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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #0961/01 1201031
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P 291031Z APR 08
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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

1. Mideast

2. Syria

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

Most media highlighted the IDF's version of the deaths of a mother
and her four small children in Beit Hanun, northern Gaza, yesterday:
The army maintains that the deaths occurred when two missiles fired
against Palestinian militants near the family's tin-hut home
detonated explosive devices carried by the militants, causing a
"secondary explosion" that killed the civilians. Hamas maintains
that an IDF tank fired a shell. Leading media reported that an IDF
colonel will investigate the event and present his conclusions
within 48 hours. Israel Radio reported that PM Ehud Olmert voiced
his deep regret over the deaths; however he was quoted as saying
that the circumstances of the incident have not been elucidated.
The radio reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed Hamas for
the violence in Gaza. The radio reported that this morning 10
rockets were fired at Israel, one of which struck a house.

Israel Radio reported that President Bush will not hold a trilateral
summit during his upcoming visit to the region.

Leading media quoted Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is
leading Israel's strategic dialogue with the U.S., as saying
yesterday in Washington after meeting with Secretary Rice that
returning the Golan to Syria would bring Iran close to Israel's
borders. Yediot reported that Eyal Arad and Lior Horev, strategic
consulates to Kadima and PM Olmert, also advise the Golan Regional
Council. Horev was quoted as saying in an interview with the
Yediot-affiliated web site Ynet: "Diplomatic negotiations with Syria
will bring down the government within 24 hours." Ha'aretz quoted
Israeli officials as saying yesterday that the Syrian official in
charge of the Turkish-mediated contacts with Israel is Samir Taqi,
head of a Damascus-based research institute. The officials were
quoted as saying that Taqi was very close to decision-makers in
Damascus and enjoyed the confidence of the Turkish government.
Ha'aretz quoted people who know Taqi personally as saying yesterday
they believed he was very well-connected to the Syrian intelligence
services. Ha'aretz quoted Taqi as saying in an interview with
Aljazeera-TV on Saturday that Syria was interested in moving ahead
in talks with Israel even during the present U.S. administration.
Yediot quoted Turkish FM Ali Babacan as saying that an "agreement
between the two long-standing enemies needs much political
determination." The Jerusalem Post quoted Western diplomats as
saying yesterday that one of the issues that Turkey is trying to
work out between Israel and Syria as a prelude to direct
negotiations is whether a Syrian announcement of ending support for
terrorism needs to precede an Israeli guarantee that it will
withdraw from the Golan in exchange for peace.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel is trying to block what is expected to
be a stern condemnation of its policies in Gaza by the donor nations
to the PA, which are scheduled to meet in London on Thursday. In
view of recent developments in Gaza, and the killing of civilians,
there is concern in official circles in Jerusalem that the criticism
will be severe. In parallel, Israel is faced with a complaint filed
several days ago by Egypt with the UN Security Council, and
criticism from members of the Quartet, who described a dangerously
"explosive situation in the Gaza Strip."

Ha'aretz reported that a group of experts from the Institute for
National Security Studies has drawn up a draft law which defines,
for the first time, the nature of the relationship between the
government and the IDF, and the division of powers and
responsibilities between the two bodies. In its report on the
Second Lebanon War, the Winograd Commission said the lack of such
organizational clarity was a "structural weakness" that "critically"
needed repair.

Major media reported that the Palestinian factions are resuming the
truce talks in Cairo today. The Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio
noted that Fatah does not take part in the parley.

Maariv reported that the residents of the unauthorized settler
outpost Yatir Southwest (in the southern Hebron Hills), on whose
removal in coming days the Defense Ministry and the Yesha Council of
Jewish Settlements in the Territories have agreed, "will not go
quietly."

The Jerusalem Post reported that following a long-delayed green
light from Italy, the EU is poised in the coming days to slap
sanctions on Bank Melli, one of Iran's most influential banks, in a
move praised in Jerusalem as "very important."
The Jerusalem Post reported that ahead of the renewal of UNIFIL's
mandate this summer, the Defense Ministry is hoping to strengthen
the peacekeeping force's rules of engagement so that it can engage
Hizbullah fighters when they are spotted and not just when
Hizbullah fighters fire. Leading media cited claims by the Lebanese
Army that yesterday the IAF violated Lebanese airspace for an hour.
Maariv reported that the IDF would not comment on the report.

Leading media cited news agencies reports quoting the Japanese
public broadcaster NHK as saying, based on South Korean intelligence
officials, that 10 North Koreans helping to build a suspected
nuclear reactor may have died in Israel's air raid in September.

Yediot reported that in the coming year the Justice Ministry and
President Shimon Peres will expunge the criminal records of young
people, most of them minors, who committed misdemeanors during the
disengagement.

