Top News from Palestine/Israel: October 19, 2020

What We’re Reading


Palestinian Health Minister: Erekat suffers from acute pneumonia after contracting COVID-19,

“Longtime chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is suffering from pneumonia after he contracted the novel COVID-19, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said today. She said in a press statement that the President’s Office, the government, and the Ministry were closely monitoring the developments related to the health condition of Erekat, who was placed on a ventilator today and was is in critical condition at the Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in West Jerusalem.”

Also See – “PLO’s Erekat on ventilator with COVID-19, Israeli hospital says” (Reuters); “Top PLO official Erekat, sick with COVID, hospitalized in Israel” (The Times of Israel); “PLO leader Saeb Erekat in ‘critical’ condition” (Al Jazeera)

Daily Coronavirus report in Palestine: Six dead, 543 new cases and 572 recovered,

“Of the total cases, 404 were in the West Bank, 77 in the Gaza Strip, and 62 in East Jerusalem, said the Minister.”

Health Ministry: Daily coronavirus tally drops sharply,

“These encouraging figures came as Israel began rolling back lockdown measures on Sunday. The lockdown – Israel’s second in six months – was imposed after the rate of positive tests reached 15% in late September.”

Poll: Israelis believe politics leading virus decisions, pan PM’s performance,

“The Channel 12 survey found 63 percent of those questioned cited politics as the main concern for leaders, while only 26% believed professional considerations were guiding decisions.”


Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem intends to demolish 13 Palestinians houses in East Jerusalem,

“The Israeli municipality in West Jerusalem has issued demolition notices against 13 inhabited Palestinian houses in Silwan, a neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, today said Fakhri Abu Diab, member of the Silwan Defense Committee. He told WAFA that the municipality ordered the demolition of the houses under the pretext they were built without a permit, noting that there are also unauthorized houses taken over and illegally inhabited by Israeli settlers in the same area but did not receive demolition orders. Abu Diab said that the Palestinian houses were built over 10 years ago and are inhabited by 76 people, mostly children and women.”

After 85 days of hunger strike, PHRI says damage to Maher al-Akhras organs could be permanent,

…”‘although al-Akhras is fully conscious and lucid, he is having trouble concentrating and is suffering bouts of confusion throughout the day. He continues to lose weight, has severe dizziness and balance issues. He is unable to stand, walk or turn over in bed.’ Qassem added that al-Akhras has suffered significant muscle atrophy, and his eyesight and hearing have deteriorated. “Al-Akhras drinks nothing but water, refusing to take sugar, salt or vitamins. He is also refusing all tests to monitor his condition, including for vital signs, ECG and blood tests,” she said, and he refuses to be tested or receive any medical care from the staff, a phenomenon typical in hunger strikes.”

Exclusive: Documents reveal decades of close cooperation between JNF and Elad,

“The Jewish National Fund has allowed settlement group Elad to pursue legal actions on its behalf since the 1980s, an internal report reveals. The collaboration has led to the eviction of Palestinians while bolstering Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.”

Endless warnings of Gaza’s collapse are why we’re failing to prevent it,

“For years, well-intentioned reports have cautioned about the strip’s “impending” collapse. But this endless forecasting has only given cover to the public health crises that exist right now, stalling our impetus for action until it was too late. These crises are unacceptable in the current pandemic, but they were just as unacceptable at any point in the last 20 years. Whether it is a future war, the outcomes of climate crisis, or another pandemic, we can be sure that Gaza will face more threats to public health in the coming years. A fundamental shift in how we balance the national security of one population with the human security of another is essential. Ultimately, Gaza is an inherently livable place, as evidenced by the 2 million Palestinians residing there — but we need to make it so.”

Normalization/Regional Relations

Israel and Bahrain Sign Joint Declaration – but Not Yet a Peace Deal,

“An Israeli delegation led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz flew to Bahrain on Sunday where they signed a joint communique on establishing diplomatic relations with the Bahraini government. The Israeli delegation was joined by a U.S. delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the White House envoy to the peace process, Avi Berkowitz…Following Sunday morning’s welcoming ceremony, delegation members divided into working groups with the aim of signing a second, more detailed, declaration on establishing diplomatic relations and peace. It is not anticipated that the declaration to be signed will be a full-blown peace agreement like the one Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates last month, in part due to fierce opposition in Bahrain to the normalization of relations with Israel. That said, the declaration is expected to include general declarations about mutual non-belligerence, the advancement of common values and areas where the eventual signing of civilian cooperation agreements is expected, including aviation, trade, energy, science and health.”

Also See – “Israel, Bahrain sign deal establishing formal ties” (AP); “UAE cabinet approves normalising ties with Israel – government statement” (Reuters)

Saudi FM: Focus of Mideast peace talks should be Israel-PA conflict,

“‘I believe that the focus now needs to be on getting the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table. In the end, the only thing that can deliver lasting peace and lasting stability is an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis,’ he said in a virtual appearance at a US think tank. Speaking to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, the Saudi foreign minister also said he hoped it may soon be possible to resolve a dispute that led Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to sever political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in mid-2017.”

