Top News from Israel & Palestine: November 8, 2019

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

EU expresses concern over Israel’s arrest of senior PA officials in Jerusalem,

“The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah issued a statement after Israel arrested PA Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hidmi on Sunday for the third time in the past five months. ‘The EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah are concerned about the recent arrests and raids on senior PA representatives in Jerusalem,’ the statement read.”

Senior Israeli Security Official Blasted for Calling Settlements Fulfillment of 'Divine Promise',

“The Front for the Protection of Democracy asked the Civil Service Commission to take disciplinary action against Azar, who is also a foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for what the organization said is a ‘serious violation of the rules of ethics for a senior civil servant.’ In its letter, the organization said Azar’s comments are political remarks on a matter in dispute and are not in keeping with the obligations of a civil servant. The prime minister’s office released a statement on Azar’s comments on Thursday. ‘Political adviser Reuven Azar expressed government policy. We are sorry that there are those who try to hurt the good name of a professional and experienced adviser because of a headline distorted by media outlets,’ read the statement.”

The Palestinian olive harvest and Israeli propaganda,

“The olive harvest in Palestine is an annual reminder of Israeli settler vandalism and violence. In 2018, the Israeli NGO B’Tselem reported on the extensive damage inflicted upon the olive groves, with one Palestinian farmer explaining that, ‘It looked like the trees had been slaughtered.’ Meanwhile, the discrepancies regarding freedom of movement – unrestricted access for Israeli settlers juxtaposed against coordinated days for Palestinians to harvest – once again forces Palestinians into a silence which is not of their own making.”

Israeli Politics

Netanyahu’s party could break Israel’s political deadlock by dumping him. Why won’t it?,

“Yuli Edelstein, 61, who is number two in the party and serves as the speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, said in an interview that talk of ousting Netanyahu is a distraction. ‘Our goal right now is to form a unity government as soon as possible. Any other discourse diverts attention from the main purpose,’ he said. A veteran Likud member, Edelstein said the reluctance to challenge Netanyahu stems from the party’s DNA. ‘We stand behind our chosen leader and today we stand behind Netanyahu,’ he said. Still, there are subtle signs Netanyahu’s position is weakening. Present and former Likudniks — as members are known in Hebrew — are beginning to express disillusionment with the direction he is taking the party and asking why he’s still there after a year of failures.”

Gantz's Blue and White reportedly offers Israeli far-right Jordan Valley annexation,

“Israel’s centre-right Blue and White party is preparing to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea in the occupied West Bank, Kan Reshet B radio reported on Thursday. Blue and White, led by former army chief Benny Gantz, is currently negotiating with various parties as it attempts to form a governing coalition following Israel’s September elections. The party came neck and neck with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in the polls, but as with April’s election, neither side appears capable of forming a government. After 10 years straight of Netanyahu’s increasingly right-wing rule, which has seen an emboldening of the settler movement in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the prime minister’s critics have hoped Gantz would prove a more moderate leader, were he to gain power. However, it has emerged that Gantz’s party is happy to impose Israeli sovereignty over large areas of the West Bank, in a highly controversial move first promised by Netanyahu.”

Naftali Bennett's Moment: Will He Ditch Netanyahu and Anoint Gantz as PM?,

“What are the chances Bennett joins Gantz? Hard to tell. On the one hand, joining Gantz now would give him a top ministry and a seat around the security cabinet table. But what would the day after look like? Returning to a prominent role in the right-wing camp would be difficult, especially after the attacks Likud and Netanyahu launch against him. The mudslinging he experienced until now is nothing compared to what could come afterward. On the other hand, if Bennett doesn’t join Gantz and Israel goes to a third election, what party would he run in? Would he and Shaked once again merge with the far-right parts of the Jewish Home and the likes of Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich? They could, but that party didn’t fare as well in September as it had originally hoped. With the Right’s electoral strength in decline, a list like that could be at risk of not crossing the electoral threshold.”

Palestinian Politics

Palestinians criticize Hamas’ decision to appoint municipal presidents,

“Hamas’ appointment of a new head of municipality outside the framework of elections is not the first time this has occurred. On July 27, Yahya al-Siraj was appointed as the new head of the municipality of the Gaza governorate. Siraj previously served as the dean of the University College of Applied Sciences founded by Hamas in 2007. Al-Monitor learned from a well-informed source in the Hamas movement who asked to remain anonymous that Hamas has recently formed popular committees from all of the governorates of the Gaza Strip, which are headed by personalities close to the movement to elect new presidents of municipalities. This has happened in cooperation with the Ministry of Local Government in Gaza in order to improve services provided to citizens, according to the source.”

Hamas says it arrested three suspected jihadists at Gaza border,

“Hamas security forces in Gaza foiled an attempt by three suspected jihadists to sneak into Egypt and arrested them after an exchange of fire Friday, the terror group said. The forces ‘foiled a dawn attempt to infiltrate Egypt by way of the southern Gaza Strip border,’ according to the interior ministry of the Hamas-ruled coastal territory.”

U.S. Politics

For J Street, holding Israel accountable is still a step too far,

“A statement issued Monday by J Street affirms the group’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge over other states and non-state actors in the region — a commitment that is also codified in U.S. law. Though the statement added that ‘the U.S. has a right and responsibility to examine the uses to which American aid is put’ and that ‘the U.S. should not foot the bill for annexation,’ the statement also stressed: ‘this is not a call to reduce the level of U.S. security assistance or to ‘condition aid.’’ The only listed circumstance under which J Street would support altering the terms of U.S. military aid to Israel is formal annexation of all or parts of the West Bank. The group’s statement makes no mention of Israel’s de facto annexation of the occupied West Bank through continued settlement construction, the forced population transfer of Palestinians out of Area C of the West Bank, or the extension of Israeli sovereignty to educational institutions in West Bank settlements. In fact, the word ‘settlements’ does not appear once in the group’s statement.”