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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
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
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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

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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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HaQaretz quoted people whom PM Benjamin Netanyahu briefed after his
meeting with President Obama on Monday as saying that the encounter
centered mainly on the Palestinian issue. According to HaQaretzQs
sources, Netanyahu sought to convince Obama that he wants to conduct
serious negotiations with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to
reach a peace agreement. He said that Abbas "must not be written
off in advance." "[Anwar] Sadat was also written off at first,"
Netanyahu reportedly told Obama. "Abbas is at the end of his career,
and he will be thinking about what he will leave to his nation."
Netanyahu reportedly said that Israeli politicians are urging him to
conduct "a process for the sake of process," either merely for the
sake of holding negotiations with the Palestinians, or in order to
prevent a further outbreak of violence. "I disagree with my
colleagues on both sides," Netanyahu said. "We need to try to reach
an agreement." Netanyahu purportedly asked Obama to convince Abbas
to begin negotiations with him. He expressed understanding for the
political difficulties that Abbas found himself in several weeks ago
over the Goldstone Report, when he succumbed to U.S. and Israeli
pressure and agreed that the PA would not bring the matter before
the U.N., only to reverse his position. "Leaders need to do the
right thing, and Abbas needs to be seen as such a leader," Netanyahu
said. "The absence of a political process would be deadly for the
Palestinians and also for us," Netanyahu warned, "because that would
strengthen Hamas, which in turn would be a victory for Iran." He
and the President also discussed concrete steps that would serve to
advance the process. In his speech to the United Jewish Communities'
General Assembly in Washington, Netanyahu said that Israel is ready
to make great concessions for the sake of peace. HaQaretz reported
that Netanyahu told Obama that any final-status deal with the
Palestinians will have to include a solution to the danger posed by
the introduction of advanced weaponry into the territories. "It
can't be that Israel will be left with a piece of paper while arms
smuggling goes on," he said. "We must create security arrangements
that will prevent the introduction of weapons across the border."
He pointed to the advanced weapons now possessed by Hizbullah and
Hamas, which are not made in Lebanon or the Gaza Strip, but are
smuggled in from abroad, and gave as an example the arms seized
recently from the freighter Francop. "This is a critical problem,
to which an answer must be given," Netanyahu warned. "We suffered
rockets twice, from Lebanon and from Gaza, and we do not want to
suffer them a third time, in much larger doses." According to
HaQaretz, the PM was impressed with Obama's knowledge of the
details. According to Netanyahu, there is a major difference
between his own image as someone who rejects peace, and his actual
stance, and the same is true of Obama's attitude on Iran. Netanyahu
praised Obama to his Israeli interlocutors for his efforts to combat
the Goldstone Report and the administration's actions against the
Iranian threat. Major media reported that senior U.S. officials are
trying to assuage the tension created around the meeting.

Over the past few days, Israeli Government spokespeople, in
particular PM Netanyahu and his media adviser, Nir Hefetz, tried to
dispel what they called negative accounts by the Israeli media of
NetanyahuQs meeting with Obama. Maariv and Israel Radio quoted DM
Ehud Barak as saying at a Tel Aviv convention that the
Obama-Netanyahu was good. According to Barak, many barriers fell
and a basis for an effective resumption of the negotiations was
created during the meeting. Barak said that Obama is committed to
IsraelQs security and that he has a good understanding of the
process. Barak said that he refuses to give in to misgivings he
said are reflected in the Israeli media. Barak added that a timely
start of negotiations with Syria is important and that Israel should
not ignore recent indications of SyriaQs willingness for peace.
Leading media quoted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as
saying at the United Jewish CommunitiesQ General Assembly in
Washington on Tuesday: QIt is only through dialogue [between the
U.S. and Israel] that we can achieve the lasting peace that Israel
seeks.Q Yesterday leading meia quoted an American diplomat as
saying that th feeling in Washington was that Netanyahu tried to
manipulate the U.S. administration in recent week, and that the
U.S. cannot accept that.

The mdia reported that yesterday in Paris, Netanyahu told President
Nicolas Sarkozy that Israel is prepared to hold immediate peace
negotiations with Syria, as long as the talks are the talks are held
without preconditions. In a report based on an Al-Arabiya story
which was later denied, Israel Radio reported that NetanyahuQs
message to President Bashar Assad, which Sarkozy will convey to the
Syrian leader during his visit to Paris tomorrow, includes IsraelQs
agreement in principle to relinquish the Golan. Media quoted Syrian
President Bashar Assad as saying yesterday he would not set any
preconditions for peace negotiations with Israel. "Resistance is
the essence of our policy in the past and in future. We have no
conditions to achieve peace but rather rights and we will not
abandon them," he said. In a speech opening the 5th Conference of
the Arab Parties, Assad stressed that Arab solidarity is a necessity
for the independence of the Arab decision. Israel Hayom quoted
Netanyahu as saying that, should Assad provide Hizbullah with more
missiles, Israel would respond.

