Friday, June 26, 2009

It's All About Births

An excerpt from a

Briefing by Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell Special Envoy for Middle East Peace on His Recent Travel to the Region and Efforts Toward Achieving A Comprehensive Peace

held in Washington, DC on June 16, 2009

...QUESTION: Senator --


QUESTION: -- you’ve now said twice that there should be a stop to settlements.


QUESTION: But you didn’t say the phrase “natural growth.”


QUESTION: And I just want to confirm that that is – it’s still what the Administration is asking for, a stop to settlements --


QUESTION: -- including natural growth. And secondly, can you give us just a definition of what the United States considers natural growth? What does that phrase mean in your mind?

MR. MITCHELL: There’s been no change in our policy. And there have been – there have been discussions on every aspect of the issue.

QUESTION: Well, what does natural growth mean? I mean, can you just use it in --

MR. MITCHELL: I’m constantly asked by editors, you know, please give a plain explanation of what natural growth is.

QUESTION: If it’s for your editor. (Laughter.)

MR. MITCHELL: Well, of course, one of the issues is that there is no universally used and accepted definition. The most common definition is by the number of births, but there are many variations of that. I’ve had numerous discussions with many Israeli and other officials, and there are almost as many definitions as there are people speaking. But I think the most commonly used measure is the number of births.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that number, please?

MR. MITCHELL: Yes. Yeah.

QUESTION: There seems to be a lot of focus on the talk about settlements, settlements.


[but there's got to be a smart-ass in the bunch. read on]

QUESTION: But it seems like (inaudible) of the world, and many people and many governments are forgetting that the real issue is the withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied land according to UN Resolutions 242, 338, that this is an issue that, as a country, Israel cannot annex the lands of other countries to it by force. So why are you not triggering the talk about implementing the UN resolutions as much as the United States talks about the need to implement these resolutions on other countries? Why not Israel also?

MR. MITCHELL: We’ve discussed the full range of issues. And our hope, of course, as I’ve stated previously, is that the parties will resume meaningful negotiation on all issues as soon as possible in an effort to reach a rapid conclusion on all issues.

Yes, I’ll come back to you. Go ahead. Did you --

[now we come back to life]

QUESTION: When you say the most common definition is births, are you saying –

MR. MITCHELL: The one that – the most commonly used in conversations with me.

QUESTION: I see. So when the U.S. say no natural growth


QUESTION: -- is that what it’s saying is the definition?

MR. MITCHELL: We’re engaged in discussions on a wide range of issues. And different people have different interpretations of different phrases. And we listen to all points of view. We listen to every aspect of every discussion, and we’re trying to reach an agreement and understanding that helps us move the process forward. And I think I wouldn’t want to get beyond that.

QUESTION: Lachlan Carmichael from AFP. Does the Obama Administration endorse Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. MITCHELL: The prime minister stated a number of objectives that Israel is seeking in the negotiations. The Palestinians have in the past, and no doubt will continue, to state their objectives. Our effort is to begin meaningful negotiations in which those objectives will be part of the discussion, and ultimately to reach an agreement satisfactory to both sides.

[so, if "settlers" do not give birth to Jewish babies, is that a way to get around this "natural growth problem? just kidding]

So our view is that it’s best to get into negotiations. That’s what negotiations are about. Different parties have different objectives in the negotiations. The important thing about the prime minister’s speech is that he set forth his – included in his objective a Palestinian state. So there now is a common objective, which was not the case until that speech was made. And the President rightly noted and welcomed that comment, because now we have both sides moving toward the same objective with different points of view on how best to get there. And what we want is to get into a negotiation on that.

QUESTION: So you’re not asking Abbas right now to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. MITCHELL: What we are saying – the prime minister made very clear that is not a precondition, that’s something that he would require for an ultimate agreement. So our objective is not to try to prejudge every issue before there’s even been a first meeting of the parties. I’ve never heard of a negotiation that succeeded through – in that fashion. What you want to do is to get the parties moving toward a common objective and to start talking about their differences in a way that will enable us to reach an early resolution in a manner that’s ultimately acceptable to both.

So, a "stop to settlements" means no births? Or does a "settlements freeze" mean no births?

Does "a stop to births" mean enforced infanticide?

I trust some people reading this know their Scripture, Gospel of Matthew 2:16-18.

And why do I mention that?

Well, back in 2001,

...the BBC's chief Jerusalem correspondent, Hillary Anderson, began a recent report on the deaths of Palestinian children thus: "Deep underground in Bethlehem are the remnants of an atrocity so vile, so far back in history, King Herod's slaughter of the innocents…" (The camera meanwhile showed a pile of skulls.) Then she moved on to the deaths of Palestinian children, evoking Herod's massacre of the innocents, to remind the viewer that Jews, who tried to kill the infant Christ, are busy killing innocent children once again.

Anderson's reports, it should be added, appear not only on the British domestic BBC channels (the example above was on BBC 2's influential Newsnight) but on BBC World — "The BBC's 24 Hour Global TV News Channel."

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