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04TELAVIV1367 2004-03-04 15:35:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001367 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2014

Classified By: Political Counselor Norm Olsen for reason 1.4 (b) and (d

1. (SBU) Summary: GOI and public reaction to the State
Department's 2003 Human Rights Report (HRR) has been
relatively low-key in the five business days since the
report's publication. The GOI's main substantive public
statement -- as reported in the daily Ha'aretz on February 27
-- came from FM Silvan Shalom, who remarked that "the United
States always takes into account that the human rights
situation is determined by the state of terrorism." At least
six Knesset members gave brief comments, almost exclusively
on the occupied territories report, with several accusing the
United States of unfairly criticizing IDF actions and others
calling on the GOI to investigate the incidents of abuse
toward the Palestinians cited in the report. Aside from news
items on the report, only two editorials on the report, both
critical, appeared in major newspapers. One human rights NGO
issued a press release citing in positive terms sections of
the Israel report that criticized the GOI's discriminatory
treatment of Israeli Arabs. End summary.


GOI Reaction


2. (C) Aliza Inbal of the MFA's North America Division noted
to Poloff on February 26 that Shalom viewed the report
favorably, had praised the United States for discussing the
context within which Israel was operating, and had underlined
that the United States was Israel's foremost ally. After
comparing the 2002 and 2003 HRRs for the occupied
territories, Inbal concluded that the 2003 report was
"softer" on Israel. She noted that this year's report went
further to "present the security context" within which the
GOI is operating.

3. (C) Inbal, Daniel Meron of the Human Rights Department of
the Division for United Nations and International
Organizations and Ady Scheinman of the MFA legal department
skimmed through the reports quickly during Poloff's February
25 visit to deliver the embargoed texts of the Israel Report
and the Occupied Territories appendix (OT report). When
informed about the restrictions on the reports' release,
Meron joked that the State Department did not have to worry
that the GOI would share the embargoed copy with the press,
since the anticipated criticisms of the GOI in the report
were not something the MFA would want to broadcast.
Scheinman immediately searched the OT report for references
to Israel's separation fence, and noted with surprise and
dismay that the report uses the term "security barrier" to
refer to the fence, although she did not indicate what term
she would have preferred. Meron asked why issuance of the
report could not have been delayed just a few days until
after the International Court of Justice hearing on the
fence. Poloff noted that the HRRs' issuance date is mandated
by Congress. Meron complained that, unlike in previous
years, this year the Department had not conveyed to the GOI
any questions during the report's preparation specifically
related to incidents in the Occupied Territories.


MK Comments


4. (C) On March 3, six MKs gave brief remarks mainly on the
OT report: Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash), Naomi Blumenthal
(Likud), Ronny Brizon (Shinui), Zahava Galon (Meretz), Nissan
Slomianski (National Religious Party) and Jamal Zahalka
(Balad). Post is not aware of any media coverage of these
statements. In separate conversations with MKs Zahalka and
Slomiansky on March 4, Poloff learned that the MKs, with the
exception of Ronny Brizon, commented exclusively on the OT
report. Slomiansky complained to Poloff that the report's
criticism of the GOI and the IDF was unfair since Israel was
a small country trying to defend itself against terrorism.
In contrast, Israeli-Arab MK Zahalka told Poloff that the
report was "important" and that the GOI should take it
seriously. Zahalka noted that Justice Minister Tommy Lapid
was present during the Knesset session to represent the
government. According to Zahalka, Lapid commented that the
GOI should take the report into consideration and investigate
some of the incidents mentioned in the report. Brizon told
Poloff on March 2 that although he understood that the agenda
item for discussion was the behavior of the IDF in the
occupied territories as described in the report, he planned
to comment on the Israel report, in particular on the
treatment of the Arab minority. Zahalka later told Poloff
that Brizon had been, in fact, the only MK to comment on the
Israel report.


Media and NGO Reactions


5. (SBU) The media focused almost entirely on the OT report,
highlighting U.S. criticism of the IDF's use of "excessive
force" against Palestinians. The media also reported on U.S.
criticism of IDF treatment of Palestinians, including at
checkpoints, house demolitions, and civilian casualties
resulting from "targeted assassinations." Aside from
straight news articles on the report, just two editorials
appeared in the major newspapers. In the February 29
Ha'aretz, Gideon Levy claimed that "the United States has by
its own hand lost its moral right to preach to any country in
connection with human rights." Levy asserted that "a country
that is holding 660 Afghan detainees in Guantanamo without
trial and depriving them of basic rights is in no position to
criticize administrative detentions carried out by other
countries." Levy also claimed that the United States could
have brought Israel's abusive practices to an end if it
"truly wanted" to do so. The February 27 Jerusalem Post
carried an editorial by Caroline Glick in which she
criticized the "State Department report" for "equating
actions aimed at protecting Israeli citizens with terrorism"
and for providing the names of Palestinian children who died
"during Israeli assaults against Palestinian terrorists" but
omitting the names of Israelis who died in Palestinian
terrorist attacks. She asserted that the report "follows in
the path of the general climate" which "is characterized by
the dehumanization of Israelis and Jews by the international

6. (SBU) The Mossawa Center - The Advocacy Center for Arab
Citizens of Israel, issued a press release on the Israel
report, highlighting in positive terms those sections that
discussed discrimination against Israeli Arabs. Mossawa
director Jafar Farah stated that "The U.S. Human Rights
Report rightfully criticizes the State of Israel for
systematically discriminating against its Arab citizens in
the design and implementation of its policies. The Arab
citizens of Israel have to deal with the unfortunate day to
day reality of these humiliating policies." Mohammed
Zeidan, Director of the Arab Association for Human Rights,
told Poloff on March 4 that the Israel report was "excellent"
and that the Embassy should make it a practice to send a copy
of the report to each Knesset member to ensure that it is

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