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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 001319

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. Syrian-Lebanese Track

2. Mideast

-------------------------
Key stories in the media:
-------------------------

On Sunday, Jerusalem Post cited President Bush's weekly
radio address, in which he hailed recent moves toward
democracy in the Middle East.

Ha'aretz reported that Sharon will visit the U.S. on
April 12, his first visit since President Bush's
reelection. The newspaper quoted GOI sources as saying
that Sharon will be focusing his efforts on
strengthening understandings with Bush from last April
with respect to Israel's ongoing control of large
settlement blocs, and concerning a solution to the
Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of
Israel. Ha'aretz says that Jerusalem expects
disengagement, the situation in Lebanon, and the war
against terror to figure prominently in Sharon's
upcoming visit, and anticipates that Bush will not
pressure Sharon to renew negotiations with the
Palestinians on a final-status agreement. Ha'aretz
writes that Sharon is expected to hand over to the U.S.
administration intelligence data revealing serious
deficiencies in the reorganization of the Palestinian
security forces. The newspaper reported that Abbas is
slated to be in Washington ahead of Sharon, whom he
will meet before his trip. Maariv reported that
Japanese PM Jonichiro Koizumi has invited Sharon and
Abbas to a summit meeting at the resort of Hakone. No
date has been set for the meeting.

Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post reported that Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will
meet this week in an effort to advance talks between
Israel and the PA. According to the newspapers, Mofaz
and Abbas will try to make progress on the issue of
transferring security responsibility for West Bank
cities in the hands of the Palestinians. Leading media
reported that on Sunday, the heads of the Israeli and
Palestinian security committees -- Brig. Gen. Gadi
Eisencott and Gen. Haj Ismail -- met again in a good
atmosphere. However, Ha'aretz notes that IDF sources
advised a cautious approach to Palestinian reports that
the two officers had come to an agreement on
transferring security for Tulkarm, and perhaps Jericho,
to the PA already on Tuesday.

Israel Radio reported that two Israelis were wounded by
gunfire in Hebron this morning, one of them seriously.
On Sunday, citing news agencies, Ha'aretz quoted a
senior Palestinian security official as saying that
Palestinian police seized weapons on Saturday near
Hebron.

Jerusalem Post reported that the IDF expects illegal
settler outposts to mushroom across the West Bank, but
that it is not likely to take any action against them
since troops will be tied up with the disengagement.
Leading media reported that following a Lebanese
government announcement on Sunday that Syrian troops
would be redeployed to the east the next day, Hizbullah
called for a peaceful pro-Syria mass rally in Beirut.
On Sunday, leading media quoted Sharon as saying, in
response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's speech on
Saturday, that Syria must withdraw completely from
Lebanon, and that Israel will not be satisfied with a
partial pullout. All media reported on U.S. pressure
on Syria in the matter.

On Sunday, Jerusalem Post quoted a PA official as
saying that jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is
believed to have orchestrated a rebellion against the
top leadership of Fatah.

Maariv reported that the residents of all four northern
West Bank settlements slated for evacuation are
conducting advanced negotiations for the terms of their
departure. Jerusalem Post reported that 45 Gaza
settlers on Sunday petitioned the High Court of Justice
protesting the Disengagement Implementation Law and the
terms of compensation it offers the Jewish residents
due to be evacuated from Gaza and the northern West
Bank starting July 20.

Jerusalem Post reported that PM Sharon told visiting
Jordanian FM Hani Fawzi al-Mulki on Sunday that Israel
will not let a brigade of Palestinian soldiers trained
in Jordan, the Badr brigade, across the Jordan River to
take up security duties in the West Bank. At the same
time, Sharon said that Israel would support the
training of PA security officials in Jordan. Al-Mulki
was quoted as saying in an interview with Jerusalem
Post that Syria was serious about entering peace talks
with Israel and that Jordan would press the U.S. to
force Israel to withdraw from Syrian lands if Syria
withdraws from Lebanon. On Sunday, Ha'aretz reported
that Israel could release Jordanian prisoners before FM
Silvan Shalom's visit to Amman scheduled for the end of
the month. Leading media quoted al-Mulki as saying
that King Abdullah of Jordan is not expected to visit
Israel soon.

Ha'aretz reported that lingering mutual suspicions are
holding up the agreement to deploy Egyptian forces
along the Philadelphi route. In particular, the
newspaper cited the Israeli defense establishment's
concern about the proposed upgrading of the Egyptian
military with advanced American weapons systems at a
time when its commanders still consider Israel a
potential threat against which they must prepare
themselves.

