WaPo Flacks Arab 'Peace' Plan

Secretary of State John Kerry, in his bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, is keeping most of his diplomatic efforts under wraps, except for touting a 2002 Arab peace plan as an "important element" in getting negotiations under way.

In turn, the Washington Post, in dispatches by correspondent Anne Gearan from Jerusalem and Ramallah, gives the Arab peace plan prominent mention -- while omitting a critical poison pill that would doom Israel as a Jewish state. ("Kerry hints he is hoping for a broad Israeli-Palestinian peace deal" April 9)

What exactly is the Arab League peace plan? It's the outgrowth of a Saudi initiative that subsequently was modified and then approved by the entire Arab League. Gearan reports that its aim is a comprehensive peace agreement in exchange for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines. To make it seem more palatable, she adds that borders probably would have to be adjusted to leave close-in settlements on the Israeli side, with Israel in exchange ceding some of its land to a Palestinian state.

But there's far more to the Arab League peace plan -- and all of it poisonous language with lethal consequences for Israel.

The biggest omission in Gearan's coverage is a proviso in the Arab League peace plan that calls for a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem in line with "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194." Res 194, adopted during the fighting over the creation of Israel, has been interpreted by Arab and Palestinian leaders as granting Palestinian refugees an ironclad "right of return" to their homes within Israel.

In turn, this would open the door for millions of Palestinians to swamp Israel as a Jewish state. Yet, Gearan utterly fails to give Washington Post readers the real lowdown and impact of Res 194 as the most critical and totally unacceptable element in the Arab League peace plan.

There are several other important omissions or distortions in her copy. For example, in reporting Kerry's diplomatic efforts, she writes that talks have been frozen for more than four years and that "neither side has yet dropped objections or pre-conditions." This is playing a fallacious equivalence game, assigning equal blame for the frozen negotiations. But it's nothing of the sort. Israel has been ready for years to resume talks without pre-conditions. It's Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who has piled on demands for unilateral Israeli concessions as pre-conditions for talks -- including freezing construction in East Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and release of Palestinian prisoners. Bibi has been willing, but not Abbas. Yet, Gearan falsely claims that Netanyahu "has [not] yet dropped pre-conditions" for talks -- when Bibi has made it clear time and again that Israel is ready to resume negotiations "without pre-conditions."

Also missing from Gearan's copy is another part of the Arab League peace plan that calls for further Israeli withdrawals from the Golan Heights as presumed restitution of Lebanese sovereignty. Yet, the United Nations has certified that Israel already has withdrawn from every last inch of Lebanese territory. One can only hope that Kerry has a better fix on all the poison pills in the Arab League plan than Gearan's sloppy coverage.

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

Secretary of State John Kerry, in his bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, is keeping most of his diplomatic efforts under wraps, except for touting a 2002 Arab peace plan as an "important element" in getting negotiations under way.

In turn, the Washington Post, in dispatches by correspondent Anne Gearan from Jerusalem and Ramallah, gives the Arab peace plan prominent mention -- while omitting a critical poison pill that would doom Israel as a Jewish state. ("Kerry hints he is hoping for a broad Israeli-Palestinian peace deal" April 9)

What exactly is the Arab League peace plan? It's the outgrowth of a Saudi initiative that subsequently was modified and then approved by the entire Arab League. Gearan reports that its aim is a comprehensive peace agreement in exchange for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines. To make it seem more palatable, she adds that borders probably would have to be adjusted to leave close-in settlements on the Israeli side, with Israel in exchange ceding some of its land to a Palestinian state.

But there's far more to the Arab League peace plan -- and all of it poisonous language with lethal consequences for Israel.

The biggest omission in Gearan's coverage is a proviso in the Arab League peace plan that calls for a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem in line with "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194." Res 194, adopted during the fighting over the creation of Israel, has been interpreted by Arab and Palestinian leaders as granting Palestinian refugees an ironclad "right of return" to their homes within Israel.

In turn, this would open the door for millions of Palestinians to swamp Israel as a Jewish state. Yet, Gearan utterly fails to give Washington Post readers the real lowdown and impact of Res 194 as the most critical and totally unacceptable element in the Arab League peace plan.

There are several other important omissions or distortions in her copy. For example, in reporting Kerry's diplomatic efforts, she writes that talks have been frozen for more than four years and that "neither side has yet dropped objections or pre-conditions." This is playing a fallacious equivalence game, assigning equal blame for the frozen negotiations. But it's nothing of the sort. Israel has been ready for years to resume talks without pre-conditions. It's Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who has piled on demands for unilateral Israeli concessions as pre-conditions for talks -- including freezing construction in East Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and release of Palestinian prisoners. Bibi has been willing, but not Abbas. Yet, Gearan falsely claims that Netanyahu "has [not] yet dropped pre-conditions" for talks -- when Bibi has made it clear time and again that Israel is ready to resume negotiations "without pre-conditions."

Also missing from Gearan's copy is another part of the Arab League peace plan that calls for further Israeli withdrawals from the Golan Heights as presumed restitution of Lebanese sovereignty. Yet, the United Nations has certified that Israel already has withdrawn from every last inch of Lebanese territory. One can only hope that Kerry has a better fix on all the poison pills in the Arab League plan than Gearan's sloppy coverage.

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

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