June 2009

09TELAVIV1184 2009-06-02 13:01 2010-12-19 21:09 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV KNNP IR KWBG EG IS
SUBJECT: CODELS ACKERMAN AND CASEY MEETINGS WITH PRIME
MINISTER NETANYAHU

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Luis G. Moreno, Reason 1.4 (b),(
d)

¶1. (S) Summary. CODEL Ackerman and Casey met separately May
26 and 27 with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The Prime
Minister discussed his visit to Washington, focusing on his
discussions of Iran, a regional approach in support of
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and his approach to the
Palestinians and settlements, including his opposition to a
complete freeze on settlement construction. Netanyahu said
he was pleased with President Obama’s approach to engagement
with Iran and on a regional component to peacemaking. On the
Palestinians, he reiterated his view that the Palestinian
Authority (PA) must declare its recognition of Israel as a
Jewish state, and also reviewed his thinking on the
importance of security for Israelis and his support for
increased Arab private investment in the West Bank. On
settlements, Netanyahu said he would take action against
illegal outposts and would not build new settlements or
confiscate more Palestinian land, but he insisted that he
would not support a complete freeze on construction, and
noted that his advisers would try to close the gap with the
U.S. on this issue. Members of the CODELs pressed Netanyahu
on the importance of finding ways to strengthen PA President
Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, as well as to address
humanitarian and reconstruction needs in Gaza. End summary.

Washington Visit
—————-

¶2. (S) Prime Minister Netanyahu told CODEL Ackerman that he
did not feel boxed in politically and that his coalition in
fact reflects the demands of the Israeli public to address
their concern about security. While some argue that
agreements bring security, Netanyahu said Israel’s experience
of the past fifteen years proved that neither agreements nor
unilateral withdrawals brought security. Netanyahu said he
had told President Obama that while he would not condition
negotiations with the Palestinians on halting Iran’s progress
toward a nuclear weapon, if Iran obtained such a weapon it
would destroy any progress made toward peace. He added that
Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah were
in complete agreement with him on that point.

¶3. (S) For the sake of both security and peace, the first
task is to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu noted that
the President had assured him that by the end of the year,
the U.S. will decide whether engagement is working and that
the goal is to stop Iran’s program. The President told him
that all options remain on the table, a point confirmed by
Secretaries Clinton and Gates. Netanyahu said he and Mubarak
agreed that a nuclear Iran would lead others in the region to
develop nuclear weapons, resulting in the biggest threat to
non-proliferation efforts since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This “nightmare scenario” is well understood in Washington,
he said.

¶4. (C) Turning to peace efforts, Netanyahu said the
President is bringing a fresh approach to regional peace
whereby the Arabs would enhance the Israeli-Palestinian
track. It will be especially important to get the Saudis on
board, he added. On the two-state solution, Netanyahu noted
that the President had stressed his support for two states.
He had told the President that Israelis did not want to rule
Palestinians. Netanyahu said he was prepared for
“arrangements” with the Palestinians that would entail some
limits on their sovereignty such as no Palestinian army, and
Israeli control over borders, airspace, and the
electromagnetic spectrum. Netanyahu asserted that seventy to
eighty percent of Israelis are ready to make concessions for
peace but they do not believe they have a Palestinian partner
since Hamas is in control of Gaza and Iran has a base on
Israel’s border. How can there be peace without a new
situation in Gaza, he asked.

¶5. (C) Turning to settlements, Netanyahu noted that he had
told the President that both Israel and the Palestinians had
unfulfilled Roadmap commitments. Without elaborating, he
noted that there were written and oral understandings between
President Bush and Prime Ministers Sharon and Olmert on the
Roadmap. In Gaza, Israel dismantled twenty-seven settlements
but got six thousand rockets from Hamas in return.

Support the PA
————–

¶6. (C) Chairman Ackerman commented that President Abbas and
Prime Minister Fayyad are necessary for progress, and noted
that both Israel and the U.S. will be in trouble if they are
replaced. Something needs to be done to help them stay in
power. They need material support but also the promise of

TEL AVIV 00001184 002 OF 003

statehood. Foreign investment in the West Bank would give a
real horizon as well. Netanyahu agreed, saying Gulf Arab
investors had been successful in transforming their own
societies and could make a great contribution to the
Palestinians. He added that he wanted to bring Gulf
investors into the West Bank since they would change reality
for the Palestinians but also give Israelis confidence.
Ackerman responded that this was a great idea, but it should
come from Abbas, not Israel. The more credit Abbas can take
for steps forward, the better.

