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Settlers illegally expand West Bank race track in IDF firing zone

Since +972 Magazine visited the site earlier this year, the track has been paved — despite an Israeli army order to stop construction. The Israeli military often uses firing zones to displace Palestinians.

Israeli authorities have continued illegally building a state-of-the-art race track in the West Bank, despite IDF stop-work orders issued earlier this year.

In February, +972 Magazine reported that the track was being constructed just north of the Petza’el settlement in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, on a large tract of land near Wadi al-Ahmar and Route 505. The only catch: the track is partially inside an IDF live firing zone in the occupied West Bank — a designation Israeli military authorities often use to displace local Palestinian populations.

When +972 Magazine visited the site earlier this year, the area was fenced off, with large mounds of dirt and stacks of metal located on site, including what appeared to be metal bars that will form the overhead to mark the starting point. Since then the track, which is being funded by the Jordan Valley Regional Council, has been fully paved, seemingly in contravention of military orders.

Although Israel rules the West Bank under military law due to its status as occupied territory, Israeli settlers have nevertheless established limited civilian local government institutions, nearly identical to those inside Israel proper, although they are ultimately subordinate to the military government.

According to Micky Yohai, a veteran Israeli racer who is behind the project, the 1.2 kilometer long track was supposed to be ready by May 2016. Ultimately, the track is slated to include a motocross track, a drag strip, and a 3.2 kilometer paved track. In an interview with Ynet last year [Hebrew], Yohai said the project would begin with a dirt track — the first sign of success of a two-year process with the Jordan Valley Regional Council, headed by David Alhayani, who “is strongly pushing the issue.”

Alhayani declined to answer +972 Magazine’s questions on the matter in February. He previously told Ynet that the track would provide athletes with the ideal place to race, making no mention of the fact that it would run through an IDF training zone.

The Israeli army’s Civil Administration, which serves as the military government in the West Bank, told +972 Magazine back in February that it had issued a stop-work order against the track, and acknowledged that the facility was being built...

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Israel is razing a Bedouin village to build a Jewish-only town on its ruins

Israeli authorities have promised the courts that the displaced Bedouin residents would have an opportunity to live in the new community. New documents show that is far from the case.

Despite assurances made to Israel’s High Court of Justice, a new town being built on the ruins of a Bedouin village in southern Israel is intended for Jews only, according to the bylaws of the future town’s cooperative association.

Israel first notified the residents of Umm al-Hiran, Bedouin citizens of Israel, that it plans to demolish their entire village and build another community in its place 15 years ago. A legal battle has been taking place ever since, although Israel’s top court ultimately approved the plan — partially based on assurances that the current Bedouin residents would have the option of living in the new community.

According to the bylaws of Hiran, the future Jewish town, which were uncovered by “Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel,” acceptance into the community will be open only to “Jewish Israeli citizens or permanent residents who observe the Torah and the commandments according to the values of Orthodox Judaism.”

The National Planning and Building Council, which first approved the plan to build the town atop Umm al-Hiran, had promised it would be open to all Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or nationality. The High Court took the state at its word when it claimed Bedouin would be allowed to live in a future Hiran.

Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany sent a letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday, demanding he prevent the allocation of plots in Hiran to the “core” group of the town’s cooperative association, and ensure that Umm al-Hiran’s current residents are included in the new town’s planning.

Israeli law offers two seemingly contradictory stances on ethnic or religious housing segregation. On the one hand, the state cannot discriminate in the allocation of land to its citizens. On the other hand, communities are allowed to exclude would-be residents if they would alter the character of the community — meaning they can discriminate on any number of grounds.

Prior to Israel’s founding in 1948, Umm al-Hiran’s residents lived northwest of where the village currently stands. Like many Bedouin, they were expelled during and after the 1948 war, and like most Arab citizens of the nascent Jewish state, they were placed under strict martial law until 1966.

In 1956, the local military governor forcibly...

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Forget Al Jazeera — Bibi should halt his own government's incitement

Netanyahu is calling to shut down Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau, accusing the station of incitement to violence amid tensions over the Temple Mount. Has he heard what his own ministers have been saying recently?

