great articles from electronic intifada

Trump deal will fell peace process house of cards
Omar Karmi, Electronic Intifada, Jan 24 2020

Netanyahu on the campaign trail. Photo: Gili Yaari/ZUMA

Brace yourselves, here it comes. After years of mounting excitement, the time is finally ripe. The Pindo administration is going to show its hand and unveil the “closely-held” Ultimate Deal of the Century™ before the main contenders for Israel’s leadership go to Washington on Tuesday. Maybe. It’s “a great plan,” according to man-of-the-hour Donald Trump, the POTUS, neatly dispelling any complaints from moaning snowflakes who keep harping on about rights and history and justice and truth and sustainability and blah, blah, blah. But what exactly is this great plan? According to Trump, it’s not what you’ve read already.

What you may have read already comes courtesy of unnamed “senior Israeli officials.” According to them, the plan will see Israel annex all of Jerusalem as well as between 30-40 percent of Area C of the West Bank (the 60% of the West Bank already under full Israeli control). This includes the Jordan Valley and thus access to the outside world. The plan would also give Israel a green light to annex all but 15 settlements in the occupied territory, illegal under international law, but no longer in the eyes of the Pindo administration. Israel will maintain uncontested military control over all the territory of historic Palestine and Palestinians will have to disarm Hamas and demilitarize the Gaza Strip. But what do the Palestinians get? As anyone with any sense knows, a deal can only be “great” if all parties walk away feeling they’ve gained something. Business mogul handbook 101. Palestinians get statehood. Apparently. Some Israelis are not happy about that, so maybe not. Who knows? But according to “senior Israeli officials,” part of a plan that “really would work” is Palestinian statehood. Over what? Not clear. Whatever is left, presumably, once Israel has had its fill. Territory-wise there would apparently be some land swaps, though with whom, where and how much has not been divulged. Jerusalem? “Symbolic access,” whatever that means. Sovereignty? No army, no control over borders, no control over airspace. So no. Right of return for refugees? None. The Pindo administration has made its own calculations, determining that the number of Palestinian refugees is roughly equivalent to Jews who fled Arab countries, therefore negating any right of return or even right to compensation. Oh and Palestinians get $50b from “Sunni countries.” Thanks, guys.

Why now?
Palestinians have rejected the plan out of hand. What else is the Palestinian Authority going to do? There is nothing in the plan, as outlined above, that any Palestinian leader could ever accept. But that may be to miss the point. Partly, this administration wants to ride roughshod over international law. After all, superpowers should not feel restrained by things such as rules. That’s what makes them powerful. No better place to signal such intent than with Palestinians, whose case in international law is clear, open and shut. But also, of course, this is about helping a friend in his time of need. Netanyahu, the incumbent PM, is trying to ward off corruption prosecution, a prosecution that will be brought should he fail to ensure immunity for himself. He may not secure immunity if he does not form the next government. Trump is simply trying to help. And with two Israeli elections already last year, Trump has had plenty of chances to prove his generosity. First, he granted Pindo blessing to Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem. Next, he recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Then he reversed the Pindo position on settlements in occupied territory. Cognizant of this, Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main rival, has been falling over himself to promise that his annexation will be bigger than Netanyahu’s. Not only is he trying to win votes, he is also showing that he knows how to play along with a POTUS who seems to appreciate sycophancy. The plan is yet to be published. Many stalwart supporters of Israel have in the past cautioned against publishing such an obviously imbalanced deal. There’s a good reason. This forces the hand of the Palestinian Authority. It ends its very reason to exist, namely in preparation for statehood. Real statehood. It crosses every “red line” the PA has ever marked out, whether on refugees, territory, sovereignty, Jerusalem, etc, and so on. It pulls down the whole peace process charade. Too many institutions, businesses and industries have been built and too many livelihoods are at stake for the PA to disband itself with immediate effect, however advisable that might be. Indeed, it may well be that the PA leadership will try to simply sit tight and wait Trump out. But there really is no time for that. The land is disappearing beneath the Palestinians’ feet. Trump’s Ultimate Deal is the end of the PA.

UK drops trial against Israeli arms factory protesters
Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, Jan 24 2020

Protesters at the factory last year. (Block the Factory/Twitter)

Prosecutors have dropped charges against seven activists who shut down an Israeli arms factory in the UK last year. The activists on Thursday vowed to continue disrupting the company’s operations. They had been due to stand trial for aggravated trespass next month, for their protest at the Instro Precision arms factory in August. Before the trial’s collapse this week, they had each been facing up to three months in jail and the possibility of fines.

The group pleaded not guilty in November, arguing that their actions were a proportionate response to the factory’s work arming repressive states, including Israel. The factory is a subsidiary of Israeli arms giant Elbit, which makes 85% of Israeli drones. Arms components made at the factory in Kent, in the southeast of England, include sniper scopes and drone add-ons. The activists’ lawyer Lydia Dagostino said:

This is not the first time that cases against activists have been dropped at Instro Precision. It begs the question, what on earth is going on inside this factory that the company doesn’t want to be the subject of scrutiny?

