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 05 AMMAN 004370
NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE; NEA/IPA FOR RUBINSTEIN/GREENE/GERMAIN/LOGERFO; TREASURY FOR MILLS/DOWNARD; NSC FOR ABRAMS/DANIN/MUSTAFA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2015 TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON KPAL KWBG IS SUBJECT: THE DEPUTY SECRETARY'S MAY 20 MEETING WITH PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER QURAYA'
Classified By: CDA David Hale for Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (U) The Deputy Secretary met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Ahmed Quraya' May 20 at 5 p.m. at the Dead Sea Movenpick Hotel, on the margins of the World Economic Forum, in Jordan.
2. (U) Participants:
The Deputy Secretary Ambassador Wilson Deputy Spokesman Ereli NEA DAS Carpenter NSC Director Pandith NEA Senior Advisor Gamal Helal Notetaker Schedlbauer
Prime Minister Quraya' Civil Affairs Minister Dahlan PLO Ambassador to Jordan Atallah Khairi Special Assistant Salah Elayan
3. (C) Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Quraya' told the Deputy Secretary May 20 that all hopes are on the visit of PA President Abbas to Washington and that Abbas would be seeking strong USG support. Quraya' said that he was pleased with US Security Coordinator General Ward's efforts but stressed that there needed to be greater pressure on the GOI to facilitate security reform, including the Badr Brigade's deployment and the provision of light arms to security forces in Gaza.
4. (C) Quraya' acknowledged the Gazan courts' review of several municipal election results and said the government would accept the courts' rulings. He emphasized that he and President Abbas were committed to the July 17 date for legislative elections but there were difficulties in reaching agreement with the PLC on the electoral law framework.
5. (C) PA Civil Affairs Minister/Disengagement Coordinator Dahlan stressed that the PA had not yet received from the GOI the requested inventories of settlement assets. Dahlan said that his Israeli interlocutors continued to refuse to discuss four issues that the PA had deemed essential to a meaningful coordination process: (1) customs and security coordination in the Philadelphi corridor; (2) the reopening of the Gaza airport; (3) safe passage; and (4) ending the back-to-back system. Dahlan cautioned that if Abbas' trip did not produce concrete results, Hamas would win the legislative elections, but added that 90 percent of Hamas' success or failure in upcoming elections would depend on what Sharon does or does not do. The Deputy Secretary stressed that Abbas' success was vitally
SIPDIS important to the United States and that President Bush was committed to not stopping at Gaza disengagement and had been straightforward about his vision of a democratic Palestinian state. End summary.
Upcoming PA Presidential visit to Washington
5. (C) The Deputy Secretary opened the meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya' (Abu Ala'a), noting that the USG was looking forward to Palestinian President Abbas' visit to Washington May 26. Quraya' stressed President Abbas sought the USG's real support. Quraya' stressed that the Palestinian government was doing as much as it could on security and economic and administrative matters. He said that Civil Affairs Minister Muhammad Dahlan was leading the PA's preparations for Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank and had met most recently May 19 with Israeli Minister without Portfolio Haim Ramon and NSC Advisor Giora Eiland. Quraya' noted that he had met with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres and would meet with him again the next day. Quraya' stressed that the PA will facilitate a safe withdrawal but continued to question what would follow. He said that Palestinians remained suspicious of Israel's actions in the West Bank while it was moving forward with disengagement in Gaza. He said he had asked Peres where the withdrawal fit within the Roadmap and Peres had responded that it was before the first phase. Quraya' said he believed that was not right and that the PA is "not looking for coordination but wants cooperation."
6. (C) Quraya' continued, stressing that economically the PA is in a difficult situation with the population now facing real social problems after four years of intifada. He noted that Hamas competed with the PA through its charities and its success was evident in recent local elections. Quraya' asked for support to cover the PA's budget deficit. He noted that no donors had yet committed to help the PA cover the USD 240 million social safety net program included in the PA's 2005 budget. Quraya' cited the need for serious investment in the West Bank and Gaza and called for GOI cooperation to allow businesspeople to move freely.
