Cablegate: Israel Media Reaction

Published: Wed 28 Sep 2005 11:12 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:
In its lead story, Jerusalem Post reported that PM
Sharon told Likud ministers on Tuesday that he intends
to continue guiding the Likud ideologically in a
different direction from the party's traditional ideal
of maintaining as much as possible of the Land of
Israel. Speaking on Israel Radio this morning, Eyal
Arad, a senior strategy advisor to Sharon, said that if
the diplomatic deadlock with the Palestinians
continues, Israel may consider turning unilateral
disengagement into government policy, including
annexation of West Bank territory and withdrawal to
what the Jewish state would set as its permanent
border. Israel Radio later quoted the Prime Minister's
Office as saying in response, "There is no plan for a
further unilateral withdrawal."
All media, except Jerusalem Post, led with Israel's
ongoing confrontation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
All media quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying
on Tuesday that Israel will target senior Hamas leaders
if the organization continues to launch Qassam rockets
into Israel. Yediot and Israel Radio reported that for
the first time since 1967, IDF cannons bombarded open
spaces in the Gaza Strip. Ha'aretz quoted Israeli
defense officials as saying on Tuesday that certain
Hamas cells in the West Bank -- at least in Ramallah
and Hebron -- have resumed trying to carry out attacks
against Israeli targets, even though the organization's
leadership remains officially committed to the "lull"
in the violence. Also reporting on this trend, Israel
Radio cited an intelligence report that reached the PA,
according to which Syrian President Bashar Assad met
with Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives, urging
them to step up attacks against Israel. The radio,
which says that Assad is trying to promote PLO
hardliner Farouk Kaddoumi at the expense of PA Chairman
[President] Mahmoud Abbas, reported that Assad's wooing
of the extremist Palestinian groups prompted Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak to tell Assad that he could
lose power if he continued supporting terror.
The media reported that Hamas released a videotape
recorded shortly before the death of the Israeli Sasson
Nuriel, who urged the government, in Arabic, at his
captors' demand, to release all Palestinian prisoners
held by Israel. The media cited Hamas as saying that
it would abduct other Israeli citizens. Israel Radio
reported that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni canceled a
meeting scheduled for Thursday with PA Minister for
Prisoners' Affairs Sufian Abu Zaida, saying that the
abduction and murder of Nuriel, and the release of the
videotape, were not a way to have prisoners freed.
Yediot reported that pressure by the IDF and Gaza Strip
residents on the terrorist organizations made all
Palestinian factions in Gaza decide on Tuesday to stop
launching Qassam rockets and return to the 'tahdiya'
(lull) while reserving the right to respond to Israeli
actions. The newspaper reported that the decision was
preceded by the firing of two rockets into Sderot,
including one that landed in the middle of a
residential neighborhood.
Yediot cited a police announcement that the Shin Bet
and police have arrested Yaqub Abu-Assab, a senior
Hamas official who served as liaison between the
group's branch in Saudi Arabia and its HQ in the West
Israel Radio quoted IDF Intelligence head Maj. Gen.
Aharon Zeevi-Farkash as saying that international
efforts have created conditions in which Iran could
reach nuclear capability only in two years' time.
Results of Ha'aretz and Maariv polls found that
Sharon's narrow victory in the Likud Central Committee
on Monday has caused a dramatic turnabout in the
balance of power between Sharon and his main rival,
Knesset Member Binyamin Netanyahu:
-Ha'aretz published the results of a survey conducted
last night among Likud party members by the Amanet
Group's Dialogue Institute: if the party's leadership
primary were held today, Sharon would beat Netanyahu by
47.6 percent to 33.8 percent. Three weeks ago, the
situation was reversed: Netanyahu edged out Sharon by
six percentage points (44 percent to 38 percent). And
two weeks before that, Netanyahu would have won in a
landslide, with 47 percent of the vote, compared to 30
percent for Sharon.
-Maariv printed the results of a TNS/Teleseker Polling
Institute survey conducted on Sunday among members of
the Likud's Central Committee:
-"Whom do you intend to vote for in the Likud
leadership primaries?" Sharon: 44 percent; Netanyahu:
22 percent; MK Uzi Landau: 16 percent.
