Related Quarterly Updates


Chmn. Arafat met with either PM Rabin or FM Peres or both eight times during the quarter (Peres in Spain on 11/ 24; Peres in Brussels on 11/28; Peres at Erez checkpoint on 12/8; Rabin and Peres in Stockholm 12/9-12; Peres at Erez checkpoint on 12/21; Rabin at Erez checkpoint on 1/9; Rabin at Erez checkpoint on 1/19; Rabin at Erez checkpoint on 2/9). In addition, Arafat and Rabin attended the larger meeting in Cairo on 2/2 that included King Hussein and Pres. Mubarak.

In their meeting of 12/21, Peres and Arafat agreed to proceed with the talks at two levels: between Arafat and Rabin on such issues as troop withdrawal, transfer of power, and security, and at a lower level for implementation of the second stage of the DOP, elections, Palestinian detainees, borders, and the economy.

Throughout the quarter, the Supreme Liaison Committee (under Nabil Shaath for the Palestinians) met off and on in Cairo, while meetings of joint committees for commodities, elections, security, and other issues were held in Cairo, Erez crossing, and elsewhere.

Progress was impeded by security problems (most notably the suicide bombing that killed 21 Israelis on 1/22, and Israeli demands that the PA crack down on its opponents), the closure of Gaza imposed as of 1/22 and the economic hardships that ensued, and increased expropriations and settlement activity as of December. 

Transfer of Authority

On 12/1, Israel turned over to the PA responsibility for health and taxation (direct taxes and VAT). These were the last of the five spheres to be handed over, completing the first phase of expanded self-rule beyond Gaza-Jericho. (Israel had transferred authority for education on 8/28 and for social welfare and tourism on 11/15). Starting 12/1, the PA was to have full financial responsibility in the health domain for hospitalization in Israel, heath services, development, and salaries. Because of the complexity and size of the health system, Israeli Civil Administration health officials agreed to continue as advisors to the Palestinians for an additional three months following transfer. Likewise with regard to taxation, where the Palestinians are not completely familiar with the system, Israeli tax personnel will continue to "tutor" the Palestinians for an additional six months

On 12/7, in the first round of talks on the interim arrangements following transfer, the two sides agreed that Israel would hand the PA control of "packages" of offices in the West Bank as funds become available to the PA, even before the interim stage is completed. The first package should comprise 33 Civil Administration offices.

Given the state of Palestinian finances and in order to facilitate Palestinian selfrule and transfer of authority, FM Peres urged donor countries on 11/28, the eve of the donors' meeting in Brussels, to transfer aid. Israel announced on 11/23 that it would turn over $8.3 m. of Palestinian tax money to the PA by way of example.

Withdrawal and Elections

On 12/15, Israel gave its first response to the PA's election proposal submitted on 10/25, granting some concessions on the size of the council and opposition participation. But while Palestinian-Israeli talks on elections continued on and off, mainly in Cairo, throughout the quarter, wide differences on IDF redeployment prevented progress. Toward the end of November, Israel suggested substituting a permanent IDF pullback from populated areas on the eve of elections, as called for under the DOP, with a temporary three-day redeployment for the duration of the elections only. In the Arafat-Peres-Rabin meetings in Stockholm on 12/9, the Israeli side said any withdrawal prior to elections would have to be negotiated. On 12/12, Rabin offered Arafat the choice between early elections without redeployment and protracted negotiations that could delay elections for a year. On 2/11, Israel said it wanted to keep troops in West Bank towns during elections for security reasons, even if it contravened the DOP.

By the end of the quarter, following the surge in Israeli land confiscations and approvals for settlement construction in December and January, the focus of negotiations had shifted from elections and withdrawal to settlements and Jerusalem.

Progress Achieved

Despite the stalemate on substantive matters, there was agreement on such issues as license plates for Palestinian vehicles, passports for Palestinians, postage stamps (contingent on admission of the Palestinian postal service to the international postal union), and requirements for permission to use safe-passage routes. Progress was also noted on customs and transportation of goods. It was agreed that Palestinians who visit Gaza from abroad could remain for seven months instead of three as before. Israel also agreed to the construction of a Gaza port if donor countries will provide financing. In the Washington meeting of Israel, the PA, Egypt, and Jordan under U.S. auspices on 2/12, Israel and the PA agreed to set up industrial zones in the West Bank and Gaza to provide more jobs for Palestinians.


On 3/9, Israel FM Shimon Peres and PLO Chmn. Yasir Arafat met at Erez and set a target date of 7/1 for reaching a consensus on elections and Israeli withdrawal. They also agreed to open safe passages immediately, halt land confiscation and financing expansion of existing settlements, speed the process at border crossings, increase the number of Palestinian workers in Israel to 21,000, discuss releasing prisoners, and hold regular mtgs. to exchange security information.

Palestinian-Israeli talks were clouded, however, by the continued closure of the self-rule areas, aggravating Palestinian economic conditions; several anti-Israeli attacks (3/19, 4/6, 4/9) and attempted attacks (3/21, 4/2), raising Israeli security concerns and calls for Arafat to crack down; and Israeli land expropriations (3/ 22, 4/27), sparking fears Israel is trying to move the Green Line and predetermine the status of Jerusalem. The focus of talks remained elections, redeployment, and the transfer of authority.


On 2/16, PM Yitzhak Rabin met Chmn. Arafat at Erez checkpoint and offered his "Jenin First" compromise under which the Palestinian Authority (PA) would take over administrative control and financial responsibility of the West Bank town of Jenin, while Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would remain in place. Arafat initially rejected the plan but then said it would be acceptable if Jenin was the first stage in a comprehensive, clearly delineated redeployment and transfer of power. By 3/29, the PA agreed to the principle of a phased process for redeployment-as well as for elections, revision of laws, transfer of authority, and economic powers. 

On 4/26, Rabin unilaterally announced that the IDF would reassign troops from bases in Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah to bases inside the Green Line in a "pre-redeployment" but gave no timetable. The IDF also said (3/28) it would evacuate its headquarters in Nablus and Jenin by 6/1 and planned to redeploy from stations in Bethlehem and Tulkarm as well. Reduction in troops would be balanced by an increased Israeli police presence.


On 2/21, the PA offered six proposals for an intemational observer presence in the o.t. to help organize and supervise elections. By 3/29, the sides agreed on the composition of the 1,000-member observer group, allowing the PA on 5/2 to send invitations to Canada, the EC, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Norway, and Russia to join the effort. Also on 5/2, Arafat opened the Palestine Central Elections Committee headquarters in Gaza. 

On 4/4, the sides began talks on updating the census and voter registrations, and Israel turned over the relevant census data, agreeing on 4/26 that the updating process would produce two lists: one of Palestinians with ID cards, one of those without. The actual mechanics of updating the census and voter eligibility of Palestinians without cards and those in East Jerusalem was to be discussed later. In preparation, the PA on 4/28 began training 6,000 teachers to verify the data. The sides also agreed to create 1,500 voting districts.

Israel and the PA began drafting an election proposal on 3/15, but by the end of the quarter, no agreement had been reached. The nature, structure, and jurisdiction of the proposed legislative council also remain under negotiation, with sides agreeing in principle (3/29) to the separation of executive and legislative powers, with subcommittees to follow up on executive activity.

Economic Matters

Following from its "national separation" idea and the continuing import of foreign labor to replace Palestinian workers, Israel announced 2/17 that five industrial zones (in Jenin, Ramallah, Lahav, and two sites in Gaza) would be created in the o.t. to provide jobs for Palestinians outside Israel. The plan calls for international financing of the zones' construction and gives U.S. investors who have at least 25 percent stake in companies located in the zones eligibility for U.S. financing and guarantees from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC; a U.S. federal agency that provides risk insurance to businesses in politically volatile areas). Follow-up meetings were held between Israel and the PA (2/21) and Israel, the PA, and the U.S. (2/26) to draft proposals on the zones' funding and supervision.

On 2/27, the Joint PA-Israeli Economic Comm. met in Jericho to discuss implementation of Paris protocol signed 4/29/ 94; creation of 11 industrial zones; possible expansion of lists A and B of the protocol; the flow of commodities between Israel, the o.t., Jordan, and Egypt; and the establishment of joint subcommittees to address specific problems.

Also of note, on 2/25 the PA approved the establishment of an investment group/ development bank with capital of $250 m. On 2/26, the PA and Israeli delegations met at Erez to discuss the import and export of agricultural goods and allowing Palestinian trucks (virtually banned from Israel since the closure began 1/22) to carry produce into Israel.

Progress Achieved

At 5/7-8 Joint Liaison Committee meeting following the 4/ 27 crisis over the Jerusalem land confiscation issue, Israel made several concessions to keep the PA at the table, including approving plans for a heliport in Gaza, permitting 6,000 additional Palestinian workers into Israel, transferring $3 m. in tax money, improving the flow of trucks through checkpoints into Israel, releasing 250 pro-Fatah prisoners, and setting up an unofficial joint Jerusalem Committee to discuss expropriations. On 5/9, the PA postponed the first meeting of the committee until 5/14 after Israel refused to set an agenda in advance.

On 2/23, the Arab states began accepting Palestinian postage stamps on letters from the self-rule areas. All such mail is to be routed through Egypt. Other states will accept the stamps once 2/3 of Universal Postal Union approve them.

On 3/29, the PA Interior Min. began issuing Palestinian passports. On 4/13 however, Israel began confiscating passports issued to West Bank and Jerusalem Palestinians for travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj.

jj. On 3/25, the PA approved a plan for a public communications company servicing the self-rule areas. On 5/2, Arafat approved the creation of the Palestine Telecommunications Company, with plans for 600,000 phone lines and 200,000 cellular phones by 2005.

Structure of Negotiations

Aside from the meetings between PM Rabin or FM Peres and Chmn. Arafat, five bodies are directly involved in the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on interim arrangements during the transitional stage, as follows:

Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee

Established under Article X of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) to deal with matters requiring coordination and disputes, it was charged under Art. XV of the Gaza-Jericho agreement of 4 May 1994 to "ensure the smooth implementation" of the said agreement. Though not strictly speaking a negotiating body, in fact some of the more delicate negotiations are carried out under its auspices. The committee was originally headed by Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Shimon Peres, though Nabil Shaath had taken over the Palestinian side since difference between Abbas and Arafat led Abbas to resign (12/ 94).

Negotiating Teams

  1. Elections. The Palestinian team is headed by Saeb Erakat and includes Hasan Asfour, Zahira Kemal, Tawfiq Abu Ghazaleh, and Muhammad Ishtayyeh. The Israeli team is headed by Yoel Singer of the foreign office and has the same number of members as the Palestinian team. The negotiations, held most often in Cairo but sometimes elsewhere, including Gaza and Tel Aviv, deal with: how elections will be held; Israeli involvement in elections; the size and nature of the elected council (legislative or administrative); the authority of the council and president; participation of Jerusalemites (eligibility to vote and/or run); and updating the population census.
  2. Transfer of Authority. The Palestinian team is headed by Jamil alTarifi (although negotiations are sometimes led by Shaath or Arafat). The Israeli team is headed by General Oren Shahour (West Bank coordinator for the Defense Ministry) and Uzi Dayan (head of planning in the Army Command). After the transfer of the five spheres mentioned in the DOP, the negotiations, taking place mainly in Cairo and Gaza, began to focus on the transfer of another five spheres: postal matters, industry and trade, labor, energy, and insurance. Recently, three more spheres were added to the agenda: statistics, agriculture, and telecommunication
  3. Redeployment The Palestinian team is headed by 'Abd al-Razak Yahya, the Israeli team by Uzi Dayan. The issues negotiated include: redeployment of Israeli forces; redeployment phasing; personnel to be redeployed (army only or all security personnel); joint patrols; and roads and access. 
  4. Legal Affairs. The negotiations on legal affairs have not yet begun, being linked to talks during the second phase of the transitional period involving transfer of authority to the rest of the West Bank.

On the Palestinian side, the four negotiating teams report to the Higher Committee on the Negotiations, which decides on negotiating strategies and the composition of the negotiating teams. The committee, which meets weekly, is headed by Mahmud Abbas or, in his absence, by Yasir 'Abid Rabbu; the general secretary is Hasan Asfour. Other committee members are: Frayh Abu-Midyan (legal matters), Ziyad al-Atrash (security matters), Saeb Erakat (elections), Faisal Husseini (multilateral negotiations), 'Abd al-Razak Yahya (security), Ahmad Qurai' (economics), Nabil Shaath, and Jamil al-Tarifi (civil matters and liaison).

Coordinating Committees

They make up the other component of the bilateral process as established under the Gaza-Jericho agreement, providing for coordination and cooperation in various domains and monitoring the implementation of whatever agreements are concluded in the negotiations. The three committees are as follows:

  1. Joint Civil Affairs Coordination and Cooperation Committee (CAC), set up by virtue of Art. 111.5 of the 4 May agreement, meets almost daily at the Erez checkpoint on the Green Line between Gaza and Israel. The head of the Palestinian team is Jamil al-Tarifi. The head of the Israeli team is Uri Savir, director general of the Foreign Ministry.
  2. Joint Coordination and Cooperation Committee for Mutual Security Purposes USC), set up under Art. VIII.3 of the 4 May agreement. The head of the Palestinian team is Ziyad al-Atrash (other members: Freij al-Khaytri and Jamal Zaqut), and the head of the Israeli team is Ami Najjar, former head of the Israeli Military Administration.
  3. Joint Economic Committee UEC), set up under Art. II of the 4 May agreement. Unlike the previous two coordinating committees, the JEC's mandate covers not only the self-rule areas of Gaza and Jericho during the transitional phase, but also the rest of the West Bank. The head of the Palestinian team is Ahmad Qurai', while the head of the Israeli team is Avraham Shohat. Meeting in Paris, Jericho, and Gaza, the committee addresses: trade relations, taxes and tax structures, tariffs, ports and border crossings, and free market agreement.

The Palestinian components of the three committees report directly to the PA cabinet.


Palestinian-Israeli Track

Although successive target dates were missed for the conclusion of the long-overdue interim agreement provided for under the Declaration of Principles (DOP), being referred to as "Oslo B" in the press, progress was achieved during the quarter.

On 5/16, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) began parallel negotiations on elections and redeployment (he redeployment talks being broadened later to include expanding self-rule beyond Gaza and Jericho). After the 7/1 target was missed, Chmn. Yasir Arafat and FM Shimon Peres restructured the talks, scrapping the parallel negotiations in favor of one set of expanded talks embracing all areas. By August, over 150 negotiators were working in nearly 20 subcommittees under Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams led by Israeli FMin. Dep. Dir. Uri Savir and PA Economic M Ahmad Qurai'.

At the suggestion (8/2) of U.S. Amb. to Israel Martin Indyk, U.S. Consul Gen. Edward Abington, and UN coordinator Terje Larsen (who questioned whether an accord could be reached among so many negotiators and committees), Peres and Arafat began intensive one-on-one talks. By 8/10, a partial interim agreement had been hammered out, which was initialled by Savir and Qurai' on 8/11. A joint statement (see Doc. A2) broadly outlining the points covered in the partial agreement was approved by the Israeli cabinet on 8/ 13 (15-1, 2 abstentions), and approved by consensus on 8/15 by the PLO Executive Committee (10 out of 18 members present) and the Fatah Central Committee. That day, the teams resumed talks to resolve remaining differences. A new target date for the conclusion of the final agreement was set for 9/9. 

Although all issues were dealt with together starting in July, progress in the various areas is outlined below:

Expanded Self-rule

From the time the expanded self-rule talks began on 5/16, the number of spheres of authority that Israel agreed to transfer to the PA grew from five (energy, insurance, labor, postal services, trade and industry) to eight (adding on 5/ 22 agriculture, census and statistics, and local administration) and finally (on 6/6) to all 32 remaining spheres (except water and public lands). These were to be transferred at once, rather than in stages. In return, the PA agreed to not hold Israel to the 7/1 deadline. Sides immediately set up technical teams to discuss the transfer of each sphere.

A labor agreement was drafted 6/7; a communications agreement was signed 6/ 21, allowing Palestinian Broadcasting Service to transmit from television stations in Gaza, Hebron, Janin, Jericho, Nablus, and Ramallah, and to set up a radio station in Gaza; and a draft accord covering agriculture, labor, and local administration was finalized 7/12. 

On 8/7, Peres proposed "functional sovereignty" (emphasizing autonomous institutions rather than the actual transfei of land) as the basis for Palestinian selfrule. Arafat rejected the idea.


After various changes in timing and definitions over the negotiating period (redeployment and security being the thorniest component of the talks), Arafat and Peres agreed on 8/8 to a timetable giving the IDF until 2/97 to complete redeployment,he second stage to begin six months after elections (then hoped to be held in 12/95) and control of roads to be given up one year after elections. Earlier, on 7/4, Arafat and Peres had clarified that the first stage of redeployment (from Janin, Nablus, Qalqiliyya, and Tulkarm) would begin four weeks after the signing of the agreement and end 25 days before elections; during the vote, the IDF would temporarily pull out of Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah. Redeployment from Ramallah and Bethlehem was to be completed by 4-5/96 after bypass roads were built, while the future of Hebron was to be discussed by a special committee. The definition of the zones was finalized on 8/9 (see Doc. A2).


On 6/27, the PA and Israel agreed that elections would be held 22-35 days after redeployment from Janin, Nablus, Qalqiliyya and Tulkarm was complete; by that time, the PA was to have control over all civilian spheres (as agreed 6/ 29).

On 5/17, the sides agreed the PA would be in charge of maintaining security during elections but that joint PA-Israeli patrols will be deployed. Israel continued to insist that East Jerusalem Palestinians not be allowed to run in the election but agreed (5/3 1) they could vote, provided their polling stations are outside Jerusalem-a stipulation the PA did not accept.

pt. Also on 5/17, the sides agreed to set up a tripartite (EU-Israel-PA) committee to discuss the role of international monitors during elections. The committee's first meeting was held on 5/24 in Brussels, where the EU promised to provide $19.5 m. for the 700-member monitoring team. Monitors would begin work 100 days before elections to draw up candidate lists and establish an election commission, then monitor polls and produce a final report.

Talks continued on size of elected council (5/31, 6/29), voter lists (5/24, 6/ 19), the Jerusalem issue (6/29), and international supervision (5/24, 6/19).

Meanwhile, in anticipation of elections, new political groupings were announced, including: Ahd Party, Christian Democratic Party, Islamic Jihad al-Aqsa Brigades, Islamic National Path Movement (split from Hamas, funded by the PA), Movement for Democratic Construction (by Haidar 'Abd al-Shafi), National Coalition of the Children of Martyrs, National Movement 'or Change (a merger between Movement for Change and Democratic National Grouping), New Palestinian Brotherhood Council, and Palestine's Islamic Salvation Front.

Prisoner Release

With pressures for the release of Palestinian prisoners building (including a Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike 6/17-7/6), negotiations on the issue were led on the Palestinian side mainly by PA Planning M Nabil Shaath (6/ 11, 6/15, 6/30, 7/11, 7/14, 7/20); Arafat and Peres (6/25, 7/4) also discussed it. Israel agreed to the principle of a release on 7/1, the details of which were announced on 7/22 by Shaath: 2,541 Palestinian prisoners (including 2,200 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members) were to be released in two groups, 1,000 when Oslo B is signed and the rest two months later. Following talks 7/30, the PA proposed (8/ 9) a three-stage release: first, all women, the sick, those jailed for more than ten years; second, those arrested before the signing of the DOP; third, security prisoners.


In the intensifying conflict over sovereignty in East Jerusalem, Israel claimed on 5/19 that the PA was operating 14 illegal offices in the city (though with 'roof for only four). The Knesset passed a law 7/3 giving legal basis for the closure of all 14. The PA admitted to three offices (statistics, housing, and information bureaus) and agreed to close them. It should be noted that Orient House was not included in the banned offices and by the end of the quarter was allowed visitors up to the foreign minister level, though disputes continued, particularly with regard to the construction of an annex. Meanwhile, the East Jerusalem Municipal Council resurrected from 1967 by the PA held its first meeting 6/20. On 8/14, Israeli Police M Moshe Shahal warned the PA that the council was illegal and members could be arrested.

Religious Sites

On 7/16, PM Yitzhak Rabin said partial control forJewish religious sites such as Rachel's tomb (Bethlehem), Joseph's tomb (Nablus), the Altar of Joshua (Mount Ebal), the Herodian mountain, the Qumran caves, and other archaeological sites in West Bank eventually would be turned over to the PA, along with total control over access roads to the sites. On 7/25, Rabin reversed himself in the face of public protest and promised to link Rachel's tomb with Jerusalem municipal boundaries to keep it under full Israeli control. He also promisedJewish access to Machapela Cave in Hebron and Joseph's tomb, and agreed to set up a committee made up of one MK from each religious party to advise Israeli negotiators regarding West Bank holy sites.

Economic Matters

Discussion on industrial zones continued despite Rabin's decision on 5/30, on IDF advice, to drop the "national separation" plan as unfeasible. On 6/8, PECDAR announced an agreement to establish nine industrial zonesthree in Gaza, six in the West Bank-in the next three years. Israel would be responsible for security.

Meetings on cooperation during the quarter included one between PA Social Affairs M Intisar al-Wazir and Israeli Labor and Welfare M Ora Namir on labor, social security, and welfare policies (7/ 24), and another between PA Planning M Shaath and Yossi Beilin (newly appointed as Economics M) on economic planning activity and plans for joining electricity grids (7/28).

On 6/1, the first branch of the Palestinian Investment Bank opened in Jericho, followed by Palestinian Islamic Bank's opening on 8/9, bringing to 28 the number of bank branches operating in self-rule areas.

A commercial crossing point between Egypt and Gaza opened on 5/29. Fifteen truckloads of goods/day are allowed in, but loads must switch haulers at the border. On 6/15, a similar junction between Jordan and the West Bank opened at King Hussein Bridge. Meanwhile, a6/8 meeting in Jeddah between Saudi Arabian officials and a PA agriculture, trade, and finance delegation resulted in a cooperation agreement on Palestinian exports to Saudi Arabia. Also in June, the PA began issuing its own "certificates of origin" for exports. 

Efforts to stimulate private sector investment and promote development in self-rule areas included:

  • The creation, announced in Dubai on 5/24, of the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC), a new private company (capital $100 m.) for investing and creating employment opportunities in the West Bank and Gaza. If APIC, set up by 31 Gulf businessmen and Gulf-based Palestinians led by Riyadh-based Gaza businessman Omar al-Aqqad, proves profitable, it will set up a subsidiary for financing existing Palestinian companies.
  • A meeting on 5/24 in Amman between Arafat and 120 Jordanian businessmen, hosted by King Hussein.
  • A conference involving 400 Jordanian and Palestinian businessmen in Amman 6/4-7, where it was agreed to form a joint council to explore establishing a free-trade zone in the Jordan Valley; initiating joint commercial exhibitions; activating trade between the self-rule areas and Jordan; starting joint investment projects in cement production, petroleum refining, agriculture, and salt extraction from the Dead Sea; unifying standards and measures; and establishing scientific research centers.
  • A meeting on 7/26 in Gaza, between PA officials and representatives of more than a dozen U.S. companies (incl. Bechtel, Intercontinental Hotels, and Chicago Power.
  • On 7/13, PA Planning M Shaath revealed that Gazans had spent $540 m. in 1994-95 building restaurants, gas stations, and housing. Development plans for 1995-96 include 30 miles of highway, a seaport, a Marriott hotel, an airport, and public parks and buildings.

Progress Achieved

PA passports were accepted as valid travel documents by France and Spain (early June), the UK (6/ 13), Turkey (6/17), Qatar (6/19), Greece (6/23), Russia (7/31), Cyprus, Denmark, Israel, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.

On 6/19, Egypt began accepting mail from self-rule areas bearing Palestinian postage stamps for distribution abroad.

On 5/23, the Israelis agreed to designate the heliport in Gaza as an international border crossing and permit its use as the future site for airline transit to Cairo. On 7/27, the first Palestinian plane with a Palestinian crew overflew Gaza. 

th a Palestinian crew overflew Gaza. On 7/29, Qatar announced plans to open representative offices in the self-rule areas.

On 8/15, the first 143 of 2,000 Palestinian police trained in Algeria entered Gaza from Egypt. The IDF forbid entry to 2 others on security grounds.



Following the approval of the draft ("Oslo II") interim agreement by the Israeli cabinet (8/13) and the PA cabinet (8/ 16), negotiatorsettled into a process of five-day rounds of talks to resolve the remaining areas of disagreement (e.g., Hebron, water, joint security arrangements and settler protection, control of electricity grids, prisoners, agriculture, rural land use, taxes). Teams were headed by Uri Savir (Israel) and Ahmad Qurai' (PA), with the frequent participation of Chmn. Yasir Arafat and FM Shimon Peres, and mediation by U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross and Egyptian Pres. Husni Mubarak.

While Oslo II was still under negotiation, Israel and the PA tested each other's will on three issues: Jerusalem, Hebron, and extradition.

In mid-August, Israeli police began a series of raids on Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem, searching for links with the PA that would make operating in the city illegal. As a result, Israeli Police M Moshe Shahal ordered (8/27) the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority, Palestinian Health Council, and the Central Bureau of Statistics to close within 96 hours. The health council and statistics bureau were allowed to remain open after they agreed (8/31, 9/3) not to accept PA funds; the broadcasting corporation closed its offices 9/1.

Similarly on 9/6 and 9/17, during the negotiations over security arrangements for Hebron, Arafat ordered all municipal and PA offices and the shari'a court on the outskirts of Hebron to move into the city. Although Israel officially conceded that Hebron was an Arab city from which it would partially redeploy, the Civil Administration (CA) forced (10/13) the closure of PA information, cultural, and education offices on grounds that their operation in the city violated of Oslo II.

Finally, beginning 8/27, Israeli Justice M David Liba'i pressed the PA on its failure to act on 14 extradition requests, claiming it was violating the spirit of Oslo. The PA reacted by arresting, trying, and convicting the wanted men itself. Under Peres's direction, the Knesset concluded (9/20) that it did not matter whose jail housed the alleged felons, as long as they were sentenced.

Despite these tensions, talks were suspended only twice: by Israel on 8/21, following a suicide bombing in Jerusalem; and by the PA on 8/28, in protest over Israel's sealing of Jericho (8/22-30) during a search for wanted Hamas men.

Oslo II was initialled by both parties in Taba, Egypt 9/24; approved by the PA cabinet 9/25 (with 2 abstentions), nine members of PLO Executive Committee 9/26 (11 others did not attend the meeting and, on 10/4, submitted aletter to Arafat denouncing the accord), and the Israeli cabinet 9/27 (16-0, with 2 abstentions); and finally signed in Washington 9/28 (see "Special Documents" for text and "Settlement Monitor" for analysis). At the time of the signing, three outstanding issues remained: size of the expanded Jericho enclave, the date to begin redeployment, and number of prisoners to be released. On 10/17, the Palestinian-Israeli Steering and Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing Oslo II implementation held its first meeting and set up subcommittees for each major area of the accord.

Some major aspects of the interim agreement are outlined in specific sections below.

Expanded Self-rule

On 8/20, Israel and the PA signed an agreement for Israel's transfer of control (effected 8/27) over eight spheres it agreed to cede last quarter: agriculture, census and statistics, energy, insurance, labor, local government, postal services, and trade and industry. (Israel handed over education 8/28/94; tourism 11/15/94; and health, social welfare, and taxation 12/1/94.) The transfer of the 32 remaining spheres was agreed to and outlined in Annex III of the Oslo II accord.

As part of the transfer of authority under Oslo II, Israel agreed to a staged phaseout of the West Bank CA, including the evacuation of all 14 CA installations in various villages. Offices in two of the villages will become IDF-PA district coordination offices (DCOs), while the remainder will be PA only. To this end, the IDF evacuated Salfit on 10/10, followed by Qabatiyya, Yatta, and Kharbata on 10/11.

On 11/8, the PA assumed control of the post and telecommunications sphere for the West Bank. It also took over the transportation, communications, and meteorological spheres for Nablus and Tulkarm (11/13) and for Bethlehem and Hebron (11/14).

After the PA took over the local government sphere 9/10, Fatah and Fida issued a joint statement (9/20) calling on all West Bank municipal council heads appointed by Israel to resign and allow the PA to reorganize the municipal government structure. On 10/11, Israel permitted the return from Jordan of Fatah cadres Mustafa Liftawi, Mahmud Aloul, and Izz al-Din al-Sharif to assume posts as PA district governors for Ramallah, Nablus, and Tulkarm, respectively

As for the spheres transferred earlier: On 9/21, PA Education M Yasir 'Amr announced his ministry was beginning to develop a "Palestinian national curriculum" for the next school year. The Israeli Education Ministry warned, however, that it would examine the curriculum to make sure the PA will not be "violating the peace agreement by teaching hostile material.

On 9/19, the PA Tourism Ministry began training its first 30 tourist policemen to provide security for visitors and prevent thefts from archaeological sites. Fifty openings remain to be filled.

On 9/22, the PA Health Ministry received seven ambulances from Japan. And on 10/17, the PA police received 45 armored vehicles from Russia.


Under Oslo II (and in keeping with a compromise reached 8/24), Israel for the firstime officially recognized Palestinian rights to water in the West Bank, but delayed the definition of those rights until the final status negotiations. To alleviate current water shortages, Israel was immediately to make available an additional 28.6 mcm/year of fresh water for domestic use based on Palestinians' estimated future water needs of 70-80 mcm/year, with the understanding that this provision would not prejudice final status arrangements. A Joint Water Committee will also be formed to oversee water cooperation efforts during the interim period.

After further decisions on water were deferred to final status talks 5/96, sides began discussing quotas, drilling inspection, and funding for development of new water sources in late 8/95. And on 9/8, Peres agreed to increase the amount of water given to West Bank Palestinians by 100 percent over five years.


Oslo II delineated the zones and stages of redeployment broadly outlined in the 8/11 joint statement (see Doc. A2 in JPS 97). Israel agreed to pull out from seven cities (zone A) and 450 villages plus refugee camps (zone B)-an area totalling less than 30 percent of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem.

The PA negotiating teams saw maps outlining the zones for the firstime on 9/ 4 and immediately demanded that parts of zone B be redrawn. On 9/18, Peres presented the new maps to Arafat, who stormed out of the meeting, saying they depicted a "fig leaf" for occupation. The PA team noted 45 specific problems, and Israel submitted revisions 9/20. 26 maps were initialled behind closed doors at the Oslo II signing. On 10/30, the IDF announced the maps were topographically inaccurate and would have to be redrawn, approved by the PA, and added as amendments to Oslo II.

Pullouts were to begin with Janin on 10/8 and be completed by 3/96. When redeployment from janin had not begun by 10/15, a new schedule for withdrawal was issued: Janin (beginning 10/25, ending 11/19); Tulkarm (b. 10/25, e. 12/10); Nablus (b. 11/26, e. 12/17); Qalqiliyya (b. 11/26, e. 12/17); Ramallah (b. 12/10, e. 12/31); Bethlehem (b. 12/3, e. 12/21); and Hebron (b. 12/10, e. by 3/30).

Redeployment from Janin and 60 surrounding villages began on 10/25, was halted for two days (11/5-6) to mark Rabin's death, but was completed six days early on 11/13. On 11/11, Arafat named a committee to take control of the city, comprising PA Gen. Secy. Tayib 'Abd al-Rahim, Civil Affairs M Jamil Tarifi, and the West Bank heads of the Preventive Security Force, General Intelligence Service, and police.

On 10/13, the IDF issued revised cost figures for redeployment based on Oslo II, showing expected outlays to be NIS 3 b.- twice the allocated amount. On 10/17, the IDF began moving troops into the West Bank to provide added security for settlers during the withdrawal process.


Oslo II cemented a 9/18 agreement for the formation of an 82-member "Palestinian Council," with separate legislative and executive components, to be elected by 16 constituencies (incl. Jerusalem and Gaza). The head of the executive authority will be elected directly during the same voting process, while the head of the legislative council will be elected by the 82 members. According to Annex II, Palestinians in Jerusalem may vote "through" city post offices, though Israel will consider this "absentee balloting" as agreed 8/31. On 10/15, Israel said it wanted elections to occur before Ramadan (1/22); 1/20 was later selected as the target date, meaning elections would be held before withdrawal from Hebron is completed (see above).

On 11/5, the EU election team began helping the PA staff compile lists of eligible voters, print voter registration forms, and set up polling places. On 11/12, 7,000 Palestinian teachers trained by the EU and PA began the three-week voter registration campaign in the West Bank and Gaza.

On 11/12, the PLO Executive Committee held two days of preliminary discussions on the draft electoral law.

In anticipation of elections, Hamas and the PA revealed in late 8/95 they were holding ongoing negotiations on a national unity agreement. Drafts leaked to the press suggested Hamas would be allowed to take part in elections in exchange for formally ending attacks on Israeli targets. The rumors sparked debate between Hamas leaders inside and outside the territories, a meeting between the two factions in the Sudan 10/7, and threats of the diaspora members' secession from the movement. The PA attempted to counter these pressures by releasing dozens of Hamas cadres, including Mahmud Zahhar (10/8) and Shaykh Ahmad Bahr (10/16), but also added pressure of its own (in the form of mass arrests 8/29-9/3, 10/5) to keep Hamas at the table.

Prisoner Release

A two-stage prisoner release was agreed to 9/10, but was expanded to three stages under Oslo II. The first stage was to take place on the signing of the accord and include all women and minors, those over age 50, and the infirm, provided that they had not killed Israelis and agreed to sign pledges to refrain from violence.

The Israeli Supreme Court refused (10/2) to implement the release agreement until the Knesset approved the accord, which it did on 10/6. The refusals of Pres. Ezer Weizman (10/6) and Central Cmdr. Ilan Biran (10/7) to sign releases of four women triggered a protest by the other 23 women, prompting Arafat (10/12) in turn to threaten to boycotthe Amman summit (see below). Under a formulated compromise, the four women denied pardons will be included in the second batch of prisoners, to be released before Palestinian elections. Future releases will be handled by the new Klugman Committee, which will not require the president's or central commander's approval.

On 10/10, 600 political prisoners and 220 civil prisoners (of 1,100 males to be released) were freed; 89 criminal prisoners were permitted transfer to PA jails. The remaining 280 men were released later that week.

Security Arrangements

On 10/25, the first of seven new West Bank district liaison and coordinating offices (DCOs) began operating in Janin. (1 DCO was already in place in Jericho, 2 in Gaza.) The West Bank DCOs will command joint (IDF-PA) ground patrols and report on ongoing security matters to the Regional Security Committee (RSC-headed by Israeli Brig. Gen. Moshe El'ad, PA Brig. Gen. Rabhi Arafat). The RSC reports to the Joint Security Liaison Committee USC-headed by Israeli Brig. Gen. Herzl Getz, PA Brig. Gen. Ziyad al-Atrash). Each DCO will also have a separate section for coordination on civilian affairs. Civilian affairs departments will be supervised by the joint Committee for Coordination and Liaison on Civilian Issues (JCAC).

IDF and PA military commanders met 11/8 to plan joint patrol routes for Janin; patrols began 11/14. With the joint patrols in mind, the IDF issued stricter rules of engagement for the West Bank, recognizing the right of some Palestinians to carry arms in certain areas.

On 10/24, PA and Fatah security heads met in Jericho to discuss forming joint command committees to assure coordination among Palestinian West Bank security groups in areas taken over from the IDF.

Economic Matters

On 9/29, the new U.S.-Israel-PA economic development panel (formed under the 8/11 joint statement; see Doc. A2 inJPS 97) convened for the firstime in Washington. On 10/9, the U.S. announced it would set up reciprocal duty-free zones in the West Bank and Gaza, extending free trade and tariff benefits to developers in the self-rule areas and allowing Palestinian companies to export directly to the U.S., without going through Israeli companies. The U.S. termed the decision "unilateral" and not an agreement with the PA-which would require Israeli approval under the Israeli-PLO Protocol on Economic Relations (see Special Doc. B in JPS 92). On 10/28, the PA and U.S. signed a joint trade agreement on water purification.

