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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002217

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

--------------------------------
SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
--------------------------------

1. Attack on Professor Sternhell

2. Iran

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

The Jerusalem Post reported that the chances of new Kadima leader
Tzipi Livni quickly forming a coalition took a hit on Thursday when
talks broke down in a secret channel that had been formed between
Livni and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak.

All media, except the religious press, highlighted yesterday's
attack against Prof. Zeev Sternhell. Media quoted FM Tzipi Livni as
saying that this is an intolerable event that cannot be hushed, and
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu that the attack was revolting.
Ha'aretz and other media reported that Internal Security Minister
Avi Dichter called the incident a "nationalist terror attack
apparently perpetrated by Jews" and was quoted as saying that the
police would not rest until "those terrorists" were behind bars.
Israel Radio reported that French FM Bernard Kouchner condemned the
attack. The media reported that the far Right groups would not
condemn the assault.

The Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio reported that yesterday PA
President Mahmoud Abbas met with President Bush at the White House.
The two expressed their hopes regarding the continuation of the
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The radio reported that the UN
Security Council will discuss the settlements and that the Quartet
will debate the negotiations. The Jerusalem Post reported that
Russia will take part in the Quartet meeting, despite tensions with
the West which led to Moscow's decision this week not to participate
in high-level talks on Iran.

Ha'aretz reported on the rehabilitation of Mossad under Director
Meir Dagan in Israel's fight against Iran and Hizbullah. The
Jerusalem Post cited the belief of EU diplomatic sources who
specialize in the Middle East that Israel cannot stop the Iranian
nuclear program on its own using military means.
The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday an interministerial
committee presented Olmert with a list of 450 names of Palestinian
prisoners to be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, in a move
immediately dismissed by Hamas as insufficient. Ha'aretz reported
that Shalit is being held hostage by the PA unity deal. Yediot and
other media reported that 20 Israeli writers and poets, including
David Grossman, A. B. Yehoshua, and Amos Oz, have written PM Ehud
Olmert that everything must be done so that Gilad's fate will not be
similar to that of MIA Ron Arad.

Media reported that in New York President Shimon Peres met with
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and his running
mate Gov. Sarah Palin. Yediot reported that Peres complained to UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the honorable reception given on
the international scene to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Israel Radio quoted Shaul Mofaz as saying that he is staying in
Kadima and that he will resume his duties as transportation minister
on the agreed date. He would not, however announce his return to the
party leadership.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted Livni associates as saying that
negotiations with Syria will be frozen.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a team of officers from the
Pentagon's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program was in Israel this week
for talks with the IAF aimed at finalizing details regarding Israeli
plans to officially purchase the stealth fighter-jet next year.

Leading media reported that, warning about a non-conventional attack
against Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved a new plan
under which all "secure rooms" built after 2009 will need to be
fitted with chemical and biological filters.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel and Azerbaijan have signed a weapons
deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Leading media reported on an impending crisis surrounding the 2009
state budget: Labor wants a 2.5% increase, whereas Livni is in favor
of a 1.7% increase. Maariv quoted a senior Labor official as saying
that his party is not adamant about this.

Yediot reported that the U.S. Embassy in Israel has refused to grant
a non-immigrant visa to a Jewish woman from Iran whose brothers live
in the States. The newspaper quoted the Embassy's response that
visitors from third countries find it hard to prove their
eligibility for a visa, and that there are other embassies in which
staff speak Persian and that are better suited to judge the
eligibility of Iranian applicants. Yediot also reported that
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit has embarked on a campaign to help
Israelis enter the U.S. without the need for visas.

All secular media underscored the concert given last night by Sir
Paul McCartney in Tel Aviv. The event was attended by 50,000
Israelis.

----------------------------------
1. Attack on Professor Sternhell:
----------------------------------

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "Leniency
toward violence is tantamount to cooperation with the [Jewish]
terrorists."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "All [Professor Zeev
Sternhell] does is give expression in writing to fairly prevalent
views among the Israeli public, including the highest ranks of
government. If he is a target, then almost anyone who does not
think like an extreme right winger could be a target."

Prominent liberal author A. B. Yehoshua wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "The problem is more with the relatively
moderate settlers who live in the dozens of settlements, who
certainly reject such acts, but do not come out particularly
strongly against them and do not condemn the extremists in their
community."

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized: "[The
perpetrators'] act is worthy of universal condemnation. It
endangers Israeli society and harms those trying to fight a
legitimate battle against radical left-wing organizations."

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

I. "From Denunciations to Deeds"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (9/26): "The
pamphlets offering a large reward to anyone who murders Peace Now
activists and calling for a state based on Jewish religious law in
the West Bank remove all doubt about the identity of the terrorists
who tried to murder Prof. Zeev Sternhell. This internationally
renowned expert on fascist movements in Europe, a Holocaust survivor
whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis, was not another
victim of some 'wild weed,' but of Jewish fascism itself, which
continues to extend its roots. The criminals who set the pipe bomb
outside Sternhell's home come from the same 'garden' as ... Yigal
Amir, the murderer of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.... Human rights
activists have for some time been reporting the security forces'
failure to deal with the extreme right's systematic violations of
the law.... Our well-guarded ministers cannot make do with lip
service to democracy and freedom of expression. They must order the
security forces to treat Jewish terrorism as harshly as they treat
Palestinian terrorism. The Attorney General must instruct the State
Prosecutor's Office to demand that the courts impose severe
penalties on Jewish transgressors. Yesterday, they aimed their
weapons at Palestinian farmers. Today, they are murdering members
of the Israeli intelligentsia. Leniency toward violence is
tantamount to cooperation with the terrorists."

