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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 2488
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 6497
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 6721
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 5967
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 4590
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 6813
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 3588
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1804
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0478
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RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 2997
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001953

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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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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All major media led by quoting a senior source in the Prime
MinisterQs Office as saying that PM Benjamin Netanyahu will soon
approve the construction of hundreds of new housing units in West
Bank settlements before he declares a moratorium on building in
those locales. The source was quoted as saying that Netanyahu
informed U.S. officials of his decision to authorize the
construction a few weeks ago. The hundreds of units whose
construction Netanyahu is expected to approve will join some 2,500
housing units currently being built, whose construction will not be
halted. Officials from the PMQs Bureau were quoted as saying that
Netanyahu "will agree to consider a temporary freezeQ on
construction in the West Bank for a few months after he approves the
additional building permits. Major media quoted Netanyahu as saying
in closed talks that he will be prepared to go ahead with the move
to promote President Obama's peace plan and jump-start stalled peace
talks. "The Americans do not agree with [the approval of new
housing units] and are not happy about it, but we put it on the
table a long time ago," the source told HaQaretz. The immediate
future of construction in West Bank settlements will be determined
in talks between Israeli officials and U.S. Special Envoy for Middle
East Peace Senator George Mitchell, who will visit Israel next week.
The issue could be decided in Mitchell's two-day visit, which will
begin on Thursday, according to the source. HaQaretz wrote that the
precise length of the moratorium is still subject to debate, and the
U.S. and Israel are negotiating on this issue. Netanyahu does not
agree to a freeze exceeding a period of six months, while the
Americans are insisting on a nine-month period. Israel Radio cited
PA President Mahmoud AbbasQs hope that Israel will implement a
construction freeze in the settlements, which would open the way to
the resumption of the talks. Abbas was quoted as saying that,
otherwise, nothing will happen.

Israel Radio reported that senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat
dismissed NetanyahuQs planned move as detrimental to peace.
Media quoted Silvan Shalom (Likud), Vice PM and Minister for
Regional Development and the Development of the Negev and the
Galilee, and Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon, as saying over the
past couple of days that LikudQs institutions and Knesset members
are not likely to endorse a freeze in settlement construction. The
Jerusalem Post made the same prediction. Speaking on Israel Radio
yesterday, Shalom recalled that Likud had founded the settlement
movement. Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that the opponents of a
construction freeze in the settlements enjoy a comfortable majority
in the cabinet.

Israel Radio reported that last night the IAF bombed a tunnel in
southern Gaza likely meant to smuggle people intent on attacking
Israeli soldiers or civilians. There were no Palestinian
casualties.

Leading media reported that Norway's Finance Minister, Kristin
Halvorsen, announced at a press conference in Oslo that the country
had decided to drop the Israeli electronics firm Elbit Systems from
the Norwegian pension fund investments due to its role in supplying
technology for the separation fence. While HaQaretz cited the
Israeli Foreign MinistryQs low-key response, Israel Radio said that
Israel was Qgreatly disappointedQ by the Norwegian move and The
Jerusalem Post noted that Israeli diplomatic officials reacted
rapidly because they did not want to play into the hands of the
ruling QRed-GreenQ government, which they said was using this issue
to curry favor with a specific part of the Norwegian electorate.

The media (banner in Makor Rishon-Hatzofe) quoted State Comptroller
Micha Lindenstrauss as saying that Jonathan Pollard was not granted
a fair trial in the U.S.

Leading media reported that the Tel Aviv exhibition depicting
various female Palestinian suicide bombers as the Virgin Mary
holding baby Jesus was quickly taken down following an outcry from
the families of those killed or wounded in the attacks, as well as
by organizations that represent terror victims.

The media reported that Hamas political chief Khaled Mashal is
expected to arrive Saturday in Cairo for a round of talks with
Egyptian officials, attended by the organization's top-brass from
Gaza and Damascus. One of the topics up for discussion will be a
deal for the release of Gilad Shalit. Besides ShalitQs return, the
parties will also discuss talks for reconciliation between Hamas and
Fatah. However, HaQaretz says that this track is seen as having few
chances to succeed, making it likelier that the parties will focus
on the prisoner deal, instead.

