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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #2063/01 1861114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051114Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2102
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
RHMFIUU/CNO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 2416
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 9128
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 2456
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 3219
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 2437
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 0375
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 3175
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0048
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0520
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 7111
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 4527
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 9443
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 3613
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 5556
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 7315
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002063

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:
--------------------------------

Mideast

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

Major Israeli media (lead story in The Jerusalem Post) quoted Hamas
spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying on Wednesday that the release of
kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston sends a message to Israel
that the Islamist movement is prepared to strike a deal for abducted
IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit. The Jerusalem Post quoted an official in the
Prime Minster's Office as saying that Israel welcomed Johnston's
safe return, but that "Hamas cannot masquerade as anything else but
the terrorist organization whose members continue to hold our
captive son, Gilad Shalit." Abu Mutfana -- a leader in the Army of
Islam, the group that kidnapped Johnston -- was quoted as saying on
Wednesday in an interview broadcast on Channel 10-TV that Shalit's
kidnappers have transferred him to the custody of Hamas, because the
Army of Islam had been "busy with other things." However, a
Channel 10-TV commentator said that Hamas had offered Abu Mutfana's
group money and weapons in exchange for Shalit. Media reported that
far-right groups demand that Jews who were convicted of murdering
Arabs, or Haggai Amir who conspired with his brother Yigal to
assassinate Yitzhak Rabin, be freed as part of any deal to exchange
terrorists for Shalit.

On Sunday The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli and Palestinian
government officials met on Monday to discuss renewing security
cooperation, which essentially stopped in September 2000. According
to Israeli sources, these talks could lead to a return of security
control over West Bank areas to the PA. On Wednesday, Ha'aretz
reported that IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset's
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that over time PA
Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas and the head of Hamas's political
wing, Khaled Mashal will engage in dialog, and that there will be no
separation between Gaza and the West Bank.

Electronic media reported that IDF troops operating in the Gaza
Strip shot and killed at least four Palestinian gunmen overnight.

Ha'aretz and other major Israeli media quoted several Labor Party
ministers as saying that Wednesday's cabinet reshuffle merely starts
the countdown to the end of PM Ehud Olmert's term, and that newly
appointed Vice Premier Haim Ramon will be the one who will lead the
process. Yediot said that through the reshuffle, Olmert succeeded
in forming the basis for future political struggles.

The electronic media reported that this morning Israel transferred
four Jordanians convicted of murder and sentenced to life
imprisonment back to Jordan, where they will apparently be released
in 18 months. On Wednesday the High Court of Justice rejected a
petition to overrule the cabinet's decision.

On Wednesday Yediot cited a claim by the Syrian government newspaper
Al-Thawra that Syria is preparing for war with Israel this summer.
Earlier this week the Arabic-language Israel newspaper Assennara
also carried this report.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli defense officials told the
newspaper that Hamas's threat to open fire at Palestinians stranded
in Egypt has thwarted Israeli plans to open the Kerem Shalom
crossing to southern Gaza on Wednesday to let the travelers return
to their homes.

The Jerusalem Post quoted a report issued on Wednesday by Gisha, the
Legal Center for Freedom, as saying that the virtual isolation
imposed on the Gaza Strip since Hamas's takeover in June has almost
destroyed the Palestinian economy and that it threatens to turn its
1.4 million residents into charity cases.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a diplomatic source told the
newspaper that Morocco wants to be more active in Middle East
diplomacy and that its ties with Israel have deepened. The source
was talking after the foreign ministers from the two countries met
in Paris on Wednesday.

Citing AP, The Jerusalem Post quoted a "police official" as saying
that Egyptian border guards shot a Sudanese refugee and arrested two
others early on Wednesday as they tried to cross from Egypt into
Israel. Twenty-six other refugees succeeded in illegally crossing
the border.

Maariv reported that former NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, who was
the first man to walk on the moon, will soon visit Israel.

Maariv quoted Spanish authorities as saying on Wednesday that 1,100
rifles and guns were found on board a Nicaragua-bound ship
originating from Haifa and anchoring in a southern Spanish port.

The Jerusalem Post published a Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) wire
report as saying that following a string of conservative rulings in
the closing weeks of this year's US Supreme Court session, some
Jewish officials are suggesting they may be forced to abandon their
decades-long strategy of relying on the courts to protect liberal
gains on a host of issues

The Jerusalem Post printed a JTA wire report that several Jewish
organizations have criticized the US Senate for failing to move
forward on immigration reform.

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

Summary:
--------

Regional correspondent Ronni Shaked wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Abu Mazen called day and night for the
release [of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston], but to no avail. And
now, Hamas was the one that brought about his release."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "No one
-- including the Arab states and Europe, let alone the US -- wants
Hamas to succeed. So why is Israel sustaining Hamastan?"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The strategic environment is not promising
in light of the split in the Palestinian Authority and the American
veto of talks with Syria."

Diplomatic correspondent Uri Yablonka wrote in the popular,
pluralist Maariv: "Israel's aspiration for a diplomatic arrangement
in cooperation with Arab League countries has hit an impasse."

Very liberal columnist Gideon Levy wrote in Ha'aretz: "Would it
occur to anyone to appoint Bush, on his retirement, as an envoy of
the Quartet? Of course not. The same goes for his partner."

