Time on Netanyahu: Frozen Puffery

I finally managed to get all the way through Richard Stengel’s fawning cover story about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At a moment when incumbents around the world are being shunted aside, he is triumphant. With his bullet-proof majority, he has a chance to turn himself into the historic figure he has always yearned to be.

And it traces what it says is Netanyahu’s appeal to U.S. audiences:

He appeared regularly on Nightline and became the Israeli-American It boy–confident, handsome, fearsomely articulate in virtually accentless English. Every suburban Jewish mother had a crush on him.

“Bibi was the streetwise local anchorman who told it like it was,” Stengel adds.

You might find that all a bit much, but Stengel badly misleads readers with this:

When Obama took office, people thought he would bring a new dynamic to the talks that would favor the Palestinians. Obama asked Bibi to freeze settlement construction for one year as an act of good faith. And then Abbas did not come to the table. When Abbas was finally coaxed to do so, he presented Bibi with the same package Olmert had negotiated. Abbas says he won’t talk while settlements are being built, and Bibi says he wants talks “without preconditions.” The only freeze now is in the negotiations themselves.

But Israel’s supposed “settlement freeze” didn’t actually freeze settlements. As I wrote in Extra! (12/10), a few outlets noted that the “freeze” months were hardly any different than the non-frozen ones. As the New York Times noted (7/15/10), “In many West Bank settlements, building is proceeding apace,” since the so-called freeze “came with the assertion that some 3,000 units were grandfathered in and would proceed during the moratorium.” And an Associated Press investigation (9/23/10) revealed: “How much of a freeze has there actually been on West Bank Jewish settlement building by Israel? Very little, an Associated Press analysis of the numbers suggests.”

Stengel gives Netanyahu points for his ability to woo U.S. media. Indeed.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.