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Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 TEL AVIV 001315

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
NSC FOR NEA STAFF

JERUSALEM ALSO FOR ICD
LONDON ALSO FOR HKANONA AND POL
PARIS ALSO FOR POL
ROME FOR MFO
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: IS KMDR MEDIA REACTION REPORT
SUBJECT: ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION


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

1. Mideast

2. Performance of Ariel Sharon

-------------------------
Key stories in the media:
-------------------------

The investigation of Elchanan Tenenbaum:
-In its expansive lead story, Maariv revealed that
Shimon Cohen, Tenenbaum's father-in-law, was PM
Sharon's agricultural instructor and friend, and that
Sharon's late wife Lili was a partner in and managed
for years a company owned by Cohen that marketed the
produce from Sharon's farm. Yediot mentioned the
connection in a modest news item. Maariv and other
media cited denials by Sharon and his bureau that he
knew about the family connection between Cohen and
Tenenbaum. On Israel Radio, Cohen said that his
connection with Sharon ended in 1975.
-Ha'aretz reported that Tenenbaum had top-secret
military documents in his possession before leaving for
Dubai. Ha'aretz says that its exclusive disclosure
only heightens the mystery of why officials were in
such a hurry last week to work out the controversial
immunity deal with Tenenbaum.

Leading media reported that the U.S. and Israel will
hold more rounds of talks in Jerusalem and Washington
about Sharon's proposed "unilateral disengagement" plan
before Sharon is actually invited to the White House.
Jerusalem Post reported that Tuesday senior diplomatic
officials downplayed reports in various Israeli media
that the U.S. Administration told top Sharon aide Dov
Weisglass that the disengagement move should wait until
after the November presidential elections. Reporting
on FM Silvan Shalom's diplomatic meetings in London,
leading media wrote that the UK gives qualified support
to the disengagement plan. Yediot reported that
Tuesday British PM Tony Blair told him about his plan,
according to which the territories would be divided
into areas controlled by Palestinian officers not
subordinated to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Yediot
quoted senior GOI sources as saying that Israel and the
U.S. reject the initiative and believe that it will
only strengthen Arafat.

Ha'aretz quoted IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon as
reiterating Tuesday before the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee that he opposes Sharon's plan to
give up the "Philadelphi axis" -- the 100-200 meter
wide strip of Israeli-controlled territory between
Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Ya'alon said that should
Israel concede it, the route would be wide open to arms
smuggling from Egypt to Gaza.
Jerusalem Post (banner) and other leading media
reported that Tuesday Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told
the High Court of Justice that settlers must leave six
West Bank outposts or else the IDF will evacuate them.
Jerusalem Post and Yediot cited data released by the
governmental Central Bureau of Statistics Tuesday:
there were 1,850 building starts in the territories in
2003 -- a 35 percent rise from 2002. Also in 2003,
total building starts in Israel fell to their lowest
since 1989, the start of mass immigration from the FSU.

Jerusalem Post printed a Letter to the Editor from the
U.S. Embassy Spokesman, criticizing an opinion piece
about Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist crushed
to death last year by an Israeli military bulldozer,
published Tuesday in the newspaper by author Ruhama
Shattan as "nothing less than hateful incitement."
Shattan had claimed that Corrie's "help in fanning the
flames of violent anti-American sentiment" may have led
to "the October 2003 bombing of the Fulbright
delegation to Gaza to interview scholarship candidates,
killing three."

All media reported that Tuesday a large-scale terrorist
attack was averted in Tel Aviv, and that the security
forces declared a state of alert and conducted searches
mostly in the southern part of the city and the area of
the Central Bus Station. A gag order was issued
regarding the case.

Jerusalem Post quoted Palestinian PM Ahmed Qurei (Abu
Ala) as saying Tuesday that Arafat agreed that members
of PA security forces would be paid directly, which
Qurei said removed an obstacle in the way of vital
foreign aid. Asked by Channel 2-TV Tuesday if Islamic
Jihad was contemplating a truce in attacks against
Israel, Nafiz Azzam, a senior member of the group, said
that many in the organization have second thoughts on
the matter in light of the frequent assassinations.

