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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

P 221043Z MAY 08
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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

1. Israel-Syria Talks

2. Iran

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

The top story in all of the major media outlets was the announcement
of indirect peace talks with Syria. Most media linked the timing of
the announcement with the lifting of the gag order on the bribery
investigation into PM Olmert. Both Yediot and Maariv bannered:
"Investigation and Peace," which in Hebrew sounds like "striving for
peace." Olmert was quoted as saying last night that he has
"reached the conclusion that the chances in this case outweighed the
risks, and with this hope, today we embark on this path." He added
that "it's always better to talk to shoot." The Jerusalem Post
quoted Turkish sources as saying that Israel and Syria understand
that a future peace agreement will include a full Israeli withdrawal
from the Golan Heights, as well as Syria's distancing itself from
Iran and an end to "aiding and abetting" Hamas and Hizbullah.
Ha'aretz quoted a senior Turkish official as saying that Ankara is
impressed by the upbeat mood and that it hopes that by next month
there might even be a direct meeting between Israelis and Syrians.
Ha'aretz reported that Olmert tried to soften the Americans' stance
during President Bush and Vice President Cheney's visits to Israel,
and that he was backed by Defense Minister Barak. Israel Radio
reported that FM Tzipi Livni told French FM Bernard Kouchner that
Israel will accept nothing less from Syria than its total
disengagement from terror (Hamas, Hizbullah, etc.) and Iran.
Ha'aretz believes that Israel might request billions of dollars from
the U.S. in the event of a peace treaty with Syria. Maariv wrote
that in a treaty with Syria, Israel hopes to resolve water rights,
receive cheap oil, and open up overland access to Europe. The media
also reported on several polls (see the poll section below) in which
two-thirds of the respondents said they do not support leaving the
Golan for peace and an overwhelming majority also connect the
announcement to Olmert's legal troubles and do not believe he has
the legitimacy needed to enter into serious negotiations.

The Jerusalem Post quoted a senior law enforcement official as
saying that the National Fraud Unit believes that Olmert made
"personal use" of the funds he received from New York financier
Morris Talansky. The newspaper further quoted the official as
saying that Shula Zaken, Olmert's former bureau chief and secretary
of many years "knowingly handed the funds." All media cited notes
that Zaken wrote and e-mails she sent Olmert.

Leading media quoted Hamas as saying yesterday that Egypt is
expected to announce today that efforts to reach an agreement with
Israel have failed. Hamas spokespeople placed the blame on Israel
for this development, saying that Israel did not want to give up
anything in exchange for the truce. Israel Radio reported that this
morning a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-laden truck on the
Gazan side of the Erez Crossing. No Israeli was harmed. Islamic
Jihad and a fraction of Fatah claimed responsibility for the
attack.

Israel Radio quoted Secretary Rice as saying yesterday: "We would
welcome any steps that might lead to a comprehensive peace in the
Middle East. We are going to work very hard on the
Palestinian-Israeli front. We hope for the best on the
Israeli-Syrian side and we do believe that there is work to be done
vis-a-vis the outstanding issues with Lebanon, as well." Leading
media quoted White House Press Secretary Dana Perino as saying that
the U.S. does not object to the talks but "the United States,
Israelis and many others" are concerned about Syria's support for
Hamas and Hizbullah.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli defense officials as saying that
they are concerned that Hizbullah would use its newly-gained veto
power in the Lebanese cabinet to prevent the renewal of UNIFIL's
mandate this summer.

Major media reported that yesterday the French Court of Appeals
ruled in favor of Jewish activist Philippe Karsenty, overturning a
lower court decision that he had libeled France 2-TV and its
Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin when he accused them of
knowingly misleading the world about the death of the Palestinian
child Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza in 2000. Last night France 2-TV
reported that it would appeal to the Cour de Cassation (the court of
last resort in France).

Ha'aretz -- and other media previously -- reported that the USTR's
2007 watch list of countries where intellectual property is not
respected, names Israel as one of the countries that are a "focus of
increased bilateral attention". The Israeli case deals mainly with
legislation regulating the ability to produce generic drugs and to
distribute them both in Israel and overseas. Ha'aretz quoted
several sources involved in the issue as saying that the Israelis
believe it is not their lax legislation hat is keeping them on the
list, but rather the pressure exerted by American pharmaceutical
companies to protect their products from Israeli generic versions.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday in Eilat Internal
Security Minister Avi Dichter defended the millions of dollars of
funding that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
(IFCJ) -- a "Jewish-Evangelical alliance" -- has put toward the
GOI's City of Non-Violence program.

