A May 22 New York Times video which sets out to map how President “Trump Shifts Stances on Key Israeli Issues,” omits key, significant words from a Feb. 2, 2017 White House statement, thereby completely misleading about the President’s position on Israeli construction in settlements. Ian Fisher, the Times Jerusalem bureau chief who co-produced the video with Camilla Schick, quotes the White House statement, but leaves out key words which carry substantive policy implications. Fisher states:
The White House had this to say back in February. “While we do not believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements, may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” Trump publicly asked Mr. Netanyahu to exercise restraint on settlement building. . .
The White House statement had actually said:
While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal. (Emphasis added.)
Fisher left out the key words bolded above – “beyond their current borders” – an important qualification which signals that the White House does not necessarily consider construction within settlement borders to be unhelpful. In addition to the narration, the graphics also left out those key words – highlighting only the words that came right before and right after – leaving viewers with a truncated quote and incorrect understanding of the administration’s position.
Those words – “beyond their current borders” – carry a great deal of significance, as The Times’ Peter Baker and Mark Landler noted in an article published on Feb. 10 (“U.S. May Turn to Arab Allies for Israel Plan“).
But the ”beyond their current borders” phrase suggested a return to George W. Bush’s policy of essentially acquiescing to additional construction within existing settlement blocs as long as Israel did not expand their geographical reach or build entirely new settlements. Elliott Abrams, one of the authors of that policy under Mr. Bush, is poised to become deputy secretary of state under Mr. Trump.
Mr. Netanyahu’s team focused on that part of the statement. ”I happen to know they were very pleased with the statement because it was such a contrast from Obama,” said Morton A. Klein, the national president of the Zionist Organization of America, who has been supportive of the Trump administration. (Emphasis added.)
Indeed, construction within settlement boundaries could potentially cover a great deal of construction, and the Trump administration’s indication that it is willing to accept this construction is a departure from President Obama’s policy.
CAMERA has contacted Times editors to urge them to edit the video to acknowledge the fact that the White House labeled “expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders” as not helpful, leaving open the possibility for construction within the existing settlement borders.
Stay tuned for an update.