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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 006036

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

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

Jerusalem Post quoted officials in Washington as saying
that Deputy U.S. National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
will travel to Israel on Sunday for a day of meetings
with Israeli and Palestinian officials. The newspaper
says that Elliott Abrams, Special Assistant to the
President and Senior Director of the National Security
Council for Near East and North African Affairs, will
accompany Hadley on the Israel leg of the trip, which
will also include stops in Brussels and Bahrain. This
morning, Jerusalem Post's web site cited a White House
official as saying that the White House late Tuesday
scrapped plans for Hadley's visit to Israel and the
Palestinian areas, because of scheduling conflicts.
The newspaper also quoted a U.S. official in Washington
as saying that former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait Richard
Jones is among people being considered for the job of
next ambassador to Israel.

Maariv revealed that in secret contacts between Israel
and Syria one year ago, Syrian President Bashar Assad
had agreed to come to Jerusalem and speak to the
Knesset, setting no preconditions, but that PM Sharon
ignored his offer. Ha'aretz, Maariv and Israel Radio
reported that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's
spokesman Majed Abed Fatah took back a statement he had
made about Syria giving up commitments made by the late
PM Yitzhak Rabin. The spokesman said that the matter
was not raised during Mubarak's meeting with Assad in
Sharm el-Sheikh Tuesday. Ha'aretz and Yediot also
reported that Walid Mualem, aide to the Syrian FM,
denied Abed Fatah's earlier statement. Leading media
quoted UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen as saying
in a rare appearance before the Knesset's Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that Israel
should immediately call Assad's "bluff." Yediot
reported that PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is
expected to tell Assad at their upcoming meeting in
Damascus that the Palestinians could curb terrorist
attacks in Israel, were it not for the activity
originating from Damascus.

Leading media reported that Shinui is expected to vote
against the 2005 budget and leave the government today.
The media cited an announcement by the Shas party that
it is prepared to support the budget in exchange for a
change in the order of priorities in it. Most
commentators believe that the coalition will not garner
a Knesset majority for the budget today. Yediot writes
that Sharon will contact Labor Party Chairman Shimon
Peres today in order to bring Labor into the
government, in which Labor is not expected to receive
key portfolios. Yediot cited hopes in the Likud that
Sharon could form a broad-based coalition with Shas and
United Torah Judaism, which would count 70 Knesset
members.
All media reported that former PM Ehud Barak "stole the
microphone and the show" (in Jerusalem Post's words) at
the Labor Party's Central Committee meeting in Tel Aviv
last night. Speaking on Israel Radio this morning,
Peres was very critical of Barak. The media reported
that the Labor Party's Central Committee postponed
until December 12 a scheduled date for the party's
leadership primary, thereby giving time for the current
leadership to try to negotiate Labor's entry into the
government. The postponement was a defeat for Barak,
who has been pushing, along with eight Labor Knesset
members, to advance the primary to April 12.

Ha'aretz and other media reported that Israel has
accepted Egypt's offer to beef up its forces on the
border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, deploying 750
troops in the area, and to train Palestinian officers.
The media say that Israel will advise Egyptian FM Ahmed
Abu el-Gheit and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who
are due in Jerusalem today, of its decision. Jerusalem
Post says that the talks will focus on the issue of
arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip. Ha'aretz reported
that Sharon told a delegation of American senators
Tuesday that he would discuss with the Egyptian
ministers "how Egypt is enlisting to reinstate
stability in Gaza and to promote Israel's security
coordination with the Palestinians."

Israel Radio reported that the U.S. Administration
intends to transfer USD 20 million to the PA to cover
the Authority's debts to Israeli companies.

Jerusalem Post quoted Palestinian FM Nabil Shaath as
saying Tuesday in The Hague that Israel must reopen the
voter registration offices it closed in East Jerusalem
several months ago to ensure a free PA election. The
newspaper quoted him as characterizing his meeting with
FM Silvan Shalom as positive, adding that he and his
Israeli counterpart stuck with general statements and
did not go into specific details.

All media reported that Tuesday, overturning a previous
ruling, the High Court of Justice found Shimon Sheves,
former D-G of the Prime Minister's Office under Rabin,
guilty of fraud and breach of trust. Sheves had been
associated with American consultants James Carville
Carville, Bob Shrum and Stan Greenberg, who worked for
U.S. president Bill Clinton and vice-president Al Gore.
Sheves was also a consultant for Romania's Social
Democratic Party (PSD).

Ha'aretz reported that PA geographers working in the
Palestinian Planning Ministry and Negotiation Support
Unit have concluded that the map of alternate roads and
passages for Palestinians only, which Israel has asked
the donor countries to the Palestinians to finance,
shows that Israel intends to strengthen its hold on
most of the West Bank and leave the settlements intact.