The activists said the factory had only last month acknowledged making arms components used by Israel. They have now added a number of these items to their online brochure. The activists say that Elbit components have been used by Israel to help kill hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protesters, including children, at the Great March of Return protests since 2018. Israeli snipers have deliberately targeted unarmed protesters in Gaza, including children, using high-tech scopes and targeting equipment, often killing or maiming them. The activists’ lawyers had demanded disclosure from the factory relating to its involvement in weapons targeting systems and drone add-ons.

Susannah Mengesha, one of the activists. said:

It is not yet clear what meetings have taken place between Kent Police, (prosecutors), Instro Precision, Elbit Systems and the Israeli government. (Prosecutors dropped the charges) because somebody doesn’t want the full extent of information about the deadly weapons Instro is producing to become public.

Elbit is the second biggest arms company in Israel. Its drones were used in the 2014 Israeli war against the Gaza Strip, when more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including 550 children. Instro Precision was contacted for comment.

Israeli war crimes rewarded with UN handshakes
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Jan 24 2020

Spending on settlement infrastructure has soared. Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA

The position of the UN seems to be: Israeli war crimes are bad, but we’re not going to do anything to stop them and we’re going to undermine meaningful efforts toward accountability. One example of this is the unprecedented delay of the publication of a UN database of businesses involved in Israeli settlements, whose construction is a war crime under international law. Human rights groups submitted yet another urgent appeal to UN bodies this week urging action that would ensure publication of the database. The signatories to the appeal state:

The release of the UN database is a necessary step in ensuring compliance, control and accountability for the role of businesses in the expansion of Israel’s settlement enterprise.

In 2016, the UNHRC voted in favor of producing the database, with a release date of Mar 2017. But the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is mandated to compile the list, has repeatedly delayed its publication. The appeal states:

Several organizations, including AI and HRW, have previously expressed concern that no other mandate given to the OHCHR by the UNHRC has been subject to such a prolonged, unfounded and unacceptable delay.

Israel has pledged “to do everything it can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day,” as Danny Danon, the country’s ambassador to the UN, said in 2017. Israel fears publication of the list would harm its economy by prompting companies to pull out of settlements, deterring others from doing business and encouraging investors to dump shares. It could also boost grassroots boycott campaigns by helping publicize the names of corporations complicit in Israeli crimes. In other words, it would impose a real cost on Israel for flouting international law, a cost that has so far been borne by Palestinians. Yet the UN is burying the database even as the ICC is poised to launch a war crimes investigation over Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Meanwhile, Israeli spending on West Bank settlement infrastructure has soared following the election of Donald Trump as POTUS in late 2016. Israel has advanced or approved the construction of 22,000 housing units in the West Bank during that period. The Trump administration has greenlighted settlement construction and broken away from previous Pindo policy and international consensus by recognizing Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Syrian territory it has occupied since 1967. Netanyahu vowed this week to unilaterally annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank if he wins upcoming elections. His rival, Benny Gantz, pledged to annex the Jordan Valley of the West Bank in coordination with the international community if he is victorious at the polls. Nikolai Mladenov stated on Wednesday:

Annexation of West Bank land would deal a devastating blow to the potential of reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, advancing regional peace, the essence of the two-state solution.

A 2016 UNSCR condemning Israeli settlements requires Mladenov to give quarterly updates on the implementation of the resolution’s provisions. Those updates, as observed by Palestinian human rights groups, have “starkly noted the absence of action taken by the international community.” But also starkly absent is any specific recommendation towards accountability in Mladenov’s updates, including calls for publication of the UN database. His approach has been to view Palestinian rights not as something be protected, but as subject to negotiation with Israel. One might accuse the UN envoy of sitting on his hands, but that wouldn’t be fair, as they have been busy clasping those of Israeli defense minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett has recently promoted plans to build new settlements in the so-called H2 area of Hebron, the occupied West Bank city whose heart has been purged of its Palestinian population for the benefit of Israeli colonizers. Bennett, who is seeking reelection to Israel’s parliament, recently announced the opening of “nature reserves” on West Bank land confiscated from Palestinians. Declaring Palestinian property as nature reserves is an old Israeli ruse before eventually using the land for Jewish-only settlements. Mladenov has also been busy shaking hands with Kamil Abu Rukun, the head of COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation that openly declares collective punishment measures on Gaza’s two million Palestinians.

Dozens of Palestinians have died because they have been barred by COGAT from leaving Gaza for life-saving medical care. Last week Abu Rukun also enjoyed the warm embrace of Mladenov’s colleague Ursula Mueller, the UN Asst Sec-Gen for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.

Unheeded warnings from the UN that Israel’s siege would make Gaza “unlivable” have been realized. Yet Mueller praised Israel as “an important contributor” to global disaster management during a Tel Aviv conference, despite it engineering a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Mueller also “expressed appreciation” to the Israeli foreign ministry “for close collaboration and enhanced relations with OCHA,” the UN humanitarian affairs coordination body that she oversees, and which is charged with mitigating the devastating harm deliberately caused by Israel’s siege. If this is the treatment that Israel receives from UN boxtops, despite bombing the world body’s facilities in Gaza and killing its students and staff, why would it change its behavior? As one observer recently remarked, Israel’s behavior gets worse only because it can.

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