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Cablegate: Special Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0935/01 0860618
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 270618Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 8629
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 1817
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2693
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 1877
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 9697
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 2614
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9523
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000935

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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: SPECIAL ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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Secretary Rice to Israel, West Bank, March 25-27, 2007

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Key stories in the media:
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All media -- banner in The Jerusalem Post only -- reported on the
second day of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Israel
and the PA. Rice met PM Ehud Olmert for dinner Monday night for the
second time in 24 hours, and also met Palestinian Chairman
[President] Mahmoud Abbas for the second time during a four-hour
trip she made to Jordan, where she also met with King Abdullah II.

Ha'aretz reported that, echoing the lack of any substantive
progress, the chief PA negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told the newspaper
on Monday that there had been positive efforts on the part of the
US, but that there was no American plan before to resume
negotiations. Ha'aretz said that the decision to make a lukewarm
and substantially softer statement during the Secretary's press
conference this morning was made following deliberations between her
and Olmert. Ha'aretz wrote that it is expected that Rice will
announce that Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have
agreed to meet regularly and discuss "all issues." The discussions
between the two leaders will initially revolve around
confidence-building measures, and will leave an opening for
discussions on other issues in the future. For her part, Rice will
continue her periodic visits to the region, in which she will hold
parallel talks with Israel and the Palestinians on all issues
pertaining to the "political horizon." Ha'aretz reported that Rice
postponed the press conference, originally planned for last night,
because of differences of opinion with Olmert over the content of
her statement. As a headline in Maariv reads: "Olmert Voided Rice's
Vision of Content," the newspaper wrote that the differences between
the two have resulted in a crisis of confidence. Ha'aretz reported
that Olmert met with Rice for a second time on Monday and expressed
his strong opposition to any mention of the "core issues" in the
final status agreement -- namely Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees
and the 1967 lines. Writing that Rice made it clear she is trying
to substantiate the concept of a "political horizon," Ha'aretz said
that it appears that the compromise will be that the issues will be
mentioned in passing. According to major media, Olmert also asked
that any formula for the resumption of negotiations be based on the
Roadmap and the stages it proposes (combating terrorism, dismantling
outposts, a Palestinian state along interim borders and a final
settlement). Ha'aretz said that Olmert also agreed to begin
deliberations on less sensitive issues, such as the security
arrangements of a future Palestinian state, and the conditions for
implementing the agreement on the basis of the Roadmap. Olmert also
opposed the proposal Rice made, that American mediation replace
direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Ha'aretz
noted that maintaining constant and fluid contact with Olmert is for
the Palestinians, at this juncture, considered a priority.

The Jerusalem Post quoted senior diplomatic officials saying on
Monday that it was Jerusalem's objections to US shuttle diplomacy
between Israel and the Palestinians over final-status issues that
led to the postponement of the press conference at which Secretary
Rice was expected to outline her new initiative. According to the
officials, Rice was expected to announce that direct talks between
Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be replaced by parallel
discussions she would hold with both sides over "political horizon"
issues dealing with the contours of a future Palestinian state.
Israel has stated that as a result of the formation of the new PA
unity government, it would no longer hold "substantive" talks with
Abbas -- only talks dealing with humanitarian and security issues.
The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli officials as saying that Rice had
postponed the press conference to continue to work on the text of
her message, and find the "right terminology" to describe the issues
that the two sides have decided to explore through US mediation.
The Jerusalem Post quoted one official as saying that Israel was
opposed to dealing with final-status issues such as refugees and
borders, something favored by the Palestinians. "Israel's position
is not in favor of talking about these issues at this point," the
source was quoted as saying. "For instance, we think it is
inconsistent to talk about refugees, because we think that the right
of return for refugees undermines the two-state solution."
Moreover, the official was quoted as saying, "engaging in
final-status discussions now -- when the time is not right and
neither side is prepared -- could lead, if the talks falter, to
another round of violence, as was the case in 2000." The Jerusalem
Post noted that Rice seemed to be trying to allay Israeli fears when
she said after a meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: "I do
not intend by any means to take control of the Israeli-Palestinian
bilateral dialogue. I think it is very important." But The
Jerusalem Post wrote that, in a briefing with the traveling US press
late Sunday evening, Rice outlined her new approach, saying that
"given where we are, given all the uncertainties that we' have been
through, given that there are changed circumstances in the wake of
the Palestinian unity government, it seemed to me that the best
geography this time was bilateral and parallel." In addition to
this new shuttle diplomacy, The Jerusalem Post quoted sources as
saying that Rice was trying to harness momentum for the process by
enlisting greater support from the Arab world, in the belief that
Arab-Israeli reconciliation could push the Israeli-Palestinian
agenda forward.

