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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 002436

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. Syria

3. Iraq

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

Yediot and Jerusalem Post reported that PM Sharon will
travel to Washington to attend the AIPAC (Jewish lobby)
convention, which will open on May 15. Yediot reported
that the Israeli Embassy has received instructions to
coordinate a meeting between Sharon and Democratic
presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

U.S. National Security Council Spokesman Sean McCormack
told Israel Radio Washington correspondent Yaron Dekel:
"The President stands by his commitment he made to
Prime Minister Sharon when he was standing next to him,
and by his letter to Sharon. All his commitments are
100 percent followed and we're in no way, shape or form
backing away from this commitment." McCormack refused
to comment on the consequences of a possible rejection
of the plan by Likud voters. Yediot cited similar
remarks by McCormack. Israel Radio reported that
members of the GOI welcomed the remarks from the White
House. The radio quoted Israel's Ambassador to the
U.S. Danny Ayalon as saying that rejection of the plan
would be a slap in the face of President Bush. Yediot
reported that Wednesday Sharon received a report from
Ayalon about an initiative taking shape in Congress to
express sweeping support for Bush's letter to Sharon
and the principles it contains. Israel Radio quoted UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan as saying that he will

SIPDIS
recommend that the Quartet give the UN a key role in
the disengagement, like during Israel's withdrawal from
Lebanon.

Both Yediot and Maariv led with polls showing a
reversal in the voting trend of Likud members who will
voice their opinion on Sharon's disengagement plan
Sunday:
-Yediot's Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute) poll found that
47 percent of Likud voters are opposed to the plan; 39
percent support it.
-The results of Maariv's Teleseker poll: 45 percent are
opposed to the plan; 42 percent support it; 13 percent
are undecided.

In interviews with Israel Radio and IDF Radio (as the
latter is widely cited by other leading media), Sharon
said that all those who support him must vote for his
plan. He was quoted as saying that if his plan were
defeated in the Likud referendum, it would be a victory
for PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and Hamas, worsen
Israel's relations with the U.S. and bring about the
fall of the Likud -- "that is the extreme right's plan"
(Sharon to IDF Radio). He added: "It is inconceivable
that an outside group [Sharon to Maariv: a "minority"]
should lead the Likud." Ha'aretz cited the concerns of
the plan's supporters that their PR campaign had
failed. Leading media reported that Justice Minister
and Shinui party leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid sent Sharon
a letter -- coordinated with Sharon's office --
demanding that he bring the plan to the cabinet and
Knesset for approval even if it fails to pass the
referendum.

Israel Radio reported that the State Department issued
a travel warning for Israel, following the
assassination of the two Hamas leaders.

Ha'aretz reported that Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL),
inspired by the most senior ranks in the Vatican, is
calling on the Bush administration to stop construction
of the southern part of the security fence, which could
badly affect Christian holy sites in the Holy Land.

Ha'aretz reported that the special Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on
anti-Semitism, which is being held in Berlin, is
expected to recognize the claim that the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict is serving as a cover for
worldwide anti-Semitic sentiment and expression.
Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post quoted Secretary of State
Colin Powell as saying at the conference: "It is not
anti-Semitic to criticize Israel, but the line is
crossed when Israel or its leaders are demonized or
villainized, for example, by the use of Nazi symbols
and racist caricatures." Jerusalem Post quoted Nobel
Peace Prizewinner Elie Wiesel as saying at the meeting
that a true dialogue about anti-Semitism in the 21st
Century must include Muslims as well as Christians and
Jews.

Ha'aretz and other media quoted International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) sources as confirming that the
agency's D-G, Mohammed ElBaradei, will visit Israel in
July. Ha'aretz cited the doubts of Israeli sources
that he will be allowed to tour the nuclear reactor in
Dimona.

