Scandal! N.Y. Times finds Israel conspiring to do… what Oslo allows it to do

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich visits the protest tent outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem of families of soldiers killed during the Iron Swords War, June 3, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

by Moshe Phillips

An Israeli cabinet minister whose responsibilities include supervising Israeli-controlled parts of Judea-Samaria has instituted a minor administrative change in those areas, a change that is permitted by the Oslo Accords.

So what’s the problem?

In a faux expose last week, the New York Times claimed to have uncovered a “stealthy” Israeli conspiracy to annex “the West Bank.”

The problem is it’s not stealthy, it’s not a conspiracy, and it only impacts the portions of Judea-Samaria that the Palestinian Authority agreed, at Oslo, can be run by Israel in any way it sees fit.

That’s the crucial part that the Times never got around to mentioning — that little thing called the Oslo agreement.

There’s a reason that the Times and other critics of Israel never mention Oslo: doing so would interfere with their crusade to create a Palestinian state in all of Judea-Samaria.

Here are some of the inconvenient clauses to be found in those 1993 Israel-PA accords:

— There’s not one word in Oslo prohibiting Israel from building new Jewish communities in the Israeli portion of Judea-Samaria, or expanding existing communities.

— Oslo requires the PA to extradite terror suspects to Israel, to arrest and imprison terrorists, to disarm and outlaw terrorist groups, and to halt all pro-terror incitement.

— And nothing in Oslo prohibits Israel from transferring military control in its part of Judea-Samaria to civilian control, as cabinet minister Bezalel Smotrich has openly done.

Critics of Israel don’t want to admit that the Palestinian Authority signed on to all of those clauses. They don’t want the international community to be reminded that the PA has refused to extradite terrorists to Israel, or capture and jail them, or expel terror groups from the PA and the PLO, or halt the incitement.

So instead, they pretend as if the Oslo Accords do not exist. They scream about “settlements” even though Oslo allows them. They claim Smotrich is involved in some kind of secret conspiracy, even though what he has done is open and permitted by Oslo.

There you see the dilemma the Times faces. If it admits that Oslo doesn’t prohibit what Smotrich is doing — there is no story.

If it admits that Smotrich is doing it publicly, not as part of any secret Jewish plot — there is no story.

And if it admits that Israel controls only the part of Judea-Samaria that Oslo allotted, that would totally take the wind out of their campaign. After all, who really cares about Israeli administrative procedures in a region where only 2 percent of the Palestinian Arabs reside? (The other 98 percent live in the areas the PA controls, or in Gaza.) Hence the headlines about how Israel is trying to “control the West Bank” — to make it sound as if Israel is trying to seize land when that’s just not the case.

An earlier Times article on this subject very gingerly admitted, deep in the article, that Smotrich’s administrative changes “have limited effect in the 40 percent of the West Bank that is administered by the Palestinian Authority.”

That word “limited” is amusing. Nowhere in the article did the Times explain just what that “limited effect” consists of — because, in reality, it has zero effect. But admitting that would ruin the narrative.

When the Israeli left and the State Department sold the Oslo Agreement to the Jewish public in 1993, their argument was that it would serve as a test of the Palestinian Arab leadership’s intentions, and if the test failed, Oslo could be reversed.

That was their argument; but that didn’t reflect their true intention. Their real intention was for Oslo to pave the way to create a Palestinian state. How do we know? Because as soon as Oslo proved to be inconvenient, they tossed it aside. They never cared about the PA’s constant violations of Oslo. They don’t care what Oslo says about settlements or administrative changes. They only care about one thing — forcing Israel to accept a Palestinian state in the old nine-miles-wide borders before 1967.

This week’s non-story about Israeli administrative changes proves once again that Israel’s critics will say anything — even create nonexistent controversies and conspiracies — in order to advance their pro-Palestinian agenda.

Moshe Phillips is a past board member of the American Zionist Movement and served as a delegate to the 38th World Zionist Congress.