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

I. "Hamas's First Accomplishment"
Regional correspondent Ronni Shaked wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/5): "Abu Mazen called day and night for
the release [of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston], but to no avail.
And now, Hamas was the one that brought about his release and is
also arresting drug dealers and restoring personal safety to the
Gaza residents. Johnston was in captivity when Hamas took over the
Gaza Strip. After their victory, the Hamas leaders ordered his
immediate release in order to show the West that it controls the
Gaza Strip.... Hamas's PR display proved itself when both the
British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary praised its critical
role in Johnston's release. Hamas was also aiming for praise from
the old-new guy in the region, Quartet envoy Tony Blair, and the
Europeans, whom they expect to lift the political and economic
siege.... It became known on Wednesday that the British Foreign
Office had requested that Israel allow a Palestinian wanted man who
had found refuge in Jordan -- and who they believed could help the
release efforts -- to enter the West Bank and from there go to Gaza.
Israel agreed. Gaza sources said on Wednesday that despite the
difference between the kidnappings, it should be hoped that
Johnston's release will help advance a deal to release Palestinian
prisoners in return for soldier Gilad Shalit."

II. "Cut Off Hamas"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (7/5):
"The release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston is a happy
occasion, especially given how differently such episodes have ended
in the past. The contrast with another unprovoked kidnapping,
however, could not be more stark: Hamas claims to have made
Herculean efforts to release a hostage it did not hold, yet refuses
to release Gilad Shalit, a hostage it took and does hold. The clear
message Hamas is trying to convey by Johnston's release is that it
is in charge.... The [Israeli] government claims it is doing
everything to secure Shalit's release. That is not true. In
theory, Israel could bomb Gaza until Shalit is released and other
demands are met. This is what other countries, including
democracies, would do without batting an eyelash under similar
circumstances.... We are not suggesting that Israel take actions
that could cause [large] numbers of civilian casualties. But it is
one thing for Israel to decide not to use 'disproportionate' and
lethal force in self-defense and quite another to rule out even the
range of non-lethal measures that our available to defend our
interests.... No one -- including the Arab states and Europe, let
alone the US -- wants Hamas to succeed. So why is Israel sustaining
Hamastan?"
III. "The Government of Broken Dreams"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (7/5): "Someone who needs every cabinet vote
to survive in his seat will not take chances with controversial
decisions. In any case, the strategic environment is not promising
in light of the split in the Palestinian Authority and the American
veto of talks with Syria.... What can be achieved during this
twilight period? The new Olmert government will have to create a
cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza, under the aegis of the vain talk of
'strengthening Abu Mazen' in the West Bank; to rehabilitate the
Israel Defense Forces, while being supremely careful to avoid a
military confrontation with Syria; and to lead a national and
international effort, together with Netanyahu, against the nuclear
threat from Iran. Success will be measured in the preservation of
economic stability and defense and in preventing problems and
escalation on the borders. The initiatives, the changes and
innovation will apparently be left to the next government."

IV. "Prime Minister Willing, But Saudis Admit: Saudi Initiative Is
Dead"

Diplomatic correspondent Uri Yablonka wrote in the popular,
pluralist Maariv (7/4): "Israel's aspiration for a diplomatic
arrangement in cooperation with Arab League countries has hit an
impasse. Senior political sources in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and
Jordan have said in closed conversations with senior Israeli
officials that the Saudi initiative, which Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert had viewed as a basis for an agreement, is dead for now, and
that, in effect, as long as the chaos in the PA continues, there is
no point in pursuing this. These statements were made to senior
political and security officials, in the security establishment and
the Foreign Ministry. These, in effect, complete a series of
indications and previous announcements by these countries in which
they basically dissociate themselves, at least for now, from the
Saudi initiative. According to the new principles of the Arab
governments, Israel should bolster PA Chairman Abu Mazen, and any
multilateral step should have the consent of all the countries in
the Arab League.... Prime Minister [Olmert's] hope was that an
agreement with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia would nail down the
Palestinians and compel them to agree to a peace agreement. This
was on the assumption that the bilateral channel with the
Palestinians would not be making progress. At the beginning of May,
weeks before Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, Foreign Minister Tzipi
Livni visited Cairo, where she met, among others, with President
Hosni Mubarak. The achievement she obtained with him was apparently
dramatic: for the first time, teams led by the foreign ministers of
Egypt and Jordan would come to Israel, in their roles as
representatives of all the Arab League countries. Since then,
officials in Israel have been waiting for the teams to arrive, but
the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the new political situation of two
Palestinian states, an extreme one in Gaza and a moderate one in
Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank], changed the situation....
According to Israel's analysis, Saudi Arabia is concerned that the
isolation of Hamas and the continued boycott against it will further
increase the alliance between Hamas and Iran. Because of concern
over this alliance, the Saudis are completely removing their
involvement in the process on the grounds that the right strategy
must be a warm embrace between Fatah and Hamas and not the
opposite."

V. "Blair Go Home"

Very liberal columnist Gideon Levy wrote in Ha'aretz (7/5): "George
Bush's international failures are also Blair's. Blair's beguiling
smile cannot mitigate his responsibility for the state of the world
and for the pointless bloodshed fanned by the fatal Bush-Blair duo.
Just as nobody would dream of expecting Bush, who is obstinately
preventing any progress with Syria, to act for peace in the Middle
East, nobody would expect his all too loyal ally to do so. Would it
occur to anyone to appoint Bush, on his retirement, as an envoy of
the Quartet? Of course not. The same goes for his partner."

JONES

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