Deathly Silence: Obama’s Letter, Netanyahu’s Rejection, and Media’s Non-response

Following Israel’s capture of the West Bank in 1967, along with other territories including East Jerusalem, Israel has built and expanded Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land. The settlers enjoy the benefits of a separate, and far superior, civilian infrastructure to nearby Palestinian communities, and they are protected at great expense by the Israeli military. Under international law, the settlements are illegal. But despite private agreements with the US to rein in growth, Israel has continued the non-stop expansion of its illegal settlements. While the public stance of the United States is that it does not recognise “the international legitimacy” of the settlements, Washington has in practice provided decades-long support for Israeli policy.

Earlier this week, independent journalist Jonathan Cook reported facts that blow a hole through the standard deceit that the United States is an “honest broker” for peace in the Middle East.1 As Cook explains, details were leaked of a letter sent by US President Barack Obama to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister:

“Obama made a series of extraordinarily generous offers to Israel, many of them at the expense of the Palestinians, in return for a single minor concession from Netanyahu: a two-month extension of the partial freeze on settlement growth.”

The previous 10-month freeze on settlement growth in the West Bank, which has just ended, has not so far been renewed by Israel. This obduracy threatens to bring the negotiations to an abrupt halt. This was the deadlock that Obama’s letter was supposedly designed to break.

Netanyahu reportedly declined the US offer, while Washington denies that a letter was ever sent. But according to the Israeli media, US officials in Washington are “incensed” by Netanyahu’s rejection.

As Cook notes, the disclosures were made by an informed source: David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a close associate of Dennis Ross, Obama’s chief adviser on the Middle East, who is said to have initiated the offer.

Cook continues:

In return for a two-month extension of the settlement moratorium, the US promised to veto any UN Security Council proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the next year, and committed to not seek any further extensions of the freeze. The future of the settlements would be addressed only in a final agreement.

The US would also allow Israel to keep a military presence in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, even after the creation of a Palestinian state; continue controlling the borders of the Palestinian territories to prevent smuggling; provide Israel with enhanced weapons systems, security guarantees and increase its billions of dollars in annual aid; and create a regional security pact against Iran.

The Palestinian leadership, observes Cook, is certain to draw three major conclusions “from this attempt at deal-making over its head.”

The first is that the US president, much like his predecessors, is in no position to act as an honest broker. His interests in the negotiations largely coincide with Israel’s.

Obama needs a short renewal of the freeze, and the semblance of continuing Israeli and Palestinian participation in the ‘peace process’, until the US Congressional elections in November.

The second conclusion — already strongly suspected by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and his advisers — is that Netanyahu, despite his professed desire to establish a Palestinian state, is being insincere.

Finally:

The third conclusion for the Palestinians is that no possible combination of governing parties in Israel is capable of signing an agreement with Abbas that will not entail significant compromises on the territorial integrity of a Palestinian state.

There was next to no coverage of these dramatic revelations, and their implications, in the UK news media. As far as we can determine, the Independent has remained silent, along with The Times and the bulk of the national press.

One welcome, although brief, exception appeared last week on the Guardian website by its Jerusalem-based correspondent Harriet Sherwood.2 Oddly this did not appear in the print edition, as far as we can determine from searches of the Lexis-Nexis newspaper database.

A fleeting mention did, however, appear in the Guardian on Monday this week (and the following day in the paper). Stretching his journalistic muscle to all of 40 words, Guardian assistant editor Simon Tisdall wrote blandly in his “world briefing”:

“Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, is likewise refusing to budge. He reportedly told US officials that a 60-day extension to the building moratorium that expired last month, as sought by Obama, would damage his political credibility and endanger his coalition.”3

Note the conformity to the requirements of professional journalism to report facts, but only superficially and without the context and analysis that might offend power.

As far as we can see, the only other national UK newspaper to mention the latest disclosures was the Daily Telegraph which had a printed piece titled inoffensively – indeed, deceptively – ‘Obama tries to keep peace deal on track’. The earlier online version was more honest: ‘Barack Obama “sent Israel letter outlining assurances on peace talks”’.

As for the BBC, the search function on its news website is notoriously cumbersome to use; so it has been difficult to verify whether BBC news online has reported it at all. But an email from Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen (see below) strongly suggests the corporation has yet to mention the disclosures about Obama’s letter, Netanyahu’s rejection of it, and what these latest developments might mean for a proper understanding of the Middle East “peace process”.

