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:

On Sunday, Yediot led with an "exclusive" filed by its
Washington correspondent, Orly Azolai, after a brief
conversation she held with President George Bush at the
White House Christmas party last Thursday. Azolai
quoted Bush as saying he was determined to bring peace
between Israel and the Palestinians, but that Syria
would have to wait. Azolai was impressed that Bush
intends to place his full weight behind the effort to
achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace in the next four
years and to take a hands-on approach.

On Sunday, Yediot reported that President Bush told
Jewish leaders at a White House Hanukkah reception that
he is very worried about the resurgence of anti-
Semitism in Europe.

On Monday, all major Hebrew-language media led with
calls by Pinchas Wallerstein, the head of the Mateh
Binyamin local council in the West Bank and one of the
senior members of the Council of Jewish Settlements in
the Territories, to engage in nonviolent civil
disobedience in an effort to foil the evacuation of
settlements in Gaza. Charging that the soon-to-be-
established government is "illegitimate," Wallerstein
declared that the public should "violate the transfer
law and be ready to pay the price of mass
imprisonment." Wallerstein himself stated he was
prepared to go to jail. Israel Radio cited Acting
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni's condemnation of the
remarks, and reported that A-G Menachem Mazuz will
examine the issue in the next few days. The radio
reported that not all members of the Council of
Settlements agree with the style of Wallerstein's
remarks. Reporting that PM Sharon voiced criticism of
Wallerstein's comments, Israel Radio quoted Sharon as
saying that the government will do all its power to
keep the law.

All media reported that the Likud-Labor agreement
reached Saturday night hit a stumbling block Sunday
after the chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law
and Justice Committee, Likud MK Michael Eitan, refuse
to rush through legislation to accommodate the deal
according to which Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres is
to become the second deputy PM who is authorized to
function as acting PM when the PM is away or
incapacitated, along with Trade Minister Ehud Olmert,
who already holds the title. The Basic Law only
provides for one deputy PM. On Sunday, leading media
reported that Labor would control five ministries:
interior, national infrastructure, construction and
housing, tourism, and communications, and would also
get three ministers without portfolios.

FM Silvan Shalom was quoted as saying Sunday in an
interview with Jerusalem Post that the security fence
is not Israel's final border, and that settlers on the
"other side" of the barrier should not fear they will
necessarily be moved. Shalom was responding to a
question about remarks allegedly made by Elliott
Abrams, Special Assistant to the President and Senior
Director of the National Security Council for Near East
and North African Affairs, that eventually all the
settlements beyond the fence will be dismantled.
Shalom was quoted as saying that the U.S. has never
accepted the idea of settlements in the territories,
and that the settlers went to live in those areas
"knowing that the Israeli government took the decision
to settle them there, not because the Americans gave
any approval." Shalom did not rule out the possibility
that settlers in places such as Beit El could be moved
"in 40 or 50 years."

Over the weekend, leading media reported that 11
Palestinians were killed during the raid in Khan Yunis.
All media reported that three Qassam rockets were fired
at Sderot Sunday, lightly injuring three people.
Eleven rocket attacks took place against the city and
its surroundings over the weekend. Leading media
quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and IDF sources as
saying that if the firing continues, Israel will resume
its offensive in the northern Gaza Strip. Hatzofe
quoted a senior Israeli military source as saying that
the IDF is unable carry out a military operation like
the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, because of lack of

Ha'aretz reported that Egypt's intelligence chief Omar
Suleiman is scheduled to come to Israel on Tuesday to
finalize discussions regarding the deployment of
Egyptian troops along the Philadelphi Route. Leading
media reported that Sunday a special ministerial
committee approved the release of 170 Palestinian
prisoners in what PM Sharon described as a "good will
gesture" to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak following
the freeing of Azzam Azzam two weeks ago.

Israel Radio reported on a new Israel-PA meeting to
coordinate positions ahead of the January elections:
Sharon advisers Dov Weisglass and Shalom Turjeman met
last night with senior PA officials Saeb Erekat and
Hassan Abu Libdeh. The sides agreed that there will be
a new meeting this week to recap Israel's assistance in
the Palestinian elections, and that voting in East
Jerusalem will take place in the same way as in 1996:
polling booths will be set up in five post offices.

On Sunday, Jerusalem Post quoted PLO Chairman Mahmoud
Abbas (Abu Mazen) as saying Saturday in Oman that the
Palestinians would make no concessions on the right of
On Sunday, Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post quoted deputy A-
G for international law Shavit Matias as saying
Saturday that the Justice Ministry believes that if
Israel withdraws from the Philadelphi Route, an
international legal consensus will be established,
according to which the Israeli occupation of the Gaza
Strip would have ended and Israel would no longer be
responsible, as an occupying power, for events in the
Strip. Jerusalem Post quoted a "senior international
source" as saying Sunday that the PA would like Israel
to tear down all houses in the settlements of Gush
Katif in the Gaza Strip before the area is handed over
to the Palestinians. The newspaper reported that a PA
minister immediately confirmed this.

