WaPo and NYT disagree on Obama settlements policy

Friday, July 31st, 2009

They’re longtime journalistic rivals, and now the Washington Post and the New York Times are slugging it out on the question of President Barak Obama’s demand for a complete Israeli settlements freeze.

Only yesterday, the Post ran an editorial claiming that policy is misguided and threatens to make things worse for an administration that badly wants to see Israeli-Palestinian peace talks revived (see this Political Insider item)

Today the Times fired back with an editorial essentially supporting Obama’s tough stance.

“The Americans have decided that a freeze is needed to show Palestinians and other Arabs that Israel’s conservative government is serious about peace,” the Times wrote.  “Less visibly, but we hope just as assertively, the administration is pressing the Palestinians and other Arab leaders to take concrete steps to demonstrate their commitment to a peace deal….Unless all sides deliver — the Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis — Mr. Obama’s credibility and the credibility of the peace process will be undermined.”

Previous Israeli governments have promised to curb settlement activity, the paper notes, but “existing ones  have continued to mushroom with government incentives.”

But the paper also argued that Obama needs to do more to communicate directly with a skeptical Israeli public.

“Israeli leaders do not often risk being at odds with an American president, but polls show broad support for Mr. Netanyahu’s resistance. President Obama, a skilled communicator, has started a constructive dialogue with the Islamic world. Now he needs to explain to Israelis why freezing settlements and reviving peace talks is clearly in their interest.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.