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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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P 301053Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 1387
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 5218
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5594
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 4820
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 3249
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 5593
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2431
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0656
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RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 6870
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002918

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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Gaza Operation

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Key stories in the media:
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Leading media reported that yesterday two more Israelis were killed
by Hamas rocket fire -Q a woman in Ashdod and a soldier in Nahal Oz,
in the vicinity of Gaza. Seven Israelis were wounded in the Hamas
attacks. Israel Radio reported that 10 Palestinians were killed in
an IAF raid on the Hamas government compound in Gaza. So far three
hundred and sixty Palestinians have been killed in the IDF
operation. Over the past few days all media have underlined verbal
clashes between Egypt and other Muslim nations, as well as the
killing of an Egyptian officer by Hamas. All media reported that
the IDF is bracing for an IDF ground offensive. Israel Radio quoted
the international daily Al-Hayat citing sources in Cairo as saying
that Ankara and Cairo have warned that Hizbullah will attack Israel
if the latter starts a ground offensive in Gaza. Yediot quoted an
Israeli military source as saying yesterday that Israel will not let
itself be dragged into a conflict with Hizbullah and that it will
not initiate any move against Lebanon.

HaQaretz quoted PM Ehud Olmert as saying yesterday at a meeting with
FM Tzipi Livni and DM Ehud Barak: QIsrael will use an iron fist
against Hamas but will apply a soft hand toward the [Palestinian]
population.Q Leading media quoted Olmert as saying that Israel will
no longer consider a cease-fire proposal. Israel Radio quoted
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev as saying yesterday in
an interview with the AP that the goal of the operation was to
destroy Hamas and that it would continue as long as necessary until
Hamas was dismantled. Shalev stressed that Israel would not agree
to a return to the previous cease-fire conditions and that it was
demanding guarantees and commitments that Hamas would not fire
rockets at its citizens anymore.

Israel Radio reported that Egypt has developed a cease-fire formula
with Turkish leaders that includes the opening of crossings to Gaza.
HaQaretz quoted Foreign Ministry sources as saying yesterday that
the Qinternational hourglassQ would allow Israel to continue its
operation, at most, until January 5. HaQaretz reported that tonight
France and Britain will present a proposal aimed at forcing a
cease-fire on Israel and Hamas Q initially, a two-day calm.
HaQaretz quoted a Foreign Ministry source as saying that the
QBritish are promoting a very bad proposal for Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday U.S. Senator Arlen
Specter carried a message from PM Olmert to Syrian President Bashar
Assad despite SyriaQs announcement it had broken off its indirect
talks with Israel. Major media reported yesterday that Turkey
suspended mediation between Israel and Syria.

HaQaretz and other media reported that IsraelQs three principal
ministers agreed yesterday to allow Qatar to airlift humanitarian
aid to Gaza in the coming days. Several aircraft from the Persian
Gulf nation will land in Israel, and from there food and medicine
will be transferred by truck to Gaza. Israel Radio reported that a
boat carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza and an Israel Navy patrol
collided yesterday when the former tried to dodge the latter.

Leading media reported that Arab cabinet minister Raleb Majadele
protested against the operation and boycotted the cabinet session.
PM Olmert subsequently refused to let him go on a trip to Jordan.

HaQaretz quoted prominent liberal writer Amos Oz as saying in the
Italian daily Corriere Della Sera that Hamas is responsible for the
latest flare-up, but that a cease-fire must be reached.

---------------
Gaza Operation:
---------------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: QFor now, Israel enjoys the
support of the U.S. administration. But as January 20 approaches,
the date of Barack Obama's inauguration, Israel must be well
Qpost-Gaza.

Washington correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya wrote in Ha'aretz: QIf
the operation continues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatens
to harm the new U.S. president even before he utters the first world
of his swearing-in on January 20.

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: Q[A possible option besides a cease-fire
would be]: Let there be a clear balance of terror, let them know
that that if they fire, they will be met with such a powerful blow
that their ears will ring for a long time afterwards.

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot: QWith all the enthusiasm over the black
smoke forming over Gaza, [Israeli politicians] tend to forget the
operation's goal: Forcing Hamas to agree to a cease-fire on terms
that Israel is willing to meet.

Prominent liberal author David Grossman wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz: QIsrael's leaders know well that given the situation in
the Gaza Strip, it will be very hard to reach a total and
unequivocal military solution.... Therefore, stop. Hold your
fire.

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: QIf
Israel can deflate Hamas, it will be advancing an Arab interest as
much as its own citizens' security.

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

I. "Knowing When to End It"

Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/30): QFor now, Israel enjoys
the support of the U.S. administration. But as January 20
approaches, the date of Barack Obama's inauguration, Israel must be
well Qpost-Gaza.Q Don't think that Obama will focus exclusively on
the economic crisis as his first priority. A president can take a
stance on several issues at once -- and we don't know what his
stance will be on this war and all its ramifications if we fail to
end it at the right time. There is no doubt that Barak is aware of
all the possible complications. And no one understands better than
he that while it is impossible to make Hamas disappear and it is
impossible to completely destroy its missile-launching capabilities,
it is possible to destroy its motivation to use them. Just as he
knew when and how to begin the operation, we must hope that he will
also know when to end it.
II. "First Complication before the Inauguration"

Washington correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya wrote in Ha'aretz
(12/30): QThe last thing the new [U.S.] administration needs is
escalation in the Middle East. The operation has only begun, but
its first days have brought no good tidings: Together with the
freeze of the talks with the Palestinian Authority, the
disappearance of the Syrian track, and growing fury in the Arab
world, this might leave ObamaQs diplomacy scorched earth.... The
pictures of the bodies from Gaza, broadcast worldwide, have started
gnawing into the credit [Obama] has won in the Arab world.
Ultimately, if the operation continues, the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict threatens to harm the new U.S. president even before he
utters the first world of his swearing-in on January 20.

