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Ron Radosh

Today, the New York Times published an editorial  on the special election in New York’s 9th congressional district, which was won by Republican Bob Turner. The district historically went Democratic.

In the editorial, the editors write that they fear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take the victory as a message that he can ignore President Obama’s plea that Israel makes compromises with the Palestinians. As they put it,

[W]e fear that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will read the election as yet another reason to ignore the president’s advice and refuse to make any compromises with the Palestinians, no matter how essential for Israel’s own security.

As expected, the paper’s editorial writers assume that all of the paper’s left-liberal constituency already believe that it is the Israeli prime minister, and not the Palestinians, who has refused to make compromises on behalf of peace. Therefore they can repeat this calumny without fear of rebuttal from their audience.

Next, they write the following paragraph, which was specifically addressed to former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, who had publicly endorsed and campaigned for Turner, rather than the Democratic candidate David Weprin:

Mr. Koch played a cynical game in urging special-election voters to choose the Republican as a rebuke to Mr. Obama for saying that Israel’s pre-1967 borders — with mutually agreed land swaps — should be the basis of any peace agreement. That has been the basis of every deal sought by American presidents for more than a decade.

This argument has been answered time and time again since President Obama first made it — when Netanyahu and Obama had a fairly cold White House meeting, and at his AIPAC speech last year. Again, the so-called paper of record counts on its readers not ever having read any of these rebuttals on the issue of where the 1949 borders were set at the time of Israel’s victory over the invading Arab armies.

The editors’ only criticism of the Palestinian leadership is that they “certainly waited too long to begin negotiations.” This is false, since they have never really agreed to participate in actual negotiations. Their demands are ones that Israel can never accept: the “right of return” and advance agreement on indefensible borders. Of course, to the Times’ editors, all blame belongs to Netanyahu alone, who, they say, “has been the most intractable, building settlements and blaming his inability to be more forthcoming on his conservative coalition.”

Netanyahu actually made his real position available to all yesterday. The Israeli PM said,

The only way for a Palestinian state to come to be is through negotiations. The PA’s decision (to appeal to the UNSC) could change tomorrow. I’ll be at the UN. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be at the UN. We could save the trip – Ramallah is only 10 minutes away. Direct negotiations are the simplest way to achieve peace. I hope that the Palestinians will eventually understand that there is no other alternative.

Referring to the PLO’s ambassador to the United States’ recent statement that any Palestinian state would have to be free of all Jews, Netanyahu added that  he “regretted to hear a Palestinian official speak of Judenrein. It is a disgrace and I expect the Palestinian Authority to denounce the statement.” I think he will be waiting a long time to hear any denunciation of the ambassador’s view from Mahmoud Abbas, who privately says such much the same thing to his own constituency.

When Netanyahu speaks before the UN at the time of the Durban III conference, he will turn the table on the Palestinians, making it clear to all which side is actually willing to take steps for peace. Recall that two years ago, Netanyahu, to the dismay of his own constituency, suspended building settlements for ten months. As expected, the Palestinian Authority did not take the opportunity to begin any peace negotiations.

One suspects that the Times’ editors will get many letters protesting their editorial view. They have the right to choose which ones to publish. But since their editorial singled out Mayor Koch, one would expect that were he to write a letter to the paper, his letter would get published. Today, Koch put on his personal blog the text of the letter he submitted to the paper. It follows here:

To The Editor:

The Times’ editorial of September 14, “Israel and New York’s Ninth District,” is disingenuous.  It does not accurately state my reasons for having endorsed Republican Bob Turner.  My purpose was to make President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party understand that they can no longer take the Jewish vote for granted.  The security of the state of Israel is a major issue for that constituency.

I support the two-state solution.  The President’s demand negotiations commence with the pre-1967 lines with swaps does not provide Israel with secure and defensible borders, but it would not have been the defining issue if he had also imposed conditions on the Palestinian Authority, including Hamas.  The demands he should have made on the latter were set forth in my letter to the Times responding to an earlier editorial critical of Israel and of me which the Times published on September 7.  That letter states, “that Hamas renounce terrorism before negotiations begin, and that Hamas amend its charter, which calls for the creation of an Islamic state in ‘Palestine’ and the obliteration of Israel.  Hamas must accept the legitimacy of the state of Israel, and pledge in any peace settlement that it will accept Israel as a Jewish state.  Finally, Israel must have defensible borders, and the homes of the 500,000 Jews beyond those lines in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank must remain part of Israel.”

I know the Times prides itself on a separation between news and editorials.  But one would hope the editorial writers read the Times’ letter columns.

All the best.
Sincerely,
Edward I. Koch

Mayor Koch has since been informed by the paper that it would not be publishing his letter. Recall that the editors always have the right to shorten the letter for reasons of space, and could have allowed the mayor to offer his rebuttal to their incorrect view of the reasons why Koch had endorsed Bob Turner. Evidently, accusing Koch of playing a “cynical game” is not enough reason to allow him to have space in which to respond.

Their actions make it clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu should hold no illusions about why the Times so consistently distorts his views, takes the side of and apologizes for the abysmal Abbas regime on the West Bank, and never lets its readers learn about the history of PLO intransigence.  Perhaps the editorial staff of the paper might benefit from reading Sol Stern’s booklet which I wrote about yesterday, A Century of Palestinian Rejections and Jew Hatred. Why do I not think any of their editors will consider even looking at it?

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