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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0935/01 1151046
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241046Z APR 08
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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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SECDEF WASHDC FOR USDP/ASD-PA/ASD-ISA
HQ USAF FOR XOXX
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JERUSALEM ALSO ICD
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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:
--------------------------------

1. Syria

2. Mideast

3. Ben-Ami Kadish Affair

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

The media cited The Los Angeles Times as saying yesterday that
Congress will hear from the CIA that the facility destroyed in the
IAF attack on Syria was a nuclear reactor for producing plutonium.
Maariv cited U.S. intelligence's belief that the reactor was
operational. Ha'aretz reported that PM Ehud Olmert's advisors
recently visited Washington, asking that the issue be minimized.
Ha'aretz reported that defense sources told the newspaper yesterday
that the government will not go public with new information in the
case. The media reported that the Prime Minister's Office declined
to comment on the matter yesterday, and that they referred Ha'aretz
to PM Olmert's statements last week in his Passover interviews with
media outlets, in which he said that "the Syrians know what our
position is, and we know what their expectations are." The
Jerusalem Post reported that top defense officials expressed concern
yesterday that the details revealed in the congressional hearing
would "embarrass" Syrian President Bashar Assad -- who has refused
to confirm reports on the nature of the site -- and might create
pressure from within his government to respond militarily against
Israel. The Jerusalem Post quoted a senior defense official as
saying: "Syria thinks it owes us for what happened in September.
The official added that the congressional hearing could also force
Assad to reject peace talks with Israel as an act of leadership in
face of growing internal criticism.

Israel Radio reported that the GOI declines to comment on reports
from Syria that PM Olmert has agreed to Israel's withdrawal from the
Golan in exchange for peace. Leading media reported that yesterday
on Aljazeera-TV Syrian Minister of Expatriates Buthaynah Shabaan
confirmed the report by the Syrian news agency Sham-Press. Leading
electronic media reported that Bashar Assad confirmed those reports
today in the Qatari daily Al-Watan.
Yediot (Alex Fishman) said that the Syrians who leaked the
information omitted Israel's terms in possible negotiations.
Ha'aretz quoted officials as saying that significant U.S.
involvement will probably be necessary for negotiations with Syria
to move ahead, and that Syria is still demanding such involvement.
Both Israeli and foreign experts on Syria told Ha'aretz yesterday
that a change in the American position was not on the horizon, and
that no details on the Israeli position had been included in
yesterday's Syrian media reports. Media quoted Syrian Foreign
Minister Walid Muallem as saying yesterday in Tehran that if Israel
were serious about making peace with Syria and withdrawing from the
Golan, there was nothing to prevent the renewal of negotiations.
But he added that Syria was not prepared for talks with Israel that
would hurt the Palestinian negotiating track.

Leading media reported that Hamas will tell Egypt this evening its
final position on the proposed truce with Israel. Ha'aretz quoted
Hamas sources as saying yesterday that their organization is
expected to accept Egypt's cease-fire proposal, under which fighting
with Israel will be suspended only in Gaza. However, Hamas is
likely to condition its consent on the cease-fire expanding in a few
months to cover the West Bank as well. According to the proposal,
Israel will refrain from attacking Hamas's people during the
temporary cease-fire -- or tahdiya -- in Gaza, even in the event of
terror attacks in the West Bank or Israel. The Rafah crossing into
Egypt is to be opened, along with cargo crossings between Israel and
the Gaza Strip. In return, Hamas will ensure there is no rocket
fire or any other armed operation against Israel. Ha'aretz quoted
Hamas's PM Ismail Haniyeh as saying yesterday that Hamas is prepared
to offer Israel a long-term cease-fire, or hudna, in return for an
Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, a Palestinian state with
Jerusalem as its capital, and right of return for refugees --
without recognizing Israel. Israel Radio reported that Hamas is
calling on Palestinians to march to the Erez and Rafah crossings
tomorrow.