Palestinian incitement has long been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scapegoat for the lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For him, Palestinian calls to violence — not the settlement enterprise or 50 years of military dictatorship — is what prevents peace. Netanyahu regularly uses this rhetorical tactic to undermine an already impotent Palestinian Authority whenever it is politically convenient. In recent years, the prime minister has also used claims of incitement to take severe punitive measures against Palestinian organizations and individuals.

On Thursday, however, Netanyahu pulled a page right out of the playbook of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he vowed to shut down the Jerusalem office of Al Jazeera — one of the most popular news outlets in the Arab world and a steady critic of Israeli policies — accusing it of incitement to violence amid tensions over the Temple Mount.

In a Facebook post published Wednesday, Netanyahu said he had appealed multiple times to law enforcement agencies demanding the offices of the Qatar-based news network be closed. “If this does not happen due to legal interpretation, I will work to enact the required legislation to expel Al Jazeera from Israel,” Netanyahu wrote.

Over the past few years, Netanyahu’s government has taken active steps in outlawing several Palestinian political movements in Israel (a tactic that has its roots in the early years of the state). In September 2015, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed off on the banning of two Muslim organizations, the Murabitun and Murabitat, for alleged incitement to violence on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Two months later, he outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement for similar reasons.

In the occupied territories, the Israeli army regularly shuts down Palestinian radio stations under the pretense that their broadcasts incite the masses to violence. Meanwhile, Netanyahu lambastes the Palestinian Authority for naming public squares after terrorists who killed innocent Israeli civilians, and for fanning the flames of incitement when tempers flare around the Temple Mount.

Furthermore, Israeli law enforcement, as well as the Shin Bet, frequently round up and charge Palestinians — both in Israel and the West Bank — for alleged “incitement.” Just last week, Read More

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How the world missed a week of Palestinian civil disobedience

The violence of the past week, and the media’s coverage of the bloodletting, erased a central aspect of the story: Palestinian mass civil disobedience.

For many Israelis, the violence over the past few weeks around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is little more than a result of Muslim intransigence in the face of legitimate Israeli security concerns. This, after all, has been the major talking point among both the Israeli leadership as well as the media. For Palestinians, on the other hand, the metal detectors erected last week by Israeli authorities at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound sparked outrage and protests.

That outrage stemmed from the government’s decision to install the metal detectors — in defiance of both the IDF and the Shin Bet’s recommendation — that eventually led to the deaths of four Palestinian protesters at the hands of Israeli security forces, and the brutal murder of three Israeli settlers by a Palestinian attacker that same night. But the violence, and the media’s coverage of the bloodletting, erased a central aspect of the story: Palestinian civil disobedience.

“We need to understand that there has been a major, continuous nonviolent protest taking place in East Jerusalem for over a week,” says Aviv Tatarsky, a field researcher for Ir Amim, a Jerusalem-based NGO that works to build a more equitable city for all its residents. “The decision to boycott the metal detectors and refrain from going up to Al-Aqsa, the continuous stream of people to the gates of the compound, the mass prayers, all of these are a form of civil disobedience. And as such, it is a legitimate form of protest — whether or not we agree with it.”

“For Israelis, framing the protests in East Jerusalem as ‘nonviolent’ is at best strange and at worst scandalous, since the metal detectors were installed following the killing of Border Police officers at the site two weeks ago, and because three Israelis were murdered just a few days ago,” Tatarsky continues. “But in order to understand the nonviolence of the protests, the Israeli public will have to differentiate between the actions of individuals — who aren’t even from East Jerusalem — and the mass protest movement that includes most parts of Palestinian civil society in Jerusalem.”

+972 Magazine spoke to Tatarsky about the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount, the possibility of bringing an end to the violence, and the media’s unwillingness to cover Palestinian nonviolence.

What do the events of the past...

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'Gaza will be unlivable next year, not 2020 as the UN says'

+972 Magazine talks to Khalil Shaheen, a Gaza resident and expert on the impact of Israeli, Palestinian Authority, and Hamas policies in the besieged coastal strip, to get a picture of what life is like in Gaza, and why it’s probably going to get unfathomably worse.

Things have gotten acutely worse in the Gaza Strip over the past month, since Israel and the Palestinian Authority cut the besieged strip’s already inadequate supply of power. But an entire generation of Gazans have grown up without ever experiencing electricity that is available around the clock. Crisis is nothing new.