The media quoted Hizbullah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah
as saying in a video broadcast yesterday that during the next
confrontation with Israel, Hizbullah will reach places beyond Haifa.
Nasrallah was responding to remarks made by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.
Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to the KnessetQs Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee on Tuesday that Hizbullah possesses missiles capable of
reaching a range of 300 km or farther. Major media quoted Nasrallah
as saying that Obama is worse than Bush. Yediot led with the
disclosure of an internal Hizbullah document that the group has
precise, QalarmingQ knowledge of how the IDF operates its drones in
Lebanon, of how Israeli soldiers go on patrol, or even Qhow army
dogs smell.

The media continued to cover the controversy over whether the
attorney generalQs functions should be split in two.

HaQaretz and other media reported that this week President Shimon
Peres told Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that jurist
Richard Goldstone is a petty man devoid of any sense of justice, a
man who came on a unilateral mission to harm Israel, and that if an
investigation were started, it should be of Goldstone himself. The
Jerusalem Post reported that the Military Police has launched a new
criminal investigation into allegations that soldiers committed war
crimes during Operation Cast Lead, amid efforts by the IDF to
complete a report to counter the accusations leveled at it by the
Goldstone Commission. According to B'Tselem, Military Police
investigators contacted the human rights organization and asked it
to coordinate a meeting with several Palestinians at the Erez
crossing to question them regarding the deaths of two Palestinian
men who were killed in their car near Dir el-Balah on January 15.

The media quoted French FM Bernard Kouchner as saying Tuesday on the
French radio France Inter that Israelis appear to have lost their
desire for peace. He was quoted as saying: QBefore, there was a
great peace movement. It seems to me that this aspiration has
disappeared.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday the U.S. Embassy told the
daily that any commemoration in the Knesset of the anniversary of
Rabbi Meir Kahane's assassination would be harmful to the peace
process. The American comments came after the Post obtained a
series of e-mails in which an embassy official told Knesset Speaker
Reuven Rivlin's office that the possibility of such a ceremony was
"something that Senator [George] Mitchell and his team are following
with concern." Following a Post report describing Rivlin's denial
that he had allowed far Right Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari to
commemorate Kahane in the Knesset plenum, the U.S. administration
contacted Rivlin's office to keep abreast of further developments.
In an exchange of e-mails between the Knesset Speaker's office and
American officials, a Second Secretary cited stories in which he
"read that Speaker Rivlin would decide whether such an event could
take place in the Knesset." The Embassy, he said, "would like to
know if the Speaker has made a decision and, if so, what is the
decision. If no decision has been made, we would like to know when
he plans to decide." Additionally, the American diplomat added,
"this is something that Senator Mitchell and his team are following
with some concern." Ben-Ari appealed Rivlin's decision against a
memorial event to the House Committee, which is responsible for
ruling on issues of Knesset procedure. Leading media quoted Ben-Ari
as saying: "I was elected to the Knesset by citizens of the
independent State of Israel. The flagrant involvement of Mitchell
has crossed a red line and it testifies to the bowed head of the
Knesset Speaker that is turning the Knesset into a dishrag." "It is
amazing to see how members of the U.S. administration are trying to
become involved in the Knesset's daily order of business," he added.
Earlier this week, Ben-Ari's office confirmed that the outspoken
lawmaker's application for an American visa had been delayed,
ostensibly due to an outstanding criminal file dating back to the
period surrounding the 2005 disengagement. Other media carried the
story. Although he decried KahaneQs anti-democratic politics,
Israel RadioQs legal commentator Moshe Negbi criticized the American
action in the matter.

HaQaretz reported that over the past few days the Israeli Foreign
Ministry has accused Sweden of trying to carry out a speedy
diplomatic action in order to change the EU stance on the status of
Jerusalem, officially defining the city as the capital of Palestine
and Israel.

Media reported that on Tuesday Israel opened the Jalami border
crossing to boost the Palestinian economy.

Yesterday HaQaretz reported that Kadima Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz
was slated to meet with the ambassadors of Turkey, Jordan, Egypt,
and Russia in the next few days, signaling a rise in international
interest in the former defense ministerQs proposal for establishing
a Palestinian state. Mofaz will head to the U.S. on Tuesday to
present his plan to the U.S. administration.

