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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 05 TEL AVIV 002441

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

Leading media quoted White House Press Secretary Scott
McClellan as saying Monday that the U.S. will seek
clarifications from the GOI regarding an Israeli
announcement that 50 new homes will be built in the
West Bank settlement of Elkana. McClellan was quoted
as saying: "Israel should not be expanding
settlements." Maariv reported that McClellan added:
"The Palestinian leaders need to act to dismantle
terrorists' organizations." Maariv quoted him as
saying that Sharon is moving forward on the
disengagement plan. Israel Radio quoted a senior
political source in Jerusalem as saying that he does
not know which 50 houses are concerned. Hatzofe quoted
Yehuda Cohen, the head of the Elkana local council, as
saying that he has received an approval to build 700
houses in his settlement, in addition to the 50 houses
in question.

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Ha'aretz quoted PM Sharon as saying Monday that he
plans to participate in the annual AIPAC conference in
Washington next month.

All media reported that due to the mourning period in
the Jewish calendar associated with the fall of both
Jerusalem temples, Sharon expressed his readiness
Monday to postpone the evacuation of Gaza settlements
until August 15. Leading media cited severe criticism
by senior IDF officers regarding logistical problems
involved in the postponement.

On Sunday, Maariv reported that Finance Ministry D-G
Yossi Bachar would meet senior U.S. officials this week
to discuss U.S. aid for the Negev, the Galilee, and the
disengagement plan, subsequent to promises President
Bush gave Sharon during his visit to the U.S. The
proposed USD 1 billion assistance to Israel would
extend over four years.

All media reported that a non-commissioned officer was
moderately wounded and an Israeli civilian lightly
wounded by Palestinian sniper fire at construction
workers along the Philadelphi Route on Monday
afternoon. Israel Radio reported that Israel protested
to the PA over the incident.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel has halted the
construction of the separation fence in the area of
Ariel in the northern West Bank, and quoted defense
establishment sources as saying that the area is "wide
open" to infiltration by terrorists.

Jerusalem Post reported that Finance Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu warned, at a pre-Passover event in Ness Ziona
Monday, that if Israel did not insist on reciprocity in
the disengagement process, the result could be a repeat
of the tragic results of Oslo. The newspaper quoted
him as saying that Abbas "is not Arafat in that he is
not ordering terrorist attacks himself, but he is also
no Sadat and he is not King Hussein." Netanyahu said:
"He is not doing anything to dismantle the terrorist
organizations."

Ha'aretz reported that residents of the settlements of
Ganim and Kadim in the northern West Bank have recently
told Disengagement Administration Director Yonatan
Bassi that they are interested in moving en masse to
Afula. Maariv quoted Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar
as saying Monday that Shas party mentor Ovadia Yosef
has ruled, despite his opposition to the disengagement
plan, that evacuation orders should not be opposed and
that one should not call for disobedience of orders.

Ha'aretz reported that Vice Premier Shimon Peres met
Monday in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac
and FM Michel Barnier, who proposed hosting an
international conference on assisting the PA, akin to
last month's International Donors Conference on Haiti.
The newspaper reported that Peres suggested focusing on
economic measures, warning that political content would
reintroduce the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, and
stop the peace process before it had even begun.

Ha'aretz quoted Likud MK Uzi Landau as saying Monday
that Iran would undoubtedly launch a nuclear attack on
Israel if the Islamic republic knew that it could get
away with it unharmed. Landau also said he might run
for Likud candidate for PM against Sharon in the
planned 2006 elections. Maariv reported that former
IAF commander Eitan Ben Eliyahu told an audience at the
Netanya Academic College Monday that the Iranian
nuclear problem can be resolved through a joint
international attack on Iran's nuclear installations,
in which Israel would participate.

Ha'aretz reviewed meetings held in Beirut in late March
between U.S. Mideast experts and Hamas and Hizbullah
leaders, which the newspaper says shed light on the
Islamists' intentions.

Yediot reported that the Egyptian Film Actors Guild has
displayed a billboard opposite Cairo's Ben Ezra
synagogue, portraying Sharon, Ehud Barak, Netanyahu,
and the late Moshe Dayan, as "killers." The right-wing
Internet site Arutz Sheva (Arutz-7) reported that the
Egyptian authorities have declined to remove the
poster.

Maariv and Jerusalem Post reported that Turkish PM
Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Israel in early May --
according to Maariv, in an effort to mend the bilateral
relationship. Ha'aretz reported that a joint Israeli
Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems has won a
tender to supply unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the
Turkish military, beating out competition from the U.S.
company General Atomic and France. The supply
contract, which was signed Monday, is worth USD 200
million.

