June 2007

07TELAVIV1732 2007-06-13 16:04 2010-12-19 21:09 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2017
TAGS: PREL PTER PHUM MARR MASS KPAL KWBG EG IS
SUBJECT: ISA CHIEF DISKIN ON SITUATION IN THE GAZA STRIP
AND WEST BANK

REF: TEL AVIV 1705

Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones. Reasons: 1.4 (b)(d).

¶1. (S) SUMMARY: In a June 11 meeting that entailed
discussion of the benchmarks (reftel), Israeli Security
Agency (ISA) Head Yuval Diskin shared his assessment of the
current situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, painting a
picture of a desperate, disorganized, and demoralized Fatah
in the Gaza Strip, versus a well-organized and ascendant
Hamas. Speaking before the dramatic events of June 12-13 in
Gaza, Diskin qualified that Hamas is currently not in a
position to completely destroy Fatah. Diskin said that he
opposes USSC LTG Dayton’s proposal to equip security forces
loyal to Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Fatah, as
he is concerned that the provisions will end up in the hands
of Hamas. He claimed that the security forces loyal to Abbas
and Fatah have been penetrated by Hamas, and pointed to a
recent incident in which Hamas reportedly seized heavy
machine guns from Abbas’ Presidential Guard. Diskin noted
that the failed hostage-taking attempt two days earlier at
the Kissufim crossing had been carried out by Palestinian
Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades militants,
and led by PIJ. He said that ISA had no prior information
about the attack, and described it as “operationally
creative.” Diskin said that overall counter-tunnel
cooperation with Egyptian security forces has improved over
the last two months, but claimed that that the Egyptians
still only react to intelligence supplied by ISA, and are
otherwise not proactive.

¶2. (S) SUMMARY, CONT.: Diskin described the overall security
situation in the West Bank as comparatively better, and
praised the level of cooperation ISA receives from the
Palestinian security services operating in the West Bank.
That said, he lamented what he characterized as a crisis of
leadership in Fatah, with PA President Abbas already focusing
on his retirement, and his possible successors incapable of
leading the Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip. Diskin especially criticized PA National Security
Advisor Muhammad Dahlan as attempting to lead his loyalists
in the Gaza Strip by “remote control” from abroad. Diskin
said that Fatah is on its “last legs,” and that the situation
bodes ill for Israel. He noted his intention to discuss some
ideas on how to deal with the situation with PM Olmert in the
near future, and said he would share his thoughts afterwards
with the Ambassador. END SUMMARY.

——————————————— ————
DISKIN DESCRIBES SITUATION FOR FATAH IN GAZA AS DESPERATE
——————————————— ————

¶3. (S) Speaking before the dramatic events of June 12-13,
Diskin said that Hamas is dominant in the Gaza Strip, but is
not yet strong enough there to completely destroy Fatah. The
difference, he explained, is between the “quality” of Hamas,
and the “quantity” of Fatah’s security apparatus that is
loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas. Hamas
is dominant in most areas. In the Gaza Strip, it can win
every fight with Fatah, but Fatah can do it harm in its
“chaotic” way of fighting. Diskin said that some Fatah
members are being paid by National Security Advisor Muhammad
Dahlan, while others are being paid by Abbas — especially
the Presidential Guard. He noted that the Presidential Guard
had been involved in the June 10 clashes at the Rafah
crossing.

——————————————— ————-
BUT NOTES HE OPPOSES PLAN TO SUPPORT FATAH SECURITY FORCES
——————————————— ————-

¶4. (S) Diskin noted that he had heard earlier on June 11 from
Palestinian sources that Hamas had succeeded in stealing some
“Doshka” heavy machine guns from the Presidential Guard. He
said that this is an example of why he does not support “at
this time” USSC LTG Dayton’s proposal to supply ammunition
and weapons to Fatah: “I support the idea of militarily
strengthening Fatah, but I am afraid that they are not
organized to ensure that the equipment that is transferred to
them will reach the intended recipients.” Diskin claimed
that most of the Fatah-aligned security forces have been
penetrated by Hamas. He reiterated that he does not want to
see any equipment transferred to them before he is convinced
that the equipment will arrive at its intended destination.

