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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 006996

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. Prime Minister Sharon's Health

2. Mideast

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

All media led with the state of PM Sharon's health.
Israel Radio reported that Sharon was in good condition
this morning after he was rushed to Jerusalem's
Hadassah-Ein Karem Hospital last night following an
apparent minor stroke and a brief loss of
consciousness. Leading media reported that world
leaders, including the U.S. National Security Advisor -
- on behalf of President Bush -- Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, PA Chairman [President] Mahmoud
Abbas, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, called the
hospital. Maariv reported that Deputy National
Security Advisor Elliott Abrams called on behalf of the
President. The media, which write that Ehud Olmert
would replace Sharon if necessary, note that the stroke
raised questions about Sharon's health 100 days ahead
of the March 28 election.

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During the weekend, all media reported on the Likud
primary, which takes place today, in which Knesset
Member Binyamin Netanyahu, FM Silvan Shalom, far-right
activist Moshe Feiglin, and Agriculture Minister
Yisrael Katz vie for the party's chairmanship. On
Sunday, Yediot and Maariv led with the leadership race
in the Likud. Maariv quoted Netanyahu associates as
saying that he would form a right-wing party if he
loses the Likud party primaries. Maariv reported that
Netanyahu told his associates that Shalom would turn
the Likud into "Kadima 2."

On Sunday, all media reported on, and Ha'aretz and The
Jerusalem Post led with, the Hamas victory in
Thursday's Palestinian municipal elections. On Sunday,
Ha'aretz quoted Palestinian officials as saying on
Saturday that Hamas will participate in the Palestinian
parliamentary elections next month. This, despite a
resolution (H.R. 575) passed by the U.S. House of
Representatives with a large majority on Friday to
threaten the PA from withholding aid if it includes
Hamas in the next government. On Sunday, The Jerusalem
Post, among other media, reported that the Bush
administration made clear on Friday that it would not
get involved in the upcoming Palestinian elections.
The Jerusalem Post quoted Foreign Ministry Spokesman
Mark Regev as saying on Saturday: "If Hamas ever
succeeded in dominating the PA that would be the end of
the peace process." The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli
sources as saying over the weekend that Hamas's
participation in the January elections is not a topic
being discussed between Israel and the U.S. Today,
leading media quoted EU foreign policy chief Javier
Solana as saying on Sunday that that the EU could cut
off financial aid to the PA if Hamas wins the January
elections.

On Sunday, all media reported that Yossi Shok, from the
settlement of Beit Hagai, who was injured in a drive-by
shooting incident near Hebron, died of his wounds on
Friday. All media reported that on Sunday a Qassam
rocket hit the southern outskirts of Ashkelon for the
second time in three days. The media reported that
during the weekend, the IAF repeatedly struck Gaza
Strip sites that the army said Palestinians used to
fire rockets into Israel. This morning, Israel Radio
reported that IDF troops captured a would-be suicide
bomber in Kibbutz Nir-Am, next to the Gaza Strip
border.

The Jerusalem Post reported that "reflecting Israel's
quandary regarding Iran," IDF Intelligence chief Maj.
Gen Aharon Zeevi-Farkash told the cabinet on Sunday
that while he does not think diplomatic efforts will
stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb, he believes
these efforts must continue. During the weekend,
leading media quoted President Bush as saying in an
interview with PBS-TV on Friday that Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an "odd guy." The media said
that the President was responding to Ahmadinejad's
comments denying the Holocaust and suggesting that
Israel be wiped off the map or moved to Europe or
Alaska. The media also quoted Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice as saying on Friday that Iran has not
renounced its nuclear program, despite international
pressure.

On Sunday, Maariv quoted former IDF Chief of Staff
Moshe Ya'alon as saying in an interview to The New York
Sun that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass
destruction, which have been moved to Syria.

The Jerusalem Post reported that, facing heavy U.S.
pressure to choose an American system over a "cheaper,
yet sophisticated," Israeli one, South Korea said over
the weekend it would delay its decision regarding the
planned purchase of early warning aircraft until May.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the U.S. Federal
Reserve has approved Matthew Bronfman's taking control
of Israel Discount Bank from the GOI almost a year
after the businessman signed the deal to buy the bank.
During the weekend, The Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz
reported that Discount's New York unit agreed to pay up
to USD 25 million to end a money-laundering probe
carried out by the District Attorney of New York
County.

Leading media reported that the American film director
Steven Spielberg has hired one of Israel's top public
relations consultants, Eyal Arad, a Sharon aide, to
head local publicity for his controversial drama
Munich. The film deals with the murder of 11 Israeli
sportsmen during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and
Israel's subsequent revenge campaign. The Jerusalem
Post says that in a conversation with the newspaper,
Arad confirmed that he had been hired by Spielberg, but
that he declined to comment further.

Yediot reported that the Israeli airline Israir has
suspended the pilot who almost caused a lethal accident
at New York's JFK Airport around four months ago.

-----------------------------------
1. Prime Minister Sharon's Health:
-----------------------------------

Summary:
--------

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The stroke
that Sharon suffered illustrated to the Israelis how
much they need him now."

Senior columnist Ben Caspit wrote on page one of
popular, pluralist Maariv: "Suddenly it turns out that
it is not entirely certain that Sharon is the next
prime minister."

