How the media got the Israeli elections so wrong

The American-funded anti-Bibi campaign backfired spectacularly

Beyond the embarrassingly erroneous polls, both pre-election and exit polls, that predicted a loss for Netanyahu and the Likud, the media itself lent a hand to these incorrect numbers by consistently reading Israel wrong: its society, its culture and its mindset.  Even the Israeli media, who should have known better, were culpable. It could be argued that the media’s mis-reporting led to the misleading polls, and the skewed polls gave rise to the misreporting. Both sides fed each other in a perpetual loop of misunderstanding.

Israel Hayom’s article, The failure of hubris and hatred talks about the demonisation of the Right by the leftist media, and how that led to the incorrect polling estimates:

The elections’ results clearly show that the condescension and arrogance practiced by Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon (Noni) Mozes and his myriad of associates, commentators, and broadcasters, who openly endorsed the Left while demonizing Benjamin Netanyahu the man, has failed.

Painting Likud voters into a corner and depicting them as a mob and as people voting with their hearts and not with their heads, raised serious questions about the reversal of roles. Profound hatred, much like burning love, stems from irrational sources, and anyone perusing the pages of Yedioth, Haaretz, news websites, and other media outlets, would have had ample proof that it was the Likud’s rivals who were voting with their heart and not their heads. 

Interestingly, Eitan Haber, former aide to the slain Labour PM Yitzchak Rabin, rebuked the Left for living in a bubble:

The leftists enhance each other in conversations at cafés and restaurants, in the Tel Aviv salons, in cinematheques and different cultural clubs. The people living outside Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem Cinematheque, outside the academia and the newspaper and television’s news desks have completely different views.

The facts were painfully presented on Tuesday evening to those who in the past few weeks believed the stories about the left-wing bloc’s meteoric rise and the right-wing bloc’s collapse.

Those living in the bubble should spend the next few years far away from Tel Aviv, and get to know the people in the periphery, in order to believe that the State of Israel will continue to exist long after the Zionist Union leaders disappear from the political map.

The left likes to withdraw into itself, to hold internal discussions, to engage in internal quarrels, and shows contempt and disregard towards the voice of “Masuda from Sderot.” But the thing is that in one day of elections, the vote of Masuda from Sderot equals the vote of the president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It’s the same opportunity, it’s the same envelop – only the vote is different.

Haber is to be commended for his clear-eyed view of the Left, and for his suggestion – which I somehow feel will be ignored.

Reader “Reality” in the comments on my previous post mentioned a similar discussion on a Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) program. (You might be surprised to note that the Army Radio is as left-wing as Haaretz):

Today on Galei Zahal they couldn’t get over how the people have yet again made a mistake and voted for a right wing govt!  They went on and on how come people keep on “making the same mistake now for 15 years!”.  Finally some reporter told them that just because the media is left leaning, doesn’t mean that the general public is. He said it’s time his journalistic colleagues started reporting facts and not creating fantasy scenarios that the left would win.

Schadenfreude!!

I certainly share in the Schadenfreude!

But for the best look at what went wrong with all the predictions, here is an excellent analysis in the blog “Politically Incorrect” entitled Israeli elections, the untold story, which explains just how the world misread Israel and thus got it all so wrong:

Let us examine, one by one, the fallacies that these inept ‘experts’ have been peddling to their unsuspecting audience.

It’s not about peace, it’s about the economy

… But, as the results unequivocally showed, the economic situation (hardly a bad one, anyway) did not cause Israelis to vote for the parties that promised to ‘close the social gaps’.  Issues of security remained at the forefront, as did the conflict with the Palestinians.  It’s just that Israelis have grown increasingly skeptical about negotiations with an organisation that, while ostensibly interested in ‘peace’, is also planning to ‘take Israel to court’, ruin her economically, subject its citizens to terrorist attacks and flood her with ‘returned refugees’.

Israel’s ‘shift to the right’

Western media has, for years now, pushed the idea that the Israeli electorate is inexorably sliding to the right.  This is usually postulated as self-evident, thus releasing the proponents of that theory from the exhausting duty of providing evidence.

… What has actually happened is not a ‘shift to the right’, but a disintegration of the ‘sane left’, which found itself increasingly disconnected from the mainstream (see Figure 2), losing its appeal to the centre, swing voters.

