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07TELAVIV1699 2007-06-12 10:15:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

Tags:   OPRC KMDR IS 
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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
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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


--------------------------------
SUBJECTS COVERED IN THIS REPORT:
--------------------------------



1. Israel Labor Party Primaries



2. Mideast



2. Democracy



--------------------------


Key stories in the media:


--------------------------



Ha'aretz cited the belief of unnamed officials that President Bush
will make new suggestions for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement in a
speech slated for June 24. The event will mark the fifth anniversary
of the speech in which he unveiled his "two-state vision" to end the
conflict. The officials were quoted as saying that it is still
unclear what new ideas the administration is formulating. The
newspaper reported that PM Ehud Olmert's aides Yoram Turbowicz and
Shalom Turgeman left for Washington on Monday for preparatory talks
ahead of Olmert's visit next week. The officials were quoted as
saying that Bush was expected to report progress on a memorandum of
understanding to increase US military aid to Israel. The current
accord expires next year, as does the civil economic aid package.
Israel wants the US to gradually raise military aid to more than USD
2.4 billion annually, as the current accord stipulates. The
officials were quoted as saying that the US sees increasing military
aid to Israel and supplying new American weapons to the Gulf states
as important steps to bolster moderate countries in the region and
counter Iran's rising strength. Ha'aretz noted that this is why the
US wishes to supply Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs to Saudi
Arabia, despite Israel's objection.

In its lead story, bylined by Aluf Benn and other correspondents,
Ha'aretz reported that PM Olmert sent a new message to Syrian
President Bashar Assad, in which "interesting nuances" were
included, according to a senior political source in Jerusalem. The
message was sent through Greek FM Theodora Bakoyianni, who visited
Israel Monday and then traveled to Damascus. In response to the
report, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, who is
accompanying Bakoyianni on her Middle Eastern tour, told Ha'aretz in
a phone interview from Damascus that he was surprised at the news.
Israel Radio cited a denial by Olmert's bureau that such a message
was conveyed. Yediot reported that on Monday Syria admitted for the
first time that it had received messages from Israel regarding
resumption of the peace process. However, Yediot reported that the
Syrian leadership said Israel was not serious, that it conveyed
contradictory messages, and that it tried to dictate conditions.
Israel Radio quoted a senior political source in Jerusalem as saying
this morning that Syria is not responding to Israel's overtures
because it wants contacts with Israel to go through the US. The
source was quoted as saying that Damascus is interested in making
use of contacts with Israel to make gains in Washington and to lift
the international boycott against it. Media reported that on Monday
Knesset members from the Israeli Arab parties were irritated by
statements made before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee by Farid Ghadry, the exiled head of Syria's tiny
opposition Reform Party, that Israel should not start negotiations
with Syria.

Ha'aretz reported that Mahmoud Abbas told Meretz Knesset members
Zahava Gal-On and Avshalom Vilan on Monday during their visit to
Ramallah: "I will not meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert until
he agrees to unfreeze Palestinian tax revenues." Ha'aretz said
that, in the meeting, Abbas added that the tax funds would allow him
to bolster the security forces under his command and begin
constructing a naval port in Gaza. The two Israeli guests presented
their plan for the deployment of an international force in Gaza
under the auspices of the Arab League, as was recently reported in
Ha'aretz. Abbas was quoted as saying that he found the plan
"interesting," adding that he could not say at this stage whether he
would adopt the plan and promote its implementation. In addition,
Abbas reportedly asked the visiting MKs about the reaction of the
Israeli leadership to their plan. "The current situation is
threatening to deteriorate into utter chaos. An Israeli incursion
will bring about total anarchy," he warned. As for Abbas's decision
to cancel his scheduled meeting with Olmert last week in Jericho,
the PA Chairman explained: "Olmert gave me no answers, and I have no
need for a photo op."

