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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 08 TEL AVIV 005818

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. Likud Infighting

2. Gaza Violence

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

Israel Radio quoted Ambassador Richard H. Jones as
saying this morning, upon presenting his credentials to
President Moshe Katsav at the Residence of the
President in Jerusalem: "My arrival coincides with a
time of extraordinary change and opportunity in the
region. We applaud Israel for the courage it has
demonstrated through Gaza disengagement, and encourage
Israel and the Palestinian Authority to seize this
opportunity to advance prospects for a just and lasting
peace through implementation of the agreed Roadmap.
The Bush administration's commitment to the vision of
two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side
in peace and security is steadfast." Yediot quoted
Ambassador Jones as saying on Sunday at a get-to-know-
you meeting with FM Silvan Shalom that the U.S.
administration understands Israel's need to respond to
fire from the Gaza Strip, and that he empathizes with
the Israeli families that were harmed by Qassam fire
during the weekend. Yediot reported that FM Shalom
told Ambassador Jones, whom he called a true friend of
Israel, that he was arriving at a time when there is a
potential for peace and at the same time increased
violence on the part of the Palestinians.

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The two dominant media stories during the weekend were
the escalation of the military situation in and around
the Gaza Strip, and turbulent developments at the Likud
Central Committee meeting.

Today, all media led with Sharon's departure from the
Likud meeting last night after the microphone stopped
working as he was about to deliver his speech. Many
commentators suggested this was an act of sabotage.
The media reported that the Sharon camp and its
opponents blamed one another for the incident. Yediot
reported that cabinet ministers Limor Livnat and Danny
Naveh announced on Sunday that they would vote to move
up the party's primaries, because Sharon refrained from
stating he was staying in the party. The media
reported that, before the incident, polls indicated a
narrow majority for Binyamin Netanyahu in today's
committee vote.

Yediot, Maariv, Jerusalem Post, and Ha'aretz printed
the text of, or excerpts of, the speech Sharon was to
deliver, in which he lists his achievements in creating
the Likud and making it thrive and states that if
Israel insists on the dream of Greater Israel being
realized, "we could lose absolutely everything." In
his own address, Netanyahu said that the party did not
belong to him or Sharon.

All media reported on the chain of events in the Gaza
Strip. On Friday evening, a mysterious explosion shook
a Hamas parade in the Jabalya camp north of Gaza City,
in which 15 to 19 Palestinians were killed. While
Hamas blamed Israel for the act, the PA exonerated it.
Hamas responded by firing about 40 rockets into Israel
where five people were wounded. The IDF resumed its
targeted killings, taking the lives of four Hamas
members and wounding three other Palestinians, massed
troops along the Gaza border, and on Saturday, for the
first time, used artillery it had deployed around the
border, firing shells into open areas. Last night,
senior Islamic Jihad activist Muhammad Latif Sheikh
Khalil and his bodyguard were killed in an IAF strike
in southern Gaza. Leading media quoted senior Hamas
leader Mahmoud Zahar as saying that his organization
would stop launching rocket and other attacks against
Israel from Gaza. This morning, Israel Radio reported
that Hamas agreed to a cease-fire following PA Chairman
[President] Mahmoud Abbas's threat that the PA would
confront Hamas head on. However, leading media cited
an announcement by Islamic Jihad that it would continue
its actions. Israel Radio reported that the security
forces arrested over 200 Hamas and Islamic Jihad
militants during the weekend.

On Sunday, Israel Radio reported that Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice spoke by telephone the previous
night with Abbas and urged him to act to prevent
deterioration in the situation and to work towards a
return to calm.

Ha'aretz reported that Israel canceled Sharon's meeting
with Abbas, which was scheduled for next Sunday.
Israel Radio cited chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat as
saying that that the timing of the meeting was being
discussed again.

Jerusalem Post quoted Finance Ministry Director-General
Yossi Bachar as saying on Sunday in Washington that
Israel has not yet decided if and when to renew its
request for financial aid from the U.S. He was quoted
as saying that the GOI would make such a decision. On
Sunday, Jerusalem Post reported that the Iranian
nuclear threat, and Israel -U.S. defense relations
would be on the agenda when members of Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee travel to Washington this
week to meet with U.S. defense officials.