¶5. (S) Diskin raised as another matter the question of
whether Fatah will be able to hold on to any equipment
provided to it. He expressed concern about Fatah’s
organizational capabilities, and what he characterized as a

TEL AVIV 00001732 002 OF 003

glaring lack of leadership: “Dahlan is trying to manage
Fatah’s security forces by remote control. We are not even
sure where he is.” (NOTE: Diskin’s aide said he believed
Dahlan is in Cairo. But on June 13, Diskin told the
Ambassador that Dahlan had surfaced in Amman the day before.
END NOTE.) Diskin continued: “Fatah is in very bad shape in
the Gaza Strip. We have received requests to train their
forces in Egypt and Yemen. We would like them to get the
training they need, and to be more powerful, but they do not
have anyone to lead them.” Diskin also made clear his
reservations on training Palestinians in a country like Yemen
with a strong Al-Qaida presence.

¶6. (S) Diskin’s aide said that the security forces at the
Rafah crossing are strong, but are demoralized with the
overall situation in the Gaza Strip. Diskin added that their
communications with the ISA had become “desperate,” and
indicated no hope for the future. He observed that there is
a young generation of leaders among Fatah who are being
“pushed” by Dahlan and who have a sense of the urgency of the
situation and what needs to be done. At the same time,
however, they are not behaving in a way that is to be
expected by people in their urgent situation. Diskin
observed, “They are approaching a zero-sum situation, and yet
they ask us to attack Hamas. This is a new development. We
have never seen this before. They are desperate.”

——————————————— —–
DISKIN: SITUATION IN WEST BANK BETTER THAN IN GAZA
——————————————— —–

¶7. (S) In the West Bank, Diskin said that ISA has established
a very good working relationship with the Preventive Security
Organization (PSO) and the General Intelligence Organization
(GIO). Diskin said that the PSO shares with ISA almost all
the intelligence that it collects. They understand that
Israel’s security is central to their survival in the
struggle with Hamas in the West Bank.

¶8. (S) While he described this overall relationship with the
Palestinian security services in the West Bank as healthy,
Diskin noted that Fatah did not react to the last set of
Hamas attacks in the West Bank due to the current “mood” of
GIO leader Tawfik Tirawi. Diskin explained that Tirawi (whom
he described as psychopathic, cruel, dangerous and prone to
extreme mood swings) is disaffected and feels that his status
has declined, and that he is no longer respected by Abbas.
Diskin claimed that Tirawi also feels that his relationship
with Dahlan has deteriorated. Diskin said that he hopes to
meet with Tirawi the week of June 17 to dissuade him from
“doing stupid things, as he is trying to develop ties with
the Dughmush family in the Gaza Strip.”

——————————————— ————-
DISKIN ON ABBAS: HE HAS FAILED. NOBODY CAN LEAD FATAH NOW
——————————————— ————-

¶9. (S) Diskin said that Abbas views Fatah as weak and “on its
last legs,” and incapable of being rehabilitated within six
months. Stressing that it was his own opinion (and not
necessarily shared by the GOI), Diskin said that Abbas is
starting to become a problem for Israel: “He’s a paradox.
He cannot function and do anything. Why is Fatah failing?
Because Abbas has become the ‘good guy’ whom everyone is
trying to do everything for in order to keep him alive.
Everyone is afraid of the alternative, and yet Abbas is
already talking about how he plans to retire from the
political scene after his term ends in 2008. He knows he is
weak and that he has failed. He has failed to rehabilitate
Fatah. He did not start to take any action when he had the
chance in 2004. Instead of choosing to be the leader for
Fatah, he chose to be a national leader for all
Palestinians.” Diskin lamented that the current situation
suggests that nobody can now assume leadership of Fatah.
Dahlan, he said, can only lead in the Gaza Strip — if that
— and Marwan Barghouti can lead in the West Bank, but not
the Gaza Strip. “It is something in their blood,” he said,
“the leaders of the West Bank cannot rule the Palestinians in
the Gaza Strip and vice versa.” Diskin warned that
Palestinian society is disintegrating, and that this bodes
ill for Israel. He said that he has some ideas about how to
address this that he wishes to discuss with PM Olmert, and
would share with the Ambassador afterwards: “We have to give
Fatah the conditions to succeed, but we cannot do this
through your benchmarks (reftel).”

——————————————— ———-
DISKIN ON ISA COUNTER-TUNNEL COOPERATION WITH EGYPTIANS
——————————————— ———-

TEL AVIV 00001732 003 OF 003

¶10. (S) Responding to a question from the Ambassador, Diskin
said that cooperation between Egyptian and Palestinian
security forces recently led to the discovery of some tunnels
in the Gaza Strip. He said the ISA occasionally hears that
tunnels are found in the Gaza Strip, and while he is inclined
to believe the information, he admitted that ISA cannot
always verify it. Diskin said that ISA’s cooperation with
Egyptian security services has improved over the last two
months after their respective delegations had met. That
said, he claimed that fundamental challenges remain
unresolved: “They react on the intelligence that we provide
to them, but they are not proactive.” He lamented that there
has been no dramatic change in the tunnel situation, adding
that there are still many tunnels running under the
Philadelphi corridor.