In addition to sewage that flows into the sea untreated, and hospital ICUs that must rely on gasoline-powered generators, the power shortage also has dire consequences on everyday life in regular households. Without electricity, the pumps that deliver tap water to apartments in high-rise residential buildings stop working. “Water used to reach these houses between two-to-three hours every few days,” Khalil Shaheen says. “And this is in the summer. Yesterday, my building only had one hour of water.”

Israel pulled its troops out of the Gaza Strip a little over a decade ago, but its military retains effective control over many aspects of life in the coastal enclave. The Israeli army still controls the Strip’s land and maritime borders, decides who and what may enter and exit, blocks basic technologies like 3G cellular broadband from being installed, and has launched three military operations that left thousands of Gazans dead. Israel also sells Gaza the majority of its inadequate supply of electricity.

Shaheen, who is the director of the Economic and Social Rights Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), one of Palestine’s most prominent rights groups, monitors the impact of Israeli, Palestinian Authority, and Hamas policies on life in the Gaza Strip. “I’m afraid that with the ongoing situation, Gaza will be unlivable by the end of 2018,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.

Can you talk about what is happening on the ground in Gaza right now?

I can’t even describe Gaza as a prison, because even prisoners have fundamental rights. Gaza is an isolated area under occupation, where people aren’t allowed in and out. There is an electricity crisis that leaves millions without power for hours every day, 97 percent of Gaza’s water is undrinkable, there is not enough electricity to provide basic...

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Soros, Bannon, and the anti-Semitism of Israel's prime minister

Instead of defending George Soros from Hungary’s anti-Semitism, he has taken a page out of the alt-right playbook. His bottom line? Some Jews just aren’t worth protecting.

Benjamin Netanyahu is the self-appointed protector of world Jewry. And as such, he views his role not only as prime minister of Israel, but as the spokesperson for Jews across the world. On Saturday, Netanyahu played that role when the Israeli government called on the Hungarian government to halt an ad campaign against Hungarian-born Jewish-American financier George Soros, claiming it was fueling anti-Semitism across the country.

Just a day later, however, Netanyahu ordered the Foreign Ministry to retract the statement, resorting instead to attacking Soros, a known critic of Israel’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The clarification, issued by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon, deploys similar tropes to the ones used against Soros by the Hungarian government:

The reaction in Israel was immediate. Meretz leader Zehava Galon sharply criticized Netanyahu, accusing him of “supporting global anti-Semitism,” and backed calls by Hungarian Jews for Netanyahu to cancel his visit to Hungary next week. Some of the reactions by the Israeli Right simply doubled down on Netanyahu’s decision. Take right-wing commentator Shimon Riklin, who on Sunday tweeted: “Want to understand part of the anti-Semitism of the 30s in Europe? Look at George Soros who is trying to educate the goyim over and over again, telling them what to think.”

The astounding thing about Netanyahu’s implicit support for Hungary’s anti-Semitism is not that it comes from the most powerful Jewish figure in the world. After all, the far-right in Israel has a sordid history of support for anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist movements.

What’s remarkable this time around is the extent to which Bibi’s move falls in line with the worldview of people such as White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and the American alt-right. Bannon is a bonafide anti-Semite who mostly traffics in quasi-coded contempt for Jews of a certain variety. But despite how he is often portrayed, Bannon is not a racial purist who refuses to surround himself with Jews, nor does he advise Donald Trump to do the same.

His ire is instead saved for a very specific type of Jew — the kind who holds the pursestrings of neoliberal capitalism (what he terms “globalism”) while simultaneously acting as a vessel for “nefarious” ideologies such as liberalism or anti-racism, which challenge the very fundaments of America’s power structure. After all, White nationalism — be it of the...

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Dismantling the occupation — brick by brick, book by book

Like the children of countless American Jewish families, throughout her childhood Ayelet Waldman was told that trees were being planted in her name across Israel, something very few people questioned back then.

“This is the first time I have ever planted a tree for Palestinians,” she says as she looks out at the West Bank village of Susya on a balmy day in the middle of June. “My grandmother would donate money to the Jewish National Fund, which would then plant trees in my name. She had no idea that the money she was giving would go toward the settlement enterprise.”

