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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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P 261251Z NOV 07
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SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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Annapolis Conference

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

The Jerusalem Post banners: "Peace Summit around the Corner, but
Deep Rifts Still Remain." All media (banners in Ha'aretz and
Maariv) quoted PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as
saying on the eve of the Annapolis conference that a joint
declaration with the Palestinians is not needed. Ha'aretz quoted
sources close to Olmert as saying that the theme of Olmert's address
on Tuesday at Annapolis will be the necessity of the implementation
of the Roadmap and terminating terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip,
as it is an inseparable part of the plan's first stage. The sources
were quoted as saying that Olmert will also say that the time has
come to move forward with peace talks and reach an agreement.
According to the sources, Olmert will call on the Arab nations to
establish diplomatic relations with Israel as Jordan and Egypt have.
He will also call on them to actively advance negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians. Leading media reported that on Sunday
the Palestinian delegation abruptly ended a meeting with FM Tzipi
Livni at the residence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Commenting on Syria's decision to send a delegation to the
conference -- all media reported that it is sending its Deputy FM,
Faisal Mekdad -- sources close to PM Ehud Olmert told Ha'aretz that
the decision "is demonstrative of which camp the Syrians want to
belong to: moderates, as opposed to radicals." Maariv summed up
Syrian President Bashar Assad's understanding with the U.S. that
"the Syrians will talk and the Israelis -- shut up." Maariv quoted
the Iranian news agency as saying on Sunday that Assad and Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed during a phone conversation
that Annapolis will fail. Leading media cited the belief of PM
Olmert and FM Livni that Syria should attend the Annapolis meeting
but that the word "Golan" should not be uttered at the conference.
On Sunday, Ha'aretz quoted U.S. officials as saying that the Bush
administration has decided to invite Syria to Annapolis due to
Israel's September air strike on an alleged Syrian nuclear facility.
The officials were quoted as saying that the strike had weakened
Syria.
Banners read in Ha'aretz (English Ed.): "Olmert to Tell Bush: We
Will Not Allow Iranians to Develop Nuclear Weapons" and Yediot:
"Olmert: Let Us Unite against Iran."

All media reported that the police and IDF forces have been placed
on the highest Level of alert for the duration of the conference.

Ha'aretz quoted Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa as saying
that the league's decision to send its foreign ministers to
Annapolis does not mean normalizing relations with Israel.

Yediot and other media reported that Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and
IDF Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin have recently warned the
political echelon that the schedule they say the U.S. wants to
dictate to Israel and the Palestinians -- reaching a
permanent-status agreement within a year -- is dangerous for Israel.
Leading media quoted former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon as
saying on Sunday before the right-wing group "One Jerusalem" that an
Israeli concession of neighborhoods in Jerusalem would leave the
Knesset building and the Western wall exposed to Qassam rocket
fire.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney criticized the timing of Annapolis and said
the Palestinians have not taken the steps necessary for peace.

On Sunday Channel 10-TV reported that former Labor Party head and
former defense minister MK Amir Peretz twice visited imprisoned
Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. The TV station reported that Peretz
spoke to him about the Annapolis conference and a possible peace
agreement with the Palestinians.

Ha'aretz reported that four Palestinians were killed in clashes with
the IDF on Sunday in the territories.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masri Al-Yawm
as saying that in recent days Russia, Iran, and the U.S. have
offered Egypt help in developing a nuclear program.

On Sunday Yediot reported that Israel's credit rating by Standard &
Poor's and Fitch, two of the biggest international credit rating
companies, will almost certainly be raised at the beginning of 2008,
for the first time in 13 years. Yediot and Maariv reported on a
predicted 6.1% growth in Israel's economy for 2007 (6.6% in the
business sector) -- the largest growth in the West.
---------------------
Annapolis Conference:
---------------------

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The main message of this week's
summit at Annapolis will be that the United States is back as a
leader in the Middle East.... Now Israel is once more on the side of
the powerful."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "The Annapolis conference is already
behind us. George Bush can put a check mark in his diary, a lone,
rare diplomatic victory in a miserable, unproductive presidential
record."

