WaPo's profile of Netanyahu short on facts

Janine Zacharia, the Washington Post's Jerusalem correspondent, tries her hand at writing a profile of Prime Minister Netanyahu in the June 4 edition, but the real Bibi keeps slipping through her fingers. Readers of her article might be forgiven for asking: Will the real Bibi, please stand up and materialize in the pages of the Post? But they would be hard-pressed to find him in Zacharia's dispatch ("In Crisis, Netanyahu looks forward first -- Defiance Brings Israelis' Support -- But toughness can turn to pragmatism when needed", page A6).

Not only is her analysis of the prime minister muddled and seemingly contradictory but she also fails to do justice to Netanyahu in her reporting -- or lack of it -- of his address to the Israeli people.


"When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered his angry response to a cascade of international condemnation of Israel on Wednesday, he spoke first in Hebrew to a domestic Israeli audience," Zacharai begins her report.


What's immediately noticeable is that a report about Bibi"s "angry response" turned out to be the lead in a Friday edition of the Post. Since the paper failed to pay adequate attention to what the prime minister said in its next-day (Thursday) editions, this apparently is an attempt to catch up.


Fine, but even this belated account of what he said sadly falls way short.


The first quote from Bibi's "angry response" doesn't follow the lead, as readers might expect. No, readers have to wait until Paragraph 8 in a 20-paragraph story to get some words directly out of Bibi's mouth. And it's a very short quote about Bibi complaining about international "hypocrisy."


And the only other Bibi quote has to wait until Paragraph 10 when he points to Israel's need to bar arms imports to Hamas in Gaza and warns the world about allowing an Iranian port in the Mediterranean.


No other Bibi words appear in the entire piece. Zacharia basically gives him an eye-dropper treatment, shoving what he has to say to the sidelines, while she gives higher priority to her own analysis of what makes Bibi tick.


Her analysis, like her news reporting, however, is just as flawed.


She starts by depicting Bibi in Paragraph 2 as an all-out hard-line hawk: "Defiance has been a signature of Netanyahu's career, and despite the expectations of some commentators that he would be more conciliatory during his second go-round as prime minister, that has not been the case over the 14 motnhs since he returned to power. Even when it has meant publicly feuding with the Obama administration, Netanyahu has seemed to embrace the fight."


You can't be more rigid and hard-line than that. Zacharia continues in the same vein in Paragraph 4, writing about how Bibi "filibustered U.S. calls for a freeze on settlement construciton in the West Bank and East Jerusalem" and forced the Obama administration to "make an embarrassing retreat from its initial demands for a complete freeze."


Take that, Bibi, you Likudnik.


But hold on! Seven paragraphs later, in the second half of the article, in Paragraph 11, Zacharia starts singing an entirely different tune. She reports "signs that Netanyahu may be tempering his tough rhetoric with pragmatic steps to help ease" the flotilla crisis. Two paragraphs later, in Paragraph 13, she again trots out a totally different Bibi from her description at the top of the article: "When necessary, he has been willing to make pragmatic, tactical concessions."


In the next parragraph, she notes that last fall, "he agreed to a 10-month (construction) pause in the West Bank." And In paragraph 15, again in complete contraditciton to the earlier tough-guy, hard-line picture of the prime minister, here is Bibi even managing to put a hiatus on construction in East Jerusalem. The prime minister who previously was depicted as forcing Obama to make an "embarrassing retreat," shows up as a far more flexible, even pliant politician.


What gives? Why is Bibi a hawkish hard-line devil in Paragraphs 2 and 4, but a very pragmatic, concession-prone leader some 10 paragraphs later?


The answer, I suppose, is that at times he can be hard-line and at times he is a pragmatist. Fine. But why hide the pragmatist until the bottom of Zacharia's article? Why not make it clear right at the top that there are two Bibis that defy simplistic description? Why wait until most readers already have turned to other parts of the paper to show a more nuanced Bibi? Why hide the softer image so far down in her piece?


In sum, the Post still hasn't caught up with Netanyahu's "angry response" in his speech to the Israeli people. And its profile of the prime minister prominently demonizes him to a fare-thee-well, while burying a softer portrait so far down that it's bound to escape the attention of most readers.


