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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #1706/01 2201026
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071026Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7878
RHMFUU/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
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 4240
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0847
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 4566
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5023
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 4232
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 2567
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 4992
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1851
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0063
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8843
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 6323
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 1240
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 5345
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 7303
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0229
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001706

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:
-------------------------

The media reported that as a gesture to PA President Mahmoud Abbas,
PM Ehud Olmert has decided to release Palestinian prisoners, two
"with blood on their hands" -- but not high-profile prisoners such
as Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Saadat, and Hamas's Aziz Dweik. While
Ha'aretz reported that the prisoners to be freed number 100, other
media reported that their number is still to be determined.
Yesterday Gilad Shalit's father Noam wrote an article in the
Palestinian daily Al Quds, saying that Gilad is holding hundreds of
Palestinian prisoners hostage, as well as more than a million
Palestinians, who are suffering from the blockade that Israel
imposed on Gaza after Gilad was kidnapped. In contrast, Maariv
reported that Noam Shalit has said that it is the Hamas leadership
which is responsible for delaying the Gilad Shalit deal, and is
therefore responsible for preventing the release of Palestinian
prisoners. The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday Israel
released Issa Ja'bari, a former minister in the Hamas cabinet.

Ha'aretz and other media reported that Israel warned Hizbullah
yesterday that it intended to put an end to the arms smuggling into
Lebanon. Israel said the Shi'ite group is using the arms to bolster
its position domestically and as a strategic threat on behalf of
Iran. During a meeting of the political-security cabinet on
Hizbullah yesterday, Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and FM
Tzipi Livni said "Israel will not acquiesce to the continued
smuggling of arms." During the meeting, the ministers were updated
on continued Syrian transfers of advanced military hardware to
Hizbullah, including air defense systems, in an effort to limit the
freedom of operations of the IAF in Lebanon, particularly in
reconnaissance and surveillance operations. The ministers were
briefed on intelligence assessments, which hold that Hizbullah is
interested in a confrontation with Israel over Israeli air force
overflights. The ministers were also alerted to the possibility
Syria may transfer Hizbullah more sophisticated weaponry than is
currently in the Shi'ite group's arsenal.

The media reported that Regiment Commander Lt. Col. Omri Bruberg
will be dismissed from his post in the wake of an incident where an
IDF soldier fired a rubber bullet at a handcuffed Palestinian. The
IDF's Judge Advocate General, Avi Mandelblit, also decided that the
commander and the firing soldier will face criminal charges of
improper conduct. Such offences are considered relatively minor and
do not result in a criminal record. The trial is expected to end in
a plea bargain. Israel Radio quoted the B'Tselem human rights
group, which uncovered the Na'alin affair, as sayng that the plea
bargain with the battalion commander was disgraceful, and that if
the IDF had proof that the battalion commander ordered a soldier to
shoot a handcuffed person, it should be considered a war crime, not
unworthy conduct.

On Israel Radio yesterday Minister Shaul Mofaz denounced Iran as the
"root of all evil."

Ha'aretz reported that Aljazeera-TV admitted yesterday that its
coverage of Israel's release of convicted Lebanese terrorist Samir
Kuntar violated the station's own code of ethics. The admission
came in response to a threat by Israel's Government Press Office to
boycott the satellite channel unless it apologized.

Ha'aretz reported that Ehud Barak ordered the destruction of the
house of the East Jerusalem terrorist who carried out the killings
at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. The process will likely be
appealed.

The Jerusalem Post reported that British Foreign Office Minister Kim
Howells has vowed to ensure that no more West Bank settlers will be
invited to events hosted by the British Embassy in Israel.

Ha'aretz reported that left-wing Israeli Prof. Jeff Halper will sail
for Gaza with the goal of breaking the siege that Israel has imposed
there.

The Jerusalem Post reported that over 100 academics and peace
activists joined forces yesterday to petition the Israeli government
against attacking Iran, claiming that Israel should give more
credence to current diplomatic efforts.

Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post reported that the U.S. will help
Israel develop and finance the new generation of anti-missile
defenses -- the "Arrow 3."

Maariv cited Israel's belief that Al-Qaida associates are
responsible for the latest Hamas-Fatah crisis.

Maariv quoted Syrian Minister of Expatriates Buthaynah Shabaan as
saying yesterday that negotiations between Israel and Syria are
moving ahead and will continue despite the crisis in Kadima.

