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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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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 bannered copies of the first letter sent by Gilad
Shalit in captivity in September or October 2006, two or three
months after he was abducted. In the missive, Shalit complained of
physical and mental hardships and asked the then Israeli leadership
for quick action towards his release. Some media wondered why the
Shalit family decided to divulge the contents of the letter at this
point. Israel Radio cited the official Chinese news agency Xinhua
as saying yesterday that a Norwegian defense representative met last
week with Hamas representatives to discuss the possibility that his
countries -- and other European states -- would take in prisoners
released by Israel in exchange for Shalit. The report allegedly
state that NorwayQs contacts with Hamas started after Germany became
involved in the mediation efforts, and that they dealt with the
number of prisoners to be deported to Europe.

The media speculated on the reason behind a 14-hour QholeQ in PM
Benjamin NetanyahuQs schedule on Monday. Refuting claims in the
Arab press that were relayed in some Israeli media that he had
visited Arab states, Yediot revealed that Netanyahu made a secret
visit to Russia, possibly to discuss sensitive Russian arms sales to
Iran or Syria. HaQaretz and other media cited press agency reports
saying that yesterday Russian FM Sergey Lavrov rejected speculation
that the QArctic Sea,Q a hijacked Russian-crewed freighter, was
carrying advanced S-300 missiles possibly destined for Iran.

Israel Radio quoted Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Husam Zaki
as saying that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not discuss the
Shalit affair during his meeting with PM Netanyahu on Sunday. Zaki
also reportedly said that Egypt does not condition NetanyahuQs visit
on a freeze in settlement construction and that the meeting should
not be viewed as an encouragement of continued construction.

Israel Radio reported that, during a meeting with incoming U.S.
Consul-General in Jerusalem Daniel Rubinstein, PA President Mahmoud
Abbas urged the U.S. to continue its efforts to put an end to
violations of the Roadmap.

Yediot reported that one third of the KnessetQs Likud faction
members are expected to take part in a meeting today that is
intended to apply pressure on the PM on the issue of settlement
construction. Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that at least four
Likud cabinet ministers will attend the session. The Jerusalem Post
reported that far-Right Likud activist Moshe Feiglin will be
prevented from speaking at the event. Speaking on Israel Radio from
Abuja, Nigeria, yesterday, FM Avigdor Lieberman said that the Right
would not bring down the government and that his party, Yisrael
Beiteinu, would not leave NetanyahuQs coalition in the face of the
anticipated freeze on new building in the West Bank.

The Jerusalem Post and other media reported that a group of public
figures on the Left will launch an initiative in upcoming weeks to
support PM Benjamin NetanyahuQs efforts to advance the peace
process. The group includes former ministers Ami Ayalon and Amnon
Lipkin-Shahak, former deputy minister Dalia Rabin, former Foreign
Ministry Director-General Avi Gil, former IAF commander Maj.-Gen.
(res.) Eliezer Shkedy, and former Shin Bet chief Ya'acov Perry. They
are seeking more public figures to join the campaign. The
initiative, called Blue and White Peace, will try to persuade the
public, via advertising, press interviews and parlor meetings, that
creating a Palestinian state and pursuing the diplomatic process
with the Palestinians and Arab countries is in Israel's interest.
The organizers said the goal of the campaign was not to strengthen
Netanyahu personally, but to persuade him that the public was behind
whatever he would do to advance the diplomatic process.

The Jerusalem Post reported that U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers
(R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee,
told the newspaper yesterday that the U.S. administration needs to
stick to its stated September deadline for stricter sanctions
against Iran if the latter fails to offer a substantive response on
engagement over its nuclear program. Rogers, a former FBI agent,
was interviewed on the sidelines of the 9th Annual International
Institute of Counter-Terrorism Conference at the Interdisciplinary
Center in Herzliya.

Leading media reported that Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu called off a
planned trip to Israel because Jerusalem would not assist him in
entering Israel via Gaza.

The Jerusalem Post quoted sources close to Hamas in Gaza as saying
yesterday that Hamas leader Khaled MashalQs recent visit to Egypt
has brought the Islamist movement and Fatah closer to ending their
differences.

