Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Microscope: Donald in Media-land

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Allon Lee


Donald Trump's controversial and unexpected presidential victory saw the inevitable flurry of stories on how his win might affect Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

The ABC website was quick off the mark running an analysis from Lebanese American University's Lina Abirafeh (Nov. 10), who wrote Trump "has said he will build a wall along the Mexican border...he will do no favours to the people living behind the world's most tragic wall - in Palestine. Trump [said] he would use the US Security Council veto to scupper any United Nations deal on a settlement between Israel and Palestine."

It's a fence, not a wall, which was necessitated by Palestinian suicide bombings. Trump promised to veto one-sided resolutions that grant Palestinians statehood without needing to make peace.

On ABC Radio "AM" (Nov. 10), Beirut-based ABC correspondent Matt Brown reported on the regional response to the election outcome, noting that, "Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent the region's warmest congratulations."

ABC Jerusalem-based correspondent Sophie McNeill's online article (Nov. 14) focused on Israeli and Palestinian reaction to Trump's victory.

She claimed that "Mr Trump's promises to the Israelis have been vast; starting with the claim he will be the most ‘pro-Israel president ever'."

McNeill also noted Trump's undertaking to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but said it was "something former President George Bush promised but never delivered." Bill Clinton and Obama also failed to deliver on similar promises!

Amazingly, McNeill managed to only find Israelis welcoming Trump's win despite pre-election polling showing a majority of Israelis wanted Clinton to win - a point McNeill's report overlooked. An online ABC story during the campaign (Oct. 27) reporting on a pro-Trump rally in Jerusalem for dual American-Israeli citizens also ignored the majority pro-Clinton sentiment in Israel.

Channel 7's website (Nov. 10) used an AFP report which called the potential embassy move a "controversial commitment" while also failing to note that successive US Presidential candidates have made similar commitments.

The report also implied that support for moving the US Embassy was limited to Israel's Right - yet all mainstream Zionist parties support it.

The report claimed, "Netanyahu had caused controversy when he ruled out a Palestinian state ahead of a 2015 general election, but later backtracked." Netanyahu did not rule out a Palestinian state, he said it was not feasible "today".

On Nov. 15, the ABC website ran yet another story, this time from Reuters, focusing on Israeli junior coalition leader Naftali Bennett's view that a Trump Presidency provides "a unique opportunity to reset and rethink everything." The report noted that Israeli PM Netanyahu "has... been cautious about over-playing the benefits of a Trump presidency, perhaps so as not to pre-empt whatever policies the president adopts."

Prior to the election, visiting Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari told ABC Radio National "Drive" (Nov. 8) and Jim Middleton on Sky News "Agenda" (Nov. 6) that polls show that "70 per cent" of Israelis supported a Clinton victory, corresponding to the level of her Jewish support in the US. By contrast, Yaari noted, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei endorses a Trump Presidency because of a perception he would be less interventionist than Clinton.

Rabidly anti-Israel commentator Greg Barns wrote in the Hobart Mercury (Nov. 14), "Clinton is a neo-conservative in the mould of war criminal George W. Bush and sycophants...Tony Blair and...John Howard. The Washington war machine created al-Qaeda and ISIS and funds the oppressive cruel enterprises of Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is now trying to pick a fight with China and Russia."

Fairfax's Hamas apologist Paul McGeough (Age and SMH, Nov. 12) started his analysis by saying, "A statement, a video and a phone call to congratulate the next US president - never let it be said... Netanyahu wasn't paying attention."

The Saturday Paper's Hamish McDonald (Nov. 12) wrote, "Netanyahu has an uneasy few weeks... It's widely expected Obama will now pay him back, perhaps in a UN vote, for eight years of token co-operation in the Palestinian peace talks."

Netanyahu did almost everything Obama asked of him to advance the chances for peace - as a quote from a trove of leaked emails from the Clinton camp pointed out: "[Hillary] had dozens of hours of convos with Bibi where he not only supported a two-state solution but actively negotiated to bring it about."

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