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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Netanyahu Trip: New York Times ("Diplomatic Failure") vs. Haaretz ("Netanyahu's Popularity Soaring")

Who ya gonna believe?

The New York Times insists: Israelis See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure

And if you were to ask Ethan Bronner of The New York Times how many Israelis actually feel that way, he'll tell you:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel returned from Washington on Wednesday to a nearly unanimous assessment among Israelis that despite his forceful defense of Israel’s security interests, hopes were dashed that his visit might advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians.[emphasis added]
But then it gets interesting: Bronner is not basing his opinion on an actual poll.


Instead, based on the assumption that the goal of the trip was to find a way to lure the Arabs back to the negotiating table--and the fact that they say they remain unconvinced--Netanyahu's simply did not achieve what he sent out to do.

Putting aside the perpetual assumption of the Times that it is Israel's responsibility to get the Arabs to the negotiating table, Bronner appears to be basing himself on:
  • A cartoon in Yediot Aharonot
  • Nahum Barnea of Yediot Aharonot
  • Avi Dichter of opposition party Kadima
  • Ben Caspit of Maariv who said whether you think Netanyahu was successful or not depends on who you ask
  • A Maariv poll that found that Netanyahu's popularity rose "slightly"
Nowhere in his article does Ethan Bronner mention Ha'aretz.

Pity.

Because Haaretz declares in its headline: Haaretz poll: Netanyahu's popularity soaring following Washington trip

Then there is the sub-headline:
Despite tensions in Washington during PM's visit, Israelis generally don't believe Obama is hostile to Israel or that U.S.-Israel relations have been harmed, indicating that the public seems to be turning a deaf ear to analysts who criticized Netanyahu's address to Congress.
And unlike The New York Times, Ha'aretz backs up its claim with a poll:
It's doubtful that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his wildest, most optimistic dreams, would have dared to imagine when he set off for the United States last week that Israelis would respond to his six-day trip so enthusiastically: According to a new Haaretz poll, they are giving the visit high marks, considering it an overwhelming success.

The poll, conducted by the Dialog organization, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs of the Tel Aviv University Statistics Department, showed that 47 percent of the Israeli public believes the U.S. trip was a success, while only 10 percent viewed it as a failure.
Remember, we are talking about Ha'aretz here: the liberal newspaper that is know as The New York Times of Israel.

Nevertheless, Ha'aretz took the unusual step of asking the people what they thought, instead of the politicians and the media.

Israelis who were polled believe that Netanyahu's strong stand did not jeopardize Israel's relations with the US:
Some 27 percent of those polled said they believe relations between the two countries will actually improve as a result of the visit, while only 13 percent thought relations would deteriorate. Nearly half of those questioned don't think there will be any change.
In sharp contrast to that Maariv poll that found a slight increase in Netanyahu's popularity, Ha'aretz found a complete--and positive--reversal in how Netanyahu was perceived by Israelis:
While in a Haaretz poll five weeks ago Netanyahu seemed to be in hot water with the public, with 38 percent expressing satisfaction with his performance and 53 percent disappointed with it, in yesterday's poll the results were essentially reversed: 51 percent were satisfied, while 36 percent were not.
Paragraph after paragraph of the Ha'aretz article completely undercuts the New York Times article. It's as if Ha'aretz is saying: go ahead and let the New York Times interview the experts and declare Netanyahu's trip a dismal failure:
The public thus seems to be turning a deaf ear to the many political and diplomatic analysts who criticized the prime minister's address to Congress and who said it proved that Netanyahu was not capable of pulling the negotiations with the Palestinians out of the dangerous mire they are in.

The public also seems to have dismissed the learned warnings that Netanyahu had generated an unnecessary confrontation with Obama, for which Israel is liable to pay a high price down the line. Apparently average Israelis - from the right, the center, and even from some parts of the left - are welcoming Netanyahu back to Israel with open arms.
Granted that the popularity of Israeli leaders is volatile, the question remains:
what in the world is The New York Times talking about?

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