Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction
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P 171025Z MAR 08
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PARIS ALSO FOR POL
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION
SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
Key stories in the media:
On Sunday Ha'aretz quoted a senior U.S. official as saying that
Washington is likely to pressure Israel and the PA to make
significant diplomatic progress before President Bush visits the
region in May.
On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
has asked Congress to approve a plan that would expand the training
of PA police loyal to Abbas.
Ha'aretz quoted Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, the commander-designate of
the IAF as saying that the presence of Israeli forces on the ground
in the Gaza Strip could prevent the manufacture of rockets and the
smuggling of arms into the Strip. "Professionally speaking," he was
quoted as saying, "if Israel wants to prevent any high-trajectory
rocket or mortar fire, it must establish control over the ground."
At the same time, Ha'aretz quoted defense officials as saying that
Israel is again examining a possible purchase of an overseas
anti-rocket weapons system to combat the Qassam rockets, because the
Israeli-made Iron Dome system, currently under development at
Rafael, the Armaments Development Authority, will not be operational
On Sunday Maariv reported that ahead of the conclusion on Saturday
of the forty days of mourning for high-ranking Hizbullah operative
Imad Mughniyah, the defense establishment has been put on its level
highest alert for fear of a revenge attack. Shin Bet officials
have concentrated their forces and sent reinforcements abroad in
order to protect Israeli targets. Ha'aretz reported that Syrian FM
Walid Muallem told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba on Sunday that
"Israel tops the list of those who stood to gain" from the
assassination lat month of Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyah.
The media continued to highlight the local and global repercussions
of the current financial crisis. The Jerusalem Post reported that
affluent Gulf states are seizing the opportunity to increase their
control of financial companies and other branches of the U.S.
economy. The Jerusalem Post cited analysts' fear that the prospect
of Arab financial prowess might manifest itself in a political
agenda, with negative consequences for Israel.
Over the weekend media reported hat Israel resumed air strikes
against terrorist targets in Gaza on Saturday, killing three Islamic
Jihad members whom the IDF said were planning to fire Qassam rockets
Major media reported that last night dozens of right-wing activists
stormed Arab homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebel
Mukaber in an attempt to raze the house of the family of Ala Abu
Dhaim, who killed eight Mercaz Harav Yeshiva students 10 days ago.
One policeman and four protesters were lightly wounded, while 22
activists were arrested on suspicion of stoning Arab residents'
houses. Some Arab residents also threw stones.
The Jerusalem Post reported that in the face a possible escalation
with Syria and Iran's efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, parts of
the country will shut down next month in what security officials say
will be the largest emergency exercise in Israel's history.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying on Sunday at a
reception ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport: "I am grateful we can open
a new chapter in relations between our two countries." All media
reported that Israeli-German relations are likely to step up. Major
media noted that Berlin's "special relationship" with Jerusalem will
be tested over Germany's economic ties with Iran.
Over the weekend Channel 10-TV alleged that Likud Chairman Binyamin
Netanyahu spent thousands of shekels in public funds during a PR
campaign for Israel he conducted in London during the Second Lebanon
War. Netanyahu said in a forum of senior Likud activists in
Ashkelon that the claims were part of a campaign to denigrate him
ahead of the next Knesset elections.
Ha'aretz reported that author and Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel
told the Prime Minister's Office that he will not take part in the
torch-lighting ceremony for Israel's 60th Independence Day due to
prior commitments. Wiesel told Ha'aretz that this was not a
cancellation because he had not yet committed to take part.
The Jerusalem Post reported that GOI officials told the newspaper on
Sunday that Egypt is putting together a deal that will include a
cease-fire in Gaza, a cap on the smuggling from Gaza, the
reinstatement of PA authority control over Gaza-Israel crossings.
However, the officials said that the deal does not include a
prisoner swap for soldier Gilad Shalit.
On Sunday Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted a high-ranking defense
official as saying that PM Olmert and FM Livni have "abandoned"
Defense Minister Barak, following accusations by the Palestinians
and the U.S. that the defense minister is destroying efforts to
reach an understanding with the Palestinians.
Based on reports in several Arab media, Makor Rishon-Hatzofe
reported that PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas is considering
proclaiming the collapse of the Annapolis process.
