Wednesday, July 19, 2023

In the West Bank, Israeli forces issued stop-work orders for 4 homes and an agricultural structure in Yasuf. Israeli forces also arrested the son of the PA governor of Jericho, Jihad Abu al-Asal, during a house raid in Aqabat Jaber refugee camp. 7 others were arrested during late-night raids in Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Ramallah, and Jenin. In East Jerusalem, Israeli settlers toured the Haram al-Sharif compound. (WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA 7/19; PCHR 7/27; UNOCHA 7/29)

Israeli finance minister and minister in charge of settlement policy at the Israeli Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he is working on a plan to allow Israel to demolish buildings in Area A and Area B that are determined by Israel to be national security threats. Smotrich said he expects to bring the plan to the Israeli cabinet later in July. He also said he plans to create a border police unit that will focus solely on enforcing construction laws in the West Bank. Finally, Smotrich said he is working with the Jewish National Fund to plant 10,000 dunams (2,500 acres) of land with trees in the West Bank. (HA 7/19)

Israel said it would allow all U.S. citizens, including Palestinian Americans living in Gaza and the West Bank, entry to Israel in order to comply with U.S. demands for including Israel in the Visa Waiver Program. On the website of the U.S. embassy in Israel, it was stipulated that the “updated travel policies will allow U.S. citizens, without regard to national original, dual nationality, ethnicity, or religion, including Palestinian Americans on the Palestinian population registry, to travel to and from Israel via all ports of entry, including Ben Gurion Airport.” However, on the Israeli website with information for Palestinians Americans in Gaza and the West Bank it was stipulated that a “US citizen who is a Gaza Strip resident may exit abroad and return to the Gaza Strip through the Allenby Bridge Crossing. Transit to and from the Allenby Bridge Crossing must be by means of the organized shuttles of the Palestinian Authority. Requests for exiting abroad must be submitted to the Palestinian Civil Committee 45 workdays in advance to the requested exit date. The consent to requests is subject to security approval.” And Americans wanting to visit “first-degree relatives” in Gaza would only be allowed to visit Gaza once a year. The trial program started on 7/20. U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the U.S. will monitor Israel’s compliance with the U.S. demands and make a decision regarding its admission to the Visa Waiver Program on 9/30. The Israeli announcement came after Israel and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding on the conditions set by the U.S. earlier in the day. (ALM, AP, AX, REU, TOI 7/19; AJ, Israel National Digital Agency, MEE, QDS, TOI, TOI, U.S. Embassy in Israel 7/20; MEE 7/27; AJ 7/28)

Hamas said it had begun paying the June salaries of 50,000 public sector workers after a 3-week delay due to a delay in receiving monthly Qatari funds. A Hamas official said Hamas had received half of the Qatari funds and was able to get a loan from a local bank to pay out the salaries. (REU 7/19)

The Turkish presidency announced that PA president Mahmoud Abbas will visit President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 7/25, while Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit on 7/28. The Netanyahu visit was later postponed due to his heart surgery on 7/23. (ALM 7/20; AJ 7/21; WAFA 7/23)

In Syria, Israeli airstrikes killed 2 Syrian soldiers near Damascus. (AJ, ALM, AN, AP, HA, MEE, REU 7/19)

Israeli president Isaac Herzog addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress, thanking the U.S. for its support for Israel’s normalization deals and Israel’s pursuit of normalization with Saudi Arabia. Herzog also said that Israel had taken “bold steps towards peace,” but claimed that these steps were undermined by Palestinian “terror” against Israelis. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) boycotted Herzog’s address. Sanders said “[i]t is no great secret that I strongly oppose the policies of Israel’s right wing, anti-Palestinian government. We provide them with $3.8 billion in aid. We have a right to demand they respect human rights.” (AJ 7/17; AJ, AJ, ALM, F24, HA, HA, HA, HA, REU 7/19)

U.S. vice president Kamala Harris and President Herzog announced a joint U.S.-Israel climate initiative that will see the 2 countries invest $35 million each in “climate-smart agriculture” in the Middle East and Africa. The initiative was aimed at strengthening cooperation between Israel and Middle Eastern and African countries. (AX 7/19)