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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05TELAVIV274 2005-01-14 13:29:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

EILAND ASSESSES THE CHALLENGES FACING SHARON AND

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 04 TEL AVIV 000274 

SIPDIS

CODEL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/14/2015
TAGS: PREL KWBG IS ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS GOI EXTERNAL GAZA DISENGAGEMENT
SUBJECT: EILAND ASSESSES THE CHALLENGES FACING SHARON AND
ABU MAZEN FOR CODEL KERRY


Classified By: Acting DCM Norm Olsen for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: National Security Advisor Giora Eiland
highlighted the following points in a January 9 meeting with
Codel Kerry:

-- Israel faces three main challenges in implementing
disengagement: a fragile domestic political situation,
operational difficulties to evacuate thousands of settlers,
and the possibility of implementing the disengagement plan
without a cease-fire agreement.

-- Abu Mazen faces two main challenges: overcoming resistance
to security sector reforms, and establishing a durable
cease-fire that ultimately leads to the dismantlement of
militant groups.

-- The differences between Israeli and Palestinian
perspectives on returning to the roadmap are underestimated.
While the GOI will stick to its strict position on
Palestinian fulfillment of roadmap phase one obligations, the
Palestinians, Eiland predicted, will likely take the position
later this year that they have performed well enough on
reforms and in reducing the violence to move forward to
negotiations.

-- The U.S. could best contribute in the short term to
promoting peace by isolating the negative influence of Iran
and Hizballah in the Palestinian arena, continuing to push
Egypt to secure its side of the border, and promoting the
message that no compromises are acceptable in renouncing the
use of terror.

-- Arab states have no interest in resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which provides them an excuse
for deferring reform. In Eiland's personal view, a Syrian
withdrawal from Lebanon could undermine Israeli interests by
leaving a vacuum in Lebanon that Iran would fill.

-- The U.S. needs better intelligence to support urban
operations in Iraq. Key political challenges in Iraq are the
need to get Iraqis to react against foreign involvement in
violence in Iraq, and the need for the U.S. to demonstrate
some sort of symbolic pull-back after the Iraqi election.

END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) In a January 9 meeting, National Security Advisor
Giora Eiland shared his views on Gaza disengagement, the
future of the roadmap, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq with
Senator John Kerry. Also present were Senior Foreign Policy
Advisor Nancy Stetson, Press Secretary David Wade, Army
escort Col. Michael Barbero, A/DCM, poloff, conoff
(notetaker) and NSC staff.



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


Israeli Challenges to Disengagement


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





3. (C) Eiland enumerated three challenges facing the GOI as
it prepares to disengage from Gaza:

-- Israeli domestic politics. In Eiland's view, the
political situation in Israel has never been as critical as
in the past year, with frequent crises arising. Even with
the formation of a new, stable coalition, all problems will
not be resolved. Since the GOI decision to disengage last
spring, the Prime Minister has not had full government
support. Therefore, the GOI is still needs to make a clear
and explicit decision to dismantle the settlements. Kerry
queried why an additional decision is needed. Eiland
explained that the original GOI decision expressed only
"general intent," and that an additional GOI decision is
required in order to begin the actual dismantling of
settlements. Stressing that while there is GOI "intent" and
a general plan and timetable for disengagement, the settlers
in Gaza do not yet feel that a formal decision to evacuate
them has been made. The GOI could thus face legal challenges
should it attempt to evacuate settlements with what the
settlers would claim is insufficient notice. Saying that he
understands that approximately 50% of settlers would choose
to stay in Gaza, Kerry asked whether the GOI is prepared to
remove them. Eiland said it was, that the Prime Minister has
"crossed the point of no return" in this regard.

-- Operational challenges. Evacuating thousands of settlers
will require significant military resources. Kerry asked
about reports that some within the military will refuse to
participate in the evacuation. Eiland played down these
reports, stating that some "reservists" have said that they
will not obey orders "if" called to perform disengagement
duty. Eiland commented that some people view the
difficulties involved in settler removal as "the biggest
challenge Israeli society has ever faced."

-- Implementation of disengagement without a cease-fire
agreement. Eiland said attempts to evacuate settlers under
fire may be not only difficult but "under certain
circumstances, impossible." He was quick to say, however,
that the GOI is fully committed to disengagement, even in
light of this challenge. Though Abu Mazen might gain a
cease-fire from the militant groups, the challenge would be
in enforcing it.


