Related Quarterly Updates

                In Israel the biggest political story relates to the Israeli attack on Gaza amid the cease-fire negotiations on 8 November (see Palestinian-Israeli Conflict and Intra-Palestinian Relations). On 14 November the Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned from his position because of the cease-fire agreement reached between Israel and Hamas which he called a “surrender to terror.” With his resignation he pulled his party Yisrael Beiteinu out of the governing coalition which prompted Naftali Bennett, the Israeli education minister and leader of the Habayit Hayehudi party, to request the defense portfolio on the following day, a request promptly rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Education Minister Bennett had indicated that he would leave the governing coalition if he did not get the defense minster position but ended up staying, leaving the governing coalition with a majority at the Knesset. However, on Monday 24 December Prime Minister Netanyahu ended up calling for early elections on 9 April 2019 instead of the planned elections in November 2019. Prime Minister Netanyahu cited difficulties governing with the small majority the governing coalition was left with after Defense Minister Lieberman took his party out of the coalition and that Israel was finishing up Operation Northern Shield (see below). With Defense Minister Lieberman’s resignation Prime Minister Netanyahu became the health minister, foreign minister, and defense minister in addition to being the Prime Minister.    

                In between Defense Minister Lieberman’s resignation and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for early elections, the Israeli police and securities authority recommended (12/2) indicting Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara for bribery and charges of corruption in what has become known as Case 4000. Later in December (12/19) the state prosecutor’s office also recommended indicting Netanyahu for Case 4000 in addition to Case 2000. Whether Prime Minister Netanyahu will be indicted is up to the Israeli attorney general. By the end of 2019 the attorney general had not made an official decision yet, however Haaretz reported that the early election process could slow down the attorney general’s decision. Case 4000 is the third of its kind this year brought against Prime Minister Netanyahu.   

                Also in the midst of election speculations Israel launched (12/4) what was dubbed Operation Northern Shield, an operation that according to Israeli officials sought to destroy Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon to Israel. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Ronen Manelis said that the IDF had been preparing for the operation for a “very long time.” Israeli opposition leaders, among others, questioned the timing of the operation as it was launched less than 2 days after Prime Minister Netanyahu was recommended to be indicted for corruption and amid the crumbling of his coalition. On the day that Operation Northern Shield was launched Prime Minister Netanyahu asked U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo for the U.S. to sanction Lebanon, a request that was denied. The operation that lasted through the end of the year caused altercations (12/17) with Lebanese soldiers as Israeli soldiers were rolling out barbed wire inside of Lebanon. The 2 sides were separated by United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon soldiers that intervened. On 19 December the United Nations Security Council held a session where both Lebanese and Israeli diplomats accused each other’s countries of breaching United Nations (UN) resolutions, Israel referring to the Hezbollah tunnels and Lebanon citing the IDF crossing the Blue Line into Lebanon. UN under-secretary for peacekeeping operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix confirmed at the session that tunnels did cross the Blue Line but further stated that none of them had exit points inside of Israeli territory. By the end of December, Israeli officials reported that they had located 5 tunnels in total.

                Also in December, Israel fired missiles at Damascus striking an arms depot. 3 Syrian soldiers were wounded in the attack that according to Haaretz was targeting an Iranian facility. The attack happened (12/25) less than a week after U.S. president Donald Trump announced we was pulling the U.S. troops out of Syria, a decision that made U.S. secretary of defense Jim Mattis resign (see United States). When asked where the pullout would leave Israel, President Trump said, “I told Bibi [Prime Minister Netanyahu], you know we give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they are doing very well at defending themselves.” Russia condemned Israel’s attack on Syria for the violation of Syrian sovereignty and for endangering 2 civilian aircrafts. Earlier in September a Russian military plane was struck down killing 15 Russians in Syrian airspace. According to Russian officials an Israeli F-16 struck Syrian targets while hiding behind the Russian plane that was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles.

                The U.S. also blocked a $500 million arms deal between Israel and Croatia in December after Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the deal back in March. The deal would have included the sale of 12 refurbished U.S manufactured F-16s with Israeli-made software. According to Axios, the deal was shut down because Israel did not have permission to resell the F-16s and because the U.S. was a direct competitor for the Croatian bid.

                Another big development in Israeli foreign policy was the Israeli attempt to establish diplomatic ties to former foes. As has been reported in previous updates, the Saudi Arabian crown prince Muhammed bin Salman has displayed a more reconciliatory tone when it comes to Israel than his father King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The growing ties were on display after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi when Prime Minister Netanyahu said in December “what happened in Istanbul is nothing short of horrific. But it’s balanced by the importance of Saudi Arabia and the role it plays in the Middle East.” In October, Prime Minister Netanyahu travelled to Oman to visit Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and the president of Chad Idriss Deby journeyed to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in November. At a press conference with President Deby in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu said of his visit to Oman and the change in attitudes of Middle East countries: “There will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon.” The spokesperson for Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Bahrain would be next in line for a Netanyahu visit. Israel only has official relations with 2 Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan. Later in December, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced (12/10) that Oman had opened up its airspace for Israel’s national airline El Al. The permission was granted while Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Oman in October.       