Deputy diplomatic correspondent Uri Yablonka wrote in Maariv:
"[Annapolis] will be a conference at the end of which the good old
Roadmap will be waiting, because anything beyond that will only tie
Israel's hands in the future."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: " If the so-called
'moderate' Arab states now consider blocking Iran an existential
matter, they must fundamentally change their attitude towards
Israel."

Washington correspondent Orly Azolai wrote in Yediot Aharonot: "On
Tuesday the United States will declare the end of the conflict: The
conflict between it and the Arab world, which has lasted for almost
all of Bush's term of office. The other conflicts can wait, as far
as they are concerned."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "The inclusion of Syria [in the Annapolis
conference] under Arab pressure is an important move, and so is the
necessity of viewing the Arab countries as holding a promise of a
comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "Syria is still skillfully
sitting on the fence, likely to benefit from just coming to the
conference, but at the same time not going to the conference in a
manner that would cut it off from their friends in Gaza City, Beirut
and -- most importantly -- Tehran."

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

I. "Back on the Block"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (11/25): "The main message of
this week's summit at Annapolis will be that the United States is
back as a leader in the Middle East. When President George W. Bush
stands before an audience of representatives of Middle Eastern
countries at a summit he is hosting to promote Israeli-Palestinian
peace, the message will be that when the U.S. calls, the world sides
with it. Only a year ago, a pessimistic theory of America's decline
as a leading power in the Middle East dominated Washington.... Now
Bush is launching a counterstrike.... If [Syria] shows up [at
Annapolis], this will be a major victory for U.S. diplomacy, which
will have restored Syria to legitimacy after several years of
pressure and isolation. From Israel's point of view, the impressive
representation of the Arab states and international community at
Annapolis is encouraging. Israel is supremely interested in America
appearing as the strongest power in the region, not Iran. The
American losses in the Middle East reflected badly on Israel, which
suddenly appeared weak and exposed to Iranian threats. Now Israel
is once more on the side of the powerful."

II. "Bush Has Already Won"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (11/26): "The Annapolis conference is
already behind us. George Bush can put a check mark in his diary, a
lone, rare diplomatic victory in a miserable, unproductive
presidential record.... All eyes here are turned to the President's
speech, on Tuesday at 6 P.M. Will he utter the 'rude words' that
everybody is talking about inside the room but not outside? Will he
explain what he meant when he spoke about 'two states,' will he
define the Palestinian state, will he desecrate the holy and declare
that 'greater Jerusalem will be the capital of two states?' It is
reasonable to assume that at the last minute the President of the
U.S., a true and deeply-rooted sympathizer of Israel, will not
overly embarrass Olmert.... The person who has been making great
efforts over the past few days to create a joint declaration
nonetheless is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. As this is her
mission, she is trying to fulfill it. Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak
have been saying for some time that no one has to rack their brains,
or break up the coalition, for such a declaration. They care more
about Bush's speech -- what it will include, and mainly what it
won't. Therefore, the declaration is almost extraneous."

III. "Israel: Back to the Roadmap"

Deputy diplomatic correspondent Uri Yablonka wrote in Maariv
(11/25): "The Palestinians demanded a peace conference in Annapolis
where they would hear about far-reaching, historic concessions which
would make it possible for the conflict to be ended within six
months. Olmert and Livni, who saw this as a threat to eliminate
Israel itself, preferred to stay at home in Jerusalem. In the end
the two sides met in the middle of the road. Israel and 39 other
states will take part in the meeting with the Palestinians in
Annapolis, but in practice it has been ensured that the event will
be of a purely declarative nature, without unconditional
commitments and without signing of papers. It will be a conference
at the end of which the good old Roadmap will be waiting, because
anything beyond that will only tie Israel's hands in the future.
Official Israel is participating in Bush's festivity, but in effect
all it wants is to return home safely."

