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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 001758

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:
--------------------------------

Assassination of Hamas Leader Ahmed Yassin

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

Jerusalem Post quoted a senior official in FM Silvan
Shalom's delegation in Washington as saying Monday that
PM Sharon is tentatively scheduled to visit Washington
on April 14 to present his plan for unilateral
separation from the Palestinians.

The assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
on Monday and its possible repercussions dominate the
media today. All media quoted PM Sharon as saying
before the Likud Knesset faction: "Israel has struck
the foremost Palestinian murderer and terrorist."
Israel Radio reported that the participants of a
defense establishment meeting convened by Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz defined Hamas as a "strategic
enemy that must be eliminated." Leading media stressed
the symbolic character of Yassin's killing. Leading
media reported that last Tuesday, at the inner security
cabinet meeting, Shin Bet head Avi Dichter expressed
reservations about the planned strike on Yassin, saying
that the GOI should have found an opportunity to
assassinate the entire Hamas leadership at once. All
media quoted Labor Chairman Shimon Peres as saying he
would have opposed the killing. Ha'aretz reported that
a senior member of the IDF's General Staff thrust aside
criticism of Israel's action, saying: "One could think
that we killed Martin Luther King."

The media cited a leaflet being distributed in the
territories, which says: "The earth will tremble under
the Israelis' feet." All media quoted Hizbullah
leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah as saying: "Sharon has
opened the gates of hell and nothing will stop us from
cutting off his head." Hizbullah launched artillery
fire along the eastern portion (Sheba Farms/Hermon) of
the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel Radio reported that
the IDF's northern command decided that, should
Hizbullah increase its attacks, the IDF would respond.
All media quoted PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, who
proclaimed a three-day mourning period in the PA, as
saying that this was a "heinous crime" and a "cowardly
act" that will "strengthen the national unity among all
Palestinian factions." Leading media reported that
groups identified with Al Qaida have made threats on
Israel and the U.S. Ha'aretz reported that,
immediately after Yassin's assassination, the Foreign
Ministry launched a campaign to draw attention to the
connections between Hamas and Al Qaida.
The media reported on axe and knife stabbings in Ramat
Gan and Jaffa, and Qassam rocket launchings from the
Gaza Strip at targets in Israel. The security
services, including police, went on a high alert and
are expected to remain so through the Passover holiday
(mid-April).

While the media underscored National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice's repeated statements Monday that
Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Israel is
entitled to defend itself (headlines in Ha'aretz: "U.S.
Didn't Condemn; the Rest of the World Did" and Maariv:
"America Is Behind Us"), Israel Radio this morning
noted that the U.S. Administration "speaks in two
voices": the radio quoted State Department Spokesman
Richard Boucher as saying that the U.S. was deeply
troubled by the event in Gaza, which he asserted
increases tension and does not help efforts to resume
progress towards peace.

British FM Jack Straw was the Western statesman who
condemned Israel's strike most forcefully (for
"unlawful killing"). The Romanian President canceled
his visit to Israel. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
canceled a visit to Israel by Egyptian legislators who
were supposed to attend a ceremony marking 25 years of
peace with Israel. Many Arab states, including Jordan
and Syria, denounced Israel's "crime." Leading media
reported that the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli
Arab Leadership has declared today as a "national day
of mourning." Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio reported
a mourning march will take place in Nazareth this
afternoon to protest what was described as "a terrorist
crime by a sovereign state, more reminiscent of the
Mafia and gang warfare." Hatzofe reported that Monday
Deputy Employment, Industry and Trade Minister Michael
Ratzon (Likud) called on Interior Minister Avraham
Poraz (Shinui) to revoke the citizenship of any Israeli
who would mourn Yassin.

Yediot published the results of a Mina Zemach (Dahaf
Institute) poll conducted Monday:
-60 percent of Israelis approve Yassin's assassination
(61 percent in a parallel Maariv/New Wave poll); 32
percent object; 8 percent are undecided.
-81 percent believe that terrorist attacks will
increase; 15 percent say that the assassination will
not influence the situation; 1 percent believe that the
assassination will reduce the number of terrorist
attacks; 1 percent are undecided.
-"How will the assassination influence terrorist
attacks in the long term?" It will not influence them:
32 percent; it will reduce them: 32 percent; it will
increase them: 30 percent; 6 percent are undecided.
-"Are you now more concerned that you or your family
could be harmed by terrorism?" No change: 52 percent;
more concerned: 47 percent; less concerned: 1 percent.

