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Cablegate: Jerusalem Media Reaction (12/21): Prisoner Exchange Deal

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STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD
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TAGS: PREL KMDR KPAL KWBG KPAO IS

SUBJECT: JERUSALEM MEDIA REACTION (12/21): Prisoner exchange deal
could be imminent

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Main Stories:
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The three dailies run front page coverage on today's Israeli cabinet
meeting to discuss the prisoner exchange deal with Hamas.
Independent daily Al-Quds cites Israeli TV saying that the ball is
in Israel's court now regarding the deal, noting that the next hours
will be decisive.

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The three dailies also front page news on Palestinian Authority (PA)
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's visit to Bethlehem yesterday to
inaugurate several development projects. Prime Minister Fayyad is
quoted in the dailies reiterating the importance of pursuing state
building measures to create new facts on the ground.

Al-Quds runs an article citing Israeli government sources revealing
news on a new US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The coverage notes that the US realizes its mistake of focusing on
permanent solutions with high expectations, and will now work
towards temporary solutions. The proposed plan calls for allowing
the PA to have full control over 60% of the West Bank, according to
coverage.

Citing the PA official news agency Wafa, Al-Quds front pages news on
PA President Mahmoud Abbas' interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat,
published yesterday. Abbas noted that he decided not to run for
re-election because he realized that the peace process reached a
dead end.

In related news, the dailies report that Secretary Clinton
telephoned President Abbas yesterday to discuss peace efforts and
the latest developments in the region.

----------------
Weekend stories:
----------------
Sunday, December 20:
Al Ayyam runs front page coverage of Palestinian Liberation
Organization (PLO) Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat confirming that the
PA is working towards asking the UN Security Council to declare the
borders of a Palestine state. The PA is also going to ask the
International Court of Justice to issue a decision regarding the
Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories of 1967, and
requesting that Switzerland implement the Fourth Geneva Convention
regarding protection of civilians during times of war. Erekat told
WAFA agency, "We are working on several fronts to end the
occupation."
Al Ayyam and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida run front page stories on an
Egyptian security source stating that Egypt is strengthening and
reinforcing security measures on its borders with the Gaza Strip
after drilling equipment used to build the proposed underground
steel wall came under Palestinian fire for three days in a row. The
source added that Egypt deployed 300 policemen and intensified
patrols along the borders and in areas of drilling. The source told
Reuters "we sent new police forces to the borders with Gaza
following repeated shooting incidents from the Palestinian side."
Al Quds and Al Ayyam run front page stories on former President
Jimmy Carter calling on the international community to end the
suffering of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. In an article
published by The Guardian yesterday, President Carter discussed the
deterioration of the peace process between the Palestinians and the
Israelis, noting that the peace process is almost dead. President
Carter also pointed to Israel's continued settlement expansion and

JERUSALEM 00002298 002 OF 002


the PLO leaders' refusal to join renewed peace talks without a
settlement freeze as obstacles. President Carter added that the U.S.
has impeded Egyptian efforts to resolve differences between Hamas
and Fatah that could have lead to elections next year. Carter noted,
"Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and humanitarian
organizations to guarantee that imported materials will not be used
for military purposes, cement, wood, and panes of glass are not
permitted to pass into Gaza. The US and other nations have accepted
this situation without forceful corrective action."

Saturday, December 19:

Al Quds carries front page news on an Egyptian diplomatic source
telling Saudi newspaper Al Watan that Israel will provide Cairo with
its response to the prisoners' exchange deal within the next 48
hours. The source stated that the current disagreement between
Israel and Hamas revolves around 50 people Hamas wants released from
Israeli jails, including Fatah leader Marwan Al Barghouthi. Reports
note that under the terms of the deal, Israel will release
approximately 1400 Palestinian prisoners in return for the release
of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The source also stated
that 150 of the released Palestinian prisoners will be expelled to
the Gaza Strip or outside the Palestinian Territories.

Al Quds runs a front page story quoting Israeli sources stating that
Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed a coordinator to help the
government, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli Ministry of
Interior to accelerate the demolition of more than 7,000 Palestinian
homes in East Jerusalem under the pretext of fighting unlicensed
construction activities. According to Israeli sources, the
Municipality has identified Silwan (Al Bustan area in particular) as
a priority for implementing this plan.

The three dailies run front page stories on two teenage brothers and
a journalist who were hospitalized after sustaining injuries Friday
during an attack carried out by a group of Israeli settlers against
a family in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Local
sources reported that a group of settlers attacked the home of the
Attayeh family, who live near the recently seized home of the Al
Ghawi family. Nuha Attayeh said that settlers attacked them while
they were inside their home and condemned the fact that Israeli
police forces did nothing to prevent the attack that was unfolding
in front of them.

------------
BLOCK QUOTE:
------------
Wahid Abdel Majid writing in Al-Quds under the title "Barak Obama
after Receiving the Nobel Prize - Peace or War?" raises questions
about whether or not President Obama deserved to win the Nobel Peace
Prize. The writer discusses two arguments. The first criticizes
Obama for accepting the prize despite few, if any, achievements,
while the second argues that Obama contributed to promoting change
and dialogue among nations, and therefore deserved it.


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