Top News from Palestine & Israel: December 22, 2020

What We’re Reading

The Israeli Domestic Scene

In first, High Court mulls voiding quasi-constitutional nationality law,

“The High Court heard a landmark challenge on Tuesday to a controversial 2018 law that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Proponents of the law have argued that the legislation merely enshrines existing reality. “This is a fundamental law, which safeguards Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” Likud MK Avi Dichter, who sponsored the law, told reporters from the Arabic-language Hala TV outside the courtroom. But critics have argued that the so-called Nation-State Law contravenes the basis of Israel’s legal system, as well as its Declaration of Independence, and solidifies inequality among its citizens.”

Also See

Knesset rejects bill to delay budget deadline, sending Israel to elections,

“The Knesset overnight Monday-Tuesday narrowly rejected a bill that would have deferred a Tuesday midnight deadline for passing the 2020 state budget, and thus set Israel on an almost certain course to its fourth general election in two years. Barring a highly improbable rapprochement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Defense Minister Benny Gantz, enabling all three readings of the 2020 budget to pass into law Tuesday, the Knesset will automatically dissolve at midnight on Tuesday, and Israelis will go to the polls again, probably on March 23, 2021.”

Bennett: Goal ‘to replace Netanyahu,’ won’t back bill to let PM avoid legal woes,

“Yamina leader Naftali Bennett said Monday that he aims to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that he will not support legislative efforts to help the premier avoid his corruption charges. Bennett — speaking to Channel 13 just hours before the Knesset narrowly rejected a bill that would have deferred a Tuesday midnight deadline for passing the 2020 state budget, setting Israel on an almost certain course to its fourth general election in two years — pushed his own claim to head the next government.”

Elections will end Gantz’s unhappy career; wily Netanyahu strides confidently on,

“Not only is Gantz heading into political oblivion, but so is much of the Israeli center-left. Blue and White drew much of its support from that part of the spectrum, but the opinion polls suggest many voters are not going back there. The new icon of the “anyone but Bibi” movement is Gideon Sa’ar, a former Likud minister who stands to Netanyahu’s right on matters relating to settlements and the Palestinians. In the 2015 elections, the center-left National Union (Labor), Yesh Atid and Meretz mustered 40 of the Knesset’s 120 seats between them, in what was regarded as a failed campaign; recent polls give Yesh Atid about 16 seats and Meretz 6 or 7; as for Labor, which also joined this Netanyahu coalition, it is near-certain to disappear from the political map.” Also See – “Gantz’s Political Party Was Last Year’s Largest. Now It’s the Walking Dead” (Haaretz)

Pro-settler Saar: the new hope of Israel's center-left,

“Actually, all the polls taken since Saar declared his political independence point to the fact that he is supported also by disappointed Blue and White party voters. These are the voters who had high hopes that Defense Minister Benny Gantz could unseat Netanyahu, and when this didn’t happen, they abandoned Gantz. All the previous political stations of Saar’s life were in distinctive right-wing parties. So how did it happen that 53-year-old Saar is garnering significant support from the secular center-left? The question becomes even sharper when looking into Saar’s first years in politics. As a young man, he had identified with the pro-settler Hatchiya party that was even more right-wing than the Likud. The answer is rooted in the intensity of the hatred directed at Netanyahu, combined with the disappointment and despair that even Gantz — the “prince” — failed to replace Netanyahu. In effect, all three former chiefs of staff in Blue and White’s leadership were defeated.”

