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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 08 TEL AVIV 002200

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

The joint White House press conference of President
Bush and PM Sharon at the White House Wednesday, and
the subsequent exchange of letters between them,
dominate the media. Bush endorsed Sharon's
disengagement plan, calling it "brave and courageous."
Yediot bannered a comment by Sharon: "This is a
commitment, the likes of which we never received from
America." Israel Radio quoted Israel's Ambassador to
the U.S. as saying that this is a tremendous diplomatic
achievement that will bring hope to the peace process,
and that it represents a hint that the PA should
renounce support for terrorism. The radio reported
that Sharon's flight home was delayed by three hours
following his demand to see the final version of Bush's
letter, and that the State Department tried to tone
down its contents until the last moment.

Ha'aretz and other media reported that Bush's letter
states that Israel will not return to the 1949
armistice lines and that Palestinian refugees will not
return to Israel. Some commentators wondered about the
meaning of the term "rather than" in Bush's remark at
the press conference, which called for "the
establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling
of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel." The
media also reported that, in his letter, Bush said "new
realities on the ground" -- meaning concentrations of
Jewish settlers in the territories -- would have to be
taken in consideration. Israel Radio quoted a senior
member of Sharon's delegation as saying that a document
appended to Bush's letter says that details about the
fence route around Ariel will be clarified. Sharon's
letter states: "According to this [the disengagement]
plan, the State of Israel intends to relocate military
installations and all Israeli villages and towns in the
Gaza Strip, as well as other military installations and
a small number of villages in Samaria [the northern
West Bank]. In his letter, Sharon also pledges to
limit the growth of settlements, remove unauthorized
outposts and allow freedom of movement for
"Palestinians not engaged in terrorism."

Leading media reported that Sharon declined to meet
with Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry.
Israel Radio noted that Sharon gave a tight schedule as
the reason for his refusal.

Israel Radio reported that Sharon will convene his
cabinet upon his return from Washington. The media
reported that mainstream Likud cabinet ministers such
as Ehud Olmert and Tzippi Livni welcomed the U.S.-
Israeli understandings. Israel Radio noted that
Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu greeted the
achievements reached at Wednesday's meeting, but has
reservations about the U.S. position on the route of
the fence. The radio noted that FM Silvan Shalom has
not expressed himself in the matter, and quoted
Minister Uzi Landau as saying that he is calling on the
Likud to thwart Sharon's plan, commitments by former
U.S. presidents have not been kept. Landau
specifically mentioned Ronald Reagan's pledge that
Saudi fighter planes would not be stationed near
Israel's border. Yediot quoted settler leader Shaul
Goldstein as saying: "Bush's statements about beginning
to evacuate settlements are very dangerous. He didn't
even mention keeping settlement blocs." IDF Radio
reported that former PM Ehud Barak has called on Sharon
to finish building the separation fence quickly as part
of an emergency program before the withdrawal from Gaza
and the removal of settlements from the West Bank.
Barak called upon the Labor Party to provide, under
certain circumstances, a safety net to Sharon against
right-wing opposition, but also criticized him for
proposing the disengagement plan only now. Yahad party
leader and Geneva Accord co-initiator Yossi Beilin told
Israel Radio that he fears that Sharon's plan could
mark the end of Sharon's concessions.

Ha'aretz (English Ed.) published a Letter to the Editor
by Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer, who
endorses "every evacuation of land in the occupied
territories," along with the Geneva Accord.
Oppenheimer writes that Peace Now is convinced that its
position will not cause a conflict inside the peace
camp.

Leading media quoted PA Chairman Yasser Arafat,
Palestinian PM Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) and other
Palestinian officials as saying that the understandings
between the U.S. and Israel signify the end of the
peace process. Qurei said that Bush is the first U.S.
president to recognize settlements. The media quoted
Geneva Accord co-initiator and former PA minister
Yasser Abed Rabbo as saying that the road map has been
replaced by Sharon's plan.

This morning, Israel Radio reported that the Irish EU
presidency responded to the Bush-Sharon meeting by
saying that any plan to allow Israel to hold onto
territory captured in 1967 must be with the consent of
the Palestinians.

Israel Radio reported that this morning Al Jazeera-TV
and Al Arabiya-TV released an audiotape purportedly
from Osama bin Laden, threatening to exact revenge on
Israel for the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Ha'aretz reported that two weeks ago the IDF arrested a
16-year-old Palestinian who admitted to having been a
"talent scout" for Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades would-be
suicide bombers.
Leading media reported that Wednesday twelve people
were wounded in clashes between Border Police and
protesters demonstrating against the fence at Biddu
village, west of Jerusalem. The media also reported
that two youths were wounded in clashes between
settlers and security forces at the site of the Hazon
David outpost between Kiryat Arba and Hebron.

