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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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P 151047Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8421
RHEHAAA/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 4385
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0991
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 4738
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5175
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 4387
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 2747
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 5147
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2008
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0230
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8987
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 6468
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 1392
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 5489
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 7450
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY 0317
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0438
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002106

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

1. Mideast

2. 9/11 Anniversary

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

Israel Radio reported that until a few months ago back-channel talks
took place in Turkey, London, and Israel/the occupied territories
between Israelis, headed by journalist Yitzhak Livni, a close friend
of PM Ehud Olmert, and lower-ranking Hamas officials. Livni told
the radio that Olmert was unaware of those contacts, which were
meant to check if there had been changes in Hamas's stance.

The media reported that on Saturday residents of the settlement of
Yitzhar went on rampage against residents of a Palestinian village.
The incident was sparked by the infiltration of a satellite outpost
of Yitzhar by a terrorist seeking to commit an attack. During the
infiltration, a 9-year-old was lightly wounded when he was stabbed
in the hand. Police launched an investigation yesterday into the
rampage, but have not made any arrests or collected testimony
relating to the incident, despite the fact that it was documented by
news and human rights organizations. Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted a
senior officer as saying that the settlers did not shoot and that
that the footage shown in the media were faked. The media reported
that Olmert told the government yesterday that the government will
not allow West Bank settlers to carry out "pogroms against
non-Jews."

Channel 2-TV reported last night that PM Olmert has discussed with
the Palestinians transferring to them 98.1 percent of the West Bank
-- significantly more than the 94% to 96% that had been discussed in
previous negotiations. The report on the ongoing negotiations was
broadcast in advance of Tuesday's planned meeting between Olmert and
PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The Prime Minister's Office declined to
comment on the news item and said only that many such media reports
had been published in the last months regarding the talks. Earlier
in the day, during what could be his last cabinet meeting before he
becomes the head of a transitional government, Olmert addressed
Israel's relationship to the West Bank when he spoke of a voluntary
evacuation bill to help relocate settlers living east of the
security barrier. "The vision of a greater Israel no longer exists.
Those who speak of it are delusional," Olmert was quoted as saying.
No vote was taken on the measure.

The media reported that yesterday Transportation Minister Shaul
Mofaz, a principal contender to leadership in the Kadima Party, told
reporters on Sunday: "I believe that on Wednesday, will win in one
round with 43.7% on the votes." This percentage is allegedly based
on a model developed by Mofaz's American consultant Arthur
Finkelstein (who used to work for Benjamin Netanyahu). Livni's
supporters mocked Mofaz for engaging in prophesy. Over the weekend
media reported that FM Tzipi Livni rejected comments attributed to
one of her senior aides, that the "riffraff" (the Hebrew term
carries a heavy ethnic connotation) among Kadima's members were
supporting Mofaz. Maariv reported that Mofaz enlisted former
Defense Secretary and former CIA Director James Schlesinger in his
campaign. The media quoted Shas Chairman and Industry, Trade, and
Labor Minister Eli Yishai as saying on Sunday that the party will
not join a government that will negotiate Jerusalem. The media
stressed the importance of Shas to the future government coalition.

The Jerusalem Post and other media reported that the U.S. Department
of Defense has notified Congress of a potential sale to Israel of
1,000 smart bombs capable of penetrating underground bunkers, which
would likely be used in the event of a military strike on Iran's
nuclear facilities. The notification to Congress was made over the
weekend by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the branch of
the Pentagon responsible for evaluating foreign military sales.
Congress has 30 days to object to the deal. The deal is valued at
$77 million and the principal contractor would be Boeing integrated
Defense Systems. Israel Hayom emphasized Israel's concern that
Congress might not approve the deal.

Leading media reported that DM Ehud Barak ordered all Israel-Gaza
border crossings closed in response to a Qassam rocket attack on
Sderot launched by Palestinian militants.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday former ambassador to the
U.S. Danny Ayalon accused Tzipi Livni of distorting history by
claiming in an interview with Israel TV that she had persuaded
then-PM Ariel Sharon and President Bush to include the refugee issue
in Bush's April 2004 letter of commitments to Israel.

Yesterday Ha'aretz reported that Israeli troops operating near
Bethlehem shot and killed a Palestinian teenager who participated in
protests in the area. Yesterday media reported that an IDF soldier
was dismissed following an incident in which a pregnant Palestinian
woman was delayed at the Hawara roadblock near Nablus. The woman's
infant was stillborn. The soldier who was dismissed served at the
time in question as the commander of the roadblock.

Yesterday Ha'aretz reported that EU foreign policy chief Javier
Solana told the newspaper that the peace talks between Israel and
the Palestinians have been carried out far too slowly since last
November's Annapolis summit.

