Two groups within Israel that oppose a two state solution told the Jerusalem Post  they have proof Netanyahu only made the demand for recognition as a Jewish State to placate Israelis should negotiations with Palestinians succeed. If he gets the recognition Bibi would be able to put it in the concessions the Palestinian’s made list.

But as my late friend and teacher Barry Rubin taught me, never believe a story coming out from the Middle East without getting more sources and/or asking addition questions, this tale is a perfect example.

According to the Jerusalem Post story published on Monday, Mattot Arim and Professors for a Strong Israel, two groups that oppose a two state solution have “proof” Benjamin Netanyahu raised the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish State as a tactical trick to force Israel into territorial concessions.

“The groups said they had credible evidence that Netanyahu’s push for a Jewish state came after a secret poll indicated that demanding the recognition of a Jewish state would neutralize opposition to territorial concessions. 

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We are calling upon the people of Israel to ignore the smoke screen of recognition of a Jewish state and realize the read impending danger,” Mattot Arim spokeswoman Susie Dym said. “Your government – or parts of it – has agreed out of weakness to a huge evacuation and to form a terrorist state a bike ride away from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport.

The right-wing groups will meet with MKs and other influential figures to spread the message. The public information campaign will warn against paying anything for “terrorists purportedly recognizing our Jewishness.

[Former MK Arye Eldad who runs Professors for a Strong Israel] contends that Netanyahu had built up the Jewish state concept to show the public that he had received something from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas in return for Israel’s concessions.”

On first glance, the claim of the two groups does not match the truth. Bibi has been calling for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish State ever since he took office (the second time) the last day of March 2009. And he has made the demand often.

On June 14, 2009 Netanyahu made the demand in his first public speech as Prime Minister about the peace process:

“We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. “

In October 2010 Netanyahu made recognition of Israel as Jewish State a pre-condition for a “settlement” freeze. As reported by Al Jazeera the answer was a resounding no:

“Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has offered to renew a partial settlement construction freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state…Netanyahu’s proposal met with swift rejection from senior Palestinian officials.”

He reiterated his demand in a speech to the U.S. Congress in May 2011:

“If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

(…)You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about.”

Susie Dym, the Mattot Arim spokesperson responded to inquiries about the Jerusalem Post article. She contends the Jerusalem Post mistranslated a press release written in Hebrew, and one of the paragraphs above would have been closer to the Hebrew if it read:

“The groups said they had credible evidence that Netanyahu conducted a secret poll earlier in his premiership to determine which factor would most effectively neutralize opposition to territorial concessions and that the secret poll indicated or was interpreted by Netanyahu’s staff as indicating that demanding Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state would be the most effective neutralizer.”

The operative phrase is “earlier in his premiership, which raised the question when was the study done. After further questioning Ms Dym added that the poll was done sometime in 2010:

…so, it was probably comparing the “internal effectivity” of various demands, which were already “out there” to some extent for vis-a-vis-Palestinians purposes (or vis a vis USA?).

The time-line does not agree with the Mattot Arim claim the Netanyahu call for recognition of Israel was a cynical attempt as a smokescreen, rather than a legitimate position. At least the first and maybe the first and second examples above were made before any study was done (most probably there were other calls for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish State not found when researching this piece)

Also troubling was Ms Dym’s statement that it was it was probably comparing the “internal efficacy” of various demands which were already “out there.”  Her statement blew a huge hole in the Mattot Arim story.

Once reminded that here in the U.S. and many other parts of the world both anti-Semites and anti-Israel bigots do not believe that Israel should ever be recognized as the Jewish state and even the revised the position she sent gives the haters ammunition, Ms Dym added:

“There are anti-Semites and anti-Israel bigots who do not believe that Israel should be recognized as the Jewish state. So in that sense we admit Netanyahu’s position has value. But in another sense, Netanyahu is cynically using the same position as a smokescreen to conceal a disastrous idea — Palestinian state — which even his own party opposes. So we are saying: “No to use of smokescreens – no to the Palestinian state notion – yes to recognizing that over 20 Arab states is enough.”

Mattot Arim should have considered that before releasing the story. But there are issues beyond it being used by haters. Rather than having legitimate proof they created a story on the word “probably.” The study was probably comparing…

Mattot Arim and Professors for a Strong Israel went to the media with a claim they weren’t sure of which relies on a timeline that doesn’t agree with the facts.

Until pressed for answers, Mattot Arim did not correct the quote in the Jerusalem Post or provide the dates of the supposed study– and the date provided, disputes their claim.

Based on the corrections provided by Ms Dym, the only claim her group can make for sure  is Netanyahu conducted a poll. That poll may or may not have compared the efficacy of Bibi’s already held stated beliefs with the Israeli public. Even if the study did compare the efficacy of his beliefs, the charges of a cynical attempt to mislead the Israeli public are not proven either.

The only big revelation is not that Netanyahu doesn’t believe that Israel should be recognized as the Jewish State, but that the two-time Prime Minister is a politician. Come to thing of it, that’s not a revelation either.

In the end you can’t fault Mattot Arim for trying that’s what advocacy groups do, but the Jerusalem Post can be faulted for being lazy and not asking the questions necessary to find the truth. That (supposedly) is the purpose of journalism.