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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0325/01 0421115
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111115Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5352
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 3392
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0045
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 3612
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4154
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3412
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1586
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4151
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0997
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1469
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8027
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 5502
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 0418
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 4539
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 6488
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 9041
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000325

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:
--------------------------------

Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
-------------------------

The top story over the weekend was the wounding of two brothers from
Sderot, aged eight and 19, on Saturday night. One of the younger
brother's legs was amputated. Right-wing politicians and some
ministers have called for drastic measures to be taken in response.
Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) was widely
quoted as saying at the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel should
"raze" a Gaza neighborhood after warning its residents. On Sunday
Ha'aretz reported that PM Ehud Olmert told visiting Austrian FM
Ursula Plassnik last Wednesday: "I am fending off heavy pressure to
launch a major ground operation in Gaza," and he added that
hopefully through sanctions an escalation can be avoided. Leading
media further quoted the Prime Minister and Defense Minister Barak
as saying over the last few days that Israel needs to continue its
preparations for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip,
but there is no point in rushing into one. Ha'aretz and other media
reported that the IDF and the Shin Bet are preparing to step up
assassinations against key Hamas figures in the Gaza Strip, though
the renewed campaign is not likely, at this stage, to include
members of the Hamas political leadership. Yediot reported that
Hamas's "chief of staff," Muhammad (or Ahmed) Jaabari, went
underground (according to Israel Radio, Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh did
so as well). On Sunday, media reported that several ministers,
including FM Livni and Minister Ami Ayalon, support bringing
international troops into the Gaza Strip. Israel Hayom quoted Livni
as saying recently: "No organization is more appropriate than NATO
to lead this process."

All media reported on protests by Sderot residents. On Sunday
demonstrations took place at the entrance to Jerusalem, and other
ones are expected to happen today in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv
area.

The Jerusalem Post and other media reported that politicians on the
Right called upon Shas to leave the government immediately after The
Jerusalem Post revealed on Sunday that in secret talks, FM Tzipi
Livni had made concessions to the Palestinians on Jerusalem.

On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that senior IDF officials told the
newspaper that Hizbullah has managed to deploy large numbers of
Katyusha rockets and anti-tank missiles in southern Lebanon and that
these weapons in Shi'ite villages have been undetected by UN
observers. The sources were further quoted as saying that Hizbullah
is reluctant to use the weapons after the 2006 war and that
Israel's deterrence has not been diminished.

Leading media reported that on Sunday PM Olmert flew to Germany,
where he will meet the mediator in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap.

Ha'aretz reported that the U.S. administration is urging Israel to
engage Egypt in immediate dialogue to resolve the border issue. The
U.S. wants Israel to show some flexibility on Egypt's demand to add
750 soldiers to its border force, as well as to agree to Palestinian
PM Salam Fayyad's proposal to take over responsibility for the
Israel-Gaza Strip border. Ha'aretz said that Assistant Secretary
of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch visited Egypt, Israel
and the PA last week and held talks on the situation in the Gaza
Strip. The newspaper reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice is expected to visit the region herself shortly. On Sunday The
Jerusalem Post quoted a senior PA official in Ramallah as saying
that the purpose of Rice's visit is to prevent the collapse of peace
talks between Israel and the PA.

Ha'aretz reported that for the first time in months, the IDF imposed
a full closure on Jenin after receiving a tip that a suicide bomber
planned to use it as a base to attack an Israeli target.

On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that Sen. John McCain is using the
"Israel tool" to woo Conservative republicans.

Media cited doubts expressed by Israeli demographers regarding the
accuracy of data published over the weekend by Ramallah's Central
Bureau of Statistics that the Palestinian population had grown by
870,000 in the West Bank over the past decade.

Over the weekend IDF Radio reported that last Wednesday Sheikh
Abu-Hader Jabri and Haj Akram Abu-Sneineh, the heads of the two
largest Palestinian clans in Hebron, met with Zvi Katzover, the
mayor of Kiryat Arba, as well as the heads of Jewish settlers in
Hebron. Both sides declared the meeting as one of reconciliation.
"We don't see you as settlers but as residents," Jabri was quoted as
telling his Jewish interlocutors.
Major media reported that on Sunday the government approved an
ambitious 870-million shekel (approx. $241 million) plan designed to
help absorption of Ethiopian immigrants into Israeli society.

Ha'aretz, Yediot, and Maariv reported that the Jerusalem District
Court ruled on Sunday that alleged child molester Avrohom Mondrowitz
can be extradited to the U.S. for offenses committed between 1980
and 1984.

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

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political, and should always
be pursued. At the same time, Israel must prove that the blood of
its citizens cannot be forfeited -- so that in the future, its
neighbors will abide by the agreements to which they have
committed."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "It is doubtful whether
the Olmert government was prepared to decide on even one war. But
it was fated to decide on two."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "What
Israel really needs, and what Hamas fears most, is not NATO troops,
but Western governments unequivocally backing Israel's right to
self-defense. This means backing Israel when it holds Hamas leaders
accountable and when it demands that Egypt control its own border.
This is how Hamas can be defeated without war, while sparing the
lives of many Israelis and Palestinians."

Meretz-Yahad Party Chairman Yossi Beilin wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom: "If Hamas honors [a] cease-fire agreement fully and
prevents Qassam rockets, mortar shells and other harm to Israel, we
will refrain from going into the Gaza Strip and carrying out
targeted killings. If it does not keep its word, we will also be
released from our promise."