All media -- banners in Yediot, Maariv, and The Jerusalem Post --
reported on the second round of the Labor Party primaries that is
taking place today, in which former PM Ehud Barak and former Israel
Navy commander and former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon are running neck
and neck, according to polls released on Monday. Ha'aretz said that
voting in the kibbutzim and the Israeli Arab sector will determine
the winner. Yediot reported that the key to the election by the
Knesset of Israel's next president on Wednesday -- be it Kadima's
Shimon Peres or Likud's Reuven Rivlin -- lies with the votes of
Labor Party Knesset members. Israel Radio reported that MK Colette

Avital, the Labor Party's official candidate, complained about
harassment by supporters of Peres.

All media reported that at least 11 Palestinians died in Fatah-Hamas
clashes in the Gaza Strip, and that more than 40 were injured, hours
after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire was supposedly implemented.

The Jerusalem Post reported that, "in a significant diplomatic
shift," French President Nicolas Sarkozy will invite Hizbullah to
take part in a conference on Lebanon scheduled for later this month
in Paris, and begin "engaging" Syria. New French FM Bernard
Kouchner has invited delegates from across Lebanon's political and
religious divide to the conference aimed at quelling Lebanon's
violence and political strife. The Jerusalem Post said that, in
another sign that France has decided to step up its involvement in
the Middle East, Sarkozy is to meet PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud
Abbas in Paris next week. Regarding Syria, The Jerusalem Post
quoted diplomatic sources in Jerusalem as saying that France had let
Damascus know that it is willing to reengage with it, but that it
would not in any way back down from its firm support for an
international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of
former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, or from its demand that
Damascus "keep its hands off" of Lebanon. The Jerusalem Post said
that the view in Jerusalem is that Sarkozy wants to bring about a
gradual thaw in ties, in order to play the "honest broker" and
stabilize Lebanon. The conference in Paris, according to this
assessment, is part of this effort. The newspaper wrote that the
invitation to Hizbullah largely puts an end to hopes articulated in
Jerusalem after Sarkozy's election victory that he might be
persuaded to place Hizbullah on Europe's list of terrorist
organizations, a position that was opposed by Chirac.

Electronic media reported that four Qassam rockets were fired at the
western Negev this morning, lightly wounding several Israelis.

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio quoted the IDF as saying on Monday that it
would allow a protest rally to be held at the former West Bank
settlement of Homesh today, the first time protesters have been
legally allowed to demonstrate at the site since it was evacuated in


2005.

The Jerusalem Post reported that, in an effort to improve quality of
life in the West Bank, the IDF and the Civil Administration in the
territories have allocated 5 million shekels (around USD 1.2
million) to upgrade the Hawara Crossing north of Nablus, the main
passageway between Ramallah and the northern part of the West Bank.

Britain's Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell was quoted as
saying on Monday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that the
British media generally present all sides of the conflicts raging in
the Middle Eat and that they are "more balanced" than their critics
in Israel contend. On an unrelated matter, The Jerusalem Post wrote
that the Anti-Defamation League has launched a new series of print
and online advertisements aimed at combating the campaign among
British trade unions to boycott Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a Capitol Hill rally on Sunday
against the Israeli occupation attracted smaller numbers than
expected.

The Jerusalem Post quoted the Israeli Committee Against House
Demolitions as saying on Monday that an unnamed Orthodox American
Jew has donated USD 1.5 million to fund a campaign against the
demolition of Palestinian and Bedouin homes throughout Israel and
the territories.

Ha'aretz reported that Jewish residents of a house in the east
Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, whose evacuation was ordered by a
court, have a chance to stay, judging by the pressure exerted by the
municipality.

Maariv and other media quoted Iranian Admiral Ali Shamkhani as
saying in the American magazine Defense News that, if Iran is
attacked, it would bombard the Gulf states, mainly Qatar, Oman, and
Bahrain.

The Jerusalem Post reported that environmental activists are urging
the GOI to rehabilitate the lower Jordan River after the cultural
landscape was declared an "Endangered Cultural Heritage Site" by the
Watch List of the World Monuments Fund, the leading body for the
protection of monuments.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe quoted an organizer of the Cairo Film Festival
as saying that the festival will not allow any Israeli movie to be
screened.

