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Cablegate: Special Media Reaction: Turning of the Tide?

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

071404Z Jun 05





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: A series of interviews on the disengagement
plan conducted by feature writer Ari Shavit has
captured the attention of leading opinion makers in the
Israeli media for the past week. While those on the
right criticize the initiative as a "national disaster"
and those on the left as the right action being taken
in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, almost all
of the interviewees were critical of the logic behind
the plan. The interviews, and the discussion of them,
bring fresh public attention to disengagement at a time
when public support of the plan is at its lowest point
ever. End summary.

2. The feature story in the Ha'aretz weekend supplement
published on Friday, June 3 was an interview with
outgoing Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces
Moshe Ya'alon by feature writer Ari Shavit, who was
identified with the left before the outbreak of the
second intifada and has generally moved closer to the
center since then. Shavit, who also authored last
October's controversial interview with Sharon adviser
Dov Weisglass, is credited by his peers as being an
excellent interviewer, who coaxes deeper thoughts out
of politicians than the day-to-day statements that
comprise their usual public voices. The essence of
this interview is that, according to Ya'alon, Israel
should not expect an end to the conflict with the
Palestinians in the next generation, and certainly not
following disengagement. It can rather expect a "third
intifada" in the near term and maintenance of the
reality of a "struggle society" in the long term.

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3. The Ha'aretz feature coincided neatly with the
publication of Shavit's new book, which is scheduled
for release this week. Entitled "Dividing the Land,"
this book has attracted extensive commentary in both
Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv, the two leading Israeli
dailies. Shavit's book summarizes 33 interviews on the
topic of disengagement, its likely impact, and likely
scenarios for the day after disengagement, held with
key Israeli public figures from across the political
spectrum, including both military officials and
academic experts. And as Maariv's June 7 editorial on
the book points out, "The result... is very surprising.
While every one of the 33 people interviewed has a
completely different point of departure, nearly all of
them come to the very same conclusion: disengagement is
liable to produce very grave results. They are leery
of a surge in violence and terrorism, anticipate the
collapse of moderates in the Palestinian Authority and
believe that Qassam rockets will begin to be fired in
the near future on Netanya and Ashkelon. One can argue
with their projections, one may certainly focus on the
half-full glass, but when similar comments are made by
both Yossi Beilin and Binyamin Netanyahu - they are at
least worth listening to."

4. Maariv's editorial gives a brief synopsis of the
book and presents a few quotes from leading public
figures, quoting nine of the interview subjects and
some of their "particularly surprising positions."

-Yossi Beilin, Chairman, Yahad-Meretz:
"If disengagement does not lead to an immediate final
status arrangement it will be catastrophic for both the
Israelis and the Palestinians....The disengagement plan
is liable to bring about a resumption of violence....
There is palpable danger that in the wake of
disengagement, violence in the West Bank will rise
significantly so as to achieve the same Palestinian
achievement that was achieved in Gaza."

-Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, former foreign minister,
"Unilateral withdrawal perpetuates the image of Israel
as a country that flees under pressure.... If the
unilateral measures continue we will find ourselves
establishing an enemy Palestinian state."

-Ami Ayalon, former GSS director:
"The withdrawal from Dugit, Nissanit, and Eli Sinai is
a grave mistake. It is justified neither
demographically nor in terms of security, and the price
it is liable to exact from us is unwarranted.... The
plan is liable to strengthen the extremist forces in
Palestinian society."

-Maj. General (res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu, former IAF
"If there is no quick progress from disengagement to a
comprehensive withdrawal, people will regroup in
support of a one-state solution. With that will come
the end of the Zionist dream, and the Jewish state will
be lost."

-Maj. General (res.) Uzi Dayan, former deputy chief of
"The withdrawal from Nissanit, Dugit, and Eli Sinai is
a double mistake: security-wise, it needlessly brings
the threat of Qassam rockets closer to Ashkelon.
Politically, it sets a dangerous precedent of a
unilateral withdrawal to the 1967 lines, which
strengthens the Palestinians' demand for a return to
the June 4 lines."

