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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 07 TEL AVIV 001351

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. Performance of PM Sharon's Government

2. Mideast

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

All media led with the investigation of Elchanan
Tenenbaum and the fallout from Maariv's revelations
about PM Sharon's alleged connection with Tenenbaum's
family.
-In interviews to all TV stations and other media,
Sharon reiterated that he had been unaware that
Tenenbaum is the former son-in-law of his former
business partner Shimon Cohen. Sharon was quoted as
saying that Maariv's expose is a "malicious libel."
Israel Radio quoted staff members in Sharon's bureau
that it could have been a ploy by right-wing elements
to thwart his diplomatic moves.
-All media cited strong reactions to Maariv's
revelations on the Right and on the Left. Cabinet
ministers close to Sharon, such as Ehud Olmert and
Limor Livnat, defended Sharon in media interviews and
opinion pieces.
-All media reported that the lie detector tests to
which Tenenbaum was submitted indicated that he spoke
the truth on most questions he was asked.

Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio reported that Stephen
Hadley and Elliott Abrams from the White House and
William Burns from the State Department will visit
Israel next week to continue discussions on Sharon's
disengagement plan. Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post quoted
National Security Council Spokesman Sean McCormack as
saying that the plan has the "potential to be
historic." Reporting on talks the Israeli diplomatic
team held in Washington with White House and State
Department officials, Ha'aretz (Aluf Benn) says that
Israel and the U.S. are considering the removal of PA
Chairman Yasser Arafat through the disengagement plan.
The Israeli officials believe the plan is welcomed by
the young PA leadership, and opposed by Arafat.

All media reported that Wednesday three Gazan activists
from the Hamas military wing who were apparently trying
to gather intelligence in the Netzarim area were killed
when an IDF helicopter fired a missile at their car.
Maariv and Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli security
officials as saying that the man responsible for
dispatching a female suicide bomber to the Erez
crossing in mid-January was among them. The police
declared the highest state of alert throughout the
entire country in advance of the Purim holiday, which
will take place during the weekend.
Ha'aretz cited a report by the European Institute for
Research on the Middle East that Britain and other
European states gave the Palestinians more than 20
million euros (around USD 25 million) to pay for legal
and information consultation. [NB: The institute is an
independent, non-governmental organization created to
examine relations between the EU and the Middle East.]
Ha'aretz also quoted British and Palestinian sources as
saying that Britain has agreed to finance new operation
centers for the PA police in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. The newspaper quoted Israeli defense sources as
saying that the British aid aims to strengthen the
Palestinian police in the territories and is part of
its support for Palestinian bodies acting against
terrorist organizations.

Channel 2-TV reported Wednesday that Arafat has
dispatched a Palestinian official to explore the
possibility of being buried on the Temple Mount, close
to the graves of the Husseini family to which he
belongs. The station reported that the extremist
Muslim Palestinian group Tahrir has strongly come out
against the proposal.

All media reported that Wednesday the Haifa District
Court sentenced three Israeli-Arab youths from Kafr
Manda in the lower Galilee to jail terms of between 14
and 20 years for planning terrorist attacks in the
north of the country. The intended attacks had not
been carried out, but the judges said they took their
gravity into account. This morning, Israel Radio and
IDF Radio reported that the same court indicted two
Israeli-Arab brothers for allegedly having been
recruited by the Abu Moussa faction of Hizbullah,
serving as couriers, and passing on training material
and operational instructions to members of the Tanzim-
Fatah infrastructure in Jenin.

All media reported that Wednesday Justice Dalia Dorner,
the outgoing head of the Central Elections Committee,
ruled that the next general elections should be held in
November 2007 and not in 2006. She admitted that her
verdict is "but a corridor" to an expected High Court
of Justice decision.

Yediot reported that the water-supply agreement with
Turkey will be signed today. The accord stipulates that
Turkey will sell 375 million cubic meters of water to
Israel over a 20-year period.

Ha'aretz and Yediot quoted an Immigration Police
official as saying that his organization will soon
begin using a computerized system to compile
information used to identify and track foreign workers
in Israel.
Yediot reported that Wednesday the Prime Minister's
Office approved a "grandiose" plan to transfer its
offices and the prime minister's official residence to
a new "White House-style" compound that should be
completed by 2009.

