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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 006286

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 reported that five Israeli soldiers were
killed and six others were wounded in the Gaza Strip
Sunday when a booby-trapped tunnel blew up under an IDF
outpost near Rafah. The attackers also launched mortar
shells and fired at the outpost. The soldiers, who
were all from the Bedouin reconnaissance battalion,
killed an armed Palestinian who participated in the
assault. Hamas and a Fatah faction, the Fatah Hawks,
claimed joint responsibility for the attack. Israel
Radio reported that last night the IAF bombarded
targets in the Gaza Strip, including weapons-
manufacturing workshops. During the weekend, the media
reported that four Israeli civilians were injured
Friday by Palestinian mortar fire directed against Neve
Dekalim in the Gaza Strip. Ha'aretz reported that the
IDF response to the attack resulted in the death of a 7-
year-old Palestinian girl in Khan Yunis. The media
reported on various other incidents in the territories.

U/S of Defense Douglas Feith was quoted as saying in an
interview published by Jerusalem Post on Sunday that
the U.S. hopes that Iran will follow Libya's lead in
abandoning its nuclear program, but that nobody should
rule out the possibility of military action against
Tehran's nuclear sites if it does not.

Leading media reported that Sunday, jailed Tanzim
leader Marwan Barghouti withdrew his candidacy for
chairmanship of the PA. On Sunday, Yediot reported
that a first group of European monitors arrived Friday
in the PA ahead of the elections.

The media reported on progress in Likud-Shas coalition
talks. Leading media quoted Shas negotiators as saying
Sunday that the Likud negotiating team promised them
that anti-religious legislation initiated during the
Shinui era would not move forward, particularly the
legitimization of common-law couples. On Sunday,
Yediot reported that in the next government, Labor
Party Chairman Shimon Peres is expected to be in charge
of the development of the Gaza Strip after the Israeli
withdrawal, as well as of the Galilee and the Negev.

Jerusalem Post reported that Sunday, during a visit to
Kuwait, PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)
apologized for Yasser Arafat's support of the 1990
invasion of Kuwait. On Sunday, Jerusalem Post reported
that Arafat's economic adviser, Muhammad Rashid, has
agreed to hand over to the PA some USD 600 million
believed to be held in secret bank accounts.

Yediot reported that the cabinet Sunday unanimously
endorsed PM Sharon's proposal that hundreds of
Palestinian prisoners be released, as a gesture toward
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. One hundred to 200
prisoners will be freed in total. Leading media
reported that Trade, Industry and Employment Minster
Ehud Olmert will sign a free trade agreement with Egypt
Tuesday in Cairo. Yediot reported that Sharon's choice
for the next ambassador in Cairo is Likud Knesset
Member Majalli Whbee, a Druze.

Over the weekend, leading media reported that Secretary
of State Colin Powell told a gathering of Islamic
leaders in Rabat, Morocco, on Saturday that the Middle
Eastern countries must carry out political and economic
reforms to ease the "despair and frustration" that
affects much of the region. Citing AP, Jerusalem Post
quoted Powell as saying en route to Rabat on Friday
night that reform in the Islamic world should not be
impeded by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yediot reported that the Knesset's Constitution, Law
and Justice Committee intends to drastically reduce, or
even cancel, penalties that will be imposed on settlers
resisting evacuation.

Yediot and Maariv reported that Sharon told the cabinet
Sunday that the press plays a negative role in its
"sickly fervor" to publish information about alleged
immorality among IDF troops.

All media cited the Shin Bet as saying Sunday that
security forces have arrested four Israeli citizens
from East Jerusalem on suspicion that they were
involved in September 2003's bombing of the Hillel Cafe
in Jerusalem that left seven people dead.

On Sunday, Jerusalem Post quoted O/C Israel Navy Adm.
David Ben-Bashat as saying that Israel will purchase
two more Dolphin-class submarines from Germany, and
that the contract will be signed this coming spring.

During the weekend, leading media reported that retired
U.S. generals have presented President Bush with a plan
to invade Iran.