On Sunday, leading media reported that King Abdullah II
of Jordan would visit Israel and the PA in the coming
days. Ha'aretz wrote on Sunday that the previous day,
Kuwait denied reports it is to join Bahrain in lifting
the economic embargo against Israel. Yediot brought
contradictory reports on the matter.

Yediot reported that, in talks he held with Syrian
President Bashar Assad in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak told Assad that, were he to
continue supporting terror, he could lose power.
According to the newspaper, Mubarak also urged Assad to
strengthen Abbas. On the other hand, Jerusalem Post
reported that Egypt publicly denounced Syria's
isolation in the Arab world.

On Sunday, Ha'aretz reported that 4,000 people attended
the Peace Now/Geneva Initiative peace rally opposite
Sharon's Jerusalem residence on Saturday. Around one
thousand Palestinians attended a similar demonstration
in Ramallah.

Maariv reported that, according to post-9/11
procedures, only the PM -- and in his absence the
defense minister and the chief of staff -- is empowered
to down civilian airliners that have strayed from their
route.

Jerusalem Post reported that "Hawala," an ancient
Eastern way of transferring money without banks, will
be one of the subjects under discussion by Arabs of 14
countries at a conference in Beirut today to stop
terror funding.
Israel Radio reported that an ultra-Orthodox Jew, who
is an AmCit, has been arrested over alleged security
offenses. Evidence of his having sojourned in Arab
countries was reportedly found in his belongings. The
radio said he would be evicted from the country.

Yediot quoted Karen AbuZayd, the Commissioner-General
of the UN Relief and Works Agency, as saying at the
Palestinian Center in Washington that 30,000
Palestinians lost their homes during the Intifada.
AbuZayd was also quoted as saying that the UN would
rebuild the homes of those Palestinians.

The media reported that only several hundred people
attended Sunday's rally opposite Sharon's office in
Jerusalem to reject the decision of the Justice
Ministry's Police Investigations Department not to
prosecute any policemen or officers over the killing of
13 Israeli Arabs in the October 2000 riots.

Jerusalem Post reported that several Israel-based
Christian groups were feted Sunday at President Moshe
Katsav's residence for their unequivocal support for
Israel.

On Sunday, Maariv quoted former Sephardi chief rabbi
Shlomo Eliyahu as saying during the weekend that
Hurricane Rita is retribution for President Bush's
support of the disengagement from Gaza. Eliyahu was
quoted as saying the Hurricane Katrina struck Secretary
Rice's home state -- Alabama -- while Rita hit Bush's -
- Texas.

---------------------
1. Likud Infighting:
---------------------

Summary:
--------

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "The
Likud will decide today not only on a date for its
leadership primary and whether to shorten Sharon's term
of office, but primarily on whether it adheres to the
policy of continued rule over another nation."

Liberal op-ed writer Yael Gewirtz wrote in the
editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot: "On Sunday, the Likud lost its legitimacy as
a party worthy of ruling."

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: "Some called Sharon's speech to the
UN General Assembly a writ of divorce from the Likud.
Polls showed this wasn't so. The writ of divorce was
given last night. It should be handed by the Israeli
public to its thuggish ruling party."

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

I. "What the Likud Committee Is Voting On"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(September 26): "The Likud will decide today not only
on a date for its leadership primary and whether to
shorten Sharon's term of office, but primarily on
whether it adheres to the policy of continued rule over
another nation, or whether the need to change the
party's path has already filtered down to the ranks of
its activists. The 'not one inch' policy that
characterized the Likud and the right for generations
is by now so irrelevant and unpopular that even Landau
and Netanyahu have turned their backs on it. Even they
know that there is no majority among the Israeli public
for continuing the occupation, and it is doubtful that
such a majority even exists among Likud voters. A
withdrawal from additional settlements is only a matter
of time, and the Likud candidates are now debating
among themselves over a policy that has become
obsolete.... If Sharon loses today's vote on advancing
the primary, the Likud will apparently split into two
parties. It could be that the historic Likud will
thereby pave its way into the opposition, and Netanyahu
and Landau will learn at the ballot box that their
victory in the party's central committee was
meaningless in terms of both public opinion and
reality."

