Top News from Palestine & Israel: January 13, 2021

What We’re Reading

Setting the Stage for Biden Administration

Intense Israeli strikes in east Syria; region on high alert,

“Israeli warplanes carried out intense airstrikes in eastern Syria early Wednesday, apparently targeting positions and arms depots of Iran-backed forces as the region is on high alert. At least 57 fighters were killed and dozens were wounded, according to a Syrian opposition war monitoring group. A senior U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of the attack told The Associated Press that the airstrikes were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States — a rare incidence of publicized cooperation between the two countries over choosing targets in Syria. The official said the strikes targeted a series of warehouses in Syria that were being used in a pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.”

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Lebanon files complaint to UN Security Council as Israeli warplanes roam airspace,

“Lebanon filed a complaint to the UN Security Council against Israel on Tuesday, over the latter’s continued violation of Lebanese airspace. The Lebanese Armed Forces command said that at least eight air violations were recorded by Israeli warplanes, which carried out low-altitude flights over the south and Mount Lebanon, in one day alone. It added: ‘The air violations are accompanied by sea violations. An Israeli gunboat violated on Monday Lebanese territorial waters off Ras Al-Naqoura in four stages and for a maximum distance of about 314 meters.’”

Israel to advance West Bank building 3 days prior to Biden inauguration,

“Israel is set to advance plans for both settlers and Palestinian building in the West Bank Sunday, three days prior to the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden.”

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Israel approves settler homes in same area Biden condemned during 2010 visit,

“More than 500 settler units have been approved for construction in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday, just days after the Israeli prime minister ordered the construction of 800 new settler homes in the West Bank. Israel’s state broadcaster Kan said that 400 units have been approved in the Gilo neighbourhood of the city and 130 in Ramat Shlomo. Ramat Shlomo is the same site where settlement expansion plans unveiled during a visit by then-US Vice President Joe Biden angered Washington. In March 2010, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 homes in the neighbourhood, which adjoins the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina. That announcement came as Biden was visiting Israel, provoking fierce US opposition and souring ties between the two countries for months.”

Report: Under PM’s pressure, panel to give swift okay to US Embassy location,

“PM said to push for expedited process ahead of Trump’s departure from White House; committee to approve 2 locations, since Washington hasn’t yet picked between them.”

Cairo talks on Mideast peace show key players preparing for post-Trump era,

“Political pundits were initially taken aback by the meeting of the Middle East Quartet — made up of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — in Cairo on Monday. After all, the incoming US president has yet to be inaugurated, Israel is holding general elections in March that might see the downfall of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and even the Palestinians are poised to have their own elections. But the meeting in Cairo should be seen as directly tied to these potential leadership changes. The quartet appears to be trying to prepare itself for the post-Donald Trump era, which is expected to see a number of regional changes.”

PA welcomes Arab-EU ministerial meeting on Palestine,

‘The Palestinian Authority (PA) yesterday welcomed the Arab-EU ministerial meeting on the Palestinian issue, PA’s Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki told Palestinian official radio. The meeting included Germany, France, Egypt and Jordan and was held on Monday and discussed the Palestinian cause and reaching a solution to bring an end to the Israeli occupation.”


Yossi Dagan proclaims his support for "young settlements",

“Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan has joined the hunger strikers demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu normalize the status of fledgling towns in Judea and Samaria. Dagan calls on Netanyahu to allow water and electricity to be connected to the 46 young communities in Judea and Samaria where more than 25,000 people live.” Also see: ‘Does someone have to die for West Bank outposts to be legalized?’ (Jerusalem Post)

'Until my last breath': Palestinians of Jerusalem defend land against Israel’s bulldozers,

“The Palestinians of Wadi al-Rababa have long been at war with Israeli bulldozers. But with a recent increase in harassment, residents have accused Israeli authorities of taking advantage of the pandemic to grab land which they have owned for generations. On Sunday, Israeli bulldozers demolished retaining walls on the Palestinian-owned land of Wadi al-Rababa and uprooted dozens of trees, declaring that Israeli crews would carry out cleaning and gardening on agricultural lands. In an attempt to protect their one hectare of land from being taken over, young Palestinian men from the al-Samrin family and their neighbours lay down in front of the Israeli bulldozers. The Wadi al-Rababa lands in the Silwan neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem comprise about 21 hectares, on which about 800 Palestinian Jerusalemites live precarious lives due to harassment and attacks by Israeli forces, attempting to expel them from their lands.”

Leftist NGO B'Tselem blasts government policies, says Israel an 'apartheid' state,

“For the high-profile Israeli organization to adopt a term long seen as taboo even by many critics of Israel points to a broader shift in the debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as hopes for a two-state solution fade.”