Ha'aretz reported that a court headed by former High Court Justice
Theodor Or will soon announce that Maj. Gen. (Res.) Eli Zeira, who
headed IDF Intelligence during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, leaked
the identity of a senior Mossad agent who operated in Egypt before
the war.
Ha'aretz reported that the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA)
decided on Monday not to cancel its English-language radio news
broadcasts, despite earlier threats to do so as a cost-saving
measure. The future of IBA TV news broadcasts, however, remains
unclear.

The Jerusalem Post reported that North America is the latest
marketing target of the Tourism Ministry, which said on Monday that
it will spend USD 11 million to attract more visitors from the
continent to Israel.

Yediot ran a feature about Joel Covington (a.k.a. Rebel Sun), an
African-American hip-hop singer from Baltimore, who, together with
his wife Shoshana, visited Israel in 1999 and fell in love with the
country. The newspaper reported that he has just been granted
Israeli citizenship.



--------------------------




1. Israel Labor Party Primaries:


--------------------------



Summary:


--------------------------



The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The decision
today is Labor's to make. Starting tomorrow, the decision will move
to Kadima: either a different leadership and a continued coalition
partnership with Labor, or preparations for elections."

Political parties correspondent Nadav Eyal wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv: "The Labor Party, which was the last hope
of toppling Olmert, gave him a pardon for his sins."

Block Quotes:


--------------------------





I. "New Labor Leader Needs to Lead"

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (6/12): "On
Monday Ha'aretz reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will decide
which senior ministerial portfolio in his restructured government
will be offered to the Labor Party depending on who wins its
primary: Ehud Barak or Ami Ayalon. If Barak, a strategist par
excellence, is victorious, he will be given defense, which will be
taken from Amir Peretz. However, if the victor is Ayalon, who is an
ally of Peretz and is partnered with MK Avishay Braverman, then
Olmert will give him the treasury and transfer defense to
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. By revealing his intentions,
Olmert is carrying out a twin maneuver: internally and externally.
Internally, for the ears of his Kadima party, he is signaling that
he is capable of promoting another senior minister as a potential
rival along with Tzipi Livni, who called for his resignation, but
has kept quiet and stayed in his government. Externally, for the
Knesset, the public, and perhaps even the Bush administration, which
will host him next week, he is trying to give the impression of
stability and that he is a survivor. The message is that it does
not matter who will head Labor tomorrow; the sole question is which
portfolio in the Olmert cabinet he will hold.... The decision today
is Labor's to make. Starting tomorrow, the decision will move to
Kadima: either a different leadership and a continued coalition
partnership with Labor, or preparations for elections."

II. "The Real Winner: Ehud Olmert"

Political parties correspondent Nadav Eyal wrote on page one of the
popular, pluralist Maariv (6/12): "The race in the Labor Party is
coming to an end, and in the short term, it has only one certain
winner: Ehud Olmert. The two candidates began this battle determined
to do away with Olmert within his party.... Both explained their
position with an ethical and leadership concept that demands that
the Prime Minister take responsibility for the fiascos in the
Lebanon war. And then the campaign grabbed hold of them. The two,
each for his own reasons, softened, compromised, became vague,
withdrew, and wriggled.... The Labor Party, which was the last hope
of toppling Olmert, gave him a pardon for his sins..... After
Olmert, the second person to benefit is Binyamin Netanyahu, who
gained public relations material for the Likud for free. This was
the dirtiest race in the Labor Party since Rabin-Peres in 1992."



--------------------------




2. Mideast:


--------------------------



Summary:


--------------------------



Palestinian affairs correspondent Danny Rubinstein wrote in the left
leaning, independent Ha'aretz: "In Gaza ... groups ostensibly
operating in the name of Islam have already been spotted. In this
context it is perhaps worth reconsidering the boycott of the
Palestinian unity government in which Hamas is a partner."
The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in
International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "The irony [in the shift
in US Mideast policy] is that this, except for refusing to withdraw
from Iraq, means it is close to the views of Bush's more mainstream
domestic enemies."

The ultra-Orthodox Hamodi'a editorialized: "It would be hard to
expect from those who do not feel pity for their own brothers and
kinsmen that they behave humanely vis-a-vis others."

