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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 002470

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:
--------------------------------

Sharon's Disengagement Plan

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

All media highlighted the Likud vote on PM Sharon's
disengagement plan, which will take place on Sunday at
polling places around the country. Maariv and Yediot
carried similar headlines: "The Fight of His [Sharon's]
Life." All media reported concerns that Israel will
suffer a blow in the U.S. if Sharon fails. The right-
wing Jewish-American group Zionist Organization of
America (ZOA) publishes a full-page paid ad in Yediot:
"The U.S. will continue to support Israel regardless of
the referendum's results." All media reported that
Sharon and his aides have launched a high-pressure
offensive to shore up collapsing support in the party.
Ha'aretz quoted senior Likud members as saying that
only FM Silvan Shalom, Education Minister Limor Livnat
and Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who only
recently proclaimed their support for the plan, can
save it. Leading media reported that Thursday Sharon
told his close associates in Likud not to waste time
thinking about the "day after" the referendum.
However, commentators say that he is aware of the
political consequences of a defeat. Some commentators
believe that a national referendum is now needed --
Maariv also quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as
voicing this opinion. Jerusalem Post notes that
Sharon's allies have already begun fighting with each
other amid polls predicting a setback:

Polls:
-A Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute) poll conducted last
night for Yediot finds that 47 percent of voters in the
referendum are opposed to the plan (same as Wednesday);
40.5 percent support it (40.5 percent on Wednesday):
-The Dialog Institute poll commissioned by Ha'aretz: 43
percent against the plan (40 percent on April 21); 36
percent for the plan (47 percent on April 21); 14
percent are undecided (13 percent on April 21).
-A Globes poll shows a 1 percent edge in favor of the
plan's opponents (46 to 45 percent).

Israel Radio reported that Quartet representatives (the
United States' A/S William Burns, the EU's Marc Otte,
the UN's Terje Roed-Larsen and a still unidentified
Russian representative) will meet today at the U.S.
Embassy in London to prepare a discussion on the
situation of the road map. The talks precede a meeting
in New York which AP says will be hosted by UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on May 4, and is expected

SIPDIS
to be attended by the EU's foreign policy chief Javier
Solana, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell.

Israel Radio reported that an audio tape purportedly
from suspected Al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
and broadcast on Al Arabiya-TV, said his group had
intended to attack Jordanian intelligence, but that it
denied the Jordanian government's accusation they
planned a chemical attack. Israel Radio quoted Al-
Zarqawi as saying that had Al Qaida possessed chemical
weapons, it would not have hesitated using them against
Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv or Eilat.

Leading media reported that Thursday the IDF admitted
accidentally killing Dr. Yasser Abu Laimum, a lecturer
in hospital management at the Arab-American University
of Jenin, over the weekend.

Leading media reported that Jewish leaders "won a major
victory" (Jerusalem Post) Thursday with the
announcement by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that Israel's actions do
not legitimize anti-Semitism. According to the Yediot
correspondent at the Berlin conference, pressure from
Muslim states resulted in the conference's final
declaration condemning attacks motivated by religious
hatred, without taking into account Muslim anti-
Semitism and the new anti-Semitism's anti-Zionist
character. Jerusalem Post and Hatzofe actually
highlighted a sentence in the declaration which bears a
different connotation: "Anti-Semitism, following its
most devastating manifestation during the Holocaust,
has assumed new forms and expressions, which along with
other forms of intolerance, pose a threat to democracy,
the values of civilization, and, therefore, to overall
security in the OSCE region and beyond."

Israel Radio reported that Thursday the Defense
Ministry and the U.S. Army successfully carried out a
test of the joint Nautilus laser weapon project.

Maariv cited an announcement by Casablanca Mayor
Mohamed Sajid that he will come to Tel Aviv in early
May to attend the proclamation by UNESCO of the
inclusion of Tel Aviv's Bauhaus buildings on its World
Heritage List.

Ha'aretz reported that International Technologies
Lasers (ITL), which is based in Rishon Lezion, has
developed a device that can remotely detect explosives,
drugs or other materials.

The media reported on the latest developments in Iraq
and on the questioning of President Bush and Vice
President Cheney by the September 11 commission.

