An April 17, 2021 Washington Post report, entitled “Biden’s relationship with Israel shaping up to be less cozy than his predecessors,” is littered with misleading omissions, questionable claims and inaccuracies. The dispatch, by Post White House correspondent Anne Gearan, asserted “current Iran nuclear talks mark a defining moment for President Biden and the new, less-cozy relationship that is shaping up between Biden and Israel, its longtime leader and its American supporters.” Yet, the truth isn’t as clear-cut as the narrative that the Post would have readers believe.
The newspaper claimed that “an attack on a key Iranian nuclear facility, widely attributed to Israel, has made the simmering disagreement” between Biden and Israel more acute. What is more, the Post implies—without evidence—that this was an intentional move on Israel’s part, writing: “If Israel was behind the attack, as analysts believe, then the country apparently timed it not only to sabotage the Iran talks underway in Vienna, but also to send a message to Washington by embarrassing the visiting U.S. defense chief,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was scheduled to visit Israel the day that news of the attack broke.
It is quite the claim to assert that Israel intentionally conducted an elaborate strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program in order to “send a message to Washington” and “embarrass” a top U.S. official. It is precisely the sort of claim that requires evidence. But, contravening standard journalistic practice, the Post doesn’t provide any proof to buttress its assertion.
Later, the Post sought to blame Israel and its democratically elected prime minister for a decrease in support for the Jewish state among the American left. The newspaper singles out the relationship between Netanyahu and Trump as being particularly responsible, citing the latter’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, “which other presidents had resisted doing for decades” as an example of growing partisanship in the relationship.
“The result,” Gearan wrote of the Trump administration’s policies toward the Jewish state, “has been to align Israel, which has enjoyed bipartisan support as a central U.S. partner since its founding in 1948, more closely with the Republican Party.”
And, the Post reporter added: “At the same time, a growing number of younger figures within the Democratic Party, such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), whose parents are Palestinian, have been willing to criticize Israel more strongly.” But there is hope, provided that Netanyahu is “replaced at some point with a more conciliatory” and “less pugnacious” leader.
The language used in the description of Netanyahu is more befitting an editorial than reporting. But arguably more troubling is the implication that Rep. Tlaib has merely been critical of Israel. In fact, the Congresswoman is on record as believing that the Jewish state shouldn’t exist. Indeed, as CAMERA has documented, Tlaib and her colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tried to on a trip to Israel—labeled “Palestine” in their itinerary—that was sponsored by an organization, Miftah, which has praised suicide bombers and claimed that Jews consume Christian blood.
Nor is it true that Trump and Netanyahu are responsible for a change in bipartisan U.S. support—which, it should be noted, still remains widely in Israel’s favor. Long before Donald Trump was a presidential candidate, much less president, some officials in the Obama administration called for “more daylight” between Israel and the United States. And, as Israel’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren recounted in his memoirs, several administration officials actively worked to achieve precisely that.
In Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, Oren recounted how some officials worked to create controversies between the two nations via leaking false claims and disagreements to the press—including that Netanyahu, a former Israeli special forces soldier, was “chickensh-t.”
And although the newspaper itself did not acknowledge it, a growing intra-party split over Israel was visible at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The platform committee had omitted the 2004 and 2008 declarations of Jerusalem as Israel’s “indivisible, eternal capital.” In the chair, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was compelled to overrule three negative voice votes to reinsert it. As the writer Eric Rozenman has noted, Villaraigosa was jeered from the floor for his effort.
This, of course, is a much more complicated story than blaming Netanyahu and Trump for any loss in bipartisan support.
Nor did Gearan note that the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was supported by leading Democratic senators, including the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), among others. Indeed, the decision was actually but the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, a law that was passed by an “overwhelming bipartisan majority” two decades ago and reaffirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate only six months before the embassy move was announced.
Elsewhere, Gearan noted that the Biden administration decided to “pivot away” from the Trump years by resuming “support payments for Palestinians.” But the former diplomatic correspondent failed to inform readers why the Trump administration decided to halt payments in the first place. As was announced at the time, the cuts were aimed at the PA’s refusal to engage in bilateral peace negotiations and its policy of paying salaries to terrorists. These details seem pertinent but were curiously omitted.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), for example, is described as a “conservative-leaning group.” Yet AIPAC is non-partisan and its board and many of its guest speakers have been on both the left and right ends of the American political spectrum. Indeed, claiming that AIPAC is “conservative” showcases a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of Jewish communal politics.
Similarly, J Street is described as a “liberal, pro-Israel group.” But there isn’t anything “liberal” or “pro-Israel” about hosting guest speakers who both initiate and defend the Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to anti-Israel terrorists or having board members and founders who believe that the existence of the world’s sole Jewish state is a mistake (“J Street’s Half-Truths and Non-Truths About Its Funding,” The Atlantic, Sept. 24, 2010).
The Post’s report ended right where it began: making errors about Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The newspaper implied that the alleged Israeli attack on the Natanz is responsible for Iran ramping up its nuclear program, writing, “Iran announced that it would increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity in response to the attack.” That Iran could be, as some commentators assert, using the ramp-up to extort sanctions relief and apply pressure to the U.S. goes unmentioned. Gearan also omitted that in 2018 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israeli intelligence operatives managed to remove thousands of documents, which were later authenticated by the United States, showing that Iran had not only lied about its nuclear program, but was engaged in hiding it during negotiations with the United States and others. In an article that is ostensibly about a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal this information seems pertinent.
Finally, in another brazen bit of editorializing, the Post claimed that Iran increasing its uranium enrichment is “fine with Netanyahu.” The proof for this claim? A Netanyahu critic who previously worked for one of his political opponents, Alon Pinkas, who claimed, “Netanyahu is against any agreement with Iran. Any.” But that’s hardly true.
Netanyahu—and the vast majority of both the American and Israeli publics—are against any agreement that fails to stop the totalitarian state of the Iran—which routinely calls for another Jewish genocide and chants “Death to America”—from achieving nuclear weapons. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran Deal, fails to do precisely that, as even its chief architect, former President Barack Obama, once admitted.
Instead of reporting these relevant facts, the Post elected to publish a report that is as sloppy as it is lazy, as uninformed as it is slanted.