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Cablegate: Special Israel Media Reaction

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SUBJECT: SPECIAL ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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U.S. Special Envoy Sen. George Mitchell to Israel, West Bank

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Key stories in the media:
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Leading media reported that in a Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
greeting to Jews the world over, President Barack Obama called for
the rejection of the "impulse to harden ourselves to others'
suffering," urging empathy and "compassion to those in need." The
Qfirst African-American PresidentQ (in HaQaretzQs words) also called
for resistance to "prejudice, intolerance and indifference" and for
a strong stance against what he described as "the scourge of
anti-Semitism, which is still prevalent in far too many corners of
our world." Obama also expressed the desire to "work to achieve
lasting peace and security for the state of Israel, so that the
Jewish state is fully accepted by its neighbors, and its children
can live their dreams free from fear." Yediot noted that, for the
first time, the PresidentQs greeting was also translated into Hebrew
(QShana shel Shalom Uvitahon LeYisraelQ Q a Year of Peace and
Security for Israel.)

The media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S.
Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Senator George Mitchell will
meet today (MaarivQs headline: QThis Morning: Fateful Meeting
Between Netanyahu and Envoy MitchellQ) in order to determine whether
a tripartite meeting including Obama and Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas, will take place next week at the U.N.
General Assembly. The hope is that the three-way meeting will serve
as a catalyst for restarting the negotiations between Israel and the
PA. Senior U.S. officials told HaQaretz yesterday that todayQs
meeting will resolve all differences in order to open the door for
holding talks in New York. Netanyahu told Channel 2-TV in a special
Jewish New Year interview: QQIf it [the summit] will be, it will be.
If not, not. I didnQt ask for it, and I didnQt put conditions on
the talks.Q The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe banners:
QToday Mitchell Will Pressure: Concede for the SummitQs Sake.Q The
Palestinians are refusing to meet with Netanyahu unless he declares
a comprehensive freeze on settlement activity, including in East
Jerusalem. HaQaretz reported that Mitchell also met with Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan during his
current visit to the region, and asked them to exert pressure on
Abbas to soften his stance so that a meeting can take place at the
U.N. Mitchell also reportedly asked the two Arab leaders to rally
the Arab world in undertaking goodwill gestures toward Israel.

Last night, in interviews with Israeli TV stations on the occasion
of the Jewish New Year, which starts tonight, Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a U.N. report (the QGoldstone reportQ)
alleging Israeli war crimes during its three-week offensive in Gaza
last winter, warning world leaders that they and their anti-terror
forces could be targets for similar charges. He said that the report
ignored Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and the Palestinian
rocket attacks that preceded Israel's invasion, adding that lessons
must be learned for future agreements with the Palestinians. "I am
telling international leaders: You are telling us that you support
our right of self defense. Don't tell us that after the next
agreement, tell us now. Reject the findings of this commission,"
Netanyahu told Channel 2-TV. "Come out now, condemn this report and
act to quash its consequences now," he went on to say. Netanyahu
called on the world to oppose the conclusion that formal charges
could be brought against Israeli soldiers, officers and leaders as a
result of the Gaza war. He said it was a blow to the fight against
terrorism and warned that other countries could find their soldiers
and leaders in the dock as the result of anti-terror operations.
HaQaretz reported that late last night, Netanyahu spoke with Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev, asking for his support in curbing the
effects of the Goldstone report. Netanyahu stressed that the
report's conclusions compromise Russia's capability to combat
terrorism, as well as Israel's. HaQaretz and The Jerusalem Post
reported that earlier Thursday, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to
the U.N., criticized the U.N. Human Rights Council for giving an
"unacceptable" mandate to the fact-finding mission in Gaza. Rice
was quoted as saying that Washington has had "serious concerns"
about the mandate given to the Goldstone-led four-member mission by
the Geneva-based council. The U.S. officially took its seat in the
46-member body in early September. "We have long expressed our very
serious concerns about the mandate given by the Human Rights Council
prior to our joining it," Rice was quoted as saying in her first
reaction to the missionQs findings by. "We view the mandate as ...
one-sided and basically unbalanced," she was quoted as saying. She
also objected to Goldstone's recommendations, including one for the
15-nation Security Council to investigate and refer the war crimes
to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Rice urged both
Israelis and Palestinians to look to the future in order to resolve
their conflict.

