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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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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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Media reported on U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political
Affairs William BurnsQ visit to Syria yesterday.

All principal media led with a diplomatic crisis following the
assassination in Dubai of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh
four weeks ago: the British Foreign Office QinvitedQ Israeli
Ambassador Ron Prosor for clarifications about the use of forged
British passports in the hit. The Irish Government also summoned
Israeli Ambassador in Dublin Zion Evron (or Evroni Zion). The media
also reported that British PM Gordon Brown has ordered an
investigation into the matter. Various media conjectured that a
long-term fallout in relations with Britain was unlikely. Yediot
and The Jerusalem Post quoted German and Austrian sources as saying
that the operation was directed from a Qcommando centerQ in Austria,
a country that has also demanded clarifications from Israel,
according to various media. Israel Radio reported that the Hamas
leadership vowed to avenge the assassination. The media quoted
former Israeli intelligence agents, including former Mossad official
Rafi Eitan, who later became a GOI minister, as saying that another
country may be behind the operation. The Jerusalem Post reported
that yesterday former senior Mossad official Rami Igra told the
daily that the assassination would further the aims of IsraelQs
detractors. Media reported that Hamas has released the names of two
Fatah operatives who have also been arrested for allegedly
cooperating with the Mossad. According to the organization, the two
men operated in Dubai under assumed identities after disguising
themselves as employees of a real-estate firm owned by a prominent
Palestinian figure.

Leading media reported that yesterday five U.S. Congressmen on a
visit here, which the left-wing American advocacy group J Street
initiated, held a news conference in Tel Aviv to demand an official
explanation for an apparent snub by Deputy FM Danny Ayalon. Tension
between the Foreign Ministry and J Street was believed to be behind
the unprecedented diplomatic rift between Israel and the U.S.
Congress. HaQaretz quoted Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA), who heads
the delegation, as saying that "it was with real surprise and
disappointment that we read a headline in this morning's newspaper
saying 'Foreign Ministry boycotts members of Congress." HaQaretz
quoted J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami as saying at the
news conference that he was confused by Ayalon's calling the lobby
anti-Israel. "Our relations with Israel's embassy in Washington are
on the mend...I hope this is no more than his personal opinion," he
said. HaQaretz reported that J Street had asked for a meeting
between the Congressmen and Ayalon or other senior ministry
officials several weeks ago. After numerous days of waiting, they
were told ministry officials would meet only the Congressmen,
without their J Street escorts, which the former refused, and the
Foreign Ministry said there would be no meeting. The Jerusalem Post
quoted Ben-Ami as saying yesterday that Israel is capable of
freezing construction in East Jerusalem. HaQaretz quoted a senior
Jerusalem source as saying that the man who advised Ayalon and
President Shimon Peres not to meet the delegation was Baruch Binah,
Deputy Director General for North America in the ministry. Binah
advised against the meeting because the delegation includes J Street
members and a representative of Churches for Middle EasQeace,
which the Foreign Ministry sees as anti-Israeli. Israel Radio
reported that the Foreign Ministry would not comment on the affair.
Speaking on the radio station this morning, former Justice Minister
and former Deputy FM Yossi Beilin said that FM Avigdor Lieberman,
whom he dubbed a Qtrue neighborhood bully,Q and his deputy Ayalon do
not make mistakes but that they implement a distinct policy.

HaQaretz and other media quoted PM Benjamin Netanyahu as saying
yesterday at a convention of the Conference of Presidents of Major
[U.S.] Jewish Organizations that the Qgap in understandingQ between
Israel and the world over Iran is narrowing. The PM was quoted as
saying that disputed elections in Iran and the uncovering of a
secret uranium enrichment plant near the Iranian city of Qom had
alerted the world to the growing Iranian threat. Netanyahu said:
"Now the international community has an obligation to intervene to
prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." Netanyahu further
said: "Watered down sanctions, modest sanctions, will not do the
job," adding that new measures must aim to curtail Iran's oil
exports and energy supply. Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted
yesterday in a speech to newly commissioned army officers that
Israel had not ruled out independent action against Iran. Leading
media also quoted Netanyahu as saying at the meeting that Israel
will not release the assassins of former minister Rehavam Zeevi.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday Austrian FM Michael
Spindelegger told the newspaper that the U.N. Security Council is
likely to reach a decision on a fourth round of sanctions against
Iran in March. Austria is currently one of the 15 countries on the
Security Council.

