Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

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





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Mideast

2. Greater Middle East Initiative

Key stories in the media:

The media reported that PM Sharon is slated to meet
today in Jerusalem with the three U.S. diplomatic
envoys (Stephen Hadley and Elliott Abrams from the
White House and William Burns from the State
Department) about the plan for unilateral disengagement
from the Palestinians and what the U.S. will give
Israel in exchange for the planned withdrawal from Gaza
and the evacuation of settlements in the West Bank.
Ha'aretz writes that the relationship between the
number of settlements Israel evacuates in the West Bank
and the depth of the U.S. recognition of the settlement
blocs of Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, which
Israel wants to annex in any future peace agreement,
will be at the core of the talks. Ha'aretz reported
that ahead of the envoys' visit, U.S. Ambassador Daniel
Kurtzer sent Washington some 30 comprehensive questions
that the diplomats will ask Sharon, starting with how
many settlements will be evacuated in the West Bank.

Maariv (Ben Caspit) led by divulging a document drafted
by Israel's National Security Council, headed by
disengagement coordinator Giora Eiland. The document
urges Sharon not to abandon the Philadelphi road but
rather to expand the buffer zone between the Gaza Strip
and Egypt, and not to dismantle the three most northern
settlements in the strip. The National Security
Council is offering Sharon four alternatives for
settlement removal and IDF troop redeployment there.
The National Security Council recommends that one of
the alternatives, a large move that creates sufficient
conditions for creating an independent Palestinian
state, be presented to the U.S. "as an objective and
conduct negotiations to secure formal international
support for the move, with a commitment that there will
be no further political demands from Israel until the
Palestinian state that is to be established implements
the first stage of Bush's vision and the road map."
The document also recommends not to leave military
forces in the Gaza Strip after the evacuation, not to
destroy the infrastructure of the Israeli settlements
that are to be evacuated, but rather to make an effort
to turn them over to 'someone,' and to evacuate the
Gush Katif bloc of settlements in full. The document
says that among the issues that need clarifications are
the future of Gaza's airport and seaport.

Jerusalem Post quoted senior diplomatic officials as
saying Wednesday that Sharon will discuss the future of
settlements to be evacuated in Gaza with Palestinian PM
Ahmed Qurei when the two meet next week. Leading media
reported that Egypt is pressing the PA to hold the
meeting. Jerusalem Post quoted FM Silvan Shalom as
saying Wednesday that it is clear the PA would agree to
such a meeting before Sharon travels to Washington in
order to prevent Sharon from saying in the U.S. that
there is no one on the other side with whom to talk.

All media reported that five members of the Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades were killed in Jenin Wednesday by an
IDF undercover unit. The men were reportedly on their
way to carry out an attack on the settlement of Kadim
near Jenin. All media also cite the Shin Bet as saying
that members of a Palestinian terror cell in Khan Yunis
(southern Gaza Strip) who received funds, instructions
and training from Hizbullah operatives in Lebanon were
arrested Wednesday. The media reported that a high
state of alert in Jerusalem was declared Wednesday and
lowered this morning.

Israel Radio reported that Tourism Minister Benny Elon
(National Union) has hired the services of a New York
PR agency to explain his opposition to the
disengagement plan. The radio reported that
Construction and Housing Minister Effi Eitam (National
Religious Party - NRP) is leaving for the U.S., and
that the same agency published a press release on his
behalf with a similar message. Ha'aretz reported that
the NRP is divided over when to quit the government,
and that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) now
represents a major source of opposition to Sharon's

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio quoted A/S William Burns as
testifying Wednesday before the House Committee on
International Relations that the U.S. Administration
will act soon to impose firm sanctions on Syria, which
it accuses of terrorism.