On Sunday, Yediot reported that eight Israeli
consultants left for Iraq several days ago to
participate in the reconstruction of the infrastructure
in the country. The newspaper says that the mission is
coordinated with the Iraqi government.

Ha'aretz reported that veteran personality and
journalist Rafi Ginat is expected to be named editor-in-
chief of Yediot, replacing current editor Moshe Vardi.

On Sunday, Maariv printed a White House picture
representing President Bush attending the lighting of
Chanukah candles at the White House last Thursday. The
newspaper quoted Bush as saying at the ceremony: "In
every generation, these lights have warmed the hearts
of those not yet free."

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

Summary:
--------

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote on page one
of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot:
"Already, more than a year ago, we learned that
terrorist groups in Gaza were moving on from primitive
terrorist activity to guerrilla activity inspired by
Hizbullah.... But somebody on our side missed the
target by a mile."

Security and intelligence affairs commentator Amit
Cohen wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv: "These people
[the extremist Palestinian groups] can do to Abu Mazen
what Israel did to Arafat: make him into an irrelevant
leader."

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Ariel Sharon
received the legitimization he needs from the President
of Egypt, and there is no one, at least not in the
coming week, to challenge that in the Arab states."

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "Sharon has now returned
home. With the Likud he can buttress a much more
serious political status ahead of the disengagement.
This is bad news for the settlers."

Zuheir Andrawus, Editor-in-Chief of the Israeli-Arab
newspaper Kul Al-Arab, wrote in Ha'aretz: "[Marwan]
Barghouti is the authentic representative of the
Palestinian people, which has know a lot of suffering."

Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, wrote in
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "More
vigorous American peace-making in the Arab-Israeli
arena would not only divert energy from the push for
reform in the Arab world; it also has the potential for
increasing tensions between Jerusalem and Washington."
Block Quotes:
-------------

I. "Under the Nose of the IDF"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote on page one
of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot
(December 13): "It is intolerable for guerrilla
activity on this scale and of this quality to develop
under our nose for so many months, completely
undetected. Guerrilla activity, as we learned in
Lebanon, is more sophisticated than the terrorism that
we have known in the Gaza Strip, but it is also more
exposed, because it requires more organization and
resources. Already, more than a year ago, we learned
that terrorist groups in Gaza were moving on from
primitive terrorist activity to guerrilla activity
inspired by Hizbullah, which also supplied the know-
how. This called for a different form of offensive and
intelligence activity on the part of the IDF. But
somebody on our side missed the target by a mile....
Now the army will have to tailor a military operation
appropriate to the spirit of the times: it will be
painful enough to deter Hamas, but it will also take
account of Israel's relations with Egypt, of the
international observers who will be arriving in the
region and also of the rise in Abu Mazen's popularity
in the polls."

II. "Clear Signal to Abu Mazen"

Security and intelligence affairs commentator Amit
Cohen wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (December 13):
"If for a moment it seemed that Abu Mazen was
succeeding in taking control of the Palestinian
imbroglio, at least until the coming elections, the
terror attack last night reminded us how fragile that
illusion was.... Publicly, the Palestinian leadership
in the making will find it hard to condemn the
operation. As long as the IDF continues to operate in
Gaza, the Palestinians view the area as a legitimate
killing field. But behind closed doors, there is a
great deal of anger about the double game being played
by Hamas. 'Certainly Abu Mazen is angry when he hears
about things like this,' said a Palestinian security
source. 'But what can we do? The understandings we
reached with Hamas spoke only about terror attacks
inside Israeli territory'.... This is the second signal
that Abu Mazen received from Fatah elements in Gaza.
The first was several days after Arafat's death, when
shots were fired at Abu Mazen and Dahlan. This time as
well, the centers of power within the Gaza Strip are
trying to signal that their ability to influence does
not stop at the ballot box next January. These people
can do to Abu Mazen what Israel did to Arafat: make him
into an irrelevant leader."

