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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 006586

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

Sharon's Political Moves

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

The political situation following PM Sharon's departure
from the Likud and his founding of a new party, and the
military situation along the Lebanese border dominate
the headlines.

All media reported that 13 to 15 Likud Knesset members
(depending on the media), including Ehud Olmert, Meir
Sheetrit, Tzipi Livni, Abraham Hirschson, and Gideon
Ezra, have joined Sharon in the new party, which has
been temporary labeled "National Responsibility."
Israel Radio reported that the party's permanent name
is likely to be "Kadima" (Forward), pending Sharon's
approval. All media quoted Sharon as saying at a news
conference on Monday afternoon that life in the Likud
had become "unbearable." Leading media reported that
the Likud's Knesset faction will convene on Thursday to
decide whether the Likud ministers will quit the
government. The media reported that President Moshe
Katsav plans to respect the wishes of the Knesset
factions to hold elections on March 28.

The three major newspapers -- Yediot, Maariv, and
Ha'aretz -- published results of polls (see below)
indicating that, were elections held today, Sharon
would "crush" the Likud (Maariv's expression).

Leading media reported that on Monday, Defense Minister
Shaul Mofaz and FM Silvan Shalom announced their
intentions to compete for Likud chairmanship. Major
media reported that former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter is
Sharon's candidate for the defense portfolio.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Sharon's decision to
leave the Likud has deferred an already long-delayed
strategic dialogue with the U.S.

Globes and the business sections of the major
newspapers write that Israel's economy, including the
adoption of the 2006 state budget, will come to a
standstill during the elections period.
Erratum: Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi is
the Likud's interim chairman, not as reported on
Monday.

All media reported that on Monday, Hizbullah launched a
failed attempt to kidnap soldiers in an assault on the
Sheba Farms and the village of Ghajar, which straddles
the Israeli-Lebanese border, and a coordinated mortar
and rocket barrage on northern Galilee towns and
kibbutzim. An IDF soldier killed five infiltrators,
thus apparently thwarting an attempt to kidnap
soldiers. At least 11 soldiers were wounded and a
house severely damaged in Metulla by Hizbullah mortar
fire. The media reported that the IDF responded with
artillery fire and IAF strikes. Israel Radio quoted
Mofaz and Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim as saying
that the attack was undoubtedly coordinated with Syria
and Iran. The radio reported that Israel views the
Lebanese government as responsible for any hostile
activity by Hizbullah against Israel. Israel Radio
quoted IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz as saying that on
Monday, the Lebanese government asked Israel, through
international factors, for a cease-fire. The radio
quoted Halutz as saying that this was a refreshing
novelty, since the Lebanese government understands that
it is responsible for actions that are carried out on
its territory. Citing Israeli officials, Yediot
reported that Israel will file a strong complaint with
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN Security
Council, and start a "diplomatic campaign" against
Iran. Israel Radio reported that Lebanese PM Fuad
Siniora is trying to calm the situation and to restrain
Hizbullah. However, the radio quoted Lebanese FM Fawzi
Salloukh and Hizbullah's leader in southern Lebanon, as
saying separately that Israel wanted to create a
diversion from its domestic problems. The radio
reported that on Monday, State Department Spokesman
Sean McCormack condemned Hizbullah's attack. Israel
Radio quoted him as saying: "Looking at the calendar,
you can, I think, safely assume that this is a
deliberate provocation by Hizbullah. I think tomorrow
is Lebanon's independence day. And while we certainly
recognize Israel's right to self-defense, we urge
restraint in taking whatever actions they deem
necessary in order to defend themselves so that you do
not have an escalation of tensions in the region in the
area."

Yediot quoted Labor Party sources as saying that the
Construction and Housing Ministry, which is headed by
Yitzhak Herzog (Labor), decided, in coordination with
Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz, to market 310 housing
units in Ma'aleh Adumim. The newspaper quoted the
Labor sources as saying that the move is meant to
temper the impression given by the leftist views
expressed by Peretz.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the South African
Justice Ministry defended itself on Monday and rejected
Israeli Justice Ministry claims it had failed to
cooperate with an ongoing bribery investigation against
Sharon in the so-called "Cyril Kern affair."

