Sunday, May 21, 2023

In the West Bank, Israeli settlers assaulted 2 Palestinian shepherds with pepper spray in al-Hama. 1 person rammed an Israeli soldier in Huwwara, lightly injuring the soldier. Israeli forces subsequently forced shops in Huwwara to close and set up flying checkpoints in the town. Israeli forces also razed 30 dunams of land planted with onions and eggplant and damaged water pipes in Nu’eima and a tract of land in ‘Asira al-Qibliya. Meanwhile, Israeli forces notified Palestinians in Tell, Jit, and Far’ata that Israel will seize 14.5 dunams (3.6 acres) to expand the Havat Gilad settlement outpost. In East Jerusalem, Israeli national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir toured the Haram al-Sharif compound, saying in a statement “[a]ll the threats from Hamas will not help them, we are in charge of Jerusalem and all of the land of Israel.” Ben-Gvir did not coordinate the tour with the Islamic Waqf. (AJ, AP, GDN, HA, HA, HA, MEE, QDS, REU, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA 5/21; HA 5/22; PCHR 5/25; UNOCHA 6/2)

In response to National Security Minister Ben-Gvir’s tour of the Haram al-Sharif compound, the PA said that he “will not bring about Israeli sovereignty over the complex,” warning that Ben-Gvir may ignite a religious war. Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Mauritania, and the UAE condemned Ben-Gvir’s tour and the U.S. expressed concern, calling it “provocative.” (AJ, HA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA, WAFA 5/21; HA, WAFA, WAFA 5/22)

The Israeli cabinet held a meeting in the controversial “Western Wall Tunnels” built under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Agreements were made at the meeting to allocate $16 million to the settler organization Western Wall Heritage Foundation and $8 million to the settler organization Elad Foundation. Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich forced through the removal of a discussion of a 5-year plan to improve life in East Jerusalem. (QDS, WAFA, WAFA 5/21; HA, PCN 5/22; HA 5/23)

Haaretz reported that the members of the Negev Forum will meet in Morocco on 6/25 and that Israel and the U.S. are working to add “an African country with a Muslim majority” to the summit. Israel’s Channel 13 News reported that Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE had asked Israel and the U.S. to change the forum’s name to something not related to Israel. Al Monitor reported that Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen believed that a breakthrough in Saudi-Israeli normalization can reached before the end of 2023. However, according to Israeli officials Saudi Arabia could demand a settlement freeze and commitments to Muslim control over the Haram al-Sharif compound. (AX 5/17; ALM 5/19; HA 5/21; ALM 5/23; AX 5/24)