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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0367/01 0451124
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141124Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5418
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000367

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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
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JERUSALEM ALSO ICD
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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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Imad Mughniyah's Assassination

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

All Israeli media led with the assassination of Hizbullah military
leader Imad Mughniyah on Tuesday night in Damascus. The Israeli
Prime Minister's Office has issued a denial of involvement in the
assassination; however Syria, Hizbullah and Iran have publicly
blamed Israel for Mughniyah's death. Syria stated that the
assassination was an "act of terror" and Iran said that "it is a
further example of terror carried out by the Zionist regime." In
Israel, the assassination has been praised by key Israeli public
figures and in Ha'aretz's analysis, the event will give a boost to
PM Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who will give a nod and a
wink, even in the off chance that Israel wasn't involved. All media
reported that posts along Israel's northern border and diplomatic
representations abroad have been put on alert for possible
retaliatory strikes by Hizbullah. Israel Radio, citing another
theory, suggested that the assassination may have been carried out
by Lebanese Christians to mark the third anniversary of the
assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri. Leading media
also carried State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack statement
that "The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a
cold-blooded killer, a mass murderer, and a terrorist responsible
for countless innocent lives lost."

The Jerusalem Post reported that PM Olmert told Shas leader Eli
Yishai that Jerusalem would not be discussed until the end of the
peace negotiations and that he will make sure that FM Tzipi Livni
follows that directive. The Jerusalem Post also reported that
Olmert promised Yishai that construction would continue in Jewish
neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. Ha'aretz quoted Nir Barkat, the
head of the opposition in Jerusalem's Municipality, as saying that
Vice PM Haim Ramon and PA adviser Muhammad Rashid have agreed in a
secret talks to a division of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Post quoted

SIPDIS
Vice PM Haim Ramon as saying that Barkat's claims of talks are
"absurd and unfounded."

The media reported that on Wednesday FM Tzipi Livni took 70 foreign
diplomats on a tour of Sderot and the area. Ha'aretz quoted Livni
as saying during the tour that Israel has rejected a proposal by PA
Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas and PM Salam Fayyad to let the PA
take responsibility for crossings between Gaza and Israel.

Israel Radio reported that at a Jewish community event in Paris on
Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to secure the
release of Gilad Shalit. Yediot reported that Sarkozy, who
announced he will visit Israel in May, stressed the importance of
celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary. The radio reported that the
ambassadors to France of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and
Mauritania, as well as the PLO representative in Paris, attended the
dinner.

Ha'aretz reported that at a conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday
military experts presented alternatives to Israel's permanent
roadblocks in the West Bank, suggesting instead surprise
checkpoints, PA-coordinated patrols, and more fences around Israeli
settlements. The experts were quoted as saying that the current
policy harms both the Palestinian population as well as the IDF.

Leading media described the interests in Israel of Badri
Patarkatsishvili, an exiled Jewish Georgian tycoon and opposition
politician, who died unexpectedly in suspicious circumstances on
Tuesday night at his home outside London. This morning Israel Radio
reported that the British police now believe that he died of natural
causes.

Kosovar PM Hashim Thaci, the "Ben Gurion of Kosovo," was quoted as
saying in an interview with Ha'aretz that his country will be a
model of secularism. He called on Israel to join the bloc of
democratic countries recognizing Kosovo's independence.

-------------------------------
Imad Mughniyah's Assassination:
-------------------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote on page one of
the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "If the Mughniyah
assassination generates a mass outbreak in Lebanon, it might develop
into a new civil war and create a tough front for Israel."

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in Ha'aretz: "the fact
that Mughniyah was killed on Syrian soil will go on the growing list
of American charges against Syria."

Liberal columnist Ofer Shelach wrote on page one of the popular,
pluralist Maariv: "Such an operation, to which Israel denies any
connection, renews the sense that we have daring and resourceful
organizations that can go any place and reach anyone.... But the way
we see everything as an ongoing attack ... attest[s] to an Israeli
mentality that is often no less dangerous."

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin, wrote on page one of the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The Hizbullah organization has the habit
of always saying the 'last word,' even when its leaders know they
will take in more and more blows."

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized:
"[Mughniyah's assassination] is ... an act of justice on an
international level."

Professor Eyal Zisser, the Chairman of the Department of Middle
Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, wrote in Yediot Aharonot:
"Nasrallah is now facing a dilemma. If he reacts, he -- and
especially his Shi'ite supporters -- will be hit hard by Israel. If
he does not react, then his image, which is already in trouble, will
be damaged even more."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Iran
does not have to ever use a nuclear weapon, either directly or
through proxies, for that weapon to have a profound impact on the
level of terrorism in the world."

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

I. "Under Their Noses"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote on page one of
the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (2/14): "If the Mughniyah
assassination generates a mass outbreak in Lebanon, it might develop
into a new civil war and create a tough front for Israel, since
Lebanese chaos would likely spell the end of agreements reached
following the Second Lebanon War and on the basis of Security
Council Resolution 1701. In the most dangerous scenario, Hizbullah
will respond to the assassination by deciding to go to war with
Israel, and thereby place the Lebanese government in an impossible
situation."