Maariv reported that during the talks Egyptian
intelligence chief Omar Suleiman held with Israeli and
PA leaders, Egypt agreed to monitor elements that could
perturb the stability in the Gaza Strip following the
IDF's withdrawal, but not to take up security
responsibility there. Leading media reported that
Wednesday the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)
elected Rouhi Fatouh from Gaza City, a close ally of PA
Chairman Yasser Arafat, as its speaker. Ha'aretz says
that the move is being seen in the PA as Arafat's first
significant internal response to Sharon's plan to
withdraw from the Gaza Strip. This morning, Israel
Radio quoted Arafat as saying that he welcomes the
disengagement plan, provided it leads to Israel's
withdrawal from all the Palestinian territories.
The media continued to publish contradictory reports
about possible Likud-Labor contacts regarding the
formation of a national unity government. Labor Party
Chairman Shimon Peres was quoted as saying at a public
party venue that there are no such contacts. Former
PM Ehud Barak called Sharon's disengagement "serious"
and said that he favors Labor's entry into the
government when the right-wing parties leave it.

Yediot and Maariv reported that on May 1, as 10 new
nations join the EU, 1 million Israelis (Maariv: 1.1
million) will be entitled to an EU passport. The
newspapers cited data provided Wednesday by Ambassador
Giancarlo Chevallard, who heads the EU delegation in
Israel. Ha'aretz and Maariv cited the results of a
poll conducted in December 2003 by Mina Zemach (Dahaf
Institute) for the EU delegation in Israel [NB: some of
the findings were printed by either of the two
-85 percent of Israelis believe that membership in the
EU is very important for Israel (up from 77 percent in
February 2003).
-55 percent of respondents believe that relations with
the U.S. contribute more to Israel than its relations
with the EU (down from 62 percent in February 2003).
-74 percent of respondents claim that the EU is one-
sided in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
-55 percent of respondents believe that EU financial
aid to the Palestinians harms Israel's interests (down
from 64 percent in February 2003).
-Two thirds of respondents believe that the EU's
attitude vis-a-vis Israel is anti-Semitic under
pretenses of moral principles.

Ha'aretz reported that a spiritual center for Ethiopian
immigrants was dedicated Wednesday in Lod. The
institution is funded by the Chicago-based
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which
donated some 1.5 million shekels (about USD 334,000)
for the construction of the building.

1. Mideast:


Columnist Ari Shavit wrote in independent, left-leaning
Ha'aretz: "[Sharon] understands that perpetuating the
occupation is more dangerous for Israel than Hamas
growing stronger.... But the manner in which Sharon is
promoting his strategic idea is intolerable."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz:
"Now the fate of [Sharon's] plan rests in the hands of
two people -- George W. Bush and Binyamin Netanyahu."
Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Israel should
awaken and make the chaos theory, which has been turned
against it, into a weapon for its benefit."

Block Quotes:

I. "Not Serious"

Columnist Ari Shavit wrote in independent, left-leaning
Ha'aretz (March 11): "As far as the fundamental
strategic idea is concerned, Sharon is right. His
determination to evacuate the entire Gaza Strip is
impressive. His intention to open the Gaza-Egypt
border is creative and interesting. His thoughts of a
complementary evacuation of parts of the West Bank are
brave and far-reaching. It seems that Sharon has
finally -- and belatedly -- internalized the fact that
the main threat facing Israel is demographic, not
terrorist. He understands that perpetuating the
occupation is more dangerous for Israel than Hamas
growing stronger.... But the manner in which Sharon is
promoting his strategic idea is intolerable.... There
is not even the start of an understanding with the
Americans regarding the stabilizing mechanism that will
be introduced to absorb the massive jolts that will
accompany the withdrawal.... The next few months will
be critical. The way in which the withdrawal plan is
formulated over the coming months will determine
whether Israel finally disengages itself from the kiss
of death that is a binational existence. It will
determine whether, after 37 years of folly, Israel is
able to withdraw back into its own borders and to take
its destiny in its own hands. The way in which
Sharon's bureau handles the withdrawal has generated
some very serious questions."

