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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04TELAVIV1325 2004-03-03 15:15:00 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

ISRAELI COUNTER-TERROR OFFICIAL DEFENDS RAMALLAH

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001325 

SIPDIS

NOFORN

TREASURY FOR DAS ZARATE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2014
TAGS: PTER PREL KPAL IS COUNTERTERRORISM ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS ECONOMY AND FINANCE
SUBJECT: ISRAELI COUNTER-TERROR OFFICIAL DEFENDS RAMALLAH
BANK RAIDS; EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER WESTERN UNION MONEY
TRANSFERS

REF: JERUSALEM 601

Classified By: Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
.



1. (S) Summary: NSC Counterterrorism Chief BG Danny Arditi
expressed concern to the Ambassador March 1 about continuing
support from Hizballah for Palestinian terror groups in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip. While the U.S. and Israel are
making progress in combating financial flows from Saudi
Arabia and Europe, he said, flows from Hizballah in the last
two weeks alone amounted to close to $1 million. According
to Arditi and his staff, these funds are channeled primarily
through the Arab Bank and Western Union. Arditi defended the
IDF operation the previous week that seized $9 million from
310 bank accounts in Ramallah, although he took on board U.S.
criticisms and made clear that this operation was "unique."
End Summary.



2. (S) In a March 1 meeting with Ambassador Kurtzer and
poloff, NSC Counterterrorism Bureau Chief BG Danny Arditi
expressed concern that Palestinian terror groups,
particularly those in the West Bank, are receiving
considerable support from Hizballah. He opined that
Hizballah is benefiting from the emerging sense of chaos in
the Palestinian territories. In addition, Hizballah has
managed to exploit gaps in operational coverage between the
IDF and security services in the West Bank and Gaza.
According to Arditi, Hizballah channels its support through
four main channels: The Arab Bank, Western Union, smuggling
across the northern border, and Israeli-Arab citizens whom it
manages to recruit while on the Hajj or while studying or
traveling abroad.



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


Strong U.S.-Israeli Cooperation
On Combating Terror Finance


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





3. (C) Arditi was accompanied in the meeting by advisors Guy
Sella, who covers C/T technology issues and C/T cooperation
with the United States; Amnon Zehavi, who covers all other
international cooperation; and Udi Levi, who is responsible
for financial aspects of terrorism, both at the NSC and for
the Mossad. Asked by Arditi to brief on GOI efforts to
combat terror finance, Levi praised U.S.-Israeli cooperation
on this issue, noting that, in his six years of working on
terror finance, terror finance cooperation had been the best
during the past 12 months. Levi was particularly grateful
for the efforts of Treasury DAS Juan Zarate on this front,
including at the previous week's multilateral meeting on
terror finance in Paris, at which, according to Levi, the GOI
had shared a substantial amount of documentation about
financial flows. Levi predicted that the European approach
would change as a result of these interventions. Meanwhile,
he said, the U.S. and Israel are also working closely to find
a solution to financial flows from Saudi Arabia. "We're on
the right track," he said, forecasting "dramatic and
strategic changes" in the coming months.



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

-
But Problems with the Arab Bank; Western Union


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

-



4. (S) Arditi and Levi were less sanguine about dealing with
terror finance channeled via the Arab Bank and Western Union.
Describing the scope of the problem, Levi said most, if not
all, of Hizballah's transfers to the Territories in the past
two weeks (which they claimed totaled close to $1 million)
were made via Western Union. None of this money, he said,
was even ostensibly for charitable purposes. He emphasized
that the problem goes well beyond the Arab-Israeli context;
al-Qaeda has also made use of the Arab Bank for financial
transfers, as did Saddam Hussein. Asked whether GOI
representatives had been in touch with Western Union
officials, Arditi responded that the GOI had not yet taken
such a step, due to the sensitivities of dealing with a U.S.
company on such a matter. He appeared open to doing so under
the right circumstances, however.



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


Registering Strong Disagreement
On the Ramallah Operation


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





5. (C) In response to concerns expressed by the Ambassador
over the previous week's IDF operation against five Ramallah
branches of the Arab Bank and the Cairo-Amman Bank (reftel),
Arditi argued that the ends justified the means, exclaiming
that, "In the end, we found $9 million -- even we were
surprised at the magnitude! The very amount shows how
important this operation was." In this context, Levi
asserted that the GOI could prove that every dollar
confiscated from the 310 bank accounts had been related to
terror. Arditi and Levi also argued that PA Finance Minister
Salam Fayyad's inaction when presented in two separate
instances in the past with actionable information about Hamas
funds justified the GOI raid on the Ramallah banks. Arditi
opined that the operation had been "inevitable," although he
also noted that PM Sharon had postponed it "time and again"
for reasons that were not specified.



6. (S/NF) Ambassador Kurtzer made clear that the USG
disagreed fundamentally with the GOI on this issue. While
making no excuse for the banks' involvement in transferring
funds used to support terrorism, the Ambassador took issue
with the means employed, emphasizing that it was not
appropriate to drive APCs up to banks and forcibly seize
cash. He stated firmly that these tactics should not be used
again. He reminded his interlocutors that there were
alternative means of blocking terrorists' access to illegal
financial flows that were consistent with the rule of law.
Indeed, a mechanism had been agreed in previous discussions
between Sharon's Chief of Staff and Salam Fayyad; ORCA
channels were available to convey specific information. The
Ambassador said that it was regrettable that the GOI had not
taken advantage of these channels in this instance.



7. (C) Noting that the PA does not accept that the GOI has
the right to spend the seized money -- even on improving the
Palestinian humanitarian situation -- Ambassador Kurtzer
urged that the GOI should be in touch with Fayyad about how
to return the money. Arditi said that the GOI understood the
negative impact of this kind of operation on Fayyad, but he
also conceded, in response to the Ambassador's question, that
perhaps the GOI had not fully appreciated the negative impact
on the United States. He opined that the GOI could return
the money to Fayyad, but that it must first find a mechanism
to ensure that it is not used to support terror.

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