Among the Israeli-Palestinian economic meetings held this quarter:

* Arafat, PA Planning M Nabil Shaath, Israeli Economics M Yossi Beilin discussed port and airport issues 8/24.

* Israeli Tourism M Uzi Bar'am and Arafat discussed joint projects, including a Dead Sea hotel, on 8/29.

* On 10/10, PA Planning M Shaath and Israeli Economics M Yossi Beilin exchanged long-term development plans and discussed methods of economic cooperation.

* Palestinian trade unionists met with Histadrut members 9/3.

On 10/19, Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) Govemor Fu'ad Bisaysu noted that deposits in banks operating in the self-rule areas totalled nearly $1 b.

Diplomatic Matters

PA passports were accepted as valid travel documents by Austria (11/5), Brazil (9/1), Bulgaria (9/20), Canada (10/5), Finland (9/21), Khazakhstan (10/10), Oman (10/10), Poland (11/ 95), Sweden (10/26), Turkmenistan (11/ 5), the UAE (9/95), and Zimbabwe (11/2). In mid-August, Qatar became the first Gulf state to open a representative office in the self-rule areas. South Africa followed suit 8/21.

With most diplomatic initiatives stalled, the Palestinian habba (surge or revolt in English) continued to dominate international and local media. However, there was an ebb in characteristic knife attacks, stabbings, and car rammings against Israeli soldiers, settlers, and civilians; carried out by mostly young Palestinians, the series of non-coordinated individual attacks took place in the context of the tightening siege of Gaza, continued abuse of West Bank residents at the hands of settlers and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, unceasing takeover of Palestinian land and homes, and the explosive situation around Haram al-Sharif (see “Jerusalem at Boiling Point,” online supplement to JPS 45 [2]). While there were fewer Palestinian and Israeli casualties this quarter, lingering tension in the oPt centered on Palestinian access to Haram al-Sharif during the Jewish holidays fueled fears of another flare-up.

The ebb in the violence allowed some negotiating space between the 2 sides on lower-level economic and security issues if not on major diplomatic ones. Meanwhile, the Palestinians focused on continuing multilateral diplomatic efforts, particularly the French peace initiative, which took shape this quarter.



Having intensified in conjunction with the Jewish holidays in 9/2015, the protests, clashes, and individual attacks that characterized the habba decreased during the quarter, leading to substantially fewer casualties: 32 Palestinians and 2 Israelis were killed as a result of such incidents this quarter, compared with 92 and 16, respectively, the previous quarter. This 66% reduction in overall fatalities followed on a 50% reduction from the previous 3 mos. Likewise, the number of injuries also decreased, from a peak of 7,392 Palestinians in 10/2015, to a monthly average of 2,192 in 11/2015–1/2016, and down to 514 in 2/2016, 348 in 3/2015, and 286 in 4/2016, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Similarly, the number of Israelis injured also decreased this quarter, from 115, 50, 41, and 16 in each of the 4 mos. leading up to 1/2016; to 8 in 2/2016, 27 in 3/2016, and 21 in 4/2016.

As in the previous 2 quarters, individual incidents—stabbings, alleged/staged stabbings, vehicular collisions, and car rammings, as well as shootings, largely instigated by Palestinian youths—produced most of the casualties. Conflicting Palestinian and Israeli media coverage of these events continued to exacerbate underlying tensions and anti-Israeli attacks garnered much support among the Palestinian public (see “Palestinian Opinion” below). With the number of individual incidents decreasing, however, a handful of high-profile events drove unrest during the quarter.

The most prominent incident occurred in Hebron on 3/24, when IDF troops shot and killed 2 Palestinians after they allegedly stabbed and moderately injured an Israeli soldier in the Old City. The killings would likely not have stood out had a Palestinian human rights activist not captured 1 on video. The footage of an IDF soldier shooting a Palestinian in the head after he had been disarmed, detained, and incapacitated sparked an international outcry. Palestinian officials, who had been condemning the extrajudicial nature of IDF responses to similar incidents, said the footage demonstrated the disproportionate violence meted out by the Israeli army over the previous 5 mos. After the footage circulated on social media, some Israeli officials also condemned the killing, and PM Benjamin Netanyahu authorized an internal investigation into the incident. However, the govt.’s response was in stark contrast to Israeli public reaction. The Palestinian human rights activist who filmed the killing received death threats and other forms of harassment over the following weeks, and Israel’s Channel 2 News published a poll, on 3/26, showing that 57% of the Israeli public opposed their govt.’s efforts to prosecute the shooter, Elor Azaria. Ultimately, an IDF tribunal downgraded (3/31) the charges from murder to manslaughter, and Azaria’s trial began on 5/9. (See Photos from the Quarter.)

Although there were fewer anti-Israeli Palestinian attacks during this quarter, the Israeli govt. ramped up its ongoing crackdown, and, as in previous quarters, continued its policy of withholding the bodies of Palestinians killed after allegedly perpetrating violence against Israelis. This policy continued to provoke Palestinian ire, particularly in East Jerusalem, and it also stirred controversy within the Israeli govt. When the quarter opened, Israeli police had returned only 1 Palestinian’s body to his family in East Jerusalem. During the 1st half of the quarter, they returned 3 more (the family rejected 1 on the grounds that it had been frozen, violating the terms of an agreement with the Israeli authorities).

In the second half of the quarter, the policy came under question amid an ongoing dispute between DM Moshe Ya’alon and Public Security Min. Gilad Erdan, who held jurisdiction over Palestinian corpses withheld from families in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, respectively. Ya’alon and the majority of Israel’s security establishment espoused a more lenient attitude, believing that withholding corpses only led to more violence, while Erdan and the Israeli police enforced strict restrictions on any returns and placed caps on the size of funerals. According to sources in his office, on 3/28, Netanyahu ordered Ya’alon to stop returning any bodies to the PA or families in the West Bank but neglected to explain the order, leading to its inconsistent application (e.g., a body was returned to Hebron on 4/15). The next mo., Netanyahu appeared to reverse his position, saying (5/4) that Ya’alon and Erdan had been empowered, as of 5/1, to decide whether or not to return any bodies. As of 5/9, the Israeli authorities were still withholding the bodies of 15 Palestinians, according to OCHA.

The Israeli govt. expanded its crackdown in other ways during the quarter. On 3/2, Netanyahu formally asked Atty. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit to approve his proposed policy of deporting to Gaza families of Palestinians who commit serious crimes against Israelis. Then, after 7 Palestinians and 1 U.S. citizen were killed in a series of attacks on 3/8–9, he said (3/9) that Israel would complete the construction of the separation wall in the s. Hebron hills and that he would pursue legislation aimed at deterring Palestinians from entering Israel illegally (1 of the attacks, on 3/8, was carried out by a Palestinian working in Israel without proper permits); the PM also pledged to shut down Palestinian media outlets that in his view incited violence and to deny work permits to the families of Palestinians who committed serious crimes against Israelis.

Over the next few weeks, Netanyahu’s proposals took effect: Israeli forces shut down (3/10) Falastin al-yawm in Ramallah; conducted (3/10) widespread raids inside Israel, arresting over 250 Palestinians without proper permits and 27 Israelis suspected of assisting them; ordered (3/14) the closure of a construction site near Haifa on charges of harboring Palestinians; and closed down (3/31) a factory in the Negev that employed Palestinians working in Israel illegally. Israel’s security cabinet approved (3/10) Netanyahu’s proposal to complete the separation wall near Hebron (work had largely stopped since 2007). By 4/15, hundreds of Palestinian work permits had reportedly been revoked for security reasons. Additionally, the Knesset passed (3/14) into law, 44–16, an amendment designed to deter Israelis from transporting, employing, or otherwise assisting Palestinians working in Israel illegally. Specifically, the law imposes fines of up to NIS 75,000 (around $19,340) and prison sentences of up to 2 years for 1st-time infractions by Israelis convicted of employing or otherwise accommodating Palestinians, with punishments increasing for more serious infractions. Police were also authorized to shut down offending businesses for as many as 30 days. In addition, the new policies empowered courts to extend closures or cancel permits.

The Israeli govt. also increased efforts to marginalize or undermine political opponents, including Israeli anti-occupation activists, other left-wing civil society groups, and Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCI). After its introduction last quarter (see JPS 45 [3]), the Knesset passed, 55–53 (3/28), the 1st reading of the “suspension bill,” which would allow a 3/4 majority of Knesset mbrs. (MKs) to suspend 1 of their colleagues if he or she incited terror or racism, or otherwise undermined Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (Netanyahu spearheaded the bill after criticizing 3 Palestinian MKs for visiting the East Jerusalem family of a Palestinian whose body was being withheld by the Israeli govt.). In a related development, Israel’s Interior Ministry revoked (5/10) the residency status of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement leader Omar Barghouti, effectively barring him from traveling abroad. The ministry alleged that his “center of life” was in the West Bank and not his family home in Acre. Furthermore, the Israeli govt. approved (4/10) a phased plan to strengthen law enforcement in the so-called Arab sector. The plan would invest billions of NIS into the construction of 10 new police stations, the renovation of 10 more, and the hiring of 2,600 new police officers by 2020. Erdan, the plan’s chief designer, said it would narrow the social gaps between Palestinians and Jews in Israel and increase economic integration, but the PCI and their representatives criticized the plan for serving the state’s needs, rather than those of the Palestinian minority.

Meanwhile, Channel 2 aired a report (3/17) claiming that the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence routinely collected classified military intelligence over the course of its work, which included interviewing former IDF troops about their experiences. Netanyahu criticized (3/17) the group and Ya’alon ordered an investigation into the allegations. According to an Israeli security official (3/23), Shin Bet completed a preliminary probe into the report and found that Breaking the Silence collected only low-level classified military intelligence. Public outcry against the group continued throughout the quarter.

Further exacerbating tensions in the West Bank, the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) resumed its practice of punitively cutting the power supply to various Palestinian cities in response to unpaid debts. From 3/31 to 4/5, the IEC temporarily cut power to parts of Jericho (3/31), large swaths of Bethlehem (4/4), and parts of Hebron (4/5; see Chronology for details). IEC officials said (4/4) that the PA and the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) owed NIS 1.7 b. (around $449 m.) to the Israeli govt., with the PA allegedly owing NIS 300,000 and JDECO the remaining NIS 1.4 b. After a series of negotiations between Israel’s main political parties, including Joint List chair Ayman Odeh, the IEC announced (4/6) that the power cuts had been indefinitely suspended. JDECO agreed to pay NIS 60 m. ($15.7 m.) to the IEC by 4/12, and the PA immediately transferred NIS 20 m. ($5.2 m.). They also agreed to resolve disputes over tariffs and interest rates in future negotiations. Although the power cuts ended, and Israel’s High Court of Justice temporarily banned (4/20) the IEC from using this form of punishment, the looming threat of punitive reductions in other public services fueled Palestinian unrest.



Tension at Haram al-Sharif

Although violence decreased overall during this 3-mo. period, 2 major flashpoints at the end of the quarter threatened to break the uneasy, relative calm. The 1st arose in Jerusalem with the approach of the Passover holiday. Since Palestinian access to Haram al-Sharif during the Jewish holidays was the initial trigger for unrest in 9/2015, nervous anticipation increased among govt. officials and in media reports in late 4/2016. Right-wing Jewish activists’ visits to Haram al-Sharif, Israeli arrest raids and house searches in Palestinian neighborhoods, and Israeli settlement growth in the city all continued apace. Another source of tension centered on stalled Israeli-Jordanian talks over the implementation of a 10/24/2015 agreement to install new surveillance infrastructure at the sanctuary. Scant and conflicting reports of progress appeared during the quarter, but neither side seemed eager to compromise.

The sticking points had become clear early in the quarter. On 2/28, senior Jordanian and Israeli officials said negotiators had made progress and that a delegation of Jordanian technicians would soon arrive in Jerusalem to finalize technical details. The 2 sides concurred on a couple of main points: cameras would be placed in the large plazas and other outdoor locations around the sanctuary, but not inside al-Aqsa Mosque as Israel had requested; they would also broadcast simultaneously to Israeli and Jordanian control rooms. However, disagreements remained. Jordanian officials said that the cameras would live-stream activity around the sanctuary but Israeli officials denied this. In the wake of these reports, another Jordanian official denied (2/29) any talks were going on at all and almost 1 mo. passed before further details were made public.

Three weeks later, Jordanian minister of state for media affairs and communications Mohammad Momani said (3/18) that cameras would be installed shortly, and the minister of awqaf and Islamic affairs Hayel Dawood indicated (3/20) that Jordan planned to set up 55 cameras to monitor only the outdoor areas of the sanctuary, reiterating that the cameras would broadcast live over the Internet. Since no Israeli officials commented on these reports, it was unclear whether they represented new understandings or if Jordanian officials were merely restating their positions. Despite more such reports based solely on Jordanian comments, the overall lack of tangible progress increased tensions. The International Crisis Group, for example, reported (4/7) that the “relative calm” at Haram al-Sharif was “deceiving,” and that it could “crumble” unless Jordan and Israel implemented their agreement to install cameras, making “no other measures” possible.

Ultimately, PM Abdullah Ensour said (4/18) that Jordan had decided to halt camera installation at Haram al-Sharif, citing Palestinian complaints and reservations. Further reports said that Jordan planned to hire 150 additional inspectors to work for the Islamic Waqf instead. An Israeli official responded (4/19) to the announcement, saying that “Israel’s support [for the initiative] remains unchanged,” and that it was “regrettable” that the PA did not support the plan.

In the absence of a final agreement on surveillance, tension escalated throughout 4/2016. The Israeli messianic extremist organization Temple Institute said (4/12) that it had secretly conducted a Jewish wedding at the sanctuary that morning, violating the ban on Jewish religious ceremonies there. After MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) called (4/14) for Palestinians to obstruct Jews’ visits to Haram al-Sharif during Passover, Netanyahu formally asked Mandelblit if Zahalka’s comments constituted “incitement,” which would be grounds for an ethical complaint and a potential suspension. Israel’s police commissioner then wrote (4/17) to Netanyahu saying that he had “decided to continue [the PM’s] ban on [MKs] going up to [Haram al-Sharif] until further notice.” In the 3 days leading up to the start of Passover on 3/22, Israeli forces conducted intense raids across East Jerusalem, arresting 52 Palestinians, issuing arrest summons to 18, and sparking clashes that led to at least 16 Palestinian injuries. The Israeli authorities also placed restrictions on Palestinian travel during the holiday: Gazans’ weekly visits to Jerusalem were suspended; West Bank and Gazan border crossings were closed on 4/22–30, except for emergency medical or humanitarian cases; and al-Ibrahimi Mosque was closed on 4/25–26.

Passover, which Jewish Israelis observed from 4/22–4/30, came and went with relatively little violence. Every day of the Passover week saw verbal or physical clashes at Haram al-Sharif between right-wing Jewish activists and Palestinian worshippers (see Chronology for details). Hundreds of Jews toured the sanctuary, and many were arrested or expelled after attempting to perform religious rites in contravention of long-standing practice. Overall, no serious injuries were reported, and life in the city returned to a relative calm.

Cross-Border Violence in Gaza

Since the Israeli assault on Gaza in summer 2014 (see JPS 44 [2]), sporadic bouts of crossborder violence have repeatedly broken the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. While internationally mediated efforts to negotiate a long-term truce, or hudna, failed, neither side appeared willing to instigate another large-scale military operation. At the same time, reconstruction efforts advanced slowly (see “Gaza Reconstruction” below), humanitarian conditions in Gaza continued to deteriorate, and officials on both sides were voicing increasingly bellicose rhetoric.

This quarter, another round of cross-border violence broke out, contributing to overall tension across the oPt that illustrates the fragility of the cease-fire. On 4/18, the Israeli govt. lifted its gag order on news that the IDF had recently discovered a tunnel leading from Gaza into s. Israel (they destroyed the tunnel on 4/19). The news was released in the context of death of some 12 Palestinians in tunnel-related incidents last quarter, raising new questions about Hamas’s intentions and Israel’s anti-tunneling capabilities. Hamas’s military wing responded (4/18), by describing the tunnel concerned as “just a drop in the ocean of what the resistance has prepared for the defense of its people and the liberation of holy places, land, and prisoners.” Two weeks later, Netanyahu toured (5/3) an area along Gaza’s border, igniting a 5-day period of sustained violence that led to the death of 1 Palestinian and the injury of 4 others (see Chronology for details). Armed Palestinians fired rifles and mortars at Israeli forces along the border fence on a daily basis, and the IDF used artillery and air strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions across Gaza. The IDF also conducted unspecified operations in their unilaterally defined buffer zone on Gaza’s side of the border that were presumed to be antitunneling activities. The worst attacks came on 5/5, the day the IDF announced that it had captured and interrogated a Hamas fighter and discovered another tunnel.

After 5 days of violence, Hamas and Israel reportedly agreed (5/7) on de-escalating the tension, following diplomatic overtures by Hamas toward Egypt, Qatar, and the UN (although it remained unclear whether the latter had any role in mediating the agreement) and relative calm returned to the border. Israeli officials said (5/8) that they planned to continue anti-tunnel operations, and they lifted (5/10) another gag order on the news that a 2d Hamas operative had been captured and interrogated, but there was no resumption of violence.



With violence subsiding across Israel and the oPt, Israeli and Palestinian officials embarked on several bilateral initiatives, making progress on new, lower-level economic and security arrangements, if not on the diplomatic front.


Neither the Palestinian leadership nor the Netanyahu govt. altered their positions on resuming bilateral negotiations this quarter: PA pres. Abbas maintained that Israel would have to halt settlement construction and release the 4th batch of Palestinian prisoners as agreed to in the previous round of U.S.-mediated talks in 3–4/2014 (see JPS 43 [3]), while Netanyahu insisted that there would be no direct talks unless the Palestinians dropped their preconditions and restored “quiet” in the oPt (see JPS 45 [3]). With progress stalled diplomatically, both Israelis and Palestinians pursued other initiatives (see below).

One noteworthy incident in early 4/2016 summed up the state of play. Without altering his stance on the previously formulated minimum conditions for talks to resume, on 3/31 Abbas indicated that he would be open to meeting with Netanyahu “anywhere, anytime.” In response, the Israeli PM invited (4/4) Abbas for a meeting in Jerusalem, adding “any day he can come, I’ll be here.” Netanyahu’s Twitter account posted a message later that day elaborating on the invitation: “I heard Pres. Abbas say that if I invite him to meet, he’ll come. So I’m inviting him. I’ve cleared my schedule.” The PLO Negotiations Affairs Dept. Twitter account responded with “Negotiate what exactly?” The ostensible transparency of the exchange revealed both sides’ eagerness to appear open to talks and their simultaneous unwillingness to compromise, at least in public. This quarter witnessed no major information leaks of secret Israeli-Palestinian talks.


Early in the quarter, reports surfaced that Israel’s finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, had held talks with his PA counterpart, Shukri Bishara, to shore up the economy in the oPt. On 2/21, the Israeli press reported that the 2 officials had met several times in recent weeks and that Kahlon was preparing a series of recommendations for Netanyahu, including 1 that would permit Palestinian doctors to train at Israeli hospitals and Palestinian entrepreneurs to apprentice with Israeli technology companies. Kahlon then met with Netanyahu on 2/24, and the PM allegedly approved several steps to improve Palestinian economic security, including a direct transfer of NIS 500 m. (around $128 m.) in withheld tax revenues to alleviate the PA’s reported NIS 1.5 b. (around $384 m.) debt.

On 4/12, the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Unit announced that it had approved a Palestinian request to build a power plant near Jenin. According to COGAT, the plant would produce “a qualitative shift in electricity consumption, which will have a positive impact on all aspects of life.” A senior Palestinian official said (4/12) that the plant would cover 50% of the West Bank’s electricity needs. The project was estimated to cost $620 m., with an expected completion date of 2019. The plant’s fuel is to come from Israel’s offshore Leviathan natural gas field.

Separately, Israeli political and military officials were alleged to be discussing opening a seaport off Gaza’s coast, according to a report in Haaretz on 2/24. Netanyahu and Ya’alon opposed the proposal, but senior IDF officers favored it, especially if Hamas pledged to uphold the cease-fire in exchange. There was no further progress on the seaport proposal, although it did come up in Turkish-Israeli reconciliation talks this quarter (see “Turkey” below).

Security Coordination

Despite increasing unpopularity among the Palestinian public, PA Security Forces (PASF) maintained their security coordination arrangement with the IDF in the mos. that followed the eruption of the habba in 9/2015 (see “Palestinian Opinion” below). Palestinian efforts to renegotiate the terms of security coordination came to light this quarter as the PA sought to alleviate pressures from the Israeli crackdown on West Bank Palestinian cities and to quell the violence. According to a report in Haaretz on 3/14, the Israeli govt. and the PA had held secret talks on reducing the IDF’s presence in Area A, comprising 18% of the West Bank, slated to be under full PA administrative and security control. At the 1st meeting, on 2/9, senior Palestinian officials had reportedly issued an ultimatum: end IDF operations in Area A or we will end security coordination. In response, their IDF counterparts advanced a proposal that would have limited such operations, starting with Ramallah and Jericho as testing grounds. The proposal was apparently approved higher up in the chain of command, but then Netanyahu and Ya’alon demanded that it include Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to operate in Area A to stop “bomb-ticking cases,” or Israeli-defined emergencies. That demand proved to be the sticking point for the PA, since it would have contravened Oslo Accord provisions establishing Areas A, B, and C.

Despite the Palestinians’ rejection of the initial Israeli proposal, negotiations on security arrangements continued with Israeli officials and Western diplomats saying on 4/6 that progress had been made. But according to reports on 4/18, Shin Bet opposed the talks, and the wider Israeli security establishment was unwilling to make any major compromises to its initial position. Netanyahu and Ya’alon said (4/20) that, no matter what, the IDF would “maintain the possibility of entering Area A, and anywhere necessary, according to operational needs.” On 5/3, PLO secy.-gen. Saeb Erakat said that the talks were stalled because Israel refused to allow the PASF to take over full security control in Area A, and also because of Israel’s response to the French peace initiative (see below). Under growing public pressure from the Palestinian public, the PLO Exec. Comm. decided the very next day to curtail security coordination with Israel. PASF troops were instructed to implement the decision “under supervision of the Palestinian political echelon,” and PA security agencies were given responsibility for deciding how best to proceed. On 5/7, a Fatah official elaborated on the decision saying that the comm. would reconsider if Israel pledged to end incursions into Area A.

It remained unclear how serious the PA and PASF were about modifying the security coordination arrangement. On 5/4, senior IDF officers reported that the PASF had been taking a more active role in stopping the ongoing violence. They said Palestinian troops were responsible for around 40% of all arrests of Palestinians suspected of committing serious crimes against Israelis in recent mos., marking a 30% increase over the figure they reported in 1/2016.


At the same time the Israeli govt. was advancing economic and security talks with the Palestinians, it was also expanding and strengthening its settlements in the West Bank. Frequent reports of new settlement construction and confiscations of Palestinian land for the purpose of expanding settlements appeared throughout the quarter, making a mockery of Netanyahu’s expressions of support for a 2-state solution.

On 3/29, the Knesset passed the 1st reading of 2 bills providing economic incentives for settlement growth. The 1st bill would reduce bureaucratic restrictions on home purchases in settlements, ensuring that settlers did not pay taxes to both the govt. and the Civil Admin. The second would entitle settlers to tax breaks if they were eligible for a capital investment grant.

In terms of confiscations, the Israeli authorities seized 2,342 dunams (580 acres) near Jericho (3/10) and 115 dunams (28 acres) near Salfit (4/21), describing the 2 areas as state land; notified (4/22) Palestinians living near Nablus of the decision to confiscate 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of land nearby, retroactively authorizing a number of settlement outposts; and, according to a PA official on 3/21, residents of the Nablus area were informed that a further 1,200 dunams (around 296.5 acres) would be confiscated for the benefit of the nearby Eli settlement. (COGAT later disputed the figure, saying that only 612 dunams were set to be confiscated.)

In terms of new settlement construction, Israeli NGO Peace Now revealed (4/12) that the govt. had advanced plans for 674 new settler residences in the 1st 3 mos. of 2016, marking a 250% increase over the comparable period in 2015. The next day, the Israeli press reported that Netanyahu and Ya’alon had recently approved the construction of 267 new settler residences across the West Bank but Netanyahu’s office denied (4/14) the reports, saying “almost all of the permits are intended for the upgrading of existing buildings.” Peace Now disproved that claim with photographic evidence. Later, Haaretz published (5/7) a leaked govt. plan for a new settlement near the illegal Amona outpost, scheduled for evacuation by the end of 2016. The plan was reportedly being advanced to stem criticism from settlers and defenders of Amona who had waged a campaign to win authorization for the outpost.

In a related development, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled (3/2) that the govt. must return 1,700 dunams (around 420 acres) of unused land near Ramallah to its Palestinian owners whose lawyers had argued that the govt. seized the land in the late 1970s and early 1980s with plans to establish settlements but had never used it.



Palestinians’ Unilateral Efforts

As they focused their energies on the French peace initiative (see below) for much of the quarter, the Palestinians also maintained ongoing efforts in international institutions, particularly at the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Last quarter, the Palestinian leadership appeared to be preparing to abandon efforts to table a UNSC res. censuring Israel’s settlements in favor of supporting France’s peace initiative. With the U.S. veto the chief obstacle at the UNSC, the Palestinians settled for the promise of the U.S. admin. throwing its weight behind the French initiative before leaving office in 1/2017. Secy. of State John Kerry made it clear to Erakat on 2/21 that the U.S. would veto any UNSC res. censuring Israeli settlement policy or recognizing Palestinian statehood, but the Palestinian leadership nevertheless went ahead and informally circulated a draft to that effect in early 4/2016. Haaretz said (4/7) Western diplomats and Palestinian officials regarded the document as “relatively moderate,” indicating that it was seen as a compromise measure, combining a draft UNSC presidential statement elaborated by the Palestinians in 2/2011 (see JPS 40 [4]) with an added provision criticizing Israeli settler-related violence. The officials also indicated that Abbas was hoping to bring the draft to a vote while in New York for a climate conference in late 4/2016. Contrary to what Kerry had conveyed to Erakat on 2/21, a spokesperson for the State Dept. said (4/8) that the Obama admin. was undecided on whether or not to support the draft, allowing the Palestinian campaign to garner further support unimpeded.

Over the next 2 weeks, as consultations with several Arab states and other allies intensified, with the aim of finalizing the Palestinian draft ahead of Abbas’s trip to New York, the U.S. firmly dispelled any lingering ambiguity over its stance and closed the door on the draft res. After 90% of the U.S. House of Reps. (394 mbrs.) signed (4/8) a letter calling on U.S. pres. Barack Obama to “oppose, and if need be, veto, one-sided UNSC resolutions,” a State Dept. spokesperson updated (4/12) the U.S. position, saying that the admin. was “opposed to [the Palestinians’ draft].”

The U.S. stance sparked rumors that the Palestinians were shelving their draft. Although the PA Foreign Ministry later denied (4/20) this, a senior Palestinian official was quoted (4/19) as saying deliberations continued on whether or not to halt the campaign. “The opportunity to go to the [UNSC] will always be there,” the official said,“and we want to give a chance to the French initiative because, in the end, this is an initiative that serves us and not one that hurts us.” At the time, French diplomats were reportedly arguing that there was no point in investing time and effort in a draft res. that would likely fail, due to lack of support or a U.S. veto.

The Palestinians continued denying that they were abandoning their UNSC efforts, but when Abbas arrived in New York and addressed the UN on 4/22, he made no announcement or push for a vote: “We are deliberating with international parties and [the] relevant Arab ministerial committee to examine the content and timing for proposing a [UNSC] res. against settlement activity.” Abbas faced criticism from within Fatah and from Hamas, but held his ground. A PLO spokesperson later confirmed (4/26) speculation that Abbas had decided to concentrate Palestinian efforts on the French initiative. There were no further reports about a Palestinian-backed UNSC res. through the end of the quarter Outside the UN umbrella, the Palestinians continued cooperating with the preliminary examination into alleged war crimes committed in the oPt that International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda launched in 1/2015 (see JPS 44 [3]). ICC officials visited the region in 3/2016, meeting with Palestinian activists and lawyers, as well as PA officials on 3/19–21 in Amman. The Palestinians reportedly presented evidence relating to settlements and settler-related violence and to the environmental damage caused by Israel and its appropriation of natural resources. A PA official indicated (3/25) that the Palestinian leadership was trying to secure access to the Gaza Strip for the ICC delegation after Israel had denied them passage through the Erez border crossing. The PA began working with Egypt to get the delegates through the Rafah border crossing instead.

In a related development, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague announced (3/15) that the State of Palestine had joined its ranks, making it the 118th mbr. state. PCA membership allows the Palestinians to access new international dispute resolution services, such as guest tribunals and commissions of inquiry. The Palestinians filed their application to join on 12/29/2015, and their lobbying efforts overcame opposition from the U.S. and Canada. Israel’s Foreign Ministry criticized the announcement: “This is a legal body which is not among the more important ones. What a waste that the Palestinians continue to invest efforts to be accepted into these kinds of bodies instead of returning to the negotiating table.”

French Initiative

In the absence of any serious Israeli moves toward bilateral negotiations, the Palestinian leadership threw its full support behind the French peace initiative this quarter. Major uncertainties hampered French efforts in the past, but as the initiative took on clearer contours, it gathered momentum, and the only remaining questions concerned U.S. participation and Israeli approval.

As the quarter opened, French diplomats were meeting with their counterparts all over the world to build support for their initiative. On 2/16, French amb. to Israel Patrick Maisonnave unveiled the details of the plan to Israeli officials: first, the French would hold consultations with the Israelis and Palestinians in 2–3/2016; second, they would convene an international support group in Paris with reps. from dozens of countries excluding Palestine and Israel in 3/2016 or 4/2016; and last, they would convene an international peace summit in 6/2016 or 7/2016 to launch a new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The Israelis did not embrace the proposal; Netanyahu called (2/16) it “puzzling.” The U.S. was more open. After Abbas advocated for the plan in a meeting with Kerry on 2/21, the chief U.S. diplomat said (2/24) that “we’re trying to get some details of what exactly [the French proposal] is trying to achieve and how and what . . . the rules of the road would be.”

As support for the initiative grew in 3/2016 and 4/2016—an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said (3/3) there was “no doubt” that Cairo welcomed it—the French further clarified their plans. FM Jean-Marc Ayrault reversed his predecessor’s position the previous quarter, saying on 3/9 that if the initiative failed, France would no longer plan to recognize Palestinian statehood. “There is never anything automatic,” he said, adding that “[the initiative] will be the first step, there is no prerequisite.” Israeli officials had criticized former French FM Laurent Fabius’s ultimatum, and the new position was framed as a clear appeal for their support. Abbas met (4/15) with French pres. François Hollande in Paris and dropped the Palestinian bid to have the UNSC pass a res. censuring Israeli settlements (see above).

While they pushed hard for its support, the French did not find a receptive audience in the Israeli govt., even after dropping the recognition ultimatum. Updating the Israelis on 4/21, the French revealed that under their plan, they would: hold a preparatory meeting in early 5/2016; send invitations out for a ministerial-level conference to be held in Paris on 5/30; and get the conferees to agree on a statement of principles to guide the new round of talks. That same day, Ayrault gave an interview to Haaretz emphasizing the importance of Russian and U.S. participation and that of security arrangements at the venue. But their efforts were for naught. On 4/28, Netanyahu’s office released a statement formally rejecting the French peace initiative. “Israel is ready immediately to begin direct negotiations with the Palestinians without any preconditions,” the statement said, adding that “any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from the table of direct negotiations.”

Despite Israel’s rejection, the French continued to appeal for U.S. support. Toward the end of the quarter, a State Dept. spokesperson said (4/28) that the Obama admin. had not yet taken a position although it was “certainly interested in talking . . . about ways in which we can try to get to a 2-state solution.” Kerry, still undecided about whether he would attend the ministerial meeting or not, met with Ayrault in Paris on 5/9, and asked for the plan to be postponed, purportedly to accommodate his schedule. Ayrault was receptive, confirming (5/15) that the French were pursuing their plans despite Netanyahu’s objections, and that he was open to postponing his 5/30 conference to enable Kerry to attend.

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).

As protests, random attacks, and resistance activities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza continued to subside, this quarter the world’s attention turned to Washington, where outgoing U.S. pres. Barack Obama handed over to pres.-elect Trump. Ending mos. of speculation about a last-minute, surprise push on the peace process, the Obama admin. allowed the passage of UNSCR 2334 condemning Israel’s illegal settlement-building by abstaining from the vote. Secy. of State Kerry presented his vision for a final peace agreement, and the U.S. also participated in a peace conference in Paris, which failed to attract Israeli support or do anything to alter the status quo. While these moves may have exacerbated tensions in the Obama-Netanyahu relationship, Israel’s govt. appeared content to wait for Trump’s advent to usher in an era of closer U.S.-Israeli relations, as promised by the then candidate during his campaign.

The Netanyahu govt. continued undermining political opponents, including the Palestinian minority, and cracking down on the waning unrest in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). The Israeli govt. lifted restraints on settlement growth as soon as Trump took office, and also resumed preliminary efforts to negotiate a prisoner swap with Hamas.



Trump’s election on 11/8 had little effect on the stream of rumors and leaks alleging that the Obama White House was considering a final policy initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prior to the U.S. abstention on the UNSC vote in 12/2016, senior admin. officials would not be drawn out on the specifics of the debate inside the White House.

U.S. amb. to Israel Dan Shapiro said (11/23) that the admin. remained committed to a negotiated 2-state solution and reaffirmed Obama’s view that the status quo, with Israeli settlements gradually consuming more and more Palestinian land, was “unsustainable.” Secy. Kerry told (11/29) Women’s Foreign Policy Group conferees that there was no way to “force-feed” Israelis and Palestinians a peace agreement, referencing “other things we can do” to work toward a 2-state solution. Off the record, officials were more forthcoming about developments behind the scenes. On 11/16, a senior White House staff mbr. said that Obama was weighing several options, including a major policy speech and support for a UNSC res. condemning Israel’s settlements. The official also noted that the Palestinian leadership had taken steps to reduce alleged incitement in response to U.S. complaints, while the Israeli govt. had done nothing to curb settlement growth.

Early in 12/2016, an Israel Army Radio host explicitly asked (12/1) U.S. amb. Shapiro what the Obama admin. would do in the event of a UNSC measure such as the one the Palestinians and their allies had been pursuing throughout most of 2016 (see JPS 45 [3] – 46 [2]). Reiterating the admin.’s standard position, Shapiro stated, “We will always oppose unilateral proposals,” prompting speculation about the Obama admin.’s definition of “unilateral.” That same day, unnamed U.S. officials told the Associated Press that internal discussions of a UNSC res. or major policy speech had died down after Trump’s election and that Obama practically ruled out any lastminute effort to avoid another high-profile conflict with Netanyahu.

U.S. Abstention at the UNSC

At the UN, meanwhile, Palestinians and their allies were working on a draft res. condemning Israeli settlement building. The same day that Palestinian Authority (PA) FM Riyad al-Maliki confirmed (11/28) that the Palestinians planned to submit the measure imminently, Netanyahu said he expected Obama to oppose any new UNSC initiative. Res. efforts continued gaining momentum, however, and not just among the Palestinians’ closest allies.

New Zealand began circulating its own draft res. to other mbrs. of the UNSC in early 12/2016, the final mo. of its 2-year term on the council (Jerusalem Post, 12/11). The measure called for a “firm timetable” to return to negotiations, an end to Israel’s settlement enterprise and alleged Palestinian incitement, and for preventing either side from setting “preconditions” on talks. New Zealand’s envoys had raised the possibility of a UNSC res. in 4/2016 and 10/2016 (see JPS 44 [4] and 45 [2]), to no avail. This quarter’s action followed on a conversation on the subject between FM Murray McCully and Kerry in Wellington on 11/13, after which McCully met with Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli leaders on a trip to the region in 11/2016. When news of the New Zealand draft res. broke on 12/11, Israeli amb. to the UN Danny Danon condemned the initiative. “New Zealand is leaving the UNSC and they have a desire to do something,” he said. “I told them that we will remain here with the Palestinians after [12/2016], and that it is important that everything that is done be constructive and not give the Palestinians encouragement to go to the international community rather than talk to us.”

The New Zealand initiative encouraged the Palestinians to make their move. The PA sent a delegation led by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secy.-gen. Saeb Erekat to Washington to discuss the possibility of a UNSC res. condemning Israel’s settlement enterprise a week after the Brookings Institution published (12/4) a survey showing that almost half of the U.S. population would support the Obama admin. backing such a res. The delegation sought to draft a res. the Obama admin. could get behind and built on a draft that Washington had vetoed in 2/2011, according to the Jerusalem Post (see Doc. A4 in JPS 40 [3]). Prior to their trip, a Western diplomat had stated (12/10), “If the Palestinians act wisely and rationally they have a chance.” After the Palestinians met with U.S. officials in Washington on 12/12 and 12/13, however, neither party mentioned the UNSC, and a State Dept. spokesperson stated (12/13) that “nothing’s changed about our view on [the subject.]”

A week later, Egyptian diplomats formally presented (12/21) the UNSC with a draft res. expressing “grave concern” about Israel’s settlement activities; condemning all measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status” of the oPt; and calling for “affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends,” including settlement growth. The UNSC then scheduled a vote for 12/22, sparking 24 hours of frenzied diplomacy. After the White House and State Dept. chose not to comment on the draft, several diplomatic sources told NBC News that the Obama admin. was planning to abstain. Netanyahu quickly cleared his schedule to lobby the UNSC full-time. He reached out to pres.- elect Trump for help to block the initiative (Trump later issued a statement calling on Obama to oppose the res. and spoke with Egypt’s Pres. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi by phone). Following high-level contacts between Cairo and Tel Aviv, 2 unidentified Western diplomats were quoted as stating that the vote had been indefinitely postponed. One said (12/22) that Egypt “caved” to Israeli pressure. Danon, for his part, indicated that the UNSC affair was “not yet resolved.”

Israel’s seeming victory was short-lived. On 12/23, Reuters reported that 4 UNSC mbrs.— New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Senegal—had given Egypt an ultimatum of just a few hours: if they didn’t call for a vote by 12/23, the report quoted them as saying, the 4 countries involved reserved the right to submit the draft themselves. The Palestinians endorsed the move and reportedly sent a message to Egypt expressing a “strong sense of disappointment” with the postponement. Egypt chose not to call for a vote, and the 4 UNSC mbrs. made good on their promise. They submitted the Egyptian draft themselves and called for a vote on 12/23.

The UNSC then passed Res. 2334 with 14 votes in favor and 1 abstention, by the U.S. Erekat declared (12/23) a “day of victory”; PA pres. Mahmoud Abbas said (12/25) that although the res. did not “solve the Palestinian problem,” it “define[d]” it while Hamas leader Khalid Mishal asserted (12/25) that despite the fact that it was “not enough,” the res. gave the world a true picture of the situation with the settlements; U.S. amb. to the UN Samantha Power explained that the Obama admin. abstained because the draft was consistent with its views on Israel’s settlements. Meanwhile, Trump tweeted (12/23) that “things will be different after 1/20,” i.e., Inauguration Day.

Netanyahu and his govt. were apoplectic. One Israeli official had characterized (12/22) Obama’s rumored decision to abstain as a “diplomatic hit” against Israel, and Netanyahu released (12/23) a statement reiterating his conditional support for a 2-state solution and rejecting the UN res. He also accused Obama of “colluding” with “this gang-up” at the UNSC, and set in motion retaliatory measures against the countries supporting the res. These included ordering (12/23) Israel’s ambs. to New Zealand and Senegal to return to Jerusalem (there were no ambs. in Venezuela and Malaysia to recall); canceling (12/23) the Senegalese FM’s upcoming visit to Israel; and instructing (12/23) the Foreign Ministry to suspend all Israeli aid to Senegal.

As the Netanyahu govt. escalated its response to UNSCR 2334, Israeli officials echoed the PM’s accusations against the Obama admin. On 12/26, Israeli amb. to the U.S. Ron Dermer called it “a sad day and a shameful chapter in U.S.-Israeli relations,” adding that the Israeli govt. had collected evidence to substantiate Netanyahu’s accusations against Obama. “We will present this evidence to the [Trump admin.] through the appropriate channels,” he said, “and if they want to share it with the [U.S.] people, they are welcome to do it.” The next day, a document purporting to offer evidence that the Obama admin. had coordinated with the Palestinians was leaked to the Egyptian press: it described a meeting between Palestinian officials and Secy. Kerry and U.S. national security advisor Susan Rice in Washington in mid-12/2016. Supposedly, the officials told the Palestinians that the U.S. would not veto an anti-settlement res. if the wording was balanced. While confirming (12/27) that the meeting did take place, Erekat and U.S. State Dept. officials said that the leaked minutes were fabricated.

Meanwhile, UK officials all but took responsibility for organizing the anti-settlement res. Undermining Netanyahu’s accusations, on 12/29, a senior UK official said it was“in effect a British resolution.” The Guardian reported (12/28) that the UK “played a key behind-thescenes role.” Weeks later, Foreign Secy. Boris Johnson confirmed (1/10) that the UK was “closely involved in drafting” the res., and that PM Theresa May’s govt. supported it “only because it contained new language pointing out the infamy of terrorism that Israel suffers every day” (see Chronology for details).

Although UNSCR 2334 provided no enforcement mechanisms and entailed no practical consequences for Israel, Tel Aviv wasted no time ramping up its retaliatory campaign over the following weeks. Netanyahu summoned (12/25) Shapiro for an explanation of the Obama admin.’s position; ordered (12/25) the Foreign Ministry to downgrade Israel’s relations with 12 of the countries that supported the res.; suspended (12/27) all development aid to Angola for its favorable stance; and permanently downgraded relations with Senegal and New Zealand by deciding not to return Israel’s ambs. to Dakar and Wellington (Times of Israel, 2/10). Furthermore, Israel’s UN mission announced (1/6) that the country was cutting $6 m. from its planned 2017 commitment to the UN, a sum claimed to represent the portion of Israel’s annual $40 m. pledge going to “anti-Israel bodies.” Meanwhile, Israeli DM Avigdor Lieberman ordered (12/25) the reduction of civil and diplomatic ties with the PA, a move that could affect West Bank infrastructure projects and measures to increase work permits for West Bank Palestinians.

Israel’s top officials were worried that the Obama admin. had further plans afoot. At the 1st cabinet meeting after the res.’s passage, they discussed (12/25) the possibility that Kerry might use the planned 1/2017 French peace conference as an opportunity to lay out his vision for a peace agreement and expressing concern that participants might codify his vision into another UNSC res. For their part, the Palestinians said they hoped to build on UNSCR 2334: Erekat indicated (12/26) that they were planning additional measures, including lawsuits at the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as new efforts in other UN agencies and bodies.

The Obama Administration’s Parting Message

Hours after the UNSC passed Res. 2334, Kerry announced plans to “speak further to the vote . . . and share more detailed thoughts, drawn from the experience of the last several years, on the way ahead.” His statement was interpreted as confirming rumors that Obama intended for Kerry to present the conclusions his admin. had drawn from the failed attempt at peace talks in late 2013 and early 2014 (see JPS 43 [3, 4]).

As the date (12/28) of the speech approached, U.S. diplomats worked behind the scenes to make sure Kerry’s presentation would have the desired effect. On 12/27, Russia’s FM Sergey Lavrov reportedly rejected Kerry’s request for the Middle East Quartet (the U.S., EU, UN, and Russia) to adopt the principles he planned to present. Meanwhile, State Dept. officials clarified (12/27) that the Obama admin. was not planning any further action at the UNSC based on Kerry’s speech.

From the State Dept. podium in Washington, Kerry reiterated (12/28) many of the Obama admin.’s positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, criticizing both Israeli settlement growth and alleged Palestinian incitement. Kerry focused on the settlements, citing the so-called Regulations Bill percolating through the Knesset (see “Settlement Fracas,” below) and identifying settlement growth as the main obstacles to a 2-state solution. Kerry concluded by laying out 6 principles for a hypothetical final-status agreement: internationally recognized borders based on the pre-1967 borders; 2 states with mutual recognition and equal rights for all citizens; a “just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution” for Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with freedom of access to holy sites; an end to the Israeli occupation; and a res. for all outstanding claims and normalized relations under the Arab Peace Initiative (see JPS 31 [4]).

The response to Kerry’s speech was expectedly mixed. Netanyahu called (12/28) it a “big disappointment” and reiterated his desire for Israel-U.S. relations to improve under Trump. He also called on the Obama admin. to block any effort at the UN to adopt the Kerry principles. Trump himself tweeted (12/28), “Stay strong, Israel, [1/20] is approaching fast.” Abbas welcomed (12/28) the speech and reiterated his terms for restarting peace talks with the Israelis: freeze settlement growth, release the prisoners that were supposed to be freed in connection with the last round of talks in 3–4/2014, and uphold previous agreements. Finally, U.S. dep. national security advisor Ben Rhodes repeated (12/29) that the Obama admin. had no plans to introduce the Kerry principles into a new UN measure, allowing the focus to shift to a planned peace conference in Paris in 1/2017.

Peace Conference in Paris  

A French initiative to gather the international community with a view to resuming IsraeliPalestinian peace talks concluded this quarter. Announced in early 2015 by then-FM Laurent Fabius (see JPS 44 [4]–46 [1]), the aims of the conference were scuttled by Netanyahu’s persistent refusal to participate, Washington’s lack of enthusiasm, and the uncertainty introduced by Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency.

On 11/17, Pres. François Hollande stated, “The chances to hold the peace conference in Paris are not good,” and a Western official related that (11/20) Hollande had decided to freeze the initiative. State Dept. officials were “not enthusiastic about the idea,” and “believed nothing would come out of it due to its nature and Israel’s refusal to attend.” Although French officials denied (11/20) the report and the French govt. set 12/21 as a date for the summit, a sense of pessimism shrouded their plans.

Hollande then tried to sidestep the issues plaguing the initiative, inviting Abbas and Netanyahu to a tripartite summit as a follow-on to the conference, according to a senior Israeli official on 12/6. Hollande reportedly hoped to present them with the conclusions of the conference and recommendations from the working groups formed at the previous conference on 6/3/2016 (see JPS 46 [1]). Netanyahu rejected Hollande’s invitation (12/7), offering to meet with Abbas only if Hollande canceled the conference, but Hollande demurred. A week later, Palestinian amb. to France Salman al-Herfi said that the French had postponed the conference until at least 1/2017. French FM Jean-Marc Ayrault then set 1/15 as a new date.

In the wake of UNSCR 2334’s passage and Kerry’s speech delineating his 6 principles, Netanyahu shifted from a passive rejection of French efforts to a more active stance. Fearing another UNSC res. or even formal sanction, he told (1/13) several Israeli ambs. that there were “strong signals” that the 1/15 conference might be followed up by another UNSC res. or a Quartet statement. The following week, he said (1/8) that Israeli diplomats were making “very big efforts” at preventing those outcomes.

Reps. from more than 70 countries, including the U.S., gathered in Paris on 1/15. After reportedly intense negotiations, the conferees unanimously agreed to a joint declaration calling on both the Palestinians and Israelis to officially restate their commitment to a 2-state solution, and to demonstrate this commitment through policies and actions, including welcoming the prospect of closer cooperation between the Quartet and the Arab League, and agreeing to meet again within a year with a view to “advancing the 2-state solution through negotiations.” Kerry called Netanyahu in the middle of the conference to describe his efforts aimed at softening the final statement’s wording. According to sources close to the negotiations, the concluding statement was therefore more timid than some participants would have liked.

The follow-up efforts feared by the Israelis never came to pass. A senior diplomat reportedly approached Kerry before the conference to ask if he would be willing to bring the joint declaration to the UNSC for adoption, but the U.S. diplomat declined, opting instead to build consensus on the principles he presented on 12/28 (Haaretz, 1/20). Furthermore, the UK blocked the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council from adopting the joint declaration on 1/16. PM May sent only lowlevel diplomats to the 1/15 conference, reportedly as a gesture of solidarity with Trump, whose inauguration was only 5 days away. A UK spokesperson also explained their decision not to sign onto the joint declaration, saying that London had “particular reservations” since neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis had attended.

Settlement Fracas

As the quarter opened, Israeli settlers and their allies in the Knesset were increasingly agitated about the evacuation and demolition of the Amona settlement outpost, which the High Court of Justice had ordered to commence by 12/25. In the interests of strengthening and expanding the overall settlement enterprise, they explored numerous means of delaying or averting the order. But as the Obama admin. ratcheted up anti-settlement rhetoric in its final mos. (see “U.S. Abstention at the UNSC” and “The Obama Administration’s Parting Message” above). Netanyahu persuaded them to delay their efforts until a friendlier U.S. admin. was in place.

At the very end of the previous quarter, on 11/14, Israel’s High Court of Justice had reaffirmed its evacuation and demolition order regarding Amona, on the grounds that the illegal settlement outpost was built on private Palestinian land. In response, key settlement partisans, including Education Min. Naftali Bennett and Justice Min. Ayelet Shaked, had secured the support of Kulanu party chair Moshe Kahlon to compel the Knesset to pass (11/16) the 1st reading of their so-called Regulations Bill. The measure retroactively legalized all 232 West Bank settlement outposts (including Amona)—established with the state’s involvement despite their so-called illegality— and called for compensating Palestinian landowners by paying them 125% of the govt. assessed value of their land.

The settlers’ strength in the Knesset put Netanyahu in a difficult position as Jewish Home Knesset mbrs. (MKs) held 8 of the coalition’s slim 61-seat majority. The PM could neither afford to reject their demands, if it meant replacing Jewish Home party seats, nor could he give in to them without risking a severe backlash from the international community. Further complicating the situation, Israel’s Atty. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit repeatedly pledged not to defend the bill on the govt.’s behalf should it be passed and then challenged at the High Court.

After mos. of deliberations and delays, Netanyahu appeared to settle the issue on 12/4. First, he obtained Mandelblit’s approval for a plan to relocate the 40-odd families living in Amona to a nearby plot of “abandoned” land. Second, he announced that he would petition the High Court of Justice for a 30-day stay of execution on the evacuation order to give the govt. time to prepare alternative housing for Amona’s residents. Third, he brokered a deal between Bennett and Kahlon on the Regulations Bill, removing Clause 7 that specifically addressed Amona (the bill would still retroactively authorize approximately 4,000 settler residences). The new draft passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset on 12/5 and its 1st reading on 12/7.

In decoupling Amona from the bill, Netanyahu was able to gain both time and political cover. On 12/7, Bennett declared that the Knesset would not move on the bill until Trump came into office and an Israeli govt. source confirmed his statement (12/22) by saying that Netanyahu had placed a hold on all “controversial” legislation until Trump took over.

As a result, the political focus in Israel shifted away from the Regulations Bill to the Amona outpost. Opposing the deal and accusing (12/5) Bennett of “folding,” Amona’s residents refused the govt.’s offer to move them to a nearby plot of vacant land and started stockpiling supplies for a potential conflict with demolition crews. Meanwhile, the Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGO) Yesh Din was working to avert the govt.’s relocation plan, helping 4 Palestinians who had fled the proposed site in 1967 to advance their ownership claims through the courts on 12/5.

Bennett announced a breakthrough on 12/12. He said that he had reached a new deal with Netanyahu that would allow the residents of Amona to “remain on their hilltop,” despite Yesh Din’s legal moves to block the relocation plan. Some of the settlers would be given temporary permits to live on the new land, with options to renew every 2 years, and all residents would receive compensation equal to the value of their homes if they signed a formal pledge to leave Amona in peace. Although some of Amona’s residents said (12/13) they were tentatively hopeful, the community as a whole voted (12/14) against the deal, fearing that the relocation plan could get bogged down in the courts. After Netanyahu appeased the rightwing mbrs. of his coalition by advancing (12/15) demolition orders for Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and hundreds of settlers flocked (12/16) to Amona to join protests against the evacuation, Amona’s leaders and govt. officials worked out a new agreement (12/18). In exchange for a 1-mo. stay on the High Court’s demolition order, Amona’s residents accepted a plan (12/18) that would allow 24 of the 40-odd families to relocate to nearby plots of land, up from the 12 provided for under the previous deal.

Yesh Din then filed (12/19) a motion with Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property insisting on the illegality of the relocation plan, and the Palestinian mayor of Silwad, a village close to Amona, reaffirmed that Palestinian landowners had claimed the land while the Israeli govt. proceeded with the compromise deal worked out with Bennett. The High Court of Justice then approved (12/21) the govt.’s request for a 45-day postponement and called on Amona’s residents to file a formal pledge to evacuate their homes without violence or any other forms of resistance, which they delivered on 12/22. As the 12/25 Amona demolition deadline approached, the govt. explored other options, including moving Amona’s residents to the Ofra settlement, but none materialized.



Both during the campaign and in the postelection transition period, Trump made numerous conflicting and hyperbolic statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He pledged to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, promised to usher in a new era of friendlier relations with Israel, offered Israel stronger diplomatic cover internationally, and said he would “love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” calling it a “great achievement.” Although his 1st term in office was not even 1 mo. old by the time this quarter ended, Trump had already started backpedaling on at least 1 of those promises. His admin.’s consistent proIsrael and prosettlement rhetoric and appointments, however, signaled significant departures from long-standing U.S. policy.

Settlement Growth and the Future of the Two-State Solution

Trump was sworn in as the 45th pres. of the U.S. on 1/20 in front of a crowd of thousands of supporters outside the Capitol Building in Washington, including a number of Israeli settler leaders who flew into the U.S. especially for the occasion.

Two days after the inauguration, Trump and Netanyahu had their 1st official phone call. Trump invited the Israeli PM to come to Washington in early 2/2017 and said that “peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the parties,” echoing his interlocutor’s position vis-à-vis efforts to internationalize the peace negotiations. The PM’s office described the conversation as “very warm,” perhaps a veiled allusion to the starkly contrasting chilly ObamaNetanyahu relationship, and the White House later announced that Trump would welcome Netanyahu in Washington on 2/15.

Ultranationalist Israeli lawmakers were enthusiastic about working with a U.S. pres. who appeared ready to support their efforts. In addition to resuming work on the Regulations Bill (see “The ‘Regulations’ Bill” below), they also began talking about annexing the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc. Netanyahu cautioned (1/20) Bennett against pushing for a vote on such a move, reportedly warning the education min. that Trump’s advisors had told him to avoid unilateral steps until after the 2/15 meeting.

Nevertheless, short of formally annexing West Bank settlements, over the following weeks Netanyahu ceded ground to Bennett and his pro-settler cohort. Netanyahu promised (1/22) to lift political restrictions on settlement construction in East Jerusalem if Bennett and his allies agreed to postpone the Ma’ale Adumim vote. The Jerusalem Municipality then advanced (1/22) plans for 566 new settler residences across East Jerusalem and 153 residences (1/26) in the Gilo settlement. On 1/22, a group of Likud MKs pressed him on the question of a 2-state solution. “What I’m willing to give the Palestinians is not exactly a country with all the powers,” he responded, “but a ‘stateminus’ and that’s why the Palestinians don’t agree [to it].” He also warned them that positive relations with a Trump-led U.S. were not guaranteed, despite the new U.S. pres.’s support for Israel. “The diplomatic issue is a very important subject, presenting opportunities that could easily be squandered by thoughtless actions,” he said. “In this reality, it is easily possible to lose the moment and to turn the relationship in a direction that would not serve Israel’s aims.”

Netanyahu then tested his own proposition. He and Lieberman approved (1/24) the planning and construction of 2,500 new residences in West Bank settlements, including 10 in Beit El, located outside major settlement blocs. When the Trump admin. did not join the chorus of criticism and condemnation by the rest of the international community, he and Lieberman approved (1/31) another 3,000 settler residences, including 2,000 to begin immediate construction. The 2d announcement on 1/26 elicited the 1st official statement on the issue of settlements by the Trump White House. Press Secy. Sean Spicer said (2/2), “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” He added, “The Trump admin. has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with PM Netanyahu when he visits with Pres. Trump [on 2/15].”

Although the Israeli govt. made no more major settlement announcements through the end of the quarter, Israeli officials did try to control the narrative leading up to the 2/15 meeting. Danon attempted (2/3) to downplay Spicer’s statement, saying that it was not a “U-turn,” and that what Spicer really meant was simply “wait until the [2/15] meeting.” A spokesperson for the Yesha Council, a settlement umbrella organization, took a different tack, thanking (2/3) the White House for “asserting that our communities were never an impediment to peace” and saying, “We look forward to working closely with our friends in the new Trump admin. to build a brighter future for all.” Later, Haaretz reported (2/10) on a growing movement among right-wing Israeli politicians to push Netanyahu to use Trump’s election to abandon the 2-state solution entirely. Public Security Min. Gilad Erdan (Likud) declared (2/13), “We have a historical opportunity to begin a new era” and “no one [in Israel’s cabinet] thinks that in the next few years a Palestinian state is something that, God forbid, might and should happen.” Pres. Reuven Rivlin chimed in, calling for the Israeli govt. to annex all the West Bank and to give its Palestinian residents full Israeli citizenship (see “Neither Two States nor One” by Seth Anziska, also in this issue).

Days before the 2/15 meeting, Trump elaborated (2/10) on his position in an interview with the pro-Netanyahu Israeli newspaperIsrael HaYom. He called on Israel to “act reasonably,” said he did not believe “that advancing settlements is good for peace,” and announced that his team was “examining a number of options.” Days later, a senior U.S. official said (2/14) that achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was high on Trump’s list of priorities, but that the 2-state solution was ill-defined and Trump would not limit the parties to it. “We’re looking at the 2 sides to come together to make peace,” the official said. “We’re not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be.”

When Trump met with Netanyahu, though, he shifted the U.S. position closer to Israel’s right wing. Although he reiterated that both sides would need to make concessions to reach a final agreement and said he would like to see Netanyahu “hold back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump stated that he was “looking at 2 states or 1 state” and that he “like[d] the one that both parties like,” but that he could “live with either one.” Netanyahu responded to Trump’s break with long-standing U.S. policy, saying that he preferred to deal with the “substance” of the situation, rather than “labels.” The 2 leaders discussed a “regional” approach to peace that would “take in many, many countries” and be “a terrific thing,” according to Trump.


With Trump ensconced in the White House after 1/20, the Knesset’s pro-settler contingent revived the so-called Regulations Bill. Netanyahu, however, was less enthusiastic this time around, apparently harboring 2d thoughts about the bill after the passage of UNSCR 2334, according to senior Israeli officials (1/10). On 1/9, Lieberman said, “It seems the law will not be passed,” and the PM confirmed the speculation at a weekly cabinet meeting on 1/22, arguing that the bill could lead to more international blowback against Israel and that it would be “irresponsible” to pursue it further

Despite his efforts to amend and delay the bill, the same bloc of Jewish Home and Likud MKs that had forced Netanyahu’s hand earlier again pressed him to advance the bill (see JPS 46 [2]). The Knesset ultimately passed the bill into law on 2/6 by a slim majority: 60 votes in favor and 52 against. The law retroactively authorized settlements built “in good faith or at the state’s instruction” on privately owned Palestinian land, thereby allowing the govt. to deny Palestinian landowners the right to claim or retake possession of land being used for settlements or outposts“until there is a diplomatic resolution to the status of [the West Bank].”

Netanyahu briefed the Trump admin. prior to the vote, and although U.S. officials reportedly pushed for the vote to be delayed until after the 2/15 meeting, the Trump admin. opted not to comment on the bill. The Palestinians, the international community, and human rights groups, however, formally protested and criticized the bill. Erekat said (2/6) that it was “overdue time to stop treating Israel as a state above the law,” and Abbas indicated (2/7) that the Palestinian leadership would challenge the law in international courts. A group of Palestinian municipalities and human rights groups jointly petitioned (2/8) Israel’s High Court of Justice to annul the law. The Israeli NGO Peace Now also promised (2/6) to challenge it at the High Court. Mandelblit was reportedly considering (2/7) arguing against it at the High Court instead of taking the side of the govt. The EU postponed (2/7) a planned 2/28 EU-Israel summit indefinitely after several mbr. states reportedly opposed holding the meeting.


On 1/22, a little over 2 weeks before the court-ordered demolition of their homes that was delayed to 2/8, the residents of Amona sent a letter to Netanyahu and Bennett informing them that they were retracting their pledge to evacuate peacefully because the govt. had reneged on its side of the 12/18 compromise (see above). The High Court backed the govt.’s decision, ordering (1/23) a temporary suspension of the relocation plan while the Palestinian claims on the relocation site were litigated.

With chances for a peaceful compromise erased, tensions and the possibility of a violent confrontation grew. After mobilizing several battalions for the demolition operation, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ordered (1/31) Amona’s residents to leave their homes within 48 hours. Hundreds of settler youths gathered at Amona over the next 2 days and clashed with the IDF troops sent to evacuate the outpost overnight on 2/1. Approximately 9 of the 40-odd families left peacefully, but 24 Israeli soldiers and 2 protesters were injured, and 13 settlers were arrested. Meanwhile, Netanyahu announced (2/1) that he had taken preliminary steps to establish an entirely new settlement to house the settlers by the end of 3/2017. The Amona community voted to accept his plan, even though some settlers continued to defy the IDF with violence (8 more IDF soldiers were injured during the takeover of the outpost’s barricaded synagogue on 2/2). Later, the settlers voted (2/8) to move temporarily to the Geulat Tzion settlement outpost in the Shiloh settlement bloc.

Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

By moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the U.S. would effectively convey its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, undermining Palestinian claims to the city, and stoking tensions across the Middle East. Previous presidents, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, had also promised to relocate the embassy during their electoral campaigns, but each abandoned the notion upon taking office and gaining a better understanding of the move’s implications. Like his predecessors, Trump demonstrated his pro-Israel bona fides on the campaign trail and during his transition period by pledging to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem but as soon as he took office, talk of relocating the embassy ended (see “The Ownership of the U.S. Embassy Site in Jerusalem” in JPS 29 [4] for more on this issue).

Trump’s change of mind began almost simultaneously with his move into the White House. On 1/22, after Trump’s call with Netanyahu, Spicer said that the admin. was “at the very beginning stages of even discussing” the move. The next day, he said, “There’s no decision yet.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinians and their allies in the Middle East were frantically working to dissuade Trump from following through on his promise. Pres. Abbas met with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman on 1/22, and they agreed to “take a number of measures” if the embassy were relocated, according to the Palestine News Agency. Fatah Central Comm. mbr. Nasser al-Qudwa said (1/23) that the Palestinians might downgrade relations with the U.S. if the relocation took place. “In addition to that,” he added, “there is the issue of the Palestinian political rep.’s office in Washington. It would be necessary to close [it].” According to reports, Abbas (1/25) personally sent Trump a missive on the matter, and the Palestinians pressured Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the EU into sending Trump similar messages, urging him to hold off. Erekat said (1/26) that the Palestinians had decided on a course of action whereby they would revoke the PLO’s 1993 recognition of Israel; annul previous agreements with Israel— putting the Israeli govt. in the position of administering services in the West Bank and Gaza; and call on the UN to suspend Israel’s membership.

On the Israeli side, talk of a proposed embassy move was equally disruptive. Although many Israeli lawmakers supported the move, the cochair of the Israel branch of [U.S.] Republicans Overseas, Marc Zell, said (1/28) that Trump was “proceeding cautiously because of concerns raised by Israeli officials.” However, Netanyahu rejected (1/29) Zell’s comments and reaffirmed that he wanted to see the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.

Although Trump himself continued to be noncommittal on the subject, concern was palpable on the part of the Palestinians and others. Abdullah flew to Washington for an unscheduled visit in early 2/2017 to meet with Trump and help slow or halt the embassy move. In its coverage of the trip, the New York Times reported (2/9) that senior White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner had been meeting with reps. of various Arab states in 1–2/2017, and that he had come to favor an “outside-in” approach to dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a reference to Netanyahu’s preferred strategy of privileging Israeli relations with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and sidelining the Palestinians. Since this strategy would require friendly relations between Israel, the U.S., Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, Abdullah’s plea reportedly carried additional weight with the Trump admin.

By the end of the quarter it was unclear where Trump stood on the issue, but al-Quds reported (2/11) that the incoming admin. had communicated to the PA that he was seriously considering not moving the embassy.

Sidelining the Palestinians

The Palestinians were further distressed by Trump’s pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem because of the incoming admin.’s lack of communication with them in the weeks following the inauguration. In an interview with Newsweek on 1/31, Erekat said that the Palestinians sent many messages to Trump admin. officials, including Kushner, whom Trump had appointed to oversee the Middle East peace dossier, but “they don’t even bother to respond to us. . . . I don’t know [Kushner]. I don’t know any of them.” Furthermore, Trump’s rep. for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, told (2/3) a group of Palestinian businessmen that the Trump admin. had no intention of engaging with the Palestinians until after Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu on 2/15.

Despite the lack of official contact, Western and Arab diplomatic sources said (2/1) that the Trump admin. had made clear to the Palestinians that if they filed lawsuits in international courts against Israel in response to settlement growth, the embassy relocation, or any other move, the U.S. would retaliate with measures that could include the closure of the PLO office in Washington and a suspension of aid. The Trump admin. was also preparing an executive order, titled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations,” which would suspend U.S. funding to the UN or any other international organizations that gave full membership to the PA or PLO, as well as programs that funded abortion or circumvented sanctions against Iran and North Korea (New York Times, 1/25). The order also called for at least a 40% reduction in U.S. aid to international bodies such as the ICC, and the establishment of a comm. to implement those cuts.

Following the Abdullah-Trump meeting on 2/2, the tenor of relations changed. PA FM al-Maliki indicated (2/6) that preliminary talks between Trump admin. officials and the PA had taken place in recent days, and that the U.S. reps. intended to initiate a formal dialogue. PA intelligence chief Majid Faraj then led a delegation of Palestinian officials to Washington for face-to-face talks with Trump admin. officials on 2/8 and 2/9. PA sources said (2/10) that it was a “very important 1st step” and a “serious dialogue.” Upon his return, Faraj was reportedly able to relay reassuring messages to Abbas about Trump’s position on the settlements, the 2-state solution, and the embassy move. The PA pres. then met with new CIA dir. Mike Pompeo in Ramallah on 2/14.

As Faraj returned to the PA capital, the Trump admin. made an unexpected and potentially antagonistic move vis-à-vis the Palestinians. U.S. amb. to the UN Nikki Haley released a statement (2/10) saying that the U.S. was “disappointed” by the UN’s proposed appointment of former PA PM Salam Fayyad to lead the UN political mission in Libya. Signaling the Trump admin.’s intention to block the appointment, Haley wrote that the UN had been “unfairly biased in favor of the PA for too long.” Rather than cite specific objections to Fayyad, Haley merely referred to him as a Palestinian national and a rep. of the Palestinian people. Fayyad, who is widely respected in UN circles, was held in high regard by the U.S., UK, and other Western govts. when he served as PM from 2007 to 2013. The UNSC then released (2/11) a statement criticizing Haley and stating that Fayyad’s appointment was “solely based on [his] recognized personal qualities and his competence for that position.” The PLO called (2/11) Haley’s statement a “case of blatant discrimination on the basis of national identity.”



In the final week of the quarter, Netanyahu posted (2/10) a video on his Facebook page proudly defending his record promoting and integrating the Palestinian minority in Israel into Israel’s economy. In the video, the PM claims that his govt. has made “tireless” efforts to ensure that “minorities thrive” in Israel, citing the increasing number of Palestinian judges, and the growing ranks of Palestinian students at Technion, among other statistics and achievements. Throughout the quarter, however, the Netanyahu govt. scapegoated the Palestinian minority in Israel, targeting it with further discriminatory legislation, and worked to undermine organizations and individuals associated with the Israeli Left.

The Ghattas Investigation

On 12/8, after Joint List MK Basel Ghattas left Keziot Prison where he had visited several incarcerated Palestinians, Israeli police searched the prisoners and found 12 mobile phones. The alleged connection between Ghattas and the phones led to a formal investigation that Ghattas and several of his Joint List colleagues deemed politically motivated. On 7/9/2016, the Knesset had enacted a law allowing a majority of MKs to suspend any colleague found to have incited terror or racism, or otherwise undermined Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The law was passed in direct response to a visit by Ghattas, MK Haneen Zoabi, and MK Jamal Zahalka to a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem whose son had been killed in a confrontation with Israeli forces on 2/2/2016 (see JPS 45 [3, 4] and 46 [1]). Before he was 1st questioned on 12/12, Ghattas said, “Everything’s OK, we are used to this kind of investigation,” and after the new allegations against him surfaced, he indicated (12/18) that he would cooperate but that it was “clear the police are determined to continue the political persecution of the mbrs. and leaders of Balad.” The MK added that the conduct of the police, which he described as representing a “policy of political revenge,” did not frighten him and his colleagues now or in the future.

Ghattas remained defiant throughout the quarter as the police proceeded with their investigation. On 12/20, the Knesset Home Comm. decided that MKs’ visits to prisoners would no longer be protected under their parliamentary immunity, and it empowered Public Security Min. Erdan to select which MKs would be eligible to visit so-called security prisons. The comm. also specifically lifted (12/21) Ghattas’s parliamentary immunity, clearing the way for a full trial. After being held in police custody until 12/27, Ghattas was released to house arrest. Meanwhile, the Knesset Ethics Comm. voted (1/2) to bar him from participating in comm. hearings, making speeches at the plenum, and submitting legislation for 6 mos. while under investigation.

Arson Allegations

A series of large fires broke out across Israel in late 11/2016. At the height of the episode (11/22–24), around 60,000 people had to leave their homes in Haifa, and the Israeli govt. declared a state of emergency in the city. The fires also spread to Palestinian communities and Israeli settlements in the West Bank on 11/24. One fire destroyed a Palestinian chicken farm nr. Hebron, killing at least 4,000 chickens. Another destroyed 400 dunams (approx. 100 acres) of farmland nr. Ramallah. To help combat the growing disaster, Egypt, Jordan, Italy, Cyprus, and the PA all sent firefighters to help contain the blaze. Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain, and the U.S. also contributed aircraft to dump water and fire retardant on various hotspots. Overall, 180 people were lightly to moderately injured in the 2,600 brush fires and 1,800 urban fires reported between 11/19 and 11/28 (Jerusalem Post, 12/9).

Despite the 2 mos. of drought preceding the fires and the high wind speeds in late 11/2016 that created conditions known to produce spontaneous combustion, many Israeli politicians blamed Palestinians for the episode, and began calling it an “arson intifada.” Education Min. Bennett wrote on Facebook on 11/23, “Only he who the country doesn’t belong to him [sic] is capable of burning it.” Culture and Sports Min. Miri Regev said (11/24), “We must catch the terrorists who are burning our forests and endangering lives.” For his part, Netanyahu stated (11/24) that“every fire caused by arson, or by incitement to arson, is terrorism. Anyone who tries to burn parts of the State of Israel will be punished severely.” Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services then released a statement (12/2) saying that only 40 of the fires were started by arson, and that the arson was not necessarily politically motivated. At least 9 Palestinians were indicted on arson-related charges over the next 2 mos., but by the end of the quarter, the Israeli govt. had not released any conclusive evidence backing up the politicians’ claims.

