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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Last week reports started coming out that the Palestinians were furious at Jared Kushner:

Here's how The Hill reported it but similar coverage was widespread:

President Trump will reportedly receive a report about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process following a "tense" meeting between White House senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and leaders about the issue.

The London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat reports that Kushner's meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was “tense,” according to a translation from the Jerusalem Post, and Abbas was reportedly furious at Kushner relaying the demands of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz also reports that Palestinian officials were “greatly disappointed” by their meeting with Kushner and Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.

"They sounded like Netanyahu's advisers and not like fair arbiters," a senior Palestinian official told the newspaper. "They started presenting Netanyahu's issues and then we asked to hear from them clear stances regarding the core issues of the conflict."

The report also claims that the Trump delegation was also upset with Abbas for refusing to denounce a recent stabbing attack in Jerusalem.

Swallowing a report from an unnamed person in an Arabic newspaper is not exactly great journalism.

Technically, the media cited where they got the report from, but the average reader does not know how to interpret such a story.

And now the State Department denies much of it:

The State Department rejected claims that a meeting last week between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and senior White House official Jared Kushner went awry and an unconfirmed report that US President Donald Trump was ready to pull the plug on efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert reiterated that Trump has made Mideast peace “one of his top priorities,” adding that allegations that Abbas left his meeting with Trump’s son-in-law fuming were “false,” while conceding that “some meetings and conversations may be a little bit more difficult than others.”

So what really happened?

There is no doubt that Kushner went to the meeting and presented the Israeli side in negotiations. That's one major purpose of negotiations, after all.

It is also widely known that the US and the EU have been pressuring Abbas over the twin issues of incitement and paying salaries to terrorists, which are also the two major Israeli issues. (Similarly, they constantly pressure Israel on settlements, the major Palestinian issue.)

None of this would have surprised Abbas, and none of those would have left him fuming.

The entire report was manufactured for one reason: to pressure Kushner.

Kushner is a neophyte at international diplomacy. The Palestinians are masters at pushing their agenda in any venue possible. They see Kushner as a person who can be pressured via the media because he is not a hardened diplomat used to being publicly criticized. They know that media pressure can translate to Kushner being less likely to push them on these issues that they are most vulnerable to in the future.

Here's where the media's irresponsibility comes in. They should knowm and reported  that this is the PLO's modus operandi. Any story that mentions an unnamed Arab source, especially coming from an Arab newspaper where the source cannot be questioned, should be prefaced with (at the very least, informed speculation about) the possible motives for such a "leak" to occur.

Otherwise, readers assume that all unnamed sources are the same. But (in theory at least) Western media has some checks and balances before running a story from an anonymous source that Al Hayat is unlikely to have.

Of course, governments will fake-leak information to the media all the time for political purposes. Yet the media should be aware that they are being manipulated. Often the reporter that is leaked to is chosen for being sympathetic to the story that the leak supports, so he or she would be less likely to question its veracity to begin with. Even so, it is the editor's job to minimize this sort of thing.

In this case the "leak" was fake through and through. There is nothing strange or wrong with the US bringing up in private the exact same issues that it has mentioned in public.

This is all about ensuring that Kushner's next meeting with Abbas is more to Abbas' liking.

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