Ben Rhodes Falsely Claimed Israel Building 'Thousands of New Settlements'

January 13, 2017

Top White House official Ben Rhodes falsely claimed in an interview last month that Israel is constructing "tens of thousands" of new settlements on the same day the Obama administration allowed a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements to pass the Security Council.

The Center for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, found the error in Rhodes' interview with PBS host Judy Woodruff on Dec. 23.

Woodruff asked Rhodes about the administration's decision to forgo its veto power and abstain from a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, allowing the measure to pass. The abstention broke with decades of U.S. policy to defend the Jewish state at the U.N. from what critics call anti-Israel resolutions.

"These settlements are encroaching further and further beyond the separation barrier that the Israelis themselves built," Rhodes said. "Thousands of new settlements are being constructed, and, frankly, if these trends continue, it will be impossible to realize a two-state solution."

Rhodes doubled down on his claim, later in the interview stating, "You saw tens of thousands of settlements being constructed; you saw as was addressed in the resolution, incitement to violence on the Palestinian side."

Peace Now, an anti-settlement organization that tracks such activity, has much lower numbers than Rhodes, CAMERA reported. According to Peace Now's tally, there are 131 Israeli settlements and 97 outposts in the West Bank, making for a total of 228 settlements–not tens of thousands currently being constructed as Rhodes claimed. The Israeli government did not sanction the 97 outposts and does not recognize them as legitimate.

After citing Peace Now's figures, CAMERA said that "the Israeli government constructed zero new settlements in recent years."