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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
01TELAVIV4047 2001-07-27 11:41:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

HAMAS: PICKING UP THE PIECES, GAINING BY

Tags:   PREL PTER KWBG KPAL IS GZ 
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O 271141Z JUL 01
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8308
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 004047 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/01
TAGS: PREL PTER KWBG KPAL IS GZ
SUBJECT: HAMAS: PICKING UP THE PIECES, GAINING BY
DEFAULT

CLASSIFIED BY DCM PAUL SIMONS, PER 1.5(B) AND (D).

THIS CABLE WAS CLEARED WITH CONGEN JERUSALEM.



1. (C) SUMMARY: GAZA LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER AND
LONG-TIME HAMAS WATCHER ZIAD ABU AMR TOLD POLOFF JULY 24
THAT HAMAS' INFLUENCE "HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER" IN THE
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES. IN ABU AMR'S VIEW, DEVELOPMENTS
ARE "LENDING CREDIBILITY TO THEIR IDEAS AND DISCOURSE."
HAMAS' STATURE HAS ALSO BEEN AIDED BY ITS PROMINENT
INTIFADAH ROLE AND BY PM SHARON'S EFFORTS TO DELEGITIMIZE
ARAFAT AND THE PA. ABU AMR HAD THE IMPRESSION THAT
HAMAS WAS "IN NO HURRY TO DO ANYTHING," GIVEN THE
BENEFITS THEY'RE REAPING FROM THE CURRENT SITUATION. ABU
AMR DETAILED PA EFFORTS TO PERSUADE, CAJOLE, AND
(IMPLICITLY) THREATEN HAMAS IN ORDER TO GET THEM TO STOP
THE BOMBINGS. ABU AMR UNDERLINED THAT THE POST-
DOLPHINARIUM 'STAND DOWN' WAS TACTICAL FOR HAMAS. NEW
VARIABLES, SUCH AS REGIONAL DEVELOPMENTS, COULD CHANGE
THE GROUP'S CALCULATIONS. END SUMMARY.

HAMAS GETTING STRONGER BY THE DAY


--------------------------





2. (C) GAZA LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER AND LONG-TIME
HAMAS WATCHER ZIAD ABU AMR TOLD POLOFF JULY 24 THAT
HAMAS' INFLUENCE "HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER" IN THE
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES. IN HIS VIEW, THE GROUP IS
"BENEFITING BY DEFAULT." THE CURRENT SITUATION ALLOWS
THEM TO POINT TO WHAT SHARON IS DOING TO THE PEACE
PROCESS AND TO MAKE THE POINT THAT "AFTER SEVEN YEARS OF
PROTECTING ISRAEL'S SECURITY INTERESTS, LOOK WHAT THEY
ARE DOING TO THE PEACE PROCESS." IN ABU AMR'S VIEW,
DEVELOPMENTS ARE "LENDING CREDIBILITY TO THEIR IDEAS AND
DISCOURSE." THE "NATIONAL UNITY ATMOSPHERE" IN ISRAEL
HAS ALSO HELPED HAMAS, HE NOTED, TO MAKE THE POINT THAT
WITH PEACE NEGOTIATIONS, A FINAL STATUS DEAL, AND AN
INDEPENDENT PALESTINIAN STATE FURTHER OUT OF REACH,
HAMAS' REJECTIONIST IDEAS AND ANALYSIS SEEM MORE CREDIBLE
TO MANY DISILLUSIONED, PESSIMISTIC PALESTINIANS. SHARON
IS PLAYING INTO HAMAS'S HANDS BY UNDERMINING AND
DELIGITIMIZING ARAFAT AND THE PA. HAMAS' STATURE HAS
ALSO BEEN AIDED BY ITS PROMINENT INTIFADAH ROLE. IT HAS
PARTICIPATED IN THE VIOLENT RESISTANCE AIMED AT ENDING
THE OCCUPATION, MOUNTED MASS PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS, AND
STEPPED UP ITS EXTENSIVE SOCIAL WELFARE NETWORK, SAID ABU
AMR.