Exchange With BBC Middle East Editor

On October 4, we wrote to Jeremy Bowen, asking whether he was aware of Obama’s letter and Netanyhau’s rejection of it. We also referred to Cook’s report, highlighting the main conclusions that could be drawn, as we saw above: namely, that the US is no “honest broker”; the timing of Obama’s letter with forthcoming US Congressional elections is unlikely to be a coincidence; and that Netanyahu, and indeed the Israeli leadership as a whole, is not a sincere negotiating partner.

We concluded in our email to Bowen:

“Were you aware of these disclosures? And do you plan to report them, and their significance?”

On October 5, Bowen emailed back:

Yes, I am aware of the American proposals, which have been reported extensively since David Makovsky put them in the WINEP [Washington Institute for Near East Policy] site.

I am in Lebanon working on a radio programme at the moment. I feel sure that the American offer will be part of my reporting when I am back with the Israelis and Palestinians.

We replied the following day:

It is noteworthy that the BBC has seemingly failed to report on President Obama’s letter, especially given the extensive resources at your disposal. Obama’s self-serving offer to the Israelis, and Netanyahu’s rejection of it, is significant for many reasons as reporter Jonathan Cook makes clear in his piece. The role of the US as ‘honest broker’, and the cynical realpolitik of the timing with US Congressional elections in November, are laid bare; as is Netanyahu’s obstructionism and insincerity. The story is all over the Israeli media.

There were thus compelling reasons for the BBC to bring these disclosures in a timely and fully explanatory way to the attention of the public. That the BBC’s Middle East bureau is seemingly unable or unwilling to do so, regardless of whether you happen to be in Lebanon working on a radio programme, is grim news indeed.

By denying the public vital facts that enables us to form a fully rounded picture of what’s going on, you have surely neglected your professional responsibilities. This matters because ultimately people’s lives depend upon the truth being reported.

  1. Jonathan Cook, ‘Obama’s Cave-In to Israel’, Dissident Voice, 4 October, 2010. []
  2. Obama offering Israel incentives to extend freeze on settlement construction, say reports’, guardian.co.uk, 30 September 2010. []
  3. Obama faces humiliation over Middle East talks’, guardian.co.uk, 4 October 2010. []
Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The most recent Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2018 by Pluto Press. Read other articles by Media Lens, or visit Media Lens's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on October 7th, 2010 at 7:45am #

    Is there anybody out there who’s willing to admit that they thought the US was an honest broker? This is the biggest non-story of all time, which is probably why editors didn’t mention it! You don’t need to start the weather forecast by announcing that the sun will rise tomorrow morning! If Mr Media and Mr Lens didn’t know that the US is in Israel’s pocket, then they must be the last people on earth not to know and are thus not much of a “media watchdog”. The positive side of this is that they are on the defensive. They still attack the BBC and give Murdoch a free pass, but they now feel obliged to make a passing reference to other media.

  2. bozh said on October 7th, 2010 at 8:29am #

    One does not the continuous absence of US or onepercenters’ role in all this.
    The issue is assiduously personalized. It seems it is always about arafat, sharon, clinton, abbas, and now obama, the manager of one safeway store.
    So is O saying d’etat ce moi or as tsarina wld say: rosiya, moye tsarstvo!.

    In that case talking about a tsarina or clinton woulkd be talking about rossiya and US.

    So, people say: if abbas wld show a backbone or O wld not cave in, we’d have peace in palestina in no time!

    But abbas just will not stand up to israel?. Standing up to israel, as hamas did dec ‘o8, showed us what?

    Of course, abbas is standing up so vigorously to UK, germany, rossiya, france, canada, et al that one cannot hear a whimper from them. They are cowed by him and his mighty army to that point that they are now supporting two-state ‘solution’: separated municipalities or counties for pal’ns and ad a country for disparate peoples called “jews”. tnx

  3. 3bancan said on October 7th, 2010 at 8:42am #

    MichaelKenny said on October 7th, 2010 at 7:45am #

    Another profound truth unearthed by the Bozh-quality brain Tel Aviv joker…

  4. mary said on October 7th, 2010 at 8:56am #

    Perhaps Kenny would like to put this one in his pipe and smoke it. A fascist member of his precious EU sets its police on a protester.

    Former Red Pepper worker arrested and tortured
    Posted by The Editors (Medialens) on October 7, 2010, 12:48 pm

    Received a few minutes ago via Pluto Books email newsletter. Marianne Maeckelbergh has published a book with Pluto (www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329253&).