7. (C) The Deputy Secretary stressed that President Abbas' success was important to the United States. President Bush was committed to the proposition Gaza first doesn't mean Gaza last and had been very straightforward about his vision of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel. While the Deputy Secretary said he understood the Palestinians' anxiety, he stressed that withdrawal is just the first step in the process and that President Abbas would hear this from President Bush. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the priority was on a successful withdrawal for the Palestinians, for the GOI, and for the international community, which was why the President and Secretary had asked General Ward to coordinate on security reform and why the Quartet had asked Mr. Wolfensohn to do the same on the economic side. The Deputy Secretary stressed that if settlement assets are destroyed after the GOI pulls out, then that would be seen as a setback. He said that the handover should not be done in such a way that violent groups can claim the Israelis were chased out. Disengagement needs to be a win-win situation for both sides. Prime Minister Sharon was running his own political risks, and he too, like Abbas, needed to be seen as succeeding, .
8. (C) Noting that $50m of the FY05 Supplemental funding for the PA had been earmarked for Israel border trade/transit issues, the Deputy Secretary said that the US, PA and GOI needed to work together to make this beneficial and improve the movement of goods and people. The Deputy Secretary stressed to Quraya' that President Abbas now has the legitimacy of being elected and needs to work on issues, like corruption, in order to counter Hamas' political attractiveness. With respect to the social safety net programs, he underscored the difficulty of launching new programs when so much of the budget is dedicated to the wage bill. The Deputy Secretary stressed that there would have to be a transition of some civil servants to the private sector and other reforms. He underlined that the USG wanted to work with the Palestinian leadership, wanted it to do well in the upcoming legislative elections, and that a successful disengagement would help build momentum.
PA pleased with Ward mission but needs more USG pressure on GOI
9. (C) The Deputy Secretary asked Quraya' about his perspective on General Ward's mission. Quraya' stressed that he and others are cooperating well with General Ward but that the PA and the General needed more from the USG. Quraya' referenced his earlier meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah during which they had agreed on sending 2,000 Badr Brigade forces (Jordanian-trained and sponsored Palestinian forces in the Palestinian Liberation Army) to the West Bank but noted that the GOI was not ready to approve the Badr Brigade's deployment across the river. Quraya' asked specifically for more USG help on security. He noted that Nasir Yusif had no light arms to give his forces in Gaza since the GOI was blocking such assistance.
Quraya' on elections
10. (C) Quraya', at the Deputy Secretary's request, provided an overview of the elections, noting that the presidential election had gone well. He said that municipal elections, to date, had not met his expectations, especially in Gaza, and he referenced the court action overruling some of the electoral outcomes. He said that it was the first time the government had complained about the opposition. He said that Hamas believed the most serious violations had occurred in Rafah. Quraya' stressed that he had pressed everyone to act honestly as the cases were being reviewed; that the process would continue; and that the government would accept the courts' rulings. On legislative elections, Quraya' said that he and President Abbas were committed to the July 17 date but that there were problems with the electoral law since the leadership wanted a 100 percent proportional system while the PLC members were concerned about their own reelections and, therefore, favored a mixed proportional/constituency-based system. Quraya' noted that if the debate over the electoral law took longer, the date of the elections could be postponed. The Deputy Secretary remarked that it was better to stay on-time or else there could be problems with the public. Quraya' quipped that even if the elections were postponed, Hamas would exploit the delay.
11. (C) In response to the Deputy Secretary's question about the Palestinian leadership's popular support, Quraya' said the cabinet was working on reaching out to the people by holding cabinet meetings around the West Bank and Gaza Strip so that the cabinet members could speak directly to citizens. He explained that he had held the May 18 cabinet session in Hebron. Famous historically for its shoe manufacturing, he said, 50 to 60 percent of the factories have closed because they cannot export their goods because of the closure regime and cannot compete within the Palestinian market because of cheaper goods from China. Quraya' stressed that Israeli support is crucial to any economic revival since an economic revival would only be possible after the lifting of the closure regime.
12. (C) Turning to political issues, Quraya' said that the Palestinian leadership had found it difficult to demonstrate to the public that progress was coming. He said that the Sharm al-Shaykh understandings must be respected, but the GOI did not respect them. He stressed that the Palestinian leadership cannot renegotiate Oslo for the withdrawal from the cities. Quraya' said he believed the GOI preferred to renegotiate everything. He noted that there had been little progress on prisoners and no progress on fugitives. He commented that the GOI continued to construct and expand settlements, an action that was killing the hopes of Palestinians. He raised the separation barrier and its construction in Al-Ram down the middle of the road, though this road had existed since Ottoman times. He asked why the GOI was dividing a road if the "wall" was for security reasons. He continued that the GOI was actually dividing the road to "mark borders."