                After the passing of the Nation-State Law in June (see Israel in issue 189) Israel continued its lawfare against the Palestinians. A bill dubbed the cultural loyalty bill passed a vote at the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on 21 October. The bill is aimed at targeting cultural displays of dissent within Israel by allowing the Ministry of Culture and Sport to retroactively cut funding for works or institutions that disrespect the symbols of Israel or refer to the Israeli Independence Day as a day or mourning, which includes the commemoration of the Nakba. The so-called Nakba Law already allows the Israeli finance minister to cut funding from institutions that commemorates the Nakba on Israel’s Independence Day. The ultimate fate of the bill became uncertain after the government’s by then fragile coalition didn’t manage to secure its future as finance minister and leader of the Kulanu party, Moshe Kahlon, told (11/26) his members that they could vote according to their conscience at the Knesset. Later, in December another bill, aimed to displace families of Palestinian assailants from their homes to other places in the West Bank, passed both the Ministerial Committee for Legislation (12/13) and the Knesset on a preliminary vote (12/16). The head of the Shin Bet, IDF chief of staff, and the attorney general all objected to the bill citing fears that it would have a negative effect on the stability of the West Bank. An unstated but obvious consequence of the bill would be that Israel would be able to transfer Palestinians out of cities such as Hebron to other places preferred by the Israeli state. At the same sessions at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and the Knesset, as mentioned above, a bill that would legalize 66 West Bank settlement outposts passed. If the law is enacted then demolitions of the outposts are suspended for 2 years while they will be reviewed for ‘legalization’, in that period they will receive Israeli government services. A bill, Basic Law: Equality, drafted by the left-wing Meretz party to counter some of the provisions of the Nation-State Law was voted down (12/12) in the Knesset. The bill sought to stipulate that “[t]he State of Israel shall maintain equal political rights amongst all its citizens, without any difference between religions, race and sex.” In November, Prime Minister Netanyahu allowed a bill, which would permit sentencing Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis to death, to go to the floor of the Knesset. The bill had been stalled since January of this year but is now being pushed forward to the Knesset. At the end of this year no date had been set for a vote.               

                The largest supplier of electrical power in Israel, the Israel Electric Corporation, announced just before the beginning of Hanukkah (11/29) that those living in the “Jewish sector” who had failed to pay their electric bills during Hanukkah celebrations would be exempted from power cutoffs. The discriminatory policy came half a year after the Nation-State Law that cemented Israel as a state for the Jewish people. Another case of discrimination against Palestinians in Israel unfolded with much international attention in October when the Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem was detained for 2 weeks after she arrived in Israel (10/2) to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Israel claimed that they had revoked her visa due to her involvement with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. On 18 October the Israeli Supreme Court overturned her deportation after she had appealed. In a swift reversal the Israeli minister of labor, social affairs, and social services Haim Katz announced that he had ordered the certification of hundreds of social worker graduates from Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem to be frozen. His decision came 1 day after he had signed a document recognizing the social worker’s degree. Katz said, “I will not give recognition to an institution that supports terror.” The decision, which is not based on any substantiated claim, is further dubious given that the graduates of the university’s medical school are certified to work in Jerusalem. Also in October (10/4), the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat said that Israel would be taking over the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) services in East Jerusalem. He did not provide a timetable or plan. UNRWA provides schooling for about 1,800 Palestinian refugees living in East Jerusalem. The UN agency declared that it would continue its work despite the mayor’s announcement. The attack on UNRWA comes as the US has been cutting their funding (see United States and Donors).        

                The Israeli cyber company NSO Group was sued for selling spyware that was used by Saudi Arabia to track Saudi Arabian journalist Khashoggi before he was killed (10/2) in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul. The connection to the Israeli company was revealed by Haaretz (11/25) and their reporting was used for the lawsuit by Khashoggi’s friend and Saudi Arabian dissident Omar Abdulaziz who also was subject to Saudi surveillance before the murder of Khashoggi.

Deducting Taxes for the Palestinian Authority

              The Deduction Law—an Israeli law that passed in July 2018—was utilized by the Israeli cabinet in February. The law allows Israel to deduct the amount of money Israel understands to be paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and their families from the PA tax revenue that Israel collects. Israel announced it will withhold $138 million from the PA tax revenue. Between when the law was enacted and February 2019, the Israeli cabinet had decided not to use the law to withhold the revenue, a substantial part of the PA budget. PA president Mahmoud Abbas promptly announced that he and the PA leadership “condemn and reject the arbitrary Israeli decision, and stress that we will not accept the money [the tax revenue] if even a cent is missing . . . If they deduct some of it, they can deduct all of it.” President Abbas further stated that the deduction is “a nail in the coffin of the Paris Protocol, and Israel’s renunciation of all the agreements it has signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization.” The money paid by the PA to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and their families is a welfare mechanism for families that have lost income due to arbitrary Israeli detention of Palestinians (for more on the Palestinian response to the tax revenue deduction, see Intra-Palestinian Dynamics).


Israel-Hamas Relations

              Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a directive on 6 March designating the Hamas-affiliated TV channel Al-Aqsa a terrorist organization. The Shin Bet alleged that Al-Aqsa has been used by Hamas to send messages to operatives outside of Gaza. According to the Shin Bet, TV presenters would sip coffee in a certain way during a broadcast to communicate to operatives. According to the Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Netanyahu also said that he allows Qatar to deliver financial aid to Gaza as part of “a broader strategy to keep Hamas and the Palestinian Authority separate,” causing a divide between Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank.


Temporary International Presence in Hebron

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on 28 January that Israel would not renew the mandate for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) which was set to be renewed by 31 January. The decision follows Haaretz reporting from December 2018 on a confidential report by the TIPH which showed that Israel regularly breaks international law in Hebron (for more on the report, see Israel 16 August-31 December 2018). TIPH was established following a terrorist attack perpetrated by an American-Israeli settler in 1994 that killed 29 Palestinians at the al-Ibrahimi Mosque. The mandate for the TIPH allowed international observers to monitor Hebron the last 20 years. Israel’s security minister Gilad Erdan had, on 17 January, sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu urging him to end the TIPH mandate. Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general Saeb Erakat urged the United Nations (UN) to prevent Israel from ending the TIPH mandate after Netanyahu’s announcement. Erakat said in a press conference in Ramallah that the nations that currently comprise TIPH observers “must decide if Israel is above international law.”


