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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0197/01 0241215
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241215Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5127
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
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RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 3307
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 9965
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 3520
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4073
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3333
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1491
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4068
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0914
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1388
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 7948
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 6407
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 8910
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000197

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:
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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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All media reported that 200,000 to 300,000 Gazans poured into Sinai
on Wednesday after holes were blasted in the fence at Rafah.
Ha'aretz quoted a source close to the Popular Resistance Committees
(PRC) in Rafah as saying on Wednesday that Hamas operatives had been
sawing away the foundations of the wall for a few months as
preparation for the breach. A central Hamas operative partially
confirmed the report, although he told Ha'aretz it was PRC
operatives who were involved, and not Hamas policemen. Maariv
reported that Hamas informed Egypt of its actions ahead of time and
Ha'aretz added that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak instructed
police officers "not to block the hungry on their way to grocery
stores." The Jerusalem Post reported that on Wednesday Hamas
leaders called for an "urgent and speedy" meeting with
representatives of Egypt and the PA to work out new, shared
arrangements to control the border crossing. Speaking on Israel
Radio this morning, Ahmed Yusuf, a senior advisor to Hamas PM Ismail
Haniyeh, envisioned throngs of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip
rushing into Israel. Maariv reported that Ahmed Jibril, the head of
the PFLP-General Command, urged millions of Palestinians in
Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, to march toward Israel, breach the
border, and realize the right of return.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Palestinian journalists as saying that on
at least two occasions, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of
its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the
Gaza Strip.

Speaking on Channel 10-TV during a visit to France, Defense Minister
Ehud Barak commented: "I believe Egypt knows what its job is, and we
expect it to fulfill its obligations under various agreements."
Ha'aretz said that Barak was expressing the frustration and anger of
the defense establishment. Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted a senior
source in the defense establishment as saying that Israel might take
advantage of the collapse of the Gaza-Egypt fence to complete the
disengagement by cancelling the customs agreement with the PA.
All media (lead stories in Maariv, Israel Hayom, and Yediot) quoted
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's comments -- now and in 2006 -- about
the Second Lebanon War. He was quoted as saying on Wednesday at the
Herzliya Conference that he had no regrets and will not shy away
from a debate on his actions and perceived failures. Maariv
bannered: "[Olmert's] Line of Defense: Peace Is More Important."
"It is quieter today on the northern border than it has been for the
past 18 months and this is the longest period of quiet we've had for
25 years. The North is thriving and flourishing," Olmert said. The
PM did not deny that Hizbullah has increased its weapons arsenal,
saying "there is no doubt that Hizbullah has become stronger.
Hizbullah has more rockets, missiles, ammunition, some of it
state-of-the-art," but he asked: "Had there not been a war in 2006,
would they have less?" "Is this the most secure situation? Not
necessarily," Olmert continued. "We must not dismiss the possibility
of renewed fighting, but the current situation is immeasurably
better than before." After his associates reportedly blasted the
officers who signed the company commanders' letter on his conduct of
the war, Olmert went out of his way to praise the reserve officers.
He said he admired all IDF soldiers, "both privates and company
commanders." "I have nothing against their criticism and
protest.... I appreciate our fighters' courage, resoluteness and
sacrifice both in the regular army and in the reserves and if anyone
pretended to be an associate of mine and said anything different,
then he is not my associate," Olmert said. Perusing the protocols
of the Winograd Commission, Yediot led with a comment that PM Olmert
allegedly made to then defense minister Amir Peretz before the
ground offensive in August 2006: "We'll be heroes for two days --
and then idiots." Yediot cited a telegram drafted by Daniel Carmon,
Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN, on the eve of
Israel's offensive, in which he said that then U.S. Ambassador to
the UN John Bolton told Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny
Gillerman that France gave in to all Arab demands and that the U.S.
was unwilling to give up on its "holy alliance" with Europe.

Vice Premier Haim Ramon was quoted as saying on Wednesday in an
interview with Channel 10-TV: "You have heard from foreign sources
about what happened in Syria in September. This was the result of
an outstanding thinking and decision-making process."

The Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio reported on the arrival in
Israel of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas
Burns and Stuart Levey, Under Secretary of Finance for Terrorism and
Financial Intelligence, for talks on diplomatic sanctions against
Iran.
The Jerusalem Post and other media reported that nine coalition
Knesset members attended an event at which reserve soldiers called
upon PM Olmert to resign over the Second Lebanon War.