Leading media quoted Kadima MK Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a retired major
general, as saying on Saturday that Ehud Barak "opposed the strike
on November 6" of last year.

Ha'aretz reported that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recently
ordered the police to open a criminal investigation against the New
Profile organization -- the first time a criminal probe has ever
been launched against a group that encourages draft dodging. The
probe, launched in response to a request from the IDF, constitutes
an intensification of the army's war on draft dodging.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday billionaire Arkady
Gaidamak voiced support for the potential candidacy of former Shas
leader Aryeh Deri in the Jerusalem mayoral race, and seemed to
suggest cooperating with him in the upcoming municipal elections.

Major media reported that the British newspaper Sunday Times quoted
a leader of Gaza's Doghmush clan as saying that Gilad Shalit is
"living in paradise."

Major media reported that yesterday the Iraqi Parliament lifted the
immunity of MP Mithal Al-Aloussi because of his trips to Israel.

The Jerusalem Post (and Maariv yesterday) reported that India seeks
expertise in the Kashmir conflict.

Leading media quoted Britain's Sunday Express as saying yesterday
that Omar Bakri, an Islamic militant leader, warned that Sir Paul
McCartney could be the target of a suicide bombing unless he
canceled his first concert in Israel. The celebrated rock star
plans to arrive in Israel as part of a world tour and give a single
concert in Tel Aviv on September 25. Bakri said that McCartney's
decision to perform as part of Israel's 60th anniversary
celebrations has turned him into the enemy of Muslims worldwide.

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

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "[What is]
important is an ingrained sense among the Israeli public that we are
dealing with realistic signs of a diplomatic horizon that must be
nurtured and enhanced to yield viable agreements. Whichever
candidate is incapable of clearly formulating, in words, a
commitment to realize this horizon does not deserve to lead the
government."

Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The perennial 'non-partner' has
become a partner.... [But] nowadays, an Israeli partner is harder to
find."

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized: "If
the United States is interested in contributing to the promotion of
the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, it would do well if
it were to remove Jerusalem from the agenda."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "Today the only possible interpretation of
the government's oversights in its handling of the rioting settlers
is that the situation is convenient for the government, which
prefers it to confrontation with the rioters."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "We
insist, however, that those who go out on vigilante raids against
Arabs, or brawl with IDF soldiers are an affront to Zionism....
[However], a 'pogrom' is vigilante violence -- inspired, instigated
and enabled by the authorities. Clearly, Saturday's settler rampage
was nothing of the kind."

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

I. "Continue the Process"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (9/14): "In the
coming days, Ehud Olmert will conclude his term as prime minister,
but we have yet to hear a sharp, determined voice from any of the
candidates vying to replace him pledging to continue the diplomatic
process he started during his tenure. One gets the impression that
every candidate is afraid of appearing too willing to compromise, or
defeatist, or 'less aggressive,' or worst of all, being labeled as
someone who 'divides Jerusalem' and 'evacuates settlements.'
Everyone, of course, wants peace, everyone warns that peace demands
painful concessions, but it is hard to pinpoint a statement from any
of the candidates obligating them to a withdrawal from the Golan
Heights for peace with Syria, or a near-complete withdrawal from the
territories for peace with the Palestinians, let alone a diplomatic
plan. Each candidate swears that he or she has a plan in the bag,
but none of them is ready to reveal it to the public. Instead, they
run for cover by offering the statement: 'I'm not ready to conduct
negotiations through the media.' This is a miserable escape that
cannot be used by anyone with his sights on the land's highest
office.... No less important is an ingrained sense among the Israeli
public that we are dealing with realistic signs of a diplomatic
horizon that must be nurtured and enhanced to yield viable
agreements. Whichever candidate is incapable of clearly
formulating, in words, a commitment to realize this horizon does not
deserve to lead the government."

II. "There's a Partner, but who Cares?"

Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/15): "Although dozens if not
hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members are currently being held
in PA prisons, most are released within several days, much as they
were in the late 1990s and during the second Intifada. The PA has
yet to formulate a convincing explanation for this, and its image
problem is likely to persist until it does. Nonetheless, the
perennial 'non-partner' has become a partner. The Palestinian
Authority is relevant, at least regarding a future agreement in the
West Bank. Abbas, long viewed as a toothless leader, is slowly
emerging as a force for stable, reliable and incorruptible
leadership, even compared with Israel's decision makers. Nowadays,
an Israeli partner is harder to find.... The media's failure to
highlight the change is nothing less than astonishing. It could be
that the Palestinian issue no longer interests the general public,
that the greater strategic threat posed by Iran is pushing it off
the public agenda. Should another wave of violence surge from the
West Bank, however, the Palestinian issue is likely to float to the
surface once more and again take a starring role in the various
media outlets. But until then, who really cares?"

