Hebrew media review

Nukes of hazard

The press tries to answer whether North Korea and Iran are two separate threats or one big ball of Trumphurt — and which is a bigger concern? The Nazis, of course

Participants in a mass rally gather in Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang on September 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / KIM WON-JIN)
Participants in a mass rally gather in Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang on September 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / KIM WON-JIN)

Who would win in a fight: North Korea, Iran, or an earthquake? That seems to be the question at the center of Israel’s print press Sunday morning, after a long hiatus thanks to the Rosh Hoshanah holiday and amid ever-rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, and maybe Tehran too.

With US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leadership trading barbs and Iran testing a new missile, two out of the three main dailies (Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth) focus mostly on nuclear saber-rattling with North Korea, while only Israel Hayom makes a mostly silly debate explicit with a front-page headline reading “North Korea is dangerous, Iran is much more so.”

The new Iranian long-range missile Khoramshahr is displayed during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, on September 22, 2017, in Tehran. (AFP PHOTO / str)

The headline sounds like a continuation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to lobby the US to deal with Iran and forget about North Korea, and the column attached to the headline (because who wants news on the front page after 4 days without?), by former Netanyahu national security aide Yaakov Amidror, continues that theme.

“If you want to understand Iran you need to look at what North Korea is doing, except Iran is bigger, stronger and has much more potential,” he writes, before issuing what sounds like a challenge to the US. “It seems that if the US won’t do anything about countries like Iran and North Korea, no other power will. And the US is wavering. It will be interesting to see what it will do now, after the aggressive things said by the president at the UN, before the Iranians showed their disregard for them by launching a missile test right afterward. For Israel this is a critical question, since an American decision not to do anything will force Israel to think differently on what it should do in the future, on its own.”

Both Yedioth and Haaretz, meanwhile, focus on what might be entertaining if it weren’t so scary, the intercontinental insult and threat battle taking place between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Yedioth quotes from some of the best one-liners on its front page, but inside the paper it also links North Korea to Iran, calling it a “double, immediate threat,” which sounds worse than the double secret probation in “Animal House.” In an accompanying column, Alex Fishman writes that the Iranians are learning what to do from the North Koreans, calling the Khoramshahr ballistic missile tested by Iran “clearly North Korean, and showing the close cooperation between the countries.”

In this Sept. 3, 2017, file photo, a man watches a TV news program on a public screen showing an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un while reporting North Korea’s possible nuclear test in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Fishman’s own column appears to reveal close cooperation between him and Israeli officials with an agenda/bone to pick, with him blaming that ayatollah-lover Barack Obama for Israel’s Iran woes.

“Back in 2013, when an interim deal was signed between the powers and Iran, it was known to Israel that representatives of Obama and Iran put together a secret side deal, and even then it was known the Iranian got secret American agreement to develop missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers. At the same time, Iran was developing missiles with a range of between 2,500 and 5,000 kilometers, which could get to the Europe and the US,” Fishman writes, apparently not realizing that Iran would need twice that distance to reach the US. “The Americans put a red line on the Iranians in the secret talks: Not to the US and not to Europe, but up to 2,000 kilometers, the exact effective distance to Iran’s main enemy: Israel. And if you want, also Saudi Arabia.”

While Haaretz gives plenty of space to the North Korean taunt-fest and the Iranian missile, it also shows that it didn’t stop paying attention to the UN once Netanyahu left, covering Trump’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The paper reports that not much is known about what happened in the meeting beyond Trump telling Abbas the US is working on a new peace plan but needs more time. At the same time, it notes that Ramallah believes the US is on-board with reconciliation between Abbas and the Hamas terror group.

“The PA attaches great importance to the fact that both the White House and State Department have thus far said nothing in response to media reports of a new Egyptian effort to reconcile the PA and Hamas. The Palestinian leadership sees the absence of US criticism of the reconciliation effort as a de facto green light for the move,” the paper reports.

Looking at Abbas’s speech to the UN, Jacky Khoury notes that the Palestinian leader put the one-state solution on the table, and while this isn’t the first time he’s threatened to throw it all in, frustration is certainly growing.

“The hope Abbas instilled in the international community has vanished. He made clear that even if the world gives up on the two-state solution, some 6.5 million Palestinians still live between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River,” he writes. “In his speech, Abbas implied that they will not disappear, evaporate or be expelled. Instead, they will demand their full rights. Israel, the United States and the international community will have to figure out how to accomplish that.”

For all of the fights Trump is waging, or possibly trying to end, the one he’ll never win is against mother nature, as evidenced by the havoc wreaked by an earthquake in Mexico that also continues to gain top real estate in the Israeli press, mostly thanks to Israeli rescuers dispatched to the Latin American country.

A rah-rah Yedioth calls the rescuers “Angels in orange” in a two-page spread that is mostly pictures, and Israel Hayom is no less proud with its own double page spread, including an article focusing on the six females in the group of 70 rescuers.

“We do exactly the same as any other officer in a rescue corps,” one tells the paper. “I trained for this three and a half years, to carry equipment, to see unpleasant sights and to work with heavy tools, just like any other rescue officer or soldier. A rescue female does the exact same as a rescue man.”

Back to the brownshirts?

The papers are less excited about German elections, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to keep her seat and the far-right AfD is expected to enter the Bundestag.

It’s the first victory that mostly concerns Israel Hayom columnist Eldad Beck, who says that with Merkel likely not going anywhere soon, Israel will need to work on finding a way to improve its ties with Berlin.

Meanwhile, it’s the rise of the anti-Semitic AfD that forms the crux of worries in Haaretz and Yedioth, informed by the weight of the country’s history.

In Haaretz, Ofer Aderet says AfD’s rise isn’t just about getting rid of migrants or Jews, but speaks to a larger malaise against the establishment in Germany.

A vandalized Alternative for Germany paty campaign poster is seen in Berlin on September 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

“Not all AfD candidates or voters are anti-Semites, neo-Nazis and racists (although some definitely are). But as in other places in the past and present, anger and disgust have united different groups against a common enemy, whether real or imagined,” he writes.

A column in Yedioth by Ofra Pasdar, one of tens of thousands of Israelis living in Berlin, meanwhile, speaks to the strange feeling of being in Germany at a time when a party seen as the forebears of Nazi ideology are back in business.

“Seventy years after my grandmother on my mother’s side, who grew up in Germany in a German family, decided to leave her heritage and her nation and tie her fate to the Jewish people in Israel so that she would never be complacent, I find myself going around in a country where the noise in the streets comes from Oktoberfest celebrations and not from campaign advertising and rallies, a land where the streets are clean, quiet, decorated with little election pamphlets, colorful and aesthetic,” she writes. “It’s hard not to move in this beautiful country with discomfort from the voices coming out of the campaign.”

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