Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Post Editorial Way Wrong on Israel

Clueless in the Capitol

Today's Washington Post editorial: "Rash Rhetoric (as it is titled in the print edition)" pretends to balance in blaming both Israelis and Palestinians for creating significant obstacles to peace negotiations. The subtitle for the print version of the editorial cites "harmful words from all sides on proposed Israeli settlements" for the current stalemate.

Apparently in order to make it clear that the Post plays no favorites, the piece kicks off with a shot at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his tactics in the current Israeli election campaign; he has pursued "a familiar tactic: a flurry of announcements of new construction in Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank." Criticism of Israel and Netanyahu for announcing further construction plans is "appropriate," the Post grudgingly admits, "but the reaction is also counterproductive because it reinforces two mistaken but widely held notions: that the settlements are the principle obstacle to the deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible."

And how do we know that the two "widely held notions" are wrong? Because, the Post says so. "...the Jerusalem neighborhoods where new construction was announced last month were conceded to Israel by Palestinian negotiators in 2008." Never mind that the negotiations were stillborn, the deed is done. The editorial also notes that the vast majority of Israelis living in settlements established on Palestinian territory could be added to the current state of Israel with the additional transfer of "just more than 4 percent of the West Bank."

The paper apparently sees 4 percent of the West Bank as a mere quibble and is ultimately untroubled by the notion that Netanyahu's announcement is a campaign ploy. The rhetoric that really bugs the Post is U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's despairing observation that further expansion of Israeli settlements may doom peace talks. British Foreign Secretary William Hague's quite similar comments are equally offensive to the Post.

"If [U.N.] Security Council members are really interested in progress toward Palestinian statehood, they will press [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas to stop using settlements as an excuse for intransigence--and cool their own overheated rhetoric," the editorial concludes.

The problem here is that the Post's pretensions of journalistic objectivity, which allow them to call for cooler rhetoric on both sides, actually require nothing from Israelis and everything from Palestinians. After all, the establishment of the settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are and have been unequivocally a violation of international law. And, though continuing expansion of the settlements may not "make a Palestinian state impossible," as a continuing provocation they do come dangerously close to making negotiations impossible.

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