Big Media and a Mea Culpa’s Meaning

I have to wonder if the Western journos who cite anonymous Israeli sources quoted in the Israeli media bother to reflect on the pundits they draw their inspiration from.

After all, if a columnist is quoting “senior security officials,” “the defense establishment,” and “an entire political echelon” as favoring a land-for-peace deal with Syria, that’s pretty big. But anonymous sources can change their minds. And an Israeli journalist may go so far as to write a mea culpa of his own.

That’s the significance of Israeli columnist Sever Plocker admitting he was wrong for previously supporting a land-for-peace deal with Syria, a view he says was based on conversations with Israeli security officials:

Three times in the past three years I wrote articles in favor of a peace treaty between Israel and Syria. I wrote, based on numerous conversations with senior security officials, that Israel can achieve peace with Assad’s regime in exchange for willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights, whose security significance has become dubious, if not wholly non-existent.

The three columns Plocker refers to include quotes that would reasonably have been picked up by foreign journalists. Whether the about-face will get similar attention is anyone’s guess . . .

Article 1: Earlier this year, before anyone had any notions of an “Arab Spring,” Plocker wrote:

A peace treaty with Syria seems to be worth its full price, including a Syrian foothold in what used to be the east bank of the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret. For that reason, the defense establishment supports a full peace deal with Syria even in exchange for full withdrawal from the Golan.

Article 2: In 2007, Plocker wrote:

My interlocutors, however, steered me towards a completely different direction: The chances of peace with Syria. A senior defense official, who has since become even more senior, used particularly harsh words in his criticism of the Olmert administration’s refusal to engage in dialogue with the Syrians; he called it “a national crime” and an “infinite tragedy.”

But others also relayed the same message: Peace with Syria is achievable . . .

Article 3: And in 2006, Plocker made a similar point. I couldn’t find the original article online, but Plocker referred to it. Here’s the key snippet:

Almost the entire political echelon in Israel advocates engaging in talks with Syria and is prepared to live with its consequences. This is the greatest national decision that has fallen on the Olmert cabinet’s doorstep – a peace deal with Syria will strike a heavy blow at the incumbent regime in Teheran and its nuclear and belligerent ambitions, and will bring its demise closer.

When it comes to anonymous quotes appearing in the Israeli press, the foreign press corps more frequently cites Haaretz (sometimes with peril). But the Jerusalem Post, Yediot, and the main TV and radio stations are all players.

Now that the Syrian uprising has Plocker — and more importantly,  the security establishment — rethinking their views, would it not make sense for Big Media to reflect something on that shift?

Or does the mainstream media only take interest in Israeli columnists who match its own outlook?


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