‘Apathetic’: Arab Israelis

Another myth often pushed by Western pundits is the image of Arab Israelis who ‘feel marginalised’, ‘struggle to belong’ and hence utterly lack interest in Israeli politics.

… Whatever the percentage turnout (and despite pressure to organise boycotts), Arab Israelis have voted in increasing numbers, thus manifesting unequivocal interest and confidence in the country’s democratic processes.  True, they have voted primarily along ethnic lines – for Arab ethnic parties whose leaders tended to represent the PLO, rather than their own constituency.  But there are signs that that, too, is beginning to change.

The ‘Ultra-Orthodox’ danger

Yet another fallacy propagated by international media is the image of almost occult power exercised by the improperly named ‘Ultra-Orthodox’ (Haredi) parties.

… In fact, the Haredi parties were left in the opposition after the previous (2013) elections.  And while they are likely to join the next governing coalition, they will have to cohabit there with avowed secularists.

No Palestinian State

In the tense run-up to the elections, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to promise that, if elected, he will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank.  … But what most of those outlets failed to report was the background to that statement.

Documents disclosed prior to it by the Israeli media showed that one of Netanyahu’s ‘special envoys’ (lawyer Yitzhak Molcho) had conducted intense secret negotiations with an emissary of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  An Israeli secret document entitled ‘Draft Proposal for Statement of Principles Towards a Permanent Arrangement’ appeared to show that Netanyahu’s envoy had agreed to the establishment of an “independent, sovereign and viable” Palestinian State with “borders with Jordan […] Egypt” and Israel, based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, with equal land swaps.  The document laid out the framework for uprooting a large number of West Bank settlements and even stipulated leaving some settlers in the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control. Molcho even appeared to lean towards concessions in Jerusalem, stating that

“Any solution to the issue of Jerusalem must correspond to the deep historic, religious, cultural and emotional ties of both peoples to the city…”

Published in full in one of Israel’s main newspapers, just a few days before the elections, the document was said to

“stand in stark contradiction of his [Netanyahu’s] hawkish views”

No wonder, then, that he felt the need to deny making such concessions and ‘shore-up’ his position with a hawkish statement.

The blogger concludes with the most apt quote (with which I concluded my previous post too):

Western pundits will, of course, continue to find fault with Israel, obstinately applying the ‘glass half empty’ approach to the Jewish State.  Ironically however, the most interesting and revealing commentary on the recent elections came from a Palestinian Arab journalist:

“We say all these bad things about Israel, but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy.  We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don’t want elections. They want to remain in office forever.”

When you live in Israel and experience the real living, vibrant, noisy, diverse democracy that is our essence, it is almost impossible to recognize ourselves in the demonic pictures painted by the Leftist media, both local and international. One would think that it is high time for the media to get its act together and start reporting accurately.

I wonder when that happy day will arrive.

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4 Responses to How the media got the Israeli elections so wrong

  1. Chaim says:

    Anne: yashar koakh for an excellent article .

  2. Aridog says:

    Your cartoon amuses me…a perfect example of our petulant little boy dwarf of a POTUS. He seems to forget his own pronouncement of “I won” when it comes to Bibi…who can also retort “I won.”

    I hope we can survive another 1.7 years of this child….but I am not that confident we can. He’s off the rails now and may cause things unimagined here. He’s decided to take on the entire Congress, where his opposition also “won” in 2014. Something is going to burst….hopefully within our Constitutional system, but that is not guaranteed when one individual just runs amok.

    The greatest misunderstanding by our petulant POTUS is the coalition building required in Israel. Why? Because he couldn’t form a “coalition” if his life depended upon it.

    • anneinpt says:

      I hope we can all survive the waning days of your President. Thank goodness that Congress is in the hands of the Republicans though I get the strong feeling there are many democrats who are embarrassed by their President. Am I mistaken?

      He already apparently feels he has nothing left to lose and is taking revenge on Israel for having had the gall to elect the wrong leader. He has been threatening not to veto anti-Israel resolutions in the UN and is still storming ahead with his Iran deal. Even the French are objecting to the deal now!

      But I’m willing to lay bets that Israel will survive and thrive long after that nasty little man has left the White House and is written down in history as the worst American president ever.

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