Groundwork laid for media narrative of failed peace talks: It’s the Palestinians’ fault

on 47 Comments

With direct “peace talks” between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government headed nowhere fast after the Netanyahu government let the so-called “settlement freeze” lapse, the groundwork for the media narrative on who to blame if the “peace talks” officially break off is being laid. Predictably, it will be, and already is, a narrative of Palestinian rejectionism versus Israeli generosity.

Matt Duss, a must-read blogger on Middle East issues over at Think Progress’ Wonk Room, picks up on this, pointing to the headlines written after the Palestinian Authority said “no” to Netanyahu’s “offer” of a partial extension of the “settlement freeze” in exchange for the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians recognizing Israel as such would effectively sign away the Palestinian right of return and relegate once and for all Palestinian citizens of Israel to institutionalized and official second-class status (which is the case already.)

Duss writes:

As opposed to a settlement freeze, the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State is an entirely new one. What Netanyahu is essentially saying to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, then, is that, in return for Abbas meeting this new demand, Netanyahu generously offers to partially, temporarily meet one of Israel’s already existing obligations.

Of course the Palestinian Authority has refused this “offer.” Is it really unclear why? Now let’s look at some of the headlines:

The Washington Post: “Israeli prime minister offers conditional settlements freeze”

Associated Press: “Israeli PM offers conditional settlements freeze”

Ha’aretz: “Netanyahu pleads to save talks as Palestinians threaten walkout”

Jerusalem Post: “PA quashes PM’s offer for renewed building freeze”

And thus, magically, the Palestinians have threatened the talks by rejecting yet another generous Israeli offer.

Here’s some more headlines on that theme:

Palestinians Reject Israel’s Offer on Settlement Freeze, Voice of America News

Palestinians Reject Israel Offer, Wall Street Journal

Palestinians reject Israeli offer on settlement freeze, BBC News

Palestinians reject Israeli demand, Reuters

You get the picture. Israel is now essentially saying: we will partially obey international law for 60 days (and then go back to violating it), as long as you sign away basic human rights–refugees and their descendants returning to homes they were expelled from and equality for all–forever. And media, both in the U.S., in Israel and around the world, are adopting Israel’s framing of the issue.

The media narrative of Israeli generosity and Palestinian rejectionism is an old one that was prominently displayed in the aftermath of the collapsed Camp David peace talks in 2000.

Seth Ackerman, writing for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Extra! magazine in July/August 2002, documented the U.S. media’s telling of the Camp David story in an excellent article:

The seemingly endless volleys of attack and retaliation in the Middle East leave many people wondering why the two sides can’t reach an agreement. The answer is simple, according to numerous commentators: At the Camp David meeting in July 2000, Israel “offered extraordinary concessions” (Michael Kelly, Washington Post, 3/13/02), “far-reaching concessions” (Boston Globe, 12/30/01), “unprecedented concessions” (E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, 12/4/01). Israel’s “generous peace terms” (L.A. Times editorial, 3/15/02) constituted “the most far-reaching offer ever” (Chicago Tribune editorial, 6/6/01) to create a Palestinian state. In short, Camp David was “an unprecedented concession” to the Palestinians (Time, 12/25/00).

But due to “Arafat’s recalcitrance” (L.A. Times editorial, 4/9/02) and “Palestinian rejectionism” (Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report, 3/22/02), “Arafat walked away from generous Israeli peacemaking proposals without even making a counteroffer” (Salon, 3/8/01). Yes, Arafat “walked away without making a counteroffer” (Samuel G. Freedman, USA Today, 6/18/01). Israel “offered peace terms more generous than ever before and Arafat did not even make a counteroffer” (Chicago Sun-Times editorial, 11/10/00). In case the point isn’t clear: “At Camp David, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an astonishingly generous peace with dignity and statehood. Arafat not only turned it down, he refused to make a counteroffer!” (Charles Krauthammer, Seattle Times, 10/16/00).

This account is one of the most tenacious myths of the conflict. Its implications are obvious: There is nothing Israel can do to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors. The Israeli army’s increasingly deadly attacks, in this version, can be seen purely as self-defense against Palestinian aggression that is motivated by little more than blind hatred.