HaQaretz reported that the Jerusalem Municipality will appropriate a
plot of land in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to build
a public parking lot near the tomb of a Second Temple-era high
priest, despite arguments that the move is intended to benefit
Jewish pilgrims and expand the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.
The plan is the brainchild of city council member Yair Gabbay, who
said a parking lot is required for visitors to the tomb of Simon the
Just, or Shimon Hatzadik. The municipality is not expected to offer
financial compensation to the owner of the plot in question, even
though it previously required a Palestinian company seeking to build
a hotel in the area to pay for the right to build there.
Neighborhood residents and non-governmental organizations maintain
parking is not limited in Sheikh Jarrah, and say the lot is intended
to benefit Jewish visitors alone. Both the municipality and Gabbay,
who said he hopes the parking lot will be built within two months,
maintain there is a parking shortage and that the lot will benefit
Arabs as well as Jews.

The Jerusalem Post quoted senior Netanyahu adviser as saying
yesterday at the Seventh Jerusalem Conference that Israel must begin
to wage a negative media campaign against its enemies in order to
win the media war. The newspaper also reported that yesterday
right-leaning Kadima Knesset members Eli Aflalo and Otniel Schneller
blasted Kadima leader Tzipi Livni for statements she made at the
conference Q statements they perceived as too left-wing and too
anti-religious.

Israel Hayom and Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted Rabbi Yuval Cherlow,
head of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva, which combines religious
studies and army service, who is considered on the left wing of the
national religious public, as saying that he has changed his mind
and that he now supports the right of soldiers to refuse orders to
expel civilians from their homes. Rabbi Cherlow said that the
change in his decision is based on the way the state has mistreated
the victims of the Gush Katif expulsion.

Media reported that yesterday settlers from the radical village of
Yitzhar assaulted IDF soldiers.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that 85 Israelis who were harmed by
Hizbullah attacks during the Second Lebanon War have filed an
unprecedented suit against Iranian banks, demanding damage
compensation to the tune of $10 billion, and unspecified penal
compensation

HaQaretz reported that the Interior Ministry, the Israel Lands
Administration, and the southern district of Israel Police have
jointly resolved to triple the demolition rate of illegal
construction in the scattered Bedouin communities in the Negev. The
decision came at a meeting about a month ago. According to
HaQaretz, 2009 saw an increase over the previous year in the
dQition of illegal Bedouin homes and efforts to prevent illegal
Bedouin construction. Last year, 254 structures were destroyed. In
2008, the figure was 225 illegal structures.

HaQaretz reported that yesterday Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav praised the
legacy of coexistence left by the first (Arab) mayor of modern
Haifa, Hasan Bey Shukri. Yesterday the city commemorated the 70th
anniversary of ShukriQs death.

Yediot quoted senior Israeli Foreign Ministry sources as saying that
the French and Israeli armies will hold joint maneuvers in both
countries. IDF soldiers will be granted immunity while training in
France.

Major media reported on victories by Israeli tennis woman Shahar
PeQer at the Dubai Open. Last year, in the wake of Operation Cast
Lead, she was denied a visa by Dubai.

Leading media reported that yesterday, despite appeals from
religious leaders, Florida executed Jewish murderer Martin Grossman
by lethal injection. The Vatican had also asked for leniency in a
letter written by Archbishop Fernando Filoni on behalf of Pope
Benedict XVI.

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

Block Quotes:
-------------
I. QThe Test of the Outcome

Eytan Haber, veteran op-ed writer and assistant to the late Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, opined on page one of the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/18): QThere are two questions that
should be posed in this case: was the goal, al-MabhouhQs
assassination, achieved? The answer is Qyes.Q Were the assassins
caught by the enemy? The answer is QnoQ.... As for the
unpleasantness with governments -- in the case at hand, the U.K.,
Ireland, and France -- we can rest easy. They said whatever they
said yesterday, and will probably say no more. They know why.
There are also odd scores being settled between the media figures
who say that this was an unprecedented QfiascoQ and the covert
pursuers, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss
them. In the meantime, Mr. al-Mabhouh will rest in peace, and we
will say goodbye and thank you to the men and women of the shadow
world.

