Top News from Palestine & Israel: November 9, 2020

What We’re Reading

New FMEP Resources

FMEP Legislative Round-Up: November 6, 2020,

“(1) This JI headline is misleading in its description of the extremely thoughtful, nuanced statement Warnock and other faith leaders signed (take the time to read the whole thing); (2) the headline is also misleading in suggesting that using analogies to Apartheid to describe the situation of Palestinians living under occupation for more than 50 years – with Israel in recent years ceasing even the pretense of interest in anything resembling a solution that would give the Palestinians more than isolated islands of semi-autonmous territory surrounded by and under the overarching control of Israel — is any longer controversial (see:‘An illegitimate regime’: How a top rights group shed Israeli myths to recognize apartheid); and (3) JI tweeted the story around 8:30pm EST on 11/5, framing it as “#Breaking” — notwithstanding the fact that the statement in question dates back to March 2019, and has been online for the world to see the whole time (it wasn’t a secret; all of us who pay attention to faith leaders engagement with Palestinians certainly knew about it, and anyone using Google to research Warnock’s history vis-a-vis Israel would easily find it). The timing of JI’s “breaking” a more than year-old story now, as Warnock heads to a run-off for the Senate seat in Georgia, is interesting, to say the least.”

Settlement & Annexation Report: November 6, 2020,

“Palestinian media reports that Israeli authorities have formally issued eviction notices to dozens of Palestinian business owners in the Wadi al-Joz district of East Jerusalem, as plans advance to level the entire area and replace it with a massive new business district, dubbed “Silicon Wadi.” The eviction notices instruct tenants to vacate by December 30th, after which time Israel will proceed with demolitions. The Jerusalem Post confirms that as part of the plan, “about 200 Palestinian-owned industrial buildings will have their tenants evicted and be demolished.” The Silicon Wadi project is projected to cost $600 million for construction covering 350,000 square meters to house high-tech companies, real estate, shopping centers, and hotels. “

Occupation/Annexation/Human Rights

After 103 days, Palestinian security prisoner Maher al-Akhras ends hunger strike,

“Palestinian security detainee Maher al-Akhras agreed on Friday evening to end his 103-day hunger strike in protest of his detention by Israeli authorities, who have accused him of membership in a terror group. “Maher al-Akhras has announced that his hunger strike has ended on its 103rd day due to a commitment that he will be freed on November 26th and his administrative detention will not be renewed,” Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said in a statement from al-Akhras’s bedside in Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, announcing the decision.”

Also See:

  • “Palestinian prisoner ends hunger strike after making deal with Israeli authorities” (CNN)

UNRWA says it needs $70m to pay its 28,000 staff, continue education and health services for 5.7m refugees,

“The Commissioner-General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini today announced that the Agency has run out of money as of today to pay the salaries of 28,000 UNRWA staff in November and continue services for 5.7 million refugees. The Agency needs to raise $70 million by the end of the month if it is to pay full salaries for the months of November and December, according to an UNRWA press release.”

Citizen files first-ever lawsuit against Israeli settler in a Palestinian court,

“Minister of Justice Mohammad Shalaldeh said today that a Palestinian citizen from the northern West Bank village of Burin filed a lawsuit, for the first time ever, before a Palestinian court against an Israeli settler who vandalized his under-construction house. In the case he filed before the Nablus Court of First Instance, the Burin resident requested compensation for the material and moral damage caused by the settler. Shalaldeh noted that this lawsuit is the first to be filed against an Israeli settler in national courts, noting that the procedures are based on international norms and laws, especially the Hague Convention.”

Adalah calls for action as 69 Palestinians confirmed infected with COVID-19 in Israel’s Gilboa prison,

“In response to news reports indicating that 69 Palestinians held by Israel in just one prison have been infected with COVID-19, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) on 5 November demanding it acts immediately to halt the spread of the virus and to protect Palestinian prisoners. On 2 November, an IPS spokeswoman revealed that 11 prisoners held in Gilboa prison and classified by Israel as “security prisoners” had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, 54 more prisoners were confirmed infected, and then another four more, bringing a total of 69 infected prisoners. This figure constitutes around 76 percent of the population of the wing in question and 15 percent of the total population of 450 “security prisoners” in Gilboa.”

Former Army Brass Called Not to Indict Israeli Soldier Who Killed Innocent Palestinian,

“Lawyers for an Israeli soldier charged with killing an innocent Palestinian in the West Bank have submitted letters to the High Court of Justice from former senior army figures that urged that the soldier not be criminally charged, saying that instead he should face disciplinary proceedings. The case now before the High Court of Justice involves the 2019 shooting by a soldier of Ahmad Manasra, 23, who at the time was trying to help another Palestinian, Alaa Raida, 38, who had been shot and seriously wounded by the soldier.”

Greenlighting De Facto Annexation: A Summary of Trump’s Impact on the Settlements,

“The Trump administration lent the power of the United States to the benefit of the narrow interests of a small, radical group of settlers, and has done enormous damage to Israel. We expect the incoming administration of President-Elect Biden to be attentive to the peace-seeking majority in Israel and to restore the United States to its status as a constructive intermediary for a two-state solution.”