Planting trees in Susya, Waldman, an Israeli-American author and essayist, along with her husband — author and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon — and their two youngest children, set out to actively resist Israel’s West Bank settlements, and the Israeli military regime that props them up. Susya, a hamlet in the South Hebron Hills, has become a flagship of nonviolent resistance over the past decade or so, withstanding numerous demolition attempts, all the while facing violence and harassment from nearby settlements.

Chabon and Waldman were in Susya that day with a group of Israeli authors planting trees in the village school, one stop on a whirlwind tour across Israel-Palestine to launch their new book, Kingdom of Olives and Ash. The book is a collection of essays by international, Palestinian, and Israeli writers, which they published in order to mark five decades since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Partnering with Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence, Waldman and Chabon enlisted literary giants such as Geraldine Brooks, Dave Eggers, Mario Vargas Llosa and Colm Toibin to spend time in the West Bank and Gaza, to bear witness to the occupation, and write about the things they saw.

Every Jew needs to bear witness

Waldman, 52, was born in Israel to left-wing Zionist parents who had immigrated from Montreal. Her father served in the Palmach, a paramilitary group that fought in the 1948 War, and helped found a kibbutz near the border with Gaza. Waldman’s formative years were spent in Israel, including during the Six-Day War in 1967, during which she remembers trying to avoid mortars and bombs while driving to her grandmother’s house on the other side of Jerusalem.

She eventually moved to Canada and then to the United States, where she developed what she terms a “somewhat atypical...

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The lie at the heart of the Jewish American consensus

By choosing to engage on specific issues of Israeli policy while ignoring the fate of Palestinians, the Jewish American establishment has effectively sided with perpetuating the occupation.

For years, the Jewish American establishment has been able to convince the world, and itself, that it does not directly meddle in internal Israeli affairs — a declaration most commonly used to justify not commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But if anyone still has any faith in that notion, the volatile events of the past week should put it to bed.

The outcry from across the Jewish American political spectrum was nearly universal. Prime Minister Netanyahu surrendered to the ultra-Orthodox parties in his government, reneging on a compromise with Reform and Conservative Jewish groups to create a mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall, and as if to pour salt on the wound, his government pledged to support a highly controversial conversion bill the same day. The Reform movement, the Conservative movement, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency, and even AIPAC — some of the largest Jewish political institutions in the United States — immediately went into crisis mode.

The Reform movement scrapped a previously planned meeting with the prime minister, the Conservative movement vowed to show up at Netanyahu’s home in protest, the Jewish Agency held an emergency session to excoriate the government for the move, and leaders of AIPAC — known for their unconditional support for Israeli policies — announced an impromptu meeting with Netanyahu to discuss the fallout.

The crisis over an egalitarian praying space at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, is not new. For years it has been simmering among the American Jewish community, bursting forth whenever liberal groups such as Women of the Wall are attacked by ultra-Orthodox Jews for attempting to pray there same way millions of Jews do every day across the United States. The government’s decision to support a bill that would recognize the Israeli rabbinate as the sole arbiter of certain conversions in Israel — thus delegitimizing Conservative and Reform religious courts and conversions in the country — was too much to bear.

Moreover, it exposed yet again the underlying schisms between American Jews — the majority of whom are social and political liberals — and the ultra-Orthodox populations in Israel, many of whom view Reform and Conservative Jews basically as heretics. The swift and unequivocal...

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Humanitarian crisis looms as Israel cuts Gaza's electricity

The decision comes less than a week after Israel acceded to Mahmoud Abbas’ demand to cut Gaza’s power supply.

The Israeli government announced Monday morning that it had begun cutting the electricity to the Gaza Strip, fulfilling a request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority informed Israel in April that it would cease paying for electricity supplies to the Strip. Israel supplies the coastal enclave with about 30 percent of its electricity at a cost of around 40 million shekels per month, which it deducts from the taxes of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas hopes that the cuts would place enough pressure on Hamas, his ideological rivals who rule the Strip, to relinquish control.

The move by the PA, which also cut government salaries in Gaza and approved a massive reduction in medical aid supplied there, coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Hamas’ takeover of the Strip.

The cuts would leave Gaza with around three hours of electricity a day. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesperson for Hamas, which rules Gaza said in a statement that Israel would “bear responsibility for the consequences of the reduction.”

