Top News from Palestine & Israel: February 9, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

David Friedman: "We aligned ourselves clearly with Israel, sovereignty was delayed not canceled",

David Friedman: “We were clear on that from day one. It was delayed. The actual word we used was ‘suspended’. Look it up in a dictionary. It is pretty clear that it was temporal.” Also see: No longer US ambassador, David Friedman is sticking to his sledgehammers (Times of Israel)

MPs call on UK gov’t to pressure Israel to stop evictions [in Sheikh Jarrah],

“A group of UK lawmakers on Tuesday appealed to the British government to increase pressure on Israel to stop its forced evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. Over 80 MPs from different parties, from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, asked the UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in a letter to ‘make clear to its Israeli counterpart that relations cannot continue as normal in the event of such transgressions’…”

Also see:

​Israeli Soldiers Expel Palestinians While Letting Settlers Stay, Military Documents Reveal,

“Soldiers have been expelling Palestinian shepherds from firing zones in the Jordan Valley while allowing settlers to remain and even build in these areas, even though the settlers’ presence was never approved by the Israel Defense Forces. This emerges from the response the IDF gave to the freedom of information request from attorney Eitay Mack. The request was submitted following several instances in which the ban on being in a West Bank firing zone, which is meant to be closed off for military training, was only enforced against Palestinians, with soldiers saying the settlers were there with IDF approval.”

'You're Not Israelis, You're Arabs': Settlers and Soldiers Expel Family Having a Picnic,

“Israeli soldiers ejected an Israeli Arab family from a site near Kafr Jibiya in the Ramallah area of the West Bank on Saturday, where the family was having a picnic. The soldiers arrived on the scene after Israelis from a nearby Jewish settlement outpost called them to the site. In two video clips of the incident, the settlers are first seen approaching the family and telling them to leave, although the site is not within the confines of any West Bank Jewish settlement. When the family refused, one of the settlers took their belongings and threw beverages from their cups onto their campfire. The settlers continued saying – ‘You’re not Israelis, you’re Arabs, we did you a favour when we let you stay,’ and then called the army. The family filmed a soldier who arrived on the scene, who told them that they had to leave. ‘I don’t want to use too much force. You’re not allowed here,’ the soldier is heard saying.” Also see: When an Arab Family [Israeli citizens] Had a Picnic Near a West Bank Settlement (Haaretz)

Settlers stop Palestine TV documenting settlement activities in West Bank,

“Israeli settlers attacked the Palestine TV crew this morning while they were filming near the illegal settlement of Ariel, built on land seized from Salfit in the north of the West Bank. According to Wafa news agency, Israel security forces from the settlement also attacked the crew as they were filming a documentary outside the illegal structure, about the escalating illegal settlement activity and the dangerously increasing assaults by settlers against Palestinians and their properties.It added that a few soldiers also tried to disrupt the filming of the report by using loudspeakers and intercepting the journalists.”

End impunity for torture, UN experts urge Israel,

“UN human rights experts urged Israel on Monday to end torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment universally prohibited under international law. The demand comes after Israel’s Attorney-General last month ended investigations into Israeli Security Agency’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ used against Palestinian Samer Al-Arbeed, detained in 2019 on suspicion of involvement in a bomb explosion. ‘We are alarmed at Israel’s failure to prosecute, punish and redress the torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against Mr. Al-Arbeed,’ experts said. ‘Addressing such abuse is not at the discretion of the government or the judiciary, but constitutes an absolute obligation under international law.’…Al-Arbeed was in good health when he was arrested Sept. 25, 2019, after an alleged attack in the occupied West Bank the previous month, during an Israeli girl, 17, was killed and her father and brother injured. Within 48 hours, Al-Arbeed was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries due to ill-treatment and now suffers irreparable physical and psychological conditions.”


Yesh Din: ICC’s Decision on Jurisdiction Follows Years of Law Enforcement Failure and Impunity,

“As an Israeli human rights organization that advocates via the Israeli law enforcement system, we regret that Israel has reached this moment – a moment that could have been prevented. Yet, through years of monitoring investigations, petitioning the High Court of Justice and providing legal aid, we can uniquely attest to the failure of the Israeli law enforcement and judicial systems in protecting Palestinians and upholding human rights. We believe that the near-complete impunity that we have exposed in years of monitoring investigations into offenses allegedly committed by soldiers justifies international intervention.”

