‘Showdown’ at the Crawford Corral?

On Monday (April 11), Israeli Prime Minister Sharon met President Bush at Bush’s Crawford Ranch in Texas.News coverage of this important meeting was remarkable for the disparity between the actual content of the meeting, and how the media represented it. Though Bush and Sharon largely conveyed mutual support and understanding, the media described a supposed ‘Texas showdown’ over the Israeli community of Maale Adumim, just to the east of Jerusalem, which the Israeli government has recently spoken of expanding.

PRE-MEETING COVERAGE

The day began with media outlets predicting the leaders would clash over settlements at Crawford. Take, for example, this CNN headline:

The LA Times also built up the ‘tension’ and ‘discord’ in its pre-meeting headline:

THE MEETING ITSELF

At the actual press conference, President Bush emphasized the following points, in this order (see transcript here):

1) Israeli security: ‘The United States is committed to Israel’s security.. (under) secure and defensible borders.’ 2) Economics: ‘We discussed ways to expand cooperation of our economies.

3) Gaza Plan: ‘Sharon is showing visionary leadership… I strongly support his courageous initiative to disengage from Gaza and part of the West Bank.’

4) Growth of Democracy: ‘the important and encouraging changes taking place in the region, including a Palestinian election.’

5) U.S. support of Palestinian state

6) Joint commitment to road map

7) Need for ‘an immediate, strong and sustained effort to combat terrorism in all its forms’

8) Settlements: ‘Israel should remove unauthorized outposts and meet its road map obligations regarding settlements in the West Bank… (but) As I said last April, new realities on the ground make it unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.

Note that settlements were the last of eight items addressed by Bush, qualified by Bush’s reiteration that Israel’s return to the Green Line is ‘unrealistic’.

Then, despite reporters’ efforts to foist the Maale Adumim issue onto the agenda during the question-and-answer session, Bush repeatedly emphasized that the real test right now is in Gaza. Said Bush, ‘To me, that’s where the attention of the world ought to be, in Gaza.’

COVERAGE OF THE MEETING

But media coverage of the meeting completely distorted its actual content. Most media outlets clung to their own speculation that conflict over settlements would characterize the meeting. For example:

CNN: The first six paragraphs from CNN’s report addressed Israeli settlements, and featured this headline:




MSNBC put this headline on an AP report:

The AP review describes Bush ‘prod(ding) Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Monday to abandon plans to expand a key Jewish settlement in the West Bank.’ Where exactly, if one reviews the transcript, was Bush’s ‘prodding’ on Maale Adumim?


Reuters’ report editorialized that ‘the two leaders failed to reach a consensus on the issue (settlements) that is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict‘, and trumpeted this headline:

Nowhere in Bush’s comments ? before, during or after the Crawford meeting ? did he ever ‘caution’ Sharon, explicitly or implicitly. On what basis does Reuters promote such fiction in its headline?

So while the real focus of yesterday’s meeting was an unprecedented, imminent and painful uprooting of 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza ? which the U.S. supports ? the media preferred to manufacture some ‘tension’ and ‘dispute’ between the two nations over possible building of settlements. As Sharon said to the press afterwards, in a sarcastic tone:

A crisis was not created, what can you do? I know it’s difficult to accept that there’s no conflict with the U.S.

This was a classic case of the media being more committed to its own agenda than it was to reporting the objective facts.

Did your local media coverage also distort the content of the Bush-Sharon meeting? If so, HonestReporting encourages you to write a letter pointing out the disparity between the documented event itself, and the media’s spin.

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

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