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September 27, 2012 8:38 am

America and Israel in Each Other’s Minds

avatar by Michael Widlanski

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Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (right). Photo: wiki commons.

Who will be president, and how will that affect Israel? What will Israel do about Iran, and do Israelis really trust Netanyahu and Israel’s  Barak or America’s Barack?

These are critical, even fateful questions, but  answers are surprisingly hard to get, and Israel’s view of America, like America’s view of Israel, can be fuzzy at best.

If you are an Israeli who listens to  Kol Yisrael Radio or Israeli Army Radio or watches Channel One TV, Channel 2 TV or Channel 10 (and I suspect that covers almost every non-ultra-Orthodox Israeli), you already know that Barack Obama is going to defeat Mitt Romney by a gazillion votes.

For the last week, every one of the previously mentioned outlets has run at least two or three items reinforcing the “fact” that Obama is going to “trounce”  Romney by a landslide  (the Hebrew term is lehavis ) but that Israelis should not worry because Obama really loves Israel.

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News Flash for Obama-boosters in Israel’s media: you are not telling the truth.

“The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows both President Obama and Mitt Romney attracting support from 46% of voters nationwide,” according to the September 26 findings.

“Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and five percent (5%) are undecided. See daily tracking history,”   the report continued.

But here is the big news for most of the Israeli media who think they are American mavens:    “When “leaners” are included, it’s Romney 48% and Obama 46%,” said Rasmussen.

Let’s also recall that for the entire last week, the Gallup polling organization, that had shown Obama leading Romney, has been describing a dead heat in the popular vote polls nationwide at 46 or 47 percent in their seven-day rolling poll..

It is a sad   reflection on the state of Israeli journalism when Israel’s top broadcast outlets—not to mention daily newspapers like Yediot Aharonot and Maariv—publish  nonsense taken from some alternate universe.

In the real universe—not the one with US and Israeli “reality shows”—the two top US public opinion polls—Rasmussen and Gallup  have been consistent from about September 20 through September 27 in saying that Obama and Romney are running neck and neck. Indeed, the most recent Rasmussen poll showed Romney actually beginning to pull ahead 48-46.

When President Barack Obama said he ignored the “noise” coming from Israeli leaders trying to get him to move harder on Iran, Israel Channel Two TV’s Arad Nir tried to explain that Obama was not being mean to Israel when he used the word “noise,” as many Republicans have said.

That kind of coverage is typical of Israel’s media elite, where many reporters and commentators speak and read very little English, and apparently do not have the ability or inclination to use Google in English to check public opinion polls at Gallup or Rasmussen or  Real Clear Politics.

But,  don’t get cocky, you North Americans who rely on the likes of Tom Friedman of The New York Times, Fareed Zakariah of Time and whatever and Christiane Amanpour of CNN,   for your knowledge of the Middle East.

If you are an American or Canadian or a French or British citizen dependent on your media for news of the world, you are probably getting as incorrect a view on Israel as Israelis who rely on their media for knowing what is going on in America.

The American media have been selling a story that Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak are really wild-eyed jungle dwellers whose views on Iran and the Palestinians are not consistent with the views of “rational” Israelis who trust President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Yes, you might get that impression  if you have tea with one or two editorialists at  Yediot Aharonot or one or two politics instructors from Tel Aviv University or Ben-Gurion University who specialize in trashing their own country.

But Israeli public opinion polls (even from the Tami Steinmetz Center of Tel Aviv University), show most Israelis  do not believe in sweet-talking Iran or making overtures to the Palestinian terror organizations from Fatah and Hamas.

Indeed, through bitter experience, most Israelis—even on the Left—now agree with Netanyahu that Israel needs to rely on itself, while hoping and praying for help from God, because it cannot rely  on the US, the UN or prayers to Barack Obama, who always has time for golf and David Letterman, but not Israel.

Polls in Israel have shown for a long time that most Israelis do not trust Obama and his promises—and that was even before his “Arab Spring”-oriented view of the world came tumbling down in the Muslim Brotherhood-owned Egypt, blood-drenched Syria and the murdered ambassador in Libya.

It seems the US forecasts of “Arab Spring” are as accurate as some Israeli media reports on the US election scene. Many of us who have worked in the media for much of our lives,  love pictures of Harry Truman holding up a Chicago newspaper saying he had just lost the presidency in 1948, even though he had just won the elections.

Then again, the news sometimes arrives late in Chicago—or for those who root for the guy from Chicago.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of  Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by  Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was  Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.

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