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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0394/01 0501137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191137Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5462
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 3425
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0078
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 3656
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4187
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3445
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1629
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4189
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1030
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1505
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8060
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 5538
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 0451
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 4572
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 6523
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 9100
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000394

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


--------------------------------
SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
--------------------------------

1. Mideast

2. Kosovo

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

Most media highlighted the issue of negotiations with the PA over
Jerusalem. Ha'aretz reported that PM Ehud Olmert and Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice agreed to defer talks on Jerusalem to the
final stage of negotiations with the PA. However, PA Chairman
[President] Mahmoud Abbas insisted on Monday that discussions on the
status of the city must not be postponed. Ha'aretz quoted a senior
Jerusalem source as saying that Olmert and Rice had talked on the
telephone about a week and a half ago, and that Rice accepted
Olmert's position that discussing Jerusalem at the very beginning
could jam the negotiations and obstruct them. Speaking to a
Jordanian newspaper, Abbas also said that the issue of Palestinian
refugees must remain on the agenda of the talks, which he said were
proceeding too slowly. Media quoted Olmert as saying on Sunday that
Abbas had consented to hold off discussing Jerusalem until the end
of the negotiating process, a move that could anger Palestinians but
help the Israeli leader hold together his fragile coalition
government. However, Ha'aretz quoted Nimer Hammad, Abbas's senior
political advisor, as saying on Monday, "This is not true at all.
The issue of Jerusalem is a fundamental issue and cannot be
postponed. The President did not agree to postpone it."

All media reported that Olmert and Abbas are expected to meet in
Jerusalem this evening. In a speech on Sunday, Olmert was quoted as
saying that the goal of peace talks with Abbas was to reach an
understanding on "basic principles" for a Palestinian state by the
end of 2008, rather than a full-fledged agreement. "I don't know if
we will be able to reach an understanding with the Palestinians,"
Olmert said. "I hope we will. We'll do everything in our power to.
But we will not start with the issue which is the most difficult. We
will postpone dealing with Jerusalem to the last phase of the
negotiations." Olmert stressed that Abbas had "accepted" his
suggestion. Maariv saw a difference between a declaration by Abbas
in a private forum that the final-status talks were progressing, and
the "official" Palestinian insistence that the talks are stalled.

The Jerusalem Post reported that with Lebanon in political deadlock
and Hizbullah threatening to renew hostilities with Israel, defense
officials in Tel Aviv expressed concern on Monday that European
countries will gradually reduce their participation in UNIFIL over
the coming year. A high-ranking defense official told the
newspaper that Israel had indications that Spain was considering
withdrawing its forces from Lebanon.

Major media reported that due to threats by Hizbullah following the
assassination of Imad Mughniyah, the Shin Bet's protection service
has bolstered its watch of senior Israeli figures in the country.
Last night Channel 10-TV reported that some ministers will also
enjoy protection abroad. Maariv and other media cited the Kuwaiti
newspaper A-Rai as saying that Hizbullah has a "bank of Israeli
targets" that Mughniyah prepared before his death. Ha'aretz
reported that on Monday the IDF deployed Patriot air defense
missiles near Haifa.

Ha'aretz reported that on Monday the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee urged a delegation of U.S. congressmen to increase
American funding for development of the Magic Wand system for
defense against medium-range rockets and missiles. Much of the
talks were devoted to the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on
Iran, which asserted that Tehran has halted its nuclear weapons
program. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) nevertheless insisted that
there is 'very little difference' between Israeli and American
assessments of Iran. Both believe that it is pursuing nuclear
weapons, he said; the main difference is in the projected timetable
for their acquisition -- and even there, he added, the differences
are "very small." Kyl, a co-sponsor of the law that enabled the
U.S. to impose sanctions on companies that trade with or invest in
Iran, believes that such sanctions should be intensified and applied
to more companies.

On Sunday Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that the U.S. has begun to
accelerate what it describes as the "security Roadmap" that will
correspond to the needs of each side and thereby lead to the
existence of a security common denominator that will allow both
sides to advance significantly in the peace process without harm to
their security.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a top official told the newspaper
that the IDF stands to lose $500 million from its budget in 2008 due
to the drop in the value of the dollar and rising fuel prices. The
official warned that the loss in funding could harm military
readiness.

The Jerusalem Post quoted officials in Jerusalem as saying on Monday
that Israel will not recognize Kosovo's independence, and that it is
watching developments in Brussels and elsewhere before it makes a
final decision on the issue. On Monday Ha'aretz cited a similar
announcement by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday. The Jerusalem Post
cited the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as saying that uncertain Kosovo
Jews "are seeing a Wahabi influence for the first time."

Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post reported that on Monday Foreign
Ministry Director General Aharon Abramovitch rejected a statement on
Monday by visiting UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator that the crisis in Gaza was
a "vicious cycle of violence."

On Monday The Jerusalem Post reported that on Sunday a ministerial
committee led by PM Olmert approved a budget of 350 million shekels
(approx. $ 97.5 million) to fortify 3,600 homes within a range of
4.5 km from the Gaza Strip against Qassam rockets.

Over the weekend the media cited Israel's denial of involvement in
the killing of eight Palestinians in an unexplained explosion in the
Al-Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Friday evening. The
media reported on the continuation of Qassam fire. An elite IDF
fighter was seriously wounded on Sunday by shots fired by a
Palestinian sniper in the southern Gaza Strip.

