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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 002227

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

Mideast

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

All media, except Jerusalem Post, led with the
consequences of PM Sharon's meeting with President Bush
Wednesday. Israel Radio reported that Sharon returned
from Washington this morning (Israel Time). Israel
Radio quoted senior GOI sources as saying that Sharon
could visit the U.S. again in a few weeks. The station
reported that the Israeli Embassy in Washington will
invite Sen. John Kerry to Israel, following Sharon's
inability to meet with him in the U.S. due to a tight
schedule.

Ha'aretz's and Jerusalem Post's Washington
correspondents write that Thursday the U.S.
Administration tried to soften the pro-Israeli tone of
Bush's statement and dampen the impression that U.S.
policy has tilted in favor of Israel. Ha'aretz's
Washington correspondent cited the belief of the Sharon
and Bush teams that the shock waves which will convulse
the PA leadership as a result of Bush's letter will
foster a new leadership among Palestinians. Israel
Radio quoted Secretary of State Colin Powell as saying
Thursday [in interviews with foreign news outlets] that
the U.S. does not want to prejudice the outcome of
final status negotiations, and that modifications to
the 1949 armistice lines have to be mutually agreed
upon by the two parties as part of the road map
process. The Secretary noted that Bush has recognized
the reality of changes that have taken place in the
West Bank. The radio quoted State Department Spokesman
Richard Boucher as saying: "There is no change in U.S.
policy on settlements." The radio and Yediot cited the
New York Times and Washington Post's editorials tht
expressed reservations about the switch in the U.S.
stance. Israel Radio noted that the major U.S. media
are not buying U.S. "adjustments" to Bush's remarks or
to his letter to Sharon.

Yediot, Maariv and Ha'aretz published the full text of
the "disengagement document" that will be presented to
Likud members before the upcoming party referendum,
slated for May 2. Yediot also printed senior Sharon
aide Dov Weisglass' letter to National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice, which details Israel's position
regarding Sharon's plan.

Both Yediot and Maariv commissioned polls among Likud
registered voters:
-The Yediot poll, conducted by Mina Zemach's Dahaf
Institute found that 54 percent of Likud voters will
vote for Sharon's plan; 38 percent are opposed; 8
percent are undecided. (Another Mina Zemach poll found
that 68 percent of the general public support the plan,
while 26 percent are opposed to it.)
- The Maariv/Teleseker poll found that 49.4 percent of
Likud registered voters favor Sharon's plan; 38.4
percent are opposed to it; 12.2 percent are undecided.
Among those who declared they will definitely vote on
May 2, 51.6 percent will support Sharon's plan; 40.3
percent will vote against it; 8.1 percent are
undecided.

Yediot reported that Sharon promised in a closed
meeting with senior members of the U.S. media that the
disengagement from Gaza was only a first step and that
settlements in the West Bank will also be dismantled.
Israel Radio quoted a senior member in Sharon's
entourage as saying that Israel is interested in
transferring property it will abandon in the Gaza Strip
to responsible PA elements, and that Israel will
negotiate the issue with international bodies such as
the World Bank and the countries contributing to the
PA, but that Israel would pull down those buildings,
should the consequences of the move be inconsistent
with Israel's interests. The radio quoted another
member of Sharon's delegation as saying that after the
withdrawal from Gaza is completed -- in late April 2005
-- there will be no further withdrawal except from the
"Philadelphi axis" along the northern part of the
Israel/Egypt border (in the second phase of Israel's
disengagement).

Ha'aretz reported that Sharon's son, Knesset Member
Omri Sharon, canvassed Likud members during his
father's trip to the U.S., warning them that if the
disengagement plan is not approved in the referendum,
PM Sharon might resign and the Likud could lose its
hefty share of its 40 Knesset seats in the next
national elections. Yediot quoted associates of
Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as saying that he
is waiting for clarifications from Sharon, but that he
is presently inclined to vote against the plan. Yediot
reported that former cabinet minister Benny Begin (the
son of the late PM Menachem Begin) has broken a five-
year-long political silence and that he is joining the
fight against the withdrawal plan. Maariv reported
that Sharon associates and the Labor Party have agreed
that should the right-wing parties leave the coalition,
Labor would provide a "safety net" to the government.
Maariv writes that Labor's joining the government would
depend on whether Sharon is indicted on criminal
charges for alleged corruption.

