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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0545/01 0701118
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101118Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5760
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUEAHQA/HQ USAF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 3519
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0169
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 3762
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4280
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3538
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1737
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4284
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1121
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1598
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 6615
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 9243
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RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000545

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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Ha'aretz reported that the GOI has ordered the IDF to exercise
restraint in Gaza, pursuant to what a senior government official
termed new rules of the game. The official credited these rules,
under which Israel will not attack as long as Hamas does not fire at
Israel, with the recent lull in violence. Yet at the same time, he
charged, they completely contradict last week's cabinet decision,
which stated that Israel should keep up the military pressure on
Hamas. (Yediot reported that Hamas has committed itself to 10 days
of quiet. The Jerusalem Post reported that on Sunday Hamas denied
that it had reached an understanding with Israel on a truce or
period of calm, but that it confirmed that Egypt was playing a role
in trying to achieve a cease-fire.) The volume of rocket fire from
Gaza has declined sharply in recent days. The IDF, for its part, has
withdrawn all ground troops from the strip and has halted aerial
assaults. Ha'aretz reported that the government official stressed
that there is no formal agreement with Hamas, but rather unofficial
rules that were formulated in secret during Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice's visit last week. Rice apparently relayed a
proposal for resuming the lull that Hamas had transmitted via Egypt,
and on her departure last Wednesday, PM Ehud Olmert responded
publicly, saying: "If they don't fire Qassam rockets at us, we won't
attack in Gaza." Ha'aretz quoted a military source as saying that
while the rules of engagement in Gaza have not officially been
altered, the "general trend was made clear to us. For now, we are
not really fighting Hamas. There is restraint, even if undeclared.
Where things are really heading, we'll know only later." The senior
government official was quoted as saying that in effect, the
unofficial ground rules covered three possible scenarios: If the
rocket fire stops completely, so will IDF operations in Gaza; if
Palestinians fire only at Sderot and other communities near Gaza,
Israel will respond primarily with aerial assault; if rockets hit
Ashkelon, Israel will respond with ground operations like last
week's, in which over 100 Palestinians were killed.

All media cited assessments on the strategic situation facing Israel
in 2008 that were given to the cabinet on Sunday by representatives
from the Mossad, IDF Intelligence (MI), the Shin Bet, and Israel
National Police. The heads of the Mossad and MI were quoted as
saying that Iran will likely reach the tipping point in late 2009 or
early 2010. The intelligence community raised a scenario according
to which an escalation in violence in Gaza could lead to a Hizbullah
attack in the North. While Yediot cited the Mossad's belief that
Syria is not willing to dismantle its links with Iran, even if
Israel commits itself to with drawing from the entire Golan, MI
assessed that disengaging Syria from the "axis of evil" depends on
Israel relinquishing the Golan for the sake of the peace process.
Foreign Ministry representatives were quoted as saying that the U.S.
was suffering from a declining status in the Middle East, and that
this was causing an increase in the maneuverability of other players
in the region, including radical ones. However, they were quoted as
saying, these radical forces were deterred by Israel, worried by its
strength, and concerned by the force it could use. This, the
officials were quoted as saying, prevented them from acting with all
their might.

Leading media quoted the Housing Ministry as saying on Sunday that
PM Olmert has approved construction of an estimated 750 new homes in
the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev. The project approved for
the settlement's Agan Ayelot neighborhood drew criticism from the PA
over Israel's commitment to the peace process. Ha'aretz quoted Mark
Regev, the PM's spokesman, as saying that the project had already
been approved by previous governments and abided by the state's
current policy on construction in large settlement blocks that "will
remain a part of Israel in any final status agreement." Israel
Radio reported that Shas had threatened to quit the government if
the project would have been blocked.

The media reported that on Sunday FM Tzipi Livni left for a visit to
Washington during which she will meet with Secretary Rice, National
Security Adviser Steve Hadley, and members of Congress.