Ha'aretz reported that yesterday Israel resumed piping industrial
diesel fuel to the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz fuel depot,
transferring to Gaza about a million liters, enough to operate
Gaza's power plant for at least three days. The Nahal Oz depot was
attacked on April 9 by terrorists who murdered two Israeli civilians
employed there. Ha'aretz reported that Palestinians complained
yesterday about the ongoing shortage of gasoline, supply of which
was not resumed. Defense officials responded that Israel is not
transferring fuel for transportation purposes, and that there are
considerable amounts of diesel and gasoline for vehicles on the
Palestinian side of the fuel depot, but that the Hamas government is
not pumping it, apparently in an effort to generate a humanitarian
crisis and blame it on Israel. Ha'aretz reported that yesterday the
UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued
data on the repercussions of the fuel shortage in Gaza. UNRWA's
transportation fleet will remain idle starting tomorrow, the OCHA
statement said. This means that distribution of food packages to
650,000 refugees will stop, and the orderly operation of 214 schools
and 19 health clinics will be disrupted, along with the collection
of solid waste. In addition, garbage is no longer being collected
by 12 local councils, impacting half a million Gazans. Trash
collection will soon be suspended by the other councils. According
to OCHA, hospitals run by the Palestinian health ministry have fuel
supplies for between 33 and 170 hours. Hospitals belonging to
non-governmental organizations have enough fuel left for less than a
week. The major pharmacies in the Strip, which are powered by
generators, ran out of fuel on Tuesday, jeopardizing inoculations
for 55,000 babies.

Ha'aretz reported that eight months after the High Court of Justice
ordered the state to dismantle the segment of the separation fence
near the Palestinian village of Bil'in within a "reasonable amount
of time," the Defense Ministry has yet to do so. Ha'aretz noted
that it has not even begun to plan an alternative route there, in
accordance with the court's instruction.

The media cited a Foreign Ministry statement released yesterday,
according to which Israel halted its espionage activities against
the U.S. on U.S. soil in 1985. Yediot and Israel Radio quoted
Joseph diGenova, the prosecutor in the Pollard case, as saying
yesterday: "The Israelis, of course, lied to us. They said there
were no other spies and they had destroyed all the documents they
got at the time." Maariv cited the belief of top GOI sources that
President Bush's upcoming visit will take place as planned and that
the affair is not expected to cloud Israel-U.S. relations.

Israel Radio reported that settler leaders are attempting to obtain
a pardon from President Shimon Peres for Jewish security prisoners
(including Ami Popper, who was convicted of murdering seven Arab men
in 1990) through the intermediary of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi
Ovadia Yosef.

Ha'aretz quoted former cabinet ministers and former Meretz leader
Yossi Sarid as saying yesterday that he will not run for Tel Aviv
mayor in November's municipal elections. Sarid said that he has
other commitments.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a soldier serving in the IDF's
elite 8200 military intelligence unit was sentenced to 19 days in
prison on Wednesday for uploading a picture onto the Facebook social
networking site.

----------
1. Syria:
----------

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Notwithstanding the
messages between Olmert and Assad, it is almost certain that the
negotiations will not be renewed in the near future -- at least not
until the next tenant takes up residence in the White House."

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The cost of
peace with Syria has been known for years, and there is no reason to
be alarmed by it.... The problem is that even within Kadima,
Olmert's party, it is hard to locate sufficient support for this
welcome move by the Prime Minister."

Veteran journalist Hemmi Shalev wrote in the independent Israel
Hayom: "At least as far as spin is concerned, there is already real
cooperation between [Israel and Syria]."

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

I. "Waiting for the Next President"

Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (4/24): "Let's start at
the end. Notwithstanding the messages between Olmert and Assad, it
is almost certain that the negotiations will not be renewed in the
near future -- at least not until the next tenant takes up residence
in the White House in January 2009.... The Turkish mediators
informed Israel ... that Assad also understood that the talks would
not be renewed unless he clarified that a peace agreement would
oblige Syria to shut the offices of the Palestinian rejectionist
organizations in Damascus, end its support of Hizbullah and cool its
relations with Iran. In other words, Olmert and Assad have been
exchanging messages with the understanding that they weren't going
to have to close the deal any time soon.... Olmert wants to give the
public the impression that he is seeking the right path to an
agreement, and Assad wants to signal to the Americans that their
perception of him as a monster is incorrect. There are substantial
differences of opinion between the IDF Intelligence Branch and the
Mossad with respect to the sincerity of Assad's intentions. The IDF
Intelligence Branch believes that Israel ought to act vigorously to
renew the talks that, ultimately, are destined to remove Syria from
the 'axis of evil.' The Mossad director has told the cabinet
ministers that Assad is not particularly interested in regaining the
Golan Heights and that his paramount interest lies in Lebanon."

II. "Don't Be Afraid of Peace with Syria"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (4/24): "Peace
with Syria is once again knocking at our door, and it even seems to
be meeting with a less-frosty reception on the Israeli side. The
time is ripe for negotiations with Syria, especially since U.S.
President George W. Bush's reign is drawing to a close, and among
his potential successors, whether Democrat or Republican, there is a
willingness to negotiate with Bashar Assad instead of boycotting
him.... Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Benjamin Netanyahu have all
supported withdrawing from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace
and security arrangements, and they all worked to obtain such an
agreement. Whether or not the current government is capable of
carrying out a historical move that entails territorial concessions
is a question of leadership ability. Peace is not a commodity in
high demand when the border is quiet, but peace with Syria might
open up the possibility of regional peace by changing the balance of
interests in the area..... The cost of peace with Syria has been
known for years, and there is no reason to be alarmed by it. The
security advantages of peace are greater than the strategic value of
the Golan Heights. The problem is that even within Kadima, Olmert's
party, it is hard to locate sufficient support for this welcome move
by the Prime Minister."

