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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #1144/01 1511002
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P 301002Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

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HQ USAF FOR XOXX
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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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Most media led with a proposal by senior Kadima ministers that the
party prepare for a leadership primary in advance of expected early
elections. The Jerusalem Post quoted sources close to Olmert as
saying yesterday that he recognizes that his political downfall is
all but certain and is considering alternatives that would allow him
to leave the Prime Minister's Office in a dignified manner. Under
one scenario, Olmert would remain in office (so long as he is not
indicted) while Kadima moves forward in choosing a new leader to
head the party in early elections. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni,
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Internal Security Minister Avi
Dichter, and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit are seen as already
positioning themselves for leadership campaigns. Yesterday Livni
finally broke her silence and said that the party must prepare for
elections, while Mofaz issued a sharp rebuke accusing her of
collaborating with Ehud Barak to destroy Kadima. According to the
latest polls (see below) Livni enjoys a double-digit lead over her
nearest competitor. Makor Rishon-Hatzofe claims that Kadima and
Labor have agreed on November 11 as election day.

Ha'aretz quoted a legal source as saying that the testimony given by
attorney Uri Messer, Ehud Olmert's confidant, was very strong and
could be the key to drafting an indictment against the PM. Ha'aretz
headlined: "Messer: I ratted out a friend". However, another source
was quoted as saying that Messer cooperated with the police only to
a limited extent, and gave them as little information as he could.
Ha'aretz quoted Messer as saying repeatedly: "I feel bad about
turning informer on my friends." He also said, "I'm finished," and
"I've destroyed my life." Yediot reported that Olmert's
investigators will leave for the U.S. next week -- among other
things to check how donations were transferred to PM Olmert, and
Talansky's legal and financial situation. Leading media reported
that PM Olmert's attorneys wish to speed up the cross-examination of
American financier Morris Talansky. The Jerusalem Post reported that
many in the Arab world praised Israel as a place "where no one is
above the law."
All media reported that yesterday Likud MKs and supporters held a
solidarity rally on the Golan. Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu
said: "The Golan was Israeli and will stay Israeli.....The way to
guard the Golan and Jerusalem is to go to elections now. If we
don't live here, Iranian soldiers will."

Leading media reported that during his visit to the U.S. next week
PM Ehud Olmert will meet the three presidential candidates.

Ha'aretz reported that IDF tanks and infantry raided the northern
Gaza Strip before dawn yesterday, and rounded up some 60 Palestinian
suspects. A few hours later, Palestinian militants fired three
Qassam rockets and three mortar shells at Israeli territory. No
injuries or damage was reported.

Leading media quoted The Washington Post as saying yesterday that
the U.S. administration has asked the UN to check three suspected
nuclear sites in Syria.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Olmert and Barak will soon decide
on Egypt's Gaza cease-fire deal. Yediot reported that due to the
tension between Olmert and Barak, Olmert canceled the visit of Amos
Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security
Bureau, to Cairo.

Ha'aretz reported that on June 22, President Shimon Peres, French
President Nicolas Sarkozy, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and PA
President Mahmoud Abbas will launch the Dead Sea-Red Sea Peace
Channel.

Leading media reported that Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
has appointed Houda Nonoo, a Jewish woman, as envoy to Washington --
the first Jew in the Arab world to become an ambassador.

Yediot convened the cultural attaches of the U.S., Hungary, France,
the UK, and Kazakhstan "who came to Israel to teach you a bit of
culture."

Maariv published the results of a TNS/Teleseker poll:
If general elections were to be held today and the following parties
were running, for which party would you vote? Results in Knesset
seats.
Likud: 30; Kadima under Tzipi Livni: 25; Labor Party: 18: Yisrael
Beiteinu: 10; Shas: 9; Arab parties: 9; National Union Party and
National-Religious Party: 7; Meretz: 4); United Torah Judaism: 4);
New party headed by Arkady Gaidamak: 4; Pensioners Party: 0.

