On Thursday, the media seemed to have a collective anti-Israel fit. First there was Joe Scarborough’s rant on Morning Joe on MSNBC. Then there was the White House Press Corps virtually egging the administration on to confront Israel more forcefully–even after the administration had denounced Israeli actions as “indefensible.” Even Fox News’ Shepard Smith vented at Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States.
The reason for the hysterics is that Israel is refusing to play by the usual script. The media are used to a familiar pattern: terrorists attack Israel, Israel fights back for a while, a major civilian casualty event happens, the U.S. pulls its support, and Israel stops whatever it is doing. That pattern has been the same across Republican and Democratic administrations–from the Second Lebanon War to Operations Cast Lead.
This time, however, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored White House exhortations as well as international criticism, and has vowed to continue to destroy Hamas terror tunnels, with or without a ceasefire. The media are incredulous: Israel has not just defied the UN and the U.S., but it has defied them. And the media are not used to anyone pushing back–least of all Israel, which journalists believe can be bullied with impunity.
Now that a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire has been agreed, the outrage may subside. But if Netanyahu makes good on his promise–and with nearly 90% of the Israeli public backing his position, there is no reason to think that he will not–the conflict will continue, and the outrage will revive again. And in due course, the media will press the administration more openly to intervene. All that is missing is Helen Thomas to lead the charge.