The Washington Post’s editorial board has a fixation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has devoted considerable column space to attacking the democratically elected leader of the Jewish state. But the obsession, and frequently unhinged tone, reveals more about the newspaper and its attitudes toward Israel than it does about the Israeli leader.
The Post’s latest blast appeared in a Feb. 17 editorial titled “Biden delivers a snub to Israel’s Netanyahu—and for good reason.” ThePost hailed the fact that “during the first four weeks of the new U.S. administration,” President Joe Biden “spoke by phone with the leaders of virtually every major U.S. ally, along with those of Russia and China. But he did not call Mr. Netanyahu” until Feb. 16.
The Post claimed that if the belated call was a snub, it was justified, as “Mr. Netanyahu has a long history of allying himself with U.S. Republicans and of seeking to aid GOP presidential candidates.” Netanyahu, the Post asserts, had the temerity to travel to “Washington to endorse Mr. Trump’s soon-to-be stillborn Middle East peace plan” on the eve of an election. Even worse, the Post argues, Netanyahu has noted that he has “disagreements on Iran, on the Palestinian issue” with the new administration. How dare he!
Accordingly, the Post says, “striking a measure of distance from the Israeli leader is a wise move,” particularly since he is facing upcoming elections.
This isn’t the first recent broadside aimed at Netanyahu. As CAMERA highlighted in a JNS op-ed, in December 2020, Post editorial board member Jackson Diehl even compared Netanyahu to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—a comparison that not only illustrates the paper’s hostility but speaks to its detachment from reality.
It is also curious, if not a bit hypocritical, for the Post to claim that by visiting Washington to sign the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, Netanyahu sought to influence an American election—only to simultaneously celebrate the possible political ramifications of a delayed call by the Biden administration on upcoming Israeli elections. Indeed, the United States has a long track record of doing precisely what the editorial board upbraids Netanyahu for allegedly doing.
In 2016, a U.S. congressional investigation revealed that the Obama administration’s State Department “paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers grants to an Israeli group that used the money to build a campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” in 2015 elections. And in a 2018 interview with Israel’s Channel 10 News, former President Bill Clinton admitted that he “tried to help Shimon Peres win Israel’s general elections in 1996 against Benjamin Netanyahu,” as The Times of Israel reported at the time.
The Post, of course, omits this context, preferring to blame Israel’s democratically elected leader for any strains, be it past, present or future, in the U.S.-Israel relationship. The newspaper adds:
“Mr. Biden would also be right to avoid the mistake of President Barack Obama, who thought he could work with Mr. Netanyahu to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and persisted long after it became clear the effort was futile. Mr. Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has rightly set the more modest goal of preserving the possibility of Palestinian statehood for the day when Israel and the Palestinians have better leaders.”
Yet this, too, is misleading and revisionist. As CAMERA has documented, top Obama administration officials were on record as seeking to create “daylight” in the U.S.-Israel relationship. That was a decision by a U.S. administration, not an Israeli one. Nor does the newspaper tell readers that in both 2014 and 2016, Israel, with Netanyahu at the helm, accepted U.S. proposals to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In both instances, it was the Palestinian leadership that rejected those proposals—just as it had rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for a Palestinian state in exchange for peace in 2000, 2001 and 2008, among other instances.
It is false to imply, as the Post does, that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are equally responsible for the lack of a Palestinian state. One set has consistently accepted statehood and peace, while the other has consistently rejected precisely that. In fact, the Post itself has noted as much, including in a Dec. 29, 2016 column by the editorial board which acknowledged that “Netanyahu has received no [Obama] White House credit” for actions like “settlement freezes” that were undertaken at U.S. request in the forlorn hope of getting Palestinian leaders to the negotiating table.
Indeed, less than a week after the Post’s most recent broadside against Netanyahu appeared, it was revealed that the Palestinian Authority—in full violation of the terms and spirit of the U.S.-brokered Oslo Accords—paid $159 million to terrorists as part of its infamous “pay for slay” program that financially rewards those who attack Jews. And in an interview on Jan. 23, Palestinian official Dr. Ahmed ‘Aql admitted that he has “dealings” with Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) in Iraq, noting that the P.A. “knows that I meet with them, and it does not disapprove.”
As The Washington Post itself has noted, these PMUs are responsible for attacks on U.S. contractors and gross human rights violations. By contrast, in November 2020, it was revealed that Israel—with U.S. cooperation—had taken out a top Al-Qaeda leader living in Iran.
Yet one shouldn’t expect that the Post editorial board will write a piece calling for the Biden administration to snub P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas. That won’t happen.
The Washington Post prefers not to see Israel as an ally or equal. The U.S.-Israel alliance is not, in its view, a two-way relationship with inevitable ups and downs. Rather, the newspaper and staffers like Jackson Diehl view the Jewish state as being an ally that should take U.S. diktats—or else. Diehl and others of his ilk commonly assert that they support democracy, only to throw a fit when the democratically elected leader of Israel asserts his country’s prerogatives on existential issues like Iran and the P.A./PLO. That, more than anything, is the real reason behind the latest Washington Post temper tantrum.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an op-ed in JNS on Feb. 24, 2021)