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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002454

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:
--------------------------------

1. U.S.-Israel Relations

2. Mideast

3. Iran

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Key stories in the media:
-------------------------

All media reported that PM Benjamin Netanyahu will meet President
Obama in the White House today. HaQaretzQs banner -- QObama Showing
Israel WhoQs Boss with Semi-Snub of Netanyahu in WashingtonQ --
emphasizes the newspaperQs view of the upcoming meeting. The media
reported that the President announced his willingness to meet with
Netanyahu at the last moment. Israel Radio reported that DM Ehud
Barak will meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National
Security Advisor James Jones.

The media cited President ObamaQs videotaped address that was shown
at Saturday nightQs Tel Aviv rally marking the 14th anniversary of
the late PM Yitzhak RabinQs assassination. Obama was quoted as
saying "On that terrible November night, Yitzhak left us with his
death. Now it is up to us to carry on its meaning, to carry on his
work.Q The President cited the necessity of saying QyesQ to peace,
reassured the crowd that QAmericaQs bond with our Israeli allies is
unbreakable,Q and pledged that U.S. support for IsraelQs defense
will never be undermined. Speaking at the demonstration, President
Shimon Peres urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to remain in office
and to work with Israel on a peace agreement.

Yesterday HaQaretz reported that concerns are growing in Israel's
Government over the possibility of a unilateral Palestinian
declaration of independence within the 1967 borders, a move which
could potentially be recognized by the U.N. Security Council.
According to HaQaretz, Netanyahu recently asked the Obama
administration to veto any such proposal, after reports reached
Jerusalem of support for such a declaration from major EU countries,
and apparently also certain U.S. officials. The reports indicated
that Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad has reached a secret understanding
with the Obama administration over U.S. recognition of an
independent Palestinian state. Such recognition would likely
transform any Israeli presence across the Green Line, even in
Jerusalem, into an illegal incursion to which the Palestinians would
be entitled to engage in measures of self-defense.

Addressing supporters during a rare visit to Bethlehem and Hebron,
Abbas said that the Palestinians would not make any additional
concessions and would continue to demand their rights. Leading
Israeli media quoted him as saying: "I don't know what the Israelis
want. They must start thinking about what needs to be done if they
really want peace." The Jerusalem Post also reported that Hassan
Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council,
called on Abbas to seriously consider dissolving the PA because of
the failure of the peace process. Maariv quoted chief Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying that he tried to arrange meetings
with Uzi Arad, the Chairman of IsraelQs National Security Council,
but that his efforts were repeatedly rejected.

HaQaretz reported that Palestinian sources told the newspaper that
President Abbas said in private meetings in recent days that he
intends to resign from his post in the near future. The remarks,
which Abbas reportedly made to an Egyptian delegation, came after
Thursday's announcement that he would not seek reelection as
Palestinian president. HaQaretz and other media quoted U.S.
officials as saying that they have not given up on him and that they
still see him as essential to the peace process. HaQaretz reported
that top Palestinian officials predicted yesterday that if Abbas
makes good on his declaration that he won't run in the upcoming
Palestinian presidential election, Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad and
his entire cabinet would resign, signaling the destruction of the
PA. However, HaQaretz quoted sources close to Abbas as saying they
expect him to retract his decision to quit politics if PM Netanyahu
commits publicly to freezing settlement construction during
final-status talks. HaQaretz wrote that as an alternative to such
an Israeli commitment, Abbas is seeking a guarantee from President
Obama that would explicitly mention cessation of Israeli
construction in East Jerusalem.

Maariv revealed that Yitzhak Shapiro, the Rabbi of the Od Yosef Hai
Yeshiva in the militant settlement of Yitzhar, has written a book
describing when a Jew is allowed to harm QgoysQ [foreigners] and
their children.