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

Summary:
--------
Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Sheikh Yassin
bears responsibility for the death of hundreds of Jews
in his life. The question that ought to trouble us now
is how many Jews he will kill in his death."

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"'Justified' does not mean necessary and wise.... [But
in the long term] the wisdom of Monday's assassination
is to be measured by the extent to which moderates on
both sides consolidate their positions, and the
conflict moves from a stage of escalation to one of
reconciliation."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one
of popular, pluralist Maariv: "Sharon's problem is that
generally, it begins like this, with small, calculated
steps that are successful in their own right ... but it
ends in tears, blood, bereavement and a state
commission of inquiry."

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz: "There are many infrastructures overseas
ready to cooperate with Hamas and the dilemma for the
organization now is whether to become part of a global
organization, which it has so far avoided."

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in Ha'aretz:
"First, the execution ... freed Sharon from the image
of being a defeatist.... Secondly, closer ties between
Hamas, Hizbullah and Fatah in Gaza is the best proof of
all that there is nobody to talk to about painful
concessions in the West Bank."

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
Maariv: "Yassin's assassination is a compensation for
the disengagement plan."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice did
subsequently straighten the record somewhat.... But why
was the U.S. State Department so quick to imply that
Israel and Hamas must both be 'restrained?'"

Correspondent Efraim Ganor wrote in popular, pluralist
Russian-language Novosty Nedely: "It was difficult to
expect Hamas and the other extremists not to use
Yassin's assassination as a reason for bloody actions."

Block Quotes:
-------------
I. "Operation From the Gut"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (March 23):
"From a moral standpoint, there was nothing wrong with
killing Sheikh Yassin. Every terrorist in the past few
years who embarked on a suicide-bombing mission carried
with him Yassin's ideology stuffed inside his bomb
belt.... Did he deserve to die? Of course he did. The
question is whether we deserve it. It seems to me that
there are two governing approaches to security for the
Israeli government: the one focuses on inflicting pain
on the other side. The other focuses on minimizing the
pain caused to our side. The fence, for instance, was
geared to minimize the Israelis' pain. That is the
secret of its allure. The government, which did not

SIPDIS
want the fence, is building it on a route that inflicts
pain on tens of thousands of Palestinians. That pain
only serves to add fuel to the bonfire of terrorism.
The result is a fence that undermines itself. The
policy of targeted killings, conversely, stems from the
second approach, the one that derives satisfaction from
the pain of the other side.... No one in the system,
not even Sharon, believes that the assassination of the
sheikh will reduce the scope of terror. There is no
strategy here: just bitter frustration and mounting
difficulty to look the voters in the eye. Opposite
that stand the dangers: the fear of a rekindled popular
uprising.... The fear of a mega-terrorist attack. The
fear of a religious, Jewish-Islamic war. The fear of
attacks on Jewish communities, from Istanbul to Buenos
Aires. Sheikh Yassin bears responsibility for the
death of hundreds of Jews in his life. The question
that ought to trouble us now is how many Jews he will
kill in his death."

II. "Assassination and Its Price"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (March
23): "The Yassin assassination was justified, no less
so than American assassinations (which have yet to
succeed) of Osama bin Laden and his cohorts would be
justified. But 'justified' does not mean necessary and
wise: to say something is 'permitted' does not always
mean that it is 'worthwhile'.... His activity
undermined the shared Israeli-Palestinian interest in
attaining an Israeli majority for the Gaza pullout, and
transferring the region to orderly PA control.
Yassin's assassination, however, was not a necessity in
terms of thwarting terror attacks; and a very high
price is likely to be paid for it.... But the true
measure of the decision to assassinate Yassin will be
seen in months to come, after the storms abate: the
wisdom of Monday's assassination is to be measured by
the extent to which moderates on both sides consolidate
their positions, and the conflict moves from a stage of
escalation to one of reconciliation."

III. "Sharon's Order"
Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one
of popular, pluralist Maariv (March 23): "With one
hand, Sharon is dumping the Gaza Strip and throwing it
over his shoulder, while with the other hand, he plans
to do what he has tried to do his entire life: instate
order, usually leading to a great deal of violence....
Sharon's problem is that generally, it begins like
this, with small, calculated steps that are successful
in their own right, with a lot of maps and sketches,
but it ends in tears, blood, bereavement and a state
commission of inquiry. This time, Sharon is convinced
it won't happen to him. He is determined to return
home safely, without a commission, with a new order in
Gaza, perhaps even with a bit of quiet at home. As of
Monday, quiet is the thing farthest away in the world."

