Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction
DE RUEHTV #0602/01 0741025
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P 141025Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION
SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
Key stories in the media:
Maariv cited Israel's fears that General William Fraser's report of
Roadmap violations might cause enormous diplomatic damage to Israel.
For its part, The Jerusalem Post reported that Fraser is not
expected to rap knuckles over the obligations under the Roadmap and
that the U.S. position is that he is meant to be a "coach," not a
referee. The Jerusalem Post quoted defense officials as saying that
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's
diplomatic-security bureau, will tell Fraser that the "Palestinians
have done nothing to improve the security situation on the ground.
How can we then be expected to move forward with our obligations?"
The officials were also quoted as saying that Jerusalem and the
major settlement blocs "are an integral part of Israel and we will
continue to build there."
All media reported that Qassam rockets and mortars rained on Sderot
and other communities bordering the Gaza Strip as Palestinian
militants responded to Wednesday's killing of four Islamic Jihad
gunmen in Bethlehem. Thursday's attacks broke a week of relative
calm in the fighting. The IDF has thus far has not responded.
Ha'aretz reported that senior IDF sources told the newspaper last
night that the lull in the fighting seemed to have come to an end.
The media quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying on Thursday
that Israel proved in Bethlehem that it will continue to "hunt and
target every killer who has Jewish blood on his hands." Ha'aretz
quoted senior IDF sources as saying that even though Hamas does not
appear to be responsible for Thursday's rocket attacks, it is not
making any effort to restrain Islamic Jihad and prevent the
bombardment. Ha'aretz quoted the Prime Minister's Office as saying
on Thursday that Israel holds Hamas accountable for every rocket
fired by the different militant groups in the Gaza Strip. (The
Jerusalem Post quoted the IDF to the same effect.) Israel Radio
cited the concern of IDF sources that fire may be renewed from the
West Bank village of Beit Jala into the Jerusalem neighborhood of
Gilo. Leading media quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as
saying on Thursday the Israel had employed "inappropriate and
disproportionate use of force." He was addressing the Organization
of the Islamic Conference in Dakar.
Leading media reported that on Thursday PA President Mahmoud Abbas
accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" in East Jerusalem by banning
the building of Palestinian homes and cutting the city off from the
occupied West Bank. The Jerusalem Post reported that Fatah's armed
wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, called on Abbas on Thursday to
fire Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and open a "new page" with Hamas.
Ha'aretz (Tom Segev) reported that in the fall of 2006, the U.S.
deliberately fomented civil war that Fatah was supposed to win, with
U.S. help. The newspaper wrote that to this end, the U.S. supported
Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, who had gained the trust of
The Jerusalem Post reported that in the face of Iran's race to
obtain nuclear weapons, Israeli defense officials who will visit the
U.S. next week plan to ask the Pentagon to reconsider its decision
not to sell Israel the F-22 fifth-generation stealth fighter jet.
All media led with the intervention of the Bank of Israel in foreign
currency trade for the first time since 1997. In response to the
dollar's 3% fall against the shekel from a representative rate of
3.48 shekels on Wednesday to 3.35 shekels on Thursday afternoon, the
central bank bought dollars in a move to stop the dollar slide. The
Central Bank refused to reveal how many dollars were purchased, but
the media report that it was between $50-100 million.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the fact that neither Syria, Iran
nor Hizbullah have reiterated their initial reflexive accusations
against the Mossad with any statement linking Israel to the
assassination of senior Hizbullah operative Imad Mughniyah is
raising questions in Jerusalem, as it may indicate that Syria may
have "embarrassing" information linking the killing to the Arab
The media reported that on Thursday the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva held a
mass memorial service for its eight students who were killed by an
East Jerusalem gunman last week. Israel Radio quoted Rabbi Ya'acov
Shapira, the head of the yeshiva, as saying that revenge was not
part of the Jewish religious law.
Israel Radio reported that a State Department report released on
Thursday has observed that Jews worldwide are facing a new form of
anti-Semitism. "Anti-Semitism couched as criticism of Zionism or
Israel often escapes condemnation since it can be more subtle than
traditional forms of anti-Semitism, and promoting anti-Semitic
attitudes may not be the conscious intent of the purveyor," the
report was quoted as saying. The report singled out a number of
leaders, governments and state-sponsored institutions for fanning
the flames of anti-Semitism, with Iran's President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad at the top of the list. It also took to task the Syrian
government, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as the
government-backed Venezuelan, Saudi Arabian, and Egyptian media.
Leading media reported that for the first time in history vestiges
of Jewish buildings dating back to the First Temple period have been
excavated close to the Temple Mount. Among the findings were
pottery items and a seal bearing an inscription in ancient Hebrew
characters: "Netanyahu ben Yoash."
The Jerusalem Post reported that during a two-week visit to Israel,
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz will meet with Israel's
leadership, provide legal advice on anti-terror tactics, and teach a
special seminar on the intersection of human rights and
counterterrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the popular Internet social
networking site Facebook has transferred the residents of the West
Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim to "Palestine."
Ha'aretz quoted Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Yael Dayan as saying on
Thursday that the Prime Minister's Office was breaking its promise
to transfer a state grant to finance apartments for African refugees
in the city.
The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "Israel's
citizens are entitled to know what their government's policy is.