Yediot and Israel Radio reported that the U.N. Human Rights
Council-appointed fact-finding mission to investigate international
human rights and humanitarian law violations related to Operation
Cast Lead, which is headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, might demand
that Israel be put on trial for war crimes. Maariv, The Jerusalem
Post, and Israel Radio quoted the Israeli human rights BQTselem as
saying that 770 of 1,400 Palestinian casualties in Operation Cast
Lead were civilians; and 110 reportedly were children under the age
of 10. Maariv quoted the IDF SpokesmanQs OfficeQs response that the
BQTselem report is tainted with extraneous interests. Maariv
reported that Marc Garlasco, a senior member of the NGO Human Rights
Watch, who has composed several anti-Israel reports, collects Nazi
memorabilia.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Defense Secretary Robert Gates as saying
in an interview published by Al Jazeera-TV yesterday that U.S.
allies in the Middle East should strengthen their respective
militaries to deter Iran from continuing its suspected nuclear
weapons program.

HaQaretz and The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday the Israel
Lands Administration published tenders for the construction of 486
apartments in the neighborhood of Pisgat ZeQev in East Jerusalem.

Maariv reported that a group of experts who support the Northrop
Grumman-developed Skyguard missile defense system have told PM
Netanyahu and DM Ehud Barak that because of its slow response time,
the Israeli-built Iron Dome system will not be able to protect
Sderot and the Upper Galilee town of Kiryat Shmona from Qassam and
Katyusha rockets.

The Jerusalem Post reported that defense officials and IDF officers
told the newspaper that a continued Pentagon refusal to integrate
Israeli systems into the stealth Joint Strike Fighter will likely
cause delays in the arrival of the advanced fighter jet to Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a one-day conference will be held
on Capitol Hill in February (before the annual Jerusalem conference
that will take place on February 15-17) under the banner
QReinforcing U.S.-Israeli Ties.Q Among the participants will be
lawmakers from both countries and other past and present leaders.
The key discussions will focus on the unity of Jerusalem, the
realities of the peace process, and regional threats to global
security and how to confront them.

Israel Radio quoted Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau as
saying yesterday in an address to the Brookings Institution in
Washington that Iran is taking advantage of the Venezuelan banking
system to bypass sanctions and purchase materials needed for its
nuclear program.

The media reported that, in its annual report on education issued
yesterday, the OECD published negative data on Israeli investment in
education.

Leading media reported that the controversial Israeli ad campaign to
counter assimilation of Diaspora youth was halted early this week
after it drew angry reactions from many prominent American writers
and even a few Israelis.

The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that yesterday
the Jerusalem Municipality announced that the city will be split
into seven operational zones in an effort to improve delivery of
services.

The Jerusalem Post published the results of the August 2009 "War and
Peace Index" of the Evans Program for Conflict Resolution Research
of Tel Aviv University -- conducted August 31-September 1 -- that
shows that despite the recent streak of violent incidents throughout
the country, Jewish Israelis' sense of security is on the rise.
However, the survey also shows that a majority of Israelis do not
trust their government to withstand international political pressure
and that most see an urgent need for a political solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

- Forty-nine percent of those surveyed define their personal
security level as high or very high, 29% as medium, and only 19% as
low -- compared to April 2007, when 42.5% described their level as
high, 32% as medium and 24% as low.

- In terms of national security, 38% of those surveyed felt the
level is high, 37% said medium, and 22% said low. In 2007, the
respective rates were 24.5%, 36% and 39%.

- The survey also shows that those who define themselves as "left"
feel less worried about the national security situation than those
describing themselves as "center" or "right." Fifty-one percent of
those on the Left feel that national security levels are high,
compared to 37% of the Center and 39% of the Right.

- The same correlation between political leanings and sense of
security extends to the question of whether or not interviewees
feared a large-scale attack against Israel by one or more Arab
states. Twenty percent of those on the Left fear such an attack,
compared to 40% in the Center and 44% on the Right. However,
overall, a plurality of those surveyed -- 48% -- see a low or very
low chance of such an attack in the next five years.

- There is no clear trend on the way the Israeli Jewish public sees
the country's situation on the world stage. One third think Israel
is moderately or very isolated, another third think Israel is not at
all or is barely isolated, and the last third have no clear view on
the issue.

