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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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P 150954Z JUL 08
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WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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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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1. Mideast

2. Iran

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

Major media reported on the "handshake that wasn't" between PM Ehud
Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad at the Bastille Day
ceremony in Paris. Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted Likud MK Yuval
Steinitz, former chair of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee, as saying hat Olmert and FM Tzipi Livni humiliated the
Jewish people by stooping before the Syrian dictator.

All media reported that by rejecting the appointments of Kadima MKs
Ruhama Avraham-Balila and Eli Aflalo as tourism and absorption
ministers, Labor MKs and ministers supported what was declared a
no-confidence vote at the insistence of the Likud faction whip, MK
Gideon Sa'ar. The government, however, survived the no-confidence
vote, and despite Labor's opposition, Aflalo's and Avraham-Balila's
appointments were approved by a Knesset majority of 47 votes to 42.
The crisis erupted when Kadima reneged on Olmert's commitment to
appoint Labor MK Avishay Braverman as chairman of the Knesset's
Finance Committee(Leading media reported that Olmert is likely to
allow Braverman's nomination today). In response to OlmertQs
reneging on his commitment, Labor decided to oppose Aflalo and
Avraham-Balila's appointments in the Knesset. The media reported
that Olmert will not fire Labor ministers and that Labor said that
its ministers would not quit the coalition. Dismissing the Labor
ministers would leave Olmert without a legislative majority and open
the door to early elections.

All media reported that the cabinet will discuss Hizbullah's report
on efforts to determine the fate of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad
Tuesday and will be briefed on assessments by the heads of the
country's intelligence organizations (who are opposed to a prisoner
swap). Ha'aretz quoted a source in PM Ehud Olmert's entourage to
Paris as saying that the result of the cabinet's final vote on the
prisoner exchange will be based on what it hears in this briefing.
Media reported that Olmert told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in
Paris that Hizbullah's report on Arad was "absolutely
unsatisfactory."


The Jerusalem Post quoted foreign news reports as saying yesterday
that the Iranian and Syrian militaries have assisted Hizbullah in
setting up advanced radar installations atop Mt. Sannine in
Lebanon's Bekaa Valley which can be used to track Israeli planes
from the Mediterranean Sea in the West to Damascus in the East. The
newspaper quoted Israeli defense analysts that while Syria does not
need radar installations inside Lebanon to track IAF fighter jets,
the systems could be used by Hizbullah in the event that Damascus
supplied them with advanced radar-based air defense systems. The
Jerusalem Post reported on growing concern in Israel following
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman's statement on Sunday at the
Paris meeting of the Mediterranean Union that should diplomacy fail
to return "Israeli-occupied land" to Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed
Forces will take it by force.

Yediot bannered a picture of Palestinian terrorists training in the
synagogue of the abandoned Gaza settlement of Atzmona.

Leading media reported that Barack Obama is expected to visit the
region next week. Media reported that he will visit Sderot and fly
over the country in a helicopter. Israel Hayom reported that
right-wing MKs and a settler leader denounced Obama's retraction of
his AIPAC Conference comments on Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Post and
HaQaretz reported that yesterday PA officials welcomed Obama's plans
to visit Ramallah.

Major media reported that Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair will
visit Gaza next week. This will be his first trip to the area since
Hamas seized control a year ago. At noon Israel Radio reported that
the visit was canceled due to security reasons.

Leading media reported that Assad warned yesterday that any attack
on Iran's nuclear program would have grave consequences for the
U.S., Israel and the entire world. The Jerusalem Post quoted House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi as saying on Sunday at the opening of the 94th
national conference of the Hadassah Zionist Women's Organization in
Los Angeles: "Israel bears the brunt of [the Iranian] threat ... and
the safety not only of Israel but of the entire world depends on
forcing Iran to give up its nuclear capability."

The Jerusalem Post quoted Ron Nachman, Mayor of the West Bank
settler city of Ariel, as saying yesterday that the city has
received final approval to construct 27 new factories, thus tripling
the size of its industrial park. The daily quoted Peace Now
Executive Director Yariv Oppenheimer as saying: "This is surrender
to the demands of the settlement leadership." Nachman defended his
move by saying that this park employs both Jews and Palestinians.

Ha'aretz quoted Israel's Civil Aviation Authority as saying that the
U.S. could curtail the activities of Israeli airlines in the U.S.
after the Federal Aviation Administration inspects the aviation
sector here next week. Concerns have also been raised over a
possible blow to Israel's standing in the international aviation
sector. The FAA inspection will last four days and examine the
flight-safety performance of the Civil Aviation Authority, one
Israeli airline, and Ben-Gurion International Airport. The Civil
Aviation Authority will be the main focus.

