Illustrating MSNBC’s recent level of commitment to accuracy in covering the Jewish state, Velshi brought on former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) adviser Diana Buttu, who is notorious for her record of outlandish lies about Israel.
Buttu has, for example, repeatedly claimed that the rockets fired by Palestinian terrorist groups “don’t have an explosive head” (they do). She has falsely claimed on MSNBC that Israel’s security fence along the Gaza border is “electrified” (it isn’t). She even has a record of lying about fiction, having claimed to the New Yorker that the Israeli hit television show Fauda never uses the word “occupation” (it does) and never shows Israeli checkpoints (it does).
It is thus no surprise that on Saturday, Buttu once again reverted to peddling falsehoods to attack the Jewish state.
During the interview, Buttu claimed, “It’s impossible to have a two-state solution. You can’t have two states when there are three-quarters of a million settlers that are living on approximately 60% of the West Bank land.”
It’s an intentionally misleading and dishonest claim.
Buttu is referencing “Area C,” one of the geographical areas created under the Oslo Accords – a series of agreements between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization creating an interim arrangement pending a final peace deal – which comprises approximately 60% of the territory known either as the West Bank or as Judea and Samaria. Under the Oslo Accords, while the Palestinian Authority has substantial autonomy in Areas A and B, Israel retains full administrative and security authority over Area C where the Israeli settlements are mostly located. (Note: While Buttu’s interviewer, Ali Velshi, has previously claimed that the “map of the Palestinian Authority…has been carved up by Israel over the past century,” it is worth noting that the Palestinian Authority did not exist until the Oslo Accords created it 29 years ago and gave Palestinian Arabs a level of self-rule for the first time in history.)
However, contrary to Buttu’s misleading statement, Israeli settlers are not “living on approximately 60% of the West Bank land.”
For one, there are also approximately 400,000 Palestinians living in Area C, too.
But more significantly, Area C is, in fact, sparsely populated. While Areas A & B include those lands populated by Palestinians, Area C includes not just Israeli settlements, but also swathes of unpopulated and unused lands.
While there are approximately half-a-million Israelis living in the West Bank, they are largely concentrated in settlement blocs near the “Green Line” (i.e., the armistice line between Israel and Jordan that existed between 1949 and 1967). Approximately 80% of the settlers live in just eight such settlement blocs that take up just 4% of the West Bank, not 60%.
It’s only by dishonestly suggesting Israelis live on “60%” of the West Bank – erasing the empty lands and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the same territory – can Buttu arrive at her central thesis that the presence of Israeli settlers is to blame for the absence of a two-state solution.
Repeated Israeli peace offers have involved very limited amounts of West Bank territory going to Israel in exchange for Israel swapping some land on its side of the 1949 armistice line. For example, in the 2007 Annapolis talks, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal involved the Jewish state taking every major Israeli settlement bloc, which amounted to just 5.9% of the West Bank territory, in exchange for a similar amount of Israeli territory being given to the proposed Palestinian state.
Buttu’s claims are even undermined by the admission of another former PLO actor, Saeb Erakat. Reflecting on a later peace offer by Olmert in 2008, Erakat told Al Jazeera TV:
Olmert, who talked today about his proposal to [Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas], offered the 1967 borders, but said: ‘We will take 6.5% of the West Bank, and give in return 5.8% from the 1948 lands, and the 0.7% will constitute the safe passage [between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip], and East Jerusalem will be the capital, but there is a problem with the Haram and with what they called the Holy Basin.’ [Abbas] too answered with defiance, saying: ‘I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places.’ This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign.
In other words, the problem was not that Israelis are “living on approximately 60% of the West Bank land” as Buttu claims, or even just the 4-6% making up the settlement blocs; it’s Jews living on any land in the West Bank.
In this regard, it’s worth noting that while earlier in the interview Buttu accused Israel of engaging in an “ethnic cleansing process,” it’s the Palestinian Authority that has actually made ethnic cleansing its goal. Not only did its leader reject any land swaps in pursuit of peace and a two-state solution, but Abbas made clear several years later, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli, civilian or soldier, on our lands.”
Indeed, Buttu herself echoed this position during the interview, stating “the two-state solution is only possible if there is a political decision to take the settlers out of the West Bank,” territory which has already been ethnically cleansed of Jews once in modern history during the Jordanian capture and occupation of the land.
By bringing on someone with such a record of outlandish lies, and by refusing to either push back with the facts or bring on an opposing perspective that could have countered Buttu’s falsehoods and calls to ethnically cleanse the land of Jews a second time, MSNBC once again shows contempt for credibility and accuracy.