BBC’s promotion of linkage between Congress speech and Israeli elections falls flat

One of the themes promoted by the BBC in its coverage of the Israeli prime minister’s recent address to the US Congress was that the speech was connected to the upcoming elections in Israel.

On the day before the event – March 2nd – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly told audiences that:

“At the White House they will probably be watching in spite of themselves – but through gritted teeth.

Back home in Israel Mr Netanyahu’s rivals in this month’s parliamentary elections will be watching too – and in a similar frame of mind.”

Connolly was, however, honest enough to include the following information in his report:

“One of Mr Netanyahu’s advisors, Dore Gold, says the timing is nothing to do with Israel’s election – it is just that Iran is an important issue on which Mr Netanyahu has important things to say.

“March is a crucial month,” he said. “Unfortunately we have elections this month but he needs to tell his version of his understanding of the dangers of this agreement because Israel will be the first country to be affected.””

Nevertheless, another BBC News article from the same day informed audiences that:

“The speech comes two weeks before Israeli elections, with his Likud party under pressure in domestic polls.”

The March 3rd article titled Israel’s “Netanyahu warns US against ‘paving way to Iran bomb’” told readers that: “The speech comes just two weeks before a closely fought election in Israel” and included the following insert of analysis from Kevin Connolly which clearly ties the topic of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress with the Israeli elections.

Connolly Congress speech elections

That same insert of analysis also appeared in the report titled “Obama says Netanyahu’s Iran speech contains ‘nothing new’” published on March 4th.Indyk int

Viewers of BBC World News America on March 3rd saw Katty Kay open her interview with Martin Indyk (whose credentials were only partially disclosed) with the question “Was it useful for Mr Netanyahu to come to address Congress like this?” to which Indyk replied:

“Well, I think it was very useful for his own…err…err…reelection campaign. Two weeks off before the voters in Israel make a decision. He’s actually this week trailing in the polls behind his main rival, Isaac Hertzog, and he’s got a problem with the president of the United States which normally the Israeli voters don’t like: a prime minister who can’t handle his relationship with the president. But now he’s got a photo – and it was streamed live to Israel – of ‘the Congress has got our back and I know how to talk to the Congress and everything will be alright’.

So if – as the BBC’s theory goes – Netanyahu’s appearance in Congress was in part intended to improve his chances at the ballot box, we would expect to see a subsequent significant boost in his party’s ratings in opinion polls. That, however, has not materialized – as the Washington Post reports:

“According to polls carried out by Israeli TV news channels Wednesday, the day after his high-stakes speech to Congress, Netanyahu’s address had only a modest influence on the Israeli electorate.

Israel’s Channel 2 news said Netanyahu’s Likud party had increased its likely support by one seat in the parliament. On rival Channel 10, Likud had gained two seats to tie its main challenger.

In answer to Channel 2’s question — “Did the speech strengthen or weaken support for Netanyahu?” — 44 percent of those surveyed said it strengthened support, 43 percent said it had no influence and 12 percent said it weakened support for the premier.”

A later poll by the Jerusalem Post indicates that:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress did not help his Likud party cut the Zionist Union’s two-seat lead, according to a Panels Research poll taken on Wednesday and Thursday forThe Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister publication Maariv Sof Hashavua.

If the March 17 election were held now, the Zionist Union would beat the Likud, 24 Knesset seats to 22, the poll found. In last week’s survey, the Zionist Union received 25 seats and Likud 23.”

It is worth remembering that this is not the first time that the BBC has misled its audiences by fabricating connections between elections in Israel and separate events.

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