Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction
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WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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HQ USAF FOR XOXX
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ROME FOR MFO
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION
SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
Key stories in the media:
All media reported that PM Benjamin Netanyahu, PA President Mahmoud
Abbas, and President Barack Obama will meet this week, despite U.S.
Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell's failure to put
together a package that would enable the launching of full-blown
negotiations between the sides. (YediotQs banner sums up the
situation: QThere Is a Summit, But No Expectations.Q) In a surprise
announcement, the White House said on Saturday night that the three
would meet on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly
meeting in New York. The meeting - the first time Netanyahu will
meet with Abbas since becoming prime minister in March - will take
place immediately after Obama holds separate sessions earlier with
Netanyahu and Abbas. The meeting will take place even though
Netanyahu did not announce a total settlement freeze, a condition
the Palestinians had set for the talks. The Jerusalem Post said
that the summit will take place at a particularly important time for
Obama, who is keen -- according to observers in Jerusalem -- to go
to the U.N. General Assembly and the G-20 meeting of the heads of
the world's leading economies with an achievement, rather than a
stalemate, in the Middle East diplomatic process. According to
those assessments, once Obama invited the parties to talks, neither
could refuse. The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli officials as saying
that Jerusalem was not surprised by the invitation. HaQaretz quoted
a senior source at the PMQs bureau as saying yesterday that the
Palestinians were the ones who "folded" after they refused a meeting
with Netanyahu. "They made militant statements but in the end they
will come," the source was quoted as saying. However, HaQaretz
reported that sources at the PM's bureau acknowledged that the
meeting is expected to only be a photo opportunity and will not lead
to a resumption of the peace process.
The media quoted Netanyahu associates as saying that the PM will
deliver a QdramaticQ speech to the U.N. General Assembly on
Thursday. Maariv assumes that his address will focus on the Iranian
nuclear threat, the Goldstone report, and the peace process.
Leading media reported that the IDF and the U.S. militaryQs European
Command are about to hold a joint missile defense exercise -- the
biennial Juniper Cobra.
Leading media reported that the U.S. is increasingly viewing the
Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead as one-sided. Statements by
State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly and the U.S. Ambassador to the
U.N., Susan Rice, are cited.
The media quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying in an
interview with CNN that was released yesterday that President Shimon
Peres told him in Sochi in August that Israel would not launch an
attack on Iran. Medvedev described such an attack as "the worst
thing that can be imagined." Leading media reported that Zbigniew
Brzezinski, who was National Security Advisor to President Jimmy
Carter, has advised President Obama to order Israeli planes to be
shot down if they are found to be flying over Iraqi airspace on
their way to attack targets in Iran.
The media reported that over the weekend two rockets were fired at
Israel from Gaza and that yesterday IDF troops killed two
Palestinians who allegedly tried to place a charge along the
The Jerusalem Post reported that leading Democratic and Republican
congressmen expressed outrage following a report in MondayQs
Jerusalem Post that Saudi Arabia has been violating its promise to
Washington to stop enforcing the Arab League boycott of Israel.
Media cited the Swedish Government as saying that the newspaper
Aftenposten did not violate the law when it published a report on
organ-harvesting by the IDF.
Maariv printed the results of a survey conducted among the Kurdish
population of northern Iraq by a polling institute in Irbil:
- Are there historical relations between the Kurdish leadership and
Israel? Yes: 87.5%; no: 2.6%; undecided: 9.9%.
- Do relations with Israel have a role in accelerating the
establishment of a Kurdish state? Yes: 66.9%; no: 11.8%; undecided:
- Is it preferable for relations between Kurds and Israel to remain
secret? No: 60.4%; yes: 21.3%; undecided: 18.3%.
