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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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DE RUEHTV #2648/01 3421212
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P 081212Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 2913
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 6957
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 7168
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 6408
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 5063
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 7267
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4027
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 2244
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0905
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 8424
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 3436
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 7409
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 9490
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY 2230
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 3301
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RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002648

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:
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1. Mideast

2. Iran

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Key stories in the media:
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Major media (lead story in HaQaretz) reported that yesterday PM
Benjamin Netanyahu told the KnessetQs Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee that Syria is now willing to negotiate without
preconditions, having retracted its earlier insistence that talks
could not begin unless Israel first agreed to withdraw from the
entire Golan. Briefing the committee on the indirect feelers to
Syria that he put out several weeks ago via French President Nicolas
Sarkozy, Netanyahu said that Damascus had initially insisted on this
precondition. However, Israel Radio quoted GOI sources as saying
that Syria has not given up on the return of the Golan. The radio
also quoted several senior Syrian spokespeople as saying that other
options than negotiating with Israel are available to their country.
This morning, Israel Radio quoted Deputy Syrian FM Faysal Mekdad as
saying that he favors Turkish-mediated negotiations with Israel, in
which the U.S. would have a role.

Israel Hayom quoted senior GOI sources as saying that this week
Israel will withdraw from the village of Ghajar, which straddles the
Lebanon border. Similarly, other media wrote that U.N. diplomat
Terje Roed-Larsen held unpublicized meetings over the weekend with
top government leaders, adding fuel to the speculation that an
Israeli withdrawal from Ghajar is imminent.

Leading media reported that the foreign ministers of the E.U. will
meet in Brussels today at SwedenQs behest to discuss the concept of
Jerusalem as the capital of two nations. Israel Radio and other
media cited the belief of GOI sources as saying that the ministers
will reach a compromise agreement. Israel Radio and the leading
Internet news service Ynet reported that Congresswoman Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the senior Republican on the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, has sent letters to the E.U. foreign ministers,
calling on them to reject a proposition to recognize east Jerusalem
as the future capital of a Palestinian state. Ros-Lehtinen wrote in
her letter that Jerusalem has been a symbol of religious freedom for
42 years.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Netanyahu government has an
undeclared but de facto policy of not letting senior political
figures, such as foreign ministers, enter Gaza from Israel.
According to government officials, the reasoning is twofold: to deny
Hamas legitimacy that would accompany such visits and as a way of
trying to apply pressure over Gilad Shalit. The policy has come to
light after Irish FM Michael Martin told a parliamentary committee
last week that Israel had banned a visit he had hoped to make to
Gaza. Responding to criticism that Israel was trying to hide the
situation in Gaza, Israeli government officials pointed out that
statesmen can always enter Gaza through Egypt.

Maariv reported that PM Netanyahu has decided to build a barrier
along the border with Egypt to stem the flow of refugees into
Israel.

Leading media reported that the heads of the hesder yeshivas (which
combine religious studies and military service) will meet Tuesday
with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at his office in Tel Aviv to
discuss the issue of insubordination after a series of incidents
that have sparked tension between rabbinic and military authorities.
The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday Barak insisted that
settlers obey the rule of law, as they clashed with security
personnel at the entrance to Jerusalem and across the West Bank.
Eight right-wing protesters were arrested. HaQaretz reported that
that the status of the Har Bracha yeshiva, which was attacked for
its role in inciting soldiers, has actually risen since then, even
among moderate religious Zionists.

The Jerusalem Post and other media quoted opposition leader and
Kadima chair Tzipi Livni as saying yesterday that Netanyahu is
endangering IsraelQs interests by grouping settlement blocs together
with outposts in his 10-month building moratorium.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday, in a meeting with
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday, President Obama called
Turkey an "important player" in keeping Iran's nuclear energy
program peaceful despite his recent criticism of the Western
approach towards Tehran. Speaking beside Obama at a White House
press conference, Erdogan said that the two leaders discussed what
could be done "jointly in the region with regard to nuclear
programs." He also stressed that "we stand ready as Turkey to do
whatever we can do with respect to relations between Israel and the
Palestinians, and Israel and Syria."