III. "The Arabs Are Coming! The Arabs Are Coming!"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (December 12): "The
great wonder has already occurred, even before half a
tile has been removed from the roof of a house in the
Gush Katif settlement bloc or before even one
settlement outpost (remember that issue?) has folded:
Ariel Sharon received the legitimization he needs from
the President of Egypt, and there is no one, at least
not in the coming week, to challenge that in the Arab
states, especially when even Syrian President Bashar
Assad is ready to talk to Sharon and Yasser Arafat is
no longer in the picture. Sharon grabbed the reins of
the diplomatic process with the object of steering it
not when he declared the disengagement plan but when he
proved that he is ready to take great risks to
implement it. Egypt understood very quickly that this
is the only wagon on which any sort of process can be
moved ahead; as such, it opened the periodic window of
opportunity of the peace process, while an array of
hitchhikers wait by the roadside. Now the Arab states,
too, are waiting to see whether the democratic process
in Israel -- in the form of the activists of the Likud
Central Committee -- doesn't tip over at the first
sharp turn."

IV. "Sharon Has Come Home"

Political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (December 13): "[Until
recently,] the Prime Minister was perceived as someone
who had lost his political base. But Sharon came to
his senses at the eleventh hour. Today he has an
anchor. Members of the [Likud] Central Committee are
behind him, even if many of them hate the disengagement
plan.... Sharon has now returned home. With the Likud
he can buttress a much more serious political status
ahead of the disengagement. This is bad news for the
settlers and the leaders of the Council of Jewish
Settlements in the Territories, who have effectively
led the Likud in the past few months; they will now
have to find new channels for their activity. Perhaps
they will focus on broad popular opposition activity --
something in which they excel."


V. "Run Barghouti, Run"

Zuheir Andrawus, Editor-in-Chief of the Israeli-Arab
newspaper Kul Al-Arab, wrote in Ha'aretz (December 12):
"[Marwan] Barghouti is the authentic representative of
the Palestinian people, which has know a lot of
suffering.... To many members of Palestinian society,
he is a freedom fighter who has paid a hefty price.
Thus, the people won't betray him and would vote for
him, be it only in defiance of the old leadership,
which has to leave. Barghouti symbolizes all those
Palestinians who have paid a heavy price for the
liberation of their people from the burden of Israeli
occupation -- and he hasn't made a fortune. Therefore,
run, Barghouti, and don't give up."
VI. "Reading the Egyptian Sphinx"

Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, wrote in
conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (December 12):
"More vigorous American peace-making in the Arab-
Israeli arena would not only divert energy from the
push for reform in the Arab world; it also has the
potential for increasing tensions between Jerusalem and
Washington. Egypt well understands that the Bush
vision of a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is
closer to its own vision than to Sharon's prescription.
A renewal of Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian
peace talks might therefore put stress on Israel's
relationship with Washington. Weakening Israel is not
inimical to Egyptian interests. What should Israel's
response be? While Egypt obviously has its own agenda,
Israel should welcome any improvement in bilateral
relations. However, Jerusalem must demand that Cairo
live up to its 1979 peace treaty commitments."

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

Summary:
--------

Uri Savir, chief Israeli negotiator with Syria from
November 1995 to March 1996, wrote in conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post: "Israel should ... accept
the Syrian offer for negotiations without
preconditions."

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

"Say Yes to Syria"

Uri Savir, chief Israeli negotiator with Syria from
November 1995 to March 1996, wrote in conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (December 12): "Our region
is too fragile for a step-by-step approach, as each
step may potentially be sabotaged by the opponents of
stability, democratization and peace. Accordingly, the
Bush administration could encourage a quantum leap in
the region by suggesting guiding principles for
negotiations on all fronts, with an emphasis on
regional cooperation, which is part of the Bush vision.
Israel should adhere to such a strategy and, in this
context, accept the Syrian offer for negotiations
without preconditions.... It seems that in most of our
negotiations about this region, we know the end result
-- more or less. However, we don't know how to
begin.... There seems to be little doubt about the
changing currents in Syria, yet many believe that Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon cannot wage a peace offensive on
Gaza and Syria simultaneously. Israel has, in the
past, won wars on many fronts. In the future it should
attempt to make peace on all these fronts. The Middle
East has moved in recent months from despair to hope.
It is in Israel's best interest not to miss this window
of opportunity."

KURTZER

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