The media quoted the Turkish state-run news agency Anatolian as
saying yesterday Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied that Omar
Hassan al-Bashir was responsible for genocide in Darfur and said he
would be more comfortable talking to the indicted Sudanese President
than to PM Netanyahu. Erdogan was quoted as saying: "I wouldn't be
able to speak with Netanyahu so comfortably but I would speak
comfortably with Bashir. I say comfortably: QWhat you've done is
wrong. And I would say it to his face. Why? Because a Muslim
couldn't do such things. A Muslim could not commit genocide.

All media reported that yesterday, during a press conference in Tel
Aviv, Kadima Knesset Member and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
publicly presented his peace plan. Mofaz called for talks with
Hamas, if the latter chooses and wants to sit at the negotiating
table.

HaQaretz quoted the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm.
Michael Mullen, as saying last week in Washington that a nuclear
Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reported that U.S. House of Representatives
Minority Whip Eric Cantor told the newspaper that the climate toward
Israel on Capitol Hill could be changing. In an unrelated matter,
The Jerusalem Post reported that Senator Joe Lieberman (Ind.-CT)
informed Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that six senators had sponsored
a bill that would put an end to a currently needed presidential
confirmation on initiatives to recognize Jerusalem as the Qundivided
capital of IsraelQ and call to move the U.S. embassy there, and
implement the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.

The media reported that a formal split in the Labor Party was pushed
off for now, after Knesset Member Daniel Ben Simon refused to join
the four party "rebels" in launching a new faction despite attending
the conference they held yesterday. By law, Knesset members can
only split off and be recognized as a new faction if they comprise
at least one-third of their former party's representatives. Since
Labor has 13 MKs, that means five are needed for a split.

HaQaretz and other media reported on the opening of the Jenin
Cinematheque in four months in the historic building that housed a
movie theater from the 1950Qs through the first Intifada in 1987.

The media reported on a public debate held last Thursday at Brandeis
University between jurist Richard Goldstone, who headed the U.N.
Human Rights Council-mandated commission of investigation into
Operation Cast Lead, and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Dr.
Dore Gold. Yesterday Maariv reported that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen.
Gabi Ashkenazi has decided to appoint Brig. Gen. Yuval Halamish as
the figure responsible for coordinating the IDFQs inquiries
concerning the Goldstone Report.

HaQaretz reported that two academics who authored the military's
ethical code in 1992 -- Prof. Moshe Halbertal and Prof. Avi Sagi --
are now calling on Israel to investigate some of the claims raised
in the Goldstone Report over Operation Cast Lead. While the
scholars level harsh criticism at the report, they believe there is
no alternative to probing several specific conclusions contained in
it. Last week Halbertal authored an article entitled "The Goldstone
Illusion" in the U.S. magazine The New Republic, and Sagi posted an
article on the Web site of Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute.
Both pieces called on Israel to examine some of the findings of the
report, flawed though they believe it is.

--------------------------
1. U.S.-Israel Relations:
--------------------------

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

I. QA Relationship in Crisis

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning HaQaretz (11/9): QRelations between Israel
and the United States are in crisis. This is the conclusion that
stems from the difficulty in arranging a meeting between Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. The
White House wanted Netanyahu to sweat before being granted an
audience with the president, and wanted everyone to see him
perspire.... The relations are not symmetrical. Netanyahu may be an
experienced diplomat and politician, and Obama may be a novice, but
Obama is the president of a superpower, and Netanyahu represents a
small country that depends greatly on the United States. It
sometimes appears that Netanyahu forgets this, and pretends he is
the head of a superpower.... The opaqueness of the administration
rallied Israeli public opinion behind Netanyahu, instead of creating
domestic divisions. But even when the President is not being nice,
he is still stronger in the relationship. Instead of making excuses
and explaining the terrible situation, Netanyahu should make the
effort to resolve the crisis with the American administration. He
should listen to the American complaints which sound like the gripes
of a couple married for 30 years. Israel complains about the
absence of intimacy but only takes and does not give anything in
return.

