Israel said on Wednesday it would establish a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, the first since the late 1990s, to rehouse settlers evicted on the same day from an outpost built on private Palestinian land.
A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he was making good on a commitment to the settlers of Amona and had ordered the formation of a committee to locate a site where they could rebuild their homes.
"As promised a month and a half ago to the settlers, (Netanyahu) has set up a committee that will promote the establishment of a new settlement... It will begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement," a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said.
The announcement was made shortly after Israel's Supreme Court rejected a government plan to rehouse some of the Amona settlers on an adjacent plot because it ruled that homes built there would also encroach on land owned by Palestinians.
According to the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, Israel last established new settlements in the West Bank in 1999, although outposts such as Amona, that settlers set up without official permission, have been built far more recently.
I also showed that the New York Times reported, parenthetically, that there has been "little building" over the past eight years in the territories.
But if you have read Reuters and the NYT and all major news media during the past ten years, you would think that Israel has been building "settlements" non-stop and at breakneck speed.
In fact, all they were reporting was some small increases in existing settlements to accommodate natural growth and some approvals of buildings many of which never made it to actually being built. In a small number of cases they retroactively legalized outposts that were built against the Israeli government's wishes.
Suddenly, the media is reporting a completely different story. Only now is Israel barely starting to do what they have blamed Israel for over the past decade. (And it is also only in the planning stage. The new community doesn't even have a name.)
Thousands of international journalists have passed through Israel in the past twenty years, and as far as I know, not one of them reported how little actual building was going on. Suddenly, in the past week, they are noticing - because they want to show their readers that Israel is acting even more against peace than it was during all those years of supposed Israeli "intransigence" and "extreme right wing Likud government."
No one is asking why this story as ignored for so long.
But it now brings up the next question that the media is not bothering to ask: If Israel really has been building so little, then why have the Palestinians refused to negotiate?
The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Palestinians refused to negotiate because of Israeli settlement building. They insisted that construction be frozen completely. And over at least two periods, Israel did exactly that - once for ten months and once for 18 months. The rest of the time Israel merely slowed down construction and most of it was in areas that would be part of Israel under any conceivable agreement.
This new reluctant realization by the media that Israel had done very little "settlement activity" is not because they suddenly saw the error of their ways. They simply want to frame Israel as acting even worse than they were framing Israel before and the only way to do that is by comparing it with before. But when they need to back up their new assertions, they are forced to admit that they were lying to their readers and news consumers for so long with Palestinian Arab propaganda, so the truth is obscured behind the news of "new settlements."
What the newfound discoveries of these professional reporters show is that it is the Palestinians who have been becoming more and more intransigent by refusing to negotiate even when settlement activity was frozen or nearly frozen. But since this contradicts the meme that they must push above all else - that Israel is the intransigent party - this is not going to be reported either.