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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #1258/01 1651031
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P 131031Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7100
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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0606
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 4268
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4776
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 3985
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 2278
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4735
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1605
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001258

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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Ha'aretz quoted defense sources (and The Jerusalem Post sources in
the Prime Minister's Office) as saying that the GOI will continue
with the Egyptian-backed cease-fire talks with Hamas despite
yesterday's heavy shelling (50 rockets) from Gaza. However,
Ha'aretz's sources were quoted as saying that the IDF may step up
operations in response to the attacks. Leading media reported that
Hamas initially accused Israel of causing an explosion in a Beit
Lahiya (northern Gaza) home that resulted in the deaths of seven
Palestinians; however the group was forced to tone down its
accusations after it became clear that Israel was not involved.
Israel Radio quoted the military branch of Hamas as saying that the
explosion occurred during the preparation of a "special jihad
operation." Israeli sources were quoted as saying that the incident
was probably caused by Palestinians making a bomb. Altogether, 13
Palestinians were killed and two Israelis wounded yesterday. The
media quoted the IDF as saying that Gaza militants planned to use
the heavy rocket barrage as a diversion while carrying out an attack
by with a booby-trapped bulldozer on the Israeli border. The media
reported that IDF forces destroyed the vehicle with an anti-tank
missile. Israel Radio quoted a senior defense source as saying that
Israel is concerned that Hamas may carry out a "quality" attack
before the cease-fire settles in.

Israel Radio quoted an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying
on Aljazeera-TV following the visit to Cairo of Amos Gilad, the head
of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, that Israel
intends to implement and wants a cease-fire but that it has raised
demands regarding Gilad Shalit and weapons smuggling from Sinai,
which Hamas is opposed to. Israel Radio quoted Hamas as saying that
Israel has refused to include the Rafah crossing in the cease-fire
deal.

Media quoted the pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper A-Diar as saying
yesterday that jailed Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar has been told
to pack his belongings and prepare to return to Beirut in the near
future. The report said that Kuntar, who has been jailed in Israel

since 1979 for killing four people during a terror attack in the
northern town of Nahariya, would be returned to Lebanon as part of a
prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbullah, and that the swap
could take place by the end of the month. Some media cited the
GOI's denial of the story. In an interview with Arabic-language
paper Assennara, Hizbullah spokesman Hussein Rahal, was quoted as
saying that they [Hizbullah] are not responsible for whatQs been
published in the media in regards to the release of Kuntar. He
denied the rumor that Hezbollah was officially notified about a
release date. Minister Ami Ayalon, former head of Shin Bet, was
quoted as saying in an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper
Kull Al-Arab that if it was proved to him that the two soldiers in
Lebanon are alive, he would agree to release even the devil from the
Israeli prisons.

As previously covered, the Knesset earlier this week passed the
first reading of a bill that would prohibit Israeli citizens who
have visited 'hostile' countries from serving in the Knesset. In
its first publication since this action, the Arabic language paper
Panorama led with this news, framing it as Israel forcing Muslim
Arab MKs to choose between public service and politics or religion -
either the Hajj or the Knesset (Saudi Arabia is among the banned
countries).

Leading media reported that yesterday American Professors Stephen
Walt and John Mearsheimer -- the authors of "The Israel Lobby and
U.S. Foreign Policy" -- told a raucous Hebrew University audience
that Israel and its lobby were now pressuring the US to attack Iran.
The Jerusalem Post quoted Mearsheimer as saying: "There is only
one country in the world that is putting any pressure on the U.S. to
attack Iran, and that is Israel. And it is putting enormous
pressure on the U.S." "Inside the United States, it is pro-Israel
individuals and groups who are almost wholly responsible for
pressure being brought to bear on Bush and Cheney to use military
force on Iran," he went on. "The idea that the lobby and Israel
don't put huge amounts of pressure on the U.S. is contradictory to
the evidence."

