Crazy about the bomb

Crazy about the bomb

Iran announces its completion of uranium rods for its Natanz research reactor, and Israel goes from hot to cold

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressing Tehran's research reactor center staff on Wednesday (photo credit: AP Photo/Iranian President's Office)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressing Tehran's research reactor center staff on Wednesday (photo credit: AP Photo/Iranian President's Office)

Front pages across Israel cover Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s grand announcement, broadcast live in a television spectacle, that his country has successfully produced uranium rods for their research reactor. Thousands of additional centrifuges have been added to the growing machinery of the Iranian nuclear program. The 20-percent enriched uranium, notes Haaretz, is a first step towards the 90 percent enrichment necessary for a nuclear weapon. Yedioth Ahronoth displays a checklist for developing a nuclear weapon, demonstrating how Iran is a mere two steps away from having the bomb.

While Haaretz cautiously estimates the time remaining to complete those last two steps as one to three years, Yedioth Ahronoth puts that timeframe at a mere nine months or less.

Haaretz’s overall tone is noticeably demure, but Israel Hayom, Yedioth Ahronoth, and Maariv adopt a more excited pitch. Photos of Ahmadinjead and a coterie of officials in lab coats grace their front pages accompanied by equally panicked headlines. Maariv ran “Damning the world,” and Israel Hayom’s reads “Iranian arrogance: terrorist attacks and nuclear” (inside, it had photos captioned “Damning the world”). Yedioth Ahronoth published suspicions of “Explosives device in diplomatic parcels,” in addition to its announcement that Iran has taken steps towards getting the bomb.

Hidden behind bold headlines, however, the news reads that Iran’s grand announcement came as no surprise to the White House or anyone else in the West. What is surprising is the combative tone of the Iranian broadcast, writes a Maariv columnist.

A similarly combative tone is found in Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth. Israel Hayom features a report by Great Britain’s Sky News that Iran is teaming up with al-Qaeda in planning a “mega-terrorist attack,” perhaps at the 2012 Olympics in London this summer. Alongside its coverage of the Iranian nuclear announcement, Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz’s jingoistic statement that Israel’s strategic situation in 2012 is strikingly similar to 1967 and ’73, and “I would be surprised if we finished the year without dealing with the threat from the Gaza Strip.”

Israel Hayom features an opinion piece by Boaz Bismot entitled “No limit to the hutzpa,” detailing all of Iran’s recent diplomatic indignities. In his lengthy excoriation of the ayatollahs’ recent actions against Israel and the West, he drolly asks: “What will the Iranians boast about tomorrow?”

Yedioth Ahronoth takes an analytical approach, arguing that the Iranian broadcast of its nuclear achievements and the recent spate of attacks against Israeli targets are symptomatic of increased pressure against Tehran, which is perhaps on the verge of being overthrown. Maariv, too, points out that Iran’s grand ceremony is simultaneous with a deteriorating economy, a financial crisis, growing condemnation, and increasingly severe economic sanctions.

Nadav Eyal writes in Maariv that the Iranians are “Pissing off the diving board” into the international community’s pool. The Iranians are piling on the insults in an attempt to drum up internal patriotic fervor and popular support.

Flaking out

Israel is bracing for the storm of the year. Maariv reports that the weather this weekend is expected to take a turn for the worse – the worst in two years, in fact. Winds of a hundred kilometer per hour and heavy rains are expected to lash the coastline, and Jerusalem is bracing itself for a possible snowfall.

Haaretz dismisses the growing excitement by Jerusalemites at the possibility of a real snowfall as “a syndrome” and “an obsession.” Perhaps this is Tel Aviv snow envy: the city has seen nary a flake since 1950.

Whereas the weekend will be wet, the cover of Yedioth Ahronoth features the tragedy resulting from the deadly blaze in Rosh Ha’ayin that engulfed a building, killing a two-year-old child. Yinon Rata, 30, ushered his two children to safety amidst the flames, then rushed back into them to try to rescue his daughter. “A father’s heroism” runs the article’s title.

Maariv also covered the tragedy, but in a more accusatory fashion.  The headline reads: “Neighbors of the toddler who was burned to death: firefighters were delayed.”  Fire and rescue teams only arrived after 20 minutes, Rata family members told Maariv.

Haaretz’s front page also reports that Yara Mashour, a female Arab journalist from Nazareth, cannot stand the indignity and exceptional security that she and her fellow Israeli Arabs undergo at the airport simply because they are Arab: “Arab journalist seeks legal remedy to unnecessary security at airport.”

After an incident in which El Al security staff subjected her to an especially rigorous screening process, Yara refused to board the plane and declared she was considering legal action against the airline. El Al, in response, says it was merely following security protocol dictated by the state.

Outrage at mothers’ exclusion

Apropos to the subject of women and religion in Israeli society, Yael Paz-Melamed seethes in Maariv at an incident that happened at an army ceremony where mothers were intentionally excluded from being with their sons. A swearing-in ceremony for the Nahal brigade was held at the Western Wall and mothers were forced behind a partition and couldn’t see their sons.

The ceremony, she writes, was hijacked by the IDF Rabbinic authorities. Speeches were predominantly religious in character while the audience wasn’t, and no mention of the secular Zionist ideals of the citizen’s army were mentioned in the proceedings.

“The power of the army rabbis will continue to grow, until they become the dictators of IDF values,” she says.  If women cannot equally participate in ceremonies at such a venue, she argues, then they should cease to be held at the Western Wall altogether.


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