Cablegate: Israeli Media Coverage of the U.S.

Published: Thu 2 Dec 2004 01:39 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: The Israeli media followed the U.S.
Presidential elections with great interest. From the
campaign through to the aftermath, commentators focused
their attention on several issues: the prospects for
changes in U.S.-Israel policy, the likelihood of
broader changes in U.S. policy in the Middle East, and
the impact of the Jewish vote in the United States.
End summary.
2. The 2004 U.S. Presidential elections attracted a
great deal of interest among the Israeli media. As
Israel's most important strategic and political ally,
the U.S. is typically followed quite closely in the
Israeli press. From the primary campaigns, and
particularly since the two party conventions, Israeli
media covered the elections with great interest.
Coverage of the campaign and the elections was almost
daily, with both factual reporting and
commentary/analysis provided by journalists of all
levels, academics, experts in various fields, former
ambassadors, and a very strong contingent of Israeli
correspondents in the U.S.
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Coverage of the campaign - Run-up to the Run-off
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23. The 2004 U.S. Presidential elections attracted a
great deal of interest among the Israeli media. As
Israel's most important strategic and political ally,
the U.S. is typically followed quite closely in the
Israeli press. By the Democratic and Republican Party
conventions this summer, coverage of the campaign in
the Israeli media had become almost daily, with both
factual reporting and commentary/analysis provided by
journalists of all levels, academics, experts in
various fields, former ambassadors, and a very strong
contingent of Israeli correspondents in the U.S. In
addition to reporting on campaign activity, the Israeli
media focused on several key areas of U.S. policy and
the prospective impact of the election on these areas:
the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship, Middle East
policy, U.S. relations with Europe, and the U.S.
3. In terms of the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship,
the Israeli media overwhelmingly agreed that the first
Bush administration had been a good friend to Israel.
"Conventional wisdom in Israel," wrote a senior
columnist from pluralist Yediot Aharonot on November 1,
"is that Bush was and will be the ideal American
president from Israel's perspective. The best there
is. Israel has no interest in seeing him replaced, and
it has every interest in seeing him reelected." Most
commentators agreed, however, that both candidates
shared a political record of support for Israel - for
better or for worse. A senior columnist for left-wing
Ha'aretz observed on October 18 that "regardless of
whether Bush is reelected or John Kerry takes his
place, there will be no `pressure' from America" in
terms of U.S.-Israel relations.
4. Journalists also felt that regardless of the outcome
of the elections, they were likely to mark the end of a
lull in Middle East policy. A diplomatic correspondent
for Ha'aretz noted on October 22 that "The elections in
the United States are fast approaching, and the
diplomatic arena is waking up and issuing calls to
increase international involvement in the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict, which has vanished from both
candidates' agendas. Once again the familiar slogans
are surfacing, about how stability and quiet in the
land of Israel are essential to the security of the
entire world, and about how the time has come to
implement the international road map plan and get on
with the establishment of the Palestinian state
alongside Israel. [...] The publication of the
disengagement plan and the close race in the elections
in the U.S. have afforded Israel a year of relative
freedom from international pressure. [...] Now the
moment of truth is approaching." In early November,
many newspapers published articles citing a Ministry of
Foreign Affairs report on the likely outcome of the
election, and the implications of that outcome for both
Israel and the Middle East.
54. Particular attention was also paid in the Israeli
press to the Jewish vote in the U.S., especially in the
English-language newspapers. An October 22 editorial
in left-wing Ha'aretz claims that "as the election
wooing demonstrates, the Jewish vote has not lost its
force. And it seems that more than ever before, the
world is keeping an eye on the Jewish vote." In
response to the question "So for whom should a Jew in
America vote?" raised in a front-page article in
Ha'aretz on October 22, the author points out that "the
safest vote, in terms of Israel, is a vote for Bush."
The Israeli media closely tracked exit poll results,
reporting on November 4 that President Bush had
received 22 percent of the Jewish vote. Several
newspapers front-paged their analyses of these results,
sharing the opinion that Bush's perception as the more
pro-Israel of the two candidates had a great deal to do
with his 3 percentage point increase among Jewish
voters. Ha'aretz quoted a Jewish voter in Brooklyn, NY
as saying "I don't see how any Jew could not support
Bush." The Jewish communities in swing states such as
Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio were also covered; as
Ha'aretz noted on November 4, "had [the Kerry campaign]
only persuaded a number of Jewish retirees [...] in
southern Florida, Massachusetts senator John Kerry
would have been elected president."
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(Maybe a Subtitle Here on Absentee
Voting???"Unprecedented Voter Turnout among
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65. Coverage was also given, particularly in the
English-language press, to the sizable American-Israeli
community and the logistical issues surrounding
absentee voting, for which eligible voters in Israel
registered in record numbers this year. Throughout
most of September and October, the organizations
representing the two parties in Israel, Democrats
Abroad and Republicans Abroad, also ran advertisements
in the English-language dailies on a regular basis
reminding readers to register for absentee ballots and
announcing events at which eligible voters could come
to fill out applications for absentee ballots. Both
organizations reported unprecedented interest in
absentee voting this year. ((Is there any info on
problems that absentee voters here had? It might be
interesting to note either way, given the coverage the
issue received in ither countries. Just a thought.))A
Ha'aretz article from October 29 observed that
"Estimates for the number of votes cast from Israel
vary, but even the lowest account - some 30,000 votes -
is more than double the voter turnout four years ago.