Yesterday major media reported that according to a newly introduced
bill, it will not be possible to sign any diplomatic agreement with
any state or foreign entity without arranging for the interests and
rights of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Maariv says that
the law would be an obstacle to a peace treaty with the Arab world.

Leading media reported that seven bereaved mothers of Israeli
soldiers -- including Rona Ramon, Miki Goldwasser, and Esther
Wachsman Q have written to Netanyahu, asking him to show the
determination and the courage to stop gambling over Gilad ShalitQs
life.

HaQaretz cited the belief of Israeli Foreign Ministry officials that
Turkey, Iran, and Syria are discussing the division of IraqQs
resources among them after the exit of the American troops.

HaQaretz reported that last week Shin Bet warned two residents of
the West Bank settlement bloc of Dolev-Talmonim that it holds them
responsible for the unrest that has hit the area in recent weeks.
Extremist settlers have hurled stones at Palestinians' vehicles and
vandalized property to retaliate for the removal of illegal
settlement outposts, a tactic they call "the price tag."

Speaking on Channel 10-TV last night, far-Left peace activist Uri
Avnery stated his conviction that Yasser Arafat was assassinated.

Leading media reported that yesterday Israel Aerospace Industries
signed a $350 million contract to supply drones to the Brazilian
police -- the largest such deal between Israel and Brazil.

HaQaretz (English Ed.) quoted local accountants and activists
working on behalf of American citizens in Israel as saying yesterday
that a controversial clause in the U.S. health care overhaul,
charging Americans living abroad a $750 annual tax for insurance
they might never use, is unlikely to pass. On Tuesday, the
Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel called on people to
protest the bill, which is being discussed in the Senate as part of
U.S. President Barack Obama's health care reform. The copy of the
bill passed by the House of Representatives excludes citizens living
overseas. However, some people fear the merged bill may wind up
including the tax.

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Mideast:
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I. QWith Mofaz as Beilin

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (11/11):
Q[Former Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz's proposal is not perfect.
Its feasibility is in doubt and it's hard to find a Palestinian
counterpart who would, at the start of the negotiations, recognize
Israeli sovereignty over West Bank communities such as Ariel and
Ma'aleh Adumim, as the Mofaz plan provides. The plan's details are
less important, however, than the very existence of the initiative,
which poses a challenge to Netanyahu and his government and
stimulates public debate. This is the opposition's classic role in
a democratic system. It's what Yossi Beilin did when he proposed
the Geneva Initiative as a recipe for breaking the diplomatic
stalemate when Ariel Sharon was prime minister. The Geneva
Initiative was one of the factors that led Sharon to announce the
Gaza disengagement. The Mofaz plan, along with the pressure from
the United States, can play a similar role in the Netanyahu era and
prod the prime minister to go beyond the peace process' paralysis
and submit an initiative of his own as a solution to the Palestinian
conflict.

II. QThe Vision of Shaul

Settler leader Israel Harel wrote in HaQaretz (11/12): QOnly in
Israel could a former chief of staff who failed both ethically and
operationally in a long war on terror, and then became a hapless
defense minister (who predicted that the disengagement would bring
an end to the Qassam rockets, and then contended with such
impressive success with the thousands of missiles of Qpeace and
quietQ that were fired at Negev residents), be taken seriously by
the public rather than being seen as a political adventurer. Only
in Israel could a politician who cheated his party and his voters
(saying that Likud was his home and then defecting to Kadima) almost
win the leadership of another major party and then vie for the prime
minister's crown (Qas prime minister, I will have the right to

implement the planQ).... There is almost no important detail in
Mofaz's innovative plan that has not been discussed in the past with
the Palestinians and rejected out of hand. Genuine research would
have revealed that. Such research would also have discovered that
in response to every one of the QplansQ conceived in Israel with the
goal of avoiding Qdiplomatic stalemateQ (plans whose guiding
principle always involved concessions on Israel's part), the
Palestinians only hardened their stance. Instead of seeing these
plans as a demonstration of Israel's sincere desire for peace, they
viewed them, and with justification, as a product of weakness. More
than once, the Palestinians have reacted to these plans with
outbursts of lethal terror. And why should they respond to them in
any other way, when they know that rejecting these plans, and
certainly if coupled with violence, will lay the groundwork for the
next concession-filled plan, including the absurd idea (which Mofaz
includes in his plan) of giving the Palestinians territory within
the Green Line?

