Israel and Palestinian Territories in July 2023

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Israel and Palestinian Territories in July 2023

July 3,2023

  1. Mossad Says its Agents in Iran Busted a Plot Against Israelis in Cyprus (Associated Press). Israel’s Mossad spy service announced that its agents inside Iran apprehended the leader of an alleged Iranian hit squad planning to assassinate Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus. The Mossad claims the man provided a detailed confession, and the information led to the dismantling of the cell by Cypriot security services. The validity of the Israeli claim has yet to be independently verified, and there has been no immediate response from Cyprus or Iran. Israel has long accused Iran of planning attacks against Israeli targets worldwide.
  2.  Israel to Procure Third F-35 Squadron from the United States (Times of Israel). Israel announced the procurement of a third squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States. This additional purchase of 25 aircraft will bring the Israeli Air Force’s F-35i fleet to 75 in the coming years. The deal, estimated at $3 billion, will be financed by US military aid to Israel. Israel is the second country to receive the F-35 from Lockheed Martin, and the agreement also involves the participation of Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft components.
  3. Israel Strikes Syrian Anti-Aircraft Battery After Syrian Missile Explodes Over Israel (Times of Israel). The Israeli military has announced conducting airstrikes on a Syrian air defense battery in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria that exploded in Israeli airspace…Shrapnel from the Syrian missile landed in the southern Israeli city of Rahat, causing minor damage.
  4. Partners in Israel’s Leviathan Gas Project Will Invest $568 Million in Third Gas Pipeline (Reuters). Partners in Israel’s Leviathan offshore gas project have announced a $568 million investment to build a third pipeline to increase natural gas production and exports. The new pipeline will connect the Leviathan field to a production facility off Israel’s Mediterranean shore and is expected to be operational by the second half of 2025. The project aims to expand production capacity and supply more natural gas to local, regional, and global markets, including Europe. The Leviathan consortium includes Chevron, NewMed Energy, and Ratio Energies.
  5. sraeli National Security Advisor Says Israel No Closer to Attacking Iran Nuclear Sites (Reuters). According to Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel is not currently on the verge of attacking Iran’s nuclear sites. Talks between Iran and the United States have been taking place to ease tensions and find a solution to limit Iran’s nuclear program. Hanegbi emphasized that any agreement between the US and Iran would not bind Israel, which sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.

July 4,2023

  1. Israeli Troops and Drones Hit Jenin in a Major West Bank Operation (Reuters).  Israeli forces conducted a major operation in Jenin in the West Bank, involving hundreds of troops and drone strikes. The operation resulted in the deaths of at least eight people and left more than 50 others wounded. The clashes between Israeli troops and fighters from the Jenin Brigades, based in the refugee camp, continued throughout the day. The Israeli military described the operation as a counterterrorism effort to destroy infrastructure and disrupt militants. 
  2. Hundreds Block Haifa Port and Gather at Airport in Stepped-Up Protests (Times of Israel). Despite Israel’s military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin, protests against the government’s judicial overhaul continued as demonstrators blocked access to the Haifa port and held rallies abroad. The protests also extended to Ben Gurion Airport, where thousands aimed to disrupt access…The protests intensified as negotiations between the governing coalition and the opposition on judicial reform collapsed, leading to renewed efforts to push through the legislation.