EXPLAINER: Israeli settlements may face new scrutiny,

“Israel’s ongoing building of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem would likely be more vulnerable to prosecution than its military actions against Palestinians — if the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor decides to open a war crimes investigation. Such a probe is still a long way off, but the ICC moved a step closer on Friday when it cleared the way for prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open a war crimes probe against Israel and Palestinian militants. Any investigation would look at Israeli military actions during a devastating 2014 war in the Gaza Strip and mass border protests that began in 2018. But Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem appears to be open to even tougher scrutiny.”

Former ICC chief prosecutor: Investigation into Israel could take 18 months,

“According to Luis Moreno Ocampo, who served as the first chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court from 2003 to 2012, following the court’s ruling on Friday that it has the jurisdiction to do so, it will certainly launch investigations into alleged Israeli war crimes. However, he said, such an investigation will take 18 months, ‘so that there is a year to take advantage of this conflict and turn it into something positive.’”

Israel begins international campaign to stop ICC probe,

“Israel has launched an international campaign to put pressure on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to stop it investigating Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, Al-Watan Voice reported yesterday. Quoting Israeli website Walla!, Al-Watan Voice said that the Israeli Foreign Ministry had sent a secret message to scores of Israeli embassies around the world with directives related to the ICC ruling which said the international body has jurisdiction to look into possible war crimes carried out in the occupied Palestinian territories by occupation forces. It also reported senior Israeli officials saying that Tel Aviv plans to ask scores of countries around the world to send messages to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asking her not to go ahead with the probe.”

Also see:

Gaza Strip

Egypt opens Gaza border crossing 'indefinitely',

“Egypt on Tuesday opened its border with the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip ‘indefinitely’, a security source said, as it hosted inter-Palestinian reconciliation talks. ‘This isn’t a routine or normal opening. This is the first time in years that the Rafah border crossing is opening indefinitely,’ the source told AFP. ‘It used to open only three or four days at a time,’ he noted.”

Israeli forces 'tried to sink Palestinian fishing boats' and infiltrate northern Gaza border,

“The Israeli navy targeted fishermen sailing off the Gaza coast on Tuesday, while armoured vehicles infiltrated the Palestinian territory’s northern border. The Palestinian fishermen were sailing within six nautical miles of the Gaza coast when Israeli naval boats began firing rounds and high-pressure water hoses at the vessels, causing significant damage to at least three boats, according to Palestinian news agencies. The Israeli naval boats made a deliberate attempt to sink the fishing boats with the violent measures, Wafa added. Meanwhile, the Israeli military stormed the Gaza border fence in the north of the strip, demolishing large tracts of farmland and erecting earth mounds.”

Gaza: Martyrs' families hold hunger strike to protest salary cut,

“Families of Palestinian martyrs and wounded people in Gaza carried took part in a one-day hunger strike yesterday to protest against the Palestinian Authority’s decision to cut their salaries for seven years, Anadolu reported. The hunger strike came as part of a series of actions planned by the National Committee for the Families of Martyrs and Wounded People in Gaza to call for the repayment of salaries…In January 2019, the PA cut the salaries of 2,700 families of martyrs and wounded people in Gaza without justification.”

The Region

UAE sharply reduces its support for UNRWA,

“The United Arab Emirates sharply reduced its funding for the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 2020, a spokesman revealed to AP. Spokesman of the international body, Sami Mshasha, said that the UAE donated $51.8 million to UNRWA in 2018 and again in 2019, but in 2020 it gave the agency just $1 million. The reduction in the UAE’s funding was first reported by Israeli media, AP said, adding that this reduction came in the same year that the Gulf state signed a US-brokered normalisation agreement with the occupation state of Israel.”

Arab League reaffirms support for Palestinian state,

“Arab foreign ministers on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning against ‘any unilateral moves’ by Israel…” Also see:  Saudi Arabia remains committed to Palestinian state, foreign minister tells Arab League (Arab news)

Egypt concerned UAE-Israeli pipeline project will affect Suez Canal,

“The head of the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie, expressed Jan. 29 his country’s concern over the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline project between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel. The project will allow Israel to transport Emirati oil to its Ashkelon port and from there to European markets. In statements to the Egyptian TV channel Sada al-Balad, Rabie said that Egypt is closely following up on the project, given its direct impact on ships passing through the Suez Canal. He noted that any maritime transport project in parallel to the Suez Canal will have a significant impact on maritime traffic passing through the canal. The SCA is currently conducting studies to discuss ways to confront the Israeli-UAE project, which could decrease traffic through the Suez Canal by up to 16%, he warned.”

