Viewing cable 04TELAVIV6368

04TELAVIV63682004-12-15 12:09:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tel Aviv
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: 
Jerusalem Post quoted British diplomatic officials as 
saying that PM Sharon has "softened" his opposition to 
a British-sponsored international conference on the 
Middle East after hearing more about the proposed 
British agenda.  The newspaper quoted one British 
official as saying that Nigel Sheinwald, British PM 
Tony Blair's primary foreign policy adviser, made clear 
to Sharon during a two-day visit that ended Tuesday 
that the British have no intention of using the planned 
conference to leapfrog over phase one of the road map. 
All media quoted PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) 
as saying in an interview published Tuesday in the 
London-based newspaper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat that the use 
of weapons in the second Intifada was a mistake and 
that it should end (banner in Ha'aretz).   Israel Radio 
quoted White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan as 
saying Tuesday that the U.S. welcomes "steps aimed at 
fighting terrorism." 
Israel TV and Israel Radio quoted Israeli diplomats as 
saying that the work of the Israeli Embassy in 
Washington -- at echelons lower that the top level -- 
has been affected by the FBI investigation of the pro- 
Israel lobby AIPAC on suspicion that it transferred 
secret information about Iran to Israel. 
All media reported on the signing of the U.S.-brokered 
Israeli-Egyptian free trade agreement in Cairo on 
Tuesday.  Ha'aretz cited a statement issued by FM 
Shalom as saying that the agreement will increase trade 
and that Israel "hopes the movement of goods and 
entrepreneurs will lead to warmer relations will lead 
to warmer relations between the peoples, giving 
expression to the fruits of peace."  Jerusalem Post 
reported that USTR Robert Zoellick called the accord, 
which requires ratification by the U.S. Congress, the 
"most important agreement between Israel and Egypt in 
20 years," and quoted him as saying it sent a strong 
signal across the entire Middle East.  Yediot quoted 
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as saying, at a 
meeting with Trade, Industry and Employment Minister 
Ehud Olmert, that Sharon is a "reliable person" and a 
"strong man." 
Yediot reported that fearing the digging of further 
explosive tunnels in the Gaza Strip, the IDF's Southern 
Command is bracing for the evacuation of some outposts 
before the withdrawal that is supposed to take place 
next summer. 
All media reported that a female Thai agricultural 
worker was killed Tuesday in a mortar attack in the 
greenhouses of the Gaza Strip settlement of Ganei Tal. 
Israel Radio reported that Thailand's Employment 
Minister will arrive in Israel on Thursday to try to 
convince Thais employed in Israel to come back home. 
Israel Radio reported that this morning a Qassam rocket 
was fired at the settlement, and that afterwards heavy 
exchanges of fire took place in the area. 
Saying that the Labor Party insists on getting key 
ministerial portfolios in the next government, the 
media continued to cover the continued stalemate in 
Likud-Labor coalition negotiations, and Likud's talks 
with the ultra-Orthodox parties. 
Ha'aretz cited the state's response to a High Court 
petition by residents of Nirit, a community inside the 
Green Line, which asks the court to rule that a suburb 
of the settlement of Alfei Menashe, across the Green 
Line from Nirit yet due to share Nirit's 
infrastructure, is illegal, and to rule a halt to the 
construction.  The state responded Tuesday that the 
government decision adopting the road map that 
obligates Israel "to freeze all settlement activity, 
including natural growth," has no operative legal 
Israel Radio cited the London-based newspaper Al-Quds 
Al-Arabi as saying that current PLO representative at 
the UN Nasser al-Qidwa could replace Nabil Shaath as 
foreign minister of the PA, among other changes in the 
PA cabinet's' make-up. 
Ha'aretz says that Sharon is expected to tell the 
Herzliya Conference Thursday that his disengagement 
plan will present the Palestinians with an opportunity 
to take responsibility for their own fate, and that it 
could become the basis for a expansive diplomatic 
process in the Middle East.  Leading media reported 
that Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the 
conference Tuesday that there will be no peace without 
democratization of the PA. 
Israel Radio quoted Foreign Ministry D-G Ron Prosor as 
saying today at the Herzliya Conference that Israel 
should seriously consider Syria's negotiating 
Leading media reported that Tuesday Defense Minister 
Shaul Mofaz ordered the closure of the Rafah border 
crossing until further notice, following Sunday's 
attack on an IDF outpost there. 
