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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 002420

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 three major newspapers (Ha'aretz, Yediot, and
Maariv) led with various aspects of the disengagement
move. Ha'aretz reported that the latest, tentative
version of the withdrawal blueprint says that three
northern Gaza Strip settlements -- Elei Sinai, Dugit,
and Nissanit -- will be the first to be evacuated by
the army and police in the implementation of the Gaza
disengagement plan. The isolated settlement of
Netzarim is also apparently due for evacuation in the
first week of the withdrawal, in late July. Yediot
reported that Disengagement Administration Director
Yonatan Bassi has asked PM Sharon to postpone the
evacuation by three weeks, in order not to upset the
sensitive period of mourning set in the Jewish calendar
over the destruction of the two Jerusalem temples.
Maariv reported that many residents of two northern
West Bank settlements that are not included in the
disengagement plan -- Hermesh and Mevo Dotan -- have
asked the IDF to evacuate them as well. On Sunday,
Ha'aretz bannered the cancellation by the leaders of
the Katif Bloc settlers on Saturday of a meeting
scheduled for Sunday with Sharon. The newspaper wrote
that hard-liners want to keep up the appearance of
fighting against the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, Maariv reported that Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz decided on Thursday to collect most of the
weapons belonging to the settlers slated for
evacuation, but that Internal Security Minister Gideon
Ezra opposes the initiative, saying that the settlers
must deal with the matter themselves.

Leading media quoted Finance Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom at saying
Sunday at pre-Passover holiday meetings that there will
be no further disengagement.

On Sunday, leading media reported that Israel and the
PA are renewing talks this week over issues of mutual
interest regarding the transfer of cities to the PA,
the release of prisoners, and security matters.
Hatzofe quoted PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas as
saying Sunday following talks he held with Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak that the PA is prepared to
coordinate the disengagement move with Israel. On
Sunday, Ha'aretz reported that the Bush
administration's envoys Elliott Abrams and David Welch
will be arriving in the region on Tuesday to assess
Abbas's political status and find ways to shore up his
regime.
On Sunday, Ha'aretz quoted Israeli sources as saying
during the weekend, following Sharon's U.S. visit, that
Israel and the U.S. see eye-to-eye on an evaluation of
Iran's nuclear plans, but that they divided on the
question of when and how to bring the issue before the
UN Security Council.

All media cited a Shin Bet announcement Sunday that
thee members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine from north and east Jerusalem wee recently
arrested on suspicion of planning to assassinate Shas
spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Ha'aretz quoted Yohanan Tsoref, a terrorism expert at
the Interdisciplinary Center and a former consultant on
Arab affairs for the GOI's Civil Administration in the
territories, as saying that the release of prisoners is
the best way for Abbas to distinguish himself from
Yasser Arafat. Yediot cited Sunday's cabinet
announcement that Israel will release nine Jordanian
security prisoners.

Leading media reported that in the third incident of
its kind in recent weeks, Fatah gunmen stormed the
offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Jenin
on Thursday, accusing the PA of failing to pay the
families of security prisoners in Israel. On Sunday,
Jerusalem Post quoted Palestinian legislator Abdel
Fattah Hamayel as saying during the weekend that
members of the armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Qassam,
have express their readiness to join the PA's security
forces. Israel Radio cited a denial by Hamas.

On Sunday, Maariv reported that a giant rally against
disengagement will take place in New York's Central
Park in June, from which a large delegation of
thousands of American Jews will travel to the Katif
Bloc for a "mission of solidarity" with the residents.

On Sunday, in a report from Cairo, Jerusalem Post cited
the confidence of Egyptian reformers that their cause
is gaining momentum.

Maariv reported that the World Organization of Jews
from Arab Countries (WOJAC) is terminating its
activities after 30 years. The group says it is
protesting the GOI's opposition to promoting the issue
of compensation of Jews from Arab countries and North
Africa.