——————————————— ————-
DISKIN ON THE FAILED ATTACK AT KISSUFIM; THREATS ON FAYYAD
——————————————— ————-

¶11. (S) Referring to the failed June 9 attempt by Palestinian
militants to kidnap Israeli soldiers stationed at the
Kissufim crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Diskin
said that Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Al-Aksa Martyrs
Brigades carried out the attempt under PIJ leadership. He
said that the militant who guided the attack was one of PIJ’s
main operatives in the northern Gaza Strip. Diskin said that
the attack was staged against an empty post, but designed to
appear dramatic. He admitted the attackers were
operationally very creative, and that ISA had no indication
that the attack was going to take place: “This was another
ISA failure. We had no intelligence on the attack in
advance.”

¶12. (S) Responding to the Ambassador’s question, Diskin said
that he had not seen any specific evidence about threats to
PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. He observed, however, that
as a former Fatah activist, Fayyad ought to be concerned
about his own security. Diskin noted that the man thrown by
Hamas militants from the roof of a 15-story building in the
Gaza Strip the day before was a member of Force 17.

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07TELAVIV1733 2007-06-13 16:04 2010-12-19 21:09 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001733

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2017
TAGS: PREL PTER MOPS KWBG LE SY IS
SUBJECT: MILITARY INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR YADLIN COMMENTS ON
GAZA, SYRIA AND LEBANON

Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones, Reason 1.4 (b) (d)

¶1. (S) Summary. During a June 12 meeting with the
Ambassador, IDI Director MG Amos Yadlin said that Gaza was
“number four” on his list of threats, preceded by Iran,
Syria, and Hizballah in that order. Yadlin said the IDI has
been predicting armed confrontation in Gaza between Hamas and
Fatah since Hamas won the January 2006 legislative council
elections. Yadlin felt that the Hamas military wing had
initiated the current escalation with the tacit consent of
external Hamas leader Khalid Mishal, adding that he did not
believe there had been a premeditated political-level
decision by Hamas to wipe out Fatah in Gaza. Yadlin
dismissed Fatah’s capabilities in Gaza, saying Hamas could
have taken over there any time it wanted for the past year,
but he agreed that Fatah remained strong in the West Bank.
Although not necessarily reflecting a GOI consensus view,
Yadlin said Israel would be “happy” if Hamas took over Gaza
because the IDF could then deal with Gaza as a hostile state.
He dismissed the significance of an Iranian role in a
Hamas-controlled Gaza “as long as they don’t have a port.”
Regarding predictions of war with Syria this summer, Yadlin
recalled the lead-up to the 1967 war, which he said was
provoked by the Soviet Ambassador in Israel. Both Israel and
Syria are in a state of high alert, so war could happen
easily even though neither side is seeking it. Yadlin
suggested that the Asad regime would probably not survive a
war, but added that Israel was no longer concerned with
maintaining that “evil” regime. On Lebanon, Yadlin felt that
the fighting in the Nahr Al-Barid camp was a positive
development for Israel since it had “embarrassed” Hizballah,
adding that IDI had information that the Fatah Al-Islam
terrorist group was planning to attack UNIFIL before it
blundered into its confrontation with the LAF. End Summary.

Gaza Fighting Not Israel’s Main Problem
—————————————

¶2. (S) The Ambassador, accompanied by Pol Couns and DATT,
called on IDI Director Major General Amos Yadlin June 12.
Noting reports of fierce fighting between Hamas and Fatah in
Gaza that day, the Ambassador asked for Yadlin’s assessment.
Yadlin described Gaza as “not Israel’s main problem,” noting
that it ranked fourth in his hierarchy of threats, behind
Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. Yadlin described Gaza as
“hopeless for now,” commenting that the Palestinians had to
realize that Hamas offered no solution. IDI analysts, he
said, had predicted a confrontation in Gaza since Hamas won
the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January
¶2006. Yadlin commented that Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had become
personally close despite their ideological differences, but
neither leader had control over those forces under them.

