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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0114/01 0141242
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P 141242Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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HQ USAF FOR XOXX
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PARIS ALSO FOR POL
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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Leading media reported that PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud
Barak are at loggerheads over the evacuation of West Bank outposts.
Ha'aretz reported that sources close to Barak told the newspaper
that Barak has reached an agreement with leaders of the settlement
movement for the peaceful evacuation of 18 outposts in the West
Bank. The sources warned that PM Olmert's "rash" intention to
forcefully uproot an outpost near Ramallah may jeopardize the deal.
Olmert himself said Sunday that not evacuating outposts was
"disgraceful." Ha'aretz quoted Barak's office as saying that the
negotiations with the settler leaders involved 26 outposts which
were set up since March 2001. For its part, The Jerusalem Post
reported that senior defense officials close to Barak accused Olmert
of holding up a detailed plan to remove them.

On Sunday The Jerusalem Post quoted PM Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev
as saying on Saturday that Israel and the U.S. are "on the same page
regarding the gravity of the Iranian nuclear threat and their
commitment to thwart it. On Sunday Maariv reported that President
Bush concluded his visit to Israel without receiving any of the
information that is known here about IranQs efforts to develop
nuclear weapons -- because officials in the political echelon and
security establishment do not want to appear to be pushing the
Americans into military action. Yediot reported that late this
month Israel and the U.S. will reassess their joint policy vis-a-vis
the Iranian threat and discuss means to intensify sanctions against
Iran. The teams will be headed by Transportation Minister Shaul
Mofaz and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas
Burns.

Ha'aretz reported that ahead of the meeting between PM Ehud Olmert
and Vice Premier Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday, which is meant to
clarify Lieberman's threat to leave the coalition if core issues are
discussed, sources close to Olmert dismissed any substantive
differences between the two. Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post
reported that PM Olmert renewed efforts to bring United Torah
Judaism into his coalition last week as a hedge in case Lieberman
should leave. Ha'aretz wrote that Sunday's announcement that
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and PA chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei
would begin talks on the core issues, suggests that Olmert is not
impressed by Lieberman's threats.

On Sunday Maariv quoted reliable Palestinian and Egyptian sources
close to the negotiations as saying that in the near future, Israel
is supposed to carry out a dramatic confidence building measure by
freeing a large group of Hamas prisoners "with blood on their hands"
in order to move forward the deal to release Gilad Shalit. This
group of 80 to 100 prisoners were included on the original list of
prisoners that Hamas gave to Israel.

Israel Radio quoted PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas as saying
on Sunday that the Palestinian refugees are only visitors in the
Arab countries, and that they should be returned to their homeland.

Major media reported that in a raid in the Gaza Strip -- near the
home of Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh -- on Sunday, IDF troops killed
three Palestinians (according to Israel Radio, including a senior
Fatah activist and a Popular Resistance Committees militant). Over
the weekend media reported that the IAF struck and killed two Hamas
militants in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

Ha'aretz quoted Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin as saying at Sunday's
cabinet meeting that Israeli security forces killed 810 Palestinians
in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and 2007. He estimated that some 200 of
those killed were not clearly linked to terrorist organizations.
However, an examination by Ha'aretz reveals that the number of
Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces was 816 over those
two years, and that of them, 360 were civilians not affiliated with
any armed organizations. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter,
also present at the briefing, said that "about 5 percent of the
militants in the Gaza Strip have been killed," adding that their
number today is estimated at some 20,000. The Jerusalem Post quoted
Dichter as saying that the IDF's tactics in Gaza are not working.

Over the weekend The Jerusalem Post reported on a campaign targeted
by feminist Jewish activists against the U.S. magazine Ms. after it
refused to run an ad featuring influential Israeli women because it
was "too controversial."

