Israeli media's annexation scare tactics – opinion

Many parts of the Israeli media, we find, are directly and indirectly using scare tactics to try and prevent implementation of the Israel law east of the Green Line.

A newsstand in Manhattan outfitted with ‘Fake News’ headlines was a stunt by the ‘Columbia Journalism Review,’ in October 2018. (photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
A newsstand in Manhattan outfitted with ‘Fake News’ headlines was a stunt by the ‘Columbia Journalism Review,’ in October 2018.
When news of the imminent move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem became known just over two years ago, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority warned that such a decision would have dire consequences on the peace process and the security of the region and the world. As we know, the embassy was transferred and nothing out of the ordinary happened. Nowadays, Abbas once again is repeating his threats, but our media, with very few exceptions, reports them without context and without reminding the public that such statements in the past have proved to be empty.
Jordan’s monarch, Abdullah II, was not less adamant at the time. He warned the Trump administration and the heads of Congress that the transfer of the embassy would harm peace efforts and would only strengthen terrorist organizations in the Middle East. This time, to preempt Israel from implementing its law in parts of Judea and Samaria, his threats are again aired. Here, too, without the necessary context. His dire predictions as to what Jordan would do have not materialized in the past.
Is Israel’s media providing us with a balanced perspective by experts on what could happen if the government applies Israeli law over some of the territories currently administered by a military governor since 1967?
Many parts of the Israeli media, we find, are directly and indirectly using scare tactics to try and prevent implementation of the Israel law east of the Green Line. The word “annexation” is bandied around. As any legal resource, easily located online, indicates, annexation is an administrative action relating to the forcible acquisition of one state’s territory by another state and is generally held to be an illegal act. Since a Palestinian state does not exist, nor has it ever, Israel will not be annexing Judea and Samaria, since the territory in question does not “belong” to any other state. True, many, especially in Europe, already today consider Judea and Samaria as belonging to the Palestinian Authority and for them, this is the vision of the two-state solution.
But why does our media have to accede to this wishful thinking and accept a term wrongly defined as relevant to the discourse? It should describe the expected act of the government for what it is – extension or application of Israeli law instead of military law, on certain areas in Judea and Samaria.
We are being warned day in and day out that removal of the military government will irreparably harm our relations with the democratic world as it is a violation of international law. Tel Aviv University’s INSS, a research institute and think tank, has summarized these dire warnings succinctly: Imposition of Israeli law on all the settlement areas might be considered to be an attractive option, but such a move is expected to undermine the stability in the West Bank area, which has been under stable control for the past 15 years. It will cause an outburst of violence and even seriously harm Israel’s international and regional standing as well as the peaceful relations between Israel and Jordan and Egypt, who will find it difficult to handle internal criticism over a unilateral Israeli annexation.
Of course, our media makes sure that we know that Europe will “punish” Israel for such moves. For example, it will retract Israel’s standing in the prestigious Horizon scientific program. European ambassadors are interviewed on the media to bring their government’s position.
This last Sunday, Efi Trigger, the moderator of Galatz’s early morning news program, aired his interview with the Belgian ambassador. Apart from allowing him unrestrainedly to express opposition to Israel’s intentions, not a single serious question was asked. For example, one could have expected that Trigger would remind the ambassador of the 100 years old San Remo decision and how European policy relates to it. If Israel’s implementation of law in Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights is considered to be a serious violation of international law, then what about the US recognition of our rights in the Golan Heights. What are the steps that the European Union has taken against the United States? Or, is it the old story of Israel being handled differently than other nations?
BUT, NO, these questions and many others are not being aired. The mainstream approach was well-described by Ben Caspit in his June 21 report in Maariv: “Most security organs of Israel will establish, with high probability, that any one-sided annexation will lead to violence. The GSS will, it seems, lead in predicting the dire consequences. In internal discussions the GSS predicted that a wave of terror will come especially from the South. It would then move to Judea and Samaria and in the worst case scenario turn into a general conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, turning even into a third intifada… The assessment is that the GSS will officially warn that there will be a round of violence which might lead to a total loss of control.”
Notice how Caspit uses scare tactics. There is not one piece of solid news in his whole article. He is predicting what the GSS will conclude even though the GSS is at present in the midst of deliberations.
Amnon Abramovitz of Channel 12 news notoriety brings the same message. Earlier this month, he commented on Trump’s plan: “It has destructive implications. The achievement, also of Netanyahu, in the past decade has been that the Palestinian issue has become marginal and an anti-Iranian coalition has been formed. Annexation will destroy this.” Abramovitz is even willing to credit Netanyahu with something as long as it can be used to prevent Israel’s legal changes. Of course, Abramovitz was against Netanyahu’s Iranian policy all along, especially his public moves against then president Barack Obama. But intellectual honesty is not one of the strong points of our media.
Another of our media icons, Nadav Eyal of Channel 13, reported on June 16 that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson considers that annexation will be a grave violation of international law. What he conveniently forgot is to quote the whole response. As reported in the Times of Israel, when “Asked in the House of Commons about possible sanctions on Israel if it goes ahead with the move, Johnson said: ‘I believe that what is proposed by Israel would amount to a breach of international law. We have strongly objected. We believe profoundly in a two-state solution and we will continue to make that case.’” In other words, Johnson sidestepped the question of what Britain will actually do. This was but another example of a public figure paying lip service, which implies that actually implementation of the law will not lead to any serious moves against it from Britain’s side.
Will these scare tactics affect Israeli and American policy decisions? We do not know. We would hope that the politicians are sufficiently experienced, as is the Israeli public, to understand that they are more a reflection of wishful thinking of a minority rather than reflecting reality. Scare tactics are but another stone on the gravestone of present day journalism.
The writers are members of Israel’s Media Watch.