Top News from Palestine & Israel: January 20, 2021

What We’re Reading


2,572 Settlement Housing Units in Tenders are Published on the Eve of the Change in Government in Washington,

Peace Now: “Our out-of-touch government leadership continues to press on with its mad scramble to promote as much settlement activity as possible until the last minutes before the change of the administration in Washington. By doing so, Netanyahu is signaling to the incoming President that he has no intention of giving the new chapter in US-Israel relations even one day of grace, nor serious thought to how to plausibly resolve our conflict with the Palestinians. The tenders published today are in addition to the 780 housing units approved this week in the settlements, the opening of the tender for thousands of units on Givat Hamatos and the billions’ of shekels investments in roads and infrastructure that will double the number of settlers.”

Also See

  • “Israel pushes for further settlement construction as Trump leaves office” (Ynet)
  • “Israel issues tenders for 2,500 new settler homes: Watchdog” (Al Jazeera)
  • “Efrat council chairman laments declining Jewish construction across the Green Line” (Arutz Sheva)

Israeli Court Reverses Freeze on Tender for New Jerusalem Settlement Project,

“A Jerusalem judge agreed on Tuesday to allow the bidding process for a new neighborhood in a part of the city outside the pre-1967 borders to resume, days after freezing it over a petition by Palestinians saying they would be ineligible to buy homes in a large portion of it. The state successfully argued that there was no direct link between the tender and eligibility for the government-subsidized housing program under which 40 percent of the neighborhood’s new homes are to be sold. The petition by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem argued that plans for the neighborhood were discriminatory, as they would not be eligible for buying property in the planned homes that are to be part of the so-called buyer’s price program, from which only citizens can benefit.” Also See – “EU urges Israel to halt plans to build new East Jerusalem neighborhood” (The Times of Israel)

The Israel Land Authority Announced Winners of the Givat Hamatos Tender,

“The chances to stop the construction of Givat Hamatos have now been reduced. Still, it is possible – though admittedly more difficult – to demand that the Israeli government still stop the process and refrain from creating a new settlement in one of the most strategic locations in East Jerusalem. Even if the ILA signs a contract with the winning contractors, the agreement can be revoked and the contractors compensated. Precedents from other cases of tender cancellation show that such compensation is awarded for the expenses the contractors incurred and not for the much larger loss of potential income from apartment sales. With the announcement of the winners, there are several more preliminary steps that need to happen before actual construction can begin. A 90-day period is allocated for signing the contracts between the ILA and the contractors. Then, the contractors need to request building permits which the Local Planning Committee at the Jerusalem Municipality needs to approve. The full process within the Municipality involves several more stages with payment of fees and acquiring approvals from the Jerusalem Municipality’s Planning Department. While these measures are considered technical and straightforward, they still leave a period of time – at least several months – during which demands to block construction can continue. “

Trump-era ends without West Bank settler outpost legalization,

“Barring a last-minute upset, the window of opportunity to issue a wide-ranging declaration to legalize 46 West Bank outposts closed Tuesday when the matter failed to come before the government for approval. The Right had pushed to place it on the agenda prior to US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday so that it could take advantage of the last days of outgoing-US President Donald Trump’s term, since his administration had been supportive of Israeli settlement activity.”

The Education Minister Is Afraid of the Truth: Israel Is an Apartheid State,

“Part of the battle against any unjust situation is fighting attempts to conceal the injustice. In the letter in which the education minister, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Gallant, tried this week to give orders to the education system, he claimed to be against “lies” and in favor of a “Jewish and democratic” Israel. Yet Gallant is clearly the one who is lying, because Israel is neither Jewish nor democratic. The reality here is binational, with demographic parity but Jewish supremacy – apartheid.”


Israeli tanks target Gaza Strip for second night,

“Israeli tank fire struck a number of sites in the Gaza Strip, including a residential home, in the second night of attacks on the coastal enclave. Local Palestinian sources said there were no casualties from the Israeli artillery barrage, but material damage was done to a house located in the Maghazi refugee camp on Tuesday night.”

Sirens silent as Gaza rocket hits southern Israel,

“A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening, landed in southern Israel without a siren ringing off to alert the locals of an incoming fire, the military confirmed. The IDF said the rocket landed in an open area near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, which is in Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council that borders Gaza. No injuries or damage had been reported.”

Qatar renews Gaza aid amid Gulf reconciliation,

“Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has agreed to offer a new grant to the Gaza Strip, in response to the calls and efforts of Hamas’ politburo chief, Ismail Haniyeh, who met with the emir Jan. 10 in Doha to congratulate him on the Gulf reconciliation. In a Zoom meeting Jan. 12 with the local newspaper, Felesteen, head of Hamas’ International Relations Office Mousa Abu Marzouk said, “The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, informed us of the renewal of the Qatari grant for a year, instead of six months.” He said the monthly amount provided for the Gaza Strip as part of the grant will go up to $30 million from a previous $25 million grant.”

