Israel, Palestine/Gaza May 2020 –

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Israel, Palestine/Gaza

Netanyahu’s reaction to Biden’s victory is appalling
By Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
(WaPo) When U.S. media designated Biden the winner on Nov. 7, Netanyahu delayed until the next day before publicly congratulating him — conspicuously behind other close U.S. allies. Even then, the prime minister’s tweet did not address Biden as president-elect, nor explicitly acknowledge he had won. Fourteen minutes later, Netanyahu separately tweeted thanks to Trump for “the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally.”
Since then, Netanyahu has publicly taken a militant stand against one of Biden’s principal foreign policy pledges: that he would return the United States to the nuclear accord with Iran.
Netanyahu’s preparations for a Biden administration actually began before the election. On Oct. 14, a government committee approved 2,260 new housing units in the occupied West Bank — two-thirds of them in areas that would almost certainly be included in the Palestinian state that Biden strongly supports. Remarkably, 600 of the new units were designated for Jewish settlements that were prohibited from expanding even under Trump’s grotesquely one-sided Mideast peace plan, which Netanyahu endorsed.

13 November
Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Accused in U.S. Embassy Attacks, Is Secretly Killed in Iran
Israeli agents shot Abu Muhammad al-Masri on the streets of Tehran at the behest of the U.S., officials said, but no one — Iran, Al Qaeda, the U.S. or Israel — has publicly acknowledged the killing.
The killing occurred in such a netherworld of geopolitical intrigue and counterterrorism spycraft that Mr. al-Masri’s death had been rumored but never confirmed until now. For reasons that are still obscure, Al Qaeda has not announced the death of one of its top leaders, Iranian officials covered it up, and no country has publicly claimed responsibility for it.

16 September
The conspiracy theory of the UAE-Israel agreement
The Arab leaders who have recognized and normalized with Israel have stated they have not betrayed the Palestinians. Do they know something that we do not know?
(Jerusalem Post) One of the smartest men in the entire Middle East must be Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, colloquially known by his initials as MBZ. He is the Crown Prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. He is also the architect behind the Israel-UAE normalization deal, and probably also the main force behind the Israel-Bahrain full diplomatic relations deal.
The ambitious plan of MBZ, if successful, will turn the entire Middle East upside down. The plan includes a full strategic alliance between the moderate Sunni countries and Israel, with the US tying up the package with massive arms sales. The main purpose of the alliance is to overthrow the regime of the ayatollahs in Iran before it becomes nuclear. At the same time, they plan to reign in the expansionist aspirations of Turkey, and isolate Qatar – the allies of the hated and feared Muslim Brotherhood.

14 September
Daoud Kuttab: The Arab Betrayal of Palestine
For good reason, Arab and Muslim-majority countries have agreed that normalizing relations with Israel must be made conditional on the end of the occupation of Palestinian territories. By breaking with this consensus, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have undermined the prospects for peace.
(Project Syndicate) … The Saudi-initiated Arab Peace Initiative – which was passed unanimously in 2002 and later adopted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – offers diplomatic normalization in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the areas it seized in 1967.
… despite the framework being aligned with international law and moderate enough for any mainstream Israeli party to consider seriously, Israel not only rejected the plan but went on to make the situation even worse. Under the watch of the Israeli army, the construction of illegal Jewish settlements was stepped up, and even more Palestinian homes were bulldozed to make way for them. And since then, Israel’s right-wing government under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has begun to countenance the outright theft – through annexation – of even more Palestinian territory.With such belligerent leadership in Israel, many in the region and beyond were surprised by the United Arab Emirates’ decision to normalize relations with Israel. With a population of just 1.4 million nationals, the UAE is breaking with a global consensus held by 423 million Arabs and 1.8 billion Muslims. A month after the UAE’s decision, Bahrain, with just 1.6 million people, announced that it would follow suit.
… Needless to say, US President Donald Trump’s administration and the Netanyahu government are delighted to have “flipped” an Arab country without any need for meaningful Israeli concessions. For their part, Arabs and Palestinians long for normal relations with Israel, but only after the occupation has ended. When one party is a military power with even more powerful friends, peace must be reached through a just settlement, not unilateral action. A country that serially violates human rights and international treaties should not be rewarded with normal relations, even from tiny Arab gulf countries.