Legislative Targeting

In addition to blaming Palestinians for the 11/2016 fires and bringing charges against Ghattas, Netanyahu’s ultranationalist govt. pursued various legislative initiatives targeting the Palestinian minority in Israel and organizations and individuals associated with the Israeli Left.

After a Knesset comm. advanced (11/13) the so-called Muezzin Bill, barring mosques from broadcasting the call to prayer, a senior legal official said (11/20) that he doubted Mandelblit would defend it at the High Court of Justice, despite supporters’ claims that it was designed to curb “noise pollution.” With international opposition to the proposed bill mounting (from the EU and Turkey in particular), the Knesset postponed (12/7) its final vote. Instead of addressing Turkish pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 11/27 complaints about religious discrimination, however, Netanyahu and his allies pulled the bill from the Knesset’s agenda because of complaints from Orthodox parties that, as worded, the bill could impact the sirens that announce Shabbat (Jerusalem Post, 12/7). The Ministerial Comm. for Legislation then approved a draft of the bill (12/12) satisfying these concerns; the new text banned religious use of loudspeakers from 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. and was sent to the Knesset for a 1st reading. 

Separately, at the very end of the previous quarter, the Knesset passed (11/14) the 1st reading of a bill authorizing the govt. to bar entry into the country of supporters of a boycott against Israel or reps. of NGOs endorsing such a boycott (see JPS 46 [2]). Despite complaints from left-wing and non-Zionist parties that the measure would silence dissent and further alienate Israel in the global community, the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Comm. approved (1/11) the bill for 2d and 3d readings, set for the 2d half of 2/2017.

Finally, the Knesset’s Ministerial Comm. for Legislation unanimously approved (1/8) a bill banning reps. of Breaking the Silence and other anti-occupation groups from speaking in Israeli schools. Charging these organizations with defaming IDF troops, the bill passed its 1st reading on 1/11.



In 2015 and early 2016, Hamas and Israel explored the possibility of negotiating a longterm truce, or hudna, and a prisoner swap. Their efforts, encouraged by the international community, failed to produce either outcome (see JPS 45 [2–4]). Unconfirmed reports of further efforts cropped up later, but all were equally inconclusive. This quarter, the 2 sides appeared poised for another effort.

The 1st indication came on 1/11 when Kul al-Arab reported that Qatar was mediating indirect Hamas-Israel negotiations on a possible prisoner exchange. Citing a senior Hamas source, the report indicated that the organization had agreed to hand over the remains of 2 IDF soldiers killed during the assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, as well as 2 captured Israeli civilians still being held in Gaza in exchange for the release of 58 Hamas mbrs. whom Israel had rearrested following their release under the 2011 prisoner swap (see JPS 41 [2]). The Israeli govt. reportedly agreed to these terms as long as all the prisoners would be expelled to Qatar, a condition rejected by Hamas. Neither side confirmed the report and 2 days later a conflicting story emerged. Palestinian sources told the Times of Israel that the initiative was stalled because Hamas was unwilling to open negotiations unless Israel freed the 58 prisoners (this was Hamas’s position in 2015 and early 2016 as well). According to various sources, Israel was prepared to release the prisoners, but not before negotiating a comprehensive deal. A few weeks later, other Israeli media reported (2/5) that Hamas had refused an entirely new offer to swap 1 Hamas official for 1 of the 2 Israeli civilians. A Hamas official appeared (2/5) to confirm the story, saying that the group was only interested in a “comprehensive deal or nothing.” The next day, a senior Israeli defense official indicated (2/6) that new terms were on the table: Israel would lift some restrictions on Gaza in exchange for the 2 civilians and the remains of the 2 IDF soldiers. A Hamas-affiliated Twitter account shot this down, too, saying (2/8) that what Israel was offering was not close to meeting “our minimum demands.”

U.S. pres. Donald Trump, mired in domestic policy issues, sought a foreign policy achievement during this quarter. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians positioned themselves for yet another major U.S.-backed effort to advance the peace process. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu established an understanding on limiting settlement growth to appease Trump without antagonizing his ultranationalist political rivals, while the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership struggled to consolidate power.

Netanyahu and his right-wing govt. continued their campaign against the Palestinian minority in Israel and other opponents, including supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The Palestinians continued their efforts to obtain justice via international institutions. In addition to Palestinian Authority (PA) campaigns at various UN bodies (see “United Nations” below), Palestinian Football Association (PFA) chair Jibril Rajoub endeavored to have Israel censured by FIFA. Although a final decision on his proposal was ultimately delayed, Rajoub’s efforts galvanized the Palestinian public.



In the early weeks of Trump’s presidency, the new U.S. admin. struggled to articulate a clear and unified position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond a general desire for peace and friendlier relations with Israel. Trump’s position on the 2-state solution, the consistent policy goal of his most recent predecessors, was not clear. Various stakeholders in the conflict sought to fill the void in the post-Obama era, advancing new ideas or, in Israel’s case, approving more than 5,000 new settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). (See JPS 46 [3]). Following Trump’s 2/15 meeting with Netanyahu in Washington, the new admin. lurched into action on a new peace initiative, clarifying its positions along the way.

As the quarter opened, the international community was concerned by Trump’s 2/15 debonair comments on the 2-state solution: “I am looking at 2 states or 1 state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said in a joint press conference with Netanyahu after their meeting. U.S. support for a 2-state solution has been a cornerstone of international peace efforts since the Oslo Accords; Trump’s ambivalence presented a challenge to the post-Oslo diplomatic infrastructure. Many world leaders found the new U.S. stance “confusing and worrying.” French FM Ayrault said as much after a meeting with U.S. secy. of state Rex Tillerson on 2/16. In an effort to downplay confusion, U.S. amb. to the UN Nikki Haley said (2/16) that while the Trump admin. supported a 2-state solution, “We are thinking outside the box as well.” A week later, Trump himself stated (2/23) that he “like[d] this 2-state solution,” but uncertainty persisted as he added, “I’m satisfied with whatever both parties agree with.”

While world leaders grappled with the new U.S. approach, it became clear that Trump did have a preference on 1 substantial issue relating to the conflict. He told Netanyahu on 2/15 that he would like to see him “hold back on settlement for a little bit.” U.S. VP Mike Pence reportedly discussed a mechanism for limiting settlement growth with Netanyahu on 2/16. Under pressure from ultranationalist mbrs. of his coalition to build more settlements, abandon the 2-state solution, and/or annex parts of the West Bank, Netanyahu boasted of his “excellent” meeting with Trump upon returning to Israel on 2/16 and told (2/19) the security cabinet that the Trump admin. shared their views on regional threats to Israel. However, he also reportedly said (2/19) that they might have to find a new housing solution for the 40-odd families evacuated from the illegal Amona settlement outpost in early 2/2017 (see JPS 46 [3]). Officials in the PM’s office later denied (2/20) that he was planning on breaking his promise to build a new settlement for the Amona evacuees while Netanyahu himself attempted (2/19) to draw attention away from the issue, saying “with all due respect to Amona, we need to focus now on coordinating with Trump on the issue of Iran.” DM Avigdor Lieberman reinforced (2/20) the PM’s precarious new position: “For 8 years, there was tension and friction with the Obama admin. If we now start to fight with the Trump admin. . . . and the Republican-majority Congress, people will really start to think that the leadership in the State of Israel is a bunch of nutcases.”

Israel’s ultranationalists, however, had plans of their own. Education Min. Naftali Bennett expressed certainty (2/20) that Netanyahu would “keep his word” and approve a new settlement for the former residents of Amona as mbrs. of his Jewish Home Party began mapping out legislation to force the PM’s hand. Pushback also came from inside Netanyahu’s own party. During a reportedly heated debate on 2/27, a group of Likud members of the Knesset (MKs) vigorously argued for Israel to annex at least part of the West Bank. According to unnamed participants in the meeting, Netanyahu acknowledged that Trump’s election represented a “historic” opportunity for Israel, but added, “We should know what the limits of this opportunity are.”

A few days later, the Israeli press reported (3/1) that Likud and Jewish Home MKs were working together to test those limits. Likud MK Yoav Kisch and Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich reportedly drafted a bill annexing the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc intended to go to the Ministerial Comm. for Legislation on 3/5. Amid a flurry of backroom horse trading, Netanyahu postponed (3/3) the Comm.’s hearing on the proposal by 1 week. “Imposing Israeli sovereignty [on the West Bank] would mean an immediate crisis with the [Trump] admin.,” Lieberman told (3/6) the Knesset’s Comm. on Foreign Affairs and Defense.

While the Israelis debated the limits of their settlement enterprise, the Trump admin. began laying the groundwork for resuming some kind of peace effort. At a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas (2/24), Pence said that, while Trump was expecting Israel to make some compromises as part of any final agreement, he would not expect the Israeli leadership to compromise on Israel’s security. He also said that Trump was still “assessing” his campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (the Israeli govt. was officially in favor of the move, despite warnings from its security establishment that it would instigate a wave of violence in the oPt (see “The Ownership of the U.S. Embassy Site in Jerusalem” in JPS 29 [4] for more on this issue). A congressional delegation led by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) visited (3/4) Israel the following week to explore the feasibility of the embassy move. DeSantis said (3/5) that he thought the move would happen. “Knowing the president,” he said, “I don’t think that he’s going to [delay it].”

Meanwhile, the Trump admin. was also reviewing the U.S. relationship with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Dep. Asst. Secy. of State Erin Barclay said (3/1) that Trump hoped to end the UNHRC’s “obsession with Israel” and that“in order for this council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions,” bringing the admin.’s position on the UNHRC in line with Netanyahu’s (the U.S. later boycotted the UNHRC’s discussion of Israel on 3/20 and pledged to oppose all res. deriving therefrom; see “United Nations” below). Around the same time, Haley met (3/7) with Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour, and called on the Palestinians to “meet with Israel in direct negotiations rather than looking to the UN to deliver results.”

The U.S. admin. put the wheels in motion in mid-3/2017, starting with Trump’s 1st official contact with PA pres. Mahmoud Abbas. In a call on 3/10, Trump invited the Palestinian leader to come to the White House soon to “relaunch the peace process,” according to a PA spokesperson. Although it was unclear what he was hoping to achieve, White House sources said (3/10) that Trump would be willing to participate in a regional peace conference in Egypt or Jordan, giving credence to unconfirmed reports from last quarter that he favored an “outside-in” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace (see JPS 46 [3]). A couple of days after the call, Abbas said that Trump “promised his full commitment to peace and to the 2-state solution.” The PA pres. and his advisors were reportedly pleased with the call and how Trump spoke about the new peace effort.

Next, Trump’s special rep. for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, visited Israel and the oPt in the 2d week of 3/2017. The visit, touted as a listening tour rather than shuttle diplomacy, coincided with a key Knesset vote on the ultranationalists’ Ma’ale Adumim proposal, and produced immediate results. Shortly after Greenblatt met (3/14) with Netanyahu for 5 hours in Jerusalem, the head of Israel’s ruling coalition, David Bitan, requested that the Ministerial Comm. for Legislation again delay its vote on the annexation bill. Bennett agreed, reportedly in an effort not to interfere with Greenblatt’s trip. According to a joint statement, Netanyahu and Greenblatt discussed the broader settlement issue “in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security.” Before his 2d meeting with Greenblatt later that week, Netanyahu said (3/16), “We are in the midst of a process of dialogue with the White House and our intention is to reach an agreed-upon policy regarding settlement construction.” An Israeli official said (3/15) that Netanyahu believed that it was possible to reach such an understanding without compromising his ruling coalition. “We are looking for the common denominator with the Americans that will allow construction on the one hand, and on the other promote diplomatic moves in many areas with the Trump administration,” the official added.

Although the admin.’s focus was clearly on Israel and the settlements, Greenblatt also met (3/14) with Abbas in Ramallah and reaffirmed Trump’s commitment to achieving peace. Abbas appeared optimistic about the process, stating that “under Pres. Trump’s leadership, a historic peace deal is possible,” and reportedly committing to preventing “inflammatory rhetoric” and “anti-Israeli incitement” in the context of a push for renewed talks.

Trump’s team wasted no time, hosting an Israeli delegation for 4 more days of talks (3/19–23) the following week to discuss “concrete, near-term measures to improve the overall climate to advance the prospects for a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” according to a 3/23 joint statement. The measures included steps Israel could take to improve the economic situation in the oPt, as well as delivering needed humanitarian relief to Gaza. The Israeli govt. agreed to take the Trump admin.’s concerns about settlement activity “into consideration.” There was no broader agreement to limit settlement growth, however, and Netanyahu denied (3/26) all rumors to the contrary. But, on 3/30, he told his security cabinet that Israel would, in fact, be adopting new regulations on settlement growth: Construction would continue in previously developed areas, when permissible, and adjacent areas, when not permissible; construction would be allowed on the closest land possible to developed areas when neither adjacent nor permissible land was available; and new settlement outposts would be barred outright.

One minister present at the meeting insisted that there were “no understandings with the [U.S.] and this wasn’t agreed on with the [Trump admin.], but rather, these are restrictions that Israel is taking upon itself in response to the pres.’s request.” Another minister commented that “the Americans said that they don’t agree with construction in the settlements in any case, but that they can live with it and there won’t be an international crisis over every new home that’s built.” Israel’s new settlement policy reportedly stemmed from Netanyahu’s desire that Israel not be blamed in the event that the Trump peace initiative failed. To that end, he told the cabinet that he intended to acquiesce to the Trump admin.’s requests for goodwill gestures to help the Palestinian economy (see “Occupation Data and Trends” below).

At the same security cabinet meeting, however, Israeli leaders unanimously approved the creation of a new Israeli settlement n. of Ramallah to house the former residents of Amona. Netanyahu also announced (3/30) that 900 dunams (approx. 222 acres from the Nablus-area villages of al-Sawiya, al-Lubban al-Sharqiyya and Qaryut) nr. the Eli settlement had been declared state land, and that final approval had been given to market 2,000 new homes in existing settlements (these 2,000 were among the 5,700 advanced in the 3 weeks following Trump’s inauguration on 1/20; see JPS 46 [3]). While the rest of the international community condemned these moves, a senior U.S. official said (3/30) that Trump accepted Netanyahu’s rationale for approving the new settlement, and a White House spokesperson said (3/31) that the Trump admin. welcomed the Israeli govt.’s intention to adopt a settlement policy that took Trump’s concerns into consideration. Meanwhile, the response of Netanyahu’s ultranationalist rivals was mixed. Although Bennett said (4/2) that “the arrangement is a fitting one,” he was also critical of Netanyahu’s failure to “put a decisive Israeli initiative on the table.” Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy for the Yesha Council, a settler umbrella group, said (4/2) that “you need to understand that people built up an expectation that there would be a new president, the old era would end, and we’d be able to do whatever we want. All of a sudden, reality doesn’t look like our expectations.”

After the Israeli govt. and the Trump admin. arrived at this new understanding, however, unofficial, diplomatic attention shifted to the Palestinians, who were busy coordinating a response to Trump’s initiative with their regional allies. Abbas met with Egyptian pres. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 3/20 in Cairo to discuss Trump’s efforts, inter alia. He then addressed the 28th Arab League Summit in Jordan on 3/29, calling for the Arab Peace Initiative to be implemented “as it was first approved” (see Doc. B1 in JPS 31 [4]). As Abbas met with Jordan’s King Abdullah and al-Sisi again on the sidelines of the summit, rumors circulated that the Palestinians were preparing to present a new peace plan of their own.

After both al-Sisi (4/3) and Abdullah (4/5) flew to Washington for one-on-one meetings with Trump, the Palestinians began laying out their new position. “There will be no return to the negotiations table until there is a complete settlement freeze in the Palestinian territories that were occupied in 1967,” said senior PA official Nabil Shaath on 4/6. Abbas, meanwhile, stopped mentioning any of the recent Palestinian conditions for a possible resumption of direct peace talks (e.g., the release of the prisoners who were supposed to be set free in connection with the last round of peace talks in 3–4/2014; see JPS 43 [3, 4]). The Israelis quickly embraced the apparent change. “It has always been our position to engage in direct negotiations anytime, anywhere, with no preconditions,” Netanyahu’s spokesperson said (4/20). “For years, Abbas has avoided negotiations, and we would welcome a change in his position.”

After meeting again with al-Sisi (4/29) and Abdullah (4/30), Abbas flew to Washington for his 1st face-to-face meeting with Trump. A PA spokesperson said (5/1) that Abbas intended to highlight the need for a “just and comprehensive peace based on the 2-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative,” but speculation grew that he was planning a larger gesture. At the White House, Trump and Abbas jointly committed (5/3) to a new peace effort, and Trump said he was ready to do “whatever is necessary” to achieve peace. The public statements remained vague and it was unclear which specific issues were under discussion. However, a source in Abbas’s office later said (5/9) that the Palestinians put forward an ambitious proposal. The PA pres. reportedly urged Trump to resume peace talks on the basis of the proposal former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert had made to Abbas in 2008 (see JPS 37 [2]). Abbas’s staff reportedly showed Trump documents and maps from the 2008 talks, and explained that the Olmert plan had called for withdrawal from all but 6.3% of the West Bank in order to maintain control of certain settlement blocs and to compensate the Palestinians with an equivalent 5.8% of the West Bank in Israeli territory. “If we achieve accords on the borders, we can bridge all the other gaps,” the PA official said. “But if the conversation starts at Netanyahu’s opening position, that he isn’t prepared to say what Israel’s borders are, we won’t get anywhere.” (The Palestinians did not respond to the Olmert proposal in 2008, citing the then PM’s ongoing legal troubles; see JPS 37 [3].)

Both the Trump admin. and the Palestinians were optimistic in the aftermath of the meeting, except for 1 lingering issue: the PA’s payments to Palestinian prisoners convicted of serious crimes against Israelis and their families. In the lead-up to the meeting, Israel’s leaders repeatedly brought up the issue as a potential sticking point in any negotiations. Lieberman named the Palestinian National Fund, primarily used to process the prisoners’ payments, a terrorist organization on 3/16, and Netanyahu called on Abbas to cancel the payments on 5/1. “How can you talk about peace and fund terrorism?” he said. Trump reportedly raised the issue with Abbas on 5/3, prompting Shaath to respond in public on 5/4. “The demand that Ramallah stop payments to the families of security prisoners is mad,” he said. “Such a requirement is designed to destroy any chance for a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.” Still, Shaath noted (5/8) that Trump was “very warm, very respectful” and he “gave equal treatment to our president as he’s given to other heads of state he’s met.”

The White House wasted no time in plotting the next step, announcing (5/4) plans for Trump to visit Israel and the oPt on 5/22–23. Through the rest of the quarter, both the Palestinians and Israelis jockeyed for position on various issues related to the peace process, including the PA’s payments to prisoners, Trump’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and settlements, but both sides appeared ready to follow Trump’s lead.




Four days after Netanyahu stood (2/15) alongside Trump in Washington to discuss a new “regional approach,” Haaretz published (2/19) a major report detailing former pres. Barack Obama’s failure to push Netanyahu into a new round of peace talks in early 2016. Since the Obama admin. had pursued a regional framework much like the one Trump seemed to favor, the report offered a rough outline of the obstacles the new U.S. pres. could expect to face.

According to former senior U.S. officials, then secy. of state John Kerry presented a regional peace plan to Netanyahu, al-Sisi, and Abdullah at a summit on 2/21/2016. (The 6 principles Kerry later outlined on 12/28/2016 reportedly comprised the backbone of the plan; see JPS 46 [3].) Netanyahu rejected the proposal, arguing that he would not be able to get his right-wing coalition behind it. However, 2 weeks later, Netanyahu opened negotiations with Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog on the basis of Kerry’s plan, with the idea of forming a new centrist coalition that could give him enough support to stay in power. According to former U.S. officials, it was this proposal that Herzog referenced when he said, on 5/15/2016, that a rare diplomatic opportunity was at hand (see JPS 46 [1]). The Netanyahu-Herzog negotiations broke down, however, and Netanyahu invited Lieberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party into the coalition in 5/2016.

Hours after the Haaretz report appeared, Netanyahu confirmed (2/19) that he had attended the 2/21 meeting. He also claimed to have initiated the regional effort. A senior Israeli diplomatic official then blamed (2/21) Obama for scuttling the initiative by trying to “dictate terms.” For his part, Herzog said (2/20) that he had “demanded” a full settlement freeze at the 3/2016 negotiations on his potential entry to the ruling coalition. In an effort to set himself apart from Netanyahu, he also published (2/23) an op-ed in Haaretz laying out his 10-point plan for peace in the Middle East and with the Palestinians, including a 10-year implementation period and the construction of a port off Gaza’s coast.

With the Israeli political establishment in turmoil over the report, Haaretz published (3/5) another story outlining the backroom dealings behind the subsequent 6 mos. of negotiations between the 2 sides. Citing an Israeli source and a former senior U.S. diplomat, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu and Herzog had negotiated a series of understandings in early 9/2016 as the basis for a regional peace initiative and an Israeli unity govt., including a pledge to “implement” settlement “activities” in the oPt “in a manner that would facilitate a regional dialogue for peace.” They reportedly planned to present the compromise at a regional summit in Cairo or Sharm al-Shaykh in early 10/2016 before returning to Israel to complete talks on bringing Herzog’s Zionist Union into the ruling coalition. Kerry, meanwhile, had secured the support of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, which pledged to normalize relations with Israel if they saw Israeli-Palestinian peace talks making sufficient progress. The process had broken down after former Israeli pres. Shimon Peres’s death on 9/28. Netanyahu was under increased pressure from the ultranationalist elements of his coalition, particularly concerning the illegal Amona settlement outpost (see JPS 46 [2]), and he stopped negotiating the details with Herzog. “Netanyahu began to gradually withdraw,” according to a Zionist Union source close to the talks. “Little by little, he tried to back down from what had already been agreed on and tried to postpone it all because of Amona and pressure by [the Jewish Home Party].”

Netanyahu’s office denied (3/5) the contents of the report. “The description concerning the possible regional process that wasn’t realized is false from the ground up. The matter has nothing to do with Amona. PM Netanyahu is interested in advancing a regional initiative. Whoever is giving you this information isn’t knowledgeable of the details, or is falsifying them.” The Israeli PM told (3/5) his cabinet that the leak likely stemmed from disagreements within Herzog’s Labor Party, the Zionist Union’s senior partner that was gearing up for a leadership contest in 7/2017.



Before and after Netanyahu announced (3/30) his new regulations for settlement growth (see above), Israel’s ultranationalists advanced numerous plans and initiatives to strengthen the overall settlement enterprise. While wary of drawing the new U.S. pres.’s ire, none of their subsequent announcements provoked much of a response from Trump or his admin.

Israel’s Knesset passed (2/20) a new law allowing the govt. to require private businesses that choose not to sell products or services to Israel’s settlements in the oPt to display signage indicating that choice on their premises. Businesses that failed to comply were liable to fines. MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home), who proposed the legislation, said (2/20) that “if [businesses] fear being put on customers’ blacklists, they should treat them all equally.”

Following last quarter’s passage of the so-called Regulations Bill, which retroactively legalized settlement outposts in the West Bank (see JPS 46 [3]), the Knesset informed the High Court of Justice (3/26) that it had accepted Atty. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit’s 3/12 proposal to suspend Palestinian land expropriation under the bill until the Israeli govt. could map the extent of its impact. It was unclear how long the mapping effort would last. In a related development, the Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGO) Peace Now reported (4/22) that, despite Netanyahu’s 3/30 pledge to bar new settlement outposts, construction on a new outpost e. of Ramallah had just begun. The founding residents said (4/22) that high housing costs in Jerusalem forced them to seek land in the West Bank. “Regardless of the outpost residents’ reasoning, the political implications of the outpost are the same,” Peace Now responded in its report. “What distinguishes this outpost from others is the settler leadership’s cynical exploitation of the economic situation of the new residents of the outpost, by granting them free land and enabling them to construct homes illegally, as long as it contributes to the settler goals of destroying the possibility of ever creating a Palestinian state.” Israeli forces ordered (4/22) construction on the outpost to stop soon after Peace Now’s report was released.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Housing and Construction revived plans for the construction of 10,000 housing units in a Jewish settlement at the site of the abandoned Atarot Airport nr. Qalandia, according to a 4/24 report on Israel’s Channel 10. The plans had been shelved because of pressure from former U.S. pres. Obama, and reportedly revived soon after Trump’s inauguration in 1/2017. Likewise, Israeli construction minister Yoav Galant said (4/28) that plans to build 25,000 new homes in Jerusalem, including 15,000 outside the pre-1967 armistice lines, were back on the table now that Trump was in power. Some Israeli officials surmised that a formal construction announcement might coincide with Trump’s visit to the region on 5/22–23. Finally, the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, which administers settlements in a region n. of Jerusalem, began soliciting bids to build more than 200 new apartments in the Tel Zion settlement (Haaretz, 5/15). These new dwellings were reportedly approved as part of a broader plan dating back to the 1980s.



For years, the right-wing Israeli govt. has been consolidating power at the expense of its left-wing rivals and the Palestinian minority in Israel. This quarter proved no exception to that trend, as Netanyahu and his allies advanced legislation and other measures to further marginalize, undermine, and persecute the Palestinian minority, the Israeli Left, and the BDS movement.

Legislative Targeting and a Judicial Shake-Up

On 2/22, the Knesset’s Judicial Appointments Comm. appointed 4 new justices to the Supreme Court. The move was widely seen as a victory for Justice Min. Ayelet Shaked’s (Jewish Home) years-long campaign to shift the composition of the court to the right. Three of the 4 new justices—David Mintz, Yosef Elron, and Yael Willner—were on Shaked’s short list of candidates. George Karra, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a Tel Aviv District Court judge, was considered a compromise. Because the court is widely considered one of Israel’s last left-leaning centers of power, Haaretz’s editor in chief Aluf Benn called (2/23) the appointments “the most important achievement in the political and social revolution being pursued by Benjamin Netanyahu’s current government . . . one that will impact court rulings and Israeli democracy for many years to come.”

In the legislative domain, the Knesset passed (3/8) a preliminary reading of the so-called muezzin bill, which the Ministerial Comm. for Legislation approved last quarter (see JPS 46 [3]). The bill, barring mosques from broadcasting the call to prayer during certain hours or in certain situations, had already stirred up controversy and drawn accusations of religious persecution, as well as a backlash from the international community. In a heated debate leading up to the 3/8 vote, Joint List chair Ayman Odeh ripped up a draft of the bill in protest and was ejected from the chamber. After it passed, a Jordanian govt. spokesperson said (3/8) that it might violate international human rights law and Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan. Following its preliminary reading, the muezzin bill was transferred to the House Comm., where MKs were set to deliberate and send a consensus draft to the full plenum for a 1st reading.

The following week, the Knesset approved (3/14) amendments to Israel’s Basic Laws that would bar politicians who use “inciting rhetoric” from running for office, including “cases where they aim or operate, explicitly or implicitly, to deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, make racist or inciting comments, or support terrorism or an armed struggle against the State of Israel.” MK Osama Saadi (Joint List) said (3/14) that the backers of the amendments were letting it be known that they desired an “Arab-free Knesset.” Later, on 4/5, the Knesset passed “yet another law that expresses the continued policy of the Netanyahu govt. of discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens,” according to MK Abdullah Abu Maaruf (Joint List). This law imposed maximum sentences on those convicted of illegal construction, and ceded some of the courts’ authority over such offences to the Ministry of Finance. Because construction planning and licensing in Palestinian communities inside Israel is notoriously difficult or impossible to obtain, the bill would disproportionately affect the Palestinian minority.

The most significant development in the Israeli Right’s campaign against the Palestinian minority this quarter was the resuscitation of the so-called nation-state bill. Disagreements over competing drafts of an earlier version of this bill brought down the previous Israeli govt. in late 2014 and early 2015, so its revival was momentous for Netanyahu and his allies. The draft, which the Ministerial Comm. for Legislation approved on 5/7 and the Knesset approved in a preliminary reading on 5/10, would cancel the status of Arabic as an “official language” and codify Israel’s status as the “national home of the Jewish people.” This new draft did not include the most controversial provision of previous versions, which would have subordinated Israel’s democracy to its Jewish character. Zehava Galon, a leader of the left-wing Meretz Party, said (5/7) that the bill was “a declaration of war against Israel’s Arab citizens and against Israel as a democratic and properly governed society.” After the bill passed the preliminary vote, Shaked announced (5/10) that the govt. would be drafting its own version, perhaps including the democracy provision, and presenting it within 60 days.

In addition to ongoing efforts to marginalize the Palestinian minority, Netanyahu and his allies also targeted left-wing Israeli groups this quarter. On 2/27, the Ministerial Comm. for Legislation approved a bill that would revoke tax benefits for donors to NGOs “acting against Israel” in the international arena. Proposed by Jewish Home MK Smotrich, the bill would specifically affect any “public institution that releases statements accusing the State of Israel of committing war crimes” and any “institution that takes part in calls for a boycott of the State of Israel.” Mordechai Kremnitzer and Amir Fuchs, researchers at the Israel Democracy Institute, said (2/27) that because “the question [of] who harms the state and what harms it is up for public debate,” and because it would disproportionately affect left-leaning groups, the bill would tarnish Israel’s image abroad and undermine its legitimacy in international forums.

A couple of mos. later, Netanyahu provided an example of how this bill would work. A few hours after German FM Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Israel for a state visit on 4/24, Netanyahu threatened not to meet with him unless he canceled his plans to also meet with reps. of the left-wing NGOs B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence on 4/25. Gabriel stood his ground, saying (4/25) that it would be “regrettable” if Netanyahu decided to cancel their meeting due to his “totally normal” contacts with the 2 NGOs, and Netanyahu made the cancellation official. Although Gabriel said that it would likely not affect German ties with Israel, Haaretz reported (4/26) that tensions were high in the wake of the visit and that Germany was reticent to help Israel combat an allegedly anti-Israeli res. percolating through UNESCO as a result (see “United Nations” below).

The Ghattas Investigation

Last quarter, the Knesset Home Comm. lifted (12/21) MK Basel Ghattas’s (Joint List) parliamentary immunity, clearing the way for him to be tried on charges that he allegedly smuggled 12 mobile phones to incarcerated Palestinians at Ketziot Prison on 12/8 (see JPS 46 [3]). Seventy-one MKs signed a petition calling for Ghattas’s removal from the Knesset in 2/2017, initiating a debate on the proposal in the Home Comm. on 3/14. Before the debate could conclude, Ghattas accepted (3/16) a plea deal that would see him resign his seat, pay a NIS 120,000 (approx. $33) fine, and spend 2 years in prison. The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court accepted Ghattas’s plea on 4/9, and the former MK was set to begin serving his prison sentence on 7/2.

Meanwhile, Joumah Azbarga, a fellow Balad Party mbr., was sworn in (3/21) to replace Ghattas as a representative of the Joint List on 3/21. Azbarga, a resident of the Bedouin village of Lakia, said (3/21) he intended “to fight for recognition of [Bedouin villages] in the Negev” and to “deal with poverty issues among Negev residents.”

Countering BDS

In an effort to counter the growing strength of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Knesset passed a new law denying entry visas and residency rights to foreign nationals calling for economic, cultural, or academic boycotts of Israel or “areas under its control,” such as Israel’s settlements in the oPt. (The interior minister could make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.) Israel was already known for turning away individual travelers for political reasons, but this new law formalized the practice and ushered in a wave of high-profile denials, including the chair of the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Hugh Lanning (3/12); British-Palestinian prof. Kamel Hawwash (4/7); and the executive dir. of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, Anuar Majluf (4/10). As each of these denials gave rise to controversy, the law had a galvanizing effect on the BDS movement. More than 100 U.S. Jewish studies scholars signed a petition protesting the bill in 3/2017, saying, “It will be bad for Israel, bad for the cause of democracy at this fragile moment, and bad for the principles of free speech and thought on which our scholarship is based.” Likewise, the U.S. NGO Americans for Peace Now sent a letter to potential participants in an upcoming study tour of Israel informing them that the trip was canceled in light of the new law. “We do not know yet whether we will reschedule this tour to another date this year or whether we’ll have to suspend our Israel Study Tour program indefinitely,” the letter read. “The law is a stain on Israeli democracy. It betrays the democratic principles upon which Israel was established.”

While the Israeli govt. was targeting BDS at a legislative level, the Israeli police continued to harass BDS cofounder Omar Barghouti, a resident of Acre. They detained him on charges related to tax evasion on 3/20, and interrogated him and his family over the course of the following week. Barghouti was allowed access to e-mail on 4/1, and sent a statement to his supporters: “Due to a gag order,” he wrote, “I am not allowed to delve into any facts about the case. I am thus denied the ability to even refute the vicious lies published by Israel’s regime against me. I am in no hurry to do so, though, as their main objective—attempting to tarnish my reputation and, by extension, hurting the BDS movement—has clearly failed.”

In a related development, Haaretz reported (3/21) that Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, the official responsible for the govt.’s anti-BDS efforts, had been working for mos. on a proposal to build a database of Israeli citizens who promote and support BDS. The database would complement Erdan’s efforts to collect similar information on foreign activists. Mandelblit, however, was reportedly opposed to the proposal, even though Erdan insisted that the information would be culled primarily from public sources. Ronnie Barkan, cofounder of the Israeli NGO Boycott from Within, welcomed the news on 3/22: “It is a good sign that we’re on the right track.”



In the spring of 2015, PFA chair Rajoub started a campaign to compel international soccer’s governing body, FIFA, to bar Israel from international competition. He argued that the Israeli authorities were restricting the movement of Palestinian players and coaches, obstructing the construction of Palestinian sports facilities, and violating Article 72.2 of FIFA’s statutes, which states that “member associations and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval.” (Six teams in the Israel Football Association [IFA] are based in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.) Rajoub’s initial efforts resulted in the creation of a FIFA monitoring comm. on 5/29/2015 (see JPS 45 [1]). In the ensuing 2 years, he kept up the campaign, working against an increasingly energized Israeli opposition in the lead-up to the 2017 meeting of the FIFA Congress, which was set for 5/10–11 in Bahrain.

Two mos. before the congress, Tokyo Sexwale, the monitoring comm.’s chair, met (3/22) with Rajoub and the head of the IFA, Ofer Eini, at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. He presented them a draft report he had prepared for the congress, including 3 recommendations for resolving the dispute: maintaining the status quo “with the legal risks arising therefrom”; allowing the IFA 6 mos. “to rectify the situation of the 6 clubs in question”; or requesting further negotiations. Eini was reportedly furious with Sexwale for suggesting that FIFA could suspend Israel if it did not disband the 6 settlement teams, leading to a “stormy, even virulent” meeting, according to a source close to the talks (Agence France-Presse, 3/24). None of the 3 recommendations passed muster with Rajoub. “I respect and appreciate what [FIFA] did,” he said, at a press conference in al-Ram on 4/3, “[but I would] prefer that we go right away to sanction and to suspension.”

After the meeting, Rajoub enjoyed a groundswell of support. More than 100 sports associations, trade unions, human rights groups, and faith groups from 28 countries signed onto (4/28) a letter to the FIFA Council calling on it to suspend Israel if the IFA neglected to revoke the affiliation of the 6 settler clubs. Then, 174 Palestinian soccer teams threw their weight behind the call in another letter to the council on 5/4.

At the same time, the Israeli govt. stepped up its efforts to squash Rajoub’s campaign. On 4/18, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a cable to dozens of its embassies around the world with instructions on how to lobby their hosts: “We urge you to contact your countries’ representatives on the FIFA Council as soon as possible to obtain their support for Israel’s position, which rejects mixing politics with sport and calls for reaching an agreed solution between the parties” (Haaretz, 4/20). Meanwhile, Eini’s response to Sexwale’s draft report apparently caused the FIFA official to reconsider. According to a senior Israeli official, Sexwale amended the report by removing any mention of the possibility that Israel could be suspended from international soccer.

