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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0824/01 0750923
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160923Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0035
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 1823
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 8575
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 1751
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2638
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 1813
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 9614
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 2547
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9466
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 9941
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 6557
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 3953
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 8832
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 3049
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4968
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 6252
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000824

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. Iraq

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

Ha'aretz reported that on Wednesday FM Livni discussed with
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ways to respond to the formation

SIPDIS
of a Palestinian unity government and that Arab pace initiative.
Ha'aretz reported that Secretary Rice expressed the "need for an
Israeli-Arab reconciliation to accompany ... the resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict," which Ha'aretz said was a view shared
by Livni. The Jerusalem Post and other media quoted Rice as saying
during her meeting with Livni: "I have not talked to people about
modification [of the Saudi initiative]. I think it's a favorable
thing that they are putting forward something, but ... it's not a
negotiating position as I understand it, but rather a framework, a
vision for how Israel and the Arabs might reconcile."

Media said that Israel was quick to reject the new Palestinian
government, which will be sworn in on Saturday, because its platform
does not explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist. Ha'aretz
quoted the Prime Minister's Office as saying on Thursday that the
platform of the new Palestinian unity government is a step backward
from the peace process and "flies in the face" of the international
community's demands. The Jerusalem Post quoted senior GOI officials
as saying on Thursday that reviving the idea of unilateral
withdrawal is one of the options being considered inside the Prime
Minister's Office in the wake of the formation of a PA unity
government whose platform Israel views as intransigent. The
officials were quoted as saying that PM Ehud Olmert did not believe
that Israel can afford to remain at a diplomatic standstill and that
if there were no Palestinian government with which to negotiate a
two-state solution, Israel once again must begin drawing borders on
its own. The Jerusalem Post quoted Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin
as saying: "We won't even deal with or recognize members of the
government whom we have dealt with in the past." Major media quoted
David Baker, spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, as saying:
"Instead of recognizing Israel and renouncing terror, the emerging
Palestinian government has decided to spring backwards." "This is
not what we were hoping for and flies in the face of the
international community's demands of the Palestinians. Once again,
they haven't provided the goods," he added. Ha'aretz reported that
Israel urged the Quartet to maintain the aid embargo imposed on the
Palestinian government following the electoral victory of Hamas,
unless it fulfilled the Quartet's three preconditions. Ha'aretz
said that the unity deal instead refers vaguely to respect for peace
agreements and affirms the Palestinians' right to resist and defend
themselves against Israeli aggression, though it also calls for
maintaining and expanding a truce with Israel.

The media reported that on Thursday the PA announcement on the
formation of a national unity government was received with varied
reactions from world leaders. Ha'aretz quoted White House Press
Secretary Tony Snow as saying: "Our position has been consistent,

SIPDIS
which is, you need a Palestinian government that is going to, in
fact, abide by the Quartet conditions." Yediot quoted diplomatic
sources in the EU as saying in Brussels on Thursday that Europe will
resume its assistance to the PA, following the formations of the new
Palestinian government. Ha'aretz noted that France intends to
support the new Palestinian government and will cooperate with it,
according to PA foreign minister-designate Ziad Abu Amar. Abu Amar
was quoted as saying that French FM Philippe Douste-Blazy invited
him to a meeting in Paris and informed him that he hoped "a new page
in the relations between the Hamas government and the international
community" could begin. Ha'aretz and Yediot reported that, speaking
to reporters Thursday, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said that the
European Commission had not yet assessed the new government's
program. Ha'aretz wrote that in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Mikhail Kamynin welcomed the development. "It is
inarguably an important event in terms of consolidation of the
Palestinian ranks," he was quoted as saying in a statement, noting
that the Mecca Agreement took into account the Quartet conditions.

Ha'aretz quoted PM Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as saying that he hoped
the new Palestinian government would launch a new era for the
Palestinians, putting an end to bloody Palestinian infighting while
satisfying international demands and improving the Palestinian image
in advance of the March 28-29 Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Haniyeh announced on Thursday that
the PA unity government enjoys the backing of the Arabs and
Europeans.

