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Identifier
Created
Classification
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05TELAVIV731
2005-02-07 11:04:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

ISRAEL MEDIA REACTION

Tags:   IS  KMDR  MEDIA  REACTION  REPORT 
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 TEL AVIV 000731

SIPDIS

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:
--------------

Secretary Rice to Israel, West Bank Feb. 6-7

SIPDIS

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

All media reported on the arrival of Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice in Israel on Sunday afternoon (banners
in all major media, except Maariv). All media reported
that at private and official meetings, Secretary Rice
urged Israel to take steps to strengthen the new
Palestinian Authority leadership. Banner in Ha'aretz
(Hebrew Ed.): "Rice: Strengthen Abu Mazen, So That
Opportunity Should Not Be Missed." The media reported
that Secretary Rice concurred with Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon that progress in the diplomatic process would
depend on real Palestinian action against terror. She
was quoted as saying that terror is the main long-term
threat to the process, and that the Palestinians cannot
be allowed to "switch on and switch off." The media
quoted Secretary Rice as saying that Israel should not
surprise PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) with
unilateral actions in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Post quoted
an Israeli official as saying that Rice was making
clear that there are limits to the types of action the
U.S. wanted to see Israel take, and that it was also
clear that Israel did not intend "pushing those
limits." Jerusalem Post quoted an official as saying
that at the dinner at Sharon's residence, Rice made
clear that the U.S. understands that one election does
not make a democracy, and that the U.S. will remain
focused on pressuring the PA to both institute reform
and tackle terrorism. Rice was quoted as saying that
she welcomes the Sharm el-Sheikh summit meeting.

Yediot bannered Secretary Rice's declaration that
Israel will have to make further "hard decisions."

Last night, Secretary Rice granted interviews to three
Israeli TV stations -- Israel TV, Channel 2-TV, and
Channel 10-TV.

Yediot and other media reported that in understandings
between top Sharon aide Dov Weisglass and PA security
official Muhammad Dahlan, the sides decided that the
status of 350 Palestinians wanted by Israel would be

"frozen." This morning, Israel Radio quoted Dahlan as
saying that the sides will debate the release of
veteran, ill, and female prisoners immediately after
the summit. Leading media quoted Sharon as saying that
the release of the PFLP leaders who planned the
assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi is not
on the agenda.

This morning, Israel Radio reported that Fatah is
prepared to expand the cease-fire with Israel into a
comprehensive and mutual one. Ha'aretz noted
encouraging signs in relations with the Palestinians,
including concerted efforts by Hamas in Israeli prisons
to achieve a new hudna (truce). Leading media reported
that Syrian President Bashar Assad welcomed the summit.
Maariv reported in its lead story that Arab sources
have informed Abbas that Hizbullah could assassinate
him.

Israel Radio reported that security sources have
arrested a female Islamic Jihad activist from a village
near Jenin who was about to carry out a suicide bombing
and a Hamas militant from a village near Nablus who
planned a suicide attack.

This morning, Israel Radio reported that Egyptian
sources have accused Israel of postponing until a later
date a ceremony to mark the deployment of Egyptian
forces along the "Philadelphi route" (along the Gaza-
Egypt border), originally scheduled for this coming
Thursday, February 10th. Jerusalem Post reported that
on Sunday, that the GOI ratified a three-way agreement
among Egypt, Israel and the U.S. creating three
Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs) on Egyptian
territory.

Ha'aretz reported that an ad hoc coalition representing
20 Palestinian and Israeli women's groups has written
to Secretary Rice, calling on her to use her good
offices to bring women into the peacemaking process so
as to advance coexistence in the region. Ha'aretz
cited the U.S. Embassy in Israel as saying that it
welcomed the women's initiative.

Ha'aretz reported that the state prosecution plans to
inform Israel's High Court of Justice that the opinion
rendered by the International Court of Justice at The
Hague on the West Bank separation fence is irrelevant.
The prosecution will say the ruling was based on
partial, outdated information and should therefore be
disregarded.

Tel Aviv University's Peace Index poll conducted among
Israeli Jews on January 31-February 1:
-77 percent support negotiations with the Palestinians;
31 percent believe they will lead to peace in the next
few years.
-46 percent believe there is a significant chance of
civil war erupting in Israel; 46 percent believe there
is little chance of such a development; 5 percent are
undecided.

