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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0767/01 0730905
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140905Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9944
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RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 9593
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RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9452
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000767

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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

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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Israel Radio, Ha'aretz's web site, and the leading Internet news
site Ynet reported that on Monday, in a video link with AIPAC's
(American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference in
Washington, PM Ehud Olmert endorsed President Bush's Iraq policy.
Olmert warned the US against a quick departure from Iraq, saying it
would lead to instability in the region and undermine Washington's
ability to deal with emerging threats. "Those who are concerned for
Israel's security, for the security of the Gulf States and for the
stability of the entire Middle East should recognize the need for
American success in Iraq and responsible exit," Olmert was quoted as
saying, adding: "Any outcome that will not help America's strength
and would, in the eyes of the people in the region, undercut
America's ability to deal effectively with the threat posed by the
Iranian regime will be very negative." The radio said that the
audience granted Olmert's remarks a lukewarm response. Ha'aretz
reported that on Monday, in her address to AIPAC, FM Tzipi Livni
warned the US no to sow weakness in Iraq. Ynet quoted Olmert as
saying that Israel is now taking Iran's threat seriously. The
Jerusalem Post led with remarks made on Monday by Vice President
Dick Cheney at the gathering, in which he warned that failure in
Iraq would endanger Israel. Cheney warned of "chaos and mounding
danger," as well as a strengthened Iran and emboldened terrorists.
Stressing that he stood before crowd "as a strong supporter of
Israel" and that "Israel has never had a better friend in the White
House that George Bush," Cheney was quoted as saying: "A precipitous
American withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster for the US and the
entire Middle East." The Jerusalem Post commented that the Vice
President's plea for AIPAC support is putting US Jews in a bind.

Yediot reported on progress in negotiations for the release of IDF
Cpl. Gilad Shalit. The newspaper wrote that Hamas has passed on to
Israel a list of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners it wants freed.
Yediot quoted Israeli defense sources as saying that the
negotiations would become more difficult if there were murderers on
the list.

Ha'aretz reported that the effort to apply economic pressure on the
regime in Tehran through divestment has intensified in the US. The
pressure, which involves divestment on the part of international
firms, is being carried Qt in parallel with continuous efforts at
the UN Security Council to impose a second round of sanctions
against Iran in response to its failure to abide by the world body's
call to end uranium enrichment. Ha'aretz wrote that various Israeli
sources and AIPAC are also contributing to the efforts, particularly
through specific legislation in various American states where
pension funds hold stock in firms invested in Iran.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Hamas officials as saying on Monday that
some of the USD 100 million in tax revenues that Israel transferred
to the PA in January went to thousands of Hamas supporters --
including those in the security forces. The Jerusalem Post also
quoted a senior PA official in Ramallah as saying that Israel's
decision not to release more of the hundreds of millions of dollars
in tax revenues it owes the PA undermines PA Chairman [President]
Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Col. Nir Press, commander of the IDF
Coordination and Liaison Administration, as saying that close to
20,000 jobs have been created in the Gaza Strip over the last four
months thanks to coordination between the IDF and Palestinian
agricultural unions. According to Press, a drop in terror threats
to the Karni Crossing made the changes possible, although
unemployment in the Strip remains close to 35 percent. This morning
Israel Radio reported that the High Court of Justice rejected a
petition by six human rights organizations demanding that Israel
open crossings with the Gaza Strip and allow the passage of goods
through them.

The Jerusalem Post quoted senior Israeli diplomatic officials as
saying on Monday that Israel and the US are hoping for a change in
the Arab peace initiative at the upcoming Arab League summit in
Riyadh to enable reigniting the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic
process. Speaking on Israel Radio from Washington on Monday, FM
Livni praised certain aspects of the Qitiative, but added that when
it was brought to the Arab League in Beirut, two new articles were
added that were "very problematic" for Israel -- one that talked of
a repatriation of Palestinian refugees, and another article that
emphasized that a solution to the refugee issue should not be found
in the countries where they presently resided. Israel Radio and
other media quoted Defense Minister Amir Peretz as saying in
Washington on Monday that the Saudi initiative should be addressed
more seriously. The radio also reported that Vice PM Shimon Peres

called on Israel to discuss the Saudi plan if no preconditions for
negotiations are presented. Speaking on Israel Radio this morning,
opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu said that the Saudi
initiative is not realistic and that in no way should the right of
return for Palestinians be implemented.

Yediot and Israel Radio reported that on Monday Assistant US
Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey visited Damascus for talks with

SIPDIS
senior Syrian officials.