Yediot quoted Israeli diplomats in the U.S. as saying that they
cannot make ends meet. The newspaper reported that Israel's
Consul-General in Miami Ofer Bavli wrote the Foreign Ministry in
Jerusalem that the weakening of the dollar and rising prices in the
U.S. are causing family budget problems, forcing him to dip into his
savings to make ends meet.

Ha'aretz quoted Microsoft as saying yesterday that it has agreed to
buy Zoomix, an Israeli start-up specializing in data quality
software. The deal is estimated at between $25 million and $35
million. This is Microsoft's eighth such acquisition in Israel.

------------
1. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: ". An
improvement in relations with any of the Arab countries contributes
to Israel's security more than any reservoir of weapons that Israel
has at its disposal."

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in the popular,
pluralist Maariv: "The talks between the sides need to be, from
Syria's perspective, endless, perpetual, ostensibly serious, long
and enervating, but with no final result. Syria will make the most
out of those kinds of talks."

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker opined in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "I am puzzled over where [the admirers of
the Prime Minister] were when Olmert made the following mistakes....
1) The strategic failure to deal with Hamas's rise to power....
[and] 2) Giving Assad a fantastic consolation prize."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "[The
Lebanese and Arab publics] might want to ask themselves whether this
monster [terrorist Samir Kuntar] is worthy of such glorification.
Is he the kind of man they want as their idol? And if so, what does
that say about them?"

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

I. "With Whom Will Syria Make Peace?"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (7/15): "The
peace between Israel and Syria has in the past few days seemed
closer and farther away than at any other time.... Ehud Olmert was
striving for personal contact with Bashar Assad [in Paris this
week], but to no avail -- because the Syrian President considers
Olmert a weak prime minister, and he does not sell his gestures on
the cheap.... The isolated Assad arrived in Paris like a hero, even
though he had not changed anything substantive in his diplomatic
conduct. The disdainful attitude shown by Israel with regard to
Assad's leadership ability, at the inspiration of the Americans,
apparently came to an end, along with the conclusion of George W.
Bush's term.... Syria's serious attitude toward peace talks with
Israel found expression in Paris this week in Assad's public
declarations of peace, in the indirect talks that are continuing
through Turkey, and in the fact that the Israeli attack on nuclear
facilities in Syria and the assassination of Imad Mughniyah did not
make Assad change direction. Syria has apparently decided that it
is in its interest to join the West, and peace talks with Israel are
one of many means of doing so. More than at any other time in the
past, it seems the ball is in Israel's court -- but this court is
covered in thick political mud. In actual fact, there is no
government right now in Israel.... All one can demand now is that
all those who aspire to be elected prime minister of Israel --
whether in Kadima, the Labor Party, or Likud -- should reveal
publicly what their current position is on the continuation of talks
with Syria. It is worthwhile reminding them that it is forbidden to
miss chances for peace, and that the price for peace with Syria is
clear. The price for not having peace with Syria became clear in
the Second Lebanon War, and it is likely to become clear in the
third and fourth war in the region. An improvement in relations
with any of the Arab countries contributes to Israel's security more
than any reservoir of weapons that Israel has at its disposal."

II. "The Semblance of Diplomacy"

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in the popular,
pluralist Maariv (7/15): "Once again, Bashar Assad deceived everyone
-- mainly Prime Minister Olmert. He attended the conference of
Mediterranean countries thanks to Israel and turned into the
undeniable star of the event. He returned to the limelight in Europe
but made sure to turn his back on Olmert when the latter ran up to
him and asked for a handshake, which might have saved him his career
or given him some breathing room. And so, when Olmert spoke, Assad
left the auditorium for his grand finale. In interviews he said
that, like his father, he would not concede a single centimeter of
the Golan Heights. Did anyone say anything about an historic
breakthrough?..... Even if [Olmert were a strong prime minister],
there isn't going to be peace with Assad's Syria. Bashar Assad is a
member of the most hated Alawite minority in Syria. The members of
this sect retain their hold on power with the use of force; they
maintain it and justify it by means of uncompromising belligerence
towards Israel. The Zionist enemy is something that unites the
Syrians around one of the most benighted regimes in the area. Peace
with Israel would shake the foundations of the presidential palace
in Damascus.... Syria, in short, does not want peace. It wants
peace negotiations. The talks between the sides need to be, from
Syria's perspective, endless, perpetual, ostensibly serious, long
and enervating, but with no final result. Syria will make the most
out of those kinds of talks, remove itself from its isolation, and
receive legitimacy from the West and mainly aid from the United
States. That is what we saw in Paris. The semblance of diplomacy
and another promise by Assad that 'peace between Syria and Israel is
possible within half a year to two years.' Peace, meanwhile, is
going to have to wait a lot longer. So will war. Olmert will go and
the settlements on the Golan Heights will flourish."

