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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. IsraelQs Nuclear Policy

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Key stories in the media:
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Israel Radio reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
testified yesterday to a U.S. congressional committee that the U.S.
wants to see a quick resumption of peace talks between Israel and
the Palestinians. Clinton reportedly said that U.S. Special Envoy
to Middle East Peace Senator George Mitchell is attempting to make
headways in that direction, but she did not name a date for the
resumption of the negotiations.

Yediot quoted the Secretary of State as saying yesterday at a Senate
committee that sanctions on Iran will soon be applied. Clinton also
affirmed that progress has been made in convincing China to join the
sanctions. However, the daily quoted a senior Russian Foreign
Ministry official as saying that his country will strenuously oppose
strong sanctions. Yediot reported that DM Ehud Barak met with U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. Headquarters in New York
yesterday. Barak was quoted as saying that nuclear weapons in Iran
would change the entire strategic balance n the region and that
sanctions defined in time have to be imposed on Iran. Ban was
quoted as saying that he agrees that Iran must be prevented from
reaching nuclear capability and that he will do his utmost to push
sanctions forward. Israel Radio reported that Ban expressed his
concern to Barak about the siege on Gaza, IAF overflights of
Lebanon, and the Israeli decision to proclaim the Cave of the
Patriarchs in Hebron and RachelQs Tomb heritage sites.

Israel Radio also quoted Clinton as saying at her Senate testimony
that the Obama administration's decision to send an American
ambassador to Syria after a five-year absence does not mean that
U.S. concerns about the country have been addressed.

The Jeruslem Post reported that todayQs bilateral strategictalks
between the U.S. and Israel are expected to focus on sanctions
against Iran, a day after Russia announced it opposes Qparalyzing
sanctions aimed at the Islamic RepublicQs energy sector. A possible
military strike is not expected to be discussed, since Washington
has made clear that while it might need to be discussed in the
future, the military option is not now on the agenda. There is
currently no known discussion between Israel and the U.S., at any
level, about military action, even though over the years both
countries have said that it should not be taken off the table. The
meeting comes as both Jerusalem and Washington believe that Iran is
making its international position more difficult by continuing to
talk about enriching uranium to higher levels. While it is unclear
exactly which way China will vote on sanctions, there is a growing
sense that it would be unlikely to buck the will of most of the rest
of the world -- and the other permanent members of the Security
Council -- and scuttle sanctions. This assessment is largely based
on previous Chinese behavior and BeijingQs general reticence to defy
international consensus. The Jerusalem Post reported that in the
run-up to the Security Council sanctions vote, expected sometime in
March, the U.S. is doing its utmost to distance itself from any hint
that sanctions were intended for regime change in Teheran, and not
only to stop the nuclear program. The fear is that this could chase
both Russia and China away from supporting a fourth round of
sanctions.

The Jerusalem Post printed a Letter to the Editor by Assistant
Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael H.
Posner, who rebuts claims made by the newspaperQs columnist Anne
Bayefsky on 2/17 that his intervention at the U.N. Human Rights
Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review concerning human
rights in Iran was minimal. Posner responds that he had clearly
condemned the Qunjust suppression of Iranian citizensQ and that he
had expressed the United StatesQ concern about the status of
detainees in Iran, torture, and the systematic violations by the
Iranian government of religious freedom.

The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday top EU officials threw
their support behind the Goldstone Report, two days before the U.N.
General Assembly debates it.

