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From The Jayson Blair School Of Journalism

With the Jayson Blair scandal occupying center stage for weeks and the resignations of two top honchos at the New York Times over Blair’s admitted manufacturing of the news and plagiarism, one would have thought that the journalistic world would stay away from anything that would remind readers of the affair. As it turns out, however, The Times has nothing on a leading Israeli daily, Haaretz and its columnist, the notoriously leftist Akiva Eldar.

Here is part of what Eldar had to say about the Aqaba meeting of President Bush, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Prime Minister Abu Mazen:

According to one of the participants in the three-way meeting of the delegations, a lot can be learned about the swinging of the pendulum from the Israeli side to the Palestinian side.

According to the source, Dahlan gave an excellent 5-minute synopsis of the [security] situation, and concluded by saying to Bush:”There are some things we can do and some things we cannot. We will do our best. But we will need help.”

Mofaz burst in at the end of Dahlan’s presentation and said: “Well, they won’t be getting any help from us; they have their own security service.”

You could see that Bush was irritated, says the participant, and he turned on Mofaz angrily: “Their own security service? But you have destroyed their security service.”

Mofaz shook his head and said: “I do not think that we could help them, Mr. President,” – to which Bush said: “Oh, but I think you can. And I think that you will.”

Eldar then writes that Abu Mazen gave a presentation on the suffering of the Palestinians, claiming that additional funding would be necessary and reports:

Sharon then interrupted and said: “The insertion of new funding must be dependent on your good behavior.”

Bush was again visibly irritated: “You should release their money as soon as possible. This will help the situation.”

Sharon shook his head: “We have to deal with security first, and we will condition the release of their monies on this alone.”

Bush peered at Sharon: “But it is their money…”

Sharon said: “Nevertheless, Mr. President…” and Bush interrupted him: “It is their money, give it to them.”

After that meeting, Bush turned to National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and said, “We have a problem with Sharon I can see, but I like that young man [Dahlan] and I think their prime minister is incapable of lying. I hope they will be successful. We can work with them.”

At first glance, it would seem that Eldar could not have submitted his article with a straight face. Could he really expect that his fanciful tale, based upon an unnamed source and completely at odds with President Bush’s public persona, would be taken seriously? Was the
source – if there were one – someone with an agenda? Was it someone from the Palestinian side? How could people take such earth shaking revelations without attribution? On second thought, though, given the worldwide thirst for anything negative about Israel, Eldar’s fanciful
tale may yet get traction.

Why would Eldar compromise even the appearance of his journalistic integrity? Perhaps it has something to the freefall that Abu Mazen’s reputation is now in. Arafat is plainly in charge of the Palestinian Authority and Mazen has already backtracked on his crucial commitment to move against Hamas. He has also taken to claim that what he said at Aqaba – welcomed warmly by President Bush ? “was misunderstood.”

Eldar, the career lefty, seems bent on spreading the rumor that maybe Mazen and Dahlan are not such bad guys after all. And of course, no one could really verify his story, could they?

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