Quarterly Updates for (16 Aug 2016 — 15 Nov 2016)

This quarter marked the 1st anniversary of the eruption of violence, or habba (surge or revolt in English), that began in East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the Jewish High Holidays in 9/2015. Although protests, random attacks, and other acts of resistance characterizing the habba continued this quarter, violence did not augment in the wake of this year’s High Holidays. Palestinian and Israeli casualty rates remained relatively consistent with the previous 2 quarters. The Israeli govt. intensified its crackdown on the oPt, however, as newly appointed defense minister (DM) Avigdor Lieberman ushered in new policies reinforcing the occupation.

The Israeli govt. and Palestinian leadership made no progress on a return to peace talks, despite repeated interventions from various mbrs. of the international community, including a new Russian effort. At the same time, Israeli intransigence put the French peace initiative on hold. The Palestinians redoubled their efforts to achieve justice in international institutions, including the UNSC.



Near-daily protests, clashes, and random, uncoordinated attacks resulted in the deaths of 23 Palestinians, marking a slight increase over the 18 recorded the previous quarter (see JPS 46 [1]). While the number of Palestinian deaths was significantly lower than in comparable periods for late 2015 and early 2016 (see JPS 45 [2–4]), the overall death toll since the beginning of the surge reached 250. Meanwhile, 2 Israelis were killed this quarter, bringing the total number of surge-related Israeli deaths to 32. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 640 Palestinians and 33 Israelis were injured as a result of conflict in 8–10/2016, a considerable decrease from the previous 2 quarters, when the corresponding injury figures were 709 Palestinians and 60 Israelis in 5–7/2016, and 1,148 Palestinians and 56 Israelis in 2–4/2016.

Motives for individual attacks were seldom clear and have been hotly disputed throughout the course of the habba. While Israel’s administrative detentions and punitive village closures, as well as withholding of Palestinian corpses killed during alleged attacks on Israelis, and extrajudicial killings all continued apace, there were few high-profile episodes of intense violence during the 2d half of 2016. Both Israeli and Palestinian media turned their focus to other issues, helping tensions to ease.

Carrots and Sticks

In addition to ramping up the collective punishment of Palestinian communities in the oPt, Lieberman outlined a new strategy for administering the occupation this quarter, clearly signaling a change in Defense Ministry relations with the Palestinian public and the PA.

Unveiling his new “carrot-and-stick” policy during a press conference in Tel Aviv on 8/17, Lieberman announced that he planned to implement a “differential policy” whereby areas of the oPt with a higher frequency of anti-Israeli attacks would be subject to more severe punishments, including arrests, movement restrictions, and limits on construction, than other areas, which would be eligible for permits for “civilian projects.” An example was Lieberman’s approval of the construction of a new hospital in Beit Sahour and a new industrial zone in w. Nablus. The DM also indicated his intention to sideline PA pres. Mahmoud Abbas by establishing “personal dialogue” channels with other Palestinian interlocutors. This tactic included the establishment of a new Arabic-language news site administered by the Coordination of Govt. Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT) of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Scheduled to launch by 1/2018, the news site was set to receive a NIS 10 m. budget allocation (approx. $3 m.) to fulfill its mission to report news “from our [Israel’s] perspective,” according to Lieberman.

The Palestinian govt. and public were quick to reject Lieberman’s announcement. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Exec. Comm. mbr. Ahmad Majdalani described the plan (8/22) as “a renewed attempt to revive the old Village Leagues . . . in order to bypass the Palestinian leadership, replacing it with new Palestinian partners.” Majdalani predicted that the plan would fail, just as earlier incarnations of it had when, in the late 1970s, Israel canceled local Palestinian municipal elections and created co-opted Village Leagues in their place (see Yehuda Litani’s article “‘Village Leagues’: What Kind of Carrot?” in JPS 11 [3] for context and background). Majdalani called on Lieberman to focus instead on implementing existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements. On 8/25, the Private Sector Coordinating Council (PSCC) issued a joint statement rejecting the “carrot-and-stick” approach: “We view the policy proposed to directly contact Palestinian figures, businessmen, and academics and bypass the [PA] and its legitimate leadership under elected Pres. Mahmoud Abbas as amateurish, completely humiliating, underestimating our intellect, and reminiscent of old ideas that are null and void.” The PSCC is comprised of reps. of 11 different institutions, including PALTRADE, the Palestinian Federation of Business Associations, and the Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