Ha'aretz reported that Tuesday a Palestinian man
photographed playing his violin at the Beit Iba
checkpoint near Nablus in the West Bank earlier this
month rejected claims by the IDF that he played of his
own accord.

Jerusalem Post and other media reported that the Judea
[southern West Bank] Military Court sentenced Abdullah
Barghouti, a senior Hamas member and master bomb maker
dubbed "the mechanic," to 67 consecutive life sentences
for preparing the bombs used in a string of suicide
bombings in 2001 and 2002.

Jerusalem Post quoted visiting Estonian PM Juhan Parts
as saying that the EU should behave "more reasonably"
in regards to UN resolutions on Israel.

Maariv lengthily interviewed Michael (Mike) Scheuer,
who was the "head of the bin Laden unit in the CIA."
Scheuer warns that support for Israel endangers
America's security, and says that Israelis forget that
the U.S. has a long history of abandoning allies when
the price of those connections becomes too heavy.

Yediot reported that following heavy pressure by senior
U.S. officials, Sharon recently appointed a team, to be
headed by Prime Minister's Office D-G Ilan Cohen, that
will check whether Israeli tenders and standards laws
cab be modified so that American companies can compete
in tenders and projects. The newspaper says the U.S.
is "very worried" by the continuing negative trade
deficit with Israel: in 2003, Israeli exports to the
U.S. amounted to USD 14 billion, while Israeli imports
from the U.S. amounted to USD 6.5 billion -- a USD 7.5-
billion gap. Yediot quoted Ambassador Dan Kurtzer as
saying: "We are funding Israel's trade with Europe and
we really dislike this. You are selling to the U.S.,
but buying in Europe. Israel needs to create fairer
rules of the game vis-a-vis American firms."

Ha'aretz quoted Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO) as saying in
Jerusalem Tuesday that America's Orthodox Jewish
community has begun a long-term "love affair" with the
Republican Party.
Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post reported that Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge has presented his
resignation to President Bush.
Jerusalem Post printed the full eulogy by Secretary
Powell of the former U.S. diplomat Joseph Sisco.

A Yediot/Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute) poll found that:
-65 percent of Israelis favor a new government; 33
percent favor a Likud-Shinui-Labor coalition; 17
percent favor a Labor-supported minority government; 15
percent favor a government composed of Likud, Labor and
the ultra-Orthodox parties; 27 percent prefer early
elections; 8 percent are undecided.
-If elections were held today, Israelis would vote for:
Likud: 42 Knesset seats (40 in the current Knesset);
Labor Party: 23 seats (22); Shinui: 10 seats (15);
Shas: 9 seats (11); National Union: 9 seats (7); Arab
parties: 8 seats (8); Yahad: 5 seats (6); United Torah
Judaism: 5 seats (5); and the National Religious Party:
4 seats (6).

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

Summary:
--------

Palestinian affairs correspondent and far-left
Palestinian sympathizer Amira Hass opined in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The question is
how the decision of the Palestinian cabinet, which even
obligates the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID), might serve ... against the Israeli policy of
carving the Palestinian territory into enclaves and
mutilating the two-state solution."

Nationalist writer Emuna Elon commented in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The Right
wants elections because it wants to return Yossi Beilin
and the Geneva Accord to their natural place."

Columnist Shaul Schiff wrote in nationalist, Orthodox
Hatzofe: "The shrewd Abu Mazen intends to knock down to
the ground all of Ariel Sharon's dreams, which are the
basis for his disengagement plan."

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

I. "A Surprising Decision by the PA Cabinet"

Palestinian affairs correspondent and far-left
Palestinian sympathizer Amira Hass opined in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (December 1):
"Despite the short-term logic in accepting the [Israel-
engineered] passages plan -- it would enable relatively
free Palestinian movement in the West Bank after years
of destructive internal closure -- the [Palestinian]
cabinet decided to reject it completely. In this way,
it signaled to the donor countries not to agree to
finance the passages nor any other road without the
approval of a special Palestinian inter-ministerial
committee. That is, the cabinet did not only protest
verbally, but also adopted a practical measure. This
is surprising because since 1994, the PA has acted as
if it is incapable of doing a thing to counter the
Israeli policy of creating Palestinian enclaves in the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip.... The Palestinian
Authority, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, acted
as if it were a matter of force majeure, a
deterministic process that no diplomatic or popular
struggle could counter.... The question is how the
decision of the Palestinian cabinet, which even
obligates the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID), might serve as leverage for a popular struggle
-- Palestinian, Israeli and international -- against
the Israeli policy of carving the Palestinian territory
into enclaves and mutilating the two-state solution."

