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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 06 TEL AVIV 001720

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. Democracy in Mideast

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

All media reported, and most of them bannered,
disengagement-related political moves. In yet another
apparent defeat for PM Sharon, the Likud faction Monday
adopted a compromise that should allow both the 2005
budget and legislation for a referendum on the
disengagement to pass their respective Knesset
committees this week. Sharon was quoted as saying
during the debate: "We [the Likud] are already two
factions de facto. In the next elections, we will run
with two heads." Israel Radio cited Sharon's
satisfaction over the fact that the budget bill will
pass at the Knesset's Finance Committee. Yediot
forecasts the following results in the key Knesset
votes:
-A projected majority for the budget bill (Yea vote: 58
-- Likud (less the rebels), Labor Party, United Torah
Judaism, MK Nudelman and Yahad); abstention: 6 -- MK
Paritzky, MK David Tal, One Nation and United Arab
List; nay vote: 56 -- Likud rebels, Shinui, National
Union Party, NRP, NRP "mavericks" and the Arab
factions.
-A projected majority against the referendum bill: Yea
vote: 40 -- Likud (26), National Union Party, NRP and
Degel Hatorah mavericks; nay vote: 80 -- Likud (14),
Labor Party, One Nation, Shinui, Paritzky, Yahad, Arab
factions, MK Nudelman and MK Tal.

Leading media reported that Israel handed over security
responsibility for Tulkarm to the PA last night. It
was resolved that the villages in contention would
remain under Israeli control and that the issue would
be revisited in a month's time. Jerusalem Post quoted
security sources as saying that the transfer of
Qalqilya, the next city to enjoy similar status, will
only be implemented after the situation has been
carefully monitored and the PA takes action on the
ground to quell terror.

Jerusalem Post quoted diplomatic officials as saying
that while they assume reports that the plans for the E-
1 corridor linking Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim are
moving through the approval process were sure to have
caused irritation in Washington, the U.S.
administration's response would likely be muted.
However, Jerusalem Post says that Deputy National
Security Advisor Elliott Abrams and David Welch, who
will visit Israel and the PA on Wednesday, are expected
to raise the issue. Ha'aretz quoted a U.S. official
as saying: "We expect Israel to abide by its
commitments under the road map."

Leading media expect the Arab League summit that opens
today in Algiers to once again ratify the Saudi peace
initiative of 2002. The media reported that at pre-
summit deliberations, a Jordanian proposal that
attempted to soften conditions for normalizing
relations with Israel was rejected.

Leading media cited UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's
speech at the UN Monday, in which he called for the
adoption of his entire reform package for the
international organization. Jerusalem Post highlighted
Annan's call for the adoption of a convention by
September 2006 with terrorism defined as any act
"intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to
civilians or noncombatants with the purpose of
intimidating a population or compelling a government or
an international organization to do or abstain from
doing any act." The newspaper noted that Israeli
officials welcomed that development, with Roni Leshno
Yaar, the Foreign Ministry's deputy D-G for the UN and
International Organizations, saying this is the
"beginning of a change in the way the international
community regards terror." He stressed, however: "We
are not there yet. There is still a long way to go."

Hatzofe reported that last week senior IDF officials
told representatives of northern Negev communities that
their area will be closed to civilian traffic after the
Passover holiday [in early May] in order to prevent the
arrival of disengagement opponents to the Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem Post reported that under the investigation by
the Interior Ministry regarding the funding of its
campaign against the disengagement plan, the Council of
Jewish Settlements in the Territories has changed its
fund-raising tactics. It has begun collecting only non-
tax-deductible donations in the U.S.

Maariv reported on the move of the U.S. Consulate-
General in Jerusalem to its new premises in the Arnona
neighborhood in the western part of the city, along the
"seam line" with East Jerusalem. The newspaper quoted
Consulate-General sources as saying that the move,
which will be completed by 2007, is devoid of political
significance, and that the chosen site suits the
institution's security needs and its desire to gain
space. Maariv cited the GOI's satisfaction over the
move and its belief that it has political significance.

Ha'aretz (Amir Oren) extensively reported on U.S.-
Israel military cooperation, as reflected in the joint
exercise Juniper Cobra, which began across the country
on Sunday and will last for about three weeks.
Ha'aretz emphasizes the role of EUCOM in the defense of
Israel, should it be in danger.
Jerusalem Post reported that the state declared on
Monday that it no longer blocked in principle all
requests by citizens of Arab countries married to
Israelis to receive citizenship or residential status
in Israel. The statement, delivered to the High Court
of Justice, was in response to a petition filed by the
Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) last
October on behalf of a Moroccan citizen.

Yediot reported that on Sunday, IDF Radio and Voice of
Palestine Radio will simultaneously broadcast a
recording of the song "Belibi" (In my heart) performed
in Hebrew by Israeli singer David Broza and in Arabic
by Palestinian singer Wisam Murad, accompanied by
choirs of Israeli and Palestinian children. The song
was written by Murad's brother, Said Murad.

Ha'aretz reported that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
convened the heads of some 50 of the leading defense
industry firms in the country Monday, warning them
about the necessity of getting permission for business
negotiations with China, even if they are selling
civilian equipment that happens to be manufactured in
an Israeli defense plant. The CEOs were told ahead of
time that the meeting would be about the crisis in
relations with the U.S. in the wake of military sales
to China.