Yediot and Hatzofe reported that on the 20th
anniversary of his arrest, convicted spy Jonathan
Pollard demanded that Israel arrest Angie Kielczynski
(a.k.a. Yosef Barak), who admitted in the past he had
spied on behalf of the U.S., so that a spy swap between
them could be made.

Israel Radio reported that Benjamin Frandsen, a Los
Angeles resident, has been convicted of the December
2002 murders of Ben Wertzberger and Adar Ne'eman, two
Israeli citizens whose bodies were buried north of Los
Angeles. Frandsen's co-defendant, Shane Huang, was
previously convicted.

Ha'aretz published the results of a survey conducted on
Monday among Likud party members by the Amanet Group's
Dialogue Institute:
-"If elections to the Knesset were held today, for
which party would you vote?" (In Knesset seats;
current Knesset in brackets.) Sharon's party 30; Labor
Party 26 (22); Likud 15 (40); Shas 10 (11); Shinui 6
(14); United Torah Judaism 5 (5); Meretz 4 (6); Yisrael
Beiteinu 6 (3); National Union 7(4); National Religious
Party 4 (6); Arab parties 7 (8).
-"Unrelated to your vote, who would you like to be
prime minister after the elections?" Sharon 37
percent; Peretz 22 percent; the Likud chairman 15
percent.

The results of a Yediot/Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute)
poll show that Sharon's party would get 33 Knesset
seats; the Labor Party 26; and the Likud 12.
-The Yediot poll asked: "Did Ariel Sharon act properly
when he left the Likud?" Yes: 55 percent; no: 25
percent; 20 percent were undecided.

Maariv printed the results of a TNS/Teleseker Polling
Institute survey (data for principal parties):
-"If elections to the Knesset were held today, for
which party would you vote?" Sharon's party: 30
Knesset seats; Labor: 26; Likud: 15.
-Maariv's survey reckons that theoretically, Binyamin
Netanyahu could count on a 50-MK coalition (Likud, the
right, the ultra-Orthodox, Shinui) against a 70-MK
opposition. The poll views a possible Sharon-led
coalition (comprising his party, Labor, Shinui, and
Meretz) as a 71-strong one, with 49 opposition MKs.
The survey views a possible 62-MK Peretz-led coalition
(comprising Labor, Sharon's party, and Meretz), with 58
opposition MKs.

-------------------------
Sharon's Political Moves:
-------------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote on page one of
popular, pluralist Maariv: "On Monday, Sharon quite
rightly celebrated his move on the basis of the opinion
polls, which promised him a sweeping victory.... But
everybody knows that the Israeli right wing has not yet
taken to the streets."

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "It
appears that it is already possible to assume that
there will be an upheaval that will reflect the desires
of the [Israeli] public, and that the moderate camp
will win most of the votes."

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one
of the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post: "The
name of the party he heads may change, but Sharon's
overall diplomatic vision will stay the same. Until
Monday, this was a centrist vision in a right-wing
party; as of Monday, it is a centrist vision in a
centrist party."

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in Ha'aretz:
"[Sharon] deserves three cheers, on one important
condition: that is, of course, that he apply the same
tactical understanding to his strategic moves in state
affairs."

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

I. "Four Months Are an Eternity"

Senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote on page one of
popular, pluralist Maariv (November 22): "Admittedly
Ariel Sharon's announcement that he was quitting the
Likud was routine and tedious.... Nevertheless it was a
very powerful statement, because its content was
right.... Sharon no longer has any reason to stay in
the Likud. There is nothing for him there, and his
departure is timely, if somewhat belated. On Monday,
he bitterly attacked the political house which he had
built, and barely said a word against Amir Peretz.
This was not because he does not recognize the threat
posed by the Labor Party, but because the cause of his
departure lay in the Likud, not the other rival. It
will be a life and death struggle. On Monday, Sharon
quite rightly celebrated his move on the basis of the
opinion polls, which promised him a sweeping victory.
According to Monday's arithmetic, he will form the next
government and can take down whatever partners he wants
from the shelf. But everybody knows that the Israeli
right wing has not yet taken to the streets. The
orange T-shirts have not yet set their propaganda
machine in motion. They are not in anybody's pocket.
Whom will they help? The Likud headed by Binyamin
Netanyahu? Perhaps. But perhaps they will support the
far-right parties. They are the driving force of right
wing propaganda.... As of now, Sharon is the leader,
Peretz is the surprise and Netanyahu is embarrassed,
but four months are an eternity in terms of Israeli
politics."

