The Real Scoop on Israel's Land Decision

In reporting Israel’s decision to declare nearly 1,000 acres of the West Bank as state lands, our media were quick to round up the usual Palestinian suspects for denunciation of Israel’s move as a land grab to expand Jewish settlements so as to doom a two-state solution.

Washington Post correspondents William Booth and Ruth Eglash obliged with a major article in the Sept. 1 edition that takes up half of page A10  (“Israel proposes taking more West Bank land for settlers”)

The second paragraph of the Booth-Eglash article cites Peace Now as calling it “the largest land appropriation in 30 years.” Then there is the always dependable Hanan Ashrawi who calls the move part of Israel’s intent “to wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land and to willfully impose a de facto one-state solution.”

And piling it on even more, Booth and Eglash quote Hagit Ofran, director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, as calling Israel’s zoning proposal a prime example of  “weakening the moderate voices of the Palestinians and strengthening Hamas and those who say they don’t talk to the Israelis because they do not want peace.”

Next to all this overwrought Palestinian rhetoric you might expect firm rebuttals from the Israeli side. But alas, it’s not there. 

Here, for example, are three points Booth and Eglash overlook:

1. Even assuming that Israeli courts give a green light to development, this piece of land is part of Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements near the 1949 armistice line that would be a prime candidate for Israeli retention under any conceivable peace agreement. The generally accepted view of a peace deal envisages creation of a Palestinian state in about 95 percent of the West Bank, plus of course 100 percent of Gaza. This latest Israeli move with regard to West Bank lands doesn’t disturb this scenario by one iota. And it does NOT breach contiguity of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

2. Under the Oslo agreements, this piece of land is in Area C, where Israel has full planning and zoning authority. The agreements were signed by Yasser Arafat.

3. The land initially belonged to Jews and remained that way until 1948 when Arabs ethnically cleansed it from Jewish residents. It was eventually liberated from Arab occupation during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Given all the space allotted to Palestinian propagandists, it would have behooved Booth and Eglash to furnish Post readers with a modicum of objective context.

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