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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #1299/01 1231026
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P 031026Z MAY 07
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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:
-------------------------

All media reported that PM Ehud Olmert won a tactical victory on
Wednesday in the power struggle within the Kadima party, rallying
the majority of party Knesset members to his support, despite FM
Tzipi Livni's press conference in which she urged him to resign.
Yediot quoted Olmert advisers as saying that Olmert has decided to
fire Livni -- not now, but later, when he will replace her with
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. Maariv quoted Olmert
associates as saying that Livni's dismissal is not on the agenda.
As of Wednesday there were only three rebels in Kadima whose
intentions had been made public: Livni and MKs Avigdor Yitzhaki and
Marina Solodkin. In an announcement on Wednesday, the faction said
it is backing the PM and supports his decision to quickly implement
the recommendations of the Winograd Commission. The statement also
stressed that Olmert intends to work to bolster the coalition. The
media quoted VP Shimon Peres as saying at the end of the meeting
that he was not surprised at the extent of the support for Olmert.
MK Tzachi Hanegbi will fill Yitzhaki's post as coalition whip for
the next two weeks. Ha'aretz quoted sources close to Defense
Minister and Labor Party leader Amir Peretz as saying that he does
not intend to resign following the release of the Winograd report.
According to the sources, Peretz plans to stay at the ministry's
helm until the Labor primaries scheduled for May 28. The sources
refuted reports on Wednesday that Peretz was considering resigning.
They were quoted as saying that the reason for the reports was that
Peretz consulted additional advisers on whether to step down.
Israel Radio reported that Peretz might resign by Friday.

Yediot and Maariv carried the same banner: "Test of the Square."
They were referring to how politicians will react to the size of the
mass rally planned for tonight at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. The
demonstration's organizers called on politicians to stay away from
the demonstration. Prior to the organizers' decision, Likud
Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and Meretz head Yossi Beilin had been
named as possible speakers. Leading electronic media reported that
this morning Netanyahu told the Knesset's Likud faction that the
current government "has lost the trust of the public, if it had any
to begin with. Therefore, we need to return to the public so it can
speak for itself."

Ha'aretz reported that the international community is keeping a
close eye on recent political developments in Israel. The newspaper
said that the Foreign Ministry learned that the Winograd report's
repercussions received high priority in last week's meeting of the
EU Council of Ministers. Ha'aretz quoted EU foreign policy chief
Javier Solana as saying that should the government collapse
following the report, then "it would constitute a death blow to the
peace process, particularly with the PA." Israel Radio quoted the
Egyptian FM as saying that Israel should not be pressured at this
time of political crisis.

Ha'aretz reported that the Winograd Commission has found that,
during the Second Lebanon War, unlike Israel's political leaders,
the Air Force and General Staff received good intelligence, which
was not transferred to ground forces.

Leading media reported that on Wednesday, in an unprecedented move,
Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah praised the Winograd
Commission's report and regretted that there had not been such a
development in Lebanon.

Ha'aretz quoted PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas as saying on
Wednesday, following a meeting with Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin in
Ramallah, that Egypt presented Israel and Hamas with a new proposal
for a deal for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Abbas was quoted as saying that two to three weeks are necessary to
discuss the new Egyptian proposal. In a press conference, Abbas
also spoke about the economic siege on the PA, and said the
authority may collapse in two months unless it receives
international aid. "Anyone who thinks that the fall of the
government can be brought about without the collapse of the PA does
not know what he is talking about," Abbas said, criticizing the
boycott against the Palestinian unity government. "European
countries want to work with the government, and they reject the
economic boycott over the Palestinian people," Abbas was quoted as
saying. Maariv quoted Abbas as saying that he would discuss peace
with Netanyahu. Ha'aretz quoted Beilin, who was in Ramallah for a
gathering of Geneva Initiative supporters, as saying that there are
70 Knesset members who currently support a peace agreement, but he
warned that the situation would change if there were elections.

Leading media quoted Israel's Ambassador to the US, Sallai Meridor,
as saying on Wednesday that, faced with what he called the biggest
buildup by Syria along its border with Israel since the Yom Kippur
War, Israel is privately reassuring its Arab neighbor that it is not
seeking a confrontation.