The aftermath of the Dubai assassination continued to dominate
Israeli media headlines, which quoted the EmirateQs police chief as
saying yesterday that 15 additional QMossad agentsQ took part in the
hit. At least 10 of them carried passports under the names of
actual Israeli residents. Israel Radio reported that IsraelQs
Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem was called in for clarifications
by the Foreign Ministry in Canberra, as Australian FM Stephen
Francis Smith said that three Australian passports had been forged
in the operation. Israel Radio reported that Smith told Rotem that
if it turns out that Israel carried out the assassination, the
Australian Government would not view this as an act by a friendly
nation. The radio also cited the concern of Australian PM Kevin
Michael Rudd, a Qgreat friend of Israel,Q over the issue. Maariv
reported that Dubai police exposed details about 17 MasterCard
credit cards used in the hit: they were allegedly linked to a single
U.S. bank Q Metabank from Stormlake, Iowa. Dubai police said that
the cards were also connected to another American bank -- Pioneer
Bank in New York. One of PioneerQs key clients is Birthright Israel
(Taglit), a project offering young Jews free trips to get to know
Israel. Media reported that two of the assassins might have fled to
Iran. Some media questioned the large number of foreigners -- 26
--suspected by Dubai: a commentary in Israel Hayom by former Mossad
official Rami Igra is headlined: QReality or Fantasy?Q Yediot noted
that around one quarter of the agents who acted in Dubai were women
-- an Qadvantage well-known to Israel.Q The Shas party newspaper
Yom Leyom quoted Israeli defense sources as saying that IsraelQs
deterrence has strengthened following reports about al-MabhouhQs
assassination.

Israel Radio reported that yesterday the State Department criticized
the Israeli GovernmentQs naming of two biblical shrines as national
heritage sites to be preserved. The media reported that clashes
over the issue between Palestinians and Israeli security forces
continued yesterday. IDF Radio quoted President Shimon Peres as
saying that Israel is not interested in an artificial confrontation.
Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that yesterday, during a QLatin
American conferenceQ in Jerusalem, Information and Diaspora Affairs
Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) hinted that the Palestinians are
attempting to change history and IsraelQs heritage.

Israel Radio and other media reported that Lebanese authorities have
arrested an additional Lebanese man suspected of spying for Israel.

Israel Hayom and Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that a building
company has filed a 171-million shekel (around $45 million)
compensation suit over PM NetanyahuQs moratorium on settlement
construction.

HaQaretz quoted U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as saying at
a recent NATO meeting that EuropeQs conciliatory attitude is
preventing the establishment of world peace.
Maariv quoted Kadima Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz as saying yesterday
during a meeting of the partyQs Knesset faction that he does not
intend to split the party, whose leadership he said he would now be
seeking. Mofaz had threatened to break up the party if primaries
were not held.

Maariv quoted senior academics as saying that the Government will
not tell them what to teach. (Yesterday Maariv reported on a
planned Education Ministry program to require all university and
college students to take a compulsory course in the Qheritage of the
Jewish people and the Zionist project.Q)

Maariv described the assassination in Damascus two years ago of
senior Hizbullah agent Imad Mughniyah, as told by Gordon Thomas, a
correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent. Thomas
says that the hit was originally ordered by former PM Ariel Sharon,
later approved by Ehud Olmert, and carried out by the Mossad.

All media reported that testimony in former PM Ehud OlmertQs trial
on a variety of corruption charges starts today.

HaQaretz reported cited the Russian news agency Interfax as saying
that a Kazakh court has sentence Dr. Boris Sheinkman, a businessman
representing Israeli defense companies, to 11 yearsQ imprisonment
for allegedly giving bribes to senior Kazakh officials.

The subject of Dr. Sheinkman was not scheduled to be discussed by
the two leaders. However, after discussions on the matter last night
President Peres decided to raise the sensitive subject. Dr.
Sheinkman was arrested several months ago as part of a bribery
affair that caused a storm in Kazakhstan and among the Israeli
defense industry working in Muslim countries.

Maariv reported that next week Israeli Arab youngsters will join a
flight course for outstanding students.

Media reported on a test run of JerusalemQs light railway yesterday.
This means of transportation is expected to be operational by April
2011. The media also reported that the Government approved the
national transportation plan devised by Netanyahu and Transportation
Minister and Road Safety Yisrael Katz (Likud). The first stage of
the project will cost 27.5 billion shekels (around $7.29 billion).
One of the reported projects is the restoration of the historical
QValley RailwayQ linking Akko (Acre) and the Jezreeel Valley through
Karmiel.

