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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

VZCZCXYZ0013
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #1324/01 1241000
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041000Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0928
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 2105
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 8841
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 2074
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2908
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 2103
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 9970
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 2845
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9741
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0217
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 6823
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 4226
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 9126
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 3318
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 5245
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 6736
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001324

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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Aftermath of Winograd Probe Into 2nd Lebanon War

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

All media reported that, following last night's mass protest rally
at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, which was attended by above 100,000
Israelis, PM Ehud Olmert does not intend to resign, but to fix
failures. The media quoted prominent liberal author Meir Shalev as
saying at the gathering: "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, you said you
worked for us. You are fired!" The Jerusalem Post quoted sources
close to Olmert as saying on Thursday that the key to Olmert
remaining in power lies not with the politicians in his party and
coalition or the masses in the square, but with the five members of
the Winograd Commission. Leading media reported that Olmert's
associates downplayed the demonstration, saying it was irrelevant"
as long as there was no chance of the Knesset unseating the PM. The
Jerusalem Post quoted Olmert associates as saying that the unity
among Right and Left in the square was meaningless if the two sides
could not agree on an alternative to Olmert. Ha'aretz wrote that
Olmert and Kadima leaders fear that the public outcry over the
Winograd report could force the Labor Party to quit the government
even before its primaries at the end of the month. Ha'aretz said
that moves at Labor to abandon Olmert are expanding. Ha'aretz
quoted Olmert's aides as saying on Thursday that the coalition's
test will be its ability to survive until June, when Labor's second
round of primaries is due. Ha'aretz quoted Labor Secretary-General
Eitan Cabel, who resigned from the cabinet this week, as saying that
he would convene the party's central committee on May 13 to vote on
quitting the government. The central committee will be asked to
vote on proposals ruling out a partnership in an Olmert-headed
coalition, but not in a government headed by another Kadima member.
Yediot reported that Meretz-Yahad Chairman Yossi Beilin is working
behind the scenes to replace Olmert with his former close friend,
Vice PM Shimon Peres. According to Yediot, Beilin supports
overthrowing the Olmert government, but he is opposed to new
elections since there is no majority for this in the Knesset.
Beilin prefers that Kadima place Peres at its head -- a step that
would receive the support of the Meretz movement.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a US-Israel strategic dialogue
originally scheduled for this month in Washington has been
postponed, apparently because of the political situation here. The
newspaper reported that FM Livni will leave for a trip to Cairo on
May 10 and host German FM next week, who will also be meeting
Olmert.

Ha'aretz reported that senior Israeli officials fear a confrontation
with Washington over a document of benchmarks it has presented to
Israel and the PA setting a detailed timetable for measures each
side must implement. The document, which Ha'aretz (English Ed.)
prints in full, sets a schedule for removing roadblocks and opening
passages in the territories and upgrading the Palestinian forces
loyal to PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas. Israel is also
urged to approve requests for weapons, munitions and equipment
required by defense forces loyal to Abbas. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice is to arrive on May 15 to discuss implementing the
plan. This morning Israel Radio reported that her visit might be
postponed because of the political situation in Israel. Ha'aretz
said that officials in the defense establishment object to several
issues in the document, especially the demand to expand the
operation of the passages in the Gaza Strip and the removal of many
roadblocks in the West Bank. Ha'aretz cited the belief of those
officials that the benchmarks involve security risks. Ha'aretz said
that Israel has not responded officially to the document and an
inter-ministerial discussion on it was postponed on Thursday.
Olmert's bureau is still waiting for the positions of the defense
establishment, Foreign Ministry and Shin Bet vis-a-vis on the plan.
The document, which Ha'aretz has obtained, sets a rigid timetable
for implementing measures on either side. It was written by the US
security coordinator, Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, US Ambassador to
Israel Richard Jones, and US Consul-General in Jerusalem Jacob
Walles. According to Ha'aretz, it was sent to Washington, where it
was approved by Secretary of State Rice before it was presented to
Israel and the PA. However, both Israel and the PA's official
answer to the document are still pending. Ha'aretz reported that
Palestinian sources told the newspaper that the PA has accepted the
document, but that it fears that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will
sabotage the turning of it into an agreement due to his precarious
political situation. If both sides accept the document, it will
become a binding agreement.