¶7. (C) In response to a question about the PA security
forces’ capabilities, Netanyahu commented that he supports
the PA’s desire to keep Hamas at a distance. A national
unity government without Hamas’ acceptance of the Quartet
conditions would serve Hamas’ interests, adding that Israel
has a common interest with the PA to prevent a Hamas takeover
of the West Bank. Netanyahu said there is a steady flow of
Iranian weapons to Gaza through Sudan or Syria and then by
sea, but he said Egypt’s performance in stopping the tunnels
has improved now that Cairo understands that the Iranian arms
pipeline is a direct threat to Egypt as well.

¶8. (C) On the economic side, Netanyahu said he wants to
establish a joint plan with the PA to improve conditions in
the West Bank. He cited Cyprus as an example of economic
prosperity leading to reduced political tensions. Sen.
Lautenberg pushed Netanyahu to &put Israel,s best face
forward8 in the West Bank, and to work with the PA on water
issues, conservation and health, where Israel could
contribute a great deal and there are many opportunities to
build cooperation that would benefit people. Netanyahu
responded that his ministerial committee on improving the
lives of Palestinians in the West Bank met earlier in the day
and that he is committed to overcoming the turf wars and
excessive caution that have undercut development efforts in
the West Bank in the past. He said the GOI is looking at
creative ideas, such as how to facilitate tourism to Jericho,
advance projects in water and agriculture, in addition to
promoting business (note: he estimated that there are 100
projects Israel is examining in the West Bank). &It is
beyond belief8 what can be done in the West Bank, he said,
but he hoped the PA would engage with Israel on these
efforts. Netanyahu added that the fact that there had not
been any large anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank
during Operation Cast Lead meant that Palestinians in the
West Bank want a better life, not confrontation with Israel.

¶9. (C) Representative Ellison, noting that he is the first
Muslim to be elected to Congress, said he visited Gaza in
February and met with NGO representatives who could deliver
assistance without the credit going to Hamas. He urged
Netanyahu to consider opening the Gaza crossings, adding that
Gazans he had met told him they want peace and would like to
get their jobs back in Israel. Netanyahu responded that he
is looking at ways to balance Israeli security with enabling
Gazans to have a normal life. The flow of money and weapons
to Hamas remains a problem since Hamas is extending the range
and payload of the rockets it possesses. In response to
Representative Ellison’s comment that Israel should allow
USAID to return to Gaza, Netanyahu said he thought that it
might be a good thing to have USAID operate in Gaza.

Settlements and Outposts
————————

¶10. (C) Netanyahu said that illegal outposts were a legal
question and his government would enforce the law. The
outposts should be removed through dialogue with the GOI if
possible, but it should be done in any case. Regarding
settlements, Netanyahu said he wants to work with the U.S. on
the basis of the understandings reached with the Bush
Administration, i.e. that Israel will not build new
settlements or seize more land, but if families grow, they
will still have the right to build within existing settlement
boundaries. Now Israel is hearing that the U.S. wants no
construction at all. Israelis consider this position to be
unfair, he said. The question is whether the U.S. is seeking
a geographic or a demographic restriction on settlements.

¶11. (C) Netanyahu commented that Israel needs a common
understanding with the U.S. The U.S. position should be
“reasonable,” since opposition to a total freeze cuts across
political parties in Israel. This is more of an issue with
the U.S. than with the Palestinians, Netanyahu asserted,
arguing that the PA will go along if there is an
understanding between Israel and the U.S. He noted that
Israeli officials were meeting with U.S. officials on this
issue, adding that there could be an understanding if the
U.S. wants one. Netanyahu commented that he understood there
should be no land seizures, but he could not tell settlers

TEL AVIV 00001184 003 OF 003

not to have children. In response to a question about GOI
incentives to settlers, Netanyahu’s adviser Ron Dermer said
the Olmert government had already removed them. Netanyahu
said this was an issue that Israel could discuss further with
the U.S.

