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Cablegate: Israel First Reaction: Annapolis Good Start, But

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OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #3377 3321231
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281231Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4354
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 003377

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAL IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL FIRST REACTION: ANNAPOLIS GOOD START, BUT
DIFFICULTIES REMAIN

1. The day after the international conference in Annapolis,
most Israelis view the event as a success but still think the
difficulties in achieving peace are too great to overcome,
especially before the end of 2008. Newspapers have devoted
most of their front page and large internal sections to the
event, but no one seemed to rush home last night to see the
speeches, and the television stations quickly returned to
their regular programming when the three opening statements
were done. However, there are already signs of a growing
thread of optimism on the street; the lack of enthusiasm
appears to stem from public weariness after past
disappointments. Overall, the event bolstered U.S. prestige,
achieved broad Arab attendance, and elicited rage from the
Iranians and other extremists-- all significant positives for
most Israelis.

2. Many Israelis feel that Annapolis was theater, while the
most cynical think Prime Minister Olmert is only engaging in
this show to buy himself more time in the face of the
still-looming Winograd final report and several criminal
investigations. This includes an announcement expected this
week on whether the Prime Minister will be indicted for
alleged improprieties in the privatization of Bank Leumi
while he was Finance Minister. Most observers think that by
agreeing to the 2008 timeframe for an agreement, Olmert has
deftly secured another year in office and kept Labor chairman
Ehud Barak in the governing coalition despite Barak's
promises to leave when Winograd is released.

3. For its part, the political right wasted little time in
mobilizing against the Annapolis event. Danny Dayan, chairman
of the settler's council, vowed to fight concessions on land
with every means available, while a Likud spokesperson
immediately called for right-wing parties SHAS and Yisrael
Beiteinu to quit the governing coalition. SHAS party
chairman Eli Yishai released a statement within hours of
Olmert's speech on Tuesday night calling it "fantasy," and
underlining that real concessions cannot be made until terror
ends, there is no more incitement in Palestinian schools, and
Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He added
that SHAS spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia has made it clear
that SHAS must quit the coalition if any move is made to
divide Jerusalem.

4. Yisrael Beiteinu leader and Minister for Strategic
Threats Avigdor Lieberman called the statements in Annapolis
"pitiful" and said it was a sign of how difficult final
status talks will be. However, Lieberman, like SHAS, said
that Annapolis was not significant enough to warrant leaving
the coalition. Lieberman called instead for Israel to deal
with its most immediate threat by mounting a major military
operation into Gaza.

5. Even those who see Annapolis as theater admitted it was
good theater, with broad attendance from the Arab world and
an unexpected joint statement that laid out the way forward.
The images in the Israeli media showed strong American
leadership, Arab foreign ministers listening to Olmert and
sitting alongside Foreign Minister Livni, and Syria in
attendance but marginalized. Before the conference, polls
indicated most Israelis favored peace, but over 60 percent
thought the Annapolis conference would do nothing to achieve
that peace. Now, the Israeli public seems to see Annapolis
as a positive development that will start a real process,
even if they believe the obstacles to peace will remain
immutable.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************
MORENO

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