1 September
The Israel-U.A.E. Deal May Boost Both Economies, but It’s Also Another Netanyahu Ploy
By Bernard Avishai
(The New Yorker) Outwardly, Israelis seem willing to bear a political cost for the anticipated commercial benefit. The U.A.E.’s Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, called it “a win for diplomacy” that immediately stops Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threatened annexation of part of the West Bank “and the potential for violent escalation.” The U.A.E.’s foreign-affairs minister, Anwar Gargash, claimed that normalization reflected “badly needed realism.” A snap poll revealed that nearly eighty per cent of Israelis prefer normalization over annexation.
Israelis—some suspicious, some admiring—also understand the deal to be Netanyahu’s latest political maneuver. Another survey, conducted in the wake of the deal’s announcement, revealed that half of respondents thought that Netanyahu was mainly concerned with “his legal future”—his trial for bribery and breach of trust began on May 24th—and only eighteen per cent thought he cared about “the interests of the state.” Still, the same survey reported that, were yet another election called, a Netanyahu-led right-wing coalition would easily win a majority in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Netanyahu, for his part, is trying to capitalize on his new asset, as if a new election campaign were already under way. He claimed success for the “Netanyahu Doctrine”—“peace through strength”—suggesting that he alone could have secured the deal—indeed, that those who said that Palestinians had a veto over Israel’s advance in the Arab world were proved wrong.

13 – 14 August

Israel and United Arab Emirates Strike Major Diplomatic Agreement

President Trump said the deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel would normalize diplomatic relations and begin cooperation in areas such as security, trade and tourism.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a landmark accord sealed by President Trump on Thursday that could presage a broader realignment in the region as the two agreed to “full normalization of relations” in exchange for Israel suspending annexation of occupied West Bank territory.
In a surprise announcement at the White House after a three-way phone call with Israeli and Emirati leaders, Mr. Trump said the deal would lead to greater cooperation on investment, tourism, security, technology, energy and other areas while the two countries move to allow regular direct passenger flights, open embassies and trade ambassadors for the first time.
If fulfilled, the pact would make the Emirates only the third Arab country to have normal diplomatic relations with Israel along with Egypt, which signed a peace agreement in 1979, and Jordan, which signed a treaty in 1994. It could reorder the long stalemate in the region, potentially leading other Arab nations to follow suit in forging an increasingly explicit alliance with Israel against their mutual enemy in Iran while taking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s explosive annexation plan off the table, at least for now.
Thomas Friedman: A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Mideast
The Israel-United Arab Emirates deal will be felt throughout the region.
The agreement brokered by the Trump administration for the United Arab Emirates to establish full normalization of relations with Israel, in return for the Jewish state forgoing, for now, any annexation of the West Bank, was exactly what Trump said it was in his tweet: a “HUGE breakthrough.”
Just go down the scorecard, and you see how this deal affects every major party in the region — with those in the pro-American, pro-moderate Islam, pro-ending-the-conflict-with-Israel-once-and-for-all camp benefiting the most and those in the radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind.
Around-the-halls: Experts analyze the normalization of Israel-UAE ties
(Brookings) Natan Sachs , Director and Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy: Normalization between Israel and the UAE is an excellent thing, in and of itself. It’s high time these countries have open, normal relations. But the context is of course key: the Israeli plan to annex parts of the West Bank, along the lines to be delineated by the U.S. and Israel after the release of Trump administration plan. The UAE-Israeli-U.S. deal allows everyone to climb down: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can avoid the terrible mistake of annexation while claiming he got something big for it (he did!). The UAE can claim it prevented annexation from happening — from UAE Ambassador Yousef Otaiba’s Hebrew-language op-ed warning of the move, to the big carrot of diplomatic normalization. Trump gets to avoid the annexation he himself sanctioned, and all the complications it could have produced, while showing a big win for two of his favorite allies.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy: Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem each had their own good reasons for finding a way to open the door to formal relations, but there’s no question the announcement today is also a boon to Donald Trump as he faces a re-election with few concrete accomplishments to his name and many policy failures. Still, the White House should not take too much comfort from this outcome: Among other things, Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Muhammed bin Zayed (MBZ) have now positioned themselves well for the possibility of a post-Trump Washington. Netanyahu has taken off the table a step that the Democratic presidential candidate has said he firmly opposes, and for which other Democrats in Congress are threatening to impose consequences. And MBZ has taken a step that can only win praise and plaudits from any incoming U.S. administration, while separating his nation from Saudi Arabia in the minds of Democrats who are ill-disposed to Riyadh. It seems both Bibi and MBZ have placed their bets for November.
The big losers in today’s announcement, of course, are the Palestinians — who are supposed to be grateful at being spared a de jure annexation of territory in the West Bank that many would say has been in place de facto for years already. Abu Dhabi, like Anwar Sadat’s Egypt in 1978, is putting its national interests above Arab solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The Emiratis are betting they can easily weather the storm of unwelcome reactions in the Arab world — and they have far more reason than Sadat did to make that judgment.
UAE Strikes Peace Deal With Israel, Sells Out Palestinians
Since its founding in 1971, the UAE had withheld recognition from Israel due to its occupation of Palestinian territories. … But in 2020, the Emirati leadership has more use for warm relations with Israel than they do for the Palestinian cause. The UAE and Israel are both wealthy nations with a shared interest in countering Iranian regional influence. The rising generation of Gulf royals have less personal attachment to Palestinian nationhood than many of their forebears. And Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) feels secure enough in his power to flout domestic public opinion on a matter of foreign policy.
The UAE’s price for providing Israel with this recognition — and providing its embattled leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, with a political victory — was markedly cheap. The Israeli government did not pledge to recognize Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank. It did not promise to halt or even slow the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Rather, Israel agreed that it will not illegally annex its settlements in the West Bank, in wanton defiance of international law and opinion — for a little while.
Iran and Turkey denounce UAE over deal with Israel
Tehran says deal to establish full diplomatic ties is ‘dagger in the backs of the Palestinian people’

