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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0221/01 0281120
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P 281120Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 9978
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 3534
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4086
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3346
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1504
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4081
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0927
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1401
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 7961
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 5433
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 0345
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 4473
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 6420
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RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000221

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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Ha'aretz reported that according to a senior political source, PM
Ehud Olmert has still not figured out how to resolve the issue of
Jerusalem. According to Ha'aretz, Jerusalem is likely to be left
until the end of the negotiations as the Israeli side has become
convinced that it is too sensitive and complex with potentially
negative ramifications for the entire process. The government is
concerned that talks on Jerusalem would lead to the fall of the
governing coalition as the ultra-Orthodox Shas party has stated that
no concessions over Jerusalem can made or even discussed. Ha'aretz
reported that Foreign Ministry Director General Aharon Abramovitch
told French officials last week that it is highly likely that
negotiations on Jerusalem will be postponed because of domestic
political reasons. Abramovitch has denied making these remarks.
According to Ha'aretz, President Bush also supports postponing talks
on Jerusalem until the end of the negotiations.

Leading media reported that PM Olmert promised Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday that Israel will not let a humanitarian
crisis develop in Gaza. The two leaders said they will demand that
Egypt reseal the border. The Jerusalem Post reported that Olmert
told Abbas that Israel would not let normal life return to Gaza as
long as Qassam rockets fall. Leading media reported that the state
told the High Court of Justice on Sunday that Israel will resume the
supply of industrial-use diesel in the Gaza Strip according to
levels set prior to the blockade. Ha'aretz quoted officials in
Jerusalem as saying that "Israel will not allow the continuation of
the current state where its security interests are being
compromised." The officials added that Abbas and Olmert saw eye to
eye on what they perceive as the need to refrain from negotiations
with Hamas. Ha'aretz reported that over the past few days Egyptian
authorities have arrested Palestinians armed with assault rifles and
handguns. Maariv reported that on Sunday an assessment presented to
Defense Minister Barak showed that new kinds of dangerous weapons
have been brought into the Gaza Strip via Rafah over the past
several days. On Sunday The Jerusalem Post reported that more than
1,000 people took part in a demonstration organized by a coalition
of left-wing groups at the Erez crossing on Saturday, in solidarity
with Gazans and Sderot residents, under the slogan: "Stop the siege
on Gaza: A demonstration for Gaza and for Sderot."

The Jerusalem Post and other media reported that Egypt has invited
Hamas representatives to Cairo for talks on controlling the border
between the Gaza Strip and Sinai. Last week Palestinian PM Salam
Fayyad was in Cairo discussing the border.

Maariv and Yediot led with imminent publication of the Winograd
report. Maariv wrote that former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz will
be the main target of the report but that current Defense Minister
Ehud Barak and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz might not be
spared. All media reported that on Sunday FM Livni met with
representatives of bereaved families and told them that she is
willing to listen but that she will not take part in their struggle.
Israel Radio quoted a Meretz MK as saying that PM Olmert is
cynically exploiting the leaked sections of the Winograd Report.
The radio reported that in the classified portion of the report,
three members of the Winograd Commission praised the ground
offensive in Lebanon.

Israel Radio reported that Iran is offering its assistance to Egypt
in aiding the thousands of Palestinians streaming into its territory
from the Gaza Strip. A high-ranking Iranian diplomatic made the
offer while he met in Cairo on Sunday with Egyptian FM Ahmed Ali Abu
al-Gheit. The radio quoted a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in
Cairo as saying that both countries can cooperate in providing
assistance via the Red Crescent organization.

Ha'aretz and Maariv reported that last week in Paris, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak told Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that
he was concerned about the growing strength of extremist Islamic
movements in Pakistan. He also said he was worried that Pakistan's
nuclear weapons would fall into the hands of extremists.
Separately, in an interview with Newsweek held at Davos, Barak said
Iran has no reason to develop a missile with a range of 1,500 miles
unless it is meant to carry a non-conventional warhead. Barak also
said that according to Israel's assessments Iran is moving ahead
with the development of nuclear weapons. The Defense Minister said
Israel has an entirely different view than that expressed in the
American National Intelligence Estimate. However, Barak
acknowledged that it is not clear how much enriched uranium the
Iranians have managed to produce.

