29d6d6e2562bc210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2010-12Legal or illegal? It depends on your Israeli dictionary …19d6d6e2562bc210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Legal or illegal? It depends on your Israeli dictionary …When headlines in American newspapers start mentioning "illegal outposts" it is a sure sign that Israel is coming under serious pressure from Washington.<p>When headlines in American newspapers start mentioning "illegal outposts" it is a sure sign that Israel is coming under serious pressure from Washington. With the Obama administration promising a new peace initiative, Israel has to do something to show willing. Thus it is making plans to remove 23 of these "illegal outposts" - often no more than a couple of containers and a water tower on a hill in the West Bank.</p>
<p>You may be confused already: if all settlements in the occupied territories are against international law, in what sense are these outposts more "illegal" than the great red-roofed towns of Ariel and Maaleh Adumim? The answer is that these embryonic settlements have yet to receive authorisation by the Israeli government and are therefore cheap pawns to sacrifice.
I recall when the Clinton administration insisted on the same exercise. It was a great media fest: the thuggish element of the settlers (as opposed to the great mass, who come to the West Bank merely to take advantage of government subsidies) battled the Israeli police. Eventually they were dragged away. The settlers stoned Palestinian cars and burnt olive trees, but the Israeli government showed Washington it had done the right thing. A month or so later, after the cameras had moved on, the settlers returned to their outposts.</p>
<p>This year's battle of the outposts looks likely to be a diversion from a far more serious dispute - the rift between the US and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu over building a Jewish hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah area of east Jerusalem. In this case, Mr Obama is taking a tougher line than anything from the Clinton years.
Thanks to an official reprimand from Washington at this piece of demographic engineering in east Jerusalem, the name of the promoter of the settlement, Irving Moskowitz, a Jewish American millionaire and casino owner, has been brought into the open. Mr Moskowitz has supported the settler extremists for many years, but has managed to keep a reasonably low profile. Now his name can be found in all the world's media. "Bingo money for a Jewish Jerusalem" was the succinct headline in Die Welt, the German newspaper.</p>
<p>Washington is playing hardball, and so is the Israeli government. The focus on Mr Moskowitz will not be welcome to the mass of American Jews, who take pride in a long tradition of philanthropy. That the proceeds of a "charitable" gambling operation in California go to religious extremists pledged to thwart the goals of US foreign policy is not going to improve Israel's image in the US.
The battle over a settlement freeze now looks as if it will be fought in the court of US public opinion. Israeli advocates are well prepared. This is clear from a previously secret guide, The Israel Project's Global Language Dictionary 2009, which has now been leaked. It gives pro-Israeli speakers a complete vocabulary for diverting the debate away from the real issues - such as who controls the land - towards uplifting fluff designed to make Israel sound like a mini-America. This 116-page work has been updated at the cost of much time and energy for the challenges of the Obama era.</p>
<p>The dictionary - dubbed "fictionary" by its detractors - has been mocked for its crass defence of the Israeli settlements. The idea that some of the Jewish-only settlements in Palestinian areas should be evacuated is "a kind of ethnic cleansing", the manual says, and it offers the wholly unrealistic slogan of "nobody has to leave their homes" as the basis for a future settlement. The manual proposes the formula "peace before political boundaries", which plays down the importance of a Palestinian state and implies that it could be delayed for ever, or at least until Nablus turns into a new Dubai.</p>
<p>Behind the relentlessly positive messages, the manual's author, the PR consultant Frank Luntz, suggests that Israel's grip on American opinion is uncertain. Even in America, he writes, people sympathise with the Palestinians, so Israeli spokesmen have to fake empathy with the Palestinians. Educated Americans see the Israelis as occupiers and aggressors, he warns. Any reference to religion, even to Israel being a Jewish state, will reinforce a perception that Israel is as extreme as the Arab countries.</p>
<p>All this playing with language might seem ridiculous. Yet a poll produced for the manual suggests that it works, as long as the message does not contradict what people see on their TV screens. Even as Israel's image declines, the number of Americans who believe the conflict is about ideology and religion (as opposed to land) is rising - from 69 per cent last year to 73 per cent in January. So almost three quarters of Americans see terrorism, not territory, as the issue. This is good news for Mr Netanyahu.</p>
<p>It is clear that the Israeli government and its supporters are now primed for a propaganda battle. But what of the Arabs? The US wants them to do more to support its peace initiative. But there is precious little sign of anything concrete happening to reduce the great rift in Arab ranks - and inside the Palestinian movement - between the American camp and the pro-Iranians.
As for the Palestinians, the mood is one of waiting to be betrayed by Washington. The Arabs are expecting to be let down again. They can see that Mr Obama's foreign policy initiatives in Afghanistan and Iran are in the doldrums. His popularity is slowly declining. They can see that Mr Netanyahu is no willing partner for peace. All this is undeniable. But once again, it looks as if the fate of the Middle East will be fought out between Israel and America, with the Arabs on the sidelines.</p>