¶3. (S) Yadlin explained that both Fatah and Hamas contained
many factions. The Hamas military wing had been frustrated
since the signing of the Mecca Agreement in January, but
there were also many armed groups in Gaza that were not under
the control of either party. Yadlin cited the example of the
Dughmush clan, which had shifted from Fatah to the Popular
Resistance Committees to Hamas before becoming an armed
entity opposed to all of them. After May 15, the Hamas
military wing had sought to export the fighting to Sderot by
launching waves of Qassam rockets. One week later, as a
result of IDF retaliation, they realized the price was too
high and reduced the Qassam attacks.

¶4. (S) In response to the Ambassador’s question, Yadlin said
he did not think that day’s Hamas attacks on Fatah security
forces were part of a premeditated effort to wipe out Fatah
in Gaza. Instead, they probably represented an initiative of
the military wing with the tacit consent of Khalid Mishal in
Damascus. Mishal was still considering the costs and
benefits of the fighting, but the situation had become so
tense that any incident could lead to street fighting without
any political decision.

Gaza and West Bank Separating
—————————–

¶5. (S) The Ambassador asked Yadlin for his assessment of
reports that Fatah forces had been ordered not to fight back.
Yadlin said Mohammed Dahlan had 500 men and the Presidential
Guard had 1,500 more. They understand that the balance of
power favors Hamas, which “can take over Gaza any time it
wants to.” Yadlin said he would be surprised if Fatah
fights, and even more surprised if they win. As far as he
was concerned, this had been the case for the past year. The
situation was different in the West Bank, however, where
Fatah remained relatively strong and had even started to

TEL AVIV 00001733 002 OF 002

kidnap Hamas activists. Yadlin agreed that Tawfiq Tirawi had
a power base in the West Bank, but he added that Fatah was
not cohesive.

¶6. (S) The Ambassador commented that if Fatah decided it has
lost Gaza, there would be calls for Abbas to set up a
separate regime in the West Bank. While not necessarily
reflecting a consensus GOI view, Yadlin commented that such a
development would please Israel since it would enable the IDF
to treat Gaza as a hostile country rather than having to deal
with Hamas as a non-state actor. He added that Israel could
work with a Fatah regime in the West Bank. The Ambassador
asked Yadlin if he worried about a Hamas-controlled Gaza
giving Iran a new opening. Yadlin replied that Iran was
already present in Gaza, but Israel could handle the
situation “as long as Gaza does not have a port (sea or air).”

War with Syria “Could Happen Easily”
————————————

¶7. (S) Noting Israeli press speculation, the Ambassador
asked Yadlin if he expected war with Syria this summer.
Recalling the 1967 war, Yadlin commented that it had started
as a result of the Soviet Ambassador in Israel reporting on
non-existing Israeli preparations to attack Syria. Something
similar was happening again, he said, with the Russians
telling the Syrians that Israel planned to attack them,
possibly in concert with a U.S. attack on Iran. Yadlin
stated that since last summer’s war in Lebanon, Syria had
engaged in a “frenzy of preparations” for a confrontation
with Israel. The Syrian regime was also showing greater
self-confidence. Some Syrian leaders appeared to believe
that Syria could take on Israel military, but others were
more cautious. The fact that both sides were on high alert
meant that a war could happen easily, even though neither
side is seeking one. In response to a question, Yadlin said
he did not think the Asad regime would survive a war, but he
added that preserving that “evil” regime should not be a
matter of concern.

Fighting in Nahr al-Barid Positive for Israel
———————————————

¶8. (S) The Ambassador asked Yadlin for his views on the
fighting in the Nahr al-Barid refugee camp in northern
Lebanon. Although Yadlin was called to another meeting and
did not have time to elaborate, he answered that the fighting
was positive for Israel because it had embarrassed Hizballah,
which had been unable to adopt a clear-cut position on the
Lebanese Army’s action, and because the Fatah al-Islam
terrorist organization had been planning to attack UNIFIL and
then Israel before it blundered into its current
confrontation with the LAF. He also agreed that the
confrontation was strengthening the LAF, in fact and in the
eyes of the Lebanese people, which was also good.

¶9. (S) Comment: Yadlin’s relatively relaxed attitude toward
the deteriorating security situation in Gaza represents a
shift in IDF thinking from last fall, when the Southern
Command supported a major ground operation into Gaza to
remove the growing threat from Hamas. While many media
commentators continue to make that argument, Yadlin’s view
appears to be more in synch with that of Chief of General
Staff Ashkenazi, who also believes that the more serious
threat to Israel currently comes from the north.

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