Netanyahu, Trump Policies Succeed in West Bank, New York Times Concedes
Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump have succeeded in calming violence in the West Bank, the New York Times concedes in a news article that I thought I’d never see.
Not because it isn’t true, but because I erroneously thought the New York Times would never be honest enough to acknowledge it.
Yet there it is in the July 9 Times, under the online headline “West Bank Grows Calmer as Pocketbook Issues Take Priority Over Protests.”
A Times reporter, Isabel Kershner, interviewed Palestinians who “attribute the relative calm that now prevails to a combination of factors, including war weariness and the Israeli military’s harsh response, which resulted in too many killed, wounded or imprisoned and too few achievements.” Also, “they have largely given up on an American role in solving the conflict, seeing the Trump administration as hopelessly biased in favor of Israel.”
In addition, “The Israeli agency for Palestinian civilian affairs has issued 86,000 permits for West Bank laborers to work in Israel, the highest number ever.”
The Times does let its usual bias shine through at points in the article. The word “Netanyahu” does not appear, depriving the Israeli prime minister, who is running for reelection, of the credit he deserves for the success of his policies. And the article could have been improved by deleting some of the tendentious adjectives and adverbs — “harsh,” and “too” in the sentence quoted above.
Yet, taken as a whole, the brief, inside-the-paper dispatch is remarkable because it undercuts just about everything the Times and the “experts” on which it relies have been telling its readers for years about the Israeli-Arab conflict.
The Times and its left-leaning experts have been telling readers that calm would come “only” from — well, here is a 2002 Times editorial, headlined “The Limits of Force,” that sums up the newspaper’s longtime position pretty accurately: “Our reservations are not over the impulse to respond militarily but over the long-range effectiveness of policies that rely heavily on the use of force. It is a lot to ask, but Israel must look beyond its current fury to find a political solution to this conflict. It must realize that no matter how many tanks it sends to the West Bank, only a commitment to withdraw from occupied lands and permit the building of a Palestinian state, in return for normal relations with its Arab neighbors, offers a way out.”
Got that? In 2002 the Times was fretting about “the long-range effectiveness of policies that rely heavily on the use of force,” yet here we are 17 years later in 2019 and the newspaper’s reporter in the West Bank finds Palestinians attributing “the relative calm that now prevails to a combination of factors, including … the Israeli military’s harsh response.”
That West Bank Palestinians reacted to President Trump’s strong support for Israel not with violence but with submission is also at odds with the Times editorial stance. When Trump picked David Friedman as the American ambassador to Israel, the newspaper said he would be “likely to provoke conflict in Israel and the occupied territories.” Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem “would provoke violence,” the Times said then.
Today’s Times article suggests that rather than inspiring violent protests, a resolutely pro-Israel administration in Washington inspires Palestinian Arab quietude.
The work-permits fact is also at odds with the Times portrayal of Trump-Netanyahu policies toward the Palestinians. A June 8 Times news article depicted Ambassador Friedman as defending what the Times described as “an all-stick, no-carrot approach to the Palestinians.” An April 4 Times news article spoke of “the increasingly hard-right Israeli government led by Mr. Netanyahu.” So “hard-right,” apparently, that it is issuing record-high numbers of work permits to West Bank Palestinians.
It’s not clear that the West Bank “calm” will last forever. The current situation is not without downsides for both the Palestinians and Israelis, though proposed alternatives also have risks. But for now, it’s better than the violence of the recent past, is what the Times article suggests.
Read the Times for long enough and eventually it’s possible to come across something that is pleasantly surprising. It’s rare, but when it does happen, we might as well take a moment to appreciate it.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.