13. (C) The Deputy Secretary replied that he believed there were more opportunities now than there had been in some time, but on some issues the parties were going to have to crawl before they could walk or run. He said that Prime Minister Sharon was committed and would keep moving forward. The Deputy Secretary said he was pleased that President Abbas would soon meet with President Bush, and said their meeting would be a good opportunity to compare perspectives and focus on making disengagement a success.
Dahlan on disengagement
14. (C) PA Civil Affairs Minister and overall disengagement coordinator Muhammad Dahlan commented on the PA's efforts to coordinate on disengagement. Dahlan said he had heard the word "disengagement" spoken at least seven times during the meeting and how it needed to be a success. He said he recognized that if the Israeli withdrawal happened successfully, there could be many opportunities, from security, to the economy, to incorporating settlement assets into the PA's overall development plan. In addition, he stressed that the PA planned to transparently manage the agricultural assets and that Quraya' had already issued a ruling about privatizing those assets. Dahlan stressed that the PA had done its homework to prepare the ground and knew what still remained to be done.
Four essentials for meaningful coordination
15. (C) Dahlan said that the PA did want to focus on coordinating with the GOI but found itself only on the receiving end and that the GOI had not yet provided the PA with the necessary asset inventories, though the GOI had already shared this exact information with Israeli and Palestinian businessmen and NGOs. Dahlan went on to say that up until his last session with GOI interlocutors May 19, the GOI had not been willing to discuss four issues which the PA had deemed essential to a meaningful coordination process:
a) the Philadelpi corridor (between Gaza and Egypt) -- Dahlan said he had asked to discuss (1) the customs system that must continue in order to keep the customs envelope between the PA and Israel intact; and (2) the security system which would have to be put in place with Egypt.
b) the reopening of the Gaza airport -- Dahlan said his Israeli interlocutors referred to it as a political decision that only Prime Minister Sharon could make.
c) "safe passage" -- Dahlan noted that the GOI had refused to discuss it since it was a phrase Sharon hated.
d) back-to-back -- Dahlan said that the GOI was insisting on maintaining the back-to-back system into and out of Gaza. He noted that even if the greenhouses were successfully transferred, the back-to-back system could well stymie the successful export of these agricultural products. He said there should be a (greenhouse) door to (airplane) door system, not a back-to-back system.
Without progress on these issues, Dahlan said coordination would be an empty process. Dahlan wryly noted that GOI interlocutors were prepared to discuss a seaport since it could take up to five years to construct. (Comment: This is the essence of the PA position. Unless the Palestinian leadership can show its domestic public that it has obtained quantifiable improvements to the status quo from the coordination process, it finds it politically difficult to coordinate with the GOI on disengagement issues. End comment.)
Palestinians need to see benefit from Abbas' election or Hamas will win
16. (C) Dahlan went on to say that Palestinians mistakenly assumed that after President Abbas' election and his ending of the intifada, in practice, the GOI would move the peace process forward. Dahlan said that there should be a bonus for stopping the intifada, for example, family reunifications or allowing expatriate Palestinians to visit the West Bank or Gaza Strip or releasing more prisoners. Up to now, Dahlan stressed, there had been "almost no practical benefit from Abu Mazen's election." Due to this, Dahlan cautioned that Palestinians might attach some false hope to President Abbas' trip to Washington. If the trip does not yield anything but more rhetoric, Dahlan predicted that Hamas would win the legislative elections. Dahlan attributed 90 percent of Hamas' success or failure in upcoming elections to what Sharon does or does not do.
17. (C) The Deputy Secretary encouraged Quraya' and Dahlan to have President Abbas stress in Washington that a successful disengagement with full coordination would afford the opportunity to show economic hope to Palestinians. He promised to relay both Quraya's and Dahlan's points to the Secretary and the President.
18. (U) The Deputy Secretary has cleared this cable. HALE