Ha'aretz cited a poll conducted by the U.S. Jewish
organization Ameinu that found that most American Jews
support the disengagement plan, in spite of doubts
about whether it will make Israel safer. The telephone
survey found that 62 percent of respondents backed the
plan, while 23 percent opposed it.

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

Summary:
--------

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the
editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot: "Somebody here has understood that we will
not be able to rest on our laurels on the day after
disengagement. The Americans will not let us."

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in left-leaning,
independent Ha'aretz: "It is difficult to believe that
Sharon does not know that the cease-fire with Hamas and
integrating that organization into the political
process is considered one of Abu Mazen's most important
achievements."

Ha'aretz editorialized: "U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice announced last week the appointment of
James Wolfensohn as the special envoy for Gaza
disengagement.... From now on, the Bush administration
and its partners have two tools at their disposal to
improve the odds of the evacuation's success."

Ron Breiman, chair of the right-wing organization
Professors For a Strong Israel, wrote in Ha'aretz: "If
Bush were to understand, rather than being taken in by
Sharon's charm or European pressure, he would not waste
his second term on a problem that has no solution in
the foreseeable future."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"It is strange and disturbing ... that the lack of
Palestinian press freedom not only fails to top the
Western agenda for democratic reform, but seems
somewhere off the radar screen."

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

I. "The Real Message"

Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the
editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (April 18): "Israel [believed] that after
disengagement, [it] would be able to take some 'time
out' and enter a prolonged interim stage before the
negotiations on a permanent settlement are resumed.
However, these basic premises of Sharon proved to be
wrong, one after the other, at his meetings with
President Bush. The Americans do not intend to send
the Middle East on a two-year vacation. It is even
doubtful whether they will even allow us a break of a
few months after disengagement is completed in
September.... [The Americans] place much less emphasis
on total dismantling of the terrorism infrastructure as
a condition for continued progress in the road map. We
will not receive a pat on the shoulder on the morning
after disengagement.... Shortly after disengagement
Israel will find itself subjected to a concentrated
American effort, coordinated as never before with the
Europeans, to open a corridor to the permanent-status
agreement.... The two American representatives for
coordination of activity in the region, General Ward
and James Wolfensohn, will be much more creative and
dominant. The report published by Yediot Aharonot
that the second stage of the disengagement is already
on the agenda at the Prime Minister's Office, shows
that the American message has been heard, after all, by
Israeli ears. And that somebody here has understood
that we will not be able to rest on our laurels on the
day after disengagement. The Americans will not let
us. This, in effect, was the main message that Israel
was intended to absorb from the successful and so
prestigious visit of the Prime Minister to the U.S.
President's private ranch in Texas."

II. "There's No Partner"

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in left-leaning,
independent Ha'aretz (April 18): "It is difficult to
decide what is worse -- that the Prime Minister is
unaware that every delay in fulfilling ... promises
further weakens Abu Mazen and strengthens opponents of
any compromise, or that he is aware of the bad
influence of Israeli policies on Abu Mazen's situation,
but finds it more convenient to have a weak Palestinian
leader. It is difficult to believe that Sharon does
not know that the cease-fire with Hamas and integrating
that organization into the political process is
considered one of Abu Mazen's most important
achievements. Strange. A politician who is afraid to
evacuate dozens of outposts inhabited by lawbreakers
and needs the opposition's help to survive is
considered a strong leader. A politician ready to sign
a peace agreement between two states is considered a
weak leader. The important thing is that there's no
partner."