A poll conducted by Maariv/New Wave found that:
-47 percent of Israelis believe that Sharon knew about
the Tenenbaum-Cohen family connection; 26 percent
believe that Sharon was unaware of it; 27 percent are
undecided.
-42 percent believe that the fact that Sharon had a
business connection with Tenenbaum's family influenced
his decision to carry out the prisoner exchange; 41
percent do not believe so; 17 percent are undecided.
-43 percent of respondents believe that Sharon should
not resign if he knew about the Tenenbaum-Cohen
connection; 42 percent believe that Sharon should
resign in that case; 15 percent are undecided.


------------------------------------------
1. Performance of PM Sharon's Government:
------------------------------------------

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The
government failed in its duty.... A comprehensive
investigation is needed."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: " Now, when
[Sharon] has turned against [the settlers] and they use
the same methods against him, he is the last one who
should complain."

Editor-in-Chief Amnon Dankner wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: "Today the public feels like a
sucker.... But the public at large continues, at this
stage, to believe that there is no alternative to Ariel
Sharon yet."

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized: "In an
atmosphere of heavy suspicion ... it behooves the Prime
Minister to resign immediately."

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

I. "Test of Credibility and Judgment"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (March
4): "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Wednesday denied that
extraneous interests, including a special personal
interest in Elchanan Tenenbaum, influenced him while he
was pressing the government to approve a deal to free
hundreds of Palestinian and other prisoners for the
return of Tenenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers
killed when they were captured by Hizbullah.... The
government failed in its duty as the supreme authority
responsible for such decisions in the State of Israel,
as a group of ministers with shared responsibility, and
not the Prime Minister alone, or him and a handful of
ministers alongside him, as in cases of war cabinets or
emergencies requiring immediate decisions.... A
comprehensive investigation is needed into the way
information was handled, the staff work and the
decision-making in the Tenenbaum affair. It would be
best that the investigation not be conducted in a
political framework, like the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee, but in the skilled hands of the
State Comptroller's Office and its branch for security
matters."

II. "The Mountain and the Molehill"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (March 4):
"Sharon came by this onslaught honestly. First,
because he and his sons have made the two words 'I
didn't know' into a family creed. It is hard to
respect the innocence of a person who doesn't know what
is the source of millions of dollars that go in and out
of his house. Now, when it appears, ostensibly, that
Sharon truly didn't know, many find it hard to believe
him. The main political factor today undermining
Sharon's credibility is the settlers. They have an
existential interest in sabotaging his unilateral
withdrawal plan. Their agents will do anything --
except for using weapons -- to topple him. If they can
stick him with a dubious tie to Tenenbaum, they would
consider this to be a great success. This too Sharon
came by honestly. For years he built them up -- and
they him. He knows their tricks very well: some of
them he invented himself. Now, when he has turned
against them and they use the same methods against him,
he is the last one who should complain."

III. "Is It Reasonable?"

Editor-in-Chief Amnon Dankner wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (March 4): "It is ... no secret that
the owners of this paper are among Sharon's close
friends. In spite of this, the facts were reported
because of their public importance and nothing could be
more honorable, since professional and journalistic
considerations are our only guide.... Ultimately, this
story is a story of trust, of probability and of a
whirlwind in which facts and feelings spin together.
This is also a question of the public's feelings. In
the 2001 elections, the public sent Ehud Barak home
because it felt like a sucker upon seeing the
Palestinians getting proposals that were far-reaching
in their generosity from the prime minister and getting
the Intifada in return. Today the public feels like a
sucker as more repulsive details emerge on redeemed
captive and controversial Elchanan Tenenbaum. But the
public at large continues, at this stage, to believe
that there is no alternative to Ariel Sharon yet and
that is why some Israelis will continue not to believe
Sharon but will continue to support him as long as
there is no other option."

