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NYT’s Anti-Bibi Editorial Not Aging Well

Yesterday’s edition of the New York Times featured the paper’s very silly editorial attacking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for advocating on behalf of his country’s fundamental rights–a basic responsibility of political leadership and one that should not be considered controversial. But the editorial was unwise not only for its inanity but also because it was the kind of editorial that would most likely rot rather than ripen with age.

And it only took a day for that process to emerge, as several stories today make clear. But first, it’s instructive to review the point of the editorial, which can be understood in one of the paragraphs helpfully placed early on in the editorial:

Mr. Netanyahu has legitimate reasons to be wary of any Iranian overtures, as do the United States and the four other major powers involved in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. But it could be disastrous if Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters in Congress were so blinded by distrust of Iran that they exaggerate the threat, block President Obama from taking advantage of new diplomatic openings and sabotage the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution sent American-Iranian relations into the deep freeze.

They are not Netanyahu’s supporters in Congress but rather supporters of preventing a nuclear Iran. But acknowledging that would disrupt, of course, the leftist media’s obsession with the idea that Netanyahu is ever meddling where the New York Times thinks he doesn’t belong, namely American politics. The editors also stop just shy of calling the Israeli prime minister a liar, but indicate that they expect him to manipulate Congress into spreading false information. They also seem to think the American political system is powerless to stop Netanyahu from controlling American foreign policy even when the president of the United States disagrees with him.

And that’s only the third paragraph. “Wait till I get going,” a Times editorialist might say, echoing Vizzini. A day later, however, it’s appearing that the Times’s faith in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s willingness to negotiate in good faith is baffling to … Hassan Rouhani:

Elsewhere, Rouhani elaborated on the achievements of his recent visit to New York during which he attended and addressed the UN General Assembly session, held meetings with different world leaders, and had a phone talk with US President Barack Obama, and said, “During the recent visit to the UN, we strove to prevent a new war in the region and we came to be successful in the trip.”

Referring to his phone talk with Obama on the way back to Iran from New York, he said, “Before my trip (to New York), the Americans had sent 5 messages to arrange a meeting between me and Obama, but I turned them down.”

Now, Rouhani did not, according to this report in the Iranian news agency, rule out the very idea of a “meeting,” though he does not get any more specific about the details of such a meeting. But he’s basically bragging about turning down the American president, who appears desperate to meet with him in this account. If Rouhani is telling the truth, then he assesses communication with the Obama administration strictly through its propaganda value. And if he’s not telling the truth, then he assumes he can make up stories designed to embarrass Obama with no consequences. Because Rouhani’s past does not reveal an inclination toward peaceful statesmanship, none of this will come as a surprise to those familiar with recent history.

And as Michael Rubin noted this morning, Rouhani is also apparently ruling out the contours of any reasonable deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Meanwhile, it appears that even John Kerry thinks Netanyahu was making sense:

Secretary of State John Kerry, in his first remarks about Iran since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned the United States to be wary of talks with the country, said on Thursday that the United States would negotiate with Tehran only if it provided proof that it would not pursue nuclear defense programs.

“Our hope is that there is a way forward,” Mr. Kerry said at a news conference here after a meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Japanese defense and foreign ministers, adding that he could assure Israel that “nothing we do is going to be based on trust. It’s going to be based on steps,” in which Iran must prove it is not going to pursue a nuclear program, or it will face a cold shoulder from the United States. “A country that generally wants to have a peaceful program does not have difficulty proving that it’s peaceful,” he said.

If the Times has lost John Kerry, Benjamin Netanyahu should be the least of their worries.

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