Leading American newspapers took starkly divergent editorial stances on Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday, with the New York Times calling it “exploitative political theater.”
The NY Times editorial board argued that the “unconvincing” speech was “obviously intended to challenge President Obama’s foreign policy.”
“Mr. Netanyahu’s speech offered nothing of substance that was new, making it clear that this performance was all about proving his toughness on security issues ahead of the parliamentary election he faces on March 17,” wrote the editors. “He offered no new insight on Iran and no new reasons to reject the agreement being negotiated with Iran by the United States and five other major powers to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.”
“His demand that Mr. Obama push for a better deal is hollow,” claimed the NY Times. Netanyahu, it argued, doesn’t want negotiations and did not suggest a reasonable alternative approach to stop Tehran’s nuclear program.
The Washington Post, which has been far more skeptical of a potential deal with Iran, said that “Mr. Netanyahu’s arguments deserve a serious response from the Obama administration — one it has yet to provide.”
“The White House has sought to dismiss the Israeli leader as a politician seeking reelection; has said that he was wrong in his support for the Iraq war and in his opposition to an interim agreement with Iran; and has claimed that he offers no alternative to President Obama’s policy. Such rhetoric will not satisfy those in and out of Congress who share Mr. Netanyahu’s legitimate questions.”
Instead of attacking Netanyahu, argued the Post, “the administration ought to explain why the deal it is contemplating is justified — or reconsider it.”
Before the talk, the Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote that “Netanyahu deserves a respectful hearing even if the auspices of his appearance are exasperating.” It also said that Israel’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program were “understandable.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu warned in his landmark address before the joint houses of Congress that the nuclear deal taking shape between Iran and Western powers “paves the path for Iran” to a nuclear arsenal, rather than blocking it, and urged American leaders to walk away from what he called “a very bad deal.”
The emerging agreement, he told the assembled congressmen and senators, would leave Tehran with “a vast nuclear infrastructure” that placed it dangerously close to the ability to break out to a nuclear bomb. It “will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It will all but guarantee that Iran will get nuclear weapons and a lot of them.”
“Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted,” no matter what it says about permitting verification of the terms of any accord designed to prevent it from getting such weapons, he said. “This is a bad deal, it’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.