Well, that didn’t take long. Roger Cohen waited eight months, perhaps hoping everyone would forget the truth, to blast out a misleading, elision-filled blaming of the Palestinian Authority for the Spring 2014 collapse of negotiations, in the form of a fawning interview of Tzipi Livni. His disingenuous NYT column is a recitation of standard Israeli talking points, like the classic hit, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Nary a true statement to be found in this biased, stenographic, embarrassing piece of propaganda.
Although Cohen claims to have uncovered the reason “Why Israeli-Palestinian Peace Failed,” in the entirety of his column, he never once mentions the historic US officials’ blaming of Israel, which included this indictment:
Israel’s “expropriating land on a large scale” to build colonies “on the territory meant for that [Palestinian] state” was the “primary” reason for the recent negotiations’ failure.
In contrast, Cohen merely calls the expansion of settlements a “a major irritant to Palestinians.” Like, perhaps, an unexpectedly large credit card bill? Watching Israel bulldoze your home, steal your land, and then build racist Israeli Jewish-only roads and apartments overtop of your land is an “irritant”? No, colonies and left theft are not an irritant, they are everything, they are the engine that drives the oppression of the Palestinians. For the past 66 years, Israel’s primary mission — no matter which political party was in power — has been to steal land from Palestinians and give this stolen land to Israeli Jews; “We will expel the Arabs and take their places,” in the words of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. This is the defining element, this is what is underneath not only the collapse of the Spring negotiations but all the major problems in Israel/Palestine, and Roger Cohen has never, and will never, name this core issue for what it is — until and unless he gives up the delusion that ‘liberal’ (settler-colonial, racist) Zionism will deliver us.
Back to Cohen’s column, which seems to be an opportunity for him to spin Tzipi Livni’s political posturing as if it were a set of facts to be reckoned:
I asked Livni if she would be prepared to freeze settlement growth in the event of any renewed negotiations, a distant prospect. She said she would, at least outside major blocs, because she did not believe settlement expansion served the goal of two states for two peoples.
Cohen does not bother to state that under international law and the Geneva Conventions to which Israel is a signatory, every single housing unit built in every single settlement on land Israel seized in 1967 is illegal, and this includes the ‘major blocs.’ Only in Israel, and among Israel’s Liberal Zionist supporters, does building in the ‘major blocs’ not count. Why even mention international law, when this is after all an opportunity for Cohen to pull night duty as Livni’s spokesperson? Leaving out all those inconvenient facts enables Cohen to imply that Livni is some kind of hero by being willing to consider freezing settlements ‘outside the major blocs.’
Remember Ali Abunimah’s famous pizza analogy: you can’t negotiate with a bully over a pizza while he’s devouring the pizza. So Livni is making it very clear: negotiate with a Likud-led government, and Israel will eat your entire pizza during the negotiations; negotiate with my government, and we’ll only devour half of your pizza (and I don’t give a damn that under international law, I have no legal right to even sniff much less taste your pizza.) And Cohen is starstruck!
The propaganda continues:
On March 17, in a meeting in Washington, President Obama presented Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, with a long-awaited American framework for an agreement that set out the administration’s views on major issues, including borders, security, settlements, Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem.
Livni considered it a fair framework, and Netanyahu had indicated willingness to proceed on the basis of it while saying he had reservations. But Abbas declined to give an answer in what his senior negotiator, Saeb Erekat, later described as a “difficult” meeting with Obama. Abbas remained evasive on the framework, which was never made public.
This, in Livni’s view, amounted to an important opportunity missed by the Palestinians, not least because to get Netanyahu’s acceptance of a negotiation on the basis of the 1967 borders with agreed-upon swaps — an idea Obama embraced in 2011 — would have indicated a major shift.
Shades of Camp David! After the Camp David negotiations collapsed, Israel’s apologists were quick to disseminate the myth of the generous offer — an offer that scholars later asserted never existed in any concrete, written form. We have no idea what, if anything, Obama presented to Abbas; we have no idea what this ‘framework’ actually was, or to what extent it was consistent with Palestinian legal, human, and national rights; all we know is Cohen says Livni says it was a ‘fair framework’ and that ‘the Palestinians missed an important opportunity.’ Cohen implies: Of course we should trust Livni, she is an expert on fairness in dealing with the Palestinians; just ignore the facts that she wants to steal more Palestinian land while negotiating with them, and has been the subject of international campaigns to arrest her because of her responsibility for well-documented Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
Cohen presents no Palestinian viewpoints on any of this. Or the US officials who blamed Israel. Just Tzipi Livni, from her lips to the pages of the NYT: unadorned deception.
P.S. – Added bonus elision points: Cohen neglects to mention Livni’s reported recent pledge to keep Jerusalem “eternally united,” a de facto annexation of the parts of Jerusalem Israel seized in 1967 and a foreclosure on the PA’s demand for East Jerusalem as their state capital.