4 July
Over 30,000 Israelis Ordered Into Quarantine as Coronavirus Digital Tracking Resumes
Some say they were at home at the time in question, but they have no means of appealing the order which came after Knesset temporarily allowed Shin Bet assistance to locate suspected patients
Like Trump, Netanyahu Is Running Into the Brick Wall of Coronavirus Reality
The resurging coronavirus pandemic, annexation delay, economic slump and his own unforced errors are making snap elections less attractive by the day

30 June – 1 July
Gwynne Dyer: Netanyahu stalls
The problem with annexation is both national and personal. Since Israel already controls the entire West Bank militarily, and effectively treats the third of the territory that has been taken by Jewish settlers as part of Israel, there’s not much to be gained by annexation, and the costs are high.
The ‘two-state solution,’ in which an independent Palestinian mini-state shares historic Palestine with the far larger and more powerful ‘Jewish national state’ of Israel, has in principle been the goal of Israeli-Arab peace talks for almost three decades now. Even though it is really long dead.
It was Netanyahu who killed it, the first time he was prime minister back in 1996-99, but he was careful not to put a stake through its heart. The two-state solution was the ‘threat’ he used to mobilize the growing right-wing majority in Israel to vote for him, posing as ‘Mr Security’ who would never let it happen.
Eventually Netanyahu added another threat to his electoral rhetoric, in the form of an Iran allegedly always on the brink of getting nuclear weapons. He even seems to believe in that one. But the two-state ‘threat’ always remained an indispensable part of his sales pitch, so he must have watched the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in 2016 with mixed emotions.
First, annexation is illegal, and might trigger sanctions and boycotts against Israel in other countries. Secondly, it might lead to a new uprising by the several million Palestinians who live in the occupied areas, and a rupture in relations with Israel’s increasingly friendly Arab neighbours, like Jordan, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps more importantly for Netanyahu, a large-scale annexation of the occupied territory would eliminate the mythical ‘two-state’ threat that has been his greatest political asset — and deprive him of the ability to dangle the prospect of annexation before the settler block again in future elections. He prefers the status quo, and he is now stalling in the hope that he may be able to avoid keeping his promises.
Delay Appears Likely In Israel’s Plans To Annex Parts Of West Bank
For weeks, observers of Israel and the Palestinian territories have had July 1 circled on the calendar. Yet, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous suggestions, it appears that the date will pass without a formal announcement concerning Israel’s plans for annexing part of the occupied West Bank.
“It seems unlikely to me that this will happen today,” said Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of the Blue and White party, which partnered with Netanyahu’s Likud in an uneasy coalition government earlier this year.
Netanyahu’s Annexation Throws 72 Years of Israeli Diplomacy Down the Drain
The proposed land grab undermines long-held support for direct talks, opposition to unilateral actions and efforts to refute analogies with apartheid South Africa (Haaretz – pay wall)

12 June
Israel annexation: UAE ambassador warns of setbacks in first direct address
Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, has written to the Israeli public to lay out the significant impact its government’s annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley will have regionally
In an article published in Hebrew by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, Mr Al Otaiba, also a Minister of State, highlighted the risks to regional stability and Israel’s efforts to build ties with Arab states if the government pressed ahead with a plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and illegal settlements across the West Bank.
“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE,” Mr Al Otaiba wrote.
In recent years there has been significant speculation that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making inroads to normalise ties with several Arab states.
But Mr Al Otaiba made it clear that annexation would pour cold water on any such bid.

