US PRESIDENT Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they pose in the Rose Garden at the White House this week.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
After nearly a month in Tel Aviv, I returned home to Los Angeles and was immediately confronted by the mainstream media position on Israel. At the gym, I picked up a three-week-old copy of Time magazine, and there was a prominent article on the Israeli election. The caption was: “The Netanyahu era continues, with Israel moving still further Right.” Sometimes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was equated explicitly with US President Donald Trump, and sometimes it was only implied; but it was always there. And since Mr. Trump is uniformly despised in my city – as he is in many major urban areas – that same feeling is directed at Mr. Netanyahu.
To be sure, the journalists need to say more to complete their articles. Merely equating him with Mr. Trump is not enough. The “two-state solution” remains the Holy Grail of the mainstream media, so the prime minister’s campaign pledge to annex “major Jewish settlements in the West Bank” was prominently emphasized from the start. Didn’t that pledge demonstrate his rejection of the Holy Grail, and didn’t that mean he also rejected the only possible means of making peace with the Palestinians? Indeed, the article in Time ended sharply with a quote from a PLO official that: “the Israelis had voted ‘no to peace and yes to the occupation.’” The writer did not need to say that this was his position as well.
Of course, inconvenient facts were omitted from the article. It had long been acknowledged that the large settlement blocs would remain with Israel under any possible agreement, with compensatory areas allocated to the Palestinians in return. Neither was it mentioned that negotiations had long been dormant, so the issue was hypothetical at best.
But the most striking omission of all was the “three-state reality” of the current circumstances – and that the dominant factions in the West Bank and Gaza may well despise each other even more than they do the Israelis. Indeed, the issue of Gaza was never mentioned. It was incompatible with the Holy Grail and conveniently ignored.
What lies behind this vacuous discussion is the larger public’s clamor for a resolution to the issues. After 70 years or so, why can’t the parties resolve their issues? Someone must be to blame for that result – and Mr. Netanyahu is the chosen scapegoat. The prospect that some conflicts have no acceptable solutions is an untenable outcome, and the press apparently have responded. In the market for ideas – just as in the markets for goods and services – an effective demand creates a supply structure that gives it what it wants. While the press may reinforce existing attitudes, it is not the moving party.
The pro-Israel community needs to do a better job in the battle of ideas in America. It needs a larger presence, particularly in colleges and universities. There is a telling story that needs to be emphasized – which is not done sufficiently.
The reality is that the Palestinians do not accept the presence of a Jewish state in any part of the former British mandate. And on this point, Palestinian leaders have been quite explicit. Their support for terrorists who attack Israeli civilians is a case in point. That is the bottom line in the discussion that often gets lost in the on-going consideration of details. Indeed, I have not heard it stated by the mainstream press in years. To be sure, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has paid lip service to the continued presence of Israel, but no one should believe him. Now in the 12th or 14th year of a five-year term, his pronouncements are hardly ones to accept at face value. The pro-Israel community needs to force an agenda change – and if it does, the press will follow.The writer is a professor of economics at UCSB and UCLA, and resides in Los Angeles
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