Over the weekend media quoted Ismail Haniyeh as saying on Friday
that President Bush's visit to the region proved his bias toward
Israel and hurt Palestinian aspirations for a state of their own.
Ha'aretz quoted Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin as saying on Sunday
during a briefing to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee that Hamas managed to smuggle $100 million into the Gaza
Strip in recent weeks. He was quoted as saying that the funds were
smuggled into the Strip by hundreds of pilgrims returning from the
hajj in Mecca.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli defense officials as saying on
Sunday that the defense establishment's decision to rescind a
decision to limit the supply of industrial diesel to the Gaza Strip
is part of a plan to end ties between Israel and the Hamas-run
territory. Ha'aretz reported that Israel is considering the
proposal of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to transfer control of
the crossings into the Gaza Strip to forces loyal to the PA and
Fatah.

On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that Palestinian landowners on whose
property the West Bank settlement of Homesh was constructed are
demanding 40 million shekels (around $10.5 million) in compensation
and the right to access their land. The state is trying to reach an
out-of-court settlement to avoid a setting a precedent.

Over the weekend media reported that a satellite photograph of a
Syrian site bombed by Israel in September appears to show new
construction that resembles the site's former main building.

On Sunday Ha'aretz pointed at Tony Blair's poor achievements six
months after entering his post as the Quartet's envoy to the Middle
East.

On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that the government is looking for
Arabic translators to create an Arabic version of its website.

Leading media reported that Daniel Barenboim, the world-renowned
Israeli pianist and conductor, has taken Palestinian citizenship,
and quoted him as saying that he believed that his new status could
serve a model for peace between the two peoples.

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

Summary:
--------

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in
International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "Bush's new policy may be
a big change for him but, after all, he is merely making the same
analysis and offering the same terms as his predecessor."

The Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Why would Mahmoud Abbas [the
'right of return'] if even the U.S. will not routinely explain that
this demand is not just another negotiating item but a denial of
Israel's right to exist?"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "How is it that the Arab states
have still not recognized the existence of Israeli supporters of
peace? Where is their Arab partner?"

Senior columnist Haggai Huberman wrote on page one of the
nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe: "The vision outlined by
the American President does not conform to the vision of the Arab
world: a Middle East without a Jewish state."

Veteran journalist Hemmi Shalev wrote in the independent Israel
Hayom: "It seems that the true goal of Bush's current visit to the
Middle East was an attempt to minimize the terrible damage that was
caused by the American intelligence estimate, which stipulated that
Iran had stopped its nuclear program."

Columnist and former Meretz Party Chairman Yossi Sarid wrote in
Ha'aretz: "Anyone who is elected in America will maintain the
friendship with Israel and treat it as an ally. But it would be a
welcome change for the friendship not to be a blind one, and for the
alliance not to lead to a mishap."

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

I. "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush"

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in
International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (1/14): "Hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of articles have been written on President George Bush's
visit to the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And not
a single one that I've seen has mentioned the ridiculously obvious
point that goes so far in explaining everything. To paraphrase the
nursery rhyme, Bush is merely taking us around the mulberry bush
once more. Namely, this is an exact replay of Bill Clinton's
presidency.... Bush's new policy may be a big change for him but,
after all, he is merely making the same analysis and offering the
same terms as his predecessor. It was an understanding of what went
wrong with Clinton's thinking and his generous bid -- in part taught
them by Clinton itself -- that explains the Bush administration's
lower level of effort for most of its time in office. What does
Arafat's situation and behavior tell us about those of his
successors today? In all but a single respect -- and that one only
apparently -- things are worse today.... The apparent improvement
regarding PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is that he is more willing to make
peace. Yet this is more than counterbalanced by his extraordinary
weakness. Not only has Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip,
Abbas also does not have control over Fatah itself. If anything,
Palestinian attitudes, where they count in terms of public politics
and not merely personal opinions, are even more extreme.... Of
course nothing will happen. But the real question is: Will anything
be learned?"

II. "10 Essential Words"

The Jerusalem Post editorialized (1/13): "'The agreement must
establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just
as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.'- US President George
W. Bush, January 10.... The significance of Bush's 10 critical
words, uttered in Jerusalem on Thursday night as the President
declared his confidence that a peace treaty could be signed before
the end of his term in January 2009, may be that he has realized
that it is not enough for the U.S. to leave the 'right of return' as
a final-status issue. This demand, he was making plain, must be
taken off the table now, because it stands in fundamental
contradiction to the entire two-state concept. The more clearly and
forcefully Bush repeats these 10 words, the better the chances that
the agreement in whose achievement he professes such confidence will
indeed be reached. This is so because no Palestinian leader can
reach agreement with Israel without preparing his people and the
Arab world for abandoning the demand of 'return.' And why would
Mahmoud Abbas do that if even the U.S. will not routinely explain
that this demand is not just another negotiating item but a denial
of Israel's right to exist?"

