‘The United States has to be careful to distinguish between its support for the new [Palestinian] government and an endorsement of Hamas and its violent, hateful behavior,” the New York Times wrote in an editorial Friday. It voiced caution, and suggested some rare empathy for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government in their opposition to the Palestinian unity deal and their surprise at Washington’s announcement that it would work with the new Hamas-backed leadership.
“To have some hope of doing that, the United States and Europe must continue to insist that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas stick to his promises and not allow Hamas to get the upper hand,” the editorial went on, echoing a statement made last week by Secretary of State John Kerry in which he defended the US position and said the Obama administration would monitor the new leadership and ensure it “doesn’t cross the line.”
While Abbas and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah have insisted that the new government is made up of technocrats not affiliated with Hamas, the New York Times acknowledged that “Netanyahu has scoffed at that distinction — and some skepticism is warranted.”
“The United States and other countries that consider Hamas a terrorist group may find it impossible to continue aiding the Palestinians if Hamas plays a more pronounced role,” the editorial went on. Some US lawmakers and American Jewish groups have urged the same thing, calling for a careful evaluation of the current laws that prohibit funds being delivered to any Palestinian government that includes Hamas.
The paper described Hamas, the “Iran-backed group that took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007,” as “a violent, extremist organization committed to Israel’s destruction” and said that the reconciliation between Abbas and the movement was “risky.”
“Netanyahu’s failure to persuade the international community not to recognize the new government reflects a growing breach between Israel and its most important allies” the paper wrote.
The editorial marked a significant if temporary change from the paper’s often harshly critical tone of Netanyahu and his government.
In October, the paper criticized the prime minister’s “aggressive speech” at the UN General Assembly, saying he used “sarcasm and combative words” in an attempt to show that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in truth a “smooth-talking charlatan… determined to continue building a nuclear weapons arsenal.”
The paper took Netanyahu and his allies in the US Congress to task for being “so blinded by distrust of Iran that they exaggerate the threat” and could prevent President Barack Obama from “taking advantage of new diplomatic openings and sabotage the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution.”
In his UN speech, Netanyahu quoted from, and derided, a New York Times editorial from 2005 that erroneously hailed the success of diplomacy in thwarting North Korea’s drive to the bomb. A year after that editorial was published, he pointed out, “North Korea exploded its first nuclear weapons device.”
In 2011, the paper invited Netanyahu to write an op-ed – an invitation firmly rebuffed by his then adviser Ron Dermer, now the Israeli ambassador to the US.
In his rejection letter, Dermer accused the New York Times of failing to “heed the late Senator Moynihan’s admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.”
Dermer further said that the paper’s columnists consistently “distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace.”
“It would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel” Dermer charged.