Yesterday, the Israeli media reported Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ continued refusal to enter direct negotiations with Israel. ‘Abbas: U.S. assurances on borders needed before direct peace talks,’ published in Haaretz, related how the Palestinian leader ‘has vowed to resist U.S. pressure to open direct peace talks with Israel, unless he receives less "vague" guarantees on the issues of Israeli settlement construction and the borders of a future Palestinian state.’
This news has not been reported in the mainstream British media today, although an examination of coverage of this month’s meeting in Washington between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama provides an insight into why not. It also suggests that future Israeli offers and concessions might, too, be downplayed.
On Tuesday 6th July at his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu implored his Palestinian counterpart to come to the table and restart face-to-face negotiations, and did so again in subsequent interviews on Thursday 8 July. However, some newspapers refused to acknowledge this fact, or gave it an incredibly low profile.
Of the three articles published in The Guardian on Wednesday, only one included a minor reference to the offer. Chris McGreal quoted the Israeli PM saying ‘It is high time to begin direct talks [with the Palestinians]
The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the same events on the same day provides an insight into an alternative take. ‘Mahmoud Abbas cool on calls for resumption of direct peace talks with Israel’ was fully focused on the issue of the Palestinian president’s current refusal to return to direct talks, thus positioning the issue as much more significant in the broader picture of Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Following Netanyahu’s direct appeal to Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday 8 July, The Daily Telegraph, again, took notice, publishing ‘Benjamin Netanyahu calls for immediate face-to-face peace talks with Palestinians.' The Guardian and The Independent did not report the story. On Sunday 11 July, following Abbas’ rejection of these calls to restart direct talks, both The Daily Telegraph and The Times gave the story a high profile in ‘Mahmoud Abbas: direct talks with Israel would be 'futile’ and ‘Mahmoud Abbas pours cold water on peace talks efforts,’ respectively.
Again, this development was not reported in The Guardian and The Independent. Furthermore, editorials published by both publications during the same week, whilst both pressing for urgent progress, did not see fit to mention that Netanyahu had offered to start bilateral negotiations. Indeed, ‘Obama and Netanyahu: All smiles over gritted teeth’ from The Guardian on Thursday 8 July, presented a picture in which it was Israel, not the Palestinians, that needed to commit to progress. Instead, the leading article lambasted ‘a current in Israeli thinking, shared by left and right, which is deeply relaxed about the case for change’ and exclaimed, ‘Things cannot carry on as are they [sic], and, if to make no other point, Barack Obama should go to Israel and say so in those terms.’
The Independent’s ‘Time for action, Mr Obama,’ also opted not to take account of Netanyahu’s spurned offer, in favour of observations such as, ‘As always, it was up to the US President to ensure that yesterday's meeting resulted in more than smiles and an Israeli promise to extend the settlement freeze.’ Like The Guardian, The Independent painted a picture of urgency regarding the two-state solution, claiming, ‘Already it is very late in the day to push for a two-state solution’ and ‘Now is the moment to grapple with a foreign policy conundrum that his predecessor woefully neglected, but which only an American president can move forward.’
These concerns make it all the more notable that neither newspaper had any sharp words for Palestinian President Abbas, who is currently the key obstacle to the resumption of direct peace talks – universally accepted as necessary to achieving the two-state solution which the publications profess to want.
Baruch atem b'Shem, Yeshua