July 5,2023

  1. Iran Seeks to Expand Violence in West Bank and Beyond (Iran International). Israeli General Yehuda Fuchs, responsible for troops in the West Bank, has accused Iran of attempting to incite violence and terrorism in the region. Fuchs stated that Islamic Jihad and Hamas operate in the West Bank with financial support from Iran. Israel has taken action against terrorists regardless of location and recently launched drone strikes and deployed troops in Jenin. Israeli officials clarify that the operation targets proxy militias, not Palestinian civilians. The operation, aimed at dismantling weapon stockpiles, is expected to end soon, with Palestinian militants fleeing or hiding. At least ten militants have been killed and 30 injured in the operation.
  2. Eight Hurt in Palestinian Car-Ramming, and Stabbing in Tel Aviv (Jerusalem Post). A Palestinian attacker rammed a pickup truck into pedestrians in Tel Aviv and proceeded to carry out a stabbing spree, injuring eight people. The attack was claimed by Hamas, who stated that it was in retaliation for an ongoing military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin. The Palestinian attacker, a 20-year-old from the West Bank, was shot dead by an armed civilian. Israel’s security agency reported that the attacker entered Israel without a permit and had no previous security offenses. The incident prompted calls from Israel’s far-right police minister for citizens to carry weapons to prevent such attacks.
  3. Military Begins Withdrawing Forces from Jenin after 44 Hours (Times of Israel). Israeli military forces have begun withdrawing from the West Bank city of Jenin after a 44-hour-long operation. Some forces have already left the area, but sporadic clashes with Palestinian media have been reported as troops leave the city. During the operation, the Israel Defense Forces questioned over 300 suspects and arrested 30. The IDF located and destroyed weapon storage sites, explosives labs, war rooms, and other “terror infrastructure.” They seized firearms and carried out drone strikes. Palestinian health officials reported 11 deaths and over 100 injuries, with some noncombatants among the wounded. The IDF stated that the operation is part of ongoing efforts to facilitate future operations in Jenin.
  4. Israel to Build a Subsea Electric Cable with a Possible Europe Link (Reuters). Israel has announced plans to construct an underwater electric cable along its Mediterranean coast, enabling it to connect to European electricity grids. The proposed cable, spanning 150 km (93 miles), will transport electricity from solar energy farms in Israel’s Negev desert to cities in the central and northern regions. Additionally, Israel is working on establishing a connection to networks in Cyprus and Greece. The project is part of a larger initiative by Israel to establish grid connections with neighboring countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Gulf countries.

July 6,2023

  1. Netanyahu: Armed Shia Group is Holding Russian-Israeli Citizen Elizabeth Tsurkov in Iraq (Al Arabiya). On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “an armed Shiite group is holding an Israeli-Russian citizen in Iraq…The woman is alive, and Israel considers Iraq responsible for her safety,” Netanyahu said. Netanyahu’s office revealed that the woman works in the academic field, and she had gone missing in Iraq a few months ago, but she is still alive and is being held by the Shiite Hezbollah Brigades.
  2. After Rocket Attack, Israel Strikes Hamas Target in Gaza, as Fighting Shifts Following Jenin Offensive (Times of Israel). Israeli airstrikes targeted a weapons workshop used by Hamas’ chemical unit and a site for processing rocket components in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel. Palestinian media reported several homes being damaged, but no injuries were reported. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli troops withdrew from Jenin after a 44-hour-long incursion, leaving behind rubble and devastation as residents returned to find their homes destroyed. The military operation aimed to target terror groups in the Palestinian refugee camp.
  3. Gallant: IDF May Need More Jenin Operations in the Future (Jerusalem Post). Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that while the IDF succeeded in Jenin, one or two additional operations may be necessary to fully address the terror situation there. The destruction of terror infrastructure and the retreat of Jenin terrorists were significant victories. Gallant emphasized the influence of Islamic Jihad in Jenin and the role of Iran in supporting the group. The IDF’s drone capabilities were highlighted for their precision and the minimal civilian casualties in Jenin. The hope is for the Palestinian Authority to take charge and calm the situation, but long-term solutions to reduce motivations for terror in Jenin remain unclear.
  4. ‘Israeli Forces are Happy to Kill Children,’ BBC Anchor Tells Ex-PM Bennett (Jerusalem Post). During an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a BBC anchor, Anjana Gadgil, stated, “Israeli forces are happy to kill children” while discussing the Israeli operation in Jenin. Bennett defended the Israeli military’s actions, stating that all those killed were militants and that young terrorists who engage in violence bear responsibility for their actions. The comments made by the BBC anchor have received strong criticism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the media watchdog HonestReporting, with complaints filed against Gadgil for breaching journalistic standards.
  5. Palestinians Grapple with Large-Scale Damage in Jenin Following Israeli Withdrawal (Times of Israel). Following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Jenin refugee camp, Palestinians returned to find widespread damage, including destroyed buildings, torn-up roads, and damaged infrastructure. The Israeli Defense Forces conducted a significant operation in Jenin, citing it as a hotbed of terrorism. The fighting involved clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen, with casualties reported on both sides. The operation targeted terror groups, and while significant damage was inflicted, the long-term effects on the situation remain uncertain. 
  6. IRGC Quds Force commander Qaani says Jenin proves Israel can be beaten (Jerusalem Post). Iran’s Quds Force commander, Esmael Qaani, said that the battle in Jenin this week shows that Palestinian young men can confront Israel’s army, even when Israel deploys its best units. He made the comments in a statement that was posted on pro-regime Tasnim News online on Wednesday. “Today, we are witnessing that the Zionist regime brought all its forces to the field in the Jenin camp, but the Palestinian youth hit him in the mouth.” He claims that Palestinians can carry out numerous operations against Israel. 
  7. French Journalist Arrested at Gilboa Crossing with Three Grenades in his Car (Jerusalem Post). A French journalist was arrested at the Gilboa Crossing in northern Israel with three grenades found in his car on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry. According to the statement, the journalist, driving from Jenin, had an official journalist ID and was taken into custody for further investigation. 
  8. Knesset Passes Preliminary Reading of the Bill to Sap Bar Association of Key Powers (Times of Israel). Weeks after the government opponent was elected as IBA head, the legislation would hand its seats on the politically fraught judge-selecting panel to a new government-controlled body. The bill, which the government backs, would remove the bar’s licensing authority, its ability to sanction lawyers for misconduct, and its representation on the committee that selects judges, effectively voiding its powers. These would instead go to a yet-to-be-created Lawyers Council, which would be led by a district court judge appointed by the justice minister.