----------------------------
Sharon's Disengagement Plan:
----------------------------
Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"Those who support peace cannot be partners in a
government that does not have the political power to
take a hesitant step in the direction of peace."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one
of popular, pluralist Maariv: "Anyone seeing Sharon
struggling with the settlers and their rabbis, their
religious rulings and their messianic fervor, has to
rub his eyes."

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
Maariv: "Sharon deserves this: for the security fence,
the erection of which he put off for so long; for the
important secondary role he played in toppling Abu
Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]; and for the corruption that has
spread like a cancer."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz:
"Sharon has made the mistake which tripped up the
greatest commanders in history -- underestimating the
enemy."

Former minister of foreign affairs and former minister
of defense Moshe Arens wrote in Ha'aretz: "Will
rejection of the [disengagement] plan by the Likud
membership cause a rift with the U.S.? Such a
suggestion completely underestimates the strength and
solidity of the U.S.-Israel relationship."

Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick wrote on
page one of conservative, independent Jerusalem Post:
"Sharon's plan differs from Oslo in that it overtly
calls for the destruction of Israeli communities.... In
spite of Sharon's statements to the contrary, those who
oppose the plan on its merits are not extremists. They
are merely people who have learned from the past."

Nationalist Hatzofe editorialized: "Let us hope ...
that a great majority of registered Likud voters will
say 'no' to Ariel Sharon."

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

I. "The Referendum as a Turning Point"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (April
30): "Three days before the Likud referendum, opinion
polls are showing an increasing erosion of support for
the plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and four
settlements in the northern West Bank.... Apparently
the settlers' entreaty and the ideological fixation
among many Likud members are counterbalanced by support
for their leader and the support that the President of
the United States granted Sharon's disengagement
plan.... In recent days, however, those close to Sharon
and the Prime Minister himself have started hinting
that a vote by Likud members against the plan is
equivalent to a vote of no confidence in the party
chairman.... Attaching important ramifications to the
disengagement initiative, in diplomatic, economic and
security terms, has caused the referendum to become a
critical test of the [government] coalition.... The
Israeli political landscape after the referendum cannot
be the same as it is now. Whatever the result, there
will be significant repercussions within the internal
power structure. Those who support the settlements
cannot be partners in a government that disengages from
the settlements. Those who support peace cannot be
partners in a government that does not have the
political power to take a hesitant step in the
direction of peace."

II. "Only in Israel"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote on page one
of popular, pluralist Maariv (April 30): "Up until now,
only leaders of the left wing had become accustomed to
such sights: appeals from the rabbis, a religious
ruling by the doyen of the mystics, Rabbi Ovadia
Yosef's Saturday night sermon, thousands of ultra-
Orthodox Jews at road junctions, flags, sandals, and
women with their hair covered, and The Land of Israel
for the Jewish People, and what is 'good for the Jews,'
and demonstrations, and shouting, and women being
dragged on the road, and threats. Yitzhak Rabin, until
he was murdered, got to know this from personal
experience. Shimon Peres knows it by heart. So does
Ehud Barak. And now the melody returns. You, the
composer, the originator and the first founder, Ariel
Sharon. You of all people, this time, the lonely,
battered man, facing this swelling tide almost alone,
helpless, not knowing how or why, who or how many, from
where it fell on you or where it is going. Anyone
seeing Sharon struggling with the settlers and their
rabbis, their religious rulings and their messianic
fervor, has to rub his eyes.... The Prime Minister is
in the middle of a maelstrom.... So what will he do?
He could ignore the referendum (the Americans have been
spreading hints to that effect in the past few days).
He could submit the disengagement plan to the
government and the Knesset. He could drop the plan
temporarily... He could try to initiate elections by
complex coalition maneuvers and other tricks. And most
important, he can draw the appropriate conclusions and
learn, by bitter experience, not to count his chickens
before they are hatched."
III. "The Day After"