Leading media reported that Republican presidential candidate
Senator John McCain may come to Israel next week as a member of a
visiting CODEL. Ha'aretz quoted GOI sources as saying that it is
not yet certain that McCain will be part of the delegation. If he
does come, he will meet with PM Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak,
and FM Tzipi Livni. It is believed McCain would want such a visit
in order to strengthen his ties to the American Jewish community
ahead of the presidential elections. Maariv cited The Washington
Post as saying that Senator Barack Obama's team is also considering
a visit to Israel.
All media reported that on Sunday Rabbi Ya'acov Shapira, head of the
Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, called to replace the "hollow"
government and to continue building in all parts of the Land of
Israel (including the territories). Earlier on Sunday dozens and
educators verbally assaulted the Education Minister as she left
Mercaz Harav after visiting the high school. Shouts of "murderer,"
"criminal," and "traitor" were hurled at her. The media also
reported that the yeshiva rejected PM Olmert's offer of a condolence
visit. Major media reported that Hamas unofficially hinted on
Sunday that it was behind the attack. Over the weekend media quoted
Palestinian sources as saying that Hamas and Hizbullah helped carry
out the attack. All media reported that a number of stone-throwing
incidents were recorded over the weekend on major roads near Israeli
Arab towns.

Leading media displayed the picture of billboards exhibited
throughout Tehran that represent Defense Minister Barak, Mossad
Director Meir Dagan, and MI Intelligence head Amos Yadlin as targets
to be eliminated. The Iranian government is offering $1 million for
their heads.

On Sunday The Jerusalem Post quoted Construction and Housing
Minister Ze'ev Boim, who is a leading candidate to become the next
ambassador to the UN, as saying on Saturday that Israel should form
an international coalition to push for the removal of Mohamed
ElBaradei as head of the IAEA.

Ha'aretz reported that the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern
Cyprus will open a trade office in Israel in the coming weeks, with
the assistance of the law office of Dov Weisglass, the former bureau
chief of PM Ariel Sharon. The office will hold no diplomatic status
and aims to further economic dealings between Israel and northern
Cyprus. The Foreign Ministry has kept a low profile on the matter,
trying to avoid a confrontation with Greece and Cyprus on the one
hand and Turkey on the other. Most Israeli business in the North
Cyprus revolves around real estate and tourism, including
investments in casinos.

The media reported that President Shimon Peres will leave today for
a five-day visit to France. Ha'aretz noted that French President
Nicolas Sarkozy made Peres his first official visitor.

Maariv reported that Palestinians from abroad will visit the country
for trips equivalent to the "birthright israel" programs.

Leading media reported that the emblematic Polgat textile factory in
Kiryat Gat will close its doors next month.

Ha'aretz reviewed the results of a poll conducted by Brandeis
University's Steinhardt Social Research Institute, which found that
the attitude of U.S. Jewry to Israel has not changed over the past
decade.

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

Summary:
--------

Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff and Military
correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The relative calm could be considered to be
a confidence-building measure that would enable Egypt to step up its
efforts to reach a longer-term agreement."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "The terror attack in Jerusalem and the
rejoicing it prompted among the Palestinian public threaten the
chance of attaining [the goals of Annapolis]."

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The timing [of the
attack on the yeshiva] that was chosen and the location that was
chosen were geared to have ignited a pyre on the West Bank and to
have lit a third Intifada that would rage in tandem with the
fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Defense commentator Amir Oren wrote in Ha'aretz: "The tough
decisions will be left to the next president, but already now it is
clear that there will not be a hasty retreat from the Middle East.
McCain is against that, Clinton is not far from him in her views,
and Obama will be educated. Iran is the new Iraq."

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

I. "A Lull in Gaza?"

Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff and Military
correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/10): "The statistics are not lying: Since
last Thursday, there has been a lull in the fighting in the Gaza
Strip. It is quite certain that this will be a short break.... The
relative calm could be considered to be a confidence-building
measure that would enable Egypt to step up its efforts to reach a
longer-term agreement. It will also make it difficult for Israel to
initiate a new series of attacks targeting Hamas in the Strip....
Hamas is demanding, as a prerequisite for a deal, the opening of the
border crossings, especially the one at Rafah. Reaching agreement
on this matter, one that will be acceptable to both Israel and
Hamas, is a very difficult thing to do.... IDF sources say that the
person who really makes the decisions in Hamas has for some time not
been Haniyeh, nor even Khaled Mashal, the group's politburo chief in
Damascus. They say that Ahmed Jabari, the head of the military wing
of the group, rules. Jabari is the one who led the breach of the
border wall at the Philadelphi route in Rafah late in January, in
spite of reservations from Mashal. Jabari's stance is hard and
uncompromising. It is unlikely he will be willing to make any
ideological concessions."