All media reported that on Thursday Secretary Rice met with Syrian
FM Walid Muallem during a regional conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, in
the first high-level talks between the two countries in years. The
Jerusalem Post quoted GOI sources in Jerusalem as saying that there
was nothing in the talks that needed to concern Jerusalem. Asked if
there was any concern that the US would be open to paying for Syrian
cooperation on Iraq in Israeli currency, one senior Israel official
was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post: "Not this US
administration." Yediot quoted Israeli diplomatic officials who
support talks with Syria as saying that Israel can talk with Syria
if the US did so on Thursday.

The Jerusalem Post reported that senior Israeli defense officials
have told the newspaper that Egypt has expressed newfound interest
in allowing Israel to construct a moat along the Philadelphi Route
separating the Sinai desert from the Gaza Strip to combat
Palestinian weapons smuggling.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli defense officials have told
the newspaper that Israel and the Lebanese government are close to
reaching a deal according to which the IDF will completely withdraw
from the northern part of Ghajar, a village straddling the
Israel-Lebanon border.

Ha'aretz printed a Reuters wire report quoting European officials as
saying that the EU and Palestinian Finance Minister have agreed to
start making regular payments to Palestinian workers at the same
time each month. The Jerusalem Post reported that South Africa's
Intelligence Minister, Ronnie Kasrils, on a trip to Gaza, invited
Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh to South Africa,, in what would be
Haniyeh's first trip outside the Muslim world.

The Jerusalem Post cited a report by a Palestinian human rights
group that attacks on Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip by PA security officers and outlaw militiamen increased
significantly last month.

Israel Radio quoted John Rood, Assistant Secretary of State for
International Security and Nonproliferation, as saying on Thursday
that Iran may obtain long-range missiles -- capable of striking the
US -- in eight years. The radio reported that Daniel Fried,
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs,
cited similar intelligence estimates. The Jerusalem Post reported
that on Wednesday the Florida legislation became the first state
government to pass a bill for divestment from Iran. It passed
unanimously, and, with its strong bipartisan backing, is expected to
be signed by the Governor.

Ha'aretz (English Ed.) reported that 93.6 Ram FM, an
English-language radio station based in Ramallah, financed by a
Jewish South African, and licensed by the PA, is now being broadcast
on the Internet (www.ramfm.net). The station aims to provide a
platform for "peaceful dialogue" and includes hourly news updates on
Palestinian and Israeli issues, as well as Western pop music. The
station began its official broadcast two months ago and is based on
the popular South African radio station, 702 Talk Radio, which the
station's founders believe played a key role in the transition from
the country's apartheid regime to democracy.

Ha'aretz (English Ed.) reported that this week Jewish residents of
areas bordering the East Jerusalem village of Jabal Mukaber came out
in support of their Palestinian neighbors with a "concert of hope."
The event was organized with the objective of showing solidarity
with the residents of the Sheikh Sa'ad neighborhood, which may be
cut off from the rest of the village because of the controversial
separation barrier. Pulled together by the Arab-Jewish Center of
Jabal Mukaber, which operates under the slogan "neighbors to
neighbors," the concert and reception drew some 300 people, half
Jewish and half Palestinian.

The Jerusalem Post reported that on Wednesday the judge in the trial
against former AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)
staffers sternly chastised the prosecution for delaying the trial,
after the USG asked for more time to decide how it will proceed in
the case.

Yediot reported that TIME Magazine placed FM Livni on its list of
the "most influential people in the world."

Maariv reported that British intelligence kept watch over then
right-wing leader Menachem Begin for years after the establishment
of Israel.

Maariv reported that "R.," a staffer at Israel's Consulate-General
in New York, took part in homosexual porn films at night while
performing his diplomatic job during the day.

Maariv reported that businessman Lev Leviev has become Israel's
wealthiest man, leaving behind Sheri Arison and the Wertheimer
family.

Maariv printed the results of a TNS/Teleseker Polling Institute
survey:
-"Is military or security experience a necessary condition for
serving as a prime minister in Israel?" Yes: 54 percent; no: 42
percent.
-"Following the publication of the Winograd Commission's report, do

you have confidence in the ability of the IDF to win the next war,
should it break out?" Great confidence: 80 percent; little
confidence: 11 percent; no confidence: 5 percent.

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

Summary:
--------

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"[Thursday night's rally] was ... a plea from across the nation for
the Prime Minister not to impose himself any longer on the people."