Leading media cited an interview Abbas granted Time
Magazine, in which he said: "President Bush doesn't
have the right to prejudice final-status issues. These
issue should be discussed in the final stages, not
now." Abbas also denied Bush's role in the
democratization of the Middle East, and placed
responsibility for the February 25 suicide bombing in
Tel Aviv on Israel.

Leading media reported that FM Silvan Shalom met in New
York with Senator Hillary Clinton, who told him she had
demanded that the U.S. impose sanctions on Syria to
force it to leave Lebanon. Ha'aretz reported that
Sharon will meet Tuesday with Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen
Hadley.

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported that Israel
responded skeptically to reports published Sunday,
stating that Damascus instructed senior Islamic Jihad
and Hamas leaders to leave Syria, following the Tel
Aviv suicide bombing. Jerusalem Post cited an Islamic
Jihad announcement that the attack was carried out by a
rogue cell.

On Sunday, Maariv and Yediot cited the Foreign
Ministry's denial on Saturday of a report by the Irish
newspaper Evening Herald that a Mossad hit squad was
stopped as it was planning to kill two members of the
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who had been deported to
Ireland after the siege of the Church of the Nativity
in Bethlehem three years ago.

All media, except Jerusalem Post, led with what police
officials called the biggest money-laundering case in
Israeli history, thought to involve hundreds of
millions of dollars in the past year. Twenty-four
employees, past and present, of Bank Hapoalim's
Hayarkon Street branch were arrested on Sunday. The
police froze 180 accounts held by 18 customers in the
branch. Among those likely to be questioned are Maariv
owner Vladimir Gusinsky and Israel's Ambassador to the
UK Zvi Hefetz, who was Gusinsky's point man in Israel.

On Sunday, Maariv and Ha'aretz presented the findings
of a study carried out by Prof. Steven Cohen of the
Hebrew University among U.S. Jews, which show a 15-20
percent drop between 2002 and 2004 in nearly all the
indicators measuring emotional attachment to Israel.
On Sunday, Ha'aretz cited another recent study, carried
out on behalf of the United Jewish Communities of North
America, showing that only 4 percent of Jewish students
with a non-Jewish parent feel a special link to Israel.
Forty-five percent of the Jewish students in America
have a non-Jewish parent.


--------------------------
1. Syrian-Lebanese Track:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

Former ambassador to the U.S. Prof. Itamar Rabinovich
wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot:
"The U.S. now clearly wishes to take absolute advantage
of Syria's vulnerability in Lebanon in order to extract
concessions on other contentious issues, and perhaps to
demolish Assad's regime completely."

Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry wrote in Yediot
Aharonot: "These players could draw Israel into a very
complex and dangerous situation."

Arab affairs correspondent Jackie Hoogie wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "[The Syrian President's
speech] was Bashar Assad in the mold of Hafez Assad."

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

I. "The United States Will Not Give Up"

Former ambassador to the U.S. Prof. Itamar Rabinovich
wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot
(March 7): "U.S. pressure in recent days and the
question of the Syrian withdrawal [from Lebanon] have
focused international attention on the issue of Syrian
hegemony in Lebanon. But the U.S. has a broader agenda
vis-a-vis Damascus. Washington has identified Lebanon
as Syria's Achilles heel and has decided to concentrate
its efforts on that issue. In fact, the U.S. is
striving to obtain concessions from Syria on other
matters and it views Syria as a target for political
changes and the key to a regional transformation....
The U.S. now clearly wishes to take absolute advantage
of Syria's vulnerability in Lebanon in order to extract
concessions on other contentious issues, and perhaps to
demolish Assad's regime completely.... Damascus wishes
to convey a clear message to the Lebanese opposition:
if you continue to demand a Syrian pullout, we will
support a Shi'ite demand for a new balance of power in
Lebanon in order to reflect the fact that the Shi'ites
have become the largest community in the country
II. "A Dangerous Situation For Israel"

Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry wrote in Yediot
Aharonot (March 6): "A security and governmental vacuum
was created in Lebanon in the wake of the Hariri
assassination, and this vacuum has been expanding with
the passage of every day.... Hizbullah has gained the
most from this situation.... Even if Assad sincerely
intends to redeploy his 14,000 troops in Lebanon, he
has absolutely no intention of releasing his grip on
it. In the last four months the number of Syrian
intelligence agents stationed in Beirut has risen from
a few hundred to thousands. Now they are being joined
by Hizbullah guerrillas, Iranian Revolutionary
Guardsmen and Lebanese intelligence agents, who long
ago began taking orders from Damascus. These players
could draw Israel into a very complex and dangerous
situation."

