Top News from Palestine & Israel: December 15, 2020

What We’re Reading


In Gaza and West Bank, COVID Vaccination Campaign Shrouded in Uncertainty,

“The Palestinian Authority is preparing to launch its coronavirus vaccination campaign, but officials say it’s still unclear whether they will be able to get any vaccines besides the Russian Sputnik V. Senior PA officials said the amount of Russian vaccine they were promised should suffice for the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank. But sources in Israel and in international organizations active in Gaza said it’s not yet clear what solutions will be available for Gazans…PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said negotiations are being held with both Pfizer and Moderna to get their vaccines. But even if a deal is reached with Pfizer, it will probably be for only a small amount, ministry officials said, since the vaccine must be stored at very cold temperatures and the PA lacks the capability to store large quantities. It is therefore exploring other vaccine options that would be easier to handle logistically…Another question is how the vaccines will reach the PA – via the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan or through Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport. So far, neither the PA in the West Bank nor the Hamas government in Gaza has managed to curb the spread of the virus. According to official statistics from Gaza, only 157 new patients were diagnosed over the past day, but that may be due partly to a significant drop in the number of, from a daily average of 2,500 to just 750. The number of active cases in Gaza is now 8,717, including 188 seriously ill patients.”

Gaza Sees Spike in Serious Cases, Ventilated Patients,

“Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are dealing with a renewed coronavirus outbreak, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Israel currently has 17,691 active cases; 3,003 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 15,793 active cases and 905 deaths, and in Gaza 8,717 active cases and 202 deaths.”

Furious, Knesset panel head confirms Israel in talks with Hamas on prisoner swap,

“The head of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee confirmed that Israel is negotiating with the Hamas terror group for the return of two Israeli civilians and the remains of two soldiers in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and civil aid. In a tweet, Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser called the proposed deal “outrageous,” saying it would put “hundreds of terrorists back in the cycle of terror.”” Also See – “Israel-Hamas prisoner swap proposal outrageous, Defense c’tee chair says” (Jerusalem Post)

Hamas Denies Progress in Negotiations to Free Israeli Captives Held in Gaza,

“A Hamas spokesperson said Monday that reports of progress toward an agreement between Israel and the Islamic movement that controls Gaza on the return of Israeli civilians and the remains of Israeli soldiers held in the Strip are untrue, saying that they serve the election campaign of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “There is no progress in the contacts, and Netanyahu is continuing to evade making decisions and playing with the emotions of the families of the Israeli captives,” said Hazem Qasem. “These are false reports and an attempt by Netanyahu to score points with public opinion before the coming election.””

Hamas says ready to resume Palestinian unity talks,

“Palestinian group Hamas has signalled readiness to resume talks for healing the inter-Palestinian rift with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the occupied West Bank. Over the weekend, five Palestinian factions called for the resumption of inter-Palestinian dialogue to achieve Palestinian national unity.”

[ONLY IN GAZA] Accidental shell fired at Gaza Strip, result of misunderstanding,

“According to an IDF spokesman, a preliminary investigation revealed that the tank accidentally fired at the Gaza Strip as a result of a misconception that an army drill was a real incident., Maariv, sister newspaper to The Jerusalem Post , reported. As a result, one shell was fired that hit the building. The incident is still under investigation.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Knesset to hold initial vote on legalization of 65 West Bank outposts,

“The Knesset is scheduled to hold an initial vote Wednesday on the legalization of 65 West Bank outposts. The private members of a bill, dubbed “Quality of Life” legislation, would grant de facto legalization to outposts on state land as either new neighborhoods of existing settlements or as entirely new settlements.”

The IDF defends killing a Palestinian teen. Witnesses rebuff its story,

“On Friday, Dec. 4, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 15-year-old Ali Abu Aliya in the West Bank village of al-Mughayyer, near Ramallah. Abu Aliya, who was reportedly due to celebrate his birthday that evening, was shot with live ammunition while watching a demonstration taking place in the village. Following the killing, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stressed that Palestinians “tried to roll large rocks and burning tires… risking the lives of passengers on the Allon road [the nearby main road that crosses the West Bank from north to south].” Nonetheless, the military also stated that it had opened an investigation into the killing. However, three young Palestinians who stood near Abu Aliya on Friday and spoke to +972 testify that Abu Aliya was not standing near Allon Road when Israeli soldiers opened fire on him. Furthermore, it would have been impossible to throw stones at Allon Road or to otherwise endanger those driving along it from where Abu Aliya was shot.”

