Netanyahu's U.N. Speech Sticks in NYT's Craw
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address at the United Nations did not please the New York Times. Far from it. In a blistering editorial, the Times unleashes its verbal guns against the Israeli leader for exposing Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, as a deceitful fraud intent on pursuing a nuclear weapons capability behind the façade of Tehran's charm offensive. ("Netanyahu Pushes Back on Iran" page A20).
The Times accuses Netanyahu of delivering an "aggressive speech" replete with "combative words." But that's just for starters.
The editorial goes on to warn that "it could be disastrous if Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters in Congress were so blinded by distrust of Iran that they exaggerate the threat, block President Obama from taking advantage of new diplomatic openings and sabotage the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution sent American-Iranian relations into the deep freeze."
However, while depicting Netanyahu as an aggressive saboteur of peace overtures "eager for a fight," the Times is more circumspect in treating Rouhani with kid gloves as a new Iranian leader whose diplomacy is worth exploring.
Commiserating with Tehran, the Times tell its readers that "the Iranians were so angered by what they called Mr. Netanyahu's 'inflammatory' speech that they issued a rebuttal and spoke of the need to 'sustain the current positive atmosphere' so that diplomacy could be successful."
While there's an ample supply of ad-hominem attacks on Netanyahu in the Times' coverage, there's a total absence of the Israeli leader's devastating brief of the real Rouhani.
No mention in the Times that Rouhani headed Iran's Supreme National Security Council between 1989 and 2003 when Iranian surrogates murdered 85 people at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, as Netanyahu noted.
No mention either by the Times that Netanyahu also fingered Rouhani for the killing of 19 U.S. GIs when the Khobar Towers were blown up in Saudi Arabia.
Or that Rouhani was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005 when he masterminded the strategy of advancing Iran's nuclear weapons program behind a smoke screen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric, as Netanyahu put it.
In dealing with the current threat posed by Iran, the Times prefers to assume the role of Chamberlain -- not Churchill, for sure.
Incidentally, the Times "news" coverage of Bibi's speech was not much better than the editorial. That headline reads: "Netanyahu Excoriates Iran's Leader and His 'Charm offensive'" (page A4).
The "news" article by Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone relies on Columbia scholar Gary G. Sick to set the anti-Netanyahu tone. Sick faults Netanyahu for doing "himself harm by his exaggerations... He was so anxious to make everything look as negative as possible he actually pushed the limits of credibility."
Netanyahu, however, backed up his criticism of Rouhani with carefully researched citations. Sick just lets fly with unsubstantiated attacks on Bibi. As does the Times.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers