Blind to Palestinian Intransigence, NPR’s Daniel Estrin Sees Only Victimhood

The erasure of Palestinian rejectionism, and the exoneration of Palestinians of any responsibility for their stateless circumstances, is a persistent theme at National Public Radio. In the Weekend Edition Sunday broadcast yesterday, NPR’s Daniel Estrin completely adopts Palestinian talking points on Israeli plans to apply sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, falsely casting Palestinians as having turned every stone in a fruitless effort to establish a state while Israel has been the intransigent party, allegedly refusing to negotiate (“As Israel Vows Annexation, Palestinians Embark on a Risky Form of Protest“).

An accompanying online article, also by Estrin, begins:

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to annex parts of the occupied West Bank next month, with support from the U.S., Palestinians find themselves with no recourse to stop Israel from grabbing the land they seek for a state.

Further down, he writes:

As Palestinian leaders see it, Israel — by moving to annex territory instead of negotiating its fate — is not holding up its side of the peace agreements. So the Palestinians will stop holding up theirs.

Thus, in the NPR looking glass, it’s the Israelis who shun negotiations not the Palestinians.

The Jordan Valley, near Jericho (Photo by Andrea Levin)

Somewhat at odds with Estrin’s depiction of Palestinians who have made great efforts towards peace, Lulu Garcia-Navarro opens the on air segment with passive Palestinians who have no means of influencing the situation: Expectant Palestinians have “had to watch” from the sidelines as the Israelis fill the role of the only active player: “settlers move in” and “Israeli leaders say they’ll soon annex.” She reports:

Palestinians have long expected to establish an independent state in the West Bank. But for decades, they’ve had to watch as Israeli settlers move in with protection from the military. Israeli leaders say they’ll soon annex some of the territory, that is declare it part of Israel for its strategic value and its ties to Jewish history. So can Palestinians do anything to stop Israeli annexation?

Estrin’s answer is unequivocal: “Palestinians leaders have little leverage to stop Israel from annexing land.” Channeling The New York Times, which recently insisted that Palestinian President Mahmoud “Abbas has few other cards to play,” Estrin argues that the Palestinians have already tried everything, to no avail. He reports:

Palestinians have fought uprisings against Israel. They’ve signed peace accords, but none of it won them independence. Now they feel let down by the world. Years of international condemnation has not stopped Israeli settlements from growing in the West Bank.

But as CAMERA’s Gilead Ini previously noted, in 2009, after those signed peace accords, Abbas refused to join the negotiating table, despite the Israeli goodwill gesture of a 10-month freeze on settlement growth:

[W]hen Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu implemented a 10-month security freeze in order to coax the Palestinians to the negotiating table, Abbas essentially responded with a 9-month negotiating freeze. And after the moratorium on Israeli building expired, he again refused to talk peace.  

Moreover, over the long history Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian leaders repeatedly rejected the opportunity to establish a Palestinian state. The fate of President Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan was no different. The American president reportedly made several attempts to contact Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to discuss a peace proposal, but was refused each time, information confirmed by a high-ranking Palestinian official in the Turkish Anadolu news agency.

Ignoring negotiation of Trump’s proposal as an option, Estrin says that the Palestinian leadership’s “little leverage” leaves them with the following plan: “They’ve stopped cooperating with Israel on everything from taxes to policing to even matters of life or death,” a self-defeating move affecting salaries, along with the basic health and security of their own people.

Reports a few days ago, bizarrely ignored by Estrin, indicate that Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh submitted a four-and-a-half page counter-proposal to the Quartet. (There is very scant information available on this proposal.)

Besides renouncing cooperation with Israel, to the detriment of their own people, the Palestinian leadership has made some additional pronouncements, likewise not reported by Estrin. For instance, Shtayyeh has said that renouncing the PLO’s 1993 recognition of the State of Israel is now under consideration.

In addition, Estrin also ignores the fact that financial hardship notwithstanding, Shtayyeh has vowed the government’s steadfast commitment to continue transferring salaries to security prisoners and to families of terrorists killed while they carried out attacks against Israelis. Thus, while Palestinian Authority employees receive only 60 percent of their salaries, thanks to their government’s refusal to accept taxes transferred from Israel, would-be suicide bombers, and the kin of murderers, receive their payments in full.