Yediot quoted Col. Yossi Baidatz, head of research at IDF
Intelligence, as saying yesterday at the KnessetQs Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee that Iran now possesses 1,800 kg of enriched
uranium -- enough to produce Qone and a halfQ nuclear weapon.
Baidatz also said that Israel has missiles capable of reaching
Israel.

Leading media reported that last night, after months of heated
debate, the Knesset approved the Biometric Database Law, paving the
way for the introduction of "smart" identification documents for all
Israelis. The Interior Ministry can now store the fingerprints and
facial contours of all Israeli citizens in a central data bank.
Once the law goes into effect, there will be a trial period of two
years, during which participation in the biometric database will be
voluntary. If the trial period is deemed successful, Interior
Ministry officials will be authorized to take the fingerprints and
facial contours of all Israeli residents before providing them with
identifying documents. The documents will include a micro-chip,
which will contain photos of two fingerprints and the person's
facial contours. The plenum finally approved the legislation by a
vote of 40 to 11, with three abstaining, after coalition skeptics
forced the Government to draft a compromise to allay fears that a
biometric database would provide fertile ground for computer hackers
and violate citizens' basic privacy rights.

The Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio reported that an Islamic Jihad
operative suspected of transporting two suicide bombers to
perpetrate an attack in Kfar Sava in 2002? was arrested in a joint
IDF-Shin Bet operation in Nablus overnight yesterday. The man went
underground after the attack -- in which several Israelis were
wounded -- and has been in hiding for the last seven years. In an
unrelated story, The Jerusalem PostQs Web site reported that three
Arab-Israeli residents of East Jerusalem were indicted three weeks
ago for suspected membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist
organization.

HaQaretz reported that coalition and opposition Knesset members are
drafting a bill to bar foreigners from owning an Israeli newspaper.
The law appears to target the free daily Israel Hayom, owned by
American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, an associate of PM Netanyahu.
Among the bill's initiators are Knesset members Daniel Ben Simon
(Labor), Yoel Hasson (Kadima) and Ofer Nimrodi, who owns the daily
Maariv. Israel Hayom's popularity is seen mainly as a threat to
Maariv.

All media reported that early yesterday Israeli security forces shot
and killed Yakir Ben Melech, 34, an Israeli man who attempted to
infiltrate Gaza near the Erez Crossing. Some media reported that
the man may have been mentally unstable. Yediot quoted him as
having said that he decided to Qsave Shalit.

IDF Radio quoted Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman as saying last
night at a rabbinical conference that he believes Jewish law
(Halakha) should be the binding law in Israel. The electronic media
quoted NeQeman as saying last night that he wanted to "restore
glory" to the judicial system in Israel by reinstating the law of
the Torah. He added that this would best be achieved slowly and
"step by step." Following the stir he caused, Ne'eman this morning
clarified that his statements didn't imply a Qcall to replace state
laws with halachic [Jewish religious] laws, not directly or
indirectly." His office issued a statement which read, "The minister
spoke in broad terms on restoring the Jewish law and its importance
in state life." HaQaretzQs Web site reported that this morning
Tzipi Livni harshly criticized Ne'eman's comments, saying they
should be troubling to "every citizen who cares about what happens
in Israel in terms of its values and democracy." Ne'eman's remarks
also drew criticism from left-wing politicians, including Meretz
leader Haim Oron and Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh. Ynet quoted
senior members of the Israeli judicial establishment as saying that
NeQeman will not be able to hold on to his post following this
controversy.

Yediot reported on a campaign by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to
encourage Israelis to seek jobs at the U.N. Israel Hayom wrote that
it is the U.N. that is actually looking for Israeli employees.

Maariv reported that an Israeli was among four people arrested in
connection with a lethal fire at a nightclub in Perm, Russia, on
Saturday, in which 113 people were killed.

Citing the American-Jewish newspaper The Forward, HaQaretz notes
that the QcolorfulQ family of Chelsea ClintonQs fianc, Marc
Mezvinksy, is a Qprominent Jewish political clan that includes a
former U.S. congressman convicted of fraud; another member of
Congress who fell on her sword for a future in-law in a vote that
ended her political career; no fewer than 10 brothers- and
sisters-in-law, and a fervently anti-Zionist uncle.

