David Frum

02.12.13

The American Press Doesn't Get Israel

John Tabin for the Daily Download:

At an election night event in Tel Aviv, as the first exit polls began to leak out, the refrain among reporters was “I think we got the story wrong.”

The mistake reporters generally made was focusing on the conflict with the Palestinians while the Israeli electorate was focusing on other issues. Among the most pressing issues in Israeli politics concerns the role of the Haredim (also known as the ultra-Orthodox); for legal reasons, the law that effectively exempts them from the draft is on the next Knesset’s agenda. Lapid made reform on this front a centerpiece of his campaign; Remnick’s long feature didn’t mention it.

Reporters who focus more closely on Israel’s domestic politics did much better in their pre-election reporting. Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post pointed out that Bennett’s appeal was personality- and biography-driven, and had little to do with his views on the Palestinians or settlements; he avoided talking about them, and faltered when he did. Ben Birnbaum, a Jerusalem-based correspondent for The New Republic, spotted the late surge for the center and the left (the left-leaning coalition scenario he envisioned won’t quite happen, but it came close).