“I want to enter direct talks with the Palestinian leadership now. I call on President Mahmoud Abbas to meet me in the coming days to begin peace talks so that we can have and fashion a final peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.” — Benjamin Netanyahu, July 7, 2010
The above statements, made about a year apart, encapsulate Israel’s position on peace talks with the Palestinians. Again and again, the country has called for unconditional, face-to-face negotiations. Again and again, the Palestinian leadership, despite US pressure on them to come to the table, has insisted it will not participate in direct talks until Israel meets its preconditions.
So why is it that the Associated Press is labeling Israel’s stance as hardline, while sparing the Palestinians from such negative and subjective judgement terms?
An August 15, 2010 story by AP’s Karin Laub begins:
Israel will not accept conditions for resuming direct negotiations with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Cabinet ministers affirmed in a meeting late yesterday, reflecting a hard line just as invitations to the talks appeared to be near.
The Palestinians want the framework and agenda of negotiations worked out ahead of time.
While Ms. Laub may consider Netanyahu’s position, including his calls for immediate negotiations without any preconditions and acceptance of a Palestinian state that would not threaten Israel’s security, to be “hardline,” many observers disagree, considering this stance moderate. Arguably, it’s a lot more moderate than the stance of Abbas’ government, which has retreated from nearly two decades of engagement in direct talks, hardened the conditions it will accept before resuming direct negotiations, and failed to soften its position concerning major issues such as Jerusalem, land and the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Making the anti-Israel editorializing all the more glaring, the next sentence hinting at Abbas’s foot-dragging withholds judgement completely. Is it hardline to offer direct talks with no preconditions, but not hardline to refuse to talk directly unless conditions are met beforehand?
According to AP, yes — so long as it’s the Palestinians who are imposing conditions and the Israelis who want immediate direct peace talks. On the other hand, here is how AP described Israel’s decision several years ago to refrain from talks until Palestinians met basic conditions:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that peace talks with the Palestinian coalition government would be impossible as long as it refuses to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. …
The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday endorsed Olmert’s hard line, urging the West to maintain harsh economic sanctions imposed with last year’s election of the militant Islamic Hamas. (March 19, 2007, Josef Federman)
In short, when Israel wants unconditional peace talks, the AP describes it as a hard line; when Israel wants conditions met before engaging in talks, the AP describes it as a hard line; and when the Palestinians want conditions met before meeting with Israelis, the AP refrains from any negative characterization of their refusal to talk.
Why is this?