May 2008

08RIYADH768 2008-05-14 09:09 2010-12-07 21:09 SECRET Embassy Riyadh

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SIPDIS

EO 12958 DECL: 05/12/2018
TAGS IR, IS, IZ, LE, MASS, MCAP, MNUC, MOPS, PGOV, PINR,
PREL, SA
SUBJECT: LEBANON: SAG FM SAYS UN PEACE KEEPING FORCE NEEDED
NOW

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Gfoeller for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d)

¶1. (S) SUMMARY. S/I Ambassador David Satterfield and an MNF-I/Embassy Baghdad team met with SAG Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal on May 10. While Iraq was the main topic discussed, Saud brought up events taking place in Beirut and emphasized the need for a “security response” to Hizballah,s “military challenge to the Government of Lebanon.” Specifically, Saud argued for an “Arab force” to create and maintain order in and around Beirut, which would be assisted in its efforts and come under the “cover” of a deployment of UNIFIL troops from south Lebanon. The US and NATO would need to provide movement and logistic support, as well as “naval and air cover.” Saud said that a Hizballah victory in Beirut would mean the end of the Siniora government and the “Iranian takeover” of Lebanon. END SUMMARY.

Lebanon: A “Military” Problem with a Military Solution

——————————————— ———

¶2. (S) Opening a discussion with S/I Satterfield focused largely on Iraq, Saud first turned to Lebanon and stated that the effort by “Hizballah and Iran” to take over Beirut was the first step in a process that would lead to the overthrow of the Siniora government and an “Iranian takeover of all Lebanon.” Such a victory, combined with Iranian actions in Iraq and on the Palestinian front, would be a disaster for the US and the entire region. Saud argued that the present situation in Beirut was “entirely military” and that the solution must be military as well. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) were too fragile to bear more pressure; they needed urgent backing to secure Beirut from Hizballah’s assault. What was needed was an “Arab force” drawn from Arab “periphery” states to deploy to Beirut under the “cover of the UN” and with a significant presence drawn from UNIFIL in south Lebanon “which is sitting doing nothing.” The US and NATO would be asked to provide equipment for such a force as well as logistics, movement support, and “naval and air cover.”

¶3. (S) Satterfield asked what support this concept had from Siniora and from other Arab states. Saud responded that “Siniora strongly supports,” but that only Jordan and Egypt “as well as Arab League SYG Moussa” were aware of the proposal, lest premature surfacing result in its demise. No contacts had been made with Syria on any Beirut developments, Saud said, adding, “what would be the use?”
An “Easier Battle to Win”

————————-

¶4. (S) Saud said that of all the regional fronts on which Iran was now advancing, the battle in Lebanon to secure peace would be an “easier battle to win” (than Iraq or on the Palestinian front). Satterfield said that the “political and military” feasibility of the undertaking Saud had outlined would appear very much open to question. In particular, attempting to establish a new mandate for UNIFIL would be very problematic. Satterfield said the US would carefully

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study any Arab decision on a way forward. Saud concluded by underscoring that a UN/Arab peace-keeping force coupled with US air and naval support would “keep out Hezbollah forever” in Lebanon.

¶5. (U) Ambassador Satterfield has cleared this cable.

FRAKER

08REYKJAVIK93 2008-05-22 16:04 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Reykjavik

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INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
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UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000093

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV PHUM UNHCR KPAL SY IZ IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND: PALESTINIAN REFUGEE ADMISSIONS REVEAL DISCORD,
AMBIVALENCE

¶1. (U) Summary: Iceland’s recently-announced plan to accept 30
Palestinian refugees has sparked new debate on societal tolerance of
immigrants and again revealed deep divisions in the Liberal Party.
Meanwhile, the town of Akranes, just outside Reykjavik, is poised to
accept the refugees despite a loosely-organized petition drive
opposing the plan. End Summary.

