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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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P 190922Z JUN 08
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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
DA WASHDC FOR SASA
JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR PA
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JERUSALEM ALSO ICD
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PARIS ALSO FOR POL
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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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All media led with the truce which took effect this morning.
Ha'aretz quoted PM Ehud Olmert as saying yesterday that the
"tahdiya" is "fragile and may be very short." Major media reported
on, and Yediot, Maariv, and Israel Hayom bannered, the
dissatisfaction of Gilad Shalit's father Noam with the truce
agreement, which he said -- in a letter to PM Ehud Olmert, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak, and FM Tzipi Livni, and in an interview with
Israel Radio -- betrayed promises made to his family. Noam Shalit
claims that the cabinet and Olmert pledged to include his son's
release as part of any agreement and that he now fears that Hamas
may use this opportunity to smuggle his son abroad if the Rafah
crossing opens. Electronic media reported that moments before the
truce took hold, the IAF killed a member of a Qassam rocket squad
preparing to launch near the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
Palestinian sources said the man killed was a Hamas operative.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the deployment of a multinational
Arab force in Gaza could possibly be the final stage of the truce
that began today. The Jerusalem Post quoted a senior defense
official involved in the cease-fire talks as saying that Egypt
raised the request for the deployment of the Arab force during
meetings between Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's
Diplomatic-Security Bureau, and Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar
Suleiman. Israel, the defense official was quoted as saying, was
not completely opposed to the idea since it would ultimately bring
Arab countries such as Egypt to "take responsibility" for events in
Gaza. The deployment was also raised as a way for PA President
Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party to regain control of the Gaza
Strip. The official said that while Israel was therefore in favor
of the initiative, the defense establishment was skeptical that it
would succeed in light of Hamas's public opposition as well as the
operational challenges it would pose for the IDF. One such
challenge would be concerns over accidentally harming soldiers of
the multinational force while pursuing terrorists inside the Gaza
Strip.
The Jerusalem Post quoted senior defense officials as saying last
night that a deal for the release of abducted IDF reservists Ehud
Goldwasser and Eldad Regev has been finalized, although it will take
several days to implement. Major media quoted Ehud Barak as saying
yesterday in consultations with senior IDF officers that it is "very
likely that the abductees are not alive." Israel Hayom reported
that reserve generals were furious at the price Israel is paying in
the deal with Hizbullah. Yediot reported that early next week
President Shimon Peres will pardon Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar,
who is included in the prisoner exchange with Hizbullah.

The Jerusalem Post quoted GOI officials as saying yesterday that
Israel wants to resolve the Sheba Farms issue within the framework
of direct negotiations with Lebanon. Ha'aretz reported that several
days ago Egypt asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the 15
members of the Security Council to demand that Israel withdraw as
soon as possible from the Sheba Farms and place them under UNIFIL
control until their fate is decided by a UN resolution or a
delimitation of the Syria-Lebanon border. Ha'aretz reported that
Egypt's Ambassador to the UN told the ambassadors of those countries
that a diplomatic resolution of the Shaba Farms issue would be a
"blow to Hizbullah and Iran."

Yediot quoted Olmert as saying in an interview with the French daily
Le Figaro that direct negotiations with Syria are close.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday in Petra, at a meeting of
29 Nobel Prize laureates, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa
charged that Israel was not serious in its intentions to negotiate
peace with the Palestinians. Peres replied: "I am not prepared to
listen to what you have to say. Israel evacuated many settlements
in Gaza in a very difficult process, and what did we get for it?
Why is Hamas firing rockets at Israel every day? Israel wants
peace, and Israel is willing to do a lot for the sake of peace."

Ha'aretz reported that the dissolution of the Knesset may take place
only towards the winter. Leading media reported that yesterday FM
Livni began campaigning for Kadima leadership with two speeches in
which she indirectly attacked Olmert and vowed to do his job better.
Maariv reported that the spat between Olmert and Barak is
intensifying.