Does it favor a cease-fire with Hamas?"
Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "[At this time] the
Israeli side is unwilling under any circumstances to agree to
Hamas's offer: an absolute cease-fire in the Gaza Strip in return
for Israel stopping assassinations in the West Bank and in Gaza."
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "While
the U.S. is busy counting outposts and settlements, and acting as if
Israel is holding up the works, the real obstacles to peace lie
elsewhere. So long as these real obstacles do not become the focus
of Western policy, the "peace process" will continue to be a dismal
Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv: "Olmert is not going to Damascus; he is not raising his arms
and calling for unity; he is not invading Gaza. He seems to know
something that we don't."
I. "Justify Your Policy"
The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (3/14): "Four
Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants were shot dead on Wednesday in
Bethlehem by an antiterrorist Border Police unit. The four had been
involved in major attacks against Israelis in previous years and
were identified as being behind the dispatching of two suicide
bombers and four car bombs.... The public has the right to know what
precisely happened in Bethlehem, who authorized the operation, and
to what extent, if at all, the few days of calm on the Gaza front
were taken into account.... Israel's citizens are entitled to know
what their government's policy is. Does it favor a cease-fire with
Hamas? If so, is it possible to distinguish between the Gaza Strip
and the West Bank? Is one demand that Hamas restrain Islamic Jihad
and other groups? Is the intention to return to the situation of
2005, in preparation for the Gaza evacuation, when the main fighting
was between Israel and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, while the
fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Strip was significantly
curtailed? Are negotiations between Hamas and Israel underway with
Egyptian mediation, and who will be the arbitrator over who may be
responsible for violating a deal? The Prime Minister and Defense
Minister are being opaque and patronizing in their refusal to
explain their policy. A government is there to serve its citizens
and must delineate and justify its policy."
II. "Who Said Cease-Fire"
Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/14): "It would not be
wrong to assume that when spring arrives, a decision will be made to
embark on a ground operation deep inside the Gaza Strip will come to
fruition. And until that time, the Israeli side is unwilling under
any circumstances to agree to Hamas's offer: an absolute cease-fire
in the Gaza Strip in return for Israel stopping assassinations in
the West Bank and in Gaza. The IDF and the Shin Bet were given
orders to prevent, at any cost, the manufacturing rockets of in the
West Bank or the organizing of terror cells. Even if the goals are
reached, Olmert and Barak will not use Netanyahu's sweeping
description, 'defeat.' As for the assassinations [of four Islamic
Jihad militants in Bethlehem], Barak said on Thursday, 'Anyone with
Jewish blood on their hands is earmarked for death,Q and Tzachi
Hanegbi [the Chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee chose a somewhat different metaphor: 'These terrorists
will not be taking retirement.' At the end of the day, Olmert's and
Barak's credo is not expected to lead to victory in the Palestinian
conflict. One can speak of long lulls, but ultimately, the solution
will have to be found in dialogue. The activity of the security
forces -- effective as it will be -- will not spare us this. In
private talks, Barak said that if the Egyptians want to come up with
a proposal of their own for a cease-fire, they should realize that
under no circumstances will it apply to the West Bank. They should
also realize that their role will be to control the crossings and to
prevent arms from being transferred. With Hamas, he says, there
will be no negotiations. So who said anything about a cease-fire?"
III. "A Skewed Process"
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/14):
"Israel is reportedly bracing for a 'skewed' report from Lt. Gen.
William Fraser on Israeli and Palestinian implementation of their
Roadmap obligations. What is likely 'skewed,' however, is not just
one report, but the whole U.S. approach to achieving Arab-Israeli
peace.... The U.S. makes no distinction between the respective
distances Israel and the Palestinians are from making the two-state
approach work, and instead looks for ways to criticize both sides no
matter what, in an attempt to appear 'evenhanded'.... Pretending
that Israelis and Palestinians are equally to blame for the lack of
peace is not just misleading and unfair, it is actively harmful to
the cause of peace, because it lets those who are obstructing peace
off the hook. Nor is this 'skewing' limited to the
Israeli-Palestinian sphere.... [Non-radical Arab] states could, if
they led the way rather than insisted on following, quickly tip the
current Palestinian trend from radicalization to moderation.... In
short, while the U.S. is busy counting outposts and settlements, and
acting as if Israel is holding up the works, the real obstacles to
peace lie elsewhere. So long as these real obstacles do not become
the focus of Western policy, the "peace process" will continue to be
a dismal failure. "
IV. "Neither Syria nor Anything Else"
Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (3/14): "Does Olmert really believe that he is striving for a
peace agreement with Abu Mazen? It is hard to believe. Even Tzipi
Livni does not believe in this. So what does he want? He may want
to prove that he can do it on his own, and that Bib [Netanyahu] is
afraid that it will be proven that he does not have a magic solution
[to the Qassam rocket problem]? Until those two prove themselves,
it sill be too late. This used to be the same situation during the
final days of Olmert's predecessors -- Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud
Barak -- who rejected feelers of national unity. Only at the last
moment, while they fell, both tried to hold on to the lifebuoy, but
it was too little, too late. Olmert is not going to Damascus; he is
not raising his arms and calling for unity; he is not invading Gaza.
He seems to know something that we don't."