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

By Jeffrey Goldberg

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/11/how-many-likudniks-are-you-allowed-to-quote-in-an-article/66932/