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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0591/01 0541027
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231027Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9585
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAHQA/HQ USAF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEADWD/DA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUENAAA/CNO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 1714
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 8468
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 1620
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2493
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 1701
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 9491
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 2436
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9351
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 9826
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 6450
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 3843
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 8719
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 2942
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4856
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 6041
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000591

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
NSC FOR NEA STAFF

SECDEF WASHDC FOR USDP/ASD-PA/ASD-ISA
HQ USAF FOR XOXX
DA WASHDC FOR SASA
JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR PA
CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL FOR POLAD/USIA ADVISOR
COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE FOR PAO/POLAD
COMSIXTHFLT FOR 019

JERUSALEM ALSO ICD
LONDON ALSO FOR HKANONA AND POL
PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO

SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
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:
-------------------------

The Jerusalem Post reported that on Thursday Israeli officials in
Washington urged "crisper" and "faster" moves to sanction Iran after
a UN report found that the Islamic Republic had expanded its
[programs to obtain nuclear weapons. The officials welcomed the
Bush administration's stated interest in pressing for expanded
sanctions, but expressed mounting concern over the slow pace of
international action.

In its lead story, Ha'aretz reported that the US has demanded that
Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort
that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared
intentions to hold peace talks with Israel. Ha'aretz said that, in
meetings with Israeli officials recently, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the
matter. The American argument is that even "exploratory talks"
would be considered a prize in Damascus. Ha'aretz quoted senior
Israeli officials as saying that the American position vis-a-vis
Syria, as it was expressed by the Secretary of State, reflects a
hardening of attitudes. The newspaper wrote that PM Ehud Olmert has
so far adopted the strict American position not to respond to the
Syrian feelers. On the other hand, at the Foreign Ministry and
within the defense establishment, there is a greater degree of
openness to the offers, and the overall view is that the door should
not be closed entirely to the Syrians. Similarly, many believe that
the Syrian offers should be tested for their sincerity. Among the
leading individuals supporting this view is Defense Minister Amir
Peretz.

Leading media (banner in Yediot) reported that on Sunday the heads
of the Israeli defense establishment will present to the cabinet the
yearly security assessment for 2007. The media said that the report
states that there are low chances for a war to break out this year.
However, the defense bodies will allegedly warn about the
strengthening of Hamas and Hizbullah, Syria's determination, and the
acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program. Yediot reported that
Israel will ask for one extra billion dollars from the US. The
newspaper wrote that an interministerial delegation headed by Bank
of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer is expected to leave for
Washington in the next few weeks in order to present Israel's
request, which Yediot said is based on the risk of security
deterioration in the North and the territories, and principally
Iran's nuclear program. Yediot said that the sum that Israel will
receive from the US will more likely be USD 500 million. Ha'aretz
reported that Yoram Ben-Zeev, the Deputy Director for North America
at the Foreign Ministry, has led a series of discussions on the
creation of a new umbrella agreement that would combine all the
memoranda of understanding between the US and Israel, give them new
validity, and highlight the special nature of the relations.

The Jerusalem Post quoted senior diplomatic officials as saying on
Thursday that Olmert is confident that Israel will not be
blindfolded until at-least mid-summer by new proposals aimed at
jump-starting the diplomatic process. The newspaper also reported
that Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh hopes to finalize a Palestinian
unity government by next week.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihasnoglu, the
Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as

SIPDIS
saying, in an interview with the Saudi daily Arab News, that
Israel's excavations at Jerusalem's Mugrabi Gate are akin to the
action of the ousted Taliban government in Afghanistan.

All media reported that the GOI's anti-terror headquarters has
renewed its advisory against travels of Israelis to the Sinai.
Media reported that Egypt is still looking for terrorists intent on
carrying out actions against Israelis in the peninsula. Israel
Radio reported that, during his investigation by Egyptian
authorities, a Palestinian who was caught carrying an explosive belt
admitted he belonged to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The radio
quoted Islamic Jihad as saying that it would not carry out
operations on Egyptian soil.

Arabic-language Kull al-Arab reported that six Arab Knesset members
met with King Abdullah II in Jordan about three weeks ago. They also
met with the Jordanian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and the
Security Services Director. King Abdullah asked the MKs to help in
calming the situation in the West Bank. General Mohammad Al-Thahabi,
Jordanian Security Services Director, said that Jordan is
implementing President Bush's policy in the Middle East and that
there are no problems between Jordan and the US. In addition,
Al-Thahabi expressed JordanQs efforts in combating "extreme Islamic
terrorism."

