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. Assassination of Hamas Leader Ahmed Yassin

2. Mideast

3. Iraq: Anniversary of War's Outbreak

Key stories in the media:

Israel Radio, followed by the other electronic media,
reported that at around 5:30 this morning, Hamas leader
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, one of his sons, and some of his
bodyguards and associates, were killed in an IAF
helicopter missile hit. The radio reported that PM
Sharon personally commanded the action. The station
reported on a number of subsequent incidents in Israel,
East Jerusalem and the territories. Israel Radio cited
a gamut of responses to the action in the political
arena, ranging from satisfaction on the Right to
reservations, even condemnations on the Left. The
station quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying
that Yassin had been "the Palestinian bin Laden."
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi said on Israel Radio that
Yassin was more moderate than the Hamas leaders
destined to succeed him. Some senior Labor Party
members, such as Ephraim Sneh, expressed their
satisfaction over the deed. Like many commentators,
some Shinui ministers expressed their concern that
Yassin's assassination will start a new wave of
terrorism. Israel Radio and IDF Radio reported that
the U.S. State Department is urging all sides to
exercise restraint.

Yediot quoted PM Sharon as saying Sunday at his meeting
with the Likud cabinet ministers that he will bring his
disengagement plan for cabinet approval immediately
after his meeting with President Bush. All media
(banners in Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post) reported that
at the meeting Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set
terms for backing Sharon's disengagement plan: all of
the points of entry to the Gaza Strip must remain in
Israeli hands; there must be a public and detailed U.S.
rejection of the Palestinian demand for the right of
refugees to return to Israel; and, the necessity to
complete the security fence before withdrawal from Gaza
begins, including building the fence around the Ariel,
Gush Etzion and Ma'aleh Adumim settlement blocs, as
well as around Route 443 from Modi'in to Jerusalem.
(Leading media note that the U.S. has objected to the
route of the fence dipping deep into the West Bank.)
Leading media cited the disappointment of cabinet
ministers on the Right about Netanyahu's view. Maariv
quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying at the
meeting that the evacuation from Gaza would increase
terrorism originating in the West Bank. Yediot
reported that Sharon decided to give up holding a
referendum on the disengagement plan when he realized
that legislative action was needed for such a move.
Sunday, Yediot quoted Jordanian King Abdullah II of
Jordan as saying that Sharon promised him Jordan would
not be harmed by the disengagement.

Leading media reported that seven Palestinians,
including a woman, were killed in an IDF operation
Sunday. Ha'aretz and other media reported that more
than 30 Palestinians and Israeli demonstrators were
injured Sunday in clashes with security forces during a
protest against the separation fence near the village
of Harbata, north of Modi'in. During the weekend, all
media reported that Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
claimed responsibility for the shooting of 20-year-old
"settler" George Khoury, a Christian Arab, in
Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood. The Brigades
later apologized for their "mistake." The PA also
offered its apologies -- its Chairman Yasser Arafat did
so in a personal call to Khoury's family.

Sunday, Yediot led with a warning by the GOI's anti-
terror control center that Israelis should not travel
to Sinai, Istanbul, and selected destinations in the
Arab and third worlds during the Passover (early April)

Jerusalem Post reported that Sunday Hamas welcomed the
PA High Court's decision to unfreeze the bank accounts
of nine charities suspected of funding terrorist groups
in the Gaza Strip.

Leading media reported that five no-confidence motions
will be brought to Knesset voting today.

Sunday, Yediot reported that the sanctions President
Bush will take next week, under the Syrian
Accountability Act, are: a ban of flights to the U.S.
by Syrian airliners; a ban on oil-related investments
in Syria; and, a restriction of Syrian-bound exports to
food and medicines only. Sunday, Jerusalem Post
reported that Saturday Secretary of State Colin Powell
reiterated calls made one day earlier by the State
Department for an end to the Syrian occupation of
Lebanon, so that Lebanon can enjoy "full sovereignty."

Sunday, Ha'aretz reported that the GOI was advised that
an announcement will be made during Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak's visit to Washington in mid-April that
the U.S. intends to grant Egypt special aid and loan
guarantees. Egypt will receive a USD 300-million
special aid grant plus USD 2 billion in loan guarantees
for 18 months. Cairo will be able to raise the funds
in three payments on the American stock market.
Ha'aretz quoted central region prosecutor Avraham
Pachter as saying that the U.S. and Israeli
intelligence services prevented a 1997 indictment of
Eli Cohen, who, together with Avihai Weinstein, is
currently under investigation (Maariv's lead story
Sunday) on suspicion of selling arms to Iran, for
selling armored personnel carrier motors and other
equipment to Iran.

Yediot and Jerusalem Post reported that the IDF is
holding in Tel Aviv a first-of-its-kind international
congress on low-intensity warfare, at which Israel is
presenting warfare methods it is using in the

Sunday, Yediot reported that a U.S. court has indicted
Leib Cohen, 70, from Brooklyn, on charges of illegally
exporting weapons to Israel, including electronic
equipment for Phantom aircraft and missile guidance

Leading media noted that the two leading runners in the
presidential elections in El Salvador, which are taking
place today, are of Palestinian origin.

--------------------------------------------- --
1. Assassination of Hamas Leader Ahmed Yassin:
--------------------------------------------- --


Liberal op-ed writer Ofer Shelach commented on Ynet, a
website affiliated to mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot: "Ahmed Yassin died because he who
lives by the sword shall die by the sword. In his
death, he bequeathed us nothing but more death."

