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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 10 TEL AVIV 006972

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. Iran: Nuclear Program

3. Iraq

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

All media reported that on Thursday, a Qassam rocket
landed 2 km south of Ashkelon, in an area that
comprises strategic installations, and another in a
kibbutz in the area. Israel Radio reported that Israel
has conveyed a message to the PA on the issue of Qassam
and mortar launchings, but that the PA did nothing to
stop them. Leading media reported that the IDF is
bracing for a tough response in the Gaza Strip. The
radio reported that last night the IDF bombarded 13
roads that served as access roads for Qassam
launchings, and that it arrested six Islamic Jihad
activists in the West Bank. Leading media reported
that on Thursday, IDF troops thwarted an attempt by
terrorists to blow up an explosives-laden car in a
tunnel on the Jerusalem-Etzion Bloc road. Leading
media cited Palestinian claims that Palestinians had
informed the IDF about the car. At noon, Israel Radio
reported that an Israeli was severely wounded in a
drive-by shooting in the southern Hebron hills.

Ha'aretz, Yediot, and The Jerusalem Post reported that,
contrary to earlier reports and assessments, Mofaz
decided on Thursday not to allow the operation of
convoys from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank next week.
Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post quoted sources in
Mofaz's office as saying that the operation was only
being postponed. Yediot cited the anger of members of
the defense establishment toward the U.S.
representatives who are holding negotiations with
Israel on the issue. Yediot quoted one defense
official as saying that U.S. intervention constituted
interference in Israel's sovereignty.

All media (lead stories in Ha'aretz and Maariv)
reported on, or predicted Hamas's landslide victories
in the local elections held on Thursday in Nablus,
Jenin, and Al-Bireh, which is next to Ramallah. Maariv
bannered an assessment by Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin
that Hamas could beat Fatah in next month's Palestinian
Legislative Council (PLC) elections. The Jerusalem
Post reported that efforts by Palestinian politicians
were underway on Thursday to persuade jailed Fatah
leader Marwan Barghouti to abandon his decision to run
in the PLC elections as the head of the new list Al-
Mustaqbal (The Future).

Yediot quoted associates of PM Sharon as saying that
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz would not retain his post
after the elections, because he would have to pay for
his political mistakes and his ingratitude. Yediot
quoted associates of Likud leadership candidate MK
Binyamin Netanyahu as saying that, should Netanyahu win
in Monday's party primaries, the party would quit the
government. The newspaper cited the belief of Likud
officials that, if elected Likud chairman, FM Silvan
Shalom intends to leave the party in the government.
Shalom was quoted as saying in an interview with The
Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu is too soft on the PA.
All media reported that Labor Party Chairman Amir
Peretz's campaign manager Motti Morel implied on
Thursday that Sharon was using targeted killings for
election purposes, which in turn has intensified the
cycle of violence in the area. The media quoted Peretz
as saying on Thursday that Morel's statements only
represent the campaign manager's opinion. The
Jerusalem Post reported that New Rochelle, N.Y., native
and Jerusalem resident Mitchell Barak is running as a
Knesset candidate for the Likud party.

Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported that on Thursday, a
group of Lebanese nationals -- the Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR) -- filed a civil suit in
the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
against former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon.
Ya'alon, who is currently in the U.S., as a research
fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, is being sued for his role in the killing or
injury of hundreds of residents of the Lebanese village
of Kafr Kana during the 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath.
Ha'aretz reported that CCR attorney Jamil Dakwar told
the newspaper that the amount of compensation would be
determined by the jury at the trial. Ha'aretz and
Israel Radio reported that last week, CCR and the
Palestinian Center for Human Rights filed a filed a
class-action lawsuit against former Shin Bet head Avi
Dichter. The lawsuit was submitted on behalf of the
family members of 14 Palestinians who were killed when
the IDF dropped a one-ton bomb on a Gaza neighborhood
in July 2002 during the targeted killing of Hamas
leader Salah Shehadeh. The compensation sought in that
case is estimated in the millions of dollars. Ha'aretz
notes that, unlike previous suits for damages against
senior Israeli officials, the suits submitted against
Ya'alon and Dichter will be processed by the U.S.
courts because the two are currently staying in the
U.S.

Leading media reported that on Thursday, the state told
the High Court of Justice that illegal Jewish squatters
in Palestinian shops in Hebron's wholesale market will
be evicted by mid-February.

Yediot reported that Transportation Minister Meir
Sheetrit and his Moroccan counterpart Karim Ghellab,
who met in Marrakech on Thursday, at a EU-sponsored
conference of transportation ministers from the
Mediterranean countries, decided to resume regular
flights between Israel and Morocco.

Visiting former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas
Pickering was quoted as saying in an interview with
Ha'aretz, which encompassed all Middle East issues and
U.S.-Israel relations, that the plight of Syrian
President Bashar Assad is Israel's opportunity to end
the conflict with Syria.

Yediot reported that on Thursday, Archbishop
Christodoulos, Greece's top cleric, dubbed Israel
"hell" at a religious ceremony in Athens.