In a last-ditch effort to prevent a vote on the matter, Netanyahu personally called FIFA pres. Giovanni “Gianni” Infantino on 5/5 to urge the removal of the Palestinian-backed motion from the congress’s agenda. He reportedly argued that Rajoub was only pushing so hard on the issue to make a name for himself ahead of Abbas’s increasingly imminent departure from politics. One official in Netanyahu’s office said (5/5) that the PM had also asked senior U.S. officials to push Abbas on the issue when he was in Washington on 5/3 (see above). Following on Netanyahu’s conversation with Infantino, the Israeli govt. reportedly sent its own proposed res. to FIFA (Haaretz, 5/9). According to an Israeli official, the proposed res. “wouldn’t change the status quo regarding soccer games in the settlements, but would provide a practical solution to the issue.” The official did not disclose any specifics, saying, “Israel wouldn’t consent to the settlement teams ceasing to play in the [IFA] or to any decision that made a diplomatic statement.”

FIFA’s joint monitoring comm. held one last meeting between the parties the day before the congress was set to begin, but it was inconclusive. In the end, FIFA relented to Israeli pressure. The FIFA Council decided (5/9) to remove the Palestinian-backed motion from the congress’s agenda, stating, “At this stage it is premature for the FIFA Congress to take any decision.” FIFA’s congress then gave (5/11) Sexwale and his comm. a 9-mo. extension to finalize their report and work on a negotiated resolution. “We have good and loyal friends in FIFA,” Eini said of the results. “I don’t have enough words to thank them for firmly standing by our side and . . . removing the Palestinian proposal from the agenda.”

U.S. pres. Donald Trump attempted to advance his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative this quarter, traveling to the region on his first major international trip as president. While both the Israeli govt. and the Palestinian leadership were receptive to Trump’s efforts, each faced constraints—growing challenges from the extreme right in PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s case, and sharpening internal tensions within Palestinian ranks.

The Trump initiative stalled in 7/2017 after a deadly attack on Israeli forces in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israeli govt. then imposed new restrictions on Palestinians at Haram al-Sharif, sparking a wave of resistance across the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). After 2 weeks of boycotts, protests, and violent clashes, the Israeli authorities rolled back the restrictions, and the Palestinians claimed victory. Meanwhile, at the height of the crisis, PA pres. Mahmoud Abbas took the unprecedented and—for the Palestinian public—long-awaited step of suspending PA security forces (PASF) coordination with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).



The unstructured policy-making process in the Trump White House shrouded the admin.’s peace efforts with uncertainty, particularly concerning the possible relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel. Ahead of Trump’s visit to Israel and the oPt on 5/22–23, a 5/16 report in Haaretz brought the issue to the fore. Several senior U.S. officials reported that, although Trump remained committed to moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he was in no rush, and intended to make the move at some point during his first term in office. Meanwhile, U.S. amb. to the UN Nikki Haley said (5/16) that she didn’t think the status of Jerusalem—which the proposed embassy move would affect—should be subject to IsraeliPalestinian negotiations at all, staking out what would be an entirely unprecedented position for the U.S. in the history of the PalestinianIsraeli conflict. “Obviously, I believe that the capital [of Israel] should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem,” she said. Over the next 2 days, Trump admin. officials made conflicting comments on the embassy’s relocation. Some stated that Trump intended to announce the move during his trip, while others claimed that he had decided against moving the embassy altogether (see “The Ownership of the U.S. Embassy Site in Jerusalem” in JPS 29 [4] for more on this issue).

The Palestinians took a proactive stance on the Trump admin.’s vaguely defined diplomatic initiative. During his meeting with his U.S. counterpart on 5/3, Abbas reportedly pushed for a resumption of peace talks based on the offer former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert had made to Abbas in 2008 (see JPS 37 [2]). According to a 5/18 report in the Times of Israel, the Palestinians were preparing detailed proposals to present during Trump’s 5/22–23 visit, focusing primarily on economic growth in the oPt—which would be linked to Palestinian participation in the peace talks—including the construction of an airport in the West Bank, a cement factory in Bethlehem, and new hotels on the Dead Sea. The Palestinians apparently dropped preconditions for resuming direct peace talks with the Israelis. Ever since thensecy. of state John Kerry had failed to mediate a peace deal in late 2013 and early 2014 (see JPS 43 [3, 4]), Abbas maintained that he would not resume negotiations, or even meet with Netanyahu, if the Israelis did not commit to a settlement freeze and to the freeing of prisoners who were under a deal with Israel that had been scheduled to take place at the time of the Kerry talks. There had been signs last quarter that Abbas was willing to drop this demand.

Israel’s security cabinet approved (5/21) a goodwill package of measures designed to facilitate Palestinian economic growth the day before Trump’s arrival. They included expanding a border crossing nr. Tulkarm, extending the operating hours of the Allenby Bridge between the West Bank and Jordan (see “Movement and Access” below), agreeing to the expansion of an industrial zone nr. Hebron into Area C of the West Bank, and green-lighting the construction of thousands of new Palestinian homes in Area C adjacent to major Palestinian cities. Netanyahu reportedly overcame dissent from some ultranationalist mbrs. of his cabinet in order to show Trump he was serious about the peace effort. Their displeasure with the proposed goodwill package reflected the public’s growing frustration with Trump, according to a poll conducted by Smith Research (Jerusalem Post, 5/18). Researchers found that Trump’s popularity among the Jewish Israeli public had declined precipitously since his inauguration, with only around 56% deeming him more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian in 5/2017, down from 79% in 1/2017.

Despite the ultranationalists’ growing animosity, the U.S. and Israeli media portrayed the trip positively. Trump pleased Israeli crowds with his visits to Yad Vashem and the Western Wall (the first sitting U.S. president to visit the latter). In his major policy speech during the trip, Trump linked (5/22) the joint U.S.-Israeli struggle against Iran with Israeli-Palestinian peace, saying that the Arab states were willing to work with Israel and normalize relations if Israel ended its occupation of Palestinian lands.

Trump’s troubles began on 5/23 when he traveled to the oPt. The Palestinians were not satisfied with the package of economic measures that the Israeli security cabinet had approved on 5/21. Senior PA advisor Ahmad Majdalani called (5/22) it “meaningless” and an “attempt to beautify and market the occupation.” Trump’s meeting with Abbas in Bethlehem on the morning of 5/23 initially appeared to go well. At a joint press conference afterwards, the U.S. president stated, “[Abbas] assures me he is ready to work toward [peace] in good faith, and [Netanyahu] has promised the same.” According to a White House statement that evening, the Palestinian pres. told Trump he was ready to “begin negotiating [with Israel] immediately,” without any mention of preconditions. However, neither Trump nor Abbas offered any details on a path forward. Later reports revealed that Trump had brought up the contentious issue of the PA’s monthly stipends to Palestinians convicted of serious crimes against Israelis and to the families of “martyrs,” that is, those killed in confrontations with Israeli forces. Adopting the Israeli govt.’s position on the issue, Trump reportedly said that “peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded, and even rewarded.”

Combined with the absence of a clear U.S. plan, Trump’s focus on this issue antagonized the Palestinians. On 6/1, PA officials described Trump as “angry” about the stipends, that he had made allegations about anti-Israel incitement within the PA, and that Abbas had found the meeting “uncomfortable.” Blaming the tension on an Israeli campaign to undermine Abbas, PA officials accused Netanyahu of showing Trump a video purporting to prove that Abbas supported incitement.

Although a senior U.S. official said (5/23) that Trump was hoping to build on the trip by putting together a “common set of principles” to restart peace talks, it quickly became apparent that the U.S. had no real strategy for advancing the process. Tensions and disagreements following Trump’s visit lingered, and the initiative petered out in 6/2017.

On the Israeli side, internal disagreements over settlement growth and frustrations with Trump’s unfulfilled pledge to relocate the U.S. Embassy animated public debates after the visit. The settlement issue was more contentious; Netanyahu’s ultranationalist rivals were still chafing at his decision to limit construction (see JPS 46 [4] and “Settlement Growth in the Trump Era,” below). On 6/1, Trump signed a waiver delaying the embassy relocation for another 6 mos. U.S. law mandates that the embassy be moved, but also affords the president a national security waiver on a biannual basis (see Doc. D6 in JPS 24 [4] for the text of the 1995 law in question). According to a White House statement announcing the waiver, “[Trump] made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.” Netanyahu’s office offered a temperate reply: “Despite the disappointment over not moving the embassy at this point, Israel appreciates Trump’s friendly words and his commitment to moving the embassy later on.”

On the Palestinian side, the main sticking point was the PA’s stipends to Palestinians convicted of serious crimes against Israelis and their families, which were to cost the PA NIS 552 m. (approximately $153 m.) in 2017. In addition to lobbying the U.S. govt. on the issue, the Israeli govt. had reportedly begun to deduct money from the monthly transfers of tax revenue it collects on behalf of the PA proportional to the amount the PA spent on this program (Jerusalem Post, 5/29). Senior Israeli sources said (5/29) that the decision to garnish revenue transfers was taken at the highest levels in the summer of 2016, without appropriate Knesset oversight. The relevant Knesset mbrs. (MKs), however, supported the principle behind the deductions. The Knesset’s Ministerial Comm. for Legislation approved a bill that would effectively codify the cuts on 6/11, and the full plenum gave it preliminary approval on 6/14.

The Trump admin. fixated on the issue as well. U.S. secy. of state Rex Tillerson said (6/14) that an “active discussion” between U.S. and Palestinian officials on the question continued, and that Palestinian officials had told him privately that they planned to end stipends to the perpetrators of serious crimes. The Palestinians, for their part, said that the Trump admin. understood the complexity of the issue, adding that they hoped to develop a formula to bar certain people from receiving the monthly payments.

Disagreements over the details of that formula persisted, however, leading to a tense meeting between Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and Abbas in Ramallah on 6/21. According to the Times of Israel (6/23), Kushner’s position on the issue “enraged” Abbas. Even though Kushner reportedly downgraded the U.S. demand from total discontinuation to stipends to just 600 individual Palestinians serving life sentences in Israeli prisons, Abbas was furious that the U.S. was toeing the Israeli line. He argued (6/21) that the payments were a “social responsibility,” and complained that Israel was using the issue as a pretext to squirm out of peace negotiations.

Significantly, Democratic and Republican allies of Israel in the U.S. Congress were advancing legislation similar to the bill percolating through the Knesset around the same time. Dubbed the “Taylor Force Act,” after a U.S. citizen killed by a Palestinian on 3/8/16 in Tel Aviv, the bill conditions certain forms of U.S. aid to the Palestinians on the termination of these stipends (see Congressional Monitor, JPS 46 [4]). The Senate Foreign Relations Comm. approved the bill in a bipartisan vote, 16–5, on 8/3, and observers said it had a good chance of passing into law.

By the end of 6/2017, the momentum behind U.S.-led peace efforts was all but spent, and there was rampant speculation that the Trump admin. was preparing to turn its attention elsewhere. U.S. officials denied the rumors (6/25 and 6/27), although Trump’s Special Rep. for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt returned to Israel for further talks on 7/11, a trip that did not lead to any reported breakthroughs on the major issues. By mid-July, the Trump admin.’s attention had turned entirely to the situation in Jerusalem, where long-simmering tensions at Haram al-Sharif had again boiled over into violence.



While the Palestinians were downplaying their opposition to Israeli settlement growth in the context of U.S.-led peace efforts, a number of settlement-related conflicts kept the issue at the forefront of Israeli govt. debates, with ultranationalists pushing for accelerated growth and Netanyahu, wary of incurring U.S. ire, cautioning restraint (see JPS 46 [4]). As Netanyahu’s ultranationalist rivals comprise a significant portion of his ruling coalition, they were able to force his hand. Consequently, the Israeli govt. announced numerous new settlement projects throughout the quarter and rolled back a previously unreported plan from 2016 that would see Palestinian towns in the West Bank expanding into Area C.

Following weeks of ultranationalist complaints about a de facto freeze in settlement growth, the Higher Planning Council of Israel’s Civil Admin. met on 6/6 and 6/7 to discuss new construction proposals. Over the course of the 2 days, the council advanced plans for at least 2,000 new settler housing units across the West Bank, including 102 in Amichai, the new settlement planned to house the former residents of the illegal Amona outpost (see JPS 46 [2, 3, and 4]). It wasn’t enough for the settlers, though. The Yesha Council, a settler umbrella group, outraged by what they viewed as an insufficient number of new units, disputed the official numbers proposed and pushed for a face-to-face meeting with Netanyahu on 6/8. In a statement released after the meeting, a Yesha spokesperson said that it was a “positive” conversation, but that the tension was “not over yet.” DM Avigdor Lieberman then lashed out (6/11) at settler leaders, arguing that more construction would “stretch the rope beyond its limit, and thus put the entire settlement enterprise at risk,” presumably a reference to international condemnation and the possibility of undermining Trump’s initiative. Lieberman also said (6/11) that the govt. had approved more homes for construction by mid-2017 than it had in any year since 1992. “There isn’t and there hasn’t been a better govt. to take care of the Jewish settlements in [the West Bank],” he added.

Just as that conflict was fading from the front pages of Israeli newspapers, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the govt. had approved a plan to expand the municipal boundaries of Qalqilya, allowing for the construction of 14,000 new Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank (it was later reported that only 5,000 new homes were to be built). This previously unreported plan had reportedly been approved in 9/2016 as part of Lieberman’s “carrot-and-sticks” policy (see JPS 46 [2]). After the Israeli govt. confirmed the report, several Likud MKs demanded that Netanyahu cancel the plan, and the Samaria Regional Council (SRC), which provides services to settlements in the n. West Bank, promised (6/14) to challenge it in the courts. “Has this government lost all restraint? Have we gone completely mad?” SRC head Yossi Dagan asked (6/14). “You can’t speak in 2 voices: on the one hand claiming you’re doing everything for the settlements, and on the other stopping construction in the settlements while advancing Arab construction.” Netanyahu said (6/18) he would reconsider. Israel’s security cabinet ultimately decided (7/12) to temporarily suspend the Qalqiliya expansion plan.

Aside from the rare and tepid condemnation from a State Dept. spokesperson, the Trump admin. had little to say about these developments. After Israeli construction crews began (6/20) work on the Amichai settlement, for example, a State Dept. official said, “we see settlements as something that does not help the peace process.” The U.S. position remained the same throughout 7/2017. The Jerusalem Municipality announced plans for 800 new settler residences in East Jerusalem on 7/6, and a White House official merely reiterated (7/6) the Trump admin.’s opposition to “unrestrained settlement activity.” Despite intermittent reports of a secret Trump-Netanyahu agreement limiting settlement growth (6/23 and 7/11), none were confirmed, and the status of Israel’s settlement enterprise remained unchanged by the end of the quarter.

Meanwhile, Palestinian frustration with the new settlement construction, along with the Trump admin.’s bland pronouncements, grew throughout the quarter. When Netanyahu advanced (6/22) a project to expand the Beit El settlement nr. al-Bireh with 300 new housing units, a number of Palestinian officials went beyond their standard calls for international pressure. They specifically called out the Trump admin. and implied that Palestinian participation in the U.S.-led peace efforts would be conditioned on a change in policy. Abbas may not have been insisting on a settlement freeze as a precondition to peace talks anymore, they implied, but some sort of shared understanding would need to be established. As one Palestinian official put it, “it is impossible to speak about a [peace initiative] that will bring the sides to serious negotiations as long as Israel continues massive construction in the settlements with a green light from the U.S., or thunderous silence in the face of this construction.” PLO secy.-gen. Saeb Erakat eventually went on the record (8/1) describing the Trump admin.’s “silence regarding the intensification of Israeli colonial settlement activities,” as well as its waffling on the principle of 2 states based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, as a barriers to its own peace efforts (see JPS 46 [3, 4]).



As the quarter opened, nearly 2 years had passed since persistent tensions at Haram al-Sharif erupted in 9/2015 to become the surge of Palestinian resistance, random attacks, and protests that Palestinians describe as the habba. The habba later spread to the rest of the oPt (see JPS 45 [2, 3]) and while it has gradually subsided in the intervening years, the underlying issues remain unresolved. A significant portion of the Israeli population, including several MKs, openly called for increased Jewish access at Haram al-Sharif. Palestinians feared the Israeli govt. would acquiesce, upending the delicate status quo that has governed the site since Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. This quarter, a number of violent incidents in the Old City gave the Israeli govt. the opportunity to impose new restrictions and security measures, which in turn led to further revolt.

In the waning days of Ramadan, 3 Palestinian youths attacked (6/16) Israeli border police at Damascus Gate with knives and guns at dusk. They fatally injured 1 guard and lightly injured several others before being shot and killed in situ. As has become standard procedure post-habba, IDF troops raided the attackers’ family homes in Dayr Abu Mash‘al nr. Ramallah, threatened punitive demolition, and put the village on lockdown. The Israeli authorities also reinstated policies that had been suspended during Ramadan. “You’ve destroyed the Ramadan atmosphere in [the West Bank],” Yoav Mordechai, IDF Coordinator of Govt. Activities in the Territories (COGAT), wrote on Facebook (6/16). “Three bastards who undertook this cowardly terror attack received praise from Fatah, who falsely claimed they were innocent. This is incitement to terror. In response to this heinous crime and the incitement by Fatah officials to win popularity, Israel has decided to take action, the first is revoking 250,000 entry permits [for West Bank Palestinians visiting family in Israel] and revoking work permits from the kin of the terrorists.” Israeli officials also rescinded permits for West Bank Palestinians to visit Haram al-Sharif on weekdays, except Fridays. Israeli forces then arrested (6/17) 350 West Bank Palestinians in East Jerusalem on 6/17, put them on buses, and sent them home. Israeli police violently dispersed (6/18) Muslim worshippers protesting the crackdown at Haram al-Sharif; 3 Israelis were injured during the ensuing clashes, and over 30 Muslim worshippers were injured, among them Turks, South Africans, British nationals, and Americans in addition to Palestinians. Some injuries were a result of rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces. (Middle East Monitor, 6/19).

In the wake of the 6/16 attack and the Israeli response, Palestinian protests slowly died down and Jerusalem returned to its usual levels of tension. Netanyahu was not satisfied, however. On 6/21, he met with several top defense and security officials, and approved a new “security strategy” for Damascus Gate that reportedly included new “surveillance points,” improved lighting systems, and other measures. Announcing the new strategy on 6/22, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan claimed that there had been 32 major attacks at the site in the previous 2 1/2 years, and Netanyahu said (6/22) that Damascus Gate had become a “symbol of terror.” The following week, he announced a temporary lifting of his ban on Israeli MKs and ministers visiting Haram al-Sharif, following a petition from Likud MK, Temple Mount movement leader, and Orthodox rabbi Yehuda Glick. Netanyahu had imposed the ban in 10/2015 at the height of the habba in order to quell Palestinian fears that Israel intended to seize control of the sanctuary. The trial period for lifting the ban was set for 7/23–27, and if it went well, Netanyahu would consider lifting it permanently.

As this trial period loomed, Palestinian social media roiled with suspicions and frustrations. Then, on 7/14, 3 Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCI) launched an attack on Israeli police in the Old City. Armed with guns and knives, the 3 assailants ran out of Haram al-Sharif and attacked 2 Israeli police officers, killing both before fleeing back into the compound. Israeli border police chased the attackers inside, there was an exchange of fire, and the 3 assailants were killed.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Israeli police evacuated the site, raided the premises, interrogated at least 60 Islamic Waqf employees and worshippers, and canceled Friday prayers. The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Shaykh Mohammad Hussein, who was detained by Israeli forces as he led Friday prayers, said (7/14) it was the first time Israeli forces had prevented Muslims from participating in Friday worship at the sanctuary since the annexation of the city in1967. Unrest quickly swept through East Jerusalem; clashes and violence led to at least 3 settler injuries and the arrest of 25 Palestinians, including Hussein.

Meanwhile, Abbas phoned Netanyahu— reportedly the first time they spoke directly in mos.—to condemn the morning’s attack, denounce violence on both sides, and call for the sanctuary to be reopened. Netanyahu, for his part, argued that Israeli forces needed to maintain security at all costs, and insisted that no change had been made or would be made to the status quo at Haram al-Sharif. The Jordanian govt., which administers the sanctuary through the Waqf, echoed Abbas’s call on the Israeli authorities to reopen the sanctuary, to which senior Israeli officials responded, “instead of condemning the terror attack, Jordan chose to blast Israel, which protects the worshippers and maintains the freedom of worship at the site. . . . All the sides, including Jordan, should maintain restraint and avoid inflaming the situation.”

The situation, however, was already inflamed, and Netanyahu turned up the heat by announcing (7/15) that Israeli forces would “gradually” reopen Haram al-Sharif on 7/16 with a series of new security measures, including metal detectors. The Islamic Waqf then called (7/16) for a Muslim boycott of the sanctuary, kicking off 2 weeks of protests and clashes in Jerusalem and across the oPt (during which 5 Palestinians were killed and hundreds were injured; see Chronology and Photos from the Quarter for details). The boycott gained strength and Muslim worshippers opted to pray en masse outside on the streets of the Old City instead of passing through the metal detectors.

A variety of Palestinian political factions united behind the boycott, organizing protests and lending their weight to the Waqf’s call for the removal of the metal detectors. Netanyahu refused to budge on the metal detectors, despite reported opposition from Israel’s Shin Bet and other security services. According to a Palestinian official (7/19), the U.S., Jordan, and Saudi Arabia also began pressuring Israel to remove the metal detectors.

On the heaviest day of violence, Abbas made (7/21) a major announcement in support of the protest. He ordered the suspension of all PA contacts with the Israeli govt., including PASF coordination with the IDF, until all new security measures at Haram al-Sharif were removed. “This decision is not at all easy,” he said. “But the Israelis ought to know that they are going to be the ones who will ultimately lose, because we do a lot to defend their security and ours.” Codified in the 1995 Oslo II agreement, PASFIDF coordination is deeply unpopular among Palestinians and has been so for many years. The Palestinian leadership has maintained the program regardless, and since the demise of the Kerry-led peace effort in 3–4/2014 in particular, security coordination has become so controversial that the PA is being forced to consider suspending the program. After a heated debate in early 2015 (see JPS 44 [3]), the PLO Central Council called (3/4/15) for an end to the program, and the PLO Exec. Comm. pledged (3/5/15) to implement their call at the appropriate time (see JPS 44 [4]). The installation of new metal detectors at Haram al-Sharif and the enormous public support for the Waqf apparently made 7/21 the appropriate time.

The day after Abbas’s announcement, Mordechai said (7/22) that Israel was “willing to examine alternatives to the metal detectors as long as the . . . alternative ensures the prevention of the next attack,” hinting that at least some Israeli leaders were balking at the new security measures. Israel’s security cabinet met that night to discuss the situation. While ministers echoed Mordechai’s position, Lieberman held the line, claiming that Israel would “manage” without security coordination with the PA. “It’s their decision,” he said. “It’s not that the security coordination is an Israeli need; it’s a Palestinian need first and foremost, and therefore if they want it, it will continue. If they don’t want it, [it] won’t.”

After another day of heightened tensions and protests at Haram al-Sharif on 7/24, the security cabinet decided to remove the metal detectors. In a statement, the cabinet said it had “accepted the recommendation of all of the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies and other measures instead of metal detectors in order to ensure the security of visitors and worshippers in the Old City and [at Haram al-Sharif].” According to the Israeli press, the new security measures were set to include “smart cameras” with heat-sensing technology and facial recognition capabilities, and that their installation would be part of a NIS 100 m. (approximately $28 m.) plan that could take up to 6 mos. to implement.

The Islamic Waqf convened on the morning of 7/25 to discuss the new Israeli position. It issued a statement rejecting “any changes [to the status quo], including technological measures,” and reiterated an earlier call for the sanctuary to be open to “Muslim worshippers in a completely free manner to ensure freedom of worship.” Later in the day, Abbas again backed up the Waqf, reaffirming that he did not plan to resume PA relations with the Israeli govt. until the new security measures “cease[d] to exist.”

After yet another day of tension and violence, the Israeli press reported (7/26) that Netanyahu had ordered security checks at Haram al-Sharif to be conducted using only handheld metal detectors, a practice in place prior to the 7/14 attack. Israeli forces removed the last of the metal detectors and infrastructure for the new “smart cameras” that night. The Islamic Waqf then met again on 7/27, when the mufti confirmed that the situation at the sanctuary had returned to normal and called on worshippers to resume prayers there. After meeting with Hussein in Ramallah, Abbas celebrated the victory, saying, “All stood as one, didn’t blink, didn’t hesitate, and didn’t tire.” Hundreds of Muslim worshippers gathered at Haram al-Sharif for a “victory party” and the day’s jubilation with chanting, loud music, and dancing was marred by only minor clashes with Israeli security forces.

Meanwhile, the Israeli authorities handed over to their families the corpses of the 3 PCI killed on 7/14. Thousands of Palestinians marched through Umm al-Fahm at a joint funeral, celebrating the victory and mourning the loss.

As Palestinians celebrated, the Israeli public expressed disappointment with the govt.’s resolution of the crisis. In a poll taken in the wake of the security cabinet’s 7/24 decision to replace the metal detectors with “advanced technologies,” Israel’s Channel 2 found (7/25) that 77% of respondents thought the govt. “capitulated” by removing the metal detectors, and 67% described Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis as “not good.”

In response to the backlash, Netanyahu tacked to the right on other issues. Israeli officials said (7/27) that he had proposed, in meetings with U.S. officials, that some Palestinian communities in Israel be transferred to a hypothetical future Palestinian state in exchange for incorporating key settlement blocs into Israel. Lieberman, who has been advocating such transfers for years, tweeted (7/27), “Mr. PM, welcome to the club.” That same day, Netanyahu came out in favor of the death penalty for a Palestinian who killed 3 Israeli settlers at Halamish on 7/21 (see Chronology for details). “He should simply not smile anymore,” Netanyahu said. He also defended his handling of the Haram Al-Sharif crisis to his cabinet on 7/30: “I must make decisions coolly and judiciously. I do that out of a view of the big picture, a wide view of the challenges and threats that are facing us. Some of them are not known to the public and as is the nature of things, I can’t go into details.”

The atmosphere at Haram al-Sharif remained tense through the end of the quarter, but the relative calm largely held. Abbas and the Palestinian leadership opted not to resume security coordination with the Israeli govt.—at least not right away. A senior PA official said (7/29) that as long as Muslim access to the sanctuary remained unrestricted, the plan was to slowly resume coordination at pre-crisis levels.

During the final weeks of the quarter, the PA’s plan changed, however. Palestinian officials pointed to the 7/27 closure of the Beit El DCO checkpoint (nr. al-Bireh) and raid of a civil police investigation office on 8/2 as evidence of a new Israeli strategy. Checkpoints run by the District Coordination Liaison Offices (DCO) allow prescreened Palestinian businesspeople, NGO personnel, and VIPs to circumvent the regular IDF checkpoints that are far more arduous and onerous for Palestinians. “We clearly understood [the closure of the checkpoint as] a punitive measure,” one official said. “It is likely we will see more of this . . . in the future, [with Israel] claiming it has to do with the lack of coordination” (Haaretz, 8/3). The following week, a senior PA official laid out (8/7) the conditions for resuming security coordination: cessation of all IDF activity in Area A of the West Bank and PA takeover of certain border crossings. “The Palestinian leadership will reject any security coordination Israel requests until Israel halts daily assaults, shootings, undercover raids, abductions of Palestinian lawmakers, officials, and children in Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the PA-controlled territories,” an unnamed PA source added (Ma‘an News Agency, 8/9).

Throughout the last weeks of the quarter, Israeli officials and the Israeli press continued to allege that security coordination with the PA was, in fact, ongoing. A PA spokesperson confirmed as much on 8/7, admitting that PASF contact with the IDF had continued, but only in “humanitarian” cases



The Haram al-Sharif access crisis was the first major test for the Trump admin.’s nascent peace initiative, forcing the admin. to show its hand and thereby pointing to the possible foundation for future peace efforts.

As the crisis wound down, it became clear that the Trump admin. had lost credibility with the Palestinians. Greenblatt, in particular, was accused of siding with the Israeli side throughout the crisis (see Doc. B3, JPS 46 [4], for excerpts of the interview Abbas gave to Doha’s al-Watan.) On 7/27, a Palestinian official said that Abbas had recently rejected a request for a meeting with the U.S. envoy because “such meetings fail to offer anything new”(Haaretz, 7/27). “Abbas is disappointed by the admin.’s conduct,” the official elaborated. “As of now, Palestinians have made efforts to meet U.S. demands, but as of yesterday, the Americans have not presented anything new.” A few days later, a senior PA source noted (7/31) the Palestinian leadership’s frustration with the Trump admin.’s behavior during the crisis. “When the metal detectors were installed, they supported that,” the official said. “Then they supported the installation of smart cameras, and then, when there was talk of manual checks, they supported that, too.”

Further reinforcing the Palestinians’ suspicions, a surreptitious tape recording surfaced on 7/31 in which Kushner spoke candidly with a group of congressional interns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the leaked recording, Kushner described the Israeli decision to install new metal detectors at Haram al-Sharif as “reasonable,” and said that “there may be no solution” to the conflict, adding that the White House was still “thinking about what the right end-state is.” PLO Exec. Comm. mbr. Hanan Ashrawi went on the record in response, arguing that Kushner was not equipped to mediate a peace effort: “Kushner isn’t aware enough of the details and developments in the region and he tends to conspicuously adopt the Israeli position” (Haaretz, 8/7).

From the Israeli side, the success of the Trump admin.’s efforts looked equally dubious. “As of now, Trump’s peace initiative looks like it is completely bogged down,” a senior Israeli official said on 7/31. “The Palestinians have lost trust in the peace negotiation teams. Greenblatt is rapidly approaching the status of persona non grata, just like [Amb. to Israel David] Friedman and Haley. The president is not involved, and it looks like he has distanced himself considerably from Middle East affairs, particularly given the serious problems he has inside the White House” (Al-Monitor, 7/31).

The Israeli side was running into problems of its own in 8/2017. Ending mos. of speculation, the Israeli police confirmed (8/3) that PM Netanyahu was under investigation for alleged bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The Israeli press then revealed that the PM’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, had agreed to testify against Netanyahu in exchange for a reduced sentence in his own case. The police had questioned the PM several times earlier in the year, and the investigation was already undermining his authority, but this revelation seemed to point to the possibility that Netanyahu could be indicted and lose the premiership. To many, the affair was reminiscent of the 2007–8 peace negotiations that failed, in part, because of then PM Ehud Olmert’s own scandals and resignation (see JPS 38 [1, 2]). To others, such as Nabil Shaath, a senior advisor to Abbas, the comparison was only instructive insofar as it highlighted the foundational differences between the peace process in 2008 and 2017: “We cannot even draw a parallel to Olmert, because unlike Netanyahu, Olmert had a worldview that included a future arrangement and . . . negotiations were making progress. Netanyahu’s situation is totally the opposite; the man is just looking for ways to evade any commitment to the 2-state solution, and now with the investigations we have to be prepared for moves that could be devastating to the diplomatic process” (Haaretz, 4/7).

Regardless, the Trump admin. carried on. On 8/11, a senior U.S. official said that Kushner, along with Greenblatt and Dep. National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, would visit Israel, the oPt, and various Arab states in late 8/2017. “Trump has previously noted that achieving an enduring IsraeliPalestinian peace agreement will be difficult, but he remains optimistic that peace is possible,” the official said. “To enhance the chances for peace, all parties need to engage in creating an environment conducive to peacemaking while affording the negotiators and facilitators the time and space they need to reach a deal” (Washington Post, 8/11). 

U.S. pres. Donald Trump continued work on a peace initiative this quarter, without any resolution to lingering uncertainties on key issues (e.g., whether the U.S. should move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; see JPS 46 [4] and 47 [1]). He and his negotiating team met with Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as other country and organizational leaders, but they failed to produce anything concrete. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and his senior advisor, along with Dep. National Security Advisor Dina Powell and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, made an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia on 10/25–28. The White House declined to disclose with whom Kushner met but media reports indicate he held talks with Prince Mohammad, who had recently had several Saudi ministers and 11 princes arrested, presumably to consolidate his power, though he claimed to be fighting corruption. Shortly afterward, Lebanon’s PM Hariri visited the kingdom and announced his resignation. Two days later, Prince Mohammad summoned PA pres. Abbas (see “Regional Affairs” below) in what some analysts viewed as efforts to derail the Hamas-Fatah unity deal and to further marginalize Iran.

After Palestinian support for Trump’s efforts began to waver last quarter (see JPS 47 [1]), the Palestinians shifted their focus almost entirely to internal and regional issues (see “Intra-Palestinian Dynamics” and “Regional Affairs” below). Meanwhile, the Israeli govt. dealt with internal issues of its own, including an increasingly acrimonious debate over: a bill that would grant Israeli sovereignty to settlements ringing East Jerusalem, effectively annexing them into Israel, and settlement growth, which put Netanyahu at odds with the ultranationalists in his own ruling coalition.



As the quarter opened, the Trump peace initiative was all but stalled. Trump maintained he was still eager to make “the ultimate deal,” as he referred to the prospect of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but he rarely brought the subject up of his own accord. Instead, he focused on confronting North Korea over its nuclear program and overhauling the U.S. health-care and tax systems. The Israelis, led by Netanyahu, still supported Trump’s efforts, but were more concerned with countering the alleged Iranian threat as well as with their own internal issues. The Palestinians were the least enthusiastic of all parties. After the U.S. Middle East negotiating team consistently defended Israel’s installation of cameras and checkpoints under the guise of security at Haram al-Sharif in 7/2017 (see JPS 47 [1]), it was clear that the Trump admin. was going to have to rebuild relationships in Ramallah before moving forward on peace talks.

Their first opportunity to do so was set for 8/24, when Kushner was scheduled to visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). In the lead-up to Kushner’s trip, some PA officials aired their skepticism publicly. Abbas reportedly told a delegation from the Israeli leftist party Meretz that he couldn’t understand the Trump admin.’s conduct (8/20). “I have met with Trump envoys about 20 times since the beginning of his term as pres. of the U.S. [in 1/2017],” he said. “Every time, they repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a 2-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrained. They said they would consider it but then they didn’t get back to me.” PLO Executive Comm. mbr. Ahmad Majdalani then clarified (8/22) that the Palestinians brought up those 2 key issues during a meeting in 6/2017 (see JPS 47 [1]). “Since then we haven’t heard from them,” he said. “We hope they bring clear answers this time. If not, then the peace process cannot be resumed because we cannot negotiate from scratch.”

The day before Kushner arrived in Israel, a U.S. State Dept. spokesperson responded (8/23) to the Palestinians’ complaints. “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” she said, addressing the open question of Trump’s support for a 2-state solution. “It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it.” Kushner was apparently more reassuring in his meeting with Abbas on 8/24. “We know that this [U.S.] delegation is working for peace, and we are working with it,” Abbas said (8/24). “We know that things are difficult and complicated, but there is nothing impossible with good efforts.” The meeting was “productive,” according to a PA statement (8/24). “Both sides agreed to continue with the U.S.-led conversations as the best way to reach a comprehensive peace deal.”

The Kushner meeting established the dynamic that prevailed through the end of the quarter. Amid a spate of rumors and unconfirmed reports, Israel Hayom reported (8/27) that Kushner pledged the Trump admin. would present its peace plan, including positions on all final status issues, within 3–4 mos. in exchange for the Palestinians indefinitely postponing their pursuit of statehood recognition in the international arena. Abbas, whose deputies were threatening to resume that very strategy, reportedly agreed contingent upon Trump personally backing Kushner’s pledge. According to an unnamed Palestinian official, Kushner and Abbas sealed the deal by agreeing to arrange a meeting between the 2 presidents on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on 9/2017.

