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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #1092/01 1441036
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231036Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6803
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAHQA/HQ USAF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEADWD/DA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CNO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 3875
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0511
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 4158
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4677
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3887
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 2173
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4637
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1506
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1950
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8498
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 5985
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 0889
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 5008
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 6958
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 9754
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001092

STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

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

SECDEF WASHDC FOR USDP/ASD-PA/ASD-ISA
HQ USAF FOR XOXX
DA WASHDC FOR SASA
JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR PA
CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL FOR POLAD/USIA ADVISOR
COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE FOR PAO/POLAD
COMSIXTHFLT FOR 019

JERUSALEM ALSO ICD
LONDON ALSO FOR HKANONA AND POL
PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO

SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS
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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The media reported that police questioned PM Olmert under caution
this morning. Ha'aretz and Maariv reported that the investigators
are focusing on possibly incriminating testimony given by Olmert's
long-time friend and former partner, attorney Uri Messer, and that
Friday's session could prove "decisive" in determining whether
charges will be brought. Ha'aretz added that the police's believe
that Messer acted as Olmert's "banker," storing the money received
from American financier Morris Talansky in a safe in his office.
Yediot quoted Olmert associates as saying that tens of thousands of
dollars, which Messer received from Olmert's former bureau chief
Shula Zaken, just disappeared. Messer has publicly denied this
charge. In return, Maariv reported the police are looking into
allegations that Olmert asked an Israeli diplomat serving in a South
American country for assistance in promoting the interests of a
technological development in which Talansky is a partner.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Yehoshua Meiri, the spokesman of a group
of leading rightist Israeli rabbis, as sayng yesterday that Talansky
was encouraged by the group to come to Israel this spring and give
evidence against the PM. The rabbis fear that Olmert will cede
Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount and other parts of
Jerusalem. Talansky acknowledged that he receiving a blessing from
an important rabbi just before he was interrogated by the police,
but firmly denies being encouraged to testify before coming to
Israel. The Jerusalem Post also quoted various sources as saying
that a team of National Fraud Unit detectives will fly to the U.S.
to discover the identity of other donors to Olmert.

All media reported that PM Ehud Olmert told French FM Bernard
Kouchner yesterday that both sides know what they need to do for
peace and insisted that Israel had not made any prior commitments to
the Syrians. "I told them if you want to talk come and talk. The
Syrians know what we want and we know what they want," Olmert told
Kouchner. The media quoted Olmert as saying that he has made no
prior commitment to Syria, and Syrian Information Minister Mohsen
Bilal as saying that he knows that the "Golan will be returned in
its entirety to Syria." Maariv reported that Syria has set two
pre-conditions to turn the negotiations into direct ones: Israeli
recognition of the well-known "deposit" (a promise to return the
Golan n exchange for peace), and ensuring Syria's status in Lebanon.
Ha'aretz reported that a special Knesset committee is proposing a
bill that would require a referendum or elections before ceding any
territory under Israeli sovereignty -- including the Golan Heights.
A majority of Knesset members support the bill, but the cabinet
opposes it. Experts told the committee that the cost of a
referendum would be about 200 million shekels (about $60 million),
not including any financing for parties' campaigns for or against
it. Ha'aretz quoted senior Israeli sources as saying that the
announcement of the renewal of negotiations between Israel and Syria
will have an immediate effect on Iran's status in the region. The
officials noted that Iran has not yet responded publicly to the
talks. Ha'aretz quoted some officials as saying that Iran "is in a
state of shock."

Major media reported that Israel has Israel has asked to purchase
25 F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) stealth warplanes for the IAF.
According to reports in the U.S. media, the planes will cost about
$80 million each. Israel wants to receive the first squadron in
2013 and 2014, and continue with another 50 planes afterward, most
likely in the second half of that decade. Ha'aretz reported that
senior defense officials have asked the Americans about speeding up
the delivery of at least some of the F-35s, possibly by the first
half of 2012. Defense Minister Barak has also asked the U.S. for
three to five C-130J Super Hercules transport planes. All the
planes will be paid for out of U.S. military aid packages provided
to Israel. Ha'aretz reported that the purchase of the F-35s seems
to signal that Israel has given up on its quest to acquire F-22
Raptor fighters.

Leading media quoted Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu as saying
yesterday that Olmert puts Israel's national interests at risk and
that he is giving up the Golan out of political and personal
survival motives. Netanyahu was further quoted as saying that he
would not respect an agreement with Bashar Assad.

