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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #1283/01 1211019
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P 011019Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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SECDEF WASHDC FOR USDP/ASD-PA/ASD-ISA
HQ USAF FOR XOXX
DA WASHDC FOR SASA
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PARIS ALSO FOR POL
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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Winograd Probe Into 2nd Lebanon War

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Key stories in the media:
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All media led, and extensively reported and commented on the
findings of the interim report of the Winograd Commission probing
the Second Lebanon War. Yediot bannered a comment by associates of
PM Ehud Olmert likening the report's conclusions to a gun directed
at Olmert's temple. All media reported that PM Ehud Olmert vowed on
Monday night that he would not resign, despite the publication of
the report, which the accused him of "severe failures" in handling
the conflict. "It would not be correct to resign," he said in a
brief televised statement from his office, "and I have no intention
of resigning." Instead, Olmert said, he would work to implement the
report's conclusions. He called a special cabinet session for
Wednesday to begin the work, at which he plans to announce the
creation of a special task to oversee the report's implementation,
including both government officials and external experts. Media
quoted Defense Minister Amir Peretz as saying that he would not quit
his post despite the report's findings. Ha'aretz noted that FM
Tzipi Livni and Vice PM Shimon Peres emerged unscathed from the
report. The newspaper said that Livni kept her distance from
Olmert. Maariv called Livni the "big winner."

All media reported that the Winograd Commission concluded that the
decision to go to war was not based on a detailed, comprehensive,
and authorized military plan, or on a clear analysis of the Lebanese
situation. The media said that the government did not consider the
whole range of options, that support for the operation was gained in
part through ambiguity, that some of the declared goals were not
clear and could not be achieved, and that the primary responsibility
for those serious failings rests with Olmert, Defense Minister
Peretz, and former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz.

Israel Radio reported that senior IDF officers protested against an
announcement sent by Halutz from Harvard University and about the
fact that he did not bother to be in Israel for the publication of
the Winograd report. The radio and other media reported that Halutz
stated that he had assumed responsibility for his failings when he
resigned.

In what it said was an expression of support for PM Olmert, Israel
Radio quoted White House Press Secretary Tony Snow as saying on
Monday: "Obviously, [President Bush] works very closely with Prime
Minister Olmert, and thinks that he's essential in working toward a
two-state solution. The President remains committed to it. We are
not going to comment on, obviously, internal investigations within
the Israeli government." However, The Jerusalem Post quoted
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch as
saying on Monday, during an Anti-Defamation League conference in
Washington: "You have political situations on each side that make it
harder for the US leadership to move forward." The Jerusalem Post
reported that Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State
Department Nicholas Burns later told the newspaper that the US was
determined to press ahead with Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Burns declined to comment on how the political climate in Israel
affects Olmert's ability to deliver on any agreements, saying that
he did not want to appear to be meddling in internal Israeli
affairs.

Leading media quoted a Hizbullah official as saying that the report
confirms that Israel was in a state of confusion during the Second
Lebanon War.

Yediot reported that on Monday a "senior Arab figure involved in the
peace efforts in the region" commented on the conclusions of the
Winograd report. He was quoted as saying that Olmert does not
fulfill his promises anyway and that the Arabs will not be sorry if
he goes home. The Arab figure was quoted as saying that, following
the commission's findings, Olmert can be expected to create a media
spin around the peace moves, but that he will very soon find out
that he does not have a partner among the Arabs.

This morning the electronic media reported that, following the
publication of the Winograd Report, Labor Party Secretary-General
Eitan Cabel announced his decision to resign from the government,
called on PM Olmert to act in kind, and on former PM Ehud Barak not
to enter the government. The electronic media reported that this
morning Labor Party leadership contender MK Ami Ayalon called on
Olmert to resign and advocated the creation of a "national
rehabilitation government."

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that on Monday Damascus-based Hamas
leader Khaled Mashal threatened to kidnap more Israeli soldiers to
obtain the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Mashal was
quoted as saying that a third Intifada might erupt if the condition
of the Palestinians does not improve and if the siege on the PA
continues.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the first-ever "radiation drill" in
an Israeli hospital will be held on Tuesday at Rambam Medical Center
in Haifa.

