Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to US Congress on March 3, 2015, with US Speaker of the House John Boehner and President pro tempore of the US Senate Orrin Hatch applauding behind him.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress Tuesday has proved to be as divisive as ever in the American media.
A Tuesday editorial in The New York Times referred to the prime minister’s speech as theater and claimed it was an election campaign ploy.
“Even Washington doesn’t often see this level of exploitative political theater; it was made worse because it was so obviously intended to challenge President Obama’s foreign policy,” the Times
wrote. “Mr. Netanyahu’s speech offered nothing of substance that was new, making it clear that this performance was all about proving his toughness on security issues ahead of the parliamentary election he faces on March 17.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post
chided US President Barack Obama for brushing off Netanyahu’s concerns.
“Mr. Netanyahu’s arguments deserve a serious response from the Obama administration – one it has yet to provide,” the Post
wrote. “The White House has sought to dismiss the Israeli leader as a politician seeking reelection; has said that he was wrong in his support for the Iraq war and in his opposition to an interim agreement with Iran; and has claimed that he offers no alternative to President Obama’s policy. Such rhetoric will not satisfy those in and out of Congress who share Mr. Netanyahu’s legitimate questions.”
Shortly following Netanyahu’s address, Obama told reporters
that “as far as I can tell, there was nothing new” in it.
“The prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives,” Obama said, urging Congress to wait to evaluate a nuclear deal with Iran until an agreement is finalized.
Obama said that he would agree only to a deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Of all the criticism directed at Netanyahu over his address to Congress, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart
was probably the most scathing.
“Even though he was speaking only two weeks before his election, he wasn’t using it as the most elaborate campaign ad ever,” Stewart said sarcastically, giving voice to the cynics who claimed that the speech was merely an elaborate ploy for votes on Netanyahu’s part.
In a play on words referencing Succot and Hanukka, Stewart called the spectacle a tribute to the Jewish holiday of “suck-on-it” and a “festival of slights.”
Stewart’s mockery was evenly distributed, with Obama, CNN, Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner and even Vice President Joe Biden all ridiculed for being part of the biggest media circus of the year.
Showing clips of Obama’s benign, even aloof, response to Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress, Stewart joked, “That’s how powerful Israel is! The prime minister slaps our president in the face and his reaction is... ’It’s okay, I’ll buy him gloves so when he hits me it won’t hurt him so much,’” Stewart said in disbelief.
And of course, a Daily Show segment wouldn’t be complete without depicting talking heads shouting over each other – in this case a J Street representative and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach were seen duking it out on CNN.
“It was the State of the Union Address the Republicans wanted, delivered by a leader they wished they had,” Stewart said.Reuters contributed to this report.