Major media reported that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer arrived in
Israel yesterday for a three-hour visit to inaugurate the company's
new R&D center in Herzliya. The ceremony was attended by President
Shimon Peres. The media quoted Ballmer as saying that "Microsoft is
as much an Israeli company as an American company," adding that the
proportion of Microsoft employees per capita in Israel was similar
to that in the U.S.

Maariv reported that 300 of 1,500 historic Jerusalem buildings
slated for preservation have been pulled down.

Channel 2-TV commissioned a poll, whose results it presented last
night:

Do you support or oppose a concession of the Golan in the framework
of a peace treaty?

Oppose: 70%; support: 22%.

Do you believe that the timing of progress in the negotiations is
related to Olmert's investigation?

Yes: 57%; no: 32 %.

Do you believe that Olmert's decision to conduct negotiations with
Syria is legitimate?

No: 58%; yes: 33%.

Ha'aretz cited a recent survey by the right-leaning Maagar Mohot
research institute that found that about two-thirds (68%) of
Israelis object to withdrawing from the Golan Heights even for peace
with Syria -- more than those who object to dividing Jerusalem for
ending the conflict with the Arab world.

-----------------------
1. Israel-Syria Talks:
-----------------------

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "This is the
moment to tell Olmert: Turn over every stone. Let the
investigations continue as if there were no peace talks, and let the
peace talks continue as if there were no investigations -- and
perhaps it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "I hope that we wake up to a reality in
which there is peace and no Talansky, but we are liable to wake up
to a reality in which there is Talansky but no peace. And we are
going to have to learn to live with that."

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot: "From a great strategic asset for Israel, the Golan
Heights [may] become a burden, which [would] add its part in the
broadening struggle for Israel's liquidation."

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, wrote in Yediot Aharonot: "We Israelis once
claimed that Arab countries act ... against Israel out of 'domestic
needs.' Israelis are now saying the same about our Prime
Minister."

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in Ha'aretz: "The Arab
peace initiative that was born in Beirut solved the dilemma of
'Syria or Palestine first'.... It is a shame that the choice between
territorial assets and strategic assets falls on Israel at [this]
time."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "A peace
treaty with Syria is in Israel's strategic interest -- but not at
any price."

Editor-in-Chief Amnon Lord wrote in the editorial of the
nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe: " Facing the four-way
Iranian-Hamas-Hizbullah-Iran strategic pressure, Olmert decided on a
redeeming diplomatic step. If at this stage his steps can lack
responsibility, in the future they may be disastrous."

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

I. "Turn Over Every Stone"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (5/22): "Now,
at this blatantly late hour, another historic opportunity is being
offered the Prime Minister of Israel and the members of his
government, to try to challenge the peace declarations that have
been consistently coming from Syria for some time. The Israeli
government is currently headed by a person immersed in criminal
investigations and under the most serious suspicions. The fear that
this is spin meant to extricate Ehud Olmert from the investigations,
which politicians voiced yesterday from the right and left of the
political spectrum, is not completely unfounded. Nevertheless, this
hour of opportunity must in no way be allowed to pass by.... This is
the moment to tell Olmert: Turn over every stone. Let the
investigations continue as if there were no peace talks, and let the
peace talks continue as if there were no investigations -- and
perhaps it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise."

II. "Investigate as if There Were no Peace, Make Peace as if there
Were no Talansky"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (5/22): "There is not nor will there ever
be anything more important to the State of Israel than an historic
peace accord with Syria. An accord of that kind must push Syria away
from the 'axis of evil,' diminish Hizbullah, and contribute to
IranQs isolation. An accord of that kind will oblige Israel to part
with a beloved tract of land, the Golan Heights. An accord of that
kind, had it been achieved by one of Olmert's predecessors, would
have produced a dramatic change on the map of the entire region and
our situation, at present, would have been far better than it
currently is. But all of Ehud Olmert's predecessors, five prime
ministers, failed. They preferred two Palestinian cats in the bag
over one Syrian lion on the Golan Heights.... It is true that peace
between Israel and Syria is important, but cleaning out our filthy
political stables is no less important. That is why we need to
investigate as if there were no peace, and to make peace as if there
were no Talansky. I hope that we wake up to a reality in which
there is peace and no Talansky, but we are liable to wake up to a
reality in which there is Talansky but no peace. And we are going
to have to learn to live with that."