Later in the quarter, as tensions grew between Lieberman and Israeli prime minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu on 1 side, and Israel’s pro-settler extreme right on the other, over the evacuation of an illegal settlement outpost (see “Amona” below), right-wing mbrs. of Netanyahu’s coalition criticized Lieberman’s policies. Haaretz reported (10/27) that Israel’s security cabinet had voted on 10/5 to approve a series of Palestinian plans for new construction projects in Area C of the West Bank, but had kept the decision secret for fear of sparking an Israeli settler attack on the projects. After the news came out, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel, a mbr. of the rightwing Jewish Home Party, blamed Lieberman for creating a “miserable reality, in which the settlers get sticks and the carrots go to the Palestinians.” Ariel called for the full cabinet to vote on the Lieberman-approved plans, hoping his party would scupper them, but the vote was not held.

Ariel’s accusations notwithstanding, the “stick” aspect of Lieberman’s new policy immediately affected Palestinians across the oPt. After killing 2 Palestinians allegedly responsible for ramming and stabbing attacks in the Hebron area on 9/16, the IDF said it would impose strict punishments on the attackers’ home villages, including Bani Na‘im, which the IDF had targeted for mos. before (see JPS 46 [1]). IDF troops carried out aggressive raids and house searches for days following the attacks, provoking further violent incidents and retaliatory restrictions on Palestinian movement (see Chronology for details).



Since winning his 4th term in office on 3/17/2015, and then forming the most rightwing ruling coalition in Israel’s history, Netanyahu has made it a priority to undermine his political opponents, including the Palestinian minority in Israel and Israel’s left-wing parties. This quarter witnessed a continuation of that strategy: Netanyahu authorized an investigation into the finances of a non-Zionist party and led a new effort to marginalize all non-Zionist parties in the Knesset.

On 9/18, the Israeli police launched a series of raids across Israel to arrest 36 Balad Party activists, including party chair Awad Abdel Fattah, for allegedly mismanaging party funds. Dubbing the investigation and arrest campaign “Case 274,” the police alleged that Balad officials, as well as their lawyers and accountants, conspired to misrepresent the origin of some party funds by claiming these came from local donors, when they actually originated abroad. Balad, 1 of the 3 non-Zionist parties comprising the Knesset’s Joint List, released a statement on 9/18 denying the accusations: “The Israeli authorities have fabricated new allegations to smear Balad and harm its political work.” Balad countered the police’s allegation with an accusation of its own: “When the Likud Party could not account for 2 m. shekels [approx. $530,000], the state comptroller imposed a 100,000 shekel fine [approx. $26,000].” But in the case of the Joint List, the police had arrested dozens of officials, the statement argued, going on to charge that the “frantic campaign” of arrests was a “pretext” for targeting Balad as “part of a plot by the right-wing govt. [to] bring us back to the era when a good Arab was an Arab who adhered to govt. policies.” By 9/26, only 6 of the party activists remained in custody, but the investigation and litigation continued through the end of the quarter. Atty. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit authorized the questioning of 2 top Balad leaders, Knesset members (MKs) Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi (Haaretz, 9/29). After their interrogation, Zahalka accused the police of taking “another step in the political persecution of Balad and the Arab public since the last election.”

As the investigation into the Balad Party’s finances continued, the rift between Zionist and non-Zionist parties in the Knesset widened, particularly during former Israeli PM Shimon Peres’s funeral on 9/30. While dignitaries and leaders from around the world, including Abbas, attended the funeral at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, none of the Joint List’s 13 MKs did. Explaining their boycott earlier in the day, Chair Ayman Odeh cited Peres’s “complicated” history with the Palestinians. While he offered condolences to Peres’s family, he said that he would not participate in a “national day of mourning in which I have no place; not in the narrative, not in the symbols that exclude me, not in the stories of Peres as a man who built up Israel’s defenses.”

