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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05TELAVIV6557
2005-11-20 09:06:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

A/S LOWENKRON'S CONSULTATIONS AT THE MINISTRY OF

Tags:   PREL  PHUM  IS  IR  TU  AE  GOI  EXTERNAL  HUMANITARIAN  AID  ISRAELI  SOCIETY  PALESTINIAN  AFFAIRS 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 006557 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/IPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2015
TAGS: PREL PHUM IS IR TU AE GOI EXTERNAL HUMANITARIAN AID ISRAELI SOCIETY ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS
SUBJECT: A/S LOWENKRON'S CONSULTATIONS AT THE MINISTRY OF
FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR NORMAN H. OLSEN, 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 006557

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/IPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2015
TAGS: PREL PHUM IS IR TU AE GOI EXTERNAL HUMANITARIAN AID ISRAELI SOCIETY ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS
SUBJECT: A/S LOWENKRON'S CONSULTATIONS AT THE MINISTRY OF
FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR NORMAN H. OLSEN, FOR REASONS 1.4 (b)
AND (d).


1. (C) SUMMARY: DRL Assistant Secretary Barry Lowenkron
discussed a range of democracy and human rights reform issues
with senior MFA officials Yoram Ben-Zeev, Aharon Leshno Yaar
and Harry Kneiy-Tal. Topics included the November 14 BMENA
Forum for the Future meeting in Bahrain, internal
developments in Syria and Iran, and U.S. plans to press for a
smaller, more credible Human Rights Commission. Ben-Zeev
said that many in the GOI remain skeptical about BMENA and
the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, but that he
supported the initiative and wanted to explore ways Israel
could contribute. Yaar reported that the GOI supports the
USG drive to create a more effective Human Rights Commission
and has adopted a more cooperative attitude toward special
rapporteurs, with the exception of Special Rapporteur John
Dugard, whose tenure and mandate the GOI would like to end.
Kneiy-Tal said the GOI does not foresee near-term change in
either Syria or Iran, whose governments face differing
external constraints but retain a firm grip on internal
control. END SUMMARY.

-------------- --------------
GOI CAUTIOUS ABOUT AIMS OF BMENA, BUT ASKS TO PARTICIPATE
-------------- --------------


2. (C) A/S Lowenkron told MFA Deputy Director General and
Head for North America Yoram Ben-Zeev that the Forum for the
Future has attracted great interest from BMENA countries. As
evidence of this trend, Lowenkron cited a dramatic increase
in government and NGO participation in BMENA. While only a
few middle eastern governments attended the June 2004 Sea
Island G-8 Summit, almost every government in the region and
a few NGOs attended the December 2004 BMENA Forum for the
Future in Rabat, and all the governments in the region,
including Iran and Syria, plus 40 NGOs, attended the

just-completed BMENA Forum for the Future in Bahrain. During
the forum, Lowenkron said, governments and NGOs actively
debated democratization ideas in the region.


3. (C) Ben-Zeev said that the GOI seeks to participate in
BMENA. He cautioned, however, that skeptical Israeli
officials perceive two main problems with BMENA. "Deep in
our hearts," Ben-Zeev said, "we don't believe democracy will
work in this region." If it does work, Ben-Zeev added,
Israeli officials believe it will bring Islamists to power.


4. (C) Ben-Zeev said that he personally thinks the GOI will
gain from democratization in the region. He said he
understands that BMENA reflects a long-term, strategic goal
rather than a short-term, tactical policy. GOI officials,
Ben-Zeev suggested, "can help BMENA by describing how the GOI
introduced democracy to Arab-Israelis." A/S Lowenkron asked
Ben-Zeev to send him the GOI's ideas for participation in
BMENA, and a list of Israeli NGOs that might participate. He
also urged Ben-Zeev to "overcome your skeptics."

-------------- -
GOI TO COOPERATE ON HR COMMISSION, RAPPORTEURS
-------------- -


5. (C) A/S Lowenkron told MFA Deputy Director General for UN
and International Organizations Affairs Aharon Leshno Yaar
that the USG will press for a small, credible Human Rights
Commission. The USG goal is to deny membership to states
that violate human rights: "to make sure the bad guys are
never there and the good guys are in" On balance, he felt
that the former is more important than the latter.