As the cliche goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

This piece originally appeared on Alex Kane’s blog.

47 Responses

  1. potsherd
    October 13, 2010, 6:37 pm

    It doesn’t really matter, legally, if the PA recognizes Israel as a “Jewish state” because the PA has no right to sign away the rights of the refugees to return to Israel. Of course Israel would insist that they do, but Israel would refuse to allow the refugees to come home regardless of what Abbas signs or doesn’t sign, regardless if they have a paper to wave around or not.

    • Dan Crowther
      October 13, 2010, 7:53 pm

      good point potsherd.

    • Citizen
      October 14, 2010, 3:54 am

      That does not diminish the great PR usage/leverage Israel would get from any such paper that would be waved around.

      • Richard Witty
        October 14, 2010, 7:31 am

        The DO have the right to present a proposal to the Palestinian people for them to ratify or to reject.

        Would you deny the Palestinian people that right?

      • Chaos4700
        October 14, 2010, 8:18 am

        Deny the Palestinian people what right? The right of return?

      • Richard Witty
        October 14, 2010, 11:31 am

        The right to vote on a proposal defining their future.

        You know, self-determination.

      • eljay
        October 14, 2010, 4:24 pm

        >> The right to vote on a proposal defining their future.
        >> You know, self-determination.

        In the course of their self-determination, how much of the land that was stolen from them by the Zionist enterprise are Palestinians entitled to reclaim?

        Oh, that’s right, none. Because Palestinian self-determination is that future-facing “new narrative” which entitles Israel, in the name of “justice” (according to “humanists”), to keep everything that it has stolen.

      • Mooser
        October 15, 2010, 7:12 pm

        Oh, I get it! Self determination for Palestinians is the right to vote on a proposal. Self-determination for “the Jews” is the right to move in (on the coat-tails of British colonial control) and take over, stealing everything they could in the process.

        And gee, when did the Jews vote on the proposal to take over Palestine? What happened to that self-determination?

        Witty, you need to give that old nag, self-determination, a rest, or maybe even put her out to pasture, instead of riding her to death.

    • MRW
      October 14, 2010, 8:06 am

      It always amazes me how Israel insists that everyone else must define it.

  2. Kathleen
    October 13, 2010, 7:41 pm

    Alex great coverage of the always blame the Palestinians spin. Thanks

    Carter has a great deal to say about the I/P conflict and negotiations during his latest interview with Charlie Rose

    Really worth the watch and listen
    link to

    • Sumud
      October 13, 2010, 11:03 pm

      Very interesting ~ so North Korea is ready to come in out of the cold. This is a big opportunity for Obama, let’s hope he has the smarts to go for it and the spine to aggressively fight back when conservatives attack him for dealing with an “axis of evil” power.

      Carter is a smart guy but says two curious things on Palestine:
      1. Israel controls 60% of the West Bank. This is wrong: the PA is supposed to have total control over Area A, and partial control over Area B (comprising 40% of East Jerusalem/West Bank) but in reality the IDF regularly operates outside Area C, and when that occurs Palestinian security forces have to defer to the IDF.
      2. “Arab leaders” (I think he’s talking about the Arab Peace Initiative here, it isn’t clear) demand right of return. Actually, the API will accept whatever the 2 parties negotiate, it’s flexible on RoR, but everything else in the API simply asks Israel to comply with international law.

  3. Interested Bystander
    October 13, 2010, 7:44 pm

    Of course “Palestinians reject Israeli offer on Settlement Freeze” is a succinct and factually correct headline. It’s true that Palestinians are lousy at framing the issue on their terms, but I’m not sure that this is a conspiracy by headline writers.

    Isn’t a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state an implicit rejection of the two state solution. Similarly, a refusal to agree to a settlement freeze is an implicit rejection of a two state solution.

    I’m beginning to come around on this issue. It seems like both parties are embarking on negotiations about something (two state solution) that neither wants. Not surprising they can’t get to square one.

    • Sumud
      October 13, 2010, 10:16 pm

      Isn’t a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state an implicit rejection of the two state solution. Similarly, a refusal to agree to a settlement freeze is an implicit rejection of a two state solution.