Major media reported that the state promised the High Court of
Justice on Wednesday in the name of PM Olmert and Defense Barak that
the illegal outpost of Migron, which is situated on private
Palestinian land, will be evacuated by the beginning of August.

Yated Ne'eman quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying in Paris
on Wednesday that Israel does not rule out any type of action
against Iran and that the time has come to impose further sanctions
on that country.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Dutch FM Maxime Verhagen, who
visited Israel this week, has pledged to lobby the EU member states
to admit Israel in its ranks.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the number of Arab Israeli youth
performing national service has more than doubled this academic
year, despite strong opposition to the initiative by the
overwhelmingly majority of Arab community leaders.

The Jerusalem Post reported that U.S. diplomats, including Lt. Gen.
Keith Dayton, the U.S. Security Coordinator to Israel and the PA,
continued this week to raise the Civil Administration's ire over
their refusal to open their car doors or windows and present
identification when crossing from Israel into the West Bank.

The Jerusalem Post repeated Wednesday's story in Ha'aretz on the
bottleneck situation of American Citizen Services at the U.S.
diplomatic representations in Israel and the PA. The Jerusalem Post
reported that some people are booking multiple appointments and then
selling them.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a delegation of astronauts from
NASA is coming to Israel next week to mark the fifth anniversary of
the death of Israel's first astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, in the
Columbia shuttle's last flight. Yediot reported that a 14-year-old
immigrant from India will leave next week for an educational tour of
NASA facilities.

The Jerusalem Post cited the results of a Hebrew University poll,
based on surveys conducted in September 2006 and May 2007, that 80%
of Israelis expressed a high level of trust in the interim Winograd
report (26% trusted the report and 55% placed "complete trust" in
the document).

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Mideast:
--------

Summary:
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The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The
destruction of the border barrier is ... perceived as a legitimate
prison break.... A statesmanlike response is now needed to turn the
crisis into an opportunity."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "By
playing into Hamas's hands, failing to punish aggression, and
refusing to hold Egypt responsible for stopping the weapons buildup,
the UN is sowing the seeds of the next war and strengthening the
forces it claims to wish to isolate. And it is doing this in the
name of peace and humanitarian law -- while producing the exact
opposite."

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "A number of senior security officials
began to become enamored with the new situation."

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote on his Internet site Gplanet: "The
moment the crossing between Gaza and Egypt was opened -- down came
the 'siege' argument."

Meretz-Yahad Party Chairman Yossi Beilin wrote in Ha'aretz: "Olmert
could keep a stiff upper lip and ... replace Tzipi Livni as foreign
minister, while Livni takes the post of premier.... I would propose
that Olmert do this even before the Winograd report comes out."

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

I. "Opportunity in Gaza"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/24): "The
closure imposed a year ago on the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt was
effectively lifted on Wednesday after hundreds of thousands of
Gazans overran the Egyptian border.... Now that the barrier is down,
it is hard to imagine that the situation in Gaza can be restored to

its previous state.... Hamas used the closure to create sympathy for
the people of Gaza. The destruction of the border barrier is also
perceived as a legitimate prison break. A statesmanlike response is
now needed to turn the crisis into an opportunity. Because none of
the players is on its own and the parties' interests are interwoven,
one can hope that Egypt and Israel, with help from the international
community, can create new facts on the ground. If there is a
moderate leadership that can be relied on, and if Mubarak and
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are part of it, then this is the
moment they need to cooperate and put themselves in the forefront."

