12 poll.”

Netanyahu Seeks Emergency Powers to Quash Protests Under Coronavirus Regulations,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking emergency powers Friday in order to enact restrictions that would prevent Saturday’s protests against the prime minister in Jerusalem under the coronavirus regulations.”

Israel Army Joins Coronavirus Fight, but It's an Uphill Battle,

“A senior General Staff officer told Haaretz that the army intends to have 2,500 investigators, most of them civilians, from the beginning of November, when the unit will be in full operation. Recently, the army has started to set up, within this framework, a unit of 600 regular soldiers who will serve as investigators. These are soldiers with relatively high personal profiles who will come from various sections of the army and be assigned to epidemiological investigations for a year. The unit is headed by a female officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel. The General Staff admits that at the present morbidity rate, of between 5,000 and 7,000 new carriers a day, it is impossible to maintain an effective investigative system, because there is no way to complete all the investigations in time. The goal is to reduce the number to about 1,000 a day by the end of the lockdown, a level seen as controllable. In practice, that number appears to be a very difficult, almost unrealistic, goal to achieve. The coronavirus is spreading extensively, and the high number of tests – close to 60,000 a day – will lead to the confirmation of a large number of carriers for a lengthy period. On the other hand, the longer the lockdown lasts, the greater the economic damage will be and the more pressure the public will exert on the government to free up the economy.”