II. "Blood, Religion, and Negotiations"

Ha'aretz editorialized (3/9): "From the start, the Annapolis process
came across as overly ambitious and sterile -- a drive to reach an
agreement within a year, only to shelve it for when the need arises.
Its success depends on several conditions coalescing: a formula
acceptable to the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority
leadership, Mahmoud Abbas confronting Hamas and the rest of the
rejectionist organizations, and public opinion on both sides
mobilizing in support of the agreement and against its enemies. The
terror attack in Jerusalem and the rejoicing it prompted among the
Palestinian public threaten the chance of attaining these
conditions. On top of this is Abbas's helplessness, a loss of
support for the Kadima-Labor government, and the growing strength of
the radical right in Israel, which opposes a compromise on
Jerusalem. This is the final chance for a combined political and
military effort, for peace, and against its enemies. Without such
action now, the power of the moderate nationalists will wane, the
religious zealots will grow stronger, and the conflict will become
eternal."

III. "The Goal: A Third Intifada"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/9): "This wasn't a
self-sacrifice operation that was decided on spontaneously. Nor was
it an outburst of emotions and frustration felt by a Palestinian
resident of Israel and fueled by the painful images out of Gaza.

The terror attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, so believe Israeli
security officials, was planned and prepared prior to the most
recent round of violence in the Gaza Strip. It was what is known as
a 'locked and loaded terror attack.' -- to wit, a terror attack that
was fully prepared and was only awaiting orders to be set in motion.
Standing behind the murderer was a group that selected the time and
the location scrupulously. The security establishment has not
dismissed the notion that this group was handled by Hizbullah in
Lebanon. The timing that was chosen and the location that was
chosen were geared to have ignited a pyre on the West Bank and to
have lit a third Intifada that would rage in tandem with the
fighting in the Gaza Strip. That is one of the most salient
interests of Hamas in Gaza and, to no lesser an extent, of
Hizbullah. In that sense, and only in that sense, there was no
surprise here. Prior to the terror attack, senior military
officials said they believed Hamas would try to export the clashes
to the West Bank. The target that was chosen for the terror attack
is not merely a religious institution, on which, naturally enough,
any attack is potentially inflammatory. At issue is an institute of
the religious Zionist movement, which could 'ensure' the planners of
the terror attack that there would be a wave of revenge attacks in
the territories that would cause the situation on the West Bank to
devolve into chaos.... This terror attack is a wake-up call for all
the branches of [Israel's] defense establishment."


IV. "The Road to Gaza Runs through Tehran"

Defense commentator Amir Oren wrote in Ha'aretz (3/10): "The
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has
already stated that one of his tasks is to 'educate' the civilian
leaders. In a democracy, the decision is of course made by the
politicians, but it is the army's duty to shed light on matters by
providing the latter with data, explaining significances and
recommending alternatives. Mullen's message is probably aimed at
the contenders for the Democratic Party presidential nomination --
Hillary Clinton and, more specifically, Barack Obama -- far more
than at the Republican candidate, John McCain. As a member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee, Clinton acquired a modicum of
experience in security affairs; Obama is a complete novice in this
regard. McCain, as a retired colonel and as a legislator, is also
close in his approach to that of the senior officer corps. The
tough decisions will be left to the next president, but already now
it is clear that there will not be a hasty retreat from the Middle
East. McCain is against that, Clinton is not far from him in her
views, and Obama will be educated. Iran is the new Iraq..... What
is now in the cards is a wait of another year or more, until the
next U.S. administration has stabilized, while the internal
developments in Iran continue to be monitored and a coordinated
American-Israeli posture is worked out."

JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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