Media Shifts Away From Israel, Palestinians

A view of MaalehAdumim, with the controversial E1 area in the background. (FLASH90)
A view of Maaleh Adumim, with the controversial E1 area in the background. (FLASH90)

Events in Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are likely to overshadow media coverage of Israel during the year 2013, according to several forecasts

It’s an indication that we may enjoy a respite from the global media obsession with Israel. “Israel may have to spend less time defending itself as the Palestinian Authority’s demands become old hat and pale in the shadow of events in Syria and Iran,” Arutz Sheva commented.

In its annual outlook for the coming year, the influential American think tank The Council of Foreign Relations said that while the Mideast will continue to be an important generator of news, Israel and the Palestinian Authority were noticeably absent from the report.

James M. Lindsay, the head of CFR’s Studies Program, said the Syrian and Iranian threats to stability in the region will dominate Mideast news, especially if they spill over into Jordan or Lebanon.

Another big cloud on the horizon is Egypt.

“We should always worry about Egypt because Egypt is the most populous, most influential country in the Arab world. The big questions are whether or not Egypt will be able to make its democracy stick, and secondly, what kind of democracy the Egyptians are going to have.”

But nothing was said in the report about Israel and the Palestinians.

Similarly, the London Guardian wroteMonday that the major news stories in the Middle East in 2013 will be Iranian presidential elections in June. They are expected to take place in the context of an economy on the verge of collapse due to international sanctions. Ahmadinejad cannot run for office again.

The only comment on prospective news from Israel in the Guardian article was in regard to the January elections.

“There are two key questions for [Netanyahu’s] next term,” the newspaper wrote. “First, whether he orders a unilateral Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities; and second, whether he makes a serious effort to address the calcified peace process with the Palestinians or continues his strategy of talking about talks while expanding [construction].”

Year-end reviews were also indicative of a change. The Miami Herald treated the Hamas missile attacks on Israel and Operation Pillar of Defense as one of the top stories of the year. But the peace process didn’t make the list.

TheAssociated Press’s retrospective view of the year’s stories was almost entirely related to domestic events, in contrast with 2011, when the top stories were the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disaster, and the Arab Spring uprisings. Only the civil war in Syria was included in the top 10.

A certain disaffection with the Palestinians has surfaced, which appears to be contributing to the lack of enthusiasm for coverage of their every latest diplomatic maneuver and pronouncement.

Reporters covering the U.S. State Department have reportedly adopted a mocking attitude toward a peace process that has lost all credibility.

Earlier this week, a Washington Post editorial garnered considerable attention for rejecting the argument, which so captivated the Europeans in recent weeks, that Israel’s presence in Yehudah and Shomron is a major obstacle to peace.

The leading liberal newspaper pointed out that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has adopted the policy of his predecessors by “limit[ing] building [in the region] almost entirely to areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial swaps in an eventual settlement.”

The paper, citing a study by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, said this will enable 80 percent of Israelis in Yehudah and Shomron to be incorporated into Israel as part of a peace deal through agreed-upon land swaps, approximating President Bill Clinton’s proposal of 12 years ago.

In particular, it dismissed the specter of future Israeli housing in the E1 corridor between Yerushalayim and Maaleh Adumim as an impediment to the establishment of a Palestinian state. A barrage of angry condemnations by the entire U.N. Security Council (with the U.S. issuing a separate one of its own) was “counterproductive because it reinforces two mistaken but widely held notions: that the [construction is] the principal obstacle to a deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible.”

The editorial concluded on a note that could have been drafted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry: “The exaggerated rhetoric is offensive at a time when the Security Council is refusing to take action to stop the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians — including many Palestinians — by the Syrian regime.

“But it is also harmful, because it puts pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make a ‘freeze’ on the construction a condition for beginning peace talks. Mr. Abbas had hinted that he would finally drop that demand, which has prevented negotiations for most of the past four years, after the General Assembly’s statehood vote.

“If Security Council members are really interested in progress toward Palestinian statehood, they will press Mr. Abbas to stop using [construction] as an excuse for intransigence — and cool their own overheated rhetoric.”

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