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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002499

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
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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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TAGS: OPRC KMDR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

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SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
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1. Mideast

2. Iran

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Key stories in the media:
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The media reported that yesterday the Jerusalem Municipal Planning
Committee approved a plan to build 900 housing units in the cityQs
southeastern neighborhood of Gilo. Leading media reported that the
White House and State Department subsequently harshly criticized the
move. The media reported that White House Press Secretary Robert
GibbsQ comments included criticism of Israel's "continuing pattern
of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes," a point the
Obama administration has made in the past. The media cited Gibbs
remark that the U.S. is QdismayedQ at the decision. Kadima Knesset
Member Meir Sheetrit, a former Housing and Construction Minister, as
saying in an interview with Israel Radio today that he had ordered
such construction in the past and that in this way, the Americans
are expressing their desire to bring the Palestinians to the
negotiating table. Yediot bannered: QWhite House: We Are
Disappointed by Israel.Q Media reported that British Foreign
Secretary David Miliband, U.N. Secretary-General, and the PA also
blasted the decision. Media quoted a senior Israeli Government
official as saying that PM Benjamin Netanyahu was "willing to show
the greatest possible restraint concerning building in the
territories, and has even received praise for that restraint. But
that is in the West Bank. Gilo is in Jerusalem, and that is the
capital." Media quoted Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat as saying that
the demand that only Jews cease building is illegal.

Leading media quoted Hamas as saying said that talks to exchange
prisoners with Israel are underway but still far from a conclusion.
Osama al-Muzini, in charge of negotiations over Gilad ShalitQs
release, was quoted as saying that negotiations are going on and
they are being led by a German mediator. "The talks are good and
active, but still do not reach the end of the road despite the
progress," al-Muzini told reporters. Israel Radio quoted the U.S.
sponsored Alhurra-TV as saying that Shalit will be released on
Friday, November 27, the Muslim Sacrifice Holiday of Eid al-Adha.
E
The radio later quoted a Hamas source as saying that GiladQs release
will not take place until next month. Israel Radio reported that
the Israeli Government is not responding to these reports.

Israel Radio quoted the London-based Al-Hayat as saying that French
President Nicolas Sarkozy is promoting a meeting between PM
Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Leading media reported that yesterday PM Benjamin Netanyahu strongly
criticized soldier QrebelsQ who refuse to be involved in evictions
of settlers. Maariv quoted senior IDF officers as saying that
political elements are stirring up confused 18-year-olds. The media
cited contradictory views among Zionist-religious leaders and
Rabbis.

The Jerusalem Post reported that chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat
told the newspaper yesterday that the Palestinians will not
unilaterally declare an independent state, but rather seek a U.N.
Security Council resolution endorsing a two-state solution along the
pre-1967 lines. The Post quoted Israeli officials as saying that
Erekat was backtracking on earlier statements calling for a
unilateral declaration of independence, even as he said that Israel
was "twisting his words."

HaQaretz reported that police are investigating suspicions of
document fraud involving the Chairman of the Knesset Constitution,
Law and Justice Committee, Knesset Member David Rotem (Yisrael
Beiteinu), the Secretary General of the Amana settlement housing
group, Ze'ev "Zambish" Hever, and prominent settler leader Yoel
Tzur. Rotem appears in the suspected documents as an attorney, and
police said that while they are aware of Rotem's alleged involvement
in the affair, he has not been questioned yet. The investigation
centers on land in the outpost of Jabal Artis ("Pisgat Yaakov"),
located in the municipal borders of the settlement of Beit El. The
outpost was set up in February 2001 on privately owned land, and
today is home to several dozens families, some in trailers and some
in permanent structures.