      Why should one proto-sovereign state have to make statements or assurances on the demographic nature of the second state? It’s utterly absurd.

      If, to deal with illegal immigration, the US asked to Mexico to recognise it (under threat of military invasion and occupation) as white/black-but-not-latino they’d be a laughing stock.

      Questions about Abbas/Fayyad’s legitimacy aside, I think they’re both genuinely interested in a two state solution. I think many Palestinians (and Israelis) are. But one party has almost ALL the power, benefits immensely from the occupation (fulfilment of historical dream of Eretz Israel, territorial expansion, stolen resources – West Bank: water & minerals, Gaza: $4 billion offshore gas), cheap labour in an unregulated environment, immense financial benefits from US that would end w/ permanent peace settlement) and has no interest in ending the occupation. The other suffers immensely and has every reason to want it to end, but little means to bring that about (well, except the conscience of good people around the world, via BDS).

    • sherbrsi
      October 14, 2010, 4:21 am

      Isn’t a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state an implicit rejection of the two state solution. Similarly, a refusal to agree to a settlement freeze is an implicit rejection of a two state solution.

      That’s incorrect. A refusal to recognize Israel would be a rejection of the two-state solution, not “the Jewish state.” Zionism makes no difference between them, but they are two distinct issues. There is no obligation on the Palestinians, as far as as the two-state solution goes, to affirm the political nature of the Israeli state, only the physical existence of it (which the PA is willing to negotiate on).

      The rejection of the settlement freeze, and the very presence and construction of the Jewish colonies, however, physically invalidates any Palestinian entity or administration, and thus any viable state from forming. It is not an implicit but an explicit rejection of the Palestinian state.

  4. Kathleen
    October 13, 2010, 8:04 pm

    So after this all fails and the Israeli’s and the Israeli lobby are successful at blaming the failure on the Palestinians again. Where does that leave the area? Netanyahu, Liebermann, illegal Israeli settlers taking over even more of the West Bank.

    Now in the Charlie Rose interview with Queen Noor she said that Israel all ready controls 40% of the West Bank. In Charlie Rose’s interview with Former President Carter he said that Israel is in control of 69% of the West Bank and he states that this is clearly what the Israeli’s want the West Bank.

    Where will things go? In the direction that Mearsheimer projected..The Greater Israel beyond all legal boundaries with the Apartheid state becoming even more apparent?

    Where will this go? We know more illegal settlement expansion.

  5. traintosiberia
    October 13, 2010, 8:27 pm

    After 60 years this fact as enshrined in the archives of the mainstream media will be used by “Abba Eban ” that Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss one and he would be quoted by “Tom Friedman.”

  6. potsherd
    October 13, 2010, 9:43 pm

    Michael Oren gets a platform at the NYT: link to

    • Kathleen
      October 13, 2010, 9:55 pm

      “Some analysts have suggested that Mr. Netanyahu is merely making a tactical demand that will block any chance for the peace they claim he does not really want.”

      This sentence is accurate

      • Citizen
        October 14, 2010, 4:17 am

        Palestine: “Show your good faith by stopping the illegal settlements would daily decreases the land at issue for our future state.”
        Israel: “OK, we will–for a month or two. All you have to do is publically recognize our state as a Jewish state.”

        Palestine: “We have already recognized Israel as a state. But you have not stopped settlement expansion since 1967 although the whole world outside of Israel catagorizes your settlements as illegal sovereign state action.”

        Israel: “See, the Palestinians are not serious about peace.”

        Onlookers: What are the facts? That the settlements continue to expand no matter what regime is in charge in Israel. This is held to be illegal by the whole world except Israel, the illegal actor. Israel is a state that exists with full institutionalized citizenship rights going only to Jewish citizens, not its Christian or Muslim citizens. Conclusion: See Kathleen’s comment above. What would Hitler say? Well, he said the world had to recognize Germany as an Aryan Germanic state, and the Germans in Czechoslovakia were Aryan Germans with a right to be there and protected by Germany. The end result was a world war. Next!

