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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 06 TEL AVIV 006088

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. Syrian-Lebanese Track

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

All media, except Yediot and Maariv, led with PM
Sharon's efforts to form a new coalition. Leading
media reported that Sharon intends to ask Labor Party
Chairman Shimon Peres to run the country with him in a
new "super-deputy partnership," that would grant Peres
vast powers, far beyond those enjoyed by any No. 2 in
the past. Ha'aretz quoted senior Likud and Labor Party
sources as saying that Sharon and Peres have agreed in
principle that if a national unity government is
formed, it will last until November 2006 -- when
elections are scheduled to be held. The media cited
Sharon's portrayal of past cooperation between Likud
and Labor, and between their predecessor movements.
Ha'aretz quoted Peres as saying Thursday that the year
2005 must be devoted to advancing the diplomatic
process with the Palestinians and not wasted on
elections and internal party squabbling.

Maariv quoted National Security Advisor and secretary
of state-designate Condoleezza Rice as saying this week
in a private meeting that the U.S. will increase its
involvement in the Middle East, placing an emphasis on
the PA election, and that the U.S. will not accept
nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran.

Yediot bannered Hamas's mulling over the cessation of
attacks against Israel -- a development also reported
on by other media. Hatzofe cited a document seized
from the Palestinians in Gaza in 2002, which contains
the protocol of a secret meeting between Alistair
Crook, who was security advisor to then EU envoy to the
Middle East Miguel Angel Moratinos, with a Hamas
delegation headed by the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Maariv led with Sharon's declaration at the PM's
traditional annual meeting with media editors in Tel
Aviv Thursday that Syria will find in Israel a partner
for peace if it serious, and that he is prepared to
meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad under "certain
conditions." All media cited the response of Syrian FM
Farouk Shara that Syria is prepared to resume talks
with Israel, but without preconditions. Israel Radio
quoted State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher as
saying Thursday that the U.S. has always supported the
idea of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, a
notion that Secretary Powell reiterated most recently
in his meetings with Shara when they met in Sharm el-
Sheikh. Boucher added: "We have always believed that
direct contacts between the parties are very important
to this process, and so we would encourage any direct
contacts that the parties feel it's appropriate to have
in order to make progress on comprehensive peace. "

All media quoted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as
saying Thursday that only Sharon can lead to peace.
Ha'aretz reported that Thursday Sharon's bureau played
down an announcement from Mubarak on the immediate
release of six students from Cairo charged with
allegedly planning a terror attack. Writing that the
students might be released, Yediot quoted diplomatic
sources as saying that the improvement of the
atmosphere between the two countries could advance the
release of Azzam Azzam, an Israeli Druze who was
convinced of espionage and imprisoned in Egypt.

Ha'aretz reported that Industry and Trade Minister
Yossi Olmert "did something Thursday that few
politicians have dared to do": he declared publicly
"that with all due respect to the U.S. Administration,
there is a limit to how much Israel will bend to
maintain the illusion of good relations." Olmert stood
up for the interests of the Israeli pharmaceutical
manufacturer Teva and other generic drug makers, as the
U.S. insisted on protecting the interests of American
companies that develop drugs from scratch -- known as
ethical drugs -- and want to delay as much as possible
Teva's development of copycat (generic) versions.
Although Ha'aretz writer Ora Coren recognized that the
ethical drug companies have a justified claim, she
sided with Olmert's approach, which she dubbed "an
attempt to balance the Israeli drug industry's patent
protection interests with those of patients and the
state budget."

All media quoted Sharon as saying Thursday that Tanzim
leader Marwan Barghouti will remain in jail even if the
is elected as Yasser Arafat's successor to head the PA.

Leading media quoted Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.
Gen. Dan Halutz as saying Thursday that had the IDF
known that assassinating Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in
July 2002 would lead to the death of innocent
Palestinians, the operation would not have been
approved. Halutz, then commander of the IAF, also
explained that his statement at the time that he "slept
well at night" was intended to back his subordinates in
the IAF.

Israel Radio reported that this morning mortar shells
were launched at two Gaza Strip settlements. The
station also reported that today south of Jenin IDF
troops killed Mahmoud Kmel, a senior Islamic Jihad
activist.
Yediot (Alex Fishman) reported that, contrary to the
impression that the evacuation from the northernmost
part of the West Bank will be a minor operation, Israel
is examining a plan in which the West Bank would be
split in two, and Samaria (the northern West Bank)
"closed in like a box." In northern Samaria, the PA
would control an area two-and-a-half times the size of
that evacuated by Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Israel Radio quoted Palestinian sources a saying that
IDF soldiers at roadblock in the Gaza Strip had
prevented a Palestinian delegation including Acting PA
Chairman Rawhi Fattuh, PA Social Affairs Minister
Intisar Al-Wazir, and Yasser Arafat's sister Hadija,
from attending the funeral of Arafat's brother Fathi,
who died of cancer in Egypt on Wednesday. Israel Radio
reported that an Israeli military source denied to AFP
that Israel had been apprised of the delegation's
travel.

In interviews with several leading media, UN Middle
East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen was quoted as saying that
the chances of reaching a solution to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict are better than ever. Jerusalem
Post quoted visiting Spanish FM Miguel Angel Moratinos
as saying that the Intifada was a mistake.

Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli officials at the UN as
saying that they are pleased that Canada decided to
oppose one-sided condemnations of Israel at the UN
General Assembly, and that a UN panel recommended that
terrorism, even in cases of national resistance, be
deemed unacceptable.

Ha'aretz cited the findings of a Tel Aviv University
research that every third Israeli has been personally -
- either directly or indirectly, through the experience
of relatives and friends -- exposed to terrorist
attacks, and that every tenth Israeli suffers from a
post-traumatic syndrome following the attacks.

Yediot prints an AFP picture of women visiting an
exhibition at a cemetery south of Tehran, which
includes an alleged picture of corpses of Israelis
covered with the Israeli flag, next to a poster with
the Hebrew inscription: "Israel must be wiped off the
face of the earth."

A Maariv/Teleseker poll:
-"Do you believe the IDF is sufficiently attentive to
the protection of the lives of the Palestinians and
their respect?" Yes: 53 percent; no: 40 percent.

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

Summary:
--------
Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "From Sharon's
perspective, there are many positive notes now being
sounded in Washington.... If Sharon has cause for
concern, it derives from the message expressed by a
delegation of senior senators who visited him this
week."

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz: "[On Thursday] Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak described Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the
Palestinians' virtually last hope.... Mubarak's
statements were ... a way of 'preparing hearts and
minds' for an active Egyptian role in the peace
process."

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

I. "A Solution Is Wanting"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (December 3): " On
Monday, America returned to work after the Thanksgiving
holiday. A senior administration official -- of those
who call their Israeli colleagues by their first names
-- hopped over to New York to outline the new American
policy for the Middle East at the prestigious Council
on Foreign Relations. Those present at the briefing
heard and recorded: 'Whoever believes in a two-state
solution cannot support the right of return ... At the
end of the process, the settlement blocs will remain in
Israel's hands and the rest will not.... The key to
progress is to build democratic institutions in the
Palestinian Authority and the war against terror, and
this depends on the Palestinians.... Israel is not
acting with sufficient transparency with regard to the
settlements.' These remarks indicate that U.S.
President George W. Bush's plan for a final accord is
very similar to that of his predecessor, Bill
Clinton.... From Sharon's perspective, there are many
positive notes now being sounded in Washington.... If
Sharon has cause for concern, it derives from the
message expressed by a delegation of senior senators
who visited him this week.... They explained that, in
their view, there is a connection between American
successes in one place and failures in another place.
Therefore, in order to improve their situation in Iraq
and increase public support for American activity
there, some success must be demonstrated in the Israeli-
Palestinian arena."

II. "Egypt's Seal of Approval"
Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz (December 3): "[On Thursday] Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak described Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon as the Palestinians' virtually last hope. The
sharp turnabout in Mubarak's public stance toward
Sharon did not begin on Thursday.... The details [of
Egypt's agreement with Israel] -- particularly the
exchange of letters that would enable Egyptian soldiers
to be stationed on the Gaza border without amending the
Camp David Accords -- had been settled three weeks
earlier via American mediation. Mubarak's declarations
Thursday are thus a continuation of these official
steps. They are meant to give legitimacy to Sharon, but
also to Egypt's own diplomatic moves.... Mubarak's
statements were ... a way of 'preparing hearts and
minds' for an active Egyptian role in the peace
process. This role has gone into high gear since
Yasser Arafat's death, due to the need to influence the
future structure of the Palestinian Authority.
However, these statements also reflect an important
working assumption: that Egypt believes in Sharon's
willingness and ability to implement the disengagement
plan.... Egypt is once again playing the role for which
it is most suited: Even when it cannot call the shots,
it can give them legitimacy. This is particularly
important in light of the role that Egypt is expected
to play in uniting the various Palestinian factions, as
well as in advancing prospects for negotiations between
Israel and Syria."

--------------------------
2. Syrian-Lebanese Track:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"While its deniable, privately conveyed, overtures to
Israel are plainly motivated by a desire to ingratiate
itself with the U.S., Syria remains a major defender
and generator of terror."

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

"Larsen's Unlearned Lessons"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(December 3): "While its deniable, privately conveyed,
overtures to Israel are plainly motivated by a desire
to ingratiate itself with the U.S., Syria remains a
major defender and generator of terror. It may be
argued that the abandonment of that behavior is just
what Assad wants to discuss. Unfortunately, we have
been through this already, with Arafat, 11 years and
more than a thousand Israeli fatalities ago.... As long
as Syria continues to supply Hizbullah and cheer-lead
Hamas, an Israeli readiness to negotiate will be
perceived across the Arab world not as rapprochement,
but as a form of surrender. Perhaps even worse, Syria
is a major wellspring of anti-Semitism, unique even for
the Arab world's dictatorships.... [Terje] Roed-Larsen,
the UN's outgoing Middle East peace coordinator, may
consider that he is offering Israel a farewell gift in
encouraging us to take Assad's overtures seriously. He
should know better. With all due respect, we will
watch Assad's public actions, rather than his efforts
at Larsen-facilitated private diplomacy."

CRETZ

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