- However, the survey shows a clear tendency on the part of the
public to doubt the current government's ability to withstand
international pressure in order to safeguard Israel's political and
security interests. Fifty-four percent do not rely on the
government's ability at all, or not very much, compared to 42% who
moderately or very much rely on it. Among Left, Right and Center the
majority do not trust the government's ability, though the
percentage on the Left, 57%, is slightly higher.

- Almost all of those surveyed -- 85% -- rely on the IDF to defend
Israel and its citizens in the face of an attack by Arab states.
Nonetheless, a large majority -- 72% -- believe that the need to
find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is urgent. This
sense of urgency is clear all along the political spectrum, but is
strongest on the Left. The public trusts the IDF to deal with an
attack, but would prefer a political solution.

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Mideast:
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Block Quotes:
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I. "In OlmertQs Footsteps"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning HaQaretz (9/9): QThe understanding taking shape between
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration on
the freezing of settlements makes one wonder: What was the reason
for changing governments in Jerusalem? Why was all that energy
invested in an election campaign if Netanyahu was going to end up
behaving like his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, and is willing to limit
the Qright of Jews to live anywhere in the Land of IsraelQ? Has
Netanyahu also given up on the right-wing ideology on which he was
nurtured in his father's house in return for a group photograph with
Presidents Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas?.... So, what has changed
since Olmert? Mainly one thing: the declaration that there is a
freeze on construction will, this time, be a public one, and it is
meant to foster normalization efforts with the Arab states. Which
is also what worries Netanyahu: What will he do if, at the end of
the period allotted for a freeze, he gets nothing in return? Will
he resume construction, against Obama's wishes, or will he be made
to look like a sucker who gave up something for nothing? This
dilemma remains unresolved for now, and it will continue to burden
the Prime Minister.

II. "Losing the Blocs"

Dov Weisglass, who was former prime minister Ariel Sharon's top
diplomatic advisor, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (9/9): QThe current dispute between Israel and the U.S.
over the question of freezing construction in Judea and Samaria
[i.e. the West Bank] is a sign that the U.S. is ceasing to recognize
the practical format for a future territorial arrangement between
the Israelis and Palestinians, i.e.: Israel would continue to
maintain control over the large settlement centers in Judea and
Samaria, and the remainder of the territory would be for a
Palestinian state. On the basis of the assumption that this was the
nature of the future arrangement, Israel achieved all the
understandings and arrangements -- written and oral -- that enabled
the continuation of limited construction and development in the
large settlement blocs. The current governmentQs insistence on not
adhering to this outline, and the fact that it is refraining from
raising it as an Israeli demand, will ultimately cause not only a
construction freeze -- it will lead to the loss of diplomatic
ability to continue to hold onto the large settlement blocs.

III. "Too Late"

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever Plotker wrote in
the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/9): QHalf a
million. Half a million Jewish Israelis have made their homes over
the Green Line, the border between Israel and Jordan from 1967. Of
these, 200,000 live in the territories that Israel has defined as
part of greater Jerusalem and annexed to its sovereignty, and
another 300,000 lives in the other areas of Judea and SamariaQor the
West Bank.... If the number of Jews in all of Judea and Samaria,
including the East Jerusalem areas, continues to grow at the current
pace, the Jewish population over the QGreen LineQ that has been
effaced from the consciousness of the Israelis will number about
750,000 in 2025. But today too, when the number is QonlyQ 500,000,
the Jewish settlement in the territories has already determined
IsraelQs fate to a large degree.... The evacuation of 8,000 Jewish
settlers from the Gaza Strip and their absorption in Israel cost the
taxpayers 10 billion shekels [around $2.5 billion.5 billion]. Whoever wants
to turn the wheel back and evacuate the Israelis from the
territories beyond the 1967 borders, will have to invest about 600
billion shekels [around around50 billion] to do so. This is a
completely imaginary price.... Without the Palestinians having
understood the process, and without most of the Israeli citizens
having paid attention to it, the territories beyond the 1967 borders
have become the main absorption area of new Jewish populations:
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union, young Jerusalemites,
ultra-Orthodox Jews in distress and more. The QterritoriesQ have
served as IsraelQs territorial rear and filled this role with great
success. The political left wing in Israel believes that it has
gained the upper hand, and brings as conclusive proof of this the
declaration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an integral part
of the Likud, in support of a conditional Palestinian state. The
left wing is wrong: While it was dealing with the futile Qdiplomatic
process,Q the active political right wing, with the backing and
assistance of all of IsraelQs governments save one, engaged in
developing the Jewish settlements in the territories. Half a
million Jews over the Green Line is a point of no return. The talk
of a Qconstruction freezeQ or Qsuspension of constructionQ in
certain settlements are a mockery and an attempt to cover the rear
end of leaders -- in Israel, in Palestine, around the world -- who
know deep down inside that the die has been cast. In the area of
Mandatory Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean
Sea, an inseparable tangle has been created of two peoples -- an
omelet of Jews and Palestinians that cannot be turned into separate
eggs. It is too late.

