WASHINGTON – It is possible that the American press would have paid more attention to the Israeli election had it not coincided with the installation of its own executive leadership.
But it is unlikely.
The vote in Israel falls one day after United States President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, which has dominated US media coverage over the past week. What space has been devoted to the race in Israel, has emphasized the lackluster nature of the campaign and its foregone conclusion – not exactly stop-the-presses kinds of stories.
In perhaps the clearest sign that the elections have been viewed as less-than-gripping news cycle fodder, a recurrent theme in the relatively few stories that have been published here is what’s not being discussed in the campaign, rather than what is.
Both The New York Times and Washington Post on Monday ran stories, well inside the paper, about the lack of debate on certain topics.
In a Memo from the Middle East titled “An Unusual Election for Its Non-issues,” The Times detailed the lack of details being provided on policies, noting that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hadn’t even produced a formal platform.
The Washington Post summed up its story with the headline: “In Israeli election, Iran issue avoided.”
And if Israeli politicians aren’t tackling big issues with global implications, why would the media an ocean away pay them much heed? Iran, Syria, Al-Qaida remain major concerns in America.
But in contrast to all these actors, who are driving new developments each day, Israel has remained static on these issues during the course of the election, and there is no sense that the elections have provided clues to what course the next government could take on these subjects.
With Obama re-taking his place in the Oval Office and Netanyahu all-but-certain to remain prime minister, even the popular storyline of dysfunction and disagreement between the two leaders only makes for well-trod ground.
Though the discord could well continue – and certainly the tensions over the announcement of construction plans in E-1, put forward by Netanyahu, at least in part to neutralize a political challenge on his right, point in that direction – it is also the case that after four years of sparring, the two wearied men could instead opt for accommodation.
Then the media would have even fewer stories to write on the US-Israel relationship.