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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 09 TEL AVIV 005350

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD

WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
NSC FOR NEA STAFF

SECDEF WASHDC FOR USDP/ASD-PA/ASD-ISA
HQ USAF FOR XOXX
DA WASHDC FOR SASA
JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR PA
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL FOR POLAD/USIA ADVISOR
COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE FOR PAO/POLAD
COMSIXTHFLT FOR 019

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

1. Mideast

2. Israeli Politics

3. Syrian-Lebanese Track

4. U.S.-Israel Relations


-------------------------
Key stories in the media:
-------------------------

At noon today, Israel Radio reported that at least 640
people who participated in a mourning procession in
Baghdad were killed in a stampede that followed a false
alert about a suicide bomber.

All media highlighted the press conference (some
journalists dubbed it an early election rally) convened
by Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday afternoon. Netanyahu
formally joined the Likud's leadership race, and
accused PM Sharon of "betraying Likud ideology" and of
defecting to the Left. He appealed to the Likud's
150,000 members to restore the party to power after
four years of Sharon's rule. All media reported that
former PM Ehud Barak surprised his Labor Party rivals
Tuesday when he proposed that all party leadership
contenders rally around chairman Shimon Peres. The
media say that Barak wants to thwart the aspirations of
Histadrut labor federation Secretary-General, Knesset
Member Amir Peretz.

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Ha'aretz says that a majority vote is expected in the
Knesset today on the Philadelphi agreement, which calls
for 750 Egyptian police officers to be deployed along
the Egyptian side of the Gaza Strip border.

Yediot reported that, according to Washington sources
close to the investigation of the assassination of
former Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri, unequivocal findings
will make the U.S. and France impose sanctions on Syria
in the next few days. Yediot, Ha'aretz, and Jerusalem
Post reported that several pro-Syrian senior security
and intelligence officials were arrested in Beirut
Tuesday in connection with the assassination. Yediot
cited the belief of GOI sources in Jerusalem that the
findings would turn President Bashar Assad into the
"leper of the region and bring about his total
isolation in the international community."

Jerusalem Post quoted Egyptian intelligence chief Omar
Suleiman as saying in Gaza City Tuesday that Egypt will
continue to support the Palestinians until they
establish their state in all territories occupied by
Israel in 1967.

Ha'aretz reported that when the separation fence is
completed, thousands of East Jerusalem children will
have to cross checkpoints to attend school.

Ha'aretz cited the PA's concern over the purchase by
wealthy foreign Jews of hothouses belonging to Gush
Katif settlers for the PA. The newspaper quoted a
Palestinian source as saying: "We received a gift and
we cannot refuse it." The source summed up the
position of PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas.
Ha'aretz writes that Abbas had agreed to the deal
following pressure from Vice Premier Shimon Peres, the
Economic Cooperation Foundation, senior State
Department officials, and others. The newspaper says
that the Palestinian reservations came for political,
economic, and social reasons. Maariv reported that the
IDF intends to hand over the Gaza Strip's Netzarim area
to the Palestinians as early as next week.

All media reported that Defense Ministry D-G Amos Yaron
is stepping down from his position. Yediot says that
he informed Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Tuesday
that he will leave his position in mid-September.
Yediot quoted Yaron as saying Tuesday that the
continued sale of weapons technology to China had not
been an attempt to deceive the U.S. Israel Radio
quoted Israeli sources in Washington as saying that his
departure will pave the way to the resumption of trust
between the Israeli defense establishment and the U.S.
administration.

Jerusalem Post quoted Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark
Regev as saying Tuesday, following reports that
Pakistan may send a high-level delegation to Gaza and
Jerusalem, that Israel would welcome such a group.
Regev's comments were in response to an article in the
Pakistani daily Dawn, which appeared on its web site on
Tuesday. However, the Pakistani newspaper had also
reported that the move was not a step toward
Islamabad's recognition of Israel.
Jerusalem Post reported that leaders of the Iraqi
Jewish community from around the world will soon meet
in London to plan a strategy to demand compensation for
lost assets, potentially in billions of dollars, from
the Iraqi government.

Yediot reported that Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz
instructed Mofaz on Tuesday to immediately stop the
employment of Ron Schechner, Mofaz's special assistant
in charge of settlements, following the findings of the
Sasson report on unauthorized settler outposts.