6. (C) Yaar reported that the GOI supports the USG drive to
create a more effective Human Rights Commission. He said
that he will work on a committee led by Swiss Permanent
Representative to the UN Peter Maurer in New York in order to
understand and influence Swiss ideas for reforming the Human
Rights Commission.


7. (C) Yaar said the GOI has adopted a more cooperative
approach to special rapporteurs, but seeks to change the
mandate for the special rapporteur on the situation of human
rights in the Palestinian territories, John Dugard. When
Dugard's second term finishes next year, Yaar said, the GOI
will request not only a new rapporteur, but a more fair and
balanced mandate that takes terrorism into account. More
broadly, Yaar said, GOI officials hope their positive
attitude toward the UN will reduce European antipathy toward
Israel. "Instead of complaining, we are looking for ways to
cooperate with and support the UN, while at the same time not
ignoring the problems with some resolutions and several
committees." Yaar noted that the GOI has begun sponsoring
more resolutions than ever before in the UN Third Committee.

8. (C) Yaar added, however, that his effort to convince his
colleagues in the MFA to take UN reform seriously has been a
real struggle, not only because they believe a number of UN
resolutions unfairly target Israel, but also because they
perceive the Europeans to be virulently anti-Israel. Yaar
cited as typical of European disdain for Israel the French
reaction to the GOI vote against UNESCO's global convention
for the protection of cultural diversity. The French have
threatened to retaliate, Yaar reported, by voting against
appointment of the Israeli architect nominated to serve as a
member of the World Heritage Committee.

-------------- --------------
GOI DOES NOT FORESEE CHANGE IN SYRIA OR IRAN
--------------


9. (C) MFA Director of the Center for Political Research
Harry Kneiy-Tal told Lowenkron that the GOI does not foresee
near-term change in either Syria or Iran. Kneiy-Tal said
that the GOI sees Bashar Assad as weakened but in control,
and believes it is possible to change Assad's behavior
without changing his regime. Assad's downfall, Kneiy-Tal
said, could even provide Al Quaeda an opportunity to take
over the whole country. Kneiy-Tal claimed that three
internal groups currently oppose Assad: the liberals, who are
not organized; the Kurds, whom Assad has appeased through
promises of citizenship; and the Islamists, who represent a
significant and growing threat. None of these groups,
Kneiy-Tal said, have yet created any "cracks in Assad's inner
circle," members of which have remained loyal and united.
Buoyed by this resolute group of insiders, Kneiy-Tal said,
Assad has effectively used the Baath Party as a tool to
retain control of the country.


10. (C) Kneiy-Tal said Assad hopes he can apply the "China
model" in Syria, fostering economic development while
retaining political control. Assad has recognized that total
isolation will undermine this goal, Kneiy-Tal said, and Assad
is even willing to cut a deal with the USG, wherein the
Syrians will cooperate on issues related to Iraq if the U.S.
will tone down its pressure on Assad's regime. Assad has
also turned to Russian leaders, Kneiy-Tal reported, to help
his regime through diplomatic gestures. Kneiy-Tal said
Russian officials seek to gain prestige by communicating on
behalf of the international community with leaders in both
Damascus and Tehran, that they can avert international
pressure if they change their behavior.


11. (C) Iranian leaders, however, have more options to
respond to external demands than do Syrian leaders, Kneiy-Tal
said, because they have leverage with the EU-3 and can use
Iran's oil reserves to influence India, China, Russia, and
others. Kneiy-Tal explained that this shield against foreign
influence has contributed to the increasingly insular nature
of political dialogue in Iran. Whereas during the presidency
of Mohammad Khatami conservatives and reformers debated one
another, now debate occurs only within conservative circles,
between ideologues and pragmatists, Kneiy-Tal said. The key
question, according to Kneiy-Tal, remains the extent to which
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will rein in President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

********************************************* ********************
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