Hatzofe reported on a "harsh disagreement" between Olmert and Rice
around the Saudi initiative.

Yediot reported that Rice succeeded in "promoting at least one
thing": an increase in coordination and cooperation between Olmert
and Livni over the past few days. The newspaper said that they are
presented a united line to the Secretary and that they adhere to the
Roadmap. In other words, Yediot wrote, Olmert and Livni are angry
with Abbas and they no longer want to pretend that they are
interested in reaching an agreement with him.

The Jerusalem Post and Yediot reported that Rice will meet today
with the families of the three kidnapped soldiers.

The Jerusalem Post reported that US senators are asking that
Secretary Rice stand firm against the Hamas-led government even

SIPDIS
though it now includes Fatah members. The newspaper reported that
79 US senators have signed a letter to this effect.

Yediot reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will today be
carrying a message from Olmert to Saudi King Abdullah, in which he
reportedly say that he will seriously consider a Quartet-sponsored
summit between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the moderate Arab states.
Yediot said that Ban will tell King Abdullah that Olmert believes
that the Saudi peace initiative is "challenging and good" and that
it can be the basis for dialogue, excluding some reservations.
Yediot reported that, at the Arab League's summit meeting in Riyadh,
the leaders will call for negotiations with Israel. Yediot said
that the summit's concluding statement, which the Arab foreign
ministers drafted on Monday, does not explicitly mention the
Palestinian refugees' right of return to Israeli territory.
Ha'aretz reported that sources from the Palestinian delegation to
the summit told the daily that the Palestinians expect the Arab
states to call on Israel to accept the Arab Peace Initiative.
Ha'aretz reported that on Monday chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb
Erekat described the initiative as "one of the most important to the
Arab world -- a plan that we, the Arabs, must accept." Erekat was
quoted as saying that there is no room to negotiate over the peace
initiative, which was accepted by the Arab League at the Beirut
summit in 2002. "There will be no negotiations with Israel over the
initiative. There is also no demand to alter it by any of the
parties," he added.

Ha'aretz reported that many Israeli officials hold new PA Finance
Minister Salam Fayyad in high esteem, although Israel will end all
its contacts with him.

All media reported on Monday's march by right-wing demonstrators to
the evacuated northern West Bank settlement of Homesh. Ha'aretz
cited the IDF as saying that no more than 2,500 persons participated
in the protest. In another development, Ha'aretz reported that the
cost of compensation for Gaza evacuees will increase by about half a
billion shekels, totaling 9.5 billion shekels (approximately USD 2.2
billion) for 1,800 families.

Israel Radio quoted Palestinian sources as saying that two Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades militants were killed in a gun battle with IDF
troops in Nablus. Ha'aretz reported that on Monday the body of a
50-year-old Palestinian shepherd was found near the West Bank
settlement of Itamar. The possibility that Jewish extremists could
be involved is investigated.

Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post cited a new World Bank study as
saying that goods from the Gaza Strip should be allowed to move
through the border with Egypt, in a boos to the economy of the
impoverished coastal strip.

Maariv and Israel Radio quoted US officials as saying on Monday that
Kenya has handed over Abdul Malik, an al Qaeda suspect accused in
two terror attacks in East Africa, to US authorities who have moved
him into the Guantanamo Bay military prison, officials said on
Monday. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman was quoted as saying that
Abdul Malik admitted involvement in a 2002 attack on a hotel in
Mombasa, Kenya, which killed more than a dozen people, and an
attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner carrying 271 passengers
near Mombasa.

Leading media reported that on Monday security forces successfully
tested the Arrow anti-missile defense system. Ha'aretz quoted
security sources as saying that the test was not as complex as the
one carried out a month and a half ago.