Ha'aretz reported that, with funding from the International Atomic
Energy Agency, Israel, Jordan, and the PA are now working together
to wage a biological war against the Mediterranean fruit fly.

The media reported that oligarch Arkady Gaidamak's advisers have
announced that he plans to run for mayor in next year's municipal
election in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Post reported that, despite widespread, often angry
reports to the contrary, a controversial documentary to be directed
by anti-Zionist Israel director Eyal Sivan marking Israel's 60th
Independence Day next year has not been granted taxpayer money.

Yediot and Maariv reported that in the first half of 2008
Africa-Israel Investments, a large real estate company controlled by
Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, will be traded on the New York Stock
Exchange. Major media reported that the company will purchase the
New York Times building for USD 525 million, renovate it for USD 170
million, and extract high rental fees from it. The Jerusalem Post
noted that the New York Times offices are expected to move into a
new 52-story office tower on Eighth Avenue.

A Channel 2-TV poll taken after the Winograd report was released
found that 65 percent of Israelis believe Olmert should quit and 75
percent that Peretz should resign. Only 14 percent said Olmert
should remain in office and 10 percent that Peretz should stay.
Fifty-three percent said Israel should go to elections. In a
separate question on who they would vote for, the poll found that 26
percent of Israelis believe that Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu
should be prime minister, followed by FM Tzipi Livni (9 percent),
former prime minister Ehud Barak (6 percent), Labor MK Ami Ayalon (5
percent), Vice PM Shimon Peres (4 percent), Yisrael Beiteinu leader
Avigdor Lieberman (3 percent), billionaire Arkady Gaidamak (2
percent), and Peretz (1 percent). Olmert received zero percent in
the poll. Channel 10-TV and Israel Radio published similar
surveys.

------------------------------------
Winograd Probe Into 2nd Lebanon War:
------------------------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The bottom line is that Ehud Olmert
needs to go.... The full report is a courageous, ambitious,
far-reaching attempt to change [Israel's] political culture."

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "If this
government does not step down now, disgust and despair will mount."

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote on
page one of Ha'aretz: "Can this government ... lead the nation in
the next war ... and win? The conclusion drawn from the inquiry's
report is a clear no, and therefore this government must step down
in one way or another."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "Winograd is bringing a big hose and in
one fell swoop, is washing off the dust that covered the Israeli
government."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "What is
critical here is that Israel -- with Hizbullah and Palestinian
extremists a constant threat, and their inspiration, Iran, marching
toward nuclear capability -- be governed by a leadership of
competence."

Veteran journalist Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, Chairman of the Yad Vashem
Council, and former justice minister wrote in Maariv:
"Responsibility for the army's lack of preparedness ... falls on the
shoulders of the Sharon-Mofaz-Ya'alon troika, not on Olmert and
Peretz."

Columnist and former Meretz Party Chairman Yossi Sarid wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Throw out Ehud Olmert and Amir
Peretz and save Israel -- that's the battle cry now, that's the
urgent mission of every citizen."

Deputy Managing Editor and right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick
wrote in The Jerusalem Post: "If the Winograd report is to have any
positive impact at all, it should be in beginning, not blocking the
necessary public debate into the real sources of the failures last
summer, and into the strategic failures of the Oslo process, and the
withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza. All of these call out for our
attention and correction."

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

I. "He Needs to Go"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (5/1): "The bottom line is that Ehud
Olmert needs to go. Not because of the failings of the war, but
because if after a report like that, from a commission like that, a
commission whose members he chose and whose letter of appointment he
wrote, Olmert continues to serve as prime minister, there will
probably never be any personal accountability here. Israel will
join the third world festival. With that having been said, he can
still survive politically. Not because the war was a success but
because the alternatives, even by the commission's standards, aren't
any better. Neither Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu], Tzipi [Livni], nor
even Ehud Barak.... The full report is a courageous, ambitious,
far-reaching attempt to change the political culture. [The
commission] wishes for a different leadership, a compact government,
whose ministers are experienced in the areas over which they are
responsible; a government which seeks the help of experts from
various and conflicting schools of thought; one which holds in-depth
and broad-based debates about the issues it votes on; a government
whose debates are kept secret and are not leaked. There are no such
governments. Nor were there ever. The model that the members of
the Winograd Commission envision exists only in the world of Plato,
and not in a political environment in which elections are held -- in
any event, not in Israel. That does not change the fact that Olmert
made a grave mistake when he chose to appoint Amir Peretz as defense
minister, and Peretz erred when he pounced on the job.... Last
night, two hours after the report was published, the President of
the United States issued a statement in support of Olmert. Olmert
was pleased: it was a point of light in a black day. I suggested to
him that as a sign of gratitude he propose to Bush to ask the
Winograd Commission to come and investigate the war in Iraq."