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

I. "The Main Thing Is Health"

Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (December 19):
"The stroke that Sharon suffered illustrated to the
Israelis how much they need him now. In the eyes of
most of them, including many who support rival parties,
he is the conclusive authority on security matters. On
the agenda are existential problems that await his
attention: the Iranian nuclear issue; the Palestinian
Authority; Hamas; the Qassam rockets; and alongside
them the tough social issues. As always, Israel needs
a prime minister, and a prime minister who is capable
of leading.... Moreover, it is election season, and
Kadima, the ruling party, is not a real party, with
institutions and orderly electoral processes. Kadima's
existence depends on one man: Ariel Sharon.... Sharon
has many admirers and many adversaries. If I am not
mistaken, the overwhelming majority of these was united
last night in a single hope: Let him continue to be
healthy."

II. "In the Armored Car, With an Oxygen Mask"

Senior columnist Ben Caspit wrote on page one of
popular, pluralist Maariv (December 19): " The election
campaign in Israel was reborn this morning. The agenda
has changed. The timetable has been recreated. The
ultimate nightmare of the Kadima campaign took place
live in front of all of us. It could be a passing
episode; Sharon could come back to us and perform magic
tricks for three months. And perhaps not. The doubt
will be piercing. The public will envelope him with
love.... And what will this do to the Likud primary?
Good question. On the one hand, it might help
Netanyahu. Suddenly it turns out that it is not
entirely certain that Sharon is the next prime
minister. And Netanyahu has the image of someone
running for prime minister. On the other hand, it
could be that the registered voters will want to punish
Netanyahu. And blame him for what happened to Sharon.
And maybe lower the percentage of voting (which would
be good for Silvan). But meantime, with all due
respect, what difference does it make. Sharon is in
the hospital.... A big bang, a little stroke and a lot
of question marks."

------------
2. Mideast:
------------

Summary:
--------

Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "It appears that
the government of Israel will have no choice but to
respect the will of the Palestinian voters."

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
editorialized: "The Palestinians have a basic choice
before them: continuing the war or building a state.
Electorally, the war party seems to be winning."

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in Ha'aretz
(December 18): "The attempt [by the U.S. House of
Representatives] to interfere with internal Palestinian
politics is not consistent with the position of the
U.S. administration."

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized: "To be
sure, thanks are due to the U.S. House of
Representatives, but it appears that the situation will
remain the same."

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

I. "The Will of the Palestinian Voter"

Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (December 19):
"Despite threats from Israeli spokesmen and U.S.
warnings, it appears that the government of Israel will
have no choice but to respect the will of the
Palestinian voters, who will almost certainly transform
Hamas into a central body in the new Palestinian
parliament that will be elected in January....
Nonetheless, a major victory for Hamas in the
parliamentary elections will be a sure source of
troubles for Abbas and the Israeli government....
Recent Hamas statements have been saying that its
activists have focused on fighting the occupation, and
in the meantime a terrible deterioration has taken
place in the territories -- violent gangs, waste,
exploitation and corruption.... On this backdrop, the
Israeli government can and must continue negotiations
with Abbas and his people, while, of course, taking
into account the internal changes underway in
Palestinian politics and respecting the will of the
Palestinian voter -- even though it is not to Israel's
liking."

II. "The Palestinians' Choice"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
editorialized (December 18): "The Palestinians have a
basic choice before them: continuing the war or
building a state. Electorally, the war party seems to
be winning.... Though the strength of Hamas is often
attributed to the public's rejection of the corruption
of Fatah's old guard, at the Hamas victory rally in
Nablus the crowd was not chanting for clean government
but "To Jerusalem we march, martyrs by the millions!"
Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives has
resoundingly passed a resolution stating that allowing
Hamas terrorists to participate in the legislative
elections scheduled next month would "potentially
undermine the ability of the United States to have a
constructive relationship with or provide further
assistance to the Palestinian Authority." This is a
welcome statement, but it also should be considered a
restatement of the obvious.... Indeed, many
Palestinians seem to believe that, not only do they not
have to choose between terror and a state, but that
terrorism remains the best way to obtain their national
goals. The fact that such a belief is evidently alive
and well after all the declarations that terror must
stop is damning evidence that the international
community has failed to convince Palestinians that it
is serious about forcing such a choice. The
international community has done the Palestinians no
favor in this respect.... The more the corrupt PA is
artificially propped up, the more the people want to
replace it with Hamas. The solution, rather than
continuing to finance the PA at all costs, is to more
seriously link funding to what the donors have demanded
for years: ending terror, corruption and incitement and
introducing the rule of law."

III. "Congress Keeps One Eye on the Jewish Lobby"

Senior op-ed writer Akiva Eldar commented in Ha'aretz
(December 18): "The attempt to interfere with internal
Palestinian politics is not consistent with the
position of the U.S. administration, which a few weeks
ago pushed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into
backtracking on his threat to disrupt the elections in
the territories if the PA allowed Hamas to take part.
The U.S., which has placed democratization of the
Middle East at the top of its priorities, will find it
difficult to dictate to the Palestinians not to include
Hamas in the government if its candidates receive
widespread voter support and it is willing to lay down
its arms. The resolution by the U.S. Congress, which
is couched in vague terms, is typical of its behavior
in an election year (elections are in November 2006) in
which its members need funding and political support
from the pro-Israel AIPAC."

IV. "The U.S. House of Representatives Has Resolved --
So What?"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (December
19: "[Israeli] diplomatic correspondents are excited
over Israel's 'important diplomatic achievement' at the
U.S. House of Representatives.... For better or for
worse, that resolution might create considerable
tension between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice on one side, and Israel and its lobby in the U.S.,
which did its job in the House.... Indeed, Abu Mazen is
interested in good relations with the U.S. House of
Representatives, but he can afford not to take it into
account... What is clear is that Abu Mazen doesn't
intend to start a 'civil war' as a result of the
House's resolution.... To be sure, thanks are due to
the U.S. House of Representatives, but it appears that
the situation will remain the same."

CRETZ

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