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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0274/01 0351501
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041501Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5259
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAHQA/HQ USAF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEADWD/DA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CNO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 3357
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0013
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 3569
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4120
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3380
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1541
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4116
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0961
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1435
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 7995
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 5467
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 0379
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 4507
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 6456
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 8987
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000274

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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The electronic media reported that a suicide bomber blew himself up
this morning at Dimona's commercial center and that another was shot
by the police before detonating explosives. A woman was killed and
11 other Israelis were injured. The media reported that Fatah's
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the PFLP, and an unknown Palestinian group
have claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that he will remain in the
government "until the right time ... that is not far away". All
media brought up his earlier statements that he was planning to call
for early elections after the Winograd Report's publication. Barak
was also quoted as saying: "I know which challenges Israel faces --
Gaza, Hizbullah, Syria, Iran, and rehabilitating the army." Media
reported that PM Ehud Olmert reacted by saying that it was the right
decision and that a stable government was a "national objective."
The Jerusalem Post quoted Barak's associates as saying that Barak's
announcement gives Olmert "nine months of political quiet," and that
Barak will expect more political influence in return for the
reprieve.

Media reported that this evening seven Knesset members (four from
the Labor Party, two from Kadima, and one from the Pensioners Party)
might oppose an announcement that PM Olmert will make about the
Winograd Report. Yediot quoted Construction and Housing Minister
Meir Sheetrit as saying that seven rebels might topple the
government. On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that Yossi Sarid, the
former Meretz leader, and Yaakov Hisdai, who was a member of the
Agranat Commission that investigated the Yom Kippur War, will speak
today at a demonstration in front of the Knesset while the Winograd
report is being debated inside.

Major media reported on Sunday that PM Olmert decided, over the
protest of Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, to release Palestinian
prisoners "with blood on their hands." Yediot reported that Israel
will agree to include in the list of released prisoners terrorists
who took part in the murder of Palestinians who collaborated with
Israel, and members of terror squads who themselves did not murder.
Israel Radio quoted Shas leader and cabinet minister Eli Yishai as
saying that he opposes such a deal. Maariv quoted Arab sources
involved in the negotiations with Hamas as saying that Israel has
recently received a new letter by captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
Maariv quoted Egyptian sources as saying that this has resulted in
stepping up contacts toward a prisoner swap. On Sunday The
Jerusalem Post quoted defense sources as saying over the weekend
that Hamas leaders are using Shalit as a kind of protection against
IDF attacks.

Ha'aretz quoted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as saying on Sunday
that Cairo wants Hamas and Fatah to jointly operate the border
crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The media reported that the border
was closed on Sunday my mutual agreement of Egypt and Hamas. On
Sunday the Israeli press quoted Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh and his
senior aide, Ahmed Yousef, as having said on Saturday that their
aspiration was to sever the Gaza Strip's economic relations with
Israel. However, The Jerusalem Post reported today that under
pressure from Egypt, Hamas backtracked from its call for economic
disengagement from Israel.

Major media reported that Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin told the
cabinet on Sunday that long-range rockets and anti-tank and
anti-aircraft missiles have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip over
the past 12 days.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the USS San Jacinto, a missile ship
set to dock at Haifa Port on Monday, is equipped with an
anti-missile defense system that could be deployed in the region in
the event of an Iranian missile attack against Israel.

Leading media quoted Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin as saying on Sunday
that a restaurant/disco adjacent to the Israeli Embassy in
Nouakchott, and not the embassy itself, was the target of Friday
morning's shooting in the Mauritanian capital. The Jerusalem Post
found a contradiction between Diskin's comment and a claim of
responsibility by an Al-Qaida affiliate.

All media reported that IDF troops exchanged fire last night with
two armed men trying to infiltrate Israel's northern border with
Lebanon in the village of Ghajar. Ha'aretz quoted security sources
in Beirut as saying that a Lebanese citizen was killed in the
incident and another was seriously wounded. The media quoted an IDF
spokesman as saying that the Lebanese men were attempting to smuggle
drugs into Israel.

The Jerusalem Post quoted investigative journalist Seymour Hersh as
writing in The New Yorker's upcoming issue that Israel did not have
a clear idea of the nature of the facility it targeted in Syria on
September 6.

Leading media reported that PM Olmert has instructed Defense
Minister Barak to request that the PA repair the Joseph's Tomb
complex in Nablus. Barak is expected to discuss this with
Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad.

Ha'aretz reported that Israelis and Palestinians involved in
interfaith contacts recently drafted a cease-fire agreement between
Israel and Hamas. The document, whose implementation includes the
release of Gilad Shalit, was submitted to the Israeli cabinet and to
the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. Rabbi Menachem Froman of
the West Bank settlement of Tekoa has for years been involved in
interfaith dialogue toward Israeli-Palestinian peace. For several
months he has been working closely with Khaled Amayreh, a
Hebron-area journalist who is close to Hamas.

On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that the officer of an army unit that
shot a Palestinian without justification last July was sentenced
last week to 15 months in prison and a demotion.

Ha'aretz quoted Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon as saying on
Sunday that Israel is considering stopping all agricultural exports
from Gaza to Europe via Israel. He said that the cause is not
political, but rather health and safety.

On Sunday The Jerusalem Post reported that amid growing military
between Jerusalem and Bogota, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel
Santos will arrive in Israel on Sunday for his first state visit.