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


Challenges Facing Abu Mazen


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





4. (C) Eiland perceived two key difficulties facing Abu Mazen:

-- Implementation of security reforms. Abu Mazen faces
strong opposition to the security measures he must take, and
will be forced to reach compromises.

-- Need for a permanent cease-fire agreement. Abu Mazen must
convince militant groups not only to accept a cease-fire,
which he has failed to do so far, but also to agree to give
up their weapons and be dismantled. Eiland explained that
this process would have to take into account the unique
characteristics of the various militant organizations.
Hamas, he said, is a real cultural and spiritual movement,
whose strength will not diminish should it temporarily cease
violent activity. In contrast, the strength and finances of
the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are based solely on violent
opposition to Israel, without which, the group has "no other
flag to hold." In order to convince al-Aqsa to stop the
violence, Abu Mazen must compensate it for lost revenues and
try to integrate its militants into the PA security forces.



5. (C) Kerry asked how long the PA would need to reconstitute
its police forces. Eiland countered that this is not the
real problem. PA security forces count some 30,000 members.
While some of the PA security force infrastructure has been
destroyed, the main capabilities remain. The "real problem"
is neither a lack of capacity nor a lack of willingness, but
rather a lack of "legitimacy" to act against terror, which
Eiland attributed to Arafat's legacy. The PA security
forces, Eiland cited as an example, have, since Oslo,
arrested hundreds of Palestinians who confessed to murdering
Israelis. The charges against the confessed murderers,
however, stated only that they acted "against the interest of
the Palestinian people," and none were punished. Most
important now will be the PA response to future terror
attacks against Israelis, i.e., whether it investigates,
brings perpetrators to justice, and sentences the guilty for
murder.



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



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


Israeli vs. Palestinian Perspectives on the Roadmap


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



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





6. (C) Eiland commented that differences between the Israeli
and Palestinian views of the peace process have been
underestimated. Once the magnitude of these differences
comes to light, the post-Arafat "honeymoon" between the GOI
and PA could disappear.



7. (C) The GOI, Eiland said, accepted the roadmap only
because of its sequencing, which places security first.
While the GOI is now preoccupied with implementing
disengagement, it is ready to return to the roadmap once the
PA takes the necessary security steps. The Palestinians, on
the other hand, will soon likely try to push the peace
process forward toward final status issues by claiming to
have met their roadmap phase one obligations. They will
point, Eiland predicted, to:

-- The, by most accounts, fair and legitimate presidential
election as proof of democratic reform.

-- Finance Minister Fayyad's transparency measures as proof
of economic reform (quite legitimately, Eiland acknowledged).

-- The anticipated consolidation of the security forces under
an empowered interior minister as proof of security reform.

-- A significant reduction in violence, if the cease-fire
succeeds.



8. (C) The GOI response, according to Eiland, would be to
defer political negotiation until it sees real security
action on the ground. He noted that 70-80% of Israelis
believe that the GOI paid insufficient attention to security
in the Oslo process, a mistake that the GOI will not repeat.



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


Keeping Peace Process on Track


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





9. (C) Kerry expressed concerns about both continuing
settlement growth since his last visit two years ago, and the
possibility that the peace process could be derailed for lack
of specific target dates for settlement dismantlement and
final status discussions. He asked why the GOI is reluctant
to set forth its parameters for final status. Eiland
reiterated that the GOI is fully committed to disengagement
and pointed to the danger in taking on too many challenges
simultaneously. The GOI commitment to disengagement, he
argued, should convince the Palestinians that Israel will
leave settlements. The GOI will not, he said, discuss final
status issues now because of domestic political constraints,
although "most of us" understand that final status will
follow the lines of the Clinton parameters. Eiland pointed
out that Sharon is the first prime minister to support a
two-state solution and to commit to settlement evacuations
even without a Palestinian partner. Kerry acknowledged that
this was significant. Eiland said that support for
disengagement could erode should the Prime Minister commit to
more than this without first seeing a corresponding effort to
reduce terror attacks. Kerry commended the Prime Minister
for his willingness to expend political capital to try to
change things. Kerry asked in what ways the U.S. can support
disengagement efforts. Eiland responded that the U.S. could
help to isolate outside negative influence in the Palestinian
arena, specifically from Iran and Hizballah; continue to push
Egypt to secure its side of the border; send the message that
no compromise will be accepted in renouncing the use of
terror.



