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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 002156

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. Mideast

2. Iraq

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

All media highlighted PM Sharon's visit to the U.S.
Sharon left Israel last night. He is expected to meet
with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice today
and with President Bush Wednesday. Jerusalem Post
quoted a senior Israeli source as saying that, even in
light of Bush's current problems in Iraq, Sharon is
expected a firm and solid U.S. statement backing his
plan. Ha'aretz quoted sources in Jerusalem as saying
that a disagreement remained regarding "one or two
words," and not on principles. Sunday, Maariv reported
that the defense establishment is considering
dismantling settler outposts during Sharon's visit.

Leading media quoted Bush as saying Monday in Crawford,
Texas during his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak that the U.S. would continue to push for
implementation of the road map even if Israel goes
ahead with its planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Sunday, Yediot wrote that Bush would tell Sharon that
the U.S. supports his unilateral disengagement plan and
that it views it as a first step towards the
implementation of the road map. Israel's Ambassador to
the U.S. Danny Ayalon said this morning on Israel Radio
that the plan is not part of the road map, which Israel
supports but for which there is presently no partner.
Yediot quoted senior sources "associated with the
understandings shaping up in the U.S." as saying that
Bush will declare that the U.S. understands that, in
the context of a final-status agreement between Israel
and the Palestinians, Israel will not return to the
1949 borders. (Sunday, Ha'aretz gave no sources for a
similar report.) Leading media quoted Sharon as
stressing last night in the West Bank town of Ma'aleh
Adumim the importance to Israel of "strong" blocs of
settlements, including Hebron and Kiryat Arba.

All media reported that the Likud's Central Elections
Committee has decided that the referendum on Sharon's
plan will take place on April 29.

Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post reported that the PA has
expressed its opposition to any assurances that the
U.S. might give Sharon in exchange for his unilateral
withdrawal plan.

All media (banners in Yediot and Maariv) reported that
the Shin Bet and the other security forces foiled 10
terrorist attacks planned for Passover, including a
Fatah-Tanzim suicide bombing involving AIDS-infected
blood. Yediot quoted defense sources as saying that
Hizbullah is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of
terrorist attacks. Jerusalem Post cited Hamas's denial
on Monday that it has agreed to a cessation of attacks
on Israel after the planned withdrawal from the Gaza
Strip. All media reported that Monday before dawn IDF
soldiers killed two gunmen and wounded a third when
Palestinians tried to attack the Netzarim settlement in
the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF, eight terrorists
were involved in the attempted infiltration, the
responsibility of which was jointly claimed by Fatah,
Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Hatzofe led with an "exclusive" report that Saturday
night Sharon and Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres
agreed on the formation of a "left-wing" government, in
which Labor would get the foreign affairs and defense
portfolios.

Iraq:
-Saturday, on Channel 2-TV, IDF Chief of Staff Moshe
Ya'alon said that he would not be surprised if chemical
weapons were found in Iraq (cited by Ha'aretz), and
that Israel had told the U.S. before the Iraq War that
the Americans had overstated Iraq's weapons capability
(cited by Hatzofe). Sunday, Ha'aretz and Jerusalem
Post reported that over the weekend thousands of
Palestinians took part in demonstrations in support of
the armed uprising against the U.S. and coalition
forces in Iraq. Jerusalem Post quoted Iraqi National
Security Adviser Dr. Muafak Rube'i as saying at a press
conference that the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi
Governing Council could ban Al Jazeera-TV and Al
Arabiya-TV reported from Iraq for ratcheting up
sectarian strife in Iraq.
-Yediot quoted Iraqi FM Hoshyar Zebari and the
commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. John
Abizaid, as saying Monday that Iran and Syria are
behind the wave of kidnappings of foreign citizens in
Iraq.
-Sunday, Ha'aretz reported that Israel has announced
that it would no longer handle the case of Nabil
Razouk, the Israeli Arab from East Jerusalem who was
abducted in Iraq. The newspaper quoted a spokesman for
the Foreign Ministry as saying Saturday: "The issue has
been passed on to the USG and the company that hired
him." The spokesman added that Israel would no longer
respond on the issue, and that it is waiting to get
information from the U.S. State Department. Sunday,
Jerusalem Post cited an announcement by the Canadian
government that the other "Israeli" abductee, Ahmed
Yassin Tikati, is actually a Canadian citizen whose
real name is Hissan Fadel.