II. "Who's Afraid of Moving Up the Elections?"

Nationalist writer Emuna Elon commented in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (December 1):
"Those greedy for 'disengagement' try to disparage the
Right for wanting to move up the elections, which would
delay the evacuation of settlements by at least six
months. So what? Why does the Left oppose moving up
the elections, if not in order to accelerate the
uprooting? Yes, the Right wants elections because it
wants to stop the pullout, to save the settlements, and
to prevent a catastrophe. The Right wants elections
because it wants to return Yossi Beilin and the Geneva
Accord to their natural place, to take away from the
Labor Party the mandates Likud -- and not Labor -- won,
and to let the Israeli people decided -- not in public
opinion polls but in elections -- for or against a move
which is one of the most crucial of those ever planned
by an Israeli government.... Will Sharon please go to
the people with his disengagement and let's see what
happens."


III. "What Has Abu Mazen Promised Barghouti?"

Columnist Shaul Schiff wrote in nationalist, Orthodox
Hatzofe (December 1): "Abu Mazen, the West's darling,
explains in all his private meetings that in order to
obtain quiet in the Palestinian street, he need
[Marwan] Barghouti's release. There no doubt is
someone on the Israeli side who has promised it.... The
shrewd Abu Mazen intends to knock down to the ground
all of Ariel Sharon's dreams, which are the basis for
his disengagement plan. Guided by Hosni Mubarak, Abu
Mazen has already told the outgoing U.S. Secretary of
State and senior European representatives that he is
unhappy about the idea of an interim agreement. Backed
by Mubarak, Abu Mazen strives to achieve a permanent-
status agreement -- immediately after the elections for
PA chairmanship. Any permanent-status move serves the
interests of the PA; since the entire leadership of the
West is asking for the '67 borders with slight
amendments, at the United States' behest, a harsh
confrontation is expected between Ariel Sharon and
those Western leaders. It will be interesting to see
how [Sharon] will steer the course between his
deceptive visions and the pressure that will be applied
on him."

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

Summary:
--------

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Iran is not the
isolated country the U.S. wanted it to be when it
imposed sanctions on it.... It is a regime that is not
happy with the existence of Israel and would like to
see it disappear, but not at the price of its own
disappearance."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"Through its nuclear program, Iran's mullocracy has
managed to almost completely divert attention from its
aggression and repression, the two attributes that were
supposed to have made it an endangered species in the
post-9/11 world."

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

I. "The Charm of the Iranian Threat"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (December 1): "Iran
is not Iraq of 2003. It is a state where most of the
population is not happy with its economic
circumstances, but not necessarily opposed to the
governmental regime. Reformists are no less
nationalistic than the conservatives.... And can anyone
say which country is crazier: Iran or Pakistan, which
has nuclear weapons, India, which threatens Pakistan
with the use of its nuclear weapons -- and is now
conducting talks with it -- or maybe North Korea, with
whom the United States is ready to negotiate? It is
also possible to ask, before Israel or the U.S. uses
the ultimate weapon against Iran, why it is impossible
[for instance] to pressure China to cancel its USD 100-
billion gas deal with Iran?.... Even more interesting
is that Iran has not minded for years doing business
with friends of Israel. It even is begging for the
renewal of diplomatic relations with Egypt, relations
that Iran cut off in the wake of the Camp David
accords. Iran is not the isolated country the U.S.
wanted it to be when it imposed sanctions on it. It
enjoys close ties with most of the countries of the
world, and the ayatollahs' regime is not made up of
suicide bombers. It is a regime that is not happy with
the existence of Israel and would like to see it
disappear, but not at the price of its own
disappearance."

II. "Safe For Mullocracy"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(December 1): "What, after all, is the purpose of
nuclear weapons for a regime like Iran? Some seem to
assume Iran is a rational actor and therefore rule out
various doomsday scenarios, such as it attacking Israel
or providing terrorists with a nuclear weapon. We see
no reason to make such assumptions. Yet even if those
scenarios are taken off the table, Iran is already
accomplishing two other critical objectives: providing
an umbrella for its support of terrorism and for its
own repressive regime. The Associated Press reported
this week that 300 men gathered openly in Teheran, in
the presence of a government official, to sign up to
become suicide bombers, either against Israelis or
Americans..... Iran is the world's most open and
enthusiastic state sponsor of terrorism. Its regime,
much like that of the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union, is
aggressive, hated at home and ideologically bankrupt.
Yet, through its nuclear program, Iran's mullocracy has
managed to almost completely divert attention from its
aggression and repression, the two attributes that were
supposed to have made it an endangered species in the
post-9/11 world..... Any deal that makes the world
safer for Iran's mullahs makes it a lot less safe for
the rest of us."

CRETZ

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