I. "Why? Obama"
Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/21): QThis is not a meeting, not even
half a meeting. The event that will be held tomorrow in New York is
a joke at the expense of an American president, who dabbled in
Middle East politics and suffered the consequences.... The Americans
discovered that they wanted an Israeli-Palestinian agreement more
than the leaders of the two sides wanted it. This is the tragedy of
the two peoples: Both Netanyahu and Abu Mazen prefer to live at the
moment with the current situation, rather than risk making decisions
that will exact a heavy political toll from both of them. Neither
of them is Ben-Gurion, Begin or Rabin. They are leaders who think
small. When a U.S. president encounters such a brick wall, he has
two options: Either distance himself from the sick bed (this is what
Bush did throughout most of his term); or try to impose his opinion
(this is what Carter did, and what Clinton tried to do). Obama did
not choose the first option or the second option. He could have let
Netanyahu and the Arab leaders, including Abu Mazen, sweat. They
are all dependent on the United States, its money, its defense aid,
its action against Iran. But instead of letting them sweat, the one
who perspired was Mitchell. He also didnQt try to impose his
opinion. He read the polls, which showed a drastic drop in the
confidence he enjoyed in Israeli public opinion and in Jewish public
opinion in the U.S. He could have appealed to public opinion in
Israel over NetanyahuQs head. Repeated discussions were held on
this in the White House, but no decision was made. The Israelis,
who for 16 years were pampered by affectionate presidents in the
White House, did not receive from Obama the love to which they had
become addicted. True, he sent a greeting for the Jewish New Year.
But he sent a similar greeting to the Iranians. He is cool. There
is great charm in his cool, his self-control, and his easygoing
manner. But the U.S. President is not Brad Pitt or George Clooney.
He is supposed to bring results.
II. "The Abu Mazen Riddle"
Veteran journalist and television anchor Dan Margalit wrote in the
independent Israel Hayom (9/21): QIt is true that the
Netanyahu-Mitchell talks did not lead to a full understanding, but
the differences of opinion that remained were mere trivialities.
Everything was ready to be finalized, except for Abu Mazen. The man
who has adopted the habit of thwarting at the last moment any final
agreement -- remained true to form. He heard about the
understandings that were close to an agreement on the
Netanyahu-Mitchell axis, and instead of a substantive answer left
for a round of talks in Jordan and Egypt, and after making
aggressive statements, surprisingly consented to a three-way summit
without any construction freeze.... If the high-echelon meeting in
New York leads to a continuation -- then the political negotiations
have extricated themselves from the unnecessary condition of a
construction freeze, as a factor delaying the very discussions on
the content of the final status arrangement; and if after tomorrowQs
conversation, the negotiations continue to tread water where they
have stopped since Obama and Netanyahu came to power in their
respective countries -- then an important gesture has been made for
nothing. Is Abu Mazen interested in real negotiations? It is not
only his conduct at Camp David in 2000 and on the Jerusalem-Ramallah
axis in 2008 that raises questions and surprise, but the question
also arises whether he believes that without the authority to
represent Gaza as well, he actually has no mandate from his people.
The curtain will rise tomorrow, and we will start to know.
III. "NetanyahuQs Courage"
The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (9/21): QTrue
to the tradition of lowering expectations, the White House announced
the purpose of the meeting between the three leaders [Obama,
Netanyahu, and Abbas] will be to Qlay the groundwork for renewed
negotiationsQ on Middle East peace.... On the eve of the Jewish New
Year, Netanyahu called on Abbas to Qshow courageQ and explain to his
people that the conflict must end, and with it Palestinian claims on
Israel. The Prime Minister must demand the same of himself. He,
too, must show courage and tell his people, his party, and his
political partners that a peace agreement on the basis of dividing
the land into two countries is distinctly in Israel's interest, and
that securing that interest would require Israel to pull back from
most of the territory it occupied in 1967 and to dismantle most
settlements. Netanyahu's support for a demilitarized Palestinian
state was an important move, but was not enough. As long as he
makes demands of the other side, while being ambiguous about his own
level of flexibility and commitment to opinions he has voiced in the
past, he will perhaps be able to hang on to his seat, but will steer
the country down a dead end. Now it is Netanyahu's turn to show
courage and achieve a breakthrough for a settlement with the
Palestinians. This is his mission.
