Betting against optimism
Hebrew media review

Betting against optimism

At Middle East Downs, putting shekels on a trifecta of peace, economic growth and Israel getting its way with Iran will leave you that much poorer

Palestinian jockeys take part in a horse race in the West Bank city of Jericho. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian jockeys take part in a horse race in the West Bank city of Jericho. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Israeli papers paint a depressing picture Monday morning, between estimations of low chances for peace, low chances of Israel holding sway over the Iran nuclear deal, lowered chances for getting into the Knesset if you are an Arab, and a high chance that Israel will soon find itself subject to a general boycott.

It’s on that last point that Yedioth Ahronoth makes its hay, leading off with a warning from 100 business leaders that, if Israel wants economic success, it had better get its house in order vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and quick. The paper reports that business leaders will deliver the message to Netanyahu at the Davos Economic Forum later this week. Economic analyst Sever Plotzker writes in the paper that the realization by businesspeople that they have a role to play in Israel’s diplomatic life is a remarkable development.

“Between the members of the group are people who vote for different parties and have different viewpoints. What brings them together is a deep worry for the future of Israel. The business sector has woken up from the delusion of economic growth without peace, even partial, practical peace. When will other groups wake up? The time has come to return to the top of the national agenda the most important and fateful thing — a solution to the conflict.”

A solution may be in order, but US President Barack Obama is less than hopeful that one will actually flower, according to a New Yorker profile by David Remnick, which Israel Hayom uses as fodder for its lead story. “Obama told me that, in all three of his main initiatives in the region — with Iran, with Israel and the Palestinians, with Syria — the odds of completing final treaties are less than 50-50,” Remnick is quoted as reporting. The paper then ties the issue to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statement Sunday night that he still refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, writing that Obama should probably lower his chances even more in wake of the statement.

Haaretz, in the meantime, reports that Monday will see opposition Knesset members begin their campaign against a proposal that will raise the threshold for getting into the Knesset. While the move may increase efficiency, critics say it is a blow to democracy, and will essentially quash Arab representation, or force a number of differing interests, united only by ethnicity, to join forces. The paper reports the campaign will carry the slogan “It’s not governability, it’s racism,” and the opposition will face a tough battle because it has coalition support.

However, an MK tells the paper, at least one coalition party may find it hard to stomach the bill. “Hatnua’s support for the bill would be an interesting thing. In effect, they are suggesting that the party commit political suicide. The chances of Hatnua exceeding the (raised) threshold in the next election are not clear at the moment,” the MK is quoted as saying.

Maariv marks the beginning of the nuclear agreement with Iran by reporting that Israeli intelligence is burning the midnight oil to find some sort of smoking gun to prove that Tehran is not keeping to its side of the nuclear bargain. The paper’s Eli Berdenstein writes that, despite the fact that Israel did not wage a public campaign against the implementation agreement signed last week, Netanyahu is still keen to keep sanctions on Iran in place and keep a military option on the table, even if it’s been pushed off a while: “Netanyahu does not believe that the regime in Tehran intends to stop its nuclear program and thus is working to convince the Americans of the worthiness of a surgical strike, even if it only takes place once the Americans realize they’ve been tricked by Iran,” he writes.

He also quotes a senior defense official who says the Americans have been assured that any military action will be small scale, from the air, and won’t lead to a wider war.

The way the wind blows

Yedioth’s Alex Fishman says that, with America and Iran at the same table, a military strike is the last thing on anybody’s mind, and ties between Iran and Washington have gotten so not-bad that Russia is now trying to woo Tehran back to its side of the power order. The game has changed, he writes.

“If you want to know where Middle Eastern winds are blowing, look no further than Jordan. When [Iranian Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif visits Iran, you’ll know which way the weather vane turns. In Jordan, they understand that we are in an era of cooperation and joint interests between the US and Iran in the fight against Sunni movements in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Israel is not in the equation. Just as you can reset a gas mask, so you can reset military plans.”

It’s been over a week since Ariel Sharon died, but in Haaretz, Yitzhak Laor gets in his last licks, wondering why, in all the remembrances, nobody stood up to speak for the dead of Sabra and Shatila.

“Someone had to stand up and speak of the many dead that Sharon left in his wake, irrespective of his ‘character,’ and of his lawlessness, when he put settlements all over in order to preclude a solution to the conflict,” he writes. “Someone should have spoken, someone should have said that even among military men there are different shades, and Sharon represented the worst of the men of blood. It didn’t happen. The Arab dead were not invited to participate in the national memory, and the memory of the Jewish veterans of the Lebanon War remained with them, privatized, like their nightmares.”

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