Lowering the Bar for Abbas

The 2003 ‘road map’ agreement remains the critical document outlining each side’s obligations toward peaceful resolution of the Mideast conflict. Stage one of the road map obligates the Palestinian Authority to commence

sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.

By his own admission, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not complied with this requirement, choosing instead to elicit a conditional cease-fire from the terrorist groups, and offering Hamas representation in the next PA government.

On the Israeli side, a recent government report indicated that Israel has also not yet fulfilled its road map obligations to end settlement activity and dismantle recently erected outposts.

But look what happens to the two sides’ obligations in this March 28 Reuters report on EU criticism of Israeli settlement building:

Israel is supposed to halt all settlement activity in the first phase [of the road map], in return for security measures to end violence which new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is implementing.

Reuters asserts that Abbas ‘is implementing’ Palestinian road map obligations, while Israel has failed to comply. Reuters thereby lowers the bar on Abbas’ actual, all-important stage one obligation ? to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

Back in the Oslo Years (1991-2000), similar media maneuvers ? demanding strict and immediate Israeli compliance with commitments while creatively redefining simultaneous Palestinian obligations ? were one of the key reasons for the breakdown of understanding and descent to violence. If real progress is to be made this time around, the media must accurately represent both sides’ official commitments.

Comments to Reuters: editor@reuters.com

*   *   *

Reuters isn’t the only media outlet redefining the road map to assign blame solely upon Israel. A March 23 New York Times editorial heaped criticism on Ariel Sharon with no mention whatsoever of Mahmoud Abbas’ non-compliance with the agreement. HonestReporting subscriber and blogger David Gerstman produced a creative rewriting of this Times editorial to illustrate how Times editors might have worded their critique with the exact opposite focus. We reproduce excerpts here, side-by-side:

New York Times Editorial
(view full)
‘Alternative version ‘
(view full)

Maybe Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel doesn’t quite get it yet, but this new era of hope in the Middle East means he needs to restrain his instincts for settlement building.

Maybe President Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t quite get it yet but this new era of hope in the Middle East means he needs to restrain his instincts to excuse the terror against Israel.

Israel publicly confirmed plans to expand [a settlement]… The Palestinians have rightly criticized this as a major obstacle to ever resolving one of the most emotional and intractable issues between the two: the final borders of Israel and eventually Palestine, and the dividing up of Jerusalem.

Mr. Abbas failed to get [terror groups] to give up their terror as anything more than a temporary measure. Many Israelis have criticized this lack of resolve and rightly accused the Palestinian terror organizations of being insincere and seeking a chance to regroup rather than a commitment to the political process.

[Adding to settlements] right now is so cynical… [Sharon gave] a slap in the face of the new Palestinian president.

Mr. Abbas’s cynical claims of having fulfilled his obligations… may play well in the Arab street but it can hardly inspire confidence in the Israeli public or those of us who are serious about peace.

Mr. Sharon deserves credit for the upcoming withdrawal of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip… but building new settlements is the wrong way to ease… political pressure.

Mr. Abbas deserves credit for talking a good game and decrying the use of violence. He now needs to back up his words with strong actions and show that he means them.

Comments to the New York Times: letters@nytimes.com

In any endeavor, a false sense of reality inevitably leads to disappointment. The media, by projecting a skewed picture of the Mideast peace process, can jeopardize any possibility of a real breakthrough.

HonestReporting encourages subscribers to monitor your local media for even-handed critique of road map compliance.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
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