Combatting BDS

              The Israeli strategic affairs ministry released an 80-page report claiming that several dozen members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have close links to Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The BDS movement called the report “wildly fabricated.” Israel’s strategic affairs ministry leads the Israeli government’s effort to combat the BDS movement.


Settlement Politics

              After the Amona Israeli settlement outpost in the West Bank was evacuated for demolition on 3 January, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered an investigation into why the outpost was evacuated despite his order to halt the demolition. The outpost, which is deemed illegal by Israel—though all settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law—was evacuated shortly after Netanyahu had told his senior military advisor Avi Bluth not to carry out the eviction of the settlers. In a disciplinary hearing on 4 January, Bluth was reprimanded for not relaying Netanyahu’s orders in a timely fashion to secure the halt of the army operation to remove the Israeli settlers. The former minister of defense and right-wing member of Knesset (MK) Avigdor Lieberman accused Netanyahu of “deflecting blame” for the evacuation of Amona by using Bluth as a scapegoat to appease his pro-settler voter base. The Amona incident unfolded after it was reported that the Israeli attorney general was of the opinion that the findings in Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000 should be made public before the 9 April elections (for more on the investigations involving Netanyahu, see Israel 16 August-31 December 2018). It was also reported in January that Netanyahu had received $300,000 from 2 businesspeople to help pay for the lawyers that represent him and his wife in the investigations against him. The reporting prompted the Israeli state comptroller to send a letter to the attorney general asking him to examine the significance of the $300,000 transfer to Netanyahu. The attorney general had issued an opinion in July 2018 that contributions to cover Netanyahu’s legal fees did not violate the Israeli Gift Law if they were approved by the state comptroller’s office. However, according to the reporting, the money was transferred to Netanyahu before a permit was requested.


Israeli Campaigns in Syria

              In the week before the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot retired on 15 January, he admitted in an interview with the New York Times that since January 2017, Israel had attacked Iranian positions, mainly infrastructure, in Syria on an almost daily basis “without claiming responsibility or asking for credit.” Eisenkot also said that Israel had armed local rebel groups in Syria near the occupied Golan Heights. Israel, which rarely admits doing operations outside of the West Bank and Gaza, seemed to have changed its policy after Eisenkot’s admissions as Prime Minister Netanyahu boasted on 13 January that Israel had conducted air strikes in Syria the past couple of days. Satellite images of the destruction of warehouses in Damascus International Airport was later released by an Israeli satellite company. It is possible that the change of policy is part of Netanyahu’s strategy to portray himself as tough on his adversaries for the April elections, where it seems that his main opponent will be the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.

              On 20 January, Israel conducted another large-scale air attack in Syria which, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, killed 11 people, 2 of whom were Syrian. Russian reports said the air assault had claimed the life of 4 Syrian soldiers. Later reporting suggested that up to 21 people were killed. 1 missile was sent from Syria also on 20 January, but it was intercepted over the Golan Heights. Russia responded to the air strikes in Syria on 23 January when a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry said, “[t]he practice of arbitrary strikes on territory of a sovereign state, in this case, we are talking about Syria, should be ruled out.” The Syrian envoy to the UN said in response to the attacks: “[d]oes drawing the attention of the war-makers in this Council [the UN Security Council] require us to exercise our legitimate right to self-defense and respond to Israeli aggression on Damascus International Airport by responding in the same way on Tel Aviv Airport?” After the large-scale attack in Syria, Israel’s defense ministry announced on 22 January that it had successfully tested the Arrow 3 missile system, which is geared toward intercepting long-range ballistic missiles.

              The Israeli bombing in Syria continued in February and March. Israel confirmed on 12 February that it had attacked Hezbollah targets in Syria near the Golan Heights. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We operate every day, including yesterday [11 February], against Iran and its attempts to entrench itself in the region.” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin said following the Israeli strikes, “With regards to the latest Israeli attacks, we said that such arbitrary attacks on sovereign Syrian territory should be stopped and excluded.” Later in February, Netanyahu met with Russian president Vladimir Putin for the 1st time since Russia blamed Israel for 1 of its planes being shot down over Syria in September 2018 (see Russia 16 August- 31 December 2018). There was no reporting on whether the 2 discussed the Israeli attacks in Syria. Then, on 27 March, an Israeli air strike killed 7 people targeting ammunition depots near Aleppo airport and near Nairab military airport. It was reported that the ammunition depot belonged to Iranian-backed militia. Israel’s Acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said of the air strikes: “as far as Iran knows, it’s Israel” who struck in Syria.

              U.S. president Donald Trump also recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli occupied Golan Heights in March (see United States).


Operation Northern Shield

              Israel ended its operation destroying tunnels from Lebanon to Israel, dubbed “Operation Northern Shield,” on 13 January after destroying a 6th tunnel. The operation had been ongoing since the beginning of December 2018. Spokesperson for the Ronan Manelis said that despite ending the operation, Israel would continue to build a wall along the blue line separating Israel and Lebanon. The Lebanese ambassador to the UN Amal Mudallali filed a complaint to the UN Security Council (UNSC) accusing Israel of violating Lebanese sovereignty by constructing the wall and other structures on the Lebanese side of the blue line. The Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon dismissed Mudallali’s complaint as false. The UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov later said on 23 January that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) still had not been granted access to the Israeli-discovered tunnels. He did not specify if it was Lebanon or Israel that had been impeding UNIFIL access. Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah made his 1st public comments on the tunnels since Operation Northern Shield started, on 27 January stating that 1 of the tunnels was more than 13 years old. Nasrallah further explained that his quietness on the issue was to keep “the calm” in southern Lebanon. Netanyahu, who was accused by Nasrallah of instigating the operation because of his own political turmoil, responded to Nasrallah’s comments by saying that the tunnels were new and Nasrallah was embarrassed that Israel had such success detecting them.