II. "Immediate Resignation"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (5/1): "The
Winograd Report contains not even one lenient word to which the
Prime Minister could cling in order to extend his term. The members
of the commission he appointed closed all the cracks and left no
escape from responsibility -- if not now, then in two months, when

the final report is written.... If the Prime and Defense Ministers
do not resign following the Winograd findings, their imperviousness
will be additional proof that they were not worthy of their posts
from the outset. Any attempt to share the failure with previous
prime ministers will not succeed.... No harsher report than that of
the Winograd Committee on the Second Lebanon War could have been
written, even if a state commission of inquiry had been established.
The statements made on Monday, in precise and unequivocal language,
are painful testimony to the culture of charlatanic, belligerent,
and irresponsible government, whose existence the public has sensed
for a long time. If this government does not step down now, disgust
and despair will mount."

III. "Unfit to Run the Next War"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote on
page one of Ha'aretz (5/1): "The key question arising from the
Winograd Commission's partial report is not the level of personal
responsibility for the failed management of the war. That is a
question that relates in principle to the past. The more important
question is the one that relates to the future: Can this government
headed by Ehud Olmert lead the nation in the next war -- which
according to intelligence estimates could take place -- and win?
The conclusion drawn from the inquiry's report is a clear no, and
therefore this government must step down in one way or another.
This is not a conclusion drawn by the Winograd Commission. It is a
question that is beyond the mandate given to the commission, but it
must be at the top of the Israeli public's priorities. Many
politicians are not dealing with this because they see the Winograd
Commission's report as part of an election campaign in which they
must utilize the situation to help their party.... The Winograd
Commission pointed to the fact that an incorrect evaluation of
Israel's strength had developed, along with a lacking evaluation of
our enemies' learning ability. This is not necessarily an
intelligence mistake; it is due to deep social processes the
commission believes Israel is undergoing, including even changes in
the national ethos."

IV. "Brotherhood of the Gallows"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (5/1): "Ehud Olmert's people know the
truth. It is bitter. The prime minister cannot remain in his
position after such a report. The prime minister must go home.
OlmertQs people told him so on Monday.... Olmert's announcement on
Monday that he is not prepared to resign is, in light of the

situation, playing against time. In Israel, dying is a lengthy,
ugly process.... Winograd is bringing a big hose and in one fell
swoop, is washing off the dust that covered the Israeli
government.... This is the time to work on corrections, on
substantial changes in how the Jewish state is managed. To create an
internal structure for decision making.... It is not easy to see the
dancing on the blood that began on Monday on Hizbullah's Al-Manar
[television] station. These hysteric shouts of victory are hard to
take and elicits sad thoughts about our excessive self-flagellation,
about our need to convince the entire Arab world and, in general,
that we lost this war. So a bit of proportion is in order:
Hizbullah, the big victor in this war, is now fighting to 'go to the
open areas south of the Litani River,' after controlling and lying
around right up to the fence of the northern border. It lost its
strategic missiles, as well as 800 of its fighters. Iran is
seething at Nasrallah, who is still hiding in his bunker. All this
does not sweeten our bitter pill, but we should not forget. And it
is possible also to be proud that the Jewish state established an
investigative committee. We established it not because we lost. We
established it because we did not win."


