Ten False Assumptions Regarding Israel
Amb. Alan Baker, August 15, 2016
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Israel is inundated with one-sided international resolutions, declarations,
“peace plans,” and advice from governments, international organizations,
leaders, pundits, and elements within the Jewish, Christian and Muslim
Most of the above rest on widely-held, false and mistaken assumptions
regarding Israel, its leaders, government, policies, and positions held by
the vast majority of the Israeli public.
These false and mistaken assumptions need to be addressed:
1. “Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank territories (Judea and Samaria)
will provide Israel with security and international acceptance.” Wrong.
-Prior to Israel’s entry into the territories in the 1967 war, the Arab
states made every effort to attack and weaken Israel militarily and
-The Arab and Iranian attempts today to challenge Jewish history in the
Biblical land of Israel and in Jerusalem and the legitimacy of the State of
Israel as a Jewish state still resonate in the international community, most
recently in UNESCO.
-The Palestinians are committed to eventually establishing their state over
all of mandatory Palestine and they indoctrinate their children this way.
-The most recent, absurd initiative by the Palestinian leadership to
prosecute Britain for issuing the 1917 Balfour Declaration proves the
deeply-rooted Palestinian rejection of the existence of Israel.
-From Israel’s establishment in 1948 and up to present day, Israel has been,
and continues to be the only UN member state denied its UN
Charter-guaranteed right of “sovereign equality.”
-Clearly, withdrawal from the territories now under these conditions would
threaten Israel’s security.
2. “Israel’s ‘occupation of the territories’ is illegal and a violation of
international law.” Wrong.
-Israel entered the territories in 1967 after being attacked by all its
neighbors, acting in self-defense against an offensive and aggressive war.
-Occupation of territory during an armed conflict is an accepted and
recognized legal state-of-affairs in international law and practice.
-Israel has committed itself to abide by the international humanitarian and
legal norms for the administration of such territories. Israel’s
administration of the territories is under strict judicial supervision by
Israel’s Supreme Court.
-The territory was never under Palestinian rule or sovereignty, and when it
was under Jordanian control there was no intention by Jordan to turn it into
a Palestinian state.
-The oft-used term in UN resolutions “occupied Palestinian territories” has
no legal basis or validity whatsoever. It is not supported by any legal,
historical or other binding document, and its use prejudges the outcome of a
still pending negotiation.
-It is an accepted fact that the issue of the future of the territories is
in dispute. Israel entertains valid, widely acknowledged and long-held
historic and legal claims regarding the territories.
-Signed agreements between the Palestinian leadership and Israel have
established an agreed framework for settling the territorial dispute through
negotiation of their permanent status.
-Pending agreement between Israel and the Palestinians regarding the
permanent status of the territory, no external, third-party political
determination or resolution can establish that that the territories belong
to the Palestinians.
3. “The Palestinian leadership is united and popularly supported.” Wrong.
-The Palestinian leadership is far from united. There is a total,
irreconcilable disconnect between the Palestinian Authority leadership in
the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria, and the Hamas administration in
Gaza. The leadership is seen as incorrigibly corrupt. President Mahmoud
Abbas is in the 11th year of his four-year term. The Authority lacks
internal credibility, accountability, and popular support.
-This situation undermines any confidence in a viable and united governance
and representation of the Palestinians. It neutralizes any capacity to enter
into and to implement any international commitment or obligation.
4. “The Palestinian leadership is moderate, willing to negotiate and to live
in peace with Israel.” Wrong.
-The Palestinian leadership, is far from moderate, by any standard. Even
without Hamas incitement, it engages in an officially-sanctioned policy of
“de-normalization” vis-à-vis The leadership often praises, memorializes, and
encourages Palestinian terrorists.
-The Palestinian leadership refuses to resume negotiations, and refuses to
meet or to enter into any dialogue with Israel’s leaders. It blocks contacts
between Palestinians and Israelis at the diplomatic, professional, and
people-to-people levels. This policy runs counter to Palestinian commitments
in the Oslo Accords to encourage development cooperation and
“people-to-people dialogues” at all levels.