Yediot presented the results of a Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute) poll
among registered Kadima voters:
Whom would you vote for in the primaries for Kadima leadership?
Livni: 39%; Mofaz: 25%; Dichter: 15%; Sheetrit: 8%.
Do you favor or oppose a merger of Kadima and labor and their joint
running in the elections?
Oppose: 50%; favor: 45%.
And regarding a Kadima-Likud merger?
Oppose: 52%; favor: 43%
The poll also found an important shift of voters from Kadima to
Likud if Kadima voters' favorite candidate did not head the party.

Ha'aretz printed the results of a Dialog poll:
If Labor and Kadima ran on a joint list, headed by Livni and Barak,
against a joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list headed by Netanyahu and
Avigdor Lieberman, who would win?
Labor-Kadima: 36; Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu: 35.

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

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The Israeli public has simply
lost all faith in Olmert.... It would be far more proper, and far
healthier for the country, for Olmert to await the indictment on the
other side of the cabinet door."

David Kimche, former senior Israeli intelligence agent and former
director general of the Foreign Ministry wrote in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post: "We are entering uncharted waters. It
can go either way, the Geneva way, or the Hamas way. The future of
both Israelis and Palestinians depends on us taking the right
direction."

Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, wrote in Ha'aretz:
"All the peace agreements that have been reached so far began as an
initiative of the parties themselves, and if there were mediators,
they were not American."

Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in The
Jerusalem Post: "Whoever succeeds Olmert won't be able to ignore a
['framework'] agreement, and will have to negotiate with the
Palestinians on the basis of the understandings. That's perhaps why
the PA leadership doesn't seem to be worried about who will succeed
Olmert."

Daniel Levy, one of the main drafters of the Geneva initiative,
wrote in Ha'aretz: "[A] major political shift has to occur in Israel
for we are quite clearly the 'hegemonic state' in [the] equation
[with the Palestinians]."

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

I. "Let Him Wait Outside"

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (5/30): "Not all of Israel's
politicians have been 18-karat gold.... But the arrogance and
insensitivity displayed by Olmert -- who, for 15 years, received
envelopes filled with cash from Morris Talansky (according to the
latter's own testimony) and saw nothing wrong with this -- cast
serious doubts not only on his personal integrity, but also on the
extent of his wisdom and intelligence, two qualities he loves to
brag about.... Israelis must surely feel that their fate, and their
country's fate, are in the hands of a Houdini much more skilled at
getting out of embarrassing situations than at staying out of
decisions that could jeopardize our country's very survival....
Little wonder that, in the eyes of many Israelis, the peace
negotiations with Syria are just public relations razzmatazz and the
talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a lot of baloney; the
Israeli public has simply lost all faith in Olmert.... At the
present time, it is of utmost importance that Kadima choose a
suitable candidate, without dragging its feet and without generating
infighting. If Kadima does so, it will enable the current coalition
to get back on its feet in an elegant manner. It would be far more
proper, and far healthier for the country, for Olmert to await the
indictment on the other side of the cabinet door."

II. "A Choice between Geneva and Hamas"

David Kimche, former senior Israeli intelligence agent and former
director general of the Foreign Ministry wrote in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (5/30): "The hatred is still intense, on
both sides, but more and more Palestinians are realizing that their
continued violence will get them nowhere, and that their only hope
to lead normal lives is to come to terms with Israel.... Similarly,
in Israel, the idea of two independent states, living side by side
in peace, has taken firm roots, and most Israelis would welcome such
a solution. The extremists have a different agenda. Their threat
-- Israeli and Palestinian -- to mobilize mass demonstrations to
prevent such moves, and to topple any government that attempts to go
down that road, has provided ample excuse for inaction, for a
continuation of the status quo. Both Israelis and Palestinians are
heading for new elections, probably in the first months of the
coming year, but maybe even sooner. Extremists will be pitted
against moderates. There will be a new president in the White
House. We are entering uncharted waters. It can go either way, the
Geneva way, or the Hamas way. The future of both Israelis and
Palestinians depends on us taking the right direction."