II. "Between Bush and Netanyahu"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz
(March 11): "Now the fate of the plan rests in the
hands of two people -- George W. Bush and Binyamin
Netanyahu. The president will determine what Israel
gets for an evacuation. The finance minister is the
key to the support of most of the Likud ministers for
the plan. There's a vicious circle involved in this.
Netanyahu is demanding Sharon bring an impressive
'compensation package' from the Americans. For that
the Americans need a substantial withdrawal from the
West Bank.... But a deep withdrawal from the West Bank
will make it difficult for [Likud ministers] Netanyahu,
Limor Livnat and Danny Naveh to support the plan, for
ideological reasons and for another reason raised by
Livnat: Israel will be losing territorial bargaining
cards.... The Likud is convinced that Shimon Peres and
his colleagues in Labor are so hungry for power that
they won't be deterred on their way into Sharon's
government by the police investigations and Sharon
scandals.... [But] breakthroughs, from Sadat's visit
and through Madrid, Oslo, the Lebanon withdrawal and
the disengagement plan, were all born in narrow
governments. It is difficult to tell whether Sharon
and Peres will break that tradition or bury both the
withdrawal from Gaza and the planned evacuations in the
West Bank, instead."

III. "Who's Afraid of Chaos?"

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (March 11): "On
the eve of Israel's disengagement from the entire Gaza
Strip, the Arab rulers have once again brandished their
secret weapon saved for emergencies: the 'chaos

theory.' This theory contends that without the Arab
rulers, chaos ('fawda' in Arabic) will reign in the
Middle East, and that they -- Mubarak, Abdullah,
Arafat, Assad and Qadhafi -- are guarding Israel from
it.... The Palestinians are currently engaged in
disseminating warnings that Israel's evacuation from
Gaza will lead to chaos. Tony Blair has already bought
this argument from Abu Ala during his visit to London,
and other European leaders are following suit. But
this seems to be a false alarm. Hamas, which belongs
to the school of thought of the Muslim Brotherhood,
will not confront the PA head-on due to its ideological
structure, especially since its strength there is much
smaller than the Palestinian Authority's police and
army forces even in its present situation. In general,
it is time to understand that the chaos theory does not
have a leg to stand on. Three and a half years after
the outbreak of the Intifada, Israel should awaken and
make the chaos theory, which has been turned against
it, into a weapon for its benefit. It should say to
the Arab leaders: the chaos you talk about is not proof
of our need to stay in the Gaza Strip, but rather the
reverse -- it is our reason to disengage from it
completely. The chaos will thereby turn from the
friend of the Arab leaders into our friend."

2. Greater Middle East Initiative:


Left-leaning contributor Larry Derfner wrote in
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "Something is
out of whack here. The Likudniks and Republicans, who
have the lowest opinion of the Arabs, are also claiming
to have the highest aspirations for them."

Block Quotes:

"The Arabs' New Friends"

Left-leaning contributor Larry Derfner wrote in
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (March 11):
"Something is out of whack here. The Likudniks and
Republicans, who have the lowest opinion of the Arabs,
are also claiming to have the highest aspirations for
them.... Despite what President Bush seems to think, a
democrat is not somebody who just wants to be free; a
democrat is somebody who also wants his political
opponents to be free. But nobody is really going to
want his political opponents to be free if he's
convinced that their freedom will mean the end of his
own, and in the Arab Middle East this is a wholly
justified fear. It's the guiding principle of politics
in the region, which is why Arab democracy has never
gotten off the ground.... The truth is that several
Arab dictatorships are repressing their people's clamor
for war with Israel or Islamic revolution. So far, none
has been found repressing a popular desire for anything
that could be called democracy. Liberals don't like
to talk about this because they're afraid of being
called racists. Right-wingers know this about
liberals, of course, which is why they can go on
singing about Arab democracy (while daydreaming about
future invasions) with little interruption."


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