Israeli Defense Minister: Lebanese Government Must Assume Responsibility for Hezbollah,

“Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned on Monday that ‘Israel will not hesitate to act’ to defend itself against Iran or its proxies near Israel’s northern border. Gantz made the remarks during a memorial ceremony honoring the 73 soldiers killed in the 1997 helicopter disaster…’The IDF operates on the border to this day and will continue to do so. We will not hesitate to undermine Iran’s efforts to entrench itself near our borders, and [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah is well aware that his decision to build munition and missile bunkers and to perfect Hezbollah’s [missile] capabilities endangers him and the Lebanese people. The Lebanese government should also know this and assume responsibility for it. If Israel faces hostilities in the north, it [Lebanon] will be the one to pay the heaviest price for the weapons scattered in civilian locations,’ he added.”

Biden Policy

ICC Israeli war crimes probe is first real test for Biden administration,

“As always, Israel’s quest for impunity begins at the White House. And while Netanyahu’s mouthpieces have been tirelessly smearing the Biden administration as “anti-Israel” for merely picking four members with some Arab roots, the same pro-Israeli megaphones are now turning to Biden to shield Israel from an ICC investigation. One senior pro-Israeli lobbyist claimed that undermining international law to Israel’s advantage is ‘the real test of US partnership with Israel’. Biden’s administration views any internationalisation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as turning to the ICC, to be an attempt to delegitimise Israel’s existence, and therefore opposes it, as a former US ambassador to Israel told me recently. Last Friday, the US State Department expressed opposition to the ICC decision on Israel, while emphasising that ‘We share the goals of the ICC.’ This came just one day after the US welcomed an ICC verdict against a Ugandan war criminal. What’s unclear, however, is whether Biden would translate this rhetorical opposition into policies and punitive actions against the ICC and Palestinians to thwart the investigation, or if his administration will take a position on the ICC investigation similar to their position on the BDS; i.e. denouncing it without formally criminalising its advocacy and pursuit.” Also see: Biden should let the ICC do its job (+972 Magazine)

The Strategic Construction Plans in Jerusalem: Will the Biden Administration Weigh In?,

“The question of the construction of two new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem – Givat Hamatos, in the south of the city, and Atarot, in the north – both beyond the Green Line in “east Jerusalem” – is now on the table as part of contacts with the new administration in Washington, D.C., and as part of internal Israeli political jockeying, ahead of the 24th Knesset elections…The two plans of Givat Hamatos and Atarot are defined as strategic plans, which will have a meaningful impact on the future borders of Jerusalem: From the Israeli perspective, the construction of Givat Hamatos is one of the keys to preventing the division of Jerusalem from the south and blocking a Palestinian wedge that will thwart the contiguity between the Gilo and Har Homa neighborhoods on Jerusalem’s southern border…Atarot is also a neighborhood of critical importance to the borders of the Israeli capital. The neighborhood’s establishment will almost certainly decide whether Jerusalem’s ‘northern finger’ will remain part of the fabric of Israeli-Jewish settlement in Jerusalem, or will the Palestinians take control of it and even cut off sovereignty from Jerusalem, as they declaratively aspire, in favor of their dream for a Palestinian state.”

Blinken stops short of endorsing Trump recognition of Golan Heights as Israel,

“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday stopped short of endorsing the Trump administration’s recognition of the occupied Golan Heights as part of Israel, instead noting that the territory was important for Israel’s security.”

Also see:

State Department: UNHRC should address 'disproportionate focus on Israel',

“The orienting principle behind the Biden administration’s decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council is that ‘the United States can be a constructive force and can help shape the course of world events when we’re present; when we’re at the table,’ US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday. When the US plays a constructive role in the council, ‘positive change is possible,’ he said at a press briefing. ‘One of those reforms that is necessary [is] the council’s disproportionate focus on Israel and ensuring countries with strong human-rights records serve on the council,’ Price said.”

Israel approves $9 billion purchase of advanced aircraft, weapons from US,

“Israel’s Security Cabinet on Sunday approved the allocation of a $9 billion arms deal with the United States. The deal, first reported by Israel’s Channel 12, includes the purchase of F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, SH53K helicopters, refueling planes, advanced weaponry and the Eitan, a new-generation armored personnel carrier developed jointly by Israel and the United States. According to the report, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Defense Ministry Director General Amir Eshel and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi supported the deal, which was approved after seven hours of deliberation. Israel’s Finance Ministry opposed it, on the grounds that it would require Israel’s taking out $220 million in loans from U.S. banks—a condition that the ministry considers too risky.” Also see: ‘Okay, but Never Again’: How Israel Air Force Sealed $9 Billion U.S. Arms Deal (Haaretz)

Palestinian Scene

Intra-Palestinian talks in Cairo 'successful': Premier,

“Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki described Monday the ‘successful’ ongoing intra-Palestinian talks in Cairo. ‘The first session of the [Palestinian] factions’ meeting in Cairo is successful, and hopeful towards the outcomes of the meeting,’ al-Maliki said in a joint news conference in Cairo alongside Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shuokry, Jordanian counterpart Ayman al-Safadi and Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abuol Gheit.”