III. "The Arabs Should Stop Whining"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/14): "It is toward Saudi
Arabia that the Egyptian intellectual and researcher, Mamoun Fandy,
directed his incisive article: 'The Cards are in the Hands of the
Arabs.' The article appeared in the daily Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, which
is controlled by a Saudi prince who rules a large media empire in
the Middle East. If the ties between Saudi Arabia and the United
States are so close and warm, why are the Arabs unable to take
advantage of this to further their interests, Fandy asks. Why does
Israel succeed in promoting its narrative, arguing that it is alone
in its desire for peace, while the Arabs want war?.... [Israeli]
supporters [of peace] need to rally to Fandy's call and his
criticism of the Arabs -- because those favoring peace sorely need
an Arab partner, a king or a president, who will make the desired
dramatic move. One could ask them to consider another question in
this regard: How is it that the Arab states have still not
recognized the existence of Israeli supporters of peace? Where is
their Arab partner?"

IV. "The Bush Vision Contradicts the Arab Vision"

Senior columnist Haggai Huberman wrote on page one of the
nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe (1/13): "The President of
the United States left Israel on Friday, leaving in his wake a
dazzling 'vision' that is to be implemented within a single year:
the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside
Israel. But the vision outlined by the American President does not
conform to the vision of the Arab world: a Middle East without a
Jewish state. The American President's visit should be considered
to be one of the Palestinians' greatest successes in the past number
of years. The American President left them a slew of gifts, such as
a demand to end the Israeli 'occupation,' a Palestinian state based
on the 1967 lines with a capital in Jerusalem. Bush underscored
that he was talking about a state with territorial contiguity. Bush
used Palestinian rhetoric for first time when he spoke about the
'right of return' instead of the refugee problem. But after all
that, the Palestinians and the Arab world are furious with Bush
because he spoke about a 'Jewish state.' We would do well were we
to listen to what they say. Ambassador Mohammed Sabih, who is
responsible for the Palestinian issue in the Arab League, said on
Thursday that Bush's statements contradicted the United States'
human rights policy."

V. "Bush and Out"

Veteran journalist Hemmi Shalev wrote in the independent Israel
Hayom (1/13): "Aside from bolstering Ehud OlmertQs political
standing -- an effort that Bush made in the course of a dinner at
the Prime Minister's Residence last week with the delicacy and tact
becoming of a Texas rancher -- it seems that the true goal of Bush's
current visit to the Middle East was an attempt to minimize the
terrible damage that was caused by the American intelligence
estimate, which stipulated that Iran had stopped its nuclear
program. That document cast the United States as an unreliable
crutch that would never attack Iran. Ever since, the Arabs, first
and foremost Egypt, have been fawning on Tehran in hope of appeasing
it."

VI. "Nice Things in America, Which Would Do Us Well"

Columnist and former Meretz Party Chairman Yossi Sarid wrote in
Ha'aretz (1/13): "It is not yet clear whether Obama's candidacy will
come to full fruition, even though it has already produced early
fruits. But the alarm bells are already ringing in Jerusalem:
'Israel is worried about Obama.' The media reports: 'Senior
government officials in Israel fear his meteoric rise.' And the
main reasons for this concern, it is reported, are Obama's support
for dialogue with Iran and his weak connections with the Jewish
lobby in Washington. Don't worry. Anyone who is elected in America
will maintain the friendship with Israel and treat it as an ally.
But it would be a welcome change for the friendship not to be a
blind one, and for the alliance not to lead to a mishap. It is
worthwhile conducting talks with Iran, just as much as it is
worthwhile conducting talks with Syria, just as it was worthwhile
talking with Libya and North Korea. And it is not worthwhile
dancing like a trained bear on every issue according to the tune of
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) or the
evangelical pastors."

JONES

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