Ha'aretz reported that the method of taking over Palestinian land is
being publicized for the first time, based on testimony from a
hearing on an appeal filed by a resident of the Kedumim settlement,
Michael Lesence, against a Civil Administration order to vacate 35
dunams (almost 9 acres) near the Mitzpe Yishai neighborhood of the
settlement. According to that document, West Bank settlements have
expanded their jurisdictions by taking control of private
Palestinian land and allocating it to settlers. The land takeover
-- which the Civil Administration calls "theft" -- has occurred in
an orderly manner, without any official authorization.
Leading media quoted FM Tzipi Livni as saying that terror victims
will be able to sue the PA.
On Sunday Israel Hayom reported that Israeli-Arab youths have been
paid by Israel's Islamic Movement to stone cars on Israel's northern
Maariv reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak is considering
making former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas his chief of
On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that a new aviation agreement between
Israel and the U.S. is expected soon, as the old one expires at the
end of month. The new agreement is expected to significantly open
the skies, including removing limits on the number of flights, and
allowing stopovers on the way.
The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "[American]
pressure to put an end to the bloodshed and guarantee the Israel's
future as a Jewish and democratic country is welcome pressure."
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "[Ariel
Sharon's post 9/11] message seemed to have sunken in, since the U.S.
position did in fact change dramatically. Now, if anything, the
analogy to 1938 and the folly of appeasement is even more apt.
Israel's voice today should be no less clear. And Merkel, the
leader of Germany, should listen."
Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in Ha'aretz: "It
does not matter a whit whether we are talking about a signed treaty
with Hamas, open or covert negotiations, or denials that conceal the
existence of talks."
Veteran writer Hemmi Shalev wrote in the independent Israel Hayom:
"The unilateral option will arise once more, the least bad of a
variety of undesirable options, as if it had never disappeared."
The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized: "[If
it surrenders the Golan Heights,] Israel will not be able to avoid
direct confrontation with Hizbullah, and neither a threat against
the Syrians nor an agreement with them will neutralize Hizbullah."
I. "American Intervention Now"
The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (3/17): "A
senior American official quoted in Ha'aretz on Sunday predicted that
despite the upcoming presidential elections, and in advance of his
visit to Israel in May, President George W. Bush will increase the
pressure on both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to achieve
significant diplomatic progress. The American intervention will be
evident already at the end of the week, with the arrival of Vice
President Dick Cheney for talks in the region. Immediately after
him, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive
here.... The American source said that Bush expects genuine steps
from Israel to advance the implementation of his two-state vision.
He emphasized that the U.S. would not force anything on Israel, but
that it expects the Olmert government to decide where it is heading.
Between the lines one could detect an implied threat that in the
absence of progress, the administration will hold Israel responsible
for the failure.... The senior official saw fit to explain that when
it comes to the peace process, Bush does not intend to behave like a
lame duck. We can hope that he will follow in the footsteps of the
three presidents who preceded him: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush,
and Bill Clinton, who did not end their involvement with the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict even after the American people had
elected their successors. Pressure to put an end to the bloodshed
and guarantee the Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic country
is welcome pressure."
II. "Germany Holds the Key"
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/17):
"German Chancellor Angela Merkel, here for a three-day visit with
much of her cabinet, will today meet with our Prime Minister.
Tomorrow she will become the first German chancellor to address the
Knesset. Merkel will be greeted as a friend of Israel, as she
should be. But friendship, if it is to mean anything, is not just
about showing empathy with a friend in need. It is about doing what
you can and should do to help. Back in October 2001, just after
9/11, U.S. President George W. Bush was seeking Arab support for the
U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan. Yet at that time, the U.S.