The media reported that a border policeman, who was convicted of
brutally killing a Palestinian teen in Hebron six years ago, was
sentenced yesterday to six and a half years in prison.

The Jerusalem Post quotQ officials as saying that it is likely
that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will approve a death sentence
imposed on a Palestinian policeman convicted of "collaboration" with
IsraeQ
The Jerusalem Post reported that for the first time, an American
woman rabbi, Lynn Gottlieb, will travel to Iran today on a mission
of interfaith dialogue and understanding. She will co-lead a
delegation of 21 peace activists to the Islamic Republic on a
mission "to humanize the face of Iran, lest we end up with a
disaster of global proportions we cannot imagine," as she told The
Jerusalem Post on Monday.

All media reported that the Israeli communications satellite Amos 3
was successfully launched into space from Kazakhstan yesterday.

Major media reported that the Gil Pensioners Party has split and the
breakaway members intend to form tycoon Arkady Gaidamak's new
Knesset faction, dubbed Justice for Pensioners. However, it is not
clear how many of the party's seven Knesset members, if any, will
follow MK Moshe Sharoni to form the new faction. MK Elhanan Glazer,
formerly one of the party's mavericks, decided not to quit
yesterday, after being promised a post as a deputy minister.

Ha'aretz reported that yesterday Israel's Police Commissioner David
Cohen rejected claims of "persecution" and "blackmail" made earlier
in the day at a press conference by Yisrael Beiteinu leader MK
Avigdor Lieberman against the police officers conducting a probe
into his affairs. Lieberman also lashed out at state prosecutors
and investigative reporters.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Tunisian representative to the
PA has abruptly canceled his attendance at an international
Holocaust conference this week in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Post quoted police as saying yesterday that senior
Islamic official Nasser Hakim Abu-Kueder has been barred from
entering the Temple Mount compound for the next six months after
allegedly inciting violence against Jews.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Tourism and Transportation
ministries are working toward closing Jerusalem's Old City to
transportation, both private and public. The change is designed to
remove traffic congestion and make visiting the Old City a more
pleasant experience.

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

Summary:
--------

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin, wrote in an editorial of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "We have to get it into
our brains that [the Palestinians] are fighting for their state and
their liberty (yes, just as we fought in 1948), and that only a
political agreement -- only a political agreement! -- will put an
end to the horrific pictures."

Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Khaled Mashal, the head of the
Hamas politburo in Damascus, did nothing to assuage Israel's
concerns on Sunday, when he declared that any cease-fire ... will
allow Hamas to strengthen its ranks for the next confrontation. It
is therefore no wonder that the IDF is pushing to carry out as many
strikes as possible before a cease-fire."

Ghassan Khatib, Co-Editor of the bitterlemons.org family of
Israeli-Palestinian Internet publications, Vice President of Birzeit
University, and a former PA minister of planning, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "A new regional U.S.
approach that includes reversing the growing American presence and
hegemony coupled with adherence to international law and an
avoidance of double standards is called for."

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

I. "The Blood of a Small Child"

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin, wrote in an editorial of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (4/29): "Let's assume,
just for a minute, that the Israeli version of yesterdayQs events in
Gaza is correct, true and honest..... What Israeli PR has never
understood, and apparently will never understand, is that the world
and its media are not seeking the correct version or justice. The
world does not ask and will not ask how the mother and four children
happened to be at the same juncture of events together with a terror
cell and 'what happened here?'.... We can say that the IDF is still
the most moral and ideological army in the world and that the
Palestinians should say thank you that they don't have an enemy like
the Russians in Chechnya or the Americans in Iraq. We are still the
best. And we can also say that they shoot deliberately to kill
civilians -- at Sderot, for example. That they blow up buses. We
can say that yesterday's victims were a mistake, that we will check,
that we will investigate, that we will... For 20 years we have been
in an Intifada. Today's soldiers were not yet born when a Gazan
mob, after a traffic accident (in December 1987) burst out in masses
and began what every child knows about today -- the Intifada. Just
like on that first day, and 20 years down the line, we have to get
it into our brains that they are fighting for their state and their
liberty (yes, just as we fought in 1948), and that only a political
agreement -- only a political agreement! -- will put an end to the
horrific pictures. All the pictures. Those that we saw last night
in Gaza, those that we saw innumerable times in Sderot, the charred
buses, the shreds of human beings scattered in the streets, the
puddles of blood at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and hundreds of other
places. Dear God, how do we reach such an agreement?"

