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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #1644/01 1571026
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P 061026Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 2276
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 0170
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RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9891
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RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 6970
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 4379
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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

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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1. Mideast

2. G-8 Summit, June 6-8

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Key stories in the media:
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All media led with the possibility that a military confrontation
with Syria might break out this summer. The media reported that
this morning the security cabinet will hold a discussion on the
Syrian and Lebanese borders and the likelihood of war in the north.
Ha'aretz reported that the majority view in IDF Intelligence holds
that Syrian President Bashar Assad is well placed to carry out a
surprise attack on the Golan Heights, but that he is unlikely to
initiate a war. The Jerusalem Post reported that Defense Minister
Amir Peretz expressed a similar view on Tuesday. Israel Radio
quoted a senior GOI source as saying that Israel is conveying
messages to Syria through various avenues that Israel is not
interested in war. The source was quoted as saying that Syria is
speeding up its arming. Both Yediot and Maariv bannered ongoing
comments by PM Ehud Olmert that idle talk and bragging by senior
Israeli military commanders that Israel would win in a confrontation
with Syria must stop. Israel Radio said that a senior Israeli
military source concurred with Olmert.

This morning Israel Radio quoted a senior aide of PA Chairman
[President] Mahmoud Abbas as saying that a scheduled meeting on
Thursday between PM Olmert and Abbas has been postponed because the
sides have not smoothed out a number of issues. All media had
reported that Olmert would meet with Abbas in PA territory on
Thursday -- apparently in Jericho. Yediot noted that this would be
the first time since the signing of the Oslo Agreement that an
Israeli prime minister meets with a PA chairman in a Palestinian
city. Yediot reported that Israel will offer the Palestinians a
thaw in fund freezing and the lifting of roadblocks, but that it
will decline a cease-fire with Hamas. Maariv reported that Olmert
is expected to give up his demand that Abbas act to obtain the
release of abducted IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit. The Jerusalem Post
quoted Abbas as saying on Tuesday that he is working to achieve a
truce between the Palestinians and Israel. Maariv reported that on
Tuesday Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called Olmert to discuss
all current diplomatic issues.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a high-level Israeli delegation
will meet with officials in Washington this week and demand that
restrictions be placed on the proposed US sale of state-of-the-art
weaponry to Saudi Arabia. The talks are expected to center on the
US decision to sell Joint Direct Attack Munition satellite-guided
"smart bombs" to Saudi Arabia. The sale has caused consternation in
Jerusalem over concerns that it could tip the balance of power in
the region. The newspaper reported that, if the sale does go
through, Israel has expressed interest in acquiring the F-22 stealth
bomber -- a plane that can avoid radar detection and is the world's
most advanced fighter jet -- to maintain its qualitative edge.
Israel is to be represented at the talks by Defense Ministry
Diplomatic-Military Bureau head Amos Gilad and IDF Planning
Directorate head Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan. The US team is to be
headed by Beth McCormick, the Acting Deputy Under Secretary of
Defense for Technology Security Policy and National Disclosure
Policy, and the Director of the Defense Department's Defense
Technology Security Administration.

Ha'aretz reported that on Tuesday the Association for Civil Rights
in Israel sent a letter to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to
protest the "dangerous and unprecedented step" of revising a Basic
Law in a bid to circumvent a High Court of Justice decision. The
court overturned the Intifada Law, which exempts the state from
compensating Palestinians for damage caused in the course of
non-combat activities in the territories. Friedmann wants to
reinstate it.

Ha'aretz reported that on Tuesday the Knesset's House Committee
decided to establish a special committee to discuss a bill that
would require a national referendum to be held before any withdrawal
from areas under Israeli sovereignty, even in the absence of a Basic
Law to determine the referendum procedures. Ha'aretz commented that
the initiative, sponsored by former coalition whip MK Avigdor
Yitzhaki (Kadima), is significant in the context of the public
debate over whether to enter into peace negotiations with Syria,
which wants Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel is considering demanding that UN
(UNIFIL) forces be stationed north of the Litani River in Lebanon.

Ha'aretz reported that Foreign Ministry Director General Aharon
Abramovitch secretly visited Morocco recently, meeting with the
country's Foreign Minister to discuss the Arab peace initiative.
During Abramovitch's flash visit of just a few hours, he also met
with other senior ministry officials. Abramowitz told his hosts
that while Israel agreed to certain clauses, it has reservations on
other aspects of the plan, such as the clause pertaining to the
refugee problem. In addition to the peace initiative, Abramovitch
discussed the situation in the PA. Abramovitch also requested that
his Moroccan colleagues consider reopening their liaison office to
Israel, which was closed in 2000 after the second Intifada broke
out. Ha'aretz noted that, despite this, Morocco has maintained
low-level diplomatic relations with Israel throughout the period.

Ha'aretz quoted senior Israeli defense officials as saying on
Tuesday that the evacuation of settlers from a Palestinian home in
Hebron will be deferred for a long time, if it takes place at all.
The media reported that, on the same day, a gathering of about 200
Peace Now demonstrators took place in the city to mark the 40th
anniversary of the outbreak of the Six-Day War. The Jerusalem Post
reported a joint demonstration of Israelis and Palestinians took
place at the Anata refugee camp north of Jerusalem to use the 40th
anniversary of the Six-Day War to host a binational peace event.

This morning IDF Radio reported that the Amana settlement movement
is constructing about 100 new housing units in the West Bank, most
of which have already been sold. These units were already approved
by the GOI several years ago, but the decision was never
implemented. IDF Radio quoted political sources as saying that the
construction of the units contradicts promises made by officials in
Jerusalem to officials in Washington to stop construction in the
area.

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported that on Tuesday the Knesset's
Finance Committee approved a 2.4 million shekel (around USD 590,000)
allocation for protecting medical institutions in communities near
the Gaza Strip, including Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital.

The Jerusalem Post quoted senior employees of the Israeli
Consulate-General in New York as saying in a letter sent this week
that new budget cuts at the Consulate-General will critically reduce
the office's "hasbara" (advocacy) efforts.

Last night Israel TV disclosed an alleged bribery affair surrounding
the Labor Party primaries in the Galilee city of Safed and involving
Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz. Peretz
denied the report.

Ha'aretz quoted the United Arab List (Ra'am-Ta'al) party as saying

on Tuesday that it will support the candidate for Israel's
presidency who agrees to release Israeli Arab security prisoners.

Leading media quoted Mahmoud Abbas as sayng on Tuesday that
Palestinians are on the verge of civil war and that the in-fighting
is worse than Israeli military rule.

All media quoted President Bush as saying in Prague on Tuesday that
he would explain to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that
there is no reason for Russia to be afraid of the stationing of a US
anti-missile base in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Lehman Brothers has rated Israel as
having the lowest vulnerability of risk of a financial threat among
emerging market economies. The newspaper reported that the global
investment bank, headquartered in New York City, cautioned that
political and monetary risks were on the rise. The Jerusalem Post
reported that this week Steve Forbes, businessman and Chief Editor
of Forbes Magazine, raised high hopes for the growth potential of
the Israeli economy if liberalization reforms are continued and
taxes lowered. Forbes was speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv
celebrating the third anniversary of the Forbes Israel Hebrew
Magazine. On Tuesday Steve Forbes received an honorary degree from
Haifa University.

The Jerusalem Post cited an announcement made on Tuesday by Elbit
Systems Ltd., an Israeli maker of military products, that it won an
order of about USD 18.5 million from the US Marine Corps for
handheld military computers

In The Jerusalem Post, Yehuda Avner, who was on the staff of five
Israeli prime ministers, described the start of the US-Israeli
alliance at the time of the Six-Day War.