Normalization & the Trump Legacy

Kushner to lead maiden flight from Israel to Morocco,

“Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner announced Monday that he will join an Israeli delegation on the first direct flight to Morocco to celebrate the U.S.-brokered agreement establishing ties between the two Mideast countries. The flight, set to depart Tuesday, marks the fourth diplomatic pact brokered by the Trump administration between Israel and an Arab country. The agreements, known as “the Abraham Accords,” have reshaped the Middle East, reflecting a shared concern among many Arab countries and Israel about Iran and a departure from the traditional focus on the Palestinian struggle for independence.” Also See: “Jared Kushner Makes the Rounds in Jerusalem Ahead of Joint U.S.-Israel Morocco Visit” (Haaretz); “Israeli-US delegation makes final preparations for historic trip to Morocco” (Israel Hayom) 

Morocco to Israel: Normalization Pact Not Part of Trump-brokered Abraham Accords,

“Morocco has signaled to Israel in recent days that it does not intend to sign an agreement to normalize relations, as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain did with Israel a few months ago. Rabat does not view its agreement to normalize ties with Israel, brokered by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month, as part of the Abraham Accords. Explaining its refusal to sign a normalization agreement with Israel, Morocco said it already had overt diplomatic relations with Israel in the past.”

Jared Kushner’s name to grace US Embassy courtyard and Jerusalem grove,

“David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Jerusalem, on Monday named a courtyard to the embassy after Kushner, a senior White House adviser to President Donald Trump who is in Israel for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The plaque includes Kushner’s quote from the embassy dedication on May 14, 2018. “When there is peace in this region we will look back upon this day and remember that the journey for peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth,” Kushner said at the time…Separately, Netanyahu on Monday dedicated 18 trees in Kushner’s honor at the Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem Forest. “You have left through the Abraham Accords a mark on our region Jared,” Netanyahu said. “I don’t think it’s a passing mark. I don’t think the seasonal rains will wash it away. I think it’s here to stay. It’s a great thing and something that we truly treasure.” The Grove of Nations is a section of the forest administered by the Jewish National Fund that honors foreign leaders.”

Trump Incentives for Signing Peace Accords With Israel Could Be at Risk,

“In each case, the incentives that the Trump administration dangled in exchange for the détente could fall through — either rejected by Congress or reversed by the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. That puts at risk not only the series of regional agreements for rapprochement but also exacerbates a worldview that the United States cannot be depended upon to hold up its end of diplomatic deals.”

Trump administration weighing legal immunity for Saudi crown prince in alleged assassination plot,

“The U.S. government is weighing a request to declare Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman immune from a federal lawsuit accusing him of targeting for assassination a former top intelligence officer who could disclose damaging secrets about the prince’s ascent to power, according to legal documents related to the case. The Saudi government has asked that the prince be shielded from liability in response to a complaint brought by Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi counterterrorism leader and longtime U.S. intelligence ally now living in exile in Canada.”

Israel-linked assassinations: How much is the US really involved?,

“A long history forces the important question of how much the U.S. knew about the Fakhrizadeh assassination and other Israeli assassinations of Iranian scientists over the years. Reporting on the Fakhrizadeh assassination on December 7, veteran Haaretz reporter Yossi Melman wrote that “it was most likely that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … had consulted with … Donald Trump. Trump and his security and military aides must have been privy to the secret decision, because the U.S. had to prepare itself for all eventualities, including the worst-case scenario: Iran deciding to retaliate by hitting US targets, such as its bases in Bahrain or Qatar.” The Trump Administration has denied Iran’s accusations that it was complicit in the murder.”

The Palestinian Scene

Hamas slams PA for 'politically-motivated' arrests,

“Efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas rift suffered yet another blow as Hamas said on Monday that the Palestinian Authority was continuing its crackdown on supporters of the Islamist movement in the West Bank. Hamas accused the PA security forces of launching “politically-motivated” arrests and pointed out that the move coincided with the Palestinian leadership’s decision to resume security and civil coordination with Israel.”

