Shahar Azani
JBS Senior Vice President & Former Israeli Diplomat . A Jew.

Unmasking False Narratives

Yesterday afternoon, President Trump – with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side – announced his Administration’s Peace Plan between Israel and the Palestinians. As expected, under the circumstances, the event produced torrents of words, commentaries, and analyses, some based on the plan itself, others focusing on Netanyahu’s political and legal challenges at home as well as President Trump’s Impeachment and the upcoming elections in the US.

However, very little could have prepared me for the op-ed published by The NY Times on the morning of January 29, 2020, titled “Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Exposes the Ugly Truth.” Anticipating thoughtful pieces and a diversity of opinions on such a sensitive and complicated issue, I was dumbfounded by the level of intellectual dishonesty displayed in the article. Reading through it, I saw before me a piece made of half-truths, omissions, and distortions, which should be regarded as no better than telling a blatant lie, especially dealing with a boggy issue as the Middle East. 

But the problem doesn’t end with a one-sided author who’s skewed against Israel. The decision to publish such a piece casts a dark shadow over the Times’ editorial decision-making process yet again – not dissimilar to the kind of ill judgment displayed by the antisemitic cartoon published in the same paper just last year, for which the Times apologized. Where is your editorial consideration of the FACTS?!

Indeed, how can one go through a whole op-ed dealing with peace between Israel and the Palestinians and not make one (!) mention of Palestinian rejection of peace efforts between the parties over the years, even since before Israel was formally re-established in 1948. Tragically for both peoples, there is so much to choose from. The Peel Commission, which was established in August of 1936 to look into the situation in what was then Palestine, heard hundreds of witnesses and conducted dozens of meetings, concluded that partitioning the land between Jews and Arabs is the best solution for this conflict. They proposed around 85% of the land to become Arab and approximately 15% given to the Jews. Yet, in spite of the difficulties, the Jewish leadership consented to the principle of partition, whereas the Arabs would hear none of it — complete and utter rejection. When the UN Partition Plan (Resolution 181) came to the world in 1947, we got the same kind of Arab rejection and Jewish approval. Same scenario repeated itself numerous times since, most recently at the famous Camp David summit in 2001 with President Clinton, Yasser Arafat of the PLO and then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in 2008 with President Bush, Prime Minister Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas and yet another resounding NO was given to Secretary of State John Kerry during President Obama’s second term. 

As the author takes us through history, beginning with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, he conveniently skips those uncomfortable parts. Moreover, he asserts that “the West has supported Zionist aims in Palestine at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people” – at a time when they themselves did not define themselves as Palestinians – a term which came to refer to Arabs in mandatory Palestine later on. Furthermore, the insinuation that they are the indigenous people and Jews are not is an attempt to negate thousands of years of history, archeology, and tradition connecting Jews to their homeland. Mind you, it has also been attempted several times by the Palestinians, some of whose leaders and negotiators claimed in the past “there is no proof for any Jewish temple on Temple Mount.” 

Interestingly enough, in spite of Israeli willingness at the beginning of President Obama’s term to freeze building of settlements and give peace negotiations a chance and despite Israel’s continuous calls on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table (again, the answer was a resounding NO), it was ISRAEL who got punished. On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council accepted an anti-Israel resolution, and for the first time, the US decided not veto the decision, as it had done so many times in the past. That moment, the moment of Israel’s lynching as the US looks the other way, was followed by a lengthy applause in the chambers, an undiplomatic yet extremely telling move. 

Palestinian rejectionism paid off. 

Every Passover the Jews ask during the Seder Ma Nishtana, Hebrew for “Why is tonight different (from all other nights)?”. Similarly, we ask – what makes this proposal different? First and foremost, it does not turn Israel and its Arab neighbors into hostages held captive by Palestinian intransigence. For the first time, the Trump Administration has shown the Palestinians that there will be a price to pay for their continued rejection of each and every possible offer and solution. With its stance on UNRWA, the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and beyond – this Administration has shown its willingness to think differently about the issues, look at them realistically and not give in to past lip-service and outdated formulas. In addition, there is one more actor, who was present-missing at yesterday’s ceremonial address, and that is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its attempts at regional destabilization, continued acts of terror and undermining of regimes in the Middle East, has brought Israel and many of its neighbors so much closer together. Israelis are now welcome to arrive at the 2020 Expo in Dubai, and doors are opening in more and more Arab countries for Israeli business, innovation, and ingenuity. All for the benefit of the peoples in the region and none of it should be held back because of Palestinian irrational behavior. Enough is enough seems to be the dominant feeling among so many, and deservedly so. It was made clear time and again to the Palestinians – the door is open for you to negotiate, and you are more than welcome to do so. 

Lastly, but most importantly, Israeli leadership, as well as the majority of the Israeli public, has always strived for a peaceful coexistence with Israel’s neighbors. In the face of horrendous acts of terrorism, gruesome and cruel violence, and unnecessary wars, Israel has always reached out for peace.

On October 8, 1957, Golda Meir – Israel’s Foreign Minister at the time, who later became the first female Prime Minister of Israel – stated as follows at the UN:

“The position of Israel has been stated on many previous occasions and remains unchanged. It seeks peace above all. It remains ever ready to defend itself if attacked, but it has never had and has now no aggressive intentions or designs against the integrity or independence of any of its neighbors.”

In her speech, Meir challenged Israel’s Middle East neighbors to adopt what she called “a realistic attitude” and concede that the Jewish State is here to stay.

Israel’s position has never changed, and, sadly, neither has the Palestinians’.

About the Author
Speaker, Author, JBS Senior Vice President. Formerly Israel's Consul for Media Affairs in NY and diplomat at Israel's Foreign Ministry. Thankful for every day. Hopeful for the future.
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