¶2. (U) On May 6, the Icelandic Government approved a proposal by
the Icelandic Refugee Council to offer asylum to up to 30
Palestinian refugees in Iceland. The refugees would fulfill
Iceland’s UNHCR referral quota of 25-30 refugees a year. The group
is made up of single mothers and their children currently staying in
the Al Waleed refugee camps close to Iraq’s border with Syria. As
part of its proposal, the Refugee Council asked the government of
the western Iceland town of Akranes if the town would be interested
in receiving the refugees. On May 19, the town council decided
unanimously to start talks with the Ministry of Social Affairs on
receiving the refugees.

¶3. (U) The Refugee Council’s proposal immediately sparked debate
within the Akranes branch of the Liberal Party (LP), which is part
of the governing majority on the town council. Magnus Thor
Hafsteinsson, the national LP Deputy Chairman and the party’s first
alternate town councilor in Akranes, opposed the reception of the
refugees on several grounds. He said that the inhabitants had not
been previously informed of the possible arrival of the refugees,
and he also stated that the town was already short of funds to
tackle an increase in the town’s own social problems. In response,
on May 14 the LP’s sitting town councilor, Karen Jonsdottir, left
the party, citing her disagreement with Hafsteinsson’s remarks.
Jonsdottir switched ranks to the Independence Party (IP), giving the
IP a single-party majority on the council.

¶4. (U) The refugee issue has sparked a debate in Akranes and
divided the town into two opposing camps. The opponents have even
started a signature petition in the town against receiving the
refugees, though the town council has been dismissive of what
appears to be a poorly-organized effort. This is the first time
that refugee admissions have generated such a strong reaction in
Iceland, despite the fact that the majority of the 227 refugees
settled in Iceland since 1996 have also gone to smaller towns rather
than Reykjavik and suburbs.

¶5. (SBU) Comment: The signature petition and Hafsteinsson’s
comments are characteristic of growing xenophobic tensions in
Icelandic society. Iceland’s extremely low unemployment and need
for foreign labor means this friction cannot be ascribed to
frustrated Icelanders’ losing jobs to foreign immigrant labor.
Rather, this appears to be a function of a homogenic society —
dating from the original Viking Age settlement — coming into more
frequent contact with other cultures, people of different skin
color, and new residents who speak languages not understood by
native Icelanders. This is also the first time Iceland has agreed
to accept refugees from the Middle East, an element which may be
causing further discomfort.

¶6. (SBU) Comment, cont’d: Additionally, Hafsteinsson seems to be
making another run at trying out a nationalistic plank for the
Liberal Party platform. His previous attempt just prior to the 2007
parliamentary elections gave the LP a short-term boost in polls but
failed to bring long-term success as all other parties publicly
announced they would not join a government coalition with the LP.
In the end, the LP took just five percent of the vote nationwide.
However, if Iceland’s recent economic troubles worsen and
unemployment becomes a significant problem, Hafsteinsson may find
more fertile ground for his efforts.

VAN VOORST

08TELAVIV1005 2008-05-06 17:05 2010-12-19 21:09 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

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NSC FOR ABRAMS AND PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/06/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV MASS IS XF
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR PRESIDENT BUSH’S VISIT TO ISRAEL

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

¶1. (C) Israel is preparing to celebrate the sixtieth
anniversary of its declaration of independence on May 8 with
a characteristically Israeli mix of pride in their
achievements and worry about the future. One point that
unites virtually all Israelis — except for the extreme left
and right — is their appreciation for President Bush’s
friendship and support throughout his two terms. When the
President arrives here next week, he will be greeted warmly
as a friend not just by Israel’s political and military
elite, but also by the vast majority of its seven million
people. As one average Israeli who wrote to the Ambassador
put it, the silent majority of Israelis want to thank the
President for sharing with them the celebrations marking
Israel’s sixtieth year.