Unrelated to the Goldstone mission, HaQaretzQs Washington
correspondent noted that Ambassador Rice is required to convince the
world that President Obama really wants to open a new foreign policy
chapter.

Major media reported that experts at the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) acknowledge, in a secret report obtained by The
Associated Press, that Tehran is capable of making a nuclear weapon
and that it is developing a missile system that can deliver a
nuclear warhead. The document affirms what Israel, the U.S., and
other western countries have maintained for some time regarding the
real purpose of Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran has touted as
having peaceful purposes. According to the document, which
Washington reportedly says is being withheld by the IAEA's outgoing
chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, Iran has "sufficient information" to build
a bomb. It also says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on
developing a delivery system -- which means Tehran will be able to
mount a warhead on a ballistic missile capable of striking western
targets. Israel Radio quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
as saying in an interview with NBC that his country does not intend
to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan was quoted as saying in an
interview with The Jerusalem Post that Israel needs to make every
possible effort to stop the Russian-made S-300 missile defense
system from reaching counties where the Air Force may need to fly.
Nehushtan also defended IsraelQs choice of targets in Operation Cast
Lead.

HaQaretz reported that, despite the United StatesQ demand to suspend
construction in the West Bank, building is continuing in at least
one settlement Q Beitar Illit.

The Jerusalem Post cited the IDFQs denial that it is refusing to
process GazansQ applications for medical treatment.

Maariv disclosed that in indirect talks held in Turkey, Syrian
President Bashar Assad asked former PM Ehud Olmert to draw the
anticipated border between the two countries.

Leading media reported that yesterday the Counter-Terrorism Bureau
at IsraelQs National Security Council issued a severe terror warning
for India. It said that a Pakistani terror organization affiliated
with al-Qaida and responsible for the attacks in Mumbai last year is
planning to carry out a string of attacks throughout the Indian
subcontinent. The warning said that while all westerners in India
are in peril of being targeted, Israelis and places where Israelis
usually congregate in large numbers are in more serious danger.
The bureau asked all Israelis in India to steer clear of places
where Western tourists are found in large numbers. It put a special
emphasis on Chabad ultra-Orthodox houses, which are popular with
Israeli tourists, especially during the High Holidays (the period
from the Jewish New Year through Sukkoth). The bureau rated the
threat as "imminent and concrete," and pointed specifically at the
Jammu and Kashmir regions in India's North. The Jerusalem Post
noted that the warning was unusual, as India is a friendly country
and there are tens of thousands of Israelis in India at any given
time.

The media reported that yesterday President Obama abruptly canceled
plans for a long-anticipated missile shield system for Eastern
Europe on Thursday, replacing a Bush-era project that was bitterly
opposed by Russia with a plan he contended would better defend
against a growing threat of Iranian missiles. The Jerusalem Post
reported that Israel Space Agency Chairman and former Kadima Knesset
Member Professor Yitzhak Ben-Israel told the newspaper yesterday
that there is no need to be alarmed by President ObamaQs decision
and that it is ultimately good for Israel that there are improved
relations between Russia and the U.S. Maariv quoted a senior
Israeli defense source as saying that Qthis will represent a step
forward in the defense of IsraelQs skies.Q Conversely, a panel of
experts talking on Channel 10-TV saw possible negative long-term
implications of the move for IsraelQs defenses. Akin to other
commentators, HaQaretzQs intelligence affairs analyst Yossi Melman
characterizes ObamaQs decision as Qappeasement without getting
anything in exchange.Q MaarivQs Europe correspondent Nadav Eyal
says that the American announcement is a big victory for the
Putin-Medvedev regime.

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U.S. Special Envoy Sen. George Mitchell to Israel, West Bank
---------------------------------------