3. (C) ABU AMR HAD THE IMPRESSION THAT HAMAS WAS "IN NO
HURRY TO DO ANYTHING," GIVEN THE BENEFITS THEY'RE REAPING
FROM THE CURRENT SITUATION, SAID ABU AMR. HE ALSO MADE
THE POINT THAT PALESTINIANS, INCLUDING HAMAS, WERE STILL
CONFRONTED BY THE SHARON THREAT ISSUED AFTER THE
DOLPHINARIUM TERROR ATTACK. AS A RESULT OF THAT
SITUATION, HAMAS ALSO HAD TO FACTOR IN THE PA'S STRONG
WARNINGS THAT "FOOLISH ACTS" WOULD NOT BE TOLERATED AND
COULD FORCE THE PA TO MOVE AGAINST IT.

PA "PERSUADING" HAMAS TO AVOID "FOOLISH ACTS"


--------------------------





4. (C) ABU AMR DETAILED PA EFFORTS TO PERSUADE, CAJOLE,
AND (IMPLICITLY) THREATEN HAMAS IN ORDER TO GET THEM TO
STOP THE BOMBINGS. AMONG OTHERS, HE MET WITH HAMAS
SPIRITUAL LEADER SHEIKH YASSIN AND MADE THE FOLLOWING
POINTS:

-- IF SHARON DECIDES ON A "DECISIVE BLOW," NO ONE WILL BE
EXCLUDED," INCLUDING HAMAS;

-- HAMAS HAS A LONG-TERM "ISLAMIC STATE PROJECT, SO WHY
JEOPARDIZE IT WITH SHORT-TERM "FOOLISH ACTS;"

-- YOU DON'T NEED ANY MORE OF THESE BOMBINGS. YOU HAVE
MADE YOUR POINT. THEY ARE TACTICAL, NOT STRATEGIC. IF
THEY WERE STRATEGIC, YOU WOULD DO THEM EVERY DAY. MORE
NOW WOULD NOT SERVE ANY PURPOSE; AND

-- WHY PUSH YOUR LUCK WITH THE PA? IF YOU MISCALCULATE,
YOU COULD BE FORCED INTO A CONFRONTATION YOU PROBABLY
COULD NOT WIN.



5. (C) ABU AMR TOLD POLOFF HE HAD THE SENSE THAT HAMAS
LEADERS WERE PERSUADED BY HIS ARGUMENTS (OTHERS IN PA
ALSO WERE REPORTEDLY INVOLVED), FOR NOW AT LEAST. (NOTE:
ABU AMR MADE CLEAR HE DID NOT SYMPATHIZE WITH HAMAS'S
TACTICS OR GOALS, WITH REGARD TO PEACE PROCESS OR
BUILDING AN ISLAMIC STATE. END NOTE.) WHEN ASKED THE
BINYAMINA BOMBING WHICH TOOK PLACE AFTER THE TENET CEASE-
FIRE AND THESE POST-DOLPHINARIUM ATTACKS, HE POINTED OUT
THE THAT ATTACK APPEARED TO BE A PIJ OPERATION, A GROUP
OVER WHICH THE PA HAS LESS CONTROL (AND WORSE RELATIONS
THAN WITH HAMAS). OTHER PLAYERS, POSSIBLY WITH AN ANTI-
PA AGENDA, INCLUDING IRAN AND HIZBALLAH, HAD MORE
INFLUENCE.