Ha'aretz reported that, in a live video speech to AIPAC on Tuesday,
Olmert spoke out strongly against a rapid US exit from Iraq. Olmert
was saying that Israel is worried that a hasty US withdrawal from
Iraq could topple the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Ha'aretz quoted
senior GOI officials as saying later that Olmert was expressing his
opinion "solely on the professional aspect" of a pullout and
insisted, as did Olmert in his speech, that Israel has no interest
in getting involved in America's domestic political dispute over
Iraq. Nevertheless, Ha'aretz said that the official Israeli position
as expressed by Olmert contradicts the views of a majority of
Americans, who favor a speedy pullout. Ha'aretz wrote that Olmert
spoke out publicly in part due to an assessment he has received from
the security services, who say a US withdrawal from Iraq before that
country has stabilized would have immediate repercussions on the
domestic situation in Jordan. These effects could even threaten the
stability of the Hashemite monarchy. Israel views Jordan as a
strategic asset whose stability is a vital Israeli interest.
However, Ha'aretz said that Israel is not concerned solely about
Jordan's fate; it fears that stability throughout the region would
be undermined if the United States is viewed as having lost to the
extremists. "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 a responsible exit," Olmert told the AIPAC conference. Ha'aretz
reported that one day earlier, FM Tzipi Livni told AIPAC that "in a
region where impressions are important, countries must be careful
not to demonstrate weakness and surrender to extremists ... It is
[also] true for Iraq." The daily reported that Defense Minister
Amir Peretz, who met in Washington this week with Defense Secretary
Robert Gates and several senior senators, expressed a similar view.
Ha'aretz reported that Olmert, explaining his position to a visiting
delegation from the American Jewish Committee the day after his
AIPAC speech, said the question of why America began the war in Iraq
is currently secondary. What matters, he argued, is that given the
present state of affairs in Iraq, if America were to leave now, it
would lose its authority throughout the Middle East. Ha'aretz
wrote that on Thursday Olmert urged a visiting delegation of leaders
of the Reform Movement to reconsider a motion urging the USG to set
a firm timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq. The
movement's executive, representing some 700 Reform congregations
across the US, approved the motion by a large majority earlier this
week. Olmert reportedly reiterated his argument that a hasty
withdrawal could endanger Israel's security as well as efforts to
halt Iran's nuclear program. But Ha'aretz reported that the Reform
leaders turned down his request, saying they believe a rapid
withdrawal would serve Israeli and Western interests better than a
prolonged American stay in Iraq.

The Jerusalem Post reported that, "in what could be an indication of
slowly shifting Saudi attitudes toward Israel, Dr. Zoher Hareji, a
Saudi representative appeared on Thursday "for what may have been
the first time on a television panel discussion with an official
Israeli spokesperson" -- Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin. The two
discussed the Saudi peace initiative and other regional issues from
Jeddah and Tel Aviv studios of Al Hurra-TV.

Israel Radio reported that the IDF's Advocate-General, Avihai
Mandelblit, has ordered an investigation into alleged forbidden
actions by IDF troops in Nablus, who reportedly used the "neighbor
procedure" against residents of the city two weeks ago. The alleged
violation was first reported by AP.

The three major Hebrew-language dailies led with remarks made by
Olmert in a speech to his Kadima party's governing council. Olmert
was quoted as saying: "I am an unpopular prime minister, the polls
say so." However, he added: "I intend to be working for you for a
long time yet." He cited what he said were the proper decisions he
made during last summer's war in Lebanon.

Yediot and Israel Radio reported that the five permanent members of
the UN Security Council have reached agreement on new sanctions to
be imposed on Iran. The radio, which reported that Germany is part
of those efforts, said that the draft resolution does not include a
total embargo on arms to Iran. Israel Radio said that UN member
states are required to use restraint regarding sales of aircraft,
tanks, and over heavy weapons to Iran. The radio reported that it
as resolved to freeze the assts of 13 companies and organizations,
and of 25 individuals -- half of them officers in Iran's
Revolutionary Guards. Israel Radio also reported that French
Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has called to solve the Iran
crisis through diplomatic means, as a military action might set
ablaze the entire Muslim world.

Speaking on Israel Radio this morning, Deputy Defense Minister
Ephraim Sneh said that Israel should negotiate with PA Chairman
[President] Mahmoud Abbas, in accordance with the guidelines of the
Palestinian unity government's guidelines. Sneh was quoted as
saying that Abbas should bring the conclusions of such talks to a
referendum, which Sneh said is the only way to remove Hamas from
power.

Leading media reported that, as the Palestinian negotiations
concluded late on Wednesday, Hamas and Fatah forces traded fire in
the northern Gaza Strip, killing one Fatah fighter and wounding nine
people, including five bystanders, according to security officials.
This morning Israel Radio reported that militants shot a
Palestinian officer to death in the Gaza Strip.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Yitzhak Levanon, Israeli Ambassador
to the UN institutions in Geneva, told the newspaper on Thursday
that the UN' Human Rights Council is looking to appoint John Dugard
as a permanent investigator on Israel's actions in the territories,
which he has in the past.

Leading media noted that an increasing number of Labor Party MKs and
officials tend to support former PM Ehud Barak.

Ha'aretz (English Ed.) cited the outrage of foreign journalist over
a Government Press Office requirement that they fill a form asking
them to disclose the purpose of their visit.

A Yediot headline about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of
the 9/11 attacks, reads: "Satan's Confession."

The Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz reported that on Thursday Edgar
Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress, unexpectedly
announced the dismissal of Rabbi Israel Singer, a leader in the
congress and Jewish circles. The media wrote that officials from
the Israeli and European branches expressed outrage at the decision
and threatened to pull out of the organization.

Maariv reported that Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who
concluded his visit to Israel on Thursday, met with Vice PM Shimon
Peres for several hours on Sunday. The newspaper reported that the
two discussed the peace process and various environment-related
issues.

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

Summary:
--------

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner and diplomatic correspondent
Aluf Benn wrote in the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "What
Livni did this week, and which Rice echoed to some extent in her
remarks after their meeting, was to propose to the [Arab] leaders
that they reverse the order [of the Saudi initiative]."

Op-Ed Page Editor Ben-Dror Yemini wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv: " Israel should not reject the Saudi initiative. Without
the right-of-return component, it is a serious and worthy
proposal."

Palestinian affairs correspondent Danny Rubinstein wrote from
Ramallah in Ha'aretz: "To the Palestinians, the unity government is
the only way to stop the street battles."

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

I. "Waiting For the Cherry Trees to Blossom"

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner and diplomatic correspondent
Aluf Benn wrote in the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/16):
"The fact of the matter, says a senior Israeli official, is that it
is necessary to welcome the idea inherent in the Saudi initiative
and that the Arab world is prepared to accept Israel. However, the
refugee problem is stuck like a bone in everyone's throat. Israel
will not agree to absorb even a single refugee in its territory, but
the Arab League cannot concede on this issue, which is most sacred
to the Palestinians. What Livni did this week, and which Rice
echoed to some extent in her remarks after their meeting, was to
propose to the leaders that they reverse the order. Instead of
waiting with the normalization for Israeli-Palestinian peace --
normalize now, and thus help advance the peace process, Rice said
that there is a 'clear need for an Israeli-Arab reconciliation to
accompany... the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.'
Note that she said 'to accompany' -- that is, there is not
necessarily a need to wait for it to come only afterwards."

II. "Peace or Fraud?"

Op-Ed Page Editor Ben-Dror Yemini wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (3/16): "The [Saudi] offer naturally includes recognition of
Israel. But it is not sure which Israel the Arab states are
prepared to recognize. If it is Israel as a Jewish state -- in
accordance with the [1947] United Nations Resolution -- the
initiative should be praised. But if its major demand is for the
right of return [of Palestinian refugees], this does not constitute
recognition of the state of Israel, but a deception.... The
stalemate may lead to the elimination, albeit gradual, of Israel --
a Jewish and democratic state in favor of the dream of 'one large
state. The right of return on the Palestinian side and the
settlement drive on the Israeli side also lead to the same
nightmare.... This is why Israel should not reject the Saudi
initiative. Without the right-of-return component, it is a serious
and worthy proposal."

III. "The Only Alternative Is Civil War"

Palestinian affairs correspondent Danny Rubinstein wrote from
Ramallah in Ha'aretz (3/16): "The news that a Palestinian unity
government had finally been formed brought a sigh of relief to
Ramallah, coming as it did after long months of negotiations,
bloodshed and fears of civil war. In meetings with acquaintances
here on Thursday, I heard not a single word of criticism or
disappointment -- only hope. 'What's important to us now is that
there be a little quiet and we stop killing each other,' explained a
doctor at the new Sheikh Zaid hospital. To the Palestinians, the
unity government is the only way to stop the street battles.
Whether or not it is a good government, or how Israel deals with it,
are less important: The only alternative is civil war.... One can
certainly find indications in this government of flexibility and
pragmatism on Hamas's part: For instance, none of the Hamas
ministers arrested by Israel following [IDF Corporal Gilad] Shalit's
abduction are included in it. Why not? A senior Palestinian
journalist explained: 'Because they want to be practical. They want
the new government to function well, and not to be only a national
symbol.'"

---------
2. Iraq:
---------

Summary:
--------


Deputy Managing Editor Anshel Pfeffer wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "The Eastern Front [may]
once again become a threat for Israel."

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

"The Return of the Eastern Front"

Deputy Managing Editor Anshel Pfeffer wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (3/16): "Four years ago,
when the United Sates and Great Britain brought Saddam Hussein's
rule in Iraq to an end, there was a collective sigh of relief within
the Israeli defense establishment.... Two facts, though, seem
unavoidable. Any prospective president planning to win the November
2008 US election will have to promise a clear time frame for
extricating American troops. And whenever that evacuation is over,
there will still be sizable groups of terrorists of various stripes
and colors holding out who will celebrate the US departure as their
victory. At that moment, the Eastern Front will once again become a
threat for Israel."

JONES

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