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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 002347

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. Iran Nuclear Program

3. Release of Mordechai Vanunu

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

All media cited PM Sharon's downplaying, in a speech to
the Knesset Thursday, of the upcoming Likud referendum
on his disengagement plan. This morning on Israel
Radio, Vice PM Ehud Olmert said that if the party does
not endorse the plan, this would have "very serious"
diplomatic, economic and political consequences for
Israel. The radio reported that the French government
has expressed skepticism about the plan's chances of
success. Ha'aretz reported that Minister without
Portfolio Natan Sharansky has sent a letter to the
19,000 Russian-language members of the Likud, calling
on them to vote against the disengagement plan.
Jerusalem Post quoted Herbert Zweibon, chairman of
Americans For a Safe Israel, a U.S. Jewish organization
fighting the two-state solution to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict, as saying that an Israeli
withdrawal from the territories could lead to an anti-
Semitic backlash among evangelical Christians who are
today among Israel's strongest supporters. Jerusalem
Post notes that Zweibon has close ties with the
evangelical community.

Hatzofe reported that an unnamed "senior White House
official" told the unlicensed right-wing Israeli radio
station Arutz Sheva (Arutz 7) that the U.S. does not
accept Israeli sovereignty over settlement blocs or the
non-return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. The
official was quoted as saying: "The parties will decide
on these issues in negotiations among themselves."

Jerusalem Post quoted Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO's hard-
line "foreign minister," as saying in an interview with
the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab, that when PA Chairman
Yasser Arafat talks about the need to pursue the
struggle against Israel, he is referring to the armed
struggle. Kaddoumi reportedly said that the armed
struggle is the only way to accept the Palestinians'
demands. He admitted in the interview that the PLO
charter, which denies Israel's right to exist, was
never changed.

Jerusalem Post reported that Thursday the Popular
Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed
Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, announced that
its members managed to free three Palestinians who were
held in a Gaza City prison on suspicion of involvement
in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic convoy last October.
The Committees also said that a fourth suspect was not
freed because he is being held in solitary confinement.
Israel Radio reported that last night in Qalqilya three
key Fatah/Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activists were
killed in a clash with IDF forces. The media also
reported that two Palestinian girls aged 4 and 7 were
killed in the Gaza Strip.
Maariv reported that Survey of Israel, the GOI's
official mapmaker, has recently printed an updated
edition of Israel's maps, which includes the separation
fence. Ha'aretz (English Ed.) reported that last
Thursday, American-born Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman,
executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR),
was arrested while demonstrating against the route of
the fence. Ascherman is awaiting his day in court in
connection with other charges related to his struggle
for human rights.

Israel Radio quoted Lakhdar Brahimi, the special UN
envoy to Iraq, as saying on a French radio station that
Israel is the "biggest poison" in the region. Brahimi
also reportedly blasted the U.S. support for Israel.
Israel Radio quoted Fred Eckhardt, Spokesman to UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as saying that Brahimi's

SIPDIS
remarks do not represent Annan's views.

Ha'aretz quoted Nigel Roberts, director of the World
Bank office in the West Bank and Gaza, as saying: "We
are ready to play a constructive role in the
disengagement process if we are asked to do so by all
the key parties -- Israel, the PA and the international
community." Roberts was referring to reports that the
Bank had already agreed to buy the Gaza Strip
settlements, or that it had already taken practical
steps to that effect. Jerusalem Post quoted a "high-
level World Bank official" as saying Wednesday that the
bank will not purchase or become temporary custodians
of Israel assets in the Gaza Strip after an Israeli
withdrawal, and that it is more likely to play an
economic advisory role, helping the Palestinians manage
and productively use the evacuated property.

Leading media reported that Nabil George Razouk, the
Israeli Arab from East Jerusalem who was abducted in
Iraq on April 8, was freed Thursday by his captors.
The media reported that the PA representative in Iraq
was instrumental in securing his release.

Ha'aretz reported that one of the two Israelis detained
in New Zealand was carrying a forged Canadian passport.

Ha'aretz cited a recently declassified CIA document,
according to which in January 1975 then U.S. President
Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were
concerned that the U.S. could be made to intervene if
the USSR had militarily backed a Syrian attack on
Israel.