Police say Palestinian shot after trying to stab officer near Hebron shrine,

“Suspected attacker hit in leg and in moderate condition; no injuries to Border Police guarding Tomb of the Patriarchs.” Also see: Palestinian allegedly tries to stab West Bank checkpoint guards [with screwdriver], is arrested (Times of Israel)

Israel & the Region

IDF Beefs Up Battle Procedures Against Hezbollah as Tensions Remain High,

“The Iran-backed terror army Hezbollah may have its hands full dealing with Lebanon’s ongoing economic, health, and political crises, but its secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah still found time to threaten revenge against Israel for last July’s death of an operative in an alleged Israeli air strike in Syria. The threats are fueling tension along the Israeli-Lebanese border and contributing to what is an already explosive situation.”

Israel wants huge financial compensation from Tunisia, says ex-minister,

“A former Minister of State Property in Tunisia has warned that Israel intends to demand a huge amount of financial compensation from the government in respect of the property left behind by Jews who left the country to move to the Zionist state. Hatem El-Echi confirmed this on Facebook on Monday.”

Inside Israel’s social media campaign to woo the Middle East,

“Working in close quarters, surrounded by maps of the Middle East, a small team based in Israel’s foreign ministry are focusing their sights on the Arab world.Their mission: Using social media to convince Arabs to embrace the Jewish state.”

How US bribed Arab states to normalize ties with Israel,

“Whether normalization with Israel would bring peace to Middle East or be only temporary honeymoon stage, not yet clear.”


Vaccination Under Occupation,

“Israeli officials and professional Israel-advocates alike have been quick to boast of Israel’s vaccination successes. When human rights groups warned that Israel was neglecting its obligations to the nearly five million Palestinians living under its ultimate control, some Israeli journalists and pro-Israel commentators created a discursive fog around the issue of Israeli responsibility, accusing news outlets like The Guardian of spreading falsehoods for reporting Israel’s exclusion of Palestinians in the occupied territories from its vaccination program, and smearing those who shared the coverage, like Canadian MP Charles Angus, as promoting antisemitism.”

Israel’s vaccine success can’t hide a deeper divide,

“…around a third of the 14 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are not included in this vaccination campaign. Israel has distributed vaccines to Jewish settlers in the West Bank, but not to Palestinians there or in the cramped, impoverished Gaza Strip. Israeli officials contend that these Palestinians don’t fall under their jurisdiction under the terms of the Oslo accords and that it is the job of the Palestinian Authority to procure and distribute vaccines in the occupied territories.” Also see: Palestinians desperately await COVID-19 vaccine (Al Jazeera)

Palestine records 978 [new] Covid-19 cases, 30 deaths,

“Palestine today recorded 978 new Covid-19 cases and 30 deaths, according to Health Minister Mai Al-Kaileh. She announced that 978 Palestinians tested positive for the highly contagious virus and 30 others died of it in the occupied territories. Among the new 978 confirmed cases, 541 cases were recorded in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and 437 others in the besieged Gaza Strip…According to the latest coronavirus data, the confirmed cases in the occupied territories (West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza) reached 168,652. Out of the 168,652 cases, 103,245 are recorded in the West Bank, 46,524 in the Gaza Strip and 18,883 in East Jerusalem.”

Health Ministry denies receipt of Covid-19 vaccine from Israel,

“The Health Ministry today categorically denied the receipt of dozens of doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Israel. The Ministry described Israeli media reports that Israel has transferred dozens of coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinian Authority at the start of the week as ‘groundless rumors’.” Also see: Israel acknowledges it gave 100 COVID vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority (Times of Israel)

Palestinian Scene

Report: Biden's teams asks PA's Abbas to hold elections,

“The administration of US President-elect Joe Biden has asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to renew legitimacy and hold general elections, Israel’s Channel 20 reported. The station quoted a senior official in the Fatah movement as saying that the Palestinian leadership recently received a letter from the incoming American administration calling on it to hold ‘new elections to renew the legitimacy in the Palestinian Authority and reduce Abbas’ control over security and judicial institutions’.”

Abbas modifies Palestine elections' law,

“Palestinian Authority (PA), PLO, and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas has modified the election law, Palestinian Election Commission Executive Director Hisham Kahil revealed yesterday. Speaking to the official Palestinian Radio, Kahil said Abbas dropped the condition for the candidates to be committed to the PLO’s political obligations and raised the quota for female representation from 20 per cent to 26 per cent.”

