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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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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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Leading media reported that PM Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud
Abbas met on Sunday. Ha'aretz reported that Abbas demanded that
Olmert release more prisoners as a goodwill gesture, to which Olmert
reportedly replied that he would only release prisoners as part of
the Shalit deal.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that PM Olmert and Secretary Rice
favor the immediate signing of an Israeli-Palestinian accord, while
FM Tzipi Livni, Deputy PM Shaul Mofaz, DM Ehud Barak, and PA
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are opposed. Yesterday Ha'aretz reported
that Israel and the PA will aim for a peace deal by the end of this
year. On Sunday Ha'aretz reported that Olmert is pressing Abbas to
accept a framework deal. On Sunday Yediot quoted a senior U.S.
administration official in Washington as saying in a conversation
with the newspaper that the U.S. administration has come to the
conclusion that Abbas has lost interest in achieving an agreement
with the Olmert government and that he has begun to adopt extremist
positions both in order to improve his standing against Hamas and in
advance of the establishment of new governments in the U.S. and
Israel. The American official denied vehemently the statements that
Abbas made during a visit to Beirut that the U.S. would support the
return of Palestinian refugees to Green Line Israel.

Leading media reported that GOI officials revealed yesterday that
two attempts by Hizbullah to kidnap Israeli businessmen abroad in
retaliation for the February assassination of Imad Mughniyah were
foiled by Israeli security services. Yediot reported that Israel
warned the kidnappers of an Israeli businessman captured in Nigeria
---- against handing him over to Hizbullah. The kidnapped Israeli
was released yesterday.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Turkish sources as saying that yesterday
there was no new date scheduled for the fifth round of indirect
talks in Turkey between Syrian and Israeli negotiating teams.

On Sunday The Jerusalem Post quoted a senior PA official as saying
over the weekend that the Israeli government has informed the PA
that it has no objections to the release of jailed Fatah leader
Marwan Barghouti.

Yesterday Ha'aretz reported that Israel told the U.S. on Sunday that
it was prepared to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar along
the Lebanese border, a change in its policy for the past year and a
half of not wanting to discuss the issue. Ha'aretz quoted a GOI
source in Jerusalem as saying the decision was made after the
Lebanese government delivered written assurances that UNIFIL would
be given security and civilian control over the northern part of the
village, which is in Lebanese territory.

Israel Radio quoted the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai as saying that
Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has move from Damascus to Sudan.
Palestinian sources were quoted as saying that this is the result of
an agreement between him and the Syrian authorities and thanks to
progress in negotiations between Israel and Syria.

Israel Radio quoted the London-based newspaper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat as
saying that some Hamas elements are not ruling out direct
negotiations with Israel on the release of Gilad Shalit. Ha'aretz
reported that "Israeli and Palestinian sources seem to agree on one
thing: The negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit are stuck."
The newspaper quoted Israeli security sources involved in the
negotiations over Shalit as saying that no significant progress was
achieved in recent talks. The sources were quoted as saying that a
ministerial meeting on Sunday to reevaluate the criteria for
releasing Palestinian prisoners was meant as a signal to Hamas about
Israel's willingness to be flexible. However, the sources said that
Hamas has taken an even tougher stance. Palestinian sources were
also quoted as saying that negotiations are going nowhere. Ha'aretz
reported that Gilad Shalit's father Noam met two weeks ago with
French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Shalit asked that Sarkozy discuss
his son with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom he is scheduled to
meet in Damascus tomorrow for an official visit. On Sunday Ha'aretz
reported that Israel sent a message to Hamas on Sunday, telling it
to retract its demand that Israel free more than 1,000 Palestinian
prisoners in exchange for Shalit's release. Leading media reported
that 1,000 Palestinians have been released since Shalit was
abducted.

On Sunday Ha'aretz quoted Arab sources as saying that Hamas recently
laid a pipeline for supplying Gaza with fuel from Egypt. The
newspaper also reported that Gazans operate 200 tunnels between
Egypt and Rafah.

Over the weekend Minister Shaul Mofaz accused FM Livni of wanting to
divide Jerusalem, similar to Benjamin Netanyahu's blaming Shimon
Peres in 1996 of harboring the same intentions at the time.

Leading media quoted an IDF source as saying yesterday that the
soldiers who fired rubber bullets at a mentally ill man in the West
Bank village of Na'alin acted appropriately. The man, Awad Srur, was
seriously injured after he tried to snatch a soldier's gun. He lost
an eye and is now hospitalized in Ramallah. The soldiers were
trying to arrest Srur's brother, who had thrown a tear gas grenade
at them during a demonstration. The IDF source's comments came
after a Central Command investigation of the incident.

Yesterday Ha'aretz cited newly released CIA documents according to
which Henry Kissinger instructed the CIA to continue diplomatic
contacts with Yasser Arafat's PLO representatives before the 1973
Yom Kippur War, even after Arafat ordered the kidnapping and murder
of the American ambassador and his deputy in Khartoum.

On Sunday The Jerusalem Post reported that Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad has
been named the temporary coordinator of government activities in the
territories.

Ha'aretz quoted former Israeli ambassador to Washington Danny
Ayalon, who has joined Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party,
as saying yesterday that Galilee Arabs constitute a secessionist
threat.

Yediot and Israel Hayom reported that the Jerusalem District Court
confirmed a U.S. ruling that the PA has to pay over $116 million to
the Unger family, whose parents were killed in a 1996 terrorist
attack. Israel Hayom reported that the Israeli court ruled that the
American sentence can be applied in Israel.

Various media reported that yesterday the High Court of Justice
rejected a petition that it strip former MK Azmi Bishara of both his
citizenship and his pension.