Palestinians intensify efforts, action to counter UAE trade deals with Israeli settlements,

“Nawajaa explained that the boycott campaigns target companies that implement normalization, most notably, Emirates NBD bank that signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli Bank Hapoalim, and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank that signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli Bank Leumi. These two banks are involved in the financing of settlements and were included in the UN list of companies and banks linked to Israeli settlements. He noted that boycott campaigns against the UAE and its businesses dealing with Israeli settlements are in the pipeline. “These campaigns will rely on the results of ongoing research that determines the investments of these businesses and work places in coordination with [civil] groups, federations and unions,” he added. In addition to boycott campaigns and popular action, Walid Assaf, head of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, hinted at the possibility of prosecuting those who deal with settlement products under international law and through the Human Rights Council.”

Palestinians Place Their Bets on Biden Undoing Trump’s Snubs,

“What Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can hope for from the incoming Democratic administration is a will to restore balance. While Trump took his Middle East policy straight from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing playbook, he mostly ignored the 85-year-old Palestinian leader, who became persona non grata at the WhiteHouse. Abbas recognizes that trying to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians is not an immediate priority for Biden, who will focus in his first year on U.S. domestic issues—above all, how to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and recharge the economy.”

Why Palestinians found Moroccan normalization easier to take,

“Unlike their angry reactions to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan normalizing relations with Israel, the Palestinians have responded differently to the latest agreement by the Kingdom of Morocco. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered all the top Palestinian leaders to stay quiet. Unlike the envoys to the Gulf countries, the Palestinian ambassador to Morocco was not recalled in protest…And unlike the UAE and Bahrain, Morocco’s leader, King Mohammad VI, communicated directly with the Palestinian leadership, calling Abbas and reiterated strong support for Palestinian independence.”

Settlements, Human Rights, International Aid

Settlers, police clash in protest over car chase death of teen; 40 arrested,

“Officers clashed with demonstrators late Monday in Jerusalem as some 200 protesters tried to break into police headquarters to protest the death of a young settler, who was was killed in a car crash when he and others tried to flee police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the central West Bank. The vehicle belonging to so-called hilltop youth flipped over near the Michmash Junction, killing the 16-year-old and injuring four other people. The suspects were apprehended and taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem with light to moderate injuries.”

Palestinian teen opens fire on police near Old City gate, is shot dead,

“A Palestinian teenager opened fire at police officers stationed near an entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday evening, police said. None of the officers were hit, and the cops returned fire, striking and killing the shooter after a brief chase, according to police. The assailant was identified by police as a 17-year-old from the Palestinian village of Qabatiya in the northern West Bank.” Also See – “Israel thwarts suspected shooting attack in Jerusalem’s Old City” (Ynet); “Jerusalem Police Shoot Dead Palestinian Suspect in Attempted Old City Attack” (Haaretz)

IDF reinforcing troops in Judea and Samaria,

“The IDF decided Tuesday to reinforce the Judea and Samaria Division in order to protect Jewish communities following a situational assessment that an escalation in violence is possible in the coming weeks. In addition, it was decided to implement a curfew for the division’s combat forces from today and at least until next Friday. The Central Command is concerned over increased tensions in the Judea and Samaria sector following the attack in northern Samaria in which Esther Horgan was killed, and the car accident that occurred during a police chase, in which Ahuvyah Sandak was killed and several other youths were injured.” Also See – “After murder, IDF sends reinforcements to West Bank, halts home leave for troops” (The Times of Israel)

International aid arrangement targets vulnerable Palestinians,

“A new international aid plan targets millions of vulnerable Palestinians, including many facing increased pressure from Israeli settlement expansion and medical shortages in addressing the coronavirus pandemic, according to Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh…The Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) was announced virtually on Tuesday by Shtayyeh alongside representatives from the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The arrangement includes support from 213 organizations and 186 humanitarian projects…The regions prioritized for funding include those that the Palestinian Authority can not freely reach, according to OCHA head Sarah Muscroft, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Seventy percent of the funds will target Gaza, where its 2 million inhabitants are effectively isolated from the rest of the Palestinian territory.”

Canada announces $70 million in aid for UN’s Palestinian refugee agency,

“The aid amounting to CAN$90 million will be distributed over three years and comes after the agency’s chief warned last month it was facing its “worst financial crisis” ever.”

