Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A



Key stories in the media:

Yediot reported that President Bush told Jewish leaders
in the White House on Monday that "Arik Sharon" made a
brilliant decision to unilaterally withdraw from the
Gaza Strip -- a particularly difficult decision from
one of the founders of the settlements there -- and
that this was the right way for Israel at this time.

Leading media reported that PM Sharon ordered the IDF
to act forcefully against the threat of tunnels in the
Gaza Strip. Yediot and other media quoted Sharon as
saying Monday that if Palestinian terror attacks
continue, Israel will not coordinate with the
Palestinians in evacuating the Gaza Strip and the
northernmost part of the West Bank. Israel Radio
reported that last night an IDF force entered Khan
Yunis, where it demolished buildings that reportedly
were mostly used in attacks against Israel. The radio
also reported that retired Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad will
supposedly travel to Egypt to meet with top Egyptian
intelligence official Omar Suleiman, in order to
coordinate the positioning of Egyptian forces along the
Philadelphi route. Jerusalem Post reported that
warning of immediate danger, Deputy Internal Security
Minister Jacob Edery called on the GOI Monday to
immediately begin constructing a security fence along
the border with Egypt.

Yediot reported that Trade, Industry and Employment
Ehud Olmert will meet with Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak in Cairo today. Olmert is expected to convey a
message from Sharon regarding Israel's demand that
Egypt prevent terrorist attacks from Gaza and arms
smuggling into the Strip. Jerusalem Post and Yediot
reported that Olmert will sign a free trade agreement
with Egyptian Foreign Trade and Industry Minister
Rashid Mohamed Rashid and USTR Robert Zoellick
involving the creation of Qualified Industrial Zones

Ha'aretz reported that the focal point of British PM
Tony Blair's visit to Israel and the PA next week will
be his initiative to convene a conference in support of
the Palestinians following the scheduled January 9
elections in the PA. Yediot quoted sources closes to
Sharon as saying that Sharon will not agree to British
initiatives regarding such a conference because this is
an attempt to jump over the stages decided upon in the
road map. Yediot reported that former U.S. president
Jimmy Carter will head a delegation of U.S. election
monitors, and adds that the Foreign Ministry has
learned that former U.S. president Bill Clinton has
requested to join the delegation. Jerusalem Post and
Yediot quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying
Monday at the Herzliya Conference that Israel would
pull its troops out of Palestinians cities before the
January 9 elections for the Palestinian chairmanship --
for a period of 72 hours.

Ha'aretz quoted a high-ranking GOI source as saying
Monday that Sharon wants the cabinet to approve the
changes to the route of the security fence as a "single
package," and that he is delaying approval of the
already amended and completed plan for the Hebron Hills
area until the completion of the plan to reroute the
fence in the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion.

Leading media reported that the Labor Party's
representatives stormed out of coalition talks last
night, citing its insistence on social measures and on
the new coalition's parties committing themselves to
supporting the disengagement plan. The media also
reported that coalition talks hit a snag Monday, after
the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,
informed party chairman Eli Yishai that he sees no
reason to rescind his ruling against the disengagement

All media reported that Hamas activist Mesbah Abu
Hweileh survived a bombing Monday that destroyed his
car on a Damascus street Monday. The media reported
that Hamas and the Syrian government immediately blamed
Israel for the explosion. Ha'aretz reported that
Israeli officials denied knowledge of the bombing,
saying Syria "always blames Israel" for untoward events
on its soil. The media reported that three Israeli
soldiers were wounded Monday in a Nablus firefight that
killed a wanted man from Hamas. Maariv cited a BBC
interview with Hamas's political chief Khaled Mashal,
in which he said that the U.S. and Europe are holding
secret talks with Hamas even though they have declared

it a terrorist organization.

Leading media reported on an uproar, mostly by Israeli-
Arab Knesset members, following Likud MK Yehiel Hazan's
speech to the Knesset Monday, in which he referred to
Arabs as "worms who live underground and above the
ground." He was speaking about Sunday's attack near

Leading media reported that France's highest
administrative court, the Council of State, moved
decisively to ban Hizbullah's Al Manar-TV on Monday,
ruling that the channel had repeatedly violated the
country's hate laws and ignored its own pledge to avoid
making anti-Semitic statements
All media reported that Monday at the Herzliya
Conference, IDF Spokesperson Ruth Yaron accused Ilana
Dayan, the host of Channel 2-TV's "Uvda" (Fact) program
of "cooking" a tape containing an IDF communication
recorded during the alleged "confirmed killing" of a
13-year-old Gaza girl by an IDF officer. Maariv cites
an interview published two weeks ago by the IDF's
official periodical Bamahaneh, in which an army
commander describes how, in September, he shot and
killed a terrorist who had thrown his weapon and

Ha'aretz reported that American citizen Brian Avery, an
International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer who
was wounded in the face by gunfire in Jenin in April
2003, has petitioned the High Court of Justice to
demand that the police, and not the IDF, investigate
his case.

