Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The New York Times Gets Israel Wrong Again

by Elliott Abrams
January 29, 2013


Just for the record, it is useful to recall the New York Times’s analysis of Israel’s recent election campaign. Here is the prognosis by its chief Jerusalem correspondent, Jodi Rudoren, on the day before the January 22 election.

The headlines from Israel’s 2013 campaign have been about the failure of a fragmented center and left to field a credible challenger to Mr. Netanyahu, and the emergence of an emboldened national-religious party with a hard-line position on the Palestinian conflict. As the Middle East’s most stable democracy turns inward, experts say a growing majority of Israelis have given up on the land-for-peace paradigm that has defined the debate for decades, cementing the country’s shift to the right in politics, policy and public discourse….

Many analysts see the campaign as a watershed on two fronts: the collapse of the center-left and the rise of the national-religious community — also called religious Zionists — mainly through Jewish Home, which advocates annexing the part of the West Bank where most settlers live….

On the right, Naftali Bennett of Jewish Home emerged as the darling of the campaign, attracting voters with his hawkish policies and his persona: he is 40, wears a knitted skullcap, was an officer in an elite army unit and made millions in high-tech before entering politics.

The Times was not alone in making this entirely wrong analysis and prediction, but that’s part of the problem: the Times was simply presenting the mainstream media view. In that view Israel is always turning to the right and is “hawkish,” the center is always collapsing or has entirely collapsed, and we must all deal with a dangerous Israel where democracy is merely “cementing the country’s shift to the right in politics.”

The surprise of this campaign was, of course, the rise of Yair Lapid and his centrist party, whose showing will produce a governing coalition to the Left of the previous one. I am unaware of any follow-up article explaining why the Times got it all wrong, but part of the problem seems to be the media echo chamber: Times correspondents talk to other Times correspondents and to people on the Left who think as they do. I’ve written about this problem before, in this December blog post. The lesson is simple: read the Times’s coverage of Israel carefully to see what such people are thinking, but not to see what is actually going on in Israel.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Spot

    Despite the Israeli equivalent of the Arab Spring (which was similarly motivated by rising costs and calls for social justice, of a different nature), the Social Protests, the Left picked up only four seats, two from the Likud and two from National Union (its other two seats seem to have gone to United Torah Judaism).

    What’s striking is what happened within the Right- Likud probably lost at least one of those two seats for Yisrael Beitenu, which is further to its right; lost nine seats to HaBayit HaYehudi, a party whose sole purpose seems defined, at least externally, by the denial of any possibility of a Palestinian state; and added Moshe Feiglin, G-d bless his heart.

  • Posted by Andrew

    Tom Friedman (as you undoubtedly know) is always critical of Israel and almost always wrong.

    During earlier stages of the “Arab Spring,” Friedman kept castigating Israel for not embracing Egypt’s new leaders. He kept calling the Muslim Brotherhood moderate and practical. Everyone is reasonable except those rabid Israelis.

    Of course, he was wrong. Morsi and the Brotherhood hate Israel, hate Jews and can’t be trusted.

  • Posted by On

    I miss the print edition but avoid the online NYT like wildfire.

  • Posted by Data's Lap

    The Lexus and the Olive Tree was good, though.

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