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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.

200801Z Oct 05







E.O. 12958: N/A



Key stories in the media:

Hatzofe (lead story) and most media quoted Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice as saying Wednesday in testimony
before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that
the U.S. has clarified to Israel "in no uncertain
terms" that construction in the "E-1" Jerusalem-Ma'aleh
Adumim corridor "would contravene American policy."
Israel Radio quoted an Israeli official as saying that
Secretary Rice's comment represents the United States'

traditional policy. However, the radio quoted Secretary
Rice as saying that "it is important not to lose sight
of the larger picture" as Israel has withdrawn from the
Gaza Strip. Ha'aretz briefly mentioned Rice's remarks.

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In its lead story, Yediot expects President Bush to
tell PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud Abbas during his
visit to the White House today that he must disarm
Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The newspaper says that
Abbas's visit will be solemn, but that the U.S. demand
of him will be unequivocal. Ha'aretz reported that a
senior State Department official told the newspaper on
Wednesday that the U.S. administration expects to hear
how Abbas plans to cope with the "inherent
contradiction" between the status of Hamas as an armed
terror organization and its intention to participate in
the PA's political process. "It is something the
Palestinians are grappling with," the official was
quoted as saying, adding that the administration wants
to know what the PA plans to do. Palestinian officials
have said in the last few days that the PA does not
intend to confront Hamas on this issue. Jerusalem Post
reported that "U.S. sources" told the newspaper that at
his meeting with Abbas, President Bush is likely to
insist that Abbas bar Hamas from participating in the
Palestinian Legislative Council elections, but that he
will not force Abbas to disarm the terrorist group.
Jerusalem Post quoted sources in Washington as saying
Wednesday that Abbas's visit is intended to be "low-
key." Israel Radio says that the U.S. will try to find
a compromise solution to the problem.

Ha'aretz writes that regarding the establishment of PA
institutions, Bush is slated to tell Abbas to continue
to accelerate efforts to ensure the rule of law. The
newspaper reported that a replacement for Lt. Gen.
William Ward, who was responsible for dealing with this
issue on behalf of the U.S., will soon be named.
Ha'aretz quoted State Department officials are saying
that the U.S. is satisfied with the participation of
Israel and the Palestinians in talks, but that the
"cooperation can be improved." Ha'aretz writes that
Palestinian officials are expected to tell the
Americans that Israel has been dragging its feet in
negotiations. The newspaper quoted State Department
officials as saying that the U.S. would like to see the
pace of talks on the economic rehabilitation of the
Gaza Strip "pick up a bit."

Yediot (Shimon Shiffer) reported that Sharon's bureau
has told the U.S. administration ahead of the Bush-
Abbas meeting that Israel's patience is wearing out,
that Abbas does not control the Palestinian
territories, and that Israel will not offer him any
gestures. Yediot cited the GOI's growing belief that
King Abdullah II of Jordan cannot serve as a
substantial element in the region. The newspaper also
reported that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not
come to Israel.

Ha'aretz banners a remark made by Saddam Hussein at the
opening of his trial in Baghdad Wednesday that he is
still president of Iraq. Jerusalem Post told the story
of an Israeli family of Iraqi origin, one of whose
members was hanged 37 years ago by Saddam's regime for
allegedly spying for the U.S. and Israel. Leading
media quoted Secretary Rice as saying Wednesday in
testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations that U.S. troops could still be serving in
Iraq in 10 years

Leading media (lead stories in Maariv and Ha'aretz
(English Ed.)) cited a warning given by the Health
Ministry's DG on Wednesday that the avian influenza
could reach Israel within the next few days. Ha'aretz
reported that officials from Israel's Veterinary
Service will meet with their Jordanian counterparts
this morning to coordinate measures against bird flu.
The newspaper says that it is not yet clear whether
officials from the PA's veterinary service will also
attend the meeting, which will take place at the
Allenby Bridge. Ha'aretz quoted FM Silvan Shalom as
saying that Israel and Jordan were trying to forge
plans for a joint effort against the flu, since it is
considered likely to spread to the Middle East in the
near future. He was quoted as saying that Israel would
also be happy to cooperate with other countries on this
issue. Ha'aretz reported that Israeli officials denied
reports published in several Arab newspapers that
Israeli officials would also meet on the issue with
counterparts from other Arab states, including Syria
and Iraq. The newspaper quoted the officials as saying
that there would be indirect coordination between
Israel and other Arab states, since Jordan was
coordinating its moves with both Israel and with its
Arab neighbors.