was still not explicitly backing Israel's right to self-defense
against the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign, and was even
pressuring Israel to exhibit restraint. This prompted Israel's new
prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to warn the U.S., 'Do not repeat the
dreadful mistake of 1938, when enlightened European democracies
decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a "convenient temporary
solution." Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. Israel
will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism.' The
message seemed to have sunken in, since the U.S. position did in
fact change dramatically. Now, if anything, the analogy to 1938 and
the folly of appeasement is even more apt. Israel's voice today
should be no less clear. And Merkel, the leader of Germany, should
III. "Until We Reach the End of Days"
Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in Ha'aretz
(3/17): "Anyone seeking to conduct peace talks with the PA of
President Mahmoud Abbas needs the acquiescence of Hamas. It does
not matter a whit whether we are talking about a signed treaty with
Hamas, open or covert negotiations, or denials that conceal the
existence of talks. The necessary result must in any event be an
end to the rockets on one hand, and an end to the assassinations in
the Gaza Strip on the other hand, as well as an open Rafah border
crossing that does not conceal a threat of an uncontrolled invasion
by captive Gazans into Egyptian territory. Now Washington also
realizes there is no way around bringing Hamas into the border
agreement. Sources in Egypt have said that Assistant Secretary of
State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch is encouraging Egypt to
push for a cease-fire with Hamas and that it is obvious from his
remarks that Hamas is no longer a pariah; rather, it is an essential
partner, without which the calm needed to go forward with the peace
process cannot be achieved.... Israel could propose that the PA and
Hamas cooperate in creating a unity government as a condition for an
Israeli cease-fire and the opening of the Rafah border. Israel
could continue its fruitless peace talks with Abbas, but more
importantly, it would be dealing with a single Palestinian authority
via which life in the territories could be conducted until the End
of Days vision is realized. The other option is to conduct
two-headed talks: one with Hamas, over the important issues such as
security, and the second with the PA -- over nothing."
IV. "The Unilateral Era: Over but Perhaps Not Done With"
Veteran writer Hemmi Shalev wrote in the independent Israel Hayom
(3/17): "Unlike the 'new history' of the settlers and their right
wing supporters, the decision on disengagement from Gaza did not
really sQm solely from SharonQs desire to escape Qom justice or tQ
find favor with the 'leftist elites' (on the assumption that he
indeed wanted to do so). The disengagement from Gaza was a
possible, perhaps necessary, corollary of the 'era of unilateralism'
in the history of the state, which started in 2000 with the
withdrawal from Lebanon, reinforced by the 'proof' supplied at Camp
David that there was no Palestinian partner for peace, and peaked
during the second Intifada, which persuaded many, including right
wingers, that there was no possibility of holding onto the
territories and continuing to control millions of Palestinians....
IsraelQs unilateral moves received consistent and massive support in
public opinion, for the disengagement from Gaza, for the withdrawal
from Lebanon and for the Qjewel in the crownQ of the unilateral era
-- the construction of the separation fence.... The basic facts
that led to the adoption of the unilateral paradigm have not
changed. Despite the revival attempts, today too Israel does not
have a reliable partner for peace, and today too time continues to
work against us.... Another danger has been added, one that only the
Iranian bomb surpasses in severity, of a 'binational state'....
There is no question that Israel must find an answer to the rocket
fire from Gaza and a response to HizbullahQs threats in the north,
but these dangers are not enough to make unnecessary the future
discussion on the continuation of 'realignment,' this time in the
West Bank.... But we should take into account that it will not be
long before Israel finds itself isolated in the international arena
like South Africa before the removal of the apartheid regime, and on
the internal front, stands before an untenable situation with regard
to its relations with the Palestinians. At that point, the
unilateral option will arise once more, the least bad of a variety
of undesirable options, as if it had never disappeared."
V. "Ceding Territory Is Not a Solution for Peace"
The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (3/16):
"Experience teaches that there is no magical solution that will
remove the clouds that cover Israel's security horizon. Going by
the Egyptian experience, the surrender of the Golan Heights to Syria
will turn the Syrian border into the 'peace front.' We may assume
that the Syrians will indeed be able to promise Israel that they
will not attack it anymore, certainly not with conventional weapons.
But Israel has no reason to assume that Syria will bid farewell to
its Iranian ally. Syria's transition to the American axis endangers
its internal stability. And again, according to the Egyptian
experience, there is no reason to assume that peace with Syria would
neutralize Hizbullah.... There is also no reason to assume that the
circle of arrangements with the Palestinians will be completed as a
result of peace with Syria. The Iranian threat will continue to put
constant pressure on Israel, and the price that Israel will pay for
surrendering the Golan Heights will not be worth what it receives in
exchange. On the contrary: the geographical approach of the Syrians
to the point of connecting with the Arabs of the Galilee contains
new dangers. It appears that the talk about negotiating with the
Syrians even as threats are sent to it is connected to the fear of
things catching fire with Hizbullah in the north. Here, too, those
who make the assessments are mistaken: Israel will not be able to
avoid direct confrontation with Hizbullah, and neither a threat
against the Syrians nor an agreement with them will neutralize