Iranian Threat
————–

¶12. (S) Chairman Ackerman said that in his meetings with
Arab leaders, he found them all concerned about Iran. They
said it would helpful to resolve the Palestinian issue, but
Israel-Palestine is not the main threat to the region.
Netanyahu, following a similar comment during his meeting
with CODEL Casey, responded that there are no Arab leaders
who would tell the U.S. to wait on Iran until there is a
settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Ackerman also
explained that the U.S. will try engagement in order to
prevent an unwise and premature use of force. We will
tighten sanctions at the same time, for which we need the
support of the international community, Ackerman explained.
Netanyahu noted that Ahmadinejad had said he would not stop
Iran’s nuclear program. President Obama had been clear in
his comments to Netanyahu that U.S. engagement would be
results-oriented and not open-ended. If engagement did not
work, the U.S. would gain the moral high ground, which would
help make economic pressure more effective. Ackerman agreed
that more pressure was needed and said we need to figure out
what the Russians and others want. Netanyahu said that in
contrast to North Korea, the Iranian nuclear and missile
programs were direct threats to Israel, Europe and U.S.
interests in the Gulf, and he emphasized that the program was
not defensive in nature. In response to a question from
Representative Jackson-Lee, Netanyahu encouraged quick action
on a bill in the Congress to pressure foreign oil companies
not to sell refined petroleum to Iran. This might not be
enough to stop Iran’s program but it would send a strong
signal. Netanyahu also urged that the U.S. demand that Iran
stop all uranium enrichment since enrichment is the main
element of their program. He commented that Iran might try
to use the talks with the U.S. to continue or accelerate
their enrichment process. Netanyahu cautioned that he was
skeptical of the idea that the Iranian leadership could
change. They have a dangerous worldview, a violent
theocracy, but it may be possible to move them if they find
the U.S. strong and determined. Iran, he commented, is bent
on becoming a global and not just a regional power.

¶13. (U) CODELS Ackerman and Casey did not have the
opportunity to clear this message.

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CUNNINGHAM

09TELAVIV1177 2009-06-02 06:06 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/01/2019
TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV MOPS IR KWBG IS
SUBJECT: CODELS CASEY AND ACKERMAN MEET WITH DEFENSE
MINISTER BARAK

Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, reasons 1.4 (b,d)

¶1. (C) Summary: Post hosted two CODELS during the week of
May 25: one from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led
by Senator Casey, the other from the House Committee on
Foreign Affairs led by Congressman Ackerman. Both
delegations met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who
conveyed similar points on the Peace Process and Israel’s
concerns about Iran. End summary.

Peace Process
————-

¶2. (C) Barak began his meeting with the Casey delegation by
apologizing for being late due to what he described as an
“internal debate” at the Prime Minister’s office regarding
the development of a response to President Obama’s upcoming
speech in Cairo. He noted there are “perceived gaps” between
the USG and the GOI regarding the Peace Process, and
explained the GOI’s internal debate is focused primarily on
how to ensure that the U.S. and Israel “trust each other.”
Barak expressed confidence that PM Netanyahu is sincere in
wanting to “seize this opportunity and move forward” with the
Palestinians, but alluded to members of the coalition who do
not agree with this course of action.

¶3. (C) From his perspective, Barak told the Casey delegation
that the GOI was in no position to dictate policy to the
Palestinians or the USG regarding the Peace Process — “it
takes two to tango, and three to negotiate,” he said. Barak
noted that it is the GOI’s responsibility to ensure that “no
stone is left unturned” regarding the Peace Process; if
efforts to achieve peace ultimately fail, then the GOI must
be able to state that every effort was pursued. He said he
personally had no objection to “two states for two nations,”
and panned Arab arguments for a bi-national state in Israel.
Barak said Israel envisions “two peoples living side by side
in peace and good neighborliness” as the final goal.

¶4. (C) With the Ackerman delegation, Barak focused on the
need for a regional approach to the peace process. He
supports a regional initiative for peace and cooperation for
the entire Middle East region to be launched by Israel. He
stressed as well the need to build trust and convince the
U.S. administration that the new Israeli government is
“serious in its efforts toward peace.”

¶5. (C) Barak commented on political developments in the West
Bank and Gaza in both meetings. He said the GOI continues to
review its policy, and then added that the Palestinian
Authority has much to accomplish in terms of law enforcement,
a functioning judiciary, and regaining control of Gaza before
a “balanced” Palestinian state can be created. He has been
extremely impressed with the work of U.S. Security
Coordinator Gen. Dayton training PA security forces, and
commended Salam Fayyad’s concrete, practical approach.

