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10TELAVIV128 2010-01-22 11:36:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

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SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

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



1. President ObamaQs Interview with TIME Magazine



2. Mideast



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


Key stories in the media:


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



All media cited President ObamaQs interview with TIME Magazine, in
which he admitted that he erred during his first year in office by
raising too high expectations of a Middle East breakthrough. Obama
said that neither side has been willing to make the bold gestures
necessary to move the process forward. This morning Israel RadioQs
anchor rhetorically asked why the President needs the National
Security CouncilQs advice to know that he failed. While the Prime
Minister's Office had no official response to the president's
remarks, Channel 2-TV quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official as
saying that Israel had warned the Americans that their Middle East
strategy would not bear fruit. The Jerusalem Post reported that
another senior Israeli official tried to lower any expectations that
the current regional trip of U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East
Peace Senator George Mitchell would lead to any dramatic progress,
saying that it was not clear whether the PA had made the strategic
decision to re-enter the talks. The official said Netanyahu had no
intention of giving Mitchell any more gestures to take to the
Palestinians, saying that the Palestinians have climbed up a
"eucalyptus tree," and every time a gesture is given as a ladder,
they climb even higher. Talking on Israel Radio this morning,
Deputy FM Daniel Ayalon said that the President [Obama] had not
failed. HaQaretz noted that, speaking about the Arab worldQs
intolerance to the peace process, Obama aimed his criticism mainly
at Saudi Arabia Q namely over King AbdullahQs refusal to offer
Israel gestures of normalization in a bid to muster public support
for the peace process.

The media reported that yesterday Special Envoy Mitchell met with PM
Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, DM Ehud Barak, FM
Avigdor Lieberman, and Opposition head Tzipi Livni. Israel Radio
quoted Jerusalem officials as saying that attempts to renew talks
with the Palestinians would continue despite President ObamaQs
conclusion that he has been unable to achieve a breakthrough in the
peace process. The Jerusalem Post reported that, before meeting
Mitchell, Peres told reporters that "time was of the essence" in the
peace process, and that there were forces in the region who wanted
to destroy what has already been achieved. Mitchell said he
recognized the difficulties and complexities, but that the U.S.
would pursue negotiations until a peace agreement is reached.
Maariv reported that during his meetings with the Israeli
leadership, Mitchell attempted to convince them to grant further
gestures to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in an effort to convince him
to return to the negotiating table. This request, however, was met
with adamant refusal, with the argument that all gestures had been
exhausted. Maariv reported that a senior political source explained
to the Americans: QWe froze settlement construction, we declared our
support for a two-state solution -- and the Palestinians refuse to
negotiate. The blame ought to be cast on them, not us.Q After the
round of talks in Israel, Mitchell is expected to visit the PA today
and meet with Abbas and PM Salam Fayyad.

HaQaretz (Akiva Eldar) reported that a senior government minister
told the newspaper yesterday that the chances of renewing the peace
talks are "slim." According to the Minister, Mitchell's present
mission is not likely to succeed either, as he will probably not
persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to renew the
negotiations over the permanent status settlement. Nor is he likely
to receive from PM Netanyahu a clear answer as to whether he is
ready to adopt Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's formula to base
Israel's permanent borders on the 1967 lines. HaQaretz believes
that the results of Mitchell's meetings this week with Netanyahu and
Abbas will determine whether Washington continues the efforts to
bring the parties back to the negotiations table. HaQaretz says
that one possibility being examined is shuttle diplomacy similar to
Henry Kissinger's method of paving the way to the Separation of
Forces Agreement between Israel and Egypt and Syria in the mid
1970s. However, Eldar said that the U.S. is not keen to give up the
direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiation format for proximity talks.
HaQaretz noted that Netanyahu has recently been trying to persuade
the U.S. administration that due to the rivalry with Abbas, he is
not prepared to reach an agreement involving difficult Israeli
concessions. Netanyahu proposed focusing the American efforts on
drafting sanctions on Iran. However, HaQaretz says that the TIME
interview shows that Obama has not bought the PMQs contention that
Israel has moved a long way toward the Palestinians by freezing
settlement construction. Netanyahu blames Abbas for setting
unreasonable conditions for resuming talks.
The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday senior IDF officials told
PM Netanyahu during a tour of two observation posts along the Sinai
border that if the border with Egypt is not closed, then al-Qaida
may use Sudanese refugees making their way into the country as cover
to infiltrate and set up terrorist cells in Israel.

Israel Radio quoted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as saying
that IsraelQs actions in the territories contradict its commitment
to the Roadmap, undermine the PalestiniansQ confidence, and a
two-state solution. The radio reported that Israeli diplomats
expressed their astonishment at BanQs words and that they recalled
that the U.N. failed to implement its own decisions in places like
Lebanon.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel is anxiously awaiting the
publication of an updated U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on
Iran, with defense officials hoping it will finally prompt toughened
sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The newspaper believes that
those hopes were given a boost yesterday when the U.S and the E.U.
vowed to keep up pressure on Iran to provide details about its
nuclear program, saying the country's continued refusal to prove its
intentions are peaceful will draw new penalties. In other news,
The Jerusalem Post reported that yesterday in Bochum, Germany, a
pro-Israel group protested the Iranian involvement in the
engineering conglomerate ThyssenKrupp.