Taking issue with the Joint List’s boycott, Israel’s right-wing ruling coalition retaliated. Shortly after the funeral, Lieberman declared that the Joint List had crossed a line. He formally requested that all the ruling parties boycott the party in the Knesset when the winter session started on 10/30. Netanyahu came out in support of his DM’s initiative on 10/9. Joint List officials, however, were resolute in their decision. Odeh, responding to Netanyahu’s announcement on 10/9, said “Lieberman’s initiatives to undermine the political representation of Arab citizens boomerang on him and only . . . strengthens [the Joint List]. We will continue to work in all arenas, including the parliamentary arena, to advance peace and equality.” The next day, Lieberman promised (10/10) to treat Odeh as if he were not a mbr. of the Knesset, “but at most, a mbr. of the Palestinian Council in Ramallah,” heightening tensions in the Knesset as the quarter came to an end.

Right-wing MKs introduced 2 major pieces of legislation this quarter that target the Palestinian minority and persecute coalition opponents. The Knesset’s Ministerial Comm. for Legislation approved (11/13) a bill barring mosques from broadcasting the call to prayer, sending it on to the full plenum for a 1st reading. In addition, the Internal Affairs Comm. approved (11/7) 8–5 a bill authorizing the govt. to bar supporters of any boycott against Israel from entering the country. Israel’s interior minister already has such a right, and although many pro-boycott activists had already been turned away this measure would formalize those decisions and authorize the creation of a list of designated anti-Israel individuals to be barred, absent a waiver from the interior minister on a caseby-case basis. The bill passed its 1st reading in the Knesset on 11/14.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced a similar anti-boycott bill last quarter (see JPS 46 [1]), but failed to articulate its specific provisions. The new bill gave Erdan, Deri, and their supporters a legislative vehicle for their anti-boycott efforts, and analysts estimated it has a good chance of being passed. The new anti-boycott bill is best understood in the context of the so-called NGO bill that passed into law on 7/11. That bill required nongovernmental organizations receiving more than half of their funding from public foreign entities to reveal their backers in certain situations. Right-wing lawmakers justified both initiatives as efforts to defend Israel from meddling by foreign interests although they could also be used to silence opponents of the right-wing govt.



The past year witnessed an intensification of international efforts to facilitate a return to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The French led the 1st major initiative, culminating in an international conference in Paris on 6/3 that had no discernible impact on the current impasse. As the French opted to carry on without Israeli participation (see “Broader Diplomatic Initiatives” below), Egyptian pres. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered to mediate talks between Abbas and Netanyahu amid the Israeli govt. reshuffle last quarter. Since neither Netanyahu nor Abbas evinced any interest in compromising on basic positions, the Egyptian initiative, like the French one, faded into the background (see JPS 46 [1]). Russia entered the arena as a new player this quarter, with similar results, and by 11/2016 the Israelis and Palestinians were no closer to resuming direct talks on final-status issues.

In the opening weeks of the quarter, the original version of al-Sisi’s initiative was clearly faltering. On 8/19, Israel Radio reported that Abbas told a visiting Egyptian delegation in Ramallah that he was willing to meet with Netanyahu in Cairo, so long as the Egyptian initiative did not replace the French effort (which Netanyahu had already rejected) and Israel agreed to a series of conditions that Netanyahu had consistently rebuffed. Abbas told the visiting Egyptians that he would attend if Israel enforced a freeze on settlement construction and released the 4th tranche of prisoners that Israel had agreed to free in connection with the so-called Kerry negotiations in 3–4/2014 (see JPS 43 [4]). Netanyahu had been open to al-Sisi’s effort, but demanded that talks open without any “preconditions.”