¶6. (C) Barak made clear in these meetings that he feels the
Palestinian Authority is weak and lacks self-confidence, and
that Gen. Dayton’s training helps bolster confidence. He
explained that the GOI had consulted with Egypt and Fatah
prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to
assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas. Not
surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers
from both. He stressed the importance of continued
consultations with both Egypt and Fatah — as well as the NGO
community — regarding Gaza reconstruction, and to avoid
publicly linking any resolution in Gaza to the release of
kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Iran/North Korea
—————-

¶7. (C) In his meeting with CODEL Casey, Barak said the GOI
believes its “keystone” relations with the USG remain strong.
He described the integral role the USG plays in preserving
Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME), especially when
faced with threats posed by Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas. He
noted that the GOI’s positions on Iran are well known, and
described North Korea’s recent nuclear test as a “second
wake-up call” (the first being the AQ Khan network). Barak
asked rhetorically how a lack of firm response to North Korea
would be interpreted by Iran’s leadership, speculating the
USG would be viewed as a “paper tiger.”

¶8. (C) In both meetings, Barak said “no option should be
removed from the table” when confronting Iran and North
Korea; engagement will only work in conjunction with a
credible military option, he said. Barak said he was

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personally skeptical that engagement would lead to an
acceptable resolution, and argued in favor of a paradigm
shift to confront the triple threat posed by nuclear
proliferation, Islamic extremist terrorism, and rogue/failing
states. He said a strategic partnership with China, Russia,
India, and the EU is essential in facing these threats.
Barak argued that failure to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran
would result in a nuclear arms race in the region as Turkey,
Egypt, and Saudi Arabia look to acquire nuclear weapons.

¶9. (C) When asked if the USG and GOI have fundamental
differences of opinion when assessing Iran’s nuclear program,
Barak said we share the same intelligence, but acknowledged
differences in analysis. He suggested that the USG view is
similar to presenting evidence in a criminal court case in
which a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
As such, USG standards are tougher — especially following
the failure to find WMD in Iraq — while end-products such as
the 2007 NIE unintentionally take on a softer tone as a
result. Barak said the fate of the region and the world
rests on our ability to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear
weapons — as such, the standards for determining guilt
should be lower as the costs are higher.

¶10. (C) In both meetings, Barak described Iranians as “chess,
not backgammon players.” As such, Iran will attempt to avoid
any hook to hang accusations on, and look to Pakistan and
North Korea as models to emulate in terms of acquiring
nuclear weapons while defying the international community.
He doubted Tehran would opt for an open, relatively
low-threshold test like the recent one in North Korea.
Rather, Iran will seek ways to bypass the NPT while ensuring
its program is redundant and well-protected to prevent an
irreparable military strike. Barak estimated a window
between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from
acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable. After that,
he said, any military solution would result in unacceptable
collateral damage. He also expressed concern that should
Iran develop nuclear capabilities, other rogue states and/or
terrorist groups would not be far behind.

Pakistan
——–

¶11. (C) Barak reinforced his message regarding Pakistan in
both meetings. He described Pakistan as his “private
nightmare,” suggesting the world might wake up one morning
“with everything changed” following a potential Islamic
extremist takeover. When asked if the use of force on Iran
might backfire with moderate Muslims in Pakistan, thereby
exacerbating the situation, Barak acknowledged Iran and
Pakistan are interconnected, but disagreed with a causal
chain. To the contrary, he argued that if the United States
had directly confronted North Korea in recent years, others
would be less inclined to pursue nuclear weapons programs.
By avoiding confrontation with Iran, Barak argued, the U.S.
faces a perception of weakness in the region.