Israeli Elections

              Former Israeli military chief of staff Benny Gantz, the new politician who seems to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top challenger for the Israeli elections in April, launched his campaign with a series of videos boasting of the many Palestinians killed during his tenure. The videos end with the slogan “Israel before everything” and features lines with statistics like “6,231 targets destroyed” and “1,364 terrorists killed.” This is in reference to Operation Protective Edge in 2014, during which Gantz was chief of staff. Another video features drone footage of an air strike on a Hamas operative. Gantz received sharp criticism not only for the combative tone against Palestinians, but also for distorting the figures of “terrorists.” According the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, only 765 of the Palestinians killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge were combatants; the vast majority of the 2,125 Palestinians killed were civilians who did not partake in any hostilities. In March, Gantz continued his strongman rhetoric by promising to restart Israel’s assassination policy in Gaza. Another candidate for the elections in April, aliyah and integration minister Yoav Galant, said on 14 January that he opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and that he will work toward annexation of the occupied West Bank. A poll made by Haaretz showed that 42 percent of Israelis support annexation of the West Bank. Of those, 15 percent support annexation of Area C, 16 percent support full annexation without political rights for Palestinians, and 11 percent support full annexation with political rights for Palestinians. In March, a Member of Knesset (MK) from the Likud Party, Oren Hazan, posted a video on his Facebook depicting himself shooting Palestinian citizen of Israel and MK Jamal Zahalka.

              In other Israeli elections related news, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party Likud formed a joint list with the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, comprised of followers of Meir Kahane, an American convicted terrorist who was banned from the Knesset for racism in the 1980s. Netanyahu’s alliance with a party that supports Meir Kahane, calls for annexing the West Bank, expelling Palestinians from Israel and building a Jewish temple at Haram al-Sharif was widely condemned in the U.S. from left to right, including AIPAC. In March, Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mendelblit submitted an opinion to the Central Elections Committee to disqualify the Otzma Yehudit’s chairman Michael Ben Ari from running in Israeli elections based on comments which Attorney General Mendelblit said constituted incitement to racism. However, on 6 March, the Central Elections Committee approved Ben Ari only to have the decision reversed by the Israel’s Supreme Court on 17 March. Following a similar trajectory but with the opposite outcome, the Central Elections Committee banned a Jewish Israeli, Ofer Cassif, and the Arab joint slate Balad-United Arab List, the list Cassif is listed under, from running in the elections. Cassif is very critical of the Israeli government and has compared its policies to some of those of Nazi Germany. The Central Elections Committee’s decision was overturned on 13 March by the Supreme Court, allowing Cassif and the Balad-United Arab List to be on the ballot.

              Netanyahu also received criticism several times this quarter for racist statements made against Palestinian citizens of Israel. First, in February, he lashed out at his political opponent Benny Gantz, saying that Gantz is “relying on Arab parties who not only don’t recognize the State of Israel,” but want to destroy it. Among the critics were former Israeli supreme court justice Salim Joubran, calling Netanyahu’s remarks “wretched” and saying such comments have “no place here.” Then in March, Netanyahu wrote on his Instagram profile, “Israel is not a state for all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People—and them alone.” Netanyahu was quickly rebuked by Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin how Palestinian citizens of Israel are not “second-class voters” and that “there are no first-class citizens” in Israel.


Palestinian Citizens of Israel

              The Haifa Museum of Art’s display of a sculpture titled McJesus sparked protests in Haifa on 11 January. The sculpture, depicting McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald on a crucifix, made hundreds of Haifa’s Christians protest to remove the sculpture from the museum, calling it offensive. The Finnish artist behind McJesus also called for the removal of his sculpture as he supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and did not want his art displayed in Israel. Haifa city mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem announced on 16 January that the sculpture would be taken down and returned to the Finish museum, where it is usually displayed.

              Reporting by Haaretz suggested that Israel has a deliberate policy of preventing East Jerusalem Palestinians from acquiring Israeli citizenship. According to their figures, about 13 percent of the 4,643 Palestinians that applied for Israeli citizenship between 2014 and 2018 had their application approved. The Israeli interior ministry argued that the delays were a result of the volume of requests, but lawyers and applicants Haaretz interviewed suggested that it was a deliberate Israeli effort to limit the amount of Palestinian citizens in Israel.

              A study by students at Hebrew University’s legal aid clinic for minorities concluded that the Israeli National Insurance Institute’s (NII) website discriminates against Arabic speakers. Some pages on the NII website were never translated to Arabic and others were lacking material provided on the Hebrew version of the site. The NII promised to fix the errors in the coming weeks, blaming its translation company. A lawyer from Hebrew University’s legal clinic argued that NII contributed to the high poverty rate in the Arab community and charged NII with “severe negligence in doing its job.”


Warsaw Summit

              In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with leaders from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East to discuss Iran and the U.S. Middle East peace plan in Warsaw, Poland, for a 2-day summit. During the summit, Netanyahu’s office leaked a video from a closed-door meeting where senior officials from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates expressed support for Israel’s attacks on Iran and Syria and downplayed Israel’s human rights violations of the Palestinians. Also at the summit, Netanyahu said during a press briefing with Israeli press that Poland cooperated with Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, prompting the Polish prime minister to pull out of the Visegrad summit. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland form the Visegrad bloc in the European Union, with the summit set to be held in Israel in late February. The 3 other nations of the Visegrad bloc visited Israel on their own behalf.


Relations with Middle Eastern and African Countries

              The Egyptian Petroleum Ministry announced on 14 January that at a meeting between Eastern Mediterranean countries, including Israel, it was agreed to set up a forum for the regional gas market to cut infrastructure costs. The other countries that will be part of the consortium are Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan, and the PA. The statement further said that it will aim at “enhancing their cooperation with consuming and transitory parties in the region, taking advantage of existing infrastructure and developing further infrastructure options to accommodate current and future discoveries [of gas reserves].” While the agreement shows growing ties between Egypt and Israel, some analysts argued that Israel participating in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum could be used by the PA and Hamas to put pressure on Israel politically—in particular, to persuade Israel to allow development of gas fields off the shores of Gaza.