II. "Not Just 'Who' but Also 'Where'"

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in Ha'aretz (2/14):
"State Department spokesman Sean McCormack gave vent to the
Americans' joy at Mughniyah's demise when he said 'the world is a
better place without this man in it.' Better -- but not necessarily
safer.... On Wednesday fingers were pointed in three possible
directions. If Israel did it -- the widespread assumption -- it
would join the mysterious bombing of a Syrian facility last
September in contributing substantially to improving Israel's
security standing in Washington.... If America did it, it would come
as a great surprise to most experts in Washington..... The third
version has Syria as a potential suspect, perhaps as a means of
signaling to the Americans that it wishes to resume talks and sever
ties, at least partially, with the terror groups that have made
Damascus home.... In any event, the fact that Mughniyah was killed
on Syrian soil will go on the growing list of American charges
against Syria. If the Syrians didn't know they were hosting one of
America's greatest enemies, then Assad's rule is so weak that terror
groups can establish a base there, compelling the U.S. to take
preventive steps. If they knew, then they're in even bigger
trouble."

III. "The Mindset and the Advantage"

Liberal columnist Ofer Shelach wrote on page one of the popular,
pluralist Maariv (2/14): "Such an operation, to which Israel denies
any connection, renews the sense that we have daring and resourceful
organizations that can go any place and reach anyone. It renews our
faith that we are the pursuers and not the hunted.... On the other
hand, think of this scenario: Israel does not react to the [July
2006] kidnapping immediately. A year and a half later, Imad
Mughniyah meets his death in a mysterious explosion in Damascus.
Nobody claims responsibility, but everyone knows why he died. This
is elegant, smart, avoids acts that have no objective, and is so not
Israel. We often talk about the Arab mentality, but the way we see
everything as an ongoing attack, the way in which an operational
opportunity leads us to thoughts about targets, achievements and
costs, all these attest to an Israeli mentality that is often no
less dangerous."

IV. "Blessed be the Almighty Who Rid Us of That Man"

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin, wrote on page one of the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/14): "Believers amongst us will say:
'Blessed be [the Almighty] who rid us' [of Mughniyah]. The secular
will quote a couple of lines by [the Israeli poet] Haim Hefer: 'This
people would certainly like to say thank you/To the hidden fighters
and the people of the secret and the enigma/And to add some
affectionate word/ This people would certainly like to say thank you
-- if it knew the address'.... However the motto of the day is:
Beware. The Hizbullah organization has the habit of always saying
the 'last word,' even when its leaders know they will take in more
and more blows."

V. "Making Justice on an International Level"

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (2/14):
"Not only is the mysterious blast in which Imad Mughniyah found his
death in Damascus an act in the war against terror. It is also an
act of justice on an international level. The status of the
international justice system could be exemplified by a comment that
Quartet envoy Tony Blair made to [Israeli Internal Security]
Minister around a week ago. Blair ... expressed his stupefaction at
the fact that ... Dichter may not enter Britain out of concern that
he will be arrested and put to trial for his involvement in the war
on terror.... [Conversely], Imad Mughniyah has been roaming the
world for almost three decades.... The international justice system
has not been able to provide Israel and the Jewish people proper
protection.... It turns out that in the absence of international
power to prosecute criminal terrorists and bring them to justice,
there is only one way to take care of them -- by eliminating them,
thus deterring their accomplices."

VI. "Hizbullah Without Confidence"

Professor Eyal Zisser, the Chairman of the Department of Middle
Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, wrote in Yediot Aharonot
(2/14): "Nasrallah is now facing a dilemma. If he reacts, he -- and
especially his Shi'ite supporters -- will be hit hard by Israel. If
he does not react, then his image, which is already in trouble, will
be damaged even more. In the past Nasrallah could rely on the
support and advice of Mughniyah when times were difficult, but the
latter is no longer with him. Nasrallah was battered and hurt
Wednesday, but Nasrallah and his organization, like the masses of
Shi'ite Muslims who support him, is not going anywhere. The
organization still enjoys wide support and its military force is
impressive. When the time comes he will try to punish Israel for
the assassination of Mughniyah.... But the lesson of Mughniyah's
killing is clear. Hassan Nasrallah is not omnipotent, nor is his
organization. He is vulnerable and is on the defensive against his
enemies and rivals. Anyone who followed the reactions inside and
outside Lebanon -- some of them rejoicing at Hizbullah's misfortune
-- can easily see that Israel is not Hizbullah's only enemy, and not
necessarily the most dangerous one. "

VII. "Death of a Terrorist"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/14):
"The death of Mughniyah ... should refocus attention on the danger
posed by his real masters in Tehran. Every time the world
contemplates a nuclear Iran, it must also contemplate the
possibility that Mughniyah's successors will be tasked with using
that weapon in a way that bears no obvious fingerprints leading back
to Iran, presents no clear address for retaliation, and therefore
leaves the entire deterrence model in shambles. But Iran does not
have to ever use a nuclear weapon, either directly or through
proxies, for that weapon to have a profound impact on the level of
terrorism in the world. If Iran goes nuclear, the mullahs will be
able to greatly ramp up their support for the entire jihadi axis,
including Hamas, Hizbullah, and al-Qaida, while enjoying substantial
immunity from Western retaliation. This Iranian freedom of action
could quickly change the face of the region, substantially raise the
price of oil and otherwise pummel Western economies, and destroy any
prospects for Arab-Israeli peace."

JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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