Focus soon shifted away from Egypt, however. After an Israeli delegation met with their Egyptian counterparts in Cairo on 8/21, al-Sisi revealed that he had recently spoken with Russian pres. Vladimir Putin about hosting peace talks in Moscow. Putin reportedly agreed, precipitating mos. of speculation and posturing. While the Israelis appeared open to the Moscow plan—Netanyahu spoke with Putin by phone on 8/23 and had repeatedly said he was open to meeting with Abbas in previous weeks—the Palestinians were hesitant to embrace the idea. Majdalani said on 8/28, “A few weeks ago, they were talking about Cairo and now they’re talking about Moscow, and perhaps in the future, they’ll talk about someplace else. . . . But changing the venue won’t change the Palestinian position, and there are agreements Netanyahu must fulfill, like freezing settlement construction, freeing the 4th tranche of veteran prisoners, and setting a deadline for ending the occupation. Otherwise, any meeting will be superfluous and won’t lead to any progress.” Majdalani also complained that rumors about a bilateral summit were undermining the ongoing French peace initiative.

Majdalani’s comments illustrated the Palestinians’ ambivalence toward the Russian effort. Abbas and his aides were clearly interested in a meeting but were not willing to dilute their positions. On 8/29, Abbas’s office released a statement reaffirming that he was willing to take part in any peace initiative aimed at a “comprehensive and fair solution.” Majdalani himself noted that Russia would be a more “credible” and “balanced” mediator than the U.S., according to the Israeli press on 9/2.

The Russian initiative picked up steam before falling apart in 9/2016. Netanyahu met with Russia’s Dep. Foreign Minister (FM) for Middle East Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov on 9/5 to discuss the effort. Afterward, his office released a statement saying that he was “always willing to meet Abbas without preconditions, which is why he is considering the Russian pres.’s proposal and the timing of a meeting.” At a press conference in Warsaw the next day, Abbas said that Putin proposed holding the meeting in Moscow on 9/9 and that he had planned to fly there directly from Poland, but that Netanyahu asked for it to be postponed in his 9/5 meeting with Bogdanov. Netanyahu confirmed (9/6) the meeting’s postponement without offering an explanation; he merely reiterated his willingness to meet with Abbas “without preconditions at any time.” A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed this chronology of events on 9/8, indicating that Abbas and Netanyahu had not yet agreed to a new date. Despite the meager results, she said that Russia was “pleased with how our initiative was received.”

Although both Abbas and Netanyahu publicly stated their interest in Putin’s offer on multiple occasions throughout the rest of the quarter, and despite Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev’s assertion (11/11) that it was “still on the table,” no further progress was made, leaving the Palestinians to continue to seek justice in international institutions (see “Palestinians’ Unilateral Efforts” below).



While Abbas and Netanyahu parried with international efforts to bring them back to the negotiating table for final-status talks, lowerlevel Israeli and Palestinian officials reached 2 minor agreements this quarter. Although neither had any impact on the occupation, they did resolve some lingering differences.

COGAT chief Yoav Mordechai and PA minister of civil affairs Hussein al-Sheikh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on 9/4 to improve postal service in the oPt. Taking effect on 9/11, the MoU allowed the PA to administer international mail delivery between the oPt and the rest of the world via the Allenby Bridge border crossing. Previously, mail designated for the oPt would 1st go to Israel and then transfer to local post offices in the West Bank and Gaza. The PA and Israel had agreed in 2008 that the PA should have direct postal relations with the rest of the world, but that agreement never went into effect.

The 2d agreement resolved a more contentious issue: Palestinians’ unpaid debts to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) and the IEC’s retaliatory power cuts to areas of the West Bank (see JPS 45 [4]). On 9/13, the PA and Israel reached an agreement to administer the repayment of the Palestinians’ debts, which reportedly totaled nearly NIS 2 b. (approx. $530 m.). The PA agreed to pay a little over ¼ of the debt immediately and Israel agreed to forgive another ¼, leaving the rest for future repayment. Furthermore, the PA was set to assume control over power lines supplying major West Bank cities for the 1st time since 1994. The IEC announced (10/5) that the PA had transferred NIS 590 m. (approx. $160 m.) on 10/2, and that the remaining debt would be settled in 48 installments.



