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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0412/01 0511134
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P 201134Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5496
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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
CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL FOR POLAD/USIA ADVISOR
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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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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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Media quoted PM Ehud Olmert and Israeli negotiators as saying that
Jerusalem was not discussed during his talks with PA Chairman
[President] Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday. The media quoted the
Palestinians as saying that Jerusalem was discussed. Ha'aretz
reported that the sides agreed to expand their negotiations to
topics beyond the "core issues": Within two weeks, teams will be set
up to discuss at least seven other issues. Olmert and Abbas
assigned the heads of the negotiating teams on the core issues -- FM
Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian PM Ahmed Qurei -- the job of
deciding exactly which issues the new task forces should begin
discussing, and Livni hopes to reach an agreement with Qurei on this
matter soon. Ha'aretz reported that Livni hopes that these
negotiations will attract media attention and thereby create a
feeling of momentum. One of the most important new issues on which
Israel hopes to begin talks is the development of a "culture of
peace," with an emphasis on ending incitement to terrorism. Israel
would like to reach agreements with the PA on preventing media
incitement, encouraging people-to-people activities, and changing
parts of the Palestinian school curriculum, which Israel says
negates its right to exist. On Sunday, Livni held discussions with
representatives of several other government ministries to formulate
Israel's positions on these issues. Transportation Minister and
former defense minister Shaul Mofaz was quoted as saying in an
interview with Israel Hayom that an agreement with Abbas would be
dangerous and turn into an Israeli "deposit" to the PA. The
Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad told the
newspaper on Tuesday that if Israel and the Palestinians do not
change their behavior faster in the West Bank, they will fail to
finalize a peace agreement. Leading electronic media reported that
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team,
told Reuters that if they cannot reach a deal with Israel, the
Palestinians should consider declaring independence like Kosovo did
on Sunday. "If things are not going in the direction of actually
halting settlement activities, if things are not going in the
direction of continuous and serious negotiations, then we should
take the step and announce our independence unilaterally," he was
quoted as saying. However, Ha'aretz's web site reported that the
chief Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qurei, quickly quashed the idea
of a unilateral declaration, saying it was never brought before the
Palestinian leadership

The Jerusalem Post reported that defense officials have told the
newspaper that the U.S. is reviewing the feasibility of deploying a
NATO force in the West Bank as a way to ease IDF security concerns
and facilitate an Israeli withdrawal from the area within the coming
years. The plan, which is reportedly being spearheaded by U.S.
Special Envoy to the region Gen. James Jones, is being floated among
European countries, which could be asked to contribute troops to a
West Bank multinational force. The Jerusalem Post quoted an
official close to Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying that the
deployment of a multinational force in the West Bank could create
operational challenges for the IDF if it decided to respond to
Palestinian terror attacks following the withdrawal. One of the
issues that most concerns Israel is whether under such a withdrawal
the IDF would retain its operational freedom in the West Bank,
despite the presence of the multinational force.

Yediot reported that Israeli security officials are frustrated with
EgyptQs attitude towards Hamas. According to this report, Egypt is
accused of playing a "double game," in which it arrests Palestinian
infiltrators in Sinai on the one hand, but holds covert talks with
Hamas on the other. In the same report, Israeli security officials
raise concerns about possible Hamas efforts to develop an aerial
capability, which could include attempts to develop attack drones.

Ha'aretz reported that a new neighborhood comprising 27 trailers is
currently under construction at the settlement of Eli, north of
Ramallah, even though PM Ehud Olmert vowed publicly after the
Annapolis conference that such construction would cease. Even though
some of the trailers are being set up on land privately owned by
Palestinians, the authorities are taking no action. Similar
unauthorized construction has taken place in the settlement of
Maskiot in the northern Jordan Valley.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe cited Hamas's belief that Israelis are buying
Palestinian property. The newspaper quoted Palestinian ministers as
saying that the land has not been sold to Israelis.

