Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

Published: Mon 29 Mar 2004 10:36 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
Key stories in the media:
Saturday evening, Channel 2-TV revealed that State
Attorney Edna Arbel recommends that PM Sharon and his
son Gilad be indicted for their involvement in the so-
called "Greek island affair" -- allegedly receiving
bribes from the businessman David Appel. The media
reported that Sunday Arbel passed on her
recommendations to A/G Menachem Mazuz's office. Mazuz
reportedly believes that Arbel's dossier on Sharon is
"problematic." Ministers from every party in the
coalition were quoted as saying privately that Sharon
would not be able to remain in power if he is indicted,
even though the law would not force him to resign.
During the weekend, the media reported that President
Bush is scheduled to receive Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak on April 12, two days before Sharon, and
Jordan's King Abdullah on April 21.
Sharon's disengagement plan:
-Ha'aretz (Aluf Benn) cited the draft of a U.S.
document presented last week to the Israeli delegation
led by top Sharon aide Dov Weisglass, in which the U.S.
Administration reportedly refuses to recognize the
concept of "settlement blocs" in the West Bank in
exchange from Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip
and some northern West Bank settlements. Ha'aretz
quoted various sources as saying that the U.S. is
looking into a formula that would not involve an
Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines (the
"Green Line"). The newspaper also cited the sources as
saying that the U.S. Administration is not prepared to
declare that Palestinian refugees are only entitled to
return to a future Palestinian state. (Maariv filed a
similar report on Sunday.) Ha'aretz further quoted its
sources as saying that the U.S. Administration has
presented to Israel three alternatives for a
"declaration of exchange" (in decreasing preference
order): an exchange of missives between the two
governments; a declaration by Bush at the conclusion of
his talks with Sharon; and a joint Bush-Sharon
declaration. Sunday, Jerusalem Post quoted senior
Israeli diplomatic officials as saying nothing in
Israel's disengagement plan will preempt the
possibility of continuing the road map when the
Palestinians fulfill their commitments under the map;
namely, dismantling the terrorist infrastructure.
-Leading media reported that Sunday, at a meeting of
the Likud cabinet ministers, FM Silvan Shalom
criticized Sharon's withdrawal plan, telling him that a
peace agreement should only be reached in agreement
with the Palestinians, to which Sharon allegedly
replied: "You said at the UN that there is a moderate
partner in the PA. Tell me, is there anyone to talk
-Maariv quoted Sharon associates as saying that Gilad
Sharon is the key promoter of the idea of disengagement
from the Palestinians.
Ha'aretz reported that Egypt is leading an initiative
designed to create a Palestinian leadership that will
participate actively in negotiations and play a role in
implementing the Gaza Strip disengagement plan proposed
by Sharon. The newspaper reported that that the
Egyptian plan will enable the immediate operation of
the Palestinian security apparatus in the Gaza Strip
due to Egyptian-Palestinian fears of a Hamas escalation
in the territories and Israel in the wake of the
assassination last week of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
All media reported that the special Knesset committee
investigating the performance of Israel's intelligence
agencies in the lead-up to the Iraq war and during the
invasion found that the intelligence establishment's
determinations regarding Saddam Hussein's non-
conventional capabilities and the existence of ground-
to-ground missiles in Iraq was based largely on
speculation rather than reliable information. The
media cited the committee as warning that the
intelligence services could once again turn out to be a
"broken reed." However, the panel's report does not
recommend action against any individuals.
During the weekend, the media reported that three
Palestinians were killed in the West Bank Saturday,
including a seven-year-old boy caught in crossfire
between IDF soldiers and Palestinian militants.
Sunday, Ha'aretz reported that Hizbullah financed the
Ashdod Port bombing and chose the attack's target. The
newspaper also reported that in order to counter
Hizbullah influence, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat is
funding military activists in the Fatah.
Jerusalem Post and other media reported that Sunday
Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi attacked the U.S. for
vetoing a UN resolution condemning the killing of his
predecessor, Ahmed Yassin, and described Bush as an
enemy of God and Islam.
Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio reported that the Arab
League will hold its summit in Cairo in mid-April,
following the cancellation of the meeting it was
scheduled to hold in Tunis in current days. In an
unrelated development, Ha'aretz reported that Israeli
Arab politicians and academics will attend the Arab
League's first conference devoted to the Arab minority
in Israel and its connections to the wider Arab world.
Ha'aretz cited the belief of Arab politicians that the
conference, to be held in Cairo on April 26 and 27,
will enhance Israeli Arabs' standing in the world Arab
Yediot, Ha'aretz and Maariv reported that U.S. visa
procedures for Israelis born in Arab countries have
been eased. They will now be asked if they have any
connection with their birthplace. If it is determined
that all connections have been cut and the visa
applicant is considered loyal to "Israel only," their
application will be more quickly authorized and their
visas will be issued at the American missions in Tel
Aviv or Jerusalem. Yediot writes that the U.S.
informed the Israeli Embassy in Washington about this
change during the weekend.
All media reported that Sunday a ministerial committee
decided to reform the reserve system in the IDF.
During the weekend, all media reported on worldwide
demonstrations of Muslims to protest Yassin's
assassination. Sunday, Jerusalem Post reported that
Hamas and the armed wing of Fatah, Al Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades, have separately rejected an appeal by a group
of prominent Palestinians for a "peaceful" Intifada and
vowed to step up their attacks against Israel.
