The Israeli press takes stock of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s statements at the United Nations after a day-long hiatus due to the Sukkot holiday. Rouhani’s comments at the General Assembly — particularly his call for Israel to give up its nuclear arms — make top headlines, as do US President Barack Obama’s attempt to bridge the gap and bring about a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear standoff.
Rouhani told the UN earlier in the week that Tehran was willing to build bridges with the West, but warned that Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear drive can’t be halted. He also called on Israel to give up its nuclear weapons, saying “No nation should possess nuclear weapons.”
Maariv reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming UN speech will — shocker — focus on Iran’s nuclear program and on negotiations with the Palestinians. The paper cites a briefing he gave The New York Times, which says the prime minister will reportedly emphasize the failure of American negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.
Haaretz columnist Yossi Verter writes that Netanyahu’s mission in New York will be to act as the international “party pooper” and splash cold water on “the love affair that is developing between the West, led by the United States, and Iran, under the stewardship of its new soft-spoken leader.” The prime minister will reportedly be armed with intelligence proving Iran’s involvement in worldwide terrorist operations and, as Maariv writes, “will draw a direct line between the swindle North Korea perpetrated on the US eight years ago — which began with nuclear talks and ended with a rather impressive nuclear explosion — and the ‘something new’ that’s supposedly happening now with Iran.”
Maariv also runs a short column whose theme sounds more like an article on Buzzfeed: “20 reasons why Iran is serious.” It’s not clear whether the list is in ascending order or not, but No. 1 is Rouhani’s declaration earlier this week that Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon; No. 2 is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s support of diplomacy with the West.
Maariv’s list is a collection of “proofs” that hardly demonstrate Iran’s intentions. Israel Hayom seemingly addresses them, posing the rhetorical question: “Are Iran and the West approaching a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program?”
“Depends how much you’re interested in believing the news Iran is presenting the West at face value,” it writes in response.
“Look who’s talking,” reads Israel Hayom’s headline to a story about Rouhani calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Boaz Bismuth contends in his column that Rouhani’s statements were not all that different than those of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concerning Iran’s right to nuclear development, to uranium enrichment, and to criticism of the US.
Nonetheless, “Rouhani succeeded in inspiring the world with hope,” Bismuth writes. Unlike Maariv, whatever Iran is selling, Bismuth isn’t buying it: “Rouhani knows how to broadcast exactly the music the world wants to hear these days.”
He adds that if talks between Iran and the world powers do succeed in reaching an agreement within three to six months, according to Rouhani’s aims, “it will not be good for Jerusalem.
“But even if there isn’t any progress, it’s very doubtful whether someone in the world will take up the mission to stop the Iranian centrifuges,” he continues.
Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with statements by Barack Obama — rather than that of Rouhani — at the General Assembly, which it headlines “Extending a hand to Iran.” The paper reports that senior Israeli officials harshly criticized the president’s speech for being too soft on Rouhani and for juxtaposing Iran’s nuclear diplomacy and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
“This is very problematic,” the sources are quoted as saying, adding that Obama was showing Iran too much carrot and not enough stick. Regarding the Israelis and Palestinians, they argue “that Obama is again presenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the core problem in the Middle East, while ignoring the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria.”
Neither Haaretz, nor the remainder of the Israeli press, has much to report on the goings-on in New York between Iran and the world powers — US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart only convened around 11:30 p.m., local time. Those details will have to wait for Sunday morning’s papers.
In local news, the main story is the continuing poor health of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Yedioth titles it “Fateful moments” and reports that the rabbi is sedated and hooked up to a respirator after suffering a multisystem failure.
“We are expecting the mercy of heaven,” reads Israel Hayom’s headline, set alongside a photo of Orthodox men praying for Yosef’s well-being earlier this week in Jerusalem. Maariv quotes Yosef’s doctor, however, saying that there’s but a slim chance that the 93-year-old rabbi’s health condition will improve.