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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 03 TEL AVIV 001938

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:
--------------------------------

Mideast

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

All major media lead with Sharon's new cabinet
appointments as the Knesset votes for the 2005 state
budget. Also prominent are reports updating
preparations for the execution of the Disengagement
Plan.

Ha'aretz reports that Finance Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu strongly criticized the disengagement plan
yesterday, saying it set a precedent for withdrawing
without receiving anything in return, and advocating a
formalization of Israeli control over the West Bank. At
the same time, Netanyahu said he still believed a
referendum was "the only way to tone down the great
rift and fracture that threaten us. The absence of a
referendum makes the situation more difficult."
Netanyahu also said he was opposed to the arrangement
under which Israel would transfer control of the
Philadelphi route, in the southern Gaza Strip, to Egypt
as part of the pullout. He said depending on Egypt to
fight terrorism and weapons smuggling to the Gaza Strip
would be a mistake.

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Ha'aretz reported that Public Security Minister Gideon
Ezra and Police Inspector General Moshe Karadi are to
meet tomorrow with Yesha Council heads to discuss the
possibility of collecting arms from the Gush Katif and
northern Samaria settlers before the start of the
evacuation. Yediot Aharonot added that former NRP
leader Efi Eytam, who recently relocated to the Katif
Bloc, made the suggestion. Yediot added that security
sources estimate Katif Bloc residents legally hold some
3,300 guns for self-defense.

Ha'aretz reported that 58 MKs voted in favor, 36 voted
against, and one MK, Abdul Malik Dehamshe, abstained,
passing the 2005 State Budget Bill. In the 2005 state
budget -- totaling NIS 266.6 billion, some NIS 2.2
billion is earmarked for the disengagement, enabling
the prime minister to move ahead with his plan. The
approval of the budget also removed the threat of early
elections from the agenda.

Ha'aretz reported that Military Intelligence chief
Major General Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash) said yesterday
that the terror organizations are trying to export
technological know-how and arms experts from Gaza to
make weapons in the West Bank. In his report to the
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ze'evi
noted a discernible decreasing motivation to carry out
attacks, which he attributed to the militant groups'
agreements to maintain regional calm, but said that at
the same time, the capability of terror groups has
improved. Ze'evi also accused Palestinian Prime
Minister Ahmed Qureia of continuing in the footsteps of
late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Ma'ariv added
that Zeevi said that Hamas was trying now to establish
a political party akin to the Irish Shin Fein, while
maintaining military and social wings alongside.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to reward Likud
members who voted for the state budget yesterday and
nominate them as ministers among them MK Roni Bar-On,
Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim and probably MK
Ephraim Sneh from the Labor Party. Sharon also intends
to reward five MKs who were loyal to him in recent
months and give them deputy minister posts. IDF Radio
at 10:00 AM reported that, in reaction, Knesset
Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman
Michael Eitan said the prime minister is paying
prostitute's wages to those who vote against the
positions of the Likud.

In a series of articles on preparations for the Gaza
Strip evacuation, Yediot Aharonot reported that the GSS
are focusing on preventive intelligence gathering while
coordinating with the IDF, seeking out the 'lone
gunman' who might attempt to assassinate a prominent
Israeli leader or attack Arabs. Citing a senior IDF
officer in the Gaza Strip, Yediot reports that the army
will start thinning out its troops there. The daily
reveals that the Justice Ministry is recruiting legal
experts and lawyers for quick processing of legal
issues such as indictments against protesters and
paying compensations.

Ha'aretz carries a story on a report by B'Tzelem,
Israeli human rights watch, which claims that Israel is
maintaining a 'strangulation' policy in the Gaza Strip
and may disavow its responsibility for Gaza residents
following the planned disengagement. The reported
violations are primarily related to restrictions of
movement Israel places on people and goods traveling in
and out of the Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem Post said 'the nuclear reactor in Dimona can
withstand even the harshest kind of quake,' that
strikes the Middle East once a century, according to a
report delivered yesterday by MK Yuval Steinitz
(Likud), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee.

--------
Mideast:
--------

Summary:
--------
Conservative columnist Yosef Harif wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: "In two weeks, Sharon will travel to
the United States and meet with President Bush. Should
he manage to attain an approval for leaving the large
Judea and Samaria settlement blocs in Israel's hands,
the Likud may quiet down and Sharon's status will
remain stable."

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

"A Split on Hold"

Conservative columnist Yosef Harif wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (March 30): "The cracks in the Likud
walls have recently expanded to the point of
collapsing.... Although Sharon came out victorious in
both the referendum and the budget campaigns, there is
doubt that peace in the Likud will be restored. The
real test will be the practical execution of the
disengagement, and the key question is, what will
tomorrow bring. In two weeks, Sharon will travel to
the United States and meet with President Bush. Should
he manage to attain an approval for leaving the large
Judea and Samaria settlement blocs in Israel's hands,
the Likud may quiet down and Sharon's status will
remain stable. If he does not, unrest will increase
and there is doubt that Sharon, however popular he may
be, would be able to subdue the rebellion against him.
To regain unity, the Likud depends on just one person -
Ariel Sharon. With his leadership skills, he managed
to overcome numerous difficulties outside and at home,
gaining rare achievements on the diplomatic ring. He
cannot, however, abandon the domestic ring. He will
not be able to lean for long on his camp, comprising
only 12 MK's most of whom lack power in the Likud
Central Committee. He will have to reach an
understanding with dozens of MK's who did not identify
with his stands. Otherwise, the split might become a
fact and the Likud will crash."
KURTZER

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