Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday hailed a decision by the US State Department to drop the term “occupied” in a report referring to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights, saying that the truth was finally being made plain.
“The lie of the occupied Palestinian territories is being exposed. They say that if you repeat a lie enough, it eventually becomes the truth, but the truth will always be stronger,” Liberman tweeted. “The announcement by the US state department is proof of that.”
Liberman, who as defense minister is responsible for administering the West Bank, was commenting after the US State Department released its annual report on human rights violations around the world on Friday, and no longer refered to the West Bank as “occupied.”
Whereas previous iterations of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices had a section on “Israel and the Occupied Territories,” this year’s document refers instead to “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza.”
Israel captured The Golan, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza in the 1967 Six Day War. It has annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan and, in 2005, withdrew from the Gaza Strip, which is now ruled by the Palestinian terror group Hamas. The Palestinian Authority rules parts of the West Bank, but overall control remains under the Israeli militarily.
Last December, it was reported that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman asked the State Department to stop calling the West Bank occupied, which would make a noted departure in US policy.
No indication of any change in that regard had materialized — until now.
In the past, Friedman had made remarks that were rebuffed by Washington as not reflecting official policy. Last September, for instance, he told Israel’s Walla news site he thought “the settlements are part of Israel.” State Dept. Spokesperson Heather Nauert later told reporters his comments marked no shift in the US position. Before his confirmation to the diplomatic role, Friedman was a staunch settlements supporter and columnist for right-wing Israeli publications.
The report released Friday also noted that the final status of Jerusalem, which US President Donald Trump has formally recognized as Israel’s capital while making plans to relocate the US embassy there, was still a matter of talks between both sides.
“On December 6, 2017, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the report said. “It is the position of the United States that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.”
Most of the rest of the report is similar to prior years, cataloging human rights abuses by by the Israeli Defense Forces, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority.
The report said “the most significant human rights issues included terrorist attacks targeting civilians and politically and religiously motivated killings by nonstate groups and individuals; administrative detention of Palestinians, often extraterritorially in Israel; and legal requirements and official rhetoric that adversely affected the operating environment for human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).”
It added that the Israeli government “took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses within Israel regardless of rank or seniority.”
The report also included a lengthy section on Hamas activities in Gaza, which it said entailed “rocket and mortar attacks against civilian targets in Israel, and they did so at or near civilian locations in Gaza.” Within the coastal enclave, Hamas carries out violent killings, torture practices, and arbitrary arrests of minors and LGBTQ individuals. There is also widespread forced child labor, the report said.
Another section, however, also detailed allegations against Israel, including exacting arbitrary arrests, demolitions of Palestinian homes and confiscation of Palestinian property, torturous interrogation techniques, and imposing limitations on Palestinians’ rights to peacefully assemble and protest and their freedom of movement.