III. "Cutting Out the Middleman"

Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, wrote in Ha'aretz
(5/30): "The Israel-Syria negotiations were not initiated by the
United States and so far, Washington has played no part in them.
There are even some who have discerned certain sourness in the
American reaction to reports of talks in Ankara.... All the peace
agreements that have been reached so far began as an initiative of
the parties themselves, and if there were mediators, they were not
American. True, at decisive moments toward the end of bilateral
negotiations, Washington did enter the picture, but the initiative
for negotiations was not American, and the truly significant
negotiations were not conducted via the U.S.... One cannot and must
not denigrate American power and importance; it is especially
important to remember that after a deal is reached, or in the final
stages of negotiation, American involvement is likely to be
decisive. But ultimately, in such different situations as Israel's
relations with Egypt, the PLO and Jordan, it was the political will
and considerations, the initiative and resourcefulness of local
leaders that set the stage for negotiations, and which made them
both possible and successful.... One can assume that if the talks
with Syria bear fruit, they will retroactively win the blessing and
support of the U.S., and there may be a need for an American push in
the final stretch. But the strategic decisions have so far been
made here, in Jerusalem and Damascus, just as they were previously
made in Jerusalem, Cairo, Tunis and Amman. America is important,
but ultimately, local interests prevail -- and that's to the good."

IV. "Olmert's Probe Is Beneficial for the Palestinians"
Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in The
Jerusalem Post (5/30): "Some PA officials were initially concerned
that the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Syria would
mean 'sidelining' the Palestinian issue. But they were quick to
endorse the widely believed assumption in Israel that Olmert was
merely seeking to divert attention from the police inquiry against
him by making a dramatic announcement about the possibility of
reaching a peace treaty with Syria. Furthermore, by the end of the
week, the Palestinians' fears began to fade as they realized that
Syrian President Bashar Assad was not in a rush to cut off his ties
with Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas. Now that the Syrian track doe not
appear to be going anywhere, at least not in the coming months, some
PA officials expect Olmert to focus his efforts on achieving some
kind of a deal with the PA -- also in an attempt to divert attention
from the police probe and his troubles at home. They argue that, in
any case, a declaration of principles -- or a 'framework agreement'
-- would not be too bad, particularly if it includes recognition of
the Palestinians' demands regarding Jerusalem, settlements, borders
and whoever succeeds Olmert won't be able to ignore such an
agreement, and will have to negotiate with the Palestinians on the
basis of the understandings. That's perhaps why the PA leadership
doesn't seem to be worried about who will succeed Olmert."

V. "Removing the Zionist Straitjacket"

Daniel Levy, one of the main drafters of the Geneva initiative,
wrote in Ha'aretz (5/30): "There were plenty of mistakes, lots of
ill will, and enough blame to go around for all sides -- Israeli,
Palestinian and American. The bottom line after 20 years is that
the Faustian bargain did not deliver. For all the criticisms
leveled against him, both real and imagined, it may turn out that
the Arafat moment was also the two-state moment, and that his
leadership was necessary to hold that construct together.... In the
absence of the Palestinians' reclaiming ownership of the statehood
project, the two-state solution is meaningless: It seems hardly
realizable, let alone sustainable.... Removing the external veto on
Palestinian national reconciliation is a sine qua non of
successfully rebuilding a Palestinian political program that
embraces statehood alongside Israel. It will be difficult for
Israel to swallow this and a 'de-occupation first' approach at the
same time, but it may be the only way for Palestinians to assume
ownership of the two-state project.... We can blame the Palestinians
all we like, and frequently with good cause, but if the two-state
solution is indeed an Israeli interest and the least bad alternative
for all concerned, then that major political shift has to occur in
Israel for we are quite clearly the 'hegemonic state' in this
equation."

JONES

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