The battlefield over Palestinian statehood moves to YouTube
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's video 'The Truth About the West Bank' challenges Palestinian narrative over territories.
As the September date for the planned declaration of a Palestinian state nears, the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic war over whether the international community should recognize Palestine has intensified and moved to social media.
The Palestinians' chief negotiator and Israel's deputy foreign minister have been quarrelling over an Israeli video posted on YouTube, exchanging angry statements to the media.
The presentation by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, posted on the video-sharing website last week, argues that the West Bank is not occupied, but disputed territory. In it Ayalon demands the world stop using the terms "occupied territories" and "1967 borders."
Titled "The Truth About The West Bank," it has so far had over 120,000 views.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, in a statement last week, expressed "shock" at the video and accused Israel of officially presenting a "cynical and falsified account of history." Ayalon, in turn, Monday called Erekat's reaction "over the top."
"For too long, the Palestinian narrative of international law and rights has gone unchallenged," he said, charging that Palestinians' response to it proved they were "acting like spoilt children who have had their way for too long."
Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War with Arab neighbors - in an "act of self-defense," Ayalon says.
It has since adopted the stance that these were not "occupied," but "disputed territories," bu tthis view is not shared by many in the international community who regard the territories as occupied and Israeli settlements built in them as illegal.
Israel says Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank, when it controlled the territory between 1949 and 1967, was never recognized except by two states.
Since no other sovereignty was ever recognized over it, the West Bank should enjoy the same status as the Western Sahara and legally be described as "disputed," not as "occupied territory," says Ayalon.
The only solution to solve the dispute over the West Bank was through bilateral negotiations "based on legal and historical facts," and not through a non-negotiated United Nations resolution recognizing Palestine, bypassing Israel.
An incensed Erekat countered that "the acquisition of territory by force and aggression is both illegal and deplorable."
"This is a well established principle of international law," he said, adding, "the fact that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal is not in dispute."
The Palestinians hope to achieve a UN General Assembly resolution in September, recognizing Palestine within the borders of before the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
They say that a clear majority of 122 states already recognize Palestine, including nearly all of South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.
The Israeli government hopes to muster behind it what it claims to be a "moral minority" of western European and other member states.
The U.S. and Germany oppose what they call any "unilateral" Palestinian statehood move at the UN. France however has intimated that while it supports negotiations, it will support the resolution if these are not renewed.
Negotiations have been on hold for much of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's now over two-year tenure, with the Palestinians conditioning a renewal of talks on a freeze of Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.