Maariv (Ofer Shelach) says that Ehud Barak aspires to lead the
Syrian track -- and to leave the Palestinian one to Olmert.

Leading media reported that yesterday in a Boca Raton, FL,
synagogue, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama
reaffirmed his support for Israel and said that he would engage in
dialogue with Iran. He told The Jerusalem Post that he fully backs
Israel's peace talks with Syria and that he criticized efforts to
block suck engagement.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Sallai Meridor, Israel's Ambassador to the
U.S., as saying yesterday at a Capitol Hill conference organized by
the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus that Iran is winning the race
to acquire nuclear weapons.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday a USG agency presented in
Bethlehem a political risk insurance program to help guarantee
investments in the West Bank.

Israel Radio reported that this morning an IDF soldier was
moderately wounded during a clash in southern Gaza. Three
Palestinians were killed.

Ha'aretz quoted Israeli-Arab security prisoner Mahmoud Abd
Al-Shamali, who was released two days ago, as saying yesterday that
he did not think his release was due to political considerations,
nor was it a gesture or deal between Israel and Syria. Al-Shamali
hails from the village of Ghajar, which straddles the Lebanese
border.

Leading media reported that this week Srgjan Kerim, the President of
the UN General Assembly, singled out Israel for its success in
combating world food crises.

Yediot reported that following comments by a well-known Egyptian
broadcaster that Jewish "heritage tours" to Egypt are only a cover
for a demand to recover property, such a trip was nixed by the
Egyptian security services.

Yediot reported that a few days ago former defense minister Yitzhak
Mordechai, a convicted sexual offender, went on a 10-day visit to
the U.S. The U.S. Embassy accepted his appeal and granted him a
visa. He requested the intervention of the Prime Minister's Office.
Yediot says that Olmert approached senior American officials during
President Bush's first visit

Leading media reported Prof. Yehezkel Shoshani, 65, a world-renowned
Israeli-American elephant expert died on Wednesday from injuries
sustained in an explosion in Addis Ababa.

The media noted that yesterday the U.S. dollar was at its lowest in
11 years -- 3.338 shekels.
Yediot presented the results of a Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute)
pollQ

Should Israel concede land in the Golan as part of a full peace
treaty with Syria?
No: 59%; part of the Golan: 29%: the entire Golan: 19%.
Can peace with Syria be reached in the foreseeable future?
Impossible: 50%; possible: 46%;
Given the investigations against him, is Olmert worthy of leading
the negotiations with Syria?
Unworthy: 61%; worthy: 37%.
Do you trust Ehud Olmert?
No: 51%; I have some trust in him: 26%; I have almost no trust in
him: 15%; I fully trust him: 6%.

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

Summary:
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The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The
resumption of talks with Syria, and the Prime Minister's promise
that the Palestinian and Syrian tracks will move forward
simultaneously, are both good news.... The tahdiya, or temporary
cease-fire, on whose principles Israel and Hamas have agreed via
Egyptian mediation, is impatiently awaiting implementation."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "In a democracy that is alive and
kicking, such as ours, a prime minister cannot go too far when the
public does not trust his motives and intentions."

Security and intelligence affairs commentator Amit Cohen wrote in
the popular, pluralist Maariv: "'Syria first' is one of the biggest
nightmares of the Palestinian leadership."

Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "The word is that Bush, to
put it mildly, was not easily persuaded by Olmert and Defense
Minister Ehud Barak of the virtues of the Syria-Turkey-Israel track,
and is highly dubious about the possibility of drawing Damascus out
of Teheran's orbit.."

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

I. "Avoid All Delays"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (5/23): "The
resumption of talks with Syria, and the Prime Minister's promise
that the Palestinian and Syrian tracks will move forward
simultaneously, are both good news. Both tracks are aimed at
obtaining strategic goals vital to Israel's security. And even if
neither reaches completion during Ehud Olmert's term of office, they
can yield a 'deposit' for the future. Yet, despite the excitement,
both these diplomatic promises ought to be treated for the time
being like two birds in the bush, which are incapable of calming
another burning front, to the country's south. The tahdiya, or
temporary cease-fire, on whose principles Israel and Hamas have
agreed via Egyptian mediation, is impatiently awaiting
implementation.... There is currently a confluence of interests
among Israel, Egypt and Hamas. All of them need the tahdiya
urgently: Israel, to give residents of the South the quiet that all
its military operations, large and small alike, have failed to
provide; Hamas, to end the economic blockade that makes life so
difficult for Gazans; and Egypt, to prevent a violent and
uncontrolled breach of the fence that separates it from Gaza....
Israel should thus release the prisoners needed to conclude a deal
for [Gilad] Shalit and let the tahdiya take effect. Additional
Qassam or Grad rockets hitting Sderot or its environs, and
additional dead or wounded, are henceforth an unnecessary price for
a deal that must be done."