              Earlier in January, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in an interview with CBS, which he tried to have the network not air, that Israel and Egypt had been and are cooperating against armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula. CBS rejected the Egyptian government’s request not to air the interview. Al-Jazeera suggested that it was the acknowledgement of security cooperation with Israel that appeared to be the most contentious part and the reason for the request. In addition to these 2 developments that signify a stronger relationship between Israel and Egypt, the 2 countries signed a $15 billion deal in February 2018 facilitating the Israeli company Delek Drilling to supply Egypt with gas for 10 years.

              As reported in the last update (see Israel 16 August-31 December 2018), Israel has started a campaign to forge diplomatic ties with countries that were previously seen as adversarial to Israel. On 20 January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Chad to meet with President Idriss Deby to sign several agreements between the 2 countries that renewed diplomatic ties which had been severed since 1972. President Deby had visited Israel and Netanyahu in November 2018. Reports came out on 20 January that the Prime Minister of Mali was planning a visit to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both Malian and Israeli officials confirmed the tentative plans. Mali severed its diplomatic ties with Israel after the 1973 War.

              For Israel’s tense relations with Jordan over Haram al-Sharif, see Jordan and Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.


Netanyahu’s Legal Trouble

              Israel attorney general Avichai Mandelblit said that there is no impediment to indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is being investigated in a number of bribery cases before the Israeli elections on 9 April. Prime Minister Netanyahu was later, on 24 February, told by the State Comptroller’s office to pay back $300,000 he had received from his cousin to help cover his legal fees. Netanyahu’s legal troubles escalated further at the end of February when Attorney General Mandelblit announced that he was indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in 3 separate cases (Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000). Netanyahu’s main opponent in the upcoming elections, former Israeli military chief of staff Benny Gantz, called on Netanyahu to resign as prime minister following Mandelblit’s announcement. Netanyahu’s party Likud called the charges “political persecution.”

Israeli Campaigns in Syria

                Israel continued bombing targets in Syria this quarter after the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted to bombing targets in Syria in January for the 1st time (see Israel 1 January- 30 March 2019). The 1st bombing this quarter was in April when Israeli jets, according to Syria, injured 6 Syrian soldiers and destroyed several buildings in Hama Province. In May, Israel acknowledged bombing Syrian positions in Quneitra on 27 May, killing 1 Syrian soldier and injuring 1 other. On 1 June, a missile fired from Syria and hit a ski resort in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, causing damage to a ski lift. Israel acknowledged that it had hit a target in Syria, which, according to Syrian media, killed 3 Syrian soldiers and injured 7 others. 2 days later, Israel, according to Syrian state media, hit the T-4 air base near Homs, believed to house Syrian, Russian, and Iranian military personnel and equipment. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization linked to the Syrian opposition, said that at least 5 were killed in the airstrike, including Syrian soldiers.

                While Israel continued its campaign in Syria, the remains of an Israeli soldier killed in 1982 were returned to Israel from Syria on 3 April. Russia played a role in retrieving the body, which was found in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. While Syria denied having anything to do with retrieving the remains of the Israeli soldier, Israel later in April released 2 Syrian Fatah operatives to Syria as a “gesture of goodwill.”

Israeli Elections

                The Israeli general elections took place on 9 April and resulted in a new round of elections scheduled for 17 September as neither of the frontrunners—Prime Minister Netanyahu from the Likud Party nor Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party—were able to form a coalition. After the results of the elections were announced, Netanyahu was expected to be able to form a coalition and was tasked by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin to form a government, but failed to gain support from would-be kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman as Netanyahu and Lieberman could not agree on a bill pushed by Lieberman that would make military service mandatory for ultra-Orthodox men. After 28 days of seeking to form a government, Netanyahu was granted an extension of 14 days, after which he gave up and the Knesset was dissolved by its members, leading to a new round of elections.

                Before the elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu, in an effort to rally right-wing support, told Israel’s Channel 12 News on 6 April that he would start extending Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, effectively annexing it. He further stated, “I will not divide Jerusalem, I will not evacuate any community and I will make sure we control the territory west of Jordan.”

                During the general election, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party Likud handed 1,200 cameras to right-wing activists in Palestinian areas of Israel in a bid to scare off Palestinian citizens of Israel from voting in the elections. The Central Elections Committee’s legal counsel said that such filming of polling stations was illegal and Israeli police confiscated some of the cameras. After the elections, the PR firm hired by Netanyahu bragged on Facebook that its scheme to hand out the 1,200 cameras had “lowered the voter turnout to under 50 percent [among Palestinian voters], the lowest in recent years.” The post was accompanied by a picture of the heads of the PR firm with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

                After Prime Minister Netanyahu failed to form a coalition and the Knesset was dissolved, he fired Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who both failed to get enough votes to enter the Knesset. Shaked was replaced by Amir Ohana, who supports granting Netanyahu immunity in the legal cases against him (see below) and has called Muslims “culturally murderous.”

Netanyahu’s Legal Trouble

                The Israeli attorney general Avichai Mendelblit agreed to a request made by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s lawyers to postpone the pre-indictment hearings in the 3 cases pending against him until the beginning of October (for more about the 3 cases against Prime Minister Netanyahu, see Israel 1 January – 31 March). Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu entered a plea deal on 12 June in a fraud case against her. Under the plea agreement, Netanyahu will repay $12,522 to the Israeli state treasury and a fine of $2,867.

