NY Times pans PM’s ‘hysterical opposition’ to Iran deal

Amid row between US, Israeli leaders over Iran talks, paper criticizes Netanyahu’s push for tougher stance on Tehran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on November 07, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on November 07, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

As tensions mount between the US and Israel over nuclear talks with Iran, the New York Times on Tuesday published an editorial criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the prospective — and as yet unsigned — deal, charging that he jumped the gun in order “to generate more hysterical opposition.” The article prompted a flurry of reactions in the Israeli press, which described it as an attack on the Israeli leader.

In the latest round of an ongoing public spat between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the prime minister on Monday called on world powers to push for a “better” deal with Iran.

“We will continue to speak out” against the deal that is taking shape, he said, stressing that “this process has a goal… to prevent Iran attaining a nuclear weapons capability.”

Speaking to Israel Radio Tuesday morning, Finance Minister Yair Lapid tried to calm the situation, saying that the recent flare-up between American and Israeli leaders was “a disagreement between friends.”

Voicing support for diplomacy with Iran, the New York Times reminded its readers that negotiations are a protracted process and asked, “if all those inveighing against any deal — namely members of Congress, Israel and Saudi Arabia — see the weekend results as a new opportunity to sabotage it, what is the alternative?”

The paper proceeded to pan French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s condemnation of the proposed deal “just as negotiations were at a critical point,” noting that French and American diplomats said Fabius’s area of concern was “easily resolved.”

“Israelis and American lawmakers, however, have happily embraced Mr. Fabius’s outburst in pushing the United States and its allies to take a tougher line against Iran,” the paper wrote, adding: “It would be alarming if his comments seriously impair chances of a deal.”

Turning to Netanyahu, the paper said it was unfortunate that “the inconclusive negotiations have given an opening” for the prime minister “to generate more hysterical opposition.” Though “it would be nice” if his demand that Iran dismantle its nuclear program entirely came to fruition, the paper remarked that it was “unlikely to ever happen.”

Netanyahu has insisted that he wants “a diplomatic solution, but one that actually dismantles Iran’s nuclear program,” as he told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in October; one that “truly dismantles Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons,” he said in a recorded statement a week before. He has urged that Iran halt uranium enrichment, remove fissile material, shut down the Fordo facility and cease development of its plutonium track as precondition for the easing of any international sanctions.

The American newspaper’s commentary caused a stir in the Israeli press Tuesday morning, with Maariv reporting that The New York Times “continues its struggle” against Netanyahu. Yedioth Ahronoth explained to its readership that the Times “mostly identifies with Obama’s liberal line and attacked Netanyahu many times in recent years;” Channel 10 also described the editorial as “an attack” on the prime minister.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment in response to the New York Times editorial.

In closing, the paper’s editorial board gave one final, but ambiguous, piece of advice for the P5+1 negotiators. “The opponents of a deal are energized and determined. The United States and its allies have to be united and smart.”

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