On Sunday, Jerusalem Post reported that four House
Democrats -- Robert Wexler (FL), Robert Menendez (NJ),
and Eliot Engel and Gary Ackerman of New York -- sent a
letter to President Bush on Thursday urging him to
provide them "with information that will clarify the
circumstances" surrounding the FBI's investigation into

Leading media reported that the Iranian intelligence
services issued a vague statement Sunday indicated that
they have uncovered a spy ring of eight people
suspected of collecting intelligence information for
Israel. Jerusalem Post cited the Prime Minister's
Office's response that Iran's claim is "ridiculous."

On Sunday, Jerusalem Post quoted a senior USG official
as saying: "It is clear we are heading into some kind
of confrontation with Syria unless the Syrians reverse
their position." The newspaper reported that the U.S.,
which is angry at Damascus for sheltering members of
active opponents to the Iraqi regime, is contemplating
a range of punitive measures to use against Syria.

On Sunday, leading media reported that Ukrainian
presidential contender Viktor Yushchenko, who was
poisoned with dioxin, is considering getting medical
treatment in Israel.

On Sunday, leading media reported that a document filed
Friday by the Justice Department and the Department of
Homeland Security seeks John Demjanjuk's deportation
for his participation in Nazi-sponsored persecution
while serving as an armed SS guard and because he lied
about his wartime job and residences when he applied
for an immigration visa in 1952.

Jerusalem Post quoted PA officials as saying on Sunday
that Israel is allowing candidates in the elections to
travel freely in the territories. Ha'aretz quoted a
senior Hamas leader in the West Bank city of Dahariyeh
as saying that the arrest by the Shin Bet of four Hamas
candidates in the upcoming municipal elections in his
town is a "political targeted killing."

On Sunday, Yediot quoted Peres as saying in an
interview with the French daily Le Figaro that the
seaport and airport of Gaza should be reopened.

Ha'aretz reported that terrorist attacks and pressure
by the government of Thailand has led to an exodus of
Thai workers from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip, and
that farmers there are said to fear a collapse of their
farmers. Thailand's Labor Minister Uraiwan Thienthong
and the Thai Ambassador to Israel met on Saturday with
around 150 Thai workers in Gush Katif and asked them to
leave the area as soon as possible.

Yediot cited Interior Ministry data according to which
local councils in the territories received in 2003 four
times the amount of government allocations granted to
local councils in poor "development towns."

Yediot reported that Deputy Speaker of the Knesset
Likud MK Moshe Kahlon met Sunday in Rome with a senior
Libyan official.

Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post reported that during a
visit to Israel Sunday, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Mairead Corrigan Maguire compared Israel's reported
nuclear arsenal to Hitler's gas chambers, while calling
for travel restriction to be lifted on nuclear
whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu.

Maariv cited an internal Immigrant Absorption Ministry
report whose data cover the years 1989-2003, which says
that 22.9 percent of immigrants from the U.S. left
Israel during that period. During that period, 8.8
percent of all immigrants dropped out. Only 7.6
percent of immigrants from the CIS left Israel.

On Sunday, Maariv cited a survey conducted among
Israeli youth aged 15-18 and 21-24:
-51 percent said Israeli Arabs should be prevented from
being elected in the Knesset.
-67 percent stated: "The Arabs would have annihilated
Israel if they only could."
-33 percent believe that democracy should be
significantly restricted, in case of even a minor
threat to the state's security.



Washington correspondent Orly Azolai wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Bush is
serious. This time he isn't merely talking; he really
intends to produce an agreement that will have his name
on it."

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"Israel, which wanted a different Palestinian
leadership ... now finds itself in a dilemma.... The
government and the IDF must act within these new

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz: "[A possible trend of 'self-normalization']
is good news for Israel, provided it doesn't make
everyone angry by trying to play the patron again."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz:
"Let us not forget the contemptible statement about
'the way in which the right of return could be
realized,' which the European Union published in
response to U.S. President George W. Bush's letter to
Ariel Sharon."

Publicist Benny Cohen wrote in popular, pluralist
Maariv: "One shouldn't ignore the fact that Arab
televisions are allowing themselves to broadcast
'propaganda' for peace with Israel."

Block Quotes:

I. "The President Is Determined"

Washington correspondent Orly Azolai wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (December 19):
"Bush is serious. This time he isn't merely talking;
he really intends to produce an agreement that will
have his name on it.... Bush's body language in the
conversation I had with him at the traditional
Christmas party indicated that this time he means to
remove the obstacles with his own two hands. He is
truly confident that now that Arafat has been removed
peace is within reach.... The President has not yet
decided on a timetable, but the general direction of
things is clear: first Israel and the Palestinians,
while Syria will be dealt with only at a later
stage.... Bush will be sworn in for his second term in
office on January 20. Shortly thereafter both Sharon
and Abu Mazen will hear from him. The President, who
described himself as a wartime president in his first
term in office, wants his second term to go down as one
in which peace was achieved. The fact that the war in
Iraq has become bogged down and exacts more and more
American casualties with every passing day has only
intensified his determination to achieve peace in the
Middle East. That is why he is going to let Sharon
begin to implement the disengagement plan, will let the
Palestinians elect their new leadership, and then he is
going to take the reins into his own hands and will try
to show the world what the lord of the manor is capable
of doing when he so desires."

