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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #2139/01 2630952
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P 190952Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8481
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUEADWD/DA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CNO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 4412
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 1018
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 4765
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5202
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 4414
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 2775
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 5175
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2036
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0258
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 9014
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 6495
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 1419
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 5516
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 7478
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY 0344
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0476
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002139

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

Electronic media reported that FM Tzipi Livni hinted this morning
during a session of the Kadima faction that PM Ehud Olmert should
resign immediately.

All media reported that following his defeat in the Kadima
primaries, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz declared he was
taking a "time-out" from political life. Media cited claims by
Mofaz aides that Livni's camp played "dirty tricks." Ha'aretz
reported that Kadima is divided after Livni's victory, and that she
will try to prevent a "wave of defections." Maariv and other media
reported that Livni has started coalition negotiations, as Shas and
the Labor Party are raising their political demands. The Jerusalem
Post reported that yesterday Livni warned Shas Chairman Eli Yishai
that she could form a coalition without him. The Jerusalem Post
reported Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has called on Livni to set
a date for general elections. Maariv quoted her as saying that
would not be afraid of holding elections in January. Israel Radio
reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senator Hillary
Clinton, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak were among the major world politicians who called to
congratulate her.

Major media reported that settlers vandalized Palestinian property
in several locations yesterday after the IDF evacuated the outpost
of Yad Yair in the northern West Bank. The evacuation itself was
not violent, but incidences of settler violence elsewhere in the
West Bank were apparently a response to the evacuation. Yediot
reported that yesterday, following those violent events, DM Ehud
Barak ordered the defense establishment to "take off its gloves" and
punish more harshly settlers who attack soldiers and Palestinian
civilians.

The Jerusalem Post reported that President Shimon Peres told the
newspaper yesterday that the world should hit Iran where it hurts --
in its economy -- much harder than it does now, and Israel will push
the UN to that effect when the General Assembly convenes next week.

Ha'aretz reported that Bank Hapoalim lost 25% of its value this
week. The media reported that over the past two days, the public
withdrew almost 5 billion shekels (around $1.42 billion) from
savings funds, reportedly out of panic.

Ha'aretz quoted Hamas official Ayman Taha as saying that the fact
that Livni is a woman will probably prompt her to take a more
hawkish stance than a man would as head of the Kadima Party and the
Israeli government, but that generally speaking, Hamas does not see
any differences among Israeli decision-makers. In contrast, an
adviser to Abbas told Israel Radio that the PA views Livni as a
partner for peace talks. Jamal Zakut, a spokesman for PA Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad, told IDF Radio that Livni must decide to put
an end to the settlement project.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that PM Ehud Olmert is trying to reach
a "non-binding" agreement with the Palestinians before he leaves the
stage. The newspaper also says that Livni will try to obtain a
paper signed with the Palestinians before she gets to elections.

Maariv reported that in the permanent-status negotiations, the
Palestinians are demanding that Israel concede the settlements of
Ariel and Alfei Menashe.

Yediot reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad told an Iranian
TV station that his country will never cut his ties to Iran and
Hizbullah.

Israel Radio reported that the Conference of Presidents of Major
Jewish Organizations decided to cancel a speech by Republican
vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin at a demonstration
protesting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the UN
General Assembly. Senator Hillary Clinton canceled her appearance
at the meeting, stating that she was not informed of Palin's
intention to address the audience as well.

Ha'aretz reported that Dan Ben-David, an economist, will replace
Mofaz as Knesset member if the latter leaves the Parliament.

Ha'aretz reported that IDF soldiers serving along the border with
Egypt told the newspaper that last Sunday five asylum-seekers,
including a mother and her two teenage daughters, who tried to
infiltrate into Israel, were returned to Egypt in contravention of
the accepted procedures.

Yediot reported that the managers of the Dimona nuclear reactor find
it hard to recruit new engineers because of relatively low salaries
and a fear of being contaminated by radioactivity.

Ha'aretz (English Ed.) reported that Democrats and Republicans in
Israel are set to hold Israel's first-ever U.S. presidential debate
next week in Jerusalem. The debaters will be the parties' Israel
representatives -- Sheldon Schorer from Democrats Abroad Israel and
Marc Zell from the Republicans Abroad in Israel.

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

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The way Livni
tries to form a government will be the first test of her
leadership.... If Livni wants to lead and not to be led, she must
build a government that reflects her agenda."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "On the assumption that
Barak, if he enters [Livni's cabinet], will sit in the government as
a Trojan horse, what is the point of demeaning oneself in
humiliating concessions to Shas on [child] allowances?"