Israeli Pride Justified
———————–

¶2. (C) Israelis’ sense of pride in their achievements is
fully justified. The vision of a strong, democratic Jewish
state that would be a haven for Jews everywhere started as a
desperate dream, as Israel’s fledgling army was bolstered by
the arrival of tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors and
hundreds of Jewish WW II veterans who arrived just in time to
help counter the invasion of the new state by the armies of
Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, not to mention the
Palestinians’ irregular forces. Today, Israel is very much a
reality, with a vibrantly original Hebrew-speaking cultural
life, a Tel Aviv skyline dominated by gleaming skyscrapers, a
booming high tech-based economy, and the strongest army in
the Middle East. Israel at sixty is firmly Western in its
values but also more diverse ethnically and culturally, less
Europe-oriented, and decidedly more capitalist than the
Israel founded largely by East European-born socialists. For
all of its problems with finding the right electoral formula
to bring about stable governments, Israel’s democracy is also
a thriving reality. Israel is the only Middle Eastern
country in which its citizens take for granted the peaceful
transfer of political power via the ballot box.

And Anxieties are Real
———————-

¶3. (S) Yet this year’s celebrations are also tinged with
anxiety. The looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, whose
leaders constantly declare their determination to wipe Israel
off the map, weighs heavily on the minds of Israelis, who
regard their country not only through the prism of the
Holocaust but also as the only UN member-state to be
routinely threatened with annihilation. Iran’s success in
projecting power directly into the core of the Arab-Israeli
conflict through its ties to Syria, Hizballah and Hamas
compounds the sense of threat. Despite the great diplomatic
achievements represented by the peace treaties with Egypt and
Jordan, Israelis worry about the frayed nature of their
relations with Egypt and are unsure about the outlook of the
Egyptian leadership that will follow Mubarak. Israel enjoys
excellent relations with the Jordanian royal palace and
security services, but virtually no contact with Jordan’s
largely Palestinian civil society, most of which boycotts any
connections to Israel. Israelis are watching carefully to
see how the U.S. manages the next few years of our
involvement in Iraq and whether we can succeed in stabilizing
Iraq in a way that avoids its becoming either an Iranian
client state or a source of instability that overwhelms
Jordan’s fragile balance.

Changing Views on Palestinians
——————————

¶4. (S) Closer to home, Israelis’ views of their relations
with their Palestinian neighbors are changing as well. In
the aftermath of the Second Intifada, a solid majority of
Israelis has come to accept the need for a Palestinian state
and for Israel to relinquish control of most of the West Bank
(although the exact percentage is still a topic for
discussion, as are the timing and circumstances under which
this would occur). Gone are the days when many Israelis
questioned the existence of a Palestinian national identity,
and today only a small minority — though still an outspoken
and determined one — continues to articulate a demand to
retain control of all of the West Bank for
religious/historical reasons. Prime Minister Olmert and
Foreign Minister Livni, both of whom grew up and began their
political careers as strong advocates of Israel’s historic
right to all of Jerusalem and the West Bank, are among the
leading examples of Israelis who have become convinced that
only a two-state solution and painful territorial compromise

TEL AVIV 00001005 002 OF 003

will enable Israel to preserve its identity as a democratic,
Jewish state. The growing assertiveness of Israel’s large
Arab minority, now about twenty percent of the total
population, is both a further source of concern and an
additional impetus to create a Palestinian state.