II. "Acting Within New Constraints"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(December 20): "Israel, which wanted a different
Palestinian leadership -- something that, according to
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is likely to turn 2005
into a year of great opportunity -- now finds itself in
a dilemma. On one hand, no government can sit on its
hands when its towns are attacked by rockets; Israel
cannot abandon the towns of the western Negev to their
fate. Yet on the other hand, a massive operation
against the Palestinians is liable to dissipate the
atmosphere of good will that has begun to develop and
is necessary to ensure that the historic opportunity
comes to pass. Therefore, the government and the IDF
must act within these new constraints.... Right now,
while Palestinian leaders are trying to convince their
public to stop the armed Intifada, Israel must be
careful not to play into the hands of opponents of this
policy. Instead, it must help the PA to draw a line
between adherents of the diplomatic process and those
who want to continue fueling the flames. Without this
crucial distinction, Israel will not be able to reach
the desired goal: for the disengagement plan to cease
to be a unilateral Israeli measure and for it to bring
additional agreements in its wake."

III. "Don't Play the Patron"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz (December 19): "The official assessment [in
Egypt] is that the trade agreement, once it reaches
maturity in three or four years -- that is, after the
establishment of the factories and the creation of the
marketing network in the United States -- will create
'only' 100,000 new jobs a year. That, too, is a
tremendous gain in a country that 'creates' tens of
thousands of fictitious jobs every year in the
governmental system and is not succeeding in
implementing its privatization plan. Egypt is not the
only [Middle Eastern] country that is need of a mass
production of jobs.... Economic needs in the region,
which will become increasingly more acute, may impose
the creation of an atmosphere that promotes trade....
It is possible that the trade agreement with Egypt is
the first signal of this new trend, in which economic
interests overcome sentimentalism and the settling of
accounts with the past. The trend of 'self-
normalization,' even if under constraint, is beginning
to do a calculation of real profit and loss instead of
examining the prestige index. If this is, indeed, the
trend, it is good news for Israel, provided it doesn't
make everyone angry by trying to play the patron

IV. "Enlightened But Exasperating Europe"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz
(December 20): "Fortunately, since [the Yom Kippur War]
Israel has not been dependent on European generosity.
And the crude self-interest of 1973 has been replaced
by a policy of preaching morality.... It is
exasperating to hear European foreign ministers talking
about 'Israel's right to exist' as if it were being put
to the test. Who's asking them? Will an Israeli
foreign minister ever talk about France or Germany's
'right to exist'? Are the Europeans talking like this
in Damascus and in Cairo as well? The Europeans' votes
in the United Nations are masterpieces of diplomatic
cowardice, as is the European support for self-defense
against terror while condemning the means Israel has
used against it. And let us not forget the
contemptible statement about 'the way in which the
right of return could be realized,' which the European
Union published in response to U.S. President George W.
Bush's letter to Ariel Sharon, which recognized the
Jewish settlement blocs in the territories.... The
European dislike of the use of force is not a
sanctified value. Inherent in it is the danger of
resignation to a determined aggressor like the
leadership of Iran. There must be no hasty bombardment
of the Iranian installations, but giving up the
military stick a priori weakens Fischer's diplomacy,
and ultimately it will leave Israel alone facing the
Iranian warheads. The main thing is that it will be in
accordance with international law and UN resolutions."

V. "A Peace Promo in Arabic"

Publicist Benny Cohen wrote in popular, pluralist
Maariv (December 19): "The 'Geneva Initiative' is
currently screening a television campaign that includes
promos on which 'partners' for peace are being
presented. Palestinian figures address the Israeli
public, who declare that 'there is a partner' for
peace. The ads aimed at the Palestinian public convey
a similar message.... The campaign's key importance
lies in its very appearance on the screens of all Arab
TV networks. This is a significant novelty to which
attention must be given. The campaign producers must
emphasize it.... In addition to the Palestinian TV
channels, the campaign will also be broadcasted on the
Arab TV station Al-Arabiya. One shouldn't ignore the
fact that Arab televisions are allowing themselves to
broadcast 'propaganda' for peace with Israel -- even if
those are paid ads. The very fact that those TVs
literally put themselves at risk by broadcasting this
message, shows that there is change. Until recently it
had been obvious to Israel and to those broadcasters
that it was dangerous to get near 'propaganda' that was
considered pro-Zionist."


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