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

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


I. QAll Pain, No Gain

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/8):
QThe [U.S.] administrationQs minimalist response to NetanyahuQs two
historic announcements [the Bar-Ilan University speech recognizing a
demilitarized QPalestineQ and his November 25 announcement of a
10-month moratorium on new settlement construction], along with its
failure to persuade Arab governments to take steps toward
normalization with Israel and demonstrate that the Arab Peace
Initiative is not simply a propaganda ploy, can only make one wonder
where this freeze is going to lead. If it means so little to the
White House and nothing to the Palestinians Q if it is, moreover,
not part of some larger coherent strategy in which Netanyahu
enunciates what IsraelQs boundaries ought to be Q and if the
moratoriumQs gut-wrenching impact domestically is all pain and no
gain, what are its benefits?.... The real reason [Mahmoud] Abbas
does not want to talks [with Israel] is because he hopes that by
hanging tough, an exasperated Washington will impose the Fatah
position on Israel. On top of that, he does not want to appear
conciliatory when HamasQ fortunes are on the rise. So NetanyahuQs
U.S.-pressed freeze has pitted settlers against soldiers. It hasnQt
swayed Abbas or the Arab League. Hamas is bemused. Europe is little
impressed. The Obama administration, which so far has merely
offered parsimonious praise, needs to do better.

II. QThe Wink Became a Rebellion

Senior columnist and longtime peace advocate Yoel Marcus wrote in
the independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/8): QWhat this column
described on Friday as Benjamin Netanyahu's Qbig wink,Q a clever
tactical ruse designed to freeze construction in the West Bank for
10 months only, has turned into a full-fledged revolt much faster
than we expected.... [Beside antagonism within the government], in
the settlements ... the waves of protest and opposition currently
look like a tsunami in the making. The concern that it could
eventually flood the country, sweeping aside everything in its path,
is a serious one.... Instead of Qtwo states for two peoples,Q Bibi's
initiative has revealed an Israel with two peoples inhabiting a
single state. It is not clear whether he realized the opposition
would be this fierce and this violent. But it is clear that when
the time comes to evacuate outposts the opposition will be even more
violent and could even degenerate into bloodshed. Because over
there, they don't buy ruses accompanied by a wink. If negotiations
with the Palestinians resume before the 10 months are over, as the
settlers fear will happen, this will not be an Qedict of
destruction,Q as Danny Dayan [who chairs the Yesha Council of
Settlements in the Territories] claims, but rather a renewed effort
to determine the state's permanent borders. Ze'ev Jabotinsky
[LikudQs ideological forefather] is dead and the dream of the
QGreater Land of IsraelQ was buried by Sharon. Netanyahu must prove
that he is cut from the cloth that turns a compulsive manipulator
into a leader of the nation as a whole -- and that he has the
strength of mind to suppress the rebellion.

III. QA Firm Hand Will Prevent Insurgence

Prominent liberal-centrist playwright Yehoshua Sobol wrote in the
independent Israel Hayom (12/8): QAny Israeli who wishes to destroy,
from the outset, any possibility of negotiations, has to prove that
Israel is not a serious partner. In order to do this, he must prove
that the Israeli government is incapable of carrying out decisions
that it itself passed. In other words: he must show the Israeli
government as an empty vessel and the person heading it as spineless
and as incapable of compelling the government and the security
forces to carry out the governmentQs policy. This is precisely what
the efforts of the extremists among the settlers aim for.. This act
of the settlers will bring IsraelQs image as a country of law and
order to a nadir that has no compare in recent years. The anarchy
that will be created here in wake of the governmentQs failure to
instate its policy will threaten the future of Israel more than all
its external enemies.