II. QObama Has No Idea

Columnist Shmuel Rosner, who was HaQaretzQs correspondent in
Washington, wrote in the popular, pluralist Maariv (11/9): QIn his
awkward choice to speak at the [Rabin commemoration] rally ...
[Obama] stormed the public square with yesterdayQs messages,
yesterdayQs legacy. He had good intentions.... The speech per se
was fair if not exciting. The choice of venue revealed how hard the
incumbent Democratic administration finds it to digest the fact that
between [Bill] ClintonQs eight years and ObamaQs four, there also
were George BushQs years.... Obama may get one or two points for his
efforts, but, substantially, on Saturday he gained less than one
point of support in Israeli public opinion -- perhaps even the other
way around.

------------
2. Mideast:
------------

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

I. QWashington Chill

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (11/9):
QFrom Eisenhower to Bush II, past administrations have
intermittently cold-shouldered Israel or sought to drive a wedge
between the Jewish state and its supporters in the United States.
In this regard, the Obama administration is breaking no new ground.
Nevertheless, if Obama buys into the insidious canard, as Thomas
Friedman promotes it, that the Palestinian leadership Qwants a deal
with Israel without any negotiationsQ while Israel's leadership
Qwants negotiations with the Palestinians without any deal,Q he will
invariably spend the remainder of his term veering from one dead end
to another. Through a multitude of blunders -- failure to dismantle
illegal outposts among them -- successive Israeli governments have
empowered the West Bank Palestinian leadership to frame the current
stalemate as resulting from Israel's preference for settlements over
peace. In reality, it is persistent Palestinian intransigence
combined with the fragmentation of their polity that has made
progress impossible. No one wants peace more than Israel. Most
Israelis support a demilitarized Palestine living side-by-side with
the Jewish state of Israel -- the very vision articulated by
Netanyahu in his seminal June 14 Bar-Ilan [University] address.

II. QA Peace that No One Wants

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in the popular,
pluralist Maariv (11/9): QNothing will come of this trip by the
Prime Minister and Defense Minister to Washington. Benjamin
Netanyahu and Ehud Barak do not believe in the peace process and
want to obstruct it. Netanyahu envisions the Palestinian state to
which he committed himself in the Bar Ilan speech last June. His
greatest nightmare is to see it materializing.... Minister Barak,
who joined the government in order to lead the peace process, still
bears the trauma of his encounter with Yasser Arafat at Camp David,
and as a result has despaired of any chance of reaching an
agreement.... President Shimon Peres was quoted yesterday as saying
that Netanyahu and Barak had injured Abu Mazen. It is difficult to
exempt the Palestinian President from responsibility for the stalled
negotiations. Abu Mazen is posing as an unfortunate and playing on
the thin line between QwillingQ and Qable.Q Even if he is willing,
he is unable to reach a solution or even conduct serious
negotiations that entail concessions during a PA election period or
in general. It is also difficult to understand why he abandoned the
discussion room after Ehud Olmert offered him almost everything, and
why he does not leverage what he was promised in order to move
forward. U.S. President Obama is a partner to this general travesty
of peace. A year ago, he committed himself to bring about a
solution to the conflict within two years, but since then he has not
succeeded in advancing the negotiations by a single millimeter.
Even the small-scale deal that the Americans tried to devise, a
settlement freeze in exchange for nickel-and-dime normalization and
flights to India through Saudi Arabia, did not work. It is
interesting to consider how the President wants to advance peace
quickly, if he evades meeting the prime minister when he comes to
Washington? Perhaps he too has already given up.

III. QWhat Abu Mazen Deserves

Dov Weisglass, who was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top
diplomatic advisor, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (11/8): Q[Palestinian President Mahmoud AbbasQ] strange way
of coping with his troubles ought not to distract us from the truly
troubling matter: the growing sense among the Palestinians that
Israel is not interested in reaching a political resolution of the
conflict. That is to say that even if the resignation is phony, the
despair and loss of faith are real.... It is possible that a partial
construction freeze would have satisfied the Palestinians, but
ObamaQs demand for an absolute settlement construction freeze
created a problem. Now that the Americans have publicly backpedaled
away from that demand, the Palestinians feel cheated, and their
faith in the United StatesQ ability to influence and to mediate has
been lost.... At the beginning of this decade, when the rampage of
Palestinian terrorism was at its peak, IsraelQs fundamental
condition for negotiations was a cessation of terrorism and
violence. The current Palestinian government has delivered those
goods. It behooves Israel, as such, to make every effort to ensure
the continued existence of that government. The Israeli government
needs to go out of its way to resolve the crisis with Abu Mazen
swiftly. We must not reach a situation in which there is no fire --
but no negotiations either. The worst of all will be if the
Palestinians come to believe that a sincere effort to eradicate
terrorism does nothing to change IsraelQs position, and that no
political progress will ever be made in any event. What do we stand
to lose, they will ask themselves in that case, by renewing terror
attacks?

