Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

271031Z May 05





E.O. 12958: N/A



Key stories in the media:

All media reported on, and major outlets led with, the
visit of PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas to the
White House Thursday. Leading media quoted Bush as
saying that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will
visit Israel and the PA before the disengagement move.

The media underscored President Bush's positive
attitude toward Abbas and noted that Bush's remarks at
the meeting seemingly contradict the reported contents
of his April 2004 letter to PM Sharon regarding
settlement blocs. Each media outlet highlighted a
different aspect of Abbas's talks with Bush. The
leading story in Ha'aretz begins with Bush's demand
that Israel halt all settlement construction.
Referring to Abbas's reported statement at a meeting
with Congressional leaders that the Palestinians "will
be throwing roses as the Israelis withdraw," Maariv
banners, "Abu Mazen Promises a Rose Withdrawal," and
cited concerns among the IDF that Bush accepts Abbas's
position despite the fact that the Palestinian leader
has only made promises. Yediot emphasizes the U.S.
demand that Israel refrain from destroying the
settlers' houses in the Katif Bloc (Gush Katif).
Jerusalem Post banners: "Bush Pledges USD 50 Million in
Direct Aid to PA; Praises Abbas's Courage at 'Start of
Difficult Journey.'" Hatzofe's headline: "Bush Slapped
Sharon in the Face." Channel 10-TV's Arab affairs
correspondent commented on Thursday: "Bush appeared
more Palestinian than a Palestinian." Palestinian FM
Nasser Al-Kidwa was quoted as saying in an interview
with Ha'aretz's Akiva Eldar, which was conducted before
the senior PA delegation's trip to Washington, that the
U.S. should take a more prominent, activist role in the
Middle East.

Jerusalem Post reported that at a meeting Thursday with
U.S. Jewish officials just before his White House
visit, Abbas said Sharon has rejected efforts to open
back-channel communications about final-status issues.

Maariv quoted Defense Ministry sources as saying that
the GOI is considering releasing Palestinian prisoners
"with blood on their hands."

Yediot reported that, following U.S. pressure, Israel
has committed itself to handing over to the PA all of
the information it possesses on infrastructure in the
Gaza Strip. All media quoted Disengagement
Administration Director Yonatan Bassi as saying
Thursday that the GOI's decision to spend dozens of
millions of dollars for temporary housing for evacuated
settlers was a mistake. Bassi cited settler pressure
on Sharon. Nevertheless, the Knesset's Finance
Committee allocated 150 to 220 million shekels (around
USD 34 million to 50 million) to the project, depending
on the media. Israel Radio reported that on Thursday,
the state submitted documents to the High Court of
Justice, hinting that it would freeze the plan it has
presented for permanent housing for evacuees if the
settler families do not enroll in it within two months.

Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas leaders in the West
Bank and Gaza have told the newspaper that Hamas will
not attack Israeli forces evacuating the Gaza Strip
later this summer, instead maintaining a "state of

Ha'aretz writes that the official results of the
Egyptian referendum on constitutional change constitute
a victory for President Mubarak's party.

All media reported that the Association of University
Teachers, Britain's largest union of university
educators, voted on Thursday to end its boycott of Bar-
Ilan and Haifa Universities. The decision passed with
a two-thirds majority.

All media reported that acceding to President Moshe
Katsav's request, 40 anti-disengagement students from
across Israel ended their 12-day hunger strike on

Ha'aretz reported that Egypt is demanding that the New
York conference of members of the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty issue a summary statement
urging treaty members to take operative steps to compel
Israel to permit international supervision of its
nuclear program. However, the newspaper quoted sources
involved with the conference as saying that Egypt
vehemently opposes any mention of Iran's nuclear
program in the summary document, and that Egypt is
insisting that the document focus solely on Israel's
nuclear program, in order to isolate Israel
diplomatically and bar it from scientific ties with
other countries in the field of nuclear research. The
sources were also quoted as saying that the U.S. and
the EU oppose Egypt's demand to paint Israel as the
world's nuclear "bad boy."

Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has
prevented the deputy chairman of the Islamic Movement's
northern branch, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, from taking part
in a conference on the right of return, which is
scheduled to take place in London this weekend.

Leading media reported that on Thursday, Israeli F-15
planes escorted a British Airways airliner flying from
London to Tel Aviv, because of a failure in the
airplane's communications. The Israeli authorities
feared that the plane had been hijacked.

