Faced with wave of criticism over Iran, Netanyahu coddles journalists who support a military strike
During the past week alone Netanyahu personally called two writers, an Israeli and an American, to praise them for backing his stance.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is trying to persuade the Israeli public to support an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, has been bombarded daily by dozens of articles, opinion pieces and media analyses conveying a totally opposite message.
Other than his “home newspaper,” Yisrael Hayom, most of the media in Israel, Europe and the United States have expressed their opposition to an attack on Iran. In such an atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Netanyahu regards any article that doesn’t totally rule out a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran as precious and even makes a point of expressing his satisfaction to the writer.
During the past week alone, Netanyahu personally called two writers – one Israeli and the other American – and praised them for the articles they wrote on the Iranian issue.
The Israeli was Prof. Eyal Winter, the director of the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The piece by Winter, who happens not to be a Netanyahu supporter, appeared on August 7 in Haaretz and was entitled “When Meretz supports an attack on Iran”. In the piece, which Winter wrote in response to an article by author David Grossman opposing an attack, he argued that “the firmness with which Grossman rejects the attack is bad for Israel’s security and for regional peace.”
Winter added that the Israeli public must not just be concerned with the possible results of a military action against Iran, but also the possible results of inaction. Winter summed up by saying that given Iran’s religious-extremist regime, the Holocaust denial expressed by its leaders and its support of anti-Israeli terror, the issue of whether to attack its nuclear installations must be examined rationally, divorced from political ideology on other issues such as peace with the Palestinians.
Only hours after his item was published, Winter got a surprising phone call: Benjamin Netanyahu was on the line.
“I very much liked your article and I agree with your analysis,” Netanyahu said to Winter.
But it didn’t end there. Netanyahu invited Winter to his office, where they continued to discuss the Iranian issue. Winter confirmed that the conversation took place, but refused to elaborate.
Only a few days earlier, it was Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Colbert King, deputy editor of the Washington Post’s opinion page, who got the phone call. On August 3, King wrote a piece entitled “Iran’s anti-Semitism makes it the greatest threat to Jews.”
It the article, King wrote that Iran is at least as anti-Semitic as the Third Reich had been, and that Tehran doesn’t pose a threat solely to Israel or the Jews, but to the entire world. King ended the column with a question: “If we are to honor the pledge of ‘never again,’ will we be up to preventing the potential genocide of the 21st century?”
Channel 2 reported that the next day, Netanyahu called King and praised what he had written. To meet with Netanyahu, however, King will have to wait until the end of September, when the prime minister comes to New York to attend the proceedings of the UN General Assembly.
One can assume that much of Netanyahu’s time in the Big Apple will be devoted to briefings and media interviews aimed at getting more Americans to think like King.
The blog of Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent, taking a deeper look behind the scenes of Israeli politics and foreign policy.