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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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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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1. Mideast

2. Iran

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

Leading media reported that yesterday Hamas denied a report by Al
Arabiya-TV that claimed that the movementQs leadership has rejected
the latest offer presented by a German mediator regarding Gilad
Shalit release. Maariv and Israel Radio quoted Hamas officials as
saying on the movementQs official Web site that Israel refuses to
free FatahQs Marwan Barghouti, the FPLPQs Ahmed Saadat, and Hamas
leaders Ibrahim Hamad and Abdullah Barghouti. Major media reported
that a senior Hamas official threatened to kidnap other Israelis.

Leading media printed an AP report that Iran is close to clinching a
deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore fro
Kazakhstan. Israel Radio noted that, in an interview with the radio
last week, Kazakh Ambassador to Israel Galim Orazbakov pledged that
his country would not aid the Iranian nuclear program.

Kadima Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz was quoted as saying in an
interview with HaQaretz that the election of Tzipi Livni as his
partyQs leader Qbordered on criminal.Q Mofaz claimed that Livni
cannot be a prime minister or lead.

The media reported that yesterday PM Benjamin Netanyahu met with
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other senior Egyptian officials
to discuss renewing Mideast peace talks. Afterward, Egyptian FM
Ahmed Abu al-Gheit offered rare praise for Netanyahu, commending him
for raising various new ideas for advancing the peace process. Abu
al-Gheit did not offer details of Mubarak's discussion with
Netanyahu at Cairo's Presidential Palace, but said he is convinced
the Israeli leader is serious about resuming talks with the
Palestinians. Yediot reported that Mubarak will invite PA President
Mahmoud Abbas to Cairo in order to make the Palestinians resume the
negotiations. Maariv cited the hopes of diplomats that a diplomatic
summit will take place in Egypt to relaunch the negotiations.
HaQaretz reported that Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the
KnessetQs Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday that
Israel's declared freeze of construction in the settlements will not
bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table by itself. "As far
as the Palestinians are concerned, the decision of the government to
freeze construction does not constitute the basis for restarting the
political process, for there to be a basis there also needs to be an
Israeli statement on Jerusalem," Diskin was quoted as saying that
there is a crisis in confidence between the PA, Israel, and the
U.S., because the Palestinians believe Washington could force Israel
to undertake substantive steps in confidence building.

Israel Radio and other media reported that Netanyahu received a warm
welcome from a Likud gathering upon his return from Egypt despite
the settlement building freeze.

Maariv reported on increased security around DM Ehud Barak. The
newspaper quoted as defense source as saying that there are concerns
for BarakQs life in the wake of the settlement construction freeze.

Yediot quoted an Israeli intelligence source as saying that Yemen
has turned into the new capital of terror. Maariv reported on
increasing calls in the U.S. to introduce Israeli-style security at
airports.

Major media reported that yesterday the High Court of Justice
revoked the ban on Palestinians traveling or walking on Route 443
(the eastern segment of the northern Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road),
ruling it was unauthorized and disproportional. The court ordered
the route to be reopened to all within five monthsQ time. The
restrictions on Palestinian movement set by the Israel defense
establishment stemmed from the fact that the road had become a
Qsecurity Achilles heelQ and a target for terrorist attacks, which
over the years have claimed lives. However, Supreme Court Justice
Dorit Beinisch refused to term the previous situation Qapartheid.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted moderate Deputy PM and Intelligence
Affairs Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) as saying yesterday at a
conference of ambassadors being hosted by the Foreign Ministry that
the Palestinian issue currently appears to be insoluble and that he
is skeptical about whether the Palestinians were prepared at all to
reach a solution at present.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday, in an interview with the
newspaper, Anti-Defamation League National (U.S.) Director Abe
Foxman slammed the U.S. administration for what he called its
Qmischievous and troublingQ decision to seek clarification from
Israel over last SaturdayQs IDF operation in Nablus. IsraelQs
Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, said that the request for
clarification came from the White House and that it was
Qunderstandable.Q Foxman told The Jerusalem Post, however, that
while the U.S. was a welcome and often necessary intermediary in
peace efforts, Qthis is something new. This is America getting
involved in combat situations.

HaQaretz quoted Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt as saying
yesterday in an interview with Nazareth-based Radio A-Shams that
Israeli Druze should not serve in the IDF, saying such service
clashes with Druze membership in the Arab nation. Jumblatt said
that all Druze are Arabs who follow the Druze religion, and thus
ties between Druze in different countries and between Druze and
other Arabs were only natural.

Andrew Standley, the new E.U. Ambassador to Israel, was quoted as
saying in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that European funding
of NGOs does not constitute QmeddlingQ in public policy.

Leading media reported that yesterday President Mubarak acceded to
PM Netanyahu's request to allow hundreds of Jewish pilgrims to visit
the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira near Alexandria at the end of
next week. Citing security concerns, Egyptian authorities had
initially refused to allow a traditional hilula, or remembrance
ceremony held on the anniversary of a revered rabbi's death, to take
place at the tomb.

Leading media quoted Qatom spyQ Mordecai Vanunu, whom the police
accuses of violating his parole, as saying that the only purpose of
his meeting with Norwegian Bible Professor Kristin Joachimsen
earlier this week was a date.

Maariv reported that FM Avigdor Lieberman is pressing for
recognition of Evangelical Christians that would result in easier
entry into Israel, the authority to establish special tribunals, and
receiving funding from the government. The newspaper says that
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), who fears missionary activity,
objects to the proposed move.

