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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

December 22, 2009

Palestinians scorn Netanyahu's settlement overture, refuse to discuss peace, blame Israel

Dear Friend of FLAME:

As supporters of Israel and FLAME---and as readers of the FLAME Hotline---you know better than anyone that when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as much as anything we are fighting a public relations war.

I'm sure that you, like I, talk to people who still naively think the key to Middle East peace is for the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians simply to "compromise"---to stop being so hard headed.

This notion of moral equivalency---or worse the idea that the Palestinians are oppressed---is the greatest enemy of Israel and its supporters.  At first blush, a public relations war may seem like a petty matter---after all, Israel is battling for its very existence, for the tiny patch of Holy Land it calls home.

But the public relations war has very real consequences for Israel: There is no doubt that, as much as guns and missiles, world opinion---and especially U.S. public opinion---will determine the future of the Jewish state.

Currently the Palestinians are fighting with considerable success to convince the world that Israel---represented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--- is obstructing peace.  The focal point of the Palestinian PR effort is the "settlements"---Israeli residential developments in Jerusalem and contiguous areas in Judea and Samaria (disputed territories in the West Bank).

As you know, the Palestinians, who have never owned or controlled these territories, now claim sovereignty over them (even though they are not nor have ever been a sovereign entity). The Western media, especially in Europe, frequently portray the Palestinians as a frustrated, victimized, besieged people who only want a fair shake from their occupying oppressors.

Despite the fact that Mr. Netanyahu has recently agreed to curtail further developments in the territories as a reflection of Israel's desire to re-engage in a peace process, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has scorned this overture and in an astounding display of chutzpah, actually blames Netanyahu for the Palestinians' rejection.

On the other hand, this week's Hotline article, by Israel's U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren, points out how generous and ground-breaking Netanyahu's offer is, as well as the tremendous risks Netanyahu has taken within the Israeli political world to make it.

My friends, it is up to us to make sure Israel's true story is told.  While Israel makes compromises and holds out a hand of peace, the Palestinians hold out ever more impossible demands---because their real goal is the absolute defeat of Israel and expulsion of Jews from the Holy Land.  The article below gives you the facts about Israel's desire for peace.   

Despite the obstacles facing us, may peace come soon to the people of Israel . . . and may it dwell in your home this holiday season.

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


Have you seen the latest FLAME hasbarah message? Here's a preview: It's titled "Israel: A Light Unto the Nations---Those who demonize Israel are either misinformed or malevolent." This piece tells the truth about the Jewish nation---that it is an exemplary free and democratic society, one that deserves to be praised and emulated. I hope you'll review it, especially since we're entering the season of hateful rallies on university campuses claiming that Israel is an "apartheid state" (of course nothing could be farther from the truth). To help set the record straight, this editorial piece has just started to run in national media delivering more than five million impressions, including to college students and all U.S. Senators and Representatives.  If you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. I hope as this year comes to a close and the joyous holy days are upon us, you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

P.P.S. President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies.  To give him your opinion about the need to stop pressuring Israel for concessions and start focusing on the higher-priority issue of Iran's development of nuclear weapons, please write the President---immediately.

Israel's Settlement Freeze: Prime Minister Netanyahu has broken with his party to restart the peace process.
By Michael Oren, The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2009

Distracted by the crucial debate over Afghanistan, many Americans may have missed a pivotal event in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. On Nov. 25, Israel's government announced a 10-month construction freeze in Judea and Samaria—the areas generally known as the West Bank. Though some projects already begun will be completed and essential public buildings like medical clinics and schools will be approved, no new housing permits will be issued.

"We hope that this decision will help launch meaningful peace negotiations," declared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "and finally end the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel." The Obama administration praised the decision and recognized its significance. Special Envoy George Mitchell hailed the decision as "substantial," and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it "unprecedented."

By contrast, Palestinian leaders rejected Israel's gesture as grossly inefficient. Without an indefinite cessation of all Jewish building in the West Bank and Jerusalem, they say, peace talks cannot resume.

What Mr. Mitchell and Mrs. Clinton understand, but what the Palestinians miss, is that Mr. Netanyahu has shown more flexibility on this issue than any previous head of his Likud Party, which is staunchly pro-settlement. Indeed, he has gone further than any prime minister in limiting a right that many Israelis consider incontestable and a vital component of their national security.

Twice—in 1948 and 1967—the West Bank served as the staging ground for large-scale attacks against Israel. While defending itself, Israel captured the territory and reunited with its ancestral homeland: Haifa is not in the Bible, but Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jericho decidedly are. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushed to resettle their tribal land.

These communities widened Israel's borders, which at points are a mere eight miles wide. American policy makers recognized Israel's need for defensible borders and, in November 1967, they supported U.N. Resolution 242, which called for withdrawals from "territories" captured in the war, but not from "all the territories" or even "the territories."

All successive Israeli governments supported the settlements. Only with the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords did then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agree to restrain construction in outlying communities that he considered unnecessary for Israel's defense. But the settlements continued to expand. Meanwhile the peace process progressed. The Palestinians never made a construction freeze in Jerusalem and the settlements a precondition for talks—until earlier this year.

Mr. Netanyahu initially responded that Jews, like all people, can build legally in Jerusalem, and that it's unreasonable to disallow settlers from building even an extra room for a newborn. Still, he promised not to establish new settlements, not to appropriate additional land for existing ones, nor even to induce Israelis to move to them. Yet the Palestinians balked. The peace process was moribund, awaiting an intrepid stroke.

Mr. Netanyahu has now taken that initiative. By suspending new Israeli construction in all of the West Bank, the prime minister has done what none of his predecessors, including Rabin, ever suggested.

At home, Mr. Netanyahu's decision has been fiercely criticized, even by some members of his own party. The Knesset has considered a vote of no-confidence in his leadership. And the most recent poll shows that more Israelis oppose the freeze than support it.

The prime minister has nevertheless persisted—his coalition is among the strongest and most representative in Israel's history—but the opportunity generated by his action will not endure indefinitely. Together with the Obama administration, which has repeatedly asserted its commitment to restarting talks without preconditions and to achieving a permanent two-state solution, Israelis hope that Palestinians will once again join them in talks.

By taking risks and accomplishing the unprecedented, Mr. Netanyahu has demonstrated his commitment to peace. Now the Palestinians must match that dedication and seize this propitious moment.


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