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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #1646/01 2130955
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 310955Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7766
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
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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 4211
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0818
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 4529
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4989
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 4203
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 2529
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4961
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1817
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0029
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8814
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 6294
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 1211
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 5316
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 7274
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0188
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001646

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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PM Olmert's Resignation Announcement

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

All media led with PM Ehud Olmert's public announcement last night
that he has decided not to contend in the Kadima primary election
and would resign as soon as the new party leader was chosen, due to
the criminal investigations in which he has been embroiled in recent
months. Banners in Ha'aretz: "Olmert: I have Decided to Step Down";
Yediot: "The Right Step"; Maariv and the ultra-Orthodox Hamahane
Haharedi: End of the Olmert Age;" The Jerusalem Post: "Olmert,
Bitter but Dignified, Says He'll Quit"; Israel Hayom: "Olmert Leaves
the Stage"; and Makor Rishon-Hatzofe: "Olmert: "I'll Quit my Post";
and the Shas mouthpiece Yom Leyom: "Olmert Broken." "I have
decided I won't run in the Kadima movement primaries, nor do I
intend to intervene in the elections," Olmert was quoted as saying.
"When a new [Kadima party] chairman is chosen, I will resign as
prime minister to permit them to put together a new government
swiftly and effectively," he added. However, Ha'aretz reported that
senior Kadima officials predicted that in reality, Olmert is likely
to continue as PM for up to six more months since neither of the two
leading contenders to succeed him -- FM Tzipi Livni and
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz -- has much of a chance of
setting up a new coalition to replace the one Olmert now heads. In
that case, new Knesset elections would have to be called, probably
in late February or early March, which in turn would mean that
Olmert would remain head of a transition government until a new
government is formed after those elections. Ha'aretz reported that
senior members of Kadima's main coalition partner, the Labor Party,
echoed this assessment, even though they noted that their party
chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has an interest in postponing
elections, as he is not currently doing well in the polls.

Israel Radio quoted Livni as saying that Olmert had made a personal
decision that was not easy and that his decision was the right one.
Minister Livni said in Washington that Kadima must behave in the
coming elections in a way that will maintain its unity and ability
to lead Israel. The radio quoted Mofaz as saying that if elected
Kadima chairman he will strive to organize as broad as possible a
coalition.

Leading media reported that Olmert called President Bush just before
his announcement. Israel Radio quoted Deputy White House Press
Secretary Gordon Johndroe as saying that Bush intends to work
closely with Olmert until that time, and that he wishes him well.
Johndroe was quoted as saying that Bush has appreciated Olmert's
friendship, leadership and work for peace. The radio quoted State
Department Spokesman Sean McCormack as saying that the U.S. is
"going to continue working on the basis on which we've worked."

Israel Radio quoted a Hamas spokesman as saying that Olmert's step
is a harsh blow to those who have chosen to negotiate peace with
Israel. The radio quoted PA President Mahmoud Abbas as saying that
he will work with any Israeli PM. Israel Radio quoted an announcer
on Hizbullah's Al Manar-TV as saying that the top of the pyramid
that led the Second Lebanon War has fallen.

Israel Radio reported that Olmert's police interrogation tomorrow
will focus on his dealings with the Rishon Tours travel agency,

Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday an
18-year-old Palestinian was critically wounded by a rubber bullet
shot by Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Na'alin. Yediot
reported that the IDF's Judge Advocate General is likely to indict
the officer and the soldier who were involved inthe shooting a
Palestinian youth with a rubber bllet at short range three weeks
ago.

Media reorted that yesterday the Knesset's State Control Cmmittee
voted to establish a state commission of nquiry into the
government's handling of the resttlement of settlers evacuated from
Gaza and thenorthern West Bank in the disengagement of 2005.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the World Bank tam managing the
feasibility studies of the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal organized a public
meeting on Wenesday to hear the Israeli public's views on the
controversial project.

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

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The disappointment of the
public as a result of the [Second Lebanon] War only became deeper as
the corruption cases turned into an avalanche."

Veteran journalist and anchor Dan Margalit wrote on page one of the
independent Israel Hayom: "What Olmert promises in Israel's name
from now on through his departure is negligible and practically
inexistent."

Diplomatic correspondent Maya Bengal wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv: "[Olmert] will make a massive effort to attain a significant
diplomatic achievement, which will help somewhat to soften the image
that has been created in connection with him."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Olmert,
in departure, has mercifully spared Israel the shameful potential
ignominy of having a prime minister indicted while in office."