Maariv reported that tomorrow in Jerusalem right-wing MK Arieh Eldad
will screen the anti-Islam Dutch film "Fitna."

The Jerusalem Post reported that the army recently expelled 91
Africans who crossed the border into Israel from Egypt -- in
violation of its own procedures, which it presented to the High
Court of Justice less than four months ago.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian Campaign for the
Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has called on former Beatle
Paul McCartney to cancel his upcoming show in Israel, saying that
"Palestinian dispossession and Israeli apartheid are not cause for
celebration."

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

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "If one Israeli soldier is worth
a thousand prisoners in their eyes, the honor is all ours -- and the
shame theirs. Before that sinks in, we must do everything to bring
Shalit home, whatever it costs."

Professor Eyal Zisser, the Chairman of the Department of Middle
Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, wrote in an online service:
"The truce ... serves Israel's short-term interests, but fails to
solve for it the fundamental problem that is inherent to HamasQs
control over the Gaza Strip."

Giora Eiland, the former head of Israel's National Security Council,
wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The time
has arrived to begin thinking about other solutions. One of them is
a return not to the 1967 borders but to the situation that reigned
until 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank."

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in Ha'aretz:
"Will Israel have the right response if Russia decides that the time
has come to intervene in our little conflict?"

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

I. "Unique Freedom"

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/2): "Our inability to free
Shalit is a kind of impotence that we haven't seen around here since
the disappearance of Israeli navigator Ron Arad. Apart from the
humanitarian aspect, every day Shalit sits in captivity eats away at
our power of deterrence. But when Hamas says it will not settle for
less than a thousand prisoners in exchange for Shalit, we have
reason to be proud. If one Israeli soldier is worth a thousand
prisoners in their eyes, the honor is all ours -- and the shame
theirs. Before that sinks in, we must do everything to bring Shalit
home, whatever it costs."

II. "The Calm in Gaza -- Situation Assessment"

Professor Eyal Zisser, the Chairman of the Department of Middle
Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, wrote in an online service
(8/31): "Ostensibly, it would seem that the truce agreement plays
into Hamas's hands.... Now that calm is in place, Hamas can dedicate
itself to rehabilitating its standing in the Gaza Strip, to
replenishing its forces and outposts, to smuggling weapons in, to
building its military strength in anticipation of future needs. All
this can be pursued under Israel's watchful eye, but without Israel
doing a thing to stop it. It seems, however, that the facts on the
ground are a little bit different. The fact is that Hamas's
standing and situation hasn't improved and has remained poor even in
the absence of Israeli military pressure.... The truce, therefore,
serves Israel's short-term interests, but fails to solve the
fundamental problem that is inherent to Hamas's control over the
Gaza Strip. In order to deal with that problem, the Israeli
leadership is going to have to take a long-term strategic view and
to evince determination and resolve and mainly political might,
which currently do not exist."

III. "The Jordanian Option"

Giora Eiland, the former head of Israel's National Security Council,
wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/2): "The
maximum that the Israeli government (any government) will be able to
offer the Palestinians (and survive politically) falls short of the
minimum that the Palestinian government (any government) can agree
to accept (and survive politically). The real disparity between the
parties is enormous and, with the passage of time, it is only
getting bigger, not smaller. Furthermore, if one were to compare the
conditions that reigned eight years ago to the current conditions,
it is plain to see that the current conditions are far worse. We
will briefly note five elements that have changed for the worse: 1.
The state of the leadership -- the Clinton-Barak-Arafat trio enjoyed
far stronger national and international support than the Bush-Abu
Mazen-Olmert trio does. 2. In July 2000, when the process began,
the second Intifada had not yet erupted.... 3. The rise of Hamas --
today it is clear that if a final status arrangement is achieved,
provided Hamas doesnQt derail it, there is a high probability that
the Palestinian state on the West Bank will be controlled by Hamas.
From Israel's perspective this will involve not only 'painful
concessions' but taking an unreasonable risk. 4. Lack of] trust
between the parties. 5. New military threats ... provide yet
another reason for pausing to reconsider the security risks
entailed. In light of the above, the following question becomes
clear: On the basis of what should we assume that what failed eight
years ago, when the conditions were so much better, will succeed
now? In practical terms, there are two conclusions that can be
drawn. One, that this final status arrangement, even if its
components are known to all, will not be achievable in the
foreseeable future. The other is that the time has arrived to begin
thinking about other solutions. One of them is a return not to the
1967 borders but to the situation that reigned until 1967, when
Jordan controlled the West Bank."

IV. "If Russia Shows Interest in the Conflict"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in Ha'aretz
(8/31): "According to Russia's rationale, if the United States could
dispatch the destroyer Cole off Lebanon's shores in March, Russia
can send its warships to Syria's port. Because from now on,
anything the United States can do, Russia can do, and maybe with
even greater force and brutality.... If this were a matter of
ideology, we would see Russia, a member of the international
Quartet, working overtime to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, or at least encouraging dialogue between Israel and
Damascus. If it were a matter of checking America's diplomatic
strength in the region, Bashar Assad would have returned from his
recent visit to Moscow with a pile of missiles, and not a cool
promise for only defensive weapons, and only if he pays in cash. It
may be possible to stop panicking from the Syrian-Russian ties, but
it is best not to fall into diplomatic hibernation. Regional
conflicts have always given powers reason to intervene, and Russia
may renew its ambitions in this direction. Will Israel have the
right response if Russia decides that the time has come to intervene
in our little conflict? To become an active member of the Quartet?
To recognize Palestinian independence as it recognized Abkhazia?
Because if Russia becomes interested in the conflict, this may cause
the United States to move, and this would be cause for panic."

CUNNINGHAM

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