Government

Sweet forecasts and sour grapes (The Times of Israel)

As far as years go, Israel could have done worse than 5775. There weren’t any wars, elections went off pretty smoothly – even if they didn’t change much – and the alcohol tax went down. There was that whole Iran nuclear deal debacle and the issue of Washington and Jerusalem squabbling like cats in heat, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently gave Israel a 25-year reprieve on nuking the country’s brains out, and things may be looking downright saccharine in Israeli-US ties as well, at least according to the last round of print press of the Jewish year Sunday morning.

Broadsheet Haaretz reports that Israel has started talking to the US about what kind of security reparations the country will get in exchange for the nuclear deal, designed to keep the Jewish state’s qualitative edge in the region, and tabloids Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to the US to powwow in person with US President Barack Obama.

Haaretz reports that the security talks with Israel actually began two weeks ago, albeit without any fanfare or public announcement, as US sanctions czar Adam Szubin paid a visit to the region. Shortly after, senior Foreign Ministry official Jeremy Issacharoff was dispatched to Washington to continue the discussion, the paper reports.

“In the last month, once it became clear that the deal will survive the Congressional review, you couldn’t completely wall that off from talks about ‘the day after.’ There doesn’t need to be some big announcement that now we are beginning those talks. It is happening more naturally,” the broadsheet quotes an American official saying.

These security guarantees will likely be high on the agenda when Netanyahu and Obama sit down on November 9. The announcement of the meeting is called a “first sign of a thaw” by Yedioth Ahronoth, which also notes that Netanyahu will meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry while at the United Nations later this month. The timing of the announcement, coming a day after Congress failed to block the nuclear deal, is also mentioned by the paper, which terms it an “impressive victory” by Obama.

Commentator Alon Pinkas writes in the tabloid that as far as he sees it, most congresspeople wanted to support Israel, but had a hard time with what exactly Netanyahu was trying to achieve by lobbying them.

“They understand the opposition to the deal, accept some of the criticism, but have trouble figuring out why he set out on an unwinnable battle, intervened heavily in American politics and let himself be taken advantage of by the Republicans,” he writes. “Most congresspeople make a distinction between Israel – which they see as an important ally to which they are committed – and the prime minister, who managed to pry from them harsh words of deep disappointment. This is a move that’s dangerous and unnecessary. In the last month I spoke to 38 congresspeople and senators from both parties, both for the deal and against. Everyone was trying to think about the day after, about the ways to best implement the deal and about ways to increase the national security of Israel.”

Others may be talking about the day after, but Israel Hayom isn’t quite ready to put down its pen of discontent and pick up its pen of dealing with it and moving along. Boaz Bismuth notes correctly that the American political system voted against the deal, and lets the sour grapes fly over the Constitution’s dastardly system of checks and balances.

“The truth is that America doesn’t really trust Iran, but Obama, who has managed to stir up the Middle East (and beyond) since coming into office, is still a sharp politician, who knows exactly what to do to pass the nuclear deal in Washington, despite the strong opposition, which he was aware of. The nuclear deal is a political victory, not a diplomatic one. Obama may have won, but it was a procedural victory,” he writes, begging the question of what kind of victory it would be had a parliamentary body of elected politicians managed to squash the deal that had been reached via diplomatic means, as he so badly wanted.

While Bismuth is busy chowing down on spoiled fish heads, the rest of the country is gearing up for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and papers get in on the celebrations.

In Yedioth, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin writes an uncharacteristic listicle of 10 reasons to be optimistic over the coming year, ranging from Israel’s position as an island of stability with a thriving economy, to the fact that the northern border is quiet, Islamic State fighters are too busy to care about Israel, and the country has more shared interests with Arab neighbors than ever before.

“Pro-Western Arab countries understand more and more that Israel is not an enemy, but the opposite number, a key country in the fight against Iran and against fundamentalist jihadists,” he writes.

In Israel Hayom, Haim Shine also offers a happy-faced assessment of Israel’s way forward, writing that there is no challenge the country cannot deal with, taking as proof Israel’s history and getting a dig in at Europe by noting that tiny Israel managed to absorb millions of refugees with grace and aplomb.

“In the midst of a war against terror rose the strongest army in the Middle East. Jewish refugees, over just a few years, took responsibility for their lives and turned into strong-hearted fighters,” he writes, taking the art of hagiography to a whole new level. “A wandering nation that never had land created modern agriculture, producing flowers for Holland and chickens for the whole world. A community of Talmudic scholars easily turned their knowledge to the sciences, and in every place they wonder how the Jews turned into a stockade and tower of high-tech and modern science.”

Rosh Hashanah isn’t only about looking ahead and thinking about how great you are, but also taking stock of your life, and how you can improve. And in that vein Haaretz’s Rogel Alpher pens a fiery paean against those who are too busy feeling the sunshine on their face to notice that there are others shivering in the shadows.

“When Israelis wish each other happy New Year they are cutting some slack for themselves, their fellows and their state. They wish for a year of peace and security, of prosperity and creativity, in which all one’s wishes come true. Anyone who doesn’t automatically mutter ‘happy holidays’ or a casual ‘happy New Year’ to everyone they meet is a suspected misanthrope,” he writes. “This largesse has become a social imperative. The worse the state’s condition; the deeper society sinks into the morass of binationalism as a result of the continuing occupation and the expansion of the settlement enterprise; the stronger the trend of racism, religious fanaticism, vulgarity and the infringement of free speech … the more one is expected to be supportive of one and all, in every situation and at any price, reality be damned. Reluctance to join in is evidence of the individual’s bitterness. Being ungracious is now an unpardonable insult. … Jews are generous to other Jews, that’s the motto, even when Israel is poised on the edge of disaster, sliding down a slippery slope of self-destruction that seems irreversible.”