According to Gisha, an Israeli NGO that uses legal assistance and public advocacy to protect freedom of movement for Palestinians, Israel has for years been selling 120 megawatts to Gaza — supplied through ten power lines — with each line carrying 12 megawatts. On Monday morning, Israel cut supply on two lines from 12 to eight megawatts. Meanwhile, Israel continues to severely limit entrance of generators and spare parts needed for their repair to Gaza, as well as entrance of transformers and equipment.

Gaza’s sole power plant stopped operating in late April, and ever since the Strip has relied almost entirely on electricity imported from Israel. Without electricity, Palestinians have resorted to flashlights and candles as sources of light in the evening. Others have purchased costly subscriptions to communal generators.

Last Wednesday, a coalition of 16 civil society organizations sent an urgent letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, emphasizing the unlawfulness of the cabinet’s decision under both Israeli and international law. The attorney general has yet to respond, and it is unknown whether there will be further reductions to the electricity supply.

According to Gisha, the consequences of a reduction are likely to be devastating:

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The man on the heels of Israel's settlement enterprise

“The story of the occupation is here for everyone to see,” Dror Etkes mutters, half smiling, as we stand on a hilltop in the West Bank settlement of Haresha. “The problem is very few people are willing to see it.”

The view from Haresha, one of several settlements that comprise the “Talmonim bloc,” approximately 10 kilometers northwest of Ramallah, is spellbinding in both its beauty and scope. Looking west, the foreground is littered with rows of Jewish settlements dotting the arid hills. Beyond them is a row of Palestinian villages — Ras Karkar, Ein Ayub, and Deir Ammar — lined north to south. Even further yet another cluster of settlements hugs the Green Line, effectively cutting off any chance for Palestinian territorial contiguity here.

Talmonim is the logical conclusion of 50 years of military occupation. “This is the backyard Israeli society prefers not to talk about,” Etkes says sheepishly, as he gazes out over the sprawling settlement bloc from the vista point. “If you think Talmonim will stop expanding, you’re a fool.”

Etkes, 48, is one of Israel’s foremost experts on Israel’s land management and settlement policies in the West Bank. For the better part of the last 15 years, he has tracked how the Israeli army seizes and expropriates land, how it declares private plots “state land,” and makes illicit back room land deals.

I spent a day traversing the West Bank with Etkes in order to see, and not just hear or read, the story of how the Israeli settlement enterprise, and the occupation, became what they are today.

The story he tells is not a new one. It’s not difficult, driving through the West Bank, to notice the stark difference between Jewish settlements and the neighboring Palestinian towns and villages. And yet there is something about seeing Israel’s territorial expansion through Etkes’ eyes that puts the entire situation in a far clearer and starker light.

As he drives north on a winding road, Etkes explains that the goal of the Talmonim settlement bloc is two-fold: to increase Jewish presence in the area, breaking up territorial contiguity in what the international community considers a future Palestinian state, and to make it impossible for Palestinians to do just about anything in the West Bank without encountering the Israeli army.

‘In Israel it is very easy to become a settler’

Etkes navigates the roads of the West Bank like the...

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IDF radio commander: Don't call it the West Bank

Yaron Deckel, who heads the third most popular radio station in Israel, orders his staff to refrain from using the term, saying it has been ‘adopted by the Palestinians and the Left.’

The commander of Israel’s Army Radio has ordered his staff to refrain from using the term “West Bank” while on air.

Yaron Deckel, who has served as the station commander since February 2012, sent a directive to his staff in which he said the decision was made since “West Bank” has been “adopted by Palestinians and the Left,” instead ordering them to use the word “territories” (“shtachim”) to describe the land beyond the Green Line.

Deckel is a veteran journalist who over the past five years has pushed the station — often viewed as left-leaning — to the right, including by canceling a number of shows belonging to left-wing hosts and hiring right-wingers. Earlier this year, Deckel fired Khen Elmaleh after she published a Facebook post expressing sympathy for Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, who was accused by police of deliberately running over an officer in an alleged terrorist attack (al-Qi’an, it turns out, most likely did not carry out a premeditated attack, but was shot and killed by police nonetheless).

