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October: a slight increase in the chances of the Two States Solution
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From: Two-State Index
TSI@genevainitiative.org



October, in short:Evolving positions on aid to Israel among US Democrats:
Statements from primary candidates reveal increasing openness to idea of
conditioning military aid

No progress on Trump administration’s “vision for peace”: The administration
indicates it will continue to wait until an Israeli government is formed to
reveal political portion of its “vision”  

Palestinian elections on the horizon: President Abbas makes substantive
moves towards legislative and presidential elections, but no official
announcement yet

Spike in settler violence; new settlement expansion announced: Palestinian
olive harvest accompanied by increase in settler attacks, and plans for
thousands of new settlement housing units advanced

Good news for Palestinian economy in the West Bank: Agreement reached
between the PA and Israel to transfer tax funds and renegotiate Paris
Protocol

These events moved the Two-State Index (TSI) up by 0.9% (up by 0.05 points
from 5.50 in previous month). To learn about the Geneva Initiative`s
TSI, visit our website.

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Democrats shift on aid to Israel while Trump administration’s “vision”
remains stuck in neutral

Throughout October, there were indications of a general shift in opinion
within the US Democratic Party on the issue of aid to Israel. Senator
Elizabeth Warren, currently polling in second place in the Democratic
presidential primary election, said that “if Israel is moving in the
opposite direction [of a two-state solution], everything is on the table”
when responding to a question about conditioning military aid on the curbing
of settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Senator Bernie Sanders, another front runner in the primary, went one step
further by stating that Israel would have to “fundamentally change [its]
relationship with Gaza,” and suggested that some funds could be diverted to
the Strip for humanitarian purposes.
Another leading candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, said that annexation of
parts of the West Bank would merit a reconsideration of aid to Israel. 

However, these sentiments were countered by former Vice President Joe Biden,
who maintains a lead in the primary race. Biden asserted that the idea of
conditioning aid to Israel is “absolutely outrageous” and would be a
“gigantic mistake.” Nonetheless, a poll released on October 25 found that
roughly 70% of Democrats are in favor of conditioning aid to Israel.
Influential Jewish American columnist Peter Beinart wrote that “by exposing
the popularity of restrictions on American aid, Senator Sanders has
pressured his rivals to move in his direction” and concluded that “when it
comes to Israel, there are now two Democratic Parties.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continued to make clear that it would
delay publication of its “vision for peace” until after the formation of an
Israeli government, which appears increasingly unlikely anytime soon.
Jared Kushner traveled to Israel on October 28 to meet with PM Netanyahu and
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, the latter having been tasked on October
23 with forming a government after Netanyahu’s failure to do so.

In a subsequent interview, Kushner refused to reject the option of Israel
annexing the Jordan Valley, saying that “we like to keep our options open.”
This followed remarks by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman that the
administration’s “vision” would not include the evacuation of settlers from
parts of the West Bank, calling it “failed policy” and “not something we
would advance.”

The continued delay of the publication of the Trump administration’s “vision
for peace”, which would likely undermine the two-state framework, is
therefore a positive development for the possibility of achieving a two-
state solution. Combined with the shifts among Democratic politicians and
voters in the US, these developments shifted the US parameter from 3 to 4.

Palestinians move towards potential elections

After announcing his intention to hold elections during a speech to the UN
General Assembly late last month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas formed a committee on October 3 to advance the measure.

A demand by Hamas to hold legislative and presidential elections
simultaneously was overcome two days after a delegation of PA elections
officials arrived in Gaza for negotiations. Hamas agreed to hold separate
elections within three months of each other, with the election for the
Palestinian National Council likely to precede the presidential round.

Yet, there remain a number of obstacles, including stipulations by Hamas to
negotiate various details of the electoral process and its aftermath, and
more significantly, a demand (made in conjunction with five other
Palestinian organizations) for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Moreover, Abbas has yet to issue the presidential decree necessary for
elections to be officially announced.