Block Quotes:

"Illogical Assassination"

Liberal op-ed writer Ofer Shelach commented on Ynet, a
website affiliated to mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot (March 22): "Every Israeli, and
presumably every Palestinian, knew that Israel would
eventually assassinate Sheikh Yassin, and not only
because once it tried to half-heartedly. The accursed
cycle of terror and revenge, action and retaliation,
had to play itself out. And since Yasser Arafat has
already been expelled orally countless times, but
Israel did not dare to carry it out, only the Hamas
leader remained. After so many threats, after so many
provocations, it was bound to happen. It was bound to
happen because both sides to this conflict have long
since ceased to calculate cause and effect, benefit and
damage.... Yassin indeed 'oversaw' terror, as the
current IDF newspeak describes it. He gave
instructions to try to increase or reduce activity at
certain times. But the great contractors of terror did
not receive missions and targets from him, and do not
need him to act.... None of their capability to
dispatch murderers has been impaired. This is known by
every Israeli, including the IDF commanders and the
political echelon that authorized this operation. But
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long since ceased
to be about leadership and logic, control and
decisions, cause and effect. This conflict is
currently a tribal war, ruled by feelings of vengeance
and inability to tolerate killing without reacting.
Ahmed Yassin died because he who lives by the sword
shall die by the sword. In his death, he bequeathed us
nothing but more death."

2. Mideast:


Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "It is hard not to
conclude that Israel has fought the Palestinians for
three-and-a-half years in order to return to the exact
point at which the Intifada broke out."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"If anything, Sharon's plan is a reversion to a
bastardization of Washington's historic land-for-peace
concept -- land without peace."

Block Quotes:

I. "Back to Clinton Plan"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (March 21):
"Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, told Bush's
staff: '[America] has already agreed to the settlement
blocs [to be retained by Israel].' But the Israeli
plan can also be seen in the negative: if Sharon wants
American recognition for the annexation of 5 percent of
the West Bank, he is implicitly conceding the other 95
percent. His office denies this, saying that this will
merely constitute the starting point for future
negotiations, during which Israel will demand
additional parts of the West Bank. But why would the
U.S. agree to that in the future? It is hard not to
conclude that Israel has fought the Palestinians for
three-and-a-half years in order to return to the exact
point at which the Intifada broke out. How else does
one explain that after all the terror attacks, deaths,
recession, reoccupation of the West Bank, and Yasser
Arafat's confinement, Israel is asking for a renewed
American commitment to the Clinton plan? From Sharon's
perspective, American recognition of the settlement
blocs is meant mainly to pacify the Likud ministers,
who are demanding 'something in exchange for the
withdrawal.' Bush's support is also meant to show the
plan's opponents in the Likud that the American
president does not view it as 'rewarding terrorism' --
a criticism that its local critics have frequently
hurled at the unilateral pullback. But Weisglass's
main job during his trip to Washington this week will
be to obtain assurances from the U.S. that Israel will
not be expected to negotiate with the Palestinians
until they change their leadership and halt terror. In
this way, Israel will effectively receive the 'long-
term interim agreement' that Sharon has always wanted."

II. "Necessary Conditions"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(March 22): "The U.S. ... should not think of itself as
an innocent bystander on whose lap a sticky plan has
been dumped, but as a player whose many previous plans
have come home to roost. If anything, Sharon's plan is
a reversion to a bastardization of Washington's
historic land-for-peace concept -- land without peace.
The U.S. cannot complain that Israel has not tried. We
tried Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and then we dutifully
pretended, to this day, that the Palestinian Authority
should be given endless chances to fight terrorism,
rather than provide an umbrella for it. It is in this
context that the U.S. is being faced with the demands
of Netanyahu's rebellious band of Likud ministers: that
the U.S. explicitly reject the Palestinians demand of
'return' to Israel, recognize Israel's right to
permanently retain settlement blocs, and to temporarily
control all Palestinians borders.... If anything, the
Likud ministers should have made a fourth demand: that
Washington fully blame the Palestinian Authority for
its failure to combat terrorism, and force new
elections and drastic reforms by depriving the PA of
the international funding that keeps it afloat.
Israel's demands all go to quarantining a terrorist
regime, not preventing one from becoming further
entrenched. What is missing most from both
Washington's and Jerusalem's thinking is how to
transform the nascent terrorist state on the other side
of the fence."

3. Iraq: Anniversary of War's Outbreak:

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"The enemy ... was intent long ago on fighting the West
in its entirety -- first by dividing it."

Block Quotes:

"One Year On"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(March 21): "In toppling Saddam Hussein's regime, the
U.S. sent the message that dictators cannot forever
scorn the civilized world with impunity. This is
what's called 'demonstration effect,' and the world is
better off for it. The U.S. has also set in motion a
mechanism aimed at delivering the Arab world's first-
ever democracy.... Ironically, just as the invasion's
anniversary came, Europe has itself been handed a 9/11-
type of terrorist attack. Depressingly, many Europeans
lost no time blaming their victimization on America,
mentioning Spain's dispatch of several hundred troops
to Iraq. Such critics would do well to recall that
when America was attacked it had yet to invade Iraq and
Afghanistan. The enemy, in other words, was intent
long ago on fighting the West in its entirety -- first
by dividing it. Here, then, is the challenge facing us
all as we approach the next phase in the war on


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