July 23, 2013
WaPo ignores Sharp Criticism of Kerry by Senior Palestinian Officials
In its July 22 edition, the Washington Post runs an AP dispatch about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's forecast of difficult hurdles ahead in negotiations with the Palestinians and his commitment to submit any peace agreement to a public referendum ("Netanyahu stresses difficulty of any talks" Page A10).
Nothing remarkable about the piece, which focuses exclusively on Israeli comments about prospects for resumption of negotiations.
But why no corresponding report on Palestinian reactions in the Post's borrowed AP piece? The answer, according to the seventh paragraph: "Palestinian officials were silent Sunday."
Oh, really? The paper's explanation, it turns out, is an utterly mendacious assertion. Far from total Palestinian silence during the July 21 news cycle, there were lots and lots of comments from high-level Palestinian officials, all of them contradicting Kerry's announcement that he had achieved a basis for resumption of negotiations and that Palestinian negotiators would meet their Israeli counterparts in Washington to launch negotiations in the coming week.
Hamas put out a statement rejecting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's authority to negotiate with Israel because it's been several years since the end of his presidential term and there have been no Palestinian elections to give him another term.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of two top Palestinian officials authorized by Abbas to make public statements about prospective negotiations, denied that there had been any agreement to proceed to substantive negotiations and that the Palestinians were still in discussion with the U.S. on basic terms for peace talks.
The Palestinian Authority's official newspaper called Kerry a "master of self-deception." Several PA sources told reporters that Palestinians would show up in Washington just to please Kerry, but would not plunge into serious talks.
Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki said flatly that Palestinian representatives would be in Washington for "nothing more than consultations" and "this has nothing to do with negotiations."
And Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Ishtayeh said Palestinians would still insist on major preconditions for talks to start, including Israeli commitments to negotiate border on the basis of a 1949 armistice line, a total freeze on construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and on a firm timetable for release of Palestinian terrorist killers.
Yet, in the eyes of the Washington Post, none of this pushback against Kerry's optimism rated coverage in the July 22 edition because according to the AP and the Post, "Palestinians were silent on Sunday."
Reminds me of Erich Maria Remarque's novel about massive slaughter across the trenches during World War I -- with the main protagonist dying while the daily communique reassured the world that it had been "All Quiet on the Western Front."
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers
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