Dueling Headlines


Something that hasn’t quite gotten the square focus that I think it deserves is that Israelis (almost universally across the spectrum) and non-Israelis have started to see the greater Middle East through wildly different lenses. To the vast majority of external observers, the primary issue facing Israel is the Palestinian issue. The continued growth of settlements, the growing strength of Palestinian radicals, and the dramatic rightward shift of Israeli politics all point toward a closing window of opportunity for a two-state solution. To the vast majority of Israeli observers, the primary issue facing Israel is Iran and there’s a powerful, if somewhat odd, desire to believe that the Palestinian problem is basically an epiphenomenon of the conflict with Iran. US policy ought to be sensitive to Israeli concerns on this front, since it’ll be very difficult to get them to move on the Palestinian issue if they’re terrified of external threats. But at the same time, I really think the Israelis have this backward—the IDF is perfectly capable of deterring and defeating the Iranian, but the Israeli nuclear program isn’t going to protect them from a total collapse of international legitimacy.

The coverage of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Israel has reflected this division. The AP’s coverage keeps the Palestinians front and center with a headline that reads “US: ‘Inescapable’ movement to Palestinian state”. The lede of the story is Clinton saying that we’ll work with whichever government the Israelis elect, but also “delivered a clear message that could put her at odds with the country’s next leader: Movement toward the establishment of a Palestinian state is ‘inescapable.'”

The Jerusalem Post, by contrast, went with a completely different story “Netanyahu, Barak urge Clinton for Iran dialogue deadline”. You then get nine grafs about Iran, one about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, then a bit about the UN conference on racism, some more about Iran, some stuff about Syria and then deep—deep—into the story comes this business about inescapable movement toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.