All media reported that on Wednesday the Shin Bet revealed that
former Balad Party chairman Azmi Bishara was under investigation for
allegedly spying on behalf of Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon
War by providing the guerrilla group with targets for their rockets,
as well as classified military information. Media reported that the
Shin Bet suspects Bishara of having received hundreds of thousands
of dollars; while The Jerusalem Post said that this is one of the
most serious cases of espionage in Israeli history, Ha'aretz wrote
that no concrete evidence has been presented to back the allegations
against Bishara. Ha'aretz reported that for now, recordings of
Bishara's conversations before and during the war, allegedly with
Hizbullah agents, is not being released, in an effort to protect the
investigation. Ha'aretz cited Balad's claim that there is a chasm
between the charges and the evidence presented by the Shin Bet.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Iran and the US remain noncommittal
regarding a possible meeting between the countries' senior diplomats
in Sharm el-Sheikh. Yediot reported that Syrian FM Walid Mualem
does not rule out a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, and highlighted Iran's refusal to meet with her.

Yediot, Maariv, and The Jerusalem Post reported that Mikki
Goldwasser, the mother of abducted IDF soldier Ehud Goldwasser, sent
an emotional letter to Hizbullah's spiritual leader, Ayatollah
Muhammad Fadlallah, asking for a sign of life from her son.

The Jerusalem Post reported that, in his memoir, "At the Center of
the Storm: My Years at the CIA," former CIA Director George Tenet
blames Yasser Arafat for being the "last impenetrable barrier to
peace."

Conservative French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted
as sayng in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that he defends
Israel's right to protect itself, but that Israel's security must
not infringe upon a future viable Palestinian state.

Media reported that, during the hearing he held on Wednesday about
the sexual offenses allegedly committed by Israeli President Moshe
Katsav, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz attentively listened to
arguments presented by Katsav's lawyers. A second hearing will take
place in two weeks.
The Jerusalem Post reported that NATO is financing research at the
Tachyon-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa on protecting water
supply systems against biological and chemical terrorism.

Yediot quoted the late US President Ronald Reagan as saying in his
diaries, which his widow Nancy Reagan handed over to a historian and
are slated to be published in book form that he thought that the end
of the world had come when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in
1981. Maariv reported that Reagan wrote in 1982 that Ariel Sharon
is the "bad guy looking for war."

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

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "If Israel's
citizens have anything to say about the conduct of their government
during last summer's war, then they should ... turn out tonight at
the protest rally at [Tel Aviv's] Rabin Square and demand its
resignation."

Meretz-Yahad Party Chairman and Knesset Member Yossi Beilin and
National Union-National Religious Party Knesset Member Effie Eitam
wrote in a joint page one article in the popular, pluralist Maariv:
"We are on either side of the fence on nearly every issue.... [But]
We call upon every citizen, man and woman, no matter what their
political position is, to come today and protect ... the public's
right to influence its fate."

Liberal op-ed writer Yael Paz-Melamed commented in Maariv: "In
practice, it is a demonstration aimed at changing the government in
Israel, and changing the government means the return of Bibi
[Netanyahu] and the Likud."

Senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote in Maariv: "[Olmert] is
assured... of losing either way.... If he ... leaves Livni in...
[this] will wear out his strength.... If he dismisses her, he will
bear the responsibility for the greatest internal crisis that Kadima
has known since the war."

Political parties correspondent Yossi Verter wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz: "Yitzhak Rabin said about Shimon Peres that leadership is
not built on whining; by the same token, one can say about Livni
that leadership is not built on cowardice."

Political parties correspondent Sima Kadmon wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "An honest politician
is definitely good news, but it is not enough to run a country."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "Tzipi Livni's 'finest hour' was very
small on Wednesday."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "The
nation now desperately needs new leadership, so that the first steps
on the long road to recovery can be taken."

Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, wrote in The
Jerusalem Post: "The Winograd Report ... sends a message to all of
us, the sovereign people: Never again must Israel be led by people
with no experience in security or defense matters."