A Maariv/Teleseker poll:

-"Do you support the disengagement plan?" Yes: 58
percent (among Likud voters: 49 percent; among Likud
Central Committee members: 39 percent). No: 29 percent
(among Likud voters: 37 percent; among Likud Central
Committee members: 53 percent).
-"In the distant future, are you prepared for
Palestinian sovereignty in part of the Arab
neighborhoods in East Jerusalem?" Yes: 57 percent
(among Likud voters: 40 percent; among Likud Central
Committee members: 30 percent). No: 39 percent (among
Likud voters: 56 percent; among Likud Central Committee
members: 68 percent).



Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote from Washington on
page one of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot: "On Thursday ... America reissued a clean
bill of health to the Palestinian Authority."

Washington correspondent Nathan Guttman wrote in left-
leaning, independent Ha'aretz: "Bush and his advisers
proved on Thursday that there is more than one way to
read the letter to Sharon."

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in Ha'aretz:
"Abu Mazen can't present his voters with an American
undertaking that after democratic elections, a reform
of the security mechanisms, the disarming of the
militants and a peaceful disengagement, Bush will bare
his superpower claws in order to drag Sharon into a
final-status agreement."

Block Quotes:

I. "Love Around the Corner"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote from Washington on
page one of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot
(May 27): "On Thursday ... America reissued a clean
bill of health to the Palestinian Authority.... It can
be said that the Palestinians gained a few points on
Thursday, and Israel lost some. Sharon frequently
waves aloft President Bush's commitment to take into
consideration the concentrations of Israeli population
in the West Bank during negotiations on the final
status arrangement. Yesterday, in response to the
Palestinians' request, Bush gave a balancing
commitment.... These statements weaken Sharon to a
certain degree in his debate with the opponents of
disengagement.... The religion that currently rules in
Washington is democracy. Bush believes that democracy
solves everything -- including an existential bloody
conflict over 100 years old. If the Palestinian state
is democratic, he said yesterday, everything can be
solved, including the problem of air space. Anyone who
lives in the Middle East knows that this is a
simplistic, naive, perhaps even dangerous approach.
But anyone who holds a position of leadership in the
Middle East knows that lip service must be paid. Abu
Mazen contributed his part yesterday to this fairy
tale.... The disengagement plan afforded Sharon
control over the political agenda. This was its great
advantage. But there is no perpetual control in the
Middle East. The big brother's eye is watchful,
especially since there is a little brother named Abu
Mazen, who yesterday officially became a favored son of
the administration. Perhaps not as close and important
and Sharon, but no less beloved."

II. "Without a Letter, But With a Lot of Good Will"

Washington correspondent Nathan Guttman wrote in left-
leaning, independent Ha'aretz (May 27): "Bush's
presents to Abu Mazen may not be dramatic, but they
definitely evidence good will and a positive attitude
toward the Palestinian leader. To a great extent, Abu
Mazen will be able to mark the date of the meeting as
an event equal in importance to the historic meeting
between Bush and Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004, during
which Sharon received the commitment letter. What Abu
Mazen got was actually not a letter, but much warmth
and many public declarations of support.... President
Bush and U.S. diplomacy also scored an achievement.
After Sharon was granted a letter of guarantees a year
ago, the President was criticized for having given
everything already in the first round, and given Sharon
so much in exchange of the disengagement -- to the
point that it wouldn't be possible to ever reach an
accord with the Palestinians based on those
understandings.... But Bush and his advisers proved on
Thursday that there is more than one way to read the
letter to Sharon.... The United States has now leveled
the ground, placing on it two relatively contented
Middle Eastern players. Each of them has received
commitments and understands that they are blurred
enough to allow Bush to maneuver between them after the
Israeli withdrawal is completed.... For the moment, the
administration prefers to deal with 'the day after.'"

III. "Same Words, Different Melody"

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar opined in Ha'aretz (May
27): "In April, Bush said that Abu Mazen had taken a
number of steps in the field of security, but that the
Palestinian Authority had to do more against terror....
On Thursday, Bush termed Abu Mazen 'a man of peace,'
who is acting with determination against terror.... If
the disputes with regard to the settlements and Hamas
didn't exist, Bush would have to invent them. They
provide a pretty wide berth to the president, who is
making do with actions that do not deviate from
managing the conflict. According to the public
statements, in the meeting with Abu Mazen, as in the
case of the talks with Sharon, the issues of a
timetable, verification mechanisms and enforcement
measures were not on the agenda.... And the main issue:
Abu Mazen can't present his voters with an American
undertaking that after democratic elections, a reform
of the security mechanisms, the disarming of the
militants and a peaceful disengagement, Bush will bare
his superpower claws in order to drag Sharon into a
final-status agreement."


© Scoop Media

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