July 7,2023

  1. IDF Strikes Lebanon after Anti-tank Missile Hits Near Border Town (Jerusalem Post). The IDF struck sites in Lebanon after an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon toward the village of Ghajar, which is split by the Blue Line with half in Israel and half in Lebanon, on Thursday, amid heightened tensions along the northern border in recent weeks…The IDF is still unsure whether Hezbollah fired the missile or a Palestinian group or some other actor and is investigating the issue.
  2. Tel Aviv Police Chief Quits, Citing Government Meddling Against Protesters (Reuters). Tel Aviv’s police commander, Ami Eshed, announced his resignation, citing political intervention from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet members who advocated for excessive force against anti-government protesters. Eshed did not name National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who had demanded strict action against the demonstrators. Following Eshed’s announcement, protesters marched through Tel Aviv, blocking a main highway and facing off with police. Eshed expressed his inability to meet the expectations of the ministerial echelon, which interfered with professional decision-making.

July 10,2023

  1. Israel and Iran Negotiating Prisoner Exchange Involving Kidnapped Academic (Jerusalem Post). Russia is mediating negotiations between Israel and Iran regarding a prisoner exchange deal according to Hebrew language media citing Arabic language international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. The deal would secure the release of Israeli-Russian academic Elizabeth Tsurkov, who was kidnapped in Iraq, in exchange for the release of the Iranian prisoner Yusuf Shahabazi.
  2.  Israeli Gamers to Compete in Saudi Arabia under Israeli Flag (Jerusalem Post). Israeli video gamers arrived in Riyadh over the weekend to compete in the world championship of the FIFA electronic game. The three-member team, which is second in the world, flew to Saudi Arabia via the UAE and entered the country with their coach and manager on their Israeli passports, a rare occurrence. Per the FIFA World Cup’s rules, they will be allowed to display the Israeli flag with Hatikvah playing in the opening ceremony on July 16. Initial photos of the gamers in Riyadh show them wearing blue and white shirts that say Israel on them.
  3. Netanyahu’s Cabinet Adopts Resolution to Prevent Collapse of the Palestinian Authority (I24). The resolution, brought forward to the cabinet by the prime minister himself, was adopted by an 8-1 margin, with 1 minister abstaining from the vote. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted to adopt a proposed resolution that would see Israel work to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The resolution, brought forward to the cabinet by the prime minister himself, was adopted by an 8-1 margin, with 1 minister abstaining from the vote.
  4. Israel’s Jenin Operation Aggravates Fatah-Hamas Tensions (Jerusalem Post). Tensions between Fatah and Hamas have escalated following the expulsion of two senior Fatah officials from the funerals of Palestinians killed in the Israeli military operation in Jenin Refugee Camp. Fatah accused Hamas of being behind the humiliation and vowed to punish those responsible severely. The incident led to Fatah gunmen taking to the streets in the West Bank in a show of force. At the same time, Hamas claimed responsibility for recent terror attacks against Israelis to assert its active role. The growing tensions reflect deeper divisions between the rival factions and their respective ambitions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  5. UN Chief Issues Rare Condemnation of Excessive Force by Israel in its Jenin Raid (Associated Press). UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a rare condemnation of Israel, denouncing the country’s excessive use of force in its military operation targeting a refugee camp in the West Bank. Guterres expressed concern over the impact of the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp, which resulted in injuries to over 100 civilians, forced displacement, damage to infrastructure, and disruption of essential services. He criticized Israel for obstructing medical care for the injured and impeding the work of humanitarian workers. Guterres called on Israel to abide by international law, exercise restraint, and protect the civilian population as the occupying power.