Yediot quoted President Shimon Peres as saying: QOur enemies believe
that we have the capability to annihilate them.Q Peres is pictured
at the Nahal Sorek Nuclear Reactor. The interview is part of a
feature that the daily will publish on Friday.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Bruce Riedel, an ex-CIA South Asia expert
and current adviser to President Obama, as saying in Tel Aviv on
Tuesday that the U.S. is too bogged down in Afghanistan to engage
Iran militarily over its nuclear program. Riedel, a senior
Brookings Institute and Saban Center fellow for political
transitions in the Middle East and South Asia, addressed scholars
and journalists at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National
Security Studies. He warned that the U.S. was fighting a losing
battle against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and that Washington
would soon have to make difficult choices on beefing up troop levels
there. "Israelis need to understand that there's going to be a huge
drain on resources, attention, and capital and that will have
implications," Riedel told The Jerusalem Post before his talk. He
acknowledged that those implications would primarily affect the Iran
question.

Israel Radio reported that this morning Palestinians fired a rocket
at the western Negev.

Yediot reported that Obama associates have told the U.S. weekly The
New Republic that Secretary of State Hillary ClintonQs slips of the
tongue have complicated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The
sources were quoted as saying that Clinton has made public
statements that the U.S. administration would rather say in private.
The newspaper cites two cases -- in May, when the Secretary called
for a total settlement freeze, and in late October, when Clinton
said that Netanyahu offered QunprecedentedQ concessions on
settlements.

HaQaretz quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying
yesterday that Israel is the Qmost threatened country in the world"
and the rocket attacks its civilian population has suffered are
"attacks not experienced by any other state since Britain in World
War II." Netanyahu was giving the closing remarks at the Israel
Annual Conference on Aviation and Astronautics. Much of the
discussion at the conference centered on missile defense. "We are
faced with enemies who do not conceal their intentions and who arm
themselves accordingly," the PM said. "They first attack us
physically and then attack our right to self-defense." DM Ehud
Barak, who also spoke at the conference, said that the multilayered
missile interception system that Israel is now constructing is a
necessary condition for any stable political arrangement in the
Middle East. HaQaretz and The Jerusalem Post quoted Barak as saying
that the Defense Ministry plans to significantly increase production
of Arrow missile interceptors, capable of intercepting incoming
Iranian and Syrian Shihab and Scud missiles.
The Jerusalem Post reported that a German defense delegation will
arrive in Israel next month for high-level talks to focus on an
Israeli request to purchase two Meko-class missile ships.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)
is strengthening its position in Central and South America and in
the coming year will hold demonstrations of its Heron Unmanned
Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for Panamanian security forces.

HaQaretz reported that last-minute political pressure is preventing
the implementation of a Supreme Court ruling to evacuate Beit
Yehonatan (a building named after Jonathan Pollard), which was
established in East Jerusalem by the right-wing group Ateret
Cohanim. In July 2008 the court ruled that the seven-story
structure in the Silwan neighborhood must be shuttered. HaQaretz
has learned that parallel to preparations by the municipal
inspectors and the police to carry out the court order, pressure has
come down on the legal counselor of the municipality, Yosef Havilio,
to delay the execution of the order. The issue had been deliberated
for the past four years and the court, despite a series of delays,
rejected the appeal by the residents of the building. However, a
statement issued Tuesday from the office of Mayor Nir Barkat
announced that "a variety of legal alternatives are being examined
between the owners of the structure and the courts." This morning
Israel Radio reported that local residents are fighting the razing
of an empty building in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday the U.N. Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a report
listing Palestinian communities that are especially vulnerable to
the settler strategy known as the Qprice tag.Q In another report,
The Jerusalem Post wrote that the BQTselem NGO has released a short
animated film that attempts to portray the Qdestructive influence
of IDF violence against Palestinians on Israeli society.

The media reported that the implementation of the governmentQs
biometric database has been postponed by at least two years. In the
mean time, only volunteers will provide biometric details, which
will be affixed to their ID cards and passports.

