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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 002189

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

Sharon Visit April 14

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

All media underscored PM Sharon's expected meeting with
President Bush at the White House today. Media like
Yediot and Israel Radio say that Bush will reject the
right of return for Palestinian refugees and state that
eventually Israel will not return to its 1949 borders.
However, Ha'aretz notes that there were still some last-
minute gaps between what Sharon wants and what the Bush
administration is ready to grant him less than 24 hours
before the slated meeting. Ha'aretz reported that the
U.S. is only ready to offer vague language on the
recognition of large blocs of settlements in the West
Bank. The newspaper quoted Israeli sources in Sharon's
entourage as saying that the language agreed upon so
far is "reasonable" and justified Sharon's trip, and
that the gaps that remain are not significant.
Jerusalem Post cited optimism expressed by senior
officials traveling with Sharon that he will receive
the commitments from Bush to pass the disengagement
plan through the Likud referendum. Hatzofe bannered:
"Theater at the White House."

This morning, Israel Radio reported that Secretary of
State Colin Powell spoke in the past few hours with
representatives of the Quartet, UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and the foreign ministers of Germany and
Russia. He also spoke with the foreign minister of
Jordan. The radio quoted Annan as telling reporters
that he hoped that Israel's withdrawal would be within
the framework of the road map and would not prevent the
establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

All media reported that the Likud referendum over
Sharon's disengagement was pushed back three days to
May 2, because of the Final Four basketball tournament
scheduled on April 29, which could have caused a low
turnout at the vote. Ha'aretz reported that, upon his
return from Washington, Sharon will take part in two
debates against Minister Uzi Landau, who is leading the
campaign within the Likud against the disengagement
plan.

Leading media reported that Tuesday IDF troops and
settlers scuffled on the outskirts of Kiryat Arba, near
Hebron, as yet another attempt was made to evacuate the
wildcat outpost of Hazon David. Ha'aretz reported that
the settler leaders are considering giving orders to
evacuate willingly, or with minor resistance, outposts
slated for dismantling in the next few days.

Leading media reported that the police have recently
discovered a cell of smugglers, who passed weapons from
Egypt to terrorist groups in the Palestinian
territories through the Negev. Israeli Bedouins were
among those arrested.

Leading media reported that Tuesday clashes pitting
Palestinian demonstrators and anti-fence activists
against IDF soldiers continued at Biddu village,
northwest of Jerusalem.

All media reported that the Hungarian authorities have
thwarted an apparent attempt by Arab terrorists to blow
up a Holocaust Memorial Museum in Budapest which was
due to be inaugurated by President Moshe Katsav on
Thursday. Initial, unsubstantiated reports asserted
that the three suspects arrested -- a Hungarian dentist
of Palestinian origin and two Syrian men -- had
intended to assassinate Katsav at the museum's opening
ceremony.

Israel Radio reported that the defense establishment
has decided to give up temporarily a shipment of Hummer
jeeps from the U.S. so that they can be used in Iraq.
The station quoted Israeli security sources as saying
that they understand the United States' operational
needs.

Hatzofe cited the Spanish daily El Mundo as saying that
the Islamic terrorists who carried out the March 11
Madrid bombings had intended to blow up Jewish targets
around Madrid.

Jerusalem Post carried a full-page paid ad presented by
the Committee to Return Pollard Home upon the occasion
of Sharon's meeting with Bush.

----------------------
Sharon Visit April 14:
----------------------

Summary:
--------

Former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The boundaries
of [Clinton's] outline are precisely those that Sharon
presented in his speech ... on the eve of his departure
for Washington, as the guarantees that he wishes to
obtain from Bush."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote from
Washington in popular, pluralist Maariv: "The chances
of the disengagement plan gaining political acceptance
in Israel depend on the Americans, who depend on the
UN."
Veteran op-ed writer and the late prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin's assistant Eytan Haber opined in the
lead editorial of Yediot Aharonot: "The 'lame' Bush can
lend [Sharon] a shoulder, an open and generous hand,
the support that Sharon so badly needs. But the United
States has been consistent since 1967."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"The question ... is not what to 'give' Sharon, but
when will Bush return to his bold vision of refusing to
give in to Arab radicalism."

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Such a bewildered Bush makes
easy prey for Sharon, who possesses animal-like
political senses."

In an "open letter" to President Bush, conservative
columnist Nadav Haetzni wrote in Maariv: "Don't agree
to serve as an extra in the Sharon family's survival
show and don't let Ariel Sharon weaken Israel."

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

I. "Irony of History"

Former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (April 14): "The
'President Clinton outline' for an Israeli-Palestinian
arrangement, the final product of the negotiations held
during the term of the Barak government at the end of
2000, is probably not a particularly well-liked term by
President Bush or Prime Minister Sharon, each for his
own reasons. But the boundaries of the outline are
precisely those that Sharon presented in his speech in
Ma'aleh Adumim, on the eve of his departure for
Washington, as the guarantees that he wishes to obtain
from Bush on the shape of the final status arrangement
that will follow in wake of the disengagement from the
Gaza Strip. The Barak government was the first and
only of Israel's governments that obtained American
presidential recognition of the principle of settlement
blocs, thereby changing the traditional U.S. policy of
viewing the settlements as an 'obstacle to peace,' to
recognizing the settlements as a vital element in
defining the map of peace between Israel and the
Palestinians. Bush and Sharon do not have to make an
effort to reinvent the wheel.... If we, the negotiators
on behalf of Barak's government, have a part, even the
smallest part, in this copyright, we too are willing to
waive it for the sake of the matter -- as long as the
Likud government finally makes the transition from the
heights of wordy ideology to the simple logic of what
it is really possible to obtain in order to put an end
to the bloody conflict and provide Israel with security
within improved borders."
II. "Until the Last Moment"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote from
Washington in popular, pluralist Maariv (April 14):
"The main problem at the present time is the Americans'
desperate need to harness the rest of the world,
particularly the United Nations, to Sharon's plan....
The chances of the disengagement plan gaining political
acceptance in Israel depend on the Americans, who
depend on the UN.... Bush is prepared to turn a blind
eye to the fence ... but he isn't prepared to walk the
'extra step' that would allow Sharon to wave a clear
declaration and to tell the Right: 'I told you so'
while sending the Palestinians to hell. The American
approach isn't a uniform one -- the contrary is true.
As time goes by, there is a growing difference between
State Department officials, from Colin Powell on the
left, and National Security Council hawks, from Elliott
Abrams on the right -- count in the chums Cheney and
Rumsfeld.... Tonight ... Bush and Sharon will try to
square the circle ... to please Israel without angering
the Arabs."

III. "Return in Peace"

Veteran op-ed writer and the late prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin's assistant Eytan Haber opined in the
lead editorial of Yediot Aharonot (April 14):
"Undeniably, Sharon made an extremely large and
dramatic step from his personal standpoint, when he
chose to follow the path of disengagement. The 'lame'
Bush can lend him a shoulder, an open and generous
hand, the support that Sharon so badly needs. But the
United States has been consistent since 1967, and if it
budges in one direction or another, it is always an
inch to here, an inch to there. The U.S. is good with
intricate phrasing, verbal acrobatics and ambiguities,
but when it comes down to brass tacks, it remains the
same U.S.: obstinate and uncompromising in its peace
plans, which refuse to recognize the settlements and
calling for an end to the 'occupation.' Therefore, we
must believe, hope and pray that the Prime Minister of
Israel, the prime minister of us all, will bring
something real and tangible from the president of the
U.S. and return in peace (and with the very beginnings
of the peace process) from his visit to the man who is,
almost, master of the world."

IV. "Bush and Sharon"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(April 14): "The choice is not between the road map and
Sharon's plan, but between disengagement and Bush's
original plan: Palestinian regime change.... Sharon's
plan does not challenge Arafat's immunity, and
therefore postpones the day of reckoning with the de
facto Palestinian terror state. This is hardly how the
road map was supposed to proceed, let alone Bush's
original vision. But all Sharon is really doing is
showing Bush a mirror of how the Palestinians have been
allowed to distort his vision. The question then, is
not what to 'give' Sharon, but when will Bush return to
his bold vision of refusing to give in to Arab
radicalism. Such a return to boldness would begin by
ruling out any Palestinian 'return' to Israel as a
matter of principle, not just through a supposed
Israeli veto over the number of Palestinian immigrants.
It is a sad commentary on the sate of the West that, to
begin to fight terrorism in earnest, Bush had to defy
almost all of enlightened world opinion. We hope that
Bush rediscovers in himself such reservoirs of
defiance, which are perhaps most necessary when it
comes to the destroy-Israel corner of the global war.
If he does, we are confident that he will not only make
more decisive progress on the ground, but remind
Americans why they had such confidence in his
leadership."

V. "Bush's Last Chance"

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (April 14): "The memory of the
thousands of votes that threatened [Bush's] election
four years ago is a nightmare that now forces him to
walk between the drops, that may even be drops of blood
from our local conflict. As such, Bush has been the
most negligent president in handling the conflict -- a
weak shadow of Carter, Bush Sr. and Clinton. Such a
bewildered Bush makes easy prey for Sharon, who
possesses animal-like political senses.... This is a
problematic time frame from a political perspective --
both in Washington and here. But this is also the last
chance of a mediocre American president to snatch
success from the jaws of his failures. Success would
mean compelling Sharon, for a change, to carry out his
current promise on an accelerated schedule, and to
anchor it with a link to a wider accord. If starting
from tonight Bush misses his chance, Israel's well-
wishers will not be able to forgive him."

VI. "Forward American Outpost"

In an "open letter" to President Bush, conservative
columnist Nadav Haetzni wrote in Maariv (April 14):
"Associating with losers isn't exactly what you need at
this time.... Even if the suicidal move that Sharon is
concocting for Israel isn't your chief concern, you had
better caution yourself about him, in view of the
lesson learned in Iraq. It turns out that we know how
to handle quagmires much better than you.... More
importantly, as far as you are concerned, Israel now
serves as an advanced outpost on the front against the
hostile Islamic civilization, which is threatening to
rise up against the entire West.... As George Keegan,
former head of intelligence of the USAF, has said,
Israel equals five CIAs. But Israel will continue to
be an asset only as long as it remains strong. Loss of
territory, of intelligence capabilities and mainly of
its deterrent image, will once more turn that asset
into a burden. Thus, don't agree to serve as an extra
in the Sharon family's survival show and don't let
Ariel Sharon weaken Israel. Explain to him in your
tongue that one shouldn't surrender to terror or
renounce strategic assets. If not for us, at least for
it for yourselves."

LEBARON

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