Palestinians’ Unilateral Efforts

As Netanyahu indefinitely delayed a meeting with Abbas in Moscow, the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership resumed their efforts to obtain justice in international institutions. The PA resuscitated a dormant campaign for a new UNSC res. condemning Israel’s settlements; ratcheted up their call for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to sanction Israeli settlement soccer clubs; launched new battles against Israeli abuses, for recognition in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and to assert Palestinian rights as a UN non-mbr. observer state at Interpol, the intergovernmental police organization.


The Palestinians had suspended their push for a UNSC res. after the U.S. came out firmly against the draft they were circulating in 4/2016 (see JPS 45 [4]), but with U.S. pres. Barack Obama nearing the end of his 2d term, reports of a possible change of position cropped up with increasing frequency (see “United States” below). Encouraged by such reports, PA officials resumed their efforts at the UNSC this quarter. The 1st hint of this came on 9/1, when a PA spokesperson said that a recent Israeli announcement of settlement growth demanded “international intervention” and that the Arab ministerial group, which the Palestinians organized the last time they made a serious push at the UNSC (see JPS 45 [3, 4]), would make “contacts at the international level to speed up convening a UNSC session that should pass a res. to stop settlements.” During his address to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 9/22, Abbas himself pledged to present the UNSC with such a res.

After Abbas’s announcement, the Palestinians started making progress at the UNSC in 10/2016, provoking a U.S. and Israeli backlash. PA FM Riyad al-Maliki said (10/4) that the Arab states had agreed to start consultations with mbrs. of the UNSC in New York in support of an anti-settlement res. by the end of 10/2016. A week later, he announced (10/10) that the UNSC had agreed to hold an informal sharing of views on 10/14, and he hoped the Arab states would be able to finalize a draft res. by the end of the mo. In the lead-up to the 10/14 meeting, Palestinian UN amb. Riyad Mansour said (10/13) he had met with around half of the UNSC’s mbrs. in the past 10 days and that he would meet with the rest soon, before reporting back to the Arab ministerial comm. It was only after the 10/14 meeting that Israel and the U.S. got involved. Netanyahu accused B’Tselem and Americans for Peace Now, anti-occupation groups that made presentations at the meeting, of joining the “chorus of slander” against Israel. Other Israeli officials echoed him, including Israel’s amb. to the UN, Danny Danon, who said (10/19) he planned to demand that UNICEF and 2 other UN bodies that allegedly fund B’Tselem to end their support. Although U.S. rep. to the UN David Pressman defended B’Tselem and called on all govts. to “protect and create an atmosphere” for all voices to be heard, the U.S. govt. did not shift its basic position on an anti-settlement res. According to a senior Palestinian official on 10/20, both the U.S. and Egypt had warned the Palestinian leadership behind closed doors against pushing for a UNSC res. until after the 11/8 U.S. presidential election in order to avert a U.S. veto.


After the Israeli authorities obstructed the 2016 Palestine Cup last quarter (see JPS 46 [1]), the Palestinian leadership resumed efforts to convince soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, to sanction Israel. The 2015 effort stemmed from Palestinian complaints about Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian soccer players and the 6 Israeli soccer teams that play in West Bank settlements. FIFA established a monitoring comm. to follow up on the Palestinian grievances on 5/29/2015 (see JPS 45 [1])

Led by Palestinian Football Association chair Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinians called on FIFA’s leadership to agree, at their upcoming council meeting in 10/2016, to bring a res. to FIFA’s next congress in 5/2017 barring the 6 Israeli settlement-based teams from playing in the Israel Football Association (IFA). Their efforts were boosted on 9/26 when Human Rights Watch released a report concluding that the presence of Israeli teams in the settlements violated FIFA’s policies barring games from being held on the territory of another FIFA mbr. without permission. Rajoub met with FIFA secy.-gen. Fatma Samoura in late 9/2016 in Zurich, and she was receptive to the proposed res. Meanwhile, Israeli officials said (10/29) that they had launched several quiet diplomatic measures to block the Palestinians’ efforts.