-The Palestinian leadership initiates and openly supports boycotts,
divestment, and sanctions (BDS) aimed at the delegitimization of Israel in
the international community on international and regional organizations,
international tribunals, and the UN and its specialized agencies.
-While Israel has expressed its willingness for the principle of “two states
for two peoples,” the Palestinian leadership consistently refuses to accept
the concept of Israel as the democratic nation state of the Jewish People.
5. “Israel’s settlements are illegal and violate international law.” Wrong.
-These allegations are based on a misreading of the relevant international
laws and the reciprocal commitments between Israel and the PLO.
-The prohibition on the transfer of population into territory occupied
during war, set out in the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, was specifically
drafted in order to prevent a recurrence of the mass forcible population
transfers that occurred during the Second World War. In the case of Israel’s
settlement policy, there are no forced expulsions or coerced settling.
-This has no bearing on, or relevance to Israel’s settlement policy, which
enables the legitimate utilization of non-privately-owned land pending the
permanent settlement of the dispute. Use of non-privately-owned public land
for settlement or for agriculture is fully consistent with accepted
international norms as long as the status of the land is not changed pending
its final negotiated outcome.
-As such, Israel’s settlements cannot be seen to be a violation of
international law. Any determination of such is based on a selective,
politically biased viewpoint taken outside the accepted international
-Notwithstanding the divergence of views on the legality of Israel’s
settlements, according to the Oslo Accords, this issue is an open
negotiating issue between the Palestinians and Israel.
-Pending attainment of a negotiated settlement, the Oslo Accords place no
freeze or restriction on either Israel or the Palestinians to engage in
planning, zoning, and construction in the respective areas under its
control. To the contrary, planning, zoning and construction are specifically
-Accordingly, arbitrary and unilateral predetermination as to the legitimacy
of settlements, and any call for their removal prior to an agreement between
Israel and the Palestinians are inconsistent with the agreements and
constitute prejudgment of a negotiating issue.
-The claim that the settlements are the source of the conflict holds no
logic. The Arab-Israel conflict existed long before the establishment of any
settlement, with efforts by the Arab states in 1948 to prevent the
establishment of the state of Israel and their ongoing efforts since then to
bring about its demise.
6. “Jerusalem belongs to the Arabs. The Jews have no rights or claims to
-The Palestinian leadership manipulates history and denies Jewish history
and heritage in Jewish holy sites in its presentations to international
organizations such as UNESCO. They cannot alter the historic fact that
Jerusalem has, from time immemorial, been the epicenter of the Jewish
religion and heritage. It also plays a major role in the history of
Christianity. This is acknowledged in the Quran, the Old and New Testaments
and in the writings of historians.
-Attempts by the Palestinian leadership to generate incitement and violence
through false accusations regarding the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem have
no basis and will not alter the fact that the issue of Jerusalem is an
agreed negotiating issue between Israel and the Palestinians pursuant to the
-Any assumption or expectation that the Israeli public may be pressured into
supporting demands for a unilateral withdrawal from Arab areas of east
Jerusalem outside of a negotiated and agreed-upon framework is misplaced and
has no basis in fact.
7. “The Israeli leadership and government are inflexible, extreme and oppose
-The intense hostility towards Israel’s democratically-elected government is
misplaced and insulting to the Israeli public.
-The tendency, especially in Europe and in international organizations, to
accept outrageous Palestinian allegations against Israel, often old
anti-Semitic canards, is nothing more than submission to cynical
manipulation. Such allegations deliberately abuse of the bona fides and
sense of political correctness prevalent among Western countries and
-This comes at the expense of genuine objective, historic, legal and factual
-Well-meaning and sincere European and American politicians,
community-leaders and organizations together with international and regional
organizations appear to feel that they are better-able and equipped, more-so
than Israel’s elected leaders and the Israeli public, to know what is in the
better interests of Israel.
-The Israeli public, whose voters and their elected officials face the
threats of hostility and terror on a daily basis, have deep political
awareness and are fully capable of determining the fate of Israel.
