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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 08 TEL AVIV 006855

SIPDIS

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
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL FOR POLAD/USIA ADVISOR
COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE FOR PAO/POLAD
COMSIXTHFLT FOR 019

JERUSALEM ALSO FOR ICD
LONDON ALSO FOR HKANONA AND POL
PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: IS KMDR MEDIA REACTION REPORT
SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

-------------------------------
SUBJECT COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
-------------------------------

1. Israel and the Iranian Nuclear Program
2. Israeli Election Campaigns
3. Palestinian Leadership and the West

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

The Jerusalem Post reports that the IDF resumed
"targeted assassinations" in the wake of the Netanya
terror attack and killed a prominent Rafah terrorist
commander Mahmud Arkan. Some 10 bystanders were
injured when an Air Force aircraft fired at Arkan's
car.

Haaretz reports that Israel halted discussions with the
PA on the establishment of the safe passage, a shuttle
service between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The
passage was agreed on when Secretary of State Rice
visited Israel, and was to be opened on 15 December.
The Israeli cabinet noted that contact with the PA
would resume once the latter take steps against terror
organizations.

In a related report, the Jerusalem Post said that the
Palestinian Football Association decided that
Palestinian soccer players who attended the highly
publicized game in Barcelona last week would be
punished.

Yediot Aharonot reports that yesterday, the PA endorsed
an act according to which families of Palestinians who
were "martyred" will be given a $250 monthly allowance
or more. Israel is reportedly trying to obtain a copy
of the act "to show the world that Abu-Mazen is not
fighting terror as expected of him."

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and the Diplomatic Security Service
operating out of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv are in the
midst of an ongoing fraud investigation against the
Black Hebrews of Dimona. Members of the community are
suspected of social security and passport fraud to the
tune of millions of dollars.

The Jerusalem Post and other media carry front-page
stories on Tzahi Hanegbi's transition to Sharon's
Kadima party, announced Wednesday. Hanegbi quit his
post as interim Likud chairman and resigned from the
Knesset. Cosmetics queen Pnina Rosenblum is set to
replace Hanegbi in the Knesset, and a group of Likud
officials led by Health Minister Dan Naveh will take
over the interim leadership of the party until the
December 19 Likud primary. Addressing the media
Wednesday, Hanegbi announced his move, saying he could
no longer support any of the Likud leading candidates,
Haaretz reported.

Reacting to the move, a Sharon associate remarked: "We
dismantled the Likud," Haaretz says. Netanyahu said
Hanegbi is in trouble with the police, so he should not
be judged harshly; while Mofaz, another Likud
contender, warned that the party is in "deep crisis,"
and might become extreme right under Netanyahu.

In a related story, the Jerusalem Post says Likud MK
Binyamin Netanyahu, candidate for party leader, signed
a document calling for strengthening West Bank
settlements and holding referenda on future territorial
concessions in return for MK Uzi Landau's endorsement
of his candidacy and quitting the party leadership
race. The document, said to "shift the Likud
rightwards," also rules out unilateral withdrawals and
negotiations with the Palestinians before they
eliminate terror, violence, and incitement.

The media report that, starting today, the current
cabinet is a transition government in which the prime
minister may appoint ministers without the Knesset's
approval. Haaretz reports that Sharon is considering
new nominations, as Likud ministers are expected to
quit the cabinet after a new Likud chairman is elected
on 19 December.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the United States and
Israel signed an agreement Wednesday to begin a joint
effort to help detect the smuggling of radioactive
materials.

Citing a senior defense official, Yediot Aharonot
reports that Iranian procurement of nuclear weapons
would make the entire Middle East obtain nuclear arms.
The source said that under an Iranian nuclear umbrella,
the Middle East conflict would become completely
different. The official said the Iranians would be
able to prove that persistence and determination is
enough to repel the international community, make the
NPT collapse, and start a nuclear arms race in the
region. The presence of nuclear arms in Iran, he said,
would pose a direct and unique threat against Israel,
and even if a bomb were not thrown at Israel once
obtained, Israel would not be able to live with such a
constant threat. The source added that Iran's religion-
based hatred for Israel would not be toned down through
dialogue or compromises as Iran keeps trying to export
the Islamic revolution to the Middle East, the sources
remarked.

Haaretz reports that the United States is trying to
"torpedo" a $1.25 billion arms deal between Israel and
South Korea, in which Israel's bid for the sale of four
early-warning and intelligence aircrafts is some $400
million lower than US Boeing's. The Israeli systems
include US-made components, and US sources have
reportedly told the South Koreans that Israel will
encounter difficulties trying to obtain the US
permission to sell them. Israeli defense sources
expressed concern over the "increasing involvement of
the US Administration in Israeli security exports
policies", saying it has been "held hostage" by the
Administration that does not hesitate to impose its
will on the Israeli Government, guided in most cases by
commercial competition.