Maariv reported that Hamas is "on the verge of
splitting." The newspaper says that Mahmoud Zahar
leads the movement's extremist line, while its moderate
side is headed by Ismail Haniya, who advocates
gathering weapons from activists and putting an end to
terrorist attacks.

Ha'aretz reported that officials in Jerusalem have
clarified on Wednesday that Israel has no new plans to
separate Israel and Palestinian traffic on the roads of
the West Bank. The clarification comes in the wake of
harsh U.S. criticism of the restrictions imposed by
Israel on Tuesday on Palestinian vehicular traffic in
the territories.

Ha'aretz reported that before dawn on Thursday, Abbas
met with Meretz-Yahad head Yossi Beilin, who was also
visiting Washington. The Palestinian leader told
Beilin that the purpose of his trip to Washington is to
ensure the Palestinian elections will be held as
scheduled and without interference despite Hamas'
participation. Ha'aretz writes that Beilin told Abbas
that it is vital that the PA make a commitment to
disarm Hamas immediately after the elections are held.

Ha'aretz reported that Peace Now is advocating the
immediate evacuation of 26 isolated settlements in the
West Bank as a follow-up to the disengagement from
Yediot quoted Maj. Gen. (in the reserves) Amos Gilad,
the head of the Defense Ministry's Political-Security
Bureau, as saying Wednesday that Israel has no interest
in Syrian President Bashar Assad being toppled. Gilad
was quoted as saying: "The Israeli interest is to turn
Syria from a terror-sponsoring country into a peace-
seeking country." Yediot also quoted senior diplomatic
sources in Jerusalem as saying that the U.S.
administration will soon increase its pressure on
Assad's regime, but that it will prefer a situation in
which Assad "repents" and abandons his instruments of
terror rather than being deposed, because Muslim
extremists could replace him.

Israel Radio and the Ha'aretz web site reported that
this morning, IDF soldiers arrested a 15-year-old
Palestinian boy found to carrying weapons at the Hawara
checkpoint south of Nablus. The youth aroused the
suspicion of troops, who subsequently found in his
possession a 52-millimeter mortar shell and two knives.
The youth said he was asked to smuggle the bomb through
the checkpoint by members of a Palestinian armed group.
The media reported on several other security-related
incidents in the West Bank.

Yediot and Israel Radio reported that over 200 olive
trees were uprooted and burned in the Palestinian
village of Salem, east of Nablus, shortly after
Sunday's terrorist attack in Gush Etzion. The media
quoted local Palestinians as saying this was a
retaliatory action by settlers. Ha'aretz reported that
the IDF's Central Command has decided to cancel the
military escort for Palestinian children on their way
to school south of Hebron. The escort had been
introduced to protect the children from attacks by

On Wednesday, Maariv reported that subsequent to a more
stringent policy in recent weeks, the U.S. Defense
Department and the U.S. Army refuse to let Israeli
firms participate as subcontractors in Iraq, and that
they reject bid offers by those companies. The
newspaper notes that Israeli companies served as
subcontractors in the past. Maariv cited assessments
of unnamed sources that the new policy is related to a
series of sanctions imposed on Israel by the U.S.
administration over Israel's defense connections.

Yediot reported that on Wednesday, Amin Hussein
(phon.), the speaker of Pakistan's parliament, met in
Geneva with Israel's Deputy Education Minister, Knesset
Member Majalli Whbee (Likud), and thanked him for
Israel's aid proposal following the earthquake on the
Indian subcontinent.



Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized:
"Israel has an interest in utilizing its current edge
to shape the outlines of the next diplomatic move."

Veteran columnist Yaron London wrote in the editorial
of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The
lesser evil is to decide to let the Palestinians form
their own democracy, without extending unsolicited help
to them."