Maariv cited a London Sunday Times story that Libyan
leader Muammar Qadhafi planned to use a Palestinian
terrorist squad to hijack a Pan Am airliner and blow it
up above Tel Aviv in 1986.
All media reported that Sunday NASA launched the X-34A
plane, which can reach the speed of about 8,000 kph
(Mach 7).
Sunday, Yediot cited the results of a poll taken in the
U.S. by Public Opinion Strategies pollster Neil
Newhouse on behalf of the Foreign Ministry:
-46 percent of Americans approve Yassin's
assassination; 61 percent approve it when Osama bin
Laden is mentioned in the same breath; however, 50
percent of respondents believe that the assassination
will increase terrorism in the Middle East throughout
the world.
-38 percent of Americans believe that the goal of
Palestinian terrorism is the elimination of Israel; 38
percent believe that it is more limited: the
establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Jerusalem Post cited the results of a poll taken
between March 14 and 17 (before Yassin's assassination)
by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey
Research among Palestinians, and published Sunday:
-Nearly three quarters of respondents welcome Sharon's
plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, and two thirds
believe it constitutes a victory for the armed struggle
against Israel.
-However, 61 percent of Palestinians believe that
Sharon is not serious about his plan and that he will
not withdraw, while only one third believes he is
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized:
"The extent to which an indictment seems likely could
directly impair Sharon's ability to convince the U.S.
to take specific diplomatic steps critical to our
national interests."
Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz: "Anyone who fears
the expression 'Israel's expulsion' had better get used
to it. Yes, Israel will leave Gaza as one being
Liberal columnist Gideon Levy wrote in Ha'aretz:
"Suddenly, Israelis are worried about the bitter fate
of a Palestinian child."
Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
Ha'aretz: "The Palestinians had few expectations of the
summit, and no one is losing sleep over its
Block Quotes:
I. "Not Above the Law"
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(March 29): "Leaks from the police and prosecutors
regarding high-profile political cases have become
common and acceptable, as if it were an appropriate way
to release information.... [But] even Ariel Sharon has
civil rights. The public has a right not to have its
government weakened by leaks that unnecessarily prolong
a period of instability.... On April 14, Sharon is
scheduled to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush.
Though the cloud of this scandal is already over
Sharon, the extent to which an indictment seems likely
could directly impair Sharon's ability to convince the
U.S. to take specific diplomatic steps critical to our
national interests. This is no argument to obstruct a
legitimate legal process, but another example of the
cost of illegal and unacceptable leaks from our legal
II. "Yes, They're Kicking Us Out"
Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in
independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (March 28): "It
would be best to look at this withdrawal -- which is
still only on paper -- directly in the eyes. Israel is
only leaving Gaza because it can no longer continue to
hold it due to the defense burden. Anyone who fears
the expression 'Israel's expulsion' had better get used
to it. Yes, Israel will leave Gaza as one being
expelled, without any pomp and ceremonies marking the
transfer of power. It's difficult to find in modern
history the case of an occupying state that does not
leave as one being expelled from the territory it
conquered. It is not a dishonorable club, with members
including Britain, France, and the United States. The
truly important question is what are the memories that
Israel will leave behind. These memories will play an
important role when the time for reconciliation comes.
But thinking about the future is not a characteristic
of Israeli policy. If it were, Gaza would long ago
have become an autonomous district under the control of
the Palestinian Authority."
III. "A Sudden Concern For the Palestinian Child"
Liberal columnist Gideon Levy wrote in Ha'aretz (March
28): "Suddenly, Israelis are worried about the bitter
fate of a Palestinian child. To judge by the public
shock over Husam Bilal Abdu, who was caught wearing an
explosives belt at the Hawara checkpoint, it would seem
that nothing of a humane nature is foreign to us, even
when it pertains to an enemy and his children. But
this is an infuriating show of concern. The fate of a
Palestinian child only touches us when it suits us,
when it serves our purposes and when our hands are not
involved. The hundreds of children who have been
killed, the thousands who have been crippled, and the
hundreds of thousands who live under conditions of
siege and poverty, and are exposed every day to
violence and humiliation -- all this has failed to move
the Israeli public. Just the child with the belt....
Whoever is truly concerned over the fate of Palestinian
children should not only take interest when explosives
belts are attached to their bodies. These children
deserve a different fate. They deserve not to grow up
among the rubble of their homes as children and be
killed as teenagers -- whether from a Palestinian
explosives belt or from the bullet of an Israeli
sniper. Both of these are cruel to exactly the same
IV. "No Lost Sleep Over the Postponed Summit"
Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in
Ha'aretz (March 29): "One factor that has somewhat
disrupted preparations for this [Arab League] summit
was the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Most
Palestinians derived great pleasure from scenes of the
demonstrations against Israel and the U.S., some of
them violent, which took place throughout the Arab
world after Yassin's death. Such demonstrations always
become protests against rulers of the country in which
they take place, who are asked to break off any
contact, direct or indirect, with Israel. The Prime
Minister's disengagement plan, which confounded the
Palestinians, is confounding Arab leaders, too.... If
in the past, Arab summit conferences were a subject
that sparked excitement and enthusiasm among the
Palestinian public and its leadership, today's summit
was conceived as a routine, ho-hum event. Arafat was
supposed to give one of his ordinary speeches, and the
Arab spokesmen had prepared a few mutual verbal barbs.
The Palestinians had few expectations of the summit,
and no one is losing sleep over its postponement."
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