Ha'aretz reported that yesterday Rabintex Industries reported an
$18.6 million vehicle conversion order from the U.S. Army. The work
will be conducted by its subsidiary Bartek, over 10 months.
--------
Mideast:
--------

Summary:
--------

Military correspondent Amos Harel and Palestinian affairs
correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote on page one of the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Just like Oslo, for the 'tahdiya' Israel is
paying in hard currency for general future commitments.... The
present strategic goal is not peace, but quiet, even if only for a
short time -- until the elections."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "From Israel's perspective, the
understandings on quiet that have been achieved via Egypt are just
as important as a comprehensive agreement with Abu Mazen alone --
which would remain on the shelf."

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker opined in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "[The 'tahdiya'] is a priceless gift to
Hamas. Without it, it would have backed down."

Prominent liberal author A.B. Yehoshua wrote in Yediot Aharonot:
"The cease-fire should not be treated merely as a legal agreement
signed on paper, but as a tender sapling planted in the ground. It
must be cultivated, watered, invested in and protected, so that it
can gain strength and become a strong tree, which it will not be
easy to uproot by means of a single Qassam rocket or shell."

Veteran journalist and anchor Dan Margalit wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom (6/19): "Perhaps Israel did not go to Munich, but it
crawled to Canossa."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "The
upgrade of [Israel-EU] relations perhaps takes on its deepest
significance in light of the EU's role as a Quartet member."

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

I. "The Lesser Evil"

Military correspondent Amos Harel and Palestinian affairs
correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote on page one of the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (6/19): "The cease-fire agreement between
Israel and Hamas, the very same organization that Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert said once again on Wednesday that we are not talking to,
has one thing in common with the Oslo Accords. Just like Oslo, for
the 'tahdiya' Israel is paying in hard currency for general future
commitments. This is not a case of 'quiet for quiet,' a formula
proposed many months ago.... Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
understands the coalition picture, but there are quite a number of
senior officers below him who see the agreement as a big mistake.
In their eyes, Israel has not even attempted to try a long list of
measured operations that are less than an conquest of the Gaza
Strip, but if tried, might have forced Hamas to accept a cease-fire
from a completely different position.... It is hard to ignore the
influence of the Second Lebanon War on Israel's operations in Gaza.
The pain of Lebanon is still clearly felt. Such pain adds to the
limited political dialogue and dictates the choice of a cease-fire.
In Olmert's present situation, any agreement will be presented as an
achievement: not just the tahdiya, not just the return of the
abducted soldiers in the hands of Hizbullah..... The present
strategic goal is not peace, but quiet, even if only for a short
time -- until the elections."

II. "Aspiring to a Lengthy Cease-Fire"

Ha'aretz editorialized (6/19): "[The 'tahdiya'] is a unique
agreement because of the massive Egyptian involvement both in
achieving it and promising to uphold it. Egypt has made efforts to
secure agreements from all the Palestinian factions, even the
tiniest and most negligible. Syria, too, supports the cease-fire,
and apparently Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen),
about whose status Israel is concerned, is also prepared to help
guard the crossings. From Israel's perspective, the understandings
on quiet that have been achieved via Egypt are just as important as
a comprehensive agreement with Abu Mazen alone -- which would remain
on the shelf. In any case, there is no contradiction between the
two.... [Moreover], it is always more worthwhile to release
prisoners in return for a soldier who has been taken captive than to
endanger other soldiers in a daring rescue operation that will exact
a price in lives."

III. "Agreement with the Devil"

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker opined in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (6/19): "Israel did not need HamasQs
recognition. We live very well without it, thank you very much.
Hamas, at the present stage of its political development,
desperately needed Israeli recognition, since the doors of the
family of nations are locked before it. It would have remained
perpetually outside the boundaries of the Arab mainstream,
ostracized and rejected, like Al-Qaida.... The strategy of refusal
caused the decline of Al-Qaida, its considerable weakening and a
gradual loss of the magical influence that it wielded over hundreds
of millions of Muslims. Its stock dropped drastically; in the end,
few are willing to be considered friends of lepers.... [The
'tahdiya'] is a priceless gift to Hamas. Without it, it would have
backed down. Under the pressure of the Palestinian and Arab street,
for lack of military options and with a sense that the oxygen of its
radical rhetoric was running out, Hamas would have unilaterally held
its fire, drafted a new charter, agreed to release Gilad Shalit to
the Egyptians and accepted the firm conditions posed to it by Israel
and the international community for receiving minimal recognition.
We were a hair's breadth away from this. But it was not Hamas that
backed down. Israel backed down. What remains for us to hope for?
It remains for us to hope that the Israeli government will not
repeat the same mistake in the north, and will not conduct
'indirect' negotiations with Hizbullah on drawing up the border
between us and Lebanon."