Makor Rishon-Hatzofe reported that Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad is
boycotting the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the
Palestinian Authority, General Keith Dayton, with whom he has not
met for seven months.

Leading media reported that Knesset Member and former Education
Minister Yuli Tamir has announced she is leaving the Labor Party.
In an interview with Israel Radio she cited -- among other reasons
-- DM BarakQs decision to raise the status of Ariel College in the
West Bank to that of a university. Tamir said that the Labor Party
under Barak had preferred fear over determination when it came to
negotiations with the Palestinians and that she would therefore not
compete for a place in the partyQs list in the next election.

Israel Radio reported that the Defense Ministry has admitted that in
Kiryat Netafim, in the northern West Bank, the construction of 15
houses has proceeded contrary to an interim order issued by the High
Court of Justice. This appeared in the stateQs response to the High
Court of Justice in a Peace Now petition asking that a contempt of
court ruling be issued. Peace Now petitioned the High Court of
Justice half a year ago, demanding that the demolition of houses and
construction of new ones be brought to a halt. The organization
argued that this was taking place on land partially belonging to
Palestinians. The court issued the interim order at that time.

Ha'aretz reported that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has gone on the
offensive against the municipal legal system, state prosecutor, and
outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz following Mazuz's order to
the police to immediately evict the Jews living in QBeit Yonatan,Q a
building in East Jerusalem's predominantly Arab Silwan
neighborhood.

Israel Radio reported that yesterday the IDF Advocate GeneralQs
office opened an investigation into the vandalism of tombstones in
the cemetery in Awarta, a village near Nablus. The radio reported
that IDF troops are now being suspected of the malicious act. In
another development, HaQaretz reported that rights group Yesh Din is
demanding that settlers be indicted for attacking Bedouin in the
West Bank.

The Jerusalem Post cited Human Rights WatchQs claim that Israel is
Qmore hostile than ever to human rights groups.

Media detailed a peace plan devised by Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora
Eiland, former head of IsraelQs National Security Council.

Media reported that MK Shaul Mofaz threatens to split Kadima.
Israel Hayom reported that Kadima chair Tzipi Livni is negotiating
the entry of former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz into her party as
a possible substitute for Mofaz.



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



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




1. President ObamaQs Interview with TIME Magazine:


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



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



Block Quotes:


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





I. QLook WhoQs Talking

Washington correspondent Orly Azolai wrote in the mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/22): QAt the end of a year in office,
Obama looks back in anger at the Middle East.... Instead of
condescending and complaining like a spoiled child that the efforts
he invested were to no avail, Obama could have pounded on the table
and done what the world expected him to do: to take the initiative,
seize the recalcitrant parties by their hair, and not let go until
they consented.... Netanyahu and Abu Mazen know that the only plan
on the agenda is establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967
borders with border revisions, a land swap on a dunam-for-dunam
basis, declaring Jerusalem as the capital of the two states, and
establishing diplomatic ties between Israel and all the Arab states.
Obama should have presented this plan, set a strict timetable for
its implementation, threatened to denounce the recalcitrant parties,
and marketed it at a grandiose international conference. But Obama
chose the easy way out: he chose to be offended, turned up his nose
and turned his back. Netanyahu has no cause to rejoice at the fact
that Obama is disappointed. We appear to have lost the PresidentQs
attentive ear and perhaps his concern for our fate as well. Anyone
who read his statements closely yesterday could understand that he
is no longer really with us. Peace in the Middle East is first and
foremost an Israeli interest, even if the way to achieving it is
accompanied by a friendQs pressure. The most terrible thing of all
will be a situation in which we have to cope with American
indifference.

II. QAnd What Has He Done?

Columnist Nadav Eyal wrote on page one of the popular, pluralist
Maariv (1/22): QOne does not have to be the President of the United
States to get a grasp of the political situation in both Israel and
the Palestinian Authority and one needs not to lead a superpower in
order to appreciate that nothing in this region has changed since
Henry Kissinger made the known statement that Israel has no foreign
policy, only domestic policy. Such a public expression of
disappointment, however, is indicative of a certain degree of
naivet over the impediments faced by a U.S. president as he
attempts to make progress in the Middle East -- whether this is
Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, or George W. Bush. Obama
also does an injustice to Benjamin Netanyahu: when the Prime
Minister finally laid to rest the greater Land of Israel in his Bar
Ilan speech and when he confronted the settlers with a construction
freeze -- limited as it may be -- these are clearly gestures.... One
ought to ask what exactly has Obama done, what has his
administration done, in order to realize the blissful vision
presented only a year ago? The answer, put simply, is not enough.
George Mitchell is an experienced peace envoy decorated in Irish
glory; however, the president was incapable, or rather lacked the
desire, to put his money where his mouth is, if one may use a
well-known Washingtonian idiom.... And how exactly has the White
House gone about cracking Israeli public opinion, the center of
gravity for any peace process?.... Gestures -- the likes of which
were made by both Clinton and Bush -- provide the political process
with breathing space among the Israeli public, whose desire for
recognition far surpasses any of its fears.... Do yourselves a
favor, take no joy in [President ObamaQs] despair.