President-Elect Joe Biden & The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy

Netanyahu joins other leaders in congratulating Biden for beating Trump,

“More than 12 hours after the U.S. television networks called the presidential race for Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his congratulations to the president-elect. Israel is one of the main allies of the U.S., but Netanyahu’s congratulatory tweet came long after most leaders around the world had already congratulated Biden.”

Also See:

  • “After hours of silence, Netanyahu congratulates Biden, but doesn’t say what for” (The Times of Israel)
  • “Netanyahu takes his time on congratulating Biden” (Al-Monitor)

Abbas lauds Biden win, said planning to demand return of US Embassy to Tel Aviv,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on US President-elect Joe Biden Sunday to “strengthen” relations between the Palestinians and Washington, which collapsed during President Donald Trump’s term in office. In a statement congratulating Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Abbas urged the incoming administration “to strengthen the Palestinian-American relationship” and to strive for Middle East “peace, stability and security.””

As Biden takes lead, Palestinians eager to return to talks with US,

“For the time being, the embassy staff in the Tel Aviv offices will most likely bear most of the work of the US mission to Israel. Palestinian affairs will be delinked from the embassy and a mission office of sorts will most likely be opened in East Jerusalem, as had been the case in Jerusalem for decades. Palestinians would love to pick up where things were left off in 2014 during the Barack Obama administration, including the return to the Obama parameters as well as building on the anti-settlement UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which the Obama administration abstained on during the last days of its presidency in December 2016. In 2014 testimony to the US Congress, US Secretary of State John Kerry had cast the lion’s share of the blame on Israel for blowing up the talks with Palestinians.”

UAE, Bahrain Brace for a Chillier Biden Approach,

“While ties with Israel may not advance along the trajectory Trump greased with F-35 sales, the Gulf states have broad agendas beyond fighter jets—and will find ample opportunity for warmer ties with the Biden administration after what is likely to be a transition period.”

Israel to reach out to Biden administration over long-term military aid,

“Israel plans to reach out to US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration in the coming months to begin discussing the formulation of a new long-term military aid plan for the IDF. A new multibillion-dollar plan would be an issue that Israel will want to begin working on as soon as possible to ensure it is approved and implemented before the next administration leaves office and the current aid program expires in 2027, a top defense official told The Jerusalem Post.The US currently provides Israel with $3.8 billion as part of a $38b. military aid program signed in 2016 shortly before president Barack Obama left office. While the MOU was signed in 2016, it only went into effect at the end of 2018…The MOU signed in 2016 will expire in 2027. As a result, defense officials said Israel would need to begin talks almost immediately with the incoming administration, whose term will last at least until January 2025. This will be to ensure that a friendly administration approves the plan even though it will officially go into effect under a different administration.”

[Twitter Thread] To re-open mission, Biden would need Congress to give him a waiver ,

“1987 law bars PLO from operating in US, period. No waiver. For years, Congress gave presidents natl sec waiver; under Obama, added conditions, incl linked to ICC…To re-open mission, Biden would need Congress to give him a waiver that does NOT link to ICC, which will be heavy lift given Congress long embrace of Isr govt narrative that Pal resort to ICC is lawfare/ terrorism/existential threat…”

Trump's Legacy & Parting Gifts

Trump administration plans "flood" of sanctions on Iran by Jan. 20,

“The Trump administration, in coordination with Israel and several Gulf states, is pushing a plan to slap a long string of new sanctions on Iran in the 10 weeks left until Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, two Israeli sources briefed on the effort told me. The Trump administration’s envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams arrived in Israel on Sunday and met Prime Minister Netanyahu and National Security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to discuss the sanctions plan…The Trump administration believes such a “flood” of sanctions will increase pressure on the Iranians and make it harder for the Biden administration to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the Israeli sources told me. In the last several weeks, the Trump administration — with the encouragement and assistance of part of the Israeli diplomatic and security establishment — has prepared a “target bank” of Iranian entities that will be sanctioned.”

Pompeo to visit Israel as US looks to step up Iran sanctions,

“The top US diplomat is set to visit the Jewish state on November 18, the report specified, adding that the administration of US President Donald Trump is planning to unleash a flurry of sanctions targeting Iran. The news outlet cited two Israeli officials as saying that the plan is being coordinated with Jerusalem and the Gulf states.”

Annexation, Iran sanctions, weapons? What Israel may ask of Trump as he leaves,

“According to Israeli and American analysts, Jerusalem’s potential wish list may include explicit support for the annexation of parts of the West Bank, upgraded defense aid, including advanced weaponry, more tough sanctions on Iran, and intensified pressure on Arab states to normalize relations with Israel. Netanyahu could also use the administration’s remaining 10 weeks to accelerate the pace of West Bank construction (before a Biden administration would likely ask him to freeze or at least slow down settlement expansions) and/or intensify military attacks on Iranian targets in Syria and Lebanon.”