Yediot cited concerns in Israel that basil grown in Israel, exported
to Britain, and disseminated from there to other European countries
was deliberately tainted with the salmonella bacteria. The
herb-contamination affair was reported by all media on Tuesday.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israel Broadcasting Authority's
Management Committee will vote next Monday on a cost-cutting
emergency plan that would close most Israel TV and Israel Radio
programs, including the IBA News in English and the English radio
news.

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

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "Both the Syrian President and the
Israeli Prime Minister have been playing a dangerous game with one
another in the past few months."

Prof. Uzi Arad, the Director of the Institute for Policy and
Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center, who was a senior advisor
to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Not only is a full
Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights not in Israel's best
interests, but on this matter Israel is also supported by a
long-standing American commitment, which has been reaffirmed by
Bush."

Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Ties between [Syria and Iran]
have been strengthened, and Israeli intelligence sources describe
this as a strategic alliance."

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized: "The
Israeli player is required to give up real assets, while the Arab
player is required to give words."

Defense and foreign affairs columnist Amir Oren wrote in Ha'aretz:
"The pot boiling under the [Egyptian] regime is threatening -- if it
boils over -- to throw the lid off, and with it, also the peace with
Israel."

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

I. "Dangerous Game"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (6/6): "Both the Syrian President and the
Israeli Prime Minister have been playing a dangerous game with one
another in the past few months.... The reinforcement of the
Damascus-Tehran axis is the greatest cause for concern in the
security establishment and political echelon in Israel....
Therefore, any American or international escalation vis-`-vis Tehran
could cause a second front to be opened against us. It will start
with rockets by Hizbullah and continue with war against Syria, in
parallel. All this is converging, so it is said, towards the coming
summer.... It is necessary to cool things off, to moderate. We have
to calm matters and be silent for a while. The Syrians are
threatening? Let them threaten. There is need for composure. They
have already received, say Olmert's aides, a great many messages
that Israel is not interested in war with them. They have been
receiving such messages almost every week. But the panic is also
unnecessary. Olmert is conducting indirect, distant, covert talks
with the Syrians.... The Americans are in the picture, and a Syrian
figure there is also playing a role in this game: Syrian Ambassador
in Washington Imad Mustafa, one of the people closest to Syrian
President Bashar Assad, is also involved. Sources close to Olmert
deny involvement or direct talks with Mustafa, but sources related
to the talks believe that the man, who is an enthusiastic supporter
of negotiations with Israel, is in the picture and updating the
President in Damascus.... The Americans have not yet formulated a
final opinion on the Israeli-Syrian channel. Their efforts to
revive President Bush's vision and create an achievement on the
Palestinian front before the term ends is in contravention of an
Israeli-Syrian effort. The question is whether Olmert will come to
Washington after having made up his mind and knowing what he wants,
or whether he will let the president decide for him."

II. "Neither Under Fear Nor Under Fire"

Prof. Uzi Arad, the Director of the Institute for Policy and
Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center, who was a senior advisor
to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (6/6): "The Syrian
option has been in the air since the Second Lebanon War ended. It
was recently reported that the Prime Minister is also examining it,
and it was recently stated in the media that military officials, no
less, are urging Israel to hold negotiations for fear of a military
deterioration if this is not done. If the reports are true, then
the diplomatic option with Syria is now being considered for poor
reasons.... A lasting agreement with Syria requires conditions that
do not currently exist: Firstly, there must be real indications that
Syrian willingness for negotiations indeed reflects a change in its
real agenda. Secondly, in order to make sure that the entire burden
of negotiating, including the concessions, does not fall on Israel,
there is a need for partners, mainly the US and Europe. Thirdly, an
understanding is needed that previous formulae for an arrangement
are no longer binding, and that an arrangement requires flexibility
on Syria's part regarding the outline for a territorial arrangement

on the Golan Heights. Not only is a full Israeli withdrawal from
the Golan Heights not in Israel's best interests, but on this matter
Israel is also supported by a long-standing American commitment,
which has been reaffirmed by Bush.... Negotiations should not be
begun under fear or under fire. This is also the reason that Syria
must cease its indirect war against Israel by means of Hamas and
Hizbullah. International diplomacy is required here, to form a
coalition that will find the incentives and rewards to bring about
the necessary strategic turnabout on SyriaQs part, and so that the
burden of concessions does not fall entirely on Israel. Therefore,
the solutions that can lead to future effective negotiations with
Syria are regional and international."