IV. "ObamaQs Teachable Mideast Moment"

Columnist Michael Freund, who was an assistant to Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term in office, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (9/9): QFor a president who
has been in office for just over seven months, Barack Obama can at
last point to some meaningful change that he has brought about in
the Middle East. Thanks to his administration's arm-twisting and
bullying of Jerusalem over settlements, Obama has unwittingly
succeeded in galvanizing the Israeli public like never before. The
result is a broad coalition that extends all the way from the
moderate left, through the center, and over to the reasonable right,
giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plenty of political
breathing space.... If and when a final-status deal is ever
negotiated, it is crucial that the Americans and Palestinians go
into the talks aware that Israel is self-confident enough to stand
firm on issues it views as vital to its existence. This is what
Obama himself would likely refer to as a Qteachable momentQ on the
Middle East -- one from which he still has a lot to learn. In a
short period, he has hardened the Palestinian position, strengthened
the hand of Israel's settlement enterprise and led the Israeli
public to reassess its blind faith in Washington. That's quite a
record of achievement.

V. QObstacle to Peace

The Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/9): QForget the settlements.
If the world truly wants to identify an obstacle to peace, it could
do much worse than cast its eyes toward Arab League
Secretary-General Amr Moussa. For nearly 18 years Amr Moussa, first
as Egypt's Foreign Minister for a decade, and then for the last
eight years as head of the Arab League, has worked mightily to
poison the atmosphere against Israel.... This week, however, Moussa
outdid himself. With U.S. Envoy George Mitchell trying to line up
some normalization gestures from the Arab states toward Israel as
part of a package to relaunch the diplomatic process, Moussa did
what he could to stand in the way. At a press conference in Cairo
with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, Moussa warned there would be a
harsh response against any Arab country making gestures to Israel.
QIt is impossible to talk of normalization when Israel refuses to
take real steps,Q Moussa said. QNo Arab state will offer Israel
gifts on a silver platter.Q What Moussa evidently has yet to
internalize is that peace is not a gift to Israel, but rather to the
region.... That hatred spreads. The New York Times ran a story from
Cairo Sunday about the refurbishing of ancient Jewish sites there as
part of the controversial Egyptian Culture Minister's campaign to
head UNESCO. One man in the street, a certain Khalid Badr, was
asked about his feeling toward Jews and Qas casually as if he had
E
been asked the time,Q replied: QWe hate them for everything they
have done to us.Q It is that matter-of-fact hatred, a hatred that
Moussa has both stirred and benefited from, that keeps the
diplomatic process mired in square one.

VI. QWhy Stop with Elbit?

Far-left Palestinian affairs correspondent Amira Hass wrote in
Ha'aretz (9/9): QThe question is not why Norway divested from the
[Israeli] defense electronics giant Elbit Systems, but why only now,
and why only from that company?.... The Norwegian Finance Ministry's
Council on Ethics, which recommended that the pension fund pull its
investment from Elbit, also explained why it would divest from that
company but not, say, from the U.S. company Caterpillar. Elbit, it
said, developed equipment used specifically in the construction of
the separation barrier, while the equipment sold by Caterpillar to
the Israel Defense Forces has legitimate uses as well, and the
company should not be held responsible for it being employed in
another, possibly illegal, way (namely, the wholesale destruction of
Palestinian homes).... [Anyway,] this is the first time a nation has
adopted -- actively and not just with words -- the opinion of the
International Court of Justice in the Hague about the separation
barrier, 87 percent of which is built on occupied land, in
contravention of international law.

CUNNINGHAM

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