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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 006163

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

Yediot quoted President Bush as saying Monday, at a
meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, that "the
United States and my government will be involved with
Middle Eastern peace, and that I believe that two
states living side-by-side in peace -- a Palestinian
state and an Israeli state -- is necessary for there to
be peace, and that we have a moment, a window of
opportunity." Jerusalem Post briefly cited the
President's remarks. Yediot also quoted senior U.S.
Administration officials as saying in recent days that
Israel must strengthen Abbas's status and position
among Palestinians through a prisoner release and other
steps such as the removal of roadblocks, and granting
freedom of travel and work permits to the Palestinians.

Ha'aretz (Aluf Benn) reported that there is a brewing
dispute in Israel over British PM Tony Blair's proposal
for an international conference on the Middle East in
January or February after the Palestinian elections to
grant the new PA leadership international legitimacy.
The newspaper says that Sharon is opposed to the
renewal of the diplomatic process until the
Palestinians take action to fulfill the first stage of
the road map, meaning putting an end to terrorism and
implementing security reforms. According to Ha'aretz,
Sharon is prepared for the conference to take part
without Israeli participation, and for it to be a one-
day event for professionals that would deal with
reforms in the PA. The daily says that FM Silvan
Shalom does not reject the idea of the conference and
that he is ready to consider Israeli participation at
the FM's level, but that he made clear to European
counterparts that he is opposed to "skipping" directly
to negotiations over the final-status agreement.
Jerusalem Post reported that an unnamed "senior Israel
official" made similar remarks. Jerusalem Post cited
London's Daily Telegraph as saying that President Bush
is opposed to a conference like the one that followed
the 1991 Gulf War.

Israel Radio reported that this morning an IDF soldier
was killed and four others were wounded at the Karni
Crossing into the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed
responsibility for the attack. The radio and Ha'aretz
web site reported that hours later (according to
Ha'aretz web site) in the same area an IAF missile
killed an Islamic Jihad activist. Ha'aretz reported
that a Palestinian working in Neve Dekalim, one of the
Gush Katif (Gaza Strip) settlers, was lightly wounded
Monday by a mortar shell launched from Khan Yunis.
The newspaper also reported that a psychologist
specializing in the trauma faced by Gush Katif (Gaza
Strip) settlements who face both evacuation and almost
daily mortar attacks has launched a Web site to provide
area residents with information about dealing with
pressure and crises.

All media reported that the army is investigating the
conditions surrounding an incident last Friday in which
members of a unit of the prestigious Shayetet (naval
commando) killed Mahmoud Kmel, a senior Islamic Jihad
activist, who was apparently unarmed and did not
represent a risk. The Shayetet has been put on hold as
far as operations in the West Bank are concerned. The
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem had requested the
probe. Leading media quoted the head of the IDF
personnel branch, Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern as saying
Monday that 20 percent of IDF soldiers come from a
culture that does not view Arab lives as equal to those
of Jews. Stern said, "Every generation needs to see
itself as if it had come out of Auschwitz" (a reference
to the Passover Seder's commandment: "In every
generation you must see yourself as being in Egypt").
Stern was speaking before the Knesset's Constitution,
Law and Justice Committee, which convened to discuss
the just use of force in the war on terror.

Israel Radio reported that security forces have
arrested a resident of Baqa el-Gharbiyeh, an Israeli-
Arab town adjacent to the Green Line, whom Iran had
allegedly recruited as a spy.

Leading media reported that Monday in Damascus PLO
Secretary-General Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President

SIPDIS
Bashar Assad agreed on coordinating positions ahead of
possible negotiations with Israel, and that the senior
Palestinians who visited Syria (Abbas, Palestinian PM
Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), and Acting PA Chairman Rawhi
Fattouh) asked Assad to press Hamas and Islamic Jihad
leaders in Damascus to cooperate with them. The media
reported that the Palestinian delegation met with local
leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-
GC.

Jerusalem Post quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as
saying Monday before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, that the boosting of ties between
Israel and Egypt is a "strategic significant process"
that is to include cooperation in fighting regional and
global terror. The media continued to report on the
conditions of the imprisonment of Azzam Azzam, who was
released from an Egyptian jail during the weekend. PM
Sharon visited Maghar, Azzam's village, on Monday. The
media argued over the fact that Channel 10-TV is paying
Azzam some USD 40,000 for the exclusive rights of an
interview with him.