Israel provides Gaza with machines to extract water from air,

“In early January, Damour for Community Development, a nongovernmental organization based in Ramallah in the West Bank, brought into the besieged enclave two atmospheric water generators that turn air into water using solar power. The machines are produced by Watergen, an Israeli branch of a US company that obtained the patent for this device in 2015. Watergen paid for half the cost of the two devices, while three families residing in Europe donated the other half. The two machines cost about $61,000 each. The first generator was placed in the municipality of Abasan al-Kabira while the second was installed in the municipality Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza. Meanwhile, the Arava Institute for Environmental Research in Israel donated a third generator that was placed in Abdel Aziz Rantisi Specialized Hospital for Children in the Gaza Strip.”

The Biden Presidency Begins

Biden to keep Jerusalem embassy but seek Palestinian state, nominee says,

“President-elect Joe Biden will not reverse Donald Trump’s landmark recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but will seek a state for the Palestinians, Antony Blinken, his nominee for secretary of state, said Tuesday. Asked at his confirmation hearing by Senator Ted Cruz if the United States will continue its stance on Jerusalem and maintain its embassy, Blinken said without hesitation, “Yes and yes.”” Also See – “Biden’s State pick backs two-state solution, says US embassy stays in Jerusalem” (The Times of Israel)

Biden admin to seek 2-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite skepticism of 'near-term prospects': Blinken,

“US President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Tuesday threw his support behind a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but said he doubted near-term prospects for such a deal. “The only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution,” Blinken said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Biden’s State pick: We’ll consult with Israel, allies before return to Iran deal,

“US President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, said Tuesday that the incoming administration will consult with Israel and Arab allies in the Middle East before it makes decisions about reentering the Iran nuclear agreement. Biden “believes that if Iran comes back into compliance, we would too,” Blinken said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” Also See – “Blinken: ‘Vitally important’ to engage with Israel, Gulf on Iran nuclear deal” (Al-Monitor)

Iran's Rouhani says "ball in U.S. court" over nuclear dispute,

“Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the incoming U.S. administration on Wednesday to return to a 2015 nuclear agreement and lift sanctions on Tehran, while welcoming the end of “tyrant” President Donald Trump’s era.”

Four years after leaving post, will Dan Shapiro return as old-new US ambassador?,

“The next US ambassador to Israel may be a familiar face: former envoy Daniel Shapiro, who’s atop the list of possible replacements for David Friedman, who is leaving his post with the end of the Trump administration. Shapiro’s name has come up along with other potential nominees in conversations with former officials and others familiar with the incoming administration’s thinking on the process.”

Robert Malley being considered for special envoy on Iran,

“Robert Malley, who served as a national security official in the Obama administration, is being considered for a position in the Biden administration as special envoy on Iran, sources with knowledge of the plans inform Jewish Insider.  Malley was critical of the targeted killing of top Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November, saying that the attack would “make it all the more difficult for [Trump’s] successor to resume diplomacy with Iran.” After leaving the White House, Malley, who served as special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region, served as president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based International Crisis Group. “


[Israeli] Government extends lockdown until January 31 amid soaring virus rates,

“Government ministers on Tuesday voted to extend the national lockdown by an additional 10 days, as Israel saw its highest-yet coronavirus infection rates since the start of the pandemic. The lockdown, already in its third week, was due to end automatically on Thursday night had an extension not been issued. Following the unanimous cabinet decision, is it is now scheduled to end on January 31.”

Palestine confirms 497 new coronavirus cases, 10 deaths,

“Palestine recorded today 497 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths, according to Health Minister Mai al-Kaila. She announced that 497 Palestinians tested positive for the highly contagious virus and 10 others died of it in the occupied territories. Among the new 497 cases, 212 cases were recorded in the West Bank and 285 others in the besieged Gaza Strip.”

Israeli Elections

Netanyahu’s Likud widens lead over Saar’s New Hope to 15 seats — poll,

“A poll released on Tuesday suggested Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party is regaining supporters, while ex-Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope appears to be shedding them. According to the poll from Channel 12, Likud would pick up 30 Knesset seats if elections were held today, down from its current tally of 36 but up from other recent surveys. In a survey published by the network on December 15, Likud was forecast to pick up 27 of the parliament’s 120 seats.” Also See – “Netanyahu’s Party Maintains Lead Even With Potential Center-left Merger, Poll Finds” (Haaretz)