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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.

281237Z Apr 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 08 TEL AVIV 002412

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. April 27 Damascus Attack

2. Mideast

3. Israel-Hizbullah Deal

4. Cyprus

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

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported that the U.S.
Administration is inclined to present Jordan's King
Abdullah II a "balancing message" (Ha'aretz) to the
"letter of commitment" that President Bush presented to
PM Sharon during his Washington visit two weeks ago.
The radio cited the concerns of Foreign Ministry
sources that the U.S. stance could "erode," and
reported that in his letter to the King, Bush will
state that issues such as borders and the right of
return for Palestinian refugees will be resolved
between Israel and the Palestinians. Ha'aretz reported
that Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians have requested
similar letters from the U.S., and that the U.S. has
informed Israel it will have to make a "corrective"
move toward its European allies and the Arabs, but that
it will under no circumstances renege on its promises
to Sharon (Israel Radio cited a similar statement by
sources at Israel's Embassy in Washington, which said
the U.S. Administration would make an announcement on
the issue). The radio also quoted U.S. Administration
officials in Washington as saying that Bush will
reaffirm the United States' adherence to the road map.
Israel Radio also quoted Secretary of State Colin
Powell as saying Tuesday, at a reception held at the
Israeli Embassy in Washington for Israel's Independence
Day that the final-status issues will be resolved
through negotiations between the parties. Powell said
that Sharon has provided the Palestinians a "new
opportunity by removing some settlements, but a new
opportunity that has to be met by other side by
bringing an end to terror and violence." The radio
quoted Powell as saying that Israel has no friend like
the U.S. The station notes that Powell, in an
interview with Reuters, said that Israel will leave
buildings in the Gaza Strip at the Palestinians'
disposal, rather than destroy them.

Ha'aretz and Yediot led with concerns in Sharon's
entourage that his plan will not pass at the Likud
referendum slated for May 2. Yediot quoted Sharon
associates as saying that Sharon told them the
referendum constituted a vote of confidence in him.
Ha'aretz quoted settler leaders as saying Tuesday that
senior Likud officials have told them that Sharon
actually plans to evacuate dozens of West Bank
settlements, rather than the four he has publicly
announced, but that he prefers to keep this secret
until after the referendum. All media reported that
Tuesday 60,000 to 70,000 protestors demonstrated in the
Gush Katif settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip against
the government's disengagement plan.
This morning, Israel Radio reported that a booby-
trapped Palestinian jeep, filled with hundreds of kg of
explosives, exploded near the Gaza Strip settlement of
Kfar Darom, wounding four IDF soldiers who were chasing
the vehicle. Hamas's military branch claimed
responsibility for the attempted attack on the
settlement. Leading media reported that two Hamas
militants and a 14-year-old Palestinian boy were killed
in separate incidents over the Independence Day
holiday. Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post also reported
that three Palestinians were killed when two of them
demanded that the third one surrender his explosives
belt.

Leading media cited Syrian media that last night Syrian
security forces clashed with a "terrorist band" in
Damascus, after explosions and gunshots were heard in a
neighborhood where foreign diplomats live and work.
One attacker was reported killed and another wounded,
according to AP. Among similar statements by Syrian
officials cited in the media, Israel Radio quoted the
Syrian Ambassador to the U.S. as saying that the attack
was carried out by Al Qaida.

Ha'aretz reported that the IDF will dig a trench
alongside a section of the Philadelphi Road, along the
border between Gaza and Egypt, as part of preparations
for Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The
trench will reportedly help prevent digging of arms
smuggling tunnels.

Israel Radio reported that this morning the Jerusalem
police arrested Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al
Quds University and co-sponsor of the People's Voice
initiative, for employing Palestinians illegally.

Yediot reported that reports that reached the Foreign
Ministry in recent days indicate that former U.S.
ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk could come back to
the country as special UN envoy to the Middle East,
replacing Terje Roed-Larsen. The newspaper quoted
diplomatic sources as saying that the only obstacle
that Indyk could face would be Arab opposition to the
move.