-The assumption that international pressure will bring about the downfall of
Israel’s democratically-elected government belies the strength of Israel’s
democracy and undermines the West’s democratic principles.
8. “The present status quo between Israel and the Palestinians is
-The present situation of political stalemate between the Palestinians and
Israel is not the result of Israeli defiance, as claimed by some Western
leaders, governments, and commentators.
-Israel has repeatedly expressed its willingness to resume the negotiation
process immediately. Israel is committed in the Oslo Accords and has made it
very clear that it has no intention of carrying out any unilateral action
aimed at changing the status of the territories.
-The “present status quo” is determined by the fact that the Palestinian
leadership consistently refuses to return to a negotiating table. It prefers
to indulge the international community with its victimhood and to generate
negative initiatives aimed at denying Israel’s character as the Jewish
State, and delegitimizing Israel.
-Palestinian leadership prefers to conduct diplomatic warfare through
boycotts against Israel and legal proceedings against Israel’s leaders in
international and national courts.
-The one-sided imposition of politically oriented solutions is not an
acceptable mode of changing the status quo.
-In the absence of a viable diplomatic process today, the current status quo
9. “Islamophobia is parallel to anti-Semitism.” Wrong.
-The tendency in the international community to link anti-Semitism with
Islamophobia as two equal phenomena of racism is totally wrong. This
tendency regrettably emanates from exaggerated political correctness on the
part of many Western countries and communities.
-Anti-Semitism has been a tragic phenomenon conducted solely against Jews
for thousands of years, causing massacres, pogroms, expulsions, public
torture and executions, lynching, forced conversion, destruction of
synagogues, enslavement, confiscation of belongings, culminating in the Nazi
-Anti-Semitic themes are a staple of Palestinian and Arab media, school
curricula, cartoons, and sermons.
-The aim of anti-Semitism has been to exterminate and bring about the total
genocide of the Jewish People as a race.
-Anti-Semitism cannot be compared or linked to Islamophobia, which emanates
from the fear of Islam as a result of fanatical Islamic movements and the
terror generated by them. It bears no relation whatsoever to any philosophy
advocating genocide of Muslims.
-In this context, de-legitimization of Israel is seen by most Western
states, as a new version of anti-Semitism.
10. “Israel is a racist state that violates human rights and practices
-This claim is repeated by Palestinian leaders and left-wing propagandists
throughout the world. It was initially advocated by Yasser Arafat and
adopted by NGO groups at discredited 2001 UN Conference on Racism at Durban.
-It is indicative of an evident lack of understanding of the racist nature
of the phenomenon of “apartheid” and an even further and deeper
misunderstanding of the character of Israel as an open, pluralistic and
-The comparison of Israel to South Africa under white supremacist rule has
been utterly rejected by those with intimate understanding of the old
Apartheid system, especially South Africans. The aim of such propaganda, in
addition to delegitimizing the very basis of existence of the State of
Israel, is to cynically manipulate the international community and to
encourage imposition of an international sanctions regime against Israel
modeled on the actions against the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
-Israel is a multi-racial and multi-colored society, and the Israeli Arab
population actively participates in the political process. Israeli Arabs
enjoy complete equality and freedom of expression. They elect their own
Knesset members and Arab judges serve in the Supreme Court. Israeli Arabs
serve as heads of hospital departments, university professors, diplomats,
and senior police and army officers.
-Each religious community has its own religious court system, applying
Sharia, Canon, and Jewish law respectively.
-Unlike those Arab and other states in which one religion is declared the
state religion, or Western countries where Christianity is the predominant
religion, or Moslem countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where certain
areas, towns, and roads are restricted to “Moslems only,” and where women
are treated as second-class citizens and gay people as criminals, Israeli
law regards Judaism, Islam, and Christianity as official religions and
constitutionally ensures complete freedom and equality to all.
-Incitement to or practice of racism in Israel is a criminal offence, as is
any discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or gender. Israeli
schools, universities, and hospitals make no distinction between Jews and
Whether in day-to-day political and social discourse, or whether in the
international and local media, the above accusations appear repeatedly and
Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the
Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in
the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as
well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He
served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.
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