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


Economic Viability in Gaza/Egypt's Role


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





10. (C) Stressing the importance of an economically viable
Gaza, Kerry asked about possible arrangements for
facilitating trade out of Gaza, e.g., via an airport and/or a
seaport. Eiland responded that the most important trade link
is the Gaza ) Egypt border. If Egypt solves the security
problems as it is expected to do, then Israel can exit the
Philadephi strip and Gazans will be free to trade with the
rest of the world. PM Sharon has indicated that discussions
about an airport and naval port would then also be possible.
In response to Kerry's query about what reassurance Israel
needs about smuggling activity in the Philadelphi strip,
Eiland commented that Egypt, in order to stop illegal
activity, must send the "right message" to the leaders of the
smuggling networks. Currently, he said, they receive only a
warning that is not blunt enough. Asked whether Israel would
have the necessary level of security following a pullout from
Philadelphi, Eiland said the GOI would not need to act if
Egypt assumes responsibility. Kerry queried about additional
financial needs, to which Eiland replied that disengagement
enjoys the full cooperation of the international community,
including a large role for the World Bank, which ensures that
the economic dimension of disengagement will be one of the
strongest.



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


Role of Arab World


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





11. (C) Eiland charged that the Arab world is not interested
in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite
impressions it gives to the contrary. The actions of the
Arab world are "much more destructive than constructive."
For example, he said that 70% of the funding and weapons used
by Hamas can be traced, respectively, to Saudi Arabia and
Egypt. He asserted that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
suits the interests of the Saudi regime by providing an
excuse to resist the democratic reforms expected of it
post-9/11. Other Arab regimes likewise use the conflict as
an excuse to resist reform. Kerry asked whether Eiland's
analysis extended to Jordan's King Abdallah. Eiland said he
had heard the King use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an
excuse for not undertaking reforms.



12. (C) Another form of regional support for Palestinian
terrorism, Eiland continued, is Iranian sponsorship of terror
attacks. In response to concerns about the relative quiet
during Abu Mazen's term as prime minister in 2003, Iran, he
said, established a special department in Lebanon, connected
to Hizballah, to recruit Arab Israelis and Palestinians in
order to continue terror attacks. Now 70%-80% of terror
attacks originating in the West Bank are directed by
Hizballah, not Hamas or Islamic Jihad.



13. (C) Alluding to press reports that Eiland has questioned
whether a Syrian departure from Lebanon would serve Israeli
interests, Kerry asked whether Eiland thought that the Syria
Accountability Act would inadvertently provide Hizballah
greater freedom to do what it wants. Eiland remarked that
this is a delicate matter, but that, in his personal view,
the main threat to Israel from Lebanon is not Syria, but
Iran. If Syria leaves Lebanon, then Iran, whose hitherto
hidden ambitions he said include control of Lebanon, could
assert control.



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


Iraq


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





14. (C) In response to Kerry's request for Eiland's
perspective on U.S. operations in Iraq, Eiland commented that
the U.S. made many mistakes after the initial military
success. The good news, however, is that politicians
responsible for the security situation in Iraq now understand
their early mistakes. Two categories of challenges, military
and political, remain. On the military side, the U.S. must
find a way to obtain better, more reliable intelligence about
the situation on the ground. The U.S. had not understood,
prior to acting in Iraq, that good intelligence is essential
for operations in urban areas. The political challenges are
twofold. One is to get Iraqis to react against the foreign
involvement, by Al-Qaeda and others, in Iraqi violence. He
pointed, for example, to the 308 Saudis apprehended in
Falluja. The second political challenge is for the U.S. to
demonstrate some form of symbolic pull-back after the Iraqi
elections. The elections, he said, will not change reality
on the ground, but should be used by the Americans to say
that the time has come to hand over authority. Symbols,
Eiland said, are important, and perceptions are often much
more important than reality.



15. (U) Codel Kerry did not have an opportunity to clear this
message.

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