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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0660/01 0601013
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011013Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9719
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 1741
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 8495
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 1653
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2533
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 1729
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 9521
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 2463
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9383
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 9858
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 6477
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 3870
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 8746
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 2969
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4884
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 6094
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000660

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. Iran

2. Proposed Baghdad Conference

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

Ha'aretz quoted a senior political source in Jerusalem as saying on
Wednesday that Olmert and PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas will
meet in two weeks, their third meeting since the resumption of
top-level diplomatic contacts. They will concentrate on ways of
"furthering the dialogue" in view of the difficulties in forging a
Palestinian unity government. Ha'aretz wrote that earlier this
week, aides for the two leaders met for a frank discussion to
prepare for the Olmert-Abbas meeting. Ha'aretz quoted Abbas as
saying in Cairo on Tuesday that he would meet Olmert in "a week or
two." Ha'aretz said that Olmert reiterated on Wednesday during his
meeting with the visiting European Union Commissioner for Foreign
Affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the preconditions for proceeding
further with diplomatic talks with the Palestinians. "My talks with
the Palestinian President will deal with issues relating to
containing terrorism and the quality of life of the Palestinians,"
he was quoted as saying. Ha'aretz recalled Olmert's unwillingness
to discuss the issue of a final status or the implementation of the
second stage of the Roadmap.

Ha'aretz quoted Iraqi sources as saying that Syria and Iran have
agreed to participate in the "Baghdad conference" that will discuss
the security crisis in Iraq. The Jerusalem Post reported that, a
day after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US would
take part in a "neighbors' meeting" with Syrian and Iranian
representatives on stabilizing Iraq, Israeli officials said
Jerusalem had no need to "feel threatened" by the move. Government
officials in Jerusalem were quoted as saying that the decision "is
about Iraq," and that when it comes to Iraq, "Israel is not the one
to tell the administration what to do." Major media said that the
US, meanwhile, reassured Israel that its policy on Tehran's nuclear
program remained firm, despite its willingness to sit with Iranian
representatives. Leading media reported that Rice, hosting Knesset
Speaker and Acting President of Israel Dalia Itzik in Washington,
stressed to her that Iraq would be the central focus of the regional
talks slated for next month. The Jerusalem Post reported that Itzik
told Israeli reporters following the meeting: "I couldn't detect any
cracks in the American position on the Iranian nuclear issue."

Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post reported that on Wednesday Strategic
Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Knesset's Defense and
Foreign Affairs Committee that Israel is capable of dealing with the
Iranian threat on its own. "Israel has the capability to deal with
the Iranian threat, even in the worst case scenario in which our
friends throughout the world stop dealing with the threat and we are
left on our own," he was quoted as saying. Lieberman warned that
"unless Iran is contained and it is blocked from achieving its goal,
the minute it acquires non-conventional weapons the entire Middle
East will enter a mad arms race and it is therefore the obligation
of the Western world to block Iran." The minister was quoted as
saying that the sanctions against Iran were effective and that they
have shocked the Iranian economy that is being managed by 50 to 60
families holding monopolies. Lieberman was quoted as saying that
sanctions should be directed at those families by restricting their
travel and limiting their banking transactions. He expressed hope
that the sanctions would bring about a collapse of the Iranian
regime.

The Jerusalem Post's web site reported that FM Tzipi Livni told the
Palestinian daily Al Ayyam in an interview published this morning
that "Israel could not accept the Arab peace initiative in its
current format." The Arab peace plan, also known as the Saudi
Initiative, was adopted by all the Arab states participating in the
Beirut summit of the Arab League in April 2002. Livni was quoted as
saying that the wording regarding the Palestinian claim to a "right
of return" was one of the reasons the plan was currently
unacceptable to Israel. Israel Radio reported that, in the
interview, Livni was critical of the Mecca Agreement reached between
Fatah and Hamas.

The Jerusalem Post reported that on Wednesday a four-member team of
experts from UNESCO toured the Antiquities Authority's
archaeological dig near Jerusalem's Temple Mount that triggered
protests around the Arab world.