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh was quoted as saying in an
interview with Arabic-language Assennara, following recent news
about Israel's expanded military maneuvers in the north, that Israel
has no intention to attack Syria and that the exercises were only
meant to restore military skills to a paratrooper division that had
not practiced for several years.

Ha'aretz printed an AP story that an independent report ordered by
the UN, written by John Dugard, and to be presented to the Human
Rights Council next month, compares Israel's action in the
territories to the apartheid regime in South Africa. AP reported
that Yitzhak Levanon, Israel's Representative to the UN institutions
in Geneva, has strongly criticized Dugard, saying that the report
has only attacked Israel and that its conclusions is basically
flawed and intentionally biased. Conversely, The Jerusalem Post
reported that on Thursday, in a surprising move, the UN's
anti-racism panel praised Israel for the detailed report it had
provided on issues relating to racism and discrimination. The
Jerusalem Post quoted Ambassador Levanon as saying that he was
"optimistic" that Israel would receive a fair hearing as the UN
conducts its periodic review of the state's compliance with its
convention against racial discrimination.

Hatzofe and Israel Radio reported that, for the third consecutive
year, trucks of the International Committee of the Red Cross will
transport thousands of tons of apples grown in Druze communities on
the Golan to Syria. Hatzofe reported that this week Agriculture
Minister Shalom Simhon asked the Treasury to fund the request to the
tune of approximately 1.4 million shekels (around USD 334,700).

Yediot reported that Olmert has asked Transportation Minister Shaul
Mofaz to consider easing security procedures for Israeli-Arab
travelers passing through Ben-Gurion Airport and other border
crossings. Olmert cited the humiliating and discriminatory
treatment they are reportedly currently submitted to.

The media reported that Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz claimed
victory in Thursday's cabinet reshuffle, but The Jerusalem Post
quoted sources close to Peretz as saying that Olmert's government
could fall soon due to the diplomatic stalemate with the
Palestinians. Peretz had been pleading for Labor to be given the
Social Affairs portfolio for months until Tourism Minister Isaac
Herzog agreed on Thursday to swap portfolios and become social
affairs minister.

Yediot reported that the Israeli company Arpal will provide
protection from car bombs, explosive devices, and shooting attacks
for 1,000 housing units used by US military personnel around the
world.

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

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote on
page one of the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Having a
moderating force in the Gaza Strip and within the Palestinian
Authority is in Israel's interest, but it is not enough. Israel
must also insist that the Palestinians pass the critical test of
reining in terror and fully abide by all agreements."

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in Ha'aretz: "Never in recent
decades has a US administration been in this kind of international
trouble, with such an inferior package of political creativity.
It's a sorry portrait of our great friend. We have known far better
times together."

Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "Abbas, according to [a
top PA] official, claimed that Washington had actually endorsed the
Israeli stance toward the Fatah-Hamas agreement."

Former editor-in-chief Moshe Ishon wrote in the editorial of the
nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe: "In his first steps, the [new IDF]
Chief of Staff has pointed to the right direction for tomorrow's
IDF. The maneuver he initiated this week is an indication of that
development."

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

I. "Lest the Sword Slip From Our Hand"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote on
page one of the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (2/23): "Of
course Israel must help Mahmoud Abbas, and through him, the
suffering Palestinian people. But it cannot participate in a sneaky
attempt by Hamas to use a moderate and positive-thinking man like
Salam Fayad, who would have been the finance minister in a unity
government, to put aid money into the hands of Hamas ministers,
including those heading the movement's military wing.
Having a moderating force in the Gaza Strip and within the
Palestinian Authority is in Israel's interest, but it is not enough.
Israel must also insist that the Palestinians pass the critical
test of reining in terror and fully abide by all agreements."

II. "Against Israeli Rationality"

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in Ha'aretz (2/23): " Not
everything the government does is a failure. The big success this
week ... belongs to Ehud Olmert. In a surprise move, he trapped the
US Secretary of State on her inconsequential visit to Jerusalem.
Olmert placed a bomb under the chances of extracting anything that
might result in an understanding emerging out of his meeting with
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and out of the Mecca
summit. It was a speedy achievement and also one of the peaks of
the Prime Minister's style of governmental arrogance.... While the
British Prime Minister again proposed, on Wednesday, with English
politeness, that Israel should talk to Hamas, the headline of a New
York Times editorial, for example, termed the meeting in Jerusalem a
'charade.' The moderate meaning of that is a game of illusions. A
more appropriate gloss would speak of deception. Condoleezza Rice
came without any new ideas. She yielded to Olmert, who struck a
deal behind her back in a phone call to President George W. Bush.
Thus, in a rare sequence of events, we heard a senior representative
of the superpower declaiming the inflexibility of the local leader.
The guest also allowed Olmert to humiliate her.... The President, no
little fundamentalist in his own right, trashed the recommendations.
Never in recent decades has a US administration been in this kind
of international trouble, with such an inferior package of political
creativity. It's a sorry portrait of our great friend. We have
known far better times together."