Diplomatic correspondent Efraim Ganor wrote in popular,
pluralist Russian-language Novosty Nedely: "U.S.
pressure on Israel ... and the Palestinian leader is
unlikely to increase in the short-term; the U.S. isn't
interested in weakening Abu-Mazen."

Block Quotes:

I. "Beyond the Holiday Table"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(October 20): "Israel has no time. Following the
disengagement, it gained a valuable asset: control of
the moral high ground and international legitimacy.
But its control of this essential high ground is liable
to be short-lived. As memory of the evacuation of Gush
Katif fades, Israel's control of this ground will
weaken. Violent incidents are liable to erase it
completely. Therefore, Israel has an interest in
utilizing its current edge to shape the outlines of the
next diplomatic move. If it does not, this move will
be defined, and perhaps even dictated, by others. And
in that event, all the gains of the disengagement would
be lost. Ariel Sharon also has no time. The
disengagement from Gaza and his victory over Binyamin
Netanyahu strengthened his position both among the
general public and within his own party. Nevertheless,
one long winter of discontent could deprive him of all
this. A Hamas takeover of Gaza, bloodshed in Israel or
a confrontation with the U.S. could return Sharon to
that same political valley of the shadow of death from
which he emerged thanks to his disengagement plan....
It is acceptable to enjoy the lull for one more moment.
It is acceptable to enjoy the last fruits of this sweet
disengagement holiday. But immediately after the
[current Jewish] holiday [of Sukkoth], we must throw
ourselves back into work with all our energy. Both
Israel and Sharon must make it clear to themselves
where they are headed."

II. "Let Us Not Obstruct Elections in the PA"

Veteran columnist Yaron London wrote in the editorial
of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (October
20): "The elections for the Palestinian Legislative
Council, or the Palestinian parliament, are scheduled
to be held in less than three months. Our neighbors
view them as an important chapter in the history of
their people.... If the elections are conducted
properly, the Palestinian nation will be able to boast
of a democratic regime, a phenomenon that does not
exist in any Arab state apart from Lebanon. We have
already seen the initial signs of democracy in the
elections for PA chairman.... It should be understood
that in the conditions of semi-occupation that exist in
the areas of Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank],
denying help means obstructing and possibly preventing
the elections.... [But] the militants will not disarm,
and the PA leadership will not become entangled in a
civil war in order to force them to do so.... If we do
not firmly oppose the inclusion of Hamas in the
elections, we will thereby be admitting that we have
waived an important clause in our agreements with the
PA and will undermine the American effort to crush the
terror organizations. Hamas, whose leadership sits in
Damascus, is on their blacklist. We are between the
hammer and the anvil, but we must make up our minds.
The lesser evil is to decide to let the Palestinians
form their own democracy, without extending unsolicited
help to them. Hamas is a large and complex entity: not
everyone who supports the social aspects of the Hamas
ideology is a bloodthirsty individual. We will handle
the villains as we handle terrorists who are not under
a parliamentary guise."

III. "The 'Rais' Has Been Authorized to Ask..."

Diplomatic correspondent Efraim Ganor wrote in popular,
pluralist Russian-language Novosty Nedely (October
20):"The [Israeli] sanctions on the Palestinians
[subsequent to Sunday's terrorist attacks] caused a odd
reaction in Washington. ... The Israeli decision to
restrict the Palestinians' travel was harshly
criticized by the U.S. Department of State. The U.S.
envoy in the Middle East William Ward called on Israel
to take steps to 'ease the daily plight of the
Palestinian people, while [State Department] Spokesman
[Sean McCormack] said that although Israel, like the
U.S., is a victim of terrorist attacks ... [Israel
should] act in terms of long-term peace, stability and
security.... Although the U.S. also called on the
Palestinian Authority to fight terror more intensely,
this request obviously would not have any practical
results. The PA's inability to do anything in this
direction is absolutely clear. It is considered in
Jerusalem that the Bush-Abu Mazen meeting would turn
out to be a series of complaints about various Israeli
actions.... U.S. pressure on Israel ... and the
Palestinian leader is unlikely to increase in the short-
term; the U.S. isn't interested in weakening Abu


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