    Eds

    ==

    Former Red Pepper worker arrested and tortured

    Last Friday, during the No Border Camp: a convergence of struggles aiming to end the system of borders that divide us all, Marianne Maeckelbergh (US citizen and professor at the University of Leiden, Netherlands), a former Red Pepper worker, current contributor and a long-time global justice activist and the author of ‘The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement Is Changing the Face of Democracy’, was arrested for taking pictures while police were making arrests in Brussels, Belgium.

    Having just entered Belgium, some two hours earlier, she witnessed violent arrests on the street. When Marianne began taking pictures, she was arrested. She was taken into police custody where she was violently dragged by her hair, chained to a radiator, hit, kicked, spat upon, called a whore, and threatened with sexual assault by the police. She also witnessed the torture of another prisoner also chained to a radiator.

    This did not take place not in a dark corner of the police station but out in the open, directly witnessed by police station authorities, who gave the impression that this was standard practice. Police removed her ID card, USB stick, the camera with the photos on it, as well as 25 euros in cash – to date they have refused to return her property.

    Roughly 500 people were arrested, many preemptively, including people involved in the No Border Camp and other protest activities including an alleged attack on a police station. Marianne has now been released but as of Wednesday 6 October, 2010 at least four people are still incarcerated.

    Your help is needed to secure the release of the remaining prisoners and to demand that the police are held accountable.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO:

    • Call, email or fax Belgium’s UK Ambassador, H.E. Ambassador Johan Verbeke to demand the immediate release of all prisoners and express your outrage at the torture, abuse, and unjust incarceration of Marianne and others.

    Ambassador’s Secretariat Tel: 020 7470 3700
    Ann.Willems at diplobel.fed.be Katja.Wauters at iplobel.fed.be

    For more information contact Adam Weissman, adam at wetlands-preserve.org

    6 October 2010
    http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Former-Red-Pepper-worker-arrested

    and an e-mail sent to the UK Ambassador to Belgium

    Posted by Stephen on October 7, 2010, 1:59 pm, in reply to “Former Red Pepper worker arrested and tortured”

    Thanks Eds,

    My email to the recipients mentioned:

    Dear UK Ambassador to Belgium,

    Hope you are well.

    What’s this about?

    *Former Red Pepper Worker Arrested and Tortured*

    (members5.boardhost.com/medialens/msg/1286452087.html)

    The Belgian police are out of control. This requires the strongest
    representations to be made to the Belgian authorities, please, on
    behalf of UK citizens. Do we not have rights under EU, to say nothing
    of Belgian, law?

    Do you condone US citizens, or any other for that matter, being
    arrested, humiliated, and physically abused for, wait for it, TAKING
    PHOTOGRAPHS?

    Where is this leading? The state surveils us everywhere but reacts
    hysterically when surveiled.

    Enough.

    Thank you for reading.

    Best Wishes,
    Stephen

  5. bozh said on October 7th, 2010 at 12:24pm #

    i see that 3ban still eats his heart out and thinks he’s of some use to educators? Be my guest! Everybody has the right to say anything s/he wants, but wasing everybody’s precious time for self and others.
    An who am i, to give hoot if people what to read what he says as obviously he’s by nature a very troubled person; so; all he does is attack a person who does not agree with his one or two issues he loves so much: hatred of ‘jews’ and love of his beloved america which ‘jew’ are stealing from him!

    It makes not a tad difference whether obama or lieberman would become US president— one is still left with an extremely rotten system and a criminal empire. tnx

  6. Leigh1940 said on October 7th, 2010 at 9:41pm #

    What frustrated me this week was to read an article in the Washington Post by Aaron David Miller, the former American negotiator/adviser who famously described the US’s role as “Israel’s lawyer” in 2006. He wrote that pressure on Israel wouldn’t work and that previous concessions from Israel (which ones?) were obtained through American offers of further support; so basically approving of Obama’s current begging strategy. But can he not see that rewarding someone who continuously behaves badly is just another case of acting as Israel’s lawyer? Offering support in exchange for concessions has been failing for decades, so we know that fails. Let’s give pressure a try.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 8th, 2010 at 4:08am #