Leading media reported that President Moshe Katsav will
meet with Powell in one of the many diplomatic side
meetings that will take place on Wednesday and Thursday
during the anti-Semitism conference in Berlin, which is
organized by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Ha'aretz reported that
Sen. Hillary Clinton sent a letter to the World Jewish
Congress, which was meeting in Berlin Tuesday, pledging
to introduce in the U.S. Senate a proposal against anti-
Semitism.
Yediot reported that various diplomatic bodies have
informed the GOI that the International Court of
Justice in The Hague (ICJ) will render its opinion on
the security fence in June.

Yediot reported that Israel's income tax authorities
want to put an end to practices involving Israeli
employees of foreign embassies, who get cash salaries
that are not reported by their employers.

Several media quoted Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (the
President's brother) as saying Tuesday, at a reception
for Israel's Independence Day, that Jerusalem is the
eternal capital of Israel.

Ha'aretz reported that Anglican Bishop Abu Al Assal has
offered Mordechai Vanunu unlimited sanctuary at St.
George's Church in East Jerusalem.

Yediot reported on a controversy in Iraq: does the
country's new flag -- which was designed by an Iraqi
graphic artist -- bear a similarity to the Israeli
flag?

Ha'aretz cited the results of an Anti-Defamation League
(ADL) poll conducted in 10 European countries: only 31
percent of respondents say that Israel is an "open,
democratic country."

-----------------------------
1. April 27 Damascus Attack:
-----------------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote on
page one of independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "There
are apparently some new features on the map of terror
activity in the Middle East."

Senior Arab affairs commentator Smadar Perry wrote in
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Tuesday,
the terrorist leaders appear to have conveyed an
unequivocal message to intelligence agencies in
Damascus: 'Either you stop cooperating with the British
and Americans, or we will turn Syria into the next
battleground.'"

Block Quotes:
-------------
I. "Attack Shows Region's New Terror Reality"
Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote on
page one of independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (April
28): "The official Syrian statement saying terrorists
had carried out a series of attacks in Damascus against
the Iranian embassy, the British ambassador's house and
apparently a building belonging to the United Nations
was highly unusual. It was an admission of an
intelligence failure in a country that prides itself on
its complete control of what happens within its
territory. As it turns out, Syria's reputation for
maintaining iron-clad internal security exceeds
realities on the ground.... Syria's intelligence
officials now face a new challenge. Up to now, Syrian
intelligence has been ruthlessly efficient in campaigns
against domestic underground groups; but it is
apparently less organized for tackling terror activity
from outside its borders. There are apparently some
new features on the map of terror activity in the
Middle East. In Arab countries, terror targets are no
longer exclusively Western and UN diplomatic sites, and
terror groups now appear inclined to carry out strikes
in all Arab countries."

II. "Assad's Double Game"

Senior Arab affairs commentator Smadar Perry wrote in
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (April 28):
"The deliberately closed eyes of the security services
in Syria towards the waves of terrorists infiltrating
Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are intended to safeguard
Syria against terror attacks and the activity of
sleeper agents. However, Bashar Assad is playing a
double game. While Syria becomes a transit camp for
terrorists, he also discreetly conveys intelligence
information to the U.S. intelligence agencies regarding
some of the terrorists. Dozens of these have been
extradited from Syria to the U.S. since President Bush
threatened to include Syria in the 'axis of evil'....
Tuesday, the terrorist leaders appear to have conveyed
an unequivocal message to intelligence agencies in
Damascus: 'Either you stop cooperating with the British
and Americans, or we will turn Syria into the next
battleground.'"

------------
2. Mideast:
------------
Summary:
--------

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Those who favor disengagement -
- the maximum political act that Sharon is ready and
capable of advocating under the present conditions --
are ostensibly compelled to acquiesce in all the tricks
he is using in order to get a majority."

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the lead editorial of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Four days
before the [Likud] referendum, the opponents of
disengagement are enthusiastically mobilizing support
and showing initiative. The supporters -- except for a
few individuals -- are stammering or silent."

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized: "The Prime
Minister's unnecessary entanglement in the dialogue
with the U.S. concerning 'Arafat's elimination,' didn't
bring Ariel Sharon much credit."