Yediot Aharonot reports that CIA agents toured the site
of the Netanya bombing Wednesday to study damages
caused by such explosions which, police sources said,
serves the US Army in Iraq.

Maariv reports that, speaking before the Knesset
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Deputy Chief of
Staff Moshe Kaplinsky said that only some 275km of the
planned 759km-long separation fence are in place and
active, and that of the planned 39 passages, 11 have
been built. He added that the fence will be completed
by the end of 2006 at the cost of some 9.5 billion
shekels. Committee Chairman Steinintz blamed the High
Court of Justice for the delay and the "heavy price"
this collects from the Israeli citizens.

1. Israel and the Iranian Nuclear Program

Summary
-----------

Veteran columnist Uri Dan writes in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post: "From Israel's
perspective, the danger of the Iranian nuclear program
is different from the Iraqi one - not only
geographically, topographically and technologically -
but also internationally. Now, not only the United
States recognizes the existence of the great danger,
but so does Europe - including, this time, France..
The Iranian nuclear program is being carried out with
more deceit and trickery than Saddam Hussein employed
in 1981. Teheran's bazaar has always been more
dangerous than Baghdad's thieves' market. We can
assume that Sharon, who as agriculture minister was
instrumental in bringing about the bombing of the
Baghdad reactor, knows a quarter of a century later as
prime minister what he is talking about when he
declares that 'Israel and others cannot allow a
situation to emerge where Iran becomes a nuclear
power.'"

Bloc quotes
-------------

"Between Baghdad and Teheran"

Veteran columnist Uri Dan writes in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post: "From Israel's
perspective, the danger of the Iranian nuclear program
is different from the Iraqi one - not only
geographically, topographically and technologically -
but also internationally. Now, not only the United
States recognizes the existence of the great danger,
but so does Europe - including, this time, France.
Unlike the world's indifference to the threat made by
Saddam Hussein in spring 1990 that he would 'burn half
of Israel,' the international community recently
hurried to condemn the threat made by President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad to 'wipe Israel off the map.' The
international pressure on Iran may already have led to
delays in the implementation of its nuclear program.
Life has taught Sharon how difficult it is to keep
secrets. 'I cannot shut people up,' he says. 'Israel

SIPDIS
does not need to be the one to lead the struggle,' he
recently explained to me. 'We must enable the US and
the European community to manage the diplomatic battle,
including in the Security Council, against Iran's
secret nuclear plan. If Israel spearheads this

SIPDIS
campaign, the Europeans - who have important economic
interests in Iran - will view themselves as exempt from
having to deal with it. And that is unacceptable given
that the situation has only gotten even more grave
since the election of the new Iranian president.' That
is why Sharon has given orders to maintain continual
contact with the White House, the Elysee Palace in
Paris and 10 Downing Street in order to update the
leaders in real time. The Iranian nuclear program is
being carried out with more deceit and trickery than
Saddam Hussein employed in 1981. Teheran's bazaar has
always been more dangerous than Baghdad's thieves'
market. We can assume that Sharon, who as agriculture
minister was instrumental in bringing about the bombing
of the Baghdad reactor, knows a quarter of a century
later as prime minister what he is talking about when
he declares that 'Israel and others cannot allow a
situation to emerge where Iran becomes a nuclear
power.'"


2. Israeli Election Campaigns

Summary
------------

Senior diplomatic correspondent Shimon Schiffer writes
in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The
step Tzahi Hanegbi took yesterday is liable to be
viewed in another few months as the last nail that was
hammered into the Likud's coffin.. The real and
powerful political earthquake will strike Israel on the
day after the elections are held, once all the ballot
boxes have been opened: the absolute collapse of the
Likud, and two parties that will compete against one
another over who forms the next government-Kadima under
Sharon's leadership or the Labor Party under Peretz.
The Likud will trail far behind, somewhere between Shas
and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu."

