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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #1075/01 1020915
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 120915Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0497
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 1965
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 8704
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 1916
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2769
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 1959
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 9801
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 2701
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9604
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0080
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 6686
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 4083
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 8983
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 3178
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 5105
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 6514
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001075

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:
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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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Ha'aretz, Yediot, and Israel Radio reported that US Defense
Secretary Robert Gates will visit Israel next week for a series of

SIPDIS
meetings with PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz on the
strategic situation in the Middle East. Ha'aretz's web site
reported that, during his visit, Gates may attempt to persuade
Israel to ease its objections to the sale of advanced weapons
systems to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. The visit, which
Ha'aretz said is scheduled for April 17, is the first time a US
Defense Secretary will be visiting Israel in eight years. Ha'aretz
reported that American sources told the daily on Tuesday that the
visit was decided and a date finalized, though an official
announcement on the matter has not been made public. Ha'aretz
wrote that the visit, which comes about a month after Peretz visited
Washington, will also deal with bilateral defense ties between the
U.S. and Israel.

The Jerusalem Post quoted the Prime Minister's Office as saying that
Olmert will block any attempt by Abbas to discuss final status
issues when the two leaders meet on Sunday. Citing AP, The
Jerusalem Post quoted Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad as
saying on Wednesday in Brussels that the new Palestinian government
will need USD 1.33 billion in international aid to "get back on our
feet."

Leading media quoted Hamas as saying on Wednesday that a prisoner
swap deal for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit was "doomed to fail,"
if Israel demanded that militants "with blood on their hands" be
dropped from the Palestinians' list. The Jerusalem Post reported
that, as negotiations over the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit appeared
to enter their final lap this week, grave concern was expressed
within the Israeli defense establishment on Wednesday over the
growing rift within Hamas, which Israeli officials warned could
jeopardize the deal and future contacts with the PA. The Jerusalem
Post quoted a senior Hamas official as saying on Wednesday that
Israel will eventually surrender to Shalit's captors and release
hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The Jerusalem Post also quoted
the PA as saying that Israel was responsible for the delay in
reaching a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Post reported that senior Israeli defense officials
told the newspaper that Defense Minister Peretz plans to go ahead
with the evacuation of settlers from the controversial Hebron
building they have occupied, even if Olmert opposes the move.
Ha'aretz and other media quoted Attorney General Menachem Mazuz as
saying on Wednesday that the settlers should be allowed to petition
the High Court of Justice against their eviction. Therefore, Mazuz
was quoted as saying that they could not be evacuated immediately.
The settlers have 30 days to petition against their eviction.
According to Mazuz, the settlers' inhabitance of the house -- which
they claim to own after having paid USD 700,000 for it -- cannot be
defined as "invasion" and is therefore not subject to immediate
eviction. Mazuz had, however, ordered their eviction based on the
fact that even if the house were legally acquired, the settlers
still required permission from the Israeli Civil Administration to
inhabit it. Maariv and other media cited the opinion of half the
cabinet members that Defense Minister Peretz cannot make a deQsion
to evacuate the building.

Yediot reported that PM Olmert has decided to continue legal
investigations into illegal settler outposts. Yediot quoted Olmert
associates as saying that the outposts will be vacated in a matter
of weeks. According to the newspaper, Justice Minister Daniel
Friedmann will likely head the committee that should ultimately
decide on their evacuation.

