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Hebrew media review

For Netanyahu and Obama, a front page face-off

President assures Israel of his commitment to its security; PM warns Iran deal places the Jewish state’s survival at risk

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

US President Barack Obama (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) prepare for a press session in the White House in Washington, DC, September 30, 2013. (AP/Charles Dharapak)
US President Barack Obama (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) prepare for a press session in the White House in Washington, DC, September 30, 2013. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have taken to the US media to clarify their positions vis-a-vis the Iranian nuclear deal and US-Israel ties, and the Hebrew media is all over it.

Yedioth Ahronoth‘s Monday editions leads with Obama’s interview with the New York Times, Netanyahu’s media blitz, and a report breaking down a column by Jeffrey Goldberg in its front pages.

On page three, journalist Ronen Bergman quotes an unnamed Israeli intelligence official who downplays the likelihood of a final accord.

“The chances that an agreement between Iran and the West will be signed in June, or in the near future at all, are less than 50 percent,” the official said. “We’ve already been in this situation. In the last 10 years, the Iranians and Europeans announced a historic breakthrough several times, but when it came down to drafting, signing, and implementation, it seemed the sides, and mostly the Iranians, had a very different interpretation of the whole thing.”

If a deal is signed, he writes, it will fall on the Mossad and military intelligence to ensure that the Iranians stick to the terms — a task made all the more difficult by the West’s eagerness for the deal, which will likely limit the intelligence-sharing with the Jewish State.

“The problem is that part of the Israeli intelligence’s capabilities against Iran are dependent on the other world powers’ capabilities. Even now, before any deal has been signed, the willingness of non-Israeli intelligence figures to deal with the issue and share information with Israel has markedly decreased. This motivation will be weakened further after a deal. No country, and certainly not the US, will want to invest resources in proving that it was wrong to rely on the Iranian gentlemanliness,” he writes.

Still, the Mossad will be tasked with overseeing the Iranian program and determining whether Tehran has resumed its military activities, and if so, providing concrete proof.

“This evidence will be handed over to the US and other world powers and if Israel decides to attack — it may be this proof that saves it from international isolation the day after.”

Over in Israel Hayom, Netanyahu’s interviews are front-and-center, and Obama’s remarks don’t make the cut, likely because the paper was put to bed early.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued yesterday his international advocacy efforts against the framework deal between Iran and the world powers, and implicitly against US President Barack Obama, who characterized the deal as a good deal that will protect Israel,” it reports.

Columnist Haim Shine accuses Obama of letting his personal dislike of Netanyahu drive his decisions with regard to Iran.

“President Barack Obama is having a very hard time making peace with the fact that the elections have ended and Benjamin Netanyahu has been elected to lead the State of Israel. It seems Obama was personally offended by the voting choices of Israeli citizens, and in a bizarre process by cooperating with Iran, is trying to erode the democratic process that took place here,” he writes.

Haaretz, like Yedioth, leads with Obama’s New York Times interview, and both papers spotlight the president’s reassurances that in the event of an attack on Israel, the US will be by its side.

The paper also cites sources in Washington who indicate that the possibility of the deal being torpedoed by Congress is close to nil.

“At the same time, sources in Washington believe that it is increasingly unlikely, if not impossible, to achieve a congressional majority for a bill that could scuttle the deal and also overcome a presidential veto. It’s also possible that such legislation will not even be ready before the talks with Tehran reach their final stages at the end of June. The sources said that Democratic legislators who in the past had expressed support for such legislation are now hesitating, given the overall positive response to the details of the agreement – in the media, among nuclear experts, but most especially among their liberal voters,” it reports.

All three dailies also dedicate coverage to the death of Mordechai (Motti) Gerber, 27, who was trampled to death at the funeral of his rabbi, Shmuel Wosner, overnight Saturday. Gruber lost his mother at age 7, and father at age 9, and was taken under Wosner’s wing as a child, the reports say. Haaretz notes that police will investigate whether police negligence caused the stampede.

Yedioth writes that due to the close personal connection, Gerber had asked to be allowed to stand close to the rabbi’s stretcher at the funeral, “which is why he was ultimately crushed to death.” He was survived by his wife and three-year-old son. His brother, Chaim Gerber, told the paper his brother was a handyman, “There was a woman in their neighborhood who was widowed, and he immediately told her that he will do everything she needs and would not charge her, God forbid,” he says.

Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Shmuel Wosner on April 4, 2015 in Bnei Brak. (photo credit: Flash90)
Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Shmuel Wosner on April 4, 2015 in Bnei Brak. (photo credit: Flash90)

Meanwhile, on the coalition front, Haaretz holds out hope for a unity government, quoting Zionist Union sources who maintain they anticipate Netanyahu will approach them in the coming weeks to ask them to join his coalition. The Iranian nuclear deal will be the unifying factor of such a coalition, the report says.

“Netanyahu is under pressure,” a source in the party says. “He is concerned about the US and EU response to a narrow right-wing coalition and therefore there is a good chance we’ll see him turn to us in the next few weeks.”

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