|05TELAVIV4894||2005-08-09 08:23:00||SECRET||Embassy Tel Aviv|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (S) SUMMARY. In an August 3 meeting with Deputy National
Security Adviser Abrams, the Ambassador and Gen. Ward, the
IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said
that disengagement has not harmed the IDF as an institution.
It has, however, created problems, particularly in the area
of defining personal responsibilities to religion and to the
state, which will take time to heal. The PA is saying all of
the right things, according to Halutz, but there remains a
gap between words and actions on the ground. Halutz
explained that he will recoMmend a policy of no tolerance in
response to attacks emanating out of Gaza following
disengagement. The PA, he stressed, must understand that
disengagement is not a one-time test and that Israel will
expect the PA to exert continuous action against terrorism.
Mahmud Abbas, he stated, risks his regime by not confronting
Hamas, which seeks to replace the PA as the authority in
Gaza. Concerning Iran, Halutz stated that there is no
diagreement between the USG and Israel that Tehran seeks a
nuclear weapon capability; any disagreement is over how much
time before it happens. END SUMMARY.
Disengagement is Underway
2. (S) Disengagement started, for all intents and purposes,
in mid-July, when the IDF closed the Gaza Strip to Israeli
visitors, Lt Gen Danny Halutz, Chief of the General Staff,
stated. It is a confusing situation, he commented, for the
soldiers and the Israeli families who live in the Gaza
settlements. In the past, the IDF assisted and protected the
settlers. While the IDF continues that same mission today,
soldiers are now restricting settlers, travel and preventing
other Israelis from visiting them in their homes. Most Gaza
residents are "digesting" the new situation, he stated, and
realize that disengagement is going to happen. Nonetheless,
protests against the disengagement will likely continue up to
and during the operation. The situation is difficult, more
so since virtually everyone in Israel either has relatives or
friends in Gaza or knows of people living there.
3. (S) The IDF, Halutz stated, has not been harmed by the
disengagement as an institution. However, there are some
problems that have surfaced that will take some time to heal.
Thus far, there have been some 50 refusers, mostly
religious, he stated, suggesting that this might only be the
tip of the iceberg. The issue of personal responsibilitiy to
religion and to the state, he opined, is the only major issue
dividing the people. As a result, the IDF will have to deal
with this issue after the disengagement. Halutz stated that
refusal to participate in the evacuation has mostly been an
individual issue, with only one instance of a group of nine
members from the same unit refusing orders. There have been
few officers, he stated, who have refused. This is a red
line for the IDF, he stated, which treats refusal among the
officer corps much more seriously, as officers have
volunteered to serve the state and institute its decisions.
4. (S) The situation is difficult for the Palestinians as
well, Halutz continued. Hamas will likely hold to the
"quiet", but a few gangs that continue to plan and carry out
attacks will not. If they hurt civilians then it will add
another burden, he commented. The IDF is making
preparations, he said, and has deployed a large force to keep
terror from interfering with disengagement. If terror
increases prior to 15 August, he said, the IDF will take
steps to prevent attacks against the disengagement,
particularly during the evacuation of civilians. Responding
to a question concerning PA security performance, Halutz
stated that the PA was saying the right things, but noted the
gap between PA words and actions. Halutz stated that he did
not accept the excuse of weakness, adding that PA performance
is more an issue of will than capability.
5. (S) Halutz predicted the outbreak of a new round of
violence if the PA fails to decide to control the security
situation and to return to negotiations following
disengagement. Should there be a renewal of attacks from
post-disengagement Gaza, Halutz stated that he would
recommend that the government adopt a policy of zero
tolerance, treating such attacks as a conflict between two
countries. The IDF, he said, will have increased freedom of
action following disengagement, as there will no longer be
Israeli citizens in Gaza. The IDF, he continued, has a big
basket of &toys,8 such as missiles that are much more
accurate than Palestinian Qassam rockets. Should there be a
new cycle of violence, Halutz opined that it would be much
like it is today, with terror attacks shifting from Gaza to
the West Bank. More Israeli cities, however, will be
vulnerable to rocket attacks, he stated. Currently, the IDF
considers the attempt to transfer rocket technology and
material into the West Bank as a "ticking bomb."
Underscoring his point, he stated that the IDF recently
killed three Palestinians and captured others who were
involved in efforts to transfer rockets and rocket-
manufacturing "know-how" to the West Bank.
6. (S) The PA must understand, Halutz explained, that
disengagement is not a one-time test. The PA, he stated,
must ask itself, "What is the purpose of armed groups in Gaza
after disengagement?" The PA will have to stop terror.
Abbas' strategy of not confronting Hamas, he stated, is a
risk to his regime, as the group is attempting to replace the
PA as the authority in Gaza. Halutz characterized the
"arrest" of Fatah terrorist Hassan Madhun as fictitious.
Madhun, who agreed to a PA request to stay in "jail" for 48
hours, left after 24, he stated. Moreover, he continued
plans to carry out attacks against the passages in the Gaza
Strip, which will clearly impact the PA itself. Lu'ay Saadi,
the leader of a PIJ cell responsible for a number of recent
terror attacks, he stated, remains at large. The IDF missed
capturing one of the cell members recently, with the
terrorist escaping to a PA security force headquarters, he
stated. "There is nothing new," Halutz stated. "It,s the
same old stories."
7. (S) Responding to a question, Halutz stated that Iran is
on track to acquire nuclear weapons capability. The USG and
Israel agree that this is the case, disagreeing only on how
long it will take. Halutz opined that if worse comes to
worst, Iran would have a bomb in three years.
8. (U) Mr. Abrams cleared this message.
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