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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0496/01 0461046
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P 151046Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
--------------------------------

1. Mideast

2. Iran

-------------------------
Key stories in the media:
-------------------------

Israel Radio quoted PM Ehud Olmert as saying in Ankara today that he
is prepared to talk with the Palestinians if they agree to Israel's
terms. Leading media reported that, during his current visit to
Ankara, Olmert is expected to seek Turkey's help in having the
remains of Mossad agent Eli Cohen, executed in Damascus in 1965,
repatriated. Maariv wrote that Turkey will offer to mediate between
Israel and Syria.

All media reported, and most bannered, that at an official ceremony
on Wednesday, Gabi Ashkenazi took over the position of chief of
staff from outgoing Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz. All media reported that
Ashkenazi left his post as director-General of the Defense Ministry
a week ago, but that it is still unclear who will replace him. Most
media said that reservist generals are turning down the job offer
because the tenure of Amir Peretz at the ministry is short.

Leading media reported that last night PA Chairman [President]
Mahmoud Abbas canceled a speech scheduled for today in which he was
expected to officially appoint PM Ismail Haniyeh to form the
Palestinian unity government. The media said that Abbas made the
decision after Hamas presented three conditions for Haniyeh's
resignation from his post, which was to have enabled Abbas to make
him prime minister of the new government. Hatzofe and Israel Radio
reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will hold separate
"preparatory meetings" with Olmert and Abbas on Sunday, before the
tripartite talks. The media said that the purpose of the move is to
lower the sides' expectations. Hatzofe quoted diplomatic sources as
saying that the US has asked Abbas to delay the establishment of the
Palestinian unity government, which Hatzofe wrote Abbas agreed to.

Ha'aretz reported that the Bush administration's pledge to transfer
USD 86 million to Abbas was blocked by Congress. The US
administration had publicly pledged the funds, but a number of
congressmen are skeptical about the funding. On Tuesday, Ha'aretz
learned from a source in the office of Congresswoman Nita Lowey
(D-NY) that skepticism regarding the wisdom of transferring funds
has only intensified as a result of the agreement. The newspaper
quoted sources in Washington as saying on Wednesday that it is
possible that the administration is waiting for a clearer picture of
the new Palestinian leadership. "This could actually be convenient
for the administration," one of the sources was quoted as saying,
"because it is not the one that has to freeze the funding -- it is
being done by Congress."

Ha'aretz reported that the Jerusalem police are bracing for a
resumption of disturbances on the Temple Mount on Friday.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel is considering allowing four Jordanian
prisoners, convicted of murdering an IDF soldier in the early 1990s,
to serve the rest of their sentence in Jordan. Olmert pledged a few
months ago to King Abdullah II of Jordan to reevaluate the
possibility of freeing the four, and transferred the matter to the
Justice Ministry.

Leading media reported that on Wednesday in the Vatican, Pope
Benedict XVI received the families of the two IDF soldiers abducted
by Hizbullah last summer.

Ha'aretz cited information recently received in Jerusalem according
to which French President Jacques Chirac has announced his support
for lessening pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program, for fear
Hizbullah will strike at French troops serving in Lebanon, according
to information recently received in Jerusalem. Ha'aretz cited
reports as saying that Chirac proposed sending a special envoy to
Tehran to reach understandings that would protect the French
soldiers serving in the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon
(UNIFIL). Ha'aretz quoted a GOI source in Jerusalem as saying that
Chirac's position is controversial in Paris, with the French Foreign
Ministry continuing to support a hard line with regard to the
Iranian nuclear program, a position also expressed Wednesday by the
French Ambassador to Israel, Jean-Michel Casa, in an interview with
Ha'aretz.

The Jerusalem Post cited an AP story quoting former Iranian FM Ali
Akbar Velayati, an envoy of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
as saying in an interview published on Wednesday by the Italian
daily La Repubblica that the Holocaust was a historical fact, but
that it could not be used to justify the oppression of
Palestinians.

Yediot reported that Saudi Prince Al-Walid Bin Talal is holding
talks to build a hotel on Tel Aviv's beach. The venture is together
with the Israeli-Arab Abulafia family. The plans submitted to the
municipality refer to an eight-story hotel with 150 rooms.

Maariv quoted sources in Shas as saying that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the
party's spiritual mentor, may recommend that its Knesset members
vote for Vice PM Shimon Peres as the next president of Israel.

------------
1. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The Jerusalem summit will go down as another
tactical victory for Olmert's 'yes, but' policy, but will in no way
bring us closer to a solution to the conflict."

Former Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Liel wrote in the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "The understandings reached between the
PLO and Hamas in Saudi Arabia are a welcome development. We cannot
ignore the fact that these understandings have 'semi recognition' of
Israel by Hamas."

Researcher Shlomo Brom, from Tel Aviv University's Institute for
National Security Studies (INSS), wrote in INSS Insight and the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "The creation of [a
Palestinian] national unity government will provide an opportunity
for all parties involved to reassess current policy vis-`-vis the
Palestinians and a possible revival of the political process."

The Jerusalem Post editorialized: "The Orwellian attempt to lump
Israel among odious regimes, while ignoring real abusers, employs a
double standard so blatant as to fit international definitions of
anti-Semitism."

Block Quotes:
-------------

I. "The Hot-Air Summit"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/15): "Olmert is the great successor of
Sharon, and he is even more successful than his predecessor at
presenting inflexible positions behind a mask of moderation and
openness. He is sensitive to the nuances of the international
community, woos its leaders and enlists them in imposing his
conditions on the Palestinians. The Jerusalem summit will go down
as another tactical victory for Olmert's 'yes, but' policy, but will
in no way bring us closer to a solution to the conflict. The only
consolation is that Rice will come to the region this time in a
small plane, thus cutting down on fuel and air pollution on her way
to another unnecessary journey."