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

I. "Time to Get Off the Couch"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (5/3): "If
Israel's citizens have anything to say about the conduct of their
government during last summer's war, then they should vote with
their feet and turn out tonight at the protest rally at [Tel Aviv's]
Rabin Square and demand its resignation.... The protest rally
demanding the resignation of the Prime and Defense Ministers -- and
possibly of the entire cabinet because of its scandalous performance
during the war -- will be a manifestation of free speech and of the
power vested in each of us by Israeli democracy.... Our government
went to war without knowing what it was doing. Moreover, it failed
to perform its minimal duty to try and find out what it was doing.
It must not, therefore, be allowed to rectify its mistakes. All it
can do is apologize to its voters and give itself the boot. Israel
is in the throes of a real crisis. It lacks leadership, deterrence
and a political blueprint. Its citizens have nothing but
indictments against their elected leaders to look forward to. Its
cabinet cannot so much as keep and man the posts its implicated
members are forced to abandon. The seemingly anachronistic protest
measure of a mass demonstration is, all things considered, the least
that must be done.... All those who think the current leadership
should go must take to the square tonight."

II. "Come and Demonstrate"

Meretz-Yahad Party Chairman and Knesset Member Yossi Beilin and
National Union-National Religious Party Knesset Member Effie Eitam
wrote in a joint page one article in the popular, pluralist Maariv
(5/3): "We have never written a joint article. Our approaches on
the way Zionism should be fulfilled are diametrically opposed. We
are on either side of the fence on nearly every issue.... But we
both fear for the future of Israeli society. We both open our eyes
wide in amazement at the behavior of the prime minister, in light of
the Winograd Commission report. We are both convinced that Olmert
has to go, due to his responsibility for the major failure of the
Second Lebanon War. We will both do everything possible within the
democratic rules of the game in order for this to happen.... Today
will be the first test of the people's willingness to regain its
standing as the sovereign in a democratic state, a first and small
step of one evening, in which hundreds of thousands of the state's
citizens will come to the city square to speak their piece. This is
a highly important test of the question whether the State of Israel
is capable of learning the lessons and starting to rectify the
failings revealed and described by the Winograd Commission. We call
upon every citizen, man and woman, no matter what their political
position is, to come today and protect the life's breath of
democracy: The public's right to influence its fate. The people in
the square are the ones who will allow the voice of the people to be
heard within the walls of the collapsing stronghold of 'Ehudgrad.'
This is a legal, moral and democratic step that compels us all.
Many nations have known how to unite in moments when they identified
a severe danger to the foundations of their democracy. The refusal
of the Olmert government to resign is such a formative moment. We
must all rise up and defend the foundations of our shared order,
which allows us to disagree as well. We will be there."

III. "Don't Go to the Square"

Liberal op-ed writer Yael Paz-Melamed commented in Maariv (5/3):
"This evening, in [Tel Aviv's] Rabin Square, where hundreds of
thousands of people will apparently gather, Binyamin Netanyahu will
enthrone himself as Israel's next prime minister. And that is what
will ultimately come out of the Winograd report.... In practice, it
is a demonstration aimed at changing the government in Israel, and
changing the government means the return of Bibi [Netanyahu] and the
Likud.... And the Likud, for those who do not remember, is a right
wing party, in some issues even an extreme right wing party, and
from the entire report, this is what will remain: The return of the
right wing to power. The elimination of any possibility of an
arrangement with the Palestinians. The failure to remove a single
illegal settlement outpost. The continuation of the settlement
momentum. Not to mention the proper management of the country. I
am not saying here that Ehud Olmert should not resign.... The public
protest, however, which failed completely until the publication of
the report, must not focus solely on the personal matter, despite
the fact that this is the only thing that we as a public know how to
do."

IV. "Not a Scaredy-Cat"

Senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote in Maariv (5/3): "[Olmert] is
assured... of losing either way. If he listens to the Kadima
members who seek to keep the government whole and leaves Livni in,
he will have swallowed a bitter pill, which will wear out his
strength. Anyone will be able to manipulate him at will. On the
other hand, if he dismisses her, he will bear the responsibility for
the greatest internal crisis that Kadima has known since the war.
Livni will appear this evening at the mass demonstration in Rabin
Square, and the inevitable move of Olmert's resignation will be
accelerated. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't."