Some estimates for the upcoming elections go as high as
60,000 ballots." The two major English-language
dailies, Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz's English edition,
both paid close attention to difficulties experienced
by would-be absentee voters who did not receive their
requested ballots in time to vote. Both newspapers
noted the extremely high demand for the Federal Write-
In Absentee Ballot this year, and cited both in
articles and in paid advertisements that the American
Citizen Services units of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv
and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem offered
extended hours to address the "increased demand for
voter assistance."
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November 2-3: Intense Coverage in the Electronic Media
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76. The electronic media also showed great interest in
the U.S. elections. Although three channels (Channels
1, 2, and 10) have Washington-based correspondents,
they all in addition sent top journalists to cover
other angles of the elections, such as showing coverage
of the results from Kerry's headquarters in Boston.
Most of these journalists left for the U.S. at least a
week in advance of the elections and broadcast daily
reports from the country. On the day of the elections
(November 2) all TV stations had extensive reports on
their daily TV news shows covering the election
results, including interviews with people on the
streets, and footage from the U.S. and different
experts. At 10:00pm local time Channel 1 held a
special program, "America is Choosing," and Channel 2
had a "special U.S. elections" program. Coverage
resumed early on the morning of November 3. All three
channels had special U.S. elections programs that began
at 06:00am local time and lasted for at least three
hours. This coverage of the results continued
throughout the day with special news bulletins and
extended news programs. All the news programs included
round tables hosting U.S. experts, the station's
various commentators, Israeli officials; the topics
discussed were U.S.-Israeli relations; Arab world
response, Middle East peace process and more. Local
radio stations (Israel Radio and IDF Radio) extensively
reported on the results as they came in during their
regular morning news shows. The stations hosted
experts and aired their analyses of all possible
scenarios, discussing the technicalities of the
Electoral College, the rules surrounding Ohio's
provisional ballots, etc.
"The Sigh of Relief in Jerusalem"
87. Commentary on the results of the U.S. elections
began on November 4 and remained a major topic for
several days before being eclipsed by news related to
Yasser Arafat's health. The media generally agreed
that Israeli officials were relieved to learn of Bush's
re-election. Senior columnists for pluralist Yediot
Aharonot wrote that "When it became clear that [Bush]
would remain in the White House for another four years,
many figures in the political establishment allowed
themselves a broad smile of relief." A senior analyst
for the mass-circulation daily Maariv wrote that "The
sign of relief in Jerusalem yesterday was heard all the
way to Washington." In his front-page analysis in left-
wing Ha'aretz, Aluf Benn observed that "Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon gambled big time on George Bush, and
wasn't disappointed. Sharon maintained a public
distance from the U.S. presidential campaign, focusing
in recent months on domestic matters, but everyone knew
which candidate had his vote. The alliance with Bush
was the cornerstone of Sharon's policy from the day he
took office, and he stuck to it."
98. Most commentary explored the implications of Bush's
re-election for U.S. policy in the Middle East, noting
that the tenor of the relationship between the U.S. and
Israel would be subject to change. "Senior political
sources believe that Bush, in his second term of
office, free from the shackles of the Jewish vote, will
be much more involved in events of the Middle East,"
wrote senior columnists Itamar Eichner and Orly Azulai
of Yediot Aharonot. "The political sources fear that
Bush could try to rehabilitate his relations with
Europe and the Arab world and buy quiet in Iraq - at
Israel's expense." Senior analyst Ben Caspit of Maariv
concurred: "We have won, but now we will pay dearly for
it, because George Bush in his second term could be
much more dangerous than George Bush in his first. It
should not be forgotten that Bush's love affair with
Sharon came late, and not before Bush had wagged his
finger and threatened quite a few times.. Throughout
his first term in office Bush was planning how he would
get to his second. He knew he would need Jewish money
and votes. Now, throughout his second term, he will be
planning how he is going to go down in history. To
make history he has to get out of Iraq honorably, win
the war on terrorism, and reduce tension in America.
Of course, he will not be able to do all of that by
himself. Bush will have to mend his bridges with the
world, to conciliate with Europe, and to prove to the
Moslem world that he has not declared a crusade against
it. The price tag for all these initiatives is simple:
pressure on Israel. Bush can deliver the goods at our
expense, and the pressure on him to do so will be
109. Reflecting a more skeptical minority view from the
left, commentator Ben-Dror Yemini of Maariv went
further, suggesting that a more demanding U.S. policy
would be a good thing for Israel: "Bush's total support
for Sharon does not help us to achieve the important
Zionist aim of a democratic Jewish state. A little
more American pressure on the issue of the settlement
outposts would help us in the struggle against the
creeping realization of "Greater Palestine" of [...]
"Greater Israel." ." ((Ruth Anne - i realize this is a
quote but it does not actually make sense to say both
"Greaters" here. Maybe paraphrase would be clearer?
But America's complacency is leading to two
consequences: first, it has given the establishment of
new outposts a tail wind, and secondly, it has
exacerbated hostility toward the United States. The
West has to support Israel. But the West is divided,
partly thanks to Bush. We would be better served by a
West united in support for Israel on the basis of a two-
state solution, one of thethat is ((same here)) Jewish
and democratic,[...] than a fragmented West in which
Bush remains president and consequently that solution
becomes even more remote."
11. Comment: The intense scrutiny paid to the U.S.
Presidential elections by the Israeli media is
reflective of nothing more or less than the vital
importance that Israel attaches to its relationship
with the United States. The broad range of commentary
on the campaign and the elections simply amplified the
ongoing discussion in the Israeli media about the
nature of this relationship. End comment.
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