II. "Catch 22 at the Likud"

Liberal op-ed writer Yael Gewirtz wrote in the
editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (September 26): "The fact that the [Likud]
Party's domestic affairs have taken over the State of
Israel's agenda and drawn the Prime Minister, the
ministers, and the Knesset members, into exhausting all
their energy and reason in inferior political lobbying
-- like passengers on a plane that was skyjacked from
its course -- should dismay all of us. On Sunday, the
Likud lost its legitimacy as a party worthy of
ruling.... By booby-trapping itself to death, the Likud
Central Committee resolutely and very publicly
clarified on Sunday where exactly the real, most
dangerous booby-trap is concealed."

III. "Only the Likud Could Have Done It"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (September 26): "On the one hand it is
not reasonable to assume that Netanyahu was behind the
silencing of Sharon's microphone [at the Likud Central
Committee meeting on Sunday night]. There are 50 less
unpleasant ways of committing suicide. On the other
hand -- who knows? And what about Sharon? For he will
quit the Likud as a victor. If he wins today he can do
whatever he wants. So, was it Sharon who gagged
himself and played the mother of all tricks on Bibi?
It's hard to believe.... On Sunday, the entire world
watched Sharon sitting and getting up, standing and
sitting down, in vain. The world was certainly asking
itself what more that crazy little state is capable of
inventing.... What we will remember from this night is
the speech that was written, rewritten, edited, typed
and even distributed, but not spoken. We will remember
the fragments of culture and democracy that rolled on
the ground of [Tel Aviv's] Exhibition Grounds [the
meeting's venue]. Some called Sharon's speech to the
UN General Assembly a writ of divorce from the Likud.
Polls showed this wasn't so. The writ of divorce was
given last night. It should be handed by the Israeli
public to its thuggish ruling party."

------------------
2. Gaza Violence:
------------------

Summary:
--------

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"The international community should realize that the
road map cannot move forward while Israel is under
attack and that if the PA won't take action, Israel
will."

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"Assertive security dialogue with the PA is the main
weapon Israel should use, without compromise or
concessions."

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

I. "Deterrence"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(September 26): "What is at stake is whether Israel's
withdrawal from Gaza leads to a reduction in tension
and the bolstering of a viable Palestinian entity with
whom it is possible to discuss conflict management, or
whether disengagement is seen as flight under fire and
leads to Palestinian rejectionists using violence
against Israel whenever internal Palestinian politics
dictate.... The real problem is the feebleness of PA
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has neither the stomach nor
the ability to rein in the rejectionists. Therefore,
in the post-disengagement era Israel needs to
rehabilitate its deterrence capabilities. That
requires making enemy attacks prohibitively costly,
especially to the terrorist chieftains who orchestrate
them. The goal is not only to halt strikes against the
Negev, but to make the Palestinians think twice before
turning the West Bank into a launching pad against
Israel. The international community should realize
that the road map cannot move forward while Israel is
under attack and that if the PA won't take action,
Israel will."

II. "Assertive Security Dialogue"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(September 25): "The explosion during the Hamas parade
in Jabalya on Friday, in which 17 Palestinians were
killed and some 140 injured, immediately became a test
of the Palestinian Authority and the unwritten
agreement between it and Israel over maintaining quiet
on the border. Unfortunately, that quiet was not
maintained.... Now that the withdrawal is completed and
the border crossings have become de facto international
ones, Israel must treat attacks launched from the PA
like attacks from any other country -- which becomes an
enemy state the moment such an action happens. We
cannot accept excuses such as the lack of control by
those who have accepted control over the entire Gaza
Strip. The fact that we are talking about a kind of
Palestinian state makes both the missile attacks and
the response to them even more significant in terms of
the mutual harm to sovereignty. Just as it is
difficult to accept attacks from the PA on Israel, it
is equally difficult to accept the IDF's automatic
entry into Gaza every time the quiet is violated.
Assertive security dialogue with the PA is the main
weapon Israel should use, without compromise or
concessions."

JONES

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