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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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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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Expanding on an Israel Radio story broadcast on Tuesday, Maariv, The
Jerusalem Post, and other media reported that Defense Minister Ehud
Barak is considering relief measures for the Palestinians devised by
U.S. security coordinator Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, which includes
allowing the transfer of weapons, protective gear, and night-vision
goggles to Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. The
Jerusalem Post reported that the American request, which is expected
to be officially submitted to the Defense Ministry by Dayton in the
coming days and is linked with the visits to the region of Vice
President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will
be one of the issues topping the agenda of Barak's meeting with PA
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Wednesday.

Ha'aretz reported that the American officers responsible for
monitoring Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the road map
peace plan recently criticized the PA's counterterrorism efforts.
However, they have also demanded clarifications from Israel about
its failure to carry out its road map obligations, which include a
freeze on settlement construction and the dismantling of illegal
West Bank outposts. Specifically, the Americans are concerned that
the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism
activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would
if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist
organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to "contain" terror
-- to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing
strong enough to challenge Fatah's rule in the West Bank.

The Jerusalem Post reported that summing up Russian FM Sergei
Lavrov's visit here last week, GOI sources told the newspaper on
Tuesday that Russia is determined to go ahead with an international
Middle East conference in Moscow in June whether Israel likes it or
not. The sources characterized Lavrov's one-day visit last Thursday
as "nasty," saying the Russian minister was agitated throughout his
meetings with FM Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres. The
sources were quoted as saying that he was in a slightly better mood
during his talks with PM Ehud Olmert. According to the sources,
Russia's determination to go ahead with the conference -- despite a
decidedly cool, though officially noncommittal, reception to the
idea from both Israel and the US -- stems from Moscow's belief that
it needs to increase its involvement in the Middle East and "make
its mark" in the region. According to the government sources,
Moscow views Hamas's takeover of Gaza as benefiting Iran,
Hizbullah's strong position in Lebanon as strengthening Iran, and
the situation in Iraq as playing into Iran's hands. As a result,
Moscow wants to dramatically increase its role and influence in the
region.

Yediot reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin will come to
Israel in the next few months to mark Israel's 60th anniversary.
Yediot quoted Israeli diplomatic sources as saying that Putin will
prefer not to arrive at the same time as President Bush, in order to
receive the greatest possible attention and honor. Ha'aretz
reported that this week the Federation of Jewish Communities in
Russia (FEOR) announced that it was suspending all contacts with the
Muslim communities in Russia, following a comment made by the Vice
Chairman of Russia's Muftis' Committee three weeks ago that "Israel
is a cancerous growth and the Zionists are Fascists."

The Jerusalem Post quoted sources close to opposition leader
Binyamin Netanyahu as saying on Tuesday that he has not received an
invitation to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during
her trip to Israel that begins on Saturday night. Associates of
Netanyahu told the paper that the snub was expected as Netanyahu
opposes the Annapolis process which Rice is here to support.
Additionally, they emphasized that Netanyahu has better relations
with other members of the administration, including Vice President
Dick Cheney who just wrapped up a visit which included a meeting
with Netanyahu. On Tuesday Netanyahu visited the controversial E-1
area between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim and called upon PM Olmert
to start building there despite American opposition. The building
plans in the area were approved when Netanyahu was prime minister
but have been frozen following U.S. pressure.

Ha'aretz reported that Defense Minister Barak recently approved the
transfer of five mobile homes to the settlement of Teneh Omarim in
the southern Hebron Hills for evacuees from the Gush Katif
settlement of Morag. Teneh Omarim is located east of the security
fence, and outside the West Bank's large settlement blocs. In a
parliamentary question, Meretz Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan argued
that placing mobile homes in this settlement comes in opposition to
the government's pledge not to expand existing settlements and
constitutes a serious violation of the Sharon government's pledge to
the American administration not to settle Gush Katif evacuees in the
West Bank. The Jerusalem Post reported that on Tuesday National
Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) promised Gush
Etzion leaders that their region will remain in Israeli hands when a
final-status agreement is concluded with the Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a new exhibit in Gaza portrays
Israel burning Palestinian children in oven. A group called the
National Committee for Defense of Children from the Holocaust
unveiled its premier exhibit last week, entitled "Gaza: an exhibit
describing the suffering of the children of the Holocaust." The
Jerusalem Post cited the Palestinian daily as saying: "The exhibit
includes a large oven and inside it small children are being burned.
The picture speaks for itself." The Jerusalem Post reported that
the Zionist Organization of America condemned the exhibit, sayng in
a statement that "there seems to be no limit to the depravity of
Palestinian hate education and incitement."

Ha'aretz reported that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told a
senior European diplomat about three weeks ago that the "situation
that has developed in Gaza in recent months has led to Egypt having
a border with Iran." According to Ha'aretz's source, who requested
anonymity, Mubarak told the diplomat that he was concerned over
Iran's growing influence in the region. He also compared the
situation in Lebanon to that in Gaza, saying that "in both places,
the problems and the crises stem from the growing influence of
Iran."