Leading media reported that last night the Tel Aviv Municipality
held the awards ceremony for the 2009 Sokolow Prize for Journalism.
Both awards for print journalism went to writers for HaQaretz: Zvi
Bar'el and Yossi Melman. David Witzthum of Israel TV and Omri
Asenheim of Channel 2-TV also received prizes.

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

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

I. QTerms of Reference

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/30):
QThe [Obama] administration, after a year of driving down the wrong
road, is now back to where the Bush II White House had
constructively left matters -- meaning that there can be no return
to the 1949 Armistice Lines, and that agreement hinges on land
swaps, on Israel's retention of strategic settlement blocs and on
the Palestinians accepting the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish
state. Talks can resume as soon as Abbas drops his prerequisite
demand for a total settlement freeze everywhere over the Green Line.
An administration that wants a breakthrough peace agreement in 2010
might also want to rethink its own terms of reference. Here are
some suggestions: the less the U.S. says about construction in
Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem the better.... The administration
now needs to take on board that the settlement issue is a
red-herring. The sooner the administration incorporates the concept
of a demilitarized QPalestineQ into its peacemaking, the faster
progress can be made. A workable mechanism for Israeli and
international oversight of crossing points between the West Bank and
Jordan is equally essential. There can be no QrightQ of
Palestinians refugees and their descendants to QreturnQ to Israel
proper. One final suggested term of reference: the administration's
Iran policy is the peacemaking lynchpin. The quicker the mullahs
are defanged, and Hamas and Hizbullah deflated, the sooner moderate
Arab elements may be willing to take chances for peace.... The more
[the President] leans on Iran, the closer the region gets to
peace.

II. QThey DonQt Believe Him

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (12/30): QIn
his talks with [Kadima party leader Tzipi] Livni, Netanyahu asked
her why no one seems to believe his stated intention of advancing
the peace process with the Palestinians. The answer to his question
is clear. His decisions and actions raise doubts about his desire
to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Netanyahu is
superb at equivocating. He halted new residential construction in
the settlements and then added settlements to the list of national
priority areas. He promised that the Qtime is ripe to renew the
peace processQ and went to Cairo to meet Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak, and at the same time issued public tenders for hundreds of
new apartments in East Jerusalem. How is it possible to take his
call to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to
the negotiating table seriously when Israel is tightening its hold
on the disputed city?.... If Netanyahu wants people to believe him,
he has to convince them that he is committed to advancing the peace
process, with no tricks and no gestures aimed at compensating the
settlers. Only after he proposes a new path and demonstrates
willingness to confront the right over it will it make sense to
shore up the coalition from the left.

III. QMilestone in the Right Direction

Legal commentator Boaz Okun, who was Director of IsraelQs Courts
from 2004 to 2006, wrote in the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (12/30): QTodayQs apartheid no longer comes in an outspoken
wrapping, which explicitly declares superiority or oppression. It
lurks beneath the surface, and crawls slowly and cunningly to the
surface, with all the prejudices sprouting next to it, and it is
already permissible to speak about someone who Qlooks like an
Arabush [derogatory term for an Arab]Q or explain where prostitutes
come from. Route 443 is just one example of the practices employed
in the territories, which are part of a systematic and declared
policy of applying one law to Jews and another to Arabs. This is
not related to the war on terror, it is related to the policy that
prefers the Jewish interests in the territories in the areas of
water, lands and so on. No one likes to hear that our state is
almost like South Africa or becoming like it. Nevertheless, we
should beware. Apartheid states are created slowly and tend to
collapse all at once. When they do so, it happens without advance
signs, like ... marionettes whose strings are suddenly cut.

IV. QIsraelis Who Care for Palestinian Prisoners

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized
(12/30): QToo many Israelis -- those who call for the conclusion of
the Shalit deal and the acceptance of HamasQ conditions -- do not
view the release of the terrorists as a bad thing at all. As a
matter of fact, they supported the release of terrorists in the past
and will support such actions in the future not only in exchange for
GiladQs release but also for free.... It is not by chance that the
same people who appear to be prepared to pay dangerous prices in
order to release Shalit are not willing to pay the lightest cost in
Israeli-U.S. relations in order to promote the release of one
Israeli -- Jonathan Pollard (there is no symmetry here: activists
for PollardQs release will not push forward a deal to free
terrorists in exchange for him, in the same way most of them object
to the emerging Shalit deal).

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

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

QWanted: a Responsible Adult

Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/30): QIt must be stated plainly: Israel
does not have independent strike capability against Iran -- not in
the broad sense of the term.... It is doubtful whether Israel can
allow itself to act against the wishes of the United States -- to
stand alone against an Iranian response and begin an open-ended
operation against a nation of 70 million people.... Over the past
year, the Obama administration has provided the world with ample
reason to criticize it for its naivete, its overblown confidence in
the power of the spoken word to tear down walls, and its impotence
on North Korea. On the Iranian front, however, it has acted exactly
as it should. Its pursuit of dialogue has pushed Tehran into an
uncomfortable corner, created unanticipated common ground between
the U.S. and Russia, and could even lead to harsh sanctions against
Iran. What Israel needs now is a responsible adult, one who knows
how to pull the emergency lever should the need arise. If such an
adult cannot be found in Jerusalem, we must hope there is one
sitting in the White House.

CUNNINGHAM

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