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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 002242

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 reported on Holocaust Memorial Day events,
which started last night and will continue through
tonight.

Sunday, all media led with the assassination of Hamas
leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi in an IAF helicopter strike
Saturday evening. Shortly after the assassination,
Khaled Mashal, the head of the movement's political
bureau, who operates from Damascus, announced that the
identity of the new Hamas leader in Gaza would not be
disclosed. Today, Ha'aretz reported that Israel will
consider attacking Hamas's compound in Damascus should
the organization move its main power base to Syria.
The media pitted strong responses to the killing around
the world against mild responses in the U.S.

Leading media quoted National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice as saying in an interview on the Fox
network that the U.S. did not have advance information
about Israel's intention to kill Rantisi. Rice called
on Israel to "consider the implications of the actions
it carries out," but she stressed that Israel has a
right to defend itself, and that Hamas is a terror
organization. The media also quoted Democratic
presidential contender Sen. John Kerry as saying on
NBC: "I believe that Israel has every right to respond
to terror threats against it." Kerry also said that he
supports Sharon's disengagement plan, and that if
elected he will appoint a high-level Middle East
mediator acceptable to the international community and
Israel. Israel Radio reported that the Islamic
Movement in Israel intends to demonstrate this week
opposite the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

All media reported that Sunday PM Sharon won a cabinet
majority for his disengagement plan, when Finance
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Limor
Livnat, and Minister-without-Portfolio Meir Sheetrit
decided to back it. Netanyahu was quoted as saying in
an interview with Yediot that he "obtained the maximum
for the settlers." FM Silvan Shalom is still
undecided. The media quoted Sharon as saying at the
cabinet meeting: "The U.S. believes that settlement
blocs will remain in Israel's hands in any case and
that will be outside future negotiations with the
Palestinians." Yediot sums up seven achievements
reached by Sharon during his visit to the U.S., which
he detailed at the cabinet meeting: the U.S. pledged
not to adopt another plan than the road map; there will
be no diplomatic negotiations before terrorism ends,
terrorist groups are dismantled and comprehensive
reforms are made [in the PA]; the U.S. recognizes
Israel's need for defensible borders, and accepts
Israel's right to defend itself everywhere --including
in areas it has evacuated and will evacuate; there will
be no return of refugees to Israel; there will be no
return to the 1967 borders, because the settlement
blocs will remain in Israel's hands, and because of
Israel's right to defensible borders; not only will
settlement blocs remain in Israel's hands, but also
Israel will be able to build in them in a scope to be
jointly determined with the U.S.; and the security
fence will be built along the complete route that was
decided upon by the government, including the erection
of a continuous fence around the settlement blocs. The
government will complete the fence before the beginning
of the evacuation of settlements. Jerusalem Post
reported that Sharon told his cabinet Sunday that an
Israeli team will meet in the next few days with U.S.
Ambassador Dan Kurtzer to define where construction
will be allowed in the settlements.

Sunday, leading media quoted British PM Tony Blair as
saying in an interview with BBC Radio from Washington
Saturday that Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza and
part of the West Bank will reinvigorate rather than
destroy the road map. There were contradictory media
reports regarding the EU's position in the matter.

Jerusalem Post quoted a PA source as saying that
Palestinian FM Nabil Shaath canceled his trip to the
U.S., which was planned for next month, because the PA
wants to reconsider its acceptance of Sharon's Gaza
withdrawal plan and its relations with the U.S.
Administration.

Yediot and Maariv excerpted an interview with nuclear
whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu, who will be released
Wednesday. In the interview, which was conducted by
the defense establishment and which will be broadcast
tonight on Channel 10-TV, Vanunu is alleged to say:
"The Dimona nuclear reactor should be destroyed as the
Iraqi reactor was." He reportedly said he will have a
computer with access to the Internet and that nobody
will be able to do anything against him, and that
"billions" of people in the world consider him a hero.

All media reported that Saturday afternoon a border
policeman was killed and that three other Israelis were
wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the
Erez crossing. The electronic gate did not detect the
explosive charge. Ha'aretz and other media reported
that a Palestinian youth was killed near Ramallah
Friday, and that two Palestinians were killed in Gaza
Sunday. All media reported on a shooting incident on a
Galilee road Sunday: Ha'aretz and Israel Radio
reported that border policemen killed an Israeli Arab
and wounded another. They had attempted to shoot at
border police vehicles on a Galilee road.

Sunday, the media reported that Israel's embassy in
Australia has dispatched a diplomat to New Zealand with
the arrests of two Israelis allegedly trying to obtain
a fake New Zealand passport. The media reported on
allegations in New Zealand that the two men could be
Mossad agents.

Sunday, Jerusalem Post reported that the U.S. State
Department has suggested in recent days that Syria may
be able to avoid imposition of fresh U.S. sanctions,
under the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Restoration
Act, if it soon shows it has taken some of the steps
required by the law.