July 11,2023

  1. Palestinians Reject Israel’s Demands to Save PA (Jerusalem Post). The Palestinian Authority has rejected Israel’s demands to help prevent its collapse, including stopping payments to the families of Palestinians involved in attacks against Israelis. PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh stated they would continue their legal and diplomatic efforts against Israel and maintain the payments to terrorists’ families. The PA also denounced Israel’s policy of seizing funds as “piracy” and “theft.” 
  2. Israel and US Hold Another Joint Air Drill Focused on Iran (Times of Israel). The Israeli and American air forces have launched a joint drill called Juniper Oak, aimed at enhancing the readiness of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for a potential strike in Iran. The drill includes Israeli airstrikes against strategic targets, likely referring to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and simulations to achieve aerial superiority and cyber defense against various threats. The exercise involves IAF fighter jets refueling from an American Boeing KC-46, which will be crucial for conducting potential major strikes in Iran due to their extended flight range.
  3. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Warns Israel Against ‘Going Off the Rails’ With Judicial Overhaul (Haaretz). Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, has warned against Israel’s planned judicial overhaul, stating that things are “going off the rails.” Nides urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to slow down the process and seek consensus, expressing concerns about the overhaul’s deep unpopularity among U.S. lawmakers and the American Jewish community…Nides emphasized that U.S. involvement stems from a desire to articulate when things deviate from the norm.
  4. Ramallah Sends Ministers to Jenin and Cracks Down on Islamic Jihad After IDF Operation (Times of Israel). A delegation of three ministers from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) visited the city of Jenin to reassert the PA’s presence and control following an IDF operation against armed groups. The operation exposed the armament and organization of terror groups in the city, particularly the Jenin Battalion, a local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Some Palestinians see the PA as collaborating with Israel rather than fighting for their rights. The PA has also launched a crackdown on the Islamic Jihad in the Jenin area, detaining individuals involved in terror-related activities.
  5. Palestinian Authority Vows to Continue Paying Terrorists (Arutz Sheva). Senior officials from the Palestinian Authority met today, with Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh again rejecting Israel’s demands in return for measures preventing its immediate collapse. According to Israel Hayom, Israel is insisting that the PA put an end to moves against Israel in the international arena and paying terrorists and their families.Shtayyeh, however, called the move “extortion,” also saying that: “Israel’s condition that we stop our actions in the international arena and in return our funds will be returned to us – will not happen. Regarding cessation of funds for the martyrs and prisoners – that will not happen either.”

July 12,2023

  1. Mahmoud Abbas Makes First Visit to Jenin Since 2012 (Jerusalem Post). Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit Jenin and its refugee camp on Wednesday, more than a week after the Israeli military operation. Abbas will meet with residents and officials and receive a briefing about efforts to rebuild the city and its refugee camp. This will be Abbas’ first visit to Jenin since 2012 and his first since being elected PA president in 2005. A Jordanian military helicopter will transport Abbas and senior officials from Ramallah to Jenin. The visit comes amid growing criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security forces for failing to protect Palestinians during the Israeli military operation.
  2. Over 10,000 Protesters at Israel’s Int’l Airport, 66 Arrested in Nationwide Demonstrations (Haaretz). Protesters are blocking intercity highways and holding demonstrations around Israel, aiming to shut down the country. Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has ordered a situation assessment before the planned demonstrations, focusing on the protest in and around the airport. Protesters are blocking intercity highways and holding demonstrations at Ben-Gurion International Airport, the Haifa District Court, Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv, the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, and the front of the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv. 
  3. Hundreds of IDF Reservists Swear off Service in Protest of Judicial Reforms (Jerusalem Post). 300 members of the IDF’s various cyber and tech arms signed a letter saying they were no longer bluffing and were refusing to show up for reserve duty when called. The IDF reservist protest movement was back in full swing on Tuesday following the Knesset’s Monday night approval of a first reading of the government’s repeal of the judiciary’s reasonableness doctrine, with IDF intelligence Unit 8200 and the air force leading the way.
  4. Fight Emerges Among Israeli Military Leaders about Whether to Fight Hezbollah and When (Jerusalem Post). There is an ongoing discussion in the IDF leadership about whether a major flare-up with Hezbollah is inevitable and when, whether it would be smart to launch a preemptive strike or be better to delay the conflict for as long as possible and only respond to an attack by the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s intentions are the focus of attention in the top echelons of the defense establishment since the IDF views Hezbollah’s more than 150,000 rockets as a greater near-term threat than even Iran…Currently and more imminently, top IDF commanders are debating whether to use force to remove a relatively insignificant (in terms of size) and meaningless (in terms of danger) tiny Hezbollah outpost of a couple of tents intruding into Israeli territory in the disputed Mount Dov area – and if using force, how much and how soon?
  5. Azerbaijan Thwarts Attack Against Israeli Embassy in Baku (Jerusalem Post). An Afghan citizen planning a terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy in Baku was arrested by Azerbaijani authorities recently, Azerbaijani media reported on Monday. On Monday, Azerbaijan’s State Security Service announced that it had arrested Fawzan Mosa Khan, an Afghani citizen, on suspicion of conspiring with additional individuals to conduct a terrorist attack on the embassy of a third country in Baku. A video released by the State Security Service showed Khan discussing how he would monitor the target of the attack and footage of Khan monitoring the location.

