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November, in short:

  • Israel and Hamas found themselves on the verge of war before restoring a fragile ceasefire.
  • The Gaza escalation unleashed a political crisis in Israel, proved the futility of military action and the need for a political horizon.
  • Israel unleashed unprecedented moves targeting East Jerusalem. 
  • In the U.S. midterm elections, Democrats take control of the House, moving toward new positions on Israel/Palestine.

These trends ultimately moved the Two-State Index (TSI) up by 1.9%.
The full report is below, including an elaborated illustration of trends since we launched the index in April 2018.
To learn about the Geneva Initiative's TSI, visit our
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Israel and Hamas found themselves on the verge of war around November 11-13. Egypt and the United Nations helped restore a fragile ceasefire, aided by Qatari financial relief. Efforts toward a more lasting stabilization deal were underway, but uncertainty abound, especially after mediation talks between Hamas and the PLO appeared to have failed.

Three main takeaways from November:

  • Both Israel and Hamas want to avoid war, almost at all costs, and a mediation architecture — both procedurally and substantively — is in place. The ceasefire efforts highlight a potential path to breaking the deadlock of escalation and the blockade, but initial calm usually lessens the motivation to pursue a lasting stabilization package. At the end of November, the three security parameters of Gaza — Prospects for War, Palestinian Attacks, and IDF Military Actions — continue to inch upward to 5, 4, and 4, respectively, and some financial relief moves Gaza's civilian paramters upward: Economy from 1 to 2 and Governance from 2 to 3. But failure to consolidate a lasting ceasefire might rapidly deteriorate to war.
  • Hamas declared success: it was able to foil the IDF’s undercover operation, fire hundreds of missiles into Israel, successfully deploy an anti-tank missile, and cause political mayhem inside Israel. For its part, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority find itself feuding with an array of domestic and outside actors, unable to affect dynamics on the ground. Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar’s pragmatic agenda, including his willingness to deal with Israel, moves the Hamas Leadership parameter from 4 to 5.
  • Israelis encountered, again, the limits of military power and the need for a political solution — partial as it may be — to the question of Gaza. While even leaders of of the leftist opposition often called for a harsher military response, the public at large perceives a deadlock and is unsatisfied with the status quo . The parameter measuring the Israeli Public Opinion moves from 6 to 7.


For a complete account of the Gaza events, visit OCHA’s humanitarian reports, and a special report by the International Crisis Group: Rebuilding the Gaza Ceasefire.

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The escalation surrounding Gaza unleashed a political crisis in Israel: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned in protest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza strategy, and an ensuing face-off between Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennet, who sought the defense portfolio, brought Israel to the verge of elections. Bennet’s ultimate retreat left Israel’s coalition standing, albeit with a narrow one-seat majority.

In the wake of Liberman’s withdrawal of his 6-member Israel Beitenu party from the coalition, Netanyahu’s government finds itself more fragile and weak, struggling to pass laws and projecting weakness. In the face of elections, Netanyahu will likely feel the need to rehabilitate his security credentials which were diminished by Gaza events. At the very least, the Israeli government’s willingness and ability to take any significant step toward Abbas — low to begin with — has now evaporated, and consequently the parameter that measure the Israeli Government moves from 2 to 1. For its part, the Trump administration continues to postpone the publication of its peace plan and prevent any meaningful European involvement.

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Israel unleashed a series of actions targeting Palestinian assets in East Jerusalem. Israeli police twice arrested the PA Governor of Jerusalem, perhaps as a response to the arrest by the Palestinian Authority of a Palestinian-American for violating Palestinian law dealing with real estate. Israel continued its targeting of UNWRA and the refugees issue, executing mass demolitions in Shu’afat Refugee Camp. Finally, Israel advanced a series of legal decisions and legislation that pave the way for a major expansion of Jewish settlements and Israeli presence in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

The Israeli measures threaten Palestinian residents —  including what would become become the largest mass displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967 — as well as the integrity of one of the most important archaeological sites on the planet. The full analysis by Terrestrial Jerusalem is found here and reprinted in the analysis section below. Consequently, the parameter measuring the Expropriation of Private Palestinian Lands or Legalization of Settlements moves from 4 to 3.

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In the U.S. mid-term elections, the Democratic party rode a large ‘blue wave’ and took control of the House of Representatives, flipping at least 39 seats toward a majority of at least 234 out of a 435 seats; Republicans strengthened their control of the Senate, controlling 53 of the body’s 100 seats.

Congress essentially affects policy on Israel/Palestine in three ways: it plays a major role in the appropriations of funds, it can exercise oversight of the executive branch, and it can develop direct relationships with regional actors. All in all, its ability to dramatically affect policy regarding a two-state solution is limited. With an outlook toward the 2020 presidential elections, it is likely that Democratic candidates will face activist pressure to distance themselves from Israel’s occupation policies. This dynamic is also affected by the way money is raised with an emphasis on grassroots fundraising. For the first time in decades, any Democratic presidential candidate will need to balance pressure from traditional pro-Israel donors with heightened attention to an activist base. Separately, many American Jews and israeli liberals found themselves in an open clash with Israel’s leadership following the murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh by a white nationalist, after Israeli leaders expressed support for Trump. Many American Jews fault the American president for not confronting — and some say supporting — racist, xenophobic powers. These developments move the United States parameter from 2 to 3.