II. "The Turkish Deal"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (5/23): "Does a prime minister under an
embarrassing criminal investigation, full of allegations, have a
mandate to provide such far-reaching commitments in the name of the
state? The problem is not a legal one. Unlike Ehud Barak, who sent
a delegation for marathon talks with the Palestinians at Taba when
he was the leader of a minority government, on the eve of elections,
Olmert relies in the meantime upon a stable majority in the Knesset
and in the cabinet. But that is a formalistic, legalistic claim. In
a democracy that is alive and kicking, such as ours, a prime
minister cannot go too far when the public does not trust his
motives and intentions.... Tzipi Livni chose -- again -- to 'take
the Fifth'.... Livni became convinced that the findings of the
investigation require Olmert's dismissal. She wants to replace him.
For her, dealing with negotiations with Syria is a distraction from
the main issue. Even the left wing, which automatically supported
any negotiation with Syria, has entered the current round with a
split. The majority of the Labor Party and Meretz support it, but
this time there are other voices on the fringes"

III. "The Palestinians' Big Nightmare"

Security and intelligence affairs commentator Amit Cohen wrote in
the popular, pluralist Maariv (5/23): "'Syria first' is one of the
biggest nightmares of the Palestinian leadership. This threat,
which is again becoming real these days, puts Abu Mazen's PA and
Hamas, for the first time in a long time, in the same boat.
Officially, both parties said that they support the right of Syria
to get back the Golan Heights, but both Abu Mazen and Khaled Mashal,
each for his own reasons, would have preferred that the talks with
Syria would fade away.... It is hard to see how the Prime Minister
could succeed in carrying out 'painful concessions' in connection
with both Bashar Assad and Abu Mazen at the same time. Someone will
have to be postponed to the future -- and this someone will
apparently be the Palestinian side. Hamas, for its part, could be
the first to pay the price for the peace agreement, if it is indeed
achieved: if the Israeli demand of Syria to cut off its ties with
Iran, Hizbullah and the Palestinian terror organizations is
implemented, Hamas could find that its maneuvering ability is
reduced. The Hamas headquarters in Damascus is considered one of
the most important centers of power of the organization:
restrictions on the activity of Mashal and his friends will have an
immediate affect on all of Hamas.... [However], a Hamas official has
said: 'We do not think that they will get rid of us so easily in
Damascus. We have a long history with the Syrian regime. But on
the assumption that this does take place, what will happen then?
Does anyone think that Hamas will disappear from the arena? This
will affect us in the short range, until we find another place.'"

IV. "Like Many Israelis, Bush Wonders whether Olmert Knows What
He's Doing"

Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (5/23): "Beyond the
president's letting the cat out of the bag and then quickly trying
to stuff it back in, however, Bush made some telling comments about
Syria that appear particularly resonant now that the secret is,
indeed, out and everybody knows that formal indirect negotiations
are under way. For while the White House on Wednesday said it did
not object to Israel's opening of the indirect Damascus track, The
New York Times on Thursday quoted an administration official as
calling it a 'slap in the face.' And the President's own remarks in
the Oval Office to us last week seem to indicate a high degree of
concern, if not outright dismay, at Olmert's decision to seek an
accord with a determinedly unreformed Bashar Assad -- a sense of 'I
hope he knows what he's doing...' For a start, Bush made crystal
clear that he had no intention whatsoever of warming his ties to
Syria so long as Damascus is sponsoring terrorism, enabling the
arming of Hizbullah and making 'life miserable for the young
democracy in Iraq.' Syria would first have to change course, he
indicated, for America to rethink:.... The word is that Bush, to put
it mildly, was not easily persuaded by Olmert and Defense Minister
Ehud Barak of the virtues of the Syria-Turkey-Israel track, and is
highly dubious about the possibility of drawing Damascus out of
Teheran's orbit.."

JONES

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