The New York Times is moving to bolster its faltering credibility among pro-Israel readers by hiring an outspoken Zionist and former editor of the Jerusalem Post, Bret Stephens, as an op-ed columnist.
Stephens — who had been with the Wall Street Journal since 1998, serving as a foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor — will fill a gap that had been left empty on the Times op-ed page since the retirement of William Safire in 2005. (For a period, from 1987 to 1999, the Times had two outspokenly pro-Israel op-ed columnists, in Safire and A.M. Rosenthal.)
“He will bring a new perspective to bear on the news,” the Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, said in announcing the hire, promising, “you can expect other additions to our lineup in coming months as we continue to broaden the range of Times debate about consequential questions.”
Since the deaths of both Safire and Rosenthal, the Times has left Israel-related op-ed columnizing to Roger Cohen, who is outspoken about his Jewish background but also sharply critical of Israel’s policies. Cohen’s articles also do not appear regularly in print in the United States. Nicholas Kristof, a non-Jewish Times columnist, also sometimes writes critically about Israel, while David Brooks will occasionally write on Jewish topics, but has not frequently touched on the Jewish state. Longtime Times columnist Thomas Friedman can be centrist or unpredictable, and is another voice who sometimes tackles the Middle East, where he previously served as a Times reporter.
His voice will be a welcome addition and corrective to the Times tilt against Israel, though careful readers and observers of Stephens know that he can be as harsh as anyone in publicly criticizing Israel’s government if he disagrees with its policy decisions.
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner Ira Stoll