The Israeli Domestic Scene

Gantz, Bennett hold talks on new Israeli elections: report,

“According to the report, the two met to discuss the prospect of dismantling the current ruling coalition and setting off a new election. In his interview with Kan Sunday morning, Bennett, a former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now sitting in opposition, offered no comments on the report.”

‘Bibi is next’: Anti-Netanyahu protesters celebrate Biden victory in Jerusalem,

“Some of the protesters, who arrived after Biden had been officially declared the winner, prepared handwritten signs welcoming the victory. “Biden won, Bibi is next. Bibi is finished, just like his buddy Trump” said Levi Weiman Kalman, an English-speaker who stood in Paris Square, where demonstrations have been taking place intermittently for the last five months, while carrying an American flag.”

Top Analysis & Opinion

Biden Is Good for Israel,

“We shouldn’t merely come to terms with Joe Biden’s election as the next U.S. president. We should take it as a blessing. It’s true, Donald Trump took several welcome steps that Israel will benefit from for many years. The peace agreements and normalization deals with Gulf states pave the way for other countries to join and change Israel’s regional strategy…And yet, the free world, which includes Israel, needs the United States to be a functioning democracy, in keeping with the values that Biden represents. Israel is comprised of not just its interests, but also its values as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Will Joe Biden alter US policy in the Middle East?,

“Nonetheless, experts do not expect the modus operandi to change significantly under Biden. While the president-elect has already stated he would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv, he will also not reverse Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights either, a senior Biden campaign official stated on Tuesday. Moreover, Biden has also vehemently opposed pro-Palestinian initiatives from within his party. During the Democratic primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders suggested the US ought to utilise its Israel support as leverage and demand concessions for the Palestinians. Biden’s response was concise as it was unmistakable: “ridiculous and unacceptable”, he called Sanders’ idea. Biden’s reaction to the UAE-Israel deal also displayed his support for Israel. He called the deal a “historic breakthrough” and promised to persuade more countries in the region to sign similar agreements. What sets Biden apart is his pledge to reverse Trump’s withdrawal of economic and humanitarian assistance from the Palestinians and his pursuit to reopen the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington, as well as the US consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinian affairs. However, Biden’s Israel policy is likely to be a continuation, not a reset – an approach, some experts argue could sum up Biden’s upcoming Middle East policy in general.”

Hamas Is Mourning Trump's Defeat, Abbas Is Celebrating and the Saudis Are Sulking,

“While much of the Arab World congratulated Biden officially and promptly, Saudi Arabia was the exception. It took Riyadh more than 24 hours to come out with a short congratulatory message for Biden and Kamala Harris…But for Hamas, rulers of Gaza, relief that Trump’s era was ending is clouded by disappointment. All of Abbas’ promises over the last few months – to reconcile with Hamas, to push to lift sanctions on Gaza, to renounce Oslo, to halt security coordination with Israel and to hold national elections – are now mere dust in the wind. Despite its barefaced hostility, Hamas saw Trump’s administration as a catalyst to increasing the relevance of its platform and advocacy.”

The Palestinians' Ultimate Demand From a Biden Win,

“People in both Ramallah and Gaza are waiting to see to what degree the election results will encourage all the Palestinian factions to continue efforts to stop the intra-Palestinian rift. The ultimate demand is to exploit the momentum of Biden’s election to end the feud and perhaps hold Palestinian elections that will garner international sympathy. Only a healing of the rift and a united front can jump-start a diplomatic process that will have popular and international support. Otherwise the Palestinians will continue to merely dream of a just solution to the conflict.”

Iran, Israel, anti-Semitism and more: What to watch in Joe Biden’s presidency,

“Biden’s message since Tuesday has been unity. He wants to achieve comity with Republicans. “It’s time for America to unite and to heal,” was his first post-announcement statement. He’s reportedly got a few Republicans in mind for his Cabinet.One obvious way that his commitment to bipartisanship will play out in his Middle East policy is in the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements brokered by Trump between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Bahrain. Biden has said he likes the accords. His aides have said he urged rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf states during Obama’s second term when he was vice president. So should we expect more of the same? Perhaps: Other Arab countries that have long had unofficial ties with Israel, including Oman and Morocco, might announce even before the inauguration. The big fish, however, may hold out. Saudi Arabia will likely want the carrot that the UAE has secured, a major arms deal; Trump has cajoled Israel into not objecting to the sale of stealth combat jets to the Emirates.  But Democrats are unhappy about the sale, and that unhappiness would grow exponentially with any proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Democrats object to the devastating war Saudi Arabia is conducting in Yemen and have not forgotten the kingdom’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

Trump’s biggest donors will continue to shape hawkish GOP foreign policy,

“Trump’s loss is a setback for hawkish megadonors who invested millions of dollars in electing, reelecting, and prodding Trump toward confrontation with Iran. But their outsized roles in funding Republican congressional campaigns and an upcoming group of militarist politicians, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Elizabeth Cheney (R-Wyo.) and the possibility of future runs for office from Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, may give them hope for the future of the hawkish wing of the Republican Party.”