The real question is: Does Netanyahu lie?

Israel/Palestine
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Republicans are outraged. The Anti-Defamation League is “deeply disappointed.” President Obama’s apparent agreement with French leader Nicolas Sarkozy that Israel’s prime minister is a “liar” has struck a nerve among hardline supporters of Israel in the U.S. But the exchange should raise this important question: is Benjamin Netanyahu truly a “liar?”

The answer is, well, yes. (This is not to let Obama and Sarkozy off the hook; as politicians, by definition they lie and obfuscate). 

To take one example of many, let’s examine parts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s May 2011 speech to Congress, where rapturous applause greeted him.

1. Netanyahu:

Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely.

This is false. Israel was a close ally of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship in Egypt–a dictatorship that brutally suppressed its own people. One week into the Egyptian uprising that overthrew Mubarak, Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz that Israel was calling “on the United States and a number of European countries…to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.”

2. Netanyahu:

[Iran] subjugates Lebanon and Gaza.                                                                                                     

This lie is almost too ridiculous to merit a response. Israel, not Iran, is blockading Gaza. Israel, not Iran, subjugates the people of Gaza so that they remain in an open-air prison, not allowed to travel or trade freely with the rest of the world.

3. Netanyahu:

In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War

Another distortion. Israel’s “proposals” to the Palestinian leadership in recent years consisted of plans to establish a non-contiguous, disconnected and toothless Palestinian state.

4. Netanyahu:

As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city.

Israel’s policy on Jerusalem and religious freedom privileges Judaism over other religion. Even the U.S. State Department knows it:

The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law applies to holy sites of all religious groups within the country and in all of Jerusalem, but the Government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the Government does not recognize them as official holy sites. At the end of 2008, there were 137 designated holy sites, all of which were Jewish. Furthermore, the Government has drafted regulations to identify, protect, and fund only Jewish holy sites. While well-known sites have de facto protection as a result of their international importance, many Muslim and Christian sites are neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property developers and municipalities. The Christian pilgrimage sites around the Sea of Galilee face periodic threats of encroachment from district planners who want to use parts of their properties for recreation

5. Netanyahu:

Israel withdrew from south Lebanon and from Gaza

South Lebanon? Sure (minus Shebaa Farms). But not Gaza. While Israel withdrew its illegal settlements and military from Gaza in 2005, they continue to exercise “effective control” over Gaza. Under international law, Israel remains the occupying power in Gaza.

Netanyahu is no truth-teller. Sarkozy got it exactly right.

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and blogger based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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