IV. "Government Under a Heavy Cloud of Suspicion"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (March 4):
"No one can believe that the acquaintance between the
Sharon and the Cohen-Tenenbaum families did not come up
in the course of the negotiations for the release of
the prisoners from Hizbullah captivity.... In an
atmosphere of heavy suspicion about criminal behavior
by the Prime Minister; in an atmosphere of heavy
suspicion that he is being blackmailed by the Austrian
government; in an atmosphere of heavy suspicion about
the prisoner exchange deal that was secured under foul
smelling circumstances -- it behooves the Prime
Minister to resign immediately. His conduct regarding
the unilateral disengagement, which will entail the
expulsion of the Jews from Katif [in the Gaza Strip],
also appears to be insane when one considers the Prime
Minister's actions from the past both distant and near.
Does this not oblige the coalition to suspect that in
this case too something foul, something very foul is
lying in concealment but is destined yet to be
exposed?"

------------
2. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------


Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Internationalizing
the solution would free the sides from conflict with
their respective national ethos.... The current
international constellation offers Israel a ripe moment
for just such an arrangement, with the world being run
by a single friendly superpower."

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in Yediot
Aharonot: "An Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the
Gaza Strip must be a complete and absolute severance
from this piece of land, a divorce."
Foreign News Editor Shmuel Rosner wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz: "Kerry has always promised a special envoy
for the peace process. In fact, this is his only
practical promise [in this domain], and even that idea
has developed in contradictory directions."
Block Quotes:
-------------

I. "It's Time to Internationalize the Solution"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (March 4): "Sharon
wants to give up the ethos of 'settlement throughout
all of the Land of Israel' to buy some quiet. But like
Ehud Barak, he'll find out that the Palestinians don't
give up something for nothing.... Internationalizing
the solution would free the sides from conflict with
their respective national ethos. In their name, the
superpowers would give up 'the right of return' and
'Judea and Samaria' and would also have to give up
their own contribution to fanning the flames of the
conflict.... The current international constellation
offers Israel a ripe moment for just such an
arrangement, with the world being run by a single
friendly superpower. Thus, perhaps, the conclusions of
the [1937] Peel Commission can be fulfilled, in which
even if the partition does not offer the Jews and Arabs
'all they want, it offers each what it wants most,
namely freedom and security.'"

II. "Cut Off From Gaza Completely"

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in Yediot
Aharonot (March 4): "The army correctly argues that
withdrawing from Philadelphi [the narrow route along
the Gaza/Egyptian border] will make it possible to
smuggle in Katyusha rockets that will threaten
Ashkelon. But the army also knows that weapon smuggling
will not stop in any case, that this road by itself
cannot put a stop to the phenomenon.... Israel's
supreme interest in withdrawing from the Philadelphi
road is evident by Egypt's panicky reaction to the
idea. The Egyptians know that the moment that the IDF
leaves the road and no longer is a buffer between them
and the Palestinians, this hot potato will fall into
their laps. Just like before 1967, they will bear all
the responsibility, toward Israel, toward the U.S. and
toward the entire world if there is terror from Gaza at
Israel using weapons smuggled from Egypt.... An Israeli
unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip must be a
complete and absolute severance from this piece of
land, a divorce. The border with Gaza must be
completely closed: no workers, no factories, no shared
industrial zones, no civilian responsibility and no
settlements. Those who will have to face the Gaza
Strip will be their Arab brothers, and that way,
finally, the Arab world can do its part in contributing
to the welfare and livelihood of the Palestinians, the
people it has been so concerned about for the last
three and a half years. Who can object to such an
absolute detachment by Israel? After all, this is what
the Palestinians, the Egyptians and the world have been
demanding for decades."

III. "Kerry and Israel: Like Clinton, But Less
Emotionally"

Foreign News Editor Shmuel Rosner wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz (March 4): "John Kerry is no big fan of
Sharon.... But ... a few weeks ago ... he
unhesitatingly said: 'I believe that Sharon is prepared
to make peace'.... Kerry also said that he understood
the reasons for building the separation 'fence'. He
sounded like someone who believes that the U.S.
shouldn't oppose its erection -- provided its route
more or less coincides with the Green Line.... His
adversaries say that he is fickle and that he adapts
himself to fads. His supporters claim that he
recognizes that the world is complex.... His principal
assertion, which he has reiterated many times, is that
the administration should demonstrate greater
involvement in efforts to resolve the conflict....
There is no agreement about this claim among U.S.
experts and diplomats.... Kerry has always promised a
special envoy for the peace process. In fact, this is
his only practical promise [in this domain], and even
that idea has developed in contradictory directions."

KURTZER

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