News Digest — 6/23/20

Joseph’s Tomb: 2,500 Pray Overnight For Success Of Annexation Plan

Around 2,500 people gathered at Joseph’s Tomb Monday night (22nd) to pray for the success of the potential annexation of parts of the West Bank, as part of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”

The large crowd gathered, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, at Joseph’s Tomb located just outside the city of Nablus, in the West Bank, on what is said to be the anniversary of Joseph’s death.

“We are here tonight, praying for the success of the sovereignty plan, for the strengthening of the government, and that we should not be deterred or afraid to apply sovereignty to all the Jewish communities and territories in Judea and Samaria,” said Head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, who was in attendance.

Also in attendance was Nataniel Snir, standing manager of holy places in the Judea and Samaria region, Rabbi Shlomo Arush, students of Bnei Brak yeshivas, and others, including IDF soldiers accompanying the group for protection.

“We are here to give a clear message: The people of Israel, the State of Israel, do not give up on the holy places, do not give up on Joseph’s Tomb, on Rachel’s Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs or other holy places in Judea and Samaria.  History will not forgive those who abandon the holy places at this time.  We will not accept symbolic sovereignty,” Dagan said.

Following the visit, there was a conflict among Palestinians and IDF soldiers.  A number of Palestinians were injured.



Lebanon Jails ‘Collaborator’ Accused of Visiting Israel

A Lebanese political activist who was detained last week was charged on Monday (22nd) with collaborating with Israel and referred to a military prosecutor, Lebanon’s state-run news agency reported.

The National News Agency said Government Commissioner to the Military Court, Judge Fadi Akiki charged Kinda El-Khatib with visiting Israel and “dealing with spies of the Israeli enemy.”  The report added that the judge referred El-Khatib to a military investigative judge for questioning.  The military judge is expected to issue a formal arrest warrant.

Lebanon and Israel are in a state of war, and each bans its citizens from visiting the other’s country.

El-Khatib was detained last week with her brother, who was later released.  According to local media reports, she had visited Israel by crossing from Jordan.

She had been active on social media, where she harshly criticized Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and its strong ally Lebanese President Michel Aoun.  Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006.

Shortly before the charges were filed Monday (22nd), dozens rallied in Beirut demanding El-Khatib’s release and saying that she was innocent.



Senior PA Official: ‘Our Fingers Are On The Triggers’

A senior Palestinian official warned that Palestinians would not “raise the white flag” if Israel moves ahead with plans to annex settlements in Judea and Samaria, but a Palestinian affairs expert said Sunday (21st) that a wary Palestinian public probably would not back up the leaders call for violence.

Speaking Sunday (21st) at a press conference in Ramallah, Jabril Rajoub said that Israeli annexation would mean that Israel intends to “liquidate” the Palestinian Authority.  Rajoub, the former head of the Palestinian Preventive Service with the rank of general, is a member of the Central Committee of the Fatah Movement headed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

“The next ten days will be decisive and dangerous.  We are not confident that Israel and the United States will retract and on this basis we made our decision that annexation is rejected, and the next steps depend on what will happen during these 10 days,” Rajoub said in comments reported by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Rajoub, charged with heading the Palestinian Authority campaign against annexation, said the Palestinians would use “peaceful protest,” but followed that with a threat that “our fingers are on the triggers.”

While Israeli media all covered Rajoub’s “fingers on the triggers” comment, that line was left out of the press release issued by WAFA.  Since leaving his security position, Rajoub had headed the Palestinian soccer federation where he has spent the past several years trying to get Israel kicked out of FIFA, the world governing body for soccer.  

Despite Rajoub’s ominous rhetoric over annexation, veteran Palestinian affairs reporter Yoni Ben Menachem doubted a new armed uprising would happen if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on his plans beginning on July 1 to apply Israeli sovereignty on Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria.

“The Palestinian public lacks motivation and confidence in its leadership,” Ben Menachem wrote on the website, adding that Rajoub’s plans “for mass rallies and parades is already experiencing difficulties due to the recurrence of the coronavirus in the Nablus and Hebron regions that threatens to spread to other areas as well.”

Ben Menachem, a veteran reporter and fluent Arab speaker who has covered Palestinian affairs for decades, noted that Palestinian officials made similar threats of violence over the Trump Administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“The Palestinian public in the West Bank is tired and exhausted and is not interested in heavy strategic problems such as annexation and sovereignty,” Ben Menachem said.

“In the eyes of the Palestinian public, the PA is seen as weak against Israel and also corrupt – the public has lost confidence in its leadership, and many have no motivation to participate in a third intifada,” he noted.



Netanyahu: Applying Israeli Law In Parts Of West Bank ‘Will Not Affect A Single Palestinian Neighborhood’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (21st) explained his plan to apply Israeli law in parts of the West Bank in a memo to Knesset members from his Likud party:

“There can be no realistic Israeli-Palestinian peace accord in which the Judea and Samaria Jewish communities are evacuated.  These are established communities in which hundreds of thousands of Israelis live.  Relinquishing these territories would not only constitute a historic injustice; such a move would create an immediate existential threat to the Jewish state since Judea and Samaria border central Israeli cities.”

“The planned measure would replace the current military government with Israeli law and civil administration in already existing Israeli communities in the territories so that those living there can be treated equally under the law like all Israelis.”

“The move should not be called an annexation, as this word connotes the forcible acquisition of one state’s territory by another state.  Israel is doing no such thing.  Israel has valid legal claims to the territories while no other state claims the area.  Applying Israeli law would not change the status of the Palestinian Authority in a single Palestinian neighborhood.”



After 3-Month Hiatus, Israeli Trains Resume Operations

Israel’s railway system reopened on Monday morning (22nd) after a nearly three-month hiatus.

The Israeli government imposed a shutdown of the train system in late March, following a series of coronavirus outbreaks in Israel early in the pandemic.

Now, 89 days later, Israel Railways, the state-owned passenger and freight train system, resumed commuter train service Monday morning (22nd).

But trains were largely empty Monday, with few Israelis buying tickets for the first day of the railway’s reopening.

Just 38,000 tickets were sold for Monday, including pre-sales, Ynet reported.  Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the train system averaged a total of 250,000 tickets sold each day.

On Sunday (21st), the Defense Ministry announced that IDF soldiers are still not permitted to use the train, a decision which heavily impacted the number of passengers Monday.

Government restrictions also limit the number of passengers permitted on each train, with a maximum of 500 passengers allowed, compared with the standard maximum capacity of 800-1,000.

Passengers are required to wear face masks at all times, and are prohibited from eating or drinking on the trains.