The BBC is often accused of bias when it comes to the way it reports on the Middle East conflict; Zionists say that it is anti-Israel, while pro-Palestinians say that the BBC's coverage favours Israel. Consider, though, the headline on an article which gives details of the Palestinians' refusal to acknowledge Israel as a "Jewish state" in return for which the Israeli Prime Minister would "convene" his cabinet to consider a freeze on settlement building in the occupied West Bank. The headline states, "Palestinians reject Israeli offer on settlement freeze". This clearly gives the impression that the Palestinian negotiators, who have been insisting on a settlement freeze, have "rejected" a reasonable Israeli offer. The Daily Telegraph makes no secret of its pro-Israel stance; its use of a similar headline ("Palestinians reject Israel settlement compromise") is, therefore, no surprise.
Given that the offer was conditional on the Palestinians agreeing to something that would alienate the 20% of the Israeli population who are not Jews, the headline is misleading, perhaps intentionally so. But that's not all, for it is worth looking at this whole charade to see exactly what is happening in the murky world of international diplomacy.
Israeli settlements are in breach of international law; they are illegal, and yet Israel is not only continuing to build across the occupied West Bank but also placing conditions for it to consider (not agree to) freezing settlement construction for a limited period. We are entitled to ask when the cessation of illegal activity became negotiable or conditional. Benjamin Netanyahu knows full well that the Palestinians cannot agree to his condition in any case, but the fact that he has made this "offer" demonstrates the devious diplomacy that has characterised and dogged the so-called peace process for years. Israel breaks the law, and Palestinians have to make concessions as "a confidence-building measure that will open a new horizon of hope as well as trust among broad parts of the Israeli public".
Anyone who takes an objective look at the peace process since the Oslo Accords were signed in the early nineties has to conclude that, if anything, it is the Israelis who need to build up trust in the Palestinian community, because they have failed to implement any of the requirements of Oslo and later agreements. And it is the Israelis, remember, who occupy Palestinian land; it is the Israelis who ignore every UN resolution and break international aw with impunity; it is the Israelis who used illegal munitions against the civilian population of Gaza last year; and it is the Israelis who are enforcing a blockade that is a collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians for voting for Hamas in 2006. The Israelis always have one excuse or another not to do what they have agreed to do, and then they blame the impasse on the Palestinians. This latest "offer" and "rejection" will be marketed to the public in the same way; Israel is generous and the Palestinians have refused to budge, ergo it is the Palestinians who are the obstacle to peace. The BBC and Daily Telegraph sub-editors who wrote their headlines have done their bit to help cement that myth in the public consciousness.
It is time for law-abiding people around the world to bypass the pro-Israel media and their dodgy headlines, Israeli propaganda and Zionist apologists and say it like it should be said: end the occupation. Illegality is not negotiable; it must stop. You don't negotiate with criminals, you prosecute them. The Israelis are using the negotiations to buy more time to build even more illegal settlements and Judaise even more of occupied Jerusalem so that when – if – "final status negotiations" ever take place, they will have even more occupied land to offer (that word again) in a land swap, probably for some swamp or patch of desert in the Negev.
Devious diplomacy indeed.