IV. "Now Hamas Could Align With Al Qaida"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz (March 23): "The immediate danger is that
Hamas, lacking a clear cut leader, will split into
factions, as happened to the Muslim Brotherhood in
Egypt or the Jihad in Algeria, with some of the groups
aligning with Al Qaida. Such factions create their own
ideologies and operations that don't necessarily take
into consideration the local conditions. Palestinian
groups have so far been careful to stay clear of
alignment with Al Qaida. But Monday Abdel Aziz Rantisi
announced that Hamas had opened a special account with
Israel, calling the assassination of Yassin a
declaration of war on Islam. That will have real
significance if Hamas decides to turn its back on years
of strategy and begin operations outside the country,
striking at Israeli, Jewish or American targets
overseas. There are many infrastructures overseas
ready to cooperate with Hamas and the dilemma for the
organization now is whether to become part of a global
organization, which it has so far avoided. The answer
apparently depends largely on their assessments on how
it would affect the Palestinian cause if Palestinian
terror begins operating overseas again. And another
question is if the organization is ready to endanger
its position in Syria and other countries, by taking
action internationally to protest the killing of
Yassin."

V. "Killing Yassin Saved Sharon"

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in Ha'aretz
(March 23): "It is difficult to assume that the
ramifications of the assassination of Yassin on the
safety and security of Israeli citizens and on the mood
and balance of forces in the territories were not taken
into account by Sharon. Sharon killed two birds with
one missile. First, the execution of Israel's most
hated handicapped person freed Sharon from the image of
being a defeatist and made him 'Arik, King of Israel,'
once again in the Likud Central Committee. Secondly,
closer ties between Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah in Gaza
are the best proof of all that there is nobody to talk
to about painful concessions in the West Bank."

VI. "Targeted Killing of Disengagement"

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
Maariv (March 23): "Sharon is angry with himself. He
is distressed by his own current stance -- support for
the evacuation of all Gaza Strip settlements. The
Right views Arik as an ideological deserter. He no
longer is 'the settlements' father'. Yassin's
assassination is a compensation for the disengagement
plan.... The long-term consequence [of Yassin's
assassination] is bad for Israel, because Sharon has
made the implementation of the disengagement plan
harder.... The disengagement could bring about a level
of tense calm in Gaza.... On the other hand, the
killing of Yassin has intensified another front.
Despite all denials, there a was a silent understanding
that the sides refrain from harming the political
leadership."

VII. "Our Bin Laden"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(March 23): "Ahmed Yassin's death is a signal victory
for Israel and for the war against terrorism. He was
the military and spiritual leader of the terror war
against Israel, just as Osama bin Laden is, or was, the
military and spiritual leader of the war against the
West.... We must continue to prove that terror itself
is futile, not the war against it.... If any government
in the world knows this, it is the administration of
President George W. Bush. Yet the official State
Department reaction was: 'The United States urges all
sides to remain calm and exercise restraint'.... U.S.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice did
subsequently straighten the record somewhat, saying,
'Let's remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization
and that Sheik Yassin has himself, personally, we
believe, been involved in terrorist planning.' But why
was the U.S. State Department so quick to imply that
Israel and Hamas must both be 'restrained?' Is there
nothing worthy of praise in the elimination of the
leader of an organization that has murdered numerous
American citizens and places prominently on the U.S.
terrorist list?.... Israel has no option of losing this
war, which is not about territory, but our existence.
Our options are only to win more quickly, or to prolong
it through our own ambivalence over whether to fight."

VIII. "Direct Hit at the Target"
Correspondent Efraim Ganor wrote in popular, pluralist
Russian-language Novosty Nedely (March 23): "This half-
paralyzed old man [Sheikh Yassin] was not only a Hamas
leader, but he also inspired and organized most bloody
operations carried out by Hamas militants.... Yassin
never hid his attitude towards Israel; he honestly
warned that Hamas's goal is to build an independent
Palestine on the ruins of the Zionist state. ... Sheikh
Yassin not only declared, he also provoked ... he
practically founded, organized, and pampered a big
terror organization. His biography is a 68-year-long
history of hatred, terror and destruction.... A
decision regarding the expediency of Sheikh Yassin's
assassination was made quite a while ago ... [as]
Israel's political and security leaders understood very
well what consequences were to follow. Current
comments that Yassin's death will bolster terrorism are
unnecessary. It was difficult to expect Hamas and the
other extremists not to use Yassin's assassination as a
reason for bloody actions. But when Yassin was alive
they [Hamas] did not treat Israel with excessive
consideration; so they need no additional causes."

KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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