With the Palestinians mollified, the Trump admin. turned back its attention to the Israelis. By the end of 8/2017, U.S. and Israeli officials resumed talks on Trump’s pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (Times of Israel, 8/28; see JPS 46 [4] and 47 [1] for background on Trump’s shifting position on the embassy move). According to a U.S. source, both sides brought up the issue during Kushner’s meeting with Netanyahu on 8/24. Israeli officials confirmed that the subject did come up, but made no comments on the nature of the discussion.

Ahead of the UNGA, Trump and his aides lowered expectations for their peace initiative and directed the focus to the implementation of the 7/14/2015 Iran nuclear deal (see “Iran” below). “Achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians remains one of the president’s highest priorities, but the UN meetings will primarily focus on other issues and serve as check-in opportunities,” a senior U.S. official said (9/16). The Palestinians, apparently content with the promised time frame and occupied with their own national reconciliation process (see “Intra-Palestinian Dynamics” below), refrained from calling for clarity from the Trump admin. on settlements and the 2-state solution. Netanyahu, for his part, was eager to redirect the discussion as well.

In New York, Trump met first with Netanyahu on 9/18. “Most people would say there is no chance whatsoever” to reach a peace agreement, Trump said, at a joint press conference. “I actually think that with the ability of Bibi, and frankly with the other side, I really think we have a chance.” After the meeting, the White House released (9/18) a statement saying that the pair discussed their “continuing efforts to achieve an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the optimism in the region about peace, and expanding economic opportunities to improve conditions for peace.” No further details were disclosed.

Trump’s meeting with Abbas was potentially more critical, since Abbas was reportedly hoping for the U.S. president’s personal commitment to the pledge Kushner had made on 8/24. A PA spokesperson said (9/18) that Abbas planned to reassess his dedication to the U.S. initiative after the meeting. On 9/20, hours after Abbas addressed the UNGA reaffirming his support for a 2-state solution and reasserting the Palestinians’ right to pursue justice through international arenas such as the International Criminal Court, he met with Trump. The U.S. pres. told (9/20) Abbas that this was their “best shot ever” to make the “toughest deal of all” and reportedly repeated Kushner’s request for more time. According to senior PA officials, Abbas acquiesced (Haaretz, 9/24).

In the aftermath of the UNGA, the Palestinians, U.S., and Israelis all displayed some optimism in their public comments and actions. The Trump admin. was presumed to be working on its plan; Netanyahu took apparent steps to limit settlement growth, despite pressure from his ultranationalist coalition partners (see “Settlement Growth in the Trump Era” below); and the Palestinians proceeded to reach a major national reconciliation agreement (10/12), in hope of presenting a unified front ahead of peace talks.

At the same time, there was one indication that Trump was starting to feel the same kind of frustration with Netanyahu that his predecessor, Barack Obama, experienced. According to a Western diplomat on 10/4, Trump had told (9/19) UN secy.-gen. António Guterres that both Netanyahu and Abbas were “problematic,” but that between the two, “Netanyahu is the bigger problem.” A senior White House official later challenged (10/4) that narrative, saying, “The pres. said that he feels both sides want to make peace and he remains optimistic about an enduring peace deal. We are focusing on our productive conversations and not on the noise created by spoilers.”

Although there were some early signs that the Palestinian reconciliation agreement of 10/12 would be a game changer, the Israeli security cabinet quickly imposed strict conditions on Hamas before Israel would agree to work with the consensus govt. (10/17). According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, the conditions included Hamas recognizing Israel, ceasing all so-called terrorist activity, disarming and dismantling its military infrastructure in the West Bank, severing ties with Iran, returning to Israel the remains of the 2 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and the Israeli civilians being held in Gaza (see “Prisoner Swap” below), and giving up security control of Gaza to the PA. A senior Israeli official said (10/17) that the cabinet had also authorized Netanyahu to impose punitive sanctions on the PA, including deductions from the tax revenues Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf and transfers to the PA on a monthly basis. “Any other cabinet decision would have given legitimacy to the terror organization Hamas, which strives to destroy Israel,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said (10/17). Later that same day, a PA spokesperson said that the Israeli govt. would not be allowed to stand in the way of reconciliation, indicating that Abbas would prioritize reconciliation with Hamas given the choice between that and the possibility of another round of talks with Israel. Another senior Palestinian official accused the Israeli cabinet of falsely assuming that Hamas would join the PA, and putting forth a “new excuse” to back out of the process.

Two days later, Greenblatt offered (10/19) the first official U.S. response to the reconciliation deal. “All parties agree that it is essential that the PA be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there,” he said in a statement. “The U.S. reiterates the importance of adherence to the Quartet principles: any Palestinian govt. must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties—including to disarm terrorists—and commit to peaceful negotiations. If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian govt., it must accept these basic requirements.” Another senior Trump admin. official offered some context on Greenblatt’s statement on 10/22, saying that the U.S. expected Hamas to disarm, but didn’t necessarily expect it to happen soon. “Egypt has helped us crack open a door to Gaza that didn’t exist a few weeks ago, and we see it as a possible opportunity,” the official said (10/22).

Then two days later, Kushner, Powell, and Greenblatt made a surprise, unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia (10/25–28). The White House would not disclose with whom they met but media reports indicate Kushner met with Prince Mohammad, who in November worked to consolidate his power by arresting dozens of ministers, and 11 princes. While Kushner returned to the U.S. on 11/28, Greenblatt continued on to Amman, Cairo, Ramallah, and Jerusalem (Politico, 10/29/2017). Within days, Prince Mohammad summoned Hariri, who suddenly announced his resignation from Riyadh, as well as Abbas. These events had analysts indicating that Saudi Arabia, supported by Trump through Kushner, was working to marginalize Iran’s growing power in the region and to force Abbas to accept Israel’s conditions on the unity govt

As the initial surprise of the reconciliation deal wore off, both the Israelis and Palestinians continued meeting to discuss the Trump peace initiative. On 10/29, Israeli minister of finance Moshe Kahlon met with PA PM Rami Hamdallah for the 2d time in 6 mos., reportedly following U.S. pressure to make progress on measures that could strengthen the Palestinian economy. The meeting resulted in no new agreements, but the 2 men made “important progress . . . on key issues,” according to Greenblatt (10/29). Then, after mos. of unconfirmed reports that PA Security Forces (PASF) had resumed some coordination with the IDF, the chief of the Palestinian police, Maj. Gen. Hazem Atallah, confirmed the news on 11/8. “Everyone is coordinating now. That means things returned to what they were before,” Atallah said, referring to Abbas’s 7/21 announcement of an indefinite suspension of PASF-IDF coordination in response to new Israeli security measures at Haram al-Sharif. The suspension had been extremely popular among the Palestinian public (see “Palestinian Opinion” below). Atallah also said that security coordination had never ceased completely, as many Israeli politicians pointed out at the time. “The only thing we stopped is we didn’t meet them in the field,” he said, explaining that approximately 95% of coordination activities continued.

As the quarter came to a close, the New York Times unearthed a few more details about the Trump plans on 11/11. According to White House officials, the plan was set to be ready in early 2018, considerably later than the 3–4 month window Kushner had promised Abbas on 8/24. The officials also said that Trump’s core team—Kushner, Greenblatt, amb. to Israel David Friedman, and Powell—had put together a series of “non-papers” covering various issues related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including settlements and the status of Jerusalem, over the course of Trump’s first 10 mos. in office. “We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months to help reach an enduring peace deal,” Greenblatt said (11/11). “We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal.”



With the Palestinians demanding that the U.S. take a firmer position on Israeli settlement growth and Trump steadfastly refusing to do so, the most contentious debates this quarter took place within the ranks of the Israeli govt. They played out similarly to other conversations in the Knesset that had become even more heated ever since Trump assumed office in 1/2017. Netanyahu, wary of a notoriously mercurial Trump blaming him for any possible breakdown in the peace process, made enough concessions to his ultranationalist coalition partners to maintain power, but not so many as to draw anything more than tepid criticism from the international community, including the U.S. Yet, in view of trends that transpired in both the Knesset and the Jerusalem Municipality during this quarter, it is evident that Netanyahu and his far-right coalition govt. were intent on sealing Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank, further enclosing Palestinians in isolated bantustans. While there was much settlement news this quarter, five specific settlement-related developments stood out for their magnitude and implications.

The first concerned the imminent issuance of tenders for the new settlement of Givat Hamatos, which, once built, would create an impassable barrier between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, effectively dividing the West Bank. Next, two settlement projects were announced, one establishing a strong Jewish presence inside the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal Mukabir in East Jerusalem and the other in the city of Hebron. And, lastly, the Knesset debated two pieces of legislation that would forever change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem, in contravention of international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The five developments constituted further evidence of continued Israeli efforts to augment Palestinian displacement, expropriating ever more Palestinian land and dividing the West Bank in such a way as to make a contiguous Palestinian state a physical impossibility.

On (10/2), Netanyahu spoke at a Likud Party meeting in Ma’ale Adumim—a major settlement under the ambit of the aforementioned Greater Jerusalem bill calling for the de facto annexation of several West Bank settlements. The PM openly supported the proposed legislation, saying,“This place will forever remain part of Israel.” The location of Netanyahu’s remarks was important because of the ties between Ma’ale Adumim and the proposed E1 settlement bloc. Together, the two settlements carve out a significant portion of the West Bank, making it more viable for full annexation. The following day (10/3), Netanyahu indicated that he would move ahead with construction of Givat Hamatos between Gilo and Har Homa, effectively cutting off Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Strategically, Givat Hamatos has far-reaching implications, according to Terrestrial Jerusalem. “Givat Hamatos is a game-changer, if not a game-ender. It is not as devastating as E1 in dismembering the West Bank, but it is equally or more devastating than E1 in its impact on a political division of the city,” Peace Now wrote in 2012 when construction plans were first approved. The Israeli settlement watch NGO described the latest move as follows:

The preparation for a tender in Givat Hamatos, together with Netanyahu’s statements last week regarding the construction of thousands of housing units in Ma’ale Adumim with heavy hints towards E1, are all a part of the govt.’s effort to create a de facto annexation and prevent the possibility for two states on the ground. Netanyahu is taking far-reaching steps, which he has thus far avoided, and by doing so he risks the two-state solution and the future of Israel (Peace Now, 10/16).

Although the original plans for Givat Hamatos had been approved in 2014, they were shelved under pressure from the admin. of then U.S. pres. Obama, but the policy chaos and pro-settlement stance of the incoming Trump admin. only emboldened the Netanyahu govt.

Under pressure from Israel’s pro-settlement politicians who had been discussing annexation as recently as 1/2017 (see JPS 46 [3])—and with Netanyahu’s blessing—the Knesset planned to vote on the Greater Jerusalem bill on 10/29. Four days after informing the Knesset that the vote on the bill would go ahead, Netanyahu requested a delay. “The current version of the . . . bill invites international pressure and involves difficult legal issues,” explained (10/29) a senior mbr. of the ruling coalition, adding that Netanyahu could “not allow himself to advance this version at this time.” During a cabinet meeting that evening, the PM indicated that the Trump admin. had intervened. “The Americans turned to us and inquired what the bill was about. As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth talking and coordinating with them,” he said. Later, a senior U.S. official commented (10/29), “It’s fair to say that the U.S. is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The [Greater Jerusalem bill] was considered by the admin. to be one of those actions.”

The Knesset’s second proposed bill called for excising from Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods such as Kafr ‘Aqab, and the Shu‘fat r.c., which are inside the city’s boundaries but on the West Bank side of the separation wall. At least 100,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites live in these areas.

The above-referenced plans to transfer Israeli Jews into settlements inside Palestinian neighborhoods in Hebron and East Jerusalem would not only greatly disrupt Palestinians’ freedom of movement but irreversibly fracture the contiguity necessary for a Palestinian state. On 10/25, the Jerusalem Municipality and District Council issued (10/25) building permits for 176 new residences in Nof Zion, a settlement inside the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal Mukabir. “This is not a matter of real estate but a matter of politics and sovereignty, as the Israelis moving to homes inside Palestinian neighborhoods are motivated solely by ideology, and are trying to prevent a future compromise in Jerusalem,” Peace Now wrote on 9/6/2017. Likewise, the Civil Admin.’s Licensing Subcomm. on 10/16 approved 31 building permits for new housing units in c. Hebron on Shuhada Street, once the main thoroughfare through the Old City. For years, the Israeli military has prohibited Palestinians from using or crossing Shuhada Street because of nearby settlements. The new construction will be the first development in Hebron in 15 years and the first within the city itself.

The announcement came a few weeks after Israeli DM Avigdor Lieberman announced the creation of a new Israeli municipal center for settlers in Hebron, a move that will further disenfranchise Palestinians there. “The settlement in Hebron represents the occupation in its most ugly [form]. In order to protect a small group of settlers, tens of thousands of Palestinians had been forced to move from their homes, and roads and shops ha[ve] been closed. The permits approved today would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by 20%. . . . While doing everything in his power to please a small group of settlers, Netanyahu is . . . crushing basic values of human rights and dignity,” Peace Now wrote in a statement (10/16). Netanyahu had made clear his intention to fast-forward settlement plans early on, and received little or no pushback from the Trump admin. until the Greater Jerusalem bill came up for a vote.

In late 8/2017, after mos. of pressure from far-right religious nationalists in his coalition, at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Netanyahu proclaimed (8/28), “We are here to stay, forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. It has been proven that it does not help peace. We’ve uprooted settlements. What did we get? We received missiles. It will not happen anymore.” A senior U.S. official responded (8/29) by saying that Netanyahu’s pledge would not derail Trump’s peace initiative. “It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” the official said. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work toward facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.” The Trump admin. likewise proffered no criticism when the Israeli cabinet approved (9/3) a budget for Amichai, the new settlement due to replace the illegal Amona outpost (see JPS 46 [3, 4]), which was forcibly evacuated months earlier. The new budget, allotting NIS 55 m. (approx. $15.3 m.) to the project, allowed construction to resume 2 mos. after it was suspended due to a shortfall in funds.

Notwithstanding the PM’s aggressive statements, the pro-settlement factions within the coalition govt. remained unsatisfied. In 9/2017 and 10/2017, simmering tensions escalated after Netanyahu postponed a scheduled meeting of the Civil Admin.’s High Planning Comm. to accommodate Trump’s meetings with various heads of Middle East states at the UNGA (Haaretz, 9/24). The delay enraged the settler umbrella group Yesha Council and its allies in the govt. In a closed-door meeting with Netanyahu on 9/26, they told the PM that he was not meeting their expectations, “especially after the change in the [U.S.] admin.,” one of the participants said. He also reported Netanyahu as promising that the High Planning Comm. would approve thousands of new settler homes at its next meeting and that he had managed to convince the Trump admin. to drop its distinction between the so-called settlement blocs, which were seen as possible targets for land swaps under any final agreement with the Palestinians, and more isolated settlements. It is worth noting that Yesha Council leaders had met with Greenblatt, in the spring. The meeting, the first official encounter between settlers and the representatives of any U.S. pres., raised concerns among the international community about the continued perception of the U.S. as an “honest broker” in peace negotiations.

When the High Planning Comm. finally published (10/10) its agenda, which included plans to advance 3,800 new settler residences, Haaretz reported that the number of housing units was greatly inflated. Knesset mbr. (MK) Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan dismissed (10/11) the agenda as “spin,” and the Yesha Council released a statement expressing disappointment: “We are aware of the pressures being exerted on the PM, but nevertheless, as settlement leaders it is our obligation to state the facts accurately.”

On 10/24, Dagan set up a protest tent outside the PM’s residence in Jerusalem, and after meeting with him and a group of settler leaders the following day, Netanyahu promised (10/25) investments of NIS 800 m. (approx. $228 m.) in road construction and other infrastructure development in the West Bank, starting in 2018. The reaction was mixed: Yesha Council head Avi Roeh said it was a “significant message” to the settler community; others, including Dagan, were dubious. “We are fed up with promises and spin,” Dagan said, returning to his tent.

On 10/29, with the Greater Jerusalem bill on hold, Dagan escalated his protest. On 11/4, he and his allies announced that they would be going on hunger strike until Netanyahu upheld his promise of NIS 800 m. for settlement infrastructure. “It should not have come to this,” Dagan said.“Mr. PM, do the right thing. . . . Give a real source of funding for the paving of the bypass roads and the means of security.” According to an 11/5 report in the Times of Israel, Netanyahu’s efforts to appease the settlers succeeded in deflating the Dagan protest effort. Only 2 of the 24 local and regional council chairs representing settlements in the West Bank had joined Dagan in his tent by 11/5. Roeh, for his part, said that Yesha Council would not be participating because he believed Netanyahu would honor his pledge.

Also of note: Israeli settlement debates were not restricted to the Far Right. On 10/16, the leader of Israel’s Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, said that settlements would not necessarily need to be evacuated under a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, breaking from his party’s traditional stance on the issue. Gabbay “made a deliberate decision to take the risk that his base would flee in order to wink at centrist and soft-right voters,” according to one source close to the Labor leader (Haaretz, 10/16). Along those lines, there was some speculation in the Israeli press that Gabbay was attempting to woo former DM Moshe Ya’alon to defect from Likud. No high-ranking Labor officials challenged Gabbay on the record, but several expressed reservations about his comments in private.



As they squabbled over settlement growth, Netanyahu and his right-wing govt. advanced their years-long campaign to consolidate power, with a renewed push to pass the so-called nationstate bill and efforts to undermine opposition to it.

As with the Greater Jerusalem bill (see above), right-wing MKs had been debating competing drafts of the nation-state bill for years. Each one held to the same basic idea that Israel’s role as the nation-state of the Jewish people should be codified in the country’s Basic Law, which serves as a de facto constitution since Israel lacks one. In 5/2017, the Knesset approved a preliminary amendment in one draft of the bill, canceling the status of Arabic as an “official language.” Members also excluded a controversial provision from previous drafts that would have required “that courts rule ‘in light of the principles of Jewish law’ in the absence of clear legislation or legal precedent” (Haaretz, 10/31). There were concerns that the bill did not contain the word “democracy,” amid fears that Jewish religious law could replace a democratic judiciary as well as discriminate against minority populations, most notably Palestinians. Throughout the summer, the Knesset debated various amendments and competing drafts. MKs from the ruling coalition insisted upon focusing solely on the “Jewish character” of the state, while left-wing and non-Zionist parties argued that doing so would unjustly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. By the end of the quarter, the govt. coalition drafting the bill conceded and amended wording so that “all legislation in Israel will be interpreted according to both democratic values and the country’s Jewish nature—without giving one priority over the other” (Haaretz, 11/9). Although the new draft was still controversial, primarily due to lingering discrimination concerns, it was widely expected to pass its first reading on 12/12.

Also in the Knesset, the Ministerial Comm. for Legislation approved (11/5) an amendment to the so-called anti-boycott law, which passed in 7/2011 and allowed any Israeli to sue activists calling for boycott campaigns against Israel or its settlements. A version of the amendment had passed as a provision of the 2011 law, but the High Court of Justice struck it down in 2015 because of concerns that there was no limit on compensatory damages from lawsuits that did not demonstrate actual harm. Under the new proposal, judgements against those who repeatedly call for boycotts would be capped at NIS 100,000 (approx. $28,000), while the maximum financial judgement against people who organize systematic boycotts would be held at NIS 500,000 (approx. $143,000).

Outside the Knesset, Netanyahu and his right-wing allies continued cracking down on activists, journalists, and politicians who opposed their treatment of the Palestinians. On 8/16, Israel’s Govt. Press Office (GPO) revoked the credentials of an Al Jazeera reporter for allegedly acting as an “active partner in Palestinian resistance.” The reporter, a Palestinian citizen of Israel called Elias Karram, had said in a 2016 interview that “journalistic work is an integral part of the resistance.” After Karram publicly disavowed terrorism, the GPO reversed (8/30) its decision. “In the months to come, the GPO will keep track of the network’s reports in Israel, in Arabic and in English, and will not hesitate to reach the necessary conclusions after consulting with legal and security officials,” GPO dir. Nitzan Chen said at Karram’s 8/30 hearing (Haaretz, 8/30).

On 9/12, the Israeli press reported that the Israeli govt. was planning to cancel the special tax status of Amnesty International (AI) in response to its summer campaign, titled “Israel’s Occupation: 50 Years of Dispossession.” Had the govt. persevered, the measure would have marked a rare implementation of the 2011 anti-boycott law. In response, AI released (9/12) a statement condemning the reported plans: “While we have not been officially informed of any such action by the authorities, if true, this would be a serious setback to freedom of expression and an ominous sign for the ability of human rights–focused nongovernmental organizations in Israel to operate freely and without arbitrary interference.”

Although authorities abandoned plans to revoke AI’s tax status, Israeli authorities did deny Raed Jarrar, the Amnesty International USA advocacy dir. for the Middle East and North Africa, entry into Israel on 10/30. An Israeli spokesperson later confirmed that Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who was leading Israel’s efforts to counter the growing BDS movement, had requested Jarrar’s denial. Jarrar was reportedly attempting to visit his family in Israel after the death of his father.

Finally, the population, immigration, and border authority office of Israel’s interior minister announced (11/13) plans to deny entry to 7 of the 20 mbrs. of a European delegation set to arrive in Israel the following week because of their support for BDS. Erdan explained (11/13), “We will not permit entry to those who actively call to harm the State of Israel, especially in light of their request to meet and offer support to the arch-terrorist [and imprisoned Fatah leader] Marwan Barghouti.” By conflating support for Barghouti with calls for boycotts, the announcement marked a new, expanded interpretation of Israel’s anti-boycott laws. According to a document produced by a senior official in the Strategic Affairs Ministry, “The issue of prisoner visits was not the responsibility of the Strategic Affair Ministry. Still, the issue of Palestinian prisoners and efforts to delegitimize Israel are intertwined. The ministry’s position is to not allow any delegation mbr. to visit Marwan Barghouti, as a visit is liable to give him a tailwind.”



Hamas’s agreement with the Egyptian govt. last quarter to increase security along Gaza’s border with Sinai led to renewed violence between Hamas and the various small Islamist groups in Gaza in 8–10/2017, which in turn produced multiple exchanges of cross-border violence with Israel. Tensions between Hamas and these groups had broken out into similar intermittent episodes in recent years (see JPS 45 [1]), with the Islamists both directly attacking Hamas personnel and baiting the IDF into attacking Hamas with rocket fire. This quarter was no different, and it threatened to undermine both Hamas’s rapprochement with Cairo and the 10/12 Palestinian national reconciliation deal.

The violence began on 8/17. Hamas forces were responding to a report of militants infiltrating Gaza from Sinai when they encountered 2 men carrying light arms at the mouth of a small tunnel. As the Hamas troops approached, 1 of the men detonated a bomb belt, killing himself and 1 of the Hamas fighters, and injuring 5 others. The assailant was later identified as a supporter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The day after the attack, Hamas shut down the offices of the Islamic State of Gaza and the Army of Islam, and arrested dozens of their mbrs. in raids throughout Rafah and Khan Yunis. The crackdown continued into 10/2017, with Hamas announcing (10/7) the arrests of several Islamist leaders in an overnight raid in Rafah, possibly related to continuing reconciliation talks in Cairo, some analysts said. Then on Sunday (10/8), militants, thought to be possibly ISIS sympathizers retaliating for the arrests, fired a rocket toward Israel, which landed in an open area short of the border fence. Though there were no casualties, an IDF tank targeted (10/8) a Hamas observation post e. of alMaghazi and Israeli artillery shelled a site nr. Gaza City. (Neither attack led to any serious injuries.)

A few days after the rocket attack, Sinai Province of the Islamic State (SPIS) fighters launched (10/15) 2 rockets from n. Sinai into Israel. These also landed in open areas, causing no damage or injuries. The rockets’ targets remained unclear as it could not be ascertained if Israel alone, Israel and Hamas, or Egyptian security forces had been the intended target. The attack followed a day of violence in al-Arish, Rafah, and Shaykh Zuwayd, in which Egyptian forces killed at least 24 armed fighters after SPIS mbrs. assaulted an Egyptian soldier at a vacant church in al-Arish (see Chronology). Regardless, the Egyptian authorities decided (10/15) to cancel a planned opening of the Rafah border crossing on 10/16. (The promise of more frequent openings of the crossing was among Hamas’s key victories in its agreement with the Egyptian govt. last quarter.)

The violence in Gaza continued through the end of the quarter, with no further spillover into Israel or Egypt. On 10/27, Dep. Minister of Interior and Internal Security Tawfiq Abu Naim was slightly injured in an alleged assassination attempt. His jeep exploded as he was leaving Friday prayer at the Abu al-Hassan Mosque in c. Gaza. Hamas officials initially blamed Israel for the attack, but later said they suspected local Islamists. The next day, Abu Naim alleged that it was a politically motivated attempt to undermine the reconciliation process. “The objectives of those who committed this despicable act will not be achieved,” he said, affirming that Hamas was still on track to meet its 11/1 deadline to hand over control of Gaza’s border crossings to the PA (see “Intra-Palestinian Dynamics” below).


Overview of Violence

                2018 was the most violent year in Gaza and the West Bank since 2014 where Israeli forces killed over 2,000 Palestinians during Operation Protective Edge. A total of 298 Palestinians were killed in Gaza [260] and the West Bank including East Jerusalem [38] during 2018. From 16 August to 31 December a total of 99 Palestinians were killed, 98 by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and 1 by an Israeli settler. This was a significant surge compared to last quarter where 66 Palestinians were killed but less than during the initial rise in violence after Israel began shooting at protesters when the Great March of Return started on 30 March (see Palestinian-Israeli Conflict issue 189). A total of 14 Israelis were killed during 2018, 7 of the casualties were Israeli security forces and 7 were Israeli settlers. 7 of the Israeli causalities occurred from 16 August to the end of the year. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded a total of 29,945 injuries caused by Israelis on Palestinians and 142 injuries on Israelis by Palestinians during 2018. About 8,000 of the Palestinian injuries caused by Israelis occurred from 16 August to the end of the year and 62 of the Israeli injuries occurred during the same period. OCHA reported 265 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians or Palestinian property in 2018, which is a 69 percent increase compared to 2017.

                The comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 9/2000 reached 11,213 Palestinians by the end of 2018 (including 65 Palestinian citizens of Israel and 19 cross-border “infiltrators”); 1,287 Israelis (including at least 257 settlers and 447 IDF soldiers and other security personnel); and 73 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers). These numbers include individuals who died in non-combat-related incidents if their death directly resulted from Israel’s occupation or the ongoing conflict (for example: ailing Palestinians who died because they were denied access to medical care and Palestinians killed in smuggling tunnel accidents).

                3 major developments caused a spike in violence during the period from 16 August to 31 December compared to the previous quarter. The ongoing Great March of Return continued through the end of 2018. Israel attempted to infiltrate and assassinate Hamas members in Gaza while Hamas and Israel were negotiating a cease-fire. And, the Israeli response to an attack on Israeli settlers in the West Bank by a Palestinian escalated violence in the West Bank in December as Israel conducted mass arrests, locked down Ramallah, and violently dispersed protests.

Great March of Return

                The Great March of Return, which started on 30 March, continued throughout the year with weekly mass protests for the right of return of Palestinians to their homes in historic Palestine. The largest crowds continued to be gathered on Fridays with around 12,000 protesters reported on several occasions. A total of 145 Palestinians were killed during the protest by 16 August and by the end of the year the causalities stemming from the protest reached 195. On the Israeli side of the boundary between Gaza and Israel IDF snipers continued to shoot protesters and fire tear gas causing the majority of the casualties and injuries to Palestinians. Some incendiary kites and balloons originating from Gaza caused small fires in southern Israel on a number of occasions. In September Israel resumed air strikes on protesters launching incendiary kites and balloons as had been the case in July and early August. The first Israeli airstrike on Gaza of this update occurred on 7 September and airstrikes continued periodically since (9/17, 9/20, 9/22, 9/23, 9/26, 10/4, 10/7, 10/14, 10/15, 10/16, 10/17, 10/19, 10/20, 10/24, 10/25, 10/26, 10/27, 10/28, 10/31, 11/11, 11/12, 11/13, 12/28). The heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza in October cause extensive damage to many structures, including a hospital in Gaza City on 26 October. In addition to the incendiary kites and balloons, a number of improvised explosive devices were reportedly found on the Israeli side of the Gaza boundary, one of which caused an injury to an IDF soldier on 14 September. The protest that had been most significant on Fridays continued on a daily basis after three Palestinians were killed during the Friday protest on 14 September. Protesters gathered along the Gaza boundary for 8 days in a row after 14 September. In response to the ongoing protest in Gaza, Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered (10/12) a halt to Qatari bought fuel had begun being imported to Gaza on 9 October. In a tweet Lieberman cited the launch of incendiary balloons and kites and the burning of tires as the reasons of the decision (for more on Qatari aid to Gaza see Intra-Palestinian Dynamics). A couple of days later (10/14), as the protest continued despite Lieberman’s warning, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if Hamas did not stop the protests then Israel would launch a different response that would be very painful, hinting at instigating a new Israeli war on Gaza. The protest that started without Hamas involvement, but since has been claimed by Hamas, remains largely politically independent. After (10/17) unidentified Palestinians launched 2 rockets, 1 hitting a home in Beersheba in Israel. Israel also launches 20 air strikes on several locations in Gaza killing 1, injuring at least 7, and causing extensive damage. The following day (10/18) as Israel moves more tanks and artillery to the Gaza boundary, Hamas announces that it will investigate the rockets fired from Gaza and would move to reduce the Great March of Return protests (10/19). As violence continued to escalate, and the number of Palestinian causalities and injuries continued to rise, there were reports (11/3, 11/4) that the Egyptian mediated talks between Hamas and Israel were coming to fruition (for more on the Egyptian mediated talks see Intra-Palestinian Dynamics). It was also reported (11/4) that Defense Minister Lieberman disagreed with the rest of the Israeli cabinet about the approach to a cease-fire, with Lieberman favoring more violence rather than making concessions to Hamas. This disagreement ultimately led to Lieberman’s resignation as defense minister (see Israel).

                On 30 December, the New York Times (NYT) published an article, accompanied by a 17 minute long video, detailing the murder of Razan al-Najjar, a young Palestinian medic tending to wounded protesters that took part in the Great March of Return. The NYT’s investigation found that despite the IDF’s claims she and the people around her posed no threat to any Israelis. The murder of al-Najjar received much media attention this year. Her picture and the text “Honoring the First Responders of Gaza. Saving Lives. Rescuing Hope.” was on a billboard in the Boston area which was taken down due to complaints that it was anti-Semitic. The NYT’s investigation of al-Najjar’s murder illustrates the Israeli policy of dispersing the Great March of Return protest with lethal force in complete disregard for civilian life, which had claimed 195 victims by the end of 2018.  

Botched IDF Operation in Gaza

                With reports of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas being imminent, Israel launched an undercover operation against Hamas on 11 November. The operation was discovered by Hamas and resulted in 7 Palestinians and 1 Israeli officer getting killed after a heavy exchange of fire. 1 other Israeli officer was injured in the shootout. Hours before the operation was uncovered Prime Minister Netanyahu had claimed that Israel was trying to reach an agreement on Gaza and did not want to go to war. Israeli officials denied that it had engaged in an assassination attempt on Hamas officials. 1 former IDF official said, “these are operations that take place all the time, every night, in all divisions. This is an operation that was probably uncovered. Not an assassination attempt. We have other ways to assassinate.” After the shootout unidentified Palestinians fired 17 rockets into Israel, none of which caused any damage. Israel subsequently launched at least 50 airstrikes causing dozens of injuries and major damage to Palestinian structures. Over the following 2 days Israel continued to shell Gaza killing several Palestinians and injuring dozens, as well as destroying several structures including the al-Aqsa TV headquarters. By the time Israel finally agreed to a cease-fire on the afternoon of 13 November, 15 Palestinians had died during the 3-day assault. Some 70 Israelis were reported injured and several structures in Israel were damaged (see Chronology for details). The Israeli security cabinet’s decision to agree to a cease-fire prompted Defense Minister Lieberman to resign and take his party out of the government coalition, calling the cease-fire “a capitulation to terror” (for more see Israel). It was later reported that the Israeli forces that carried out the undercover operation had been residing in Gaza for weeks renting an apartment and pretending to work for Al-Basma Club for the Disabled, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) operating in Gaza. The soldiers’ disguise was reportedly uncovered when a Hamas official noticed that 1 of the undercover soldiers had a strange accent. IDF soldiers posing as aid workers undoubtedly will have an effect and possibly impact the work of real aid workers in Gaza as these will be met with more scrutiny. Despite the cease-fire Israel continued its violent attack on the Gaza protesters killing 8 Gazans and injuring over 300 (see Chronology for details).

Israeli Lockdowns and Violence in West Bank

                As Israel was in political turmoil, had started its Operation Northern Shield (see Israel), and a cease-fire was reached with Hamas, Israel proceeded to focus on the West Bank after a Palestinian fired (12/9) on a group of Israeli settlers outside of the Ofra settlement near Ramallah. 7 settlers were injured and 1 unborn child died 3 days later (12/12). A week prior (12/4) to the 9 December attack, IDF soldiers had killed a 22-year-old disabled Palestinian when they shot him in the back of the head from a distance of 87 yards. After the attack on the Israeli settlers outside of the Ofra settlement, Israel locked down large parts of the West Bank and conducted mass arrests during extensive raids throughout the West Bank leading to unrest. During the Israeli assault on the West Bank 6 Palestinian were killed (12/11, 12/12 [2], 12/13 [2], 12/14) by Israeli forces and 2 Israeli soldiers were shot dead and 2 others were injured (12/13) at a mobile checkpoint outside of the Ofra settlement. The IDF also raided (12/10) the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) news outlet Wafa’s headquarters, detaining several employees and confiscating the surveillance tapes; injured 481 Palestinians; conducted 215 operations leading to 287 arrests. Ramallah was under complete lockdown from 13 December until 14 December when most of its surrounding checkpoints were reopened, however IDF soldiers kept being heavily deployed in the area and raids spawned protests throughout the West Bank. In response to the killing of the 2 IDF soldiers, Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed Hamas and said that the Gaza cease-fire deal was off if attacks continued. He also announced that he would approve 82 new housing units in the Ofra settlement and have the perpetrator’s house demolished within 48 hours as a punitive action.


Movement and Access

                The Erez border crossing, the only crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel which allows movement of people, were closed on a number of occasions during the period of this update totaling 28 days. It is normally scheduled to be open from Sunday to Thursday and on Fridays for humanitarian cases and foreign nationals. The first closure was between 19 August and 27 August, then again between 5 September and 6 September where it was partially re-opened again. The Erez border crossing along with the Kerem Shalom border crossing, being the only crossing between Gaza and Israel for the movement of trucks, were closed for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah (9/8­–9/11), Yom Kippur (9/17–9/18), and Sukkot (9/22–10/1). The Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings closed again on 17 October to 21 October. The Erez border crossing was also closed on 13 November. The closures for the Jewish holidays also affected movement between the West Bank and Israel (see Chronology 9/6). The Rafah border crossing, which generally is in operation from Sunday through Thursday, was open a total of 198 days in 2018 compared to only 36 days in 2017.

                 The fishing zone off the coast of Gaza was reduced several times from 16 August to the end of the year. On 6 October it was reduced from 9 nautical miles to 6. Later on 17 October the fishing zone was further reduced to 3 nautical miles. The fishing zone was expanded on 31 October to 6 nautical miles off the northern coast and 9 off the southern coast. It was further expanded on 3 November to 14 nautical miles. On 14 November it was again reduced to 6 nautical miles off the northern shore and 9 off the southern coast. The Israeli naval forces opened fire on Gazan fishermen on 63 different occasions during the period of this update, arrested a total of 33 fishermen and confiscated 9 fishing boats. The restrictions imposed by Israel on where Gazan fishermen can fish not only reduces the quantity and quality of the fish they are able to catch but also subjects the fishermen to harassment in the form of warning shots and arrests by the Israeli naval forces as the area in which they are allowed to fish constantly changes.     