II. "Sowing War"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (1/24):
"The ... fundamental problem is that the [UN] Security Council chose
to meet not on January 15, in response to the major barrage of
rockets attacks against Israeli civilians, but on January 22, in
response to Hamas's staging of a 'humanitarian crisis.' The
backwards sequencing of the international response serves to vitiate
the supposedly balanced statements of the Western ambassadors.
Hamas doesn't care about being condemned along with Israel, because
it knows these condemnations are lip service. The timing says it
all. It is telling that the one country that could have prevented
this 'cycle of violence' -- that is both Hamas's aggression and
Israel's measures to defend itself -- was not mentioned in the
debate. That country was Egypt, which even had the temerity to join
the chorus against what it called Israel's 'brutal punitive
measures.' The moment Hamas took over Gaza in June, Egypt could
have tightly controlled its border and prevented tons of weaponry,
including sophisticated rockets, from entering the Strip. It could
have closed the revolving door for terrorists leaving for training
and returning to join Hamas's increasingly dangerous army. It did
not.... The moment Hamas took over Gaza in June, Egypt could have
tightly controlled its border and prevented tons of weaponry,
including sophisticated rockets, from entering the Strip. It could
have closed the revolving door for terrorists leaving for training
and returning to join Hamas's increasingly dangerous army. It did
not.... By playing into Hamas's hands, failing to punish aggression,
and refusing to hold Egypt responsible for stopping the weapons
buildup, the UN is sowing the seeds of the next war and
strengthening the forces it claims to wish to isolate. And it is
doing this in the name of peace and humanitarian law -- while
producing the exact opposite."

III. "The Real Disengagement from Gaza"
Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/24): "Up until Wednesday afternoon the
sense in Israel was that the strategy of Israeli levers of pressure
had failed.... Towards Wednesday evening the mood began to shift. A
number of senior security officials began to become enamored with
the new situation: '.... Israel has a golden opportunity here to
reap political gain: On Wednesday, for all intents and purposes, the
real disengagement from Gaza began'.... [On the other hand,] the
Egyptians, in their distress, reached an agreement with Hamas: The
gates would be opened at 6:30 in the morning. Hamas blew up the
walls and created an irreversible situation: The physical obstacle
isn't there any more. If the Egyptians want to prevent future
movement they are either going to have to rebuild the wall or shoot
people. Now we're waiting for the third and fourth act of this
play. If the siege is restored to the Gaza Strip, Hamas will renew
its rocket fire on Israel. When Hamas becomes weaker in the
political arena it intensifies its military activity. Hamas hasn't
yet said the final word in terms of its efforts to create a balance
of deterrence with the IDF. It is currently working on a special
operation that it will try to execute."

IV. "The Fall of the 'Siege' Argument"

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote on his Internet site Gplanet (1/23):
"Hamas has made cynical use of the Palestinians it governs, claiming
that Israel has shut down the Gaza Strip and has imposed an inhuman
siege on it. However, the moment the crossing between Gaza and
Egypt was opened -- down came the 'siege' argument. If that is the
case, why shouldn't the Egyptians tend to the Palestinians in every
matter, which is a state of affairs that couldn't be more natural.
After all, Israel is the enemy, but Egypt is the big sister. How
can the UN Security Council continue to claim that the Palestinians
are shut in now that their border with Sinai and Egypt is wide open?
Egypt is currently in a state of profound embarrassment, since on
the one hand it has been urging the UN Security Council to convene
to condemn Israel for closing off the Palestinians, when it is doing
the very same thing itself! Everyone in the Arab world was stunned
to see the hypocrisy of the Egyptian regime, which didn't balk at
firing on the Palestinians, until it capitulated in the face of the
outcry from the entire Arab world and opened up the border."

V. "Prime Minister Livni, Foreign Minister Olmert"

Meretz-Yahad Party Chairman Yossi Beilin wrote in Ha'aretz (1/24):
"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has improved greatly over the past
year.... Olmert has led a reasoned diplomatic process, making
courageous statements that no prime minister before him ever did.
If not for the war in Lebanon, he could have continued at his post
with no small measure of success. But the war in Lebanon did take
place, and so did its last two accursed days. Those two days were
an effort to create the image of victory after the United Nations
resolution had already been formulated. That last operation was
ostensibly launched to influence the resolution.... The right is
spearheading a campaign for early elections. It wants to stop talks
with Fatah, and believes, according to the polls, that this is the
chance of a lifetime. That is exactly the reason I have no interest
in supporting such a move.... If Olmert cannot continue in office,
he can contribute to the diplomatic process, and if elections are an
undesirable option, then the optimal solution is for the rook to
switch places with the king.... Olmert could keep a stiff upper lip
and ... replace Tzipi Livni as foreign minister, while Livni takes
the post of premier.... I would propose that Olmert do this even
before the Winograd report comes out, and not go into a battle
which, if he survives, will leave him bruised and vulnerable. Livni
can put together a coalition that will help her lead the diplomatic
process, while Olmert, if he is sincere in his diplomatic
determination, can devote most of his time to this task, heading the
negotiating team."

JONES

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