Over the weekend the media widely quoted a report in the German
weekly Der Spiegel that PM Olmert was considering declaring that
abducted soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are dead.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that on Monday MK Eliahu Gabbay
(National Union-National Religious Party) demanded that the GOI put
an end to the renewal of the PA's Orient House in East Jerusalem,
which he said eroded Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Over the weekend the media reported that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen.
Gabi Ashkenazi announced that Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who currently
heads the IDF's Planning Directory, will be the next commander of
the Israel Air Force.

On Sunday Maariv reported that Bank Leumi, Israel's second-largest
bank, is currently building a new underground computer compound. The
cost of the new compound is 80 million shekels (approx. $22.8
million). The new compound, which is located in central Israel,
will be safe from missile fire, chemical weaponry, and the
electromagnetic pulse that is created by an atomic bomb. The
decision to build the new compound was made in the aftermath of the
Second Lebanon War, following consultation with various military
experts, mainly from intelligence.

On Sunday Ha'aretz cited a Civil Administration report that more
than one third of West Bank settlements were built on private
Palestinian land that was temporarily seized by military orders for
"security purposes."

Yediot reported that on Monday Ehud Barak began the first visit to
Singapore by an Israeli defense minister. The newspaper wrote that
Singapore had kept ties with Israel at a low level since 1971.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel is preventing four children in the
Gaza Strip from joining their parents in Ramallah. The High Court
of Justice is now debating a petition filed at the end of January by
the Center for the Defense of the Individual against the Interior
Ministry and the IDF, to enable the children to join their parents.

Ha'aretz reported that Israelis are 30 times more likely to be
wiretapped than Americans.

Leading media reported that on Monday Tel Aviv University announced
the creation of a "U.S. style" medical school program -- students
could become physicians in four years.

------------
1. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "When peace agreements are
perceived as concessions or as weakness ... there is nothing left
but to wage war against the symbols of terror."

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote on his Internet site Gplanet:
"Nasrallah is operating and reacting on the basis of a shrinking set
of options: Whatever he does, will first and foremost damage him."

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

I. "No Cause for Celebration"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (2/17): "When peace agreements
are perceived as concessions or as weakness, when negotiations with
Syria are repeatedly postponed on the grounds that President Bashar
Assad is not serious and the talks with the Palestinians are
suspended on the grounds that the person with whom we can speak is
unable to deliver the goods, there is nothing left but to wage war
against the symbols of terror, to eliminate the Hamas or Hezbollah
leadership, to point to a brilliant operational and intelligence
victory, to count the victims of vengeance and to proceed to the
next candidate."

II. "Nasrallah's Options after MughniyahQs Assassination"

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote on his Internet site Gplanet (2/17):
"Nasrallah would very much like to respond to the assassination of
Imad Mughniyah, which greatly pained him, but conditions have now
arisen in southern Lebanon that do not permit him to act freely, as
he did before the war. First of all, deterrence has been created,
since he knows that an actual attack by him on Israel would lead to
a renewal of the war, and this time perhaps the destruction of his
organization, since Israel has already learned many lessons from the
last campaign. This time it will launch a real war, not an
operation. In other words, he cannot allow this to happen, except
at a very high cost.... What will he do, then? In his speech at the
funeral, Nasrallah adopted a tactic that we failed to understand,
just as we did not understand his words and actions prior to the
war. Here enter into play the hidden rules of the Middle East, such
as the rules of creating deterrence. His threats do not necessarily
mean revenge, they mean creating a renewed balance of terror
regarding assassinations, with the hope that they will stop. He
understood the significance of such a sophisticated assassination
deep within his organization. Of course, the IDF and our security
establishment must take all the preparatory measures available,
including warlike options, but Nasrallah is operating and reacting
on the basis of a shrinking set of options: Whatever he does, will
first and foremost damage him."

-----------
2. Kosovo:
-----------

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "Israel
maintains diplomatic and economic relations with Arab and Muslim
countries around the world. The government has a unique opportunity
to stretch out a hand to the new state, and to prove that the Jewish
state is not an enemy of the Muslims."

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

"Recognize Kosovo"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (2/18): "Kosovo
expects dozens of countries to recognize its independence. We have
to hope that Jerusalem has properly weighed the reasons in favor of
responding to the call of the new European state, in the face of
pressure from Serbia. Although most of the residents of Kosovo are
Muslims, the district has not identified with extremist Islamic
tendencies and has kept a distance from Israel's opponents in the
Arab world.... Jerusalem's special relations with the U.S., its
major ally, always have been a central factor in Israeli diplomacy.
Washington's decision to recognize Kosovo makes it easier for Israel
to do so, too. The struggle of the persecuted Kosovar people for
independence is reminiscent of struggles by other nations for the
right to self-determination. The State of Israel, which was
established in the wake of the Jewish people's struggle for a
national home, should stretch out a hand to other nations seeking
self-determination. Israel maintains diplomatic and economic
relations with Arab and Muslim countries around the world. The
government has a unique opportunity to stretch out a hand to the new
state, and to prove that the Jewish state is not an enemy of the
Muslims."

JONES

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