An International Herald Tribune story on the day after the election, “Having bet on Romney victory, Netanyahu acts to repair ties,” breathlessly accuses the Israeli prime minister of “scrambling” to “repair his relationship” with President Obama after he had “bet heavily” on a Romney victory. (A shorter version of the article appeared under the headline “Netanyahu Rushes to Repair Damage With Obama” in the domestic New York Times.)
The IHT/Times engages in its usual practice of projecting its own views on the subjects of its article—delving starting with the first paragraph (in the IHT version) into domestic Israeli politics and positioning Obama’s victory as a rebuke to the Israeli government and a benefit to the opposition. By the fifth paragraph, the article cites an Israeli pollster saying that “Netanyahu is not the right guy” to “handle the U.S.-Israel relationship.” The article quotes one opposition party statement after another: “Fixing the damage caused due to his irresponsible behavior is Israel’s top interest.”; “I really hope that Obama will be generous enough so that Israel does not have to pay the price for that dangerous and failed gamble.”; Netanyahu’s “‘brazen involvement’ in the U.S. election was a ‘terrible mistake.'”
In the Times‘s alternate reality, Netanyahu endorsed Mitt Romney, forcefully campaigned for him, assumed he would win, and now must sheepishly save face by grovelling to the Obama administration (starting by “summoning the U.S. ambassador for a ceremonial hug”).
In the real reality, Netanyahu did nothing of the sort, despite his longtime association with Romney. Of course, the article does not mention how exactly Netanyahu was guilty of any “brazen involvement” in the campaign; all that it could muster is that he was “seeming this fall to support” Romney.
Netanyahu was naturally very careful to avoid any statements or actions during the campaign to betray his preference. Mitt Romney is his long-time friend, and he obviously would have preferred a Romney administration (more on that later), but he is way too smart to have “bet” on the election, made an endorsement, openly campaigned, or tilted any of his governance levers on the assumption of a Romney victory. (He avoided that trap many times.) He even was careful to moderate his criticisms of American foreign policy under President Obama, legitimate as they may have been.
The Times is all too eager to do the bidding of its dovish comrades in Israel and the U.S. to help the opposition score cheap political points by tying Netanyahu to Romney. Such editorializing would have been more appropriate for the opinion page than the news page, though even there its sloppy conclusions wouldn’t meet much of a journalistic standard.
The article fails to consider an alternative explanation: Netanyahu has said some of the same things as Romney, for example about Iran, because Netanyahu believes that he shares with Romney a vision for American foreign policy that is relevant to the survival of his country.