III. "Fear of Escalation Tops IDF's Agenda"

Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (6/6): "On Tuesday Israel
contributed to the growing tension with Syria through a series of
statements by senior members of the defense establishment.....
Senior IDF officers told Ha'aretz on Tuesday that the threat of an
escalation with Syria is at the top of the Chief of Staff's
agenda.... However, the officers noted, there is no definitive
intelligence backing this. 'There are two possible scenarios,'
explained one officer. 'One is that the chief of staff is trying to
expedite preparation of the forces just in case. The other is that
he has received troubling intelligence that has not been released to
the rest of the senior officers.' Israel's concerns stem from
several developments that have taken place in the Syrian army since
the Second Lebanon War. Syria is in the midst of an effort to
strengthen its forces, at all levels, through multibillion-dollar
arms procurements, mostly funded by Iran. Ties between the two
countries have been strengthened, and Israeli intelligence sources
describe this as a strategic alliance. Senior officials from
Damascus and Tehran have held frequent meetings lately."

IV. "Playing With Fire"

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (6/6):
"The Prime Minister's associates say that he is vacillating between
the Syrian and the Palestinian tracks. He will soon decide which
course to take.... The Prime Minister knows that both tracks lead to
stalemate. A Hamas government is ruling in the Palestinian
Authority. Olmert himself has sworn not to have any contacts with
it -- and rightly so.... As regards the Syrian track, Bashar Assad,
like Olmert, is interested in talks but not in results.... But this
game is not symmetrical. The Israeli player is required to give up
real assets, while the Arab player is required to give words....
Above all, this is not a game. The volley of Qassam rockets that
poured on Sderot over the past month was only a reminder of the fact
that Israel has paid an awful price for the spin culture. One
should say 'Enough!' to those who play with Israel's fate."

V. "When the Lid Is Afraid of the Pot"

Defense and foreign affairs columnist Amir Oren wrote in Ha'aretz
(6/6): "The view that Egypt is a moderate, peace-seeking country is
an optical illusion. Cairo, which purchased its ticket to Washington
through Jerusalem, is once again not thrilled to be part of the camp
affiliated with the Americans. The Egyptian people, who are not
eager to get involved directly in a war, are instead encouraging war
from the sidelines.... Opinion polls show that Egypt -- the largest
Arab state, with the most advanced and powerful military -- is also
the most hostile to Israel, the United States and the West. This is
not a matter of hairsplitting interpretation or passing trends: The
data are unequivocal, and as frightening as a storm of religious
fanaticism and prejudice.... The pot boiling under the regime is
threatening -- if it boils over -- to throw the lid off, and with
it, also the peace with Israel. The resulting security tensions
will not immediately escalate or lead to a new war, a sixth war,
between the two countries. But there will be no deeper, broader
peace than the one that currently reigns on our southwestern
border."

-------------------------
2. G-8 Summit, June 6-8:
-------------------------

Summary:
--------

Correspondent Lior Kodner wrote from Hamburg in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The impression that one gets at the start of
the [G-8 Summit is that of a free-for-all."

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

"Everybody Against Everybody"

Correspondent Lior Kodner wrote from Hamburg in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (6/6): "The impression that one gets at the
start of the [G-8 Summit is that of a free-for-all.... If it had
appeared, following the September 11 attacks in the United States,
that the international community was adopting the slogan 'One for
all, all for one,' the current motto is 'Everyone against everyone.'
It is fortunate that the Middle East, at least, is not presently
the focus of the agenda.."

CRETZ

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