July 13,2023

  1. In a Knock at Netanyahu Government, the US Urges Israel to Protect Anti-Overhaul Protesters (Times of Israel). The Biden administration has urged Israeli authorities to protect the right to peaceful assembly as clashes erupted between police and thousands of protesters across Israel demonstrating against the government’s proposed judicial overhaul. The White House National Security Council (NSC) issued a statement similar to responses made by the US regarding crackdowns on protests by authoritarian regimes. The Biden administration has intensified its rhetoric against the Israeli government’s conduct, expressing concerns about the proposed legislation and emphasizing the importance of maintaining democratic institutions and broad consensus for reforms. The statement also acknowledged the healthy debate and discussion taking place in Israel.
  2. US-Israeli War Games Underscore Warnings to Iran on Nuclear Enrichment (Al Monitor). The United States and Israel have begun their second round of joint war games, Juniper Oak, which aims to enable the Israeli air force to conduct long-range strikes on strategic targets. While the exercises do not mention Iran specifically, they are seen as a signal to Tehran against further nuclear enrichment. The Biden administration has reportedly reached out to Iran for an informal deal, offering a halt to further enrichment and the release of American prisoners. Still, Iran is not currently pursuing a nuclear weapon, according to a US intelligence report. The US is treading a fine line between warning Israel about its policies toward the Palestinians and supporting it militarily against Iran.

July 14,2023

  1. High Court to Debate Petition Seeking Netanyahu’s Removal Over Conflict of Interest (Times of Israel). The High Court of Justice has decided to hear a petition demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s removal due to alleged conflict of interest violations. The agreement, signed with former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, requires Netanyahu to avoid involvement in judicial legislation that could affect his cases. The court has not set a date for the hearing. The Knesset had passed a law to shield Netanyahu from being removed from office for breaking the agreement’s boundaries.

July 17,2023

  1. Protests Swell in Tel Aviv for 28th Week as Anti-Government Movement Vows More ‘Days of Disruption’ (Arab News). ​​Tens of thousands of protesters packed the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night, marking the 28th straight week of demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary. The bill still needs to be approved in two more votes, expected by the end of the month, before it becomes law. Saturday night protests have become a mainstay of the grassroots movement — but this week’s was larger than usual.
  2. Top IDF Officer Tells Mayor’s Chance of Conflict with Hezbollah Appears Low (Times of Israel). IDF Northern Command Chief Ori Gordin reassured mayors of towns near the Lebanese border that the likelihood of an immediate conflict with Hezbollah is low, according to a statement from the Metula Local Council. Gordin met with municipal leaders to address concerns over recent disturbances on the border, including incidents instigated by Hezbollah.
  3. Prime Minister Netanyahu Released From the Hospital (Jerusalem Post). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been released from the hospital after an overnight stay. On Saturday, he was admitted to the emergency department at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, following a loss of consciousness and a fall at his home in Caesarea. The prime minister addressed the public from inside the hospital, attributing his condition to dehydration and urging people to stay hydrated during the heatwave.

