Israel’s Media Navel Gazing

For the past week or so, the Israeli media has been obsessed with one issue only: Obama-Bibi. This obsession reached a climax on Thursday, after Obama’s speech on the Middle East and North Africa. This climax continued – much like a multiple orgasm – into the weekend, with frenzied reporting on the meeting between the two on Friday. Every word in Obama’s speech relating to Israel and the Palestinians was scrutinised and dissected and regurgitated, ad nauseam. Even the body language of the two was analysed, providing “insights” into their opinions of each other.

Obama spoke for 45 minutes. He started speaking about Israel and the Palestinians only after half an hour, and for a few minutes. The speech contained more than 5,500 words; the part relating to Israel and the Palestinians was less than 20%. The meeting between Obama and Bibi lasted a couple of hours, after which they spoke in front of the media for another 15 minutes or so. Not more.

But when you read the Israeli media, all you get is the Israeli-Palestinian angle of Obama’s speech. As far as I know, only one newspaper in Israel (Haaretz) took the pains to translate the entire speech into Hebrew, instead or just reporting about it. Whist it is understandable that the focus of the reporting would be on this issue, this reporting is done completely out of context. It ignores Obama’s “grand vision” about the Arab world and how Israel fits into that vision. Whichever side of the political debate one belongs to, this self-centered approach cannot be the basis for discussion. It completely ignores how this American administration approaches foreign policy with respect to the Middle East. It focuses on the “here and now”, instead of taking a step back and trying to capture the real significance of Obama’s strategy for the region.

This “navel gazing” approach is not new and it is not surprising. Given the implications of the matter at hand for every Israeli and Palestinian living here, it is nonetheless very disappointing.


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