An online acquaintance recently posted a link on Facebook to an article Myths And Facts On U.S.-Israel Diplomatic Row. In it, the anonymous author seeks to state for the record what the myths and facts are regarding the recent diplomatic tension between Israel and the US. I responded that I think that it is laughable how this purported "fact check" gets the facts wrong and instead tries to put its own agenda-driven spin on the situation. Here is my take on their facts:
(Claimed) Fact 1: Tensions Started When Israel Announced Construction Of More Settlements In East Jerusalem.
My Response: Israel announced approval for plans to build 1600 apartment buildings in a Jerusalem neighborhood called Ramat Shlomo.
Ramat Shlomo is located in North Jerusalem, not East Jerusalem. See the image to the right. People like to refer to all areas of Jerusalem that are located outside of the 1967 border ("the green line") as East Jerusalem. To do this as a rule is misleading. It implies that Israel is building in the middle of some completely Arab neighborhood, located in the Eastern part of the city (the section that the Palestinians would like to be their eventual capital). As you can see, Ramat Shlomo does not fit that description. It is a religious neighborhood, 100% Jewish that currently has 20,000 residents.
Israel announced that apartment buildings would be built. They did not announce that settlements would be built. Around here (ie: in Israel) and to anyone at all familiar with the region, a settlement is a Jewish town or collection of houses that is located in Judea and Samaria, outside of the 1967 borders, outside of Jerusalem. Think: Bet El, Kochav haShachar, Ariel, Efrat. Neighborhoods of Jerusalem are not normally referred to as settlements. (Even the Peace Now website makes a distinction between Jerusalem and Settlements on their policy pages).
Tensions did not start with Israel's announcement. They started with Biden's and Clinton's (i.e.: Obama's) reactions to Israel's announcement. These Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem (Ramat Shlomo, Ramot, Gilo, Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yaakov, Talpiot Mizrach - almost all of the sections of Jerusalem in purple on the map to the left - population over 200,000) were never on the negotiating table. It is not as if Israel has been promising these areas to the Palestinians and then did something brazen like this. Even the building freeze that Israel voluntarily agreed to (receiving nothing in return) was only for settlements in Judea and Samaria. See Leo Rennert in the American Thinker:
Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood of orthodox Jews in northeastern Jerusalem, is exactly the kind of place that all previous U.S. peace proposals envisaged as remaining under Israeli sovereignty. Construction of Ramat Shlomo began in 1993 (it now is home to 2,200 families with a population of 16,000) -- seven years before Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak offered Arafat their Jerusalem plan for a final peace deal -- with Israel retaining all Jewish neighborhoods, including Ramat Shlomo, while Arab neighborhoods would be folded into a Palestinian state.
This didn't have to be an issue, and Israel's announcement didn't have to cause such a brouhaha. It was not but a few months ago when Hillary praised Netanyahu for making the "unprecedented" of freezing building on Settlements outside of Jerusalem. Based on that, there was no reason for Israel to suspect that building in Ramat Shlomo would touch a nerve - the US knew that Israel would still build in Jerusalem, and had even given Israel praise for this. In this case, Obama was looking for something to cast Israel (and especially Netanyahu) in a bad light. This was the target of opportunity. (Note how the US had nothing negative to say about the Palestinians planning the dedication of a square in Ramallah in memory of a terrorist who murdered 38 Israelis).
For those who don't know much about the area, saying that Israel announced construction of more settlements in East Jerusalem sounds much more inflammatory. I offer the following correction: "Tensions Started When Biden Reacted to Israel's Announcement of Approval for 1,600 New Housing Units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish Neighborhood in North Jerusalem located outside of the 1967 borders".
(Claimed Fact 2): Israel Prime Minister Himself Says The Expansion Of Settlements In East Jerusalem Will Continue. Negating the supposed myth that "Decision To Expand Settlements Is A Bureaucratic Misunderstanding".
See above note related to the distinction between settlements and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. And even if you want to claim that anything in Jerusalem outside of the 1967 borders should be called a "Jewish Settlement" in "East Jerusalem", this is not an accurate quote of Netanyahu.
The article claimed that the decision to "expand settlements" approve apartments was a bureaucratic misunderstanding. This is not an accurate statement (why they are quoting Sen. Lieberman is beyond me). The timing of the announcement was a bureaucratic misunderstanding (probably). But the actual content of the decision was in line with Israel's policy for the past 40 years of allowing people to build in Jerusalem. No misunderstanding there.
(Claimed) Fact 3: The Ongoing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Endangers Our National Security
The claim here is that because the Arabs are upset at Israel, and the US is viewed as being allies of Israel, the longer the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes on, the worse off it will be for America.
Following this logic, the US should invade Israel, destroy its government and turn it over to the Arabs. All of the Arab/Muslim states in the region hate Israel and want to see it destroyed. This is not going to change any time soon. Using this statement as a reason to put pressure on Israel is tantamount to saying that "the existence of Israel Endangers Our National Security". Since the conflict looks like it is going to continue for just that long.
To quote a favorite blog on the subject: "This is why Generals are supposed to stay out of politics. What did Petraeus think the Arabs would say if he asked them the question? They will be satisfied with nothing short of the end of the Jewish state. And why did Petraeus repeat what the Arabs said at face value without trying to analyze it? Sorry, but Israel is not going to roll over and die because the Arabs are unhappy with us."
The interchange quoted between Biden and Netanyahu didn't happen. Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic: "Since I do not have overwhelming faith in the stenographic and interpretive skills of some Israeli reporters, I called the White House to ask if Biden actually said this. It would be quite something, of course, if he did. I spoke with a senior administration official last night who accompanied Biden on his trip to Israel, and he said that Biden did not say tell the Israelis that their actions were endangering American troops."
Update: Not only did Biden never say those things. Neither did Patraeus (!!)