For those political animals among us, closely following yesterday’s Israeli Presidential election in the Knesset (the vote and subsequent run-off) on Twitter and sites live-blogging the tally was the political equivalent of a nail-biting overtime back and forth during the NBA Finals. (Brits may contemplate a more appropriate
soccer football reference.)
Though the post is largely ceremonial, as Shimon Peres demonstrated, the president can serve as an important quasi-ambassador for Israeli democracy, and can leverage the office to enhance the state’s image abroad and advocate on behalf of issues beyond the interests of the prime minister.
Going into the election, it was clear – based on polls – that MK Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin was in the lead – and indeed eventually won the contest. Further, while the horse-race for second – the candidate to face Rivlin in the eventual run-off – was bit less clear (Dalia Dorner, Meir Sheetrit, and Dalia Itzik were all mentioned), there was one contender, Dr. Dan Shechtman, whose candidacy was universally dismissed – often as quixotic – as he had no public supporters going into the race.
Yet, here’s what Times (of London) Middle East correspondent Catherine Philp wrote in her pre-election analysis published on June 10 (pay wall):
Mr Rivlin’s closest contenders are the Nobel chemistry laureate Dan Shechtman and a former supreme court judge, Dalia Dorner.
When the votes in the first round were tallied at a little before 1 pm Israeli time, Rivlin was on top with 44 votes, Meir Sheetrit came in second with 31, Dalia Itzik had 28, Dalia Dorner received 13 and Dan Shechtman trailed the pack with just one.
Anyone can of course make a mistake. However, as we’ve demonstrated in previous posts about her coverage of the region, Philps’ wildly inaccurate election prediction isn’t a one-off when it comes to misreading the politics of the region.
Though the Times – editorially speaking – is among the more sensible media voices in a UK, their correspondent in Jerusalem at times doesn’t seem up to the job of providing accurate, nuanced and objective analyses of Israel and the Palestinian territories.