Ha'aretz and Maariv, and The Jerusalem Post reported that Alon Liel,
former director general of the Foreign Ministry, and American-Syrian
national Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman will appear today before the
Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The two will brief
the committee members on the secret, unofficial talks they
conducted, and on the understandings they reached for a peace
agreement between Israel and Syria. Suleiman, who landed in Israel
on Tuesday, will become the first Syrian to address a Knesset
committee when he briefs the panel on the extent of his connections
with the Syrian regime. He will tell the Knesset members about the
committee appointed by Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is
headed by one of his army generals, to coordinate the talks with
Israel. In addition, he will relay the messages he received from
Syrian FM Walid Mualem. Ha'aretz wrote that, in the hearing, Liel
will disclose the content of the reports he allegedly gave to
officials in the Foreign Ministry regarding his progress in the
talks. Liel also reported to various parties in the Prime Minister's
Office when it was headed by former PM Ariel Sharon. Ha'aretz said
that, during his stay in Israel, Suleiman told Israeli sources that
he intended to clarify to the MKs that "there is a genuine
willingness in Damascus to initiate peace talks with Israel, which
at the very least requires Israel to test the waters." Ha'aretz
reported that, despite Suleiman's interest to meet Israeli officials
during his visit, the Foreign Ministry decided against such a move.
The ministry's Director General, Aharon Abramovitch, explained that
Suleiman's request had been denied "to avoid giving a false
impression, as though he were engaged in official talks with the
State of Israel." Abramovitch added: "If Syria wanted to conduct
official talks, it had other avenues available to it." Ha'aretz
reported that the Prime Minister's Office had similar reservations,
as it did when the newspaper first exposed the existence of the
talks in January.

Leading media quoted Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem
as saying in an interview with the British Guardian that his
organization is preparing for the possibility of a new war with
Israel as soon as next summer. The Jerusalem Post quoted Thomas
Fuentes, special agent in charge of the FBI's international
operations, as saying on Wednesday that the FBI assesses that
Hizbullah has not conducted attacks in America out of concern that
it would provoke too strong a response and disrupt the
organization's fund-raising in the US.

Yediot quoted sources in Jordan as saying that Knesset Member Azmi
Bishara has proposed that he return to Israel provided he is not
arrested. According to the sources, Israel is not prepared to
conclude any deal with him. Yediot reported that Bishara told his
friends in Jordan that a kidney condition he suffers from does not
allow him to sit in jail. The media reported that his wife and
children have come back to Israel.

The Jerusalem Post printed a picture taken Wednesday of visiting US
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) with the wife and mother of abducted IDF
solder Ehud Goldwasser. The photo shows Ackerman displaying signed
copies of the House bill supporting calls for the release of the IDF
soldiers.

Yediot quoted International Atomic Energy Agency Spokeswoman Melissa
Fleming as saying on Wednesday that it will take four to six years
for Iran to have the capacity to build its own nuclear bomb. This
means, in FlemingQs opinion, that there is still time to counter the
potential threat by diplomatic efforts. Yediot cited the Israeli
intelligence's assessment that Iran would have that capacity in 3-4
years.

Maariv quoted former Mossad head Nahum Admoni as saying that Israel
attempted to thwart the construction of a nuclear reactor in Iraq in
the 1980s -- after Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in 1981.

Yediot reported that police officers will interrogate billionaire
Olmert associates abroad -- Frank Lowie in Australia and Daniel
Abrams in the US -- regarding Olmert's alleged intervention in the
government tender for the sale of the controlling interest in Bank
Leumi, Israel's second-largest bank.

All media reported on Wednesday's series of bombings in Algiers, in
which at least 24 people were killed. A local branch of Al-Qaida
claimed responsibility for the attacks.

All media reported on a further drop in the rate of the US dollar on
the Tel Aviv market (4.107 shekels to a dollar on Wednesday). The
media said that a comment by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer
that he will not intervene in the foreign currency market
accelerated the decline of the US currency in Israel. Ha'aretz
explained that the situation entails no crisis.

Ha'aretz reported that the peace fund established by Yitzhak Rabin
and Shimon Peres is voluntarily liquidating its assets.

Ha'aretz reported that, during his recent visit to Israel,
conservative American journalist Robert Novak criticized the Bush
administration, Olmert, AIPAC and Senator Hillary Rodman Clinton,
but that he found that AIPAC was a suitable interlocutor.

All media reported that on Wednesday IAF warplanes nearly shot down
a Continental Airlines aircraft during its approach to Ben Gurion
Airport after it lost communications with air controllers.

Ha'aretz reported that the average prison term for convicted
traffickers in women last year was 33 months, compared to 54 months
in 2005 and a maximum sentence of 16 years.