The Battle for Jerusalem: Turkey’s Erdogan stakes his claim,

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t mince his words at this month’s opening of parliament. In his first assertion of a claim to a lost non-Turkic part of the Ottoman empire, Mr. Erdogan declared that Jerusalem is Turkish. ‘In this city, which we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us,’ Mr. Erdogan said…Yet, by putting forward his claim, Mr. Erdogan hopes to put his quest for leadership of the Muslim world on par with that of one Turkey’s staunchest rivals, Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is home to Islam’s two most sacred cities, Mecca and Medina. Rather than seeking to regain lost Ottoman territory, Mr. Erdogan is staking a claim to custodianship of Jerusalem’s Haram ash-Sharif or Temple Mount and Al Aqsa mosque compound that currently rests with a Jordanian-controlled religious endowment known as the Waqf.”

Israel, UAE agree on 28 weekly direct flights between Emirates, Tel Aviv,

“Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed Sunday to enable 28 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi and Dubai, following the normalization agreement between the countries, signed last month. The agreement will enable 10 weekly cargo flights, while charter flights between the UAE and Israel’s Ramon Airport, near Eilat, will be unlimited.”

Palestinian Politics

Abbas’s Fatah warns Jerusalem Arabs against UAE funding,

“Fatah also warned residents of east Jerusalem of the “Emirati money dipped in Palestinian blood,” an apparent reference to claims that the UAE is planning to fund various projects and individuals in the city in cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality.”

Top Hamas official: Arab states have severed financial aid to Palestinians,

“Arouri noted that “Israel isn’t prepared to pay” what the international community demands, nor recognize the Palestinian right. “The Palestinian, Arab and Islamic right is all of Palestine. This is our right and no one can change our minds in this regard. “Even when the international community discusses a [Palestinian state] within 1967 borders with the capital in al-Quds [Jerusalem], the occupation [Israel] doesn’t want to commit to that. [Israel] wants a resolution that establishes its control of Jerusalem and particularly the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]. The Palestinian residents there won’t have sovereign [citizen] rights, rather merely as residents. The Trump administration stupidly and insanely rushed to implement this vision.””

Israeli Politics

Gantz threatens to pass bill that would end Netanyahu’s career,

“Blue and White raised its threat against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the weekend, warning that if he does not enable the passage of the 2021 state budget by the end of the year, it would propose the so-called anti-Bibi bill. The bill would prevent anyone charged with serious crimes from forming a government, including Netanyahu, who is on trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust. The bill was first presented in August but was defeated, as it did not have Blue and White’s support.”

Poll projects tight race for Likud, Yamina,

“A poll that aired on Channel 13 News on Sunday projected a tight race between Yamina and Likud, giving the later only a three-seat lead on the former. Were elections held at this time, the survey found that Likud would win 27 Knesset seats and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party would secure 24 mandates.”

Also See – “Yamina leader Bennett hospitalized for 2nd time in a week” (Israel Hayom)

Temple Mount activist eyes the presidency,

“This summer, when President Reuven Rivlin’s term as president comes to a close, the Knesset will convent to elect his successor. It appears likely that Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog will throw his hat in the ring, but another candidate has also popped up: Temple Mount activist and former MK Yehuda Glick has announced that he will be making a run for the presidency.”

'It's Not Working': Gantz's Party Escalates Rhetoric on Partnership With Netanyahu,

“Prominent Kahol Lavan ministers warned their coalition partners in Likud on Monday that if the 2021 state budget is not passed and major appointments are not made, Israelis will have no choice but to return to the polls. The government is “not working,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi of Kahol Lavan said on Monday, and called for new elections if the situation doesn’t change by November.”

FMEP Resources & Events

Settlement & Annexation Report: October 16, 2020,

“During meetings held October 14th and 15th, the Israeli High Planning Council advanced plans for a total of 4,948 new settlement units. Of that total, plans for 2,688 units were granted final approval and plans for 2,260 units were approved to be deposited for public review (a late stage in the planning process). The latter approvals include a plan to build a new settlement, “Har Gilo West,”  just beyond Jerusalem’s southern border. In addition, the Council granted retroactive approval to 340 existing illegally-built settlement units in the unauthorized outposts of Peni Kedem and Tapuach West, paving  the establishment of two new official West Bank settlements (through post-facto legalization of the illegal outposts).”

[Webinar] A Founding Generation of Looters: New Research on Israeli Theft of Palestinian Property in 1948,

“In a newly-published book (discussed in recent blockbuster Haaretz article), Israeli historian Adam Raz shatters the “conspiracy of silence” that surrounds the widespread Jewish looting of Palestinian property that took place in 1948. Drawing from materials he found in more than 30 archives, Raz documents how in the period around the 1948 War, Jewish civilians – who after the war became the founding generation of the state of Israel – pillaged private Palestinian property throughout the land. Raz also documents how, as the looting took place in full public view, Jewish leaders – including David Ben Gurion – knew what was happening and, even as some expressed disapproval, did nothing to stop it. Raz’s research sheds light not only on this phenomenon of widespread theft by Israel’s founding generation, but also on the political impact this looting had on Israel’s relations with Palestinians and the fate of Palestinian refugees. As Raz observes, having robbed their neighbors, Israeli civilians became “accomplices to the political situation,” with a “vested interest” in preventing their former neighbors from ever returning. To discuss this research and what it means for both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the process of using archival materials and retelling history to achieve a more just future, we invite you to an FMEP webinar featuring: Adam Raz, researcher at Akevot: Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research and author of Looting of Arab Property in the War of Independence (Carmel Publishing House, in association with the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research; in Hebrew), and Yousef Munayyernon-resident fellow at Arab Center Washington DC; in conversation with Sarah Anne Minkin, FMEP’s Director of Programs and Partnerships. “