Yediot and The Jerusalem Post reported that Russia has announced
that it is freezing construction at the Iranian nuclear reactor of
Bushehr. Yediot wrote that although Russia officially cited a delay
in Iran's payments, senior Russian sources are hinting that Russia's
patience was wearing thin because Russia's support for Iran has
harmed its relations with the West.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN
Watch -- which describes itself as a "NGO based in Geneva whose
mandate is to monitor the performance of the UN by the yardstick of
its own Charter" -- as saying that the UN's Human Rights Council
will place Israel under permanent investigation for its "violations"
of international law in the territories -- until such time as it
withdraws to the pre-1967 borders. Neuer was quoted as saying that
he received that information from diplomatic sources.

Leading media reported that on Monday BBC correspondent Alan
Johnston was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip by unknown assailants. In
an unrelated development, Ha'aretz and Yediot reported that in early
February the IDF and Border Police arrested three Hamas militants in
the West Bank on suspicion of repeated attempts to kidnap Israeli
citizens.

Maariv reported that, during a recent discussion with security
officials hosted by Olmert, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin warned about
the "dangerous" growth of extremism among Israeli Arabs.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Yehuda Shaffer, the head of the Israeli
Money laundering Authority, as saying on Monday that his
organization, the police, and the Tax Authority opened a joint
intelligence center at national police headquarters in Jerusalem
last week to coordinate the fight against money-laundering, and
terrorism financing.

The Jerusalem Post cited Yediot as saying on Monday that the paper's
management has accepted Editor-in-Chief Rafi Ginat's request to step
down earlier than expected. The two leading candidates to replace
Ginat are Yediot's Deputy Editor, Yoel Esteron, and Yon Feder, the
Editor of its web site, Ynet.

Leading media reported that Larissa Trimbovler, the wife of the late
PM Yitzhak Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir, may be pregnant.

Maariv reported that the BBC's globe-spanning survey of attitudes
toward 12 major nations found that Indians are most friendly to
Israel.

Leading media reported that archaeologists have uncovered a Jewish
neighborhood from the Second Temple period north of Jerusalem.

Major media reported that on Monday Education Minister Yuli Tamir
named Yediot journalist Nahum Barnea as this year's Israel Prize
laureate for media.

--------
Mideast:
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Summary:
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The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "Israel's
policies are worthy of severe condemnation; but its right to exist
is absolute."

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin, opined in the lead editorial of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The conclusion for now
... is: agree to discuss the Saudi initiative for comprehensive
peace in the region, do not agree to the lethal clauses in it."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "[The
Palestinians] need the Arab states to set a dramatic and powerful
example. The Quartet, moreover, should be demanding that the Arab
states do so, or be justly blamed for the lack of peace."

Bassem Eid, director and founder of the Palestinian Human Rights
Monitoring Group, wrote in The Jerusalem Post: "The challenge that
faces the Middle East today is ... instituting programs to
successfully educate populations on cultural differences and to
promote cooperation in Israel-Palestine."

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in Ha'aretz:
"If Olmert is forced to resign, Kadima, the largest party in the
Knesset, can still search for someone in its ranks to put together a
government without recourse to elections. Who it is, hardly
matters. Just as long as it's not Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu]."

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

I. "Israel's Existence Is Not a Question"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (3/13): "The
erosion of Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state is particularly
difficult for supporters of peace and democracy in Israel, who
recognize its own dubious contribution to the attitude toward
Israel.... The statements heard in Europe, stemming from the
academia and extreme left there, are not legitimate criticisms of
Israel's policies, but efforts to undermine, on principle, its right
to exist as a Jewish state. Behind the simple question, 'Does
Israel have a right to exist' (as a Guardian editorial read three
years ago), hides a definitive stance, which regards Israel as a
passing colonial phenomenon and the Jewish people as an
ethnic-religious group different from any other people and all other
nation-states. However peripheral and radical this tendency may be,
it has successfully influenced many people. A familiar stench,
hundreds of years old, rises from it, even when it is framed in
contemporary terminology. It is good to witness enlightened
liberals like [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, [former German
foreign minister Joschka] Fischer, and many others, rejecting this
tendency completely. Israel's policies are worthy of severe
condemnation; but its right to exist is absolute."

