(December 20, 2022 / JNS) In a social media post on Sunday, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu blasted the Gray Lady for its gall.
“After burying the Holocaust for years on its back pages and demonizing Israel for decades on its front pages, The New York Times now shamefully calls for undermining Israel’s elected incoming government,” he tweeted, in response to a weekend editorial titled: “The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy.”
He was right to fight back, as the piece not only asserted that his coalition-in-formation poses a “significant threat to Israel’s future—its direction, its security and even the idea of a Jewish homeland”; it also urged the administration in Washington and the American public to support the “moderating forces” in the country that are “already planning energetic resistance.”
Not that Bibi’s response will do any good, other than reminding those who long ago realized that the “newspaper of record”—a broken one where Israel is concerned—doesn’t deserve its self-anointed reputation as a reliable source on any issue.
Nor did its horror at the return to the helm of the longest-serving premier in Israel’s history come as a shock to anyone, least of all Netanyahu himself. On the contrary, had it expressed a more positive view of the cabinet now taking shape in Jerusalem, it would have lost the remainder of its shrinking readership to publications that refuse to compromise on their unabashed radicalism.
In fairness, albeit ill-deserved, the Times and other “anti-Israel-is-the-new-pro-Israel” periodicals abroad are taking their cue from the “anybody but Bibi” contingent at home. The latter’s way of bemoaning its uncontestable Nov. 1 ballot-box defeat has been to decry the imminent demise of democracy at the hands of extremists bent on transforming the Jewish state into an unrecognizable, racist, homophobic theocracy.
The irony is that the bulk of the wokeratti, who can take considerable credit for the electorate’s rightward pull, didn’t use to praise the country for its liberal values. The sudden nostalgia—while the current caretaker government of Yair Lapid hasn’t even left its perch—is not merely laughable, it explains the Times’s disingenuous reference to “Israel’s proud tradition as a boisterous and pluralistic democracy.”
It’s a neat trick with an obvious agenda: to engage in “legitimate” delegitimization. But it wasn’t the worst aspect of the all-too-predictable article. No, the most egregious passage was saved for last.
“While Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have long been moribund, the principle of someday achieving two states remains the bedrock of American and Israeli cooperation,” the editors wrote, blatantly revising history or totally ignoring it.
As former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman articulated during his Guardian of Zion Award acceptance speech in April, “Support for Israel is actually a quintessential American value. Indeed, the Bible, so much of which is predicated upon God’s covenant to our forefathers to install, and then later to restore, the Jewish people in the land of Israel, is foundational to the principles upon which America was founded.”
He went on: “To understand this connection between the birth of America and the values that emerged from the city of Jerusalem is to understand all that has transpired since. It is to understand why the pilgrims risked their lives in the 17th century to reach a new world and establish what many of them referred to as a ‘new Jerusalem.’ It is to understand how 13 American colonies, all hugging the east coast, somehow expanded thousands of miles in all directions under the doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’—a doctrine asserting the divine right and destiny of America to inhabit the land from ocean to ocean.…[It is] also to understand why the United States opened a consulate in Jerusalem in 1844, 104 years before the State of Israel came into existence, at which time the new consul general planted an American flag at the Jaffa Gate…and declared that the United States of America hereby ‘extends its protection to the Jews of Jerusalem.’
“It is also to understand why almost every state in the union has cities and towns named after cities and towns in biblical Israel….It is also to understand why President Harry Truman caused the U.S. to be the first nation to recognize the reborn State of Israel in 1948. It is also to understand why, in 1995, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, by overwhelming majorities, passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and mandating the transfer of our embassy to that city. It is also to understand why every president since Bill Clinton promised to move our embassy to Jerusalem, or at least to maintain its character as the undivided capital of Israel, although…only one [Donald Trump] kept his promise.”
Such a review of the past would ruin the flow of the lead-in to the Times’s claim that “hopes for a Palestinian state have dimmed under the combined pressure of Israeli resistance and Palestinian corruption, ineptitude and internal divisions.” Nary a mention of Israel’s existential war against Iran-funded terrorists whose political-religious ideology requires the annihilation of the “Zionist entity.”
Instead, the authors offered the following warning: “Anything that undermines Israel’s democratic ideals—whether outright annexation of Jewish settlements or legalization of illegal settlements and outposts—would undermine the possibility of a two-state solution.” Nothing about how the daily maiming and murder of innocent Israelis by rejectionist Palestinians puts a damper on peaceful coexistence.
In place of this and other details that would detract from a combination of breast-beating and finger-pointing, the Times concluded, “America’s support for Israel reflects our two countries’ respect for democratic ideals. President Biden and Mr. Netanyahu should do everything they can to reaffirm that commitment.”
Neither leader needs the advice. Team Biden is well-versed in playing loose with “democratic ideals,” and Netanyahu was elected to uphold genuine ones.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”
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