For all of you who don't know/remember, Dov Weissglas is the senior advisor to PM Ariel Sharon. Last October, in an extremely candid interview with Ha’aretz (which sadly, none of the major news outlets have have incorporated into their analysis of the Gaza pullout), Dov Weisglass (who happened to be with Sharon at the latest summit at Bush’s Crawford Ranch) stated that the Israeli government’s plan for disengagement from the Gaza Strip is not intended as one step along the road towards peace with the Palestinians. On the contrary, he makes clear that it is simply a slight of hand through which to freeze the ‘peace process’ in a seemingly “legitimate manner.”
Weisglass, in his interview states plainly that: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process […] And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress” (Ha’aretz, 6 October 2004).
For the original interview, read here:
As a side, but very connected to this, I was recently invited (and attended) a conference at the end of April at the University of Texas, Austin called Journalism and the Arab World. The panel I was on, "News coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," included Said Arikat, correspondent, Al Quds; Nathan Guttman, correspondent, Ha'aretz; and Roger Cohen, correspondent and former foreign editor, The New York Times.
Amazingly, Natan Guttman, the Ha'aretz reporter was very cordial and agreed with me on many of the points of critique I gave of Ha'aretz coverage, and corporate media coverage in general. He even incorporated some of the points I had made during the lunch before the panel, into his talk during the panel.
Roger Cohen, however, who was the foreign news editor for the NY Times during Sept 11, 2001 and onward, went ballistic during the question/answer phase. He accused me of wanting to put op-eds as news on the front page, while in fact all I said was:
"Though [Ha'aretz] [...] well deserves consideration as the highest quality of the major Israeli dailies, and contains some essential coverage coming from critical-journalists such as Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, Meron Benvenisti and Yulie Khromchenko, it is important to look at how and where these articles are placed in the newspaper's overall structure. Almost invariably, the articles which are most critical of Israeli policies and actions are either part of the opinion page, culture gallery, or, as Gideon Levy’s weekly article is, part of the weekend magazine."
It was absurd, and even members of the audience began shouting that I didn't say what he accused me of.
Then Cohen began an arguement about my statements on the importance of the Weissglas interview with Ha'aretz, and my critique of the US and Israeli media's negligence for not incorporating Weissglas's statments into their analysis of the possible/probable Israeli withdrawal of settlers from Gaza.
First he argued vehemently that it was irrelevant because the interview was well over a year old. (it was quite a silly arguement in front of an audience) I insisted, and am correct, that the interview was little over 6 months old. Then when I finally found the date in my papers and showed them to him, he changed his arguement and said it was still irrelevant because Arafat is now out of the picture and momentum has made more Israel land compromises inevitable. (not an exact quote, but something close to that anyway).
Anyway, point here is, when I look at NY Times coverage of the situation here in Palestine/Israel, and then saw Roger Cohen's total disregard for even engaging with facts that don't fit with the nice portrayal of the disengagement from Gaza being the first step towards a peace that everyone wants to hear and believe, I really understood the filter mechanisms of idea control in the media, where the ideological frame of the editor translates into a certain framing of the news on the pages of the newspaper (in this case of the NY Times).
The second point is that recent statments by Dov Weissglas confirm the continuing relavance of his October 2004 statements, and a need to reflect on these statements when trying to analyze what is going on with the possible Israeli settler withdrawal from Gaza.
Two excerpts from articles dealing with these recent statements by Weissglas are below.
PM aide: We will deal with illegal outposts after disengagement By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel will deal with the evacuation of illegal settlement outposts after the implementation of the disengagement plan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior aide, Dov Weissglas, said Thursday.
Given the public mood in Israel, Weissglas said in a speech at Tel Aviv University, "Any attempt to evacuate illegal outposts could well present a very difficult test for us and the security forces."
He stressed that the United States would accept Israel's stance on the outposts, and said there was no misunderstanding between Washington and Jerusalem on the issue.
Weissglas also drew a distinction between the Gaza Strip - whose retention he said is not in the national interest - and the West Bank.
"Even those for whom the love of the land of Israel is a supreme value cannot believe that in the long run there could be real settlement and quality of life in three tiny pockets surrounded by an ocean of Arabs.
"Every trip by settlers to see the dentist in Israel has become a military operation. Our decision to leave the area was down to the long-term view that it was not in our national interests [to remain], unlike Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]."
No oversight in sight By Akiva Eldar
The method is not original. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon knows it well from his heroic days in the Paratroops: Before the battalion launches an attack on an important target, the commander sends a squad of soldiers to a nearby hill, to divert the enemy's attention from the real target. When Dov Weissglas "reveals" that after the evacuation of the Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria the government will turn its attention to dealing with the outposts, who notices that the senior adviser has announced, in the very same lecture, that the negotiations on the final status agreement will not begin before Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has arrested the last of the terrorists. In other words, as long as Sharon is in power, Abu Mazen can forget about negotiations.
Additional confirmation that the formaldehyde approach is not dead can be found in the report by the deputy director general of the Slovene Foreign Ministry at a conference of supporters of the Geneva Accord that was held in Brussels at the end of May. The senior official had recently accompanied her director general on his visit to Israel. She told the audience at the conference that her boss had asked Shalom Turgeman, Sharon's diplomatic adviser, how the prime minister envisioned the situation between Israel and the Palestinians 25 years from now. The adviser's reply, said the deputy director general, shocked her: "The same as today," replied Turgeman, "only with a fence." (According to the Prime Minister's Bureau, Turgeman was expressing his opinion, which is in accord with that of the prime minister, whereby progress according to the road map will be possible only after the disarming of the terror organizations and the cessation of the incitement, and that this principle is not limited in time.)
In fact, what Weissglas had to say about the outposts also diverts people's attention from far more important facts that are evolving at present on the ground. In an appendix to her document on the illegal outposts, Talia Sasson estimates the number of people living in the outposts that Israel has made a commitment to evacuating (those that were established after March, 2001) at no more than 600 (including children). This is peanuts as compared to the "legal" construction in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Who remembers that in adopting the road map Israel undertook to freeze "all settlement activity" (including natural growth of settlements)? Who notices that in 2004, tenders were published for the construction of 962 housing units throughout the West Bank? That is, Sharon's public commitment to freeze the construction went in one ear and out the other of the previous housing minister, Effi Eitam.