The following noteworthy events occurred in Israel and throughout the broader Middle East in the past 48 hours:
– Israel struck Iranian and Syrian targets in response to IEDs placed along the Israeli-Syrian border.
– Bahrain’s Foreign Minister landed in Israel for the first-ever ministerial visit from the Gulf nation.
– Iran fed uranium gas into advanced centrifuges underground in violation of the nuclear deal.
– U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel and visited a settlement; he also declared that BDS will be considered antisemitic by the U.S.
And yet none of this found its way into the print edition of the Globe and Mail. Instead, on November 18, the Globe published a front-page article about, you guessed it, a controversy surrounding Israel’s issuing building tenders for the construction of 1,257 new housing units in the southeastern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Givat Hamatos.
The manufactured outrage revolves around the Israel Lands Authority’s building plan, which has been in the works for six years, and which was steadfastly opposed by the typical chorus of Israel’s detractors including: The United Nations, European Union, the Palestinians Authority, Israeli NGO Peace Now, etc.
The Globe’s former Mideast bureau chief, Mark Mackinnon, authored the report which quoted a source claiming Israel’s planning was an “act of defiance” timed to coincide with U.S. President Trump’s last days in the White House, and as “Israel scrambles to expand settlement in anticipation of changing U.S. policy under Biden.”
What Mackinnon failed to acknowledge is that the area that Givat Hamatos is situated in has never been under Palestinian jurisdiction and it’s located outside the Green Line. Givat Hamatos is a neighbourhood in Jerusalem that Israel does not regard as a “settlement”. It’s situated in the eternal capital of the sovereign State of Israel, which is inside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and is surrounded by civilian neighbourhoods with people already living in the area. (The region originally housed new immigrants from Ethiopia).
Mackinnon also ignored that the plan stipulates that construction of Arab housing be built on private lands belonging to the nearby Palestinian town of Beit Safafa. As to the timing of the announcement, it’s important to note that back in February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the approval of 2,000 homes in these areas for Jews and 1,000 for Arab residents of Beit Safafa.
The doom and gloom scenario depicted in the Globe by Israel’s detractors that this building tender marks the death of the two-state solution is without foundation and this selective opprobrium ignores that under any peace plan, it’s widely understood that Israel will retain these areas and that they will not be part of a prospective Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem.
It’s noteworthy that in his article, reporter Mark Mackinnon myopically stated the following:
The Trump administration supported such construction and promoted a one-sided peace plan, drafted by the President’s son-in-law, that would have seen Israel retain such settlements in the West Bank. Underscoring that pro-Israel bent, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to arrive in the country Wednesday for an official trip expected to include the first-ever visit by a serving secretary of state to one of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law because they are built on land captured by Israel in a 1967 war.”
Importantly, Mackinnon ignored that the Peace to Prosperity plan outlines a $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies, and fund a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza. The plan also includes 179 infrastructure and business projects, and a billion dollars to build up the Palestinian’s tourism sector. This brings to mind the notion of not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Either way you slice it, to call the plan “one-sided” is simply inaccurate. It’s also false to assert that Jared Kushner was the only one to draft the plan. Other draftees included Jason Greenblatt, former Special Representative on Israel for the President, American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Avi Berkowitz, White House Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.
Also ignored by Mackinnon is that the Trump administration says it does not consider Israeli settlements as being “inconsistent with international law.”
Despite that the article focuses on a controversial topic, the Globe’s reporter did not quote a source who could explain the Israeli position. That position can be found in a Times of Israel article which quoted Israel’s governing coalition whip, Miki Zohar, who hailed the development as enabling contiguity between Jewish Jerusalem neighborhoods. “This is a neighborhood in a strategic place between Beit Safafa and Hebron Road. The construction here is essential to preserve Jewish contiguity between [the neighborhoods of] Talpiyot and Gilo,” said Zohar.
While there’s nothing wrong per say about the Globe covering this controversy, but due to the unfair and one-sided nature of this report, readers were misled about Israel’s building plans and how this may imperil the prospects for Mideast peace.
Take action now! Send your considered comments to the Globe and Mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org to register your concerns with Mark Mackinnon’s November 18 article: “Israel rushes settlement plans ahead of Biden taking office.”