All media highlighted reports that former energy
minister Gonen Segev has been remanded into police
custody as a suspect in an alleged international
Ecstasy drug smuggling scheme that Israeli and Dutch
police say involve millions of shekels (one shekel
roughly equals USD 0.22). Segev reportedly used a
forged diplomatic passport. Segev, who was number two
in the defunct right-wing party Tzomet, joined the late
PM Yitzhak Rabin's cabinet in the mid '90s.

A Yediot poll conducted by Mina Zemach's Dahaf
Institute found that 49 percent of registered Likud
voters will vote for Sharon's plan; 39.5 percent are
opposed; 11.5 percent are undecided.

A Maariv/Teleseker poll found that:
-Had it depended on them, 63 percent of Israelis would
have favored a national referendum to decide on the
issue of the disengagement plan; 5 percent would have
preferred a referendum within the Likud; 25 percent
favor a "different way."
-41 percent prefer an evacuation of the Gaza Strip that
would be coordinated with the Palestinians; 34 percent
favor a unilateral withdrawal; 18 percent oppose a
withdrawal altogether.
-54 percent believe that the houses in the settlements
to be vacated should be pulled down; 36 percent favor
leaving them to the Palestinians.
-76 percent of Israelis say that Israel was right in
assassinating Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

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

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"[Sharon] has harnessed, in the diplomatic arena and
within the government, significant support for a
withdrawal.... Sharon owes the citizens of Israel ...
an accelerated, and not sluggish, evacuation."

Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick wrote on
page one of conservative, independent Jerusalem Post:
"The entire rationale of moving ahead with Sharon's
plan is that Sharon has claimed that the U.S. has given
Israel something in exchange for implementing it. And
yet, over the past week, the U.S. has made quite clear
that it will give Israel nothing."

Jerusalem Post editorialized: " It may be a long time
yet before Israel gets the borders it deserves. For
now, the best we can hope for is to get the borders we
can realistically defend. Fortunately, that prospect is
no longer distant."


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

I. "Speed Up the Evacuation"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (April
23): "Regardless of where the weight of the votes in
Sharon's party falls, he has harnessed, in the
diplomatic arena and within the government, significant
support for a withdrawal. U.S. President George Bush
was the first to back it and so have major leaders in
Europe. All the central ministers of the Likud, who
are also candidates for Sharon's seat after he retires,
have abandoned their doubts by announcing their support
for the plan and established an undeniable political
fait accompli.... Sharon has voiced two main arguments
in favor of the plan, which he himself had opposed
until recently. The first argument is security-based:
shortening the lines of defense and eliminating soft
targets (settlements, military units and the movement
of soldiers and civilians along roads in the Gaza
Strip) so that the fighting, which is expected to
continue both along Gaza's borders (attempts to carry
out attacks and launch rockets) and in the West Bank.
The second argument is diplomatic: in the absence of an
Israeli initiative enjoying American support, Israel
will be forced to fend off initiatives less palatable
to the Likud and Sharon government. Precisely because
of these arguments, the evacuation should not be
delayed. The plans for compensation for the evacuated
settlers can be approved quickly by the various
ministries and the Knesset. Sharon owes the citizens
of Israel the opposite of what he willingly grants
[Finance Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu: an accelerated,
and not sluggish, evacuation."

II. "The Generals' Confusion"

Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick wrote on
page one of conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
(April 23): "The [Israeli] press has paid minimal
attention to the fact that, in the days since Sharon's
meeting with Bush, Bush and his people have repeatedly
denied a shift in U.S. policy away from the
Palestinians and toward Israel. If our media was not
firmly backing Sharon's plan, this would not be the
case. After all, the entire rationale of moving ahead
with Sharon's plan is that Sharon has claimed that the
U.S. has given Israel something in exchange for
implementing it. And yet, over the past week, the U.S.
has made quite clear that it will give Israel nothing.
Last Friday Bush explained, 'All final status issues
must still be negotiated between the parties.' What
this means, as Colin Powell and others have been keen
to point out, is that although Bush did state that the
U.S. thinks it would be unrealistic to have the so-
called Palestinian refugees overrun Israel in the
framework of an agreement, Bush did not commit the U.S.
to preventing it from happening. Likewise, in spite of
the fact that it may be unrealistic to expect that more
than 250,000 Israelis would be driven out of their
homes in a peace deal, it is not for the U.S. to say.
If the media was not mobilized to support Sharon's
plan, surely the fact that the U.S. gave Israel nothing
would be given more than passing attention."

