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Cablegate: Special Media Reaction: Waking Up to Reality in Gaza:

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

081408Z Jul 05





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: As the disengagement battle escalates on the
ground, with violent confrontations in Gaza resulting in a
temporary IDF closure of the Gush Katif settlement bloc, anti-
disengagement roadblocks throughout the country, and the first
case of a "conscientious objector," Israeli media commentary and
analysis debates the success or lack thereof of the anti-
disengagement activists' tactics, their ideological motivation as
well as the Israeli government's preparedness to carry out the
plan. Public support for disengagement, the reality of which
seems to finally be seeping in, continues to decrease, though
most polls still show a slight majority in favor, as the
countdown to disengagement draws near. End Summary.

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"The Opening Shot Of Disengagement"
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2. Concern over escalating violence, especially since the actual
evacuation is not slated to begin for over a month, is evidenced
by the numerous commentaries on this issue. On June 30, military
correspondent Amos Harel wrote on page one of independent, left-
leaning Ha'aretz: "If anyone was still harboring doubts, along
came Wednesday's day of battles throughout the country and laid
them to rest: the disengagement has arrived.... The violence is
coming from the pullout opponents, and it is dictating the nature
of the confrontation. The IDF and police are gradually
streamlining their responses to riots, but the events of recent
days constitute a worrying prelude ahead of the real thing in
August." Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote on page one
of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot on July 1: "It
took the army time to realize that the people sitting in the Maoz
Hayam Hotel [in Gush Katif] had not come to show their opposition
to disengagement. They had come to provoke the Palestinians, to
create provocations and to push the Palestinians into responding
with violence, to ignite the Gaza Strip, to involve the IDF in
fighting masses of Palestinians, and to enforce their wish to
halt disengagement....Disengagement is here."

3. Residents of Gush Katif, long-clinging to faith and routine
in the face of imminent evacuation under Sharon's disengagement
plan, were greeted with a sharp wake up call last week as Israeli
Defense Forces, in an effort to prevent in influx of
disengagement opponents to Gush Katif, imposed a 24-hour closure
on the area. Nadav Shragai writes in Ha'aretz on July 8, "Many
of the residents suddenly discovered that belief is one thing and
reality another; that the evacuation is closer than they had
imagined. In fact, that it is already here, more threatening and
concrete than ever, and that their total belief was perhaps a bit

4. On July 6, leading media (banners in Jerusalem Post and
Hatzofe) reported that, in what it described as the "opening
shot" of disengagement, the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements
in the Territories on Tuesday summoned its supporters to a three-
day march on Gush Katif beginning on July 18 to "cancel the
expulsion." It has been reported frequently in recent weeks that
the government, fearing that many demonstrators will stay in the
area to be evacuated, is considering closing the Gaza Strip to
non-residents ahead of schedule and has already done so once.
One June 23, Kseniya Svetlova (Arab affairs journalist, Channel
Israel Plus) wrote in popular, pluralist Russian-language Novosty
Nedely, "Everything that is going on now, including the
unsuccessful Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting in Jerusalem, is ... a
prelude to the explosion that would inevitably take place. ...
Today, when only two months are left before the disengagement, it
is obvious that we are speeding towards ... a very dangerous
period of time, where we could get easily stuck..."
5. Delving beyond the protestors' tactical maneuvers, to examine
their ideological motivation and the slow response from
disengagement supporters, liberal op-ed writer Yael Paz-Melamed
wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv on June 23: "The difference --
the ostensibly substantive difference -- between the rallying of
the Right and the silence and apathetic reaction of the Left is
not an indicator of how strongly the Left is committed to its
ideology. It is essentially an indicator of the ideology itself.
The worldview of the moderate Left, to which many people in the
center of the political spectrum also subscribe, is one of
commitment to life, even at the cost of land and walls [such as
the Western wall]. Life is the supreme value.[...]The right-wing
camp, and particularly the extreme Right, believes that almost
anything is permissible for the sake of the Land of Israel -- to
break laws, to disrupt normal life, to deprive another people of
liberties, to humiliate them, to crush them into the dust..."
Nahum Barnea in Yediot Ahronot on June 27, explains why the blues
(pro-disengagement supporters) are, to date, losing the recently
dubbed war of the colors - over a million orange ribbons
distributed compared to less than half a million blue. "The gap
is not only logistic (difficulty in obtaining blue ribbons at low
cost). It is real. According to polls, most Israelis support
disengagement. But it is an indifferent, superficial support,
with reservations, support from afar, without any emotional
involvement. Opposition to disengagement is a completely
different matter. It makes a statement. It is defiant. It has
sex appeal."

