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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR PA
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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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Mideast

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Key stories in the media:
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All media led with statements made yesterday morning by FM Avigdor
Lieberman at Bar-Ilan University yesterday that Syria would be
defeated and the regime of President Assad and his family toppled
were it to attack Israel, and that Syria should renounce the idea of
receiving the Golan. Maariv says that the FM is trying to thwart
secret contacts with Syria that were initiated by DM Ehud Barak.
Most media stressed efforts by PM Benjamin Netanyahu and DM Barak to
calm down relations with Syria, while other media outlets reported
that the PM is trying to reconcile or appease his senior ministers
or silence his cabinet members. Maariv quoted the IDFQs OC Central
Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi as saying that the IDF can reach
Damascus. Mizrahi was speaking to students in the Efrat Yeshiva (in
the West Bank). Maariv quoted Assad as saying in an interview with
The New Yorker that he will not give Israel the peace it wants.
Media reported that Assad commented on IsraelQs messy
decision-making.

Israel Radio quoted the London-based newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat as
saying that Washington is trying to resolve the differences between
Israel and Syria.

Leading media cited a report written by U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon upon the request of the U.N. General Assembly that Israel
has responded in detail to the U.N.Qs demand to comment on its
actions during Operation Cast Lead, but that it is still impossible
to draw conclusions regarding IsraelQs examination of the
accusations included in the Goldstone Report, because the
investigation is on-going. The Yediot-linked news service Ynet
quoted Israeli diplomats as saying that BanQs comment reflects
IsraelQs determination to conduct independent probes. Maariv
reported that the IDF will include a Qhumanitarian officerQ in any
future incursion into Gaza.

Kadima Knesset Member and former minister Meir Sheetrit was quoted
as saying this morning in an interview with Israel Radio that his
party might enter NetanyahuQs government coalition under certain
circumstances.

Yediot reported that, contrary to other senior leaders, Hamas
Qchief of staffQ Ahmed al-Ja'abari is opposed to the prisoner swap
involving Gilad Shalit, as it would remove the movementQs trump
card.

Israel Radio quoted IranQs Ambassador in Moscow as saying that
Russia will make good on the delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft
missiles to his country. The radio cited RussiaQs silence on the
matter.

HaQaretz reported that, following the controversy over the alleged
role of the New Israel Fund (NIF) in providing information to the
Goldstone Commission, The Jerusalem Post is dropping a weekly
left-leaning column by NIF President Professor Naomi Chazan.
HaQaretz said that Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz
would not comment.

HaQaretz (Amira Hass) reported that settler efforts to stem Qillegal
Arab buildingQ in Beit Sahur-East (in the Bethlehem area) have
momentarily borne fruit: USAID stopped funding a public park in the
community and the IDF is building a watchtower that the settlers
hope will expand onto a Jewish town in the only empty space left in
the Christian town

HaQaretz reported that a group of Israelis and Palestinians have
joined forces to create a binational neighborhood along the
Jerusalem/Bethlehem border -- for the first time since 1967.

HaQaretz reported that the central district attorney is set to serve
an indictment, pending a hearing, against Omri Abo, who was then in
the Border Police, on charges of negligent manslaughter in the fatal
shooting of 10-year-old Ahmad Musa in the village of NaQalin 18
months ago.

Israel Radio reported that this week British PM Gordon Brown and
French PM Francois Fillon responded to harsh reports about
manifestations of anti-Semitism in their respective countries --
most of them in the wake of Operation Cast Lead -- by promising to
implement deterrent measures and promote legislation.

HaQaretz reported that over 40 Nobel Prize winners from various
countries have added signatures to a full-page ad denouncing Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that is due to be published in The New
York Times and International Herald Tribune in the next few days.
The ad, initiated by Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, condemns IranQs
severe human rights violations and warns that IranQs nuclear program
is a danger to humanity.

