Top News from Israel & Palestine: August 20, 2019

What We’re Reading

U.S.-Israel Relations

Months before blocking their entry into Israel, Netanyahu wrote letter opposing Reps. Omar and Tlaib,

“The letter, addressed to Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), was in response to a number of Democratic lawmakers who had been urging Netanyahu to reconsider an order to deport a Human Rights Watch researcher based in Jerusalem because of his alleged support for a movement to boycott Israel, which has become a flash point between Netanyahu’s right-wing government and supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Bipartisan Support For Israel Is Dead. That’s A Good Thing.,

Peter Beinart writes, “So the test of American policy toward Israel should be not whether it is bipartisan but whether it serves national interests and democratic ideals. The United States has a national interest in ensuring that Israel does not make permanent its brutal occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

Is Israel a vassal state now?,

Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Trump was unhappy. Netanyahu was respecting people whom Trump wanted disrespected. The messages started coming from Washington, culminating in that tweet. Netanyahu then burned the last shreds of Israel’s carefully balanced strategy for managing relations with the United States: He did what Trump asked. If Netanyahu has self-awareness, he should see where a foreign policy based on sycophancy toward a single unbalanced leader, the Emperor Nero of our day, has led him. ‘Are we a vassal state?’ I hear Menachem Begin’s ghost asking. Honestly, I don’t know. Definitely, though, Netanyahu has become the personal vassal of Trump.”

Tlaib/Omar: It’s only politics,

Paul Scham writes, “With all respect to those who have tried to take a longer or strategic view, I would suggest that it really boils down to the political calculations of just two men, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, each of whom is adored by the other’s base voters, and the desperate (yes, desperate) attempts by each to use the other to burnish their right-wing credentials. The resulting media storm was likely welcomed by both, as neither has much interest in what the writers of The New York Times or Haaretz — and all their ilk — have to say.”

Omar says US should halt aid to Israel until it gives Palestinians ‘full rights’,

“Democratic US Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan on Monday blasted Israel’s refusal to grant them entry to the country over their support for boycotting the Jewish state, with Omar saying that Washington should halt aid to Israel and that Jerusalem’s decision was incompatible with its position as a US ally and a democracy.”

Occupation & Human Rights

Israel actively pushing Palestinian emigration from Gaza, official says,

“Israel is actively promoting the emigration of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and is working to find other countries who may be willing to absorb them, a senior Israeli official said Monday. Israel is ready to carry the costs of helping Gazans emigrate, and would even be willing to consider allowing them to use an Israeli air field close to Gaza to allow them to leave for their new host countries, the official said, apparently referring to air force bases deep inside Israel.”

[Letter from Silwan] Common Ground: The Politics of Archaeology in Jerusalem,

“‘Archaeology is the way that the settlers have conquered Silwan,’ said Yonathan Mizrachi, the current director of Emek Shaveh, two days after my visit to the City of David. We were standing by the entrance to Elad’s newest dig, which was concealed from passersby behind a high metal fence draped with dark plastic tarps and studded with surveillance cameras angled down at the street. From the outside, it looked more like a construction site than an excavation. Large bags of rocks and dirt sat on the sidewalk beside a dumpster crowded with buckets and loose debris. Mizrachi, whose grandparents came to Israel from Kurdistan, has long eyelashes and graying hair at his temples, and he has been documenting Elad’s activities in Silwan for more than a decade. Before co­founding Emek Shaveh in 2009, he worked as an archaeologist with the I.A.A., which sent him to supervise excavations along the route of the planned separation barrier that would divide Israel from the West Bank. ‘That was for me a kind of trigger,’ he said.”

U.S. scraps West Bank conference over Palestinian protests,

“The conference initiated by the U.S Embassy in Jerusalem, set to bring together alumni of U.S. educational and cultural programs was canceled after Palestinians deem it an attempt to circumvent boycott of U.S. administration”

Israeli Police Break Up Arab Soccer Tournament in Jerusalem’s Old City,

“The Burj al-Luqluq Society, which organizes the soccer tournament, says it has no connection to the PA and does not get any funding from it. According to the group, the money for the tournament was donated by Palestinian businessman Munir al-Kaloti. ‘This is a social activity for the benefit of the Old City residents; it’s no shame to hold such activities, especially when the municipality doesn’t promote activities for East Jerusalem residents,’ said attorney Mohannad Gbara, who represents the society. ‘I think that pretty soon Minister Erdan will forbid the sale of Jerusalem sesame pretzels because they have Palestinian markings; they’ll issue closure orders against the pretzel wagons.’ Gbara plans to petition the High Court of Justice against the decision.”

Israeli Politics

Meet Israel’s New Kingmaker,

“But in this election cycle—the country’s second in six months—Lieberman has rebranded himself as a champion of secular Israel and a bulwark against the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, community, whose representatives in politics have long dominated religion-and-state policy issues. That positioning has helped his Yisrael Beiteinu party appeal to people beyond its traditional constituency of Russian-speaking Israelis, including centrist and even left-leaning voters. If opinion polls prove accurate, it will likely make Lieberman the kingmaker once the votes are counted next month—allowing him to determine whether Netanyahu gets another term as prime minister.”

Shaked Relayed to Netanyahu: I Control Israeli AG, Will Make Sure You Get Immunity,

“Intermediaries on behalf of Ayelet Shaked told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the former justice minister would be willing to try to influence the attorney general to be lenient with Netanyahu, a suspect in several corruption cases.”

Palestinian Politics

Hamas threatens escalation in violence on Gaza border,

“The Hamas terror organization has threatened an escalation in violence on Israel’s southern border unless Israel allows financial aid from Qatar and an increase in electricity in to Gaza. A senior Hamas source made the threat in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Tuesday. The source in a statement published in the newspaper also warned that Hamas may not be able to prevent independent attempts of Gazan Palestinians to cross the border into Israel to commit terror attacks. He said that the situation in Gaza is ‘heating up.’”

Abbas fires all his advisers amid financial crunch,

“Jihad Harb, a Palestinian political analyst, said it appeared Abbas had decided to sack his advisers after receiving a report in June on payments to ministers and officials. ‘It is clear that president Abbas received the report from the committee that examined the salaries and benefits of employees,’ Harb told AFP. He ‘wants to reduce his office’s spending by taking austerity measures to confront the current budget crisis.’ In a separate decision, Abbas ordered former prime minister Rami Hamdallah and other cabinet ministers to return bonuses.”

Why Palestinians invest in zaatar and honey,

“’As part of its plan to achieve self-sufficiency in any agriculture and husbandry, the ministry is offering incentives for farmers, starting with renting out government lands to boost local production and to decrease reliance on Israeli imported goods,’ Adham Bassiouni, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, told Al-Monitor. ‘With these incentives, the ministry made a breakthrough in the Gazan markets, which now totally rely on vegetables grown in Gaza such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and pumpkins.’”