HaQaretz, The Jerusalem Post, and Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that
Supreme Court Justice Hanan Meltzer (or Melcer) and other justices
hinted yesterday that the State Prosecution discriminates between
Arabs and Jews with regard to illegal construction on the West Bank,
to the latter's detriment. The court was hearing a petition by
Regavim, a group that works "to preserve the nation's lands," which
demanded to know why the state is not destroying homes built without
permits in the Arab village of Yatma, near the settlement of
Rehalim.

The Jerusalem Post and other media cited the Russian daily
Kommersant as saying that Russia has signed a contract to sell
MiG-29M fighters to Syria, but that it has not yet begun delivering
the planes.

Yediot cited minutes from an IDF General Staff meeting which show
that the 1992 assassination of Hizbullah leader Abbas Musawi was
badly planned -- originally as an intelligence operation. Israel
paid a heavy price for the killing and lost the possibility of
getting back MIA Ron Arad.

The Jerusalem Post reported that ex-FBI agent Richard Marquise, who
led the U.S. probe into the Lockerbie bombing, told the newspaper
that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi must have personally approved the
attack on Pan Am Flight 103.


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1. Mideast:
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Block Quotes:
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I. "A Question of Trust"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/4): QTepid, cold,
frozen: Benjamin Netanyahu is now officially willing to declare a
settlement construction freeze on condition that this is called a
temporary suspension, not a freeze. Netanyahu is the first prime
minister of the right wing who is willing to announce a settlement
construction freeze in the territories.... Netanyahu is walking a
thin political wire. In order not to bring down on himself a
rebellion in the Likud faction, he has to sweeten the suspension
pill with promises to approve construction plans for hundreds of
housing units before the agreement goes into effect; but he has to
do this without betraying the trust of the Americans, without giving
the Arab states a good excuse to get out of the agreement, and
without depicting Ehud Barak as a liar.... The outrage of the right
wing is understandable, which views every comprise step by Netanyahu
as a betrayal of the voters' will. That said, they have to remember
that the voter is not the only one who decides in the world. Obama,
who was elected by a much more persuasive majority than Netanyahu,
is now discovering that the mandate he received is not unlimited.
There are constraints, disappointments, shifts in public opinion,
compromises without which even the strongest man in the world cannot
make progress of one millimeter. The Prime Minister's power of
persuasion is great. Netanyahu can obtain a majority in the Likud
for any decision he wants. But there is one option that he should
pass on: an attempt to have his cake and eat it too. That won't fly
in Washington. It won't fly here.

II. "Detecting Mines"

Political and parties columnist Sima Kadmon wrote on page one of
Yediot Aharonot (9/4): QWhat is now clear in Likud is that the bad
will come neither from the north nor from the south [a play on a
Biblical verse], but from home. It is true that there wonQt be
revolutions as long as there is no American diplomatic plan. But it
is already possible to see how this might work: the Council of
Jewish Settlements in the Territories, which has both the funds and
the ambition, will focus on Likud. It can be conjectured that if
Netanyahu makes concessions, it wonQt be necessary to topple Likud.
Its leader can be replaced.

III. "The Waiting Period"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (9/4): QAt the time of this writing, Israel is gearing
towards the yearned-for concurrence with the U.S. regarding the
settlements. Netanyahu doesnQt want to call this a Qfreeze,
because there has long been a freeze on the ground (no construction,
period). Another word is being looked for. The leading term is
Qwaiting.Q Do you remember the waiting period in 1967?... TodayQs
QwaitingQ is supposed to lead to negotiations, not to war....
Netanyahu is waiting for gestures from the Arab world.