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported that Amos Gilad, head of the
Security-Political Bureau at the Defense Ministry, visited Cairo at
the beginning of the week and spoke there with Omar Suleiman, head
of Egyptian intelligence, and Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein
Tantawi. The two sides agreed to continue holding talks to resolve
the issue of who controls the border crossing at Rafah on the
Palestinian side, and on stemming arms smuggling into the Gaza
Strip.

Israel Radio quoted the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida as saying that Imad
Mughniyah's assassination is only the first Israeli move in a series
of hits against Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iranian targets.

Ha'aretz reported that on Tuesday an IDF ground unit killed a
Palestinian gunman several km east of Dir al-Balah, near Kissufim in
the Gaza Strip. Later in the day an IDF force came under mortar fire
in the Strip. Palestinians reported that a 7-year-old was killed in
crossfire. Also on Tuesday, the Palestinians fired three Qassam
rockets on Israeli communities in the western Negev. Yediot
reported that two young Israelis have set up a forum on Facebook
meant to create worldwide solidarity with the victims of Qassam
attacks.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted National Infrastructure Minister
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer as saying that the West Bank city of Ariel will
be part of Israel in any future agreement.

Leading media reported that eight to 15 Knesset members from a broad
spectrum of parties will soon embark on a tour of Europe and the Far
East to explain the dangers of Iran's nuclear program and urge that
sanctions against the Islamic Republic be intensified. Yediot
reported that among other things, Israel wants the European
countries to prevent Iran from receiving technologies that would
allow Iran to develop its gas fields.

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio quoted the BBC as saying that in 2005
British police refrained from arresting a retired IDF general
accused of war crimes in Britain: Lawyers acting for Palestinian
campaigners lobbied the Metropolitan Police to act on allegations
that he had ordered the destruction of more than 50 Palestinian
homes in the Gaza Strip in 2002. According to the report, Almog
stayed on the plane. The BBC said that British police feared an
armed confrontation with air marshals or Almog's security details if
they stormed the aircraft.

Maariv reported that President Peres will not allow State
Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and his team to enter his residence,
saying that he may not be probed. Lindenstrauss allegedly replied
that the President's residence may be investigated.
Maariv reported that starting next week the Tel Aviv police will
adopt New York's precinct system.

The Jerusalem Post presented the results of an Anti-Defamation
League poll finding that one-third of Americans believe that
American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the U.S.

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

Summary:
--------

Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "In the most recent dispute
between Israel and the Palestinian Authority about beginning
negotiations over Jerusalem, both parties are in the right.... It
seems Jerusalem and Ramallah are still trying to figure out how to
be not just right, but also clever."

Liberal op-ed writer Uzi Benziman commented in Ha'aretz: "Olmert and
his partners in power believe, for some reason, that peace is
something you do with trickery."

The ultra-Orthodox Hamodi'a editorialized: "The ambiguity policy
under the cover of which the dialogue between Olmert and Abu Mazen
is taking place should be viewed as a cover-up ... for the reality
that was discussed on Tuesday at the Prime Minister's Office."

Columnist Michael Freund, who was an assistant to former prime
minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in the conservative, independent
Jerusalem Post: "It is time for Israel to stop looking the other
ways whenever the Palestinians assail everything we hold dear. If
it is a war of symbols they want, then Israel should not hesitate to
respond."

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

I. "They're Both Right"

Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (2/20): "In the most recent
dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority about beginning
negotiations over Jerusalem, both parties are in the right.....
Olmert's rush to the media exposed Abbas and his associates to
criticism from their own Fatah movement and the rival Hamas, and
they were seen as spineless when it comes to talks with Israel.
This led Abbas' advisers and spokesmen to issue a spate of denials
regarding any such agreement. All the same, the Palestinians were
right when they said that discussions over Jerusalem had not been
taken off the agenda. The heads of the negotiation teams, Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed
Qurei, are discussing everything, including Jerusalem. But
Palestinian sources say their talks deal in generalizations and that
the real negotiations have yet to begin.... But it could be that
both leaders, aware of the limits of their power, find it easier to
continue negotiations without bringing them to a decisive point on
any issue. Abbas and Olmert realize that they won't be able to push
through a deal that includes dramatic concessions -- because of Gaza
and Shas -- so leaving Jerusalem off the agenda will ensure that the
negotiations never reach a dangerous intersection. It seems
Jerusalem and Ramallah are still trying to figure out how to be not
just right, but also clever."

