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December 29, 2022 11:27 am

Why the World Media Must Wait to Criticize New Israeli Government

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avatar by Gil Hoffman


Then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Jerusalem in Jan. 2020. Photo: Reuters/Oded Balilty

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government is set to be sworn in Thursday, nearly two months after the November 1 Israeli election.

It feels like the new government has already been in place for months, in part because the international media has written about it so much. But until Netanyahu takes the oath of office, Yair Lapid remains the prime minister of Israel.

HonestReporting is a media monitoring NGO that works to expose anti-Israel bias in the media. We do not support any government or political party in Israel, the United States, or any other country. For the sake of our readers, we seek to explain and contextualize what is happening in Israel, not to defend or justify it.

We examine the international mainstream and social media’s coverage of Israel, and critique and correct when factual errors are made about Israel. Since Election Day, more and more mistakes have been made, after a relatively easy period during Israel’s diverse outgoing government.

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The world media has not held back its criticism of what has been called ad nauseam “the most extreme, right-wing government in Israel’s history.”

But the truth is the government has not done anything yet, and until it does, criticism is premature and based on speculation.

Statements of politicians in any country are typically for domestic consumption or to send a message to international friends or enemies. Understanding those political calculations are critical to interpreting the ultimate goals of the politician, party, and/or government. Signed coalition agreements are statements of intent, not decisions set to be implemented.

Israel has a long legislative process. To become law, bills must be passed seven times, four in the plenum and three in committee. The controversial laws already passed by the new Knesset are — of course — fair game for criticism, but the rest will take their time.

Plenty of governments never get around to passing even their core goals. The outgoing government intended to pass legislation that could have limited Netanyahu from running again, but never completed the process. Leaders of all the previous government’s coalition parties were willing to make significant changes to the Western Wall prayer site, but for various reasons, they did not.

The previous coalition had an anti-LGBT party in Ra’am (United Arab List), which had four seats in a coalition of 61 that ended up taking unprecedented steps to help the LGBT community.

This new coalition has an anti-LGBT party in Noam, which has one seat out of 64. It also has Israel’s first gay Knesset speaker in Amir Ohana, and a prime minister in Netanyahu who has repeatedly promised to prevent any harm to the community.

If the past two months of infighting inside Israel’s right-wing bloc are any indication, the new government will be less homogeneous than previously thought. It will likely have trouble passing bills that most of the parties in the coalition agree, on due to fights over credit and disputes over which party is more hawkish than another.

The new government has come to power with one clear mandate: To improve the security of Israeli citizens. This is a relatively uncontroversial goal, and its success would improve the lives of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Israelis, as well as Palestinians.

According to official IDF figures, in the month prior to the election, there were 382 terror attacks in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Jerusalem alone. That number includes shootings, stabbings, explosives, and Molotov cocktails.

There were three European countries where far-right parties gained strength in recent elections. But in France, Italy, and Sweden, there were nowhere near 382 terrorist attacks in the month prior to the election, so the rise of extremists there is arguably harder to justify. But will those countries come under as much international scrutiny as Israel? Probably not.

To its credit, the Biden administration in the US has been careful to give the incoming Israeli government the benefit of the doubt until it takes steps it deems problematic and unacceptable.

The international media should consider following America’s lead.

The author the Executive Director of HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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