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
Maariv (April 30): "What kind of prime minister will
Ariel Sharon be if he wakes up in 72 hours to a dawn of
defeat in the Likud members' referendum on his
disengagement plan?.... Sharon deserves this: for the
security fence, the erection of which he put off for so
long; for the important secondary role he played in
toppling Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]; and for the
corruption that has spread like a cancer.... Sharon
knows that were he to lose, he would have to resign. So
would Ehud Olmert, as well as Defense Ministry Shaul
Mofaz, who enlisted with such public valor in the
campaign for disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
Indeed, Mofaz won't be able to continue sending
soldiers to [the isolated Gaza Strip settlement of]
Netzarim and justify to the ears of bereaved parents
the killing of their sons in Kfar Darom.... 'No' to
disengagement constitutes a domestic disaster. It is a
step toward a rift in the country that could bring mass
legitimacy to refusal to serve in the IDF. Those who
oppose [the plan] state in their propaganda: 'If you
vote in favor, you get (Shimon) Peres.' They must be
warned: 'If you oppose the plan, you get apartheid.'
Israel will be isolated and forlorn for years, a leper
in an anti-Semitic world that is yearning for this."

IV. "Last Call For Mr. Comeback"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz
(April 30): "It's hard to believe our eyes with the
polls on the Likud referendum. Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, the man who beat the Egyptians and locked up
Yasser Arafat, who twice won elections and became the
darling of the U.S. Administration, who stood steadfast
in the face of terror attacks, crises and police
interrogations, is about to lose out to Uzi Landau, the
minister he sat at the far end of the cabinet table.
The polls predict a defeat but Sharon, it must be
remembered, is Mr. Comeback.... [Still], Sharon has
made the mistake which tripped up the greatest
commanders in history -- underestimating the enemy....
Sharon's close aides are still hoping for a last-minute
win, if only with a tiny majority.... But even then it
is clear that Sharon's leadership has suffered a
painful blow, while Landau, who insisted on fighting
him to the finish, will now have to be upgraded in the
Likud ranks."

V. "Tempest in a Tea Cup"

Former minister of foreign affairs and former minister
of defense Moshe Arens wrote in Ha'aretz (April 30):
"Will rejection of the [disengagement] plan by the
Likud membership cause a rift with the U.S.? Such a
suggestion completely underestimates the strength and
solidity of the U.S.-Israel relationship -- a
relationship based on common ideals, common values and
common interests. Under no circumstances, and
certainly not when facing a tough election, would the
President of the U.S. be looking for a quarrel with
Israel. Nor is the government likely to fall. The
present government is the most stable government that
Israel has had in a long time.... So Likudniks can go
to the polls on May 2, unencumbered by irrelevant
considerations, considering only the central question:
is a unilateral withdrawal likely to encourage
Palestinian terrorists? The answer seems obvious."

VI. "Foreseeable Consequences"

Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick wrote on
page one of conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
(April 30): "What the last 42 months of Palestinian
terror have shown is that regardless of the
provocation, Israel will never garner international
support for offensives against Palestinian terrorism.
Sharon has promised that after the withdrawal, Israel
will be able to sit in its truncated form for years.
Yet this cannot be true. Arafat will continue causing
chaos to prevent that from happening. As Arafat's
foreign minister [sic] Farouk Kaddoumi said this week:
'Let the Gaza Strip be South Vietnam. We will use all
available methods to liberate North Vietnam'....
Sharon's plan differs from Oslo in that it overtly
calls for the destruction of Israeli communities. In
so doing, it poses a danger to the vitality of Israeli
society as a whole.... If a majority of Likud voters
reject Sharon's plan, they will be working to save
Israel from disaster. In spite of Sharon's statements
to the contrary, those who oppose the plan on its
merits are not extremists. They are merely people who
have learned from the past."

VII. "Likud Majority Says 'No to Sharon'"

Nationalist Hatzofe editorialized (April 30): "Sharon
is endeavoring to present a picture according to which
President Bush is standing by his policy, as it were.
Among other things, he offers remarks by the President
of the U.S. that some of Bush's pronouncements will be
brought to Congress for approval, turning them into
[commitments] binding the [U.S.] Administration,
regardless of who heads it.... One can only regret the
fact that the Prime Minister, who only a year ago sided
with the settlers, suddenly changed his mind and has
now, for some reason, adopted the PLO's policy, acting
to evacuate the Gaza Strip and parts of Judea and
Samaria [the West Bank]. Let us hope that the results
of the referendum, which is predicted to bring a
majority to the opponents of the evacuation of settlers
from the Strip, will find their expression in Sunday's
vote, and that a great majority of registered Likud
voters will say 'no' to Ariel Sharon."
KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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