II. "You Can't Make Peace with Tricks"

Liberal op-ed writer Uzi Benziman commented in Ha'aretz (2/20):
"When the Prime Minister twists his tongue into knots to assuage the
respective suspicions of two groups listening to what he has to say
-- Shas on the one hand and Abu Mazen and his colleagues on the
other -- he seems more like a tightrope walker who is scared of
falling than a clever politician who knows where he is headed. When
Olmert declares that today we are not talking with the Palestinians
about Jerusalem, he gives the impression of weakness. People listen
to him and wonder to themselves: And what about tomorrow? Will this
silence about the city's future continue?.... The polls suggest that
the majority supports, for the time being, Likud and the other
parties on the right. This is also the mood in the Knesset.
Therefore, Olmert's political maneuvering will presumably die out on
its own. On the other hand, there is a strong likelihood that were
the two sides to be presented with a peace plan that offered them a
promising future, they would adopt it even though they have their
differences -- vis-a-vis one another and also internally -- about
each of its central elements. At the heart of this assumption lies
the leaders' determination to take a chance, to talk with the enemy,
to cut into the most sensitive aspects of the conflict, and ask for
the public's trust in their positions. This entails leaders who
speak with honesty to the public, who involve it in the details of
the negotiations, who expose the difficulties to the people, and
don't try to hide the concessions that need to be made. This is not
the way things stand in the current Israeli realities: Olmert and
his partners in power believe, for some reason, that peace is
something you do with trickery."

III. "Conflicting Declarations"

The ultra-Orthodox Hamodi'a editorialized (2/20): "All negotiators
with the Palestinians should carefully listen to the song coming out
of the Muqata in Ramallah. The talk there is about a Palestinian
state with Jerusalem as its capital -- nothing less than that.
Experience teaches us that the Palestinians' statements are more
serious than those of Israeli politicians. Thus, the ambiguity
policy under the cover of which the dialogue between Olmert and Abu
Mazen is taking place should be viewed as a cover-up ... for the
reality that was discussed on Tuesday at the Prime Minister's
Office."

IV. "Shut Down Orient House"

Columnist Michael Freund, who was an assistant to former prime
minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in the conservative, independent
Jerusalem Post (2/20): "On Monday, Israel Radio reported that
Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority has chosen to defy the law,
which bars it from operating in Jerusalem, by reopening the Orient
House.... This is nothing less than a clear Palestinian slap in the
face to the Israeli government, which only recently reaffirmed the
ban on PA activity in Jerusalem, something to which the Palestinians
themselves had agreed in the Oslo Accords. More importantly,
though, it is a slap to the people of Israel, the overwhelmingly
majority of whom cherish Jerusalem and are against re-dividing the
Holy City. And that is precisely why the Palestinians are doing it.
They understand the power that symbols have to influence, shape and
yes, even to alter reality.... It is time for Israel to stop looking
the other way whenever the Palestinians assail everything we hold
dear. If it is a war of symbols they want, then Israel should not
hesitate to respond. A good place to start would be to tear down
the Orient House in Jerusalem, raze the site, and close it once and
for all. Similarly, the Muslim Waqf must be held accountable for
the damage it causes to the Temple Mount, site of the ancient Jewish
Temple.... We simply cannot afford to allow the Palestinians to
continue to spit in our faces, and then call it rain. Our foes
understand well the importance of symbols. They realize that
despite their name, symbols are not merely symbolic, but have
substantive value too. The question is, when will we?"

JONES

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