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Cablegate: Jerusalem Media Reaction (9/12): Heightened Speculation

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DE RUEHJM #1698/01 2560753
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120753Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2756
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEADWD/DA WASHINGTON DC//DAS-ZD/DACS-ZK//
RUEAHQA/CSAF WASHINGTON DC//POLAD//
RHMFIUU/CMC WASHINGTON DC
RUENAAA/CNO WASHINGTON DC//POLAD//
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 7315
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 4297
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 4150
RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 5644
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 4065
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2631

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JERUSALEM 001698

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 (9/12): Heightened Speculation
about the Closed-Door Negotiations

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Main Stories:
-------------
All front pages lead with reaction to statements made by US Consul
General Jake Walles in a September 9 interview with Al-Ayyam daily.
The three dailies report that Israeli Premier Olmert's office issued
a statement on September 11 denying that Israel and the Palestinians
agreed to negotiate on the future of Jerusalem and possible
adjustments to borders. Al-Ayyam notes that several Israeli media
outlets distorted Walles' statements regarding negotiations on
Jerusalem, at times attributing comments to Walles that he did not
make. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reports that the State Department
confirmed on September 11 that, "the topic of Jerusalem has not been
addressed during negotiations headed by Israeli Foreign Minister
Livni and Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiator Quray." Al-Ayyam
and Al-Quds highlight that the State Department confirmed that the
U.S. has not taken a position on the borders of a future Palestinian
state, and that a senior U.S. official who participated in relevant
discussions denies that the Israeli side, led by chief negotiator
Foreign Minister Livni, has been willing to negotiate concerning
Jerusalem. Both papers add that Secretary Rice participated in the
negotiations in a way that respected the Israeli position. Al-Quds
runs official Palestinian reaction in an unattributed statement
that, "the shortest way to peace in the region is through an end to
occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian
state." Quoting PA Council President Nimer Hammad, the paper
further explains that Secretary Rice has proposed a trilateral
meeting of all parties to assess progress in negotiations and
clarify each party's position on the current status of
negotiations.

In photo coverage, the three dailies lead with photos of September
11 commemorations in New York. The papers run pictures of U.S.
presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain paying tribute
to victims of the attack at Ground Zero. President Bush is shown
observing a moment of silence at the Pentagon memorial for the
victims of September 11.

The three dailies cite different news agencies' reports on Israeli
actions in the West Bank. Al-Quds cites a Wafa report on the injury
of 58 Palestinians and the arrest of 9 others in Ni'lin village,
near Ramallah, over the past three days. In Jenin, Al-Quds reports
that Israeli soldiers went door-to-door, inspecting Palestinian
homes. In related coverage, Al-Ayyam cites a report produced by the
Areej Research Institute in Bethlehem, stating that Israel continues
to distort reporting about "facts on the ground." According to the
report, the separation barrier will "isolate" 13% of West Bank land
from Palestinian populations.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reports on its inside pages that PLO negotiator
Sa'eb Erekat met with Consul General Jake Walles on September 11 in
the West Bank city of Jericho. The paper lists the topics that were
discussed as: the peace process; Israel's lack of commitment to
implementing the first stage of the Roadmap, including a halt to
Israeli settlement activities; the separation barrier; removal of
checkpoints; West Bank crossing closures; the "siege" in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip; and a halt to West Bank incursions and arrests
by the Israeli military.

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Block Quotes:
-------------
1. Under the title, "The Seventh Anniversary of September 11"
(9/12), the independent Al-Quds argues in its main editorial:

JERUSALEM 00001698 002 OF 002


"Against the background of the September 11 attacks, the Palestinian
issue remained on the margins of developments for the first seven
years of the Bush administration, despite his having launched, for
the first time in the history of American administration, the motto
of a Palestinian state. Despite Bush's vision of a two-state
solution, which was announced in 2002 and later took shape in the
Roadmap, the American administration did not actively attempt to
stir the peace process until 2007, when the Annapolis Conference was
held and resulted in the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli
negotiations, frozen since 2000. No one can deny that the American
administration, represented by its President and Secretary of State,
has shown interest in the peace process through visits and
interventions, but the negotiations have not achieved any worthy
progress and it seems that the target of reaching a Palestinian
Israeli agreement [by the end of the year] will not be met."

2. Samih Shbaib, a regular columnist with the independent Al-Ayyam,
writes under the title "Negotiations Away from the Media!!!" (9/12):
"Palestinian-Israeli negotiation sessions continue and occasionally
take very serious dimensions, at least in appearance, without
available information for the media, which leads to speculation and
even fabrication on the side of the media to add some glamour and
charm to their media product... If we attempt to generalize anything
about the ongoing negotiations, we can say that they are genuinely
being conducted away from the media, as was the case with the secret
negotiations prior to Oslo, which equally surprised the Palestinians
and the Israelis... It is true that the ongoing negotiations are
taking place hidden from the media and media leakages, but the
context of the negotiations is crystal clear to both Palestinians
and Israelis, and it vividly indicates that reaching a final
agreement is like a work of magic and witchcraft. And if it
happened, it would require a public and general announcement to both
the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. So has the situation matured
such that the Israeli and Palestinian publics can accept a solution
that would satisfy both populations?

WALLES

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