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

I. "Failing Grades"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (7/31): "The abductions [of IDF
soldiers by Hamas and Hizbullah] transformed [Olmert] from being
Sharon's successor, who intended to continue the process of
disengagement, into the leader of a nation at war. Olmert failed
this test three times: in the appointment of Amir Peretz as defense
minister, in his rushed decision to embark on the Second Lebanon
War, and in his decision to continue the war that had lost its point
after the first strike of fire. The helplessness of the government
during the war and the serious shortcomings in the conduct of the
army, wore down the meager popularity of Olmert. The public was
tired of him, and did not want his leadership, even when he tried to
lead the country in a different direction. The irony is that Tzipi
Livni and Shaul Mofaz, who are contending to be his successors,
offered him ways out during the war. Livni suggested avoiding an
escalation and bringing the offensive to an end a few days after it
had started; Mofaz suggested an operation that may have saved Israel
the frontal assault and spared the many casualties in the final week
of the war. The disappointment of the public as a result of the war
only became deeper as the corruption cases turned into an
avalanche."

II. "Olmert's Trick Prevented His Disgrace "

Veteran journalist and anchor Dan Margalit wrote on page one of the
independent Israel Hayom (7/31): "[Olmert] had two achievements that
he can chalk up to his name.... He was fully responsible for the
attack of the nuclear installation in Syria and for an absolute
success: the parade of world leaders who arrived in Israel for its
60th anniversary celebrations. This was his diplomatic achievement
in an era when efforts were made to isolate Israel. What other
achievements was he talking about? The total failure of the Second
Lebanon War, starting from its very first day, in which he
demonstrated neither resolve nor perseverance, until the
unsuccessful prisoner swap with Hizbullah? His declaration about
the uprooting of Hamas until the foot-dragging and the humiliating
conditions that are accompanying [the process of] Gilad Shalit's
release? Just yesterday [Olmert] woke up to an amazing headline:
his partner Abu Mazen threatens to dismantle the Palestinian
Authority if Olmert releases Hamas's Parliament members....
[Olmert's] announcement [on Wednesday] makes clear to the world that
he no lnger is the address for agreements -- neither in te
Israeli-Palestinian arena, not in negotiationswith Syria. While
Damascus is waiting for the swearing-in of a new American president
on January 0, 23009, it will also have to wait for Kadima's
September 17, 2008 primaries. What Olmert promises in Israel's name
from now on through his departure is negligible and practically
inexistent."

III. "Goal: To Leave the Stage with a Diplomatic Achievement"

Diplomatic correspondent Maya Bengal wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (7/31): "Those who know Ehud Olmert know that he does not
plan to leave his bureau in Jerusalem as a failed prime minister....
In other words, Olmert plans to leave behind a legacy. In the
window of opportunity that is left to him Q at least a month, half a
year at the most -- he will make a massive effort to attain a
significant diplomatic achievement, which will help somewhat to
soften the image that has been created in connection with him.
Waiting on Olmert's desk are four burning diplomatic issues: the
release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas, a peace
agreement with the Palestinians, moving the negotiations with Syria
from an indirect to a direct track with American involvement, and
the thwarting of IranQs nuclear program.... It should be noted that
from the legal perspective, he retains all the authority of a prime
minister, even after his resignation in September. If there is a
breakthrough on one of these issues, Olmert will be able to depart
from his position as prime minister, at least in his opinion, with a
proud demeanor. However, Olmert faces a difficult problem, should
he actually try to implement far reaching diplomatic moves: chances
are that he will be accorded neither public nor political legitimacy
to do so. But Olmert will at least be able to advance diplomatic
issues, even if they are not brought for a decision by the cabinet
or the Knesset, which will remain to be dealt with by the person who
takes his place."

IV. "Olmert, a Dignified End"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (7/31):
"In the end, it was a dignified acknowledgement of an untenable
reality.... Olmert, in departure, has mercifully spared Israel the
shameful potential ignominy of having a prime minister indicted
while in office. And while this newspaper has argued that he should
have stepped down after the failures of the Second Lebanon War, and
that he was further compromised by the demands on his attention
necessitated to fight for his good name, it has also been our
consistent contention that there should be no rush to judgment as
regards the corruption allegations. His announced intention to step
down, therefore, serves to underline how high are the stakes when a
serving prime minister is investigated for alleged criminal
offenses."

MORENO

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