Top News from Palestine & Israel: December 8, 2020

What We’re Reading

Palestinian Politics

Senior Palestinian Official Ashrawi Reportedly Resigns Over Renewed Coordination With Israel,

“Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi has resigned from her role as member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Monday, citing sources close to her. According the report, her resignation is in protest of the Palestinian leadership’s decision last month to resume coordination with Israel. The sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Ashrawi “was angry with how the issue was handled.” According to the report, the 74-year-old, seen as a trailblazer for women in Palestinian politics, submitted a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but he has yet to respond to it.”

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Why the discourse about Palestinian payments to prisoners’ families is distorted and misleading,

“In 2017, Congress adopted legislation — the Taylor Force Act —  which restricts assistance to the PA until it stops such payments. PA critics have labeled the system “pay to slay” — a clever and memorable name tag, but one that’s bigoted and distorted. It also distracts from the central culprit: 53 years of an Israeli occupation that has stunted and broken hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Palestinians and their Leadership: Restoring the PLO,

“At a time when there is a clear vacuum in leadership, we must ask what should be done to bring the PLO back to relevance. Firstly, and most importantly, the PLO must be completely separated from the PA and, secondly, accountability mechanisms must be instituted and play a major part in the functioning of the PLO.”

Occupation, Annexzation, & Human Rights

Israel's Nation-state Law Shouldn't Harm non-Jews' Rights, Lawmakers Told After Court Ruling,

“Justice Ministry tells Knesset panel the contentious piece of legislation wasn’t meant to affect individual rights, following recent court decision that cited the law to reject Arab children’s petition – which the High Court will now hear”

Gaza Resumes COVID Testing After Receiving Kits From World Health Organization,

“The Gaza Strip can resume coronavirus testing and has enough kits for eight days after receiving 19,500 coronavirus of them testing kits from the World Health Organization, the enclave’s Health Ministry said on Monday. The ministry said on Sunday that the main laboratory conducting coronavirus tests in Gaza had been forced to halt operations because of a shortage of equipment. It was the latest in a series of dire signs about the state of Gaza’s medical situation due to the ongoing rise in the number of coronavirus patients. Last week, around 30 percent of coronavirus tests in Gaza were coming back positive, with the daily number of tests ranging from 2,000 to 2,500.”

Palestinian writer Majd Kayyal arrested by Israeli police in Haifa,

“Palestinian writer, journalist and political activist Majd Kayyal was arrested by Israeli police at his home in Haifa on Tuesday morning, and has been detained on unknown charges. Kayyal, 30, is a prominent voice in the Palestinian citizens of Israel community and has written for Middle East Eye. At 6am, police raided the home he shared with his mother, seizing Kayyal and his brother Ward, a student. Afnan Khalifa, a lawyer representing Kayyal, told Middle East Eye that the brothers are under investigation by the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency. Police gave Khalifa no other information and she has not spoken to Kayyal or his brother.”

Highway to Annexation: Israel Road and Infrastructure Development in the West Bank,

“Settlement expansion cannot take place without the parallel development of road, water, and electricity infrastructure. Because of this, when tracking settlement expansion, it is important to track not only the number of new housing units, which is the most common benchmark used today, but also the development of settlement infrastructure. There are currently dozens of new road construction projects underway or in planning in the West Bank. This construction work, which is part of the vision described in a new Israeli master plan for road and transportation development in the West Bank for the year 2045, points to continued and intensified de facto annexation. Following the formation of a coalition government in Israel in April 2020, the terms of which allowed for annexation of West Bank territory as early as July 1, 2020, attention was rightfully drawn towards the looming threat of de jure annexation. Due to the terms of the recent normalization agreements between Israel and both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as the election of US President-Elect Joe Biden, the threat of de jure annexation has lessened. However, Israel’s West Bank infrastructure development work demonstrates that its longstanding policy of de facto annexation is accelerating at an unprecedented and devastating pace. This report details the ways in which road and transportation infrastructure projects further entrench Israel’s deepening hold on the occupied territories through continued suburbanization of Israeli settlements and the fragmentation of Palestinian territory, which together contribute to further cementing the reality of one state with unequal rights. All those invested in an equitable and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should see these projects as a clear declaration of Israel’s intent to further advance annexation, and the international community must intervene to halt such moves.”

Israeli Politics

Retirement of Justice Mazuz May Lead to First Conservative Majority on Israel's Supreme Court,

“The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz could ultimately lead to a shift in the court’s orientation from its current liberal-leaning majority to a conservative one. Mazuz, who is 65, announced Monday that he will be taking early retirement in April. He is one of 15 justices on the Supreme Court and among seven justices seen as liberal who are due to retire in the next three years. With the possibility of another Knesset election in the first half of next year, if Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn doesn’t manage to convene the judicial appointments committee to replace Mazuz and another justice, Hanan Melcer, before the Knesset is dissolved, his successor as justice minister who be given the task. If the next Israeli government lasts for three years, its representatives on the appointments committee, which also includes Supreme Court justices, Knesset members and representatives of the Israel Bar Association, would play a role in naming seven new justices to the bench….If Nissenkorn, who as justice minister chairs the appointments committee, fails to convene it to fill the imminent vacancies, a subsequent appointment of three conservative justices would be sufficient to shift the balance on the court. The new justices would take their seats alongside four conservative-leaning justices – Yosef Elron, David Mintz, Yael Willner and Alex Stein – whose nominations were advanced by Nissenkorn’s predecessor, Ayelet Shaked. Justice Noam Sohlberg, who is also considered conservative, is due to become the court president in 2028.”