Jerusalem Post cited a poll conducted among
Palestinians by the Gaza-based General Institute for
Information:
-94.1 percent of Palestinians believe there is a state
of lawlessness and chaos in PA-controlled territories.
-Only 29.2 percent of the respondents blame the Israeli
occupation for the failure of the PA to enforce law and
order; 25 percent believe that the PA leadership is
responsible for the anarchy because it has lost control
over the situation; 19.1 percent blame the absence of a
proper judicial system; 16 percent say that the problem
is the existence of centers of power within the PA; 25
percent say the PA security forces are responsible for
the deterioration.

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

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote from Washington on
page one of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot: "Wednesday, President Bush gave Sharon
winning cards in his campaign for the registered Likud
members, and what Bush did not give, the negative, if
not hysterical, reaction in the Arab world and the
Palestinian Authority will."

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz:
"Israel would do well not to ignore Bush's words. The
American leader again promised the Palestinians a
viable state, and a state cannot be viable when it is
made up of patches of territory."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one
of popular, pluralist Maariv: "We must not miss the
fact that Bush is embracing Sharon, adopting
disengagement, going with it and describing it as a
courageous and daring historical step."

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote on
page one of Maariv: "Bush's declaration sounded so pro-
Israel that no one in Ramallah or Gaza will dare to
stand in the suicide bombers' way."
Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz:
"Just because Bush and Sharon have written a new script
for the Palestinians doesn't mean they will follow it."

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the editorial of Yediot Aharonot:
"Bush justly referred to Sharon's decision to withdraw
as a 'historic decision'; indeed it is historic, and a
majority of the Israeli people supports it. As to the
national-diplomatic achievement of Sharon's visit to
Bush, things are far more equivocal."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"It is a measure of how far Israel's diplomatic
position has fallen that yesterday's exchange of
letters between George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon should
be considered a signal victory."

Columnist Haggai Huberman wrote in nationalist,
Orthodox Hatzofe: "For 36 years the United States has
advocated an Israeli withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and
Gaza [the territories]. Contrary to Sharon's request,
Bush made no real commitment Wednesday about the final
status arrangement."

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

I. "Bush Has Already Voted"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote from Washington on
page one of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot
(April 15): "Wednesday, President Bush gave Sharon
winning cards in his campaign for the registered Likud
members, and what Bush did not give, the negative, if
not hysterical, reaction in the Arab world and the
Palestinian Authority will. Bush gave Sharon words,
just words, but what words. Sharon is right when he
says that Israel has not received words like those
since the establishment of the State of Israel -- and
certainly not since 1967.... With all the festive talk
about the road map and about its stated goal -- the
establishment of a Palestinian state -- both the Bush
administration and Sharon have moved further away from
the vision of a Palestinian state. Until now the
Palestinians have had a government without a state.
Now they are being offered a state without a
government. There probably isn't anything like that in
the world.... Sharon has urged people [Israelis] not to
rush out and dance in the streets. The President's
letter is no Balfour Declaration. With that having
been said, after his meeting with Bush, he acted like
someone who has already won the campaign."
II. "Double-Edge Bush"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(April 15): "Whoever tries to present U.S. President
George Bush's statements as the second Balfour
Declaration in terms of their importance to Israel, is
getting carried away. The most significant achievement
was the emphasis placed on the fact that a solution for
the Palestinian refugees will be outside the borders of
the Jewish state, as Israel has long demanded. In
other words, if the right of return' exists, it will be
realized inside a future Palestinian state, and not
inside Israel, which Bush again defined as a Jewish
state. On the territorial front, however, the
achievement is only partial, and Israel would do well
not to ignore Bush's words. The American leader again
promised the Palestinians a viable state, and a state
cannot be viable when it is made up of patches of
territory."

III. "Presidential Embrace"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one
of popular, pluralist Maariv (April 15): "Wednesday,
Sharon got his hug, and his candy too. It is
reasonable to assume that he will rise in the polls
that are really important, the [Likud] party members'
polls.... What is great about Bush's statements
Wednesday is that they can be interpreted in any
direction. Here, there and everywhere. Nonetheless,
we must not miss the fact that Bush is embracing
Sharon, adopting disengagement, going with it and
describing it as a courageous and daring historical
step. Bush is telling members of the Likud: 'You need
to support Sharon on his own merits. Who am I to
defend him? But do not forget: a "no" to Sharon is
also a "no" to America.' And America is not in a
situation where it is willing to hear one more no.
Certainly not from us."