July 18,2023

  1. Israel Acknowledges Moroccan Sovereignty Over the Moroccan Sahara (Info Mediafire). The Israeli Prime Minister made a significant announcement, declaring the State of Israel’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara. This move not only marks a diplomatic milestone but also cements the establishment of the Abraham Accords, with the appointment of Colonel Sharon Itach as the first-ever military attache in Morocco.
  2.  Biden Extends Invitation to Netanyahu, Emphasizing the Imperative of Judicial Reform Consensus (Times of Israel). During their first call since March, the White House readout omitted the mention of the invitation, but a US spokesperson later confirmed it. However, both parties remain tight-lipped about the specifics, leaving uncertainty as to where and when the meeting will take place.  
  3.  The Israeli Military Grapples with Internal Dissent (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Sources within the military in Tel Aviv have revealed a growing state of rebellion, surpassing what the country typically encounters from external forces. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dismissive response and veiled threats towards this internal unrest only exacerbate the gravity of the situation.

July 19,2023

  1. Herzog Tells Biden Israel’s Democracy ‘Resilient,’ as Overhaul Protests Rage at Home (Times of Israel). As tens of thousands of protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul plan engaged in a “Day of Resistance” back home, sitting alongside Biden in the Oval Office, Herzog appeared to reference the protests, saying, “My heart and soul is also in Israel, in the heated debate which we are going through as a society. It is a heated debate, but it is also a virtue and a tribute to the greatness of Israeli democracy.”
  2. Netanyahu pledged to Freeze Construction until the End of 2023 (Arutz Sheva). ​​Prime Minister Netanyahu told US President Joe Biden that there would be no new construction in Judea and Samaria until the end of the year. According to Yaron Avraham’s report on Channel 12 News, no more new towns will be approved, and no new housing units will be planned or built throughout Judea and Samaria.

July 20,2023

  1. Likud Minister Calls Attorney General ‘the Most Dangerous Person’ in Israel (Times of Israel). Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem. Opposition leaders responded with outrage, accusing the firebrand Likud member, who also serves as a minister in the Justice Ministry, of dangerous incitement against the attorney general, and calling for his dismissal.
  2.  Herzog Lauds Strong Judiciary, Says Democracy in Israel’s DNA (Times of Israel). President Isaac Herzog told a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday that Israel’s democracy is based on an independent judiciary and that he was doing everything he could to secure consensus backing for legal reforms as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government advances judicial overhaul legislation back home.

July 21,2023

  1.  Turkish Invitation: Palestinian President and Israeli Prime Minister to Visit Turkiye Next Week (Anadolu Agency). The leaders of Palestine and Israel will be visiting Turkiye next week, accepting President Erdogan’s invitation. The visit is scheduled for July 25 and 28.  
  2. Israeli Reservists Threaten to Refuse Service Over Judicial Overhaul Amid Arrest Threats (Reuters). Hundreds of Israeli reservists marched in Tel Aviv, declaring their refusal to serve if the government proceeded with plans to curtail the Supreme Court’s powers. The military spokesperson’s office has not officially provided figures on the reservist protests, most of which come from using the air force. Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that the government would take action against what he described as insubordination, fearing potential attacks from Israel’s adversaries and a risk to its democracy..
  3. Former Mossad Chief: Israel’s Democracy at Risk if Reasonableness Standard Bill Passes (Jerusalem Post). Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo warned that if the reasonableness standard bill is passed, the current government in Israel will be “the last democratic government.

July 24,2023

Netanyahu Moves Ahead with Judicial Reform. What Will Be the Consequences?

On Monday, the Israeli Knesset granted its final approval to the judicial reform law that has touched off unprecedented political discord in the country. PM Netanyahu’s governing coalition was present in the Knesset to vote 64-0 to pass the law, with all 56 opposition members boycotting the vote. The law will limit the Israeli supreme court’s ability to overturn government decisions and policies based on the traditional “reasonableness” doctrine.

Netanyahu and his allies say the supreme court’s judicial review has become too subjective. Opponents of the reform law say judicial review is an essential check on government power. Israel has no written constitution so the law will change the constitutional balance of power between the government and judiciary. However, proponents of the reform law say the supreme court had already been overstepping its bounds by using judicial review to effectively veto government policies that the Israeli left opposed.

Three Significant Risks: 

  • First, many Israelis worry that the internal strife of the judicial reform law could spill over into violence between loyalists of the right and left.
  • Second, Israelis and their foreign allies fear that the internal strife could make Israel more vulnerable to external attack from the Iranian regime and its proxies. They worry that if Israel is distracted and paralyzed by internal conflict, it may not be unified enough to face a mounting Iranian threat.
  • Third, the political fracture over the reform law has spilled over into the Israeli military in an unprecedented way. Thousands of IDF members oppose the reform law and have joined in the massive protests against it.  But it goes further: thousands of IDF members, including some air force pilots, have threatened that they will not continue their military reserve duties if the law is implemented. Current and former IDF leaders warn that the situation could result in a disastrous loss of military readiness for the IDF, precisely when the Iranian regime has attempted to create a proxy threat in the West Bank.

