UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 TEL AVIV 001496
STATE FOR NEA, NEA/IPA, NEA/PPD
WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE, SIT ROOM
NSC FOR NEA STAFF
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:
Key stories in the media:
Israel Radio and Ha'aretz's website quoted Secretary of
State Colin Powell as saying Tuesday that the U.S. has
"many questions" for Israel on the details and impact
of the disengagement plan, including how the Gaza Strip
would be administered following Israeli withdrawal.
Ha'aretz reported that Israeli and Palestinian
negotiators agreed that PM Sharon and Palestinian PM
Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) would meet Tuesday. Israel Radio
reported that the very holding of the meeting and its
date are still uncertain. Leading media reported that
Monday Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman
"secretly" met with Sharon and Mossad Director Meir
Dagan. Yediot reported that Suleiman expressed his
concern over a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the
Gaza Strip. Yediot quoted GOI sources as saying that
Israel does not expect Egypt to replace Israel in the
Strip. Jerusalem Post quoted diplomatic officials as
saying that Egypt would be reluctant to play any future
role in the Gaza Strip if it is not fully coordinated
with the PA. The media reported that Suleiman is
slated to meet with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat today.
On Israel Radio today, FM Silvan Shalom, who is due to
travel to Egypt Thursday, praised that country's
policy, which he said had turned positive and could
represent a model for talks with other countries.
Jerusalem Post reported that Tuesday Qurei, who is
visiting European capitals, lashed at the U.S., in
particular, and the international community, in
general, for not doing enough for peace. The newspaper
also quoted United Arab List Knesset Member Taleb a-
Sanaa as saying, following a meeting with Arafat, that
the latter is prepared to meet with Sharon.
King Abdullah II of Jordan was quoted as saying in an
interview with Maariv that he supports Sharon's plan
for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which he said
would be a positive step.
Leading media quoted Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
as saying Tuesday that his group could stop its attacks
in the Gaza Strip "for a certain period of time" if
Israel withdraws from the strip. Ha'aretz quoted him
>as saying that Hamas is not ruling out joining the PA
after such a pullout. Ha'aretz reported that the U.S.
has asked Britain to place the entire Hamas
organization, not just its military branch, on its list
of banned terrorist groups.
Ha'aretz quoted Palestinian sources as saying that a
Palestinian woman was killed and two other Palestinians
were wounded in an IDF operation in Jenin.
IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon was quoted as saying
in several media interviews that he strenuously denies
having expressed his opposition to Sharon's
disengagement plan. Hatzofe quoted Ya'alon's initial
controversial remark: "We will need to take into
account the fact that the Palestinians will understand
it [the plan] as a prize granted to terrorism."
Col. (res.) Dan Tirza, who is considered the most
senior professional advisor to Sharon on the issue of
the separation fence, was quoted as saying in an
interview with Ha'aretz that Israel does not plan to
build a fence in the eastern part of the West Bank
because of the likely political fallout in the
Leading media reported that Achille Lauro hijacking
mastermind Mahmoud Abbas (Abu al-Abbas) died a few days
ago "of natural causes" in American detention in Iraq.
Abbas was the leader of one of the factions of the
Palestine Liberation Front. Israel Radio reported that
the Front has accused the U.S. of murdering Abbas by
not giving him his heart medication.
Ha'aretz reported that newly declassified U.S. State
Department documents suggest that Israel considered
attacking nuclear installations in Pakistan. The
newspaper notes that according to these documents, such
a possibility came up in 1979, during Jimmy Carter's
term as U.S. president. Ha'aretz says that the
documents also make clear that the USG did not hold
special discussions to address Israel's "preventive
Maariv reported that contacts between representatives
of the Likud and Labor parties meant to reach a
national unity government are intensifying. This
morning on Israel Radio, Knesset Member Dalia Itzik,
the head of the Labor Party's Knesset faction,
minimized the meaning of those contacts.
IDF Radio reported that Israel is conducting indirect
secret contacts with Sudan and Libya.
Reporting on the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the
joint Israeli-Jordanian "Bridging the Rift" science
center in the Arava Tuesday, Ha'aretz quoted Cornell
University President Lehman as saying that the nice
thing is that "we are building a project that has
nothing to do with politics." The newspaper quoted
Jordanian Planning Minister Bassem Awadallah as saying
that the foundation of the center does not constitute a
step of normalization between nations. The Israeli
representatives at the ceremony said that this is a
project that will bolster peace in the region.
Jerusalem Post and Hatzofe also reported on the
Ha'aretz quoted defense officials as testifying before
the Knesset's Defense Budget Subcommittee Tuesday that
Israel's 2004 defense budget will increase by 2 billion
shekels (around USD 445 million), coming to 34.9
billion shekels (around USD 7.76 billion).
Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post quoted Democratic
presidential candidate John Kerry as telling AP Monday
that he no longer considers Arafat to be a statesman,
but rather "an outlaw to the peace process" in the
Middle East who has been rightly shuffled aside.
