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The Political Battle Over the ‘Occupation’ Narrative

11:33 AM, Jul 20, 2012 • By DORE GOLD
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There are also well meaning Israelis who call for an "end to the occupation" in order to build internal political support for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, by appealing to the conscience of Israelis who do not want to think of themselves as occupiers nor to have the world community see them this way. But in making this call, its advocates strip Israel of the rights it acquired in U.N. Security Council 242 that did not require it to pull back to the pre-1967 lines, which have been regarded by most Israeli leaders from Rabin to Netanyahu as indefensible.

Levy's committee has restored Israel's legal narrative about its rights in the West Bank. There are those who charged that in rejecting the application of the term "occupation" to the Israeli presence in the West Bank, the Levy committee's report will set the stage for eventual Israeli annexation of the territories. Of course these concerns are baseless. The report of the Levy committee says absolutely nothing about what political solution for the future of the West Bank is desirable.

Nonetheless its conclusions are still important for one diplomatic scenario, in particular: a negotiated end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the future. For at the end of the day, there is a huge difference in how a compromise will look if Israel's negotiating team comes to the peace table as "foreign occupiers," who took someone else's land, or if they come as a party that also has just territorial claims.

Moreover, as long as the international community constantly fuels the "occupation" narrative, the Palestinians’ propensity to consider making a real compromise, which is critical for any future agreement, will be close to nil. In fact, this false narrative only reinforces their mistaken belief in the delegitimization campaign against Israel as an alternative to seeking a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

In sum, the "occupation" label is built on flawed analysis and requires the application of transparent double standards by those who use it, by which they single out Israel for condemnation that it does not merit. Rather than creating a setting for diplomacy to succeed, it only makes a real Middle Eastern peace more remote than ever.

Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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