Ha'aretz reported that Wednesday in Cairo the members
of the Israeli Arab delegation to the special Arab
League meeting on the situation of Israeli Arabs met
with the league' Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, who
urged Israeli Arabs to continue supporting the
"Palestinian struggle against the occupation. Moussa
reportedly criticized the "unrestricted U.S. support
for Israel." Moussa was quoted as saying: "In fact,
the U.S. and Israel have one policy vis-a-vis the
Palestinians. This is detrimental to the peace
process."
Maariv quoted the beliefs of senior Israeli defense
sources that Tuesday's bombings in Damascus were
carried out by Al Qaida. The newspaper also quoted the
beliefs of two unnamed U.S. Congressmen that Syrian
intelligence planned and carried out the attacks.
Jerusalem Post reported hat Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), a
chief sponsor of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese
Sovereignty Restoration Act, threatened on Wednesday to
develop new legislation that would not give the White
House discretion on the issue unless Bush implements it
soon and punishes Damascus.

Jerusalem Post reported that the Justice Ministry
issued a sharp response Wednesday night but did not
entirely deny a Channel 2-TV report stating that a
special committee appointed by A-G Menachem Mazuz to
help decided the "Greek island affair" had concluded
there was insufficient evidence to indict Sharon.

All major media reported that Libyan leader Muammar
Qadhafi's son, Saadi, has invited the Israeli chess
team to participate in the World Chess Championships in
Tripoli from June 18 until July 13.

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported that a confrontation
between Holocaust survivors and representatives of
Jewish organizations is expected to take place today at
a hearing in a federal court in Brooklyn on how to
divide reparation money from Swiss banks.

Hatzofe quoted former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit as
saying in a speech in a synagogue on the eve of
Independence Day that Israel should view the PA-
controlled territories, Jordan and Sinai as Israel's
"strategic backdrop."

Leading media reported that Al Quds University
President Sari Nusseibeh, who was arrested Wednesday
for employing Palestinians without proper entry
permits, was later released on bail.

Yediot reported that for the first time the IDF will
provide its colonels with American cars -- Chevrolet
Opteras which, however, the newspaper notes are made in
South Korea and are considered basic cars. Yediot
recalls that the U.S. had harshly criticized the
Defense Ministry for choosing Japanese and European
cars for its officers, despite the generous aid Israel
is getting from the U.S.

Hatzofe reported that the Secretariat of the
Palestinian "Popular Boycotting Committee of Israeli
Products" has asked the American company Caterpillar to
stop selling vehicles and equipment to Israel. The
group says that the company's products are used in
destroying Palestinian homes.

Yediot detailed the possible implications to Israelis
of the USD's current rise in world money markets.

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

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "If [Sharon] fails
with the Likud members, this would put Bush in a very
embarrassing light.... The American response would be
in kind."

Liberal columnist Yael Paz-Melamed wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: "I ... believed that Israel needed to
shoulder the bulk of the burden [of peacemaking] in
being forthcoming.... [But] it is incumbent upon the
Israeli left wing to support [Arafat's] disappearance
from the political map, even if that requires his
assassination."

Nationalist writer Uri Dan, a close associate of Prime
Minister Sharon, opined in Maariv: "By a historical
twist of fate, both the American and the Israeli
peoples found themselves governed by leaders talking to
terrorists in an identical language -- the only one
they understand: force."

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

I. "After the Likud Referendum"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (April 29): "Given
the present state of trans-Atlantic tension and the
Iraq imbroglio, the Americans will have to accommodate
Sharon's critics, within the political limitations of a
presidential election year. Jerusalem believes that the
[U.S.] Administration will not retract its declarations
on borders and refugees. According to the positive
scenario, the Americans will make do with underscoring
the 'positive' fundamentals of the Bush letter to
Sharon, such as a Palestinian state and an agreed-upon
solution. In the worst-case scenario for Israel, they
will add declarations that would meet Palestinian
demands, such as exchange of territories.
However, Sharon must get through the referendum first.
If he fails with the Likud members, this would put Bush
in a very embarrassing light, in that he would be seen
as having risked his prestige and thrown his support
behind an empty promise. The American response would
be in kind."