6. (C) THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME ABU AMR HAS ACTED AS
AN INTERMEDIARY BETWEEN THE PA AND HAMAS. HE WAS ALSO
PART OF A MEDIATION EFFORT IN THE SPRING TO PREVENT
DIVERGENT POLITICAL INTERESTS OF THE TWO GROUPS FROM
LEADING TO OPEN CONFLICT. AS A PART OF THESE EFFORTS,
ABU AMR PARTICIPATED IN "DISCUSSIONS" WITH HAMAS AND PA
LEADERS TO EFFECT THE RELEASE OF HAMAS POLITICAL LEADER
ABDEL-AZIZ AL-RANTISSI, WHOM THE PA HAD JAILED. (NOTE:
AL-RANTISSI WAS JAILED FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD FROM LAST
SUMMER UNTIL FEBRUARY 2001, AND THEN RE-IMPRISONED FOR A
FEW WEEKS IN APRIL FOR PUBLIC CRITICISM OF THE PA,
CALLING ITS ACCEPTANCE OF THE JORDAN-EGYPT INITIATIVE
"TREACHERY." ABU AMR IS APPARENTLY REFERRING TO THE MOST
RECENT RELEASE. END NOTE)

CURRENT STAND-DOWN TACTICAL; CALCULATIONS COULD CHANGE


--------------------------



--------------------------





7. (C) ABU AMR UNDERLINED THAT THE POST-DOLPHINARIUM
'STAND DOWN' WAS ALSO TACTICAL FOR HAMAS. NEW VARIABLES
COULD CHANGE HAMAS' CALCULATIONS. AMONG SUCH VARIABLES
COULD BE CHANGES IN THE REGIONAL SITUATION. HAMAS
LEADERS OUTSIDE THE TERRITORIES OR PLAYERS LIKE IRAN OR
EVEN SYRIA MIGHT EXERT PRESSURE THAT COULD CHANGE THE
CALCULUS. TO ILLUSTRATE, ABU AMR DEVELOPED A POSSIBLE
SCENARIO (AMONG MANY OTHERS): PERHAPS FOR SOME REASON
ISRAEL "HIT" SYRIA. SYRIA IS TOO WEAK MILITARILY TO HIT
BACK DIRECTLY SO IT WOULD USE A PROXY. HIZBALLAH COULD
BE TIED DIRECTLY TO SYRIA, BUT HAMAS COULD POSSIBLY BE
USED TO PROVIDE A 'NO FINGERPRINTS' PAYBACK.



8. (C) ABU AMR ALSO ASKED RHETORICALLY HOW LONG
PALESTINIANS IN GENERAL WOULD BE "PERMANENTLY
BLACKMAILED" BY SHARON'S THREAT TO DEAL A "DECISIVE
BLOW," NOTING THAT EVENTUALLY THE POWER OF THE THREAT
WOULD WEAKEN. SUCH WEAKENING COULD ALSO BLEND IN WITH
THE MIX OF VARIABLES THAT WOULD AFFECT HAMAS' FUTURE
POLITICAL CALCULATIONS, SAID ABU AMR.



9. (C) COMMENT: ONE OF THE STRONGEST FACTORS WHICH COULD
PUSH HAMAS TO ACT IS A REVENGE MOTIVE, A DESIRE TO
RETALIATE FOR ISRAELI ASSASSINATIONS OF ITS ACTIVISTS.
IN THE PAST SUCH MOTIVATIONS HAVE SOMETIMES PUSHED THE
HAMAS MILITARY WING, IGNORING OTHER POLITICAL
CALCULATIONS. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE CONVERSATION
WITH ABU AMR TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE ISRAELI ASSASSINATION
OF NABLUS-BASED HAMAS ACTIVIST SALAH DARWARZE ON JULY 25.
ABU AMR IS AN INFLUENTIAL PLC MEMBER WHO HAS WRITTEN ON
HAMAS AND PIJ, FOLLOWS THEIR POLITICS, AND MAINTAINS GOOD
RELATIONS WITH HAMAS LEADERS. IN EARLIER CONVERSATIONS
(PRE- AND EARLY-INTIFADAH) HE WAS MUCH MORE DISMISSIVE OF
THEIR POLITICAL STATUS IN THE TERRITORIES. END COMMENT.

KURTZER