Hamas: We are dedicated to success of coming elections,

“Hamas is dedicated to pushing for the success of the coming Palestinian elections, the movement’s Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh has said. ‘The Cairo talks are a culmination of effective endeavours that we, along with our brothers in Fatah and all Palestinian factions, have been working on for months, which included the Palestinian secretaries-general’s meeting and the Istanbul understandings,’ he said. ‘The current stage is exceptionally crucial, given the location, timing, and the meeting’s agenda, including the agreement on holding free and fair elections in which all our Palestinian people at home and abroad can be involved.’”

Also see:

Palestinians in diaspora 'must' take part in upcoming elections,

“‘The Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad (PCPA) said yesterday that Palestinians in the diaspora “must” take part in the upcoming Palestinian elections, Quds Press reported.‘Any election without the participation of Palestinians abroad will be meaningless, and the Palestinians along with the free people around the world will not respect it,’ PCPA’s spokesman Dr Ahmed Muheisen said in a statement reported by the news site.”

Israeli Scene

How Israel's Netanyahu helped break apart the Joint List,

“Netanyahu has been widely credited with offering incentives to encourage Abbas to quit the Joint List and form a rival political coalition, one bolstered by the support of popular local politicians. The rupture in the Joint List, Netanyahu appears to hope, will change the electoral maths in the Israeli parliament and help him foil his corruption trial. As Awad Abdelfattah, a former secretary-general of Balad, observed to Middle East Eye, Israel’s four main Palestinian parties – like Fatah and Hamas in the occupied territories – have been unable to find a unifying vision of where Palestinian politics is heading next.” Also see: Elkin: ’Netanyahu has a strong relationship with Mansour Abbas’ (Arutz Sheva)

Other Articles of Note

Using Connections to Trump, Dershowitz Became Force in Clemency Grants,

“By the time George Nader pleaded guilty last year to possessing child pornography and sex trafficking a minor, his once strong alliances in President Donald J. Trump’s inner circle had been eroded by his cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s team and its connections to Russia. So as Mr. Nader sought to fight the charges and reduce his potential prison time, he turned to a lawyer with a deep reservoir of good will with the president and a penchant for taking unpopular, headline-grabbing cases: Alan M. Dershowitz. Mr. Dershowitz told Mr. Nader’s allies that he had reached out to an official in the Trump administration and one in the Israeli government to try to assess whether they would support a plan for Mr. Nader to be freed from United States custody in order to resume a behind-the-scenes role in Middle East peace talks, and whether Mr. Trump might consider commuting his 10-year sentence.” Also see: NYT: Dershowitz was part of clemency effort for pedophile tied to Mideast talks (Times of Israel)

Why Matt Duss Matters,

“I look forward to the day when Christians like Matt Duss can say, without fear of imperiling their careers, that in defending people whose lands are stolen and whose villages are bulldozed and whose freedom is denied, they are living the teachings of Jesus Christ. And I look forward to the day when America’s most powerful Jewish leaders will respond not with smears but with admiration. Because if Christians—as a result of their history—owe Jews anything, it is not to defend Benjamin Netanyahu. It is to live up to the highest teachings of their faith, which in the Book of Luke calls on Christians ‘to set at liberty those who are oppressed.’ Like his father, Matt Duss has dedicated himself to that principle, sometimes at considerable cost. I hope he has the chance to do so at the State Department.”

When George Shultz, friend of Israel, opened the door to Palestinian legitimacy,

“Time was running out when US secretary of state George P. Shultz returned home in April 1988 after flying 16,000 miles in a failed mission to persuade Arabs and Israelis to negotiate their differences. Shultz said he would keep trying. ‘Who’s afraid to struggle against odds?’ he asked. And so he did, in futility, until the Reagan administration ended in January 1989 without putting the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel on a course to a settlement. But he shaped the future by legitimizing the Palestinian Arabs as a people with a defensible stake in determining their future.”