NY Times in full anti-Netanyahu mode

First, it was the New York Times slamming Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's U.N. speech for allegedly sabotaging Western negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program.  Now, in its Oct. 4 edition, the Times follows up with a lengthy tirade against Netanyahu, faulting him for  a "growing chasm" between Israel and Washington over tactics and strategy in handling Iran's nuclear ambitions ("U.S. and Israel Share a Goal in Iran Talks, but not a Strategy" by Jodi Rudoren and David Sanger, page A4).According to the Times, Netanyahu "only grudgingly endorsed" negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.  Actually, Netanyahu readily accepts negotiations, but he insists that sanctions against Iran not be lowered too quickly.  As he not so gently put it, "we're not suckers."

According to the Times, "Netanyahu set out what most experts see as unrealistic conditions" for negotiations.  Notice that Rudoren and Sanger fail to identify those "experts."  The Times may view Netanyahu's conditions as "unrealistic," but the Israeli leader knows full well that, in the West's poker game with Iran, it's important not to withdraw some cards too early.

According to the Times, and this is a real doozy, "Israeli and other analysts say that Mr. Netanyahu's hands are now all but tied" in dealings with Iran.  Really?  Why so?  Because, the Times opines, "Israel could hardly exercise its military option while the United States is negotiating, experts say, and would be hard-pressed to strike if Washington and its other allies reach a deal with Iran."  But this would be true only if (and I emphasize, only if) Bibi were to follow a concurrent strategy -- Western talks with Iran at the same time that Israel carries out a strike against Iran's nuclear arsenal.  This is preposterous on its face.  Netanyahu instead is following a sequential, twofold strategy: start with negotiations and then, as a last resort ,use the military option when and if negotiations fail.

That's the strategy of Netanyahu -- and Obama.  The Times is setting up a bogeyman with no connection to Netanyahu's strategy or intentions.  Ergo, Bibi's hands are far from tied.

According to the Times, Netanyahu also is responsible for a "growing chasm" between himself and Obama over acceptable terms for an agreement with Iran.  Again, anyone who followed Bibi's amicable summit with Obama in D.C. before  he headed to New York for his address to the U.N. General Assembly knows full well that no such "growing chasm" exists.  The summit with Obama instead went off quite well -- with both leaders putting prior tensions and/or disagreements aside while pledging maximum pressures against Iran.  The Times is trying its hardest to drive them apart, but no such luck. 

To buttress its anti-Netanyahu theme, the Times relies either on unnamed, unidentified "experts" or, alternatively, on Netanyahu critics -- the usual suspects -- who can be relied on for some juicy anti-Bibi quotes.  It's an old journalistic game of cherry-picking quotes only from "experts" who agree with the Times -- selective journalism at its most egregious.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

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