The Jerusalem Post reported that on Tuesday, in a telephone
conversation with the newspaper, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger
welcomed an initiative from Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah for
dialogue among monotheistic religions, including Judaism.

All media reported that the lawyers of former Israel president Moshe
Katsav have caused the postponed by the prosecutor's office of the
opening of his trial for sexual offenses, which was mandate by a
plea bargain.

Israel Hayom reported that the police are blurring the results of
investigations of PM Olmert.

Yediot reported that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss was
prompted by the Knesset to draft a report about the successive
Israeli governments' efforts to bring about the release of Jonathan
Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for spying on Israel's
behalf. The newspaper quoted senior defense officials as saying
that Lindenstrauss's expected report might hamper the efforts to
have Pollard released.

Yediot cited conservative U.S. media as saying that Democratic
presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's military adviser and
co-chair of his presidential campaign Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak is
a longtime anti-Israeli critic who has slammed Israel harshly during
his career. Yediot reported that Obama distanced himself from
McPeak's views. Yediot reported that Matthew Brooks, Executive
Director of both the Republican Jewish Coalition, and the Jewish
Policy Center, asked Obama to fire McPeak.

Yediot reported that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has decided to
block a visit by four members of the "Council of Elders" -- former
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter,
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former Irish
President Mary Robinson. They intended to advance an agreement with
Hamas. Yediot quoted Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Danny
Gillerman, who was involved in the contacts, as saying that most
Council members, in particular Tutu and Jimmy Carter, are biased and
have turned out to be Israel's foes.

The Jerusalem Post cited estimates released by the GOI's Central
Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday, according to which Israel's
population is expected to grow from around 7 million today to
between 9.6 and 10.6 million (7.2 million Jews, 2.4 million Arabs,
and 418,000 others) by 2030.

Ha'aretz reported that on Tuesday the Israeli satellite operator
Spacecom announced the imminent launch of Amos 3, its third
communications satellite, which is scheduled for launch on April
24.

Leading media quoted Finance Minister Roni Bar-On as saying on
Tuesday that while developments in the global financial markets were
being watched closely ahead of a possible slowdown of the economy,
Israel was in a better position to weather the global financial
crisis than other nations.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel Chemicals (ICL) will be buying its
natural gas from the Israeli-American consortium Tethys Sea, not
from the Egyptian-Israeli partnership EMG. On Tuesday ICL signed a
contract worth somewhere between $260 million to $330 million for
the supply of 2 billion cubic meters of gas over five years,
starting from the end of 2008. ICL, which belongs to the Ofer
Brothers' Israel Corporation, will be footing about $50 million of
the cost of building pipelines and refitting its facilities to use
gas instead of fuel oil. The price of the gas will be linked to
that of crude, but will also be a function of how much ICL actually
buys. ICL will be using the gas for industrial purposes and to
power the electricity production plants of subsidiary Dead Sea
Works. Tethys Sea belongs to three of Yitzhak Tshuva's Delek Group
companies (53%) and to the American company Noble Energy (47%).

Ha'aretz reported that the Israeli firm Comverse Technologies may be
facing tens of millions of dollars in fines to the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) over the backdated options scandal that
was revealed in 2006.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Tourism Ministry is seeking
Chinese language tour guides as 15,000 Chinese tourists are
anticipated to visit Israel in 2008.

All media reported that several Knesset members are fighting Reshet,
a franchisee of the most viewed network Channel 2-TV, which will
soon broadcast a program starring billionaire politician Arkady
Gaidamak, in which he will offer advice to small businessmen. The
media quoted the Knesset's Economics Committee as saying on Tuesday
that there is no legal impediment to broadcasting the TV show.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a majority (around 70%) of Israel's
adults -- both Jews and Arabs -- believe that Israel should lend a
helping hand to developing nations, and that such international aid
brings international credit to the nation. The survey was
commissioned in January 2008 by the Harold Hartog School of
Government and Policy at Tel Aviv University and conducted by Maagar
Mohot.

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

Summary:
--------

Columnist Michael Freund, who was an assistant to former prime
minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in the conservative, independent
Jerusalem Post: "The choice before Washington is really very simple.
Keep focusing on the Palestinians if you wish, but then don't be
surprised if you wake up one day to discover a nuclear Middle
East."
Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Egypt's fear is that Iran is
building a web of diplomatic influence among Egypt's neighbors, and
thereby building itself up as a rival to the Arab club.... But the
Arab club itself is not conducting a consistent anti-Iranian
policy."

Senior Fatah member Fares Kadura, a member of the Palestinian peace
coalition, wrote in Ha'aretz: "What will help? A violent uprising.
That is the only thing, according to the Israeli housing minister,
that will bring about the cessation of construction in the
settlements and protect the Palestinian interest."

The Jerusalem Post editorialized: "The real problem, of course, is
the Islamic Republic, not Russia or Egypt. But the collaboration of
the latter two to foster a new nuclear arms race illustrates just
one of the major dangers of allowing Iran to go nuclear, and the
need for Moscow and Cairo to do more to help thwart this eventuality
rather than acting as if it is a fait accompli."