Jerusalem Post cited denials by Cristina Gallach, 
spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief policy chief 
Javier Solana, and by State Department Spokesman 
Richard Boucher, of claims made by Hamas's political 
leader Khaled Mashal on Monday that his organization 
has held contacts with the EU and U.S.  Jerusalem Post 
reported that fearing an Israeli reprisal attack, Hamas 
has decided to cancel a major rally marking the 17th 
anniversary of its founding, which was supposed to be 
held in one of Gaza City's stadiums on Friday. 
Ha'aretz quoted Fathi Hamad, a member of the Sura 
Council, the supreme Hamas religious body in Gaza 
responsible for the organization's communications 
system in Gaza, as saying two months ago that a growing 
rift between Hamas and Islamic Jihad has led to a break 
in cooperation between the two groups, and that it is 
threatening to lead to an all-out clash between them. 
Ha'aretz says that Hamad had been speaking to a group 
of the organization's Communications Councils, whose 
job is to promote Hamas in the Palestinian, Arab and 
international press. 
Jerusalem Post reported that the Foreign Ministry is 
putting together a new diplomatic initiative aimed at 
finding a permanent solution to the issue of the 
Palestinian refugees in the territories and in 
neighboring countries.  Israel reportedly intends to 
ask countries that financially support the PA to invest 
capital in finding permanent housing solutions for 
Palestinians living in the refugee camps in the Gaza 
Strip, West Bank, Syria, and Lebanon 
Jerusalem Post reported that the Association of Civil 
Rights in Israel and the Jerusalem Center for Human 
Rights asked the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to 
stop the army from beginning construction of the 
security fence near three Palestinian villages, even 
though it has already changed its original route for 
the benefit of the villagers.  The petition dealt with 
the section of the fence around Dir Balut and Rafat, 
east of Rosh Ha'ayin.  The Internet news service 
NanaNews reported that seven left wing activists, 
including four Israelis and three foreign nationals, 
were arrested on Tuesday morning during a demonstration 
against the separation fence in the village of Bilain, 
near Modiin.  The seven were arrested after the IDF 
declared the area a closed military zone. 
Ha'aretz, Yediot and Jerusalem Post reported that 
Tuesday the Knesset's Finance Committee approved the 
transfer of 2 million shekels (around USD 460,000) in 
state funds for developing tourism in the territories, 
as part of a planned transfer of 4 million shekels for 
tourism projects in the territories.  The projects 
include the building of a new entranceway to the Gush 
Katif settlement bloc, which is slated for evacuation 
within a year. 
All media reported that the police might have found 
connections between several deaths and disappearances 
in northern Israel, including the vanishing of AmCit 
Dana Bennet in the summer of 2003. 
Ha'aretz reported that the Palestinian candidates in 
the PA elections are decrying IDF obstructions to their 
freedom of movement. 
Hatzofe reported that about 50 religious leaders from 
various communities and faiths in Israel will gather in 
Haifa today and issue a joint call to act against 
violence and incitement and in favor of peace. 
Yair Reinman, secretary-general of the National 
Religious Party-affiliated Religious Kibbutz Movement, 
was quoted as saying in an interview with Jerusalem 
Post that the religious Zionists' single-minded push to 
settle beyond the Green Line had been a tragedy. 
Jerusalem Post reported that Presbyterians Concerned 
for Christian-Jewish Relations, a Presbyterian group, 
is mounting a campaign to reverse the Presbyterian 
Church USA's policy of divesting from companies that do 
business with Israel. 
Ha'aretz and Yediot Tuesday reported that UN Secretary- 
General Kofi Annan has begun to poll UNGA members in an 
effort to convene a special commemorative session to 
mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi 
concentration camps. 
Prof. Phillip Zelikow, executive director of the 
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the 
United States, better known as the 9/11 Commission, was 
quoted as saying in an interview with Jerusalem Post: 
"Threat fatigue dulls the senses to information of 
novel intelligence."  Zelikow, who is attending the 
Herzliya Conference, was also quoted as saying that 
Israel has the most to teach about intelligence. 
Yediot reported that the national airline El Al will be 
effectively privatized on Sunday. 
Erratum: An item in Tuesday's review should have read: 
"Maariv cited research conducted by an organization 
aiding new immigrants, according to which the Israeli 
economy gains USD 200,000 from each immigrant from 
North America." 
Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in left- 
leaning, independent Ha'aretz: "Lately ... there 
appears to be a change in public opinion in both the 
West Bank and Gaza, and Abbas can now make such a 
statement [against the use of weapons in the Intifada] 
without causing an uproar or provoking public 
Foreign News Editor Arik Bachar wrote in popular, 
pluralist Maariv: "At this time the West is not 
interested in weakening Israel, but actually in 
strengthening her." 
Nationalist writer Emuna Elon opined in mass- 
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot: "What is 
important now is to take advantage of Arafat's passing 
in order to offer a concrete solution to the refugee 
                     Block Quotes: 
¶I.  "Confident Abbas Can Afford to Be Anti-Weapons" 
Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in left- 
leaning, independent Ha'aretz (December 15): "Mahmoud 
Abbas is a confident man, certain of a landslide 
victory on January 9 in the Palestinian Authority's 
presidential elections.  That is the conclusion that 
can be drawn from the clear statement he made in his 
interview with Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat against the use of 
weapons in the Intifada.  Abbas's position was long 
known, and one that was repeated.  But this is the 
first time he has said so publicly after the death of 
Yasser Arafat.  Abbas's stand against what he calls the 
'military Intifada' caused him much damage in the past, 
as Palestinian public opinion largely supported attacks 
against Israel and condemned Abbas.  Lately, however, 
there appears to be a change in public opinion in both 
the West Bank and Gaza, and Abbas can now make such a 
statement without causing an uproar or provoking public 
opposition.  His confidence in his victory is the 
result of several elements, including Marwan 
Barghouti's dropping out of the race, which resulted in 
complete unity in Fatah behind Abbas.... Abbas also 
feels good about his ability to reach an agreement with 
Hamas.... Abbas also feels good about his ability to 
reach an agreement with Hamas." 
II.  "The World Actually Supports Israel" 
Foreign News Editor Arik Bachar wrote in popular, 
pluralist Maariv (December 15): "Without much fanfare, 
the connection between Israel and the NATO alliance -- 
the strongest military body since the Roman Empire -- 
is tightening.  During 2005, we'll most certainly see 
IDF troops take part in one of the central arenas of 
the battle against international terrorism.... [Also,] 
the tightening of ties between Israel and very powerful 
regional bodies, such as the EU and NATO, raises a 
range of possibilities.  At this time the West is not 
interested in weakening Israel, but actually in 
strengthening her.... It is clear that the destruction 
of Israel's power would encourage fundamentalist 
terrorism, which has long turned from Israel's private 
problem into the key threat to international 
III.  "Refugees Now" 
Nationalist writer Emuna Elon opined in mass- 
circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (December 15): 
"More and more Israelis are finally beginning to 
understand that the refugee camps will not disappear of 
their own accord, the aspiration of the camp residents 
to return to their lands inside Israel will not 
dissipate over time, and the terror issuing from the 
camps will not stop as long as the aspiration to return 
is alive and kicking.  Still, only few people place the 
issue of Palestinian refugees in its proper place, high 
on the national agenda.  Therefore, Foreign Minister 
Silvan Shalom should be praised for the courageous 
speech he intends to give today on this topic at the 
Herzliya Conference.... What is important now is to 
take advantage of Arafat's passing in order to offer a 
concrete solution to the refugee problem.  It is 
important to mobilize the international community to 
invest billions in rehabilitating the refugees, it is 
imperative to require Syria and Lebanon to absorb the 
residents of the camps in their territory, and it is 
vital to ask other countries in the world to also take 
in Palestinian refugees to the best of their ability, 
since only a small portion of them can be settled in 
Judea, Samaria and Gaza [i.e. the territories]. 
Minister Shalom is supposed to speak today about all of 
this, and he must not be deterred by those who allege 
that his plan is 'not logical': it is much less logical 
to ignore the refugee camps as Israel has done up until 
now, or to refuse to rehabilitate them on the grounds 
that their rehabilitation would constitute a