III. "Hafez's Son"

Arab affairs correspondent Jackie Hoogie wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (March 6): "In his speech,
[Bashar] Assad had a few objectives in sight. First he
had to gain a little time until the Arab League Summit,
which is due to gather in Algiers this month, and where
he hopes to have the League endorse his presence in
Lebanon with an official resolution.... A second
objective is the splitting of the [Lebanese]
opposition.... The Syrian President is now hoping to
divide the world's powers -- America, which has already
announced that his declaration was not enough, on one
side, and all the European states, which will insist on
waiting and seeing and on granting the guy some more
time... In brief, this was Bashar Assad in the mold of
Hafez Assad."


------------
2. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"The greatest crime, in the PA's eyes, is not terror
itself but thwarting terror."

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in left-leaning,
independent Ha'aretz: "Democracy's loss will only be
peace's gain if Sharon commits to putting the peace
process back on track where it was left by the left
after his famous trip to the Temple Mount."

Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, president and founder of the
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, wrote
in Ha'aretz: "At a time when the rest of the world is
arrayed against us, evangelical Christians are true
friends who stand alongside us."

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

I. "Back to Thugocracy"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(March 6): "Scant international or even local attention
has been accorded news that the Palestinian Authority
has decided to resume executions by the end of this
month. Of the 15 inmates on death row, none are
terrorists, but about half were convicted for
'collaborating with Israel.' Presumably the latter
offense includes helping Israel foil suicide bombings.
By our book that not only is the last deed for which
one ought to be put to death, but it is precisely what
the PA ought to be encouraging.... When the PA imposes
capital punishment on those it charges with helping
Israelis root out terror (allegations which are highly
dubious in most cases), it only adds insult to the
injury inherent in its own inaction. It says the
greatest crime, in the PA's eyes, is not terror itself
but thwarting terror. Nor is there any reason to trust
the PA judicial system. The last time such
'collaborators' were executed officially was on a
January morning in 2001. 'Trials' are normally brief
and haphazard affairs that in no democratic country
would be considered due process.... While Israel is
denied credit for its incomparably autonomous and
unregimented judiciary, the mockery of what parades as
law next door escapes censure.... We agree with
Minister Natan Sharansky's urgent plea to Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel immediately demand
the PA desist from this travesty-in-the-making. "

II. "Democracy's Losses"

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in left-leaning,
independent Ha'aretz (March 7): "The day after the
London meeting last week, one of the newspapers
reported that 'there is growing fear in Jerusalem that
after the disengagement from Gaza, international
pressure will mount concerning a final status
agreement.' That's right -- fear of a peace agreement.
Abu Mazen's call to adopt the principle of mutuality
with regard to actions against terror and the
occupation, as written and agreed to with signatures in
the road map plan, has not echoed in the public
arena.... Sharon will deserve the compassion of the
peace camp only if he orders an immediate end to all
the unilateral steps he is taking in the West Bank and
East Jerusalem, starting with the construction of the
fence outside the sovereign territory of Israel.
Democracy's loss will only be peace's gain if Sharon
commits to putting the peace process back on track
where it was left by the left after his famous trip to
the Temple Mount."

III. "We Need Evangelical Christian Support"

Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, president and founder of the
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, wrote
in Ha'aretz (March 7): "In a recent op-ed column ('A
Pernicious, Dangerous Alliance,' Ha'aretz, February
23), Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan expressed concern
about the alliance that is being 'forged' between
evangelical Christians in the U.S. and the extreme
right in Israel. A sober and correct consideration of
the situation would lead to the conclusion that today,
more than ever, Israel and its leaders should welcome
the embrace offered by the evangelical community, which
should not be taken lightly. This support is
particularly important given recent expressions of anti-
Semitism and the anti-Israeli attitude of Europe and
the UN.... In contrast to the evangelical movement, the
Presbyterian Church, which is considered one of the
liberal Protestant movements, declared a consumer
boycott and a move toward divestment from Israel a few
months ago. The Presbyterians were not even
embarrassed to say their objective was to produce
economic isolation, as was done to South Africa during
apartheid. The Episcopalian Church is considering
doing something similar.... This boycott does not issue
from sublime humanitarian motives. These churches did
not call for a boycott of the darkest and most savage
regimes known to humanity.... While it is true that
many of the evangelical Christians belong to the right
wing of the political map, their love for Israel is
unconditional.... At a time when the rest of the world
is arrayed against us, evangelical Christians are true
friends who stand alongside us."

KURTZER

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