Israelis praise US for dropping ‘occupied’ references to Israeli territory

For the first time since 1979 the US State Department dropped the term “occupied” when referring to lands captured by Israel in 1967’s Six Day War.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Israeli leaders have hailed the decision of the US government to stop referring to territories captured in the Six Day Way as “occupied.” In its first practical expression, the annual US government report on human rights worldwide in 2017 dropped reference to various territories as “occupied” for the first time since 1979.

Released on Friday, the section on “Israel and the territories” refers to the geographic regions as “Gaza and the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.” Israel formally annexed the Golan in 1981, and maintains security control over Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank” of the Jordan River) through its military government. Israel withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman refers to the Israeli presence in the territories as “alleged occupation” and he reportedly initiated the campaign to stop the State Department from using the term “occupied.” The Israeli government applauded the change with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman declaring, “The lie of the occupied Palestinian territories begins to be revealed. They say that a lie repeated often enough becomes true, but the truth is always stronger. The State Department report is proof of that.”

Former Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf had a different take, and described the change as “a minor story,” maintaining that the proper reference should be “territory in dispute.” Wilf told World Israel News (WIN) that “Israel welcomes the clarification” but does not give the change more than minor practical significance.

Palestinians consistently frustrate US peace efforts

Middle East analyst Amotz Asa-el says that the change is a natural position for the Trump administration. “Over the decades since the start of the Oslo process in 1993, the Palestinians have consistently frustrated US efforts to reach a peace agreement, and serious peace overtures were spurned. The new president is taking this frustration a step further. The Jerusalem embassy move and this latest step were driven by a measure of frustration. There is no significance on the ground, but in the long term it may help to convince the Palestinians that their intransigent leadership has consequences,” he said.

Dan Diker from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs told WIN he is impressed with the US move which he calls, “A display of the US administration’s desire to accurately and actively be on the side of diplomatic justice.” According to Diker, “The US understands that 98 percent of the Palestinians live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has a lessened role, and the areas are indeed not occupied.”

“We have been facing a deceptive narrative by Palestinian leadership committed to delegitimizing Israel as a Jewish nation state. The US is now saying that the game is up. You cannot pay terrorists and be a peace partner. You cannot delegitimize your neighbor. The US is resetting the rules of proper diplomatic engagement,” Diker explainded.

Activist Yisrael Medad told WIN, “It was clearly wrong that a weighted political term like ‘occupied’ was used when referencing geographical areas. It has become a pejorative term that is designed to lessen Israeli rights in Judea and Samaria. The educational damage is clear in that it implied the occupier does not belong there.”