III. "Towards a Balance of Terror with Hamas"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (12/30): QIsrael did not declare that its
goal was to topple the Hamas government in this operation, and it's
good that it didn't. But Qalong the way,Q there is an opportunity
here.... How will it end? In a new truce agreement, or without it.
What is known as a de facto truce. That, incidentally is what the
decision-makers in Israel would prefer. No more agreements with
Hamas. Let there be a clear balance of terror, let them know that
that if they fire, they will be met with such a powerful blow that
their ears will ring for a long time afterwards. When will it end?
We don't know. The security cabinet ministers approved a lengthy
operation of many stages. We are only at the end of the first
stage. The other stages have also been approved -- unless it is
decided to cancel them. At the moment, we are continuing as usual.
On the other hand, some think that the proposal of French Foreign
Minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday, in a phone conversation with
Ehud Barak, for a lull of 48 hours in strikes for Qhumanitarian
purposesQ could be a good ladder. Israel would stop its activity
for two days to allow the Palestinians to remove the injured and
receive help. If, in these two days, Hamas does not launch rockets,
we can close up shop. And have quiet for a long time. If they do,
we continue as usual. In the meantime, none of the people at the
top (Olmert and Barak) are listening to this idea.

IV. "Remember 2006"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/30): QEmbarking on the operation was
justified, even if belated. However, past experience has taught us
that a successful beginning does not necessarily ensure a fitting
end: The classic example, and not the only one in our history, is
the gap between the opening act of the Second Lebanon War and its
closing act.... I would like to believe that Barak is talking about
the fighting lasting a long time only in order to convince Hamas
that Israel did not embark on this operation holding a stopwatch.
The more Hamas is convinced that Israel has no time limitations, the
quicker it will be to ask for a cease-fire. Declarations about the
operation continuing are psychological warfare. The problem is that
politicians tend to forget who they're trying to trick, the enemy or
their people. What begins as a deception ruse for the enemy ends
with self-deception.... With all the enthusiasm over the black smoke
forming over Gaza, [Israeli politicians] tend to forget the
operation's goal: Forcing Hamas to agree to a cease-fire on terms
that Israel is willing to meet. That is the goal that Olmert, Livni
and Barak and the overwhelming majority of Israelis agree on: Not
occupation and not toppling. The moment that Hamas agrees to a
cease-fire, the operation is supposed to end. This is also a lesson
that should have been learned from the mistakes of 2006: In war, you
have to know how to end on time.

V. QStop. Hold Your Fire

Prominent liberal author David Grossman wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz (12/30): QIsrael's leaders know well that given the
situation in the Gaza Strip, it will be very hard to reach a total
and unequivocal military solution.... Therefore, stop. Hold your
fire. Try for once to act against the usual response, in contrast
to the lethal logic of belligerence. There will always be a chance
to start firing again. War, as Barak said about two weeks ago, will
not run away. International support for Israel will not be damaged,
and will even grow, if we show calculated restraint and invite the
international and Arab community to intervene and mediate. It is
true that Hamas will thus receive a respite with which to
reorganize, but it has had long years to do so, and two more days
will not really make a difference. And such a calculated lull might
change the way Hamas responds to the situation. The response could
even give it an honorable way out of the trap it has set for itself.
And one more, unavoidable thought: Had we adopted this attitude in
July 2006, after Hizbullah abducted the soldiers, had we stopped
then, after our first response, and declared we were holding our
fire for a day or two to mediate and calm things down, the reality
today might be entirely different. This is also a lesson the
government should learn from that war. In fact, it might be the
most important lesson.

VI. QArab Elites vs. Hamas

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/30):
QNasrallah is half-right. Arab elites suffer from a sort of split
personality disorder. Even as they are trying to pull Hamas's
chestnuts out of the fire by pressing Washington to lean on Israel
to back off, they know that Hamas (like Hizbullah and the Muslim
Brotherhood) threatens not just their own regimes, but political
development in the Arab world. If only the Jordanian and Saudi
monarchs, Gulf emirs and the Egyptian president would stand up to
the Islamists. How? They should be incrementally fostering
transparent government and the rule of law, and socializing their
masses to the idea of tolerance and majority rule while respecting
the minority. That would promote political institution-building and
social stability. The Arab elites need to offer their people an
alternative to Islamist extremism. They could begin by redefining
what it means to be pro-Palestinian and dissociating the Palestinian
cause from anti-Israel rejectionism. In this context, if Israel
can deflate Hamas, it will be advancing an Arab interest as much as
its own citizens' security.

CUNNINGHAM

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