IV. "Trading Places"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning HaQaretz (9/4): QAfter another decade of wars and
disappointments, it's tough to sell the QNew Middle EastQ in a new
wrapping to cynical populations that have long since lost all belief
in impassioned speeches promising peace and change. But Obama's
declaration will have immediate strategic importance. By presenting
a two-year timetable for the peace agreements, the President will
make it clear that dealing with Iran is more urgent than
establishing an independent Palestine alongside Israel. That will
be a major diplomatic achievement for Netanyahu.... While Obama was
sinking, Netanyahu behaved like a responsible adult. He refrained
from flamboyant military actions that could kindle the region and
compel Obama to deal with body-strewn crises. He effectively froze
authorizations for new construction in the settlements, and he
announced his acceptance of the principle of a two-state solution.
He dismantled West Bank checkpoints and toned down his anti-Iran
rhetoric (until his Berlin visit last week, when he returned to the
analogy between a nuclear Iran and Auschwitz). He even apologized
to Israel's QelitesQ for his inflammatory remarks against them in
his previous term as prime minister. At the same time, to preserve
his right-wing base, Netanyahu announced new construction for Jews
in East Jerusalem and also quarreled with Sweden. Obama will have
to swallow Netanyahu's declarations that Jerusalem is the Qeternal
capital of the Jewish peopleQ.... There are few supporters of the
settlements in Congress, but the unity of Jerusalem has been an
accepted mantra for many years. Netanyahu has entrenched himself in
a position that will enable him to recruit supporters in Washington,
while avoiding both blatant lobbying on Capitol Hill and publicly
embracing the President's rivals, as he did with Clinton. Under
these circumstances, Netanyahu has a chance for a good second round
with Obama.

V. "Taking a Cue from Kosovo"

Military correspondent Yaakov Katz wrote in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (9/4): QThe KSF (Kosovo Security Force)
is in many ways similar to the Palestinian security forces currently
being trained by U.S. Lt.-Gen Keith Dayton in Jordan.... Another
organization that operates in Kosovo is called EULEX ... a European
Union force consisting of police officers and contractors who are
helping the new government establish a Western-style police force, a
judiciary system and a prison service.... Sound familiar? The
reason is that in the West Bank the EU is doing the same thing for
the Palestinian Authority, although with a different name --
EUCOPPS.... The issue of recognition is important for Kosovars, many
of whom asked that the Jerusalem Post use its influence to get Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize their year-old country....
Despite the vague similarities, Kosovo is a lifetime away from the
Arab-Israeli conflict, and is currently considered a major success
for NATO.

VI. "Upping the Ante"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in the
independent, left-Ha'aretz (9/4): QIn three years, Gilad Shalit has
also become a disputed asset between various extremes in the Middle
East. It was enough to listen carefully to Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak in Washington two weeks ago to understand Shalit's
importance in the Arab arena. Mubarak, violating understandings
between all the interested parties, disclosed Germany's involvement
in the negotiations for his release and praised its cooperation....
Gilad Shalit has developed from a bargaining chip between Israel and
Hamas into a focus of power struggles between regional extremes. As
the bargaining process has dragged on, more and more elements have
seen the Shalit deal as a source of control and honor. The question
now is how an agreement for his release could catalyze other
processes that from the outset should not have been connected to
it.

VII. "Stability and the Balance of Deterrence"

Yair Evron, Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University and a research
fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, wrote in
HaQaretz (9/4): QThe most important step [in the Middle East] must
be reducing the likelihood of a regional crisis which could give
rise to the failure of deterrence. One must make every effort to
strengthen regional stability to as great an extent as possible. An
example of such would be an American-Israeli-Syrian arrangement that
would be highly crucial for stabilizing the Syrian-Lebanese front.
Such an arrangement, which is needed anyway for Israel's national
interest, bears the utmost importance in the context of

Israeli-Iranian deterrence. It is baffling that the Government of
Israel, which loudly sounds the siren to warn of the Iranian threat,
does not understand that a stabilizing diplomatic arrangement with
Syria is far more important than haggling over pieces of territory.
Finally, one ought to appreciate a general lesson drawn from the
nuclear era: Nuclear weapons are aimed solely to deter rather than
for actual use.

CUNNINGHAM

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