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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 002021

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

Gaza Withdrawal Plan

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

Israel Radio reported that, at the conclusion of the
U.S.-Israeli talks in Washington and Jerusalem, the
U.S. and Israel have decided, among other things, that
President Bush and PM Ariel Sharon will exchange
missives: the U.S. will recognize that there will be no
return to the 1967 borders, that it will provide
support and backing to Israel's security needs and that
Palestinian refugees will only return to the future
Palestinian state, in accordance with Bush's vision of
"two states for two peoples." The radio reported that
Israel does not believe in coordinating the Gaza
withdrawal with the Palestinians and that it views
recent conciliatory statements by Palestinian PM Ahmed
Qurei (Abu Ala) as a "last-minute attempt to jump onto
the bandwagon in whose wheels both he and PA Chairman
Yasser Arafat have placed sticks." The radio quoted
GOI sources in Jerusalem as saying that there is a wide
consensus that the PA is no longer a partner and that
Qurei should not be granted a prize after he and his
people did not do anything to fight terrorism, and that
they have not stood by their commitments to the road
map.

The three major Hebrew newspapers (Yediot, Maariv and
Ha'aretz) led with separate interviews PM Sharon
granted them upon the occasion of the Passover holiday,
and which will appear in their entirety on Monday. The
main points of the interviews, as bannered by the
newspapers, are:
-Sharon told both Yediot and Maariv that "by next
Passover" Israel will be withdrawing/will have
withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, and that Arafat and
(Yediot) Hizbullah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah have no insurance against assassination.
-He told Yediot that he has ordered an immediate halt
to the development of Gaza Strip settlements.
-He told Maariv that Likud is holding contacts towards
the formation of a national unity government.
-He told Ha'aretz that once the separation fence is
completed, the government will act vigorously to expel
Palestinians living illegally within Israeli Arab
communities. He said that there are tens of thousands
of such illegal Palestinians in the country.

Most media quoted Qurei as saying, after meeting U.S.
envoys William Burns, Elliott Abrams and Steve Hadley
in Jericho Thursday afternoon, that the Palestinians
are a full and ready partner for the peace process.
Qurei criticized Israel's unilateral moves. Leading
media quoted senior PA officials as saying that the
U.S. has not promised Israel it would unconditionally
support its disengagement moves. Hatzofe reported that
an official in Qurei's bureau told the Israeli Itim
news agency that the U.S. envoys promised the
Palestinians the U.S. will not support an Israeli move
that could harm or put aside the issues to be discussed
towards a final-status agreement -- such as the right
of return and the status of Jerusalem.

Leading media reported that Thursday Hamas and Fatah
rejected Qurei's appeal to stop terrorist attacks. All
media reported that Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activist
Jamal Hamamreh and the other militants captured in
Bethlehem Thursday planned to carry out a large-scale
terrorist attack during Passover. Israel Radio
reported that this morning a column of IDF armored
vehicles made an incursion in Rafah into the border
area with Egypt, in an attempt to find smuggling
tunnels.

Jerusalem Post reported that Thursday a European
Parliament body gave the EU Commission an investigatory
report that concludes that there is "no conclusive
evidence" linking EU funds give to the PA with
terrorist activity.

Channel 2-TV and Ha'aretz reported that, according to
treasury data that reached Meretz Knesset Member Haim
Oron, a member of the Finance Committee, at least 300
million shekels (around USD 66.3 million) -- and
possibly 340 million shekels (around USD 75.2 million)
-- out of 846 million shekels (around USD 187 million)
in short-term loans made between 1990 to 2003 by the
Housing Ministry to housing associations in the
territories have never been repaid. Channel 2-TV notes
that Israelis living within the Green Line who default
on their mortgage payments are routinely expelled form
their homes over much lesser debts.

Jerusalem Post quoted Yossi Beilin, the chairman of the
new left-wing party Yahad, as saying Thursday that the
Sharon government is "destroying the PA and
strengthening Hamas, so that Israel will have no one
left to speak with, and nobody to negotiate with."

Citing AP, Ha'aretz reported that the United Nations
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said Thursday that it
has stopped distributing emergency food aid in Gaza
because of tightened Israeli restrictions at the Karni
crossing point, the only crossing through which goods
move between the Gaza Strip and Israel. This morning,
Israel Radio reported that the Erez crossing was closed
due to security warnings.

Leading media reported that Thursday the Jordanian
security forces were looking for two trucks filled with
explosives, which had crossed the border from Syria,
and for four fugitives. The media cited concerns that
Israeli and U.S. nationals and institutions could have
been targeted. Yediot reported that senior Israeli
defense officials are "closely monitoring" the chase
after the terrorists, who could try to smuggle weapons
and explosives into PA-controlled territory.

Maariv reported that Russian elements warned Israel a
few months ago that several suitcases containing small
nuclear bombs have reached extremist Chechen Islamists.
The newspaper, which says that the suitcases were
apparently stolen in Russia, cited the belief of
Israeli terror expects that this information is
insignificant, because of the need to maintain those
weapons.

