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31 August 2017

When do lying politicians tell the truth?

By: Daoud Kuttab
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Telling partial truth or untruths is prevalent with politicians. Although it should not be so, political leaders have a tendency to exaggerate, minimise and at times tell total lies in order to support a political point of view.
 
But even lying politicians tell the truth sometimes. There comes a time when a political leader is actually honest in what he is saying because everyone, including politicians, do have some things they truly believe in.
 
The problem is how do we, recipients of political talk, know when the politician is actually telling the truth because he believes in it and when he is trying to pull the wool over our eyes and simply lie to us in order to advance his political career and satisfy his political base?
 
Benjamin Netanyahu is generally a very untruthful politician. He lies all the time that Israel wants peace while his own army is perpetuating the policy of occupation, blockade (of Gaza), collective punishment and land grabbing.
 
Netanyahu also lies when he says that he supports the two-state solution, albeit under certain circumstances.
 
His ever-changing political statements include the need for Palestine to be demilitarised and to recognise Israel as the national homeland for the Jewish people.
 
After those conditions were uttered in the speech given by Netanyahu at Bar Ilan University last year we were given a new declaration: Israel will never withdraw from the Jordan Valley, thus making the idea of an independent and contiguous Palestinian state a farce.
 
On Monday, Netanyahu stated that Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories “will not be uprooted”.
 
Speaking in Barkan, a settlement in the northern West Bank, Netanyahu added: “We have returned here for good. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”
 
Unlike some of the other untruthful political statements, this one has a truthful ring to it, for a number of reasons.
 
It fits perfectly with the principles and the ethos of the Israeli Likud Party. It also makes life easier for Netanyahu in his right-wing pro-settlement coalition, and it falls naturally within the Israeli leader’s vehement opposition to the recent United Nations decisions.
 
In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council, with a 14-0 vote and one abstention (US), declared Jewish settlements in the occupied territories illegal and called on Israel to stop its illegal activities.
 
Netanyahu’s talk against the UN was not done in private but was made public as the secretary general of the United Nations was standing next to him.
 
The Israeli prime minister whose government has violated tens of UN decisions insists that the international organisation is biased against Israel.
 
So was Netanyahu lying to the settlers of Barkan when he promised them, and all other settlers, that they will not be uprooted?
 
Possible, but highly unlikely.
 
Ariel Sharon, who said at one time that settlements in the Gaza Strip are as important as Tel Aviv, did change position and dismantled the settlements that were covering some one-third of the tiny, overpopulated, Gaza Strip.
 
The one difference is that Sharon never pretended to support the two-state solution or any other reasonable peace conditions that Palestinians could accept.
 
Even when Sharon decided to vacate Jewish settlements, he was doing it unilaterally, as part of a separation plan, rather than as part of an agreed-to step towards peace.
 
While it is not impossible to expect that Netanyahu might go against his own words, it is highly unlikely.
 
The prime minister is facing a major storm as the Israeli attorney general is coming close to indicting him on corruption charges.
 
Netanyahu, who had called on Ehud Olmert to resign once he was indicted, is now trying to stay in office until he is actually convicted and taken away in shackles from the position he has served longer than any Israeli prime minister.
 
To do that, he badly needs the Cabinet ministers and Knesset members to his side. So, while there might be some political gain in Netanyahu’s pro-settlement statement, there is no doubt that it reflects his true belief and ideology.
 
The words of the usually untruthful Israeli prime minister spoken to Jewish settlers is much more genuine and an honest reflection of his core beliefs than his talk about peace with Palestinians, which includes some sacrifices.
 
It might be difficult to pinpoint exactly when an untruthful politician is lying, but in Netanyahu’s case, his words in support of settlers and his opposition to uprooting them are a true reflection of a right-wing Israeli leader.
 
The question is when will the world understand that and stop believing the lies that he and Israel truly want peace with Palestinians?

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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