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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0641/01 0791009
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191009Z 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


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

1. Mideast

2. Israel-Germany Relations

3. Global Stock Exchange

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

Ha'aretz reported that Israel and Egypt are conducting intensive
negotiations in an effort to reach a long-term cease-fire in the
Gaza Strip, which would include reopening the Rafah border crossing
between Gaza and Egypt. Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's
political-security bureau, visited Cairo on Tuesday for the second
time in a week to meet with senior Egyptian officials, who are
mediating between Israel and Hamas on this issue. Ha'aretz reported
that among others, Gilad apparently met with Egyptian intelligence
chief Omar Suleiman, who has been postponing a planned visit to
Israel for the past three weeks. It could be that he will come only
after a deal is finalized. In exchange for a cease-fire, Hamas is
demanding that the economic siege of Gaza be lifted. Israel
apparently opposes a full lifting of the siege, but might agree to a
partial reopening of the Rafah crossing. Reopening Rafah --
something the U.S. has been urging Israel to agree to, at Egypt's
behest -- would mean bringing back the European monitors who
abandoned it when Hamas seized control of the Strip last summer.
Hamas is demanding that its own people be present at the crossing,
but would apparently settle for a low-profile presence, with primary
responsibility for the border being given to the security services
subordinate to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Ha'aretz quoted
defense sources as saying that Israel has presented relatively
hard-line positions at the talks with Egypt, and that Defense
Minister Ehud Barak gave Gilad very little negotiating leeway.
Israel's estimate is that Hamas is currently interested in a
relatively long-term cease-fire, because it is still recovering from
the heavy fighting earlier this month, in which dozens of its people
were killed and its store of rockets depleted. Ha'aretz reported
that senior U.S. officials recently told their Israeli counterparts
that Israel must do everything in its power to ensure that its
relationship with Egypt is not undermined by the fighting in Gaza
and the ongoing arms smuggling across the Gaza-Egypt border, which

Israel has accused Egypt of not doing enough to stop. Ha'aretz
reported that during a recent visit to Cairo and Jerusalem,
Assistant Secretary of State David Welch told Gilad that the
Egyptians are "more willing than ever before to find a joint
solution to their problem with Israel," and therefore, "Israel must
accelerate the dialogue with them, in order to end the crisis."
Ha'aretz reported that in addition to urging Israel to reopen Rafah,
the U.S. is also urging it to accede to another Egypt demand -- to
station more military personnel (as opposed to regular policemen)
along its border with Gaza. The Jerusalem Post quoted defense
officials as saying that DM Barak is leaning towards accepting a
deployment of PA forces at the Gaza crossings.

Visiting U.S., Senator and Republican presidential candidate John
McCain was quoted as saying on Tuesday in an interview with The
Jerusalem Post that the success of Hamas and Hizbullah in the region
is not only a danger for Israel, but also a threat to U.S. national
interests. He was quoted as saying that Hamas and Hizbullah want to
destroy everything that Israel, the U.S., and the West hold dear.
He was also quoted as saying that the U.S. must not dictate to
Israel terms for peace. Ha'aretz quoted him as saying at a meeting
with President Shimon Peres that he was concerned by Iran's negative
influence on the region -- namely, the fact that it trains,
finances, and otherwise assists radical groups -- and that his
concern had merely been heightened by his current tour of the
region. Ha'aretz quoted him as saying in Jordan: "I support
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel." Leading media reported that
McCain will visit Sderot today.

Maariv reported that Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz has approved
new engagement rules. According to the new regulations, sniper fire
at Palestinians who riot or damage the security fence -- including
in the Jerusalem area -- has been permitted, identical to the rules
of engagement for the West Bank. Maariv quoted anti-fence activists
as sayng that this constitutes apartheid.

In what Yediot called a "tranquilizer injection," all media reported
that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke lowered cut the federal
funds rate from 3 percent to 2.25 percent. The media noted a
subsequent positive trend in the U.S. and around the world. Media
reported that Israeli economists advocate cutting interest rates in
Israel as well. Israel Radio quoted Manufacturers Association
Chairman Shraga Brosh as saying that such a move is needed to
prevent speculation against the shekel. Ha'aretz quoted Bank of
Israel Governor Stanley Fischer as saying on Tuesday in an interview
with Bloomberg that the central bank would not intervene in the
future in foreign currency markets without announcing it first. The
shekel continues to weaken: on Tuesday a U.S. dollar was worth 3.389
shekels.

All media reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the
Knesset on Tuesday that her countrymen's hearts were filled with
shame over the Holocaust and that her government would stand with
Israel against any threat -- especially a nuclear Iran.

