WaPo Smooths the way for Obama's Israel Trip

Leo Rennert
The Washington Post runs a lengthy front-page article in its March 18 edition about President Obama's trip to lsrael, stressing his need to correct missteps in his first term when he applied one-sided pressure on Israel that spawned tense relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ("Obama's trip to Israel aims to fix missteps" by Scott Wilson).

In his article, Wilson, a former Post Jerusalem correspondent, also highlights Obama's mistaken view in his 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world that the Jewish state is rooted in the Holocaust and European persecution -- overlooking biblical ties to the land over a span of four millennia.

However, in expounding on this Obama miscue, Wilson commits a couple of missteps of his own.

First, in previewing Obama's visit to the grave of Theodor Herzl, Wilson gets Herzl wrong when he describes him as "chief theoretician of Zionism."

A theoretician is a student or authority on a given subject. That doesn't fit Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. Second, Wilson seems so intent on detaching himself from Israel's demonstrable historical claims to the land that he has Obama trying to "clarify his support for the Jewish state's theory of its historical roots." It's not a theory; it's a reality, Mr. Wilson.

Third, while the Bible indeed testifies to ancient Jewish roots, it's by no means the only such evidence. There is a huge trove of archeological proof of Jewish sovereignty in the land dating back a full millennium before the common era. There were about as many Jewish monarchs as there have been U.S. presidents. The Western Wall and Temple Mount stand today as reminders of the First and Second Jewish Temples. And even after the Roman conquest, there was a continuing Jewish presence in the land -- including many ancient Jewish towns -- over the last two millennia. Empirical evidence is just as potent as biblical evidence.

And these are not the only Wilson missteps. Here are several more:

● In Wilson's writing, Obama is about to embark on "his first presidential trip to Israel and the occupied territories." The West Bank is not "occupied," which suggests that it belongs to someone else besides Israel. The only previous sovereign was the Ottoman Empire. Since then, Jewish claims were internationally recognized by the League of Nations and post-World War I global powers. The accurate term for the West Bank is "disputed" land that awaits sovereign status pending a permanent peace agreement. Wilson jumps the gun by semantically and inferentially allocating the West Bank to the Palestinians.

● Wilson deliberately avoids calling Hamas a terrorist organization -- despite its terrorist designation by the United States, Canada and the European Union. He instead pulls out his own euphemism - "armed Palestinian movement, which calls for Israel's destruction." Hamas doesn't just call for Israel's destruction. It has presided over the lobbing of thousands of rockets at civilian populations in Israel. It has committed terrorism -- again and again.

● Wilson lets the Palestinians off the hook on the moribund peace process and instead blames Netanyahu for deep-sixing negotiations. Wilson recounts how, under pressure from Obama, Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month construction freeze in the West Bank, but blames him for not extending the freeze to East Jerusalem. Wilson does acknowledge that the Palestinians didn't show up for negotiations in the first nine months of the freeze, only appearing briefly in the final month. But whose fault is this? "The talks collapsed soon after when Netanyahu did not renew the freeze," Wilson writes. Not a word by Wilson that since then Netanyahu repeatedly has called for immediate negotiations without pre-conditions -- a position also espoused by the Obama administration -- but Mahmoud Abbas stoutly has refused to engage in final-status talks. Abbas gets a pass, while culpability is shifted to Bibi.

● Wilson writes that if Obama takes the shortest route to Bethlehem, "he will pass through the 24-foot high concrete wall built to separate Israelis and Palestinians -- a stark symbol of Israel's military occupation and the division of land that has occurred without a peace agreement." Balderdash! The wall is not a symbol of military occupation; it is a reminder that Israel sustained years of terrorist attacks and, exercising its right to self-defense, built a defensive barrier, which has a sterling record of preventing Palestinian suicide bombers from infiltrating into Israel and killing innocent civilians.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

The Washington Post runs a lengthy front-page article in its March 18 edition about President Obama's trip to lsrael, stressing his need to correct missteps in his first term when he applied one-sided pressure on Israel that spawned tense relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ("Obama's trip to Israel aims to fix missteps" by Scott Wilson).

In his article, Wilson, a former Post Jerusalem correspondent, also highlights Obama's mistaken view in his 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world that the Jewish state is rooted in the Holocaust and European persecution -- overlooking biblical ties to the land over a span of four millennia.

However, in expounding on this Obama miscue, Wilson commits a couple of missteps of his own.

First, in previewing Obama's visit to the grave of Theodor Herzl, Wilson gets Herzl wrong when he describes him as "chief theoretician of Zionism."

A theoretician is a student or authority on a given subject. That doesn't fit Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. Second, Wilson seems so intent on detaching himself from Israel's demonstrable historical claims to the land that he has Obama trying to "clarify his support for the Jewish state's theory of its historical roots." It's not a theory; it's a reality, Mr. Wilson.

Third, while the Bible indeed testifies to ancient Jewish roots, it's by no means the only such evidence. There is a huge trove of archeological proof of Jewish sovereignty in the land dating back a full millennium before the common era. There were about as many Jewish monarchs as there have been U.S. presidents. The Western Wall and Temple Mount stand today as reminders of the First and Second Jewish Temples. And even after the Roman conquest, there was a continuing Jewish presence in the land -- including many ancient Jewish towns -- over the last two millennia. Empirical evidence is just as potent as biblical evidence.

And these are not the only Wilson missteps. Here are several more:

● In Wilson's writing, Obama is about to embark on "his first presidential trip to Israel and the occupied territories." The West Bank is not "occupied," which suggests that it belongs to someone else besides Israel. The only previous sovereign was the Ottoman Empire. Since then, Jewish claims were internationally recognized by the League of Nations and post-World War I global powers. The accurate term for the West Bank is "disputed" land that awaits sovereign status pending a permanent peace agreement. Wilson jumps the gun by semantically and inferentially allocating the West Bank to the Palestinians.

● Wilson deliberately avoids calling Hamas a terrorist organization -- despite its terrorist designation by the United States, Canada and the European Union. He instead pulls out his own euphemism - "armed Palestinian movement, which calls for Israel's destruction." Hamas doesn't just call for Israel's destruction. It has presided over the lobbing of thousands of rockets at civilian populations in Israel. It has committed terrorism -- again and again.

● Wilson lets the Palestinians off the hook on the moribund peace process and instead blames Netanyahu for deep-sixing negotiations. Wilson recounts how, under pressure from Obama, Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month construction freeze in the West Bank, but blames him for not extending the freeze to East Jerusalem. Wilson does acknowledge that the Palestinians didn't show up for negotiations in the first nine months of the freeze, only appearing briefly in the final month. But whose fault is this? "The talks collapsed soon after when Netanyahu did not renew the freeze," Wilson writes. Not a word by Wilson that since then Netanyahu repeatedly has called for immediate negotiations without pre-conditions -- a position also espoused by the Obama administration -- but Mahmoud Abbas stoutly has refused to engage in final-status talks. Abbas gets a pass, while culpability is shifted to Bibi.

● Wilson writes that if Obama takes the shortest route to Bethlehem, "he will pass through the 24-foot high concrete wall built to separate Israelis and Palestinians -- a stark symbol of Israel's military occupation and the division of land that has occurred without a peace agreement." Balderdash! The wall is not a symbol of military occupation; it is a reminder that Israel sustained years of terrorist attacks and, exercising its right to self-defense, built a defensive barrier, which has a sterling record of preventing Palestinian suicide bombers from infiltrating into Israel and killing innocent civilians.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers