Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A



Key stories in the media:

Jerusalem Post quoted senior Israeli diplomatic
officials as saying that the U.S. is "watering down"
assurances President Bush gave PM Sharon, less than a
week after the two met in Washington. The newspaper
quoted the officials as saying that as a result of
pressure on Washington from the Arab world and Europe,
Secretary of State Colin Powell has played down Bush's

ideas about the shape of the final-status deal.
Ha'aretz and Israel Radio quoted Bush as saying
Wednesday, in a speech to the Newspaper Association of
America Annual Convention, that a "free Palestinian
state would be a major change agent for world peace."
Bush remarked that "the whole world should have said,
thank you Ariel," for the withdrawal plan. Bush added:
"The Palestinian leadership has failed the people year
after year after year."
Israel Radio quoted Sharon as saying this morning
before the Knesset plenum that Bush told him that he
completely supports the disengagement plan. Sharon was
also quoted as saying that the U.S. backing of Israeli
disengagement is "unprecedented," that whoever wants to
hold on to settlement blocs -- an achievement reached
during his visit to Washington -- must back a pullout,
and that he will bring his plan for approval to the
Knesset after the cabinet ratifies it. Sharon said
that the negative Palestinian response was a
confirmation of the validity of his move. The radio
noted that in his remarks Sharon hinted that he does
not consider the Likud referendum as binding. Labor
Party Chairman Shimon Peres said that his faction --
preferably not as a coalition member -- would support
the plan.

The media reported that Wednesday in the northern Gaza
Strip, a total of nine Palestinians were killed in
clashes with the IDF and that at least 40 were wounded.
This morning reported that three armed senior Tanzim
militants were killed near Tulkarm, West Bank. Israel
Radio reported that last night PA Chairman Yasser
Arafat, as Israel was about to attack his Ramallah HQ
(according to his aides), expelled 21 Al Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades activists who had been hiding there for the
past two months.

Ha'aretz and Hatzofe reported that Sharon associates
are urging him to cancel the Likud referendum on his
withdrawal plan, since its results are foreknown.
Ha'aretz quoted opponents of the plan in the party as
saying that those attempts are actually due to the
decline in the party members' support for the plan.

Israel Radio quoted Ambassador J. Cofer Black, the
State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, as
saying, in a testimony before a Senate subcommittee,
that the assassination of the Hamas leaders has
disrupted the group's activity and greatly influenced
Palestinian society. He was also quoted as saying that
it is too early to say whether the assassinations will
influence Hamas's ability to strike at Israel.

Israel Radio reported that Palestinian PM Ahmed Qurei
(Abu Ala) called on Bush to retract his declaration
that, in a final-status agreement, Israel will not have
to withdraw from the entire West Bank and that it will
not have to take in Palestinian refugees.

All media continued to highlight the release of nuclear
whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. (Both Yediot and
Maariv devoted their first 11 pages to the topic.)

All media reported that, at a press conference in Tel
Aviv Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer and U.S.
Consul-General in Tel Aviv Phil Covington announced
that the Embassy will ease visa restrictions for
Israelis born in countries classified as sponsors of
terror, including Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North
Korea and Cuba. Ha'aretz quoted Kurtzer as saying: "We
in the Embassy have been working with Washington for
almost two and a half years to see this change." The
media quoted Covington as saying that the changes do
not apply only to Israelis, but that they were made
primarily out of concern for Israeli travelers who left
their birthplace at least 50 years ago.

Yediot reported that in June El Al is to fit its first
plane with a protection system against shoulder-
launched missiles. The system was developed by Israel
Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Israel Military

Citing AP, Ha'aretz reported that the UN Relief and
Works Agency (UNRWA) announced that it would renew
shipments to the Gaza Strip after reaching an
arrangement with Israeli security.

Israel Radio reported that, at the request of Arafat,
Malaysia is convening a meeting of the Islamic
Organization Conference (IOC) to discuss the United
States' support for Israel and its policy in Iraq. The
radio notes that only one third of the member states
have sent delegates -- most of them under ministerial
level -- to the meeting.

All media reported that UEFA, European soccer's
governing body, lifted its ban on playing international
games in Israel, saying it is satisfied with the
country's security arrangements.
All media reported that Wednesday four people were
wounded in the bombing of the old Saudi General
Security building housing offices of the Interior
Ministry in Riyadh. Ha'aretz noted that Deputy
Secretary of State Richard Armitage was in Riyadh for

talks Wednesday.

A Dialogue poll for Ha'aretz (also cited in Maariv and
Yediot) found that the gap between supporters and
opponents of Sharon's disengagement plan in the Likud
is narrowing: 44 percent support it, while 40 percent
are opposed; 11 percent are undecided. Maariv and
Yediot say that internal Likud polls and other surveys
confirm the trend.



Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "This is an
election year in the United States, and it's a
convenient time for Israel to establish more facts on
the ground. But even within these restrictions, Bush
is doing more for the Palestinians than did any of his

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "We still have
a paramount interest to disengage from Gaza, but to
disengage for real.... Let their Arab brethren take
care of the Palestinians."

Block Quotes:

I. "A U.S. 'Trusteeship' For the Palestinians"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (April 22): "The
United States appointed itself in the past year as the
governess of the Palestinians and the guardian of their
rights, as the custodian of a future Palestinian state.
The same Bush who is considered an enthusiastic
supporter of Sharon, who backs every assassination and
every Israeli military action in the territories, has
quietly created an American "trusteeship" for the
Palestinians. Bush was the first president to call for
the establishment of a Palestinian state, and he is
trying to fill his words with substance.... There are
several expressions of this American trusteeship, which
were mentioned in Bush's letter to Sharon and in
accompanying documents. The most important of them is
the preservation of reserves of land for a Palestinian
state in the West Bank, which will enjoy reasonable
territorial contiguity.... [For his part,] Sharon has
evaded most of his promises until now.... This is an
election year in the United States, and it's a
convenient time for Israel to establish more facts on
the ground. But even within these restrictions, Bush
is doing more for the Palestinians than did any of his

II. "Beware of the Gaza 'Conception'"

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (March 4): "Now
that Hamas has become such a central element in the
Gaza Strip, because of the two most recent
assassinations, we must not allow ourselves to be
fooled by our own illusions, such as the ones about
Muhammad Dahlan, that have cropped up among the
dreamers of Oslo. Dahlan is Arafat, and neither of
them have any reason to make Israel's life easier. And
the Hamas leaders will not suddenly become lovers of
Zion and reduce the volume of terrorism. We still have
a paramount interest to disengage from Gaza, but to
disengage for real. To wit, to seal the crossings
between Israel and the Gaza Strip for good, to stop
supplying electricity and water, and to evacuate in
tandem the Philadelphi road that runs between the Gaza
Strip and Egypt. Let their Arab brethren take care of
the Palestinians. Only Egypt, when it bears sole
responsibility for the only exit from the Gaza to the
world, will know how to cope with Hamas. If weapons
are smuggled into the Gaza Strip after that, there will
be no doubt as to who is responsible for it and where
that responsible party is."


© Scoop Media

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