With the status of the Palestinian elections still uncertain, all relevant
parameters remained the same in October. 

Settler violence on the upswing while settlement expansion continues

The olive harvest in the West Bank began this past month, and with it came a
spike in the number of settler attacks against Palestinians. According to
OCHA, October witnessed a total of 41 settler attacks on Palestinians,
almost 2 ½ times the number of attacks in September and an amount roughly
equivalent to the total number of attacks in the previous three months
combined. 

So far in 2019, there have been 270 settler attacks on Palestinians, with 60
resulting in physical casualties and 210 resulting in damage to Palestinian
property.

Attacks were also carried out against Israeli human rights workers (which
included the beating of an 80-year-old rabbi), border police, and – most
notably for the Israeli public – IDF soldiers. These attacks, occurring in
the context of the dismantling of structures at an illegal settlement
outpost, brought increased awareness of the lawless nature of many settlers
and the settler enterprise in general.

While most settlers do not engage in violent activity, many residents of
settlements such as Yitzhar (where the attacks against soldiers occurred)
and others provide varying levels of support for those who do.

Even as Israel was selectively enforcing the rule of law against the illegal
outpost near Yitzhar, the Netanyahu government continued settlement
expansion in West Bank. On October 30, Peace Now revealed that the Israeli
Civil Administration had advanced plans for 2,342 settlement housing units,
with 719 of the units receiving final approval for construction.

Under the Geneva Initiative, 59% of these settlement units would need to be
removed. The plans included final approval for a tunnel road bypassing
Bethlehem, a development that “is expected to dramatically increase the
number of settlers in the Bethlehem area,” according to Peace Now. This
latest round of approvals brought the total number for 2019 to 8,337, an
increase of almost 50% compared to the number of approvals in 2018 (5,618).

The new settlement expansion, which undermines prospects for a contiguous
Palestinian state, moved the relevant parameter from 4 to 3 in October. Due
to the increase in the Israel public’s awareness of settler violence, the
Israeli civil society parameter shifted from 7 to 8. Positive economic news
for the Palestinian Authority

On October 4, the Palestinian Authority announced that it had reached a deal
with the Israeli government to accept tax funds (clearance revenues)
totaling NIS 1.8 billion. Since February, the PA had refused to accept the
revenues, which come from customs duties levied on items imported to
Palestinian markets through Israeli ports. This refusal was in protest of
the Israeli government’s decision to deduct an amount equal to what the PA
pays Palestinian prisoners and their families. 

The deal also included an agreement by Israel to reactivate joint
Palestinian-Israeli technical committees that had been suspended for almost
20 years. Palestinian officials said that this would allow for re-
negotiating and amending parts of the Paris Protocol, the economic portion
of the Oslo Accords.

According to The Portland Trust, these committees “will examine pending
fiscal disputes, including deductions made by Israel in the past two decades
over electricity, water, and medical transfers bills” and the Palestinians
will seek changes to the Paris Protocol “such as renegotiating import lists
and quotas, and acquiring approval for infrastructure construction and
projects that pass through Area C in the West Bank.”

As for the continuing issue of Israel’s deduction of payments equal to the
PA’s so-called “Martyrs’ Fund”, it was reported that both sides have “agreed
to disagree” and Israel will continue to deduct NIS 40 million per month
from transfers to the PA. Hussein Al Sheikh, Head of Palestinian Civil
Affairs Commission and a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said that
the payments to prisoners and their families will continue, and that the PA
is “determined to pay their dues at all costs.”

With the retroactive transfer of clearance revenues, which constitute more
than 50% of the PA’s total revenue, the parameter related to the Palestinian
economy in the West Bank shifted from 3 to 4 in October.

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. Think we missed something this month? Send us tips
and comments here. This publication was produced with the financial support
of the European Union.

Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Geneva Initiative’s Two-
State Index (TSI) editorial team and do not necessarily reflect the views of
the European Union.
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