IV. QLet Him Go

Professor Eyal Zisser, the Chairman of the Department of Middle
Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom (11/8): QSurprisingly enough, the reaction to Abu
MazenQs statement -- both from the Palestinian street and the PLO,
as well as in Israel and the United States -- was one of
indifference, a reaction he has earned himself. Abu Mazen is an
affable man who rejects violence and terrorism. That is despite the
fact that anyone who really knows his positions knows that the
disparity between his world view and that of Yasser Arafat is not as
great as one might otherwise assume. And indeed, the Palestinians
do not need an affable grandfather, but a determined leader. After
all, Abu Mazen lost Gaza to Hamas and is hard put to enforce his
will on the West Bank. Nor has he been truly capable of advancing
the negotiations with Israel, regardless of who the prime minister
of Israel is. As such, it would be better -- for the Palestinians,
Israel and the U.S. -- to let Abu Mazen go. And then it will become
evident whether a new and determined, daring and decisive leader
will emerge from the younger generation of Palestinians, a leader
who will be able to lead them forward, or whether it will become
evident, once again, that they wonQt miss the opportunity to
squander the chance of closing ranks and producing from their midst
an effective leadership that will lead them to safety and to an end
of the conflict with Israel.

V. QThe Israeli Perversion

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in Ha'aretz (11/9): QWe
are being assuaged and told that nothing will affect the good-old
status quo. We are promised that [Mahmoud] Abbas will cancel
elections and will continue serving the occupation until his final
days. At the same time, we rally our perversion against the [Salam]
Fayyad initiative to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. The
option has been and remains one of the following: two states for two
peoples along the 1967 borders; or one state, in which two peoples
continue to make each other miserable. Israel is galloping toward
this latter disaster with eyes wide shut.

---------
3. Iran:
---------

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

QAn Imprudent Missile Umbrella

Avigdor Haselkorn, the author of QThe Continuing Storm: Iraq,
Poisonous Weapons, and Deterrence,Q wrote in the independent,
left-leaning HaQaretz (11/9): QBy conducting the [current Juniper
Cobra] defense drill, Israel and the United States are implicitly
recognizing that a nuclear-armed Iran is a fait accompli....
[Furthermore,] the drill fosters an undue reliance on the defense
commitment of a foreign power, not to mention the effectiveness of
its antiballistic-missile technology. In this regard, past lessons
should not be forgotten.... The net result of [IsraelQs] forced
restraint [during the 1991 Gulf War] was a severe blow to Israeli
strategic deterrence.... While Israel views the exercise largely as
a signal to Iran, Washington wants the drill to further tie down
Israel's hands so it does not act unilaterally to preempt Tehran's
nuclear gambit.... Finally, and most important, the size and scope
of the exercise are undoubtedly linked to the overall concept
pronounced this past July by the United States, which envisions
extending an American Qdefensive umbrellaQ over the Middle East if
Iran goes nuclear. There should be little doubt in Jerusalem that
in due course the Obama administration will use the umbrella
argument to pressure Israel into disarming its reported
Qbomb-in-the-basementQ posture and giving up its option of last
resort. Yet, paradoxically, the U.S. umbrella solution would allow
Iran to go nuclear while an Israeli preemption is blocked under the
pretext that the U.S. defense guarantee would deter the Iranians, or
failing this, beat back any attack. It is incomprehensible that
Israel is taking part in this scheme.

CUNNINGHAM

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