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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.





E.O. 12958: N/A


Lebanese-Syrian Track

Key stories in the media:

All media (lead stories in Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post)
reported that last night in Tel Aviv, the Likud Central
Committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging
the party's Knesset members to work for the enactment
of legislation to enable a referendum on the
disengagement plan. In an aggressive speech --
punctured by periodic calls of "Sharon, go home!" and
"Sharon is a dictator -- PM Sharon made it clear that
he intends to pay no more attention to this decision
than he has to other party decisions that contravened
his plans. Both Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and FM Silvan Shalom spoke in favor of a referendum.
At the same time, Netanyahu called on the Likud to
support the 2005 state budget, which will determine the
future of the government. Jerusalem Post quoted some
far-right activists and Gaza settlers as saying that
there are groups of settlers who have decided that they
would rather commit suicide than evacuate their homes.

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Ha'aretz reported that the PA is asking that Israel
allow two (four, according to Israel Radio) Islamic
Jihad activists whom PA security forces have arrested
in Tulkarm in the wake of last week's suicide bombing
in Tel Aviv, to be jailed in Jericho. The media
reported that Israel has not acceded to the demand.
Ha'aretz reported that in contravention of the Sharm el-
Sheikh understandings, Israel is chasing the members of
the Islamic Jihad in Tulkarm.

Yediot prominently front-paged a picture of a
demonstration in Beirut, illustrating the lead story
written by its special correspondent Eldad Beck, who
underscored the protesters' determination to bring
about the pullout of Syria's forces from the country.
Israel Radio reported that President Bush will meet
with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today to
discuss ways of implementing the Syrian forces'
withdrawal from Lebanon.

Ha'aretz reported that Lebanese figures have conveyed
messages to Israeli elements in recent days, in which
they wished to encourage the U.S. not to relax its
pressure on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

Israel Radio reported that based on International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that Iran may be
conducting underground trials, Bush has accused Iran of
secretly planning to acquire nuclear weapons.


Ha'aretz reported that the Palestinian Mufti, Akrameh
Sabri, has issued a religious endorsement of the death
sentences imposed on 15 collaborators with Israel.
Sabri did not endorse 10 other death sentences. A
Maariv headline: "[Abu Mazen] Talks About Peace and
Executes." Jerusalem Post reported that the sentences
will be carried out this month.

Leading media reported that on Thursday, Sephardic
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar met with senior Druze officers,
promising them that there will never be a Jewish
religious ruling making it possible to harm Bedouin and
Druze IDF soldiers. Amar denied recent rumors about
such a ruling.

Jerusalem Post reported that nearly six years after he
fled to Qatar, Issam Abu Issa, chairman and founder of
the Palestine International Bank, returned to Ramallah
this week to challenge Yasser Arafat's decision to take
control of his bank.

Ha'aretz cited documents recently declassified by the
state, which show that in November 1954, Egyptian
president Abdel Gamal Nasser initiated a peace move
with the Israeli government led by Moshe Sharett. In
February 1955, David Ben-Gurion returned to his post of
defense minister and launched an operation in Gaza, in
which 13 IDF soldiers and over 40 Egyptian soldiers
were killed. The contacts with Egypt were interrupted.

A Dialog poll supervised by Prof. Camille Fuchs and
conducted for Ha'aretz:
-"If a referendum on the disengagement were held, how
would you vote?" In favor: 68.5 percent; against:
27.6 percent.
"If the candidates for PM in the next Likud elections
are Sharon and Netanyahu, who do you favor?" Sharon:
50 percent; Netanyahu: 29.7 percent.
"If the next elections are held in October 2006, when
Sharon is 79, do you think he should run, or retire?"
He should retire to his farm: 61.1 percent; he should
run again: 33.7 percent; undecided: 5.2 percent.
-"Which Likud candidate is most suitable to succeed
Sharon?" Netanyahu: 24.8 percent; Shaul Mofaz: 19.6
percent; Ehud Olmert: 13.3 percent; Shalom: 9.5
percent; Limor Livnat: 2.2 percent.

A Yediot/Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute) poll:
-"Do you agree with the view that Sharon is the right
leader at the right time?" Yes: 61 percent; no: 39
-"Before the elections, Sharon spoke of 'painful
concessions.' Did you understand that he was speaking
about evacuating settlements?" Yes: 62 percent; no: 27
-"If the disengagement [move] succeeds, will Sharon
evacuate further settlements? Yes: 71 percent; no: 19
-How will Sharon be remembered in history?" As the
father of disengagement: 45 percent; as the man
responsible for the Lebanon War: 20 percent; as the man
who dismantled the Likud: 11 percent; as the father of
the settlements: 10 percent.
-77 percent of Likud voters favor Sharon as PM; 17
percent prefer Netanyahu.