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

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

I. QNot Combat Heritage

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (2/25): QThe
cabinet's decision to extensively alter important sites in the West
Bank clearly violates the commitment to refrain from changing the
status quo in the territories, whose fate is subject to
negotiations. If there is an urgent need for maintenance work at
the Tomb of the Patriarchs, it would have been suitable to discuss
this first with the PA's leaders and to coordinate plans with the
Islamic institution that handles the site where both Jews and
Muslims worship, rather than arrogantly asserting ownership. Anyone
who declares holy places in Hebron and Bethlehem to be Israeli
heritage sites should not be surprised when right-wing activists
seize a synagogue in Jericho. This is what happens under a
government that has made acting belligerently toward its neighbors a
strategy and provoking the world a policy. Netanyahu must not turn
Jewish heritage sites into a new chapter in Israel's long combat
heritage. He should announce that joint restoration work at
Rachel's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs will be one of the
first subjects of peace talks with the Palestinians.


II. QNetanyahuQs Vision

Senior commentator Ari Shavit wrote in Ha'aretz (2/25): QFinally
there is a vision. Speaking to HaQaretz earlier this week, Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defined for the first time his vision of
the future: Israel as a global technology leader, grounded in its
values and moving toward peace from a position of power. You can
like the vision or hate it, accept it or reject it, but now it is
clear what Netanyahu is proposing against Peace Now of the Left, and
how he is dividing those in the center. His overall goal is now
apparent.... At the celebratory cabinet meeting in Tel Hai [a
symbolic place of Jewish heroism] this week, his government adopted
a program for restoring and reinforcing national heritage. Once
again, the decision was derided and ridiculed. Secular France
invests greatly in commemorating its cultural and national heritage,
while democratic United States glorifies its past and speaks
incessantly about its uniqueness and greatness, and yet this is
forbidden for Israel.... The unbridled assault on the plan,
therefore, is not an attack on the Right and the occupation. It is
an attack on the values that have shaped and defined us -- an attack
on Israel's core identity.... Netanyahu is doing something important
in trying to revive Zionism, but without confronting the occupation
his effort will fail. If Israel is to be a global technological
leader, grounded in its values and moving toward peace from a
position of power, it must gradually leave the territories. The
Prime Minister deserves a good word this week, but he must know that
only if he removes Israel from [the radical settlements of] Yitzhar
and Itamar will he have the strength to restore it to what was
promised at [the communities of] Ruhama, Kinneret, Hulda, and Rosh
Pina [within the Green Line].

III. QThe Winds of Middle East War

Columnist Michael Freund, who was an assistant to Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term in office, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (2/25): QFrom Beirut and
Damascus in the north to Tehran in the east, and back to Gaza in the
south, the Qarc of hateQ surrounding the Jewish state is speaking
openly and brazenly of conflict and destruction. Israel's foes have
launched increasingly fiery verbal volleys in recent weeks, in what
appears to be a coordinated campaign to heighten tensions in the
region. With pressure mounting on Iran over its nuclear program,
and the threat of stricter sanctions in the air, Israel needs to be
on guard and alert.... Indeed, on January 31, U.S. National Security
Advisor James Jones warned that Iran might very well choose to lash
out at Israel in the coming months.... It is therefore essential
that international pressure be brought to bear on Damascus and
Teheran to cease and desist from driving the region toward greater
instability.

IV. QEverything but PR

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer wrote in the
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/25): QOver recent
days the Information and Diaspora Affairs Minister. A government
Web site that Qtells citizens what to think and tell, and how to
look at reality,Q belongs to fascistic and sinister states.
Moreover, adopting hose positions and attempting to market to
market them will only harm Israel and its status in the world.
Inaccuracies, the selective and tendentious choice made kin the
presentation of the Israeli-Arab conflict can only increase dislike
of Israel and its policy. Phony Qpublic relationsQ tainted by
racism will cause harm and deepen even further the rift between
Israeli society and the Western world.

