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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 002323

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. Bush-Sharon Meeting

2. Mideast

3. U.S.-Israeli Relations

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

Maariv cited Israeli sources from Sharon's entourage as
confirming that the crisis in US-Israeli security
relations recently reached a new high as Washington
suspended Israel's participation in the JSF ("future
fighter plane") project, in addition to imposing
restrictions on exports of advanced technology to
Israel. The tension is seen as related to the Israeli-
China drone deal. A senior Israeli source is cited as
hoping that "this nightmare" will be over by August,
when the Americans are expected to complete their
examination. Sharon reportedly raised this issue at
the meeting with Paul Wolfowitz, but the Israeli
delegation would not confirm that.

In a related report, Yediot Aharonot said that in the
wake of Sharon's US visit, the US Administration is
increasingly concerned that, should Israel become
convinced that Iran is continuing to develop its
nuclear capability, it might launch a preemptive strike
against Iranian nuclear facilities. On his part,
Sharon gave no such indication. The IDF Radio cited a
Sharon interview yesterday on the Fox Network, where he
said that Israel does not intend to attack Tehran. He
said that Israel and the US are sharing intelligence
information with regard to Iran's nuclear weapons, and
that there is very close cooperation between them.

Maariv reported that, following conversations Prime
Minister Sharon held in Washington, it appears that the
US Administration believes that the Syrian regime is on
the verge of collapse and that Syrian President al-Asad
will not remain in power after Syrian troops pull out
of Lebanon. From those conversations, it appears that
the Americans have already "written off" President al-
Asad, that he is nonexistent for them, and they are
planning for day the after his downfall and the end of
the Alawi minority control in Damascus. The Americans
are cited as saying that al-Asad is a strange man who
cannot be trusted, and that the Syrian nation is ready
to start a democratic process. They also worry over a
possible collapse in Lebanon after the Syrian pullout.

Ha'aretz reported that the Israel Defense Forces plan
to build roads parallel to the existing main roads used
by Israeli traffic in the Gaza Strip, before the
disengagement plan gets underway. The new roads will be
used by troops and police during the pullout
operations. The media have already been informed that,
during the pullout, they will not be able to move
around freely and will have to travel on buses provided
by the army that will be equipped with communications
devices. The police and army will also set up a joint
situation room to direct the movement of convoys in the
Gaza Strip and at the entrance to the western Negev.

Yediot Aharonot reported that after a stormy and
charged meeting, the Gaza Coast Regional Council
decided to act toward moving the Katif Bloc settlers to
Nitzanim and to hold negotiations with the prime
minister and the various government offices about
inserting substantive changes in the evacuation-
compensation law. This is a groundbreaking decision,
in which the council -- an official body of Katif Bloc
residents -- has decided to address issues that up
until now it has avoided on the grounds that as far as
it was concerned, "there is no disengagement." This
follows the meeting last week of the secretaries of a
number of Katif Bloc settlements with the prime
minister, a meeting in which the "Nitzanim plan" was
raised, and in which the settlers increased pressure on
the council to take over responsibility for the future
of the settlers. The daily added that 15 Israeli
mayors yesterday met 15 Palestinian mayors in Jericho
and together called for a truce to stop the violence.

Ha'aretz related that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe
Yaalon and Attorney General Meni Mazuz witnessed first
hand yesterday the mounting right wing protest of the
disengagement plan. After succeeding in circumventing
the chief of staff's array of bodyguards, two right
wing demonstrators mounted the ceremonial platform, a
few meters away from Chief of Staff Yaalon, and tried
to raise a sign entitled 'Jews do not expel Jews,'
before being removed from the site. While touring
Hebron yesterday, Mazuz was surrounded by extreme right
wing activists, who shouted at him.

The Jerusalem Post reports that amid growing criticism
of the PA's continued control over the Palestinian
media, the director of Palestinian Satellite TV, Maher
al-Rayes, resigned earlier this week, saying he was
unable to work under the circumstances. Meanwhile,
Palestinian journalists in PA-controlled media on
Wednesday threatened to stop covering news about the
cabinet unless real reforms are made to make the media
independent.

-----------------------
1. Bush-Sharon Meeting:
-----------------------

Summary:
--------
Correspondent Efraim Ganor wrote in popular, pluralist
Russian-language Novosty Nedely: "President Bush ...
believes that straight after the [Gaza] disengagement,
it will be possible to begin implementing the road
map.... The conclusion is simple: after the first
disengagement, other disengagements will follow."

Block Quotes:
-------------
"Conclusions"

Correspondent Efraim Ganor wrote in popular, pluralist
Russian-language Novosty Nedely (April 14): "All that
can be done was done in order to create an
exceptionally friendly atmosphere [at the Bush-Sharon
meeting]. Despite the ... pastoral environment, it was
impossible to overlook the discrepancies between the
two leaders' [positions], which appeared at the
meeting.... It is unlikely that these discrepancies
will have a serious influence on the relations between
Bush and Sharon, but one shouldn't underestimate them
either.... Sharon was trying to convince the President
that the Palestinian leader was not fulfilling the
obligations he took upon himself and hasn't done
anything to eradicate terror organizations....
President Bush ... believes that straight after the
[Gaza] disengagement, it will be possible to begin
implementing the road map.... The conclusion is
simple: after the first disengagement, other
disengagements will follow."