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

I. "The Referendum Paradox"

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (April 28): "If [Sharon] does
push the plan through the Likud, it will be an
achievement that follows the personal success he scored
on his visit to Washington.... There is something of a
paradox here, because those who favor disengagement --
the maximum political act that Sharon is ready and
capable of advocating under the present conditions --
are ostensibly compelled to acquiesce in all the tricks
he is using in order to get a majority. They have to
comply mutely when he lures the opponents of the plan
by means of threats against Yasser Arafat; to cluck
with admiration when he complicates Jerusalem-
Washington relations and entangles Bush with a leak (or
a distortion) from their private conversation; and to
say, 'Wow, what a man,' when he reverses himself all
over the place. In short, they have to accept Sharon
as he is, with all the wiles and guiles of his
ploys.... In this manner Sharon has [similarly]
neutralized quite a bit of the criticism against him
from the center and even the left."
II. "In Favor But Actually Against"
Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the lead editorial of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (April 28):
"[Hard-line Likud] Ministers Netanyahu and Livnat
announced that they support the Prime Minister's
unilateral withdrawal plan. They explained their
decision by saying that the preliminary political
conditions they posed for supporting the withdrawal
were met to their satisfaction. However, when the
ministers were asked to play an active part in the
campaign to persuade the registered Likud members to
vote in favor of the withdrawal, they adamantly
refused.... What is the meaning of this refusal? It
has only one meaning: an implicit call -- a kind of
wink -- to the registered Likud members to refrain from
voting or to vote against.... The
withdrawal/disengagement plan is fateful for Israel's
future. A statesperson of stature cannot evade taking
a clear stance with regard to it. On such an issue,
one cannot -- from a conscience or political standpoint
-- vacillate.... One cannot zigzag, being in favor but
actually against. Four days before the referendum, the
opponents of disengagement are enthusiastically
mobilizing support and showing initiative. The
supporters -- except for a few individuals -- are
stammering or silent."

III. "The Likud Contest Enters Its Final Phase"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (April 28):
"The Prime Minister's unnecessary entanglement in the
dialogue with the U.S. concerning 'Arafat's
elimination,' didn't bring Ariel Sharon much credit.
Furthermore, it harmed Israel's diplomatic interests.
According to diplomatic sources, this was evidence of
the impetuosity of Mr. Sharon, who, out of over-
eagerness and propaganda activity around the Likud
referendum, talks carelessly and makes remarks that
cause harm to Israel."

--------------------------
3. Israel-Hizbullah Deal:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"Three months have passed since the first stage of the
prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah was carried
out.... But the second stage is stalled. No new
information about [MIA Ron] Arad has been released."

Block Quotes:
-------------
"The Doubts Get Deeper"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (April
28): "Three months have passed since the first stage of
the prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah was carried
out.... It is, perhaps, no accident that in the months
since the deal was carried out, Hizbullah's role in
planning and assisting attacks perpetrated by
Palestinian groups from the territories against targets
in Israel has intensified.... Three months have gone
by, but the second stage is stalled. No new
information about [MIA Ron] Arad has been released,
either because Hizbullah has been unable to secure such
data, or because it refuses to relay the information to
Israel."

-----------
4. Cyprus:
-----------

Summary:
--------


Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former Foreign Ministry director-general Shlomo Avineri
wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot:
"One could easily see how the UN and the EU -- which
are opposed to Israeli occupation and the settlements -
- were ready to betray their principles when it was
about Turkey."

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

"There Are No Easy Solutions in Cyprus, Either"

Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and
former Foreign Ministry director-general Shlomo Avineri
wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot
(April 8): "One could easily see how the UN and the EU
-- which are opposed to Israeli occupation and the
settlements -- were ready to betray their principles
when it was about Turkey. It is therefore no surprise
that Greek Cypriots viewed the Annan plan as a prize to
Turkey and the occupation.... In Cyprus -- and in our
region, too -- there are no easy solutions,
particularly if such solutions are initiated by foreign
elements. If there is no local political willingness,
there can be no solution to the conflict. What can be
done -- like in Cyprus 30 years ago -- is to shake off
the thought that the alternative to a solution actually
is war. There also is room for stabilizing the
situation, reducing violence, creating effective
barriers between the opposite sides to lessen friction
and conflicts. In the absence of solutions to
conflicts that are not ripe for resolution, one must
aspire to stabilizing them."

KURTZER

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