On Sunday Maariv reported that Jewish property was vandalized in the
mostly Druze village of Pekiin in the Galilee.

Maariv reported that a NASA delegation recently met with senior IDF
officers and warned them about the threat of the secret U.S.
satellite L-21 crashing into an inhabited area in a few weeks.

On Sunday The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli-American firm
Amdocs and the Israeli NICE Systems have recently made in-roads in
the U.S. market.

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

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The
government, in its present composition in particular, has no reason
to continue to exist if it does not intend to bring about an
agreement with the Palestinians. For any other purpose, it can be
replaced with a right-wing government."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Olmert's government
does not enthuse [Labor Party voters], that is for certain, but they
are less enthusiastic about the alternative -- early elections and a
Likud-right wing government."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "However
long the Olmert government manages to survive in office, one fears
the devalued political culture it has embraced will be with us for a
lot longer."

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (2/3):
"The stronger the connection Gaza has with Egypt, the stronger the
Egyptian control over the area will be and the more likely it will
become that there will be quiet."

The Jerusalem Post editorialized: "It seems plain that the freeze
[of the settlement blocs] is a direct consequence of American
pressure, amid Bush's accelerated 2008 countdown to a permanent
Israeli-Palestinian accord."

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

I. "The Meaning of Responsibility"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (2/4): "In
spite of the fat that he agreed that the Winograd report is harsh in
terms of the government, and in spite of his express promise to
resign if the findings of the commission pointed to failures by the
man who heads it, Ehud Barak has decided to remain in his post....
The government, in its present composition in particular, has no
reason to continue to exist if it does not intend to bring about an
agreement with the Palestinians. For any other purpose, it can be
replaced with a right-wing government.... There are quite a few
security experts in Israel, but apparently only one coalition,
centered around Kadima and Labor, that is capable at this moment of
launching a political process, legislating evacuation-compensation
arrangements already now for settlers who are interested in
returning to Israel, dismantling outposts, and utilizing the coming
year to sign a final-status agreement with the government of Mahmoud
Abbas. Such an opportunity will not return soon, and the footsteps
of the approaching right-wing 'orange' government can already be
heard loud and clear."

II. "Barak against Time"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/4): "There is no
glory in [Ehud Barak's] decision [to remain in the government],
certainly no moral glory. Barak made a commitment, explicitly or
implicitly, to bring about the Labor Party's withdrawal from the
government on the day that Winograd was to submit his final report.
This commitment was made as part of a political alliance he forged
with [Labor Knesset Member] Ophir Pines. Barak committed himself --
unwillingly -- to withdraw, and Pines called upon his supporters to
vote for him. It is improper to break promises, particularly when
Barak has already received his reward in the polls. This is not the
norm to which pupils are educated in civics classes. But it is
doubtful whether Barak could have acted differently.... Leaving [the
government] now would have benefited neither Barak nor his party.
It is doubtful whether the Labor Party voters who were in favor of
leaving nine months ago still think so today. Olmert's government
does not enthuse them, that is for certain, but they are less
enthusiastic about the alternative -- early elections and a
Likud-right wing government."

III. "Devalued Norms"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/4):
"Menachem Begin and Golda Meir both experienced disastrous wartime
failures that were largely the fault of the defense
establishment..... In Olmert's case, the fact that the vast majority
of the electorate profoundly disapproves of his leadership and
believes he must step down over the war's missteps; the fact that
reservists who may be called upon again sooner or later to risk
their lives.... Instead, the prime minister is thriving in the area
where he is indeed expert -- political survival.... The ability to
feel and act on shame, once eroded, unfortunately, is difficult to
rebuild. However long the Olmert government manages to survive in
office, one fears the devalued political culture it has embraced
will be with us for a lot longer."

IV. "Keeping Our Interests"

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (2/3):
"The stronger the connection Gaza has with Egypt, the stronger the
Egyptian control over the area will be and the more likely it will
become that there will be quiet. Of course, that depends on whether
the Egyptians are interested in that and whether they are more
interested in achieving that than Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel needs to
demonstrate that it is keeping all of its military and economic
options open to stop the Qassam rocket fire. On Saturday there was
sporadic rocket fire into the western Negev. Every resumption of
rocket fire needs to be met with a response -- be it by means of
exacting a heavy military price or by means of cutting the power
supply. Israel has to prove to the Palestinians that it will not
balk at using the most severe means at its disposal. The Hamas
leaders should be reminded that if they behave like the leaders of a
terrorist organization then that is how they will be treated."

V. "Capitulation to All"

The Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/3): "The security and
demographic imperative to maintain the settlement blocs in the
Jerusalem area is compelling.... It seems plain that [their] freeze
is a direct consequence of American pressure, amid Bush's
accelerated 2008 countdown to a permanent Israeli-Palestinian
accord. At the same time, it should be noted, the government is
demonstrating a parallel tendency to capitulation when it comes to
the illegal West Bank outposts it has pledged repeatedly to
dismantle. Month after month goes by, promises are gravely
repeated, nothing happens on the ground, and the government's
domestic and international credibility declines inexorably -- in the
process reducing any prospect of outside support for those
settlement interests that are truly vital. With settlement, as with
so many other areas of policy, the government's only aspiration
seems to be survival. And if survival means capitulating to American
pressure one day, and pressure from the champions of the illegal
outposts the next, so be it. The terrible consequence, of course,
is the sacrificing of crucial Israeli interests along the way."

JONES

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