Bloc quotes
--------------
"The Last Nail"

Senior diplomatic correspondent Shimon Schiffer writes
in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The
step Tzahi Hanegbi took yesterday is liable to be
viewed in another few months as the last nail that was
hammered into the Likud's coffin. It dashed the dream
of the greater Land of Israel once and for all.
Hanegbi's departure for Kadima lends greater weight to
the assessment that the upcoming elections have already
been decided, for all intents and purposes. The real
and powerful political earthquake will strike Israel on
the day after the elections are held, once all the
ballot boxes have been opened: the absolute collapse of
the Likud, and two parties that will compete against
one another over who forms the next government --
Kadima under Sharon's leadership or Labor under Peretz.
The Likud will trail far behind, somewhere between Shas
and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu. Binyamin
Netanyahu chose to respond to Hanegbi's decision to
quit the party in the nastiest way conceivable: he said
that Hanegbi is in a state of distress because of the
police decision to recommend that he be indicted.
Please, come on. Netanyahu, apparently, suffers from
amnesia. He has had his own personal share of
experience being questioned by the police, and he
managed to emerge intact only by the skin of his teeth.
Tzahi Hanegbi decided to join Sharon irrespective of
the police investigation. He intended to convene a
press conference and to announce his decision on Monday
-- two days before the police announced their
recommendation -- but the terror attack in Netanya
prompted him to delay his announcement by a day. The
prime minister never explicitly asked Hanegbi to join
him in Kadima, but that option remained a possibility
as soon as Sharon quit the Likud. Sharon gives Tzahi
Hanegbi the highest marks among his former Likud
colleagues. Sharon highly values Hanegbi's level-
headedness and the fact that he can hold a conversation
with him without the details immediately leaking to the
press. Hanegbi, conversely, admires Sharon's ability
to make decisions in crisis situations and his
leadership qualities, which he feels to be absent in
Netanyahu, Mofaz, and any of the other candidates for
the Likud leadership. Sharon's external advisers,
mainly the people responsible for doing the internal
polling, were opposed to having Hanegbi join Kadima.
They were afraid that Hanegbi would paint the list in
colors that were too blatantly right wing. Sharon
overruled his advisers.[...]The prime minister's aides
have been gleefully following the turn of events in the
ruins of what was once the Likud. People in Sharon's
bureau told a joke that is making the rounds in
Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Market at the Likud's
expense, and mainly at the expense of the person who is
most likely to be its leader. People in the market
say: 'Bibi's a ten [the equivalent of an A+ grade in
the Israeli school system]. Ten! He'll win the Likud
ten seats, but he's a ten.'"


3. Palestinian Leadership and the West

Summary
-----------

Independent, left-leaning Haaretz carries an article by
contributor Moshe Elad: "The political culture in the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip over the past four decades
shows a phenomenon unique to the Palestinian society:
the leadership confronting Israel is always more
democratic than its preceding leadership, but its
demands of Israel are more extreme.. Assuming that
history is repeating, come January we might find out
that the new partner Israel will have is very
democratic, but also presents Israel with extreme
demands. This will again place the key in Western
hands. All the pressure levers it has -- from severing
diplomatic ties to stopping the transfer of funds --
must be used against the future democratic PA
leadership to make it flexible, compromise, and seek
peace."

"The Key to Negotiations Is in Western Hands"

Independent, left-leaning Haaretz carries an article by
contributor Moshe Elad, the former IDF general who
served in the territories and currently studies the
Palestinian society. "The US failure to introduce a
democracy in Iraq should have taught the West at least
one important lesson -- when speaking of
democratization in the Middle East, it is not a choice
between an Arab dictatorship and a Western democracy,
but between a secular dictatorship with democratic
elements (such as in Egypt, Jordan, or Morocco) and a
fundamentalist-Islamic dictatorship (as in Iran and
Saudi Arabia). It is thus possible that a new
Palestinian leadership would be democratically elected
on 25 January, but the hope that such a leadership
would attain a peace accord with Israel is far from
realistic.. The political culture in the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip over the past four decades shows a
phenomenon unique to the Palestinian society: the
leadership confronting Israel is always more democratic
than its preceding leadership, but its demands of
Israel are more extreme.. The first intifadah ended
with the PLO's arrival in the territories, but because
its leadership was eventually viewed as too centrist,
complacent, and moderate, the Palestinian public
quickly found an alternative. The Al-Aksa intifadah
brought forth a combination of fundamentalist Hamas and
Islamic Jihad leaders with leaders of anarchistic gangs
that operate under the Palestinian government. They
will be the ones elected to the Legislative Council.
It is therefore rather nave for the US and Europe to
believe that 100 years of bloody conflicts between
Zionism and the Arab nationalist movement and more than
three decades of violent struggle between Israel and
the Palestinian would end if only Marwan Barguti and
his men are elected. Assuming that history is
repeating, come January we might find out that the new
partner Israel will have is very democratic, but also
presents Israel with extreme demands. This will again
place the key in Western hands. All the pressure
levers it has -- from severing diplomatic ties to
stopping the transfer of funds -- must be used against
the future democratic PA leadership to make it
flexible, compromise, and seek peace."
Jones

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