IV. "A Beginning, Not an End"

Prominent liberal author A.B. Yehoshua wrote in Yediot Aharonot
(6/19): "Realistic logic eventually overcame the hesitations and
evasions, and the cease-fire was indeed signed. We can only regret
the wasted time, in which suffering and destruction dominated on
both sides. It is important to remember one principle in the
100-year war with the Palestinians. The Israelis and the
Palestinians are neighbors -- people who will live in proximity to
each other forever. Therefore, the military considerations in this
war are not similar to those in force between distant countries that
are fighting each other. The residue of blood, both our and theirs,
remains in the region, trickling into the memory and infrastructure
of the two peoples. Therefore, an immediate cessation of the
bloodshed is more vital than the fantasy of complete 'victory' in
the long term.... All those who rightly feared the 'large-scale
operation,' must mobilize all their strength to fortify and deepen
this cease-fire, in order to create a long-lasting state of calm,
which will be able in future to become part of a peace agreement
with the Palestinian Authority.... Therefore, the cease-fire should
not be treated merely as a legal agreement signed on paper, but as a
tender sapling planted in the ground. It must be cultivated,
watered, invested in and protected, so that it can gain strength and
become a strong tree, which it will not be easy to uproot by means
of a single Qassam rocket or shell."

V. "Israel Crawled to Canossa"

Veteran journalist and anchor Dan Margalit wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom (6/19): "Perhaps Israel did not go to Munich, but it
crawled to Canossa. It did not want to stick to its target. It did
not want to dream. It has recognized Hamas, opened the crossing
points, given up on preventing the smuggling of rockets into the
Gaza Strip, and put Gilad Shalit in very grave danger.... Anybody
who remembers Olmert's vow in June 2006 that he would bring Shalit
back, immediately and with no quid prod quo, cannot help being
skeptical about the Prime Minister's optimistic prediction that
Shalit will be released now.... So the government did not stop at
the red light. This morning the 'tahdiya' opened without Shalit.
And nobody knows if it will be honored, and for how long, and what
the IDF will encounter when it is over, on the day when Hamas
resumes the shooting."

VI. "Israel's EU Upgrade"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (6/19):
"Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and EU foreign ministers ushered in a
new era in Israeli-European relations this week at a meeting in
Luxembourg. After a year of intensive negotiations ... the EU-Israel
Association Council announced an upgrade in the relations between
Israel and the EU. This entails increased diplomatic cooperation;
Israel's participation in European agencies and environmental,
educational, agricultural, banking and space programs; and an
examination of possible Israeli integration into the European single
market. The move encountered stiff resistance from the usual
quarters. The Arab League tried to torpedo it..... A coalition of
humanitarian organizations, meanwhile, expressed their intense
disappointment that the EU failed to make the upgrade contingent on
ending Israel's 'abuses' of Palestinian human rights.... The EU'S
move -- and the deepening ties it heralds -- is a welcome one for
several reasons. First, at an auspicious time, it braces and
reinforces a growing friendship.... The announcement is welcome,
too, in light of the fact that the EU remains the financial backer
of the PA and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The EU's
engagement with the region, after all, has not always been
judicious.... The upgrade is also welcome for the economic fruits it
promises to bring to an already robust partnership.... But the
upgrade of relations perhaps takes on its deepest significance in
light of the EU's role as a Quartet member, and the increased
leverage with which Israel can now encourage the Europeans to take a
firm stand against Hamas and Iran, while coaxing Palestinian
relative moderates to temper their demands so as to increase chances
of a bargaining breakthrough. For all these reasons, the EU
announcement, and the far-reaching effects it betokens, represent a
step in the right direction."

JONES

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