III. "A Sophisticated Trick with American Facilitation"

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (9/14):
"On what basis did the U.S. Consul-General cite that optimistic date
for the conclusion of the [Israeli-Palestinian] talks? Political
officials suspect that there is reason to believe that the United
States is in the possession of information that apparently has not
yet been shared with some of the Israeli officials, and that a
secret agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is being cooked
up behind their backs. Apparently, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and
PA Chairman Abu Mazen have reached an understanding between them
that is going to lead to a division of Jerusalem, otherwise it is
hard to understand the optimistic tone of the American Consul
General's statement. The U.S. Consul-General apparently ignored the
fact that Mr. Olmert already has one foot out the door of the Prime
Minister's Office. Under those circumstances he lacks any authority
to commit in the government's name to dividing the Israeli
capital.... The decisions by the Israeli government, both Left and
Right, against dividing Jerusalem remain valid at the present
moment. Therefore, there is no room to permit them to be changed by
means of sophisticated tricks by the Prime Minister with the help of
an American representative. If the PA Chairman has made continued
talks contingent upon a division of the city, then he is planting a
landmine on the way to an arrangement with his very own hands. If
the United States is interested in contributing to the promotion of
the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, it would do well if
it were to remove Jerusalem from the agenda. There are enough
issues in contention as is that need to be addressed in order to
reach some sort of arrangement. Israel, at all events, will not be
able to concede the capital of Israel."

IV. "Who Is the Sovereign Here?"

Ha'aretz editorialized (9/15): "Dozens of armed settlers from
settlements in Samaria [northern West Bank], and in particular from
Yitzhar, rioted two days ago in the village of Asira al-Kabaliya
after a 9-year-old boy was stabbed by a Palestinian who infiltrated
Shalhevet Yam, near the settlement of Yitzhar. The Palestinian's
crime served as justification for mass delinquency by the settlers,
who went there to shoot and destroy. The men in uniform from the
Israel Defense Forces and police were made to look like fools....
This state of affairs makes a mockery of Israel's pretensions to
improve the Palestinians' quality of life.... Today the only
possible interpretation of the government's oversights in its
handling of the rioting settlers is that the situation is convenient
for the government, which prefers it to confrontation with the
rioters."

V. "Pogroms and Vigilantism"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/15):
"The [Jewish] radicals' message: Don't even think about dismantling
an unauthorized outpost -- much less an actual settlement -- because
the relative restraint we showed during disengagement in 2005 will
not be repeated. We understand that these settlers feel under
siege. The murders of [two settlers] in the second Intifada have
not been forgotten. We insist, however, that those who go out on
vigilante raids against Arabs, or brawl with IDF soldiers, are an
affront to Zionism. Such behavior is inexcusable -- indeed,
contemptible.... [But] a small minority of settlers behaving badly
does not a pogrom make. In telling the cabinet on Sunday that "There
will be no pogroms against non-Jewish residents in Israel," Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert committed a grave injustice to Jewish history.
Mr. Prime Minister: A 'pogrom' is vigilante violence -- inspired,
instigated and enabled by the authorities. Clearly, Saturday's
settler rampage was nothing of the kind."

---------------------
2. 9/11 Anniversary:
---------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "It was Bush and his cronies who
defined the 9/11 attacks as a culture clash.... This definition
also contains the measuring stick for understanding change in
Islamic countries."

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

"The Glacier of September"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/14): "It is easy, too easy, to
find fault with the U.S. administration for its adventures in the
Middle East after 9/11.... An analysis with a longer view, however,
could reveal some of the important developments resulting from 9/11
and both the Americans' wars. The first is the thorough stocktaking
carried out by Muslim societies and their leaders in light of the
horror perpetrated by bin Ladin and his organization.... For the
first time, too, a distinction has been made between Islamic terror,
which must be fought because it undermines the state's foundations,
and legitimate struggle against occupation. True, this is no great
comfort for Israel or the United States; we are talking about
glacially slow movement, but measurable nonetheless. It was Bush
and his cronies who defined the 9/11 attacks as a culture clash, not
a political struggle, a battle between the Sons of Light and the
Sons of Darkness. This definition also contains the measuring stick
for understanding change in Islamic countries. These states, their
schools, and their clerics are not graded according to their degree
of support for the settlements or U.S. military policy in
Afghanistan, but according to their abilities to create an economic
and cultural horizon for their citizens. That is the dialogue that
millions of young people in the Middle East are conducting with
their governments. It is an incisive and demanding dialogue: Get
America off our backs, but give us Westernism."

CUNNINGHAM

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