How Many Likudniks Are You Allowed to Quote in an Article?


Andrew is upset with Ben Smith for quoting a large handful of Likud officials in an article  detailing Israeli (and, to a lesser extent) Palestinian frustration with President Obama. Smith's piece argues that the peace process has so far failed: "Instead of becoming a heady triumph of his diplomatic skill and special insight," Smith wrote, "Obama's peace process is viewed almost universally in Israel as a mistake-riddled fantasy. And far from becoming the transcendent figure in a centuries-old drama, Obama has become just another frustrated player on a hardened Mideast landscape."

Andrew suggests that Smith's view is skewed because he quotes mainly Likudniks. Shmuel Rosner provides a taxonomy of Smith's story, which shows that Smith quotes:

2 unnamed officials (maybe it's the same one, it's not clear). Party: Unknown.
5 people you might be able to count as "Likudniks" - even though not all of them are members of the party (Aid to Netanyahu, Kuperwasser, Begin, Dermer, Gold).
3 people associated with the Kadima Party - the opposition to Likud.
2 Palestinians (not one as Sullivan claims).
1 Michael Herzog - party unknown. He worked for Labor's Barak, his brother is Minister from the Labor Party, but he also advises Netanyahu. I can't speak for him, but am quite sure he'd be surprised to be considered a Likudnik.
1 "Veteran" of past negotiations. Party: unknown. It can be anyone. It can be the hawk Gold, or it can be the dove Yossi Beilin.
1 Rosner.

Even if Ben Smith quoted only Likudniks for his piece about the way in which Israelis, and their government, view President Obama, this doesn't strike me as an enormous problem. If Ben were writing about the Hamas understanding of President Obama, I assume he would quote mainly Hamas officials. His story was meant to explain the way Israel's rulers see Obama and the peace process. He did a good job (though I do think that the prime minister has grown to have a more nuanced view of Obama than he had previously -- and vice versa). Ben didn't endorse the views, or condemn them. All he did was report them. Reporting them, or not reporting them, doesn't change the underlying reality. I wish the Obama Administration had been smarter in its approach to Middle East negotiations; I wish the Israelis had taken serious steps to reverse the settlement process; and I wish that Hamas would go away; and I wish that the Palestinian Authority didn't argue that the Jews have no connection to the Western Wall (talk about unhelpful!). But reality is reality, and it should be covered. Ben Smith was simply covering one aspect of this reality.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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