III. "A Slew of Mistakes"

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker opined in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/15): "Ehud Olmert, say many people, was
an excellent prime minister as far as we were concerned until the
scandals with the envelopes and the double bills were exposed. They
were like a bolt of lighting out of a clear blue sky for us and
radically changed our apprehension and judgment of him. I am
puzzled over where these people were when Olmert made the following
mistakes.... [Such as these pertaining to regional affairs:] 1) The
strategic failure to deal with Hamas's rise to power. When they
look back in retrospect, the Hamas leaders will be able to sum up
the period between February 2006 and July 2008 as a positive period.
Hamas secured its hold on power, became stronger, won the hearts
and imagination of the Muslim world, kidnapped and is still holding
Gilad Shalit in captivity, and is gradually gaining legitimacy. All
this was achieved with the tacit consent of the Olmert government.
Under the stuffed nose of this very same government, Hizbullah also
grew stronger both militarily and politically. While it is true
that Nasrallah was defeated in the Second Lebanon War, the Olmert
government managed to sweeten that defeat for him and now no one is
more popular that he is in Lebanon. 2) Giving Assad a fantastic
consolation prize. Up until six months ago, Syrian President Bashar
Assad was considered to be a diplomatic and military corpse, a
ludicrous and washed out leader until Prime Minister Olmert extended
a hand to him, invited him to false peace talks and, by so doing,
rehabilitated, and even ameliorated Assad's international and
inter-Arab status. Syria threw Olmert a fetid bone and received in
exchange half the kingdom. Assad was received at the Mediterranean
countries conference in Paris as a victorious hero, while Olmert was
received as a loser and a guest who forced his presence on
everyone."

IV. "A Celebration of Evil"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (7/15):
"Preparations are in full swing in Lebanon to celebrate the return
of Samir Kuntar. Kuntar, who is serving multiple life sentences
for one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in Israel's history, is
due to be released tomorrow as part of a prisoner exchange with
Hizbullah for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two soldiers
abducted in a July 2006 cross-border raid that triggered the Second
Lebanon War. According to the Lebanese media, Kuntar will be given
a festive reception by Hizbullah at its headquarters in southern
Beirut, and welcomed personally by its leader, Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah.... Lebanon's Prime Minister, Fuad Siniora, has indicated
that his government supports the festivities planned for Kuntar....
However, the Lebanese people and government -- and those others in
the Arab world, including among the Palestinians, so delighted by
Kuntar's release -- might want to ask themselves whether this
monster is worthy of such glorification. Is he the kind of man they
want as their idol? And if so, what does that say about them?....
He has never expressed remorse, and, according to the Palestinian
Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote a letter recently to
Nasrallah promising not to abandon the jihad against Israel. 'I
give you my promise and oath that my only place will be in the
fighting front soaked with the sweat of your giving and with the
blood of the shahids, the dearest people, and that I will continue
your way until we reach a full victory,' the paper quoted him as
writing. The newspaper, incidentally, carried an article calling
Kuntar a 'beacon of light' and an 'authentic role model.''

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

Summary:
--------

Dan Diker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in
Jerusalem, a part of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote
in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "Israelis must also
integrate the kinds of sharp intellectual, political and strategic
differences in worldviews as noted above among U.S. officials and
former U.S. officials, even when they share political
affiliations."


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

"On Green and Yellow Lights from Washington"

Dan Diker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in
Jerusalem, a part of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote
in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (7/15): "What is
going on [regarding current and former U.S. officials' statements
that the U.S. has not given Israel a 'green light' to do anything
about Iran]? Disinformation, or perhaps a heated debate in
Washington into which Israel has been thrust in the middle? [Prof.
Anthony] Cordesman's widely reported remarks at Hebrew University,
Tel Aviv University, and at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
may provide insight into the contradictory signaling from
Washington.... Cordesman suggested that Ahmadinejad is no less
rational an actor than Bush or other Western leaders. Cordesman's
dismissal of the religious and ideological underpinning of the
regime stands in sharp opposition to Bush's views, as well as those
of Islamic affairs experts in Pentagon, vice president's office, and
the preeminent scholar of Islam, Prof. Bernard Lewis.... Israeli
officials and shapers of public opinion in Israel should listen
attentively to outside assessments from Washington. However,
Israelis must also integrate the kinds of sharp intellectual,
political and strategic differences in worldviews as noted above
among U.S. officials and former U.S. officials, even when they share
political affiliations."

MORENO

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