Missing Mahmoud
Hebrew media review

Missing Mahmoud

Netanyahu heads to Washington and New York to convince Barack Obama and the world that Iran still wants the bomb

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: FLASH90)

Ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations and meeting with US President Barack Obama, the Israeli press goes on a speculation spree about what the two will chat about. One thing is for certain, however: The good old days of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — a simpler target for Israeli counter-propaganda — are over.

Setting out for the US, Netanyahu told reporters that he will combat Iran’s smile campaign with “the truth.”

“I will tell the truth. In the face of the sweet talk and the smiles one needs to tell the truth,” the PM said, a snippet of which features as Haaretz’s main headline.

Despite the confidence, Maariv sets down the bottom line, which is that Iran’s media blitz has “Netanyahu’s red lines worn down,” as its headline reads.

“The previous Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a gift for Israeli hasbara [propaganda],” it writes. “Now it appears that Netanyahu will have a harder time explaining the Israeli standpoint and convincing [world leaders]” of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“The Iranians are trying to negate, not without success, all of Israel’s talking points and are making it very hard for Netanyahu,” it says.

Yedioth Ahronoth quotes Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, saying that “Rouhani’s appeasement assault is nothing more than another exercise in falsehood.”

“It’s worth remembering that also in the case of the Iraqi reactor, in the early ’80s, Israel was the only one that warned and acted, and after the fact it was clear that we were right, and that’s how it was in other cases, too,” Liberman said.

The Monday papers expend an extraordinary amount of ink telling their readers what Netanyahu is either thinking or will say in his meeting with Obama. Maariv and Haaretz reiterate Netanyahu’s previous demands that Iran must cease uranium enrichment, remove enriched material from Iran, shut down the facility at Fordo and end work at the heavy water facility at Arak.

“Netanyahu will say to Obama that until the Iranians fulfill all of the conditions… don’t remove sanctions and if anything increase them,” writes Haaretz. It quotes a senior official saying that whereas in their last meeting the two leaders spoke about a possible strike on Iran, this time, with diplomatic efforts at full bore, they’re expected to talk about keeping the pressure up on Tehran.

Maariv writes that “the prime minister will say [Monday] to Obama, and the day after in the speech he’ll deliver at the UN General Assembly, that it’s impossible to talk about peace and diplomacy and opening negotiations, while simultaneously continuing uranium enrichment and the nuclear program.”

According to Israel Hayom, Netanyahu will ask the Obama administration “to demand from [Tehran] a list of immediate actions which will prove their intentions — if they exist — to stop their [nuclear] program, and also monitor them closely.” The paper adds that Netanyahu will also ask that these actions also prevent Tehran from obtaining a bomb in a short period of time.

“Netanyahu in his time brought about the sanctions against Iran, and now the Iranians are trying to give ground on the unimportant part of the deal in order to keep their ability to obtain a nuclear weapon in a short amount of time,” writes Israel Hayom, quoting a senior political official. “Therefore it’s better that there be no deal than a bad deal. Now we must increase the sanctions and not ease them.”

Yedioth Ahronoth suffices with citing AP’s assessment that Netanyahu will present Washington with “new intelligence information” which will demonstrate Iran’s true intentions.

If the excitement in Washington and New York weren’t enough for one news day, the papers also have the arrest of an alleged Iranian spy in Israel to cope with. The government leaked news of Ali Mansouri’s arrest, which took place earlier this month, on suspicion of spying on American and Israeli security interests in Israel for Tehran.

Maariv publishes everything the Shin Bet gave it as cold hard fact. Only at the very end of the article does it mention that the allegations against Mansouri were provided by the security agency. It reports that Mansouri, a Belgian of Iranian extraction who changed his name to Alex Mans, “would fly to Belgium after visiting Israel in order to obfuscate his arrival thereafter in Iran.”

Citing the Shin Bet, Maariv says Mansouri confessed to being part of Iran’s Quds force, “the body responsible for carrying out terror attacks against Israelis across the globe.”

Israel Hayom goes a step further, putting the nail in Mansouri’s coffin. How bad is this group he’s affiliated with? “Just in the past year the [Quds] force tried to carry out 20 terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. The force also stands behind the attack which injured an embassy employee in New Delhi and the attempted attacks in Bangkok and Tbilisi in February 2012.”

The Public Defender’s Office said in response to his client’s arrest that “the suspect was arrested several weeks ago and, until September 20, [the Public Defender’s Office] was prevented from meeting with him; then attorneys Michal Orkavi and Anat Ya’ari from the public defender met with him.”

“As far as they’re aware, the man is not motivated by any anti-Israel or pro-Iran agenda. The picture is much more complex than that portrayed in the report shown here. The facts will be clarified in the court,” it said.

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