III. "The Day after the Agreement"

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot (5/22): "When Assad's regime is toppled, the Golan
Heights will become the radical spearhead against Israel, and not
only from Syria: From Iran, Afghanistan, and more. The terror will
be doubled: From Lebanon and the Golan Heights. Life in the north
will become an intolerable nightmare. Instead of being empty of
residents, the Golan Heights will be populated with a million
fanatic Syrians. It will become a bone in Israel's throat, like the
Gaza Strip, which can neither be swallowed nor regurgitated. The
Sinai Peninsula is so large that the situation there can always be
reversible. With Jordan, we did not cede anything, and with the
Palestinians we can always reoccupy any territory. But with Syria,
the situation will be different: From an empty buffer zone, the
Golan will become a densely populated anti-Israel territory for
generations. From a great strategic asset for Israel, the Golan
Heights will become a burden, which will add its part in the
broadening struggle for IsraelQs liquidation. Our generations to
come will not forgive anyone who does this to them."

IV. "Spin for Peace"

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, wrote in Yediot Aharonot (5/22): "All
Israeli prime ministers have refrained from paying the price [for
peace with Syria]. Thus, they always backed down from their
agreements.... Spin or no spin, the talks will go on until they
ripen -- or they will stop for real reasons, but not because of
spin. We Israelis once claimed that Arab countries act ... against
Israel out of 'domestic needs.' Israelis are now saying the same
about our Prime Minister."

V. "Once Again, Syria First"

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in Ha'aretz (5/22): "The
Syrians and the Lebanese, the Palestinians and the Jordanians, the
Egyptians and the Saudis, all have had a common denominator as of
March 2002. The Arab peace initiative that was born in Beirut
solved the dilemma of 'Syria or Palestine first.' For the first
time, Israel has the opportunity to choose between holding onto all
the territories or reaching peace with all the members of the Arab
League. Not merely any peace but normalization of its ties with the
surrounding countries.... It is a shame that the choice between
territorial assets and strategic assets falls on Israel at a time
when the State Prosecutor's Office is about to reach a decision over
the fate of the leader on whose shoulders the responsibility rests.
However, should it transpire that what we have is a chance to create
a historic change in the life of a nation -- peace with all the
countries of the region -- no person, no matter how important,
should be allowed to miss it."

VI. "Peace for the Golan?"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (5/22):
"What matters most now is what Syria is offering to make a
withdrawal worth Israel's while.... For Israelis to take its
overtures, seriously, Damascus would have to disconnect itself
totally from the Iranian mullahs. Rather than helping arm
Hizbullah, Syria would have to isolate it.... A deal with Syria
could also potentially bolster relative moderates among the
Palestinians, but not if Syria continues to host the Hamas
leadership in Damascus. From state-sponsor of terror, it would have
to transform itself into strategic opponent of terror. Nor can
Israel afford a deal perceived as being with Bashar Assad's Alawite
clique alone.... A peace treaty with Syria is in Israel's strategic
interest -- but not at any price. Jerusalem is being called upon to
make irrevocable concessions in return from the promise of Syrian
goodwill."


VII. "Olmert Corrupts Peace"

Editor-in-Chief Amnon Lord wrote in the editorial of the
nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe (5/22): "Corrupting peace
means creating a situation of distrust from the part of the public
regarding [the links between Olmert's investigation and the talks
with Syria].... This also happened in the past during the contacts
with the Palestinians... Facing the four-way
Iranian-Hamas-Hizbullah-Iran strategic pressure, Olmert decided on a
redeeming diplomatic step. If at this stage his steps can lack
responsibility, in the future they may be disastrous."

---------
2. Iran:
---------

Summary:
--------

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Anyone who presumes to say at this point
whether [President Bush] will use force to stop Iran's nuclear
program, or will pass the problem on to the next administration, is
suffering from baseless presumption."

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

"Will He or Won't He Attack? It's Doubtful Bush Knows"

Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (5/22): "President George W. Bush has nearly
eight months left, and anyone who presumes to say at this point
whether he will use force to stop Iran's nuclear program, or will
pass the problem on to the next administration, is suffering from
baseless presumption: It's doubtful whether Bush himself knows the
answer to that question.... The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert
Gates, appeared Tuesday before the Senate defense appropriations
subcommittee. [He said that] talking to the Iranians might be
possible, but "the key here is developing leverage, either through
economic or diplomatic or military pressures.... The Iran with which
it might, perhaps, have been possible to talk in 2003 is not the
Iran of today. More importantly, the United States is not the same
U.S. Then it was at the height of a lethal display of power --
following victory in Afghanistan and a speedy occupation of
Iraq..... But the Iran of today is in another bargaining position,
while the U.S., worn down by years of war, suddenly seems a lot less
intimidating.... Gates ... is ... one of the more cautious [U.S.
statesmen]. If he said 'military,' he meant surely that such a
possibility exists."

JONES

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