II. "Everyone Is a Target"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/26): "[Professor
Zeev] Sternhell does not give breaks. I can testify to that
personally since he was my teacher in the political studies
department at the Hebrew University. He does not give breaks to the
Israeli right wing either. His articles condemning the occupation,
the settlement movement, and the settlers are direct, harsh, and
without compromise.... If I am not mistaken, in recent years his
writing has become a little more conciliatory. Maybe it is because
of his age (he is 73). Maybe it is because of the changes that the
political establishment has undergone.... Yesterday morning, a pipe
bomb exploded on the threshold of Professor Sternhell's home in
Jerusalem. All signs indicated that the motive for planting the
bomb was political.... This story is extremely disturbing. It is
disturbing precisely because of its banality. Sternhell does not
evacuate outposts, does not cede territory to the Palestinians, or
put right wing criminals in jail. All he does is give expression in
writing to fairly prevalent views among the Israeli public,
including the highest ranks of government. If he is a target, then
almost anyone who does not think like an extreme right winger could
be a target. Everyone is under threat."

III. "The Moderate Settlers Are the Problem"

Prominent liberal author A. B. Yehoshua wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (9/26): "We see all the time that violence
on the part of settler fringe groups has gained momentum over the
past year while the moderates among the settlers, law-abiding among
themselves, make no serious effort to neutralize these extremist
acts. The problem in this case is not only the legal authorities,
which, perhaps, attempt to prevent embarrassing acts of this sort.
The problem is more with the relatively moderate settlers who live
in the dozens of settlements, who certainly reject such acts, but do
not come out particularly strongly against them and do not condemn
the extremists in their community. We ought to remember that since
the state was established, three Jews have been murdered by members
of the right wing. I think that this incident shows that things can
only get worse as signs of an approaching peace treaty increase.
These acts were intended to sabotage any possibility of reaching a
peace agreement and the extremists are sending warning signals to
anyone who wishes to compromise. The fact that some people are not
frightened by those warning signals makes the extremists even more
extreme and dangerous.... In order to eradicate such occurrences, we
depend mostly upon the unequivocal stand of the Yesha Council of
Jewish Settlements in the Territories and the right-wing parties,
which must be more firm in condemning these people who gather
beneath the surface, and at the same time provide all possible
assistance to the police in order to find them before it is too
late. The left wing needs to continue to give massive support to
the process of dividing the land, which most of the nation supports
today. This incident is a warning light that has been lit, and
therefore we all must understand the real danger that faces the
entire system."

IV. "Delusional Fringes"

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (9/26):
"The terror attack at the entrance of Prof. Zeev Sternhell's
residence should serve as a warning that a low-intensity civil war
might erupt between radical groups in Israeli society. Many people
on the Right feel that radical left-wing Jewish groups have gone too
far and caused national damage. Thus, there have been attempts to
expose the deeds of some left-wing organizations in order to attack
them at the public level. 'Peace Now' is definitely one of those
organizations. But this attack has caused tremendous public damage
to the fight against 'Peace Now' and other movements surrounding
it.... Prof. Sternhell is indeed a man of the Left, but he has no
relation to any left-wing organization. He is first and foremost an
intellectual ... harming him is first and foremost an attacking
against what he symbolizes: freedom of thought, freedom of
expression, and the willingness to endanger oneself for one's
positions. It should be assumed that all this characterization of
Sternhell's values as a distinguished member of academe does not
interest the perpetrators. Their act is worthy of universal
condemnation. It endangers Israeli society and harms those trying
to fight a legitimate battle against radical left-wing
organizations."

---------
2. Iran:
---------

Summary:
--------

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Hope
now rests with the U.S. and the EU to act swiftly, decisively, and
independently to ratchet up their own sanctions efforts, and to
apply their own severe pressures. With French President Nicolas
Sarkozy as EU president, now is the time."


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

"Iranian Impasse"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/26):
"Two notions must be dropped if the Iranian regime is to be
dissuaded from acquiring nuclear weapons.... The first is the
persistent belief in the power of transformative diplomacy. The
time for polite diplomatic exertions in response to the looming
Iranian threat is long past... Nothing has been done so far to give
the Iranian regime a compelling reason ... to stop its relentless
push for the bomb. Yet it must be stopped. So if military
intervention is to be avoided, a second -- and increasingly flimsy
-- notion must be altogether abandoned: the idea that the UN is the
sine qua non of legitimate action in the international arena. Hope
now rests with the U.S. and the EU to act swiftly, decisively, and
independently to ratchet up their own sanctions efforts, and to
apply their own severe pressures. With French President Nicolas
Sarkozy as EU president, now is the time. The stakes couldn't be
higher -- for Israel in particular (though by no means for Israel
alone). For at the very moment Ahmadinejad denies Iranian ambitions
to build nuclear weapons, he simultaneously reiterates their
intended objective -- to see Israel wiped off the map."

CUNNINGHAM

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