Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren has a book coming out about his service under Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Wall Street Journal and Haaretz agree on the big news: Oren says Obama “abandoned” Israel by taking policy steps on Iran and the occupation without clearing them with Israel first.
The New York Times has a very different story from the same book, and this one is much more positive news for Israel. “Israeli Helped Inspire U.S.-Russia Weapons Deal With Assad, Memoir Says.” Remember that chemical weapons deal under which Bashar al-Assad of Syria agreed to give up his illegal cache of weapons? It was Israel’s achievement, not Obama’s, but Israel couldn’t take credit for it till now. The story is a variation on the old Now-we-can-tell-you-the-great-thing-Israel-did: examples include the Osirak nuclear strike, and the Munich revenge killings.
And the hero at the heart of the story? None other than Benjamin Netanyahu’s unprepossessing minister of infrastructure, Yuval Steinitz. A former professor of philosophy who has long been close to Netanyahu, Steinitz turns out to be the mastermind behind a diplomatic breakthrough that the Times says “seemed like a win-win-win-win-win.”
Steinitz is quoted at length by Jodi Rudoren in a piece that reads as if it was generated by the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s public relations department:
“Then it occurred to us . . . The best thing will be Russia and the United States will collaborate together in order to dismantle the chemical stockpiles.”
And there are action moments involving the unsung hero.
Mr. Steinitz rushed to Mr. Netanyahu’s office. Within a day or two, he recalled, “The Americans and the Russians began to promote this idea together, and we were sitting aside.”
“They never asked if they can give us credit, and we never asked them to give us credit,” he added. “Until today, it was a secret.”
The NYT‘s resources and space are not unlimited. The foreign desk might have sent Jodi Rudoren to Gaza to ask the families of the four slaughtered boys on the beach what they thought of the Israeli government report whitewashing Israel of blame for the attack (following up on her story that journalists and human rights experts doubt the official version). They might have sent her to document the latest wave of violence against Palestinians living under occupation. Or they might have run a big piece on Israel’s petulant anger that the United States is surprising it by making policy without checking in in Tel Aviv, according to Michael Oren.
But apparently the Times is so concerned with maintaining access to Netanyahu’s new government that it will elevate Yuval Steinitz to a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.