Ha'aretz and Yediot quoted Netanyahu as saying on
Thursday, in a speech to an Israel Bar Association
conference in Tel Aviv, that he had recently rejected
an offer by leading Italian industrialist Carlo De
Benedetti to serve as Italy's finance minister. Yediot
quoted De Benedetti as saying Thursday that his offer
had been made in banter.

Maariv translated an article by Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice ("The Promise of Democratic Peace")
that originally appeared last Sunday in The Washington
Post and opposes the idea that ethnic values could
prevent the advent of democracy in the world.

The results of polls in Yediot and Maariv show that
Kadima retains its strength. Yediot's survey predicts
38 Knesset seats for Kadima (Maariv: 39), 23 for Labor
(Maariv: 22), and 11 for Likud (Maariv: 13 under
Netanyahu, 11 under Shalom)

The Yediot/Mina Zemach (Dahaf Institute) poll found
that 49 percent of Israelis favor the division of
Jerusalem; 49 percent are opposed to it. 56 percent
believe that Sharon will divide Jerusalem. This survey
also found that 58 percent of Israelis believe that
Iran's construction of a nuclear reactor should be
addressed through diplomatic means, while 36 percent
favor its destruction in a military operation.

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

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: "Gayer's exposure of the truth should
not upset Sharon."

Nationalist Hatzofe editorialized: "This time, it is
not only the opposition that is hurling criticism at
... the inconsiderate capitulation to the United
States, which involves very serious dangers to Israel's
peace and security."

Regional correspondent Ronni Shaked wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The
'revolution of the young Palestinians' in Fatah, headed
by Marwan Barghouti, which led to the defeat of Abu
Mazen and the members of his generation, dealt a
stinging defeat in the municipality elections on
Thursday."

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized: "Had
Fatah's leaders been wise enough to integrate the young
guard into their electoral slate, they would at least
have had a chance to stop Hamas. Now, the situation
appears more problematic."
Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a research fellow at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in independent, left-
leaning Ha'aretz: "'Unilateralism' involves the
interaction of two partners. Those partners are Israel
and the United States."

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

I. "A Time For New Concessions"

Senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (December 16): "Kalman Gayer, the
Prime Minister's adviser on public opinion polls, was
accurate when he told Newsweek that in a final-status
agreement, Sharon would agree to a far-reaching
compromise in ... Jerusalem and a concession over 90
percent of the territories.... Sharon would do well to
stand behind [Gayer's] remarks.... An opening gambit
that would leave the settlement blocs in the
territories fortified behind the separation fence would
constitute a basis for negotiations with the
Palestinians over a final-status agreement. This is
what Dr. Yossi Beilin and Amir Peretz are proposing.
But there's no Palestinian leader, not even Abu Mazen
or Marwan Barghouti, who can at this time give up the
return of the 1948 Palestinian refugees to Israel in
its Green Line borders. Therefore, Gayer's exposure of
the truth should not upset Sharon. In actual fact, a
unilateral withdrawal to the separation fence would
advance the final status. During [Sharon's] next term
Jerusalem will be out of the game. And later? 'God is
great,' as the saying goes both in Hebrew and Arabic."

II. "Sharon Has Surrendered to U.S. Pressure"

Nationalist Hatzofe editorialized (December 16):
"Following Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's
demand, Israel has accepted to allow movement of buses
between the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria [i.e. the
West Bank, first in a limited fashion -- five buses a
day -- and later freely, after an agreement is reached
between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.... This
is yet another inconsiderate concession by Sharon's
government at a time when terrorism is increasing.
This time, it is not only the opposition that is
hurling criticism at the ... move by the Prime Minister
and his Defense Minister, but also members of the
cabinet, over the inconsiderate capitulation to the
United States, which involves very serious threats to
Israel's peace and security.... As long as terror is
raging ... this is not the appropriate time for talking
about 'safe passage' between the Gaza Strip and Judea
and Samaria. Our security comes first."

III. "A Debilitating Split"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(December 16): "The background to the split [in Fatah]
was a power struggle between the veterans and the young
guard, a struggle that has greatly intensified over the
year that has passed since Yasser Arafat's death, which
created a vacuum in the Palestinian leadership. With
regard to their political positions, there is no real
difference between the two groups.... The split greatly
weakens Fatah, the Palestinian ruling party, and
threatens its status as the foremost party in
Palestinian politics.... This development has major
implications for the ability to stop Hamas's rise.
There is no doubt that the younger candidates, who are
popular with the public, are the only group that can
block Hamas. Had Fatah's leaders been wise enough to
integrate the young guard into their electoral slate,
they would at least have had a chance to stop Hamas.
Now, the situation appears more problematic. The two-
headed campaign is liable to drive additional voters
toward Hamas, thereby further disrupting the diplomatic
process."