III. QDangerous Disregard

Senior diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote in Yediot
Aharonot (1/22): QObamaQs main error concerning the Israeli
government stems from the assumption that it is possible to reach a
formula for freezing the settlements with Netanyahu, either by
applying pressure or by hints that Israel could only receive the
United StatesQ assistance to defend itself against the Iranian peril
if it would stop the construction in the settlements (Bushehr in
exchange for [the settlement of] Yitzhar). None of the Americans
assumptions regarding the renewal of negotiations materialized....
As of now, it should be conceded that the candor of the U.S.
President is an uncommon phenomenon on this side of the ocean. But
anyone who thinks that he can take comfort in ObamaQs sincere
admission and continue to do nothing to break free of the stalemate
may be proved wrong. The tactic of building walls and mocking
QAmerican naiveteQ may prove to be disastrous.


IV. QLetQs See Him Face Iran

Veteran journalist and television anchor Dan Margalit wrote in the
independent Israel Hayom (1/22): QBetter late than never.... A
sobered-up Barack Obama explained in an interview with TIME Magazine
that he had raised too high expectations regarding his ability to
make peace between Israel and the Palestinians.... [But] as strange
as it sounds, the renewal of global confidence in the U.S.
capability does not depend on the problematic fighting in
Afghanistan or even on the ability to draft an Israeli-Palestinian
understanding, but on proven success in an arena watched by all
world governments -- the battlefield along the Washington-Tehran
axis.... Success in the Iranian arena will actually restore the
United StatesQ ability to impose its will to the other parts of the
world, including the warring Israeli and Palestinian sides. Is
Israel interested? Apparently not. It does not want to accept
ObamaQs dictates. But, in the final analysis, Israel is part of the
American world and the United StatesQ might serves Israel more than
it finds it a burden. Obama has begun granting the Middle Eastern
conflict its global, realistic weight.



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




2. Mideast:


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



Block Quotes:


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





I. QMasters and Donkeys

Conservative columnist Sarah Honig wrote in the conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (1/22): QConsciously or otherwise, the
carrot-and-stick motif conjures images of masters and the dumb
donkeys they try to prod and move along. Those lucky enough to be
in a position to choose between inducing or punishing are obviously
the power-wielding honchos. Those to be tempted or whacked into
submission are clearly the brutish troublesome beasts which must be
disciplined -- one way or the other. Therefore, when U.S. President
Barack ObamaQs special Mideast envoy fails to object to
carrot-and-stick talk -- and even bothers to specify one stickQs
characteristics -- he implies that heQs in charge, while we,
threatened with a severe whack on the rump, are the asses....
IsraelQs very inability to risk the Jewish stateQs continued
existence for the state of facile clichs paradoxically facilitates
its demonization. When our struggle for survival ends up
trivialized and kitschified, the remedy is clear: get the darned
donkey under control with one stick or another.

II. QDamaging Political Decision

The independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/22): QLike
most decisions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government,
the authorization to recognize the college in [the settler town of]
Ariel as a university stems from coalition considerations and the
desire to hold on to cabinet seats at any cost. When Defense
Minister Ehud Barak gave the green light to implement an improper
cabinet decision from 2005, he finally showed that Labor's excuse
for joining the government -- to moderate the extremists -- was
false. Barak is the one taking the government's most dangerous
steps.... Israeli scientists and intellectuals have suffered in
recent years due to a feeling of estrangement among important
academic institutions worldwide; there have also been boycotts and
ostracism. No doubt this attitude will worsen when Israel develops
a large university town in the territories at a time when it is
bound to a construction freeze. Israeli academia will become even
more the leper and Israel's intellectual and scientific life will be
forced into a ghetto; the damage to the system and all of society is
hard to gauge. This dangerous folly is now at the doorstep of the
Council for Higher Education -- the only institution that can stop
it. Without its approval, Ariel cannot receive university funding
and recognition of its degrees. The council must wage an
unremitting professional and civil struggle for the future of higher
education for what remains of Israel's legitimacy in the world and
against pushing Israeli society to the destructive margins of
Qsettler land.

III. QAriel Is Worthy of Being a University

The nationalist, Orthodox Makor Rishon-Hatzofe editorialized (1/22):
QBased on the force of law and history, Israel has acted over the
past 42 years as the sovereign party throughout Judea and Samaria
[i.e. the West Bank]; before it granted Ariel College the status of
a university, it made similar gestures for Bir Zeit University and
other colleges in Judea and Samaria. The entire academic
development in Judea and Samaria -- Jewish and Arab -- is the direct
result of IsraelQs military rule when it assumed the former
Jordanian rule.... In their protest against Ariel, [Meretz Chairman
Haim] Oron and his friends are marking targets for anti-Semitic
academic unions to impose an academic boycott on Israel. Will Oron
and [former Education Minister Yuli] Tamir recommend that the
boycotters mark every Ariel graduate in some way -- so that
legitimate Israelis donQt get harmed?

CUNNINGHAM