Perhaps Estrin withholds this information because it that Palestinian leaders “vow not to resort to violence.” “We will continue to maintain law and order. We will not allow things to go into chaos under any circumstances,” Shtayyeh states in the broadcast.

Significantly, Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO’s executive committee, had a different message. According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Erekat said that the escalation of the “popular resistance” [ie, terrorism] and the continuing “national struggle” were the way to achieve an independent Palestinian state (Wafa, June 5, 2020).

In addition, an ominous report according to which the Palestinian Authority ordered the concealment of sensitive intelligence documents in anticipation of possible violence, a move that was last implemented before the start of the bloody Second Intifada, suggests a less calm scenario. Estrin overlooked this piece as well.

But Estrin doesn’t worry about complicating the tidy narrative showcasing Palestinians who have made every effort for peace, and even still now continue to promise quiet, despite the fact that they have no recourse aside from 1) shooting themselves in the foot by forswearing cooperation with Israel, or 2) bringing an end to the two-state solution.

Indeed, Estrin finds it appropriate to wrap up the sad story of Palestinians who have “no recourse to stop Israel from grabbing the land they seek for a state” by giving a platform to Palestinian intellectuals who are quite sure that wiping the Jewish state off the map is an equitable solution. Thus, columnist Dala Iriqat says on the air:

I mean, it’s a waste of time if we keep using the same tools and repeating the same statements and relying on the international community to put pressure on Israel. I mean, look at the ground. The number of settlements expansion — it left no space geographically speaking for our Palestinian state. We’re living annexation anyway de facto. So why don’t we sit back, watch it happen and have Netanyahu declare the end of the two-state solution?

Estrin amplifies Iriqat’s mesage, saying:

A lot of Palestinian intellectuals now say Jewish settlements growth in the West Bank has left no room for a viable state. They say the only option now is one state for Israelis and Palestinians, with equal rights for all and, though Israel would oppose this, ending the idea of a Jewish state.

Apparently not wanting listeners to be put off by the potential end of the “idea of the Jewish state” – (as opposed to the actual Jewish state?) – Iriqat reassures: “Universal values, universal human rights and civil rights will definitely prevail even if it takes time.”

Estrin does not bother asking any Israelis –intellectuals or otherwise – for their views, but had he done so, he might have heard from Aluf Benn, editor of  Haaretz. In the left-wing, anti-sovereignty plan newspaper, Benn wrote:

There is one person who can stop Israel from annexing settlements and large swathes of the West Bank, which is scheduled to happen on July 1, and that is Mahmoud Abbas. It wouldn’t require much effort on the Palestinian president’s part. All he needs to do is call, text or email the White House to request a meeting with President Donald Trump at which he announces his willingness to resume peace talks with Israel on the basis of the “deal of the century.” After a message like that, Trump will almost certainly ask Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze the annexation and enter into negotiations for a detailed final status accord, at the end of which a Palestinian state would be established.

But Abbas is settling for issuing the usual denouncements of Israel and the United States and the same old empty threats about “ceasing security cooperation” in the West Bank. He shows no sign, not a hint, no willingness to return to the negotiating table in return for halting the annexation. Israeli and American officials are drawing up a map of the territory to be annexed from the West Bank to Israel without involving any Palestinian in the discussion, and Abbas doesn’t care. He will only study the map after it is completed and published, rather than request consideration from the outset. …

Here’s a reminder: The PLO leadership under Yasser Arafat and Abbas rejected all the previous peace offers for the very same reasons, with the encouragement of Israeli leftists who dream about replacing Zionism with one egalitarian state between the Jordan River and the sea. But the balance of powers in the region does not favor this dream. It clearly leans toward Israel – as evinced by the shrinking amount of territory and sovereign authority that American peace plans have offered the Palestinians in the past 20 years. Will the Palestinians persist in their obstinacy until the little they’ve already obtained from the international community evaporates as well?

Thus, Benn’s message to Iriqat and Estrin is that universal values, universal human rights and civil rights need not take so much time. Just the willingness of the Palestinian leadership to engage in negotiations for Palestinian state. But, apparently, sharing that view would expose the bogus premise that Palestinians have already tried everything, done everything for peace.