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

I. "The Price of Washington's Obsession with the Palestinians""

Columnist Michael Freund, who was an assistant to former prime
minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in the conservative, independent
Jerusalem Post (3/26): "Sure, the Arab states all say that their
intentions are 'peaceful,' and that they seek nuclear power only for
the sake of generating cheaper electricity. But this excuse is as
transparent as it is feeble.... It turned out that Iran had been
working in secret for 18 years (!!!) on its nuclear program, which
it had concealed from the international community and repeatedly
lied about its existence. What would stop a tightly-controlled
dictatorship such as Riyadh from doing the same? Moreover, there is
little reason to believe that oil-rich Arab states awash in
petrodollars are truly in need of finding cheaper sources of
electricity. It is not too late to stop this regional rush toward
nuclear proliferation, which is still in its initial stages. Tackle
the Iranian threat head-on, strip them of their nuclear program, and
the Arab states' 'excuse' to pursue atomic energy fizzles away. But
if the Bush administration continues to fritter away its remaining
months in office, instead expending precious political and
diplomatic capital on the bleak prospects of a Palestinian
about-face, it runs the risk of turning this region into a dangerous
nuclear powder-keg. So the choice before Washington is really very
simple. Keep focusing on the Palestinians if you wish, but then
don't be surprised if you wake up one day to discover a nuclear
Middle East. "

II. "The Struggle over 'Arab Policy'"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/26): "Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak's concern about Iran's involvement in Gaza does not stem
only from Hamas's growing military capabilities. Rather, his
primary fear is that control over 'Arab policy' -- which has
traditionally been dictated by Egypt and Saudi Arabia --- will be
taken over by Iran.... Egypt's fear is that Iran is building a web
of diplomatic influence among Egypt's neighbors, and thereby
building itself up as a rival to the Arab club -- and especially to
members of what is known as the moderate axis. But the Arab club
itself is not conducting a consistent anti-Iranian policy.... For
the moment, this is a vicious circle, and all that Egypt can do to
affect it is to partially boycott the Arab League summit taking
place in Damascus this weekend, accuse Hamas and Syria of following
policies dictated in Tehran, and thereby try to undermine both
Hamas's nationalist legitimacy and Syria's Arab legitimacy."

III. "Moscow and Cairo"

The Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/26): "Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak, visiting Moscow during the last two days to further
'nuclear cooperation' between his country and Russia, unleashed a
vituperative attack on Israel's nuclear capability, which he likened
to 'Iran's nuclear project.' In some respects this is old news.
Mubarak has long been in the habit of turning Israel's alleged
A-bomb into his punching bag.... If his desired effect is to deflect
onto Jerusalem some of the pressure directed at Tehran, then
Mubarak's obvious aim is to weaken Israel -- again, hardly the
conduct expected from a truly friendly neighbor. But it gets worse.
The Egyptian President's oft-repeated refrain is that Israel
exacerbates the danger of nuclear proliferation by drawing attention
away from the imminent Iranian menace. By saying this, Mubarak does
precisely the reverse of what he claims to want - he intensifies the
nuclear arms race.... The free world might be well advised to stop
pretending that Russia is on its side.... The real problem, of
course, is the Islamic Republic, not Russia or Egypt. But the
collaboration of the latter two to foster a new nuclear arms race
illustrates just one of the major dangers of allowing Iran to go
nuclear, and the need for Moscow and Cairo to do more to help thwart
this eventuality rather than acting as if it is a fait accompli."

IV. "We Heard You, Mr. Boim"

Senior Fatah member Fares Kadura, a member of the Palestinian peace
coalition, wrote in Ha'aretz (3/26): "Housing Minister Zeev Boim
explained away the construction of 750 new housing units in the
settlement of Givat Ze'ev by saying that the permits had been issued
in 1999, but that construction had stopped due to, as he put it, the
'outbreak of violence.' That is, the outbreak of the Palestinian
uprising.... I am one of those who listened, and I understood from
his statements that Boim is inviting us -- the Palestinians -- to
start another Intifada..... Only when we launch an uprising does
construction in the settlements cease; under the umbrella of
negotiations, the settlement enterprise is revived -- this, despite
the fact that every Palestinian and every Israeli knows that the
settlements are the main obstacle to a peace treaty. Fortunately,
the present Palestinian leadership consists of people like me who
continue to believe, despite all the difficulties, in a peaceful
solution to the conflict, through dialogue and negotiation. We are
on the verge of despair, but we still hope that the Palestinian
people will get what they deserve through diplomatic means....
Attempts at reminders that the Palestinians have a right to their
land and that settlement construction is a breach of international
law are of no avail. All of this will not stop the construction,
which is a disaster for Palestinians and a disaster for Israelis,
since all of our lives depend on attaining an Israeli-Palestinian
agreement. What will help? A violent uprising. That is the only
thing, according to the Israeli housing minister, that will bring
about the cessation of construction in the settlements and protect
the Palestinian interest. Mr. Boim, we got the message. Will
anyone in Israel yet accuse you of incitement to rebellion and
resistance?"

JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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