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

Summary:
-------

Columnist Nadav Shragay wrote in left-leaning,
independent Ha'aretz: "Something bad is happening to
the Israeli democracy on the way to the disengagement
as more and more lines, differentiating between tyranny
and a tolerant and pluralistic regime, are crossed."

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Hizballah has
been at a low for several years, ever since the Israeli
'enemy' pulled out of Lebanon, and has been clearly
weakening ever since Syria started pulling out.... The
lesson for Israel is clear: We must not fall into the
trap. Any military reference to Hizballah's veiled
threats will serve them. This might lead to a paradox,
so typical of the Middle East, in which the enemy of
Hizballah might actually save it from its demise."
Block Quotes:
-------------
1. "Silence, We're Disengaging."
Columnist Nadav Shragay wrote in left-leaning,
independent Ha'aretz (April 14): "Something bad is
happening to the Israeli democracy on the way to the
disengagement as more and more lines, differentiating
between tyranny and a tolerant and pluralistic regime,
are crossed. The 'commander's spirit' which brutally
fired cabinet ministers, cheated its voters, denied its
political platform and party institutions, and finally
refused to let the people vote on an unprecedented
historic move, that spirit is now sipping down to the
ground levels.... The media, quick to document and
cover every violation of human rights and freedom of
speech when they happen to Palestinians or left-wing
activists, is denying its duty when the other side
protests. Over the past few months, it has even forgot
how to ask questions. The prime minister should have
been asked many questions these days, but nobody does..
It seems that the disengagement is an end that
sanctifies every means. The media are willingly
silent, and too many stand idly by and do not react to
violence, mouth-gagging, and denying the freedom to
speak and demonstrate -- which would have been
intolerable any other time. The most important thing
is to keep it quiet. We are disengaging."

2. "Who's Afraid of Hizballah?"

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer
at the Interdisciplinary Center wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (April 14):
"Recently, Hizballah and its leader have been often
described in Israel as a body that might heat up the
northern sector and whose political and military
struggle against Israel is at its peak. Last week's
launching of the pilotless drone was, therefore,
perceived as an escalation that put the military system
on the alert. The truth is the exact opposite:
Hizballah has been at a low for several years, ever
since the Israeli 'enemy' pulled out of Lebanon, and
has been clearly weakening ever since Syria started
pulling out. Hizballah members know that they would
not be able to remain the only armed militia in Lebanon
without the Syrian umbrella. The Lebanese public
opinion would not tolerate that.... The lesson for
Israel is clear: We must not fall into the trap. Any
military reference to Hizballah veiled threats will
serve them. This might lead to a paradox, so typical
of the Middle East, in which the enemy of Hizballah
might actually save it from its demise, which is
already written on the region's walls in red letters."

--------------------------
3. U.S.-Israeli Relations:
--------------------------
Summary:
-------

Columnist Larry Derfner wrote in conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (April 14): "Why are
American taxpayers giving Israel another $2.5 billion
this year? Why will they give Israel about the same
$2.5 billion next year? And the year after that? And,
barring a radical change, indefinitely? Everybody
knows why. We get oceans of money from American
taxpayers simply because we can get their elected
representatives to give it to us.. It is time, it is
past time, to stop asking Americans for money. It's
time to say thank you -- really -- for the $100 billion
you've given us, but we're in good shape now, so
please, keep your money, or if you want to give it
away, give it to somebody who needs it."

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

"Rattling the Cage: Welfare state"

Columnist Larry Derfner wrote in conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (April 14): "The recession
is over, folks -- Israel is booming. Finance Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu announced it on Sunday, and while he
was lying about how good the poor are doing, he was
telling the truth about Israelis as a whole
(especially, of course, the rich).... So here's my
question: Why are American taxpayers giving Israel
another $2.5 billion this year? Why will they give
Israel about the same $2.5 billion next year? And the
year after that? And, barring a radical change,
indefinitely? Everybody knows why. We get oceans of
money from American taxpayers simply because we can get
their elected representatives to give it to us. The
Israel lobby in Washington is much too powerful for
Congress to turn down, and Israel is, after all,
something between an ally and a satellite of America's,
so they give us the money, no questions asked. What
are they going to do, say no? But when I ask why, I
mean how can we -- we Israelis and the American Jews
and evangelical Christians who lobby for us -- possibly
justify asking for this money anymore...? Now wait,
say Israelis and their lobbyists, most of this money we
get from the Americans is military aid, and in a few
years it'll be strictly military aid, and most of it
has to be spent on US-made military goods. So you see,
American defense jobs depend on Israel getting this
American foreign aid.... The Israel of 2005 can afford
its own weapons. It does not need American taxpayers
to pay for them -- not anymore, and not in the likely
future. Israel has always said that it was only asking
for American aid until it became economically
independent, until it could stand on its own feet.
Well, that day has come. It is time, it is past time,
to stop asking Americans for money."
CRETZ

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