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A pro-Israel lobby group in the U.S. has launched a project intent on shifting the focus of the Obama administration away from West Bank settlements, claiming they are not an obstacle to peace and that their evacuation would amount to "ethnic cleansing."

A manual called Global Language Dictionary, circulated among supporters of the right-wing Israel Project group, seeks to develop a strategy to downplay the centrality of settlement freeze in the American efforts to press on with the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Developed in conjunction with the high-profile Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the document was drawn up shortly after Barack Obama's election as president in November last year, and has just recently been made public.

Under the banner of "The Best Settlement Argument," the manual urges its readers to disseminate the message that "the idea that anywhere that you have Palestinians there can't be any Jews, that some areas have to be Jew-free, is a racist idea. We cannot see why it is that peace requires that any Palestinian area would require a kind of ethnic cleansing to remove all Jews. We don't accept it."

Admitting that the settlements are the "toughest issue" in pro-Israel advocacy, and that the hostility towards Israel's settlement policy "is clearly evident," the document advises the activists to stick to the security benefits of the settlements at the expense of the theological argument.

"Tell audiences that the settlements weren't created randomly. They were put on the tops of mountains and in important militarily sensitive areas to provide a security buffer between Israel and her Arab neighbors," it says.

However, "quoting from the bible in defense of the current settlements will have absolutely the opposite impact. Even your Jewish audiences will recoil at an attempt to use biblical passages to justify the settlements."

The guide also urges Israel advocates to avoid the phrase "disputed territories," which is often used instead of the more common "occupied territories" by those who don't see the seizure of the West Bank as military occupation.

"If we correct Palestinians using the words 'disputed territory' when they say 'occupied territory,' we have to accept that the settlements are disputed territory as well," it says.