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Cablegate: Jerusalem Media Reaction (02/22): Deputy Secretary Jacob

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SUBJECT: JERUSALEM MEDIA REACTION (02/22): Deputy Secretary Jacob
Lew meets with Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah

-------------
Main Stories:
-------------The dailies report on the meeting between Deputy
Secretary Jacob Lew and Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad yesterday in Ramallah. Reports note that Prime Minister
Fayyad expressed his gratitude for the generous US support to the PA
budget and other projects. Fayyad noted that there is a need for
tangible progress on the political track to force Israel to stop
settlement activities and incursions into the West Bank and to lift
all restrictions on movement and access to support the development
of the Palestinian economy. Reports note that Lew praised the PA's
progress on the economic and security tracks and called for greater
cooperation between the Palestinians and US at all levels. The
dailies also report on Lew's visit to the Palestinian Medical Center
in Ramallah and meeting with the Minister of Health, as well as his
visit to the Ministry of Planning.

Al-Ayyam and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida lead with news on Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing that Israel added two holy
sites in the West Bank to a list of national heritage sites within
his "Plan to Rehabilitate and Strengthen Israel's National Heritage
Infrastructure." The two sites are Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque, known
to Israelis as the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Rachel's Tomb in
Bethlehem. Maan News Agency reported that PA officials immediately
condemned the Israeli announcement. "This announcement is an act of
aggression against the cultural and religious rights of the
Palestinian people," said Dr Hamdan Taha, Director of the PA Tourism
Ministry's antiquities department, in a telephone interview with
Maan. Reports also note that there is a new Israeli plan to build
approximately 549 housing units near the Beit Safafa neighborhood in
Jerusalem.

Al-Quds leads with news on a French/Spanish initiative seeking EU
recognition of a Palestinian state in 18 months based on Prime
Minister Fayyad's plan to establish the state by 2011. President
Abbas and PA officials welcomed this initiative, while reports note
that Israel strongly opposes it. In related news, the dailies report
that Qatar donated $10 million to the PA to support emergency
humanitarian needs for Gaza.

The dailies report on PA President Mahmoud Abbas' visit to France
yesterday and meetings with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kuchner.
Reports note that he asked France to exert pressure on Israel to
reverse its decision to add the West Bank holy sites to their list
of heritage sites.

Sunday, February 21:

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and Al-Quds lead with quotes from Saturday's Le
Monde interview with President Abbas. Abbas noted that he fears the
Palestinian people may lose hope that there will be an independent
Palestinian state due to the stalemate in the negotiations. Abbas
also noted that the lack of negotiations may lead to an eruption of
violence in the Palestinian territories. Abbas reiterated that he
does not believe the Israelis will make any concessions without
pressure from the US. The leading headline in Al-Quds quotes Abbas
asking the US to exert pressure on Israel.

Independent daily Al-Ayyam front pages news on Israeli sources
expressing dissatisfaction in the statements by French Foreign
Minister Kuchner expressing his willingness to recognize the
Palestinian state before its borders are set. The Israeli sources
fear that the Palestinians may ensure secret guarantees from the US

JERUSALEM 00000315 002 OF 003


and Europe regarding the recognition of a state without negotiating
its borders.

Al-Quds continues to report on the US response to Palestinian
questions regarding the resumption of peace talks between the
Palestinians and Israelis. Head of the Political committee of the
PLC Abdallah Abdallah said in a statement that the Palestinians
requested that the Arab Follow-Up Committee convene to discuss the
US response.
According to reports, Ambassador David Hale told the PA that the US
is committed to a three month timeframe for indirect negotiations.

The three dailies quote Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
saying he hopes negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
will resume in the coming weeks. Blair said Special Envoy George
Mitchell has made progress in attempting to resume negotiations
between the two sides. He also noted that it remains important for
the Palestinians to have a government with "credible institutions"
with whom Israel can negotiate.

The three dailies continue to report on the murder of Hamas leader
Al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Al-Ayyam reports in its headline quoting the
Dubai Police Chief saying to an Emirate newspaper that there is new
evidence, including recorded phone calls, which prove the
involvement of Mossad in the murder. The coverage also reports that
an Israeli official who refused to reveal his identity refuted these
accusations.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida front pages news on settlers and IDF soldiers
attacking Palestinians in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Gaza on
Saturday. 10 Palestinians were injured, according to reports.
Al-Ayyam runs a front page photo of protestors from Peace Now
demonstrating in Tel-Aviv Saturday against Israel's policy in the
West Bank. Al-Quds reports that settlers confiscated 10 dunums of
the land in Sinjel village in Ramallah yesterday by force.


Saturday, February 20:

Al-Quds and Al-Ayyam run front page stories on Jerusalem Mayor Nir
Birkat saying in an interview with the three Palestinian daily
newspapers that he will work on demolishing part of the Al Bustan
neighbourhood in Silwan (East Jerusalem). He said that residents
will not be forced out of Silwan, but rather re-located according to
a project the municipality has prepared which will be announced in
the near future. Barkat is quoted saying, "I believe that Jerusalem
is unified and insist on developing it from a tourist perspective."
Barkat added that he is working according to well-thought plans and
that the next phase will witness drastic changes in the city. Ahmad
Rwaidy, head of Jerusalem Unit within the Office of the President,
told Al-Ayyam that if Barkat is serious about improving the
conditions for the people in Silwan then he has to first cancel
demolition orders for 300 houses and issue a decision to demolish
the Beit Yonatan building that was taken over by settlers.

The three dailies run front page stories quoting well-informed
Palestinian sources telling Al-Ayyam that it is premature to talk
about a specific date for starting indirect Palestinian-Israeli
negotiations through US mediation. The source indicated that
President Abbas told Ambassador David Hale during their meeting two
days ago in Ramallah that the Palestinian response to the US
proposal will be whatever the Arab states decide when they meet next
month. The sources added that Hale conveyed to President Abbas the

JERUSALEM 00000315 003 OF 003


US response to questions Abbas asked regarding the proposal for
indirect negotiations; however, the American responses were not very
clear according to reports. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
was quoted denying news that the indirect negotiations will resume
next week but stressed that discussions and consultations with the
US in this regard are on-going.
------------
BLOCK QUOTE:
------------
1) Al-Quds runs an editorial on February 22, under the title "A
European Initiative?!" which commends the Spanish/French initiative
to gain EU recognition of the Palestinian state. The author notes,
however, that the Palestinians need more than good intentions. They
need tangible and concrete steps on the ground to force Israel to
accept international laws.

2) Abdallah Awwad, writing in Al-Ayyam on February 21 under the
title "Why Return to Negotiations?" opines that returning to
negotiations with the Israelis is useless because Palestinians will
realize that the there is nothing that the US, Europe or Israel can
give to them at this stage.

RUBINSTEIN

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