Major media reported that Israel was ranked 32nd in Transparency
International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which was released
yesterday. Israel moved up one spot from its 2008 ranking, with a
score of 6.1 out of 10. In an unrelated matter, Maariv cited a poll
conducted by the Israel-Sderot Social Convention that shows that 77%
of Israelis view FM Avigdor Lieberman as the most corrupt cabinet
minister; 52% believe that Interior Minister Eli Yishai is corrupt;
37% believe that DM Barak is corrupt; 32% believe that Sports and
Culture Minister Limor Livnat is; Benny Begin, Yitzhak Herzog,
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Strategic Affair Minister Dan
Meridor; and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau are viewed
as honest.

Maariv reported that far-Left, Mideast-oriented groups in the U.S.
oppose an event for the (Jewish) QHebron HeroesQ that will take
place on Saturday night at Citi Field, the New York MetsQ stadium.

HaQaretz reported that a compromise has been reached between the
Intel Corporation in Jerusalem and ultra-Orthodox circles -- the
firm will employ only non-Jews on the Jewish Sabbath.

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1. Mideast:
------------

Block Quotes
------------

I. QConvenient Ground for Netanyahu to Fight on

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (11/18): QIf to Israelis, Qwhat goes for East
Jerusalem goes for Tel Aviv,Q as Netanyahu says, then as far as the
Palestinians are concerned, Qwhat goes for East Jerusalem goes for
Ramallah,Q as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says. A
freeze on Jewish construction in East Jerusalem therefore was and
remains the key to the peace process. During his last term as prime
minister, Netanyahu rebuffed Arab protests over the building of
Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood, east of Gilo, as well as American
requests to delay the project. He learned that in the battle over
Jerusalem, he could even overpower a successful president like Bill
Clinton. Today, he senses Obama's weakness -- so he is inviting the
U.S. president for another round.

II. QThe Rules of the Game Have Changed

Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/18): QIf anyone
among the Israeli decision-makers still believed that the Americans
would ultimately get on with business as usual in the aftermath of
the Israeli decision to build 900 housing units in Gilo, along came
reality and slapped them in the face. The Obama administration has
decided to change the rules of the game and not to behave like other
U.S. administrations in the past. If it truly wants to renew
negotiations with the Palestinians under American patronage, Israel
is going to have to stop building in the territories it occupied in
1967.... Senator George Mitchell has been trying for some time to
persuade Israel that it is not enough to declare twice a day its
desire to renew negotiations with Abu Mazen. Israel, say the
Americans, has to change its mode of conduct insofar as pertains to
construction in the territories.... If that doesn't happen, Israel
will remain with the territories, far-reaching changes will occur on
the Palestinian side, Abu Mazen will disappear, and the Americans
will tell the parties to come looking for them when they finally
realize what is required of them. In that sense, the Netanyahu
government has reached its moment of truth. A moment in which
making a decision cannot be put off any longer, as the Prime
Minister has preferred to do on other issues. President George Bush
announced that the objective of the negotiations between Israel and
the Palestinians was the creation of two states living side by side
-- a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity, and land swaps
that would permit the Israelis in the settlement blocs to remain
under Israeli sovereignty in exchange for areas that would be given
to the Palestinian entity. Many people will say that Bush didn't
mean what he said. Obama means every word.

III. QBelieve Netanyahu

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in HaQaretz (11/18): QThe
deal that Obama is offering is clear: a diplomatic struggle against
Iran and defense backing for Israel -- in some areas even more than
what was on the table during the Bush administration -- in return
for a pullout from the territories and a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu understood this and still insisted on meeting the
President, even at the cost of public humiliation, to tell him that
he wants to push forward on a settlement with the Palestinians. He
spoke with him about Qconcrete stepsQ and made his promises public.
Why would he do this if his intentions were not true?.... The minute
Netanyahu is convincing that he is serious and has a serious peace
plan and not mere slogans, the political world will be shaken up,
and those supporting a settlement with the Palestinians will back
him. This is his challenge. He convinced me; let's see him
convince Abbas.

