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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #2763/01 3451153
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101153Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9536
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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 1320
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 5132
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5524
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 4745
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 3167
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 5517
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2359
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0584
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 9311
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 6804
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 1746
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 5813
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 7796
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY 0642
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0974
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002763

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
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PARIS ALSO FOR POL
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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Aftermath of Likud Primaries

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

Major media reported that yesterday Likud Chairman Benjamin
Netanyahu took legal steps to change the partyQs Knesset slate,
hours after the announcement of the results of MondayQs primary in
which many hawks prevailed, while more dovish candidates faltered.
However, a HaQaretz-Dialog poll shows Likud to be gaining strength
in voters. (See below.) The media quoted Netanyahu as saying that
would pursue negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians. Leading
media quoted PM Ehud Olmert as saying yesterday that the political
path that the Likud is taking would isolate Israel from the
international community.

HaQaretz reported that PM Ehud Olmert is due to meet with DM Ehud
Barak and FM Tzipi Livni today to discuss the future of the Gaza
lull, a day after Olmert threatened that Israel would lash out
against Gaza militants in response to a recent escalation in rocket
and mortar fire from Gaza.

HaQaretz reported that the Public Committee against Torture in
Israel is demanding that the Attorney General order a criminal
investigation to determine whether any crimes were committed in the
planning and execution of previous targeted assassinations. Israel
Radio quoted Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights CouncilQs Special
Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, as saying
yesterday that Israeli policies against Palestinians amounted to a
Qcrime against humanity.Q HaQaretz reported that most Israelis
view human rights organizations as hostile to Israel, according to a
recent survey sponsored by Bar-Ilan University's political science
department in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. The telephone poll, which was
conducted by the Kivun Institute two weeks ago, found that 64
percent of Israelis consider human rights groups like Amnesty
International and the Israel-based B'Tselem to be anti-Israel.
More than half (55 percent) of respondents said Israel protects
human rights better than Western democracies.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Qanti-Semitism experts in Germany,
the U.S., and IsraelQ are leading an escalating assault on BerlinQs
Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, accusing the center and its
director, Wolfgang Benz, of equating Islamophobia with anti-Semitism
while ignoring IranQs genocidal threats toward Israel and
trivializing the Holocaust.

Yediot reported that the State Prosecution will indict Olmert even
if the Talansky case is not completed.

Citing Reuters, HaQaretz quoted a UN spokesman as saying yesterday
that the Quartet will meet with Arab foreign ministers at UN
headquarters in New York on December 15.

Yesterday Makor Rishon-Hatzofe cited fears among Kadima that the
release of Palestinian prisoners could harm the party primaries.

Yediot quoted Rabbi and Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, the chosen
chairman of the new right-wing party, Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish
Home), as saying that his partyQs elected members will have freedom
of choice in diplomatic issues.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that Hizbullah has declined to meet
with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during his current visit to
Lebanon.

Maariv reported that members of Chabad will march in the streets of
Mumbai during the Chanukah festival.

HaQaretz and other media reported that as of this week, families who
immigrated to Israel from the U.S will be eligible for a $25,000
grant if they choose to settle in the Golan and Galilee. The grant
will come from the immigration-assistance organization Nefesh
BQNefesh and the Russell Berrie Foundation of Teaneck, New Jersey.

All media reported on a recent Ministry of Education report that the
math scores of high school students are declining. The media viewed
the results as proof of further degradation of the educational
system.

HaQaretz presented the results of the Dialog poll held yesterday on
the IsraelisQ voting intentions for the Knesset elections (in
parentheses: difference from last poll) Likud: 36 Knesset seats
(+2); Kadima: 27 (+1): Labr: 12 (+2).
According to a Yediot poll conducted yesterday by Mina Zemach/Dahaf
Polling Institute, Likud loses only 1 Knesset seat (31 from 32).

-----------------------------
Aftermath of Likud Primaries:
-----------------------------

Summary:
--------

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: QVoters who
believe that perpetuating the situation in the territories endangers
Israel's future as a Jewish state, threatens its international ties
and undermines its relations with its Arab neighbors will now [after
the Likud primaries] have an easier time choosing the ballot slip
that suits their worldview.

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: QThe outcome of the
Likud primary demonstrated that Netanyahu does not lead his party;
his party leads him. This is an inauspicious beginning for a person
who wishes to return to leading the country.

Former Meretz leader Dr. Yossi Beilin wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom: QThe victory of [the Likud conservatives] is an
unequivocal message to the Israelis: Forget about a peace process.

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: QIn the
wake of the primary results, Netanyahu urgently needs to tell his
Knesset candidates, the voting public, and Israel's allies abroad
what his party now stands for. Otherwise others, to his detriment,
will be only too ready to define it for him.

Conservative columnist Nadav Haetzni wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv: QThe LikudQs popularity in the polls doesnQt stem from
Benjamin NetanyahuQs aura, but from the wish to pursue another
course that can lead in the opposite direction than the one Israelis
have been led to for many years.

