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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #2759/01 3561056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221056Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4682
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RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 2975
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 7027
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 7232
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 6472
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 5136
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 7332
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4089
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 2311
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UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002759

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
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JERUSALEM ALSO ICD
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PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO

SIPDIS
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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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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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Major media reported that Israel has given a German mediator its
response to Hamas demands involving the release of Palestinian
prisoners in exchange for the return of Gilad Shalit. The Israeli
response will supposedly be relayed to Hamas today. The top-level
marathon meetings of Israeli ministers ended shortly after midnight
without an announcement of a decision over whether the Qforum of
seven,Q comprising PM Netanyahu and six other senior cabinet
ministers, had decided to accept or reject Hamas' offer. The media
reported that the Government of Israel is bound to accept a deal to
return Shalit, but under some conditions. HaQaretz and other
leading media reported that Israel would like to see most of the
Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank, especially those
considered the most dangerous, expelled to Gaza or abroad. A Hamas
source told the leading news Web site Ynet today that the latest
Israeli move may hold up the entire process for some time. The
source was quoted as saying that Hamas had been expecting an
"Israeli ploy" in which conditions would be stipulated in the last
minute. The source said: "We are still waiting to receive the
official Israeli decision, but as we have said, for the deal to go
through, Israel must accept all of our demands. "If this condition
is not met and the number of deportees reduced to near zero, there
will be no deal," the Hamas source said. However, Ynet said that
Hamas is unlikely to drop out of negotiations, as it also has much
interest in the execution of the deal. The Jerusalem Post reported
that, alarmed by the possibility that a prisoner exchange agreement
will bolster HamasQ popularity among Palestinians, Fatah has stepped
up its measures against the movementQs leading figures and members
in the West Bank.

Alongwith manifestations of support for the deal outsid PM
NetanyahuQs Jerusalem office, such as picturs of Shalit mounted on
multiple cardboard placars, the media reported on protests
highlighting te possible danger posed by released terrorists.

Israel Radio reported that France intends to host aone-day Middle
East peace conference next month, including Israel, the PA, Egypt,
and the Quartet members. The radio reported that none of the sides
has objected to taking part in the meeting.

The Jerusalem Post reported that several heads of hesder yeshivas
(which combine military service and religious studies) that they
were dissatisfied with the overly conciliatory message that went out
from SundayQs meeting of yeshiva heads. Yediot reported that a
yeshiva in Arad has abandoned the hesder arrangement. Its head,
Rabbi Yinon Ilani, was quoted as saying that the Israeli
establishment is not the pertinent authority. Media reported that
reservists have hanged banners in support of the Har Bracha Yeshiva,
which DM Ehud Barak has removed from the hesder arrangement.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the White House announced yesterday
that President Obama has signed a defense spending bill that
includes $202 million in funds for IsraelQs missile defense
programs. However, the appropriation does not contain funding for
the F-22 aircraft.

HaQaretz cited research by two Israel Prize laureates -- Ruth
Lapidoth and Dr. Ofra Friesel -- that Israel is unreservedly bound
to the Roadmap.

The Web sites of HaQaretz and The Jerusalem Post quoted the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency (JTA) as saying yesterday that former U.S.
President Jimmy Carter has apologized to the American Jewish
community for 'stigmatizing Israel' and asked for forgiveness for
his actions. "We must recognize Israel's achievements under
difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help
Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations,
but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize
Israel," Carter wrote in a letter to the JTA. "As I would have
noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at
any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of
mine that may have done so," Carter wrote, referring to the prayer
said on Yom Kippur in which Jews ask God for forgiveness for any
sins.


The Jerusalem Post reported that Mayor Nir Barkat has told Jerusalem
Municipality legal adviser Yossi Habilio that he does not want him
to represent the city in a High Court petition demanding the
cancellation of controversial plans by architect Moshe Safdie for
the Silwan neighborhood, south of the Old City. The petitioners
reported that Safdie, who was commissioned by the previous
administration of Uri Lupolianski in 2007, also received payment of
$82,900 from the right-wing Elad organization, which seeks to expand
the Jewish presence in Silwan through settlement and tourism.

The Jerusalem Post reported that last month an immigrant American
teenager underwent a Qdubious arrestQ and was subsequently badly
beaten up by inmates.

All media reported that archeologists have uncovered a Jewish house
in Nazareth dating to the time of Jesus.

The media reported on the passing of President ObamaQs healthcare
reform in the U.S. Senate. Maariv says that this is the PresidentQs
first achievement.

Yediot reported that the State Department has warned American
tourists about the behavior of Israeli drivers. The State
Department also allegedly warns that the personal computers of
American visitors may be checked for security purposes, and that
they may get them back broken or not get them at all. The report
cites the State DepartmentQs Country-Specific Information on Israel,
the West Bank, and Gaza on travel.state.gov, last updated in June
2009.

