Cablegate: Netanyahu's Right Gets Louder, Bolder

DE RUEHTV #1854/01 2330807
P 210807Z AUG 09



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Following a tour of illegal outposts by four
cabinet ministers on August 17 (reftel), and ahead of Netanyahu's
expected meeting in London next week with Senator Mitchell, some
right wing members of the government have continued to up their
rhetoric in support of settlements and against the Israeli left.
This included support from Likud and coalition members for a
high-profile and controversial visit to Israel by former candidate
for the Republican presidential nomination and former Governor of
Arkansas Mike Huckabee, whose said the purpose of his trip was to
support settlements, including in East Jerusalem. In addition, Vice
Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon,
speaking to an extreme right-wing Likud faction that has opposed
Netanyahu's party leadership, reportedly referred to the Israeli
left as a "virus," attacked the media, said the Supreme Court was
authority without responsibility, called for a complete cut-off of
humanitarian support to Gaza, and reiterated that Jews should be
able to live anywhere in the Land of Israel. The Prime Minister's
Bureau was quick to distance the PM from Ya'alon's remarks,
releasing a statement that "The remarks made by Minister Ya'alon are
unacceptable, neither in their essence nor in their style, and do
not represent the government's stance." Netanyahu seems to have
put the issue to rest after a meeting he had with Ya'alon the
evening of August 20. END SUMMARY.

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Huckabee Helps Right, Settlers Grab the Spotlight
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) During the evening of August 17, at least one Knesset
member, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), co-hosted a dinner for former
candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination and former
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at the disputed Shepherd's Hotel in
East Jerusalem. The event was sponsored by the messianic,
pro-settlement group Ateret Cohanim, and funded by American
millionaire Irving Moskowitz. Huckabee said that the purpose of his
trip was to show American support for settlement expansion,
including in East Jerusalem, and to let Israel know that not all
Americans support the administration's stand opposing settlements.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beitenu) also met with
Huckabee during his trip.

--------------------------------------------- -----
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3. (SBU) However, the Israeli media gave far more high profile
coverage to remarks reportedly made by Minister Ya'alon, who as Vice
Prime Minister is designated as the number two official in the
government. The headlines were dominated on August 20 by a leaked
speech Ya'alon gave over the weekend to the Jewish Leadership Forum,
an extreme right-wing Likud faction led by Moshe Feiglin, who has
opposed Netanyahu's party leadership. NOTE: Following the Likud
primary last year, Netanyahu changed the rules for forming the Likud
party list to ensure Feiglin would not get a seat in the Knesset.

4. (U) During the speech, Ya'alon reportedly said that the media
has power over the Prime Minister and that they "influence public
discourse in a distorted, mendacious, manipulative and deceptive
way." He also said the Supreme Court, along with the elites and the
media, are "focal points of power with authority but with no
responsibility. That isn't democratic. They have no responsibility.
They don't give any accounting." He reiterated his point that some
outposts are not illegal and should be legalized, saying that "the
Jews need to live everywhere in the Land of Israel forever. On
Gaza, he said "we need to disengage completely from the Gaza Strip.
. .not electricity, not water, not vegetables and not fruit.
Neither a supply of food nor money." He called Peace Now a "virus"
and said that the Israeli left has seriously damaged the strategic
interests of Israel. Ya'alon, a former IDF Chief of General Staff,
also was quoted as saying that whenever Israeli politicians bring
doves of peace, the army has to clean up after them and that he was
"not afraid of the Americans."

5. (U) Public response was swift, including from the Prime
Minister. The Prime Minister's Office released a statement that
"Minister Ya'alon's statements are unacceptable to the Prime
Minister, both in substance and in style, and do not represent the
government's position." However, after a meeting that Netanyahu and
Ya'alon held the evening of August 20 at which Netanyahu was
supposed to reprimand Ya'alon, the Prime Minister's bureau indicated
the issue was settled. According to press reports, Ya'alon said his
comments were taken out of context, for example he called Peace
Now's actions a virus and not the people of Peace Now, and
underlined that he did not intend to go against the PM or his
policies. This is not the first time Ya'alon has caused problems
for the Prime Minister. Earlier this month, he threatened to resign
if amendments were not made to a land reform bill that was a pet

TEL AVIV 00001854 002 OF 002

issue for Netanyahu.

6. (U) Even after the meeting between the PM and Ya'alon, Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), a former Peace Now activist who was
injured during a deadly hand grenade attack on a Peace Now rally in
1983 by a right-wing extremist, expressed concern about the
statements: "I am also opposed to some of the actions of Peace Now,
no less than Ya'alon, but I am firmly opposed to the use of
dangerous and severe phrases such as viruses." (NOTE: An editorial
in Yedioth Ahronoth points out that the perpetrator of the 1983
attack also called Peace Now a virus. END NOTE.) Steinitz added
that he is sure Ya'alon regrets the statements.

7. (U) The spokesperson for the opposition Kadima party responded
to Ya'alon's speech by saying that "these are Netanyahu's true
colors. . . the vice prime minister shattered into pieces
Netanyahu's deception and illusion policy and proved where the
government is really headed. As long as he is a member of the
government, what Netanyahu says outside doesn't matter. What matters
is what he promised Boogie [Ya'alon's nickname] inside. The
Bibi-Boogie-Feiglin axis endangers Israel's interests and the
ability to reach an agreement maintaining them."

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Ya'alon is a controversial figure who was forced
out of the command of the IDF by Sharon over his opposition to the
Gaza disengagement. During the election campaign, Netanyahu
recruited Ya'alon to join Likud, made him Vice Prime Minister and
Minister of Strategic Affairs, and then appointed him as a member of
his inner cabinet of six. In our contacts with Ya'alon, he has been
careful not to appear anti-U.S. or to go beyond his well-publicized
views that peace with the Palestinians will require years of
bottom-up reform of Palestinian society and institutions. Now that
Ya'alon appears to be maneuvering to position himself as a leader of
Likud's right wing opposition to concessions, Netanyahu probably
regrets his decision. The opposition Kadima party, for its part,
likely appreciated the opportunity to use Ya'alon's remarks to link
Netanyahu with Feiglin, who is considered an extremist in mainstream


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