  7. Kathleen
    October 13, 2010, 9:52 pm

    End the occupations take on negotiations
    link to

  8. syvanen
    October 13, 2010, 10:00 pm

    Alex, very good summary for the ways the press somehow always give the Israelis a positive spin on their positions in these negotiations. You are so right it has not changed over the last 20 years.

    This is redundant (been told so many times before) but it was not just the press. After the failed Camp David negotiations between Arafat and Barak, it was Clinton who told the world that the Israelis had no one to talk to. Dennis Ross drove the point home writing a whole book on how unreasonable the Palestinians were in those negotiations. How can we expect any change — Obama has put Ross into the middle of these negotiations yet again (talk about Lucy and the football).

    I really had so much hope for the Obama administration. It does seem that our politics are trapped in this endless loop. No one inside the beltway sees a way out. Today the US is stuck in endless war with the Moslem nations in the ME, and anyone who suggests efforts to break out of that cycle meets with charges of ‘antisemitism’ or ‘blame America first’ or being a ‘traitor’ to America’s basic values. How did this Zionist ideology get so embedded in what used to be considered the best interests of the United States??

    • Citizen
      October 14, 2010, 4:30 am

      Yes, that endless loop. In another arena, Obama put and kept the same people in charge of our financial-monetary system, the Fed, Treasury-SEC system-credit rating entities, the same people who caused the disaster
      American tax-payers and their children will be paying China at interest to bail out for generations. Why only a one-time Fed audit, if that? Why no resurrection of the chinese wall between deposit/commercial and investment banking? Geithner, the tax avoider? Summers? Bernake?
      (With Greenspan taking potshots from the senile sidelines when he was their spiritual father). Dennis Ross, again special consultant to Obama on the I-P issue?

  9. Kathleen
    October 13, 2010, 10:10 pm

    Had never read this letter to President Obama
    link to

    What a bunch of hooey. Boxer only mentioning Palestinian violence. Not the illegal settlements on Palestinian lands, the action reaction factor. The violence perpetrated on the Palestinian people daily. The deaths on the Palestinian side.

    Barbara Boxer working and negotiating for Israel. wonder if we can get the oath that Liebermann wants Arab Israeli’s to take and get a similar sort of oath for our congress people who are clearly working and negotiating for Israel all of the time

    • Kathleen
      October 13, 2010, 10:12 pm

      Sorry to see Senator Sherrod Brown’s signature on this.

      • potsherd
        October 14, 2010, 12:02 am

        The whole lot of them are a sorry bunch.

      • Citizen
        October 14, 2010, 4:42 am

        Yes. I’d like to see all of them get the boot. I’m especially sorry to see that grim white reptile Nelson of Florida on the list. Note that the letter declares only one substantive goal of the peace to be agreed to in the interests of all parties and those they represent: the security of Israel forever. So thinks are very own house of Lords.

  10. Shmuel
    October 14, 2010, 12:13 am

    Thanks Alex.

    To extend Abunimah’s Pizza metaphor, we have already “agreed” (with menacing looks from the burly waiter) that 9 slices are mine, and we should only discuss what happens to the other 3. You tell me I’ve got to stop munching on your 3 slices while we talk, so I come up with a brilliant solution: I’ll agree to eat your 3 a little slower if you tell the whole restaurant that I really deserve the 9 slices, that they are mine and my family’s by right, and that it was very rude of you to ever suggest otherwise. Burly waiter says “now there’s an offer you can’t refuse”. You refuse anyway, and people from the other tables give you dirty looks and me looks of sympathy, as I loudly proclaim “you see what I have to put up with? munch munch”.

    • tree
      October 14, 2010, 3:37 am

      I’ll agree to eat your 3 a little slower if you tell the whole restaurant that I really deserve the 9 slices, that they are mine and my family’s by right, and that it was very rude of you to ever suggest otherwise.

