No standing O for Obama
Hebrew media review

No standing O for Obama

The Israeli press applauds Netanyahu’s speech at AIPAC, derides US president; State Department furious at president

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC policy conference in Washington on March 4, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Nicholas KAMM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC policy conference in Washington on March 4, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Nicholas KAMM)

In a rare show of support across the board, the morning after Netanyahu’s speech at AIPAC, the Hebrew papers find little to disparage in the content of prime minister’s address – though some venture a personal jab at its execution.

The ongoing Ukrainian-Russian face-off, and growing disillusion with President Barack Obama’s ability to push for a peace agreement – in both Ukraine and in Israel — take top billing in Wednesday’s papers as well.

Haaretz leads with the AIPAC speech and notes that “in a highly unusual way, Netanyahu dedicated a central part of his speech to talking of the benefits Israel could receive from peace with the Palestinians.”

In an op-ed for the paper, Barak Ravid continues this line of thought. “If anyone needs to be concerned about Netanyahu’s speech yesterday at AIPAC, it is the Yesha Council and the settler lobby in the Knesset. For the first time, Netanyahu used the ‘leftist’ language in a high-level speech and emphasized the ‘fruits of peace’ Israel would enjoy if it reaches an agreement with the Palestinians.” Stressing that Tuesday’s speech proves Netanyahu is in his element when addressing an English-speaking audience, Ravid wryly concludes that “Netanyahu is much more popular as the prime minister of the Diaspora than as the prime minister of Israel.”

Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom also comment on the prime minister’s performance. In Yedioth, Netanyahu is described as “at ease, even a bit smug, and seemed as though he had concluded the difficult part of his trip and now came to celebrate.” The speech comes two days after “he received a cold shower from Obama,” the paper reports.

In Israel Hayom, under a sub-headline that began “From AIPAC With Love” the DC reception is portrayed as “homey and sympathetic.”

Maariv leads with Israel-Washington ties as well, but with a different spin.

Citing two anonymous high-ranking sources in DC, one Israeli, and one American, the paper maintains that the US State Department is furious with President Barack Obama for his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg on Sunday — a move they say was deliberately done behind Secretary of State John Kerry’s back and threatens to derail peace talks.

“The interview Obama gave, unbeknownst to Kerry, in which he launched a personal attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a way that departs from any acceptable formulation, undermines Kerry’s sincere efforts,” an unnamed official told the paper.

The second source stressed that Kerry’s primary concern regarding the interview is that it “damaged Netanyahu’s and the Israeli public’s trust in the US efforts [to broker a peace agreement].”

In Israel Hayom, columnist Boaz Bismuth weaves together the AIPAC conference and the situation in Ukraine in an op-ed entitled “Ukraine? Obama would rather pressure us.” In the article, Bismuth argues that the US is concentrating its efforts on the Middle East, while avoiding intervention with other crises abroad.

“It’s very possible that our generation is witnessing the beginning of the collapse of the Western empire,” he writes. “The crisis in Ukraine attests to that… And during this fitful and uncertain period, when the world swings between war and peace, the prime minister arrived in Washington for a visit.”

In Yedioth Ahronoth, veteran journalist Nahum Barnea, reporting from Crimea, describes how citizens of all political and religious stripes respond cautiously to the events around them.

“The only common denominator I found is a fear of war,” he writes, regarding the varying opinions of ethnic, religious, and nationalist groups — Muslims, Jews, Tatars, Ukrainians — local to the area. “Russia or Ukraine, it seems that few here are willing to kill or be killed for their leanings. Those happy with the invasion lay a small Russian flag on their car dashboards. Those less keen, repress it.”

The paper also applauds a Russia Today journalist who went off script to openly criticize President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and express her support for the citizens of Crimea.

On another note entirely, Haaretz also features a story on the interim agreement between the Health Ministry and the public healthcare system that would increase the number of patients to receive psychological therapy without charge. The deal aims to double the number of patients covered to 2 percent of children and teenagers and 4 percent of adults.

However, healthcare officials tell the paper they are concerned the move will compromise the quality of care, encouraging short-term treatment and increased prescription of medications due to financial considerations. Despite reassurances from both the Health Ministry and the clinics to the contrary, senior therapists suspect that since the clinics do not specify whether treatment will be with a psychologist, psychiatrists, social workers, or other healthcare professionals, clinics may use cheaper – and less qualified – mental health professionals to cut costs.

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