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Cablegate: Jerusalem Media Reaction (5/06): Guessing at What Progress

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 060953Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1380
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
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RUEAHQA/CSAF WASHINGTON DC//POLAD//
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RUENAAA/CNO WASHINGTON DC//POLAD//
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 7096
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 4090
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 3943
RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 5441
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 3851
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2420

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JERUSALEM 000754

SIPDIS

STATE PASS BBG
STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD
WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
NSC FOR ABRAMS
CMC WASHINGTON DC FOR POLAD

JERUSALEM ALSO FOR ICD
LONDON FOR HKANONA AND POL - TSOU
PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KMDR KPAL KWBG KPAO IS
SUBJECT: JERUSALEM MEDIA REACTION (5/06): GUESSING AT WHAT PROGRESS
HAS BEEN MADE IN NEGOTIATIONS


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Main Stories:
-------------

Positive coverage of the meeting between Palestinian President Abbas
and Israeli Premier Olmert appears on all front pages. According to
the lead stories, discussions between the two leaders were, "deep
and serious." However, reports also highlight the "gap" that remains
between the two sides' positions on many issues. Al-Quds quotes
Abbas spokesperson Abu Rudaynah stating that, "positions are still
very far apart on the borders issue." Al-Ayyam runs a second Abu
Rudaynah quote, "Abbas will have to make dramatic decisions if an
agreement is not reached." Meanwhile, Nimr Hamad, political advisor
to Abbas, tells Al-Quds, "the American Administration is working on
getting agreement for a framework on the definition [of borders] of
a future Palestinian state." Hamad also refutes press reports that
Abbas is frustrated with the current status of negotiations.

The dailies report that Secretary Rice has asked Israel to reach an
agreement with the Palestinians on, "borders for a Palestinian
state," during the upcoming visit by President Bush. Al-Ayyam
highlights that Rice confirmed that, "the two sides are making
progress." On the ground, the dailies focus on news that American
"supervisors" will be, "monitoring the removal of checkpoints," in
the West Bank.

Palestinian Authority (PA) security efforts in Jenin win positive
coverage in the dailies. The papers report that the security
campaign will begin by focusing on villages surrounding Jenin.
Al-Quds reports that Jenin Mufti, Muhammed Salah, praised the PA
security efforts and called upon the people of Jenin to obey
security rules and the law and to help the PA achieve its security
mission in the city. Ministry of Information Al-Malki adds his
support to the mission, stating that the PA government is determined
to make the Jenin security campaign a success, papers note.

According to front page reports, Palestinian Authority employees
will receive their salaries and another 1000 Shekels (200 USD) on
May 6. Palestinian Information Minister Al-Malki revealed to press
that, "the Government has earmarked money to implement projects in
the cities of Jenin and Hebron." The projects will include
industrial and infrastructure projects, reporting adds.

Regarding the issue of Nablus wheat flour being fit for human
consumption, Al Ayaam's front page runs comments by the Minister of
Information Al-Malki stating that the flour in Nablus, "is not
suitable for human consumption." He adds that, "we are waiting to
send the flour out of the country." The article continues weekend
reporting from the Maan news website that, "hundreds of
Palestinians... attacked World Food Program (WFP) warehouses on
Sunday, demanding that they have access to donated flour that the
Palestinian Health Ministry says is unfit for human consumption."
Neither article mentions the U.S. government as the source of the
donated flour and coverage continues to define the issue as a
UN-Palestinian Authority affair.

Ongoing Palestinian preparations to commemorate "the catastrophe"
[nakba] receives extensive coverage in the dailies. Related
coverage highlights the Israeli closure of West Bank checkpoints in
preparation of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations. The dailies
also note that Israeli forces invaded Nablus and Qalqilia on May 5.


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JERUSALEM 00000754 002 OF 002


BLOCK QUOTES:
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1. Independent Al-Quds runs its daily editorial entitled
"Negotiations... lost time" (5/06): "After meeting with Abu Mazen
[Abbas] and heads of the Palestinian and Israeli negotiation teams,
Secretary Rice extended her visit to the region in order to continue
talks with the Israeli side. We have heard news about progress
being achieved regarding border issues. An Israeli source has said
that things are moving forward and Dr. Sa'eb Erakat says that,
"negotiations were serious." In any case, the American President
Bush is coming to the region in a few days to participate in the
Israeli celebrations of independence. He will also hold meetings
with Arab officials and with Abu Mazen regarding the promised
solution... we are facing a critical time and any observer needs
enormous optimism to believe that it is possible for real and
serious movement on the settlement issue and an agreement during the
remaining months of Bush's term. It is probably more realistic to
say that these negotiations are [just lost time] which in the best
case scenario will only lead to a new declaration of principles that
will need [never-ending] negotiations to be implemented..."

2. Independent Al-Ayyam features veteran columnist Hani Al-Masri,
opining under the title, "What is the reason for Rice's optimism?"
(5/06): "Despite all indications that many difficulties still stand
in the way of an Israeli- Palestinian agreement, Secretary Rice
still believes in the possibility of reaching an agreement this
year. So, what is the reason for Rice's optimism? The answer might
be found in the comments made by an Israeli official regarding... a
request by Secretary Rice to publish a document that reveals the
progress that has been made until now in Palestinian-Israeli
negotiations... This progress ... will show the outlines of a peace
agreement that will not be implemented right now, but will clarify
the political horizon for future negotiations... Rice continues to
spread hope because [she knows that lack of it]... will become a
roadblock to future negotiation efforts and make the American role
seem like nothing but a [political] game."

WALLES

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