Ha'aretz cited a report by the Jerusalem-based
Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMP),
headed by Bassem Eid, which found that over 11 percent
of Palestinians killed during the Intifada died at the
hands of other Palestinians.

Sunday, Maariv featured the importance of the Jewish
vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.
Jerusalem Post cited a newly-issued report by the Anti-
Defamation League (ADL), summed up by ADL director
Abraham Foxman: "Anti-Semitism remains deeply engrained
in Egyptian society and continues to be a destabilizing
force in the Middle East."

------------
1. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"Sharon has a problematic record of keeping political
commitments.... Despite this, American support and the
great effort invested in achieving it, strengthen the
chance that his disengagement plan will indeed be
approved and carried out."

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea, who is part of Prime
Minister Sharon's delegation to the U.S., wrote on page
one of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "
The papers given last night for Bush to study included
statements that were agreed on.... Sharon wanted
more.... For this he needed the President's consent."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz: "[Sharon's] real challenge will be to
maintain security and prevent a renewed outburst of
terror, which the letter from Bush will not be able to
thwart."

Senior columnist Yoel Marcus wrote in Ha'aretz: "If ...
the Likud, the cabinet, and the Knesset all approve the
initiative, Sharon's plan may be deemed, to paraphrase
Churchill, the beginning of the end of the occupation."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"Even hawks like Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have
concluded that the so-called demographic problem is too
serious to neglect, and even doves like Ehud Barak and
Shlomo Ben-Ami have conceded that under their current
leadership the Palestinians must be fought."

Block Quotes:
-------------
I. "The Tenth Meeting"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (April
13): "The [U.S.] Administration has shown sympathy for
the idea of evacuating the settlements and presented it
as having 'historic potential,' but asked in return
that the disengagement appear part of the 'road map'
and not prevent the resumption of negotiations in the
future. To demonstrate this, the Americans insisted
that Israel also evacuate settlements in the West Bank,
and not stop at the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip,
which is in any case considered an irksome security,
economic and moral burden. Sharon has a problematic
record of keeping political commitments. Everyone
remembers his promises to evacuate the outposts in the
West Bank and to remove roadblocks in the territories,
which were only partially and belatedly kept. Despite
this, American support and the great effort invested in
achieving it, strengthen the chance that his
disengagement plan will indeed be approved and carried
out.... The American declarations on the permanent
settlement are expected to support Israel's position
that rules out withdrawal to the Green Line in the West
Bank and rejects the Palestinian demand for the return
of refugees to Israel. The Americans wished to phrase
them ambiguously, in a way compatible with their past
statements -- not to tie their hands in the future, and
not to complicate their relations with the Arab states
and Europe. This is therefore a symbolic achievement,
which Sharon needs mainly due to the pressure of
Binyamin Netanyahu and other Likud ministers. They
have conditioned their support for the plan on the
annexation of settlement blocs and negating 'the right
of return.'"

II. "Sharon Wanted More"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea, who is part of Prime
Minister Sharon's delegation to the U.S., wrote on page
one of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot
(April 13): "The papers given last night for Bush to
study included statements that were agreed on and
statements in parentheses. The parts in parentheses
have not been agreed on. The Americans agreed, for
example, that the final status arrangement between
Israel and the Palestinians will take into
consideration the demographic situation created in the
territories, a sort of intimation of recognition of
some of the settlements. Sharon wanted more. He
wanted it stated that the final status arrangement
would take into consideration the large population
centers of Jews, a hint to the settlement blocs. He
wanted it to be stated than the 1967 borders are not
realistic. For this he needed the President's consent.
When [Sharon bureau head] Dov Weisglass left for
Washington, he had in his bag 12 sections in
parentheses. One problem that was apparently resolved
was Israel's fear of new diplomatic plans. Bush will
officially promise Sharon that the U.S. will not
support any plan that deviates from the road map.
Another issue that is close to being resolved regards
the right of return. Bush will state that the
designated haven for refugees is the Palestinian state.
This formulation is still far from what Netanyahu
demanded, but it may satisfy [moderate Likud cabinet
minister] Tzippi Livni."