Christians in Gaza celebrate gloomy Christmas this year,

“To abide by the imposed social distancing measures, Jalda will content himself to wishing his sisters a merry Christmas over the phone. “It is customary during holidays to make family visits and offer gifts, but unfortunately to prevent the spread of the virus there will be no such visits.” Jalad’s family, however, has set up and decorated the Christmas tree at home just like every year. The Ministry of Health in Gaza has warned of a new wave of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, in light of a sharp increase in cases. The number of cases has reached more than 32,000 so far, with 273 deaths, most of whom were recorded after September when the virus started spreading in the Gazan community.”

Soldier Dismissed for Failing to Open Fire on Palestinian Who Threw Firebomb at Him,

“A Golani brigade combat soldier is being dismissed for failing to open fire on a Palestinian who threw a firebomb at him on Saturday in the West Bank and for allowing the Palestinian to escape, the Israeli army announced on Monday. But the statement added that “due to the complexity of the incident, in another several months, consideration will be given to reinstating him to combat.””

Shin Bet officer mistakenly opens fire on Israeli vehicle in West Bank,

“A preliminary investigation found that the vehicle with an Israeli driver was involved in a car accident with a Palestinian vehicle close to an Israeli checkpoint, the Ynet news site reported. The Israeli driver reportedly started to accelerate to get away from the crash, at which point the Shin Bet officer opened fire, apparently believing the driver was trying to carry out a ramming attack.”

Settlers set up caravan near Jenin,

“Israeli settlers today set up a caravan on the lands of Umm Ar-Rihan village, southwest of the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, local sources said. They told WAFA that settlers set up the mobile home at the intersection leading at the junction leading to the village, which is flanked by illegal Israeli colonial settlements and isolated behind Israel’s apartheid wall. This step came after an Israeli settler was found dead in the village forests where she had gone for a run a day earlier.”


Palestine records 1,561 new Covid-19 cases, 29 deaths,

“Palestine today recorded 1,561 new Covid-19 cases and 29 deaths, according to Health Minister Mai al-Kaileh. Al-Kaileh announced that 1,561 Palestinians tested positive for the virus and 29 others died of it in the occupied territories. Among the new 1,561 cases, 1,045 cases were recorded in the West Bank and 516 cases in the Gaza Strip.”

With over 3,500 new cases, virus czar says fast decision needed on lockdown,

“National coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said on Tuesday that the country had reached a daily new caseload of over 3,500 newly confirmed infections, and that officials needed to make an immediate decision on sending the country into a full lockdown or tightening restrictions. “This morning we are have around 3,500 [newly] verified coronavirus patients. We are considering going into lockdown,” Ash told Army Radio. “A decision needs to be made now. Tightened restraint will take about five weeks. Full closure will be shorter — three weeks at the current infection rate,” Ash said.”

Israel to Bar Entry to Foreigners, Quarantine All Arriving Israelis in COVID Hotels,

“The coronavirus cabinet on Monday barred entry to foreign nationals, and mandated a 14-day quarantine in designated hotels for Israelis returning from abroad. The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the cabinet’s mandated quarantine in COVID-19 hotels to all returning Israelis on Tuesday morning. The regulation will come into force on Wednesday at 10 P.M. and will be in place until January 1, 2021. These decisions were made in an effort to block a new strain of the coronavirus that has appeared in the United Kingdom from entering Israel.”

140 Palestinian prisoner contracted COVID-19 since outbreak of pandemic: Official,

“A total of 140 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli detention have contracted COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic in early March this year, today said Hasan Abed Rabbo, a spokesman of the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Commission. Abed Rabbo told official Voice of Palestine radio that the international community should bear a moral responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to pressure the Israeli occupation to ensure the health wellbeing and safety of the Palestinian prisoners. He demanded all the concerned human rights organizations to intervene to save the lives of the prisoners at this particular hard time.”