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

I. QWhat Are We Thinking?

The independent, left-leaning HaQaretz editorialized (September 18):
QThis [past Jewish] year, following the establishment of Benjamin
Netanyahu's government and the change of power in the White House,
it seems Israel has taken giant steps backward, incredibly quickly.
Hated, bitter, violent, hamstrung by self-righteousness, wallowing
in its sense of victimization -- with its sole strange comfort being
that none of this is our fault, but actually the result of
international anti-Semitism. In this sense then, the Goldstone
Commission report on Operation Cast Lead, which accuses Israel of
war crimes and even of Qcrimes against humanity,Q has come at the
worst possible time. And not only because it is a QbitterQ holiday
present. Its unprecedented severity gives strong backing not only
to the those who are enemies of Israel, but also to the pessimistic,
fatalistic attitude that guides the current government in Israel --
the same government which is busy gathering evidence of
anti-Semitism, and looking for reasons to withdraw into the ghetto
of our self-righteousness rather than searching for ways to become a
normal nation in an ever-changing region and world. One such way,
for example, would be to honestly and courageously investigate our
actions, and determine whether Qethics,Q for us, is not just an
empty word. But even without examining the facts and motives that
appear in this difficult report, we can say that the terribly
emotional responses it is stirring in Israel -- with the support of
its leadership and its tabloid media, including the demand that it
be rejected entirely -- are no more than the other side of the coin
of the verbal frenzy and indignation that originally motivated
Operation Cast Lead. Israel is an emotional, hot-tempered nation,
loaded with deep traumas and justified fears. But its leadership is
expected to behave rationally, coolly and intelligently when
confronted with real crises, not to blatantly encourage fear and
bitterness, as Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman tend
to do out of a pessimistic and self-fulfilling approach. Hopefully,
the Israeli Government will start using more of its head and less of
its gut.

II. QGoldstone Has Made Tings More Difficult for Mitchell

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (9/18): QIf Mitchell thought it was rough
getting the Arab world to make normalization gestures before
Goldstone issued his report alleging Israeli war crimes in Gaza,
then one can only imagine how difficult it will be now.... So if the
Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world were not exactly
chomping at the bit to do their part to get the negotiations under
way before Goldstone, now they will be even more reluctant.... And
it is not only the Arabs who will be influenced by the report. As
Netanyahu made clear in his television interviews Thursday night,
the report does not exactly give Israel confidence that if it
withdraws from further territory, the world will recognize its right
to self defense. Mitchell's job, as everyone realized from the
outset, would be an extremely difficult one. Goldstone just made it
even more so.

III. QHow to Perpetuate the Conflict in One Easy Move

Veteran journalist Evelyn Gordon wrote in The Jerusalem Post (9/17):
QThere are reasons to fear that [ President ObamaQs rumored peace
plan] might be true. First, Washington has not denied it. Second,
it accords with Obama's known desire to create a Palestinian state
within two years, thus assuring him of one foreign policy success in
what otherwise looks likely to be an unbroken string of failures.
Third, it would appease his left-wing base, which is currently
furious at him over issues ranging from the QsurgeQ in Afghanistan
to his apparent willingness to make concessions to moderates on
health care reform. Fourth, it would please the EU and the Muslim
world, and Obama has made better relations with both a major goal of
his foreign policy. Finally, he has even found a way to avoid
alienating his big-ticket Jewish donors: The media reports market
the plan as being based, inter alia, on ideas presented by Israel's
very own president, Shimon Peres. Indeed, the plan has only one
drawback: Far from bringing peace, it would perpetuate the conflict
for all eternity. If 16 years of deadly terror combined with
refusing to budge an inch on any of their demands could produce such
stellar results, why would any Palestinian want to abandon these
successful tactics? Thus they will continue the terror, and Israel
will continue its counterterrorism operations.... It would require
massive self-centeredness, and massive short-sightedness, to
sacrifice any chance of lasting peace for the sake of a momentary
foreign policy Qachievement.Q But that is exactly what this plan
would do.

IV. QWhatQs the Alarm?

Deputy Editor-in-Chief Uri Elitzur, who was director of the Prime
MinisterQs Office during Netanyahu's first term, Qwrote a missive to
NetanyahuQ on page one of the nationalist, Orthodox Makor
Rishon-Hatzofe (9/18): QYou are about to meet George Mitchell today
-- a meeting that media commentators term Qdecisive.Q Israelis are
being threatened with a rift with America and many disasters if you
donQt give in to all the demands.... It may be unpleasant to
disappoint the U.S. President, but you know that this is neither the
end of the world nor a diplomatic catastrophe.... Obama ultimately
knows, too, that the man who refuses to take part in a summit is Abu
Mazen.

V. QA Year of Peace with Our Neighbors

Popular, liberal columnist and television anchor Yair Lapid wrote in
the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/18): QDear
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.... In the coming year, I
wish you to succeed in creating in Palestine a society such as the
one you describe: an open, western society that does not engage in
incitement, a society that believes in democracy and nurtures
religious and civil tolerance. If you succeed in doing so, believe
me: Israelis will be all right, too. Happy New Year to you.

CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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