Today’s New York Times includes a “news analysis” that trivializes truth by reducing the US turn against Israel at the United Nations to a personality clash between President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. The article, by Peter Baker, is full of references to “forced smiles and strained jokes,” “tense and tetchy relationship,” “blistering anger,” “mutual contempt,” and more. Anyone who relied on the Times to understand what just happened at the United Nations would be woefully misinformed.
“If [the abstention] is the last word,” Baker writes, “it will serve as a coda to a relationship that never clicked.”
In fact, personal differences have nothing to do with the historic American decision to not veto a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli “settlements” in occupied Palestine. First, even Barack Obama’s critics recognize that he maintains his cool, and he has mastered his emotions about political opponents who have been far more vicious than Netanyahu. Over the years, Obama has made clear that he understands the reality of Israel/Palestine, and that even more “settlements” will destroy any tiny, lingering hope for a 2-state solution. To suggest he would change U.S. policy in a fit of anger is journalistic malpractice.
But neither is Benjamin Netanyahu motivated mainly by personal rancor. Israelis and others who have followed him for years recognize that although he is certainly right-wing, his main aim is to maintain himself in power, a task he has done so successfully that he is the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. Netanyahu’s aggressive stance toward Obama is aimed directly at an Israeli electorate that in recent years has moved vigorously toward the far-right.
The New York Times, along with the rest of the U.S. mainstream media, has covered up this surge to the far right in Israel. Times reporters mostly avoid interviews with Israelis, either politicians or in the general public, who spout views that could fairly and without exaggeration be called “fascist.” On rare occasions, the Times will talk to a right wing figure, but the result is a whitewash, as in this laughable 2015 profile of the current Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked.
The Times article is dangerous. It implies that if the problem is basically a personality clash, it should end when the new president is sworn in on January 20. But it won’t — and Israel/Palestine will continue to move closer to a cataclysm.