--------------
Secretary Rice to Israel, West Bank Feb. 6-7:

SIPDIS
--------------

Summary:
--------------

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the lead editorial of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "The Americans
are not making light of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit;
they are here, and more than ever before."

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Something strange
is going on: the government of Ariel Sharon prefers
Egyptian involvement to American arbitration."

Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote on page
one of Yediot Aharonot: "'We will not release the
murderers of Israelis, period,' said Ariel Sharon. 'I
am not going to Sharm el-Sheikh to hold negotiations on
that issue.'"

Arab affairs correspondent Jackie Hoogie wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv: "Success in the Israel-
Palestinian track could release much of the American
pressure upon [Egypt]."

Security and intelligence affairs commentator Amit
Cohen wrote in Maariv: "All [the Palestinian
organizations] have a shared goal: to keep their
weapons and their military capability. They hope that
the understandings reached with the Palestinian
Authority in Gaza will allow them to do so despite the
summit in Egypt."

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz: "Israel and the Palestinians do not need
another such incremental plan [as the Tenet and
Mitchell documents], but rather a precise political
definition of Sharon's declaration that Israel cannot
continue to occupy the Palestinians and that there
should be two states for the two peoples."

Former editor-in-chief Moshe Ishon wrote in
nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe: "The Sharm el-Sheikh
summit is rather a vision that will serve external
interests --- first of all, those of ... Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak ... and ... of the Jordanian
King."

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


I. "The Americans Are Here"

Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever
Plotker wrote in the lead editorial of mass-
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (February 7):
"Although U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is
touring the Middle East, she does not intend to take
part in the Israeli-Palestinian-Egyptian-Jordanian
summit that is convening tomorrow at Sharm el-Sheikh.
The distance that the United States is keeping from the
Sharm el-Sheikh summit could create a mistaken
impression of indifference. This is a misjudgment: the
success of negotiations between Sharon and Abu Mazen is
the supreme strategic interest of the U.S. in the
region. For the first time since the establishment of
the Palestinian Authority, it is now controlled by a
distinctly pro-American leadership group.... Abu Mazen
and his associates ... are perceived as statesmen who
are worthy of their people, known and appreciated by
the White House. From this standpoint, Sharon's
government has lost its exclusive hold over the U.S.
administration's sympathy, a loss that already echoed
in Rice's statements last night. The positive American
overture towards the post-Arafat Palestinians appears
to the White House as a bridge to the heart of the Arab
world and a lever to reconciliation with Europe. For
all these reasons, the ostensible indifference that the
Bush administration is displaying towards the Sharm el-
Sheikh summit is no more than a tactic stemming from
being overly involved rather than insufficiently
involved. The Americans are not making light of the
Sharm el-Sheikh summit; they are here, and more than
ever before."

II. "Israel Braces For Rice's Visit"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote on page one of
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (February 6):
"Something strange is going on: the government of Ariel
Sharon prefers Egyptian involvement to American
arbitration -- that same administration the Prime
Minister described as very friendly to Israel? Hosni
Mubarak is applauded and the news that Rice is arriving
is received with sour looks? Rice is seeking to show
her presence and take command in the diplomatic arena.
It is important for her to show to her colleagues in
Europe that the new Bush administration intends to step
up its involvement in finding a solution to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict.... In Israel there is displeasure
at its role as a pawn in the game of the major powers.
But this is not what really bothers the Prime
Minister's Office. It is more concerned about an
American attempt to mediate between Israel and the PA,
and it would prefer it if Rice and her aides were kept
out of the negotiations.... In Israel there is concern
that an American mediator will assist Abbas beyond the
level at which Sharon is comfortable with, and by this
weaken the Israeli position.... The Sharm el-Sheikh
summit is an opportunity for a time-out for all sides.
It will enable the Americans to show that there is
diplomatic movement, without having to participate.
This will enable them to retain their status as an
honest broker. As for the tough issues, they will be
left for the next stage."