¶5. (S) One problem, however, is the lack of a broad-based
Israeli confidence in the Palestinians’ capacity to hold up
their end of the land-for-peace bargain. Olmert publicly
stresses his confidence in Mahmoud Abbas’ determination to
achieve peace, and virtually all Israeli leaders tell us how
much they respect Salam Fayyad, yet few believe that Abbas or
Fayyad enjoy much popular legitimacy among Palestinians. The
public generally accepts the admonitions of Defense Minister
Barak and those of the leaders of the IDF and Israel’s
security services that the Palestinian Authority Security
Forces lack the determination to stand up to Hamas if push
comes to shove. The precedent set by Gaza is one that no one
wants to see repeated in the West Bank. The IDF’s strategic
concept is heavily rooted in the absolute need to prevent the
hills of the West Bank from becoming sites from which rockets
could be launched at Israel’s heavily populated central
plain. Hamas’ control of Gaza and the daily rain of rockets
from Gaza on southern Israel pose another kind of problem.
The political leadership is grappling with whether an
Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire in Gaza would calm the
situation or make it worse by strengthening Hamas politically
and militarily while undermining Abbas. The only other
options on the table involve a broader armed conflict with
Hamas, but Israel is constrained by the potential for high
casualties, international condemnation, and most of all, the
lack of a good exit strategy should it decide to invade Gaza
to topple the Hamas regime there. All of these calculations
could be upset at any time by a rocket from Gaza that strikes
a busy school or hospital, thus forcing the Israeli
leadership to order massive retaliation. Israel is working
with us on missile defense options, but their preferred
system will not be operational for two years. One way we
could help would be by offering to provide the kinds of
short-range defenses against rockets that we are using in
Iraq.

Inertia Favors Settlers
———————–

¶6. (S) Another outstanding issue is how and when to confront
the settler movement and get serious about outposts and
settlements. Inertia is on the side of the settlers. Even
if they no longer have the sympathy of the Israeli public,
they have powerful allies in the bureaucracy, wealthy backers
in Israel and abroad who are willing to fund the settlement
enterprise, and an IDF that will not challenge the settlers
without clear instructions from the political echelon (and
even then may drag its feet). Barak, Deputy PM Ramon, and
others are engaged in discussions with the settler
leadership, and after Secretary Rice’s latest visit the PM’s
office leaked to the media that he has discussed with Abbas
moving 60,000 settlers out of the West Bank. If true, this
is a dramatic development. Olmert’s need to retain the
support of the Shas Party and his political ups and downs
have so far resulted in the settler leadership being much
more determined to hold on than the GOI is to start moving
them out.

Olmert’s Political Woes Return
——————————

¶7. (S) Even as we finalize the preparations for the
President’s visit, Prime Minister Olmert is once again facing
a political crisis. Having survived the Winograd Committee’s
final report and weathered four separate, interminable
corruption investigations, in the past few weeks Ehud Olmert
appeared to have regained his political footing and was
openly declaring his plans to run for reelection, possibly in
early 2009. Then suddenly last week, the media was full of
reports that the Attorney General had authorized the police
to initiate a fifth criminal investigation of Olmert. At the
same time, the Attorney General imposed a gag order that
prevented the public from knowing the specifics of the
charges and barred the Prime Minister from mobilizing a
public defense against them. We do not know the details,
though leaks in the media indicate that an American investor
may be involved with the PM in alleged financial misdeeds
sometime before Olmert became Prime Minister. And although
Olmert has survived the four previous investigations,
informed Israelis are suggesting that this time he may be in
much more serious trouble.

¶8. (S) Labor Party insider and Minister of Infrastructure
Fuad Ben Eliezer told the Ambassador May 6 that, according to

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his information, the nature of the charges is such that
Olmert may be forced to resign in the near future. Ben
Eliezer echoed comments from other political analysts that if
Olmert resigns, the most likely scenario will be for Livni to
become interim Prime Minister and head of the Kadima Party.
If Livni becomes PM, Ben Eliezer was confident that Barak
would keep Labor inside the Coalition and that elections
could be delayed until some time next year. As Ben Eliezer
put it, the political weakness of the constituent members of
the coalition is the key to its strength, since none of them
have an interest in early elections. At this point, we
cannot predict how accurate Ben Eliezer’s prediction is
likely to be, and no one should discount Ehud Olmert’s
determination to hold on. But at a minimum, the latest
charges represent an exceptionally unwelcome cloud over
Olmert’s head as he prepares to greet the President.

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