-Maj. General Shlomo Gazit, former commander of the IDF
Intelligence Branch:
"It is likely that within not too long a period of time
we will face mortar shells and Kassam rocket fire from
the West Bank as well. These shells and rockets are
going to strike in Kfar Saba and might even reach

-Ephraim Halevy, former Mossad director:
"After disengagement is implemented, Israel is going to
be faced with diplomatic distress of a kind we haven't
known for years.... An imposed solution and
partitioning along the lines of the Clinton plan by the
end of 2008 can be expected."

-Shabtai Shavit, former Mossad director:
"The disengagement plan is self-defeating. It creates
a state of instability. The plan does not create the
minimal balance necessary to allow for coexistence over
time.... Immediately after disengagement Israel is
going to find itself on a collision course with the
United States."

-Professor Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, IDF Maj. General (res.)
and former director general, Weapons Research and
Development Administration, Ministry of Defense:
"Rocket fire into Israel is inevitable.... The IDF will
have to enter Palestinian territory to create a
security zone some ten kilometers wide."

5. As senior columnist Nahum Barnea writes in Yedioth
Ahronoth on June 6, "The timing of the book's release
is problematic. As some of the interviewees say, it is
too late to stop the disengagement initiative or change
its nature; and perhaps it is too soon to foresee where
it is headed; no one knows what will happen during the
evacuation, whether the internal clash will pass
peacefully or whether it will deteriorate into
bloodshed; no one knows how the Israeli withdrawal will
affect the Palestinian arena and Israel's foreign
relations; no one knows whether Sharon will survive the
evacuation from a political standpoint and wield an
effect on the moves of the day after. 34 prophecies
are in the book, almost all eloquent and well reasoned,
and each is different than the last." What is clear,
however, is that public support for disengagement is
eroding. Maariv's most recent poll, published on June
3, showed that 50 percent of the Israeli public
supports disengagement, which represents a 9 percent
drop from two weeks earlier, and is the lowest level of
support since Prime Minister Sharon announced the
disengagement plan.

6. Not all commentators share in the pessimism on
disengagement expressed in the interviews with Shavit.
In an op-ed piece published in Maariv on June 7, on the
same page as the editorial cited above, diplomatic
correspondent Ben Caspit reminds readers that similar
"doomsday prophecies" preceded Israel's withdrawal from
Lebanon. "What became of the warnings? They went up
in smoke. It is easy to warn, pleasant to caution, and
it costs nothing to induce panic." Caspit credits
Sharon for being willing to take a politically
dangerous decision for the good of Israel in the long
term, and points out that just as Israel has gained
from Barak's decision to withdraw from Lebanon, Israel
has already benefited from disengagement: "Let's remind
everyone what we had here up until a few months ago.
Blood was flowing in the streets. Depression. A sense
of hopelessness.... Since then the economy has begun
to recover, the malls are full, the beaches are
teeming, the new terminal at Ben-Gurion Airport is
collapsing under the sheer weight of passengers both
arriving and departing. Israel's international
standing is flourishing at unprecedented levels.
Terrorism, even in global figures, has decreased. All
of that, no matter what anyone says, and with all due
respect to Netanyahu and Yaalon and even the foreign
minister, are the products of disengagement."

7. Comment: As disengagement approaches, evolving from
a distant possibility in the hazy future to imminent
reality whose nuts-and-bolts consequences (where will
the ex-settlers live? How will goods, services, and
people move in and out of Gaza? What to do with the
crops planted in the hothouses? What to do with
soldiers who refuse to obey orders?) are being debated
in the media with increasing vehemence, media
commentary and opinion are accurately reflecting the
inevitable - Disengagement looks to be a turning point
in the history of Israel. Love it or hate it,
disengagement will change Israel forever, and Israelis
across the spectrum realize this. End comment.


© Scoop Media

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