Ha'aretz reported that a computerized IDF simulated
educational program, which is now distributed to most
of the field units and officers, outlines 11 rules of
behavior for IDF soldiers during their operational
activity in the territories. The program includes
quotes from the American film, "Rules of Engagement."
Ha'aretz quoted A/G Menachem Mazuz as testifying before
the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee
Tuesday that the release of nuclear whistleblower
Mordecai Vanunu from prison would "create a significant
danger to state security." Leading media cited
Vanunu's threat that he would seek asylum in a foreign
Yediot quoted renowned Israeli author Batya Gur ("a
detective story writer who is successful abroad") as
saying in an interview with the Belgian daily Le Soir:
"I am not angry at Palestinian suicide bombers." She
sharply criticized Israel and asked for help to "get
rid of Ariel Sharon."
Maariv reported that hundreds of Israelis, who were
born from 1946 to 1948 in British internment camps for
illegal immigrants in Cyprus, are asking for birth
certificates from Cyprus, which will join the EU on May
1. The requesters hope to obtain Cypriot citizenship
and a EU passport.
Yediot reported that Israel has asked the U.S. to allow
El Al to fly over Iraq to reach its Far East
destinations, which would save the company's planes two
to three hours of travel.
Ha'aretz (English Ed.) published a Letter to the Editor
by Brazilian Ambassador Sergio Moreira Lima, who denies
a February 10 Ha'aretz report that terrorist
organizations are present or operate fund-raising
activities in distant areas of South America,
particularly in the triangle of borders of Argentina,
Brazil and Paraguay.
Monday and Tuesday, all media highlighted the arrest by
police of 18 people, including four alleged hit men
from Belarus, suspected of involvement in a number of
attempted underworld murders. Ha'aretz cited the
police's belief that more gangs of foreign hired
killers are present in Israel.
Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz:
"The disengagement plan suffers from vagueness not only
with senior government echelons in the United States.
Senior echelons in Israel are in a similar situation."
Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "The disengagement plan is
the least of all evils.... It is too bad that its
handling is being conducted amateurishly."
Nationalist Hatzofe editorialized: "Chief of Staff Lt.
Gen. Moshe (Boogie) Ya'alon expressed a professional
opinion regarding the issue of disengagement from the
I. "A Confused and Vague Plan"
Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev
Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(March 10): "Why are the American envoys returning to
Israel, after having been here only a short while ago,
in order to find out more about the Prime Minister's
disengagement plan?.... The disengagement plan suffers
from vagueness not only with senior government echelons
in the United States. Senior echelons in Israel are in
a similar situation. Some officials in Washington
believe Sharon is taking an important step on behalf of
the U.S. He is essentially granting the Gaza Strip as
a gift to George Bush, who will help to turn it into a
democratic Palestinian island, as he is doing in Iraq
and Afghanistan. Others in Washington feel the gift is
'poisoned.' The Americans cannot explain why Sharon
spoke in Jerusalem about an insignificant move in the
West Bank, while [his senior aide Dov] Weisglass spoke
in Washington of an extensive withdrawal.... It is
clear that Sharon does not want there to be any
'disengagement' as part of a negotiated agreement -- in
other words, a coordinated withdrawal -- as he
understands that any agreement would obligate him to
large concessions. He reasons that if the Palestinians
are in fact capable of reaching an agreement, then they
should be implementing the road map."
II. "Shooting From the Hip Instead of Conducting
Veteran print and TV journalist Dan Margalit wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (March 10): "The
disengagement plan is the least of all evils. Peace
plans raised by Barak at Camp David and Dr. Yossi
Beilin in Geneva are better, but in the absence of a
Palestinian negotiating partner, the unilateral move is
preferable to a quagmire. It is too bad that its
handling is being conducted amateurishly.... The
Americans didn't know about it. Sharon, their ally,
who is requesting a plane ticket to the White House,
hasn't consulted them regarding an order of
priorities.... Neither has there been any dialogue with
the Palestinians.... [Israel] should have held early
discussion with Mubarak, and not waited for his
intelligence chief, who arrived in Israel
precipitously, to locate the diplomatic fire.... Things
aren't insolvable. Many flaws will be corrected, one
by one. But why this delay? Why only after diplomatic
damage has been inflicted, even as the hope for a spark
of understanding between the nations has been
III. "Well Done, Chief of Staff"
Nationalist Hatzofe editorialized (March 10): "Chief of
Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe (Boogie) Ya'alon expressed a
professional opinion regarding the issue of
disengagement from the Gaza Strip when he said: a)
Increasing terrorism in the Strip is the result of
talks about a pullout, etc. b) In fact, the
disengagement won't solve anything -- this also goes
for the scope of forces that will be needed to remain
in the area in order to protect the new
configuration.... There is nothing political in the
Chief of Staff's remarks, all the more as the Prime
Minister hasn't presented his disengagement plan to any
official civilian forum. The Chief of Staff, Shin Bet
head Avi Dichter and other senior military commanders
oppose the idea of disengagement from a military point
of view. It appears that in the U.S. as well, there is
no great enthusiasm for this move, because it
represents first and foremost an encouragement and a
prize for terrorism."