III. "A Summit of the Weak"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of
Ha'aretz (April 13): "Since Sharon and Bush's last
meetings, last summer, the two have sunk to a political
nadir. Bush is no longer the big winner of the
'mission accomplished' in the Iraq war; he is no longer
the maker of new order in the region. His army is
stuck in the Iraqi quagmire, and he is falling behind
in the polls for the November elections. He will have
to work hard to beat his Democrat rival John Kerry and
win a second term in office. Sharon is haunted by the
shadow of police investigations and the looming
decision of the attorney general whether to indict him.
His chances in the polls are plummeting too, and his
public credibility is at a low. Thus, Bush and Sharon
will meet tomorrow in a summit of the weak, intended to
help them a little and to demonstrate an
achievement.... The main threat to Sharon's plan comes
not from the Americans, even if their president is
changed, and not even from the Likud. The danger is
that the Palestinians will try to repeat their
achievement in Gaza and drive Israel by force out of
the West Bank as well. Perhaps to thwart this, Sharon
resumed his threats on Arafat. But his real challenge
will be to maintain security and prevent a renewed
outburst of terror, which the letter from Bush will not
be able to thwart."


IV. "The Beginning of the End of the Occupation"

Senior columnist Yoel Marcus wrote in Ha'aretz (April
13): "Bush and Blair, two leaders in trouble, need some
kind of success with regard to our conflict so as not
to lose the Arab world. Sharon will return from
Washington with a green light for his plan. It might
not be exactly what he wanted, but it will give him
enough of a tail wind to continue to pursue this, the
most intensive and consistent leadership chapter in his
life. From the time he went public with his
initiative, and until the Likud membership referendum,
12 weeks will have passed. If Mofaz is right, and the
Likud, the cabinet, and the Knesset all approve the
initiative, Sharon's plan may be deemed, to paraphrase
Churchill, the beginning of the end of the occupation."

V. "Respect the New Consensus"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(April 11): "On the face of it, what is at stake here
is the fate of several dozen settlements and their
several thousand inhabitants. In fact, the stakes are
much higher.... Even hawks like Ariel Sharon and Ehud
Olmert have concluded that the so-called demographic
problem is too serious to neglect, and even doves like
Ehud Barak and Shlomo Ben-Ami have conceded that under
their current leadership the Palestinians must be
fought. Between them, all these newly humbled leaders
have all the makings of a new Israeli consensus: one
that appreciates the attachment to any part of our
ancestral land, but also realizes we are not alone
here; one that understands that, while peace is worth
concessions, it can only be struck with enemies who
have truly abandoned the quest for destruction; and one
that realizes that, in the foreseeable future,
surviving here will still mean fighting some Arabs and
demand solidarity among Jews. Those who intend to
brace for the referendum with violence, whether
physical or verbal, would do well to understand that
the Israeli public is no longer the impressionable one
it was in previous years. Today's Israelis crave and
deserve the national solidarity of which the Right and
Left once jointly deprived them."

---------
2. Iraq:
---------

Summary:
--------

Ha'aretz editorialized: "The President of the U.S. can
present to his guests [Mubarak and Sharon] one
important lesson.... Occupation is not the end of a
war.... It would appear that this lesson, which has
been drawn after one year of warfare in Iraq, has yet
to permeate the minds of Israel's decision makers,
after 37 years of occupation."

Block Quotes:
-------------
"Between Iraq and Palestine"

Ha'aretz editorialized (April 11): "Events of the past
week in Iraq are likely to create the erroneous
impression that the rule of coalition forces in the
country has totally collapsed.... Events are, indeed,
dangerous and circumstances could have grave
repercussions if they are not handled wisely and
quickly. Nonetheless, it is still too early to talk in
apocalyptic terms about a collapse of authority in
Iraq.... In various parts of the world, including areas
close to Israel, voices are articulating anew glee
about the U.S. entanglement in Iraq.... As in the past,
such militant voices drown out rational voices in the
Arab world that speak not only for the genuine welfare
of Iraq, but also for the aim of carrying out civil
reform in their own countries. It would appear that of
all peoples in the region, the Palestinians are the
last ones who should celebrate America's
misfortunes.... For his part, the President of the U.S.
can present to his guests [Mubarak and Sharon] one
important lesson drawn from his war in the Middle East:
Occupation is not the end of a war, but rather another
phase -- it is perhaps the toughest stage, since it
involves war against civilians. Hence a local,
national leadership is needed to continue the job. It
would appear that this lesson, which has been drawn
after one year of warfare in Iraq, has yet to permeate
the minds of Israel's decision makers, after 37 years
of occupation."

LEBARON

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