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

I. "Likud Turns Right"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (12/10): QA
quick glance at the top 30 candidates [elected in the Likud
primaries] reveals a right-wing, if not extreme right-wing group
that has opposed any iota of a peace initiative, from the Oslo
Accords to the Annapolis Declaration. Likud's voters have raised
the curtain to reveal a team that includes people who revolted
against Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan and have reservations
about the peace agreement signed by Menachem Begin with Egypt.
Likud's list for the Knesset is not in line with the image of the
moderate statesman that Netanyahu is trying to create. Whether
Netanyahu was aiming at the same objective, or whether the party has
deviated to the right more than he would have wished, the result is
in no way ambiguous. Most of the leading candidates built their
reputations on support for the settlement enterprise, opposition to
any concessions toward the Palestinians and protests against the
attempt to renew negotiations with Syria. A few of them stood out
because of their initiatives to clip the wings of the High Court of
Justice.... The bad news is that an important party that held the
reins of power for many years did not have the sense to put at its
helm people who can offer an alternative to the old Likud, whose
path was strewn with security and political crises. As prime
minister from 1996 to 1999, Netanyahu observed the international
reality and regional challenges up close, so we could have expected
him to try to put at his side a pragmatic and balanced team instead
of wooing an aggressive general, retired athlete and mediocre
entertainer. The good news is that the old-new list sharpens the
differences between Likud, Kadima and the Labor Party. Voters who
believe that perpetuating the situation in the territories endangers
Israel's future as a Jewish state, threatens its international ties
and undermines its relations with its Arab neighbors will now have
an easier time choosing the ballot slip that suits their
worldview.


II. "NetanyahuQs Party Leads Him, Not the Other Way Around

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/10): QNetanyahu
promises that if elected, he will promote the negotiations with
Syria and breathe new life into the negotiations with the
Palestinian Authority. He is secretly conveying reassuring messages
both to the Americans and to the Arabs. The list that the Likud has
chosen sends the opposite message to all these parties: Netanyahu is
a hostage in the hands of the extreme right wing.... Any attempt by
Netanyahu, if he becomes prime minister, to engage in real
diplomatic moves, will connect this group [of Likud conservatives]
with the ideological right wing, with Benny Begin, Ruby Rivlin, and
[former chief of staff Moshe] Bugi Yaalon, and separately with Moshe
Feiglin. Any attempt to stabilize the economy will meet with the
faction's lack of seriousness and its talent for losing the public's
confidence. The problems facing the country, from Iran to the
pension funds, are very severe. The Likud has not yet heard about
them....
Netanyahu sought to convey a message last night that nothing had
happened, and all was as usual: He would form a government whose
policy would be moderate and advocate negotiations. I have no doubt
that he means every word: The question is whether he is capable.
The outcome of the Likud primary demonstrated that Netanyahu does
not lead his party; his party leads him. This is an inauspicious
beginning for a person who wishes to return to leading the
country.

III. QThe Right Wing's List and the Left Wing's Challenge

Former Meretz leader Dr. Yossi Beilin wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom (12/10): QThe new leadership of this important
right-wing party [Likud] contains no one who has ever been seen as a
supporter of the processes that the entire world supports, which is
willing to agree to the Saudi initiative, which can be an address
for the next U.S. administration. The victory of this group is an
unequivocal message to the Israelis: Forget about a peace process.
It is also an unequivocal message to the world: we are outside -Q a
people that dwells alone. The new Jewish ghetto is located here....
Netanyahu tried to prevent the nightmare that took place yesterday.
Evidently he realized better than others what sort of human picture
could be drawn if he remained idle. But he failed miserably.
Neither he himself nor the respected people who were elected to the
top of his list will receive the trust of the center stream of the
State of Israel if the peace camp is wise enough to work together,
warn of the dangers and suggest a real alternative.

IV. "Whose Likud?"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/10):
QThe Likud's membership deliberately chose representatives, many of
whom are sincerely and firmly opposed to any territorial compromise
-- not because of the way things now stand with the Palestinians,
but, it seems, always and forever. Such policies, however, cannot
be reconciled with the need for Israel to remain a Jewish and
democratic state. Israel cannot forever manage the lives of
millions of antagonistic Palestinian Arabs. It is thus in our
interest to separate ourselves from them. Last month, Netanyahu
declared that he would Qadvance peace talks with the Palestinians in
order to gain a stable, safe and prosperous peace.Q He said he
wanted to Qmove both the political negotiationsQ and an economic
peace plan Qforward.Q In the wake of the primary results, Netanyahu
urgently needs to tell his Knesset candidates, the voting public,
and Israel's allies abroad what his party now stands for. Otherwise
others, to his detriment, will be only too ready to define it for
him.

V. "The LikudQs Opportunity"

Conservative columnist Nadav Haetzni wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (12/10): QThere is hardly any movement in Israel whose
ideological and historical base are as relevant today as it was when
Zeev Jabotinsky created it in the 20th century.... The LikudQs
popularity in the polls doesnQt stem from Benjamin NetanyahuQs aura,
but from the wish to pursue another course that can lead in the
opposite direction than the one Israelis have been led to for many
years -Q the opposite direction from Oslo, the opposite way from
Qdisengagement, the opposite way from QcalmQ.... Perhaps for the
first time [Likud] can bring into fruition this new-old course.

CUNNINGHAM

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