Maariv lengthily featured the US nonimmigrant visa application
process at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.

-----------------------------------
Secretary Rice to Israel, West Bank, March 25-27, 2007

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-----------------------------------

Summary:
--------

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Rice's present visit seems like it was taken
right out of a script from James Baker's tenure as secretary of
state."

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "What type of language on
the refugee issue would be acceptable? To find out, the Arab League
need look no further that the Clinton Parameters that dealt with the
issue at length."

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: "As far as Bush is
concerned, this would apparently be the last battle for his place
and achievements in history."

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in Ha'aretz:
"Forget the convergence plan [Olmert] was so proud of. Forget peace
initiatives. Olmert has failed as a leader. He has to go."

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

I. "Disagreement Is Convenient"

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/27): "US Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice has good reason not to fear disputes with Israel's Prime
Minister: As long as they do not get out of hand, they faithfully
serve as the goal of her visits to the region. Rice wants to prove
to the Arab world that the US is making a concerted effort to deal
with the Palestinian problem. What could be more convincing to the
Arabs that Rice is serious than a public disagreement with Ehud
Olmert? Rice's present visit seems like it was taken right out of a
script from James Baker's tenure as secretary of state. Rice has
come to try and push a plan not in keeping with Israel's policies.
Before she arrived, she did not hesitate to publicly air the
differences between the two nations, stemming from the American
intention to maintain contact with the members of the Palestinian
Authority unity government. Rice was, therefore, welcomed politely
but with indirect defiance.... In any case, the disagreement is good
for all sides. It is a limited disagreement. Rice will bring it to
the table when she talks with the leaders of the Arab and European
Quartets who want to see a US mediator who does not hesitate to
pressure Israel. It will help Olmert stave off a political attack
from the right and also -- and perhaps more importantly -- serve as
a show of strength against the Rice-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
duo.... But this is entirely mutual. The Bush administration is
also relatively weak. Senior Israeli officials have been dealing
with a number of questions recently: To what extent is Bush behind
Rice's activities? How much leeway is the US willing to give? The
answers can reveal the trend: Bush does support Rice, because he
sees no disadvantages in the initiative. If she succeeds, he will
reap the credit and if, as expected, she fails, he can distance
himself relatively easily from the fallout. The American political
cauldron, already bubbling ahead of the November 8 elections, will
make it difficult for the administration to face off against
Israel."

II. "Seeking the Elusive Refugee Formula"

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (3/27): "Israel's reaction
to the Arab Peace Initiative, which, in some form or another, is
expected to be relaunched this week by the Arab League in Riyadh,
will be determined by how the Arab leaders choose to finesse the
refugee issue.... Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister
Tzipi Livni have both made clear that acceptance of UN Resolution
194, and the clause that rejects patriation, cannot be a basis for
negotiations with Israel. Then what type of language on the refugee
issue would be acceptable? To find out, the Arab League need look
no further that the Clinton Parameters that dealt with the issue at
length."


III. "A Last Battle"

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 (3/27): "There may be a
chance [within the US administration] for the beginning of some
arrangement. As far as Bush is concerned, this would apparently be
the last battle for his place and achievements in history. For this
purpose, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been holding to the
Saudi initiative as to a treasure (some say: as to an empty reed) in
order to come back home with a victorious smile and tell her
employer: We have done something. But let there be no
misunderstandings. In its present state, the Saudi initiative is
dangerous and bad for Israel and it will never be possible to accept
it in ... all its clauses."

IV. "He Has to Go"

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in Ha'aretz
(3/27): "President Truman had a sign on his desk that said 'The buck
stops here.' In our neck of the woods, it doesn't stop there. It's
passed on, to someone higher up or lower down on the ladder, usually
by committees of inquiry -- our warped version of Japanese
hara-kiri.... No matter how Olmert comes out of the probe of the
Winograd [Commission investigating the Second Lebanon War], he is
already a lame duck. He has lost the last vestiges of trust and
respect that came with being Sharon's successor, and above all, he
has lost the authority and ability to cope with the complex and
urgent challenges that lie ahead. Forget the convergence plan he
was so proud of. Forget peace initiatives. Olmert has failed as a
leader. He has to go."

JONES

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