For the past couple of weeks, the media wondered whether popular TV
and print journalist Yair Lapid -- the son of the late journalist
and politician Yosef (Tommy) Lapid -- would enter politics. Likud
politicians demanded that he observe a Qcooling periodQ and
suggested that legislation be voted to this effect.

According to a HaQaretz poll conducted on February 1 and 2, 53
percent of the Israeli public are unhappy with FM Lieberman.
- The survey also asked, QIs a military confrontation between
Israel and Iran more likely in 2010?,Q to which 43 percent of
respondents answered QyesQ; 41 percent believe there will be no
change in likelihood; while 4 percent said Qno.

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

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

I. QThe New Maturity

Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz wrote on page one of the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (2/5): QThe frustrations
ObamaQs administration feel with Israel are empathetically still

there.... But still, for now, some [Washington] insiders reiterate,
things are a little better. Ties between a fresh, young president
newly recognizing the limits of his power and a second-time prime
minister all-too aware of the limits of his, have reached a certain
maturity.


II. QSuddenly, a Crisis

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of the
independent, left-leaning HaQaretz (2/5): QDamascus' appearance on
the American tourist map and the imminent appointment of a U.S.
ambassador there reflect a rapprochement between Bashar Assad's
regime and the United States after years of tension and distance....
But suddenly a crisis has erupted. Syrian and Israeli officials
exchanged declarations about war and cranked up the threats....
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried, as usual, to appease [his
defense and foreign ministers] and released a lukewarm response.
QIsrael wants peace without preconditions,Q he said to appease Ehud
Barak, and QIsrael will react resolutely and firmly to any threat,
to appease Avigdor Lieberman.

III. QBlowing off Steam

Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff and military
correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of HaQaretz (2/5): QIn
the absence of an American Qstick,Q there is no obvious candidate
for urging Syria to initiate unconditional talks with Israel. Even
Syria's bitter rivals in the Arab world, such as Saudi Arabia and
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of former Lebanese Prime
Minister Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 apparently on
Syrian orders, recognize they must reconcile with Damascus for the
sake of Lebanon's stability. Perhaps it is Syria's new, brighter
situation that led Assad to declare that it will not stand idly by
if Israel carries out another aerial assault on Syrian targets or if
there is another mysterious assassination on Syrian soil.

IV. QFrustration in Damascus

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/5):
QBashar Assad understands the price he and the ruling Alawite
minority would have to pay, in a country that is 74 percent Sunni,
for a genuine peace with Israel. That is why in this weekQs New
Yorker, Assad frankly told Seymour Hersh that even if Syria regained
the entire Golan, Israel Qcannot expect me to give them the peace
they expect.Q Indeed, if Israel got the peace we expected, AssadQs
de-facto truce with the Muslim Brotherhood would come undone. HeQd
have to expel Hamas leaders from Syria, a step the Brotherhood would
find insufferable. A bad divorce with Teheran would ensue.
Hizbullah would reorient LebanonQs policies accordingly. In short,
Assad would be going down the path taken by the late Anwar Sadat:
carving out a separate peace with Israel while the Palestinian issue
festered, albeit due to the PalestiniansQ own intransigence.
Naturally, if Assad got the Golan Heights on his terms, the
legitimacy of his regime would be bolstered. But no Israeli
government -- not Yitzhak RabinQs and not Benjamin NetanyahuQs --
can come down from the Golan in return for a sham peace....
Regrettably, Assad cannot afford to make real peace. Worse still,
through a series of military and rhetorical miscalculations --
inspired, perhaps, by Iranian mischief-making -- Assad is blundering
toward a conflagration with Israel.

