On March 18th the BBC began to produce coverage of the results of the previous day’s election in Israel. Among those reports was one by Lyse Doucet which appeared on BBC television news and also on the corporation’s website under the title “Israel election: ‘Security fears’ seal Netanyahu victory“. Doucet opened her report as follows:
“After a night when he made political history, Mr Netanyahu’s first stop this morning was the holiest site in Jewish history – the Western Wall – for prayer and a pledge.”
A viewer responded to that obvious (but nevertheless frequently made) mistake on Twitter.
Of course that is not accurate either, as the viewer pointed out, but no correction has been made to the report since its appearance.
With the BBC having earlier adopted and promoted the view of some opinion polls (though not all) according to which the centre Left Zionist Union was tipped to win the election, it is interesting to see how Doucet explained its actual result to BBC viewers.
“Security fears won this election for him. Mr Netanyahu lurched to the right and promised: no state for the Palestinians, no end to Israeli settlement building.”
Whether or not there is a factual basis for Doucet’s “lurched to the right” claim is debatable – not least according to Netanyahu himself:
“I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu insisted. “I never retracted my speech at Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”
“What has changed is the reality,” he continued. “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”
After having brought in an Israeli journalist to back up her theory, Doucet moved the focus of her report to Ramallah:
“In the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank there’s disappointment but a growing determination to still find a way to create their own state.”
Ironically, those words are spoken whilst the image on screen shows a Ramallah street decked with DFLP flags with a logo which eradicates Israel from the map.
Ignoring that particular inconvenient truth, Doucet next gave a platform to Mohammed Shtayyeh and his thinly veiled threats – which she made no attempt to clarify.
“I think it is time now that the international community should put serious pressure on Netanyahu to save the two state-solution – one, and on the other hand I think Netanyahu should not really take that big risk to be as aggressive as he used to be because the Palestinian reaction will be not pleasant for him.”
“Across the West Bank during Mr Netanyahu’s time as prime minister security barriers have gone up, making Israelis feel more secure and Palestinians less hopeful.”
Construction of the anti-terrorist fence of course began in 2002 – seven years before Netanyahu became prime minister – and it is not located “across the West Bank” but around that area. Within the area itself, the number of checkpoints has actually been reduced in recent years: from 40 in July 2008 to 13 in February 2014.
Doucet’s mind reading of the Israeli people and their prime minister continued:
“Today there were calls from many capitals for a resumption of peace talks. That’s hard to imagine right now. Benjamin Netanyahu managed to rally a majority of Israelis around his right-wing message but it still left a divided society and a country at growing odds with the rest of the world. But for the Israeli leader, that matters much less than what he sees as the best way to ensure Israel’s security. This has long been a land troubled by conflict. Now Israelis also worry about rising threats on all their borders in this increasingly unstable region. So in the end, many voted for the man who spoke to those fears.”
Interestingly, Doucet had nothing to say about why the BBC got the election story so wrong – yet again. But her overall message to audiences is very clear: the underlying factor preventing peace and light from descending on the Middle East is not Islamist extremism, not foreign support for Palestinian terror groups, not the Palestinian Authority’s throwing in of its lot with Hamas via its ‘unity government’, not the existence of Hamas terror cells in PA controlled areas and not the absence of an elected Palestinian president and government who can truly claim to represent the Palestinian people. According to Doucet, it is the fears of Israelis which have scuppered the chance for peace.