It’s too soon to know whether these three risks are warranted. Netanyahu and his coalition wanted the judicial reform not just to “correct” what they see as an imbalance of power between the government and the judiciary but because they came to power wanting to implement specific policies that they expected the supreme court to block, especially some pro-settler policies that the Israeli opposition abhors. The real confrontation over judicial reform could come when Netanyahu and his government implement their controversial policies.

The Iranian threat, however, is accurate and rising. The large-scale clashes between the IDF and Iran-backed militants in Jenin in recent weeks showed that Tehran is capable of creating new militant threats in the West Bank that the Palestinian Authority cannot suppress. It’s highly likely the Iranians will look to take advantage of Israel’s political crisis to push ahead with trying to turn the West Bank into a proxy battlefield.

It’s not yet clear how accurate the fissures in the Israeli military are. Netanyahu and his allies seem to be betting they can call the reservist protestors’ bluff, as Reagan did with the air traffic controllers in 1981. It’s hard to imagine IDF members walking away from their military roles if the country continues under Iranian proxy attack, however.

If Israel is in internal turmoil, and the Gulf countries continue with their effort to seek detente with the Iranian regime, the US administration may find itself having to do the heavy lifting of deterring Iran by itself.

July 25,2023

  1.  Palestinian Group Engages in Talks with Egypt’s Intelligence Chief: PFLP Delegation Meets with Abbas Kamil in Cairo (Middle East Monitor). The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) revealed that it conducted talks with Egypt’s Intelligence chief, as reported by Anadolu. The PFLP delegation, led by Deputy Secretary-General Jamal Nizar, traveled to Cairo at the invitation of the Egyptian side for discussions with Abbas Kamil, as stated in a written statement by the Palestinian group.
  2. Iran Claims to Dismantle Alleged Mossad-Linked Terror Unit (Jerusalem Post). Iran reported that the country’s authorities succeeded in dismantling a “unit associated with the Israeli Mossad.”According to the report, Iranian security forces arrested the unit members dispersed in several Islamic Republic cities. 
  3.  Israel’s Knesset Adopts First Judicial Overhaul Bill Despite US Warning (Al Monitor). The Israeli Knesset has passed the first element of the government’s controversial judicial overhaul plan, known as the “reasonableness clause” despite widespread protests nationwide. The clause will prevent the Supreme Court from overseeing government decisions, including appointing ministers and other senior positions. 

July 26,2023

  1. Attorney General Asks High Court to Strike Down Law Shielding Netanyahu from Recusal (Times of Israel). In an extraordinary filing on Tuesday, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara requested that the High Court of Justice strike down a law passed in March that prevents the court from ordering a prime minister to recuse himself from office, a stance – if accepted – that would mark the first time the court strikes down one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.
  2. Former Israeli Security Chief Tells Gallant: Stop Playing Games and Resign (Jerusalem Post). According to former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ought to have resigned in the wake of passing the Law to Cancel the Reasonableness Standard, a pivotal component of the judicial reform. Yatom castigated Gallant for his failure to display courageous leadership by stepping down in the face of contentious legislation. 
  3.  Palestinian Presidency Calls on Washington to Intervene Immediately to Stop Israeli Aggression (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The Palestinian presidency demanded immediate US intervention to stop the Israeli “aggression”, which it warned “aims to drag the region into the square of violence, tension and instability.” This came after the killing of 3 Palestinian youths this morning by Israeli army bullets in Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

July 27,2023

  1. Herzog: Those in Power are Chiefly Responsible for Mending Rift Caused by Overhaul (Times of Israel). President says he’s ‘deeply disappointed’ by failure to reach a compromise but will press efforts to bridge gaps; coalition whip calls his comments ‘unfortunate.’ 
  2.  Palestinian President and Hamas Leader in Ankara (Daily Sabah). Erdoğan facilitated a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh behind closed doors. The meeting comes amid regional tensions and efforts to find a fair and permanent solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict through a two-state solution.