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Blue and White wins control over timetable for bill to dissolve Knesset,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party won control Monday of the schedule of a bill to dissolve the Knesset, meaning it will decide when and how new elections will be called, as well as when the national vote will be held…After the bill is approved by the committee, it will go up for three more plenum votes before passing into law. Blue and White would then have control over the date of the new elections, which can be up to five months after the bill passes. Even without the bill, the Knesset is already on track to dissolve — and send Israelis to the ballot box for the fourth time in two years — on December 23, the deadline for the government to pass a state budget for 2020.”

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Poll: Majority of Israelis find neither Netanyahu nor Gantz credible,

“The Israel Voice Index survey shows that 62 percent of Israelis view Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as having very low or moderately low credibility, while 60% say the same of Defense Minister Benny Gantz.”

Hundreds of anti-Netanyahu Protesters Were Attacked. These Are Some of Their Stories,

“Being spit at, shoved, pelted with things, called “traitors” and attacked with pepper spray – all these have been the lot of hundreds of Israelis who have been demonstrating in recent months against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at intersections, on bridges, in squares and at Balfour Street in Jerusalem. These phenomena are nothing new, and have accompanied the protests from the start. In order to try to quantify these incidents, the anti-Netanyahu Black Flag movement circulated a questionnaire among its activists, of whom 429 responded, sharing details of the violent incidents they experienced. Of them, 40.7 percent said that they were exposed to verbal violence – most of them were called “Nazis” or “traitors.” In addition, 24 percent reported that they had been victims of physical violence, from being spit at to being beaten, while 35.1 percent testified that they had experienced both physical and verbal abuse.”


Israeli FM responds to Saudi critique with renewed calls for dialogue with Palestinians,

“Taken aback by the Saudi change of tune, Ashkenazi responded with caution, noting simply that he “regretted” the words of the prince. He then focused on a double message of his own, calling on other Arab states to join the Emirates and Bahrain in normalizing ties with Israel on the one hand, while addressing the Palestinians and calling on them to return to the negotiating table unconditionally on the other…Addressing the Saudi accusations, Ashkenazi then argued that “the Abraham Accords do not come at the expense of the Palestinians. Quite the opposite, they are an opportunity that should not be missed. I call on the Palestinians to change their minds and enter direct negotiation with us without preconditions. This is the only way to solve this conflict. We believe as Israel moves from annexation to normalization, there is a window to solve this conflict.””

Arab Owner, but No Arab Players: Abu Dhabi Sheikh Buys Stake in Jerusalem Soccer Club,

“A member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family has purchased a 50 percent stake of Israeli Premier League soccer club Beitar Jerusalem, the team announced on Monday…Last week, far-right fans from the Jerusalem soccer club distrupted the team’s training session and chanted racist refrains over the negotiations.”

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Israeli delegation appears at UAE’s major Gitex tech summit for the first time,

“Israeli and Emirati business leaders met in Dubai this week for the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (Gitex) Technology Week, one of the world’s largest annual tech summits. It was the first time Israelis participated in the conference, a development that followed the normalization deal signed between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi in September. Organizers said the conference was hosting the largest official meeting of business, tech and investment leaders from Israel and the UAE, with some 200 Israeli entrepreneurs and businesspeople in attendance. The event was significantly smaller than previous years due to the pandemic, but Israel’s participation and several events focusing on Israel-UAE collaboration gave this year’s Gitex a boost. The conference features two events centered on Israel — the inaugural UAE-Israel Future Digital Economy Summit on Monday and the Israel Innovation Discovery Day on Tuesday. The events are aimed at fostering networking between the two countries for business collaboration, investments and the sharing of ideas, with discussions focused on artificial intelligence, 5G technology, mobility, fintech and cybersecurity. Israeli representatives are also holding one-on-one business meetings with their international counterparts.”

J'lem center and Dubai museum vow to strengthen Jewish-Arab ties,

“Last night, a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by The Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry and the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai. In a first for institutions in the region, both centers committed to teaching about what unites Jews and Arabs and will become hubs of people-to-people cooperation and partnerships. Importantly, both centers will support preservation efforts of historic and archeological sites of importance to both Jews and Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa.”

U.S. Politics

House Republicans seek to block moving U.S. Embassy out of Jerusalem,

“A group of more than 30 House Republicans is requesting that the bill funding the State Department and other foreign affairs activities for 2021 expressly prohibit the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel out of Jerusalem. “We respectfully request that language be included that prohibits any [Fiscal Year 2021] funding… being used to move the United States’ embassy out of Jerusalem,” the legislators, led by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), wrote in a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “In a time when we are seeing the increasing normalization of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, we must ensure that the United States does not take a step backward by moving the U.S. embassy out of Jerusalem,” the letter continues.”

The only Trump foreign policy Biden wants to keep,

“Joe Biden disagrees with most of President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives, but several of his advisers tell Axios that there is one he plans to keep: the Abraham Accords.”

Gregory Meeks elected next House Foreign Affairs Committee chair,

“Several Middle East interest groups praised Meeks upon his being elected the next chairman. The Democratic Majority for Israel, which supports pro-Israel policies in the Democratic Party, said Meeks “brings to that role extensive experience, deep knowledge and a longstanding commitment to the US-Israel relationship.” J Street, which supports “pro-Israel, pro-peace” policies on Israel and Palestine in contrast with the more staunch pro-Israel lobbies, congratulated Meeks and noted they have endorsed him since 2016. The National Iranian American Council, which highlights views of the Iranian-American community, said Meeks was “vital to building support for diplomacy with Iran” during the negotiations for the nuclear deal.”