Yediot reported that a few days ago Qatari
transportation official Akbar Al-Baker invited
Transportation Minister Avigdor Lieberman to a
professional conference that will take place in early
May. The newspaper quoted Lieberman, "an unpopular
figure in the Arab world," as saying that he is
inclined to accept the invitation.

Leading media cited The New Yorker magazine as saying
that an Israeli intelligence unit deciphered an Iranian
code used in communications with Pakistan.

Yediot reported that the Immigrant Absorption Ministry
has devised a plan nicknamed "Business IL" to make
Israelis who left the country come back. The program,
which includes loans and financial benefits, will first
be publicized in a U.S.-wide campaign. The newspaper
quoted skeptical Israeli emigres as saying that they
might get loans but no jobs.
All media reported on Thursday's bombings against
Shiites in Karbala and Baghdad, in which over 140
people were killed and hundreds of others were wounded.
Leading media quoted Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah as saying that Israel stands to gain from
causing a war between Sunnis and Shiites.

All media reported that NASA revealed Tuesday, based on
findings from its Opportunity rover, that water was
once abundant on Mars.

------------
1. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Veteran op-ed writer and the late prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin's assistant Eytan Haber opined in the
lead editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot: "The Americans, who have not greeted Sharon's
disengagement plan enthusiastically, are giving him a
'hazing.'"

Conservative columnist Yosef Harif wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: " Truth can't be concealed for much
longer. Does Sharon have a silent understanding with
Bush or is he just gambling?"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz:
"Why should Egypt agree to accept from Israel the role
of a bit player in Sharon's disengagement plan?"

Palestinian affairs correspondent and far-left
Palestinian sympathizer Amira Hass opined in Ha'aretz:
"Despite talk of 'withdrawal,' Israeli society has yet
to show any signs that it is shaking off the blatantly
immoral logic that feeds the very existence of the
settlements."

Block Quotes:
-------------

I. "Americans Give Sharon a 'Hazing'"

Veteran op-ed writer and the late prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin's assistant Eytan Haber opined in the
lead editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (March 3): "The words that were not uttered by
spokesmen in Washington were: 'Respected sir, we will
not set a date for your visit, and you will not come
here until it is absolutely clear to us what your plan
for separation from your Palestinian neighbors
entails.' Or in even other words: 'Have you
coordinated your position with the Palestinians and
Egypt? We want the Palestinians to agree to your plan.
Don't trick us any more, the vagueness of your policies
and actions may be your chief tool in war -- but don't
use it here.' The Americans, who have not greeted
Sharon's disengagement plan enthusiastically, are
giving him a 'hazing.' They do not want any shockwaves
in the Middle East before their elections. As far as
they are concerned, Sharon will have to sweat some
before he gets to shake George Bush's hand and bask in
the light of the camera flashes. There are no free
meals at the White House. Either way, Sharon's real
moments of truth are drawing near. At the end of March
he will go to Washington where he will be obliged to
present a detailed and genuine plan to the
administration. If the plan that he devised of late is
genuine and is meant to be implemented (and I am
certain that that is the case), the coming month of
May, give or take a week or a month, will be a critical
moment in Arik Sharon's political career."