Leading media reported that Monday Israel and the EU
signed the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP)

Maariv cited research conducted by an organization
aiding new immigrants, according to which each
immigrant from North America costs the Israeli economy
USD 200,000.



Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "Israel will try to reach an
agreement that will put government in the Gaza Strip in
the hands of an authorized Palestinian body.... But we
may be disappointed -- either because Abu Mazen does
not want to and/or cannot.... Sharon should continue
with disengagement [anyway]."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"Holding Abbas to a higher standard does not weaken
him. It provides the only hope of steering him toward
transforming his society into one intent on building
its own state rather than destroying Israel."

Geneva Accord co-initiator and Yahad party leader Yossi
Beilin wrote in Maariv: "The Labor Party inside the
government would 'understand' Sharon if he should
decide that the circumstances are not right for
[withdrawal from Gaza]."

Block Quotes:
I. "From Terror Attack to Disengagement"

Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (December 14): "Upon Arafat's
death and with the establishment of Abu Mazen's regime,
there will be somebody to talk to about disengagement.
Israel will try to reach an agreement that will put
government in the Gaza Strip in the hands of an
authorized Palestinian body. The U.S. and Egypt are
already active to reach such an agreement. But we may
be disappointed -- either because Abu Mazen does not
want to and/or cannot. Then Sharon will face a minor
dilemma, of the kind Barak faced: freeze the situation
as is and wait for a phone call from Ramallah; or
improve Israel's position and situation by a unilateral
move of disengagement, and only afterwards wait and
expect some sort of Palestinian willingness to discuss
the final peace arrangements. Sharon should continue
with disengagement, on the assumption that it is
essentially unilateral. That it is without a
Palestinian partner. With concern that Palestinian
terror will continue, but that the IDF and the settlers
will no longer be in the Gaza Strip. Because leaving
the Gaza Strip, even unilaterally, is not giving up
assets and receiving nothing in return, rather it is
removing an extra burden, even if terror continues."

II. "Ominous Silence"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(December 14): "Abbas is the leader of Fatah and its
presumed candidate for president. His refusal to
condemn this attack [in Gaza Sunday], much less use the
thousands of armed men under his control to crack down
on supposedly illegal militias, means he is making a
choice. If he maintains it, it is a choice of
fruitless bloodshed, a path that is likely to produce
more Israeli casualties and many more Palestinian
ones.... We are being assured, now, that all good
things must wait for the Palestinian election, which
will strengthen Abbas.... Let Abbas tell his people
that the billions in assistance and a chance to build
their own state will only come when the Palestinians
prove they are abandoning terrorism and embracing
democracy. That this must be the path of Palestinian
nationalism, not perpetual war with Israel. But Abbas
won't say that unless he knows it to be true. And it
won't be true so long so Israel and the U.S., not to
mention Europe, seem poised to shower him with
unconditional support the minute he is anointed in an
uncontested election.... In the meantime, holding Abbas
to a higher standard does not weaken him. It provides
the only hope of steering him toward transforming his
society into one intent on building its own state
rather than destroying Israel."
III. "Unity in Order to Prevent Disengagement"

Geneva Accord co-initiator and Yahad party leader Yossi
Beilin wrote in Maariv (December 14): "When, instead of
Mofaz and Shalom, a Nobel Prize winner [Shimon Peres]
explains [Sharon's] policy, it will be much easier for
him to go back to his old habits. He will have no
reason to hurry. He knows that in exchange for a few
cabinet portfolios he will buy himself a loyal ally who
will not threaten his authority. He will also be able
to go back to raising extreme proposals, knowing that
Labor will veto them, thus quieting its conscience....
The Labor Party, which supports withdrawal from Gaza
while it is in the opposition, will allow it to be
carried out. On the other hand, the Labor Party inside
the government would 'understand' Sharon if he should
decide that the circumstances are not right for that,
and will also explain to the world that the time is not
yet ripe for it. The members of the Labor Central
Committee, who will convene in order to approve a
coalition agreement, still have an opportunity to
prevent the mistake to which its leaders are leading
them a second time."


© Scoop Media

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