Leading media reported Sunday that two weeks ago Giora
Eiland, the coordinator of the Gaza withdrawal plan,
drafted a document criticizing the Geneva Accord for
being a "dangerous sleight of hand" regarding the right
of return for Palestinian refugees. The media cited a
response by the Geneva Accord team, that the
understandings in the agreement do not include
recognition or materialization of the right of return.

Leading media reported that, in a groundbreaking move,
Israir Airlines is to launch direct charter flight
service between Israel and the U.S. (on the Tel Aviv-
New-York line), starting in June.

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

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "Even
if it is possible to identify substantive arguments to
justify the Rantisi assassination, the timing of the
act raises skepticism about the motives of those who
decided to carry it out."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"Will the British Foreign Minister explain why the
killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein was justified and
'productive,' but the killing of Abdel Aziz Rantisi was
not?"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote on page one
of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot:
"Rantisi needed to disappear quickly if only because he
threw the gates of Gaza wide open to direct Iranian
influence."

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "The serial killing of
Sheikh Yassin and Rantisi is turning Sharon into a
national hero within the ranks of the Likud."
Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the editorial of Yediot Aharonot:
"Ultimately, Palestinian society is going to have to be
the one to root out Hamas from its midst, if it ever
wants to live as a normal society."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "Sharon's plan should be
supported, but without illusions of any real American
guarantees."

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized: "The U.S.
President is now being swept into helping Sharon."

Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
Ha'aretz: "If in previous years there was talk of Hamas
joining Arafat's regime, it appears now in Gaza that
the talk is more to do with the PA joining Hamas."

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

I. "The Motivation Behind the Missile"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (April
19): "Knocking off Hamas leaders is not, in itself,
policy. If these acts aggravate risks faced by Israel
and its citizens, they are wrong. Conversely, if they
are likely to restrain Hamas and lead it toward the
route of a cease-fire (which disappeared rapidly last
summer) and encourage the organization to work out
practical arrangements with the Palestinian Authority
prior to the withdrawal of IDF troops and settlements
from Gaza -- then the assassinations should not be
ruled out. An echo of this approach can be heard in
the White House.... Even if it is possible to identify
substantive arguments to justify the Rantisi
assassination, the timing of the act raises skepticism
about the motives of those who decided to carry it out.
Sharon was eager to arrive at Sunday's cabinet meeting
-- and to influence whether top Likud ministers who
have expressed reservations about his disengagement
plan will join active opponents of the plan or be
content to issue vacuous statements -- with a military
success under his belt."

II. "Justified and Productive"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(April 19): "Will the British Foreign Minister explain
why the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein was justified
and 'productive,' but the killing of Abdel Aziz Rantisi
was not? All three are, or were, leaders of what the
British government defines as terrorist
organizations.... To follow the minister's
pronouncements to their logical conclusion, Israel may
take no measure in its self-defense except to arrest
suicide bombers when they reach Israeli soil, which is
as good as no defense at all. Alternatively, he
believes Israel must resume negotiations with the
Palestinian Authority, notwithstanding the failure of
the PA to take steps against terrorist organizations
and the evidence that it is deeply implicated in
terrorist activity."

III. "Assassination for Disengagement Purposes"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote on page one
of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (April
18): "If any such thing as a 'positive assassination'
exists, then Abdel Aziz Rantisi's assassination
warrants that term. That is because the removal of
Rantisi from the arena is likely to produce a far more
substantial change in the performance of Hamas in Gaza
than the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Rantisi
needed to disappear quickly if only because he threw
the gates of Gaza wide open to direct Iranian
influence.... Assassinating leaders on its own serves
no purpose, unless the weakening of the organization
they headed is exploited to promote political goals.
Should the Palestinian Authority rise to the occasion
and take responsibility in the Gaza Strip as a result
of Hamas's weakened state, should Egypt, Jordan and
other moderate Arab countries encourage and bolster
constructive elements in the Gaza Strip to take
responsibility and to rehabilitate life there after the
Israeli withdrawal, should Israel rise to the occasion
to strengthen those elements in the Gaza Strip that
have the ability to assume responsibility -- then these
assassinations will prove to have been efficacious.
Rantisi's assassination does not change Hamas's desire
for revenge in the least."

IV. "Targeted Assassination of the Objection"

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (April 19): "The serial
killing of Sheikh Yassin and Rantisi is turning Sharon
into a national hero within the ranks of the Likud, a
leader whom one must now join, and not place obstacles
on his way.... The recent developments are placing the
Likud opponents of disengagement in a very difficult
predicament.... Sharon's achievements in the U.S.,
Rantisi's assassination and the defection of [hard-line
Likud ministers] Netanyahu and Livnat to the ranks of
the supporters isolate them and leave them without a
leader endowed with a stature to continue the
struggle."
V. "A Foreknown Scenario"