V. QBest Movie

Liberal contributor Einat Weizman wrote in the popular, pluralist
Maariv (2/25): QIf Israeli agents did in fact carry out the
liquidation [of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh], their goal was achieved and
Mabhouh is no longer alive, but a film [disseminated on You Tube
about the assassination exemplifies the distortion of IsraelQs
perception of its place in the Middle East. It seems that its
failure lies, among other causes, in arrogance and misunderstanding
of reality. Antiquated terror techniques that worked well in the
past can no longer function in a sophisticated media environment.
Thus, while the Dubai authorities demonstrated perfect understanding
of the communications age, the assassins whom those authorities so
skillfully documented look like a gang of clumsy killers from a past
era. In fact, [Ehud BarakQs] characterization of Israel as a villa
in the jungle should be reversed to Qa jungle in a villa.

VI. QWho Needs Ancient Caves, We Have IPhones

Conservative columnist Haim Navon wrote in Maariv (2/25):
QNetanyahuQs [choice of heritage sites] has caused great turmoil
among the Palestinians. One can easily understand why. They
attempt to present themselves as natives and themselves as a people
under occupation; the unearthing of 4,000-year-old Jewish sites
slightly shakes the fantasy called the QPalestinian narrative.Q Why
anger the Palestinians in the name of dubious principles?


VII. QFantastical Adventures

Intelligence affairs correspondent Yossi Melman wrote in Ha'aretz
(2/25): QThere is no doubt that more than a little of the
information that [DubaiQs chief of police] is disclosing or leaking
to the media is part of a ploy in which bits of disinformation are
planted. He's throwing out a lure in the hope that someone in
Israel will swallow the bait and respond by incriminating himself or
disclosing confidential information.... It is hard to believe that,
if the Mossad intelligence agency carried out the operation, the
planners were so irresponsible as to dispatch nearly 30 agents and
to expose an entire select operational unit on one assassination
operation. This is true even if we assume the planner thought the
target should be hit no matter what, and even if hypothetically
Mabhouh was on his way to Iran to arrange an arms deal that Israel
had seen as changing the balance of power. Either the new
revelations are another salvo in Dubai's psychological warfare or
the police investigators are groping in the dark. It is doubtful we
will ever know the truth. The evidence linking Israel to the affair
is still weak, certainly for courtroom purposes but also in the
diplomatic sphere. But the saga also sends a message of deterrence
to Hamas that the long arm of whoever carried out the operation can
hit another senior Hamas official.

VIII. QPinpointed Assassination

Editor-in-Chief Amnon Lord wrote in the editorial of the
nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe (2/25): QWhen Israel is
suspected of eliminating a senior terror figure -- not from the air
but in a pinpoint fashion Qno investigator in the world will refuse
to probe the Qmurder,Q as if it were a great loss to mankind, like
Albert Schweitzer or Mother Theresa. In the final analysis,
international responses stem from the basic conception that Israel
is the only body in the world that is required to justify the land
is sits one and the citizens of which must present a repot justify
the quantity of oxygen they consume.


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2. IsraelQs Nuclear Policy:
----------------------------

Block Quotes:
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QWhat if We WouldnQt Scare Ourselves with the Bomb?

Avner Cohen, author of the book QIsrael and the BombQ and a public
policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, wrote in
HaQaretz (2/25): QUltimately, we need to internalize the insight
that even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced this week,
when he said that all the talk about an Iranian bomb is irrational
and meaningless. This is not simply because any Iranian attempt to
destroy Israel via a nuclear bomb would kill countless Palestinians,
but because it would surely lead to the destruction of Iran itself
by Israel and the United States. Therefore, the idiotic claim that
Iran could bring about Israel's destruction does not hold water.
While it is true that Ahmadinejad would love Israel to implode of
its own accord, a self-confident and strong nation should not take
such statements too seriously. And it certainly should not view
them as an existential threat.

CUNNINGHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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