Ha'aretz quoted Sharon associates as saying Monday that
Sharon will settle accounts with any minister or
Knesset member who fails to help persuade the Likud
Central Committee to approve the Labor Party's entry
into the government, while those who do help him will
be rewarded. Maariv reported that the Likud "rebels"
are considering voting in the Knesset against Labor's
entry into the government, if the Likud Central
Committee approves the move. Yediot reported that
members of the Labor Party increasingly oppose Shimon
Peres's desire to see Labor enter the government
immediately. Yediot quoted Peres as saying that
primaries in the party would thwart the planned
disengagement.

Jerusalem Post reported that Israel, which has
consistently tried to keep the EU out of the diplomatic
process, is now pressing it to use its clout to get
Arab countries to develop with Israel. Israel Radio
reported that Israel-EU talks on the "European
Neighborhood policy" have hit a snag regarding the EU's
condition that countries participating in the program
sign a WMD clause. The agreement must be finalized by
Thursday.

Jerusalem Post quoted President Moshe Katsav as saying
Monday that if Assad is sincere about resuming peace
negotiations, he should at least make some kind of
goodwill gesture, such as returning the remains of Eli
Cohen to Israel. Cohen was convinced of spying and
hanged in Damascus in 1965.

All media reported that on Monday a Jerusalem
Magistrate's Court sentenced Shahar Dvir-Zeliger, a
member of the "new Jewish underground," to eight years
in jail for membership in a terrorist organization
aimed at carrying out terror attacks against Arab
civilians, and for unlawful possession of weapons
stolen from the IDF.

Citing Reuters, Ha'aretz quoted Palestinian officials
as saying in Ramallah Monday that the PA will ask donor
countries at a meeting in Oslo for about USD 4 million
to stave off an economic crisis.

The media cited two Palestinian public opinion polls,
which predict a close contest between Abbas and Marwan
Barghouti in the PA elections.

Israel Radio reported that Al Qaida has claimed
responsibility for Monday's attack on the U.S.
Consulate in Jeddah.
Ha'aretz reported that Atty. Fred Fielding, a "highly
respected Washington insider," will mediate between the
U.S. Justice Department and lawyers who filed class
action lawsuits on the issue of the "gold train," the
trainload of looted gold and art stolen from Jews by
the Nazis that was subsequently confiscated by U.S.
troops, but that was never returned to the property's
lawful owners.

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

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The
window of opportunity for achieving a cease-fire with
the Palestinians is wider than ever. Israel's
government must not miss this chance for a cease-fire
and a renewal of the peace process."

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "[The Labor Party's entry
into the government] constitutes real progress, which
could suddenly be dampened in a cynical maneuver to
move up the Knesset elections before [the] Gush Katif
[settlement bloc] is evacuated."

Oslo Agreement skeptic and Hebrew University Professor
Yehoshua Porat wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot: "Why is Egypt investing a fortune in
the purchase of sophisticated weapons which are
patently intended for a rapid crossing of the Sinai
peninsula, in order to attack its northeastern
neighbor?"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"If the UN wants to convincingly demonstrate a
genuinely new beginning, the GA should elect Israel to
a two-year Security Council seat."

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

I. "Supportive Steps Needed"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(December 7): "The weakness of Hamas's leadership in
the territories has increased the importance of the
Palestinian opposition's 'external leadership,' most of
which lives in Damascus. It is these men with whom Abu
Mazen is trying to reach an understanding on the
conditions for a cease-fire. Abu Mazen is also taking
advantage of the upcoming elections for the PA
chairmanship to convince Hamas to stop the attacks, if
only for a limited period, not only inside Israel, but
also in the West Bank and Gaza. Such an understanding
is possible in part because of the heavy pressure that
the Syrian regime is exerting on the Palestinian
opposition leaders in Damascus. These leaders
understand quite well that at a time when President
Assad is calling for a renewal of peace talks with
Israel, he is not going to allow the Palestinian
organizations under his aegis to launch terror attacks
against Israel. The window of opportunity for
achieving a cease-fire with the Palestinians is wider
than ever. Israel's government must not miss this
chance for a cease-fire and a renewal of the peace
process."

