Master of mistrust
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Hebrew media review

Master of mistrust

The US-Iran-Israel love-hate triangle is still the talk of the town, with the question of who, or what, to believe taking center stage

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: Emil Salman/Flash90/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: Emil Salman/Flash90/File)

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a prophet of doom, as Maariv suggests on Page 1 (complete with a picture of him looking angrier than a pack of Peter Capaldis), then the Israeli press is its messenger, with stories that won’t bring much rest to those worried over Iran’s nuclear program.

Haaretz is perhaps the gloomiest for those untrusting of the Iranian diplomatic push, reporting that the US is opposed to upping sanctions on Iran, as Israel had lobbied for. The paper quotes Wendy Sherman, Washington’s chief negotiator with Iran over its nuclear program, who said Thursday that “we must do our part to ensure the success of this effort and to avoid any measures that could prematurely inhibit our ability to secure a diplomatic solution.” The paper also quotes John Kerry as saying that not testing Iran’s seriousness in talks would be “diplomatic malpractice.”

The paper’s Chemi Shalev writes that Netanyahu’s media blitz should have been his moment of triumph, after having warned the world about Iran for 20 years, but instead — sidelined by the US government shutdown and diplomatic action with Tehran — he was forced to play “the wrong man at the wrong time.”

“This was the moment that Netanyahu could have smugly said ‘I told you so,’ but his triumph was also the instrument of his undoing, an affliction in disguise, the sweet taste of victory that turned bitter in his mouth,” Shalev writes. “He was entangled in the internal contradiction of having to express grudging support for a diplomatic solution in which he hardly believes, a process of negotiations that he himself had engineered but which now rendered him largely irrelevant.”

If you are wondering how many people are really worried by Iran’s diplomatic push, a gander at Israel Hayom reveals a whopping 84 percent of Israelis don’t believe Iran is prepared to stop its military nuclear program (which, according to Tehran, does not exist). The paper’s poll also finds 65% of people support Netanyahu’s stance that Israel will stand alone against Iran if it has to, which the paper translates into 65% being in favor of a unilateral military strike — because why bother with accuracy. Other interesting figures include only 51% actually liking Netanyahu’s speech (though another 39% have no opinion), and the prime minister being far and away the preferred man for his job, with 52% preferring him and only 8% going for MK Shelly Yachimovich, his closest contender (besides “I-don’t-know,” which is 21% of people’s preferred leader).

Back to Maariv — which christened the “prophet of doom” — to which we would also like to add the “sultan of sanctions,” the “king of candid” and the “prince of pissing” on Rouhani’s parade. The paper leads off with three takes on Netanyahu’s speech — Eli Berdenstein says that Netanyahu is not giving up on his fight for sanctions; Ben Dror Yemini writes that the prime minister is actually the big winner; and Dov Alboim comments on the merits of believing people against all odds, making a heartfelt, Hollywood-worthy argument in defense of naiveté.

“Our prime minister traveled this week to the US to convince the public and American politicians not to believe [in Rouhani] and that there’s nothing to believe. But how will we live and what will we live for without believing? Life without faith will create a world of war without end, a world where you can trust only yourself, and thus we don’t place faith in anybody. This is a world of fights, secret places and spy cameras everywhere. Will life like this not create a life of loneliness, darkness, shady dealings and, more than all, a world where each new development discussed is stolen by the fear and knowledge that it is deception.”

Wow.

Yedioth Ahronoth, which covers its front page with domestic news, weighs in on the reported assassination of the head of Iran’s cyber warfare department, which, Ronen Bergman writes, leaves a number of questions open, including whether he actually was the head of the cyber department, and whether his killing was connected to his job. Bergman, unsurprisingly, doesn’t have answers, but he does offer that Iran’s enemies would have a good reason to want to see the head of their cyber department six feet under. “After the damaging attacks on the Iranian nuclear project computers, Iran created a division to deal with all cyber issues, which acts under the Revolutionary Guards, and Ahmadi was apparently its head. On the surface, the unit’s job is to protect Iran’s critical computers, but it also includes a squad that attacks US and Israeli computers. A senior Shin Bet official who deals with cyber security said that ‘we always go with the assumption that the enemy is smarter than us. The Iranians came up with chess 5,000 years ago. It’s impossible to discount them.’”

On the domestic front, Israel Hayom reports that a decision will be made Friday on how to continue the country’s massive polio inoculation drive, which so far has given 800,000 kids, out of 1.38 million, the live attenuated virus. “So far the operation has been good, but we need to think about what we do once it ends on October 10,” said a member of the panel that will make the decision. “We will discuss all alternatives, but it seems the preferred course is to continue with the live attenuated virus.”

Yedioth reports that on Sunday the government may decide to turn down a Chinese offer to build a railway from Ashdod to Eilat, a long-standing Israeli dream that has never come to fruition because of budget constraints. According to the paper, a recent feasibility report, which includes an opinion from former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, found that going ahead with the project would greatly hurt Israeli-US ties, because it would give Beijing a foothold in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. “The dangers posed by Chinese control of central infrastructure needs to be discussed using tools wider than those found in business and economics,” the paper quotes Halevy as writing.

On Haaretz’s op-ed page, Uri Misgav writes about a new kind of Holocaust denial, one that denies the Holocaust as an event larger than something that can be used for a politician’s gain, as he says is done all too often in Israel. “There is no greater disgrace than the leaders of the Jewish state’s daily, obsessive use of the Jewish Holocaust, without hierarchy, without discrimination. Anything goes. When the devaluation is so horrible, the question arises: ‘Are we not dealing with an absurd sub-strain of Holocaust denial?’ Most skillful Holocaust deniers deal with diminishing and softening the gravity of it. Those who routinely tap out Holocaust-related Facebook statuses whenever they feel like it, or whenever they’re a little discomforted with reality here and now, may have earned themselves a new designation: post-Holocaust deniers.”

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