III. "Borders of Realism"

Jerusalem Post editorialized (April 23): "For the
better part of the past 30 years, the Right and the
Left in Israel made two curiously mirrored arguments.
The Right understood the need for secure and defensible
borders with all our neighbors, except the
Palestinians. The Left understood the need for borders
with the Palestinians, while fantasizing about a 'New'
borderless Middle East, akin to the European Union....
On the all-important subject of borders, both sides
were logically inconsistent.... With the Palestinians,
the past 40-plus months of terror have convinced a
majority of Israelis of two things. First, that peace
with the Palestinians is, for the time being,
impossible; and second, that separation is necessary.
We cannot forever rule over a people who violently
reject that rule, however benign our intentions. And
we must have a border to better defend against suicide
bombers, the only weapon in the Palestinian arsenal
that can really bloody us.... It is ... objected that a
border that lacks international legitimacy is no border
at all. But then, what was the Green Line? What is
the Line of Control in Kashmir?.... It may be a long
time yet before Israel gets the borders it deserves.
For now, the best we can hope for is to get the borders
we can realistically defend. Fortunately, that prospect
is no longer distant."

-------------------------
2. Iran Nuclear Program:
-------------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz:
"Iran's Shihab-3 rockets have become operational, which
means Iran can now reach Israel and other distant
targets in the Middle East.... [But] the other side
knows Israel can deal with that threat and set a heavy
price for the enemy if the situation worsens."

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

"Despite Everything, an Improvement"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(April 23): "Despite the unceasing terrorist war, it is
now clear there has been an improvement in Israel's
strategic position over the past year. The military
deployment in the Middle East has changed in our favor,
and certain threats that appeared grave in the past are
gone.... That does not mean all the dangers are gone.
It is possible that some threats, particularly in the
realm of terror, if actualized, will surprise
Israel.... A year ago, the assessment was that Iran
would be near nuclear independence in 2004, but that
timetable seems to have been postponed.... There has
been a worsening of conditions in another military
realm -- but it should not be considered a strategic
threat yet. Iran's Shihab-3 rockets have become
operational, which means Iran can now reach Israel and
other distant targets in the Middle East. Combined
with the missile systems that Iran and Syria set up for
Hezbollah in south Lebanon, the threat is more
tangible. The other side knows Israel can deal with
that threat and set a heavy price for the enemy if the
situation worsens."


--------------------------------
3. Release of Mordechai Vanunu:
--------------------------------

Summary:
--------

Op-ed writer Rafi Mann observed in popular, pluralist
Maariv: "As long as the president of the U.S. decides,
for strategic, political or other reasons, to adhere to
his country's commitment to Israel's security, the
Americans are prepared to turn a blind eye to the
doings on the underground floors of the Dimona-2
institute."

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

"Bush's Bomb"

Op-ed writer Rafi Mann observed in popular, pluralist
Maariv (April 23): "Israel's security has been a
recurrent motive in a long series of statements by Bush
in recent years.... Like in almost every domain -- from
economic assistance to the peace process -- [Israel]
has one address: Washington. More precisely: 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue. As long as the president of the
U.S. decides, for strategic, political or other
reasons, to adhere to his country's commitment to
Israel's security, the Americans are prepared to turn a
blind eye to the doings on the underground floors of
the Dimona-2 institute.... When could the pattern of
that relationship blow up and cause serious harm to
Israel? Only when something very basic goes wrong in
U.S.-Israeli relations -- if, for instance a U.S.
president is someday elected and wishes to shake off
the 'special relationship' between the two countries,
or if Israel makes policy that Washington would view as
a clear danger to its interests. To this day, even the
most skeptical observers can only point to a tightening
and deepening of ties, not to the opposite. Meanwhile,
Vanunu had better stop blabbing, but it is doubtful
whether that eccentric guy actually represents a
strategic threat.... The Iranian bomb worries Bush much
more."

KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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