Iran plays second fiddle to economic woes
Hebrew media review

Iran plays second fiddle to economic woes

Geneva talks are relegated to the back bench in the Israeli press as the battle over Teva jobs is joined

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.

A worker at the Teva factory in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A worker at the Teva factory in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

On the morning of Iran’s meeting with world powers to discuss its nuclear program, Haaretz quotes an anonymous American official saying that easing the sanctions on Iran does not mean they will fall apart altogether, and that such an easing would only take place after concrete action by Tehran.

“International pressure is what brought Iran to the negotiating table,” the official is quoted saying. “The critical thing in the question of easing the sanctions is doing it in a manner that will be proportionate to what the Iranians will put on the table. If they move quickly, we’ll move quickly. If they want to get more, they’ll have to give more.”

Surprisingly, the rest of the papers don’t play up the Geneva talks too high in their news coverage Tuesday morning. Yedioth Ahronoth buries a few paragraphs on Page 8, asserting that the negotiations will be a disappointment for Israel.

“Israel’s wet dream [no, I’m not making this is up] is that Iran will announce complete submission at Geneva: halting uranium enrichment and removing enriched material from its territory, dismantling the facility at Fordo, cessation of work at the reactor in Arak, and exposure of the project at Parchin,” it writes.

“That won’t happen.”

Israel Hayom also shunts its coverage of the Geneva talks to Page 7, noting that the Israeli government isn’t placing high hopes on the success of the talks. Maariv, on Page 6, runs a story quoting Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz saying that “had the US used a clear and immediate military threat, I believe we would have seen readiness on the side of the Iranians to reach a real solution and a comprehensive breakdown of its enrichment facilities.”

Instead, Maariv devotes its top story to the opening of the winter session at the Knesset, and the possibility of parliament passing a law levying stringent financial sanctions on ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers while dropping a clause making it a criminal offense.

It also reports that the peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians are “on the verge of exploding.” According to the paper, the crux of the impasse between the two parties is the issue of borders. “Israel demands fortifying the IDF on the border with Jordan permanently. The Palestinians vehemently oppose [this] because by their assessment it damages the essence of the state they are asking to receive,” the paper writes. It continues, saying Israel is unbending, and refuses to have international forces posted in the Jordan Valley.

“The matter of borders grabbed a large volume of the discussions, and only showed how deep the problems are,” it writes.

The report then quotes unnamed Palestinian and Israeli officials from the last round of talks discussing the nature of a future Palestinian state.

“We are prepared to give you a demilitarized state,” the Israelis are quoted saying.

“What is a demilitarized state,” the Palestinians inquired.

“A demilitarized state is one in which we control the airspace, naval traffic and border crossings,” the Israelis responded. “We see what’s happening around us. We don’t want to create a situation of alliances between states and a porous border. We are not going to commit suicide.”

“A state with such limitations is not a state. That isn’t even autonomy,” the Palestinians retorted.

For Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth, the maximum priority issue facing the country is the impending layoffs at Teva Pharmaceuticals. Israel Hayom warns of a possible “wave of layoffs” that may be set off a la avalanche by the Teva scale-back announced last week. According to the paper, the 700-800 layoffs “are causing concern in Jerusalem over a domino effect which may gain momentum.” It reports that the Haifa oil refineries, another major Israeli employer and the country’s largest oil refinery, also faces cutbacks.

“Finance Minister Yair Lapid spoke last night with Teva CEO Jeremy Levin and asked: Cut down the number of layoffs in Israel,” the paper reports.

Lapid is quoted by Yedioth Ahronoth saying “I also reminded [Teva] that the relationship between the government and the company is a two-way street.” According to the paper, Teva has received NIS 11.8 billion in tax benefits in the past six years, and pressure is mounting to change Israel’s policy toward the industrial giant.

“Previous governments granted Teva large tax benefits which in my opinion were not convenient for them,” he said. “If I had been finance minister then, that wouldn’t have happened.” He added in his address to the Knesset that “the benefits that we give them require [Teva] to listen to us and to everything we have to tell them on the issue of firings.”

Have no fear, though, for Israel Hayom quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reassuring the public (and those losing their jobs, presumably) at the opening session of the Knesset on Monday that “alongside the troubling news of expected layoffs, we must remember that the unemployment rate in Israel is among the lowest in the Western world.”

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