All media reported that on Tuesday Meretz MK Haim (a.k.a. Jumes)
Oron defeated MKs Ran Cohen and Zahava Gal-On with a wide margin to
become the new Meretz leader. Incumbent Meretz Chairman Dr. Yossi
Beilin endorsed Oron. Kadima and the Labor Party called on Oron to
join the government; however, Oron rejected the idea and criticized
Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister criticized Barak, saying
that he cannot pretend to be the leader of the peace camp.

Media reported that at least four members of Islamic Jihad were
reported injured on Tuesday in an IDF air strike near Beit Lahiya in
the northern Gaza Strip. According to Palestinian sources, a dozen
Palestinians were injured in the incident.

The Jerusalem Post cited assessments in Jerusalem, according to
which Russian FM Sergei Lavrov may carry a message fro Syrian
President Bashar Assad when he arrives here on Thursday.

Ha'aretz and other media reported that on Monday Switzerland signed
a huge deal for the supply of Iranian natural gas to Europe.
Ha'aretz reported that the American Embassy in Berne published a
statement on Monday denouncing the deal, saying it sent "precisely
the wrong message at a time when Iran continues to defy UN Security
Council resolutions." Even if the deal does not violate the letter
of UN sanction, the statement added, it "violates the spirit of the
sanctions." Ha'aretz reported that a Swiss journalist who covered
the deal and spoke on condition of anonymity told the newspaper that
the U.S. had tried repeatedly to stop it, but that "Switzerland
feels that it is backed by the EU, and by the real needs of its
residents."

Israel Radio reported that Hamas is ready to resume talks with Fatah
on the basis of an initiative from Yemen, according to which Hamas
would give up control of the Gaza Strip and elections in the
Palestinian areas would be moved up.

Israel Radio quoted far-Right Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe of Chabad as
saying that Israel is an "enemy state."

Ha'aretz reported that a report on racism on Israel, set to be
released today, found that Israel's Jewish community increasingly
supports the delegitimization, discrimination, and even deportation
of Arabs. The report was prepared by Mossawa, the Advocacy Center
for Arab Citizens of Israel. Mossawa is supported by the Human
Rights Program of the European Commission and the UN Democracy
Program. Maariv reported that today, for the first time, the High
Court of Justice will debate the issue of ethnic profiling at Ben
Gurion Airport.

Ha'aretz reported that 70 Arab and Jewish community leaders met last
weekend to promote a plan to turn the scenic Sakhnin Valley in
northern Israel into a model of intercommunal cooperation rather
than strife.

Israel Radio reported that Israeli authorities prevented senior PA
official Rawhi Fattuh from bringing 2,000 cellular phones into the
PA from Jordan. Fattuh holds a VIP permit delivered by the GOI,
which the Civil Administration is now considering revoking, as well
as those of other senior Palestinians.

Leading media reported that Tourism Ministry Director-General Shaul
Zemach announced on Tuesday during the largest tourism fair in
Russia that an accord due to be signed today will eliminate the
tourist visa requirement for Russian and Israeli travelers. The
agreement, to be signed by Russia and Israel's tourism ministers,
will come into effect within a few months.

The Jerusalem Post presented the results of Tel Aviv University's
Peace Index poll conducted on March 3-4, 2008: Although Jewish
Israelis are divided on how to react to the rocket fire from the
Gaza Strip, most prefer military means over a cease-fire based on a
dialogue with Hamas.

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

Summary:
--------

Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "This is precisely the
moment when Foreign Minister Livni should take advantage of her good
ties with the ruler of Qatar and his cousin [the country's Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister], pick up the phone and demand an
assurance of balanced coverage [on Aljazeera-TV]."

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

"Double Face in the Mirror"

Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/19): "Aljazeera-TV,
like the emirate of Qatar, speaks in two tongues. On one hand,
diligent journalists pursue exclusive stories. On the other hand,
they are pushed to conduct themselves according to an agenda: Osama
bin Ladin against the Americans, Saddam Hussein against the
occupation, Nasrallah against Israel, Khaled Mashal in favor of
suicide terrorism and terror attacks against Israel. Qatar gives a
warm home to the leadership of Hamas and flirts with the ayatollahs
from Tehran, but it also houses the largest American base in the
region and an Israeli diplomatic mission. And so, on the one hand
Aljazeera-TV made a decision, unprecedented in the Arab media, to
put Israeli spokesmen on the screen, and on the other hand, they
harass them with argumentative questions. Regular viewers of the
channel cannot fail to reach the sad conclusion that only few people
on our side can come out of the adventure with dignity. Either the
respondents are chosen maliciously, or else vital air time is
slashed from their statements. Israel has a long score to settle
with the station's double tongue.... It is hard to find elation in
Jerusalem about the decision to boycott Aljazeera-TV (it is in fact
a semi-boycott). Both sides have come out of this affair battered.
While Jerusalem grumbles, the managers of Aljazeera-TV are alarmed:
It is not simple to shuttle between the scene of the events in the
territories to the studios in Jerusalem under the shadow of a
collective punishment. This is precisely the moment when Foreign
Minister Livni should take advantage of her good ties with the ruler
of Qatar and his cousin [the country's Prime Minister and Foreign
Minister], pick up the phone and demand an assurance of balanced
coverage. This is also the moment to conduct quiet talks with the
crews in the field, and then to seize the opportunity and recruit
the top PR experts. We should remember that at the edge of the
Aljazeera-TV images hangs a revolving mirror: On one side, we are
seen by the Arab world, and on the other side we are invited to look
at ourselves."

-----------------------------
2. Israel-Germany Relations:
-----------------------------

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "Germany is
currently Israel's best friend in Europe, and perhaps even in the
world, excepting the United States.... What to many Israelis looks
today like a 'normal' relationship remains, in the eyes of Merkel's
Germany, a 'special' relationship that requires constant investment
-- 'in words and deeds.'"

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

"A Special Normalcy"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (3/19):
"[German Chancellor Angela Merkel's] visit did not generate
front-page headlines here; in the public discourse, Germany has
become an almost 'normal' partner of the Jewish state. How can this
be explained? In the first place, Merkel's visit was not the first
visit to Israel by a German chancellor.... Second, and more
importantly, Germany is currently Israel's best friend in Europe,
and perhaps even in the world, excepting the United States. It
stands out in the European Union for being willing to support Israel
under difficult circumstances and for working to balance anti-Israel
resolutions in international forums.... Germany was the first to
stand beside Israel during the Gulf War, it built submarines for
Israel at no cost, and it has worked tirelessly to help Israel's
captives and MIAs. Third, Merkel herself has a special relationship
with Israel, different from that of some of her predecessors. Her
visit here is her third of the last two years. She feels a deep
responsibility toward Israel, both because of the Holocaust and
because of the actions of East Germany in which she grew up, whose
hostility toward Israel was exceptional even by Soviet-bloc
standards. This 'consistent and loyal friend of Israel,' as Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert termed her in the Knesset on Tuesday, is the
'architect of the upgraded relationship' between the two
countries.... In her speech to the Knesset, which she opened and
closed in Hebrew, Merkel promised to work to halt Iran's
nuclearization, to fight anti-Semitism, and to strive for closer
relations between Israel and the EU. She also expressed solidarity
with Israel's efforts to cope with terror attacks and Qassam
rockets, and above all, she stressed her country's 'everlasting
responsibility' for the Holocaust. What to many Israelis looks
today like a 'normal' relationship remains, in the eyes of Merkel's
Germany, a 'special' relationship that requires constant investment
-- 'in words and deeds.'"

--------------------------
3. Global Stock Exchange:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker opined in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "A one-percent interest cut [in U.S.
interest rates] would ... have signaled pressure and weakness."

Economic Editor Rafi Rosenfeld wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv: "The Americans have been committing suicide with this mad
consumption.... But others also pay this price on the way -- they
really don't deserve it: Israel, for instance."

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

I. "On the Right Track"

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker opined in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/19): "The financial market had been
waiting for the first signal from the Federal Reserve. It
eventually came: A one-percent interest cut would have achieved an
opposite result. It would have signaled pressure and weakness.
Cutting the interest rate by 0.75% -- less that the pessimistic
forecast -- was interpreted as a sign that in Bernanke's view, the
financial crisis is no longer extreme. What's right for Bernanke is
correct for Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, too. Professor
Fischer understands that the problem of flossing the market with too
cheap money.... This is why he refrained from intervening in foreign
trade on Tuesday. In his interest-rate moves, [Governor Fischer]
wishes to achieve an important goal: to prevent the Israeli economy
from slipping from a slowdown into a recession, and from a recession
to a depression. Fischer views economic growth as the key to
guaranteeing Israel's future. To him, it is the most important
thing."

II. "Uncle Sam's Mortgage Loan"

Economic Editor Rafi Rosenfeld wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (3/19): "Over the past few months a parade of sales of
hi-tech companies [to giant U.S. firms] has been going on in
Israel.... The United States, the largest economy in the world,
which in the past financed a large part of Israel's activity, is the
party that's halting Israel's growth with a screech. This happens
before of the lifestyle in the States.... The Americans have been
committing suicide with this mad consumption.... There is poetic
justice in the current collapse. Those who have been living a
spendthrift life over the past few years are now paying the price.
But others also pay this price on the way -- they really don't
deserve it: Israel, for instance."

JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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