Maariv cited a claim by Shlomo Taub, the director of a private
corporation dealing the restitution of Jewish property, as saying
that one fifth of the land in Poland belongs to Jews. The value of
the supposedly Jewish-owned property is assessed at USD 35 billion.
Maariv also cited a new Google Earth project mapping the Holocaust.
The Jerusalem Post ran a feature about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's
late father, US Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., a "Roosevelt
Democrat" who broke ranks with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on
the issues of rescuing Jews from Hitler and creating a Jewish
state.

Ha'aretz and Hatzofe cited The Wall Street Journal as saying that
Northrop Grumman Corp. plans to forge an excusive partnership with
Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to provide lighter, more flexible
spy satellites to the US military and intelligence agencies.

Ha'aretz reported that the international transportation firm
Bombardier is in advanced talks with Iscar and Cyclone Aviation
Products that would make the two local companies regular suppliers
for its factories worldwide. Iscar, which was bought up by American
tycoon Warren Buffett last year, may supply cutting tools to
Bombardier Transformation factories in Europe. The deals could be
worth tens of millions of dollars.

Maariv printed the results of a TNS/Teleseker Polling Institute
survey according to which 45 percent of Israelis support the release
of Palestinian prisoners who murdered Israelis -- as part of a wider
release of Palestinian detainees -- in exchange for Shalit's
release; 36.5 percent are opposed; 18.6 percent are undecided.


--------
Mideast:
--------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote on
page one of the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "A release of
prisoners in stages will ensure that [Hamas's] commitment [to
freeing IDF Cpl. Gild Shalit and maintaining a general cease-fire]
is upheld."

Senior columnist Haggai Huberman wrote in the nationalist, Orthodox
Hatzofe: "The very fact that the release of terrorists in exchange
for the kidnapped soldier is being negotiated at all is moral
bankruptcy."

Block Quotes:
-------------
I. "Release Them in Stages"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote on
page one of the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (4/12): "Once
again in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel is
faced with the question of whether to cross the red line in the hard
war against terrorism.... The list of prisoners presented to Israel
is extreme in its demands. It is clear that Israel will have to
cross certain lines in this deal, and the question is how to bring
Shalit back without undermining certain criteria of the war on
terrorism. Israel has no choice but to negotiate with Hamas, even
through Egyptian mediation.... Hamas has a twin interest in the
release of the prisoners: shocking Israeli public opinion and
bolstering its position among the Palestinians. Israel's surrender
to Hamas on the matter of the prisoners' list will seriously
undermine its deterrent in the war against terrorism and will
bolster terrorist groups. The lesson to terrorists is that acts
against Israel are risky, but that they stand a chance of avoiding
punishment a few years later.... There is no way to avoid
negotiating with Hamas for the release of Shalit, despite the
continuing war. The members of [Israel's] National Security Council
are right in their claim that the current deal needs to be part of a
broader effort. For example, not only exchange of Shalit for these
prisoners but also the commitment of the Hamas government to impose
the cease-fire on all the Palestinian groups. A release of
prisoners in stages will ensure that this commitment is upheld."

II. "No to the Shalit Deal"

Senior columnist Haggai Huberman wrote in the nationalist, Orthodox
Hatzofe (4/12): "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert deserves our praise for
having rejected the list of prisoners that Hamas submitted with a
demand that they be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. The
difficult problem is not the list of prisoners but the very fact
that the release of terrorists is being negotiated in exchange for
the kidnapped soldier. The following is likely to be very
unpopular, but it is something that needs to be said: the very fact
that the release of terrorists in exchange for the kidnapped soldier
is being negotiated at all is moral bankruptcy. It damages and
weakens the State of Israel and the terrorists are given a valuable
lesson: Kidnapping soldiers pays.... The [1985] Jibril
[prisoner-swap] deal served within two years as the fuel for the
Intifada. The Intifada created an irreversible reality in Judea and
Samaria [i.e. the West Bank]: the masses of Israel stayed away from
those parts of the Land of Israel. That reality, the aloofness and
alienation that was shown by the masses of the Jewish people to
Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, prepared the emotional groundwork for
trading them for a political agreement and prepared the ground for
the acceptance of the terrible Oslo Accords, which established a
terrorist Palestinian Authority in the heart of the Land of Israel
and ended with 1,500 Israelis dead."

JONES

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