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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04TELAVIV2250
2004-04-19 17:40:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

SHARON SECURES KEY LIKUD MINISTERS' SUPPORT FOR

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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002250 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL KWBG IS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT GOI INTERNAL ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS
SUBJECT: SHARON SECURES KEY LIKUD MINISTERS' SUPPORT FOR
DISENGAGEMENT PLAN

REF: FBIS GMP20040419000030

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002250

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL KWBG IS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT GOI INTERNAL ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS
SUBJECT: SHARON SECURES KEY LIKUD MINISTERS' SUPPORT FOR
DISENGAGEMENT PLAN

REF: FBIS GMP20040419000030

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


1. (C) Summary. PM Sharon has lined up key Likud ministers
behind his disengagement plan and set the stage for victory
in the May 2 Likud referendum. In the process, Sharon
stretched to their full measure USG assurances regarding
Israeli retention of West Bank settlement blocs, Israel's
right to defensible borders and freedom to retaliate against
terrorists, and USG support for Palestinian refugee
repatriation in a future Palestinian state. He also
reportedly delivered the last commitment sought by FinMin
Netanyahu -- inclusion of major West Bank settlement blocs
within the completed separation barrier before starting any
Gaza withdrawal. Sharon played down the significance of
meeting Netanyahu's conditions for supporting the
disengagement plan by thanking several Likud ministers for
their proposals for inclusion in the disengagement plan.
With the last major Likud holdouts in Sharon's pocket --
Netanyahu, Education Minister Livnat, Foreign Minister
Shalom, Minister-without Portfolio Sheetrit, and Immigration
and Absorption Minister Livni -- the unilateral disengagement
plan is certain to receive a Likud majority in the party's
May 2 referendum. End summary.

--------------
Sharon Stretching U.S. Assurances?
--------------


2. (C) PM Sharon's April 18 depiction to the Cabinet of USG
assurances on rejection of right of return, support for
retention of settlement blocs, Israel's broad right to defend
itself, and USG support for these positions in any future
negotiation with the Palestinians, as confirmed by the
subsequent official Cabinet Communique (reftel), won the day
politically for Sharon and for his unilateral disengagement
plan. In addition, Sharon reportedly promised Netanyahu that
the separation barrier would be built according to the
complete route decided upon by the Cabinet last year,
including Ariel, Emmanuel, Kedumim and Karnei Shomron, and

announced the creation of a team including himself, Mofaz,
and Netanyahu to orchestrate the speedy completion of the
barrier. (Note: We are trying to confirm the substance of
the agreement with Netanyahu to determine if Netanyahu is
himself stretching what he got from Sharon.) Sharon will
only discuss the plan with Cabinet ministers in detail after
the May 2 Likud referendum. In an April 18 radio interview,
Netanyahu explained that he decided to support the plan "when
the Prime Minister agreed to promise that we could fence
(settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria) by means of the
central fence and include them in the same area as the rest
of Israel, prior to any evacuation...."
-------------- ---
Sharon Gives Bibi What he Wants -- Underhandedly
-------------- ---


3. (C) Staffers for PM Sharon and FinMin Netanyahu
reportedly negotiated until the early morning of April 18,
only hours before Sharon's presentation of USG assurances to
the Cabinet, to meet Netanyahu's conditions for supporting
Sharon's plan: inclusion of major West Bank settlements
within the security barrier and the barrier's completion
before Gaza settlement evacuation begins. (Note: The plan's
inclusion of continued Israeli control over Gaza border
crossings even after withdrawal and U.S. assurances on
Palestinian right of return met Netanyahu's other two
conditions.) At the April 18 Cabinet meeting, Sharon was
able to deliver those USG assurances and the commitments
Netanyahu sought with the added muscle of having just hours
earlier announced the IDF's assassination of Hamas leader
Abdul Aziz Rantisi. As if to undermine Netanyahu's role in
pushing Sharon or, at the very least, his staff, through
additional hoops after Sharon's U.S. meetings, Sharon did not
attribute his commitments to an effort to meet Netanyahu's
conditions. Sharon instead thanked Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz for pushing for assurances on Israel's right to
defensible borders, and Immigration Absorption Minister Tzipi
Livni for her insistence for U.S. assurances that Palestinian
refugees should have the right of return in a future
Palestinian state. Netanyahu won thanks only for making
comments on the fence.


4. (C) Netanyahu, Livnat, and Minister-Without-Portfolio
Meir Sheetrit all announced their support for the withdrawal
plan to the press shortly after the Cabinet meeting. Foreign
Minister Silvan Shalom held out until April 19 and announced
his anticipated support for the plan in an afternoon press
conference which was preceded by a meeting with Sharon.
Shalom said that he is supporting Sharon's plan to "reinforce
existing settlements" and to show "unity among (the Likud
party.)" MFA Director of International Organizations Roni
Ya'ar told DCM on April 19 that Shalom called his senior
staff together that morning to announce he would support
Sharon's plan even though not all his demands were met, such
as a Palestinian partner. Shalom, however, had looked for a
way to support the plan, Ya'ar said. According to Ya'ar,
Shalom instructed his staff to craft a "diplomatic action
plan" to gain broader international support after an
anticipated Cabinet approval of the plan on May 9.


5. (C) Regarding Netanyahu's announcement of support for the
plan, columnist and International Director of the Israel
Democracy Institute Uri Dromi noted to poloff on April 19
that Netanyahu -- and all of the holdout ministers -- cannot
afford to appear as though they oppose the plan when the
United States is supporting it. He asserted that it is
important for Netanyahu not to "take on" Sharon at this time.
Rather, Dromi opined, Netanyahu is biding his time,
preferring to position himself as a statesman and serious
finance minister, until AG Menachem Mazuz decides on whether
to indict Sharon on bribery charges. Likud faction leader MK
Gidon Sa'ar told poloff on April 18 that he knew all along
that Netanyahu would support the plan, because Netanyahu
could not afford to do otherwise. He added that he never
would have believed a year ago that settlement supporters
like Sharon, Livnat, and Netanyahu would support unilateral
withdrawal. Sa'ar himself, a former Cabinet Secretary for
Sharon and head of the Likud Knesset faction, opposes the
plan (but does not vote in the Cabinet).


6. (C) Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer told poloff on
April 19 that Sharon may have committed himself specifically
during negotiations with Netanyahu to include the
aforementioned settlement blocs to obtain his support for the
disengagement plan before the Likud referendum. After the
referendum, Oppenheimer speculated, it would not be difficult
for Sharon to renege on this agreement with Netanyahu.

--------------
Comment
--------------


7. (C) If Sharon did in fact promise Netanyahu that the
security barrier would go along the route that the Cabinet
had originally decided last year and which includes the
settlements cited above, this would conflict with interim
assurances provided by Sharon to the USG that changes would
be made to the fence route to ease humanitarian burdens on
Palestinians. In any event, Sharon told Netanyahu what he
needed to in order to secure Netanyahu's support and a
victory in the May 2 referendum.



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