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized: "The
Prime Minister's moderate policy leads to further withdrawals."
Block Quotes:
-------------

I. "Restraint Is Not Possible"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (2/11): "The
firing of Qassam rockets against Sderot and the nearby kibbutzim is
not stopping and is extracting a heavy price in terms of fear and
blood. Responsibility for the shooting from the Gaza Strip, which
has been going on for seven years -- both before and after the
disengagement from the Strip -- falls on the Palestinians. Were it
not for the shooting, Israel would not respond. For the past eight
months Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip alone, and it is no longer
possible to explain away the shooting as due to a lack of control
over rogue organizations. The time has come for the Palestinians to
ask themselves and their leadership about the direction they are
heading.... The disengagement was not a mistake, but a necessary
move of vision and hope. Hamas undermined the hope for a shared
future and opted to preserve, as its declared policy, its
'resistance' to the existence of Israel, and by extension continue
its path of violence. While Israel is trying to correct its
historic error of settling in the heart of the Palestinian
population by converging into old-new borders of a more ethical
democracy, the Palestinians elected Hamas, which is not willing to
compromise. The Qassam attacks are not proof that the disengagement
failed, but that the Hamas rule is leading the Palestinians into a
new round of an unnecessary war.... The solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political, and should always be
pursued. At the same time, Israel must prove that the blood of its
citizens cannot be forfeited -- so that in the future, its neighbors
will abide by the agreements to which they have committed."

II. "Back in the Spring"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/11): "It could very
well be that we are fated both to fight Hamas and to talk to it, the
question is only in which order: do we first fight them and then
talk or do we first talk with them first and then fight them? With
that being the situation, the little that is required of the
politicians is to be truthful with themselves and their voters. On
Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu stood in front of a microphone and blamed
the situation that has evolved on disengagement. He forgot that he
served as one of the senior ministers in the government that decided
on disengagement, and that he supported disengagement in the
decisive vote in the Knesset.... In another few weeks ... the
security cabinet will have to decide whether there isn't any other
choice but to send massive numbers of IDF troops into the Gaza
Strip. To hear it from Netanyahu, he makes it sound like a field
trip to see the anemones near Kibbutz Saad [in the northern Negev].
In real life the decision will be hard as hell to make. It is
doubtful whether the Olmert government was prepared to decide on
even one war. But it was fated to decide on two."

III. "How to Beat Hamas"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/11):
"There are two things that Hamas wants, and two more that it really
fears. Hamas would love a repeat of the 'humanitarian crisis,' in
which the international community sides against Israel for slightly
reducing electricity supplies by cutting fuel to Gaza. Israel was
completely justified in taking this step, but Europe and the U.S.,
which should have exposed Hamas's ploy, acted as dupes of the
terrorist regime and blamed, or did not sufficiently defend,
Israel.... The other option Hamas hopes Israel will take is to
invade Gaza in force.... This brings us to the two options that
Hamas does not want and which Israel should pursue. The first is to
stop holding the 'political' leadership of Hamas immune.... The
second option that is long overdue is to publicly demand that Egypt
do what it takes to shut down the weapons flow into Gaza.... It has
become fashionable to talk of stationing NATO troops in Gaza. What
Israel really needs, and what Hamas fears most, is not NATO troops,
but Western governments unequivocally backing Israel's right to
self-defense. This means backing Israel when it holds Hamas leaders
accountable and when it demands that Egypt control its own border.
This is how Hamas can be defeated without war, while sparing the
lives of many Israelis and Palestinians."

IV. "It Cannot Go On Like This"

Meretz-Yahad Party Chairman Yossi Beilin wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom (2/10): "The Israeli government is responsible for what
is happening in the western Negev.... The correct thing to have done
would have been to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians
that included Gaza. We should have reached one on May 4, 1999, and
we missed that opportunity. Sharon's agreement, and Olmert's after
him, to allow Hamas to run in the Palestinian elections and accept
the American dictate, from a naove perception of democracy, was a
terrible mistake, and Hamas's takeover of Gaza pushed off the
chances of reaching peace. A large-scale operation in Gaza will not
stop the Qassam rockets, and will claim victims on both sides....
Out of its own interest, Hamas wants to reach a cease-fire with
Israel. This is also our interest. It is possible that Hamas wants
to buy time, but Israel needs time until it has protection from the
rockets. If Hamas honors the cease-fire agreement fully and
prevents Qassam rockets, mortar shells and other harm to Israel, we
will refrain from going into the Gaza Strip and carrying out
targeted killings. If it does not keep its word, we will also be
released from our promise. The price is minimal, and the chance for
calm is better than any other alternative."

V. "Simply Resisting Pressure Will Lead to a Withdrawal"

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (2/11):
"[Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] is again avoiding to fully confront
the Gaza terrorists.... Olmert's policy does not being us any closer
to future peace. Its result is the opposite. Over the past weekend
40 Qassam rockets were launched at Sderot, injuring many people and
causing material damage.... Olmert believes that the international
arena will validate his policy. However, he found out during a
conversation with the Austrian Foreign Minister that his
counterparts are not satisfied with that. They demand that he make
bigger concessions to the Palestinians -- in other words, the
Europeans want Israel to declare a withdrawal to the '67 borders.
They believe that this is a necessary condition for pushing peace
regional peace forward. At the end of the conversation Olmert
ignored the [Austrian] Foreign Minister. In fact, the Prime
Minister's moderate policy leads to further withdrawals -- but
Olmert continues to turn a blind eye. We have to be aware of this
situation, as we contend with the Prime Minister's remarks on
containing pressure, instead of on embarking on a military
operation."

MORENO

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