V. "Another Missed Opportunity"

Political parties correspondent Yossi Verter wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz (5/3): "It is unpleasant to see such a senior minister
finding her way amid tangled verbiage meant to get her off the hook
with a vestige of self-respect. Yitzhak Rabin said about Shimon
Peres that leadership is not built on whining; by the same token,
one can say about Livni that leadership is not built on cowardice.
The partial Winograd report, which focused on the beginning of the
Second Lebanon War and was released on Monday, could have been a
turning point in Livni's meteoric career. She had the fate of the
government and of the Prime Minister in her hands. If Livni had
resigned the day after the report was released, it is reasonable to
assume that Olmert would no longer be prime minister -- and Livni
would have become the alternative. Her resignation would have set
off a snowball effect that would have led to Olmert's political
death, or at least critical injury.... Knowing the vengeful Olmert,
he won't let Livni get close to fixing anything. He will drag her
along here and there, and in a few days or a few weeks, he will
perform a mercy killing. Politically speaking, of course....
[Anyway], come August, the government will have to face the greatest
test of all: the final war report."

VI. "All-Talk Tzipi"

Political parties correspondent Sima Kadmon wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (5/3): "Like a rabbi
caught in the headlights, that is how Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
looked [on Wednesday]. Instead of continuing to run, to quickly
cross the road she had chosen, she suddenly stopped and froze in
place. Hesitated. Panicked. Unsure. The problem is that the fate
of such a hesitant rabbit can only be one: it is fated to be run
over. And that is what happened to Livni.... Perhaps for the first
time since her meteoric political rise, her weakness was exposed.
There will be those who say that her fear is her weakness. Her
inability to make decisions and take them all the way. With her yes
and no, her hot and cold, her tea and coffee. or in short: the
Deputy Prime Minister does not have the stones.... An honest
politician is definitely good news, but it is not enough to run a
country."

VII. "Her Smallest Hour"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (5/3): "On Wednesday the great white hope
of Israeli politics was a pale, stammering, agonized, regretful
hope.... It is possible that if Livni had been Israel's prime
minister on July 12, 2006, we would have been spared the Winograd
Commission. But her behavior on Wednesday greatly reduced the
chances that she will be IsraelQs prime minister in the near future.
Hesitancy has many facets, for better and for worse. On Wednesday
it was for worse. Tzipi Livni's 'finest hour' was very small on
Wednesday.... It can also be said in Livni's favor that she did what
she did on Wednesday with the sense that this was an ethical,
conscientious, worthy act. She took the risk of being dismissed by
Olmert.... What kind of distortion would it be for her to be the
only one to resign, while all the others remain in place? Is this
what needs to be done now? LivniQs problem is that the answer is
positive. As Israel's beacon of conscience and political
cleanliness, that is what she should have done. But failed to do."

VIII. "Compounding the Failures"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (5/3):
"The [Winograd] Commission's unadorned and relentless criticisms of
the government's actions leave no confusion as to its views: that
the current leadership is unfit to govern. Its final report,
expected this summer, will likely be even more critical, and, it can
be presumed, will not shy away from explicitly recommending that
Olmert resign. The initial report, though, is already so scathing
that it renders such 'personal recommendations' somewhat redundant.
Even if the commission had been more explicit, it is hard to imagine
a more devastating analysis preceding this conclusion. If there is
something puzzling about the commission's stance, it is its seeming
faith that the same leaders it finds so lacking in a basic sense of
responsibility would have sufficient integrity to draw their own
conclusions and step down. This faith now seems to have been,
perhaps predictably, misplaced.... In this context, Foreign
Minister's Tzipi Livni's stance is notably mystifying and
discrediting. Her public call on Olmert to resign cannot be squared
with her decision to stay in the government in order to fix its
failings. If the government is fixable with Olmert at its helm,
then why should he resign?.... The nation now desperately needs new
leadership, so that the first steps on the long road to recovery can
be taken."

IX. "Lessons of Winograd"

Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, wrote in The
Jerusalem Post (5/3): "The [Winograd] Commission has castigated the
Olmert-Peretz government for crossing this thin line on July 12,
2006 in a reckless, unthinking and irresponsible way. It is for
this that both men should resign. Going to war is always the
ultimate test of political leadership. It is the mark of
sovereignty. It should always be resorted to only as a last resort.
The leadership failed all these benchmarks.... By bringing this out
very clearly, the Winograd Report, with all its justified restraint,
sends a message to all of us, the sovereign people: Never again must
Israel be led by people with no experience in security or defense
matters. This does not mean that only former generals qualify:
Neither Shimon Peres nor Moshe Arens, who both served with
distinction as ministers of defense, were military men, but they
knew what security and defense were about. The Olmert-Peretz team
did not, and they should be relieved of responsibility for our
security, our defense, and our future. "

JONES

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