III. "Coordinate the Evacuation"

Ha'aretz editorialized (April 17): "U.S. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice announced last week the
appointment of James Wolfensohn as the special envoy
for Gaza disengagement. Wolfensohn, an investment
banker, will end a decade as head of the World Bank in
about six weeks. He is to stay at his new post until
the end of the year and has been given a two-fold task:
to coordinate the civilian aspects of the handover of
Gaza and the northern West Bank from Israel to the
Palestinian Authority, and to jump-start the
Palestinian economy after the evacuation. Wolfensohn's
appointment expropriates the evacuation from the sole
province of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, where it was
purported to be a unilateral issue, and transforms it
into a multilateral one, overseen by the international
community. Wolfensohn, an American citizen, is first
and foremost the representative of President George W.
Bush and Rice. But the three other members of the
Quartet -- the UN, the EU, and Russia -- were also
party to it. Thus, Wolfensohn's activity is linked to
the road map, as is the disengagement itself. It allows
those who sent him to determine which of the parties --
the Israelis or the Palestinians -- has met its
obligations, according to this plan, after evacuation.
Wolfensohn has also been authorized to strengthen the
ties between the two sides, to make it difficult for
them to refuse to fulfill those obligations. From now
on, the Bush administration and its partners have two
tools at their disposal to improve the odds of the
evacuation's success. On the security side, General
William Ward is urging the chairman of the PA to
streamline the clumsy and debilitated security forces
that are supposed to answer to him. On the civilian
side, Wolfensohn will try to serve as a shock absorber,
so that the transfer of Gaza leaves the PA with an
asset instead of a burden."

IV. "What Bush Doesn't Understand"

Ron Breiman, chair of the right-wing organization
Professors For a Strong Israel, wrote in Ha'aretz
(April 18): "If Bush were to understand that building a
vision on the shaky foundation of expelling Jews and
encouraging terror does not agree with his positive
desire for democratizing the world and overcoming
terror, he himself would turn to different channels.
He wouldn't waste his time on unifying Abu Mazen's
security services, which are nothing more than
terrorists in uniform, but would demand their total
removal from the western part of the Land of Israel
[i.e. Israel, including the territories]; he wouldn't
demand gestures from Sharon to establish the rule of
Arafat's successor, in other words, a continuation of
the approach of the Oslo Accords, which collapsed in a
foreseeable manner, but would demand the total
abolition of the PA... [Bush's] concern for Arab
territorial contiguity means a lethal lopping off of
Jewish territorial contiguity, and an existential
threat to the only state the Jews have; he would
understand that the attempt to bring about peace now is
leading to 'war now'.... To sum up, if Bush were to
understand, rather than being taken in by Sharon's
charm or European pressure, he would not waste his
second term on a problem that has no solution in the
foreseeable future; he would exhibit the responsibility
that the Prime Minister of Israel has lost, and stop
Sharon on the eve of implementation of the act of
madness that contradicts the values of Zionism,
Judaism, democracy and the need for a global war
against terror."

V. "Free the Palestinian Press"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(April 17): "A glimpse of the reality beneath the
veneer of democratization in the Palestinian Authority
was offered a few days ago in this newspaper in a
troubling account ... on the plight of journalists next
door to us. The situation ... depicted, and to which
many courageous reporters attested, belies the
impression that the Palestinian leadership is
internalizing the values of a free society.... As we
reported, the picture is hardly one of progress.
Indeed, the PA recently decided to subordinate all
government-controlled media to the direct supervision
of the Ministry of Information. In a move widely
regarded as a tightening of the authorities' grip on
both the print and electronic media, these are now to
be subjected to intensive review by the newly
established 'Executive Media Council'.... Though some
argue that a free press will be exploited by hate-
mongers of the Hamas ilk, we should remember that the
PA's government-controlled press continues to refer to
suicide bombers as 'martyrs,' even though Mahmoud Abbas
has presumably committed to ending incitement. Without
a free press, there is simply no hope for more moderate
views to come to the fore.... It is strange and
disturbing, therefore, that the lack of Palestinian
press freedom not only fails to top the Western agenda
for democratic reform, but seems somewhere off the
radar screen.... Given the centrality of press freedom
as a pillar of democracy, and that the United States,
and even Europe, have put political reform at the
center of their vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace,
the almost complete lack of attention to this problem
is a glaring anomaly. Without independent newspapers
and free Palestinian journalists, hopes for a better
future for Palestinians and Israelis will be slim."

KURTZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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