Senior Likud minister Gila Gamliel refuses to commit to regularizing settlements,

“Gamliel’s words were greeted with outrage within members of the settlement enterprise and their supporters. The Forum for Settlements responded with a statement saying: “We are disappointed to hear Minister Gila Gamliel turn our lives and the lives of our children into a matter of coalition-versus-opposition. Electricity, water, and security are not political issues – rather, it is the duty of the State to provide them to all its citizens. We are still permitting ourselves to hope that the government will make a clear decision on the matter, and that the new legislation will pass. Gila – it’s not to late to mend your ways. You can still announce your support of this bill.””

Israeli Domestic Politics

Gantz fires Derech Eretz MKs from their government posts,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday announced he was dismissing Derech Eretz lawmakers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel from their government posts, after the two said they would join Gideon Sa’ar’s new party and soon resign from their positions if new elections are averted. “Hauser and Hendel have chosen their new political home and their time holding positions on behalf of Blue and White has thus come to an end,” Gantz said in a statement.” Also See: “Gantz Fires Minister Who Endorsed Netanyahu Rival Sa’ar as Israel Nears Another Election” (Haaretz)

Blue and White members call to replace Gantz as leader,

“Blue and White is now divided into two camps. One camp is interested in elections being called immediately so that they can pick the most inconvenient timing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – March. On the other hand, there are those who behind the scenes are relaying the message that it is only through Gantz’s ouster that the party, now predicted by most polls to garner a measly six Knesset seats, can be saved. At the same time, both camps are still holding out hope a compromise can be reached with Likud and an election can be avoided altogether.” Also See – “Rumblings in Blue and White of leadership challenge to Gantz” (Jerusalem Post)

Israel stages major air defense drill, proving it can shoot down cruise missiles,

“The Defense Ministry completed a major, unprecedented air defense exercise this month, which tested the abilities of the country’s three tiers of missile defense systems against a variety of aerial threats, officials said Tuesday. In the drill, which the ministry deemed a glowing success, the various air defense detection systems and batteries were required to communicate with one another and intercept several types of targets, including rockets, unmanned aerial vehicles and — critically — cruise missiles simultaneously.”

Normalization & News from the Region

Morocco’s police disperse protest against ties with Israel,

“Moroccan authorities on Monday dispersed a group of activists who tried to hold a protest outside the parliament building in the capital to denounce the country’s recent decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Dozens of police officers in riot gear were mobilized to push protesters away from parliament in Rabat. Demonstrators wanted to show solidarity with Palestinians and reject the normalization of ties between Rabat and Tel Aviv.” Also See – “Moroccan authorities prevent protest against ties with Israel in Rabat” (Middle East Eye)

Abbas seeks Qatar’s support for international peace conference,

“The PA leadership has accused the Arab countries that established relations with Israel of acting in violation of the Arab Peace Initiative. The Qatari emir’s pledge to abide by the Arab Peace Initiative is seen by Palestinians as an indication that Doha does not intend to normalize its relations with Israel.”

Trump continues to mock int’l law with move on Israel-Morocco,

“With this decision, the United States becomes the only country in the world to recognize Morocco’s unilateral annexation of Western Sahara and further isolates itself on the international stage through its wanton disregard of the international norm of self-determination. Further, while Trump may claim this is an essential move toward peace in the Middle East, in fact this decision threatens to plunge an already volatile region deeper into crisis.”

Israel and UAE export credit agencies sign cooperation agreement,

“The export credit agencies of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a cooperation agreement Monday aimed at boosting economic relations and trade between the two countries, according to the UAE’s state news agency WAM. According to the report, the Israel Foreign Trade Risks Insurance Corporation (ASHR’A) signed the agreement with its UAE counterpart Etihad Credit Insurance, which will work on jointly supporting increased exports, trade, and investment.”

Tunisian PM: Normalization with Israel ‘not on the agenda’,

“Tunisia has no plans to match Morocco’s decision to recognize Israel, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said, insisting that establishing relations with the Jewish state was “not on the agenda.” Last week, Morocco became the fourth country in the Arab League to recognize Israel since August, in a flurry of diplomatic deals brokered by outgoing US President Donald Trump.”