Trump Heights

                After U.S. president Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights in March (see United States 1 January – 31 March), Prime Minister Netanyahu announced on 23 April that Israel would name a new settlement after the U.S. president. On 16 June, the new settlement in the Golan Heights, Ramat Trump [Trump Heights], was inaugurated with the participation of U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Because Netanyahu’s government in June was temporary due to the failure to form a new government, the new settlement could not be officially approved.

Discrimination Against Palestinians in Israel

                Residents in the Israeli town of Afula, including the city’s mayor, protested on 15 June the sale of a home to a Palestinian family. A council member of the city said, “We don’t have a problem cooperating with Arab businesses, but we won’t have them live here. We stand by the residents in this protest . . . Afula must remain a Jewish city.”

                The Israeli supreme court ruled that the Israeli education ministry had to translate the matriculation exam in geography into Arabic. High school teachers who had seen the exam before it was to be held had noticed that names on maps and text accompanying the maps had not been translated into Arabic.

                3 of 4 hospitals accused of segregating Jewish and Palestinian women at their maternity wards admitted in court to the segregation, saying it was done upon the women’s request. The 4 hospitals were sued by Palestinian women in May 2018. Their lawsuit included a recording of a nurse saying, “If there is pressure, we do mix the women, but try to separate them the next day.”

                The emergency and security department of the Jerusalem Municipality issued instructions to Jerusalem kindergartens and preschools, saying that, “outsiders may not enter kindergarten premises . . . as a rule, entrance is not permitted to minority groups [non-Jews].”

                The Israeli state comptroller said in his annual report, published in May, that Israeli government ministries have neglected the housing problem in Palestinian communities in Israel. The state comptroller found that only $1.4 million had been allocated to build a large number of public institutions and that laws requiring representation of minorities in district planning committees had not been implemented.

Deporting Human Rights Advocates

                The Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch Omar Shakir had his petition to halt his deportation from Israel rejected by the Jerusalem district court on 16 April. Shakir had his residency permit revoked in May 2018 because of accusations by the Israeli ministry of interior that claim he promotes boycotts of Israel. Human Rights Watch released a statement saying that neither Shakir nor the organization promotes boycotts of Israel and that its advocacy focuses solely on the occupied territories. Shakir’s lawyer said that they would appeal the decision. The United Nation human rights commissioner’s office said that the ruling “threatens advocacy, research and free expression for all and reflects a troubling resistance to open debate.” The European Union similarly expressed concern over the ruling and urged Israel to allow Shakir to continue his work unimpeded.

Memorial Day Ceremony

                A joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv, organized by the NGO Combatants for Peace, was attacked by Prime Minister Netanyahu who ordered a ban on the 181 Palestinian applicants from going to Israel from the West Bank, preventing them from participating. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ban was overturned less than a week later when Combatants for Peace petitioned the Israeli supreme court. After the ban was overturned, Netanyahu tweeted that “[t]here is no place for a memorial ceremony that equates our blood with the blood of terrorists.” During the ceremony, which was held on 7 May, right-wing Israeli protesters tried to burn a Palestinian flag, threw objects at participants, and yelled “traitors,” “kapos,” and Nazis” at the Palestinians and Israelis attending the ceremony.

Israeli Company Influencing Foreign Elections

                An Israeli political consulting and lobbying firm, Archimedes Group, was banned from operating on Facebook after the social media site found 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, 23 groups, 12 events, and 4 Instagram accounts seeking to influence elections across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. According to a Facebook press release, Archimedes Group spent some $812,000 on ads that ran from December 2012 to April 2019.

Military Action

               Israel’s conflict with Iran continued to intensify as Israel attacked what it perceives as Iranian targets outside of Iran. This quarter, Israel broadened its theater of war to include Iraq, and attacked targets in Syria and Lebanon (see below). Rhetorically, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued his saber-rattling early in this quarter as Iran announced it had begun enriching uranium beyond the limit set forth by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the United States (U.S.) left in May 2018. Netanyahu threatened Iran as he was touring F-35 fighter jets at an Israeli military base, saying that Iran “ought to remember that the planes can reach every place in the Middle East, including Iran and, certainly, Syria.” The Israeli minister of regional cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi complained in an interview with Kan Bet radio that “Israel is the only country in the world that has been killing Iranians for 2 years now.” Hanegbi also admitted that Israel has been striking “the Iranians hundreds of times in Syria,” and that the ambiguousness of occasionally admitting to the strikes is part of a coordinated Israeli policy. Shortly before the Israeli elections in September, Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed that Israel uncovered additional Iranian sites used for its nuclear program. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet that Netanyahu was crying wolf and his allegations were to promote war with Iran.

               Israeli attacks on Syria continued in the very beginning of this quarter. In the early hours of 7/1, Israeli fighter jets struck several targets near Homs and Damascus, killing 16 people, including 10 civilians, amongst them a toddler. Later, on 7/22, Israeli forces assassinated 1 member of Hezbollah near Quneitra with a missile strike; 1 toddler standing near the explosion was also said to have been killed. 2 days later, on 7/24, Israel struck a Syrian army base in Tel al-Hara, injuring 6 and damaging targets near Damascus and Quneitra. Israel again struck a target in Quneitra on 8/1, causing damage but no injuries. Then on 8/24, Israel acknowledged striking 1 private villa near Damascus, killing 3 people, which Israel authorities said was to prevent an Iranian drone strike on Israel. Israel rarely acknowledges when it conducts attacks outside of the West Bank and Gaza. The last attack in Syria this quarter was followed by an intense conflict with Lebanon.