II. "Sharon's Gamble"

Conservative columnist Yosef Harif wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (March 3): "As far as he is concerned,
the Prime Minister's latest diplomatic moves constitute
a critical gamble, as he has placed all his chips in a
single basket -- that of President George Bush. If the
latter doesn't like his ideas, Sharon will be depicted
as politically broke.... He doesn't intend to discuss
with Bush an annexation of security zones included in
Sharon's interim arrangement plan. In this regard, his
ideas coincide with those once enunciated by Dr. Henry
Kissinger: replacing the motto 'land for peace' with
'land for time' -- time for examining interim
arrangements and chances for coexistence between
Palestinians and Israelis. It is very doubtful whether
the Palestinians would accept such ideas today.... If,
after all, [Sharon] were prepared to sacrifice the Gush
Katif [Gaza Strip] settlements and some other ones in
the West Bank, one could apparently assume that Sharon
did so because of a possible hidden understanding with
Bush. This is what his associates believe. Truth
can't be concealed for much longer. Does Sharon have a
silent understanding with Bush or is he just gambling?"


III. "Gaza's Reluctant Neighbor Stays Aloof"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(March 3): "It is a mistake on Israel's part to regard
Egypt in the conflict with the Palestinians as a
policeman tasked with catching smugglers. The role of
the leader of the Arab world should be much broader --
on condition it indeed wants to end the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict that threatens to sweep into its
territory. Egypt has made efforts in the last two
years to achieve a cease-fire, but the Hamas leadership
out-maneuvered it without paying anything for the
prestige that it won as a result of that Egyptian
mediation. Why should Egypt agree to accept from
Israel the role of a bit player in Sharon's
disengagement plan?"

IV. "Words Have Failed Us"

Palestinian affairs correspondent and far-left
Palestinian sympathizer Amira Hass opined in Ha'aretz
(March 3): "This is an admission of failure. The
written word is a failure at making tangible to Israeli
readers the true horror of the occupation in the Gaza
Strip.... A picture [too] may indeed be worth a
thousand words, but for the Israeli occupation to
approach some level of comprehension, Israelis need to
see tens of thousands of photographs, one after the
other, or watch documentaries that are at least eight
hours long each, so they could grasp in real time the
fear in the eyes of the school children when some
whistling above turns into twisted crushed metal with
charcoaled bodies inside.... The IDF operates within
the logic of ... arrogant, cynical, and ruthless
settlements of a privileged fat few sitting in the
midst of the only land reserves that the Palestinians
have in the Gaza Strip. Despite talk of 'withdrawal,'
Israeli society has yet to show any signs that it is
shaking off the blatantly immoral logic that feeds the
very existence of the settlements. And that's as true
of the Gaza Strip as it is of the West Bank."

--------------------------------
2. Performance of Ariel Sharon:

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit "addressed" Prime
Minister Sharon on page one of popular, pluralist
Maariv: "For long weeks you and your associates
explained why you are so determined to bring Elchanan
Tenenbaum back home.... Why didn't you reveal the
relationship between you?.... Go home."
Block Quotes:
-------------

"Return the Keys"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit "addressed" Prime
Minister Sharon on page one of popular, pluralist
Maariv (March 3): "Mister Prime Minister.... For long
weeks you and your associates explained why you are so
determined to bring Elchanan Tenenbaum back home.
'Arik, savior of the Jews,' we named you. Poor
Tenenbaum, they extracted all his teeth. The barbarian
savages. Today he is in Hizbullah captivity, tomorrow
who knows. Either he will be killed, or die of his own
accord. And here, it is all tall tales. Neither teeth
nor ears. The only savage we have seen here is
Tenenbaum himself. A swindler who endangered state
security for money, the man with a thousand faces, lies
and families. Why didn't you reveal the relationship
between you, indirect or direct, that was exposed today
in these pages? What is so complicated about telling
the truth?.... You dragged a government, a state, a
nation in your wake. Without blinking. Is it possible
that you don't even understand this? If so, it is an
even harsher problem. This is, perhaps, your natural
way of thinking.... There is no choice. You can no
longer rule us. You have lost your basic legitimacy.
We have lost faith in you. We somehow got through the
stories, the recordings, the photographs, the denials,
the silences. We tried to wipe the saliva off our
faces and move on. We can no longer do it. For your
sake, for our sake, for the sake of the country that
means so much to you: vacate the stage, go to the
president and from there go home, to the Sycamore
Farm."

KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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