|04TELAVIV1452||2004-03-09 07:50:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Tel Aviv|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001452
1. (C) SUMMARY: We assess that a complete Israeli
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is unlikely to result either
in substantial security turmoil or significant improvement in
PA governance in the short-to-medium term. Unlike in the
West Bank, the IDF does not maintain a presence within Gaza
population centers, but is instead largely stationed around
settlements and along borders. Accordingly, withdrawal will
have little effect on the existing power structures in those
areas and will not lead to a power vacuum. A direct order
from Arafat for the security services to band together to
deal with Hamas, the only plausible threat to the PA, would
probably be effective. There is some evidence of efforts to
establish in Gaza joint forces command centers called for in
the PA security plan (reftel). Arafat's presence in Gaza, in
the view of nearly all Palestinian contacts, would be of
immense benefit in imposing order there. For its part, Hamas
is probably not interested in taking responsibility for
governing, and is unlikely to try to seize control from the
more militarily powerful PA forces through violent means.
Although Hamas would willingly move into any neighborhoods
where it perceives a power vacuum, existing power structures,
whether clans or gangs, are likely to hold onto their turf.
On the civilian side, performance and delivery of services
are unlikely to improve, as the current obstacles to PA
reform are little affected by the Israeli presence in Gaza.
This is one of three messages by Embassy Tel Aviv with
initial thinking about the implications of an Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza. The other two cables address the
military/security and economic implications of withdrawal.
PA Security - Rally or Rout?
2. (C) We believe the Palestinian Authority has the
capability and will to prevent Hamas from taking power in
Gaza after Israeli unilateral withdrawal. Arafat is likely
to order the necessary steps to maintain PA power, an
assessment shared by PLC members Marwan Abdul Hameed and
Frayh Abu Middayn.
3. (C) There is some evidence now of improved cooperation
among the PA security forces. National Security Force (NSF)
leaders reportedly have begun meeting to establish the joint
forces command centers called for in the PA security strategy
(reftel) and to coordinate a unified approach to the Gaza
4. (C) One key variable affecting Arafat's ability to manage
the security situation will be his physical presence in Gaza.
Palestinian contacts agreed widely that Arafat's presence in
Gaza would be of immense benefit in imposing order there, as
there is now, in the words of one contact, "no political
power in evidence."
5. (C) Hamas, the only faction capable of challenging the PA
for control of Gaza, is unlikely to do so, in our assessment.
Hamas leaders appear to understand that it is easier to
critique the PA from the sidelines while ministering to the
population's humanitarian needs, than to take responsibility
for governing. While Hamas functions well as a humanitarian
NGO at the neighborhood level, it would be a major
organizational leap, far beyond its current capabilities, to
actually govern the Strip. We believe Hamas will support the
PA in administration and local government if the PA tries to
govern effectively. As one international contact put it,
"Now the players know where they stand, keeping things
PA Governance -- Improvement Unlikely
6. (C) The problem, in our assessment, is that Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza will not lead in the short/medium term
to significant improvement in the performance of PA
ministries, which suffer from problems deeper than the
occupation. Corruption, fragmentation, a lack of funds and
resistance to reform all militate against positive change.
As a result, Gaza is most likely to muddle along, with Arafat
using the "crisis" to put off making essential structural
7. (C) Anecdotal evidence indicates that Palestinian
ministries are strapped for cash sufficient to make even
minor purchases; lack of fuel for vehicles and repairs of
office equipment are often cited as two examples.
Furthermore, the attitude among PA workers is described by
UNDP/Gaza as one of extreme discouragement; the most commonly
quoted reason being that the reforms initiated under Abu
Mazen have ground to a halt. Contributing to the attitude
problem is the large number of under-qualified workers added
to the payroll for political reasons. According to
UNDP/Gaza, this problem has a direct, negative impact both on
the ministries' ability to make payroll, as well as on the
quality and quantity of work that actually gets done. The
Ministry of Justice was cited by Gaza attorney Sharhabeel
al-Za'eem as particularly bad, a view shared by UNDP/Gaza.
Judges work only a few hours per day, and workers, if
present, are disinclined to actually do their jobs. The
Ministry of Finance, although similarly short on funds, wins
praise as one of the better functioning entities in the Gaza
Strip, but contacts say that reforms initiated by the MoF are
not being supported by the rest of the ministries and
Abandoned Israeli Resources Could Help
8. (C) Even if the GOI does not hand over settlements and
settlements infrastructure directly to the Palestinians, the
transfer of intact infrastructure to an international
custodian could have an immediate, positive impact on
overcrowding and increase the available supply of water to
Palestinians. With only about 1,500 housing units in the
settlements, the impact on overcrowding would not be great,
but settlements land would become available for construction
on new housing.
9. (C) To be sure, these resources could prove to be a
two-edged sword, as the PA wrestles with the challenge of
securing the settlements and distributing settlements
resources in an equitable and efficient way. The
settlements could well become a source of serious conflict
between rival militias and gangs, as well as Arafat cronies.
As UNDP/Gaza representative Khalid Abdul Shafi put it, the PA
might "squander these resources the way they have squandered
all the rest," giving preeminence to Arafat loyalists. Even
with a well-organized, transparent and monitored handover,
corrupt power brokers may gain control of significant chunks
of the resources.
10. (C) Many contacts note that the many unanswered questions
regarding Israeli withdrawal are hampering the PA's ability
to plan, although they admit that planning is not the PA's
strong suit. Some PA contacts expect Sharon to engineer a
"dead-of-night departure" from Gaza in order to provoke chaos
that would spell the demise of the PA. True or not, this
Palestinian assumption may become a new mantra and excuse to
account for a host of post-withdrawal problems in Gaza.
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