IV. "The Revolution of the Young Palestinians"

Regional correspondent Ronni Shaked wrote in mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (December 16):
"The 'revolution of the young Palestinians' in Fatah,
headed by Marwan Barghouti, which led to the defeat of
Abu Mazen and the members of his generation, dealt a
stinging defeat in the municipality elections on
Thursday.... The young people, led by [Muhammad]
Dahlan, [Sufian] Abu Zaida, and [Fares] Kadoura, with
Marwan Barghouti behind them, pulling strings from his
prison cell, will have to prove themselves in the more
important campaign, against Hamas, and work towards a
victory in the elections for the Legislative Council.
With their youthful spirit, they are capable of
winning. The big loser is Abu Mazen. He will remain
the 'rais' of the Palestinians during his term of
office, another four years, during which he will have
to take the young people into consideration. The last
stage that will mark the exchange of generations will
come in other four years when Abu Mazen will end his
term of office. After him the next 'rais' will be
elected, perhaps Marwan Barghouti."

V. "Strategic Unilateralism"

Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a research fellow at the
Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in independent, left-
leaning Ha'aretz (December 16): "Despite the emerging
contours of what one might call 'strategic
unilateralism,' its elements are unlikely to be
adorning election banners anytime soon. The reason for
this is because 'unilateralism' involves the
interaction of two partners. Those partners are Israel
and the United States. The latter, however, has
interests of its own which necessitate the appearance
of progress toward bilateral agreement between Israelis
and Palestinians. In difficult straits in Iraq, and
influenced by the centrality placed on the Israeli-
Palestinian dispute in the political culture of the
Arab world, the U.S. wants at least the impression of
motion. The pressure placed on Israel to rapidly
conclude the recent negotiations on the Rafah Crossing
was a product of this. An Israeli attempt to impose a
unilateral arrangement runs counter to such desires.
It would represent the final foreclosing of
international hopes for the imminent settlement of the
conflict. That such hopes were themselves founded on
an illusion of rapprochement remains too bitter a pill
for the international community to swallow.
Consequently, the Kadima party will fight the coming
elections with vagaries and lip service to the road
map. And if Ariel Sharon forms the next government, he
will hope that the growing chaos on the Palestinian
side will eventually become sufficiently apparent to
Israel's closest ally to convince Washington that
'strategic unilateralism' is the best possible way to
take the heat out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Further unilateral moves will then be presented as a
regrettable response to an unavoidable reality."

--------------------------
2. Iran: Nuclear Program:
--------------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz:
"The international community -- as opposed to any
individual country -- could exercise the military
option.... What remains uncertain is whether such a
decision will ever be reached."

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

"Is There a Military Option?"

Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(December 16): "Although President Bush says that
military action against Iran has not been dropped from
the agenda, it is clear that Washington is not pursuing
this track at the moment.... Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon was right in acknowledging that the military
option against Iran exists.... He never said anything
about Israel. He was speaking about military
intervention in general. In sum, the international
community -- as opposed to any individual country --
could exercise the military option if a decision is
made that Shi'ite Iran's status as a nuclear power
poses an international danger or threatens the
stability of the world, and not just the Middle East.
What remains uncertain is whether such a decision will
ever be reached."

---------
3. Iraq:
---------

Summary:
--------

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "The nature of
[Iraq's government] coalition will ... largely
determine whether the United States is able to set a
timetable for withdrawing its forces from Iraq."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
editorialized: "Though Iraqis and Palestinians may want
'a strong leader' ... they look to democracy as a
system to protect them from despotic rule."

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

I. "Shi'ites, Kurds Expected to Rule"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (December 16): "The
most likely scenario [in the aftermath of the Iraqi
parliamentary elections] is a victory for the liberal
Shi'ite bloc headed by former prime minister Iyad
Allawi ... and the formation of a strong coalition
comprised of this group plus the Kurdish bloc, headed
by President Jalal Talabani.... The nature of the
coalition will also largely determine whether the
United States is able to set a timetable for
withdrawing its forces from Iraq. A coalition headed
by Allawi and based on Kurdish support would presumably
be 'security-oriented' and would favor a hard-line
policy against rebellious districts. It would also try
to repulse Iranian influence. In contrast, a
government headed by [Ibrahim] Jafari, since it would
include former Ba'athists, would be viewed as a
national reconciliation government. Such a government
might well restore relative tranquility to Iraq, but
would also tend to cooperate closely with Iran."

II. "Arabs Want Democracy, Too"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
editorialized (December 16): "In Iraq, despite the
terrorism, a robust competition has emerged among real,
if untested, political parties vying for influence in a
real and free political process. Among Palestinians,
there is no free press, and the 'parties' are
essentially armed factions whose power derives as much
from the bullet - both fired at Israelis and used to
intimidate their own people -- as potentially from the
ballot. Accordingly, just as many have been too quick
to eulogize Iraqi democracy, they have been too quick
to celebrate Palestinian democracy. In both cases,
however, the popular desire for effective, accountable
government has been demonstrated. Though Iraqis and
Palestinians may want 'a strong leader,' they are
hardly in the mood for corrupt and brutal dictators on
the model of Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat, and they
look to democracy as a system to protect them from
despotic rule."

CRETZ

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