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Cablegate: Jerusalem Media Reaction (5/22): "Palestine Investment

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O 220942Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1612
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
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INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
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RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 4115
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 3968
RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 5466
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 3884
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2446

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 JERUSALEM 000889

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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 (5/22): "PALESTINE INVESTMENT
CONFERENCE: A STEP TOWARDS A PALESTINIAN STATE?"

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Main Stories:
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Coverage of the Palestine Investment Conference (PIC), complete with
photos, continues to dominate the front and inside pages of all the
dailies. Reports focused on quotes from President Abbas's opening
speech, which began with a statement hailing the Lebanese agreement
and welcoming the Israeli-Syrian negotiations (see additional
coverage below). Al-Quds headlined its report with "The President
Inaugurates Palestine Investment Conference amid a Huge Political,
Economic, Foreign, and Arab Crowd," and highlighted his comments
about the need to reunite with Gaza on the condition that Hamas
return control of the Strip to the Palestinian Authority, the status
of East Jerusalem, and the importance of security and economy when
pursuing the road to peace. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida opened with a quote
by Abbas in bold black letters: "The Palestine Investment Conference
is a turning point in the lives of our people, but the current
situation is not rosy." Reports in all dailies highlighted the
announcement by a Saudi corporation to invest $250 million in a
construction project in the West Bank and quoted heads of
delegations emphasizing the importance of investment in supporting
the Palestinian economy and state. Dr. Hasan Abu Libdeh, CEO of the
PIC, downplayed expectations of the conference, noting that while it
is hoped that it will attract about $200 billion in investment, the
conference is meant primarily to lay the groundwork for future
cooperation and he does not expect significant financial commitments
at this time. Inside pages of the dailies reported on meetings that
occurred during the conference and agreements of support signed by
different Arab and foreign investors.

All dailies included front-page mentions of American participation
in the PIC and announcements of support by members of the U.S.
delegation. All reports noted that American officials announced
U.S. funding of economic projects valued at hundreds of millions of
dollars. The inside pages of all three dailies included multiple
articles detailing the announcements and comments by the delegation.
They quoted Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Robert Kimmit saying,
"the Palestine Investment Conference being held in Bethlehem in the
West Bank constitutes a part of the economic track included in
Annapolis as one of three tracks paving the road towards the
establishment of a Palestinian State." These reports also named the
participants in, and noted the high level of, the U.S. presidential
delegation and continued with details of American assistance through
OPIC and USTDA. The second page of Al-Quds carried a comprehensive
report about the meeting of the American delegation with Palestinian
officials in Jerusalem entitled, "Walles Renews the Commitment of
his Country to Support Palestinian Economic Growth." The same page
also featured a photo of President Abbas welcoming Deputy Secretary
Kimmit in Bethlehem. Additionally, the on-line news site,
Ekhbariyat, ran a U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem-produced press
release on its economic page with a large photo of an American Flag.


The simultaneous announcement by Damascus, Tel Aviv and Ankara about
ongoing "indirect" Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations mediated by
Turkey received front-page coverage in all dailies. A Syrian
official noted that, "each party expressed their desire to conduct
negotiations with good will and decided to continue with serious
dialogue to achieve the goal of a comprehensive peace in accordance
with the Madrid Peace Accord." Reuters reported from Qatar that
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem stated that Israel committed
itself to withdrawing from the Golan, back to the "4th of July 1967
line" and that he hopes Israel is serious about the negotiations.

JERUSALEM 00000889 002 OF 003


In related coverage, all dailies highlighted remarks by Olmert that
negotiations with Syria are not easy but are a national duty. In
its front-page headline, Al-Ayyam quoted Olmert saying, "we are
ready to make difficult compromises."

All dailies front paged reports on last night's air-strike by
Israeli forces in Gaza and the subsequent injury of five children.
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida features a photo of a bloodied infant being
treated at a Gaza hospital. Coverage also noted that Israeli
Special Forces infiltrated the area of Johr Eddik in Gaza and
assassinated a member of the Al-Qassam brigades, affiliated with
Hamas. The front page of all dailies carried news that Israel
refuted reports that they have already agreed to a truce with Hamas,
and reiterated that no deal will be accepted that does not include
the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and ends all rocket
fire from Gaza. Reports claim that the Israeli army has received
orders to prepare for a broad military operation in Gaza. Al-Ayyam
titled its coverage, "Israel downplays the hopes of reaching a truce
soon: The issue is not yet settled."

The Israeli intention to construct new houses in the Bitar Elit
settlement near Jerusalem received front page coverage in all
dailies. Al-Ayyam's coverage was accompanied with a photo of an
Israeli bulldozer demolishing six apartments belonging to
Palestinians in the Al-Tour neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Reports
indicated that Israel intends to build 286 housing units in the
settlement, as was announced yesterday by the Israeli Housing
Ministry. Bitar Elit, with a current population of 32,000 people,
is considered the third largest settlement in the West Bank.
Al-Ayyam's report referred to this construction as a violation of
the roadmap, highlighting that it is the second such violation since
Annapolis.

News of the Lebanese "Doha agreement" also received front-page
coverage.

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BLOCK QUOTES:
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1. In its main editorial, independent daily Al-Quds opined under
the title, "Investment Conference... between reality and
expectation" (05/22): "There is no doubt that having the
Palestinian Investment Conference happen is a success in itself, and
that is not a stretch of the truth or exaggeration. In addition to
Palestinian businessmen and investors, hundreds of Arab and foreign
investors have realized that it is possible to invest in Palestine,
and moreover, had the courage to attend the conference and search
for various opportunities for work and investments; this is a
success for the Palestinian stand... But we know, as everyone else
does, that the occupation lies heavily on [Palestinians'] hearts and
is actively, both directly and indirectly, working to hinder
development. The occupation is an obstacle in face of investment
because as the saying goes, capital is a coward and when there is no
guarantee of its safety, it will not usually venture forth; hence
just as proclaimed earlier, just by having this conference take
place and having investors attend, we have achieved success. We are
standing between great expectations and hard reality; our hopes are
soaring for a bright tomorrow while being pulled down by the weight
of the occupation and the hard reality it imposes. This experience
[the Investment Conference] is vital, and we wish success for the
conference and the investment laws that Abu Mazen promised for the
protection of the investors. This might alleviate the suffocating
situation that we are living in."

JERUSALEM 00000889 003 OF 003

2. Independent daily Al Ayyam carried an op-ed by regular columnist
Talal Okal under the title, "Only a little time is left" (05/22):
"What President Bush said in front of the Israeli Knesset on the
15th of May - which angered President Mahmoud Abbas, the Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak (who preferred not to listen to the speech
while attending the Davos forum), and all the Palestinian and Arab
people - what Bush said was not a slip of a tongue or an unintended
mistake because of an emotional moment. Bush reinforced what he
announced at the Knesset and completed it without shame - totally
siding with Israel and fully supporting Israel's words and actions.
This impressed the former advisor of Sharon, Dov Weisglass, who said
that no Israeli official can express Israel's stand better than the
American president did. In Sharm Al-Sheikh, once again, Bush
intentionally ignored the Palestinian rights... [Secretary] Rice, in
her next visit to the region, which is happening soon according to
American announcements, has to work really hard to explain and
justify her President's opinion. She also has to work to take away
some of the anger - but cannot take away all of it - from President
Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, since she shares her
boss's beliefs. What Bush said and announced is really hard to
justify."

WALLES

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