Deckel’s directive is not a new one. Army Radio management told ultra-Orthodox news outlet, Kikar HaShabbat, that Deckel was merely issuing a reminder to the staff after one broadcaster used the term “West Bank” on a show. “As part of his job as editor-in-chief, and as he requested throughout his tenure, the Army Radio commander repeatedly requested to use a neutral term that is not biased to any side… even the army uses the term ‘Judea and Samaria’ and not the term ‘West Bank,’ which was adopted by the Palestinian narrative.”

The term West Bank refers to the west bank of the Jordan River (meaning all the land west of Jordan, until the Green Line), and has historically been referred to as such by the Jordanian government. Save for the Israeli government and the IDF, which typically refer to the West Bank by its biblical name (“Judea and Samaria”), the international community, including the vast majority of journalists, have used West Bank to refer to the territory.

There is no doubt that choosing the most accurate terms and phrases to describe reality, especially in one as fraught and violent as ours, can be taxing. But Deckel’s directive has little to do with...

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Settlers building race track inside IDF live-fire training zone

The Israeli army says it ordered work stopped on the RallyCross track, but settler officials are singing a different — and defiant — tune. Several Palestinian communities in the same firing zone have been displaced by the military in recent years.

Israeli authorities have been laying the groundwork for a state-of-the-art RallyCross race track, in what they say is a response to the growing demand for motor sport recreational facilities and areas. The only problem? The track being built is partially inside an IDF live firing zone in the occupied West Bank — a designation Israeli military authorities often use to displace local Palestinian populations.

The RallyCross (timed, largely off-road automobile racing) track is being constructed just north of the settlement Petza’el in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, on a large tract of land near Wadi al-Ahmar and Route 505. According to Micky Yohai, a veteran Israeli racer who is behind the project, the 1.2 kilometer long track was supposed to be ready by May 2016. Ultimately, the track is supposed to include a motocross track, a drag strip, and a 3.2 kilometer paved track.

In an interview with Ynet last year [Hebrew], Yohai said the project would begin with a dirt track — the first sign of success of a two-year process with the Jordan Valley Regional Council, headed by David Alhayani, who “is strongly pushing the issue.”

Although Israel rules the West Bank under military law due to its status as occupied territory, Israeli settlers have nevertheless established limited civilian local government institutions, nearly identical to those inside Israel proper, although they are ultimately subordinate to the military government.

Alhayani declined to answer +972 Magazine’s questions on the matter, although last year he told Ynet that the track would provide athletes with the ideal place to race, making no mention of the fact that it would run through an IDF training zone.

“When I say there will be a track in the Jordan Valley, there will be a track in the Jordan Valley,” he continued. “We are going full power on this project … We must not forget that we have an advantage, since we fully cooperate with the police and the army.”

The Israeli army’s Civil Administration, which serves as the military government in the West Bank, told +972 Magazine that it had issued stop-work against the track, and acknowledged that the facility was being built illegally. The decision whether to...

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French lawmakers call on Hollande to recognize Palestinian state

France’s far right may gain ground in the upcoming elections. French parliamentarians are hoping President Hollande acts before he must leave office in May.

The French Newspaper Le Journal Du Dimanche published a letter Monday signed by over 150 French parliamentarians, in which they called on President Francois Hollande to recognize a Palestinian state.

The letter comes on the heels of January’s international summit in Paris, attended by representatives of some 70 countries, which sought to restart the peace process. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians attended the conference.

According to the letter, “the summit provided the international community with an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the two-state solution.” The signatories expressed concern over President Donald Trump’s hawkish views — specifically his stated intention to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — as well as over the recently-passed ‘Formalization Law,’ which retroactively legalizes illegal outposts built on private Palestinian land.

The parliamentarians demanded Hollande recognize a Palestinian state before his term comes to an end in May, in light of the fact that both right-wing and far-right presidential candidates are likely to gain significant ground in the upcoming elections, to be held on April 23.

“You said it yourself, Mr. President: ‘Only bilateral negotiations can succeed.’ It is therefore time for these negotiations to proceed on an equal footing, state to state,” write the signatories.

In 2014, France’s General Assembly and Senate voted in favor of a non-binding motion that calls on Hollande to recognize a Palestinian state in 2014 “as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict.”

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