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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
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LONDON ALSO FOR HKANONA AND POL
PARIS ALSO FOR POL
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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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The key story during the weekend was a suggestion made by U.S.
Special Envoy Senator Mitchell during an interview with PBS-TV on
January 6 that the U.S. might withhold loan guarantees if Israel
doesn't make sufficient concessions in negotiations with the
Palestinians. The media reported that later U.S. administration
officials said that Mitchell did not threaten Israel. The media
reported that yesterday leading U.S. senators visiting Israel -- Joe
Lieberman and John McCain -- were critical of such a move, which
they said would not win enough support to go into effect. The media
reported that officials in the Prime MinisterQs Bureau protested
MitchellQs statements and asked the White House for clarifications.
While PM Benjamin Netanyahu refrained from personally relating to
MitchellQs comments, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that
Israel does not need loan guarantees.

Israel Radio reported that Hamas and Islamic Jihad condemned
yesterdayQs IAF raids in which three Islamic Jihad militants were
killed. The attack was the latest in a series of rocket launches
and IAF counterattacks. The media reported that yesterday PM
Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet that Israel will continue to
react swiftly to the firing of rockets. The Jerusalem Post quoted
Israeli defense officials as saying that the IDF is prepared for the
possibility that in a future conflict with Hamas it will be ordered
by the Government to take over the Philadelphi corridor in southern
Gaza, which is lined with hundreds of weapons smuggling tunnels.
Leading media believe that the quiet along the Gaza border is in
danger.

Leading media reported that yesterday Netanyahu reiterated his
refusal to release Qsymbols of terrorQ in the Gilad Shalit deal.

Leading media reported that PM Netanyahu has instructed to erect a
two-section 100 km.-long fence -- from Rafah southwards and from
Eilat northwards -- along the border with Egypt. Israel Radio
quoted Egyptian officials as saying that they have not been informed
about the plan, which they said is a domestic Israeli concern.
According to Yediot, Netanyahu also announced that he intends to
surround the entire country with fences.

Yesterday HaQaretz reported that the Israeli firm ICTS International
(not to be confused with ICTS Europe, which is a different company),
and two of its subsidiaries are at the crux of an international
investigation in recent days, as experts try to pinpoint the reasons
for the security failure that enabled Umar Farouk Abdulmutalib to
board Northwest flight 253 and attempt to set alight explosives
hidden in his underwear. A HaQaretz investigation has found that
the security officers and their supervisor should have suspected the
passenger, even without having early intelligence available to
them.

Yesterday HaQaretz quoted senior officials in the Obama
administration and Israel as saying that the Bush administration
violated security related agreements with Israel in which the U.S.
promised to preserve the IDF's qualitative edge over Arab armies.
DM Ehud Barak traveled to the U.S. in September for a rushed meeting
in which it was agreed that the two allies would discuss how to
resolve the problems regarding this issue. HaQaretz reported that
U.S. National Security Advisor General James Jones is scheduled to
arrive in Israel on Tuesday for what is likely to be talks on the
issue of the IDF's qualitative edge as well as the resumption of
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Yesterday leading media reported that, as Arab Knesset members
accuse Israel of war crimes, Hadash Chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh
announced that he would join the Knesset delegation which is to
visit Auschwitz to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in
two weeks time.

Yediot and Makor Rishon-Hatzofe cited reports by Jewish
organizations that Iraq is trying to erase Jewish symbols from the
tomb of Prophet Ezekiel and turn it into a mosque.

--------
Mideast:
--------

Block Quotes:
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I. QItQs Not Us, ItQs Him

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in the independent,
left-leaning HaQaretz (1/10): QIn Israel, people became accustomed
to the fact that there is no chemistry between Obama and Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and blamed the strained relations on
Israel's bad behavior -- namely its continued construction in the
territories and Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. But there is
no chemistry between Obama and other leaders, either. We have not
heard about some beautiful friendship of Obama's with any Arab
leader. He does not prefer Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas to Netanyahu, and does not pal around with Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak or the King of Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration
is treating the QmoderateQ Arab states to big arms sales, not
personal friendships. Where are the close ties Tony Blair
maintained with Bill Clinton and Bush? When have we seen Obama
socializing with Brown, Sarkozy or any leader from Asia or Latin
America?.... Obama traveled more widely abroad than any other
first-year president, but it seemed to be more to stick a pin on a
map than to forge friendships. He stayed behind the teleprompter, a
talented and remote speaker who struggles with personal
give-and-takes.... [Leaders] who believe in dialogue, like Obama,
have to work on their emotional and social intelligence if they want
results.

II. QFinancing America

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever Plotker wrote in
the mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/11): QAnyone
still making mention of QAmerican economic pressure on Israel by
means of the guaranteesQ is completely cut off from reality. Israel
is now helping the U.S. finance its own deficits and not the other
way around. True, the U.S. administration has the right to deduct
from the left-over guarantees all investments in the settlements.
This is of absolutely no economic significance: as far as Israel
sees it, raising capital from overseas is not something presently on
the agenda. What is on the agenda, rather, is finding a means to
prevent foreign capital from entering the country.