Leading media reported that on Monday, the cabinet
approved (19 in favor, as Labor's Haim Ramon and Matan
Vilnai abstained) the nomination of Stanley Fischer as
governor of the Bank of Israel. Fischer's five-year
term will begin in early May.

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

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The
Arab League is ... once again letting slip through its
fingers the positive role it could play in creating a
new regional atmosphere. It is also contradicting its
own statement that the conflict must be resolved
through peaceful means."

Defense and foreign affairs columnist Amir Oren wrote
in Ha'aretz: "Sharon is bound by his promise to
President Bush to adhere to the timetable of a summer
withdrawal. Only Bush can release him from this
promise, in exchange for Sharon's commitment to make
additional progress toward the final-status agreement
that Bush wants to achieve within three years."
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"If the U.S., Europe and Israel all agree that it is
unacceptable to allow terrorist groups to hold any
peace process hostage and threaten Israel and the new
Palestinian government, that recognition should be
reflected in tangible pressure on Abbas to fulfill his
commitments now, not after the next [terrorist]
attack."


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

I. "Frightened of Normalization"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (March
22): "The Arab League summit that convenes today in
Algeria will approve a document whose wording was
agreed upon in advance. In it, the leaders of the Arab
states adopt what is termed the 'Arab Peace
Initiative,' more or less as it was presented at the
Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002. Based on the
draft resolution approved by the Arab foreign ministers
two days ago, it seems that Arab leaders preferred not
to deal with the changes that have occurred in the
region, and especially not with the developments in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... The possibility that
peaceful relations with Israel could actually advance
the region's diplomatic moves is still viewed as giving
Israel something for nothing.... The Arab League is
thus once again letting slip through its fingers the
positive role it could play in creating a new regional
atmosphere. It is also contradicting its own statement
that the conflict must be resolved through peaceful
means. The sharp edges of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict will not be blunted if Arab states establish
relations with Israel even before it ends. But a
decision in principle on such a move could influence
Israeli public opinion, and thereby the Israeli
government as well.... It must therefore be hoped that
additional Arab states and leaders will discern the
diplomatic benefits that could flow from establishing
relations with Israel, and that these states, along
with Jordan and Egypt, will lead the region into a new
era."

II. "Peace Doesn't Pay"

Defense and foreign affairs columnist Amir Oren wrote
in Ha'aretz (March 22): "Sharon (and the legitimacy of
the disengagement) requires elections before the
withdrawal, not afterward, so that the public can be
asked -- and will apparently agree -- to give him
credit, rather than to pay a debt. But Sharon is bound
by his promise to President Bush to adhere to the
timetable of a summer withdrawal. Only Bush can
release him from this promise, in exchange for Sharon's
commitment to make additional progress toward the final-
status agreement that Bush wants to achieve within
three years. That could make an interesting topic of
conversation for the Bush-Sharon talks in Crawford,
Texas -- either before or after they coordinate on the
Iranian nuclear issue."

III. "Don't Wait For the Next Attack"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(March 22): "Those who believe that Abbas is weak and
worthy should be the first to be concerned about the
complacency and lower standards that are already
setting in. For all the talk of what Abbas hasn't done
and must do, what is actually happening tells a
different story.... A cease-fire would not be enough
because it leaves the terrorists intact and fully
armed. A 'calming' is even worse, because it is
explicitly no more than a pause to rearm, train and
reload -- which, security officials report, is already
happening.... If the U.S., Europe and Israel all agree
that it is unacceptable to allow terrorist groups to
hold any peace process hostage and threaten Israel and
the new Palestinian government, that recognition should
be reflected in tangible pressure on Abbas to fulfill
his commitments now, not after the next attack. If we
wait, we are not strengthening Abbas but instead
setting him up for failure, with all the preventable
losses in Israeli and Palestinian lives that such
failure would entail."

-------------------------
2. Democracy in Mideast:
-------------------------

Summary:
--------

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global
Research in International Affairs Center, columnist
Barry Rubin, wrote in conservative, independent
Jerusalem Post: "While the intellectual advocates of
democracy [in the Arab world] are individual liberals,
the fruits [of liberalization] are likely to be reaped
by large communal-based parties and Islamist movements,
which have a much easier time organizing large groups
of people."

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

"Democracy With a Communal Face"
The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global
Research in International Affairs Center, columnist
Barry Rubin, wrote in conservative, independent
Jerusalem Post (March 22): "The people most likely to
support democracy in the Arab world are those convinced
they would win fair elections. And large groups
holding such ideas are most likely to arise among
already existing ethnic religious communities rather
than out of diverse parties built up gradually from
individuals' conversion to a liberal worldview.
Lebanon is the only Arab state where such groups have
always been legitimate political actors.... But in
other Arab states there are three problems Lebanon does
not share. First, communal-based parties are arising
with no precedent for such a system. Arab nationalist
regimes have been ruthlessly centralizing, stamping out
expressions of communal interests or differences.
Second, they have not yet had their ethnic civil war to
teach the futility of such a struggle. Third, unlike
Lebanon, where there are too many communities for
anyone to win, somebody just might emerge
triumphant.... While the intellectual advocates of
democracy are individual liberals, the fruits are
likely to be reaped by large communal-based parties and
Islamist movements, which have a much easier time
organizing large groups of people. The outcome will
vary according to the specific situation. In some
places, like Lebanon and Iraq, the results may be good.
In others, the existing regimes will have far more
appeal as people fear the potential for civil war or an
Islamist takeover."

KURTZER

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