III. "A Mecca Prayer Unanswered"

Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (2/23): "Reflecting the
gloomy mood in Abbas's office [following the PA Chairman's meeting
with Secretary Rice], a top PA official said he did not rule out the
possibility that Abbas would eventually end up being isolated in the
Muqata like his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. 'Rice employed a
threatening tone during the talks with President Abbas,' the
official said. 'We've never seen her in such a bad mood. She just
doesn't understand that the President had no choice but to reach a
deal with Hamas.' The official quoted Abbas as telling his aides
after the Ramallah meeting that, by rejecting the Mecca deal, the US
was 'pushing the Palestinian people toward civil war.' Abbas,
according to the official, claimed that Washington had actually
endorsed the Israeli stance toward the Fatah-Hamas agreement."

IV. "Facing the Syrian Arms Race"

Former editor-in-chief Moshe Ishon wrote in the editorial of the
nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe (2/23): "The IDF maneuver that was
conducted this week in northern Israel was directed, among other
goals, at Syria's arming with Iranian support.... In the next war,
it is not only with terrorists that we will have to cope. The real
foes threatening Israel are the Syrians and the Iranians who are
equipping themselves with state-of-the-art weapons. They are very
close to getting non-conventional weapons with all the consequences
this entails. In his first steps, the [new IDF] Chief of Staff has
pointed to the right direction for tomorrow's IDF. The maneuver he
initiated this week is an indication of that development."

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

Summary:
--------

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "The
mullahs are betting that short-term financial interests will prevent
Europe from defending itself and acting against an existential
threat to Israel. Europe, this time, must prove the tyrants
wrong."

Washington correspondent Hilary Leila Krieger wrote in The Jerusalem
Post: "Some in the Jewish community who want Bush to have as much
latitude as possible to take the steps he sees as necessary to
prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon [are worried]."

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

I. "Stop Subsidizing Iran"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/23):
"Thursday's IAEA report confirms what everyone knows: Iran has not
only failed to meet the UN Security Council's two-month deadline to
stop uranium enrichment, but has expanded those activities. The
regime's statements and actions are an open challenge to the
international community to make good on its promise to tighten
sanctions against Tehran. It should not be necessary to spell out
the consequences of an international failure to prevail in this
confrontation with the Iranian regime. Since 9/11, the regimes in
Afghanistan and Iraq have paid a price for their support for
terrorism, and Libya has capitulated. But Iran and Syria sense that
sowing mayhem in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza presents them with an
opportunity to turn the tables and intimidate the West into
permanently living with terrorism.... European nations, particularly
Germany, consider themselves to be friends with Israel. To a degree
that is perhaps surprising, a recent poll indicated the feeling is
mutual..... It is hard to see, however, how such warm ties would
remain unaffected when Europe in general, and Germany in particular,
refuses to substantially curtail its economic ties to Iran. This
hesitancy may not be surprising, given that the German Chamber of
Commerce claims that 10,000 jobs could be lost if tough sanctions
are imposed on Tehran. But imagine the cost of Iranian nuclear
blackmail, growing terrorism and a sharp jump in oil prices
engineered by Tehran. The mullahs are betting that short-term
financial interests will prevent Europe from defending itself and
acting against an existential threat to Israel. Europe, this time,
must prove the tyrants wrong."

II. "Congressional Cold Shoulder"

Washington correspondent Hilary Leila Krieger wrote in The Jerusalem
Post (2/23): "'Anybody who's looking at American foreign policy and
thinking the President is going to be given the flexibility he was
given in 2002-3 is deluding himself,' said National Jewish
Democratic Council executive director Iran Forman. Forman
maintained that many Americans -- including many Jews -- are
relieved by that notion, given Bush's international track record.
But it worries some in the Jewish community who want Bush to have as
much latitude as possible to take the steps he sees as necessary to
prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon -- including, if it comes
to it, military action."

JONES

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