Yediot reported that Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, a former
deputy Shin Bet head, has recently advised Olmert to consider
releasing Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti. Ezra was quoted as
saying: "I know that Barghouti's name evokes repugnance, but, what
to do, he is the strongest man among the Palestinians."
The Jerusalem Post printed an AP wire report saying that on Tuesday
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met relatives of two IDF soldiers
seized by Hizbullah in northern Israel at the start of last year's
Lebanon war and promised that he will keep working hard for their
release.

Hatzofe reported that the marketing campaign of West Bank houses in
the US is successful.

Hatzofe reported that right-wing groups are planning the
reconstruction of Homesh, a northern West Bank settlement destroyed
during the disengagement.

Yediot reported that on Wednesday Al-Ahram, the official Egyptian
newspaper, prominently published a story according to which National
Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a man liked by
President Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian leadership, was responsible
for killing 250 Egyptian troops in the Sinai at the end of the
Six-Day War. The report is based on a feature broadcast on Israel
TV.

Yediot reported that Israel will accelerate its launching of
satellites into space.

Last night Channel 10-TV revealed the existence of an internal
document written by an adviser to PM Ehud Olmert when he was
Minister of Industry and Trade. The document lists the favors and
promotions Olmert and his associates granted to 115 political
activists and Likud Central Committee members. The media quoted
Olmert as saying that he did not recall the document in question and
that he acted in accordance with the attorney general's directives.
The Prime Minister's Office said some of the details appeared to be
correct and justified, while others were not. Hatzofe bannered:
"Ehud Olmert's Corruption Industry." In an unrelated development,
Yediot noted that on Wednesday senior New York Times columnist
Thomas Friedman criticized the weakness of the Israeli government
and described the Israeli public's contempt for it.

Ha'aretz and Yediot quoted Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin as saying on
Monday that his service is to acquire a security system based on new
technology to prevent the need for separate, individual screening of
Arab passengers at airports.

Yediot reported that Vice PM Shimon Peres has put Col. Erez Ron in
charge of the "Peace Canal" project linking the Red Sea with the
Dead Sea.

Ha'aretz cited the GOI's Central Bureau of Statistics as saying on
Wednesday that unemployment decreased significantly in 2006,
especially during the last quarter of the year, when it sank to its
lowest level in a decade amid strong economic growth.

All media prominently reported that Knesset Member Esterina Tartman
withdrew her candidacy for tourism minister last night, only four
days after she was nominated, following a series of embarrassing
revelations about nonexistent university degrees and a medical
opinion that declared her incapable of working more than four hours
a day. Her announcement followed a meeting with Yisrael Beiteinu
Chairman Avigdor Lieberman at which he evidently persuaded her that
she would have to concede the job. In her place, Yisrael Beiteinu
nominated MK Yitzhak Aharonovitch, number eight on the party's
slate, confounding expectations that Lieberman would choose MK
Yisrael Hasson, who occupies the number two slot. In the past,
Aharonovitch served as a high-ranking police official.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Asaf Homosany, the Israel director of the
NASDAQ Stock Market, as saying on Wednesday that Israeli companies,
already the biggest non-US contingent on NASDAQ, will hold more
initial share sales on the exchange in the next two year than it did
in the last two.

Ha'aretz reported that Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski told leaders of
the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany on
Wednesday that Poland is working on a law entitling Jews to receive
partial compensation for family property stolen during the
Holocaust. The law is slated to be passed by the end of the year.

Maariv described the upcoming hike in the cost of acquiring American
citizenship.

Yediot reported that researchers at the English University of
Leicester believe that founding father and President Thomas
Jefferson was Jewish.

---------
1. Iran:
---------

Summary:
--------

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Now
there should be no obstacle to a fully bipartisan American policy
toward Iran."