II. "Murderers to be Released"

Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote on page
one of Yediot Aharonot (February 6): "The Prime
Minister tried to allay the concerns of bereaved
parents with respect to the impending release of
prisoners with 'blood on their hands.' 'We will not
release the murderers of Israelis, period,' said Ariel
Sharon. 'I am not going to Sharm el-Sheikh to hold
negotiations on that issue.' Israel has agreed to
release 900 prisoners without 'blood on their hands.'
With that having been said, Sharon has asked to examine
the possibility of releasing up to three murderers who
have been imprisoned for more than 20 years and who are
in poor health.... A meeting [February 5 of senior
Israelis and Palestinians], which was held in a 'good
atmosphere,' led to a decision to form a joint
committee that would discuss the Palestinian request to
release more prisoners. In other words: the crisis was
postponed so as to allow the Sharm el-Sheikh summit to
proceed as it should. In any event, said political
officials, Israel has no intention of releasing
murderers. 'The Palestinians want to force us into
releasing prisoners who took part in terror attacks
prior to the beginning of the process, even before the
Palestinian Authority has taken the first practical
steps to prove to our public opinion that they have
undergone a fundamental change,' said a high-ranking
political official."

III. "Egypt Will Strengthen Its Standing with the
United States"

Arab affairs correspondent Jackie Hoogie wrote in
popular, pluralist Maariv (February 6): "In the summit
due to take place two days from now, Cairo is trying to
obtain its first political achievement in the current
Intifada. In this way, Hosni Mubarak's people hope to
increase their prestige among the Arabs, among their
own people and in Washington, which has hung high hopes
on them throughout the current conflict.... No less
than this, Cairo is acting out of its own security
needs. Egypt still remembers the beginning of the
Intifada, when the bloody clashes in Ramallah were
broadcast on Al-Jazeera in real time and incited the
streets in Cairo and in Alexandria. There they know
that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is an undermining
factor in the Middle East as a whole. But there is a
third factor in the Egyptian interest in calm on the
ground. Since September 11, Cairo has been pressed to
the wall, like other Arab countries, by the American
demand to carry out reforms. Success in the Israel-
Palestinian track could release much of the American
pressure upon it."

IV. "The Terrorists Will Be Able to Rebuild their
Strength"

Security and intelligence affairs commentator Amit
Cohen wrote in Maariv (February 6): "The Sharm el-
Sheikh summit brings the Palestinian terror
organizations into a new era characterized by fear
mixed with hope. After four years of struggle and
attrition, for those organizations calm is not only a
matter of desire but also a real necessity. Despite
the heated rhetoric, the military capability of these
organizations was greatly harmed during the Intifada,
and now it amounts mostly to the ability to launch
rockets. But this desire for calm, which stems from
rational considerations, is neither absolute nor
unequivocal.... The Palestinian organizations are not
all cut from the same cloth, and each one of them has
its own agenda. Some of them are more interested in
calm while others, especially those under Hizbullah
influence, will not bat an eyelash before sabotaging
any agreement. But all of them have a shared goal: to
keep their weapons and their military capability. They
hope that the understandings reached with the
Palestinian Authority in Gaza will allow them to do so
despite the summit in Egypt."


V. "Gaza and Jericho First -- Again"

Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
Ha'aretz (February 6): "Israel and the Palestinians do
not need another such incremental plan [as the Tenet
and Mitchell documents], but rather a precise political
definition of Sharon's declaration that Israel cannot
continue to occupy the Palestinians and that there
should be two states for the two peoples. Without any
'if' or condition. In the absence of such definition,
there will be no strategic, historic or ideological
significance in Sharon's readiness to withdraw from
Gaza -- or in the flags waving at Sharm [el-Sheikh]."

VI. "Where Is the Sharm Conference Leading?"

Former editor-in-chief Moshe Ishon wrote in
nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe (February 7): "It can be
assumed that [Palestinian terror groups] will be in
contact with the Egyptian terror organizations, which
will supply them with weapons, under the nose of the
Egyptian policemen.... The Sharm el-Sheikh summit is
rather a vision that will serve external interests ---
first of all, those of the summit's initiators, those
of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who has a
particular interest in being the sponsor of the
advancement of Israel-PA relations, and those of the
Jordanian King who wants to closely follow the doings
in his near surroundings, in order to be 'in on
developments.' But this conference at this stage is
very far from contributing to a process that would
bring about a rapprochement on the way to an
arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians."

KURTZER