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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04TELAVIV6384
2004-12-16 09:05:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

PERES TO CODEL HAGEL/BIDEN: DISENGAGEMENT IS

Tags:   OVIP  PREF  PGOV  ECON  KWBG  IS  GAZA  DISENGAGEMENT  ISRAELI  PALESTINIAN  AFFAIRS  GOI  INTERNAL 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 006384 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/02/2014
TAGS: OVIP PREF PGOV ECON KWBG IS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS GOI INTERNAL
SUBJECT: PERES TO CODEL HAGEL/BIDEN: DISENGAGEMENT IS
PRIORITY AS FIRST STEP TO PEACE

REF: TEL AVIV 6045

Classified By: DCM Gene A. Cretz for reasons 1.4 (b,d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 006384

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/02/2014
TAGS: OVIP PREF PGOV ECON KWBG IS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS GOI INTERNAL
SUBJECT: PERES TO CODEL HAGEL/BIDEN: DISENGAGEMENT IS
PRIORITY AS FIRST STEP TO PEACE

REF: TEL AVIV 6045

Classified By: DCM Gene A. Cretz for reasons 1.4 (b,d).


1. (C) Summary: Labor Party leader Shimon Peres told a
visiting congressional delegation led by Senators Chuck Hagel
and Joseph Biden December 1 that he supports joining the
ruling coalition in the interest of advancing disengagement.
He predicted (correctly) the likely failure of the 2005
budget in a Knesset vote scheduled for that evening and the
resulting collapse of Prime Minister Sharon's Likud-Shinui
coalition brought on by Sharon's dismissal of Shinui
ministers for voting against the budget. Peres also
expressed his views on Likud party divisions over
disengagement, the Palestinian leadership, and on possible
final status scenarios for Jerusalem and the Palestinian
refugees' right of return. Peres emphasized the need for
both Israel and the United States to assist the Palestinian
leadership that is emerging after the death of Arafat.


2. (SBU) The delegation was comprised of senators Chuck
Hagel, Joseph Biden, Dianne Feinstein, and Lincoln Chafee.
The senators were accompanied by professional staff members
Dr. Andrew Parasiliti, Tony Blinken, Puneet Talwar, Deborah
Brayton, and Peter Cleveland. Charge Cretz and poloff joined
the meeting. End summary.

--------------
Peres: Coalitions are Expensive
--------------


3. (C) Labor Party leader Shimon Peres correctly forecast to
Codel Hagel/Biden December 1 that Prime Minister Sharon would
not have the votes to pass his 2005 budget that evening
(reftel), that the secular Shinui party would oppose the
budget, and that, in response, Sharon would make good on his
threat and dismiss Shinui from the government. Referring to
Sharon's NIS 290 million budget deal with the United Torah
Judaism (UTJ) party, Peres noted that "it is expensive to pay
for a coalition," and that Shinui had decided to vote against

the budget not for economic reasons, but to oppose the GOI's
support for a religious party. Peres explained that the
failure to pass the budget that evening would not cause the
government to fall. He added that even no-confidence motions
that achieve the requisite 61-vote absolute majority would
still need to include a proposed alternate prime minister,
something the varying opposition parties could never agree
upon.


4. (C) Peres stressed that if Sharon asks Labor to join the
coalition in the event Shinui departs, Labor will join to
ensure that "the first move toward peace -- disengagement"
goes forward. "Better to have a mediocre peace plan with a
majority (of support)," Peres said, "than a brilliant plan
with a minority." Peres noted he does not support moving to
early elections now, since this would mean postponing
implementation of disengagement.
In response to Senator Biden's question as to whether Sharon
shares the view that implementing disengagement is of
paramount importance, Peres said that he believes Sharon is
"convinced about (the need for) disengagement." In Peres'
view, Sharon introduced his disengagement plan because he did
not want to negotiate with Yasser Arafat or be "dragged" into
accepting a third party's peace proposal.