Citing documents seized in the territories, Maariv
reported that Arafat has transferred tens of thousands
of dollars to Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, the leader of the
anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox sect of Neturei Karta.
[NB: at http://www.nkusa.org/]. The newspaper cited a
denial by Hirsch's son Yisrael.

Maariv reported that the Iraqi Governing Council has
expressed its support for compensation to former Iraqi
Jews, and that it will soon allow Jews of Iraqi origin
to resettle in the country starting in June. However,
Israel Radio quoted the chairman of the Organization of
Jews from Arab Countries in Israel as saying that Jews
from Arab countries will not be entitled to reclaim
their property.

Ha'aretz reported that Sunday Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy
will officially take over from Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz as
commander of the IAF.

Ha'aretz (English Ed.) reported that Pups For Peace, a
Los Angeles-based organization, has donated 30 sniffer
dogs to the Transportation Ministry and Israeli police
force.

Yediot quoted former British intelligence agent
Alistair Crooke as saying that, since the '80s, Sheikh
Ahmed Yassin had initiated peace plans with Israel.

Jerusalem Post reported that Thursday the Israeli Arab
leadership cautiously welcomed a proposal by Justice
Minister Yosef Lapid to designate a national day
devoted to citizenship and coexistence between Jews and
Arabs.

---------------------
Gaza Withdrawal Plan:
---------------------
Summary:
--------

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "These are
Sharon's three nos: no to negotiations, no to
international plans, no to the status quo. There is no
disengagement here, at least not in the first years,
but there is certainly a change."

Senior op-ed writer Uzi Benziman opined in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The picture that has emerged
thus far (before the [U.S.-Israeli] discussions
Thursday) is one of clear American support for the idea
of the withdrawal and the security arrangements that
Israel wants to institute in its wake."

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "So, [Sharon], vigorously
urge [your son] Omri and his friends to do what they
really know to do -- the name of the game in crucial
decisions is effective organization. This time for a
good cause."

Former editor-in-chief Moshe Ishon wrote in
nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe: "Condoleezza Rice has
made clear that there won't be any change in the United
States' Middle Eastern policy."

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

I. "The Three Nos"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (April 2): "The
[disengagement] move, says Sharon, 'will establish in
writing a firm American position that rules out any
plan that would endanger Israel.' What else? It will
relieve Israel of responsibility for the lives of 1.8
million Palestinians, from whom the donor countries are
threatening to cut off support, and will deny the
Palestinians the argument that due to the occupation
they are unable to act against terror. And it will
return the initiative to us. 'There is nothing worse
than having Israel dragged into taking steps due to
international pressure.' These are Sharon's three nos:
no to negotiations, no to international plans, no to
the status quo. There is no disengagement here, at
least not in the first years, but there is certainly a
change."

II. "Territorial Imperative"

Senior op-ed writer Uzi Benziman opined in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (April 2): "The picture that has
emerged thus far (before the [U.S.-Israeli] discussions
Thursday) is one of clear American support for the idea
of the withdrawal and the security arrangements that
Israel wants to institute in its wake.... The
discussions revolved, in effect, around tailoring the
disengagement plan to the American political agenda and
to the conceptual framework the administration has
created regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United States has been dragged into supporting
Sharon's initiative because it has been convinced there
is great importance to his willingness to pull out of
the Gaza Strip. But it has anchored its support in its
own declared view on the resolution of the conflict.
It has chosen to do so through the formulation of a
presidential position that will take the disengagement
plan into account, but will refrain from accompanying
this with a practical quid pro quo. In any case, the
withdrawal will not be carried out before the U.S.
elections."

III. "Hot Referendum"

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (April 2): "The referendum
only intended for the exclusive club of registered
Likud voters is the least of all evils.... The
referendum is good for the supporters of the unilateral
withdrawal, who believe that Ariel Sharon has lost the
political strength and the personal authority to impose
his plan on his party.... The referendum is also good
for the opponents -- actually, not for those whose
ideological objection is a pure one.... It is
comfortable for Binyamin Netanyahu, Silvan Shalom,
Danny Naveh and Tzachi Hanegbi. Arik will take out the
chestnuts from the fire for them.... So, [Sharon],
vigorously urge [your son] Omri and his friends to do
what they really know to do -- the name of the game in
crucial decisions is effective organization. This time
for a good cause."

IV. "Withdrawal With Nothing in Exchange"

Former editor-in-chief Moshe Ishon wrote in
nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe (April 2): "Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, who is clinging to a unilateral
withdrawal plan, knows Washington's policy extremely
well. He is not deluding himself that [his senior aide
Dov] Weisglass could achieve the 'impossible.' But,
because of pressure being put on him from all sides,
mainly in the domestic arena -- by the Likud movement -
- he has decided to apply his entire influence in order
to obtain any achievement in Washington. His efforts
have failed thus far.... Even the perk that he hoped to
get in Washington is hanging by a thread. In actual
fact, it doesn't exist. Condoleezza Rice has made
clear that there won't be any change in the United
States' Middle Eastern policy. The issue of borders,
including the status of Jerusalem, will be determined
in direct talks between the parties -- Israel and the
Palestinians."

KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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