9 June
Israel’s High Court Strikes Down West Bank Land-grab Law as ‘Unconstitutional’
The Law for the Regularization of Settlement in Judea and Samaria has been frozen since its approval in 2017 pending High Court ruling
(Haaretz) Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered on Tuesday to nullify a law that would legalize the status of settlements partially built on privately owned Palestinian land under the claim that it is “unconstitutional.”
The “” was approved in February 2017. It was meant to allow the use of privately-owned Palestinian land to build Israeli settlements and to legalize outposts and structures erected on such soil. The law was frozen shortly after its approval in an agreement between the state and until the High Court ruled on the matter.
In her ruling, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said that the law “seeks to retroactively legalize illegal acts perpetrated by a specific population in the region whilst harming the rights of another.”

It didn’t start out as a social experiment; but proved to be a hugely successful one. It should be repeated over and over.
I love this story.

‘Everybody’s Getting Along Here’: How ‘Hotel Corona’ United Israelis And Palestinians

27 May
Israeli Annexation Explained: What Is Netanyahu Planning for the West Bank and What Does It Mean
(Haaretz) Based on his agreement with Gantz, Netanyahu will be able to commence West Bank annexation plans on July 1. Will the U.S. require Israel to implement the less favorable parts of Trump’s Mideast plan as well, and what are the consequences for the Palestinians?
… According to the Trump plan itself and senior U.S. officials, including Pompeo, Israeli annexation is dependent on acceptance of the entire plan, especially its agreement to conduct direct negotiations with the Palestinians for at least four years. During this period, Israel is asked to freeze all construction and demolitions in the territory earmarked for the Palestinian state, as well as possibly in other areas. The plan also includes the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem neighborhoods and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
All these clauses are vehemently opposed by the settler leadership, which sees the plan as a significant compromise on its “Greater Israel” vision. It is deliberating whether to support annexation in the hope that the rest will never come to fruition. The plan also includes a long list of conditions the Palestinians must fulfill. As U.S. Ambassador David Friedman put it, there would only be a Palestinian state “when the Palestinians become Canadians.”
However, while the U.S. administration has repeatedly stressed that Israel must accept the entire plan in order to annex, the committee drawing up the borders for annexation has already done a lot of work. In other words, practically speaking, both Israel and the United States are preparing to carry out a unilateral annexation.
Army Chief Is Preparing IDF for Violence in West Bank Over July Annexation
Defense sources in Israel say that in contrast to previous periods of tension, the break between PA security apparatus and its Israeli counterparts is more significant this time

23-24 May
Netanyahu Corruption Trial Begins, Taking Israel Into Uncharted Territory
(NYT) The prime minister’s trial is expected to last a year or more, with the first witnesses not expected to testify for months. He has long maintained his innocence.
… good-government experts warn, if the accusations against Mr. Netanyahu boil down to conflicts of interest, those are nothing compared with the perceived conflicts that could arise when the prime minister is simultaneously leading the nation and fighting for his freedom.
“If, God forbid, we will have a war, is it going to be because there is a security threat, or because this is going to be a wag-the-dog kind of moment that you want to disrupt public opinion?” said Prof. Yuval Shany, a legal scholar at Hebrew University and the Israel Democracy Institute.
What To Know As Israel’s Netanyahu Goes On Trial For Corruption Charges
(NPR) He was his country’s most powerful man. Time magazine crowned him “king of Israel.” But he couldn’t win over Israel’s unforgiving free press. So he is accused of buying his way inside the newsroom of a leading news site, secretly dictating flattering coverage that helped him win reelection twice.
That allegation is at the center of an unprecedented courtroom drama that kicked off Sunday in Jerusalem: the State of Israel v. Benjamin Netanyahu.
The longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, after 11 uninterrupted years in office, entered the courtroom charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. If convicted, he could spend several years behind bars.
… Netanyahu is not required by law to step down after being indicted and has refused to resign. The conservative leader denies wrongdoing and alleges there is a left-wing witch hunt against him, a claim that has sparked an ugly culture war against Israel’s judiciary, law enforcement and media.

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