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Mideast:
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Block Quotes:
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I. QEnd the Indecision

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (12/22):
QInfuriatingly, the agonizing deliberations [over Gilad ShalitQs
release] are taking place three and a half years too late.... The
cabinet will not be able to wash its hands of responsibility with
the spurious claim that it has Qdone everythingQ to obtain Shalit's
release. True, it clamped a cruel blockade on Gaza as a means of
applying pressure, but the heavy price of that is paid by the
Gazans, not Hamas. The massive military operation in Gaza did
nothing to advance his release, and in the end Israel had to return
to negotiations. Not a single new reason that justifies keeping the
Shalits and the Israeli public in suspense -- and jeopardizing
Shalit's life -- has been added to the sum total of security and
political considerations. Israel's security does not depend on
whether another 10 or 20 terrorists are freed. Israel's prestige is
not measured only by its ability to combat terrorism, and its
failure is not a function of the roars of triumph with which Hamas
will welcome its freed prisoners. Gilad Shalit, who could have been
free a long time ago, must come home now.

II. QThe Fateful Decision

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/22):
QBeyond the moral bankruptcy of rewarding past evil, with history as
our guide -- and with heavy hearts -- we assert that Israelis will
die if the government obtains Gilad's freedom by acting only with
its heart.... Stopping on a dime will mean that the pundits and
politicians who orchestrated the campaign [to release Gilad Shalit]
that took matters this far will have some explaining to do. If
Netanyahu does pull back, it will be because Israelis were bluffing
ourselves as much as we were bluffing Hamas. A QnoQ now would take
Hamas down a peg. Netanyahu could directly address the Islamists'
disappointed constituents, emphasizing that meeting Hamas's
rapacious demands would have dishonored him and caused Israel to
lose face. Palestinians will understand that. So will Israelis.
He should frankly acknowledge that he was ready for an honorable
deal. Indeed, he must stress that he remains ready for an honorable
deal. The harrowing ordeal of Gilad's selfless parents touches us
all. Their son has become our son. Nevertheless, Netanyahu must
reverse course. The killers should remain incarcerated; if they
don't, more Israelis will surely die.

III. QNetanyahu Already Thinking Ahead

Diplomatic correspondent and television anchor Ben Caspit wrote in
the popular, pluralist Maariv (12/22): QWhichever way [Benjamin
Netanyahu] decides, he is torn -- truly torn. All his life he made
a career out of preaching morality to those who Qcapitulated to
terror,Q and now he is about to be the first among the capitulators.
He is surrounded by people opposed to the deal.... Oh, what
passionate speeches he would have made against the Shalit deal, if
he were the leader of the opposition.... In the end, his aides
believe, he will go for it. ItQs hard to believe that this will
happen either today or tomorrow. He will drive us, and himself,
crazy, a little bit longer. And perhaps even longer.... Netanyahu
doesnQt rest for a moment, his troubled soul can find no solace, he
sleeps little, tortures himself a lot. That is how he looks, that
is also how he feels, and all this over a deal for the release of
one prisoner. ItQs interesting what will happen when the Iranian
matter is on the agenda.

IV. QItQs All Talk

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, opined in the mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot (12/22): QAt the very very end, after all the
deliberation (and mainly, the reports about the deliberation) the
bargaining, the tough negotiations, Israel will pay a high price,
more or less, for the safe return of Gilad Shalit. The problem is
that the current prime minister has preached for years for taking a
tenacious and firm position, with gritted teeth and a commando knife
between the teeth, against terror organizations. And now, oops, for
the third time, he finds himself facing a dismal reality: the first
time was when, to his dismay, he spoke about Qtwo states for two
peoples,Q the second time was when, to his horror, he spoke about a
construction freeze and now -- the terrible deal. Bibi Netanyahu
tosses and turns on his bed at night and dreams of Arrow missiles
that are gratuitous in a war of this kind, of thousands of tanks, of
nuclear facilities that we are said to have. What use are all these
in the war over the life of Gilad Shalit? For decades, we have
trapped ourselves into the present situation. All Israeli
governments lent a hand to swapping murderers for our prisoners at
excessive dosages, never symmetrically. Suddenly now, today, we are
trying to change the rules and it isnQt working too well. We are
facing an enemy of unparalleled cruelty -- the kind of enemy that
can do what it wants. That can hurt Shalit. QThatQs not possible,
you say, Qwe have a tape: he is alive, he is alive, he is alive.
Nonsense and folly.... These words are being written before the
forum of seven ends its deliberations. It may be that the
negotiations will continue, that they will try to get something
more. That they will postpone deciding. That they will bow their
heads to the German mediator and beg him to keep going a little
more. We should foster no illusions: the deal will get under way
and its price will be unbearably heavy.

V. QChange in Gaza Is Possible

Gershon Baskin, Co-Director of the Israel/Palestine Center for
Research and Information, wrote in the conservative, independent
Jerusalem Post (12/22): QI say to [West Bank Palestinians I meet]:
if you want to end the occupation and liberate your land and create
your state next to Israel, go and meet with Israelis from Likud and
from Israel Beiteinu, don't boycott them -- that has no logic to it
at all. So I say to the [Israeli] government, if we want to change
the regime in Gaza without reoccupying it, we must change the hearts
and the minds of the Gazan people.... Israel's current policy is not
only not working, it is counterproductive and it is morally wrong.
Collective punishment against a civilian population will never
create future partners for peace. If we want to weaken Hamas, end
the economic siege. If we want to bankrupt Hamas economically, open
the passages for trade -- it will put the tunnels out of business.
If we want to build partners for peace, enable thousands of Gazans
to come out to meet with Israelis. If we want change in Gaza, we
have to change the way we treat Gaza. Hamas is the enemy; the people
of Gaza are not.

CUNNINGHAM

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