A Maariv/Teleseker poll:
-"What should Israel do in the light of last week's Tel
Aviv bombing?" Not respond, but let the Palestinians
continue their fight against terrorism: 64 percent;
call off the cease-fire and return to full military
operation and targeted killings: 29 percent.
-"Should a referendum be held on disengagement or are
the Knesset and government decisions enough?" A
referendum is not needed: 53 percent (43 percent four
months ago); a referendum is needed: 43 percent (50
percent four months ago).
-Were Knesset elections held today, whom would you vote
for?" (Findings given in number of Knesset seats.)
Likud: 40 (currently: 42); Labor Party: 21 (22); Shinui
14 (15); Shas: 9 (11); National Union: 10 (7);
Yahad/Meretz: 6 (7); National religious Party: 5 (6);
United Torah Judaism: 5 (4); Arab parties: 8 (8).

Lebanese-Syrian Track:


Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz:
"Despite the risks, Israel should support the move
toward democracy in Lebanon, which requires Syrian

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz: "It now appears that Hizbullah could reap the
biggest political gain from Hariri's assassination and
the clamorous developments in Lebanese politics."

Block Quotes:

I. "An Israeli Dispute on the Syrian Question"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(March 4): "The American approach [to the Lebanese
question] ... asserts that above all else stands the
desire for democracy in Lebanon, which will require the
Syrian army to withdraw from that country. Afterward,
the solutions to other problems will follow. In Israel
there are two main approaches. One, which originates
in the security services, states that first Hizbullah
must be disarmed, and that is what will make it
possible to impose democracy in Lebanon.... Those who
have this opinion ... should be told that the chances
of disarming Hizbullah -- which is supported by Iran --
are less than the chances of Israel disarming the
settlers.... The second approach originates in the
Foreign Ministry, and its main feature is complete
support for the UN Security Council Resolution 1559,
which mandates Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Those
adopting this approach rightly say that Israel must not
oppose the democratic tendency that is penetrating the
Arab world, a tendency that will reinforce Lebanon's
independence. The choice is not between the existence
of stability in Lebanon and the existence of democracy
and independence. The argument that Syria provides
stability is groundless. On the contrary: Syria
supports Palestinian terrorist organizations
headquartered in Damascus ... dispatches terrorists to
Iraq, supplies Syrian rockets to Hezbollah, and
integrates the terror group into the Syrian army
network -- all these, in addition to negative
cooperation with Iran, are undermining regional
stability. The conclusion is that despite the risks,
Israel should support the move toward democracy in
Lebanon, which requires Syrian withdrawal."

II. "Hizbullah -- The Big Winner From Hariri's

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz (March 4): "If it had appeared that the anti-
Syrian civilian rebellion in Lebanon would also
inundate Hizbullah's headquarters and cause the
organization to face a new, harsher reality, current
indications point to the contrary.... It now appears
that Hizbullah could reap the biggest political gain
from Hariri's assassination and the clamorous
developments in Lebanese politics. This is because the
Lebanese opposition, which succeeded in bringing about
the resignation of the pro-Syrian government, now faces
a new difficulty: it is unable to compose a government
that would garner a majority in parliament with
Hizbullah's support or getting those parliament members
who still back Syria to join it. For its part,
Hizbullah understands that if the opposition somehow
manages to form a government, and if the opposition
succeeds in getting a large majority in the
parliamentary elections, the status of any pro-Syrian
body [in Lebanon] would be at risk."

III. "Nasrallah Is Holding the Match"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (March 4): "At
this time, when the Syrians talk about the withdrawal
of their forces from Lebanon, they are not talking
about a full pullout, but about the implementation of
the Taif accord.... The Syrians pretend they do not
understand what the world wants from them. They will
implement the Taif accord, which allows them, among
other things, to continue running the Hizbullah
organization.... When the Americans, the French, the
Europeans, and the world talk about a Syrian withdrawal
from Lebanon, they mean the implementation of UN
Security Council Resolution 1559, which requires a
total pullout, including that of Syrian intelligence,
and the disarming of Hizbullah. At this time, [Syria]
refuse to understand, which guarantees the continuation
of American and European pressure. The aggressive
pressure is what makes the Lebanese opposition tick.
It maintains the impetus of Lebanon's flag revolution.
President Assad told Time Magazine about a withdrawal
of his forces ... in up to six months. The Americans,
the Europeans, and the Arab world, too, do not intend
to grant him even that amount of time. That earthquake
is just beginning."


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