Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Friday Five: Pope emeritus news, Beto O'Rourke's holy dirt, Israel's election, religious press awards

Friday Five: Pope emeritus news, Beto O'Rourke's holy dirt, Israel's election, religious press awards

If you’ve read GetReligion for any length of time, you know we advocate fair, balanced journalism that strives to show respect for believers on both sides of hot-button debates.

Occasionally, we feel like nobody respects the American model of the press anymore.

So I was pleased this week to read an interview with a college newspaper editor-to-be who stressed the importance of seeking comments from his university’s administrators. He said:

We’re not working for them; we’re working for the student body. We have to be brave and report on what’s happening, even if they don’t cooperate. But we should always give the chance to give their side of the story.

I was particularly pleased to read that interview because it was with my son Keaton, who will serve next school year as editor in chief of Oklahoma Christian University’s Talon. Before taking on that gig, he’ll intern this summer with The Oklahoman, the major daily here in Oklahoma City. But that’s enough dad bragging for one day!

Let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: GetReligion contributor Clemente Lisi delves into “How a past and (maybe) future pope are providing crucial leadership in age of Francis.”

Lisi’s timely post is, of course, tied to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI breaking “six years of relative silence with the release of an outspoken letter on the clergy sex abuse scandal,” as NPR characterizes it.

It took awhile for the mainstream press coverage of this document to arrive, so GetReligion will keep paying attention to that. Meanwhile, see additional coverage from the National Catholic Reporter, BBC News and the Washington Post.

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Key question: Can American Jews vote in Israel's high-stakes balloting for prime minister?

Key question: Can American Jews vote in Israel's high-stakes balloting for prime minister?

Let me just state the obvious: After a week in Israel, I am no expert on the Jewish state or its politics.

That said, though, I did learn one interesting fact during my recent trip to the Middle East: Israel doesn’t have absentee voting.

What does that mean? Basically, except for deployed military personnel and diplomats, voting must be done in person. In other words, the people who actually live in Israel will determine who wins in Tuesday’s high-stakes election.

So while American Jews have lots of opinions, they’re not likely to have much of an impact on who is elected (or re-elected) prime minister.

In case you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, here’s the opening of a recent Associated Press story:

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot for Israel’s national election, yet he’s a dominant factor for many American Jews as they assess the high stakes of Tuesday’s balloting.

At its core, the election is a judgment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has won the post four times but now faces corruption charges. In his battle for political survival, Netanyahu has aligned closely with Trump — a troubling tactic for the roughly 75% of American Jewish voters who lean Democratic.

“The world has come to understand that Netanyahu is essentially the political twin of Donald Trump,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street. “Unlike his previous elections, there is a much deeper antagonism toward Netanyahu because of that close affiliation between him and Trump and the Republican Party.”

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Surveys say younger evangelicals and Democrats abandoning Israel. Crisis in U.S. Middle East policy?

Surveys say younger evangelicals and Democrats abandoning Israel. Crisis in U.S. Middle East policy?

Two recent surveys measuring Americans’ support for Israel -- one polling evangelical believers, the other comparing Republican versus Democratic support -- revealed attitudes that have the potential to overturn long-standing American Middle East policy.

In short, both surveys’ findings -- assuming the polls are accurate, and I have no reason to believe they aren't because they track with long-developing trends -- are bad news not just for the Jewish state, but for American Jewish voters as well.

I’ll get into the meaning, or possible consequences, of the findings below. But let’s start with the findings themselves, beginning with the evangelical survey, produced by LifeWay Research, itself linked to an evangelical organization.

The key finding is that younger evangelicals say they are much less likely than their elders to back Israel unconditionally. Here’s the top of LifeWays news release.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Older American evangelicals love Israel—but many younger evangelicals simply don’t care, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
Three-quarters (77 percent) of evangelicals 65 and older say they support the existence, security and prosperity of Israel. That drops to 58 percent among younger evangelicals, those 18 to 34. Four in 10 younger evangelicals (41 percent) have no strong views about Israel.
Fewer younger evangelicals (58 percent) have an overall positive perception of Israel than older evangelicals (76 percent). And they are less sure Israel’s rebirth in 1948 was a good thing.
“For the most part, younger evangelicals are indifferent about Israel,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

That led The Washington Post, to publish a major piece that ran under the headline, “Long, uneasy love affair of Israel and U.S. evangelicals may have peaked.”

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