Kevin Connolly tweaks the Israeli political map

Apparently still unable to let go of the subject of the Israeli elections, the BBC featured another report on the subject by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in its January 26th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. 

A podcast of the programme can be downloaded or heard here.  Connolly’s report begins at 01:26, but it is also worth listening to the introduction by the programme’s presenter Kate Adie from 00:39, in which she once more repeats the unquestioned mantra of “the deadlocked peace process” as one of the “pressing regional matters”. Alternatively, a fairly accurate transcript of Connolly’s radio report can be read in the magazine section of the BBC News website.

Moving on past the rather laboured introduction, we reach Connolly’s assessment of democracy in the Middle East; one which seems riskily hasty if one considers the track record of elected Islamist regimes in the region so far.  

“Israeli officials have long made the point that theirs is the only democracy in the Middle East – a claim that calls for a little tweaking or qualification in the light of Egypt’s elections last year.”

But the real intention of this report by Connolly seems to be to persuade audiences that the BBC’s pre-election analysis was not as far off the mark as they may think. 

You see, if you happened to think that the BBC’s energetic promotion of the notion that Israelis were about to elect a right-wing government was mistaken then, according to Connolly, it is you who are wrong. And in order to explain just how wrong you were, Connolly says:

“What is interesting about this election is that the dynamic new force in parliament comes not from the far-right of Israeli politics as many expected, but from the centre.

A new party called “There is a Future” is the second-largest force in the new Knesset.

It is led by a popular television personality called Yair Lapid. If you are British or American, you will have to imagine David Dimbleby or David Letterman stepping down from the screen to sort the country out.”

So far, so good. But Connolly then continues:

“Using the term “centrist” in the context of Israeli politics is not always helpful.

I suspect that to many Europeans, it conjures an image of a leader who would be much less tough in negotiations with the Palestinians than Mr Netanyahu would.

But Mr Lapid does not believe that Israel should have to divide Jerusalem with the Palestinians in a future peace deal – one of the core elements of the two-state solution that the wider world continues to believe in.

That Mr Lapid is labelled a centrist perhaps shows you where the centre of gravity of Israeli opinion on such matters lies these days.”

So you see, the BBC was not wrong: Israelis did elect a far-right government after all, because Kevin Connolly has just ‘shown’ that in Israeli politics – which apparently should be defined in European terms and solely in relation to the ‘peace process’, ignoring aspects such as economic policy – even the Centre is Right. 

And how does he pull that off? By blinkering his audience into focusing on one single issue – the subject of the possible re-division of Israel’s capital city – which Connolly should know is just one of many issues defined in internationally recognized agreements as subjects for final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The fact that Yair Lapid – or any other Israeli – may consider the division of Jerusalem undesirable is not a rejection of negotiations with a Palestinian Authority genuinely interested in reaching a settlement. 

Of course Connolly’s convenient tweak of the Israeli political spectrum does nothing to explain why, in all its pre-election coverage of the Israeli Right (and only the right), did the Yesh Atid party barely get a mention. Rather embarrassingly, Connolly also seems to have forgotten that only three days previously he himself wrote the following words:

“But the sudden and decisive lurch to the right that many predicted hasn’t happened.

The results show that there’s plenty of life on the left and the centre of Israeli politics too.”

Unfortunately, this latest report by Connolly appears to indicate that not only is the BBC nowhere near engaging in the much-needed self-criticism shown to be so necessary by its coverage of the Israeli elections, but that it appears to be determined to avoid that introspection like the plague, even if it makes itself and its correspondents look very silly in the process. 


10 comments on “Kevin Connolly tweaks the Israeli political map

  1. Kevin Connolly, like so many who report from afar, is obviously unable to perceive the nuances that govern party politics at local level. If he had been in Israel, or if he had indeed watched the Israeli news repeat on the internet, he would have seen that even on the subject of Jerusalem Yesh Atid is prepared to be flexible for peace, as declared yesterday by the party’s #2, Yaacov Peri, and peace is what I am sure that Mr Connolly wants even more than to show how damnable Israel really is at heart.

    • “If he had been in Israel…” It would not have helped, since Duvidl suspects he speaks not a word of Hebrew, except “Shalom.”

  2. Connolly backtracking on his own comment only three days previously is reminiscent of the contradictory same-newspaper items that “Private Eye” displays side by side with relish.

  3. “its correspondents look very silly in the process” – more like it makes its correspondents look like the biased no-nothings that they are are fervently trying to push their warped agenda regardless of the actual facts !

  4. Wasn’t it shortly before the Israeli elections that Obama called Netanyahu “a political coward?” And doesn’t that make a better case for assuming that, with that foul remark, Obama was trying to influence Israel’s elections?

    And would the BBC ever accuse Obama of such manipulation?

    (That’s a rhetorical question since, obviously, the BBC, deeply in love as it is with Obama and loathing Israel, would never dream of doing such a thing.)

  5. Despite Connolly’s disclaimer he has no problem conveniently defining the Likud as Right wing nationalist although I suspect every Zionist party would be insulted to discover they were not nationalists.

    Check out the graph of provisional results in ‘Israel coalition talks begin after election deadlock’ It divides the parties into right wing, centre-left, Arab and Ultra Orthodox. I suspect that Labour, Meretz and Hadash would be insulted to be described as centre..

    At best, the BBC see the parties of the Centre and the Left as a bloc against the Right which they clearly are not given that Yesh Atid and Kadima are in coalition talks with the Likud. Could it be that no matter how left the BBC appears to be they see themselves as the Centre?

    BTW 22 January 2013 Israel election: Benjamin Netanyahu holds strong hand
    26 January 2013 Netanyahu dealt weak hand by voters


  6. David Connolly has very little reputation, and the fact that he reports for the BBC is a clear indicative of the all times low it has reached.

  7. Yet they still characterise Palestinian leaders who openly support the destruction of Israel, deny the Holocaust and call for genocide against Jews as “moderate.”

    The BBC are more extreme than any Israeli government in their paradigm of Marxist propaganda.

  8. Pingback: BBC can’t let go of ‘right-wing’ Israeli politics | BBC Watch

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