Paul Harris’s Dec. 1 Guardian piece, ‘Clinton and Hague attack Israel decision to build new settlements‘, reported on Netanyahu’s decision to approve the planning process for construction of 3,000 homes on land East of Jerusalem.
Harris, in an effort to contextualize Israeli plans to proceed with new construction, included the following claim, near the end of his report:
“Israel agreed to freeze settlement construction under the Roadmap For Peace plan in 2002. But it has failed to comply with that commitment despite repeated and widespread international condemnation.”
Harris’s claim is, at best, highly misleading.
Originally, Israel, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, specifically rejected the elements of the Road Map (proposed by President Bush in 2002) which required Israel to halt settlement construction – a fact widely reported in the media at the time.
However, even when Israel announced, later than month, that they accepted, in principle, the goals of road map, they added a list of reservations. One of these reservations stipulated that, while they would “discuss” the issue of a settlement freeze and removing illegal outposts, any such Israeli concessions would be contingent upon the Palestinians combating terror, putting an end to incitement and educating their people for peace.
Specifically, regarding the “settlement freeze”, the Israelis also explicitly asserted their continued right to settlement development within the existing communities – a partial freeze measure, again, only to commence when the Palestinians began fighting terror and working to end incitement.
In 2004 the 2nd Intifada was still raging, and there was indication that the Palestinian requirement was being fulfilled.
So, the settlement freeze was part of a larger ‘road map’, implemented by a U.S. President no longer in office, was only partial to begin with and was contingent upon reciprocal Palestinian behavior in honoring their commitment to end terror – a relevant factor given that the Intifada didn’t end until February, 2005.
It’s also odd of Harris to cite a peace proposal from 2002, the terms of which were, at best, unclear, in light of President Obama’s more recent request, in 2009, which Netanyahu agreed to, for a 10 month freeze in construction to advance the peace process.
So, Harris’s claim, that Israel agreed to the freeze, and that they failed to comply with it, is, at best, extremely misleading.
One final note: A Sky News report published on Dec. 1, more than an hour before Harris’s piece was originally published at the Guardian, includes some of the same exact language about Israel’s alleged failure to abide by an agreement to freeze construction in 2002:
Sky News, 17:05, Saturday December 1, 2012:
“Israel agreed to freeze settlement construction under the Roadmap for Peace plan in 2002 but has failed to comply with that commitment.”
Paul Harris at the Guardian, 18.28, Saturday 1 December 2012:
Israel agreed to freeze settlement construction under the Roadmap For Peace plan in 2002. But it has failed to comply with that commitment…
Is it a coincidence that both Harris and the (uncredited) Sky News report used the precise same 22 words in a row in similar stories filed within an hour and half of one another?