II. "Hurry, Shoot before the Cease-Fire"

Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (4/29): "It is not at all certain
that yesterday's killing will affect the cease-fire negotiations....
For the time being the IDF is behaving as if there is no hudna
[truce] on the horizon.... From a diplomatic point of view, it is
difficult to comprehend Israel's stance: Even if a cease-fire
collapses, as the senior officers argue, why not allow the
Palestinians to be the ones who break it? Israel was drawn into a
hudna after Egyptian pressure and the government's concerns that a
major ground operation in Gaza would result in heavy IDF casualties.
But the government is not pleased with the idea of a cease-fire: It
seems there is a zero-sum game mentality dominating the political
leadership. After all, they argue, if Hamas is so desperate for a
cease-fire, it can't be a good thing for Israel. Khaled Mashal, the
head of the Hamas politburo in Damascus, did nothing to assuage
Israel's concerns on Sunday, when he declared that any cease-fire
will be a temporary hiatus in the fighting, which will allow Hamas
to strengthen its ranks for the next confrontation. It is therefore
no wonder that the IDF is pushing to carry out as many strikes as
possible before a cease-fire."

III. "Complex Regional Rivalry Muddying the Waters"

Ghassan Khatib, Co-Editor of the bitterlemons.org family of
Israeli-Palestinian Internet publications, Vice President of Birzeit
University, and a former PA minister of planning, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (4/29): "The tension
between Israel, Syria, and Lebanon carries indirect negative
consequences for Palestinians.... It has become evident that
Palestine, like Lebanon and Iraq, is being affected by the ongoing
regional rivalry between Iran and the U.S. that started with the
Iraq invasion and US attempts to weaken Iran and interfere in its
domestic affairs including with its nuclear program. With an
American military presence on its borders in Iraq, the Arab Gulf and
Afghanistan, Iran has been motivated to play its cards against this
growing American hegemony. These developments coincided with the
collapse of the peace process, the moderate and secular leadership
associated with it, and the rise of Hamas and its victory in
Palestinian elections and subsequent takeover of the Gaza Strip....
A new regional U.S. approach that includes reversing the growing
American presence and hegemony coupled with adherence to
international law and an avoidance of double standards is called
for. This may allow a regional environment to develop that is more
conducive to improving Syrian-Israeli as well as Palestinian-Israeli
relations. "

----------
2. Syria:
----------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "There is nothing that could
create a more positive change in the Middle East than a peace accord
between Israel and Syria."

Senior columnist Haggai Huberman wrote in the nationalist, Orthodox
Makor Rishon-Hatzofe: "An agreement with Assad that would include an
Israeli withdrawal from the Golan cannot yet be seen on the
horizon."

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

I. "Go for It, Olmert"

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (4/29): "It seems too good to be
true. But when the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
comes out of a meeting with the president of Syria with the news
that Bashar Assad is prepared to work out a peace agreement with
Israel and make the region a safer place, it's worth a try.... Our
experience with Syria keeping itQmises with respect to military
activity along the border has been satisfactory. The trouble is
that while Syria may not be involved in any incidents outright, it
has become a lifeline for Hizbullah, providing patronage, money, and
missiles, from Iran and its own arsenals. Syria plays host to the
masterminds of Palestinian terrorism in Damascus and, above all,
threatens us with its strategic alliance with Iran. A peace
agreement with Syria is the kind of thing that Israeli leaders need
to examine under a microscope. It must include evicting Palestinian
terror chiefs from Syria, an end to arming Hizbullah, and, most
importantly, severing strategic ties with Iran. There is nothing
that could create a more positive change in the Middle East than a
peace accord between Israel and Syria. If Assad understands what is
required of him, and he really wants it, that is stronger than any
Israeli leader afraid that concessions on the Golan Heights will be
rejected by the Knesset opposition or Israeli public opinion. Go
for it, Olmert."

II. "An Agreement with Syria Is Not Realistic"

Senior columnist Haggai Huberman wrote in the nationalist, Orthodox
Makor Rishon-Hatzofe (4/29): "An agreement with Assad that would
include an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan cannot yet Qen on
the horizon, despite the public diplomacy that has suddenly flooded
our region, with Turkish assistance. Assad and Olmert have a joint
interest: They both want to present a performance of negotiations --
not an agreement. What interests them are negotiations, not their
results. In his mediocre political situation, Olmert wants to get
the image of a statesman leading his country to regional peace,
without paying the hefty price of a pullout. Assad wants the
Americans to legitimize his regime, without truly disconnecting from
the Iran-Hizbullah axis. He can get that through the very existence
of the negotiations. How could the President of the U.S. cast doubt
on a ruler with whom Israel itself holds talks?.... Assad very much
wants to exit the 'axis of evil' in which President Bush has placed
him without asking him; he wants the world to listen to him.
Furthermore, he wants to turn Syria into a significant regional body
that can't be ignored. Negotiations with Israel -- even without
reaching an agreement -- can help him achieve those goals. The
question is what Olmert gains by being so helpful to the promotion
of Syrian interests."

MORENO

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