IV. "Warning, Summit Ahead"
Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/21): QThe summit's success will not be
measured by the extent of the settlement freeze Obama obtains from
Netanyahu. Even the Palestinians recognize that a few hundred more
homes in Ma'aleh Adumim or Pisgat Ze'ev will not make a difference
in a long-term solution of the conflict. For the summit to avoid
becoming another forgettable footnote in the history of the peace
process, the participants must return home with a full translation
of the slogans voiced in Cairo by Obama into the language of action.
Obama doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. All he needs is to
update the Roadmap timetable, which long ago became U.N. Security
Council Resolution 1515. The Roadmap says that in 2005 the parties
will reach a permanent solution that will end the occupation that
began in 1967. It also says the agreement will include a negotiated
settlement on the status of Jerusalem and an agreed, just, fair and
realistic solution to the refugee issue. Two Israeli prime
ministers, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, negotiated with the
Palestinians on all these issues and even reached some
understandings. As President Shimon Peres (who is now pushing the
two sides to deal, as a first stage, only with the issue of borders)
says, you can make an omelet with eggs but no one can make eggs out
of an omelet.
V. QAbbas Has Most to Lose
Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote on page one
of HaQaretz (9/21): QThe summit serves, first and foremost, to
provide the Obama administration with a much sought photo-op....
Still, it's hard not to wonder about the manner in which the U.S.
administration (and even more so Abbas himself) conducted itself
over the past few weeks. Abbas stands to lose most from the summit.
He stressed to the Palestinian public at every opportunity that
there is little point to a tripartite summit before there's an
agreement on a construction freeze, especially in East Jerusalem....
The hands of the U.S. administration are not particularly clean.
The State Department envoys assured the Palestinians that Washington
was on their side this time, and was not going to yield to the
Israelis. Only in the last few weeks did Abbas's people in [his
headquarters] the Muqata find out the White House was, in fact, very
understanding of the Israeli demand not to freeze construction in
the settlements altogether, and to leave Jerusalem out of the
debate. Abbas was apparently prepared to forgo his dignity rather
than replace Netanyahu as the bad boy in the peace process. He
understands that no political bounty is likely to come out of the
meeting, and that he himself is undertaking a considerable risk.
VI. QThe Stumbling Block of that Arab Initiative
Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, wrote in Ha'aretz
(9/21): QIn the wake of a September 12 op-ed in the New York Times
by Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, it seems possible to
decide which of these interpretations is valid. The prince is in
great part the moving spirit behind the Arab initiative.... He ...
represents the moderate Saudi view.... There is no ambiguity: The
settlements are not open to negotiation; Israel must evacuate them
first. Turki al-Faisal adds that while all of Israel's neighbors
would like peace, QThey cannot be expected to tolerate what amounts
to theft, and certainly should not be pressured into rewarding
Israel for the return of land that does not belong to it.Q It may
be possible to ignore the rhetoric (Qwhat amounts to theftQ), but
the message is clear: The Arab initiative does not speak of
negotiations. It demands that Israel first withdraw from all the
territories (including East Jerusalem) -- involving the evacuation
of more than a quarter million Israelis -- and only than will
negotiations on the normalization of relations and on the refugees
begin. This is truly not a serious proposal. It does not matter how
peace-hungry Israelis interpret the Arab initiative. We have been
given an authorized interpretation by one of the people behind it.
The initiative should not be ignored, because it includes an Arab
declaration of willingness for peace, but its meaning should not be
mistaken. At this stage it is not calling for negotiations, but
rather unconditional acceptance of the Arab position, and that is
also its main stumbling block.
"All Reports Lead to Tehran"
Columnist Boaz Bismuth, who was IsraelQs Ambassador to Mauritania
between 2004 and 2008, wrote in the independent Israel Hayom (9/21):
QIran, not Afghanistan, now is at the focus of the international
communityQs interest -- a fact that is not by itself negative as far
as Israel is concerned.... On September 24 the Security Council will
discuss imposing stricter sanctions on Iran. On Wednesday, Obama is
supposed to address the General Assembly for the first time --
before Ahmadinejad. They are not supposed to shake hands (it should
be hoped.) Confused? It looks like we all are.