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "[Shimon
Peres] must have the courage to bring the tenure of the Prime
Minister to an end, and only then take on the temporary leadership
of the country."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "This is not the crowd that will come and
demonstrate again next week, and the week after, until it topples
the government.... [And] if the demonstrators knew that instead of
Olmert they would get Netanyahu, it is unlikely they would have
come."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv: "Olmert wants to create the impression that he ... will
arrive at the ceremony for his political hanging in August with as
much credit as possible."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz: "In its
convoluted language, the [Winograd] Commission determined that
Israel did not make a serious effort to achieve peace with its
neighbors."

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote in
Ha'aretz: Hassan Nasrallah sized up the situation correctly. He saw
the two fronts against Israel -- Palestinian and Lebanese -- as a
single unit."

Deputy Managing Editor and right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick
wrote in The Jerusalem Post: "If we wish to win the next war,
replacing the government will be insufficient. We also need to dump
the leftist narrative of peace which brought us both our current
crop of failed leaders, and last summer's defeat."

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in Ha'aretz: "Like many
residents of Israel, [senior US officials] waxed nostalgic this
week, more than ever, about the days of Ariel Sharon."

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

I. "A Plea From the People"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (5/4):
"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his backers in Kadima have taken
every failure and criticism and attempted to transform them,
judo-style, into another reason to stay in office. According to
Olmert's logic, Winograd said we failed, so who better than us to
fix the failures? The easy thing, Olmert says, would be to resign,
rather than take responsibility. This is Orwellian. In the real
world, resigning, not clinging to power, is how a leader takes
responsibility for profound failures. Having turned the concepts of
responsibility and accountability on their heads, Kadima is now
trying to do the same for democracy as well.... The masses in the
square last night came from left and right, from the whole width of
the Israeli demographic.... It was ... a plea from across the nation
for the Prime Minister not to impose himself any longer on the
people. In this context, the political Left deserves substantial
credit... [It] urged the public to go [to the rally], knowing that
the consequence could well be a government that, according to their
lights, might move the country in the wrong direction.... The depth
of the crisis has indeed awakened the public from its slumber."

II. "Peres's Responsibility"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (5/4): "The
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who until
Wednesday was seen as the natural successor to Olmert, opted for a
secure spot on the fence.... It is unfortunate that the Vice
Premier, Shimon Peres, joined the choir of ministers holding on to
the bizarre argument that a leader who directed such a failed war is
the right person in a post where every day a decision could be made
to go to war again. According to the Winograd report, Peres was the
only one among the ministers who did not behave like a rubber stamp
to the plans the IDF presented, and he warned that the plan put
forth by then chief of staff Dan Halutz for an offensive against
Hizbullah seemed 'myopic, routine and expected.' The veteran
statesman recommended to look into the broader context of the
operation in the North and respond in a creative way, without
overestimating Israel's power.... The Winograd report confirms the
advantage inherent in Peres' enormous experience. The order of the
day is to stabilize the political system after Olmert is removed.
That is the double challenge facing Peres. He must have the courage
to bring the tenure of the Prime Minister to an end, and only then
take on the temporary leadership of the country."

III. "The Numbers are the Message"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (5/4): "The crowd that arrived last night
at the square [in Tel Aviv] was amazingly democratic, pure
intentioned, and patently unthreatening. People clapped, called
'Olmert resign,' bore signs that were restrained in their language
that were given to them by the organizers or that they prepared at
home, and listened politely to the speeches on the stage. This is
not the kind of crowd that takes to the barricades. This is not the
crowd that will come and demonstrate again next week, and the week
after, until it topples the government. It is odd to say about the
Israeli public, particularly the Israeli public, that it is naove.
And yet, for good and for bad, the people who came to demonstrate
last night were naove. For good, because what they knew about the
war and what they read in the Winograd report, truly offended them.
They wish for a better government, a cleaner, more effective
government. For bad, because the majority of them came without
thinking about what the political outcome of their battle would be.
It is easy to demand the ouster of the Prime Minister but the real
challenge is to change the rules of the game, the political culture,
the quality of government. If the demonstrators knew that instead
of Olmert they would get Netanyahu, it is unlikely they would have
come."