II. "In the Right Direction"

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (December 7): "It is wrong
[for the Labor Party] to condition its entry into the
government upon a commitment to moving up the Knesset
elections -- especially as [former prime minister Ehud]
Barak supports the dismantling of [the] Gush Katif
settlement bloc.... The right formula for Labor's
joining the government is the following one: the
necessary condition is the continuation of the
implementation of the disengagement plan, to which
Sharon claims to be wholly committed -- in defiance of
the Likud refuseniks. This constitutes real progress,
which could suddenly be dampened in a cynical maneuver
to move up the Knesset elections before Gush Katif is
evacuated.... Since the process of joining the
government is not an ephemeral move, Labor must bring
its best representatives into the government -- all the
more so when this government will be marked by many
upheavals, landmines, and political ambushes. Barak is
one of those people."

III. "Illusions in a New Edition"

Oslo Agreement skeptic and Hebrew University Professor
Yehoshua Porat wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist
Yediot Aharonot (December 7): "On Sunday, the [Israeli]
media kept filing happy reports from Egypt.... What was
less manifest was the fact that Azzam Azzam spent eight
years in an Egyptian jail for trying to do business in
Egypt, according to what the peace treaty allowed and
established.... According to the peace treaty, an
Egyptian ambassador should be present in Israel. For
years, Israel held back regarding this flagrant
violation of the treaty. Israel taught the entire Arab
world that it was possible to turn a blind eye to
contractual commitments to Israel.... Talking about
peace, does any of Israel decision-makers understand
why Egypt needs armored forces to prevent arms
smuggling into the Gaza Strip?.... More importantly:
why is Egypt investing a fortune in the purchase of
sophisticated weapons which are patently intended for a
rapid crossing of the Sinai peninsula, in order to
attack its northeastern neighbor?.... This is without
mentioning the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, almost Nazi
incitement in Egypt's official media."

IV. "UN Self-Interest"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(December 7): "The UN, on the brink of irrelevancy, is
struggling to save itself. Given its antipathy toward
the Zionist enterprise, should we help it succeed or
hope that it heads over the edge? The answer should
depend on whether plans announced Thursday at UN
headquarters to radically transform the world body have
the potential of offering Israel a 'new deal'.... If
the UN wants to convincingly demonstrate a genuinely
new beginning, the GA should elect Israel to a two-year
Security Council seat. No nation has been so mean-
spiritedly singled out, so consistently and for so
long, as Israel. No nation has suffered more from the
tyranny of the UN majority, targeted through countless
denunciatory, one-sided resolutions. Entire UN-related
international bodies have been permanently hijacked for
Israel-bashing. Electing Israel to the Security
Council would signal that the community of nations
rejects, de jure and forever, threats to wipe Israel
off the map. At the same time, such a declarative vote
would reassure Israel that its painful concessions (in
Gaza, for instance) are valued by the world community.
If Palestine is to be the 22nd Arab member in a UN
where 58 countries are already aligned with the Islamic
bloc, Israel deserves preference on the rotation of
countries that hold temporary Security Council
seats.... Reforming the UN will be no easy task; we
will know it is on the right track when it begins to
apply the charter's universal values to Israel."

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

Summary:
--------


Contributor Ran Baratz wrote in popular, pluralist
Maariv: "The bad thing [about reaching an agreement
with Syria] would be that Syrian-UN-European
cooperation against the U.S. would harm Israel."

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

"Assad's Trap"

Contributor Ran Baratz wrote in popular, pluralist
Maariv (December 7): "A seasonal excitement, due to
Assad Jr.'s peace calls 'without preconditions', has
recently seized some [Israeli] commentators... An
important development, which occurred a little over one
year ago, was the U.S. decision to isolate Syria and to
weaken it significantly. That decision, which was
backed by the U.S. Congress, is starting to bear fruit
-- as evidenced by the weakness of Assad, whom nobody
views as an angel.... The bad thing [about reaching an
agreement with Syria] would be that Syrian-UN-European
cooperation against the U.S. would harm Israel. Warm
relations with the U.S. are preferable to peace with
Syria, whose chances of coming about are small at best.
The Americans' interest in pressuring Syria is big.
Firstly, they want to hinder the possibility that Iran,
Syria's close friend, create ... additional fronts in
the region.... Secondly, they remember Assad's help to
Saddam and the Iraqi opposition forces.... Thirdly,
Syria ... has become a highly significant factor in
Palestinian terrorism, creating an extra obstacle to
American policy."

KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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