Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Do tell, NYT, of Israel's place at the US policymaking table

The New York Times editorial board does not like Benjamin Netanyahu, and hopes for success in the United States' upcoming round of negotiations with Iran. Yet they go rather easy on Netanyahu in response to his UN speech yesterday urging the U.S. and allies to regard Iran's seemingly conciliatory new president, Hassan Rouhani, as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

The Times editorialists note that the Iranians "were not happy that Mr. Obama, meeting Mr. Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, took a harsher tone toward Iran than he did when he spoke by phone with Mr. Rouhani last week"  -- but imply that Iran ought to be able to understand such posturing. The language in which they explain the political dynamic at work in both countries is revealing in what it assumes about U.S. politics:
Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani have hard-line domestic audiences and allies that they will need to consider and cajole as they undertake this effort to resolve the nuclear dispute and develop a new relationship. For Mr. Obama, that means working closely with Israel and helping Mr. Netanyahu see that sabotaging diplomacy, especially before Iran is tested, only makes having to use force more likely. That would be the worst result of all.
There's a skewed symmetry in the phrase "hard-line domestic audiences and allies." For a superpower at least, cajoling domestic audiences is usually more of an imperative than cajoling allies -- or rather, a a single ally. Effectively, the Times all but fuses pressure from Israel with domestic pressure -- which is accurate, since members of both houses of Congress in both parties regularly fall all over themselves to profess fealty to Israel. The parallel structure implying that both Israel and Iran are equally under pressure from domestic audiences and allies is false insofar as Iran has no "allies" pressuring it to take a hard line in negotiation.

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