II. "Yes, Assassinate Arafat"

Liberal columnist Yael Paz-Melamed wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (April 29): "An elderly, inarticulate
man whose level of corruption could make him enter the
Guinness Book of World Records ... is a man whose bad
influence is inimical to the lives of millions of
people both in Israel and in Palestine. His name is
Yasser Arafat. He is the man with nine lives, who is
directly and indirectly responsible for the death of
thousands of people, Israelis and Palestinians.... He
is the man who, if he is not removed from here -- be it
by banishment or by assassination -- the reciprocal
bloodletting will continue... It is not with a light
heart that I write this here. Like everyone else who
believes that there is no forceful solution to the
conflict, and that the only victory that is at all
plausible is the removal of settlements and the
establishment of a Palestinian state, I too believed
that Israel needed to shoulder the bulk of the burden
in being forthcoming.... Oslo was the beginning of the
road, then came Camp David and Taba, and now
disengagement. Public opinion in Israel has begun to
change; the public has begun to understand and to
reconcile itself with the fact that only a political
solution will produce the quiet we all seek. But on
the other side the very same anti-hero, like the
phoenix, always stands.... At Camp David his deceit was
fully exposed.... It is incumbent upon the Israeli left
wing to support his disappearance from the political
map, even if that requires his assassination. The
immorality of that action is negligible when compared
to the immorality of the continued occupation, which
cannot end as long as he is the 'Rais' and his word is
policy."

III. "The Terror's Goal is to Overthrow Sharon"

Nationalist writer Uri Dan, a close associate of Prime
Minister Sharon, opined in Maariv (April 29): "Apart
from their friendship, President George Bush and Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon have something else in common:
the hate of radical Muslims and other Arab elements for
them. Those elements want to see them defeated as soon
as possible. In that sense, the Spanish syndrome that
was the consequence of the Madrid massacre can only
encourage them.... By a historical twist of fate, both
the American and the Israeli peoples found themselves
governed by leaders talking to terrorists in an
identical language -- the only one they understand:
force.... Islamic-Palestinian terror was surprised by
the efficiency of Bush and Sharon's war, each of them
in his own domain.... As the U.S. elections are getting
closer, those elements will intensify their efforts to
bring down Bush, even as they are trying to overthrow
Sharon. The 'Islamic revolution' and its leaders
believe that the clock of the 'rotten democracies' is
working in their favor."

----------
2. Syria:
----------

Summary:
--------

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized: " The
coalition states should not get excited over
fabrications coming out of Damascus. The earlier they
attack Syria and overthrow its regime, the better it
will be for the Americans and the new government in
Iraq."

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

"The Enigma of Syria's Explosions"


Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (April 29):
"A series of explosions shook Damascus's embassy area
on Tuesday. In a short time the Syrian security forces
controlled the situation, and the assessed damage was
rather small.... Since we are talking about a
dictatorship, it would be hard to trust those
reports.... How is it possible that no Western embassy
was harmed? How could the Syrian security services,
which know every single hair on the heads of their
citizens, not have known about Al-Qaida's weapons
chances and organizing in Syria? Is it believable that
Al Qaida is interested in implicating Syria with the
West whereas it is a terrorist state that has
absolutely no reservations about Al-Qaida
activities?.... Syria is a terrorist state, which
sponsors terrorism, including providing human resources
to Al Qaida and support to Hizbullah. The coalition
states should not get excited over fabrications coming
out of Damascus. The earlier they attack Syria and
overthrow its regime, the better it will be for the
Americans and the new government in Iraq."

---------
3. Iraq:
---------
Summary:
--------

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "On the eve of
a democratic experiment ... [Iraq] has gone through a
small, almost unbelievable miracle."

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

"Iraq's Small Miracle"

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (April 29): "In
Iraq, the Americans are conducting an all-out war
against radicalism, tribalism and conservatism -- a war
that is likely to be conducted for many more years
before if brings forth fruits. But they can already
count some achievements. For instance, the
unemployment rate, which was 60 percent last year, has
dropped to 25 percent.... The hope that Iraqi oil could
fund the [country's] reconstruction looks real. Thus,
a race has been created between the will to reconstruct
and develop, and that to destroy and lead the country
into a civil war.... On the eve of a democratic
experiment, which is in effect impossible within Iraq's
current structure -- a lot of blood will be spilled
over this -- that country has gone through a small,
almost unbelievable miracle. Time will tell how long
this miracle will hold, and whether it will represent a
miracle for the entire Middle East."

KURTZER

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