"The Battle for Public Opinion"

6. Commenting on how the tactics adopted by disengagement
opponents might be costing them the battle for public opinion,
Deputy Editor-in-Chief Avi Bettelheim wrote on page one of
popular, pluralist Maariv on June 30: "On Wednesday, as I watched
the scenes from the blocked roads on television, I was more sure
than ever that the entire [disengagement] was going to be all
right, if only because the settlers are very close to making the
rest of the public sick and tired of them -- and when that
happens, their battle will become insignificant, and will be
unable to change anything of the government's original plan for
the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria [the
northernmost part of the West Bank]...." Continuing in this
trend, Buki Naeh writes in Yediot Ahronot on June 30, "I am no
longer your friend. What you are doing is not ideology...In the
name of your slogan, `A Jew does not expel a Jew,' then a Jew
also does not kill a Jew - even if he lives in Ramat Gan....I
can't forgive you for the stone throwing yesterday in Gush Katif
at the wounded Arab who was lying on the ground. You are not
Jews. In my Jewish people there are no such individuals." Nadav
Shragai adds in Ha'aretz on July 8, referring to the 24-hour
closure of Gush Katif last week, "In the sphere of external
influence, the publicity line of Gush Katif sustained a serious
setback, perhaps a mortal one. If the parliamentary battle was
lost by the opponents of disengagement back in March, it is
definitely possible that the battle for public opinion was lost
last week....The destruction was lightning fast. Regaining
public support will take a great deal of time, which the anti-
disengagement activists do not have."

7. Sharon's true motives are called into question by varied
sources. On July 7, correspondent Dov Kontorer wrote in
conservative, Russian-language Vesty: "The emergency atmosphere
being spread in Israel is intended to make up for the decision
regarding the deportation of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria
[the northern part of the West Bank], which obviously lacks
legitimacy.... Ariel Sharon demands that an even tougher
suppression of the growing resistance movement.... There is no
place for dialog and civil harmony ... in Sharon's new scheme,
which is totally oriented toward scaring the disengagement
opponents. The latter, who made a conscious choice in favor of a
non-violent opposition to the Israeli government's destructive
plans, are repression and a biased coverage in the
local and international press." Settler leader Israel Harel
wrote in Ha'aretz on June 23: "Many of those who supported the
disengagement yesterday are today voicing serious doubts as to
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's true motives and the prices --
strategic, ideological and human -- that we are going to pay.
With the terror continuing, coupled with threats that if Sharon
is slow in implementing additional withdrawals, the terror of the
past years will be just a preface to the true war of terror, it
is natural for people to be changing their positions....."

8. Arabic language media, reflecting the opinion of the Arab
citizens of Israel, have generally been in favor of the
disengagement, though they also question the true motivation
behind the plan. According to the June Peace Index poll,
Ha'aretz reports on July 7, that among the Arab citizens of
Israel, "the rate of support for disengagement is considerably
higher than in the Jewish population - 74 percent in favor and 24
percent against." On June 24, columnist Ahmad Khatib wrote in far
left leaning daily Arabic Language Al-Ittihad:".. The withdrawal
from Gaza is not really a withdrawal but rather fleeing from a
harsh and an expensive reality for the occupation.. Gaza consists
of less than one and half percent of the historical Palestine and
after more than half a century of sacrifices, I don't see any
accomplishment or profit coming out of the occupation's desertion
of only one and a half percent out of the `sea to the river'
project. We should be aware that historically the colonial
occupation had economical motives behind their stay, and
accordingly, Gaza has nothing to offer the occupation.."

--------------------------------------------- -----------
"Political Refusal Is Nothing To Be Proud Of"
--------------------------------------------- -----------

9. Uncertainty remains as to how many soldiers will refuse
orders to carry out the evacuation, and what fate these
refuseniks will meet. Discussion of the issue of these
"conscientious objectors" has been extremely widespread in the
media. The Israeli public got a hint of what might come as Avi
Bieber became the first soldier to refuse a direct order to
evacuate settler protestors from Gaza. The conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post editorialized on June 28 on this
topic: "Political refusal is nothing to be proud of, and both
sides know it. Disengagement opponents who are now blithely
urging refusal were the first to be appalled at left-wing calls
to refuse to serve in the territories.... The refuser, more than
advancing his own cause, is undermining the institutions on which
we all depend for our lives, our security, and our existence....
Whether refusal comes from ideology or ignorance, our society
must defend itself not only by punishing the perpetrators, but by
maintaining the stigma against political refusal and bolstering
democratic values through civic education. Defenders of
democracy need as much courage, tenacity and creativity as those
who, deliberately or through ignorance, would undermine what we
must all hold most dear."

10. According to some opinion makers, the writing has been on
the wall, as well as in the press, for quite some time. Yaron
London writes in Yediot Ahronot on June 30, "The warning was
written in this newspaper a few months ago: `If a large number of
religious soldiers heed their rabbis, who are inciting them to
disobey orders, it will become apparent that those who made dire
predictions about their behavior on the day a contradiction
arises between the command of the state and the command of their
teachers were right....The secular public, which appreciates the
great contribution of the religious public to the defense forces,
may reach the conclusion that it is worth waiving this
contribution, since its harm outweighs its benefit.'"

11. Comment: As the countdown to disengagement progresses, the
growing battle on the street is being reflected in media
commentary and opinion. Disengagement opponents have ramped up
efforts to prevent evacuation at all costs, which might be
costing them the public's sympathy as demonstrations grow more
violent. Though the public remains doubtful as to the
government's preparedness for the logistics of evacuation - how
to transport people and belongings, to where to transport them,
what to do with what remains behind, etc, the voices of those
that initially doubted the reality of disengagement are waning.
The public appears to be slowly adjusting to the reality of
disengagement, a messy, incomplete, perhaps violent and
confrontational disengagement, but a disengagement nonetheless.
End comment.

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