    Obama is, of course, Judeofascist property and has been for years, but even for such a creature the treachery and contempt for the Palestinians, and obsequious grovelling to the Judaic ubermenschen is truly ghastly. Another piece of their property, in my opinion an even more psychotic and diabolical piece, Blair, was at the same WINEP the other day, doing his trained dog act for his Zionazi masters. Sorry, that should be ‘brain-damaged’ trained dog.
    The vile psychopath, possibly one of the most evil creatures extant, in my biased opinion at least, enjoying his immunity from war crimes trials to make lots of money, and to urge the destruction of Iran at every opportunity, to his Zionazi masters’ obvious approval, offered yet another master class in Newspeak and pathopsychological gibberish. According to this mass murderer, Moslems only imagine that the West, or its Judeofascist owned political caste, are attacking Islam and favouring the Judaic Herrenvolk. Apparently these deluded primitives think that the West has invaded, subverted and blockaded Islamic countries since 1947, aided and or installed numerous sub-fascist despots, cosseted the ultra-racist Zionist pathocracy, with its state religion of absolute contempt for the rest of humanity and done everything they can to empower Islamic religious fanatics and set Sunni against Shia. Of course the ‘truth’ as revealed to vessels like Blair through whom the Chosen People speak as through a particularly manky ventriloquist’ s dummy, is that the Israel, and its Sabbat Goy stooges in the West, are the highest point of human evolution, paragons of ‘moral purity’ and bringers of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to the two-legged animals.
    It’s often when I see Blair in action that I most sense the moral and spiritual decay of humanity, the West in particular, most profoundly. As I have said, I believe Blair to be almost unimaginably evil, almost comically banal in his utterly unmerited self-regard, and truly driven by some obscure bloodlust, as is witnessed, in my opinion, by his drive to see Iran follow the fate of Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I believe that the influence of Zionazi money power, to corrupt the entire Western political and media propagandising caste, is the greatest impetus in the moral and spiritual diabolisation of the West. The evil of the Israeli state is, in some ways, unprecedented in history, in its ability to spread the poison of absolute racial and cultural contempt and hatred throughout the West. Every day brings some new horror of demonisation, vilification and hatred, by a vast army of Zionazi hatemongers, and the whole operation, hidden in plain sight, brings not a word of condemnation (perish the thought! The anti-semitism of it all!), indeed, as this article illustrates, the very fact of its existence is unmentionable.

  8. mary said on October 8th, 2010 at 5:14am #

    All so very true Mulga.

    Escalation of violence is now occurring. Just what Abbas, Netanyahu, Clinton and Obama want so the so called ‘peace’ talks can fizzle out in the background like a damp squib.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11499463

  9. Rehmat said on October 8th, 2010 at 9:04am #

    Alex Spillius wrote in British daily Telegraph on September 30, 2010 that Ben Obama has sent a letter to Benji Netanyahu outlining assurances on peace talks.

    David Makovsky, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank of Israel Lobby (AIPAC) headed by Martin Indyk, former US Jew ambassador to Tel Aviv – wrote that a draft letter was agreed between Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, and Yitzhak Molcho, the chief Israeli negotiator.

    According to the leaked information, Ben Obama gave the following assurances to Benj Netanyahu:

    1. The future of the (illegal) Jewish settlements recently implanted in the Palestinian Territories would not be decided prior to the negotiations, but would be discussed in the course of the negotiations.

    2. The United States will veto every resolution proposal concerning Israel, regardless of its origin, for the duration of the negotiations, set to last for one year.

    3. Washington recognizes the legitimacy of Israel’s security demands and will not try to modify them. US annual military aid to Israel, currently at 3 billion dollars, would be increased and Tel-Aviv could have acces to new weapons and surveillance systems, including satellite surveillance.

    In other words, the Zionazis just have to sit across the table with the un-elected politicians of Palestinians to gain all the above additional benefits.

    The two-state solution, defended by Ben Obama at the UN, does not mean that they will share the same rights. On the contrary, the territory of the future Palestinian state will be regarded as an extension of Israel’s strategic depth. Consequently, the Palestinian State will be unable to have its own army and will be required to open its territory at the behest of the Israeli army. Under such conditions, the Palestinian State will be nothing but a fiction, similar to the South African Bantustan of the Apartheid era; in other words, a legal screen allowing the continuation of an apartheid system between Palestinians and Israelis while preserving Israel from criticism. Finally, with the moratorium lasting only two months and with Israel having total impunity, each extension of the moratorium will be to the detriment of the Palestinians, who will be compelled to make a further concession each time in order to obtain respect for their rights.

    Like every previous ‘peace negotiation’, the current negotiations have been geared towards yielding new ground to Israel and not towards achieving peace.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/obama-benji-i-got-you-covered/