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Quantitative media analysis: Mentions of peace plans soar

Media coverage of the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians is skyrocketing, and has reached its highest level since Obama’s inauguration. Are we really in for another round of the peace talks’ masquerade, which has been the occupation’s lifeline for over twenty years now?

In recent weeks, there has been an increase in media attention to the possibility of yet another plan or initiative for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Discussion has centered on a speech that Prime Minister Netanyahu intends to make before the US congress, and an outline for a final settlement of the conflict that Obama considers presenting.

This may seem like yet another round of an eternal cycle, so I decided to conduct a quantitative analysis of attention given to this issue. I searched Google News for all articles containing the words “Israel” and “peace” and also one of the four words: “initiative”, “plan”, “negotiations”, “talks”. I then collected the number of results for each month of the Obama-Netanyahu period, from February 2009 to the present.

Although this is an imperfect metric, the results do not seem arbitrary, and match relatively well with relevant events, such as the beginning and the end of the short-lived settlement freeze. It would have been useful to conduct a similar search for Hebrew-language outlets. However, due to the small number of results, and the absence of several major news outlets, there is not enough information to establish any significant pattern. Anyhow, under Netanyahu, most of the momentum and push for the “Peace Process”™ have come from the international community.

So is there a significant increase in media mentions of peace plans and initiatives? The answer is an unqualified yes.

March, and April so far, have seen the highest number of media mentions of peace talks in any month since Netanyahu was elected and Obama was inaugurated. The number for March 2011 is almost twice as high as that of September 2010, the previous record holder, when talks between Israel and the Palestinians were revived for a couple of days. Although the media can be wrong, it is worthwhile noting it has not been this excited regarding Israeli-Palestinian “peace” for over two years now.

What should we make of this development? In my opinion, it is a very bad omen. The so-called “peace process”, which has been stumbling along, off and on, for twenty years (since the Madrid conference of 1991) has been an unmitigated catastrophe. It is, by far, the best tool ever devised to prolong and entrench the occupation, a perfect excuse for Israeli governments to avoid changing the reality on the ground.

The international community, encouraged by Big Peace (the vast industry of experts, diplomats and activists, which has been created around the “peace process”), has been complicit in this diversion for far too long. Unfortunately, the data seems to show that we are set for yet another round of smoke and mirrors.

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