Hebrew media review

Dreading the ‘dangerous’ deal

The papers eye the Iranian negotiations in Switzerland pessimistically, as coalition talks continue

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. (AFP/Brian Snyder, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. (AFP/Brian Snyder, Pool)

With 72 hours to the deadline, the Hebrew newspapers on Sunday look toward the emerging Iranian nuclear deal with a fair amount of trepidation and dread, viewing the “bad” deal as practically signed.

“The agreement of concessions,” Israel Hayom’s headline reads. “Israel is preparing for the day after the nuclear deal,” Yedioth Ahronoth notes in its headline. Over in Haaretz, the paper reports it straight, writing that diplomats insist that though progress has been made, several major hurdles remain.

The three dailies spotlight the jetting in of foreign ministers to Lausanne, in what is interpreted — despite protestations by unnamed diplomats on both sides that there is still a ways to go — as proof the deal is imminent.

In a column for Yedioth, Alex Fishman strongly disparages the deal, which he says would officially recognize Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

“This is a historic event that will define and influence the conduct of all Middle East states from here on out. It’s doubtful whether in two years someone will remember Barack Obama or John Kerry, who led this process, but the legacy of destruction they will leave behind in every corner they touched in the Middle East will accompany us for many long years,” he writes.

Fishman slams the Obama administration as “disconnected from reality.”

Pointing to the Iran-backed turmoil in Yemen, as well as its relationship with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria’s Bashar Assad, he writes: “It’s unclear what is leading Obama to believe that after an agreement with Iran is signed it will change direction and this time live up to its commitments — rather than spiting the world as they’ve done in past years.”

Over in Israel Hayom, the daily highlights comments by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, as well as criticism by senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and editorials in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post bashing the deal.

“The Iranians are playing the West, again and again,” Steinitz is quoted as saying. “We still hope the principle coined by President Obama, ‘No deal is better than a bad deal,’ will stand.”

In a column for the paper, Boaz Bismuth ups the doomsday rhetoric considerably.

“In Basel, Switzerland in 1897, the Zionist vision was formed. In Lausanne, not far away from there, 118 years later, the vision of a nuclear Iran is being formed, which endangers that which was created then in Basel… After nearly 12 years of discussions, the world is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. In Israel, by contrast, they see just darkness. A nuclear weapon in the hands of the ayatollahs? Surreal? Impossible? Frightening? From this Tuesday, it will be a fact on the ground. Totally insane,” he writes.

The paper notes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the deal over the weekend.

In Haaretz, Barak Ravid reports that Western and Iranian diplomats assess that a deal will be signed “as soon as today.” The main obstacles are the lifting of sanctions, which Iran demands go into effect immediately, and restricting research and development of centrifuges, the latter a demand by Israel and France, the paper reports.

In the backdrop, the ongoing coalition negotiations also dominate headlines.

Haaretz reports, citing Likud sources, that Moshe Kahlon will likely meet with Netanyahu either Sunday or Monday, after the Kulanu party leader boycotted talks on Thursday. The paper also reports that the Joint (Arab) List was eligible for two seats in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and two on the Finance Committee — but MK Ahmad Tibi gave up the slots on the defense panel in favor of larger representation on the financial panel. Meanwhile, the Jewish Home is demanding a prestigious position for chairman Naftali Bennett, and Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beytenu seeks to run the Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee.

The paper dedicates its editorial to a call to prevent Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, who was convicted of bribery during his term as interior minister, from receiving the Interior Ministry portfolio.

“Deri’s return to the scene of the crime seems assured: Without Shas, Likud will not have a government based on one of its “natural” partners. And without Deri, Shas will not be part of the government. Deri seems destined to be interior minister again, and even be one of the seven or eight ministers in the security committee, which makes fateful decisions. We should not accept this edict, which stems from political wheeling-dealing. During the election campaign, Deri frequently spoke in the name of the ‘transparent people’ and appointed himself the poor’s knight in shining armor: Let him take the social affairs portfolio and make good on his campaign promises to the poor. A black flag flies over his return to the Interior Ministry,” it writes.

Quoting Likud sources, Yedioth maintains that Netanyahu has not ruled out forming a unity government with Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog — but only if he would cut out partner Tzipi Livni.

“Netanyahu understands that a government with Labor is better than the options he has now,” the Likud source says. “Netanyahu is forced to deal with small and medium-sized right-wing parties who are making unreasonable demands — both in terms of portfolios and the basic guidelines of the next government. There are things that even Netanyahu can’t live with.”

Unlike Haaretz, the paper reports that no headway has been made with either Kahlon or Liberman. However, it reports that the prime minister has made “significant progress” with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

“Both sides agree that the Haredim will receive hundreds of millions more for child benefits. Moreover, a member of the Likud negotiating team, MK Yariv Levin, said last night that Likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties have agreed to cancel the criminal sanctions in the [universal] draft law,” it reports.

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