Leading media reported that in response to the exchange
of letters between Bush and Sharon, PA Chairman Yasser
Arafat Thursday reiterated Palestinian commitment to
the establishment of a state whose capital is
Jerusalem, and to the right of return for refugees to
their original places of residence. Taisir Nasrallah,
one the signatories of a statement issued Thursday by
the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of
Palestinian Refugees, an umbrella organization
representing refugees from the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, told Ha'aretz Thursday that Bush's decision
constitutes another Nakba (catastrophe) for the
Palestinians. The group's statement compares Bush's
letter with the "unrealistic" attitude exhibited by the
signers of the Geneva Accord, the Ami Ayalon-Sari
Nusseibeh peace initiative and the polling institute
headed by Khalil Shikaki, which a year ago released a
poll saying a large percentage of refugees do not
believe that they will ever return to Israeli
territory.

Israel Radio reported that Thursday at a press
conference with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
British PM Tony Blair stated that he attaches great
importance to Sharon's disengagement plan, and that he
calmed those who fear that it could damage the road
map. Ha'aretz quoted French President Jacques Chirac
as saying that the plan is "dangerous" and that it
constitutes a "dangerous precedent," as it results in a
change in political borders, which the EU is opposed
to.

Maariv reported that in the next few weeks the security
forces will dismantle 28 illegal settler outposts in
the West Bank, which are inhabited by a total of 240
families. The media reported that two outposts were
dismantled Thursday. All media reported that Thursday
A-G Menachem Mazuz ordered the Housing and Construction
Ministry to freeze all allocations to local councils in
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The order came in
response to the yet to be published State Comptroller's
report which indicates that the ministry gave tens of
millions of shekels (one shekel roughly equals USD
0.22) to support illegal settlement activity. All
media reported that Meretz MK Haim Oron welcomed the
ministry's decision, whereas right-wing politicians
condemned it as a political decision.

All media reported that Thursday, near Ariel in the
West Bank, IDF troops arrested a Palestinian woman
carrying a 25-kg explosive device. The woman is a
mother of six. Jerusalem Post and other media reported
that Thursday 35 Palestinians were wounded in clashes
with security forces during protests against the
construction of the separation fence at Biddu village,
northwest of Jerusalem.

Ha'aretz announced that David Landau has become its
Editor-in-Chief. Tami Litani has been named the
newspaper's Deputy Editor, replacing Yoel Esteron.
Taking over from Landau, South-African born Peter
Hirschberg was appointed Editor of the newspaper's
English Edition.


--------
Mideast:
--------

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Seizing the
diplomatic initiative and shaking past positions were
the key to achieving an understanding with Bush, and
served Sharon better than his earlier insistence on
maintaining the status quo until the Palestinians
change and start fighting terrorism."

Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
Ha'aretz: "It was clear to the Palestinian leadership
Thursday that Bush's support of Sharon's disengagement
plan was the death knell for the road map."

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in Ha'aretz:
"The political, military, and economic aspects of the
plan for the Gaza Strip and the enclave in the northern
West Bank are amazingly similar to the homelands, one
of the last inventions of the white minority in South
Africa to perpetuate its rule over the black majority."

Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick wrote on
page one of conservative, independent Jerusalem Post:
"Bush's letter, and indeed, Sharon's, continue to force
Israel into an untenable position of having to fight
terrorism while promising victory to the terrorists in
the form of a state."

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized: "Apart
from his 'warm remarks,' President Bush has not
committed himself to anything concrete regarding
Israel."

Jerusalem Post editorialized: "When prominent or
popular leaders of one nation call repeatedly and
openly for the extinction of another nation, it's best
to take them at their word."


Block Quotes:
-------------
I. "And Now, the Real Test"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (April 16): "Sharon
agreed to forgo low-value assets -- the settlements in
the Gaza Strip and in northern Samaria [the Jenin area]
-- in order to buy time and repulse pressures for a
deeper withdrawal. Seizing the diplomatic initiative
and shaking past positions were the key to achieving an
understanding with Bush, and served Sharon better than
his earlier insistence on maintaining the status quo
until the Palestinians change and start fighting
terrorism. He proves that he has the ability to lead
the entire political system in his wake and to
undermine the Palestinian contention that even if they
behave well, Israel will never cede a millimeter.
Sharon is trying to refute the allegation that his plan
rewards terrorism and constitutes withdrawal under fire
by asserting that the Palestinians have suffered a
harsh blow to their dreams, citing the sharp reactions
of the Palestinian Authority to the plan to prove his
point. He is also delivering numerous threats about
tougher Israeli responses than in the past if the Gaza-
based terrorism continues."