      I’d expand on it a bit more:

      I’ll agree to consider eating the 3 a little slower sometime in the future if you tell the whole restaurant that I really deserve all 12 slices, that they are mine and my family’s by right, and I am making an extremely generous offer in even sitting down to discuss with you the possibility of you getting some crumbs from the remaining 3, oops, make that 2, slices. And you will need to agree to my holding one of the remaining 2 slices for security reasons, for a time of my choosing. After all, by asking me to stop eating you pose an existential threat to my ever expanding waistline. Do you want me to starve? See, everyone, you only want to kill me! How can I negotiate with someone like that? (Munch, munch, munch…)

    • Citizen
      October 14, 2010, 4:44 am

      Gives renewed vigor to the word Chutzpah.

    • eljay
      October 14, 2010, 6:57 am

      >> To extend Abunimah’s Pizza metaphor …

      Yeah, that seems to sum it up nicely. The other patrons in the parlor must be “humanists” who can’t comprehend why Pally won’t just let you have the nine slices, give you a couple more, pay for the pizza and tip the waiter. After all, that would be “justice”!

  11. DICKERSON3870
    October 14, 2010, 12:17 am

    FROM ALEX KANE’S BLOG, 10/11/10:

    “…In January, I plan on joining a “Health and Human Rights” delegation organized by members of American Jews for a Just Peace. I will be traveling throughout the West Bank and Israel, meeting with various Palestinian organizations doing amazing work under horrific circumstances. I plan on staying in Israel/Palestine for over two weeks, learning, experiencing, reporting, writing and blogging. But I need your financial help. My initial goal is to raise $1,500 by mid-November—that will cover my plane ticket and additional costs related to the delegation as well as food and other necessities….
    …So please, consider helping me out again! It’s an easy process: just visit my blog here [ link to ], and in the right sidebar there is a PayPal donate button. Click on that and donate your heart out!

    ENTIRE APPEAL – link to

  12. seafoid
    October 14, 2010, 2:31 am

    Even if the Israelis get their spin out through the corporate media and everyone agrees it’s the Palestinians’ fault , what difference will it make? Israel will continue to expand YESHA and in 10 years’ time there’ll be 700,000 settlers in the West Bank. And 5 million Palestinians still living under occupation, in a Jim Crow setting, with no rights. And this is what Israel is basing its future on. That this will work.
    What happens today is irrelevant. It is all about consequences and for Israel the consequences are dire.

  13. wondering jew
    October 14, 2010, 2:51 am

    Two weeks from Tuesday are the midterm elections, it is feasible that nothing will change, because two years after that come the presidential elections. Nonetheless the current atmosphere is very much guided by the elections straight ahead and it shouldn’t be paid all that much mind.

  14. Richard Witty
    October 14, 2010, 3:21 am

    Did anyone read Oren’s op-ed?

    link to

    “NEARLY 63 years after the United Nations recognized the right of the Jewish people to independence in their homeland — and more than 62 years since Israel’s creation — the Palestinians are still denying the Jewish nature of the state. “Israel can name itself whatever it wants,” said the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, while, according to the newspaper Haaretz, his chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said that the Palestinian Authority will never recognize Israel as the Jewish state. ”

    Oren ignores the Palestinian request for simple clarification of proposed borders.

    He does have a point about acceptance of Israel as the state of haven for the Jewish people with A (not “the”) sentimental and physical presence, not quite indigenous but close.

    The big difference between “enough Zionism” and likud Zionism is the difference between “A” Jewish home, and “the” exclusive Jewish home.

    • annie
      October 14, 2010, 8:18 am

      He does have a point about acceptance of Israel

      no he doesn’t. what’s next, the demand of recognition god gave the land to jews? wonk room

      Speculating as to why the demand was introduced, Fayyad said “If it is intended to deal the refugees issue out of the equation, then let’s address that for what it is. Refugees is an element of the so-called permanent status issues, one of those issues that needs to be negotiated.” If the intention was to preempt the refugee issue, “then it’s a clear attempt at taking one issue out of negotiations,” Fayyad said, “a way to neutralize it before you begin negotiations. That would not be right.”

      besides, israel’s word means nothing. as duss points out in the diary link ( i recall you don’t read them) As has been noted before, under the 2003 Road Map, Israel already committed to freeze settlements — all settlements, indefinitely.

      palestine is no more a homeland for the jews than it is for palestinians or christians for that matter. it’s the holy land. you can’t impose your religious beliefs on other people. it’s another twisted demand for submission from a government who break promises time and again.