Ha'aretz, Yediot, and Maariv reported that the UN Security Council
is scheduled to discuss a draft resolution next week demanding that
Israel halt all construction in West Bank settlements.
Representatives of the UN's Arab bloc met yesterday to finalize the
draft for submission to the council. Ha'aretz reported that UN
sources told the daily that the draft is the first to address the
settlement issue in a "sweeping, unequivocal and direct manner."
The sources were quoted as saying that the driving force behind the
resolution is Saudi Arabia. Yediot reported that the U.S. is
expected to try and halt debate on the issue as use of a veto could
undermine Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Ha'aretz reported that
this week the District Council for Planning and Construction in
Jerusalem approved a new construction project in the city that will
include 1,300 housing units to be built near the ultra-Orthodox
neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, next to the Arab neighborhood of Bet
Hanina.

In a first interview with an Israeli newspaper, Egyptian Culture
Minister Farouk Hosni, a staunch opponent of normalization with
Israel, who even threatened to burn Israeli books, was quoted as
saying in Yediot that he is willing to visit Israel. Yediot wrote
that Hosni is motivated by his desire to become director-general of
UNESCO.

Yediot reported that on June 3 Ambassador Richard Jones sent a
letter to Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, drawing his attention to the
"troubling issue of the illegal importation of pistachios of Iranian
origin to Israel." Jones noted that Israel is the world's largest
per capita consumer of pistachio nuts. Citing that Israel has
favorable trade deals with the U.S., Jones deplored Israel's
preference of imports from Iran over the U.S. in this market.
Jones wrote that Iran's product is banned by Israel's Trading with
the Enemy Act. The Jerusalem Post reported that former energy
minister Moshe Shahal has admitted to the newspaper that Israel may
be indirectly, even unwittingly, buying Iranian oil.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a landmark conference bringing
together the world's leading parliamentarians in the fight against
anti-Semitism will convene at the British Parliament and Foreign
Office in February 2009. Key figures in the Inter-Parliamentary
Coalition for Combating anti-Semitism (the co-sponsor of the
conference) include Israel's Welfare and Social Services Minister
Isaac Herzog and New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the state is preparing to take over
responsibility from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for
examining the requests of Africans crossing the Sinai border into
Israel for political asylum.

All media reported that yesterday, responding to reforms announced
by the Finance Ministry, the Histadrut Labor Federation declared a
labor conflict. A general strike might ensue in two weeks.

Yediot reported that American rapper Snoop Dogg will appear in
Israel in September. Jewish Canadian singer Leonard Cohen is also
scheduled to perform here on September 18.

The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon-Hatzofe cited the results of a
poll conducted by the Hebrew University's Truman Institute:

68% of respondents are against a cease-fire with Hamas if it does
not include freeing Gilad Shalit; 30% said they would support one.
67% of respondents oppose the return of the Golan in exchange for
full peace with Syria (56& held that view three months ago).
Support for the Clinton parameters/understandings during the Taba
talks has gone done to 49%.
57% of Israelis oppose the Saudi peace plan; 39% favor it.
55% believe that the Olmert-Abu Mazen meetings are not useful; 36%
believe they must be continued.

Erratum: Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak
declared yesterday that his party was prepared to call for the
dissolution of the Knesset on June 25, and not on July 25 as
reported here yesterday.


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

Summary:
--------

Military correspondent Amos Harel and Palestinian affairs
correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote on page one of the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Optimists will say these things will happen
after the sides reach a truce. Others will say that in accepting
the Egyptian initiative, Israel will become one of the first Western
states to recognize, at least de facto, the legitimacy of Hamas's
rule in Gaza."

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Hamas believes that this is the first
lull in its war of independence [a reference to the way Israel won
the 1948 war] -- to allow it to breathe fresh air and fix some
flaws."

Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "Conflicting interests and
power struggles in the Palestinian territories and the Arab world
are largely responsible for the delay in reaching a cease-fire
agreement between the Palestinians and Israel."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "Kadima's delay in finding Olmert a
successor should not enable Olmert to remain in office. The moral
and practical responsibility to act lies with Kadima leaders, but it
is Barak's duty to take the lead in urging them to do so."