II. "A Palestinian Authority That May Be Passe"

Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
Ha'aretz (April 16): "The Palestinian Authority's
official responses to the 'dangerous turn' in American
policy -- calls for help from all elements involved in
the conflict, first and foremost the UN, Russia, and
the European countries, America's partners in the
Quartet, as well as the Organization of the Islamic
Conference and the Arab states -- reveal helplessness.
PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's speech Thursday afternoon,
in which he stated that the Palestinian people will
never give up their national rights was also part of
the response.... It was clear to the Palestinian
leadership Thursday that Bush's support of Sharon's
disengagement plan was the death knell for the road
map."


III. "Creating a Bantustan in Gaza"

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in Ha'aretz
(April 16): "South Africa will be very interested in
the Israeli disengagement plan published Thursday. The
political, military, and economic aspects of the plan
for the Gaza Strip and the enclave in the northern West
Bank are amazingly similar to the homelands, one of the
last inventions of the white minority in South Africa
to perpetuate its rule over the black majority.... Only
Israel and Taiwan had diplomatic connections with the
homelands. Foment there deteriorated into a series of
rebellions, and a decade ago the homelands became part
of united South Africa, governed by a black majority."

IV. "So What Did We Get?"

Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick wrote on
page one of conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
(April 16): "Bush's letter, and indeed, Sharon's,
continue to force Israel into an untenable position of
having to fight terrorism while promising victory to
the terrorists in the form of a state....
[Furthermore], Israel has exposed and the U.S. has
reviewed mountains of evidence proving that [the PA]
security services are terrorist cells and that the
Palestinian Authority itself is a terrorist entity.
Yet in spite of this, the U.S. continues to insist, and
Israel continues to agree, that these security services
should be reformed and strengthened and PA institutions
supported and reinforced rather than destroyed and
replaced. Finally, as has been the case since the
'land for peace' equation was coined, the demands on
Israel from the exchange of letters are all concrete
while the demands from the Palestinians are not. They
have to reform and fight terror but there is no 'or
else.' Nothing will happen to them if they don't. And
as for the reform of their political institutions,
there is no blueprint for how they are supposed to go
about it, especially in light of the fact that the Bush
administration has ruled out the option of getting rid
of Yasser Arafat."

V. "The White House Meetings: Lights and Shadows"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (April 16):
"The friendly remarks [Bush] made during his
conversation with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won't
constitute a hindrance to him when he talks with Arab
chiefs of state, given that in fact, apart from his
'warm remarks,' President Bush has not committed
himself to anything concrete regarding Israel. On the
contrary, Prime Minister Sharon, the man who pledged to
implement the 'road map,' even without amendments, has
agreed to leave the issue of Jerusalem open for a
debate on the final status, and to be happy with a
presidential statement about the return of refugees to
a future Palestinian state, adding 'it seems clear.'
Sharon pledged to 'limit the settlements'.... This is
the achievement of the Prime Minister's visit to
Washington."
VI. "Stage Six"
Jerusalem Post editorialized (April 16): "According to
people who study such things, there are eight stages of
genocide: Classification, Symbolization,
Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization,
Preparation, Extermination and Denial. After a decade
of Arafatian rule, a critical mass of Palestinians
hover somewhere between stages six and seven. This
development, obvious to most Israelis, is rarely
noticed by outside observers.... Most students of
genocide would agree that when prominent or popular
leaders of one nation call repeatedly and openly for
the extinction of another nation, it's best to take
them at their word.... We make these observations just
as President Bush, in his press conference with Ariel
Sharon, has repeated his call for a new Palestinian
regime, devoted not only to fighting terrorism but
[also] to focusing its efforts on the socio-economic
welfare of the Palestinian people. When Bush first
made this case, in June 2002, it was widely dismissed
as unrealistic and probably counterproductive. To our
mind, it remains essential. No 'peace' is worth the
paper it's written on if it collapses at the first hint
of weakness."

LEBARON

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