Leading media cited an announcement released by the
Justice Ministry Tuesday, according to which Mazuz has
decided not to press charges against a group of Jewish
extremists who carried out an ancient curse ceremony
("pulsa denura") meant to place a death wish on Sharon,
since the appeal was to God and not to mankind.

Ha'aretz reported that the IDF has appealed the eight-
year prison term given to Sgt. Taysir Harb, who was
convicted by a military court of killing British pro-
Palestinian activist Tom Hurndall, saying in a
statement Tuesday that it seeks a harsher sentence.

Maariv reported that positive Israeli characters --
peace activists -- appear in the Egyptian TV film
"Agent 1001" that will air during the upcoming month of
Ramadan. The Lebanese star Nur plays the part of a
left-wing Israeli woman who criticizes Zionism and
helps Palestinians.

Yediot front-paged a Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute) poll
conducted Tuesday night:
-54 percent of Israelis (51 percent of registered Likud
voters) favor Sharon as the next PM; 21 percent prefer
Netanyahu (26 percent of registered Likud voters).

------------
1. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"Perhaps for the first time in the history of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is agreement among
the Americans, Europeans and Israelis over the way
forward in ending the conflict in this generation and
not in some faraway future."

Former U.S. mediator Dennis Ross wrote in conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post: "Gaza disengagement creates
an opening, and it will close for Sharon and Abbas
unless the [U.S.] administration recognizes where we
are, and what is now necessary."

Michael Freund, who was a senior aide to former prime
minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in Jerusalem Post:
"It is not enough merely to bring down the government.
Rather, Sharon must be seen to suffer a stinging
political rebuke, such that it will be obvious to all
that the withdrawal led directly to his downfall."

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

I. "The Only Plan"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(August 31): "Things have never been as clear and as
focused as they are today. Perhaps for the first time
in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
there is agreement among the Americans, Europeans and
Israelis over the way forward in ending the conflict in
this generation and not in some faraway future.... The
incumbent prime minister has a few months left to make
progress in the diplomatic arena. He currently enjoys
unprecedented Israeli and international support for his
actions. Sharon did not lose his Knesset majority, but
he lost his support from his party long ago. As long
as a sitting prime minister has a parliamentary
majority, he can continue to advance the road map. If
he does nothing, he will become superfluous. If Sharon
can take advantage of his upcoming trip to the United
States to shape additional understandings with regard
to settlement blocs on the West Bank; if he accepts
Environment Minister Shalom Simhon's offer to give
settlers in isolated West Bank settlements -- who want
to be evacuated as a community -- a compensation
package that would make it unnecessary to evacuate them
in the future, he can prove that he still has something
to offer and that Israel under his leadership continues
to accept responsibility for determining its future and
its borders."

II. "Rev Up the Road Map"

Former U.S. mediator Dennis Ross wrote in conservative,
independent Jerusalem Post (August 31): "The [U.S.]
administration must build a bridge to the future. The
two sides have very different expectations of what will
happen after disengagement: Sharon wants a pause to
absorb the emotional trauma, and Abbas wants next
steps. Each needs an explanation of what is next. The
administration should declare that it will take the
moribund road map and negotiate a common understanding
on every Israeli and Palestinian obligation. It won't
be easy and it will take time. It will take the kind
of mediation the administration has avoided until now.
But Gaza disengagement creates an opening, and it will
close for Sharon and Abbas unless the administration
recognizes where we are, and what is now necessary."

III. "A Road Map For the Right"

Michael Freund, who was a senior aide to former prime
minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote in Jerusalem Post
(August 31): "To be sure, the retreat from Gaza and
northern Samaria was a terrible blow, but the perils
that lie ahead may prove even more ominous. Israel is
essentially slouching its way back to the pre-1967
Armistice Lines, which would endanger the state and its
interests. In order to prevent this, the Right must
lick its wounds from the Gaza debacle and formulate a
strategy aimed at forestalling any future retreats.
The time to do so is now because, with a little
foresight, we can and will prevent more Jews from
losing their homes. Such a strategy should encompass a
number of key spheres: political, practical and
ideological, and it should not be left in the hands of
any one organization to implement. Rather, the various
forces must combine their efforts and work in tandem to
bring it about. In the political realm, the number-one
priority at this stage should be to remove Sharon from
power.... It is not enough merely to bring down the
government. Rather, Sharon must be seen to suffer a
stinging political rebuke, such that it will be obvious
to all that the withdrawal led directly to his
downfall."
---------------------
2. Israeli Politics:
---------------------

Summary:
--------

Political parties correspondent Sima Kadmon wrote in
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "Netanyahu
may have made a small step Tuesday in his bid to head
the Likud. But he is still very far removed from the
premiership."


Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in Ha'aretz: "If
[Sharon] wins the Likud contest, he will kill the peace
process.... That is why it would be best if Netanyahu
beats Sharon within the lunatic Likud and leads to
nowhere a party that has lost its direction."

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

I. "Netanyahu's Circus"

Political parties correspondent Sima Kadmon wrote in
mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (August
31): "Netanyahu, who on Tuesday spoke about the corrupt
Sharon -- who abandoned the Likud's principles, is
threatening to destroy the house, encourages terror,
sows illusions, and does not respect democracy --
forgot a small fact: until two weeks ago, during almost
five years, he was a senior minister in his cabinet.
So, Netanyahu may have made a small step Tuesday in his
bid to head the Likud. But he is still very far
removed from the premiership."

II. "Sharon's Loss Would Be Israel's Gain"

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in Ha'aretz
(August 31): "Even if Sharon manages to do what appears
at the moment like pure fantasy and wins the primaries,
he is as good as dead within the Likud. Ahead of the
contest, he started to intimate that the disengagement
would be the last in his career, and started making
ingenuous noises of affection toward the road map that
he actually detests. If he wins the Likud contest, he
will kill the peace process; if he loses, he will
likely take the only path that allows any political
movement: quitting, forming a right-and-center party,
and forging an alliance with Labor and Shinui, backed
by Yahad-Meretz, United Torah Judaism and the Arab
parties. This is the move that would best serve the
national interest. That is why it would be best if
Netanyahu beats Sharon within the lunatic Likud and
leads to nowhere a party that has lost its direction."

--------------------------
3. Syrian-Lebanese Track:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "It is hard to
believe that there will be a huge outcry in Syria or
among its neighbors when Assad is made to pay the
bill."

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

"The Lion From Damascus Is Coming Across As a Cat"

Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (August 31):
"[President Bashar] Assad made Syria lose its special
status in the region.... Assad has lost on all
international fronts: President Bush is threatening to
place Syria on the economic-diplomatic 'axis of evil'
and to topple Assad. The UN is about to blame him for
the assassination of former Lebanese prime Minister
Rafic Hariri. A propos Hariri -- his brutal
elimination killed an investment plan for economic
projects in Syria that was funded from the Hariri
family's private capital.... Was Assad a partner in the
secret plan to eliminate Hariri? Who prepared the list

SIPDIS
of hits? It is hard to believe that there will be a
huge outcry in Syria or among its neighbors when Assad
is made to pay the bill."
--------------------------
4. U.S.-Israel Relations:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: "What is scary ... is that the
Americans, when they so wish, can pronounce that black
is white ... and the entire [Israeli defense]
establishment backs down from them in a panic."

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

"Victim of American Tyranny"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (August 31): "Contrary to what might
appear from the media reports, [Amos] Yaron is leaving
the Defense Ministry with his head held high. What is
slinking submissively, with its tail between its legs,
is the State of Israel's sovereignty. One of the best
directors general the Defense Ministry has seen, a man
responsible for countless projects and huge security
deals, is going home as part of a roundabout deal that
is intended to put a stop to the Israeli humiliation
campaign in Washington and the national Israeli
groveling at the Pentagon.... A thorough and
comprehensive investigation of all the details related
to the crisis with the Americans, a detailed chronology
of the crisis from day one, can only lead to one
conclusion: Yaron is clean-handed, as is [the Defense
Ministry's director of security] Yehiel Horev. A chain
of misunderstandings, which fell on ready ears and a
basic distrust, became a many-headed monster
threatening the strategic relations with the United
States. What is scary about the whole story is that
the Americans, when they so wish, can pronounce that
black is white ... and the entire [Israeli defense]
establishment backs down from them in a panic. The
American tyranny, which is also expressed in the insane
cruelty with which they have been taking revenge on
Jonathan Pollard for over two decades, knows how to be
crueler than all the dictatorships that we know. That
is how it is when they give USD 3 billion a year, and
we receive it."

KURTZER

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