IV. QDon't Shoot from the Hip

Dov Weisglass, who was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top
diplomatic advisor, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (11/18): QIsrael must weightily consider its response to
the Palestinian initiative and the empty talk that has already been
voiced in this context is a bad sign. The proposal to Qannex the
settlement blocs to IsraelQ is an example of a silly response.
Besides additional diplomatic embarrassment, the annexation would
have no practical significance. The Palestinians have accepted the
loss of these territories in any case, and no one outside Israel
will recognize the validity of a non-consensual annexation. The
clear difference between the Palestinian action and the Palestinian
reaction lies in the world's attitude: while the declaration of the
Palestinian state will probably be supported by most of the
countries of the world, the annexation of the blocs to Israel will
presumably be condemned by most of them. If the purpose of the
Palestinian move is to cause Israel severe diplomatic embarrassment
by gaining sweeping global support for the Palestinian initiative,
then by its act of annexation, Israel will cause itself further and
harsher embarrassment, by subjecting itself to wall-to-wall
condemnation. Similarly, the call to Qannul past agreements,Q which
probably refers to the Oslo Accords, is a harmful idea.... It is
difficult to understand why such a clear act of self-punishment is
the Qfitting responseQ to the Palestinian initiative.

V. QNo One Is Better than Abu Mazen

Columnist and former IDF Intelligence chief Shlomo Gazit wrote in
the popular, pluralist Maariv (11/18): QAt this stage we do not know
how the problem of [Palestinian governance] is going to be solved.
We have known Abu Mazen for years. Already 15 years ago, he was
Yossi BeilinQs partner in the proposal of an outline toward a
diplomatic Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Among the gallery of
figures in todayQs Palestinian leadership, he is the only
Palestinian leader with whom Israel can push forward a diplomatic
process.... Without saying this aloud, we are taking steps to shrink
Abu MazenQs status and to weaken the little credit he still has to
engage in negotiations. Thos steps might bring about his departure
from the public stage.

V. QIn the Last Place

Former Meretz Knesset Member, Professor of Political Science Naomi
Chazan, the Director-General of the New Israel Fund, wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/18): QWe have
recently heard that in its Freedom of Religion Report, the U.S.
Department of State places Israel at the bottom of the democratic
states.... The significant movement of religious pluralism
developing in [Israeli] civil society challenges repeated attempts
to anchor the hegemony of the religious establishment.... The
expansion of alternatives will eventually deride the prevailing
religious control. Only then will IsraelQs name disappear from the
list of states that restrict freedom of religion and conscience.

VI. QCrossing the Line

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (11/18):
QRegrettably, there are fresh signs that Qtoxic rageQ [as exposed in
the U.S. by the Anti-Defamation League] exists here in Israel, too,
among an increasingly radicalized segment of the settler population.
It's manifested by a worrisome breakdown in army discipline among
soldiers whose first allegiance is not to the state. On Monday,
several enlisted men from the Nachshon battalion held a political
protest on base evidently out of pique that the IDF had dismantled
an illegal outpost earlier in the day. The issues at stake
transcend partisanship. Demagogic Knesset members and post-Zionist
rabbis who encourage servicemen to disobey their officers, or deny
the legitimacy of the political echelon to direct the military are
undermining the State of Israel. Disrespect for legitimate
authority, demonization of elected officials and demagoguery are bad
for the Jews... even when it takes place in their own state.

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2. Iran:
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Block Quotes:
-------------

QA Good but Insufficient Start

Former Kadima Knesset Member Professor Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, an
expert on missile defense, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot (11/18): QFrom a comprehensive, strategic view
point, Iranian assent [to a nuclear agreement with the world powers]
represents the first withdrawal from a tough position that has so
far been peen presented as a demonstration of unwillingness to
compromise. In itself, the agreement is a significant achievement
for the West and confirms the thesis that the Iranian regime, with
its domestic problems and its deteriorating economy, is susceptible
to pressure and prepared to fold under international pressure....
This is a good start, but not enough per se.

CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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