Gaza invasion averted; West Bank land-grabs escalate

An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip apparently took effect with no formal announcement May 6, after two days of hostilities that saw hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza and the most extensive Israeli air-strikes on the Strip since 2014. A total of 27 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, are reported dead in the air-strikes, which also included the first “targeted killings” of Hamas militants since 2014. Four Israeli civilians were also killed, all in the south. In the hours before the ceasefire, Israeli troops massed on the Gaza border, and a new invasion of the Strip appeared imminent. (Ma’an, Al Jazeera, Ha’aretz, YNet)

Hidden from the headlines, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank meanwhile continues. The day after the Gaza ceasefire took effect, Israeli troops forced several Palestinian families to evacuate their homes in the northern Jordan Valley, in order to make way for military exercises. Mutaz Bisharat, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley’s Tubas district, said that Israel ordered 15 families, consisting of 98 individuals, mostly women and children, to evacuate their homes in the area of Hamsa al-Fawqa village. (Ma’an)

Two days before that, Israeli bulldozers uprooted some 120 fruitful olive trees in al-Lubban al-Gharbi village, west of Ramallah. Fawwaz Salem, former head of the village council, said the uprooting of the trees came a month after Israeli forces delivered a military order to a local resident, informing him of confiscation of his private plot near the village, in order to pave a settler-only road connecting the area to the nearby Israeli settlement of Beit Aryeh. The olive trees were planted across a plot of three dunams (0.74 acres). (Ma’an)

Amid the daily West Bank encroachment, Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom this week leaked details of a document said to outline Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” for an end to the Palestinian conflict, which was supposedly circulated among officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry. According to the report, the plan calls for a reduced Palestinian state, to be dubbed “New Palestine,” in Gaza and on West Bank lands not already appropriated by settlement blocs. The areas of the blocs are to expand, incorporating outlying settlements, and will remain under Israeli control—apparently amounting to a de facto annexation. Jerusalem would remain undivided, with responsibilities for administration to be shared between Israel and “New Palestine,” but with Israel maintaining general control. (Ma’an, MEE)

Photo: Ma’an
  1. Netanyahu pledges to annex Jordan Valley
    Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sept. 10 that he will annex the Jordan Valley if he wins reelection next week. Netanyahu pledged to “would apply “Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh reacted by called him the “prime destroyer of the peace process.” (UPI, BBC News)

    An automated pop-up message on Netanyahu’s Facebook page read, “Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men.” This was deemed a violation of Facebook’s standards, and the “chatbot” was blocked. (The Guardian, Haaretz)

    Israel has also been cutting down on the number of medical treatment permits it issues to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, fearing that they are being used to facilitate unpermitted resettlement to the West Bank. Government attorneys disclosed the effort in a response to a High Court of Justice petition filed by Arab human rights groups. The attorneys refer to Gaza Palesinians who relocate to the West Bank as “illegal aliens.” (Haaretz, Sept. 13)

  2. Israeli occupation forces arrest Palestinian ex-parliamentarian

    In a pre-dawn raid Oct. 31, Israeli forces stormed the Ramallah home of Palestinian feminist leader and former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Khalida Jarrar, arresting her. The raid involved some 70 soldiers and 12 military vehicles. The arrest comes just eight months after Jarrar was last released after spending 20 months under “administrative detention.” (Samidoun, Al Jazeera)

    The Palestinian Legislative Council, created under the Oslo Accords as the legislative branch of the Palestinian Authorty, was suspended by order of President Mahmoud Abbas in December 2018, supposedly on the basis of a Palestinian Constitutional Court ruling that it should be dissolved pending new elections. (Mapping Palestinian Politics)

    The day after the raid, Nov. 1, saw new Israeli air-strikes on supposed Hamas targets in Gaza, in respnse to rocket-fire from the Strip that damaged a house in Sderot. (Haaretz)

  3. Israeli high court upholds deportation of HRW director
    Israel’s Supreme Court on Nov. 5 upheld the deportation of Omar Shakir, a US citizen and local director of Human Rights Watch in Israel. Shakir is being removed under a 2017 law allowing the government to block entry to supporters of BDS. Israel used the law in August to block US Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from conducting a visit to Palestine and Jerusalem. This will be the first time the law has been used to deport someone working in the country legally. (Jurist)

  4. US changes stance on Israeli settlements
    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Nov. 18 that the government will no longer abide by a 1978 State Department legal opinion that found civilian settlements in occupied territories as “inconsistent with international law.”

    “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said. “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not worked. It has not advanced the cause of peace.”

    Under Trump’s predecessor, former Barack Obama, the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding an end to the settlements. (DW)

  5. UN: Israeli settlements still illegal

    The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Nov. 19 that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory remain in breach of international law, rejecting the Trump administration’s position accepting them. “We continue to follow the long-standing position of the UN that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing. “A change in the policy position of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and the Security Council.” (Reuters)

    Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Nov. 21, prolonging the country’s political uncertainty as it looks set for its third national election in a year. Netanyahu of course responded that he victim of a “witch hunt.”

    There are three cases against Netanyahu.

    Case 1000 alleges that Netanyahu received gifts, including cigars and champagne, worth “hundreds of thousands of shekels” from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and other supporters.

    Case 2000 alleges that Netanyahu worked out a deal for favorable coverage with Arnon “Noni” Moses, the publisher of an Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, in exchange for backing a bill that would weaken a rival newspaper.

    Case 4000 alleges that Netanyahu made regulatory decisions that favored the Bezeq telecommunications group in exchange for positive coverage on news site Walla. (NBC)