II. QTroubling Questions from Dubai

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (2/18):
Q[Regarding suspicions that the Mossad carried out the Dubai
assassination], did the goal and outcome justify the risk of
carrying out a hit in a moderate Arab country and of exposing the
intelligence community's modus operandi? Or did the operational
opportunity to get rid of an individual responsible for past terror
attacks and current weapons smuggling encourage those who approve
and carry out such actions to waive some of the rules of caution?
Second, in a tense period in which Israel is trading threats of war
with Iran and its allies in the region, should Israel be goading the
enemy instead of maintaining restraint? Third, is it right, because
of this hit, to embarrass the authorities in the United Arab
Emirates, who share with Israel the fear of the Iranian threat?
Fourth, in preparation for the operation, were the risks of exposure
and restrictions on similar future actions taken into account?
Fifth, is there justification in damaging relations with friendly
European countries whose passports were used by Mabhouh's assassins?
Sixth, is it proper to place in harm's way the Israelis whose
identities were ostensibly stolen and used by the assassins? The
fear of identity theft recalls dark regimes, and such an action
seems to do disproportionate damage.... All these questions,
particularly the claims of identity theft, need to be closely
scrutinized. Lessons must be learned for the future, and the
findings must be exposed to the light of day.
III. QLiquidation Sale

Far left columnist Gideon Levy wrote in Ha'aretz (2/18): QWe can
believe that the Mossad actually carried out everything that has
been ascribed to it, and we can even agree that Mabhouh deserved to
die. It's also possible to understand the desire to take revenge
and punish him, as well as the need to combat weapons smuggling into
Gaza. We can also continue ignoring, as is our wont, the motive for
terrorism: the Israeli occupation. But after the liquidation of
Mabhouh with a pillow, we are left in a country that not only
dispatches assassins, but in which no questions are asked
afterward.

IV. QHeavy Clouds on the Diplomatic Front

Columnist Boaz Bismuth, who was IsraelQs Ambassador to Mauritania
between 2004 and 2008, wrote in the independent Israel Hayom (2/18):
QIn the British Isles ... no one (in the media, members of
Parliament, and analysts) has any doubt that the Mossad assassinated
senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. The media and
public opinion will not allow the British government, in an election
year, to gloss over the story.... In Britain, the media have already
pronounced their sentence. The front pages of the newspapers leave
no room for doubt. There are murderers, incidentally, who have been
acquitted due to lack of evidence. Al-Mabhouh may yet become a
victim in Britain because of excess evidence.... QRainy days lie
ahead on the diplomatic front,Q an Israeli diplomatic source
admitted yesterday in English. QRainy daysQ mean difficult times.
This certainly does not refer to bountiful rain.


V. QThe Israelis Are Back

Middle East affairs commentator Dr. Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in Yediot Aharonot (2/18): QWhat
worries [IsraelQs] enemies more than anything else? The insight
that Israel is learning the rules of the region, for the first time
in its history. They understand that the days have ended in which
Israel behaved like a state with no honor, which is willing to
submit to anyone who outsmarts it. They understand that Israel has
matured, learned the art of establishing deterrence, and that it is
here to stay. That Israel will no longer submit to them in exchange
for illusions or words. That it will not be easy for them to
dominate it from the outside or activate their supporters inside it,
because they have lost the confidence of the public. They are
starting to understand that Israel is stronger than they imagined or
fantasized, and this insight affects their self-image. This, to
their regret, is painful.

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

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

QToo Much for the Mossad to Handle

Senior commentator Ari Shavit wrote in Ha'aretz (2/18): QWith all
due respect to the Mossad, Iran is too much for it to handle alone.
The confrontation with Iran must not be limited to intelligence
agencies; it has to include diplomacy and other means as well.... If
Israel mobilizes its resources and prepares properly, it will pass
the test. But in order to do so, it must take its head out of the
sand and stop believing that some magic spell invoked by Meir Dagan
or Israel Air Force commander Ido Nehoshtan will do the job. Even
if there is some magic, it won't be enough. Iran isn't only over
there; it's also right here. The Iranian challenge obligates us to
reorganize every facet of our lives.

CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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