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the editorial of Yediot Aharonot
(April 18): "The Israeli government does not hide
behind an anonymous hand. It announces to all and
sundry that it intends to kill the people who lead,
initiate and organize the terrorist campaign against
it. That is where the strategic novelty lies. The
issue of the open and foreknown assassinations raises a
large number of legal, moral, military and humanitarian
questions. Not all of them either can or should be
answered. It is true that Israel has enormously
expanded the definition of the ticking bomb, which it
used to justify assassinations early on. With that
having been said, one thing is clear: it is
inconceivable that the people who send others to commit
suicide bombing attacks should be able to sleep soundly
in their beds. If there is justification for killing a
terrorist on his way to commit a terror attack, there
is far more justification for killing the commander and
preacher who sent the terrorist on his way.... Israel
currently stands at the vanguard of the war on terror.
It has taken the initiative, and the results are
impressive. But we should not delude ourselves.
Dismantling Hamas's spinal cord and killing its
leadership will not erase the burning hatred for Israel
but rather will intensify it -- at least in the short
run. Ultimately, Palestinian society is going to have
to be the one to root out Hamas from its midst, if it
ever wants to live as a normal society."

VI. "The Bush Wrapping"

Ha'aretz editorialized (April 18): "As the clouds of
celebration dissipate from around the White House, it
becomes clear that Sharon has provided a solid
commitment to implement practical steps, while Bush
offered a statement and an atmosphere, 'a sober
evaluation,' with no American commitment regarding
opposition to the Palestinian right of return or
recognition of the reality of large blocs of settlement
in the West Bank that will require adjustment through
exchanges of territory. This mysterious American
policy leaves it to the sides to bargain over the final
agreement. As expected, in the wake of Arab and
European criticism of the plan, the U.S. Administration
peeled off the plan's wrapping and went back to
focusing on its immediate benefit to the Palestinians -
- withdrawal. In order not to delay the fulfillment of
the promises until 2005, or the next prime minister,
Sharon gave in to the demand to immediately dismantle
the illegal outposts, under close American supervision.
Under the conditions that have been created, and in
spite of the real concern over the chaos that will roil
in the territories, all in all, the removal of
settlements is of supreme significance as a precedent.
For this reason, Sharon's plan should be supported, but
without illusions of any real American guarantees."

VII. "Bush Enlisting For the Corrupt One"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (April 18):
"The President of the U.S. has done something that is a
bit startling: if the plan he supports doesn't win a
majority, he could find himself in additional trouble
on the eve of the presidential race. Is it possible
that President Bush is interested in strengthening the
image that U.S. night talk show hosts have nurtured
regarding his judgment?.... The U.S. President is now
being swept into helping Sharon. He could find out
that this cost him his second term. It is doubtful
that as far as Israel is concerned, Kerry is better
than Bush as president. But, should that happen,
Sharon could well succeed in causing more damage to
Israel. On the other hand, how important is this? The
important thing is that the Sharon family survives the
corruption investigations."

VIII. "The Victory of the Hamas Way"

Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
Ha'aretz (April 19): "The Gaza Strip appears ... to be
heading toward a new regime, which won't exactly be a
continuation of the Palestinian Authority, but rather
'an action committee under the auspices of the PA,' as
Muhammad Dahlan has suggested. If in previous years
there was talk of Hamas joining Arafat's regime, it
appears now in Gaza that the talk is more to do with
the PA joining Hamas. In any event, the Hamas way has
emerged victorious: there is no political process; the
armed struggle has returned; the fight is against 'the
Zionist entity'; and the issue of the right of return
has once again been brought to the fore."

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

Summary:
--------

Nachman Shai, who was the IDF spokesman during the 1991
Gulf War, wrote in conservative, independent Jerusalem
Post: "Israel is rightfully concerned that American
determination could flag.... An American withdrawal
would leave us alone in an already hostile environment
that would only, in such circumstances, become even
more violent and cruel."

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

"Rooting For America"

Nachman Shai, who was the IDF spokesman during the 1991
Gulf War, wrote in conservative, independent Jerusalem
Post (April 18): "Since the allies occupied Iraq more
than a year ago, Israel has kept a 'low profile'....
Last week things changed when Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz said, 'We are crossing our fingers for the
Americans... If the U.S. wins in Iraq it will have a
positive effect on the whole Middle East. If it is
forced out due to the pressure of terrorism, it will
create a new and dangerous model of Arab rule'.... I
suggest everyone wait and see. The U.S. is not stupid,
and the move it initiated in Iraq was justified and
correct.... Anyone who opts for a policy of surrender
and appeasement, as recently exhibited by the new
Spanish government's rush to withdraw its forces from
Iraq, is only inviting global terror to continue....
John Kerry has to be very careful when he criticizes
matters that lie at the core of the ethos of the
American nation. In times of war the Americans rally
around the flag and postpone their criticism for 'the
day after.' That day has yet to come. Israel is
rightfully concerned that American determination could
flag.... An American withdrawal would leave us alone in
an already hostile environment that would only, in such
circumstances, become even more violent and cruel."

KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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