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TSI Trendlines: overall index and arenas
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In additional developments this month:

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) inteds to lay off over half of its employees in the West Bank and Gaza in the coming weeks, with the intention of completely shuttering its facilities by next year; thousands of Fatah dissidents rallied in Gaza; the preseident of the Republic of Chad visited Israel and said prospects of renewed ties between the countries will not remove the Palestinian problem; in response to a decision by Airbnb to remove listings in settlements, Israel urged U.S. states to take steps against the company; the Irish Senate approved another phase in the legislation to boycott the sale of products from Israeli settlements; the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to recognize a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines; Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called for Israeli annexation of Area C and proposed a confederation between parts of the West Bank, Jordan, and Gaza; Saudi Arabia transferred $60 million in aid to the Palestinian Authroity and pledged $50 million in aid to UNRWA; a goodwill Hamas delegation set out to visit legislatures in seven countries; and Egypt postponed a visit by Brazil's foreign minister due to a vow by Brazilian President-elect to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Some recommended sources for additional information:

Analysis
A Pattern of New and Troubling Developments
By Terrestrial Jerusalem (see various analyses here)

Closure of the Consulate joins a series of events initiated by the Trump administration that share the same, crystal-clear leitmotif. The move of the Embassy itself, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the shuttering of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, the de-funding of East Jerusalem hospitals — all of these send a message heard loud and clear by Palestinians, by Israelis and by the international community: Israelis matter, Palestinians matter much less. The recognition of the Palestinian right to self-determination as embedded in the Oslo Accords is a dead letter, and the Oslo process is dead. It is a reminder to those eagerly awaiting “the deal of the century” that there is no longer even the pretense of being a fair and impartial broker.

Paving the way for expanding Jewish enclaves in Palestinian neighborhoods
Mid-November was also marked by a series of legal decisions and legislation briefly described below that carry major ramifications, as they pave the way for a major expansion of the Jewish settlement enterprise and Israeli presence in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods (each of these developments requires closer examination in order to fully grasp their ramifications; we will provide such examination in upcoming editions of Insiders’ Jerusalem).


Amendment paves the way for legally expanding Jewish settlement enclave in the heart of Silwan
A proposed amendment to the National Parks, Nature Reserves and Memorial Sites Law (amendment No. 17) moved on November 19 to Knesset second and third readings… It is specifically designed to enable Silwan settlers (led by the Elad organization) to expand their presence within Silwan by bypassing restrictions imposed on urban construction within a national park (see drafted amendment - Hebrew)… This legislation, the provisions of which were tailored to the aspirations of the Silwan settlers, will allow the settlers to radically change the nature of Silwan, allowing large-scale construction unheard of in any other area designated by Israel as a national or archeological park. This construction is part and parcel of the settler takeover of the public domain, posing unprecedented threats to both the Palestinian residents and the integrity of one of the most important archaeological sites on the planet.

Israeli High Court greenlights eviction of 700 Palestinians in Batan Al Hawa
On November 22, 2018, the High Court rejected the petition of the residents of the Palestinian neighborhood of Batan al Hawa (Silwan). The residents are threatened with displacement by the settler organization Ateret Cohanim, which claims ownership over the properties of 700 Palestinians living in that area… If implemented, this will be the largest mass displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967. This decision of the court comes despite the fact that the State attorney — a senior official in the Ministry of Justice — recognized in a hearing last June that the transfer of rights to the land from the Custodian General to Ateret Cohanim in 2002 was flawed… With this decision, the Israeli High Court removed one of the last obstacles in the settlers’ legal battle to evict these families and extend their foothold in Batan Al Hawa/Silwan. Before proceeding with the displacement of the Palestinian residents, the court asked the settlers’ organization to clarify in a lower court the original classification of the land, which could affect the ownership right of the Cohanim’s trust.

Israeli High Court approved the eviction of 40 Palestinian residents from Sheikh Jarrah
This is another case that displays the fundamental legal asymmetry in Israel law: on the one hand, it enables and supports Jews seeking to evict Palestinian residents from properties in East Jerusalem, based on Jewish ownership claims that pre-date the 1948 War; on the other hand, it explicitly prohibits these same Palestinian residents from regain their properties inside Israel based on the same grounds (via Israel’s Absentee Law). The Palestinians in this case are members of the Sabag family, who have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since 1956. Their eviction was requested by the Nahalat Shimon company, led by a settler activist, which claims ownership of the land. A petition of the Sabag family fighting the eviction was rejected based on the statute of limitations (for further details/links see here). This case is likely to have implications for other pending evictions efforts targeting other families in Sheikh Jarrah. Consequently, the ruling jeopardizes not only the parties to this suit, but tens of other Palestinian families facing eviction proceedings.

Mass demolitions in Shu’afat Refugee Camp
On November 21, the Jerusalem Municipality, backed by the Israeli police, proceeded with the demolition of 21 shops in the Shu’afat Refugee Camp, based on the claim that the shops were built without permits (which are impossible to obtain in any case). Owners of the shops were given just twelve hours notice before the demolitions were carried out. This is the first instance of Israeli authorities in Jerusalem demolishing structures located beyond the separation barrier; however, it is exceptionally rare and the number of structures demolished in this instance is unprecedented. Notably: when Israel unilaterally expanded Jerusalem’s border in June 1967, the Shua’fat Refugee Camp became part of the city. However, since that time, Israel has provided virtually no municipal services in the camp, and what rudimentary services did exist are extended by UNRWA. These demolitions, unprecedented in scope since 1967, can only be understood in the context of both the ongoing assault on UNRWA, and increasingly aggressive Israeli policies towards the Palestinians of East Jerusalem.

The Two-State Index (TSI) is brought to you by the Geneva Initiative, a Palestinian-Israeli organization working to promote a negotiated peace agreement in the spirit of the two-state vision. The TSI is produced by an Israeli-Palestinian team, and reflects a unique bilateral perspective.
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