II. "A Disengagement Sequel"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(November 22): "The departure of one-third of the
Likud's Knesset members is indeed a critical mass; and
the reason is not mere coincidence but rather goes to
the heart of the matter, that is, the division of the
land. This is a sequel-disengagement to the Gush Katif
disengagement, which was carried out by none other than
the patron of the settlements and became a wake-up call
for an entire camp.... The Likud in its present form
has come to an end, and all that is left are the
trademark and the demagoguery, which are arguably best
represented by Binyamin Netanyahu. The trademark that
succeeded in sweeping up the masses for 30 years by
fanning the flames of hatred for the Left may assume
new proportions in the upcoming elections, and this
will offer the opportunity for establishing a moderate
bloc to its left. Both the Labor Party headed by Amir
Peretz and Ariel Sharon's new party will have to
wrestle in the election campaign with the deep
emotional ties of the Likud voters to their party, and
will have to convince them that an automatic vote will
not be in their best interests or those of the country.
For the first time, there is a chance for a thorough
change in voting patterns, for the creation of a real
Left and Right, for a realistic examination of the
political balance of power and for the creation of a
sane coalition where only the settlers and their
supporters will not be represented. The Likud has
begun the process of dividing the land, and Sharon has
left it in order to continue to do what is needed....
Whatever the balance of power may be between the
parties after the elections, it appears that it is
already possible to assume that there will be an
upheaval that will reflect the desires of the public,
and that the moderate camp will win most of the votes."

III. "Sharon Changes the Map Again"

Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote on page one
of the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
(November 22): "Observers say that centrist parties in
this country don't last long, and that a Sharon
centrist party would also be lucky to survive more than
one term. But this observation misses a critical
point. In Israel, where long-term thinking and planning
is negligible, and where events follow one another in
machine-gun, rat-a-tat fashion, one term is an
eternity. And, as Sharon demonstrated through
disengagement, much can be done in one term. Sharon,
who at 77 can't realistically be thinking of that many
more years in office, obviously wants another chance to
further shepherd forward the diplomatic process he put
into motion and place his imprint indelibly on where
this country's final borders will run. This is the
process that Sharon has pushed forward for the last two
years as Likud's chairman, and the reason, indeed, he
got into so much trouble with his own party. It is the
same process he will now promote as head of a new
centrist party. The name of the party he heads may
change, but Sharon's overall diplomatic vision will
stay the same. Until Monday, this was a centrist
vision in a right-wing party; as of Monday, it is a
centrist vision in a centrist party."

IV. "Cheers For Sharon, On One Condition..."

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet wrote in Ha'aretz
(November 22): "In his political history, Sharon has
traveled a learning curve toward understanding that it
is essential to deal with our Palestinian neighbors.
But after evacuating Gaza, and the little he did in the
West Bank, it would be irresponsible not to seize the
raging bull of the Israel-Palestine war by the
horns.... Even de Gaulle, with all the differences,
reached the conclusion many had spoken about regarding
the correct solution for Algeria. His great
contribution was that he made a resolute decision when
he realized that nobody else could carry it out
effectively. Sharon's contribution is similar. Before
he could be liquidated from within the Likud, he seized
the last opportunity in the existing political format
to make use of his power. For this he deserves three
cheers, on one important condition: that is, of course,
that he apply the same tactical understanding to his
strategic moves in state affairs. Very soon -- he does
not have much time until March -- Sharon will have to
make his line clear.... Gaza was an important signal,
but it is not enough. The Roadmap, which Sharon
already hailed on Monday as a basis for action, was
apparently so before Monday as well. But the declared
target date for a Palestinian state has long passed,
and less historic decisions are also lying on the road
map as dead letters, not only because of the
Palestinians. A majority of Israelis support this
approach. It registered much before Sharon's big bang,
and will probably increase after it. This is a very
tempting opportunity, which lies to a large extent in
the hands of one man. Sharon must not walk out on it."
JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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