The Jerusalem Post reported that on Sunday Ehud Barak hinted at
elections in March 2009. On Sunday Yediot quoted Barak as saying in
an interview with The Washington Post and Newsweek that he is
contemplating a Qnational emergency governmentQ following
publication of the Winograd report.

Israel Radio reported that the Israeli Arab Higher Monitoring
Committee is likely to proclaim a general strike in the Israeli-Arab
sector and to turn to the international community, following
Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz's decision on Sunday not to close
the cases against police officers involved in suppressing the
October 2000 riots. Major media reported that 20 Arab Israelis have
been arrested in a joint Shin Bet/Israel National Police operation
on suspicion of conducting weapons deals with Fatah's Tanzim.

Ha'aretz (English Ed.) reported that PM Olmert canceled his
appearance before the World Jewish Congress (WJC) board of governors
this week after WJC President Ronald Lauder published an open letter
calling on Olmert to involve world Jewry in any decision on the
future of Jerusalem.

Maariv ran a feature on alleged brutalities against Palestinians
carried out by troops from the Givati Brigade.

Leading media reported that in exchange for the government agreeing
to increase its share of financing the company's security costs, the
privatized El Al Israel Airlines has agreed to give up its monopoly
on overseas lines, meaning other domestic Israeli airlines will be
able to compete on El Al's routes. The airline's acquiescence
remains subject to formal approval by the relevant company bodies.

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

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "An immediate
summit is needed between Egypt's President and Israel's Prime
Minister, with or without a senior U.S. presence.",

Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "An increasing number
of figures in the Israeli leadership are reaching the conclusion
that a dialogue with Hamas, one way or another, is vital, if we wish
to calm the southern border."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in Yediot Aharonot: "Olmert and
Barak would do well to listen to other officers, including officers
who fought in Gaza in recent years. There are hundreds of thousands
of people [in Gaza] who pray for stability, for normalcy, say these
officers."

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in
International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "To portray [Hamas's]
latest antics as some kind of success is simply wrong. They are a
disaster."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "An approach that treats inquiry commissions
as a legal guillotine rather than a way of ascertaining the truth is
unacceptable."

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

I. "Double Threat to Peace"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/27): "Peace
with Egypt is one of Israel's greatest strategic assets, although it
is a cool peace. The entire Arab world followed it in moving ahead
toward coming to terms with Israel. Over the past week danger has
hung over this peace. Events on the border between the Gaza Strip
and Egypt threaten to tear the delicate fabric of Cairo-Jerusalem
relations. At the same time, they also jeopardize the
yet-to-be-attained peace between Israel and the Palestinians, at a
fragile moment in the process the Bush administration is trying to
drive forward.... The ongoing Egyptian failure to seal the border
with Gaza, in addition to the immediate threat of terror that has
already set out from Gaza to Sinai, will push Israel against its
will into a costly and continual military operation in the Rafah
area. Such an operation will not only cost many Israeli and
Palestinian lives but will also make it very difficult for
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to continue the peace
process.... At the Annapolis conference, President George W. Bush
dictated that there would be meetings every two weeks between the
Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The crisis in the south has
changed the priorities. An immediate summit is needed between
Egypt's President and Israel's Prime Minister, with or without a
senior U.S. presence."