IV. "He Got It"

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote on
page one of Maariv (April 15): "As of last night,
Sharon was the big winner. If the Likud referendum
were to be held today he would receive the full
dividend. But nothing is final yet. Europe will rebel
against America. The Arab world will not acquiesce.
The crescendo of Bush and Sharon is so deafeningly loud
that Abu Ala will not be able to praise the unilateral
withdrawal as he had planned. If these developments
lead to a resumption of Palestinian terror in full
force -- because Bush's declaration sounded so pro-
Israel that no one in Ramallah or Gaza will dare to
stand in the suicide bombers' way -- the achievement
could turn into a Pyrrhic victory. Too much success at
a heavy price necessarily carries the seeds of failure.
But not last night. As of now the celebrations are at
their height. A great achievement for Sharon, with
question marks nearby."

V. "Rewriting the Script"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz
(April 15): "Sharon exploited Bush's current political
weakness, but paid back the president with public
praise for his leadership in the war against terrorism
and a refusal to meet with Bush's rival, Democratic
front-runner John Kerry. Bush paid Sharon back with an
almost transparent call on Likud rank and file to vote
in favor of the plan. The Palestinians -- who weren't
invited to the party -- will pay the price of the
strengthened friendship between Bush and Sharon.
Sharon heard the harsh reactions of the Palestinians as
proof of Sharon's argument that the disengagement is a
blow to the Palestinians and good for Israel. But just
because Bush and Sharon have written a new script for
the Palestinians doesn't mean they will follow it."

VI. "Loves a Lot, Gives a Little"

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the editorial of Yediot Aharonot
(April 15): "Bush justly referred to Sharon's decision
to withdraw as a 'historic decision'; indeed it is
historic, and a majority of the Israeli people supports
it. As to the national-diplomatic achievement of
Sharon's visit to Bush, things are far more equivocal.
First of all, Bush of the spring of 2004 is not Bush of
the spring of 2003... Bush's statements have a hollow
ring to them. To what extent did Bush accede to
Sharon's requests? Taking a superficial view, the
Israeli prime minister received everything he wanted.
A closer look finds that this 'everything' is merely a
small addition to the traditional American
positions.... Some people have compared Bush's
statement to the Balfour Declaration. That is a
perverse comparison. Israel today is not in the
situation of the Zionist movement in 1917. Eighty-
seven years ago the Jewish people did not have a state;
it lived in foreign countries and needed the graces of
the great powers for everything it wanted, and
particularly for the realization of its national
aspirations.... And another difference: President Bush
today does not have an imperial mandate over the Land
of Israel and Palestine, and cannot divide its land.
At the very most he can make his suggestions and hope
that they are accepted.... [Nonetheless], Sharon
sponsored a significant political initiative and reaped
significant public relations fruits. The Palestinians,
as usual, did not have the sense to offer anything but
more terror and, therefore, lost."

VII. "Forward to Square One"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(April 15): "It is a measure of how far Israel's
diplomatic position has fallen that yesterday's
exchange of letters between George W. Bush and Ariel
Sharon should be considered a signal victory.... What
Sharon and Bush have done is to return to pre-Camp
David assumptions, thereby partly undoing the
diplomatic damage wrought by the Barak-Clinton run at a
final-status agreement and the terror offensive that
followed. The Bush statement that the U.S. 'expects'
that Israel will retain 'already existing major Israeli
population centers' in a final-status agreement is
significant, but not as significant as it may seem.
The other shoe has yet to fall on this issue, as
nothing was said to rule out another invention of the
Barak/Clinton era -- land swaps.... It is clear now
that Israel must go through with Sharon's disengagement
plan, as painful as it will be to implement. In a way,
the plan is another terrible gamble, this time on the
word of the United States that it will continue to
condition Palestinian statehood on an end to terror and
the establishment of a truly free and peaceful
Palestinian society.... At yesterday's summit,
President Bush once again came through for Israel at a
crucial hour. What remains to be seen is whether his
State Department will come through on the follow-up."

VIII. "The Voice Belongs to Bush, the Hands are that
of the Geneva Agreement"

Columnist Haggai Huberman wrote in nationalist,
Orthodox Hatzofe (April 15): "Bush eventually did not
say anything new and did not change anything in the
traditional policy his country has maintained from 5727
[i.e. 1967] up to this very day. He only allowed
commentators to pump their wares so as to facilitate
the brainwashing of the registered Likud members prior
to the referendum. Every other analysis is correct to
the very same degree.... One need not be overly
impressed with Bush's statement that the disengagement
plan is an historic and courageous action that might
bring progress and end one of the longest conflicts in
human history. For 36 years the United States has
advocated an Israeli withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and
Gaza [the territories]. Contrary to Sharon's request,
Bush made no real commitment Wednesday about the final
status arrangement."

LEBARON

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