Defense commentator Amir Oren wrote in Ha'aretz: "Like prime
minister Golda Meir in 1973, Livni will discover that her job
requires coordinating diplomatic support, defense assistance, and
perhaps an agreement with the U.S. president."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Israel
cannot afford a rudderless policy drift, for months on end, as party
politics sort themselves out. This is a nation longing for honest,
capable and inspiring leadership -- urgently. Can Tzipi Livni
provide it? 16,936 of Israel's voters said yes on Wednesday. Now
she must persuade the rest."

Block Quotes:
-------------
I. "First Test of Leadership"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (9/19): "Livni
has a mandate to try to form a government because that is the
parliamentary system in Israel. The claim that her mandate may be
legal but she does not have moral legitimacy is typical of the
Israeli political discourse since the Oslo Accords. Anyone who
tries to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians is treated
similarly.... The way Livni tries to form a government will be the
first test of her leadership.... Livni is obligated only to the
public she seeks to lead. The selection of Amir Peretz as defense
minister because he wanted a job for which he was unsuited, or the
selection of Abraham Hirchson [as finance minister] because he was
the prime minister's friend, were quickly revealed to have been
harmful to the public interest. If Livni wants to lead and not to
be led, she must build a government that reflects her agenda."

II. "For Whom the Phone Rings"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/19): "That is what is
nice about [Ehud] Barak: There are always surprises. As of
yesterday afternoon, he did not want to join Livni's government, but
did want to negotiate with her. He is in favor of an emergency
government, a code name for a government with the Likud and
Lieberman, although he knows it will not be formed. He has several
reasons why the Labor Party should not join a government headed by
Livni, some good, some less good. He says that if Livni succeeds,
the credit will be hers, and the Labor Party will disappear, and if
she fails, the Labor Party will be part of the failure. He says
that the government has run its course. Livni herself does not
intend to keep the government running for more than a few months.
What is the point in joining a government that will soon be
dissolved. And he says that one does not choose a prime minister by
a slim margin of 431 votes. This explanation is captivating at
first glance, but annoying at second glance. The Labor Party
chairman can disqualify Livni because of her views, her
qualifications, or her taste in fashion. But the question of the
margin between her and the next in line in her party is none of his
concern. The only way to maintain a democracy is to honor a victory
in the polls, even if it is by a one-vote margin.... One can argue
over the question what is preferable for the Labor Party, to expire
slowly in the government or to commit suicide in elections. From a
public standpoint, the more important question is whether such a
government can function.... What is certain is that [Barak] cannot
serve under Livni for a single day.... Livni, who wanted at the
start of the campaign to go to elections immediately, has changed
her opinion in the meantime. She wants to form a government, and to
do so as quickly as possible. It would appear that the coming days
will give her an opportunity to think again. The key is not Shas,
it is the Labor Party. On the assumption that Barak, if he enters,
will sit in the government as a Trojan horse, what is the point of
demeaning oneself in humiliating concessions to Shas on [child]
allowances?"

III. "Welcome to the Club"

Defense commentator Amir Oren wrote in Ha'aretz (9/19): "Four months
from tomorrow in Washington a new president will be sworn in, John
McCain or Barack Obama, but until January 20, 2009, George W. Bush
will remain in the White House. Tzipi Livni must not neglect the
relationship with him during a period liable to see a conflagration
in Gaza, spreading to the north of the country, and on the eve of
fateful decisions, possibly a confrontation with Iran. Livni must
keep one eye on American while her other eye is on forming a
government.... An Israeli prime minister must develop a network of
alliances -- first and foremost with Washington -- and create
conditions to shorten the fighting and reduce casualties, both on
the home front and battlefront.... Like prime minister Golda Meir in
1973, Livni will discover that her job requires coordinating
diplomatic support, defense assistance, and perhaps an agreement
with the U.S. president on a preventive strike or airlift. Without
these tools, the Israel Defense Forces will not be able to do the
job."

IV. "Livni's Challenge"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/19):
"It is foreign and security policy that will dominate the next prime
minister's agenda. Livni must define the path for addressing the
Iranian nuclear threat.... Livni needs to tell Israelis where the
negotiations with the Palestinians] stand, especially on Jerusalem
and refugees.... What's her plan for Gaza, where ever more extreme
Hamas factions are solidifying power?.... She will also have the
opportunity to take a fresh look at negotiations with Syria; the
current approach of indirect talks does not instill confidence....
Israel cannot afford a rudderless policy drift, for months on end,
as party politics sort themselves out. This is a nation longing for
honest, capable and inspiring leadership -- urgently. Can Tzipi
Livni provide it? 16,936 of Israel's voters said yes on Wednesday.

Now she must persuade the rest."

CUNNINGHAM

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