--------------
Sharon Sees Realities
--------------


5. (C) Senator Biden sought Peres' view on Sharon's approach
to the territories. Peres opined that Sharon has "turned
from" his earlier ideological approach, but that he has not
yet made a "U-turn." Peres noted that Sharon knows that
there must be a two-state solution, but what is not clear is
where the borders of those two states would be. "(Sharon) is
not convinced he needs to give back everything," Peres
explained, "but he appreciates the U.S. position." In
response to Peres' observation that the settlers represent
the greatest challenge now to Sharon, Senator Feinstein
questioned why Sharon then continues to add to the
settlements. Peres said he could not explain "mistakes," but
added that it might be to soften the position of settlers
with regard to disengagement.


6. (C) In response to Senator Biden's query about Likud's
position on disengagement, Peres said that Likud generally
supports Sharon on personal but not ideological grounds.
Peres predicted that if Likud elections were to be held now,
the party might choose a leader more to the right than
Sharon. It is because of his disengagement plan, Peres
noted, that Sharon lost his traditional allies, the religious
parties. "I'm against religious parties," Peres underlined,
and, making an inference to Shinui, said "but I'm also
against anti-religious parties." Peres stressed that Labor
can help Sharon to achieve what he would like since relations
between himself and Sharon "are not poisoned." "I'm aware of
Sharon's problems," Peres added. Biden queried whether
National Security Chief Giora Eiland, who had briefed the
Codel immediately before their meeting with Peres,
represented Sharon's views. Peres opined that Eiland "is
very serious," and, while not a spokesman for Sharon, does
understand Sharon, although Eiland's thinking "is a little
more advanced."

--------------
Peres Sees "Great Opportunity"
--------------


7. (C) Regarding the Palestinian political climate after
Arafat's death, Peres stressed that he has a "high opinion"
of the present Palestinian leadership, noting that it is
"patriotic" and savvy and "cannot be sold a bill of goods."
Peres underlined that the leadership really believes that
terrorism is counterproductive to its goals. While not
discussing the details, Peres advocated that the U.S. and
Israel support the Palestinian leadership in its efforts to
bring the various factions under its control since it will
need a "competent force" behind it. Peres said that there
are "common denominators" between what the Palestinians and
the GOI see as a solution to the conflict. The Israeli and
Palestinian leaderships are "more or less" in agreement on
borders, and land swaps could solve the differences, he said.

--------------
Peres on Jerusalem, Refugees
--------------


8. (C) Peres underlined that he would support reaching a
solution to the conflict with the Palestinians one step at a
time. Peres said he would support giving back 50 percent of
the occupied territories, and then working on giving back
more. Peres said there is "no hurry" to solve the issue of
Jerusalem since Jews and Palestinians continue to live
together. He explained that Jerusalem is composed of the
Holy Basin (or city) and the new city comprised of 18 suburbs
-- 10 Jewish and eight Palestinian. "(Everyone)
understands," Peres underlined, "that all eight (Palestinian
suburbs) would go to the Palestinian Authority...and that
this will improve (Israel's) demography." Peres advocated
that Jerusalem's Holy Basin be an "open city," dividing it up
according to religious function, with Jews, Muslims and
Christians wielding authority over their respective holy
sites. Joking that "the Messiah is the best diplomat we ever
had," Peres noted that Jews are forbidden to build on the
Temple Mount "until the Messiah arrives." The UN Secretary
General could serve as mayor of Jerusalem, Peres said, and
the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers would serve as
the deputy mayors. Peres said that he presented this idea to
Arafat, who agreed with it but who noted that it would need
the agreement of Muslim authorities.


9. (C) Peres stressed that the more urgent matter than
Jerusalem is that of the Palestinian refugees' right of
return. He noted that the Palestinians "insist on the right
of return" and Israel wants the Arabs to stop raising this
issue and to agree that all refugees will be settled in a
future Palestinian state. Senator Feinstein raised the
prospect of the Geneva Initiative solution of Israel agreeing
to a negotiated number of refugees returning to Israel.
"This won't fly," Peres responsed.


10. (SBU) Codel staff cleared this message.

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