Hamas official says Qatar to provide aid to Gaza for another year,

“Mousa Abu Marzouk says Qatari envoy al-Emadi to return to Strip by the end of the month, states Qatari aid to poor families will be $30 million per month.” Also see: Hamas credits Abbas rival Dahlan for UAE assistance to Gaza (i24 News)

Israeli Domestic Scene

Anti-Netanyahu Bloc Has Majority Even as Likud Gains Strength, Election Poll Shows,

“The broad coalition of political parties that oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would win a majority of seats in the upcoming election, according to a poll published Tuesday evening by Channel 12 News, even as the premier’s party has gained strength over the past week. The poll indicated that the bloc of parties that have sworn not to form a government with Netanyahu – comprised of Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, Yesh Atid, the Joint List, Yisrael Beitenu, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s The Israelis, Meretz and Kahol Lavan – would win 62 seats in the upcoming election.”

Six years later, Netanyahu clarifies his 'Arabs rush to the polls' comments,

“During a visit to Nazareth, PM calls for ‘a new era’ between Arab Israelis and the country’s leadership in an effort to win over the sector’s vote; clashes broke out in the Arab city ahead of Netanyahu’s speech, where 10 were detained.”

Poll predicts 7 small parties would fail to clear electoral threshold,

“Survey underscores likelihood of mergers before Feb. 4 deadline; neither Netanyahu nor his rivals projected to be able to form coalition.”

Labor chief Peretz says he won’t run for Knesset in March elections,

“Veteran pledges to ‘continue to work for Israeli public,’ after announcing last month he’d step down as leader having broken promise and taken Labor into Netanyahu’s coalition.”

Challenging the Weaponization of Charges of Antisemitism

Progressive Israel Network Groups Oppose Codification of IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, Citing Strong Potential for Misuse,

“As organizations that care deeply about the State of Israel and about the wellbeing of the Jewish people, we are deeply committed to the struggle against antisemitism. We are thus obligated to share our concerns about ways in which the effort to combat antisemitism is being misused and exploited to instead suppress legitimate free speech, criticism of Israeli government actions, and advocacy for Palestinian rights. In particular, the effort to enshrine in domestic law and institutional policy the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, with its accompanying ‘contemporary examples,’ risks wrongly equating what may be legitimate activities with antisemitism. This effort has created opportunities for abuse and politicization by the outgoing Trump administration and others, undermining the moral clarity of the effort to dismantle antisemitism.” [PIN includes: Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, Hashomer Hatzair, Reconstructing Judaism, Partners for Progressive Israel, the New Israel Fund, and T’ruah]

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The Adelson Effect

Sheldon Adelson’s Fortune Helped Turn the GOP Into the Party of Israeli Apartheid,

“With the death of 87-year-old billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Party has lost its biggest benefactor. Adelson’s legacy, however, will live on for generations, not only in his Israeli-born wife Miriam, who is expected to continue giving millions of dollars to the Republican Party, but in the shape of the U.S.-Israel relationship, Adelson’s top concern. “I’m a one-issue person. That issue is Israel,” Adelson said in 2017. More than anyone else, Adelson can claim credit for transforming the GOP into a party devoted to bolstering Israel’s military occupation and its expansion of West Bank settlements. And the Israeli right, also bankrolled by Adelson, saw many of its political aspirations realized under Donald Trump’s presidency, a political turn that has fractured the long-standing bipartisan consensus on the Jewish state.”

The Fate of Adelson's Political Empire Lies in the Hands of His Israeli Widow Miriam,

“Miriam Adelson was often credited with increasing the late Sheldon Adelson’s interest in Israel. Right-wing politicians will be watching to see what happens next.”

Sheldon Adelson’s legacy of underwriting American militarism,

“…But Adelson was a straight shooter who made no bones about what drove his political giving or what issues were foremost in his mind. In 2013, Adelson proposed that then-President Obama should scrap nuclear negotiations with Iran and instead fire a nuclear weapon into ‘the middle of the [Iranian] desert.’ That nuclear strike, said Adelson, should be followed up by a nuclear attack on Tehran, a city of 8.6 million people, if Iran didn’t abandon its nuclear program. And in 2008, the New Yorker reported Adelson saying, ‘I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.’ Adelson, whose widow is a U.S.-Israel dual national and who continues to practice medicine in Israel, explained the central role of Israel in his philanthropy and ‘in our heart,’ saying at a 2010 public event that ‘the uniform that I wore in the military unfortunately was not an Israeli uniform, it was an American uniform.’ ‘I’m a one-issue person. That issue is Israel,’ he said in 2017.”

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