IV. "Olmert's Sigh of Relief"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (5/4): "The Prime Minister takes to heart every single
citizen that went to demonstrate against him. He is not happy. But
on the other and, he also is not over. 'IQll get through this
safely,' Olmert told his aides, but his advisers are still very
worried. They believe that they got through the earthquake, but
that no less dangerous aftershocks can be expected, and that the
minutes of the testimony to the Winograd Commission are the next
shock. According to a few sources, Olmert can expect to be
embarrassed by his harsh criticism of his predecessors, including
Sharon, in his testimony.... Olmert wants to create the impression
that he is implementing the conclusions of the committee with
determination and sensitivity, so that he can arrive at the ceremony
for his political hanging in August with as much credit as possible.
Who knows, may he will able, with this credit, to redeem himself --
if not to the public, at least to a judge."

V. "Don't Give In"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz (5/4): "This is
the most interesting and thought-provoking paragraph in the entire
interim report published by the Winograd Commission: In its
convoluted language, the commission determined that Israel did not
make a serious effort to achieve peace with its neighbors, due to
its faith that it was invincible and that the Arabs would not dare
challenge its military superiority. The commission takes issue with
the premise that has guided Israeli defense policy since 1991 at
least, which is that the era of the big wars is over, and that the
threats of the future are the Iranian nuclear bomb, Katyusha and
Qassam rockets, and suicide bombers.... This week, in the shadow of
the storm, no one was focusing on strategy or diplomatic processes.
But once the political dust settles, and a new government takes hold
in Jerusalem, its leaders ought to give this paragraph of the
Winograd report a careful reading. Perhaps they will learn some
lessons from it for the future."

VI. "The Conspicuously Absent Issue"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote in
Ha'aretz (5/4): "From the [Winograd] report, it emerges that the
Palestinian front imposed constraints on the IDF in its battle with
Hizbullah. In view of the situation in the territories, the IDF
transferred some of its finest infantry units from the North.
Little by little, Israel lost its power of deterrence against
Hizbullah. Even worse, Hizbullah ended up deterring Israel. A kind
of mutual deterrence was created. Israel's warnings to Hizbullah
remained empty threats.... Hassan Nasrallah sized up the situation
correctly. He saw the two fronts against Israel -- Palestinian and
Lebanese -- as a single unit."

VII. "The Fruits of Hizbullah's Victory"

Deputy Managing Editor and right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick
wrote in The Jerusalem Post (5/4): "What comes across most clearly
in the Winograd Report is the commission members' desire to ignore
the fact that the Second Lebanon War was a war of ideas no less than
a war on the battlefield. Last summer Israel had the opportunity to
expose the truth about the nature of the war being fought against
it. It had the opportunity to assert itself as a vital ally of the
US. It had the chance to defeat the leftist narrative of peace
which claims that there is no difference between the IDF and the
terror forces attacking Israeli society and so there is no reason to
seek to defeat them; and which claims that the war against Israel is
not connected to the global jihad. It is too early to know how the
political drama now unfolding in Israel will pan out. But what
Rice's current misdirection of the war on all fronts, and the
emboldening of Israel's enemies and the forces of global jihad
throughout the world show clearly is that last summer Israel lost
two wars, not one. And if we wish to win the next war, replacing
the government will be insufficient. We also need to dump the
leftist narrative of peace which brought us both our current crop of
failed leaders, and last summer's defeat."

VIII. "Reality Overtaken by Events"

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in Ha'aretz (5/4): "The
Prime Minister is the usual and natural choice in the Israeli
government for dealing with the American file. The ambassador to
Washington, Sallai Meridor, is Olmert's emissary; that was made
absolutely clear this week when Meridor, only an hour after his
minister declared that in her opinion Olmert should go home, said at
a public event that he 'personally' actually hopes that Olmert will
survive the crisis. Under these circumstances, and at a time when
the Prime Minister is so weak, the Americans are concerned mainly
about the vacuum that will exist until Olmert's fate is decided,
either way. Livni has an excellent reputation in Rice's office and
among her staff -- at least that is the impression that they are
trying to create -- but not necessarily in other government
departments in the US capital. Senior American officials close to
the leadership, who gossiped this week about events in Israel, did
not conceal a hint of condescension when discussing Livni. Not that
they like Olmert so much: They too, like many residents of Israel,
waxed nostalgic this week, more than ever, about the days of Ariel
Sharon."

JONES

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