-"If only Sharon and Netanyahu competed?" Sharon: 50
percent; Netanyahu: 36 percent.
Jerusalem Post reported that, during a lecture at Bar-
Ilan University on Tuesday, French Ambassador to Israel
Gerard Araud belittled efforts to have Hizbullah placed
on the EU's list of terrorist organizations as "feel-
good diplomacy" that "wouldn't make the slightest
Jerusalem Post lengthily described the ceremony in
which Ambassador Richard H. Jones presented his
credentials to President Moshe Katsav on Monday. The
newspaper reported that Jones' inscription in the
visitors' book read: "With all my heart and soul I
pledge to use my office to strengthen the ties that
bind our countries together and to help this holy land
to find peace for the benefit of its people."
Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported that Israel's
representative to the UN Danny Gillerman met with
fellow members of the Western Europe and Others group
on Monday and told them that Israel intends to submit
its candidacy as a member of the UN Security Council.
Ha'aretz writes that the official request will be
submitted within a few days.
Jerusalem Post reported that John Dugard, UN Special
Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian
Territories, included the idea of a binational solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his annual
report. The newspaper cited the Foreign Ministry's
expression of shock at Dugard's comments.
Leading media reported that on Tuesday, for the first
time, archeologists found an artifact -- a seal --
apparently from the First Temple period, in rubble that
the Muslim Waqf had removed from the Temple Mount's
Solomon Stables area.
Yediot and Jerusalem Post reported that Natanel Levitt,
the investigator acting on behalf of the Civil Service
Commissioner, left for Washington for a repeat probe of
the alleged affairs involving Israeli Ambassador to the
U.S. Danny Ayalon, his wife, his personal secretary
Liran Petersil, and FM Silvan Shalom. Yediot reported
that Ayalon had complained that the first investigation
was conducted in the presence of a senior Foreign
Ministry official.
Maariv and Ha'aretz's web site reported that on Monday
(Ha'aretz: on Tuesday), the Russian border control
refused entry to Russia to the chief rabbi of the
Moscow Choral Synagogue, Pinchas Goldschmidt, after he
flew in from Israel. Maariv cited assessments that
Goldschmidt, who served in his position for 17 years,
either fell victim to infighting between Jewish
organizations or that the Russian authorities suspected
him of cooperation with U.S. intelligence.
Maariv reported that Pope Benedict XVI has apologized
to Israel over the fact that, in an address around one
month ago, he omitted its name from the list of
countries stricken by terror.
Yediot reported that Sharon last night, at a farewell
gathering in honor of Defense Ministry Director-General
Amos Yaron, told him that he (Yaron) was "not to blame
for those matters." Sharon was referring to the affair
of drone sales to China, over which the U.S. had
reportedly demanded that Yaron be fired.
Yediot reported that Israeli billionaire businessman
Eyal Ofer is building the most expensive residential
project in Manhattan -- two towers of 20 and 43 floors
between 61st and 62nd Streets, at the corner of Central
Park West and Broadway.
Leading media cited an announcement by American and
Iraqi forces that Abu Azzam, thought to be Al-Qaida's
No. 2 man in Iraq, was killed on Sunday.
Yediot reported that the U.S. Treasury, the Federal
Reserve, and the Secret Service are expected to
announce jointly today the launching of a new,
multicolored 10-dollar bill.
Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz: "This morning, exactly five
years ago, Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount.... In
view of the use of artillery batteries and Mofaz's
threats, Israel again appears to be playing with fire."
Arye Green, who was an advisor to former cabinet
minister Natan Sharansky, wrote in Ha'aretz: "A
[Palestinian] state can be established, but it needs
international support, to be made conditional upon true
democratic reforms."
Hebrew University history teacher and Likud Central
Committee member Guy Ma'ayan wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv: "As historians have repeatedly
pointed out, 'maximalists' have only been successful in
the short term."
Block Quotes:
I. "Terror Moves to a New Front"
Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (September 28): "After two days
of massive Israeli pressure, it seemed for a moment
this week that the Palestinian organizations were
raising a white flag.... But Hamas is also driven by
internal political considerations, mainly its
understanding that public opinion in Gaza objects to
renewing the fighting with Israel. On Tuesday, hours
after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened to wipe
out Hamas leaders, the organization responded with its
own horrifying propaganda. It released a videocassette
of abducted civilian Sasson Nuriel, filmed shortly
before he was murdered by his kidnappers in Ramallah.
The film not only indicates that Hamas intends to
continue with the kidnappings, but also that the main
terror activity is moving from the Gaza Strip to the
West Bank.... Israel's first response to the cassette's
release was that this is an 'Iraqi-style' terror act.
But Palestinian organizations have been abducting
people since the '70s.... Meanwhile, the army is
continuing with operation First Rain. For two days
there have been no assassinations, but in contrast the
air force is continuing its strikes in Gaza and the
army is rounding up people in the West Bank. Cannon
shells were fired for the first time at Beit Hanoun on
Tuesday. This is intended to make the Palestinian
public turn against the Hamas, which started the
present round of violence. This morning, exactly five
years ago, Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount,
triggering a series of hostilities that few had
anticipated. In view of the use of artillery batteries
and Mofaz's threats, Israel again appears to be playing
with fire."
II. "Palestinian Democracy Is Possible"
Arye Green, who was an advisor to former cabinet
minister Natan Sharansky, wrote in Ha'aretz (September
28): "After the cloud of the withdrawal from Gaza
scatters, the Israeli public will find itself exactly
at the very point where it stood before the
disengagement. After the two major illusions that had
led Israeli politics -- the dream of Greater Israel and
the chimera of peace in our time -- crashed, the
Israeli public is looking for a direction, a vision,
and a hope.... One must help the Palestinians create a
free and democratic state.... According to [Natan
Sharansky's book, The Democracy Advantage], three to
five years will be needed to build the necessary
civilian infrastructure: a free market, an education
free of incitement to violence, the creation of
political parties and organizations enjoying freedom of
speech and association, and, of course, the total
cessation of terrorist actions, and the dismantling of
the terror groups. Only after this infrastructure is
built, will elections take place. The leader who will
be chosen in them will enter negotiations with Israel
over the state's permanent borders, the status of
Jerusalem, and the other contentious issues. The
January [2006] elections are important as one step on
the path, but they do not meet that test, especially if
Hamas's participation is allowed without the group
being disarmed.... Such a state can be established, but
it needs international support, to be made conditional
upon true democratic reforms. The very recognition of
[Palestinian] statehood, economic support, and the
handing over of land, must be directly linked to
progress in democratization. What is perhaps the most
important should be to encourage those in Palestinian
society who are attempting to promote democratic
III. "Beware of a Pyrrhic Victory"
Hebrew University history teacher and Likud Central
Committee member Guy Ma'ayan wrote in popular,
pluralist Maariv (September 28): "Sharon's victory is
that of the moderate line within Likud. If the
approval of the Labor Party's joining [the cabinet]
around one year ago was seen as the initial approval of
the disengagement plan, the rejection of the
postponement of the primaries represents an expression
of trust in the Prime Minister's moderate course. It
grants a seal of approval to his speech at the UN
General Assembly, to the Foreign Minister's efforts to
translate the disengagement into diplomatic gains, and
is evidence that the applause in New York was heard
loud and clear at the Likud Central Committee's
convention.... I have often claimed on these pages that
the disengagement wasn't a passing whim, but the
outcome of a long-drawn-out process, in which the
Israeli public is increasingly inclined to move in the
direction of the political center, to abandon
ideological margins, and to adopt realistic positions
in the fields of foreign policy and security.... This
stance has been strengthened following the relative
ease with which the disengagement was implemented, and
the lack of secular protest against it. As a popular
party, Likud ... has understood that that diplomatic
wisdom is no guarantee for remaining in power.... As
historians have repeatedly pointed out, 'maximalists'
have only been successful in the short term."
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