III. QEnd the Blockade

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/11): QIsrael
has an interest in stopping escalation at the border so as not to
find itself caught up in another belligerent confrontation with
Hamas. Netanyahu's threats have not attained this goal. Like his
predecessor, he risks placing his imprimatur on public commitments
that will only push Israel toward another military operation to
Qstrengthen deterrenceQ and Qteach Hamas a lesson.Q The time has
come to rethink Israeli strategy in Gaza. The economic embargo,
which has brought severe distress to the inhabitants of Gaza, has
not brought down Hamas, nor has it freed kidnapped soldier Gilad
Shalit. The siege has only damaged Israel's image and led to
accusations that it has shirked its humanitarian responsibilities in
Gaza under international law. Instead of erring by invoking the
default solution of more force, which does not create long-term
security or ease the distress of the Palestinians in Gaza, the
crossings between Israel and Gaza should be opened and indirect
assistance rendered to rebuild its ruins. The same logic that
dictates the Government's actions in the West Bank -- creating an
economic incentive to prevent terror -- can and must work in Gaza as
well.

IV. QA Gold Mine for Understanding AmericaQs Middle East Policy

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in
International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (1/11) : Q[One of the
things Hillary] Clinton said [at a press conference with the Qatari
Prime Minister on January 4] is more disturbing [than her
unwarranted praise of Qatar] and has become an Obama administration
talking point. She said the Palestinians QdeserveQ a state. In
this approach, having a state isn't something earned by ending
terrorism and incitement, truly accepting Israel's existence,
providing strong security guarantees, and resettling refugees in
your own country. According to the U.S. Government, Palestinian
statehood is an entitlement, a prize they get no matter how they
behave. So why shouldn't the Palestinians demand they get
everything and give nothing? The world owes them a state. By such
policies the Obama administration undermines its own leverage on the
issue. One more nail in the already studded coffin of the peace
process.

V. QBarakQs Time

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in the independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/11): QBarak is proud of the fact that at
Camp David he revealed QArafat's true face.Q The time has come for
him to reveal Netanyahu's true face. If the Prime Minister intends
to reach a permanent status agreement, let him assure Abbas that he
will delay the tenders for expanded construction in East Jerusalem
until negotiations are over. If we are dealing the old Netanyahu,
who built neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to undermine Oslo, Barak
has no business being in a right-wing government. What does he have
to lose? He has already been prime minister, and he will not be
again. At least he will not go down in Israeli history as the
undertaker of the party that established the state.

VI. QUnderstanding Netanyahu

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in the popular,
pluralist Maariv (1/11): QIf I were a settler, I would be slightly
concerned [about NetanyahuQs intentions]. Not because of the
assessments that both can serve and embarrass the two sides, right
and left, but because of NetanyahuQs nuances. In his latest
conversations, he made use of statistics about the percentage of the
settlements in the territory (9.3 percent of the total area of the
West Bank, including East Jerusalem) and about the percentage of the
settlers in the population (5.5 of the total Jewish population in
Israel). These are precisely the statistics that are of interest to
a prime minister who wishes to reach a historic democratic decision
(or not).

VII. QHamasQ Situation Is Worse than Ever

Professor Eyal Zisser, the Chairman of the Department of Middle
Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, wrote in the independent
Israel Hayom (1/10): QA year has passed since Operation Cast Lead,
and HamasQs situation has never been worse. The Hamas leadership
hasnQt concealed the pressure it is feeling, which is the direct
result of Gaza having become a giant pressure cooker by virtue of
the effective siege that Israel has imposed on it. All of HamasQs
hopes for international pressure that might force Israel to lift the
siege were in vain and, that being the case, it is now directing its
fire in the direction of Egypt in hope that it might succumb to
pressure and open wide its gates to Gaza. But Egypt has firmly
stood its ground to defend its own national interests, and is not
prepared to place its fate and the reigning stability at risk in
HamasQs hands.... However, facing off against Hamas is Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak, who has taken a determined and firm stance
that reflects precisely what he is -- a veteran and seasoned leader
who knows what he wants. That said, neither party has an interest
in an open conflict, and it is reasonable to assume that now that
Egypt has made clear to Hamas what its red lines are, Hamas will
retreat and seek to renew dialogue with Cairo. It will do so not
out of love for Egypt, but because it is in its existential interest
to do so. That way, Egypt will revert to serving as a mediator
between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and between Hamas and
Israel on the Gilad Shali issue. That said, the recent events
demonstrat the limits of EgyptQs influence over Hamas and, a such,
Egypt will not be the one that will be abe to deliver the goods on
Gilad Shalit or anything else. It will be the Hamas leaders who
will deide, in keeping with their own interests. EgyptQsability
to influence those decisions is minimal at best, and all the more so
in light of the turn of events between Cairo and Gaza in the course
of this past week.

CUNNINGHAM

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