In the days leading up to the council meeting, FIFA pres. Gianni Infantino said (10/6) that resolving the dispute over Israeli settlement teams was a “priority.” He met (10/5) with the head of the FIFA monitoring comm., Tokyo Sexwale, to figure out how to proceed. Meanwhile, Rajoub raised the stakes, threatening to petition the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne if FIFA did not compel Israel to relocate the 6 teams or suspend them from IFA: “Our message to FIFA is clear,” he said. “The time has come to decide this issue and bring an end to Palestinian suffering, and thereby grant freedom of action to Palestinian sport and football, on 1 hand, and stop giving legitimacy to clubs active in the settlements, on the other.” Rajoub spoke out because the council had reportedly caved to Israeli pressure and agreed only to discuss the issue on 10/13 and 10/14, rather than hold a vote or make a decision. An Israeli official said as much on 10/12: “Until a week and a half ago, we were very worried about what was likely to happen at the FIFA council meeting. . . . Now, we’re more relaxed.” Rajoub’s worries were confirmed when the council delayed (10/14) a decision on the issue, opting instead to wait until Sexwale could deliver a full report. Ultimately, FIFA neither held a vote nor made a decision this quarter, postponing the issue to the 5/2017 congress.


Palestinian efforts at UNESCO were far more fruitful, although they had no major impact in practical terms. Instead, they advanced Palestinian calls for recognition and further exacerbated tensions between the UN and Israel.

With support from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan, the Palestinians advanced a UNESCO res. titled “Occupied Palestine” early in the quarter that condemned Israel’s discriminatory administration of Haram al-Sharif and, according to Israeli officials, ignored Jewish connections to the site (see Doc. A1). UNESCO’s executive board had adopted a similar res. on 10/21/2015 in the wake of the habba (see JPS 45 [2]). Over Israeli objections, UNESCO approved this res. as well by consensus on 10/18. Both major party U.S. presidential candidates, the White House, and Israeli officials from across the political spectrum criticized the agency for downplaying Jewish ties to the site. Education Minister Naftali Bennett pledged (10/14) to suspend Israeli ties with UNESCO, denouncing the res. as a reward for “diplomatic terror.” Netanyahu went 1 step further, announcing (10/19) that the Israeli govt. would assist a settler-led archaeological project in East Jerusalem in response. The Temple Mount Sifting Project, as it is known, aimed to sort through debris from an Islamic Waqf excavation in 1999 (Ma‘an News Agency, 10/22).

UNESCO’s World Heritage Comm. approved a similar res. in a secret ballot the following week. The comm. met on 10/24–26 to wrap up business from the meeting that was cut short by the attempted coup in Turkey in 7/2016 (see JPS 46 [1]). Ultimately, the Israelis and their U.S. allies convinced reps. from Croatia and Tanzania to call for a vote on the Haram al-Sharif res., forcing the Palestinians and Jordanians to soften the wording to maintain consensus (they had been hoping to pass the res. without a vote on the basis of unanimity). As a result, the new draft referred to the Western Wall without quotation marks, removed the Muslim name for the wall, and removed the term “occupying” in reference to Israel. Because it still did not include the Jewish name for Haram al-Sharif or highlight Jewish ties to the site, the Israeli govt. rejected it. Netanyahu recalled (10/26) Israel’s amb. to UNESCO for consultation and only sent him back on 11/8 for a conditional 2–3-week period. “If we don't receive a positive response to our demands,” a senior Israeli official said (11/8), “the amb. will return to Israel.”