Ha'aretz reported that 40 Knesset members support the rebuilding of
settlements in the northernmost West Bank, including Homesh.

Ha'aretz cited two recent surveys showing that secular candidate Nir
Barkat would defeat the ultra-Orthodox MK Meir Porush by more than
20 percent if Jerusalem were to hold mayoral elections today.
However, both polls forecast a fairly close race between Barkat, who
currently heads the opposition in Jerusalem's city council, and the
ultra-Orthodox incumbent mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, should he receive
the ultra-Orthodox candidacy.

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

Summary:
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Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Why is the Prime Minister, who will be
leaving his post in a month, suddenly releasing 150 security
prisoners?.... The main thing is that Condoleezza will not be mad at
us, like the last time she was here."

Liberal columnist Larry Derfner wrote in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post: "Here's an idea: Uproot the West Bank
settlers on the far side of the security barrier -- but keep the IDF
there, unless and until a final peace agreement is reached."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Although he is part of the establishment,
Netanyahu markets himself successfully as a radical who represents
change."

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

I. "Risky Gimmick"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/7): "Why is the Prime Minister, who
will be leaving his post in a month, suddenly releasing 150 security
prisoners? What happened? To what end? Is there some Palestinian
holiday in the offing? On one hand, we bargain over the 450
prisoners that Hamas is demanding for Gilad Shalit, and on the other
hand we release, with a single utterance, 150 others.... These
'light' prisoners, history shows, are the worst. The 'heavy'
prisoners, the ones that we are refusing to release in exchange for
Gilad, have already sat in prison for many years, they have done
their part and want to build a life. Most are more engaged in
political activity than in violent activity. The 'light' ones,
however, the ones who did not have a chance to do much damage and
were sentenced to short periods, are young people who have undergone
concentrated training in prison and will become heavy terrorists
upon being released.... Is there really anyone in Israel who
believes that an initiative for releasing 150 'light' prisoners, an
initiative not supported by additional real measures on the ground,
will strengthen Abu Mazen's standing in his public? Perhaps. Will
Hamas and Hizbullah stop trying to abduct soldiers following this
gesture? It is highly doubtful. But we have done our part. The
main thing is that Condoleezza will not be mad at us, like the last
time she was here."

II. "Quicksand in the Settlements"

Liberal columnist Larry Derfner wrote in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (8/7): "Maybe now's the time to make a
plan, then start carrying it out. Here's an idea: Uproot the West
Bank settlers on the far side of the security barrier -- but keep
the IDF there, unless and until a final peace agreement is reached.
Evacuate 50,000-100,000 settlers and redeploy the army in the West
Bank for the sole purpose of defending Israelis behind the security
barrier, instead of on both sides of it. Pulling the settlers out
but keeping the soldiers in -- pending a final peacetreaty, if and
when it comes -- would probably b good for Israel's security. It
would definitely be good for Israel's democracy. The gridlock with
the Palestinians would be broken; a giant step toward peace would be
made. Yes, it would be traumatic for the many thousands of settler
families who'd lose their homes, but there's no way of avoiding that
trauma if Israel is going to remain a Jewish, democratic state. And
afterward, if the Palestinians demanded citizenship, equality and
the right to vote in Israeli elections, we would be able to say: No,
but you can have an independent Palestinian state so long as it's
peaceful. We've just demonstrated that what we want is security,
not more land; now it's your turn to demonstrate that you'll
deliver."
III. "Why Netanyahu Is Ahead"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/7): "People believed Sharon would extricate
them from the predicament, and therefore backed him, irrespective of
the changes in his policies. Ehud Olmert did not become unpopular
because of his failure in the Second Lebanon War, and not even
because of the investigations against him. The public simply lost
its faith in his ability to govern.... Netanyahu is popular with the
public because he is perceived as a leader with a message, ready to
fight for his views in an environment of political deal brokering.
Time and again one may recall Netanyahu's failures as prime
minister.... But all this is nothing compared to his clashes with
the elites as prime minister and the way he stood up to the
Histadrut labor federation, the banks and the social lobby as
finance minister. Although he is part of the establishment,
Netanyahu markets himself successfully as a radical who represents
change. There are minor differences between the four pretenders to
the premiership. In the end, the least popular leader might function
well at the Prime Minister's Bureau. But they should all learn from
Olmert's fall not to ignore the views of the public and that
successful marketing of a leader is no less important than managing
a country and maintaining a coalition."

MORENO

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