      • Richard Witty
        October 14, 2010, 11:33 am

        Somehow you missed the distinction between “A” homeland for Jews and “THE” exclusive homeland for Jews.

      • sherbrsi
        October 15, 2010, 2:53 am

        Somehow you missed the distinction between “A” homeland for Jews and “THE” exclusive homeland for Jews.

        Somehow Zionists forgot to make that distinction.

      • Richard Witty
        October 15, 2010, 3:41 am

        Some forgot, some remember.

        Attacking the ones that remember, is the way to make more forget.

      • Mooser
        October 15, 2010, 7:19 pm

        “Attacking the ones that remember, is the way to make more forget”

        Once again, as always, Richard posits the Palestinians as hostages.
        Better be nice or the Palestinians get it in the neck

  15. sherbrsi
    October 14, 2010, 5:56 am

    The groundwork has been laid for failed peace talks, but the “peace process” is in full motion. Netanyahu throws out a non-sequitor, which is sure to be approved by the round of Israel First politicians in American conditioned to prove their Zionist credentials, and thus the spotlight is on the Palestinians, rejectionist as always.

    The icing on the offer itself is how Netanyahu himself cannot even guarantee a settlement freeze even if the Palestinians were to accept Israel’s latest distraction. “I will be ready to convene my government and request a further suspension,” Netanyahu claims. What’s even more appealing about the offer, is that the settlers are under no obligation to heed any such “freeze.” From the WSJ article:

    Salah Issa, a construction foreman in the settlement of Beitar Illit, pointed to a bald hilltop slated for a new housing development. “Do you think they listen when Obama says stop? They don’t listen to anyone,” he said, referring to settlers.

    The building slowdown created a backlog of hundreds of units, said settler spokesman David Ha’ivri, who is affiliated with the Shomron Regional Council, which represents Israeli communities in the northern West Bank.

    “I expect that in the few months left till the end of the year 2010, we will compensate for our down time and begin building at least as many homes as we did in 2008,” he said.

    Yet, the media wouldn’t have relayed it any differently. America wouldn’t have reacted any differently. Which is why Kane’s ending statements say it all.

  16. David Samel
    October 14, 2010, 6:17 am

    Alex, from the very beginning, these doomed talks seemed to be merely an exercise for laying the groundwork for blame on the other side. Your excellent report on what might be Bibi’s checkmate move supports my early prediction that the Israelis were far more skilled in this chess match. Even if Abbas is able to escape and counter-attack, the peace talks were an obvious farce.

    Shmuel, your expansion on the pizza analogy is superb but reveals an Italian bias; in the US, most pies yield 6 or 8 slices, not 12. But I guess the definitive method of dividing pizzas must be found in Israel itself, where, as we all know, pizza was invented.

    • MRW
      October 14, 2010, 8:35 am

      Ditto on the superb pizza analogy, Shmuel. But you forgot the fall-back position: that God gave you the bread and water in the first place.

  17. Shmuel
    October 14, 2010, 9:13 am

    Pizza in Italy is generally not served sliced, so I actually did some research in order to “cater” to the US bias on this blog. My extensive research (ok, a 3.7-second Google search) revealed that in the US there is such a thing as a “large pizza” that can actually have 12 slices. Although pizza and all its component parts were indeed invented in Israel, the method of slicing it follows US custom – as a token of appreciation for all that “dough”.

    Glad you liked it. Of course you are right, but I decided to keep supreme beings out of it because God knows it is unbelievable enough as it is.

  18. Bumblebye
    October 15, 2010, 7:15 am

    The Guardian has just put up a piece by Danny Ayalon on this exact topic.
    Note that the oPt is now primarily Judea and Samaria with West Bank bracketed. No disappearing Palestine there then.

    link to

    • Bumblebye
      October 15, 2010, 7:20 am

      I’ve triple checked the link, but it won’t work! Currently second article on comment is free page.

      • Sumud
        October 15, 2010, 8:14 am

        For some reason whoever formed the link at Guardian mispelt Palestinian, functioning link is:

        link to

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