The New York Times has again used a misleading headline to falsely imply failure on the part of conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Thursday's story by Isabel Kershner, "Israelis Fear Fallout From Netanyahu’s Blunt Comments." But the underlying story fails to come close to making that case, quoting only a single opponent of Netanyahu -- the opposition leader in the Israeli Parliament.
In Israel, where arguments are rife, there are at least two issues of national consensus: that the special relationship with the United States must be preserved at all costs, and that the looming threat of a nuclear Iran must be dealt with.
So on Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly lashed out at the Obama administration for what he called its refusal to set clear “red lines” that would prompt the United States to undertake a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, Israelis were generally sympathetic to Mr. Netanyahu even as they mulled the possible damage to ties with the White House.
Mr. Netanyahu struck a more moderate tone after an overnight phone call from President Obama.
There is broad support in Israel for Mr. Netanyahu’s demand for firm assurances. Many Israelis oppose the idea of a go-it-alone strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, as Mr. Netanyahu has threatened, and see deadlines set by the United States as a possible way out of the conundrum.
But supporters and opponents of Mr. Netanyahu alike are disturbed by the blunt and public way in which the dialogue has been conducted, particularly at a delicate political moment before the American elections in November.
Shaul Mofaz, the opposition leader in the Israeli Parliament, attacked Mr. Netanyahu, accusing him of breaking a cardinal rule by meddling in American politics.
But Kershner didn't actually quote a supporter of Netanyahu, and the paragraph is not supported by anything else in the text. Instead Kershner keeps finding defenders of Netanyahu's action from various points on the ideological spectrum.
The Times has previously run a bad headline that suggest failure and controversy around Netanyahu where it didn't exist. A biased story by former Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner from May 26, 2011 ran under these misleading headlines: "In Israel, Premier's U.S. Trip Dims Hopes for Advancing Peace Talks." The online headline was even worse: "Israelis See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure."
Bronner's lead was equally misleading: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel returned from Washington on Wednesday to a nearly unanimous assessment among Israelis that despite his forceful defense of Israel's security interests, hopes were dashed that his visit might advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians." Yet the paper's sample of opinion consisted of two newspaper columnists, a cartoonist, the president of Tel Aviv University, and a Parliament member from the opposition Kadima Party. Hardly a representative sample. A headline that truly matched Bronner's story would have read "Some Liberal Opinion Leaders Who Agree With Me See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure."