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From the March 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 3)

Israel

Shipping News


Elisa Ben-Rafael
World Press Review Correspondent
Jerusalem, Israel

Hotly contested ground (Photo: AFP).
Israeli naval commandos’ dramatic predawn capture of the Palestinian-owned and -manned Karine A in the Red Sea 500 kilometers from the Israeli coast on Jan. 3, and the government’s declaration that the ship’s cargo of 50 tons of weapons and munitions was destined for the Palestinian Authority via Iran, ignited an explosive media campaign.

Despite vigorous denials by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat that his government had any connection to the shipment, Israeli officials launched a public-relations blitz to show that Arafat’s fingerprints were all over the operation, complete with a press conference against the backdrop of the captured armaments.

Ma’ariv’s front-page banner headline echoed the rightists’ lack of trust in Arafat: “They Were Caught Red-Handed” (Jan. 6). Its two front-page items were an analysis by Ya’akov Erez and a commentary by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his analysis, Erez wrote: “It becomes clear that words and actions of the Palestinian leader never meet.” Netanyahu continued the no-holds-barred condemnation: “[Arafat] always prepares the next murderous consignment to the service of his unchanging goal, that is the destruction of Israel.”

Rounding out Ma’ariv’s view with a more dispassionate analysis, Oded Granot wrote: “The frightening shipment on the Karine A’s deck was especially prepared to prevent the entry of the IDF into area A [under Palestinian control].”

Yediot Aharonot (Jan. 6) chose to emphasize the legendary prowess of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Senior Yediot commentator Nahum Barnea wrote: “If the Entebbe raid broadened the range of the war on terrorism, the Red Sea raid has given it a new identity, a sharper image of the terror coalition”( Jan. 6). Barnea went on to slam Arafat and to remind the United States that it “must re-examine [its] priorities; it is possible that the Iranians’ nuclear potential is more urgent than the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s regime. And that is to say that the Americans have no one else in the Muslim world they can rely on other than Turkey.”

Hatzofeh strongly condemned Arafat in a Jan. 6 editorial: “The exposure of the Palestinian weapons ship with 50 tons of war devices again proves Yasser Arafat’s conspiratorial intentions and his companionship of evil.”

By Jan. 11, an article in Ha’aretz by Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman reported that both U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush said that they were persuaded by the Israelis’ evidence. At press time, as reports circulated that Washington was weighing severing ties with the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney publicly pinned responsibility for the deadly cargo on Arafat, telling a TV interviewer Jan. 27, “We’ve just seen evidence that he was involved in this Karine A shipment.”


 
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