                Palestinian mobility in the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained relatively unchanged throughout 2018 until the lockdown of the Ramallah area in December (see above). Reports of mobile checkpoints and Israeli patrols continued at a normal rate. According to numbers from OCHA 1,720 home search and arrest operations were carried out from 14 August to 31 December and media outlets reported at least 1,183 Palestinians arrested in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the same period.

                Access to Haram al-Sharif was impeded a number of times during the period of this update. It was closed down for 15 hours between 17 August and 18 August. Right-wing Jewish activist caused access for Muslim worshippers to close temporarily when they visited Haram al-Sharif (9/6, 9/9, 9/16, 9/17, 9/18, 9/19, 9/24, 9/25, 9/26, 9/27, 10/7, 10/10, 10/15, 10/21, 10/23, 11/15, 11/18, 12/3, 12/5, 12/9, 12/16, 12/23, 12/26). In 1 instance the right-wing activists numbered 1,135 (9/27). Israeli member of Knesset (MK) Yehuda Glick led 3 of the tours to Haram al-Sharif. MK Glick, who is the chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, advocates that Jews should have free access to Haram al-Sharif. Last quarter Prime Minister Netanyahu allowed all MKs to visit Haram al-Sharif once every 3 months, in October MK Glick was allowed an additional visit to the Muslim holy site (for more on the new stipulations on MKs access to Haram al-Sharif see Palestinian-Israeli Conflict in issue 189). Al-Ibrahimi Mosque was also closed to Muslim worshippers twice (9/18, 9/25) for Jewish celebrations of Yom Kippur and Sukkot. For the Sukkot commemoration (9/25) IDF troops also ordered a number of Palestinian shops in Hebron to close while adding a number of additional checkpoints. 



                According to OCHA, from 16 August to the end of 2018 Israel demolished 195 structures displacing 191 Palestinians and affecting a total of 1,325 Palestinians. Of these structures 47 were inhabited residences. During all of 2018 Israel demolished 461 structures, displacing 472 and affecting 6,997 Palestinians. 102 of the structures demolished were inhabited residences. In East Jerusalem 6 home demolitions were carried out (10/8, 12/3, 12/4, 12/8 [2], 12/16) by Palestinian home-owners to avoid being charged by the municipality with demolition cost and fines. According to B’Tselem 10 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem demolished their own home in 2018 in order to avoid the high price Israel charges for the demolitions.   

                The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported (12/17) that it had obtained information from a report by the Temporary International Presence in Hebron which for the last 23 years has been mandated to observe the city of Hebron after American-Israeli terrorist Baruch Goldstein killed 29 and wounded 125 in al-Ibramimi Mosque in 1994. The report which is based on more than 4,000 “incident reports” accounts of severe and regular breaches of the right to non-discrimination and the protection of people living under occupation. The report further claims that Israel constantly breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention by deporting Palestinians in Hebron. In October, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, published his annual report on the human rights situation in occupied Palestine. The report lambasted Israel for moving towards de facto annexation of the West Bank: “Israel has steadily entrenched its sovereign footprint throughout the West Bank.” It also noted recent legal measures in the Knesset “that have become a flashing green light for more formal annexation steps.” Special Rapporteur Lynk further criticized the international community for its reluctance of holding Israel accountable for its “annexationist actions.”     

                A number of new settlements were approved during the period of this update, and additional plans for new settlements advanced. First the Israeli Civil Administration approved (8/21) a plan to confiscate 24.7 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem for the expansion of settlements in the area. The day after (8/22), the Israeli Civil Administration advanced plans for the construction of 1,004 new housing units in the West Bank, 382 of which were given final approval. Then on 23 August Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing approved tenders for the construction of 425 housing units in the West Bank and 608 new housing units in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem were deposited for public review. On 10/25 the Israeli government approved 20,470 new housing units for settlers in Ma’ale Adumim, a deal worth $765 million. 470 of the planned housing units were approved for immediate construction. The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled (11/28) on a 22-year long legal battle and granted ownership of 128 acres of Palestinian land surrounding the Gush Etzion settlement near Bethlehem to the Jewish National Fund. Settlers had already started building on the land before the High Court of Justice ruling. After the killing of 2 IDF soldiers in the West Bank (see above), Prime Minister Netanyahu announced (12/14) that he would promote the construction of 82 new housing units in the Ofra settlement and the construction of 2 new industrial zones in the Avnei Hefetz and Beitar Ilit settlements. The announcement is aligned with the Israeli government’s policy to displace families of alleged perpetrators of violence. After the High Planning Committee of Israel’s Civil Administration convened for 2 days (12/25-12/26) to discuss settlement expansion in the West Bank it was announced that it has advanced plans for 2,191 new settlement units and 3 new industrial zones and retroactively authorized 2 “illegal” settlements. The committee also announced that it was proposing 2,500 new settlement units in the Givat Eitam outpost near Bethlehem. Peace Now warns that the new settlement units near Bethlehem are part of a larger plan dubbed E2, which like E1 serves to cut the West Bank in half. It is furthermore part of a larger scheme to isolate Bethlehem by completely surrounding the city with Israeli settlements. The Israeli cabinet approved (10/14) $6.1 million to expand Jewish settlements in Hebron including 31 new housing units, 2 kindergartens, a daycare center, and a public park. According to Haaretz the approval of the plans to construct settlements in Hebron are the first in a decade. Israel also confiscated 66 acres of land owned by the Catholic Church in the West Bank in November to make the land a military compound. According to the Middle East Monitor Palestinians living on the confiscated land may be expelled.

                The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, which have been under threat of demolition for years, was once again at the center of Israeli politics when the Israeli High Court of Justice denied (9/5) petitions from the residents of the community to stop the planned demolition. The European Parliament passed (9/13) a resolution denouncing the Israeli plans to demolish the village. It further called on Israel to provide compensation for European Union funded infrastructure in the village that was destroyed. Later in October (10/17) the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that Israel’s plans to demolish Khan al-Ahmar could constitute a war crime under the Rome Statute if the plans are carried out. The week after Prime Minister Netanyahu said (10/21) that he had decided to postpone the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar for “a short time” citing finalizing relocation plans. A report by B’Tselem titled “Fake Justice: The Responsibility Israel’s High Court Justices Bear for the Demolition of Palestinian Homes and the Dispossession of Palestinians” released 2/2019 detailed the Israeli legal construct that facilitates the dispossession and demolition of Palestinian communities like Khan al-Ahmar throughout the West Bank. Israeli courts condone the demolition of buildings that are built without Israeli permits, while only 4 percent of 5,475 applications for building permits have been approved by Israel since 2000. This Israeli policy allows Israel to engineer where Palestinians can live in the West Bank, making space for Jewish settlements by displacing Palestinians. Access to Khan al-Ahmar was blocked by Israeli forces 4 times during this update (9/11, 9/14, 9/28, 10/19), and Israeli settlers flooded parts of the village with wastewater twice (10/2, 10/15).

                Separately, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled (11/21) that the settler organization Ateret Cohanim was allowed to continue its legal campaign to evict 700 Palestinians from their homes in Silwan in East Jerusalem. Earlier in October (10/24) a Palestinian family was evicted from a 4-story building in Silwan which Ateret Cohanim had seized control of in 2015. 

                In Israel the Bedouin village of al-Araqib was demolished twice (8/16, 9/6) during the period of this update. The second demolition of the village marked the 133rd  time that village has been demolished since 2010.        

                Settler attacks on Palestinian property in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continued at a high rate throughout this extended quarter. 238 cars were punctured, painted with graffiti, or otherwise damaged by settlers. 32 additional Palestinian-owned cars were damaged in Israel. Around 1,572 agricultural trees, olive, and palm trees were reportedly uprooted or otherwise damaged by settlers (see Chonology). An additional 500 palm trees (11/20), 200 cactus trees (12/18), and 50 olive trees (12/31) were destroyed by the IDF. The numbers reported in the media regarding Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian agriculture seem to be lower than the actual numbers. In late October, OCHA reported (10/25) that over of 7,000 trees had been damaged by Israeli settlers in 2018, that number does not include trees damaged in November and December.      

                The IDF continued its practice of leveling farm land on the Gaza side of the “buffer zone.” A total of 31 instances were recorded during the period of this update. Israeli land leveling in Gaza severely impedes Palestinian agricultural production in Gaza (see Chronology).


Palestinian Prisoners

                According to numbers from Addameer, a Palestinian NGO that focuses on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, the amount of Palestinians detained by Israel declined from the end of August to the end of December. At the end of August a total of 5,781 Palestinian prisoners were held by Israel, of these 456 were administrative detainees, 280 children, 65 women, and 5 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. By the end of December the number of Palestinian prisoners had gone down to 5,500, 480 were administrative detainees, 230 children, 54 women, and 8 members of the PLC. On 9 September Addameer’s legal unit coordinator Ayman Nasser was arrested and put in administrative detention by Israel. A week later the Israeli military commander in the West Bank said that Nasser would be held for 6 months. Palestinians being held by Israel in administrative detention do not have the right to a trial nor are convicted of a crime and the detentions are indefinite. On 25 October, Addameer released a report titled “I’ve Been There: A study of torture and inhumane treatment in Al-Moscobiyeh interrogation center” which details the Israeli use of torture in the ‘Russian Compound’ in West Jerusalem. The report, which is based on testimonies from 138 Palestinians, concludes that Israeli use of physical and psychological torture violates international law and constitutes war crimes under the Rome Statute.

                The PA governor of Jerusalem Adnan Ghaith was arrested by Israel on 3 different occasions (10/21, 11/1, 11/24) during this extended quarter. All 3 arrests were made on murky allegations. Governor Ghaith’s lawyer told Agence France-Presse that the arrests were a result of Israeli harassment because Israel object to the position of the PA governor of Jerusalem. After Governor Ghaith was released in 2 December he was order to house arrest for 3 days and barred from entering the West Bank for 6 months.

Overview of Violence

                In this 1st quarter of 2019, 37 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions. The number of Israelis killed as a result of Palestinian actions was 3. Therefore, the comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the 2d Intifada in 9/2000 has reached 11,250 Palestinians; 1,290 Israelis; and 73 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers).

                In the West Bank, 14 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces this quarter; 3 in January; 1 in February; 10 in March. 3 were executed after allegedly attempting to stab Israeli soldiers at checkpoints (1/21; 1/30; 12/3); 1 was shot over an argument at a checkpoint (3/20); 1 was killed for not stopping at a roadblock (3/10); 1 was executed for allegedly throwing stones at cars (1/25); 2 were shot after colliding with an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) vehicle (3/4); 2 were shot during clashes with soldiers—1 was a medic tending to wounded (3/12; 3/27); 3 were executed after allegedly throwing IEDs at Israeli settlers (2/4; 3/19 [2]); 1 was killed during a house raid (3/19). 1 Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler during clashes after settlers entered the Palestinian village al-Mughayyir (1/26). In Gaza, 21 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces this quarter; 5 in January; 5 in February; 11 in March. 20 of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza were in the context of the Great March of Return protest; 4 were killed after being hit by tear-gas canisters (1/14; 1/29; 2/12; 3/11); 1 was killed after being hit by a stun grenade (3/30); 15 were killed by live ammunition fired at protesters (1/11; 1/25; 2/3; 2/8 [2]; 2/22; 3/11 [2]; 3/18; 3/22 [2]; 3/24; 3/30 [3]). 1 Palestinian was killed by a mortar shell fired from an Israeli tank at a Hamas observation post (1/22). In Israel, 1 Palestinian was killed by an Israeli civilian after he allegedly stabbed the civilian (3/8). 2 Israeli settlers were killed by Palestinians this quarter. 1 was stabbed in East Jerusalem (2/7) and another was shot near the Ariel settlement in the West Bank (3/17). In the incident near the Ariel settlement, 1 Israeli soldier was killed by the same assailant. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA) reported that 5,540 Palestinians were injured during the quarter; 1,684 in January; 1,304 in February; 2,552 in March. 22 Israelis were injured during the same period; 7 in January; 10 in February; 5 in March.


Great March of Return and Rocket Exchange

                The Great March of Return demonstrations continued on a near-daily basis this quarter, with the biggest crowds on Fridays. On the 1-year anniversary of the Great March of Return protest on 30 March, tens of thousands of protesters were reported to have partaken in the demonstrations. The anniversary was also the deadliest day, as 3 protesters were killed and 1 succumbed to his injuries the following day. At the beginning of the quarter, the death toll stemming from Israel’s violent suppression of the protest was 195; at the end of the quarter, the death toll had risen to 217 Palestinians.

                Gaza was shelled on 27 days this quarter, on some occasions after incendiary devices attached to balloons were floated into Israel (1/6; 1/7; 1/11; 1/12; 1/13; 1/22; 2/6; 2/20; 2/21; 2/27; 3/2; 3/3; 3/4; 3/5; 3/6; 3/7; 3/8; 3/9; 3/14; 3/20; 3/21; 3/23; 3/25; 3/26; 3/28; 3/29; 3/30). The most intense bombardment of Gaza happened on 14 March, 25 March, and 26 March. On 14 March, approximately 100 locations in Gaza were bombed, injuring at least 4 Palestinians and causing extensive damage. After 4 days of heavy fire from Israel toward the Great March of Return protesters, an unidentified party launched a rocket from Gaza that hit a house north of Tel Aviv, injuring 7 Israelis. Israel subsequently launched extensive air strikes on several locations in Gaza, injuring at least 3 Palestinians and causing damage to numerous structures. Around 80 projectiles were then fired toward Israel, which afterward bombed Gaza. A 2d round of extensive rocket exchange happened on 26 March. A senior Palestinian official reported that 30 residential buildings in Gaza had been destroyed and at least 500 other structures were damaged on 24 and 25 March.

                The United Nations Human Rights Council released a report of Israel’s deadly response to the Great March of Return protests (see United Nations).


Movement and Access

Haram al-Sharif Compound

                Tensions were high at the Haram al-Sharif compound throughout the quarter. Tensions 1st rose on 14 January, when Israeli forces closed the holy site after guards in front of al-Aqsa Mosque refused entry to an Israeli police officer who would not remove his kippah before entering the mosque for a security check. Israeli police also detained 4 employees working for the Waqf in charge of the al-Aqsa Mosque; they were all released the same day but banned from entering Haram al-Sharif for a week. Israeli forces subsequently raided al-Aqsa Mosque on 17 and 21 January. In the latter raid, Israeli forces took pictures and measurements of the mosques, a practice typical before demolitions of homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. On 20 January, Israel banned another 5 of the Waqf employees from Haram al-Sharif for 4 to 6 months.

                In February, the Islamic Waqf council was expanded from 11 to 18 members, a decision made by Jordan, the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. The then-expanded Waqf council held a meeting to reopen the Bab al-Rahma Gate, which was closed by Israeli authorities in 2003 in contradiction to the Status Quo of the holy sites (see the IPS publication Jerusalem and the Trump Administration: Transforming the Status Quo). After Waqf officials conducted a tour of the Bab al-Rahma building, Israeli forces summoned the Waqf director general and locked the gates to the building. This prompted Palestinian activists to reopen the gate and perform prayers. Israel responded with mass overnight arrests of 98 Palestinians in East Jerusalem on 21 and 22 February. Israel’s late-night arrest of the 75-year-old Waqf top official, Shaykh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, on 24 February prompted Jordan’s minister of Islamic Affairs to call Israel’s action “dangerous and an unacceptable escalation.” The Waqf official was released from Israeli detention the following day despite refusing to sign an order banning him from the Haram al-Sharif compound for a week. As the events on Haram al-Sharif were unfolding, an Israeli man was arrested for painting graffiti outside of Bab al-Rahma, saying, “This gate is closed by the God of Israel.”

                On 3 March, Israeli authorities extended the ban of Shaykh Salhab from entering the compound for 40 days and his deputy Shaykh Najeh Bkerat for 4 months. An Israeli court said on 4 March that it intended to order Bab al-Rahma closed if the Waqf had not closed it down within a week. Waqf officials refused to appear in Israeli court as the Waqf does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif compound. On 30 March, the Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Pope Francis made a joint appeal to preserve peaceful coexistence in Jerusalem after the rise in tensions. Bab al-Rahma remained open at the end of the quarter.

                Israeli settlers toured the Haram al-Sharif compound 8 times this quarter (1/23; 1/27; 1/28; 2/5; 2/26; 2/27; 3/10; 3/14). On 3 occasions, an Israeli member of Knesset was leading the tour. Yehuda Glick on 28 January and 27 February, and Uri Ariel on 26 February. Israeli forces closed all access points to the Haram al-Sharif compound between 18 February and 19 February.



                The Erez border crossing from Gaza to Israel was open during regular hours of operation between Sunday and Friday (on Fridays, the crossing can only be accessed by urgent medical cases and foreigners). During most of the quarter, there was a significant increase in crossings into Israel compared to 2018. However, the Erez crossing was closed by Israeli authorities between 25 March and 30 March as rockets and incendiary devices were exchanged (see above). The Kerem Shalom border crossing was open as scheduled for the movement of goods in and out of Gaza (closed on Fridays and Saturdays) during most of the quarter, and there was significant increase in movement of goods exiting Gaza compared to 2018. However, the movement of goods entering Gaza was on similar levels compared to the 2018 average. As with the Erez border crossing, the Kerem Shalom crossing was closed from 25 March to 30 March. The Rafah border crossing to Egypt was closed between 7 January and 28 January due to the Palestinian Authority (PA) removing its staff from the crossing (see Intra-Palestinian Dynamics). The Rafah crossing, however, was open during its normal schedule in February and March. Overall, the crossings in both directions were at a similar volume compared to the 2018 levels. Additionally, all border crossings in and out of the West Bank and Gaza were closed between 19 March and 23 March for the Jewish Purim holiday.



                On 2 January, Israeli authorities expanded the Gaza fishing zone to 6 nautical miles off the northern part of the Gaza shore and to 12 nautical miles off the central part of the shore, which is still far from the 20 nautical miles agreed to under the Oslo accords. The fishing zone was closed by Israeli authorities during the escalation in violence between 25 March and 30 March. Despite the extension of the fishing zone, Israeli naval forces continued its harassment of Palestinian fishermen off the Gaza shore. On at least 44 separate occasions, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen (1/1; 1/10; 1/11; 1/12; 1/17; 1/18; 1/19; 1/20; 1/21; 1/24; 1/26; 1/29; 2/2; 2/7; 2/8; 2/10; 2/11; 2/12; 2/13; 2/14; 2/16; 2/17; 2/18; 2/19; 2/20; 2/21; 2/22; 2/23; 2/24; 2/25; 3/3; 3/4; 3/6; 3/7; 3/8; 3/9; 3/10; 3/11; 3/13; 3/20; 3/20; 3/22; 3/24; 3/29). Israeli naval forces also arrested 17 Palestinian fishermen and confiscated 5 Palestinian-owned fishing boats this quarter.


Incursions and Fire at Farmers in Gaza

                On 17 days during this quarter, Israeli forces made incursions into Gaza to level land (1/4; 1/7; 1/8; 1/15; 1/16; 2/1; 2/4; 2/5; 2/12; 2/17; 2/22; 2/24 [2]; 2/26; 3/5; 3/13; 3/20; 3/28). Israeli forces also opened fire at Palestinian famers and bird hunters on 31 occasions (1/1; 1/2; 1/3; 1/5; 1/6; 1/7; 1/12; 1/13; 1/16; 1/18; 1/21; 1/28; 1/29; 2/3; 2/5; 2/6; 2/7; 2/8; 2/9; 2/10; 2/11; 2/14; 2/16; 2/23; 2/25; 2/26; 2/28; 3/2; 3/10; 3/16; 3/17). No injuries were reported in relation to these incidents.


Settler-Only Road

                In the West Bank, a new road was built and opened by Israel on 10 January and quickly became known as the Apartheid Road. The name originates from the road’s illustrative display of segregation and privilege of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The road has Jewish-only lanes separated from the Palestinian lanes by a concrete and fenced wall. Furthermore, the road only allows Israeli settlers to access Jerusalem, while Palestinians cannot. The new road is not the 1st segregated or settler-only road in the West Bank, but the 1st of its kind to include a wall, illustrating the privileges of Israeli settlers on Palestinian land. On 23 January, activists blocked access to the road, holding a banner with the text, “No to apartheid, no to annexation.” They were violently dispersed after 30 minutes of protest by Israeli forces. The day after the road opened, the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said, “The creation of this new apartheid road affirms Israel’s willful intent to entrench its racist colonial regime and superimpose ‘Greater Israel’ on all of historic Palestine.”




                According to OCHA, 137 structures were demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by Israeli forces during the quarter: 40 in January, 52 in February, and 45 in March. The demolitions displaced 226 Palestinians, including 97 children and 57 women. 48 of the demolitions were in East Jerusalem and 88 were in Area C of the West Bank. 42 percent of the structures demolished were residential, 38 percent were related to livelihood, and 7 percent were water, sanitation, and hygiene related. Several water connections and wells were demolished in February, affecting 25,000 Palestinians. The level of demolitions and displaced people were well above the monthly averages of 2017 (35 structures and 55 displaced people) and 2018 (38 structures and 39 displaced people).

                The demolition-threatened village of Khan al-Ahmar was again in focus this quarter as Palestinian officials were denied access to it. In May 2018, the Israeli high court of justice ruled that the residents of the village could be evicted and resettled. In October 2018, the Israeli government postponed the demolitions after much pressure from the international community (for more, see Palestinian-Israeli Conflict 16 August-31 December 2018).

                The Palestinian Bedouin village al-Araqib, located in southern Israel, was demolished 3 times during this quarter (1/31; 2/7; 3/8). The 3d demolition was the 141st since 2010.

                According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, heavy rain at the end of February exposed cracks in Palestinian-owned structures after landslides in East Jerusalem. The center said that the damage to Palestinian-owned buildings was due to Israeli settlers excavating beneath the structures. Approximately 70 structures were reported to be in danger of collapsing or otherwise being damaged due to the excavations.

                The human rights organization B’Tselem released a report, “Fake Justice: The Responsibility Israel’s High Court Justices Bear for the Demolition of Palestinian Homes and the Dispossession of Palestinians,” detailing how the Israeli high court of justice has bought into the Israeli legal construct of demolishing “illegal” structures in Area C, while Palestinians living there virtually have no other option than to build “illegally” given the extreme low rate of building permits granted to Palestinians. B’Tselem argues that the justices are complicit in displacement of Palestinians as “the justices have ignored the intent underlying the Israeli policy and the fact that in practice, this policy imposes a virtually blanket prohibition on Palestinian construction.”


Retroactively Legalizing “Illegal Settlements”

                 Israel utilized a new Israeli legal measure for the 1st time to retroactively legalize an illegal settlement in the West Bank built on Palestinian-owned land. A law that was passed in December 2018 allows the Israeli state to retroactively legalize Israeli-deemed illegal settlements that are built on Palestinian-owned land, if they were constructed in “good-faith.” According to the law, a “good-faith” illegal construction is a settlement built because the state erroneously believed it was Israeli state land. In the 1st instance of this law being utilized, structures in the Alei Zahav settlement near Salfit have been retroactively legalized by Israel. Jerusalem’s planning and construction committee also approved a large-scale construction project of 4,416 housing units that will span across West and East Jerusalem. It is unclear from the initial reporting how many of the units will be erected in East Jerusalem for Israeli settlers.


New Medical School in the Ariel Settlement

                  The Israeli Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria approved the construction of a medical school at Ariel University in the Ariel settlement in the West Bank. The medical school is partly funded by donations from American casino magnate and avid Donald Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson and by the Israeli state. 2 Israeli academics filed a partition to the Israeli high court of justice to block the project’s construction and any allocation of Israeli government spending for it.


Settler Violence

                There were at least 41 incidents recorded this quarter of settler violence toward Palestinians and Palestinian-owned property (1/3; 1/4; 1/11; 1/12; /1/15; 1/19; 1/21; 1/24; 1/25; 1/26; 1/28; 1/30 [2]; 2/1; 2/4; 2/8; 2/9; 2/10; 2/12; 2/14; 2/17; 2/20; 2/21; 2/23; 2/24; 2/26; 3/2; 3/3; 3/5; 3/9; 3/10; 3/17; 3/18; 3/19; 3/20; 3/21; 3/22; 3/23; 3/24; 3/25; 3/26). 1 Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler during a settler raid on 26 January in al-Mughayyir. Several Palestinians were injured due to settler aggression and dozens of houses and cars were damaged (see Chronology).


Temporary International Presence in Hebron

                 Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in January that Israel would not renew the agreement that allows the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) monitoring force to continue operating in Hebron after January 31. TIPH monitors are seen as a protective force for Palestinians in Hebron who are subject to frequent attacks and abuses from Israeli settlers in the city (for more on Netanyahu’s decision on TIPH, see Israel). With Israel announcing that it unilaterally decided to stop the TIPH mandate, local Palestinians in Hebron volunteered to replace the TIPH as observers. The new observers wear blue vests and are equipped with video cameras to film any Israeli settler hostility. Issa Amro, 1 of the activists behind the initiative, told the Associated Press that, “We will document any attack by photos and words, and we will circulate it all over the world.” There have been several instances of Israeli settler hostility in Hebron after the TIPH left. For example, on 12 February, some 100 Israeli settlers marched on the Old City of Hebron, throwing stones at Palestinian homes and chanting slogans like “death to Arabs.” The settlers were escorted by 70 Israeli soldiers.


Cable Car and UNRWA Schools in Jerusalem

                 A controversial project to build a cable car from West Jerusalem to occupied East Jerusalem was approved by the Israeli National Infrastructure Committee in January. In early January, it was reported that the Jerusalem Development Authority had declined to let the public review a report which it had commissioned to see the economic feasibility of the cable car. The authority said that the cable car is a part Jerusalem’s public transportation system. Many fear that it is part of Israel’s Judaization of Jerusalem and will serve to bolster Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem and Silwan in particular, as Silwan is planned to be an access point of the cable car. Israel also announced that it would be closing United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools in East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem municipality would be replacing the schools (see United Nations).


Herbicides and Agricultural Displacement

                  The 3 human rights organizations Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Adalah, and Gisha published a letter written to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli military advocate general, and the Israeli attorney general urging them to stop the practice of spraying herbicides over Gaza farmland. According to the letter, the latest incident happened on 4 December 2018 and earlier sprayings of herbicides have resulted in loss of crops and danger to Palestinian farmers’ health.

                  During this quarter, Israeli settlers cut down or otherwise damaged 728 olive trees and 1,000 olive tree saplings. Israeli forces destroyed 996 olive trees, 38 almond trees, and 300 olive tree saplings (see Chronology).


Palestinian Prisoners

Arrests and Detentions

                The total number of Palestinian prisoners remained at the same level during the quarter, according to Addameer. In January there were 5,450 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons; that number decreased by 5 in February and rose by 5 in March. The number of Palestinians held in administrative detention rose by 2, from 495 in January to 497 in March. The number of child prisoners fell by 10, from 215 in January to 205 in March. The media reported a total of at least 847 detentions and arrests during the quarter; the vast majority of the detainees were arrested during house raids (see Chronology).


Conditions in Israeli Prisons

                Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan said on 2 January that his ministry planned to “worsen” the conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. He referred specifically to reducing water supplies, the number of family visits, cooking rights, access to television, and limiting the stipends provided by the PA for purchase in the prisons’ cafeteria. Erdan also announced that he would end the separation of Hamas and Fatah prisoners, risking a rise in violence in the Israeli prisons. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners responded to Erdan’s announcement by issuing a statement declaring a mass hunger strike if Israel were to implement Erdan’s plan. A ruling by the Israeli high court of justice had already deemed the conditions in the Israeli jails inhumane. After Erdan’s announcement, tensions between Palestinian prisoners and prison guards remained high through the quarter.

                On 21 January, 150 Palestinian inmates and 3 Israeli prisons guards suffered injuries after prisoners and guards clashed during a prisoners’ protest over unannounced cell searches at Ofer military prison near Ramallah. According to the Israeli Prison Service, guards found 20 cell phones during searches. In response to the violent cell search raid, 1,200 prisoners in Ofer Prison said they were protesting Israeli violence with an open-ended hunger strike. Initially the Israeli Prison Service said that 6 prisoners were injured but did not need hospital treatment. However, the prison service later acknowledged that 17 Palestinian prisoners had been taken to the hospital. 1 inmate’s lawyer said that his client had several broken bones and needed 7 stiches under his eye after being assaulted by Israeli guards. Many, including Haaretz’s editorial board, suggested that Ofer Prison was raided for political purposes to make Likud and public security minister Erdan look tough on Palestinians. Separately, lawyers representing the Palestinian prisoners at Ofer Prison suspended their appearances in the Ofer military court as a new policy banned the lawyers from bringing their phones to the court.

                In March, Palestinian prisoners said in a statement that phone-jamming devices installed in the Israeli prisons were causing prisoners “depression, headaches and fainting.” A week after the statement was released, prisoners protested the jamming devices by burning mattresses in the Ramon Prison on 18 March. Israeli guards injured 40 prisoners during the incident. The day after the incident, the Israeli Prison Service separated the prisoners involved. On 25 March, at least 12 Palestinian prisoners and 2 Israeli prison guards were injured after prison guards raided cells in the Ktzi’ot Prison. By the end of the quarter, Palestinian prisoners announced a hunger strike starting on 7 April in protest of the recent violence and worsened conditions.


Violence Against Detainees

                An Israeli platoon commander and 4 soldiers were arrested on 9 January for beating 2 Palestinians in their custody. 1 of the Palestinian prisoners was beaten so badly that the IDF could not interrogate him. On 31 January, the 5 Israeli soldiers were indicted by an Israeli military court and according the charge sheet, the 2 Palestinians were a father and son that were initially handcuffed, blindfolded, and beaten. Then the soldiers took of the blindfold of the son off and made him watch as they continued to beat his father. 3 of the soldiers were convicted on 7 March; each received 6-month sentences and were demoted to the rank of private on 12 March. The trial for the remaining 2 soldiers continued at the end of this quarter. A video of the violence against the 2 Palestinian detainees was released by the Israeli court in March.


Fining Palestinian Prisoners

                Haaretz reported that Palestinians had been fined over of $16 million between 2015 and 2017 in military courts. The “great majority” of the fines were given to Palestinians that had not harmed people or property. Haaretz provided 1 example of a military court sentence handed to a Palestinian throwing a stone at Israeli security forces without hitting anyone in December 2018. He was fined $551 and got a prison sentence of 6 months.


Death of Palestinian Prisoner

                A 51-year-old Palestinian died in an Israeli hospital. He was transferred from the Israeli Ramon prison 2 days prior to his death. He had been incarcerated for 28 years, 17 of which he was held in solitary confinement. According to Addameer, it is likely that he died of medical neglect, like at least 60 other Palestinian prisoners in Israel detention since 1967. A 16-year-old Palestinian detained for allegedly throwing a stone at a car was detained beyond the Israeli Civil Administration’s guidelines as an official did not review his case before the deadline of submitting it. The Palestinian suffers from low white blood cell count and low blood pressure. Had his paperwork been filed before the deadline, he could have been released on probation in January due to his condition.


Palestinian Denied Legal Counsel

                An Israeli judge ordered a Palestinian from the West Bank to be released from detention because he was denied legal counsel before he was interrogated by Israeli police. The Palestinian had asked to see a lawyer several times but the request was denied.


Political Prisoners

                Shadi Mutwar, Fatah secretary in Jerusalem, was detained 2 times by Israeli forces during this quarter: 1st on 1 February, when he was detained after returning to the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge, and a 2d time on 17 March in his house during a raid. Mutwar was released on 26 March but was banned from entering the Haram al-Sharif compound and was told to show up for interrogation the following week.

                Member of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian Legislative Council Khalida Jarrar was released after 20 months in Israeli administrative detention. She was held without charges or trial. Jarrar has been jailed 2 times before, also without charges or trial.

Overview of Violence

                In this 2d quarter of 2019, 37 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions, the same as the previous quarter. The number of Israelis killed as a result of Palestinian actions was 4, up from 3 last quarter. Therefore, the comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the 2d Intifada in 9/2000 has reached 11,287 Palestinians; 1,294 Israelis; and 73 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers).

                In the West Bank, 2 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces this quarter: 1 in April and 1 in May. 1 was executed after running from border police (4/20, he died on 4/27) and 1 was shot while crossing the separation barrier (5/31). 1 Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler after he allegedly attacked settlers with stones (4/3). In East Jerusalem, 3 Palestinians were killed this quarter: 1 in April, 1 in May, and 1 in June. 1 was shot by Israeli forces after throwing improvised explosive devices at Israeli soldiers (4/2); 1 was shot by Israeli forces after stabbing 2 Israeli settlers (5/31); and 1 was shot by Israeli forces from a distance of 32 feet during clashes in Issawiyya (6/27). In Gaza, 29 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces this quarter: 1 in April and 28 in May. 4 of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza were in the context of the Great March of Return protest; all were killed by live ammunition fired at the protesters (4/12; 5/3 [2], 1 died on 5/4; 5/10). 25 Palestinians were killed by bombs fired from Israeli aircrafts (5/3 [2], 1 of them died from his wounds on 5/4; 5/4 [2]; 5/5 [21]). In Israel, 2 Palestinians were killed this quarter: 1 in April and 1 in May. 1 Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces after crossing from Gaza to Israel to seek work (4/3; he died on 4/14); 1 was shot after running a car through a roadblock (5/6). 4 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians this quarter: 4 in May. All 4 Israeli civilians were killed by rockets fired from Gaza (5/5 [4]). The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA) reported that 3,865 Palestinians were injured during this quarter, down from 5,540 last quarter: 1,698 in April; 1,236 in May; and 931 in June. 134 Israelis were injured during this quarter, up from 22 last quarter: 2 in April; 128 in May; and 4 in June.

Resumption of Target Killings

                During Israel’s violent attack on Gaza during the 1st weekend in May which killed 25 Palestinians, Israel made its 1st recognition of an assassination since 2014. On 5 May, Israel assassinated a suspected Hamas activist allegedly in charge of transferring money from Iran to Hamas. The man was killed while traveling in his car in Gaza when it was hit by an Israeli missile. Israel has since 2014 assassinated Palestinians but has not until now publicly recognized the assassinations as “target killings.” The Israeli chief of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) southern command subsequently said the policy of target killings “is expected to continue.”

Great March of Return and Rocket Exchange

The Great March of Return demonstrations continued into this quarter, with the biggest crowds on Fridays. At the beginning of the quarter, the death toll stemming from Israel’s violent suppression of the protest was 217; at the end of the quarter, the death toll had risen to 221 Palestinians. The vast majority of the 3,865 Palestinian injuries counted by OCHA this quarter were related to Israel’s violent response to the protest.

                After a violent end to the 1st quarter, where Gaza was heavily shelled around the 1-year anniversary of the Great March of Return protests (see Palestinian-Israeli Conflict 1 January – 31 March 2019), April was relatively calm in regard to rocket fire. 1 incendiary balloon was found in Israel on 4 April. On 19 April, Israeli forces hit 2 targets in Gaza and on 20 April, 1 rocket was fired toward Israel. On 30 April, Israel said that Islamic Jihad in Palestine had fired a rocket toward Israel, but that this was done without the consent of Hamas. On 2 May, incendiary balloons were found in Israel; Israel then hit to separate targets in Gaza where an unknown actor then fired 2 rockets toward Israel. The most intense bombardment of Gaza happened on 3 May–5 May. The IDF claimed that 690 rockets were launched from Gaza in the direction of Israel, 240 of the rockets were intercepted, and that Israel struck 320 “targets” in Gaza. 25 Palestinians were killed due to Israeli missile fire while 4 Israelis were killed by the rockets from Gaza. Early on 6 May, it was reported that Egypt and Qatar had mediated an end to the rocket exchange. During the exchange, many structures in Gaza where demolished, including the office of the Turkish news agency Anadolu, and 13 schools were damaged. On 15 May, a number of incendiary balloons were sent toward Israel from Gaza after Israeli forces injured at least 65 Palestinians demonstrating on the 71st anniversary of Nakba Day. On 13 and 14 June, rockets and incendiary balloons were again exchanged between Israel and Gaza.

Israeli Policing in Issawiyya

                At the end of the quarter, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man who was protesting Israel’s heavy policing of Issawiyya in the last part of June. The man was shot on 27 June from a distance of about 10 feet after lighting firecrackers in the vicinity of the Israeli forces. The murder coupled with the heavy policing and Israel’s refusal to hand over the deceased’s body to his family sparked widespread protest, to which Israel injured some 90 Palestinians in Issawiyya on 29 June.


Movement and Access

Haram al-Sharif Compound

                Tensions at the Haram al-Sharif compound were very high last quarter as Israel banned a number of Islamic Waqf officials from the compound after Bab al-Rahma was reopened by the Waqf (see Palestinian-Israeli Conflict 1 January – 31 March 2019). This quarter was less intense; however, by the final days of Ramadan, tensions rose again. On 2 June, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces at the Haram al-Sharif compound as Palestinians protested Israeli settlers planning a parade in the compound for Jerusalem Day. Jerusalem Day coincided with the final days of Ramadan for the 1st time in 30 years and Israeli police have closed Haram al-Sharif for Jewish people for the last 10 days of Ramadan in previous years. This year, Haram al-Sharif was closed for Muslims for most of 2 June and many shops in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City were closed as Israeli settlers marched for Jerusalem Day. Between 120–400 Israeli settlers entered Haram al-Sharif, including Member of Knesset (MK) Yehuda Glick. Ir Amim, an Israeli nonprofit, had petitioned the Israeli high court of justice asking to prevent the Jerusalem Day march to enter the Muslim Quarter, but the petition was denied. More than 50 Palestinians were arrested in East Jerusalem on 2 June. A week later, on 9 June, some 330 Israeli settlers entered the Haram al-Sharif compound with Israeli police escort. 2 employees of the Islamic Waqf were arrested days later, including the head of the restoration and reconstruction department. Israeli settlers, including MKs Glick and Uri Ariel, toured Haram al-Sharif on 3 occasions this quarter (4/22; 5/19; 6/2).

                At an event organized on 13 June by the Jerusalem municipality, attended by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Leon, a drawing projected on the stage of the event featured elements of the Jerusalem skyline, but the Dome of the Rock had been omitted from the drawing of the Haram al-Sharif compound. Several settler organizations want to see a new Jewish temple erected on the compound.

Other Issues Related to East Jerusalem

                The Israeli state comptroller released a report on 2 June blasting Israeli and Jerusalem authorities for neglecting Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem. The report criticized the waiting time for Palestinian East Jerusalemites seeking Israeli citizenship, issues relating to garbage removal, and Palestinian children’s access to education.

                A soccer tournament in East Jerusalem was shut down by Israeli police on 19 April by order of Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan, reportedly because it was organized by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The organizers of the tournament, the Jerusalemites Forum and Jerusalem Clubs Association, said that the tournament, which was for 12–13-year-olds, was apolitical and unaffiliated with any political actor. In another instance of Israeli asserting sovereignty over East Jerusalem, the PA Jerusalem affairs minister Fadi al-Hadmi was arrested on 29 June for accompanying the Chilean president Sebastián Piñera on the Haram al-Sharif compound, thereby appearing as a PA official in East Jerusalem. Jerusalem Affairs Minister al-Hadmi was released the following day.

Crossings and Palestinian Mobility

                The Erez border crossing from Gaza to Israel was open 74 days during regular hours of operation between Sunday and Friday (on Fridays, the crossing can only be accessed by urgent medical cases and foreigners) this quarter. There was a slight increase in crossings into Israel compared to last quarter, the highest in June with 29 percent more crossing compared to the average of January through May. The Kerem Shalom border crossing was open 51 days as scheduled for the movement of goods in and out of Gaza (closed on Fridays and Saturdays) during most of the quarter, and there was significant decrease in the movement of goods exiting Gaza compared to the 1st quarter of 2019. All border crossings from the West Bank and Gaza were closed on 9 April during the Israeli general elections and 6 May–9 May for Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. The Rafah border crossing to Egypt was open for 43 days, 9 of which were only for entering Gaza. Crossings in both directions were higher in this quarter than the last as the crossing was closed for traffic in both directions between 7 January and 28 January due to the PA removing its staff from the crossing (see Intra-Palestinian Dynamics 1 January – 31 March 2019). Israel blocked the fuel entrance for the Gaza power plant on 25 June–27 June, cutting power supply down to 5-6 hours daily.

                Many Christian Palestinians in Gaza were denied entry by Israeli authorities to visit holy sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for Easter celebrations. Out of 900 applicants, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) only allowed 200 to leave Gaza. However, after severe criticism, COGAT increased the permits to 500, still leaving about 400 Christians without a travel permit.

Gaza Fishing Zone

                As part of Israel’s policy of collective punishment in Gaza, the Gaza fishing zone was closed, reduced, and expanded several times during this quarter. When the fishing zone is not completely closed, the reduction and expansion only pertains to about 1/3 of Gaza’s southern coast. After being closed, at the end of last quarter the Gaza fishing zone was reopened in the beginning of April to 15 nautical miles. On 30 April, Israeli authorities reduced the Gaza fishing zone to 6 nautical miles to expand it again on 10 May to 12 nautical miles and to 15 on 21 May. On 22 May, Israel limited the Gaza fishing zone to 10 nautical miles, the fishing zone was expanded to 15 nautical miles again on 26 May, only to be reduced again to 10 on 28 May. It was expanded again on 4 June, but was completely closed from 12 June to 18 June, where it was opened to 10 nautical miles. On 28 June, it was extended to 15 nautical miles.

                After the human rights organizations Gisha, Adalah, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights petitioned the Israeli high court of justice to have 65 of Palestinian-owned fishing boats returned to their owners in Gaza, the Israeli government announced on 21 May that it would be returning the boats. The announcement, however, did not provide a timetable and it was unclear by the end of the quarter if any boats had been returned to their owners. The Israeli navy frequently seizes boats from Palestinian fishermen.




                According to OCHA, 159 structures were demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by Israeli forces during the quarter, up from 137 last quarter: 71 in April, 17 in May, and 71 in June. The demolitions displaced 210 Palestinians, including 108 children. 72 of the demolitions were in East Jerusalem; 2 in Area A; 2 in Area B; and 83 in Area C. 4 of the demolitions were punitive, belonging to families with members who were accused of, or charged with, killing Israelis. OCHA estimates that more than 14,000 people were affected by the Israeli demolitions. The high number stems from 2 water cisterns demolished in Tammun affecting the water supply for 13,600 Palestinians. The level of demolitions and displaced people were well above the monthly averages of 2017 (35 structures and 55 displaced people) and 2018 (38 structures and 39 displaced people). During the 1st half of 2019, 299 structures have been demolished and 439 people have been displaced, a 50 percent increase for demolitions and 150 percent increase for displaced people compared to the 1st half of 2018. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian territories Jamie McGoldrick said in early May that demolitions in East Jerusalem had “increased at a staggering pace over the last month [April]” and that “[t]his must stop.”

                The Israeli high court of justice ruled in late June that 13 large buildings under construction could be demolished by Israeli authorities. The buildings are located in Wadi Hummus near Jerusalem and is mostly situated in PA-controlled Area A. The buildings set for demolition host some 100 apartments with 20 residents currently living there while the rest is being constructed. The building permits were issued by the PA as the buildings are located in Area A, but the high court of justice ruling can have implications for other buildings located in Area A, as it sets a new precedence for demolitions in PA-controlled areas.

“Path of the Pilgrims” Inauguration

                A settler archaeological project in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood named “Path of the Pilgrims” was inaugurated on 30 June. The project is widely criticized and is seen as another manifestation of Israel expanding its sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The inauguration was attended by 2 U.S. officials: Ambassador David Friedman and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt. During the event, both U.S. representatives used a sledgehammer to help the settler organization Elad excavate under East Jerusalem’s busy streets. After the PA criticized Special Representative Greenblatt and Ambassador Friedman’s appearances at the Israeli event, Greenblatt wrote on Twitter that the PA “claims our attendance at this historic event supports ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem/is an act of hostility vs. Palestinians. Ludicrous. We can’t ‘Judaize’ what history/archeology show. We can acknowledge it & you can stop pretending it isn’t true! Peace can only be built on truth.” Palestinians in East Jerusalem have since 2011 complained about the excavations as the tunnel diggings have cause cracks in Palestinian-owned homes.

Auctioning off EU-Donated Classrooms

                The Israeli ministry of defense advertised in an Israeli newspaper that it would be auctioning off prefabricated classrooms donated by the European Union (EU) to Palestinian schoolchildren in the West Bank. The prefabricated classrooms were dismantled and confiscated by Israeli authorities in October 2018. The EU condemned the confiscation of the classrooms in October and again called for Israel to return the classrooms to their intended beneficiaries after the Guardian published an article about the Ministry of Defense’s advertisement. After the EU raised the issue, the Ministry of Defense postponed the auction to July 2019, claiming the postponement was unrelated to the EU concerns.

Settler Violence

                There were at least 23 incidents of settler violence recorded toward Palestinians and Palestinian-owned property this quarter, down from 41 last quarter (4/3; 4/5 [2]; 4/7 [2]; 4/13 [2]; 4/24; 5/3; 5/15; 5/17; 5/19; 5/24; 5/26; 6/5 [2]; 6/13; 6/16; 6/17; 6/18; 6/19; 6/23; 6/27). 1 Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler on 3 April in Huwwara near Nablus (see above). Several Palestinians were injured due to settler aggression and dozens of houses, cars, and trees were damaged (see Chronology).

Jerusalem Cable Car

                A controversial project to build a cable car from West Jerusalem to occupied East Jerusalem that was approved by the Israeli national infrastructure committee in January passed another stage in the approval process in June. On 3 June, the national infrastructure committee rejected all remaining objections to the proposed cable car, leaving the final approval to the Israeli government. In April, some Jewish religious groups joined Palestinians, Israeli NGOs, and the Israel Association of Architects and Urban Planners in objecting the cable car plans. After the remaining objections were rejected by the national infrastructure committee, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov cited the plans for the cable car as an obstacle to peace during a meeting at the UN Security Council. Many fear that it is part of Israel’s Judaization of Jerusalem and will serve to bolster Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem and Silwan in particular, as Silwan is planned to be an access point of the cable car.

New Settlements

                On 30 May, the Israeli housing ministry approved tenders for the construction of 805 housing units for Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem. 460 were approved for the expansion of the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement and 345 in the Ramot settlement. The EU condemned the housing ministry’s decision, calling it “an obstacle to peace.”

                On 4 April, the Israeli higher planning council of the civil administration approved 28 plans for the construction of some 3,659 new settler housing units in the West Bank. The Civil Administration also ordered 401 dunams (99 acres) of Palestinian-owned land to be confiscated for a new 4.3 mile-long settler-only road in the southwest of the West Bank. Later, on 1 May, construction permits for the road were approved along with another construction permits for a settler-only road south of Nablus.

                1 Palestinian mother and her 4 children were ordered evicted from her apartment in Silwan by the Jerusalem district court. The court ruled in favor of the settler organization Elad that now owns 3/4 of the house in which 1 Palestinian family still lives. Elad has tried to take over the property since the 1990s and forced 6 different legal proceedings to take over the house. The Palestinian woman was also ordered to pay $2,877 in legal fees.

                The Israeli supreme court ruled in favor of the Israeli settler organization Ateret Cohanim ending a 14-year-long legal battle, handing over 3 buildings in East Jerusalem belonging to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. In 2005, Ateret Cohanim bought the 3 buildings from the then-patriarch Irenaeus, who, after the story was published in the press, was ousted by the Greek Church. The new patriarch Theophilus III rejected the sale, citing corruption and bribery, and that the sale was done without approval from the Synod Council.

                The Jerusalem Municipality on 16 June approved naming 5 streets in Silwan, East Jerusalem, after Jewish rabbis. The streets are located in the Baten al-Hawa neighborhood, which is home to 12 Israeli settler families and hundreds of Palestinian families. A minority of 2 committee members objected to naming the streets after Jewish rabbis as they believed it was provocative to the predominant Palestinian population in the neighborhood.

Agricultural Displacement

                During this quarter, Israeli settlers cut down or otherwise damaged 530 olive trees, 150 almond trees, and 400 grapevines. It was also reported that Israeli forces uprooted 620 olive trees (see Chronology).


Palestinian Prisoners

Arrests and Detentions

                The total number of Palestinian prisoners fell this quarter compared to last quarter, according to Addameer. In April, there were 5,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons; that number decreased by 50 in May and decreased further by 100 in June. The number of Palestinians held in administrative detention decreased from last quarter from 497 to 480. The number of child prisoners rose to 215 in April, up by 10 compared to last quarter. In June, the number fell to 205.

Conditions in Israeli Prisons

                After a tense 1st quarter between Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the Israel Prison Service, Palestinian prisoners started a mass hunger strike in April. In January, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said his ministry planned to worsen the conditions for Palestinian prisoners, sparking months-long tension that carried into this quarter (see Intra-Palestinian Dynamics 1 January – 31 March 2019). On 7 April, dozens of Palestinian prisoners led by prison leaders from Hamas, Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, started an open-ended hunger strike calling for the removal of jamming devices that block cellphone receptions and the installation of public phones in the prisons. Prisoners have complained that the devices cause headaches in some prisoners and that they may cause cancer. In an attempt to end the hunger strike, the Israel Prison Service started relocating prisoners on 9 April. The hunger strike continued until 15 April, when the prison service and the prisoner leadership reached an agreement that included installing public phones, allowing prisoners to speak to relatives up to 3 times per week. A separate hunger strike organized mostly by prisoners that are affiliated with Fatah ended hours after it started on 16 June. The Israel Prison Service agreed to some of the prisoners’ demands, including ending night raids, establishing a kitchen in their prison ward, providing provisions of medical services, and lifting economic sanctions for some of the prisoners.

                The Israeli public defense office issued a report severely criticizing the Israel Prison Service for running prisons that are “unfit for human residence.” Among the critiques in the report are harsh conditions, poor sanitation, prisoners sleeping on the floor due to overcrowding, prisoners having their hands shackled above their heads as punishment, and random strip searches. The public defense office also found that mold, bedbugs, cockroaches, rats, and mice were found in the prisons and that prisoners had to shower in the same space as squat toilets. Several of the prisons mentioned in the report hold Palestinian prisoners.

Overview of violence

                The main cause of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since last May has been Israel’s violent response to the Great March of Return protests by the Gaza fence. By the end of the last quarter, a relative calm was agreed to between Israel and Hamas, with Hamas policing the area around the Gaza fence and discouraging Palestinian protest to keep the calm. Despite the relative calm, Israel killed 12 Palestinians by the fence this quarter, 1 of them a member of Hamas who was attempting to get Palestinians to leave the fence area. Israel later issued a statement saying that he was misidentified and his killing was a result of a misunderstanding by Israeli soldiers. Despite the incident, the situation remained relatively calm, with an August flare-up in Israeli violence toward Palestinians in Gaza, coinciding with the largest amount of casualties and largest exchange of rockets.

                18 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces this quarter, 16 less than last quarter’s 34. The majority of the Palestinians were killed in August when 12 were killed; 4 were killed in September and 2 in July. The number of Israelis killed by Palestinians were 2, both in August: 1 civilian and 1 soldier. The vast majority of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces resided in Gaza [12] during protests similar—but not directly related—to the Great March of Return protests by the Gaza fence. Of the 12 victims, all but 3 were shot by live ammunition. The last 3 were shelled by Israeli tanks and helicopters while protesting near the fence. 1 Palestinian was killed in Israel by Israeli forces after crossing from Gaza. 1 was shot to death after he ran over 2 settlers with his car near Bethlehem; his car overturned, indicating that he probably lost control of the car rather than intentionally killed the settlers. 2 Palestinians were killed in East Jerusalem: 1 by the Qalandia checkpoint, who was shot from a distance of 30 feet because she allegedly was wielding a knife; and 1 minor who was shot in the Old City after he stabbed 1 Israeli police officer. 1 Israeli girl was killed by an IED while hiking in the West Bank. 1 Israeli soldier was stabbed to death near the Efrat settlement. This quarter’s casualties brings the comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the 2d Intifada in 9/2000 to 11,305 Palestinians; 1,296 Israelis; and 73 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers).

                According to the United Nations (UN) Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 3,172 Palestinians were injured by Israelis, including 957 in July, 1,013 in August, and 1,202 in September. 26 Israelis were injured by Palestinians during the same period. Like the Palestinian fatalities, the vast amount of injuries happened by the Gaza fence as the Great March of Return protest continued with Israel’s violent repression of the protests undeterred.

Air Strikes and Rockets

                After Israel killed 1 member of Hamas who was preventing Palestinians from reaching the Gaza fence, which Israel later apologized for (see above), Hamas responded by firing 2 rockets at Israel on 7/12, both of which landed in an open area and causing no damage. About 1 month later on 8/11, Israel said that an armed man opened fire at Israeli soldiers by the Gaza fence, causing no injuries; they responded by killing the man and shelling parts of Gaza near Bayt Hanun, causing damage but no injuries. This began an intense period of about 1 month, in which Israel and Gaza exchanged multiple rockets. On 8/16, 1 rocket was fired at Israel causing no damage, and Israel shelled areas in northern Gaza causing damage. The next day, 3 rockets were fired at Israel causing no damage, while Israel shelled parts of Gaza, causing damage for the 2d day in a row. After a short lull, the situation flared up again on 8/22 after 1 rocket was launched at Israel causing no damage, and Israel fired at Gaza causing damage. The pattern repeated on 8/26 and 8/27, with damage reported in Gaza and reports of 1 fire sparked by a rocket that landed in Israel. Hamas said it was not responsible for the rockets, to which Israel released a statement saying it would hold Hamas “responsible for everything that takes place in the Strip.” The situation flared up again 2 weeks later on 9/6, when Israeli forces shot and killed 2 Palestinian minors at the Gaza fence; 5 rockets were launched at Israel as a result, igniting 3 days rocket exchanges causing damage in Gaza. The hostilities culminated on 9/10 in rockets firing from Gaza toward Ashdod as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a campaign event ahead of Israeli elections and was evacuated from the stage. Israel subsequently fired 15 missiles at Gaza causing extensive damage. Hamas said the group was not behind the rockets fired at Israel, but said they were a signal to both Hamas and Israel that something needs to change in the situation in Gaza.


Movement and Access

Haram al-Sharif Compound

                As Israel continues to violate the status quo of the holy places in Jerusalem, the Islamic Waqf sought to push back against an Israeli decision to allow Jewish people to worship at the Haram al-Sharif compound in commemoration of Tisha B’Av, on the same day of Eid al-Adha. The Waqf closed all other mosques except for the al-Aqsa Mosque and called for Muslims to attend the service at the Haram al-Sharif compound on Eid, which fell on 8/11. In the days leading to the Waqf’s call for mass prayers, Jewish worshippers in large numbers toured the Haram al-Sharif compound, verbally abusing Muslim worshippers. On 8/11, thousands of Muslim worshippers prayed at the compound in celebration of Eid al-Adha; however, at around 9.30 a.m., they were forcefully removed by Israeli forces to make way for some 1,300 Jewish worshippers. 61 were reportedly injured, with 15 worshippers needing hospitalization. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Iran, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned Israel for allowing Jewish worshippers access to the compound in violation of the status quo and for forcefully removing the Muslim worshippers. In the aftermath of the clashes that ensued, Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan said on 8/13 that he wishes to change the status quo by allowing Jewish worshippers access to the compound, stating that such a change would have to be achieved politically. Jordan quickly condemned Security Minister Erdan’s suggestion that the status quo could be changed. The PA issued a statement underscoring that the Haram al-Sharif compound “is a red line and will not be touched in any way.” 1 week after the Eid clashes, the Jordanian foreign ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador to the country for a reprimand over Israel’s behavior toward the holy site, which the Jordanian king is the custodian of. (for more on the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem see Jerusalem and the Trump Administration: Transforming the Status Quo.)

Movement Between Gaza and West Bank

                After a 2-year legal battle, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy residing with his grandparents and 1 older brother in Gaza was allowed to move to the West Bank where his immediate family lives. His mother, who is from Kafr Malik, and 5 of his siblings were allowed by Israel to leave Gaza for the West Bank after his parents were divorced in 2017, but Israel refused the youngest from leaving because he was registered as living in Rafah. Israel has a draconian set of rules regulating movement of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank. Haaretz reported in September that there are 2,671 Palestinians from Gaza living in the West Bank without Israeli permits and that the Israeli government is seeking to halt movement of Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank. According to the Haaretz report, Israel considers Palestinians from Gaza residing in the West Bank without Israeli permits “illegal aliens.” According to the Oslo Accords, Gaza and the West Bank is 1 territorial unit and thus, a Palestinian residing in Gaza cannot be considered an “illegal alien.” The PA health minister Mai al-Kaila also said this quarter that 40 percent of travel permit applications for Palestinians in Gaza to travel to East Jerusalem or the West Bank for medical reasons were rejected.

                The Israeli government also obstructed the 2d leg of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA)-recognized Palestine Cup from being carried out in the West Bank as only 5 of the players from the Rafah team in Gaza were allowed to travel to the West Bank for the game. The 1st leg of the game was played in Rafah on 6/30 and the 2d leg was originally scheduled for 7/3, but was postponed due to Israel only giving a permit to 1 player from the Rafah team. The Palestinian Football Association then rescheduled the game for 9/25, but it was ultimately canceled as an Israeli court on 9/23 denied an appeal from the remaining players to be allowed to travel for the game. The winner of the bout would have represented Palestine in the Asian Champions League.

Movement Between Jordan and West Bank

                The Allenby crossing between the West Bank and Jordan was closed for some 36 hours on 8/10 and 8/11 due to Eid al-Adha.

Gaza Crossings

                The Rafah crossing was open for 60 days this quarter and had 22,750 entries and 24,325 exits, with the majority in July. The Erez crossing had 54,000 crossings in total, most of which were in July. The vast majority of the Erez crossings were by merchants at around 36,000, while around 9,100 were by patients and their companions. The number of crossings at Erez were down from 43,000 last quarter. The Kerem Shalom crossing for imports and exports of commodities saw 112 truckloads of exports and 22,846 of imports. Most of the imported commodities were for construction—around 8,000 truckloads—followed by food products—around 5,000. In addition, some 83 million liters of fuel and some 17 million kilos of cooking gas entered Gaza, up from 71 and 16.95 from last quarter.

                Israel closed all of its crossings for Palestinians except for humanitarian and medical cases for the Jewish new year from 9/29-10/1.


                The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) began cutting electricity in some Palestinian villages and cities in the West Bank as collective punishment on 9/22, claiming that the PA owed the company $484 million. The PA acknowledged a debt to the IEC, but said it was $215 million. By the end of the quarter, the cuts in electricity were affecting the Jericho and Ramallah areas for about 2 hours a day.




                This quarter, Israel demolished or seized 140 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 102 and affecting 10,127. 31 of the demolished structures were located in East Jerusalem, 95 in Area C, and 10 in Area A. The majority of the demolitions, 66, were carried out in July, 22 in August, and 48 in September. Israel claimed it demolished 130 of the structures due to lack of permits (21 of 1,485 construction permit applications were approved by Israel between 2016 and 2018) and that the 10 structures were demolished in Area A because they were too close to the separation wall. By the end of the quarter, there was a 42 percent increase in structure demolition by Israel compared to the 1st 3 quarters of 2018.

                Among the demolitions of Palestinian property this quarter was 1 of the largest this decade on 7/22, as Israeli forces demolished 10 apartment buildings housing 70 units in Sur Bahir, located in Areas A and B on both sides of the separation wall. This highly publicized demolition that included some 700 Israeli police officers and 200 Israeli soldiers drew condemnation from many international organizations and countries. During the demolitions, several Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces while protesting. Israeli forces also detained the Palestinian owner of 1 of the buildings for several hours; upon his release, he was banned from the neighborhood until 7/25. Most of the buildings were still under construction and were housing 17 Palestinians with 350 other Palestinians owning stakes in the buildings. They had PA approval and were under PA jurisdiction as they were in Areas A and B; however, Israeli claimed that they were built too close to the separation barrier. The PA called the demolitions a war crime and said it would refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Palestine Liberation Organization also warned that Israel was setting a precedent by using the buildings’ proximities to the separation barrier as an excuse. 2 days after the demolitions, the U.S. blocked a draft statement at the UN condemning the demolitions brought by Kuwait, Indonesia, and South Africa.


                Israeli police forcefully evicted 1 Palestinian family from their home in Silwan on 7/10, handing the building over to Israeli settlers after the settler organization Elad won a lawsuit against the family. Elad had, prior to winning this latest lawsuit in Israeli court, lost several other lawsuits against the family, in part because of their use of fraudulently manufactured contracts claiming the organization had bought the building. In the end Elad, managed to acquire the building by gaining the rights to the house using Israel’s Absentees’ Property Law. The Palestinian family says that they have been ordered to pay Elad 472,000 NIS ($143,000) and the Jerusalem district court 50,000 NIS ($15,000).

                Later in September, another Palestinian family of 18 was evicted from their house in Silwan after an Israeli court ordered the eviction on 9/20. The family had been fighting for their right to live in their home for 30 years as the Jewish National Fund tried to have them evicted with backing from Elad. Like the aforementioned case, the settler organizations used the Absentees’ Property Law in the Israeli legal system to have the Palestinian family evicted in favor of Israeli settlers. The UN estimates that 877 Palestinians are threatened by eviction in East Jerusalem.

Destroying Palestinian Property from Below

                Palestinian families in East Jerusalem also complained about further destruction of their property due to Israeli excavations under areas of Silwan, causing major cracks in Palestinian-owned homes and creating fears that the buildings might collapse. The excavations are partly funded by the Elad organization and officially seek to recreate a route taken by Jewish pilgrims to the 2d Temple, but this is widely believed to be an excuse to Judaize East Jerusalem by forcing Palestinians from East Jerusalem homes like the eviction lawsuits.

New Settlements in the West Bank

                On 7/30, the Israeli security cabinet approved 715 housing units in Palestinian towns in Area C. It was the 1st time since 2016 that Israel approved Palestinian housing units in Area C; however, it is unclear if the approvals were for new construction or for the legalization of buildings already constructed. At the same time, the security cabinet approved more than 6,000 new settler units. The Israeli transportation minister Betzalel Smotrich said the approval of the 715 Palestinian housing units was a way for Israel to extend sovereignty in the West Bank and “to stop the creation of a Palestinian state inside the country.” PA prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that it was not for Israel to approve Palestinian construction in the West Bank, and that approving Palestinian housing units along with settler units “is aimed at deceiving international public opinion, legitimizing the settlements and attempting to equate Palestinian construction on their lands with the colonial settlement construction that steals the land.”

                A week later, Israel again approved new settler housing units, this time some 2,300. Israel’s decision to approve the housing units, which are at various stages in the approval process, drew condemnation from the European Union and the UN, which both urged Israel to halt settlement construction. Days later on 8/8, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would approve 650 new settlement housing units as collective punishment for the killing of 1 Israeli settler, who was found dead near the Gush Etzion settlement. On 8/26, after an Israeli was killed in the West Bank, Prime Minister Netanyahu again ordered settlement construction of 300 units near where the Israeli was killed by the Dolev settlement.

                In mid-September, 2 days before the Israeli elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government approved legalizing the Mevo’ot Yeriho settlement in the Jordan Valley, but left final approval to the next elected Israeli government.

                Peace Now released a report in mid-July detailing how 31 settlement outposts, predominantly agricultural, have been erected since 2012 and that they have shown no signs of being evacuated by the Israeli government. 16 of the 31 settler outposts were established after 2017, when U.S. president Donald Trump took office. Peace Now reported that some of these outposts are working with Israeli settlement councils, although they are deemed illegal by the Israeli government.

                An Associated Press investigation found that the Falic family, which owns Duty Free Americas, has given more than $5.6 million to settler organizations operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The family donated to the settler organizations though their 2 foundations, Falic Family Private Foundation and the Segal Foundation.

Enforcement of Anti-Palestinian Policies in East Jerusalem

                Israel’s aggressive policing of activities in East Jerusalem perceived to be connected to the PA led to a soccer tournament being banned this quarter by the Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan. Erdan claimed that the soccer tournament, which had been taking place for years, was organized by the PA. On 8/18, as this year’s tournament was about to commence, Israeli police ordered the players to disperse and equipment was confiscated. The police order was signed by Erdan and said that the “event will be held on behalf of and/or is sponsored and funded by the Palestinian Authority.” The organizers, the Burj al-Luqluq Society, denied that it had any connection to the PA and charged Erdan with wanting to erase everything Palestinian from East Jerusalem.


                Haaretz reported in late August that Israeli police had arrested more than 340 Palestinians from Issawiyya over a 2-month period since June. Of the 340 arrests, 5 had criminal charges against them; the rest were released shortly after their arrests. Israel conducts nightly raids in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank arresting several Palestinians every night, the vast majority of whom are released shortly after without charges. Israeli police started intensely policing the neighborhood daily in the beginning of June, leading to clashes with local Palestinian youth protesting against the intensified raids and checkpoints. After the Haaretz reporting, Israeli police agreed to limit its violent engagement with the neighborhood if the local parents committee promised not to start a strike by closing down the local schools. However, Israeli police restarted its aggressive policing of the neighborhood by the end of the quarter. The UN said the daily raids resulted in 138 injuries to Palestinian residents between June and August, including 95 from rubber-coated bullets, 20 from tear gas inhalation, and 20 from physical assault.


                On 7/22, Israel tried to deport a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem to Jordan via the Allenby crossing, but Jordan refused to allow him entry, thus foiling Israel’s deportation attempt. The man who was born in Algeria to Palestinian parents and who has been living in East Jerusalem since he was 12 was arrested in January for not having an Israeli-issued residency permit to live in East Jerusalem. He was then detained without a trial for some 7 months until Israel tried to deport him when the Israeli interior ministry rejected his application for family unification with his wife and child who are both Israeli citizens. After the failed attempt to deport the man, he was taken back to an Israeli prison where he was still held by the end of the quarter.


                1 Palestinian-owned butcher shop was closed by Israeli police for 15 days as punishment because the owner allegedly had hired 1 Palestinian from the West Bank who did not have an Israeli-issued permit to work in East Jerusalem.

                During the shooting of an Israeli TV show about the Israeli police in East Jerusalem, Israeli police planted a gun in 1 Palestinian family’s home in Issawiyya. The episode was filmed in November 2018 when the family’s home was searched by Israeli police. The family received a document stating that nothing was found during the search but after the show aired, acquaintances of the family alerted them to the fact that an M-16 was found in the cellar of their house. While the Israeli police apologized for the incident, it exposes the way in which Israeli culture depicts Palestinians as a threat.

Herbicides Sprayed over Gaza

                A report by the University of London-based research agency Forensic Architecture documented what Palestinians in Gaza long have complained about: that the Israeli-sprayed herbicides damage their crops. Israel has long sprayed the “buffer area” with herbicides allegedly for security reasons, but the herbicides are carried by the wind into Gazan agricultural fields. According to Forensic Architecture, Israel has sprayed the area more than 30 times in the last 5 years, causing “unpredictable and uncontrollable damage” in Gaza.

Al-‘Araqib in Israel

                The Bedouin village al-‘Araqib in the Negev desert was demolished 10 times this quarter: The 1st time was on 7/23 and the last was on 9/2. Al-‘Araqib has now been demolished a total of 157 times since 2010, when Israel 1st demolished the village. Between the 1st and the last time the village was demolished this quarter, the Israeli state won an appeal in an Israeli court, allowing the state to collect some $372,000 from 6 of the village residents for the cost of demolishing their homes.


Palestinian Prisoners

                1 Palestinian prisoner died in solitary confinement in Nitzan prison on 7/16 after having been arrested on 6/19. According to the 31-year-old man’s family, he had no prior health problems. Israeli authorities said they believed that the man died of a stroke, but the head of the Palestinian prisoners’ affairs committee did not believe their story. The man had not been charged with any crime and was still in the process of being interrogated by Israeli forces when he died. Later in September, 1 47-year-old Palestinian man suffering from cancer died in an Israeli prison. PA prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said the man died because of Israeli medical neglect.

                1 Palestinian man arrested on 9/26 was hospitalized on 9/28 and said to be in critical condition after being interrogated by the Shin Bet. According to his lawyers who saw him at the hospital on 9/29, he was unconscious when he arrived and suffered a fractured rib cage, bruises, signs of beatings, and kidney failure. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) called for an investigation into the interrogation, saying that torture is illegal under Israeli law. By the very end of the quarter, the Israeli ministry of justice said it would launch an investigation into the interrogation conducted by the Shin Bet.

                The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) said it does not have to translate regulations into Arabic, citing the Nation-State Law that made Hebrew the only official language of Israel. ACRI had requested that the IPS translate its regulations as most Arabic speakers are not fluent in Hebrew and therefore will not be able to read their rights, a request that IPS rejected.

                The conflict between Palestinian prisoners and the IPS, which started early this year, continued as the IPS refused to operate the public phones installed in Ketziot and Ramon prisons because the prisoners in Ramon prison refused to give up their cell phones. Prisoners are also demanding to be allowed 5 calls per week rather than the 3 that the IPS has suggested. On 9/2, some 200 prisoners started a hunger-strike demanding that jamming devices installed by the IPS in Ramon prison be removed as they fear that the jammers can cause cancer. While the hunger strike was called off 1 day later because the IPS made promises, a different hunger strike by 23 prisoners in other Israeli prisons started on 9/11, making similar demands. On 9/16, the number of hunger-striking prisoners had risen to almost 100. The hunger-strike ended on 9/25 after the IPS aggressively policed the hunger-strikers by putting them in isolation cells. The concession the IPS made was allowing the prisoners to decide which days they wanted to utilize the public phones rather than being allocated a day by the IPS.

                2 Palestinians hunger-striking against being held on administrative detention by Israel ended their hunger strikes—1 after 67 days—as Israel promised to set a day for their release. According to Addameer, there were 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons in September, including 425 in administrative detention, 190 children, and 43 women.

                Israeli forces summoned 3 very young Palestinian children for interrogation this quarter. 1st, 1 4-year-old boy from Issawiyya in East Jerusalem was summoned for interrogation after he allegedly threw a stone at a police vehicle. The boy was allowed to be interrogated with his father present on 7/30. The following day, another boy from Issawiyya, aged 6, was interrogated for throwing a beverage at a police vehicle. The day after that, on 8/1, an 8-year-old girl was summoned for interrogation for allegedly harassing an Israeli settler in Hebron.

Quarterly Updates for (1 Jan 1970 — 1 Jan 1970)

Following the approval of the draft ("Oslo II") interim agreement by the Israeli cabinet (8/13) and the PA cabinet (8/ 16), negotiatorsettled into a process of five-day rounds of talks to resolve the remaining areas of disagreement (e.g., Hebron, water, joint security arrangements and settler protection, control of electricity grids, prisoners, agriculture, rural land use, taxes). Teams were headed by Uri Savir (Israel) and Ahmad Qurai' (PA), with the frequent participation of Chmn. Yasir Arafat and FM Shimon Peres, and mediation by U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross and Egyptian Pres.