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

"Time For Bipartisanship"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/1):
"It is not yet clear what will ultimately result from Monday's
six-nation talks in London to decide on a Western response to Iran's
defiance of yet another UN deadline. An agreement evidently was
reached to marginally tighten existing UN sanctions. The most
immediate battle, however, is to more fully implement the financial
sanctions already imposed by the last UN Security Council
resolution.... Though there is some support among European
governments for turning the financial screws on Iran, there is also
opposition. This is where those who have been pressing the US to
talk to Iran, and who now seem to be getting their way, have a
responsibility to step in. Now there should be no obstacle to a
fully bipartisan American policy toward Iran. Congressional leaders
and the White House presumably agree: A diplomatic solution is
preferable to a military one, but for diplomacy to have a chance,
the campaign to sanction Iran must move into high gear. In this
context, a bipartisan leadership delegation from the US Congress,
pressing European leaders to fully join the US-led sanctions
campaign, could help convince reluctant allies to present a united
front. Those who want to avoid the military option most should be
the first to participate in such an effort, which is the last, best
chance to stop the growing Iranian threat without firing a shot."

--------------------------------
2. Proposed Baghdad Conference:
--------------------------------

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "The decision [to convene
an international conference in Baghdad] was far from a full
acceptance of the Baker-Hamilton bipartisan report on Iraq that
called for direct US engagement with Syria and Iran."

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Even if Washington insists
there is no connection between the talks on the Iranian nuclear
program and the situation in Iraq, it will be hard-pressed to find
an audience for its claims."

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

I. "A Tactical, Not Strategic, Change"

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (3/1): "The US decision to
take part in a regional conference on Iraq that will include Iran
and Syria did not send diplomatic officials in Jerusalem scrambling
to recalibrate Israel's diplomatic policies to deal with a seismic
shift in US Middle East policy, for the simple reason that Jerusalem
does not feel this represents a seismic shift in US regional policy.
A tactical shift in how to deal with Iraq? Yes. But a strategic
regional shift? Not at all. The first thing Israeli and US
officials stressed Wednesday, following US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice's announcement of the decision, was that the
conference will be an international gathering, and will not
constitute direct bilateral talks between the US and either Iran or
Syria. In this sense, the decision was far from a full acceptance
of the Baker-Hamilton bipartisan report on Iraq that called for
direct US engagement with Syria and Iran. Another element stressed
in Jerusalem was the US domestic political context in which the
decision was made. In this regard, the decision was viewed as a
tactical step taken by President George W. Bush to give the
Democratic Congress something in return for not stopping his move to
send another 21,500 troops to Iraq, and to show Congress and the
American public that he is not deaf to their concerns and demands.
And in the localized context of Iraq, this is seen as a tactical
move to try and do something that could perhaps be a positive step
toward stabilizing the worsening situation there. There is also no
sense in Jerusalem that the decision to engage Syria and Iran on
Iraq constitutes an American green light for Israel to begin
actively exploring various diplomatic feelers Damascus has put out
in recent months."

II. "Waiting For the US to Tire"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/1): "Russia is positioning
itself in the Middle East in anticipation of the moment the United
States begins its Iraq pullout. At the Munich Conference on
Security Policy in February, Putin accused the US of aspiring to
dominate the world. Meanwhile, Putin has no intention to stay in his
corner. It therefore appears that the American willingness to
participate in a conference with Syria and Iran is related to the
Russian regional involvement and the threat to America's standing.
Washington has made it clear that during this conference, no
meetings will be scheduled with Iranian and Syrian representatives,
but it will be impossible to avoid preliminary talks between the
American ambassador in Iraq and senior Iranian representatives if
the conference is to have results. The same applies to Syria.
Therefore, even if Washington insists there is no connection between
the talks on the Iranian nuclear program and the situation in Iraq,
it will be hard-pressed to find an audience for its claims. It
seems that a solution for Iraq has been becoming more urgent than
the nuclear issue -- especially following Britain's announcement
that it was withdrawing another 1,600 soldiers, and plans by other
allies to leave the US on its own."

CRETZ

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