V. "A Failed Leadership"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (5/1):
"With all due respect to the Prime Minister, and notwithstanding the
personal focus of much of the reporting surrounding today's Winograd
Commission interim report, the political career of Ehud Olmert is
not the most pressing issue on the national agenda.... Olmert has
rightly asserted from many platforms that his decision to launch an
immediate military response to the bombardment of northern Israel
and the kidnapping within our sovereign borders of two soldiers in
July was overwhelmingly supported by his cabinet, opposition
politicians and the public. The failure of the subsequent,
belatedly named Second Lebanon War to defang the Hizbullah threat
and reassert Israel's vital deterrent capability can by no means be
laid solely at the then-new prime minister's door, as the Winograd
interim report has made clear. A good part of it stems from
miscalculations and errors in the years preceding the outbreak of
the conflict, and must be ascribed to military officers and
politicians who no longer hold central positions of power.... What
is critical here is that Israel -- with Hizbullah and Palestinian
extremists a constant threat, and their inspiration, Iran, marching
toward nuclear capability -- be governed by a leadership of
competence. In that context, today's Winograd report casts the
current leadership -- and that extends to the entire government,
which 'failed in its political function' -- in a dismal light. The
parliamentary process can force through the necessary change, and
individual politicians must look to the national interest. If they
do not do so of their own volition, the public should seek to force
their hand. And if the public fails to do so, it has no one to
blame but itself."

VI. "Minority View"

Veteran journalist Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, Chairman of the Yad Vashem
Council, and former justice minister wrote in Maariv (5/1): "My
reservations [about the findings of the Winograd Commission] could
be defined as a minority view: Everybody agrees that the army was
not prepared for that war. The defense budget was cut every year,
the regular army mostly policed the territories. Reservists did not
train, equipment was missing. The Katyusha rocket threat....
Responsibility for the army's lack of preparedness ... falls on the
shoulders of the Sharon-Mofaz-Ya'alon troika, not on Olmert and
Peretz. The conclusion of the Winograd Commission that the
political echelon did not grant enough consideration to the results
of its decisions is a wishful afterthought.... [The commission] has
ceased to be a commission of inquiry and is turning into a committee
of historians.... What would have happened if the two politicians
who recently entered their positions [Olmert and Peretz] had pushed
the chief of staff -- against his opinion -- into a ground operation
and it had turned out that the army was not prepared and that the
number of casualties was a few times [that of the actual one]?
Would the megalomania of Olmert and Peretz not have been blamed for
the catastrophe that would have befallen Israel?.... The failure in
the Second Lebanon War should be place at the politicians' doorstep.
This is something we do not like to admit."

VII. "Throw Them Out of Office"

Columnist and former Meretz Party Chairman Yossi Sarid wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (5/1): "Throw out Ehud Olmert and
Amir Peretz and save Israel -- that's the battle cry now, that's
the urgent mission of every citizen. It is time for a national
emergency operation in which all those involved will be thrown onto
the ash heap of history. This nation has a large garbage bin, but
it also has a large human stockpile from which new, clean people can
be brought. The blundering duo, Olmert and Peretz, were not alone
in overseeing the calamity. The entire cabinet of wretched
creatures lent their deceitful hands to crafting this threat to our
existence.... There is only one way to bring about a new arrangement
from the foundation to the rafters -- by holding general elections.
Not swapping posts from defense minister to finance minister, not
musical chairs, not even waiting around inexplicably for the final
report, as though there is anything left to wait for. There is
nothing left to say now except goodbye. Just go home."

VIII. "What Commissions Cannot Do"

Deputy Managing Editor and right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick
wrote in The Jerusalem Post (5/1): "The grandest of all Israeli
failures was the Rabin-Peres government's decision to recognize the
PLO and give it arms, land and legitimacy, ushering in the most
deadly period of terrorism in Israel's history. This decision,
[like other ones], has never been scrutinized by a commission.
But, truly, the great pity is not that no commissions were formed to
investigate these failures, as the Winograd Commission was formed to
investigate the Second Lebanon War. The great pity is that Israeli
society has yet to find the means to conduct a true public debate of
our failures that could enable learning and corrective action. If
the Winograd report is to have any positive impact at all, it should
be in beginning, not blocking the necessary public debate into the
real sources of the failures last summer, and into the strategic
failures of the Oslo process, and the withdrawals from Lebanon and
Gaza. All of these call out for our attention and correction."

JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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