July 28,2023

  1. Palestinian Teen Fatally Shot During Israeli Minister’s Visit to Al Aqsa Compound (Daily Sabah). The Palestinian Health Ministry has confirmed that 14-year-old Fares Sharhabil Abu Samra was killed by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. The visit of Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av has garnered significant attention and criticism. The US, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia rebuked the visit…Hebrew-language media reports indicate that around 1,000 pilgrims had visited the site by 10 a.m., surpassing the number of Jewish visitors on previous Tisha B’Av observances. Last week, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef accused Ben Gvir of “sinning and causing others to sin” with his visit to the Temple Mount. The visit continues to evoke strong reactions from various parties, reflecting the sensitive and deeply contested nature of the site. Arabic media reported that Israeli police blocked hundreds of Palestinians from accessing the site, while simultaneously allowing over 2,100 Jewish settlers to enter.

July 31,2023

Israel Faces Growing Internal Discord, a New Iranian Threat, and an Unlikely U.S. Diplomatic Initiative

Last week ACLS identified three significant risks to Israeli interests in the ongoing dispute over the Netanyahu government’s planned changes to Israel’s judiciary:  the possibility of increased internal political and civil strife, security deterioration, and fractures within the Israeli military. The first two have worsened in the past week.

On Monday, July 24, the Netanyahu government moved ahead with the passage of the judicial reform law in the Knesset. Government supporters hailed the law’s new restrictions on the “reasonableness doctrine,” a tool used by Israel’s unelected judiciary to invalidate government decisions that judges believe neglect relevant considerations or do not weigh them correctly, even if not violating any specific law. The Netanyahu government and its supporters hold that the doctrine has created an undemocratic imbalance of power in Israel in favor of unelected judges.

Critics of the overhaul contend that the reasonableness doctrine safeguards unenumerated rights in Israeli law, and that limiting it would undermine the legal protection of those rights in a country that has no written constitution. As the reform law passed the Knesset, protests continued in Jerusalem, the 56-member opposition coalition boycotted the vote, and President Herzog proclaimed that those in power bore responsibility for mending the rifts the overhaul had opened up.

While the massive protests in Israel’s cities absorbed the attention of Israeli police and security officials, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gavir’s visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque risked stretching security forces even thinner. The visit not only sparked an international outcry but also resulted in clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli forces, who fatally shot a minor protesting the far-right national security minister’s visit. Clashes in the West Bank continued as well. On Monday morning, July 31, 2023, Israeli forces conducted a raid in Jenin, arresting Fathi Otoum, the leader of the Hamas movement in the city, and another leader of the Jenin armed brigades. The raid reportedly responded to the “Ayyash Brigade” claiming responsibility for firing a missile at the “Ram-On” settlement in the northern West Bank. Palestinian officials confirmed Otoum’s arrest.

The internal Israeli turmoil and the continuing tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank cast a pall over the new US priority of achieving a Saudi-Israeli normalization deal. The region is filled with the viral news that the Biden administration is pitching a deal under which Saudi Arabia would receive U.S. security guarantees in exchange for recognizing Israel, while Israel would improve conditions in Palestinian territories by stopping settlements and avoiding West Bank annexation. But it is unclear why Saudi leaders would dive into a politically risky deal while Israel is undergoing such internal strife. Yuli Edelstein, head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, seemed to agree as he brushed off the possibility of such a deal, noting that most of the Saudi discourse is with the current American administration and not with Israel.

Finally, to add to Israel’s security problems, on July 30 Israel’s Shin Bet security announced it had foiled significant Iranian cyber attacks against Israeli government officials. Israeli security uncovered a sophisticated spearphishing campaign by Iranian cyber operatives seeking to gain intelligence on Israeli state policy. The Iranian operatives reportedly used LinkedIn contacts to lure Israeli officials and researchers into opening malicious files allowing Iranians to control their computers. The incident aligns with cyber experts’ assessment of a growing Iranian regime cyber-attack capability. In May, Microsoft released a Threat Intelligence report tracking Iran’s rapid cyberattack escalation in May, with 24 known operations since June 2022. The Microsoft report also noted that the Iranian regime has begun using cyber attacks not just in the traditional malware sense but also to advance specific propaganda goals, such as Tehran’s broader aim of countering the Abraham Accords, suppressing internal Iranian political dissent, and bolstering Palestinian militancy. Microsoft’s experts concluded that the Iranian regime is getting faster in operationalizing its cyber operations.

The events of the past week showed that Israel’s internal and external crises are far from calming down, while the U.S. administration seems more focused than ever on a regional normalization deal that has almost no hope of happening under present circumstances. The Iranian regime lurks in the background, looking for opportunities to exploit Israel’s distraction and Washington’s misplaced priorities.

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