LEO RENNERT




Janine Zacharia, the Washington Post's Jerusalem correspondent, tries her hand at writing a profile of Prime Minister Netanyahu in the June 4 edition, but the real Bibi keeps slipping through her fingers. Readers of her article might be forgiven for asking: Will the real Bibi, please stand up and materialize in the pages of the Post? But they would be hard-pressed to find him in Zacharia's dispatch ("In Crisis, Netanyahu looks forward first -- Defiance Brings Israelis' Support -- But toughness can turn to pragmatism when needed", page A6).

Not only is her analysis of the prime minister muddled and seemingly contradictory but she also fails to do justice to Netanyahu in her reporting -- or lack of it -- of his address to the Israeli people.


"When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered his angry response to a cascade of international condemnation of Israel on Wednesday, he spoke first in Hebrew to a domestic Israeli audience," Zacharai begins her report.


What's immediately noticeable is that a report about Bibi"s "angry response" turned out to be the lead in a Friday edition of the Post. Since the paper failed to pay adequate attention to what the prime minister said in its next-day (Thursday) editions, this apparently is an attempt to catch up.


Fine, but even this belated account of what he said sadly falls way short.


The first quote from Bibi's "angry response" doesn't follow the lead, as readers might expect. No, readers have to wait until Paragraph 8 in a 20-paragraph story to get some words directly out of Bibi's mouth. And it's a very short quote about Bibi complaining about international "hypocrisy."


And the only other Bibi quote has to wait until Paragraph 10 when he points to Israel's need to bar arms imports to Hamas in Gaza and warns the world about allowing an Iranian port in the Mediterranean.


No other Bibi words appear in the entire piece. Zacharia basically gives him an eye-dropper treatment, shoving what he has to say to the sidelines, while she gives higher priority to her own analysis of what makes Bibi tick.


Her analysis, like her news reporting, however, is just as flawed.


She starts by depicting Bibi in Paragraph 2 as an all-out hard-line hawk: "Defiance has been a signature of Netanyahu's career, and despite the expectations of some commentators that he would be more conciliatory during his second go-round as prime minister, that has not been the case over the 14 motnhs since he returned to power. Even when it has meant publicly feuding with the Obama administration, Netanyahu has seemed to embrace the fight."


You can't be more rigid and hard-line than that. Zacharia continues in the same vein in Paragraph 4, writing about how Bibi "filibustered U.S. calls for a freeze on settlement construciton in the West Bank and East Jerusalem" and forced the Obama administration to "make an embarrassing retreat from its initial demands for a complete freeze."


Take that, Bibi, you Likudnik.


But hold on! Seven paragraphs later, in the second half of the article, in Paragraph 11, Zacharia starts singing an entirely different tune. She reports "signs that Netanyahu may be tempering his tough rhetoric with pragmatic steps to help ease" the flotilla crisis. Two paragraphs later, in Paragraph 13, she again trots out a totally different Bibi from her description at the top of the article: "When necessary, he has been willing to make pragmatic, tactical concessions."


In the next parragraph, she notes that last fall, "he agreed to a 10-month (construction) pause in the West Bank." And In paragraph 15, again in complete contraditciton to the earlier tough-guy, hard-line picture of the prime minister, here is Bibi even managing to put a hiatus on construction in East Jerusalem. The prime minister who previously was depicted as forcing Obama to make an "embarrassing retreat," shows up as a far more flexible, even pliant politician.


What gives? Why is Bibi a hawkish hard-line devil in Paragraphs 2 and 4, but a very pragmatic, concession-prone leader some 10 paragraphs later?


The answer, I suppose, is that at times he can be hard-line and at times he is a pragmatist. Fine. But why hide the pragmatist until the bottom of Zacharia's article? Why not make it clear right at the top that there are two Bibis that defy simplistic description? Why wait until most readers already have turned to other parts of the paper to show a more nuanced Bibi? Why hide the softer image so far down in her piece?


In sum, the Post still hasn't caught up with Netanyahu's "angry response" in his speech to the Israeli people. And its profile of the prime minister prominently demonizes him to a fare-thee-well, while burying a softer portrait so far down that it's bound to escape the attention of most readers.


LEO RENNERT




RECENT VIDEOS