On Iran, it’s us versus US
Hebrew media review

On Iran, it’s us versus US

Washington and Jerusalem exchange barbs, Hebrew newspapers engage in free-for-all, and Israeli politicians sit pretty

Maariv workers protesting outside the newspaper's office building (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
Maariv workers protesting outside the newspaper's office building (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

The good news is that despite major labor strikes by Maariv and Haaretz workers yesterday, both publications managed to put together a paper this morning. The bad news is… well, the news.

All four major Hebrew publications report on the deepening divide between Israel and the US over how best to counter Iran’s nuclear threat — Israel wants the US to set a “red line” that if crossed will result in a military strike, while the US is determined that sanctions need to be given more time. Also covered is a public exchange of statements that make it appear as if Israel and the US are each other’s enemies rather than Iran.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads the front page with a headline that must have Ahmadinejad in stitches: “The US: Obama has no time to meet Netanyahu.”

The report details how White House officials blew off Jerusalem requests for a meeting between the two heads of state, by explaining that the president’s busy schedule did not leave him time to meet with Israel’s prime minister in New York later this month. Somewhat curiously, the announcement of the canceled meeting was made by the Prime Minister’s Office. The paper also quotes administration officials expressing anger at Netanyahu for what they see as attempts to use the tense period around the American elections for his own ends. Washington sources are quoted as saying that “[Netanyahu] is taking advantage of the elections to push the US into a problematic position.” Netanyahu wants to benefit from having the two candidates fight over who is more pro-Israel and thus pressure them into agreeing with his position on Iran, the explanation goes.

Yedioth also provides a helpful graphic depicting the decline in the two leaders’ relationship over the past year, from Obama’s Israel-supporting speech in the UN last September to the tumultuous meeting between Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro last month.

“Obama refuses to meet Netanyahu,” reads the main headline in Maariv. The article blames the prime minister for further deteriorating ties with his statement that the US had no business telling Israel to hold off on military action on Iran when it would not back it up in creating a credible military threat.

Israel Hayom takes a different approach, going after Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak had rebuked Netanyahu for his public handling of the affair, saying yesterday that differences with the White house are best solved in closed rooms, and reminded him that Israel is heavily dependent on the US for its security.

The main headline features a critique of Barak by Minister Moshe Yaalon, saying: “Barak failed to back up [Netanyahu] because of political considerations.” Yaalon, and apparently Israel Hayom, believes Barak’s rebuke was a sign that the Independence Party leader is thinking of the upcoming elections and wants to differentiate himself from Netanyahu by appearing more dovish.

Haaretz’s headline characterizes the exchanges between Israel and the US as a “deep crisis” and highlights Barak’s warning that without US backing Israel’s operational freedom is meaningless.

Another story that appears on all the front pages is Israel’s crushing 0-4 loss to Russia in the FIFA World Cup group stage qualifying match yesterday. The loss at home all but closes the door on Israel’s chances to make it to the soccer World Cup in Brazil in 2016 and descriptions of the defeat in the headlines range from “Embarrassment” to “Fiasco” to “Humiliation.”

Perhaps thinking of its own financial hardships, Maariv features on its front page a report detailing statistics on Israeli’s debts. As the year comes to an end, the report states, a majority of the public (52%) can’t make ends meet.

Maybe readers will be uplifted by the accompanying report that shows that while most Israelis are in debt, the nation’s politicians seem to be doing very well, thank you. Financial magazine Forbes published a list of Israel’s richest politicians. The Maariv report details the top nine ranging from Silvan Shalom with an estimated worth of NIS 150 million to Yitzhak Herzog, worth a measly NIS 10 million.

Yedioth reports on its front page on a curious proposal that was briefly entertained by the Defense Ministry that Israel purchase a small island from Greece and use it as a training base or an advance port for military ships and submarines. The report states that while some, including the defense minister, fancied the notion, it was quickly scrapped for reasons that included lack of funds, lack of need and, reading between the lines, plain absurdity.

Newspaper wars

Haaretz takes readers a week into the past with its front page story on the fate of the Eritrean migrants that camped out on Israel’s southern border for eight days, before dispersing, some into Israel and the rest back to Egypt. According to the article, while Israel would have us believe that the 18 men who were refused entry simply packed up and left, retracing their steps into the Sinai wilderness, testimonies by the two women and youth who were granted entry claim soldiers physically dragged the men kicking and screaming into Egyptian territory. According to one of the women, some of the men asked the soldiers to kill them rather than send them back to Egypt.

While Maariv and Haaretz seem to be battling for their very survival, Israel Hayom and Yedioth are fighting over the remains of their readership. Israel Hayom’s editor-in-chief Amos Regev unleashes a furious attack on Yedioth columnists Nahum Barnea and his boss Arnon (Noni) Mozes, in what he claims is a justified response to the rival’s blasting of his paper’s success and attempts to close his paper down by legislation.

Regev writes, in a full page spread, that Yedioth is lashing out at Israel Hayom because of the latter’s meteoric rise, which came at Yedioth’s expense, and because of Yedioth’s desire to delegitimize Israel Hayom’s pro-government stance and the government itself. Yedioth, he writes, is only interested in returning to the days when it held “a monopoly” on readers and their opinions, but pledges not to let them.


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