The outgoing New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, David Halbfinger, interviewed the outgoing American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman — and the result, which appeared in Sunday’s print newspaper, was just weird.
Halbfinger’s 1,500-word dispatch included two paragraphs from the hard left Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Alexander Soros Foundation-funded vehicle that supports the anti-Zionist New York Times opinion page contributing writer Peter Beinart. It includes another two paragraphs from “Husam Zomlot, who headed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.”
The third-party comments took so much space that there wasn’t room for much of Halbfinger’s actual interview with Friedman. Rather than publish a fuller version to the Times’ website, Halbfinger took to newly Trump-free Twitter — which is outside the paper’s paywall — and published two threads, totaling 44-tweets, of remarks from the outgoing-David-on-outgoing-David interview. Strung together, the tweets ran longer in accumulated word-count than the New York Times article, and were more informative, sticking more closely to Friedman’s comments.
As for the Times article reporting on the interview, it was inaccurate and tendentious. Halbfinger writes, “The Trump administration said it wanted to achieve peace. It will leave office this month as far away from that goal as ever.” Actually, it’s closer than ever to that goal: it succeeded, with the Abraham Accords, in advancing normal relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan.
Halbfinger also writes, “It was Mr. Friedman, 62, who drove the radical overhaul of White House policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dreaming up the seemingly endless list of political giveaways that President Trump bestowed upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters on the Israeli right.”
There was nothing “radical” about the Trump administration’s Israel policy. US-Israel relations have a strong bipartisan foundation based on mutual interests and shared values that transcends any particular presidential administration. Rather than characterizing American actions as “political giveaways,” the Times news article might have more accurately described the policies — such as moving the American embassy to Israel’s capital — as righting historical injustices, fulfilling long-made promises, and adhering to laws like the long-ignored Jerusalem Embassy Act. When the Obama administration provided $150 billion in cash and sanctions relief to the terror-supporting, genocide-pursuing Iranian government, the Times described it not as a “political giveaway” but rather as an exchange “in return for nuclear concessions.”
America didn’t give away anything in terms of the US-Israel relationship during the Trump era. It earned America credibility around the world as a steadfast friend, as the results on the Bahrain, UAE, Morocco and Sudan fronts indicate. Some of what America received in exchange in terms of intelligence sharing or other strategic or tactical gains in the struggle against Iran or other foes may be classified. But describing the approach as “political giveaways” is just weird — language that seems more appropriate for an opinion column or a rival’s campaign commercial than for a news article by an objective journalist.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.