II. "Bye-Bye, Riyadh"

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin, opined in the lead editorial of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/13): "If the Prime
Minister and the public were to invest themselves genuinely and
sincerely in [the Saudi peace] plan, that could be a foundation for
a change in the state of our region. At such a festive opportunity
it could also be an opportunity for Olmert and crew to free
themselves from the state of paralysis that has gripped him and his
cabinet. In short, a new path to embark on, in which things can be
'moved.' With that having been said, one needs to know and to
remember that the Saudi plan in its current format is a recipe for
the destruction of the State of Israel. Consent (which has no
chance whatsoever of being given) by Israel to take in hundreds of
thousands and perhaps millions of Palestinian refugees means for us
that weQre going to have to go packing. Olmert has already made
that clear to everyone who needs to know, but he too understands
that 'every plan is a platform for change,' as was once commonly
said in the IDF. And the more they talk about the plan, so we must
believe, pray and hope, the more innocent lives that will be spared.
The conclusion for now therefore is: agree to discuss the Saudi
initiative for comprehensive peace in the region, do not agree to
the lethal clauses in it."

III. "Fix the Saudi Plan"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/13):
"A flurry of diplomatic activity is gathering speed ahead of the
Arab League summit later this month. The US and Israel seem to
harbor some hopes that the 'Saudi plan,' unveiled at a 2002 Beirut
summit, will be reintroduced in an improved form. It should be said
at the outset that the likelihood of any breakthrough emerging from
the Arab summit is extremely slim, given that the Syrian and
Palestinian (read Hamas) delegations hold veto power over any
decision, normally issued by consensus. This constraint, however,
should not stop the US, Europe and Israel from telling the Arab
states what is necessary for any peace initiative to be meaningful.
While any potential peace negotiation is fraught with difficult
problems, what made the Saudi initiative a non-starter ought to be
removed: the demand to negotiate over a 'right of return' to
Israel.... There is only one formula that will work in this case,
that adopted in the 'People's Voice' campaign launched by former
Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon and Palestinian university president Sari
Nusseibeh (www.mifkad.org.il): 'Palestinian refugees will return
only to the State of Palestine; Jews will return only to the State
of Israel.' This is the only formula that is consistent with the
two-state vision, the Roadmap, and Israel's right to exist as a
Jewish state. If the Arab League were to adopt this formula,
moderate Palestinians would be greatly strengthened, Iranian-led
radicalism would be dealt a serious blow, and real peace
negotiations would suddenly be possible. The US and Israel need to
be clear with Arab states that claim they are for peace: The
Palestinians cannot extricate themselves from their radical rut
alone; they need the Arab states to set a dramatic and powerful
example. The Quartet, moreover, should be demanding that the Arab
states do so, or be justly blamed for the lack of peace."

IV. "Human Rights and Security"

Bassem Eid, director and founder of the Palestinian Human Rights
Monitoring Group (PHRMG), wrote in The Jerusalem Post (3/13): "In
the past two years the Arab-Israeli conflict has gone from bad to
worse, leading the Middle East into a perpetual state of war,
anxiety and loss of life. It has left the Palestinian people
stateless and dispossessed, creating frustration and anger that
deepen regional tension. ... The first barrier to cooperation
between the Israeli and Palestinian governments is that
communication between Israeli and Palestinian organizations is
extremely low.... One important factor in achieving greater
cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian NGOs is the human rights
organizations themselves.... Journalists and media professionals are
also an important factor in the cooperation puzzle.... The second
important barrier to improving human security and human rights in
the region is cultural misunderstanding.... The challenge that faces
the Middle East today is therefore instituting programs to
successfully educate populations on cultural differences and to
promote cooperation in Israel-Palestine.... Increasing cooperation
and cultural understanding is not an easy task. Whether addressing
media representatives, NGOs and activists, or educational resources,
the agenda is complex and interconnected. Nevertheless, with
workshops, seminars, training events and other such tools the PHRMG
believes it is possible to improve human rights and security in the
Palestinian territories. To do so, however, citizens,
organizations, and donors must work together to solve the problems
of human security. If we do not, political events and parties will
shape the future of human rights in Palestine."

V. "Anyone But Bibi"

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in Ha'aretz
(3/13): "In the surveys, Netanyahu is chalking up a proportional
majority. But a party with all of 12 seats is not going to
establish a government that will lead us anywhere, all the more so
by recycling a leader who was toppled eight years ago, on the
pretext that he has changed. In what way has he changed? He's not
a radical right-winger anymore? He quit smoking Cohiba cigars? If
Olmert is forced to resign, Kadima, the largest party in the
Knesset, can still search for someone in its ranks to put together a
government without recourse to elections. Who it is, hardly
matters. Just as long as it's not Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu]."

JONES

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