IV. QA Convenient Distractions

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/8): QOn the eve of signing the settlement
construction freeze order, Avigdor Lieberman told reporters that the
settlements had never been an obstacle to peace. The proof, the
Foreign Minister explained, is that the Jewish settlement enterprise
in Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank] did not stop Egypt and
Jordan from signing peace agreements with Israel. Therefore, the
settlements are not the real reason why the Palestinians are
refusing to resume peace negotiations. The natural growth and
mortality rates among residents in Judea and Samaria since the two
Arab neighbors signed peace agreements provide the strongest proof
that Lieberman is correct. He just forgets to mention that the
Egyptians and Jordanians took Israel's promises to end the
occupation seriously. Even the Palestinians, the direct victims of
land theft, did not present the construction freeze as a condition
for negotiations. The settlements are not the real reason for
President Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to meet with Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu. The point of contention hinges on a completely
different issue: the peace process. Abbas insists that the talks on
the permanent status agreement be based on the parameters of the
2003 Roadmap, which received affirmation in a U.N. Security Council
Resolution. The map is reminiscent, among other things, of the Arab
peace initiative which focused on normalization in return for an
Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967. Netanyahu
has yet to utter the word QRoadmapQ and refuses to revise its
timetable (which originally called for the conflict to end in 2005).
The Prime Minister is also rejecting the Palestinian demand to
resume the negotiations at the point where Abbas and Ehud Olmert
ended them a year ago. For Netanyahu, the crisis regarding the
settlements was therefore the perfect diversionary tactic; first he
wore out the Americans with fights over the wording of the
construction freeze and now the clashes with the settlers over the
freeze orders are distracting the public from the wording of the
negotiations. A foreign diplomat this week offered another
indication that the Netanyahu-Lieberman government managed to
transform the settlements into an obstacle to peace.


V. QAfter Three and a Half Years

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever Plotker wrote in
the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/8): QIt could be
that Gilad Shalit will be released soon; I hope. It could be that
the negotiations for his release will reach a positive end; I hope.
Even if this happens, that will be insufficient to make up for the
flawed way in which these negotiations were conducted. The first
flaw: the secrecy. The negotiations have been held behind closed
doors, under a heavy mantle of censorship and disinformation. The
second flaw: passivity. The Palestinian side submits a list of
names of prisoners and Israel removes those that are not to be
considered and discusses the others. The third flaw: lack of
proportionality. In exchange for kidnapped soldiers of low military
rank, Israel is willing to discuss the release of prominent and
senior terrorists, on condition that they are few in number. We can
learn a lesson from these flaws and propose, in their place, another
format, one that is completely opposite, when bargaining with
Hamas.... Common Israeli thinking reflects the belief that it is
better to release one terror leader than 100 field activists. That
is a mistake: the starting point for a discussion on a prisoner
exchange must be that a soldier is not exchanged for a general, only
a soldier for soldiers. The damage to IsraeliQs security from the
release of 50 infamous terror leaders is immeasurably greater than
the damage from the release of 2,500 rank and file field activists
-- on condition that there is not among them even one senior
terrorist. Let Hamas bargain and say: please remove 500 prisoners
from the list and instead release a terror bigwig who is close to
our leadership. LetQs see them do that. ItQs still not too late to
think outside the box and begin a new strategy in the negotiations
for Shalit -- unless the Israeli government has already committed to
a secret, passive and QqualityQ deal from which it cannot retract.
If not, let us turn things upside down.

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2. Iran:
---------

Block Quotes:
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QA Regime Whose Days Are Numbered

Columnist Boaz Bismuth, who was IsraelQs Ambassador to Mauritania
between 2004 and 2008, wrote in the independent Israel Hayom (12/8):
QDemonstrations by the Iranian opposition have long ceased to be a
QrebellionQ attempt against President Ahmadinejad and they
represented the will to depose Supreme Leader Khamenei and unsettle
the idea of QVelayat e-FaqihQ (the Islamist regime) which is the
basis of the Islamic Republic. All signs point to the fact that the
question is not Qwhether,Q but when the street will topple the
regime.... Iranian rule is isolated more than ever -- domestically
and abroad. When it has nothing to offer and when the rest of the
Arab world [sic] closes its door to it, it can only further
radicalize and choose the option of conflict at every opportunity.
February 11, Islamic Revolution Day, will probably be yet another
day of demonstrations against the Ayatollahs. So will every future
festive day turn into a nightmare for a regime, the days of which
are numbered.

CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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