III. "The Plutonium Bypass Spin"

Veteran journalist Hemmi Shalev wrote in the independent Israel
Hayom (4/24): "The unusual declarations made yesterday by
high-ranking administration officials and image consultants in
Damascus about Prime Minister Olmert's willingness to withdraw from
the Golan Heights serve the interests of both sides very well, so
that at least as far as spin is concerned, there is already real
cooperation between the two countries. Syrian President Bashar
Assad wants to appear to be an obsessive peace seeker, while the
American Congress is about to expose him today to be a high-ranking
member of the nuclear axis of evil, even as Olmert wants to look as
if he were juggling several peace processes in tandem in order to
rebuff claims that he is basically achieving nothing. Assad wants
to avoid the need to respond with force to what it has so far been
convenient for him to deny, i.e., the Israeli attack on September 6,
2007, whereas Olmert is willing to cooperate in salvaging Assad's
lost dignity in return for a bit of credit, either direct or
indirect, for himself."

------------
2. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Columnist Ari Shavit wrote in the independent, left-leaning
Ha'aretz: "True, George Bush too has wreaked calamity on the Middle
East, but the way to correct Bush's mistake is not to return to
Carter's abomination."

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

"Beware, Appeasement"

Columnist Ari Shavit wrote in the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(4/24): "Carterism is far more important than Jimmy Carter.... The
possibility that a Democrat will be elected president of the United
States in November makes the debate over Carterism relevant and
vital. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will have to choose whether
to continue in the sober tradition of Roosevelt-Truman-Kennedy or to
revive Carter's appeasement. That is why it is important to speak
out strongly right now about the path chosen by the old man who came
to visit us this week. This path is not only delusional, but
immoral. Carterism's cooperation with Hamas is cooperation with the
oppression of women, with the jailing of homosexuals, with the
persecution of Christians. It is cooperation with a religious
tyranny that tramples the Palestinian individual and seeks to
eradicate the Israeli-Jewish collective. True, George Bush too has
wreaked calamity on the Middle East, but the way to correct Bush's
mistake is not to return to Carter's abomination. If the Israeli,
European, and American left chooses to become a Carterist left, it
will indeed become a suicidal left."
--------------------------
3. Ben-Ami Kadish Affair:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "On the
eve of Bush's visit to Jerusalem next month, Israel and the United
States must exert every effort to address the latest spy scandal
like allies should -- responsibly."

Defense commentator Amir Oren wrote in the independent, left-leaning
Ha'aretz: "The spying in the U.S. [may have] helped to ... save
lives -- but at the price of jeopardizing Israel's main support
column."

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

I. "'Library Spy'"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (4/24):
"More details are sure to emerge, but for the time being we should
insist that the Kadish case not be misused to bolster the enemies of
Jonathan Pollard.... There are already regrettable efforts to draw
the two cases together.... Regardless of the outcome of the Kadish
case, President George W. Bush should commute Pollard's sentence to
the 22 years already served.... [Israel] should remind the U.S. of
its gratitude that security cooperation between the two counties is
tighter now than at any time in the past. On the eve of Bush's
visit to Jerusalem next month, Israel and the United States must
exert every effort to address the latest spy scandal like allies
should -- responsibly."

II. "Kiss on the Check, Knife in the Back"

Defense commentator Amir Oren wrote in the independent, left-leaning
Ha'aretz (4/24): "What is tolerated due to helplessness when it
comes to China, Russia and Cuba is prohibited for Israel, (which is
on the top of the spies list), France and other friends. Every
Pollard, every Kadish, reinforces the national-religious label of
Judas Iscariot, a kiss on the cheek and a knife in the back, and in
the case of the IDF and Israeli intelligence, the hero who is also a
thief, the pilot who is also a pickpocket..... What is needed -- and
lacking -- is cold, strategic thinking in order to understand that
this is a dangerous game. The spying in the U.S. helped to shorten
development schedules, to save billions, to know the enemy, and at
the end of the day perhaps also to save lives -- but at the price of
jeopardizing Israel's main support column. For years everyone in
the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry should have
known -- and most of them did -- and everyone is responsible."

JONES

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