IV. "Annapolis, the End of all Ends"

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin, opined on page one of the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/25): "A glance at the files in the
cellars of history will reveal that we could have remained with a
reasonable, moderate and friendly regime, albeit Jordanian, in Judea
and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank], and with all of Jerusalem Jewish,
or almost all of it, and with a full peace with Syria (probably
without the Golan Heights, or with the Golan Heights leased for
generations) and so on and so forth. Many questions will then be
asked, and the hardest question of all will be: If this is what we
have accomplished in 40 to 45 years, for what purpose did we kill
and -- in particular -- get killed? Why did we waste so much of the
resources of two generations in human capital and money? What
appears today to a substantial part of the population as a 'national
tragedy,' will be the heart's desire of the same population in one
year, five years or a decade. That is what Menachem Begin, Shimon
Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ehud Barak understood, and apparently Bibi
Netanyahu and Arik Sharon also, that same Arik Sharon, the 'greatest
of all' in the eyes of many, who created the 'settlement miracle,'
and that is what Ehud Olmert also understands today, and that is
what everybody understands when he sits in that high throne at
number 3 Balfour Street, Jerusalem. And therefore Annapolis this
week is another step up, just one, in the multi-storey building,
where the dead bodies of the holy and pure are lying on each step,
illuminating and warning like the glow of the heavens."

V. "Djellabah Chase" [NB: A djellabah is a robe worn by men in the
Middle East and North Africa.]

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/26): "The most
important state at the Annapolis conference is the one that is not
participating: Iran.... The consent of several dozen Arab and Muslim
governments to participate in the conference is less related to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and much more to their fear of the
Iranian nuclear program and the threat of Islamic movements to their
regimes.... In the past, the Saudis, like other regimes in the oil
states, preferred to buy off their enemies rather than fight
them.... Iran cannot be bought by the Saudis. In order to block it,
they need America.... Israel does not need such empty gestures. If
the so-called 'moderate' Arab states now consider blocking Iran an
existential matter, they must fundamentally change their attitude
towards Israel.... When they need to, the Saudis know how to show
flexibility.... The time has come for them to openly acknowledge
Israel's existence, its status in the region and its balancing power
against Iran. If they do not do so -- it is their problem. There
is no need, and no point, to the Israeli djellabah chase."

VI. "Condi's Party"

Washington correspondent Orly Azolai wrote in Yediot Aharonot
(11/26): "Now, after all the invitees have confirmed their
attendance, the Bush administration can take pride in the show of
strength it has put together. Washington considers the conference a
real achievement: Annapolis has returned the US to the center of the
map as a strong world power that cannot be disregarded. On Tuesday
the United States will declare the end of the conflict: The conflict
between it and the Arab world, which has lasted for almost all of
Bush's term of office. The other conflicts can wait, as far as they
are concerned."

VII. "The Price of Arab Inclusion"

Ha'aretz editorialized (11/26): "The inclusion of the Arabs [in the
Annapolis conference] requires Israel to deal seriously with the
Syrian track. This is a significant Arab attempt to pull Syria out

of the circle of 'rejectionist states,' as the U.S. administration
calls them, and bring it into the fold of nations ready to team up
with moderate Arab states, against the Iranian threat. It is
advised not to mix these two matters.... The Annapolis summit per se
may not produce more than a declaration of intent. But placing it
firmly on the Arab agenda, and not only on the Israeli-Palestinian
agenda, is essential for it to continue. The invitation of the
parties to carry on the dialogue in Egypt is a proper first step.
The inclusion of Syria under Arab pressure is an important move, and
so is the necessity of viewing the Arab countries as holding a
promise of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

VIII. "Syrian Mugwumps in Chesapeake Bay"

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (11/26): "By sending
[Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal] Mekdad [to Annapolis], Damascus is
trying to dance at all weddings. Syria is signaling to the U.S. that
it wants to be within the mainstream Arab consensus and should be
taken off the 'axis of evil' list.... But the Syrians are also
sending a message to the Iranians, to Hamas and Hizbullah -- all of
whom did not want to see the Arab countries attend the Annapolis
conference -- that by sending a lower-level representation, their
heart is really not in the conference. In other words, a day before
the long-awaited Annapolis event, Syria is still skillfully sitting
on the fence, likely to benefit from just coming to the conference,
but at the same time not going to the conference in a manner that
would cut it off from their friends in Gaza City, Beirut and -- most
importantly -- Tehran."

MORENO

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