               In the early morning of 8/25, 2 Israeli drones crashed into a media center belonging to Hezbollah in Beirut. Hezbollah said that both of the drones were booby-trapped, causing major damage. Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese president Michel Aoun both sharply criticized Israel’s attack, with President Aoun calling it a declaration of war. Israel later claimed that its drones had destroyed missile-assembling material in the Beirut attack. 1 day later, on 8/26, Israel struck a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command in eastern Lebanon near Qusaya; no injuries were reported in the strike, which was carried out by a drone. 2 days later, on 8/28, 3 additional Israeli drones entered Lebanese air space and the Lebanese army said it opened fire on 2 of them before all 3 returned to Israel. Then, on 9/2, an Israeli drone entered Lebanese air space, to which Hezbollah responded by firing missiles at Israeli forces near the Blue Line. Israel then shelled some 100 targets in Lebanon. 1 week later, on 9/9, Hezbollah said it shot down 1 Israeli drone in Lebanese air space.

               In what appears to be a 1st, Israeli F-35 fighter jets attacked a base said to by an Iranian-supported militia weapons warehouse in Iraq, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, on 7/19 and 7/21. According to Asharq al-Awsat, several injuries were reported. U.S. officials later confirmed that Israel was behind the attacks and other attacks in August. On 8/26, both the Iraqi president Barham Salih and prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the Israeli attacks, saying they were attacks “on Iraqi sovereignty.” In 1 of the attacks on 8/25, Israeli drones shot and killed 1 Iraqi and critically injured 1 other near the Syrian-Iraqi border. After the condemnation from the Iraqi leadership, the U.S. Department of Defense released a statement supporting Iraqi sovereignty and opposing “external actors” without specifically naming Israel. The Pentagon statement was released shortly after a large Iraqi voting bloc had called for the U.S. to leave Iraq; it assumed that the U.S. had been consenting to the Israeli strikes.


Discrimination Against Palestinians in Israel

               The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights (Adalah) petitioned the Nazareth District Court for an annulment of the Afula municipality’s decision to close 1 of its parks for nonresidents, arguing that the decision was made to exclude Palestinian-Israeli citizens from entering the park. Adalah pointed out the mayor of Afula’s anti-Palestinian statements and actions, such as protesting sales of property in Afula to Palestinian families and pledging to preserve Afula’s Jewish character. Adalah’s partition was quickly backed by the Israeli attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, who asked the court to issue an interim order to keep the park open for all until a decision had been made. On 7/14, the Afula municipality reopened the park to nonresidents after the Nazareth District Court ordered the municipality to do so after hearing from Adalah.

               After more than 60 murders in the Palestinian-Israeli community, students, teachers, and thousands of others marched in Umm al-Fahm against the Israeli police’s inaction for 3 days in a row at the end of September. Simultaneously, Palestinian-Israeli women organized protests in Eilabun. Palestinian-Israeli leader of the Arab Joint List Ayman Odeh said the problem was rooted in Israeli police perceiving Palestinians as their enemy and not as equal citizens, preventing trust between the Palestinian-Israeli community and the police. Another member of Knesset Ahmed Tibi called for the Israeli authorities to collect privately owned guns and to outlaw guns at weddings.


Israel and the PA

               The relations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel continued to deteriorate this quarter in light of Israel’s decision from February to withhold tax revenue from the PA, which the PA pays to Palestinian prisoners and their families as a form of social security. Israel argues that these payments are “pay-for-slay.” The PA has opted not to receive any of the tax revenue to protest Israel’s decision to withhold a portion of it. However, on 8/22, Israel and the PA agreed that Israel would transfer $558.32 million to the PA. The PA said this enabled it to pay Israel for a steady flow of gas but “this does not mean that the PA’s financial crisis is over, because Israel is still holding on to billions of shekels.”

               Also this quarter, an Israeli court ruled on 7/8 that the PA was responsible for paying the victims of 17 attacks on Israel from the 2d Intifada, despite the PA not having any knowledge of the plans to attack the 17 victims. The court president said that the PA had endorsed the attacks retroactively by referring to the perpetrators as martyrs. The court president further stated that the PA’s “ideology was an ideology of terrorism.” The damages to be paid will be determined by another judge as the 1 presiding over the ruling was retiring; he did, however, order the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Yasir Arafat’s estate to pay $1.628 million for the legal cost.


Israeli Elections

               Israeli citizens went to polling stations for the 2d time this year after Israeli politicians failed to form a government based on the results of the 4/9 elections and the Knesset dissolved itself on 5/30. The 2d round of Israeli elections unfolded on 9/17, and while the votes were counted by the end of the quarter, no government had yet been formed once again. The Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz won the election with 33 seats, while Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received 32 seats. The Joint Arab List led by Ayman Odeh won the 3d most seats with 13, a gain of 3 since the last election in April. After the elections, Ayman Odeh wrote an op-ed in the New York Times explaining why he and the rest of the Joint List would support Benny Gantz in forming a new government. Odeh maintained that their decision was not an endorsement of Gantz, but rather a rejection of Netanyahu. By the end of the quarter, it looked like Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu would seek to form a unity government; however, negotiations remained inconclusive.

               Leading up to the elections, anti-Palestinian incitement and aggressive policy proposals for the West Bank and East Jerusalem unfolded amongst the Israeli center-right. At a campaign rally in the Revava settlement in the West Bank, Prime Minister Netanyahu told settlers his 4 guiding principles for the West Bank included viewing it as an Israeli homeland, settlements would be expanded upon, no settlement would be uprooted, and Israeli military would continue to rule the whole territory. Later, closer to the elections, Netanyahu told settlers at a campaign event in the Elkana settlement that he aspires to apply Israeli sovereignty on all Israeli settlements, meaning annexing the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. A week later, on 9/10, Netanyahu expanded his annexation plans to include the Jordan Valley but said he would wait with annexation until U.S. president Donald Trump had unveiled his peace plan. Netanyahu’s plan was met with condemnation from most places; noticeably absent in joining the condemnation was the U.S. administration. While Netanyahu promised to commit war crimes, he also incited against Israel’s Palestinian population, saying in a Facebook message to voters that “Arabs want to annihilate us all—women, children, and men.” In the message, he warned voters that the White and Blue party would be reliant on “Arabs who want to destroy us all.” In response to the incitement, Ayman Odeh called Netanyahu “a psychopath with no red lines.” After the Facebook message was sent out to his voters, Netanyahu’s Facebook account was blocked by the company for 24 hours due to violations of its hate speech policy.