III. QThe Love Affair Is Over

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot (11/12): QAccording to newspaper reports, the U.S.
has basically given up on the inflexible settlement freeze condition
that it posed at first.... Even worse, the Palestinians also fear
that the U.S. has given up its original intention of establishing a
Palestinian state on the entire area of 1967.... But what stunned
the Palestinians even more was the near hostility that the U.S.
administration has begun to display towards them. Obama realized
that the problem of the Middle East is the Arabs, and not the
Israelis. The latter are willing to accept bold arrangements, but
the Arabs are not willing to recognize Israel at any price. He was
stunned when the QmoderateQ Arab regimes, which he approached
personally to ask for normalization steps, such as Egypt, Saudi
Arabia and Morocco, replied almost scornfully. They were not
willing for there to be any rapprochement with Israel, not with the
settlements and not without the settlements. Obama also began to
demand clear things of the PA: not to display hostility toward
Israel, not to take part in hostile votes toward Israel in the U.N.,
and more. They, of course, turned down his requests. As a result,
instead of a honeymoon and a happy marriage, relations almost
reached the point of Palestinian-American divorce, and all this,
within one year. This also puts into doubt the question whether the
Americans will lend a hand to unilateral Palestinian initiatives,
such as those reported in the media. Abu Mazen also walked into the
trap that the Israeli government set, and to which he has no
solution: why does he not take the Palestinian state that it is
offering him? After all, Netanyahu is willing for there to be such
a state, he says, subject to a number of reasonable conditions, such
as its demilitarization, or the non-return of refugees and settling
them in Arab states. If he so yearns for a state, why does he turn
down the offer? The Americans are also beginning to ask this
question, and this is very awkward for the Palestinians.
Disappointed from his expectations of the Americans, disappointed
with the lack of a response to the Israeli Government, and fearing a
Hamas victory in the upcoming elections in January for the
presidency, there was nothing for Abu Mazen to do but to resign.
The great Palestinian euphoria has turned into deep
disillusionment.

IV. QThe Outcome of the Meeting: Israel Will Help Abu Mazen

Zalman Shoval, a senior Likud member and former ambassador to the
U.S., wrote in the independent Israel Hayom (11/12): QThe
Palestinians enthusiastically adopted the initial inflexible
American approach and embraced extreme and non-compromising
positions. But when it became evident that Washington and Jerusalem
had made efforts, apparently successful, to find a pragmatic
solution to the matter of the settlements, the Palestinian remained
-- excuse the expression -- with their pants down. This Palestinian
knot, which grew worse as a result of domestic political matters,
was a major subject discussed by Obama and Netanyahu, particularly
in the one-on-one meeting (although the main subject was meant to be
Iran). The U.S. administration believes that Abu Mazen is still the
only Palestinian leader with whom peace can be reached and therefore
Israel must actively and generously take part in the efforts to
bring him down from his limb, including the resignation limb.
Although Israel presumably has an approach that is a bit more
open-eyed as to Abu Mazen's real abilities and aspirations, it was
agreed that Israel would do its best to help the administration in
this regard. That said, it appears that at least at this stage,
Washington is wary about renewing the efforts to jumpstart, within a
short time, an overall and accelerated diplomatic process. From now
on, the main emphasis will be placed on small and limited steps
(known as baby steps) at relatively low levels. Steps that will
lead, later on, to comprehensive negotiations at high levels. The
chances of this new approach are not guaranteed, if only because of
what is going on in the Palestinian street in general, and in the
political alleyways, specifically. The subjects in which the
cooperation between the U.S. and Israel will cooperate on the
Palestinian matter were reviewed in the conversation. Not all the
pitfalls were smoothed over and not all the obstacles were removed
in the visit, but the atmosphere of imaginary crisis was replaced
with a new atmosphere of cooperation. Not only can America not walk
away from the conflict in the Middle East, as Tom Friedman suggested
half jokingly, but the conflict cannot walk away from America. With
this the situation, the meeting helped strengthen the connection and
the understanding between Israel and its ally.

V. QThe Failure

Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, wrote in the
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (11/11): QObama started his
presidency with an announcement that he would act vigorously to
achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement; he appointed George
Mitchell as his special envoy. But what happened to Mitchell is
what happened to other envoys to the region: faced with a lack of
political will among the quarrelling parties, the envoys have been
left helpless. When Mitchell got entangled in the freezing of
construction in the settlements, he wasted much of America's
political capital. After all, how can someone who cannot handle
Qnatural growthQ in the settlements achieve an overall solution to
the conflict? Hillary Clinton's visit did not show any results
either, and the threatened resignation by Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas, even if he does not go through with it, certainly
does not represent any great American success. Even if the
negotiations resume, despite everything, they will be portrayed as a
huge achievement. But let's remember that negotiations went on for
years when Ehud Olmert was prime minister and no agreement ever came
out of them. It's not true that the road to hell is paved with good
intentions. Sometimes good intentions don't lead anywhere at all.

CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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