Hebrew media review

Bibi and the bomb

Israeli pundits do their best to break down Netanyahu’s speech at the UN

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line for Iran's nuclear program during his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2012 (photo credit: AP/Seth Wenig)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line for Iran's nuclear program during his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2012 (photo credit: AP/Seth Wenig)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who goes by the cutesy dimunitive Bibi), had his say last night at the United Nations, telling the world about Iran’s nuclear threat with the aid of a comical-looking bomb sketch. Now the talking heads, or writing heads, scramble to have their say, running buck wild to make their opinions heard like a pack of Jews at a sour cream versus applesauce debate.

Prime among the commentators’ most salient points is Netanyahu’s use of the bomb diagram (a picture of which leads all four major dailies (which begs the question of what happened to Maariv’s promise not to run pictures of any ministers)). In Yedioth, Nahum Barnea calls the use of the drawing a “gimmick,” but quickly turns serious, taking Netanyahu to task for his dubious use of numbers. “The red line that Netanyahu drew was at the 90 percent level. That line is very close, perhaps too close to the point at which it’s possible to build a bomb. He did not explain why that’s the number he chose. Why not 72? Why not 80? Why not 91? He brought a red marker from Israel and nobody told him where to draw the line.”

In the same paper, Ronen Bergman, who has followed this whole Iran thing like sauce on spaghetti, tries to make sense of Netanyahu’s drawing and numbers (Yedioth’s graphics department helps him along with a neat drawing that puts the one in the UN museum of cheap props to shame.) According to Bergman, the Iranians are now at 19.7% enriched uranium, after making the jump from 3.5%. It’s the next jump that Netanyahu warned about in his speech. “At the same time, they are collecting the data and experimentation to pass the next two stages, enrichment at 70% and after that enrichment at 93% percent, an enrichment level fitting for a nuclear weapon.” Bergman also noted that even then, the Iranians will still need to figure out a way to fit their brand spanking new nuclear capability onto a ballistic missile — no small feat.

In Maariv, Ben Caspit wonders if maybe that red marker has an eraser on it, considering the amount of times the red line on Iran has moved. “It’s useful to remember that a few weeks ago, the date for a nuclear Iran was this summer. Afterward they moved it to the end of the summer, and then to the fall and suddenly it skips a half year ahead, to the spring.”

The paper also reports that the supposed target of Netanyahu’s speech, US President Barack Obama, somehow missed the prime time event, instead choosing to continue campaigning. The paper also reports, almost as an aside, that the two will meet in the coming weeks, though it doesn’t say if that will be before the elections or after.

‘One of the high points of the yearly recital last night was hearing Netanyahu give a small fugue assembled of variations on the words “I said,” “I pointed out,” “I stressed”‘

Haaretz’s Doron Rosenblum, in his never-ending quest to be witty, compares Netanyahu to a maestro with a flaccid wand (my imagery, not his), and says the fact that all he does is blabber on is not a bad thing. “It should be noted that this talking about talking – and not doing – fills first and foremost the act of being Netanyahu himself: One of the high points of the yearly recital last night was hearing Netanyahu give a small fugue assembled of variations on the words ‘I said,’ ‘I pointed out,’ ‘I stressed.’ ‘I’ve been speaking about the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons for over 15 years. … I spoke about it when it was fashionable, and I spoke about it when it wasn’t fashionable. I speak about it now because the hour is getting late, very late… it’s not only my right to speak; it’s my duty to speak.’”

Israel Hayom is the least critical of Netanyahu’s speech, and both Boaz Bismuth and Dan Margalit compare what the Israeli prime minister said in New York to what Obama spoke about two days earlier, with Bismuth practically falling over himself to heap praises upon our fearless leader: “It was the speech of a leader that stands with centrifuges spinning in the Iranian regime, that don’t stop even when there is ongoing dialogue with the ayatollahs. … The speech yesterday should have been made by the leader of the free world. But the man with the title, President Obama, made due with a speech lacking any message, and left Netanyahu to speak about the expected danger to all of civilization.”

Wrong Mahmoud

Maariv’s Ben Dror Yemini, taking a different tack, notes that the removal of the Palestinian issue from the agenda in favor of Iran should be seen as a strategic failure and not a success. “The freeze in the Palestinian track, which relates to the refusal of Netanyahu to freeze settlements, weakens Israel on the Iranian issue, thus we find ourselves in a foolish cycle.”

Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar also focuses on the Palestinian issue, saying if Israelis are going to be concerned with a Mahmoud A., it should be Abbas and not Ahmadinejad. “Netanyahu’s theatrics gave the reporters their headlines – Bibi warned that the Iranians will reach the red line by next summer. Abbas settled with warning that the two-state solution is running out and the Palestinian Authority is weakening. If you connect the two warnings, the result could be that once Iran completes its nuclear program, Israel will complete its takeover of the West Bank.”

Poll positions and pole positions

Other news? Yeah there’s that too. Haaretz reports, via its latest poll, that Netanyahu’s Likud party is getting stronger (it would take 28 seats were an election held today) while pretty much everybody else has been weakened, including Yair Lapid’s nascent party, which would only garner eight places in the Knesset.

Maariv, in a bit of meta reporting, writes that the government may convene a special committee to look into saving the paper from expected major cuts, and includes a chart of other European papers that have been saved by government intervention.

Yedioth has the scoop that the Foreign Ministry’s limousine driving corps, charged with ferrying visiting dignitaries around, will soon be flown to Germany for a crash course on how to get world leaders around Israel, no matter what obstacles they face, including three flat tires, or coming under fire of shoes or bullets. Perhaps the US’s secret service could use the same course.

Last but not least, Israel Hayom reports on some of the fun things to do while on your Sukkot break. While not feasting in tabernacles, why not head to the Haifa science museum for a special display of those crystals that earned prof. Dan Schechtman a Nobel prize? And in Holon, the makers of dialogues in the dark and with the deaf bring you “Dialogue with Time,” a special new exhibit that puts visitors in the shoes of the elderly among us. Bring on the Jeopardy!

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