II. "A Step in the Right Direction"

Former Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Liel wrote in the
popular, pluralist Maariv (12/15): "The understandings reached
between the PLO and Hamas in Saudi Arabia are a welcome development.
We cannot ignore the fact that these understandings have 'semi
recognition' of Israel by Hamas since in the Saudi understandings,
they accept all the international agreements that the PLO signed in
the past.... Israel is suffering from diplomatic paralysis, which
obligates it to begin moving any possible muscle before all its
muscles go into deep or perhaps terminal atrophy. The 'Saudi
understandings' are an excellent opportunity for Olmert. The summit
scheduled with Abu Mazen and the top US administration officials in
Washington must absolutely not be canceled. True, it is difficult
to imagine peace negotiations with a Palestinian government that
does not directly recognize Israel. Along with this, just as Hamas
has now gone into a gray area, Olmert too can do the same. Israel
must announce that it will cooperate with the new Palestinian
government on economic and humanitarian matters, in the hope that
further moderation on Hamas's part will also lead, further down the
road, to diplomatic negotiations."

III. "The Palestinian Unity Government"

Researcher Shlomo Brom, from Tel Aviv University's Institute for
National Security Studies (INSS), wrote in INSS Insight and the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (12/15): "The ball is now
in the court of the international actors and Israel, who have to
decide whether [the] formulation [of the Mecca Agreement] marks a
move toward acceptance of the QuartetQs conditions and allows them
to begin to work with the new Palestinian government and remove the
sanctions or whether it simply falls too far short of their demands
and therefore obliges them to persist in their pressure. The
indications are that a split will develop over this question between
the United States and Israel, on one side, and the European Union
and Russia, on the other. The former will probably maintain a more
rigid position while the Europeans will claim -- and this is
already the declared position of Russia -- that the Mecca Agreement
constitutes the beginning of a process of moderation in HamasQs
posture that should be encouraged by working with the new government
and easing the sanctions. The agreement itself is fragile.... The
agreement's viability also depends on the behavior of outside
actors.... It is also not clear whether the two main outside actors
-- Israel and the United States -- will view the agreement as a
chance to promote diplomatic movement. At this stage, it seems that
both tend to view it in a negative light and will refrain from
engaging with the new Palestinian government. In any event, the
creation of national unity government will provide an opportunity
for all parties involved to reassess current policy vis-`-vis the
Palestinians and a possible revival of the political process."

IV. "The Apartheid Libel"

The Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/15): "It is tempting to ignore
'Israel Apartheid Week,' an anti-Israel hate-fest taking place this
week in Canada, England and the US. The organizers of such events,
though they claim to be supporting Palestinian rights, will
obviously not be satisfied unless the Jewish state ceases to
exist..... Israelis, be they Arabs or Jews, are much freer than
anywhere in the Arab world. This is relevant because the
'apartheid' charge brands Israel as a human rights abuser. But what
sense does it make to berate the only country in the region that
does respect human rights, while ignoring the rampant abuses taking
place throughout the Muslim world?.... Israel, like other
democracies, does not have a perfect human rights record. But the
Orwellian attempt to lump Israel among odious regimes, while
ignoring real abusers, employs a double standard so blatant as to
fit international definitions of anti-Semitism. Such libelous
campaigns are themselves an abuse of the lofty cause of human rights
and, in the context of calls to 'wipe Israel off the map,'
contribute to the ultimate human rights abuse, incitement to
genocide."

---------
2. Iran:
---------

Summary:
--------

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot: "International embarrassment will do more damage to
the Iranians than missiles."

Block Quotes:
-------------

"The Ethical Dimension"

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot (12/15): "How ... should Israel act in the next
critical months in regard to the Iranian nuclear program? I do not
want to relate, in this article, to the possibility of an Israeli
strike on Iran, but rather to our public and secret options for
action in the near future. On the rhetorical level, Israel must not
speak, not even a word, against Iran. Otherwise, Iran will exploit
this, as Hamas and [Israel's] Islamic Movement exploited the affair
of the bridge near the Temple Mount, and portrayed this as a battle
of all the Muslims against Israel.... But on other levels, there is
a lot that can be done.... Israel must be the dynamo behind the
world battle -- the diplomatic, trade or other battle -- against
Iran, and all in complete secrecy. But Israel also has another,
powerful ability that no other country has, and that is the ethical
dimension. Jewish organizations all over the world ... must hold a
series of permanent and ongoing demonstrations opposite Iranian
embassies in the West, to embarrass the Iranians and not to let the
matter drop from the agenda -- Jewish organizations, not Israel.
The subject: Iran's intention to destroy Israel; Holocaust deniers
planning a second Holocaust, and so on. For a country like Iran,
whose legitimacy is running out, this is the hardest blow.
International embarrassment will do more damage to the Iranians than
missiles. Official Israel must not have any involvement in the
demonstrations.... The message should be: Iran is a moral blot on
the world's neck, as it is the only country in the world that is
threatening the destruction of another country. In this regard, we
have been given a gift from Ahmadinejad with his Holocaust deniers
conference. There is a world consensus on our side in this regard.
Such pressure will ensure the continuation and even the
intensification of the international sanctions, until the nuclear
program is completely halted, and perhaps even strangles the
Khomeinist regime, which constitutes the toughest, but also the
last, link in the axis of evil."

JONES

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