Israeli Policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

               The Israeli high court of justice reversed a ruling from 2017 that allowed Israel to withhold bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. The 2017 ruling found the practice a “violation of human rights as well as the rights of the deceased and his family.” The new ruling agreed in principle with the previous 1 that withholding a body was a violation of human rights but argued that it was legal to do so under Israeli law.

               Haaretz reported that Israel is using the Israeli company Anyvision Interactive Technologies’ face recognition software to monitor Palestinians at West Bank checkpoints and at hidden places in the West Bank to spy on Palestinians deemed a potential threat by the Israeli forces.


Members of U.S. Congress Denied Entry to Israel and the West Bank

               As the U.S. congressional trip to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was approaching, U.S. congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) announced that they would visit both Israel and the West Bank. Soon after their announcement, Axios reported that President Trump told Prime Minister Netanyahu not to allow the 2 U.S. congresswomen to enter Israel, using the Israeli law that prohibits visitors who engage in boycotts of Israel. While President Trump, through his press secretary, denied the reporting, 5 days later he tweeted that “[i]t would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” Prime Minister Netanyahu had 1st decided to let the 2 congresswomen into Israel but shortly after Trump’s tweet, his government changed course and said the 2 would not be allowed to enter Israel, citing the boycott law. Netanyahu’s decision drew criticism from virtually all Democrats and some Republicans in U.S. congress and AIPAC. A day after, in a double reversal, the Israeli government decided to allow Congresswoman Tlaib entry “on humanitarian grounds” to visit her grandmother if she promised not to promote boycotts of Israel while visiting. Tlaib called the conditions a humiliation and said she could not accept going under the stipulations made by Israel. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said in an interview with MSNBC, “If Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country . . . maybe they can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.” After the 2 congresswomen ended up remaining in the U.S. because of Israel denial of entry and extra stipulations of entry, the 2 held a press conference to which President Trump said on Twitter, “Sorry, I don’t buy Rep. Tlaib’s tears. I have watched her violence, craziness and, most importantly, WORDS, for far too long. Now tears? She hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an anti-Semite. She and her 3 friends are the new face of the Democrat Party. Live with it!” 72 U.S. congressional legislators went on the AIPAC-sponsored trip.

Foreign Relations

               In a step toward normalization, Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz met with the foreign minister of Bahrain Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa in Washington D.C. on 7/17. Foreign Minister Katz said that he and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would continue to advance relations between the 2 countries despite them not having formal ties. Bahrain hosted the unveiling of the economic part of the U.S. administration’s peace plan last quarter, in June.

               The New York Times also reported that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel were conducting secret talks about Iran and that U.S. officials were partaking. The talks are said to have started in February during a U.S.-sponsored conference of Middle East security held in Warsaw. The UAE-like Bahrain does not have formal ties with Israel. Haaretz would later reveal that an Israeli businessman had been supplying the UAE with surveillance planes.

               Israel’s Europe Asia Pipeline Company and Egyptian pipeline operator East Mediterranean Gas signed an agreement for the export of Israeli natural gas to Egypt.

               Honduras and Nauru broke with the international consensus and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in August. Neither have formal plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem, but Honduras did inaugurate a diplomatic office in the city, saying it was an extension of its embassy in Tel Aviv.


               Jordan refused Israel’s attempt to deport a Palestinian from East Jerusalem to Jordan by denying him entry. The Palestinian man has lived in East Jerusalem for more than 20 years, since he was 12 years old, and it is also where his wife and children live. The man was taken back to Givon prison in Ramle, where he is held without charges or a trial. Tensions between Israel and Jordan continued to intensify in August when 1st it was reported that Jordanian king Abdullah II refused a request made by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet, and again later in August when Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan said Jewish worshippers should be allowed to pray in the Haram al-Sharif compound in what would be a change to the status quo. A spokesperson from the Jordanian foreign ministry said such a change would have “dangerous repercussions”; Jordan summoned Israel’s ambassador to Jordan for a reprimand.


Anti-BDS Efforts and Human Rights Watch Director Hearing

               In an effort to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs released a report alleging to “unmask” anti-Semitism within the BDS movement by misconstruing tweets and interpretations of cartoons made by people who support BDS but otherwise are not involved in the organization.

               The saga about the expulsion of Human Rights Watch (HRW) director of Israel and the West Bank Omar Shakir continued in Israel as the hearing for his appeal was delayed from July to September. In September, Shakir appeared before the Israeli supreme court for his hearing but no final decision was made in his case this quarter. Israel is claiming that Shakir supports the BDS movement, which both he and HRW have denied.


Spying on the U.S.

               3 former senior U.S. officials told Politico that Israel has most likely been spying on the U.S. administration using cellphone surveillance devices, called StingRays, planted near the White House and other locations in D.C. According to the former officials, a forensic analysis by the FBI led to a confident conclusion that Israel was behind the surveillance. President Trump said he did not think Israel would be spying on him and that “[a]nything is possible but I don’t believe it.” According to the reporting, the U.S. government has not held Israel responsible for planting the devices.


Reclassifying Nakba Documents

               Haaretz reported that in the Israeli defense ministry, a department called Director of Security of the Defense Establishment are reclassifying documents from the Israeli archives that have already been released by censors about the Nakba and later expulsions. Among the documents that have been resealed are military reports that confirm that Palestinians fled some towns and cities due to Zionist violence. A week after the Haaretz exposé, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote about how he had been denied viewing documents he had been writing about in 2005. Some of these documents were from 1971, therefore the reseal is not just related to documents from the months surrounding the Nakba.