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

I. "More Talk, More Fire"

Military correspondent Amos Harel and Palestinian affairs
correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote on page one of the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (6/13): "[Yesterday's heavy] shelling can be
seen as a ... message by Hamas, directed at the cabinet's decision
Wednesday. Israel had announced it was continuing the talks to
reach a cease-fire. Hamas decided to show it that the cease-fire
would be achieved only on its own terms. In other words, it would
try to make Israel squirm and take more fire before accepting the
Egyptian-brokered truce. The rockets and mortar shells landed in
the Negev while Israel's envoy Amos Gilad was in Cairo, questioning
the truce agreement. In principle, Jerusalem says yes to the
arrangement, but conditions it on clarifications on two crucial
issues -- the deal to release abducted soldier Gilad Shalit and the
struggle against arms smuggling from the Sinai into Gaza. As things
appear today, both the talks and the fighting will continue
intermittently next week as well.... Has Israel's siege on Hamas

achieved its goal? The support for Hamas in the Strip is declining,
but not Hamas's hold on the government. The siege has not stopped
the rockets on the Negev or the arms smuggling into Gaza. Optimists
will say these things will happen after the sides reach a truce.
Others will say that in accepting the Egyptian initiative, Israel
will become one of the first Western states to recognize, at least
de facto, the legitimacy of Hamas's rule in Gaza."

II. "The Lie before the Storm"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (6/13): "This week the cabinet adopted the
security worldview developed by Israeli governments over the past
two decades: What can be postponed until tomorrow will be delayed
until the day after tomorrow.... As far as the army is concerned,
all options exist -- war in stages, whose climax ... will be the
conquest and takeover of the entire Gaza Strip.... As far as Hamas
is concerned, this is not a cease-fire that is supposed to lead to a
final-status agreement with Israel. Hamas believes that this is the
first lull in its war of independence [a reference to the way Israel
won the 1948 war] -- to allow it to breathe fresh air and fix some
flaws.... But above all, the population in Gaza is tired -- and
Hamas knows how to read moods.... In the mean time, [Hamas's]
military wing is gearing up for war.... [Hamas] provided the Israeli
cabinet session with mortars and rockets that were fired to check
ranges ahead of the real battle."

III. "How Arab Rivalries Are Delaying Cease-Fire Process"

Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (6/13): "Conflicting
interests and power struggles in the Palestinian territories and the
Arab world are largely responsible for the delay in reaching a
cease-fire agreement between the Palestinians and Israel.... Mubarak
is ... concerned that another Arab country, not Egypt, will succeed
in solving the dispute between Fatah and Hamas.... But, [as a
Palestinian] political analyst in Ramallah pointed out, it's highly
unlikely that Syrian President Bashar Assad would allow Mubarak's
efforts to succeed..... The Saudis are also jockeying for a bigger
role in the Israeli-Arab conflict..... The Saudi rulers are also
angry with Assad, who, they argue, has been inciting Hamas not to
listen to the advice coming from Riyadh. Moreover, the Saudis are
said to be very jealous of their rivals in Qatar for striking the
historic deal between the warring Lebanese factions. Reports that
Qatar was involved in attempts to reach a cease-fire agreement
between Israel and the Palestinians have prompted the Saudis to
pressure Fatah and Hamas to resolve their differences and form a new
unity government."

IV. "Half a Step in the Right Direction"

Ha'aretz editorialized (6/13): "Barak's statement yesterday -- to
join the opposition's draft bill calling for early elections -- ups
the stakes for Olmert. His announcement, like Olmert's, only hints
at a move in the right direction. Barak seems fearful of delivering
on his threat and is thus weakening his own power.... During this
dangerous period, the government may be required to make difficult
decisions -- for example, on a military operation in Gaza or a
cease-fire -- while the public has no confidence in its leader's
judgment or motives. The ball has been in Barak's court for the
past month, during the most intensive criminal investigation against
Olmert so far. Only Barak can increase the pressure on Kadima to
set a final date for its party leader to leave. Barak already has
marked Olmert as unfit in principle, but has not done enough to
implement this in practice.... Kadima's delay in finding Olmert a
successor should not enable Olmert to remain in office. The moral
and practical responsibility to act lies with Kadima leaders, but it
is Barak's duty to take the lead in urging them to do so."

JONES

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