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

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "At
this stage, the practical question facing Israel is not
what can Abbas do for it, but what can it do for
Abbas.... If Abbas is not strengthened now, Hamas will
increase in power, and Israel will find itself handing
over Gaza to a militant and uncompromising Islam, and
not to a moderate secular administration."

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"The settlers did vote overwhelmingly for Sharon, but
even if they had not, it should not be necessary to
explain to him that he must act as their prime
minister, too."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz:
"The real challenge posed by an Arab democracy will be
its continued striving against the legitimacy of a
Jewish state."

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

I. "Tighten Rules of Engagement"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (April
19): "Abbas is still a far cry from fulfilling his part
of the deal offered to him by the U.S. administration:
maintain control over the security mechanisms, fight
terror, clean up the Palestinian Authority
administration, and receive Israel's return to the road-
map track. The main difficulty facing Abbas is not
American or even Israeli, but an internal one. Abbas
is caught between the Fatah rock and the Hamas hard
place.... At this stage, the practical question facing
Israel is not what can Abbas do for it, but what can it
do for Abbas. A tightening of the rules of engagement
in the direction of broader risk margins would be one
step in the right direction. Another step would be the
release of additional Palestinian prisoners. Such a
release is expected following the evacuation of Gaza,
out of concern that doing it now could bolster the
pullout opponents in Israel. But if Abbas is not
strengthened now, Hamas will increase in power, and
Israel will find itself handing over Gaza to a militant
and uncompromising Islam, and not to a moderate secular
administration."

II. "The Settlers' PM"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(April 19): "Implementing disengagement with a minimum
of trauma requires thinking out of the box, the more so
because time is short, as well as acting with
efficiency, alacrity and generosity. When Sharon was
in the U.S., he set the wrong tone when he spoke of
concerns about civil war. Disengagement opponents who
have hinted at endorsements of violence, publicly
called for refusing IDF orders and generally denied the
legitimacy of government decisions should indeed be
condemned. But the government should also be focused
on how to treat with the utmost consideration those who
will, however reluctantly but peacefully, abide by its
decisions.... Encouragingly, Sharon has now set up a
ministerial committee, with himself at its head, to
oversee the issue of relocating Gaza's Jews. It is to
be hoped that the man who oversaw Israel's astounding
success in absorbing hundreds of thousands of Jews from
the former Soviet Union at the turn of the 1990s can
prove successful again. Disengagement should not mean
disenfranchisement. Israel is disengaging from the
Gaza Strip, not from the Israelis whom governments of
every stripe sent there. Our newly elected leaders, in
good democratic tradition, always stress that they
intend to be the 'prime minister of everyone,'
including those who did not vote for them. The
settlers did vote overwhelmingly for Sharon, but even
if they had not, it should not be necessary to explain
to him that he must act as their prime minister, too."

III. "The Disturbing Aspect of Arab Democracy"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in Ha'aretz
(April 19): "The 'Bush Doctrine' to advance democracy
in the Arab world ... draws scant attention here in
Israel, an unfortunate situation. Any change in Arab
regimes will impact Israel enormously. In Jerusalem,
however, this is being ignored, with the concept being
treated as if it were merely a naive American
fantasy.... Israel has contrasting interests: on one
hand, democratic neighbors will be less threatening and
will reduce the danger of war; on the other hand,
Israel will lose its unique character in the region.
The 'shared values' that tie it to America will belong
to other countries, as well. Many Israelis fear that
if the Arabs are given the freedom to choose, they will
elect extreme Islamists to power. But the real
challenge posed by an Arab democracy will be its
continued striving against the legitimacy of a Jewish
state. A very ominous sign for the future can be found
in the Report on Arab Human Development, the third in a
series authored by a group of intellectuals from Arab
countries under the sponsorship of the United Nations
Development Program.... [In contrast to the previous
ones], the new report repeats the old claims and places
considerable blame on Israel and the U.S. as obstacles
to regional development.... [Israel's] Foreign Ministry
said of the report: 'The Arab scorpion has once again
stung itself.' This criticism is on the mark, but the
problem goes beyond the diplomatic sparring. Israel's
cumbersome efforts to court the existing regimes in the
Arab region are not enough. A far-reaching soul-
searching is necessary on the question of how Israel
will be affected by political reforms in the region and
what it must do to become part of the process, rather
than be perceived as an enemy of change."

KURTZER

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