NY Times Predicts Obama will take Netanyahu to the Woodshed
It's no secret that the New York Times detests Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- in its news columns as well as on the editorial page. So it comes as no surprise that, after President Obama's second-term victory, the Times relishes the prospect of Bibi getting his comeuppance, big-time, from the White House.
In a post-election dispatch, Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren eagerly reports that Netanyahu may have risked Israel's "collective relationship with Washington" by rejecting Obama's demands for concessions to the Palestinians and by showing a preference for Mitt Romney, a long-time friend of the prime minister.
"His strained relationship with Mr. Obama may prove more than a temporary political headache," Rudoren writes. She goes on to quote Israeli pollster Mitchell Barak, who opines that if as expected Netanyahu is returned to power in Israel's January elections, "we all know he is not the right guy" to deal with Obama. Piling on further, Rudoren darkly predicts new frictions with Obama because of Netanyahu's "hard line position on Iran." Plus, she adds, a second-term president, "freed from electoral concerns, may prove likelier to pursue his own path without worry about backlash from Washington's powerful and wealthy pro-Israel lobby."
Thus, if you're going after Bibi's scalp, why not toss in as well a well-worn anti-Semitic conspiracy about rich Jews cracking the whip in centers of power. To give even more heft to her anti-Bibi diatriabes, she also reaches to Bob Zelnick, a former ABC news correspondent, who remarks that Obama "both dislikes and distrusts Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he is more likely to use his new momentum to settling scores than to settling issues."
But since Rudoren's report runs on a news page, it's fair to inquire whether her article conforms to journalistic standards of objectivity or fairness. With its clear anti-Bibi bile, it certainly does not. At this stage, it's anyone's guess which way Obama will handle his relationship with Netanyahu. But if you're going to serve up sheer speculation, why not also report tea leaves that prove the very opposite of Rudoren's thesis? For example, while Rudoren was filing her anti-Bibi piece, the Times of Israel was giving readers a quite different conjecture under the following headline -- "Will second term Obama get back at Netanyahu? Not a chance, says U.S. ambassador. "[The}President is a strategic, not emotional, thinker, says Dan Shapiro."
Shapiro goes on to describe any prospect of Obama settling scores with Netanyahu as "ridiculous." Shapiro made his remarks at a post-election panel discussion at Tel Aviv University. His comments were widely available to Israeli and international media. Rudoren chose to ignore them. Yet, one would think that when it comes to what the president of the United States will or won't do, an ambassador is a more reliable source than a pollster or a former television news reporter. By definition, an ambassador doesn't freelance. What he says represents official government policy. It's not for nothing that he has "plenipotentiary" credentials. Shapiro comes to Israel "with full authority to act as representative of his government" -- Webster's definition of "plenipotentiary." Shapiro speaks for Obama. But of course, when it comes to Rudoren and the Times, their anti-Zionist agenda shapes the news coverage -- notwithstanding contrary, and more trustworthy and reliable evidence.
LEO RENNERT Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers