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Cablegate: Special Israel Media Reaction

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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
NSC FOR NEA STAFF

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HQ USAF FOR XOXX
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JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR PA
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COMSIXTHFLT FOR 019

JERUSALEM ALSO ICD
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PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO

SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: SPECIAL ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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

Visit of President Bush to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, May
14-16, 2008

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

Maariv and other media reported on President BushQs pending arrival
in Israel at 11:00 a.m. today. Maariv reported that the President
will hold meetings with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert and then deliver a speech to the President's Conference.
Maariv reported that he will speak before the Knesset tomorrow.

The media quoted PM Olmert as saying on Tuesday, hours before the
arrival of President Bush, that "real progress" has been achieved in
the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and that
"understandings and agreements have been reached on important
matters, although not on all issues.Q Israel Radio quoted National
Security Advisor Stephen Hadley as saying en route to the region
that the President still believes that Israel and the PA can reach
an agreement before he ends his term. Israel Radio quoted
Ambassador Richard Jones as saying in an interview with the web site
of the Arabic-language Panorama that Bush will not pressure Israel,
that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is feasible by the end of
year, and that it only depends on the good will of the parties.
Jones was quoted as saying that Jerusalem is the most sensitive
issue, and that it may be discussed at the end of the process.
Jones reportedly said that he had heard from knowledgeable sources
that even if the allegations against Olmert were verified, the
coalition would remain strong. Maariv cited the hope of senior
diplomatic sources in Israel that the President's visit will be used
to make some progress in the "jumpy" peace process. Maariv quoted
senior diplomatic sources as saying yesterday that beyond the moral
support Bush is trying to provide Olmert, President Bush will push
him to reach an early declaration of principles ahead of a
final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

Ha'aretz quoted sources close to Olmert as saying that he is
expected to ask Bush to upgrade substantially the security
relationship between Israel and the U.S. Olmert's people are
leaning, said the sources, toward presenting the President with a
list of weapon systems that Israel wants to purchase or otherwise
gain access to. Next month Olmert is scheduled to visit Washington
for 48 hours, and will expect to receive Bush's answer on the
possibility of supplying the items. Yediot reported that Bush will
present Israel with a package of "goodies" -- mostly in the fields
of weaponry and intelligence. Yediot reported that the U.S. has
informed Israel in advance that it will be "positively surprised."

Leading media reported that President Shimon Peres told the Facing
Tomorrow conference, which opened last night in Jerusalem, that
Israel's enemies belong to yesterday, and that "the skies of the
Middle East are clouded over with Iranian ambition." Peres's
address to the 1,000 foreign guests, who included the presidents of
11 countries, focused Israel's achievements and hope for the future.
However, regarding Iran, he said, "The Iranian threat is taking on
two forms. It is destroying Lebanon, breaking apart its unity,
destroying its welfare without contributing anything for the future.
And in the Gaza Strip, a group of religious fanatics is preventing
the establishment of a Palestinian state. If it weren't for Hamas,
there would have already been a Palestinian state founded on the
principle of two states for two peoples. They [Iran] only bring
destruction without any benefit whatsoever," Peres continued.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel and the Palestinians have been
discussing an almost complete transfer of security responsibility in
the Jenin area to PA security forces in order to turn the area into
a "model region" -- where Israeli presence is almost non-existent.
Ha'aretz quoted sources in the Defense Ministry as saying on Tuesday
that talks on the new security arrangements were underway with
American mediation and that of Quartet representative Tony Blair.
Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday Blair
presented several measures to ease life for the Palestinians in the
West Bank, to which Israel and the PA had agreed ahead of President
Bush's visit.

Ha'aretz cited the belief of Israeli defense officials that Egypt
will reopen the Rafah crossing to Palestinians even if Cairo's
initiative to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas fails.
Ha'aretz also reported that the IDF is taking steps to be able to
limit mass marches to the fence separating Gaza and Israel.
Ha'aretz reported that although Egypt denies it, evidence is
mounting that Cairo and Hamas recently reached an understanding to
open the crossing regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.

Leading media reported that the IDF will reduce its operations
throughout the West Bank starting today in respect for President
Bush's visit. Maariv reported that, changing his mind, IDF Chief of

Staff Gabi Ashkenazi now supports a ground operation in Gaza. The
newspaper reported that Ashkenazi's new stance was motivated by
Qassam rocket fire, the negotiations over the release of Gilad
Shalit, and the fear that a period of calm would help strengthen
Hamas. Israel Radio reported that an IDF operation is underway east
of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. The radio quoted Palestinian
sources as saying that a Hamas militant was killed and three others
were injured in an IAF raid. Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that a
terrorist was killed in an IAF raid yesterday.

Ha'aretz reported that some 40 families from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, whose
member Jimmy Kedoshim was killed by mortar fire on Friday, have
decided to leave the area.

Media reported that yesterday the police questioned billionaire U.S.
businessmen Sheldon Adelson and S. Daniel Abraham in connection with
the alleged bribery of PM Olmert by American businessman Morris
Talansky.

Ha'aretz reported that the Jerusalem Municipality has begun the
process of approving a plan for a new housing complex, including a
synagogue, in the heart of the Arab neighborhood of Silwan south of
the Old City. The plan was submitted by the right-wing Elad
association. Documents show the land the complex is to be built on
belongs to the Israel Lands Administration (ILA); however, the ILA
was quoted as saying that it was unaware of the plan. Israel Radio
reported that Housing and Construction Minister Zeev Boim told
representatives of Shas and United Torah Judaism that the government
will cancel a freeze of construction of 600 housing units in the
settlement town of Beitar Illit, which was announced at the
beginning of the year. The radio quoted party envoys as saying that
Boim told then that building permits there will be made public only
after President Bush's departure, so as not to embarrass him. The
radio later cited Boim's denial of the report, saying that it
amounted to hearsay intended to increase the prestige of various
ultra-Orthodox groups. Maariv quoted Shas Chairman Eli Yishai as
saying that President Bush has given Olmert a green light for
construction in Beitar Illit and Kiryat Sefer.

Yediot reported that Israel has lodged a complaint with Egypt over a
comment by its Culture Minister, Farouk Hosni, in a parliamentary
debate, that he will burn Israeli books himself.

Ha'aretz reported that yesterday the human rights group B'Tselem
revealed video footage showing an IDF officer firing a rubber-coated
bullet at an Israeli protester at close range, during a protest
against the separation fence in Bil'in two months ago. The shooting
appears to violate IDF regulations, which state that rubber bullets
may be fired from no closer than 40 meters. Ha'aretz quoted the IDF
Spokesman as saying: "The court has already ruled and ordered that
the path of the fence around Bil'in be changed, yet the disruption
of order there goes on, with protesters coming regularly to the
area, where they employ violence against security forces and
vandalize the fence itself. In several cases, protesters even
wounded soldiers and officers, so security forces were ordered to
employ crowd dispersal means on the demonstrators."

Ha'aretz reported that a plan to build a large desalination plant
for the Palestinians got the green light yesterday from Israel's
national planning and construction council, which also paved the way
for a significant increase in the amount of sea water that will be
desalinated by 2040. The desalination plant for the Palestinians
will be located in the Hadera industrial zone. In addition to
allocating land for the facility, Israel will also allow a pipeline
on its soil, but donor nations are slated to actually build and
operate the facility. The planning council also decided that
additional desalination plants can be added as needed, depending on
Israel's water needs by 2040.

Ha'aretz reported that yesterday a six-day international design
workshop on architecture opened at Naharayim, 10 kilometers south of
the southern tip of the Lake of Galilee, at the confluence of the
Yarmuk and Jordan rivers. It is part of the preparation for the
proposed Jordan River Peace Park. The participants are faculty and
students from Yale University and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and
Design, Jerusalem, together with Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli
architects. Friends of the Earth Middle East is behind the
initiative, which seeks to extend the development on the Israeli
side of the site to the Jordanian side to create a transborder
protected area in which both Israelis and Jordanians will be able to
cross the river from either side without the need for a visa.
Visitors will not, however, be able to continue on to the rest of
either country without a visa.

---------------------------------
Visit of President Bush to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,
May14-16, 2008:
---------------------------------

Summary:
--------
Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Bush comes to his second and final visit to
Israel as president with a sense of serenity about what he has done
and about what he will not manage to do. This serenity is worth
adopting: He will be followed by subsequent governments."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Of all
the U.S. presidents over the past 60 years, it is hard to think of a
better friend to Israel than George W. Bush."

Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz wrote on page one of The Jerusalem
Post: "[Bush] made crystal clear that he wants to see at least a
framework agreement concluded before he leaves office. And the
indications are that he believes this can best be achieved by
focusing first on borders -- not from an automatic standpoint of
U.S. support for expanded Israeli sovereignty."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "Israel is interested in a cease-fire with
Hamas and there is no point in pretending that this is not so....
What should not be done at this time is to postpone decisions that
in any case will be taken at a later stage -- too late for those
whose blood will be spilled."


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

I. "A Job Half-Done"

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (5/14): "Bush's critics think that his inner
compass is broken, its response to magnetic fields erratic, and the
President gave up trying to convince them otherwise long ago. This
was quite evident during a long conversation on Monday with Israeli
journalists in the Oval Office.... In any event, earth-shaking
changes do not take place within neat four- or eight-year time
spans, in accordance with the U.S. political calendar. The American
President who understands this and does not attempt to stuff
impossible tasks into a tight time frame is better than one who
thinks that what he cannot accomplish in his own term will never be
accomplished. Bush is an example of the former, even if his
secretary of state often seems to be inimical to the inexorable
trickle of the sands in the hourglass. The Bill Clinton of the Camp
David era represented the latter approach, an approach that Bush
opposed at the time and to which he is even more opposed today. And
so it is that Bush comes to his second and final visit to Israel as
president with a sense of serenity about what he has done and about
what he will not manage to do. This serenity is worth adopting: He
will be followed by subsequent governments."

II. "Bush in Context"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (5/14):
"Of all the U.S. presidents over the past 60 years, it is hard to
think of a better friend to Israel than George W. Bush. No
president has been more committed to steering the Middle East toward
the values of liberty and tolerance which Americans naturally
cherish, and presuppose to be universal. Bush combines a personal
affinity toward Israel with policies that are generally responsive
to its concerns. His performance as president is best understood in
historical context.... While Bush may have been wrong on Iraq, he is
dead right about Iran -- though an ungrateful, sometimes spiteful
world appears in denial. Iran is blatantly pursuing destabilizing
nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them beyond the Middle
East, even as key international players stoke its economy.... The
president told The Jerusalem Post yesterday that before leaving
office he wants a structure in place for dealing with Iran.
Washington already has a strong security commitment to Jerusalem.
Now we would urge the president to work for an upgrade in Israel's
relationship with NATO. Europe must understand that Iran is
pivotal; that there will be no stability, no progress -- not in
Iraq, not in Lebanon and not on the Palestinian front -- until
Tehran's advances are first contained, and eventually rolled back."

III. "On Borders, Swiss Cheese Trumps a Four-Year-Old Letter"

Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz wrote on page one of The Jerusalem
Post (5/14): "In our Oval Office interview on Monday, President Bush
said he was anxious not to supply us with a 'screaming headline'
about the dimensions of a future Palestinian state, a headline, he
said, such as 'Bush says this is what the borders ought to look
like.' Rather, said the President, those dimensions of the new
Palestine and the finalized Israel needed to be agreed by the two
sides themselves. So, said Bush, the headlines 'ought to be, "Abbas
said this is what the borders ought to look like," or, "Olmert said
this is what the borders ought to look like.'"' The President was
speaking in response to a question I had asked him about whether he
truly envisaged a future Israel as being larger than its pre-1967
contours. Ariel Sharon often asserted that the president had
promised him American support for such an expanded Israel in a 2004
letter, which stated that 'in light of new realties on the ground,'
a full withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice Lines is 'unrealistic.' And
Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert, told this newspaper in a recent
interview that Bush was uniquely supportive of Israel precisely
because his vision of our future was based not on the 1967 borders
but on ''67-plus.' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however,
has been known to minimize the significance of this four-year-old
letter.... Bush took pains in the interview to assert that he wasn't
chasing a Nobel Peace Prize and wasn't worrying about his legacy.
But he also made crystal clear that he wants to see at least a
framework agreement concluded before he leaves office. And the
indications are that he believes this can best be achieved by
focusing first on borders -- not from an automatic standpoint of
U.S. support for expanded Israeli sovereignty to include major
settlement blocs, as Sharon and Olmert would have hoped. But
apparently from a belief that the Palestinians must be assured full
control of contiguous territory, because only if they are satisfied
with the parameters of their state-in-waiting might they possibly be
wooed toward compromise on the refugee issue."


IV. "Educating Hamas"

Ha'aretz editorialized (5/14): "Israel is interested in a cease-fire
with Hamas and there is no point in pretending that this is not
so.... Israel is interested in quiet even more than Hamas, because
Iran (which is supporting Hamas) increases its involvement in the
region the more the ground is burning. A peace agreement with Hamas
is not in the cards, so all that can be wished for is a cease-fire
that lasts however long it lasts. We will always be able to return
to the current situation.... There is no point in trying to educate
Hamas and asking for a cease-fire in return for Shalit and the
opening of the Rafah crossing without including a prisoner release
in the deal. In these negotiations we will not be able to win --
whatever their outcome. It is not possible to defeat Hamas with a
large ground operation or a peace treaty.... Noam Shalit [the father
of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit] is right in his insistence on
tying his son's release to the cease-fire agreement, but it is
doubtful this is possible. Gilad Shalit can be released in a
prisoner deal, which could perhaps be combined with a truce. What
should not be done at this time is to postpone decisions that in any
case will be taken at a later stage -- too late for those whose
blood will be spilled."


JONES

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