V. QWhat Wonderful Leadership

Diplomatic correspondent and television anchor Ben Caspit wrote on
page one of the popular, pluralist Maariv (2/5): QThis is our
foreign minister: instead of dealing with calming matters,
rapprochement, quiet diplomacy, and improving IsraelQs standing
around the world, he deals with threats, warnings, and a bloody
battle over IsraelQs dignity. In other words, because Lieberman
identifies Barak as the real foreign minister, he tries to be the
defense minister. In his terms, the defense minister is the war
minister.... Lieberman has caused major, inconceivable damage over
the past year to IsraelQs international standing. He has caused
this damage by saying a great many true things. But in the end,
when the truth disperses, we are left with the shards, with a
Goldstone report, and with officers and leaders who cannot leave
IsraelQs borders for fear of being arrested. Israel is under
international siege, losing its legitimacy, and losing the worldQs
attentiveness for its arguments. This is greater strategic damage
than the damage of a war or an Intifada. Lieberman is not
interested in this. The main thing is that we maintained our
posture and stuck it to the Syrians.

VI. QLieberman Speaks their Language

Nationalist columnist Erel Segal wrote on page one of Maariv (2/5):
QForeign Minister LiebermanQs threat against Bashar Assad is not a
bad answer to the Syrian Foreign Minister. One can deride
LiebermanQs triteness, lack of sophistication, and verbal brutality.
Everybody is so touchy about the Damascus tyrantQs dignity. But
inwardly ... all of you know that in real life, the more so in our
neighborhood, one must talk in a language that absolutely everyone
understands. With due respect to diplomacy and pandering, sticky
cocktail parties, Israeli diplomacy gets a failing grade and sinks
into the murky water of apologies. Maybe it should try something
else.

VII. QA Marketplace Style

Veteran journalist and television anchor Dan Margalit wrote on page
one of the independent Israel Hayom (2/5): QNetanyahu is paying a
double, hefty price for the dizzy show of the Foreign Minister who
assails key countries. Domestic and foreign voices increasingly
wonder whether the two men may be playing Qgood cop/bad copQ in full
coordination. I cannot imagine that this is a real possibility, but
the very fact that it being mentioned in every debate is causing the
Prime Minister damage by its very futility.

VIII. QLieberman Is Not Alone

Senior diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/5): QPrime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu hurried to call Lieberman after the speech, but
NetanyahuQs advisers made it clear: QHe didnQt reprimand him.Q In
fact, they say, the two are completely in accord as to the content
of the statements. They differ only on the question of the timing.
Netanyahu wants quiet now on the Syrian front. He seeks to lower
the flames in the statements made on the Israeli side.... No less
important is the position of the United States. In advance of the
planned pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq in the course of 2010, the
administration is preparing to establish understandings with the
states of the region in order to ensure that Iraq will not
disintegrate. From the standpoint of the U.S., there is great
importance to the way Syria will act: it can encourage terrorist
groups or it can cooperate with the Americans. The decision to
return an American ambassador to Damascus, which was announced by
U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell to Assad, was intended to
strengthen the cooperation between the CIA and the Syrian security
services, in an attempt to cope with terror organizations whose
members leave from Syria to attack American and Iraqi troops. Assad
expects the U.S. to reward him for the cooperation: to extricate
NetanyahuQs consent to a withdrawal from the entire Golan Heights as
part of a peace agreement. One way or another, the next peace
agreement will be signed according to the principle established by
Menachem Begin: all the territory occupied in 1967 in exchange for
peace with Syria and the Palestinian Authority.

IX. QShattered Images in the South

Ha'aretz editorialized (2/5): QBarack Obama and other dignified
guests have been taken to Sderot to witness the town's suffering
under Qassam barrages. But the townspeople's expectations that they
would be the first to be protected by Iron Dome have been shattered.
Now our defense chiefs are telling them that a situational
evaluation will be necessary to figure out where to put the system.
The mutual backslapping over the system's success and the fight over
who deserves the credit have given way to mutual accusations and
complaints.... The cost of producing launchers and missiles against
cheap rockets is extremely high. We need money for building attack
forces, protecting civilians and other defense measures, not just
Iron Dome. The dilemma is more real than its packaging. Israelis
deserve not merely defense, but a leadership that speaks to them
seriously, without spreading illusions.

CUNNINGHAM

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