20 September '11
Joel Greenberg, the Washington Post's Jerusalem bureau chief, has been on the beat long enough to have learned basic on-the-ground facts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without staining his coverage with Palestinian falsehoods. But apparently not.
The latest example: In the Post's Sept. 20 edition, he writes the following:
"The Palestinians have refused to resume talks without a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which they say is swallowing up land they seek for a future state."
Greenberg should know by now that Benjamin Netanyahu, and before him Ehud Olmert, imposed a freeze on the boundaries of West Bank settlements. During their tenure as prime ministers, the number of settlements has been frozen, the boundaries of settlements have been frozen, and acquisition of land for new settlements or expansion of existing settlements has been prohibited. There is no "swallowing up land." The only thing that's not frozen is population growth within the boundaries of existing settlements. Children are born, an inconvenient truth at the Post.
So where does Greenberg come off writing that Israeli settlements are swallowing up more land in the West Bank? I realize he attributes this to the Palestinians. But when they so brazenly lie -- this is not an issue of spin, slant, or different narratives; this is a matter of hard, demonstrable reality being lied about -- shouldn't he point out what's really going on in the West Bank?
Far from swallowing up more land, existing Jewish settlements still leave about 95 percent of the West Bank for a Palestinian state, especially if one factors in the fact that, in any realistic two-state solution, most of the West Bank settlements would become part of Palestine, leaving only the few major population blocs close to the Green Line on the Israeli side.
As for East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians also covet, hard, demographic trends show that, since Israel reunited West and East Jerusalem in 1967, the Arab population of Israel's capital has grown about twice as fast as the Jewish population. Demographic projections expect the Arab share of Jersualem's population to rise to 40 percent by 2020 and reach parity by 2035.
Put another way, the Jewish population has grown by 140 percent from 197,700 to 475,000, while the Arab population has grown much faster from 68,600 to 244,800 -- an increase of 257 percent. The figures represent changes from 1967 to 2007.
In any future peacemaking that is for real, it's bound to be more difficult to separate Jewish neighborhoods from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem than in the West Bank. But Israeli prime ministers from Ehud Barak to Ehud Olmert have nevertheless offered to travel that route.
The Washington Post might want to keep these basic realities in mind next time Palestinians again propound claims that are factually baseless. But don't count on it.
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