II. "Perhaps We Will Have to Talk to Hamas"

Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/27): "Abu Mazen's
dilemma lies in the fact that the Israeli side will immediately halt
the dialogue with him as soon as he engages in dialogue with Hamas.
Officials in Jerusalem believe, therefore, that at least in the
short term, the Chairman will continue to speak against Hamas, based
on the desire to extricate an agreement of principles from the
Israelis on partitioning the land -- and only then will he turn to
Hamas. On the other hand, an increasing number of figures in the
Israeli leadership are reaching the conclusion that a dialogue with
Hamas, one way or another, is vital, if we wish to calm the southern
border. Ironically enough, Israel does not perceive the toppling of
the walls on Philadelphi Road solely as a negative development, but
also as an opportunity to reshuffle the deck in the dialogue with
the Palestinians. However, none of this, say political sources,
improves the chances for the release of the soldier Gilad Shalit.
The negotiations with his kidnappers have been stuck because there
is wall-to-wall opposition in Israel to the release of hundreds of
prisoners that Hamas is demanding in exchange for the kidnapped
soldier."

III. "For a Milder Touch"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in Yediot Aharonot (1/28): "As
of now, the only element that comes out ahead in the blockade is
Hamas. Its prestige has strengthened. Its warehouses have filled
up. Its subjects are grateful. The Arab world admires it. We gave
Hamas this victory with our own hands. Olmert and Barak would do
well to listen to other officers, including officers who fought in
Gaza in recent years. There are hundreds of thousands of people
there who pray for stability, for normalcy, say these officers.
They oppose the path of the terrorist organizations with all their
being. Instead of starving these people, let them exist, work,
grow, market, export. Hamas will not be defeated by hunger, they
say, but rather by a life with dignity. It is possible that this
idea, too, is a failure. One thing is certain: it contains less
damage. And if they wish, they can always stop and go back to the
beginning, which cannot be said of the current bad situation."

IV. "Hamas's PR Debacle"

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in
International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (1/28): "Public support for
Israel in America is at an all-time high. In some European
countries, notably France and Italy, it has been rising. At any
rate, no important Western states are siding with Hamas. If they
have any policy obsession it is pushing the peace process, and Hamas
is recognized as a barrier to that.... Two years after Hamas's
election victory and six months after it seized the Gaza Strip,
international sanctions show no sign of faltering. Other than
Syria, no Arab state is helping Hamas. Egypt may be soft on Hamas at
times, but it is very angry at the organization. In the West Bank,
the Palestinian Authority, now a Fatah regime, is not falling apart
(well, not any more than usual).... If it opted for quiet, Hamas
could build up Gaza's economy and social institutions, training a
future generation for all-out war. But it also rejects this wisely
cynical approach. Yasser Arafat, of course, made the same error.
So while Hamas will never give up, it also will never win. To
portray its latest antics as some kind of success is simply wrong.
They are a disaster, and to understand this reality is to comprehend
the central blunder plaguing the Palestinian movement since its
inception."

V. "Wait until Wednesday"

Ha'aretz editorialized (1/28): "It would have been appropriate for
anyone interested in issuing an alternative Winograd report' to wait
until the real Winograd report is released on Wednesday. But by last
week, three alternative reports had already been issued -- one by
bereaved parents, another by Meretz faction whip Zahava Gal-On, and
the third by the protest movements. What all the reports have in
common is the recommendation that the Winograd Commission will not
be writing: Dismiss the prime minister. It's difficult not to get
the impression that since the Commission announced in advance that
it would not be calling for any heads to roll, those behind the
alternative reports have rejected it from the outset. But an
approach that treats inquiry commissions as a legal guillotine
rather than a way of ascertaining the truth is unacceptable.... With
all due respect to the army's commanders in the field, we cannot
accept the letter in which 50 company commanders demand that the
prime minister be ousted.... Even Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's
meeting with the reserve soldiers on Sunday was out of place. Livni
could have met with them months ago, and there's no reason she
shouldn't do so as of Thursday. Sunday, though, was the time to tell
the reservists that they too should wait.... Moreover, it could be
that the Winograd Commission members will have something important
to say on matters no less important than the fate of the prime
minister. For instance, was there a need for an earlier ground
offensive? Was the home front neglected so that soldiers would not
be hurt? Was the war conducted with both hands and a leg tied
behind the back? And what is needed to make sure all these things
don't take place in the next war? It is worth looking intensively
for the answers to these and other questions in the Winograd report,
rather than holding steadfastly to predetermined positions."

JONES

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