The Palestinians hoped to leverage their non-mbr. observer status at the UN and to secure Interpol’s support in prosecuting Palestinian criminals. They won observer status at Interpol in 2011 and applied for full membership in 2015 in the context of several international recognitions of Palestinian statehood (see JPS 44 [2, 3, and 4]). Because Interpol’s bylaws require an applicant to garner a minimum 2/3 vote from the UNGA’s 190 mbrs., and because 130 countries had already recognized Palestine, admission seemed within reach. It was not: only 56 mbrs. voted in favor of Palestinian membership, with 62 opposing and 37 abstaining. Netanyahu lauded (11/8) Israel’s diplomats for their “very intensive work” preceding the vote, but Interpol’s leadership was unhappy with the process. The agency’s exec. comm. released (11/8) a statement announcing the appointment of an official to devise a “clear and transparent process with a defined set of criteria for membership” to be considered at the agency’s 2017 meeting in Beijing.

Other Diplomatic Efforts


This quarter witnessed developments in the preliminary examination initiated by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on 1/16/2015. The ICC is investigating alleged Israeli war crimes committed in the oPt in the summer of 2014.

After the IDF’s legal division announced (8/24) that it was closing 7 of its ongoing internal investigations into alleged war crimes perpetrated during the Israeli assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, the PA called (8/25) on Bensouda to accelerate her examination on behalf of the victims of the alleged crimes. Of the 360 incidents reviewed by the IDF, only 24 had led to criminal investigations by 8/2016, and only 1 of those led to an indictment—on a count of theft.

A delegation of ICC officials led by Bensouda arrived (10/5) in Israel for a 5-day tour of the region. According to the ICC, the visit was an educational outreach trip to raise awareness about the ICC and the preliminary examination process. ICC officials explicitly stated (10/5) that the tour was not an effort to “engage in evidence collection in relation to any alleged crimes” or to “assess the adequacy of the respective legal systems to deal with crimes that fall within ICC jurisdiction.” According to Majdalani, the delegates refused to meet with the comm. established by Abbas to follow up on the ICC effort.

The Palestinians’ reaction to the ICC trip was mixed. Hamas released (10/8) a statement criticizing the UN court and calling the trip “pointless and useless. . . . It is regrettable that the ICC delegation yielded to the demands of the Israeli occupation to exclude the Gaza Strip from the delegation’s schedule, despite the fact that the Gaza Strip was the main site of Israeli crimes in 2014.” Meanwhile, PLO secy.-gen. Saeb Erekat welcomed (10/8) the ICC delegation, saying “this mission, by establishing and further solidifying a stable 2-way communication, will prove to be a crucial and indispensable component for the steadfast progression of the proceedings.”

A mo. after the trip, Bensouda’s office released (11/14) its annual report, including its 2d preliminary report on the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, noting that while Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, “it may be argued that Israel nonetheless remains an occupying power.” The report also noted that Israel annexed East Jerusalem outside the bounds of international law. As expected, the report did not include any conclusive statements about Bensouda’s intentions or the timeline of the ongoing preliminary examination.


This quarter, in the wake of the international summit in Paris on 6/3, the French peace initiative took a back seat to Egyptian and later Russian efforts to facilitate a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas. Despite Israel’s rejection of the French initiative, France continued with the 2d phase of its plan, organizing another peace conference to be held in Paris by the end of 2016. French FM Jean-Marc Ayrault reaffirmed the plan on 9/19 at a briefing on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting in New York, stating that France still intended to organize a follow-up conference to present a package of incentives to the Israelis and Palestinians in hopes of reaching a final peace agreement. Ayrault also acknowledged the Egyptian and Russian efforts, saying that “all efforts are in fact complementary of the French initiative.”

Although French and Palestinian attention focused elsewhere over the course of the quarter, both sides maintained support for the initiative. Al-Maliki said (10/10) that work on the French effort was ongoing, and French envoy Pierre Vimont visited Israel and the oPt in early 11/2016 to drum up support. Although Israel’s acting national security advisor Jacob Nagel and special envoy Yitzhak Molcho reiterated Israel’s opposition to the French peace initiative in a meeting with Vimont on 11/7, French diplomats confirmed (11/7) that they would not desist. While Erekat and Abbas reaffirmed support for the French initiative in a meeting with Vimont later that day in Ramallah, it was unclear what progress, if any, could be realized without Israeli participation (see “Palestinian Opinion” below).