Block Quotes:


--------------------------





I. "In the Name of Islam?"

Palestinian affairs correspondent Danny Rubinstein wrote in the left
leaning, independent Ha'aretz (6/12): "It emerged last week that the
group [Fatah al-Islam] is holding up, and all because of the weak
and divided Lebanese government. It is not a coincidence that the
Muslim extremists have situated themselves in this refugee camp and
in other camps in Lebanon where there is no government presence and
no law and order. This is precisely the direction the Gaza Strip is
taking. Abandonment by the government, lawlessness, and poverty are
fertile ground for the organizing of terrorists. In Gaza, similar
groups ostensibly operating in the name of Islam have already been
spotted. In this context it is perhaps worth reconsidering the
boycott of the Palestinian unity government in which Hamas is a
partner. The boycott is increasing the bitterness and distress,
weighing down Hamas, and encouraging the development of
organizations along the lines of Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon. It is
not only the Palestinians who will pay the price for this, but also
Israel, which did not want Hamas and is getting Al-Qaida. This
appears to be the opinion of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who
said at the end of last week that Hamas is sending positive signals
concerning peace, and hinted that these should be answered."

II. "Identifying America's Top Mideast Priority"

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in
International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in the
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (6/12): "What has happened
in the last few months is that the [US] administration has heeded
the criticisms of its mainstream and, to a lesser extent, more
extreme critics. In the latter case, it has reduced the policy of
pressuring Syria and Iran through isolation. High-ranking US
officials met with both.... The democracy policy is downgraded or
dead. And Fatah, despite its continued terrorism and radicalism, is
seen mainly as a bulwark against radical Islamism.... In addition,
US policy wants to keep European countries happy by not going
further than they want on Iran while showing them that it is
energetically pursuing Israel-Palestinian negotiations. The bottom
line is that US policy has now become pretty much a historically
mainstream one, a new Cold War with the names changed, a traditional
alignment of more moderate against more radical Arabs and Muslims.
The irony is that this, except for refusing to withdraw from Iraq,
means it is close to the views of Bush's more mainstream domestic
enemies."

III. "How Will They Treat Others?"

The ultra-Orthodox Hamodi'a editorialized (6/12): "Current events in
the Gaza Strip apparently are a domestic Palestinian affair. But it
would be a mistake to treat those episodes only this way. This is
because those bloody riots might have repercussions in the entire
region. As we witnessed in the past, terrorists from various groups
tried to vent internal frustration by carrying out terrorist attacks
against Jews. This is also because the brutality they are
demonstrating among themselves should kindle warning lights and
indicate with whom exactly Israel is dealing. It would be hard to
expect from those who do not feel pity for their own brothers and
kinsmen that they behave humanely vis-a-vis others."



--------------------------




3. Democracy:


--------------------------



Summary:


--------------------------



The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized: "Israel
should not fail to recognize, in the words of the Prague Charter,
'the profound moral difference between free societies and societies
ruled by fear.'"

Block Quotes:


--------------------------



"Support the Prague Charter"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (6/12):
"Just before the G-8 leaders met in Germany last weekend, an
international summit took place that was arguably of greater
historic significance. It was a summit of top dissidents from all
over the world, and was attended by the world's most famous
'dissident,' President George W. Bush.... The Prague Charter, signed
by [Natan] Sharansky, [Vaclav] Havel, and [Jose Maria] Aznar, listed
10 ways that 'governments and peoples throughout the free world
[can] help those trying to build free societies'.... Even small
nations, such as Israel, can do their part to support dissidents and
stand for those struggling for freedoms that we often take for
granted. Australia, for example, was the first nation to raise the
issue of Soviet Jewry in the United Nations. Israel, for its part,
can do more to examine its relationship with unsavory regimes, such
as the one in Beijing. It is not enough anymore to act as if human
rights concerns are a luxury we cannot afford when considering
military relationships. Israel should not fail to recognize, in
the words of the Prague Charter, 'the profound moral difference
between free societies and societies ruled by fear.' Nor is this
only a matter of morality. 'The protection of human rights is
critical to international peace and security,' the Charter argues,
because "countries that do not respect the rights of their people
are unlikely to respect the rights of their neighbors."

JONES