Leo RennertThe writer is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers
It’s the lead story on the Sunday front page of the New York Times—a lengthy piece on how frantic, behind-the-scenes efforts by U.S. and European diplomats supposedly came close to building a path toward ending the bloody conflict in Egypt between the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the military-backed interim government.
In the end, as we all know, external prodding failed. But in allotting blame for why diplomacy didn’t succeed, the Times gratuitously points an accusing finger at Israel and AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, for allegedly siding with the Egyptian military and undermining U.S. diplomacy (“How a U.S. Push to Defuse Egypt Ended in Failure –Barrage of Diplomacy—Despite 17 Calls from Hagel, Cairo Chose Confrontation” by David Kirkpatrick, Peter Baker and Michael Gordon).
The article not only gets the most prominent spot up front, but continues inside the paper with a spread, including photos, that takes up an entire inside page.
Yet length doesn’t guarantee accurate reporting. In fact, the Times dispatch is built on a deeply flawed premise that outside pressures somehow might have been able to bring Egypt’s agony to an end, especially if President Obama had shown more backbone and cut off $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Cairo. The reality, ignored by the Times, is that Egyptians and only Egyptians can put an end to this bloody affair. Suspension of U.S. military aid would be more than offset by more generous military aid from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab oil states.
But in pursuit of external meddlers aligned against Washington diplomacy, the Times prefers to build a case against Israel and AIPAC. Here’s how Kirkpatrick, Baker and Gordon put it:
“The Israelis, whose military had close ties to General Sisi from his former post as head of military intelligence, were supporting the (military) takeover as well. Western diplomats say that General Sisi and his circle appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and the diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid.
“Israeli officials deny having reassured Egypt about the aid, but acknowledge having lobbied Washington to protect it.
“When Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, proposed an amendment halting military aid to Egypt, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to senators on July 31 opposing it, saying it ‘could increase instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israel ally.’ Statements from influential lawmakers echoed the letter, and the Senate defeated the measure, 86 to 13, later that day.”
There’s more here than a whiff of Jewish conspiracy theories that fueled medieval anti-Semitism.. Notice that AIPAC is tagged as an ”influential” pressure group presumably capable of swaying the U.S. Senate. AIPAC cracks the whip, purportedly, and 83 senators jump to Israel’s tune. It apparently doesn’t occur to the Times that 83 U.S. senators are capable of voting based on their own agendas and beliefs – without a need of “influential” external lobbying to make up their own minds.
As for Israel’s supposed role in taking sides against the Muslim Brotherhood, the authors of the article never bother to identify their sources. Never mind that Israeli officials from Prime Minister Netanyahu on down are on record as having decided that Israel will avoid involvement in Egypt’s conflict. So why rely on dubious, unattributed sources like “the Israelis” and “Western diplomats ” and “the diplomats believed,” and General Sisi “appeared to be” etc.? Could it be that on-the-record pronouncements would have spoiled the conspiratorial atmospherics favored by the Times’ reporters?
And not given the Times a pretext to build a breach between Israel and the United States?