On Jan. 22, shortly after exit polls were published on the evening of the Israeli election, we published a post demonstrating that the Guardian’s predictions prior to the election – warning of a dangerous shift to the right – were proven entirely inaccurate.
Scare passages from their “analysts” before Israelis went to the polls included predictions of “a more hawkish and pro-settler government“, “a more right-wing and uncompromising government than Israel has ever seen before“, and ”the most right-wing government in its history“
The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood predicted that “Netanyahu’s parliamentary group will be markedly more rightwing after 22 January.”
When all the votes were counted, it was confirmed that the country had moved slightly to the left in comparison to the 2009 results, and the government formed by Binyamin Netanyahu and presented to President Peres on Feb. 22 – comprised of Likud-Israel Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, Jewish Home, and Hatnua (Tzipi Livni’s party) – represented, broadly speaking, a centrist coalition.
The Guardian invested heavily in promoting their desired political narrative of a Jewish state lurching to the far right, and they got it completely wrong.
Whilst we didn’t expect a mea culpa from the Guardian, their March 17 editorial on Obama’s visit to Israel, which lamented the ‘dim prospects’ for a breakthrough in peace negotiations, made a quite telling mistake – conveniently omitting one member of the new government. The editorial misled readers by claiming that the coalition was composed of “the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc: Yesh Atid, founded by former TV personality Yair Lapid; and Jewish Home, a party linked to the West Bank settler movement led by Naftali Bennett” – leaving out Tzipi Livni (Hutna), whose aggressive position on the need to resume peace talks would have undermined their desired narrative.
The editorial was only adjusted to reflect reality when CiF Watch contacted Guardian editors and alerted them to the mistake.
The Guardian error, it should be noted, was especially egregious in light of the fact Livni, who led negotiations with Abbas while serving as foreign minister under Ehud Olmert, will be in Bibi’s inner cabinet, a member of the security cabinet and will lead a small team of “personally appointed staff into peace talks with the Palestinians”.
Harriet Sherwood’s latest report on efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to revive peace talks, ‘John Kerry returns to Middle East amid lowered expectations’, similarly demonstrates an unwillingness to acknowledge the profound errors in predictions that she, and her Guardian colleagues, confidently offered in the weeks leading to the election.
Sherwood’s report includes the following passages:
Kerry is believed to be keen to dust off the 11-year-old Arab (or Saudi) peace plan, under which regional states would normalise relations with Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state. And he is likely to ask Turkey to play an active role in any revived process.
It all seems reasonably promising on paper, but the reality on the ground looks rather different.
The new Israeli government, sworn in two days before Obama’s visit, is a rightwing pro-settler coalition
In the spirit of the Guardian editorial from March 22, Sherwood conveniently omitted the presence of center-left parties (Yesh Atid and Hatnua) in Bibi’s 68 seat coalition – a government which, for only the third time since 1977, excludes ultra-orthodox parties.
Whilst terms such as “right”, “left” and “center” are, in fairness, fraught with problems, it’s interesting to observe that the decidedly liberal Jewish newspaper, The Forward’, for instance, saw fit to characterize the new government, in a March 14 report, as ‘reflecting a shift to the centre’.
In fact, even Al-Jazeera, on March 15, in a story titled ‘Turbulent road ahead for Netanyahu coalition‘, avoided characterizing the new government in such deceptively monolithic terms. Instead, they wrote that the “Centre-right [Israeli] government set to be formed in Israel seems wired for dysfunction”, and noted the ideological split represented by the four party coalition.
In our election eve post we predicted that the Guardian would likely learn nothing from their journalistic miscalculation about the political trajectory of the Jewish state – that, once again, nothing would be learned which could serve to lessen the grip of their hubris, the rigidity of their ideology.
It doesn’t provide any comfort to note that our suspicions appear to have been valid.