¶12. (U) CODELS Casey and Ackerman did not have the
opportunity to clear this message.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website:
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********************************************* ********************
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09MOSCOW1488 2009-06-05 13:01 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001488

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL IR IS SY GG RS
SUBJECT: ISRAELI FM LIEBERMAN IN MOSCOW

Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells for reasons 1.4 (b/d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Israeli FM Lieberman’s June 2-3 visit to
Russia appears not to have broken new ground diplomatically,
but cemented Moscow’s impression that the Russian-speaking
Lieberman is one of their own. The trip included meetings
with Medvedev and Putin, as well as a lengthy discussion with
FM Lavrov, during which Lieberman indicated that Israel was
not considering a military strike on Iran. Both sides agreed
to hold off on scheduling the Moscow ME conference until
after President Obama’s visit to Moscow, and Lavrov quizzed
Lieberman on a possible U.S. plan to bring together Israeli
and Palestinian leaders. Lieberman rebuffed Lavrov’s calls
for Israel to ease the pressure on Gaza and halt settlement
expansion, while Lavrov agreed to consider Lieberman’s
request for Russian officials to visit the Israeli soldier
held by Hamas. Lavrov said that “nothing new” could happen
on Iran until the U.S. opened its dialogue with Tehran, and
repeated Russian concerns about the need to reach a
negotiated settlement with this “important neighbor.” He
reiterated that Russia had not transferred S-300s to Iran,
but also had to consider its contract to provide the missiles
to Tehran. Lavrov thanked Israel for limiting military sales
to Georgia, but thought other countries were supplying
offensive weapons to Tiblisi, which could be emboldened to
start “another adventure.” The FMs discussed expanding
bilateral economic ties, and Lavrov raised Russian concern
that Israel was partaking in “historical revisionism” that
sought to blame Russia for the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s.
End summary.

Behaved Like an Old Friend
————————–

¶2. (C) Israeli DCM Yuval Fuchs told us that FM Lieberman’s
June 2-3 visit to Russia ran the gamut of international and
bilateral issues, from the peace process to the payment of
Soviet-era pensions to Russian speakers living in Israel.
His visit centered upon a two-hour June 2 meeting with FM
Lavrov that Fuchs characterized as a standard presentation of
views, during which “nothing breathtaking” was said.
Lieberman had a hectic day that began with a meeting at
Medvedev’s home on the outskirts of Moscow, then the Lavrov
meeting at the MFA, a flight to St. Petersburg on a chartered
plane to see Putin, and dinner with Lavrov upon returning to
Moscow. On June 3, Lieberman had breakfast with former FM
Igor Ivanov (a personal friend), meetings with the heads of
the Duma and Federation Council international affairs
committees, discussions with Russian Jewish leaders, and a
press conference. He then departed Moscow for Minsk.

¶3. (C) Fuchs explained that Lieberman conducted his meetings
in Russian, shared stories about Moscow, and smoked, creating
a comfortable atmosphere with his Russian interlocutors. The
Israeli FM “behaved like an old friend” commented Fuchs, who
thought that the Russians acted as if they already knew him,
although it was too early to say whether this personal
diplomacy would have a measurable effect on already strong
Russia-Israel relations.

Lavrov-Lieberman
—————-

¶4. (C) Fuchs said that during the meeting with Lavrov, the
GOR’s planned Moscow ME conference was not a central topic
for either side. Lieberman stressed the importance of
coordinating such efforts with the U.S., and said it would
not be appropriate to set the timing of a conference until
after President Obama’s visit to Moscow. Lavrov agreed, and
said that Moscow did not want to hold a conference that would
not produce results. Lavrov asked Lieberman if Israel was
aware of an idea supposedly floated by S/E Mitchell to bring
together Israeli and Palestinian leaders; Lieberman said no.

¶5. (C) Lavrov pressed Israel to open checkpoints into Gaza,
and suggested posting international monitors to allay Israeli
concerns regarding smuggling. When Lavrov argued that Hamas
had stuck by the Gaza cease-fire, Lieberman retorted that
Hamas would break the cease-fire when it believed doing so
suited its needs. Lavrov also pressed Israel to freeze the
settlements, leading Lieberman to respond that “life goes on”
and settlement expansion was necessary to accommodate growing
communities.

¶6. (C) Fuchs said that Lavrov criticized the U.S. on several
fronts, telling Lieberman that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was
a “present” to Iran, and the U.S. decision to isolate Syria
was a “setback” for a comprehensive ME settlement.
Furthermore, the U.S. failure to “listen” to Russia, which

MOSCOW 00001488 002 OF 002

advised against Palestinian elections, had allowed Hamas to
come to power and eventually take over Gaza, thereby
strengthening Iran’s position in the region.

Syria
—–

¶7. (C) Lavrov thought that the Turkish-led negotiations
between Israel and Syria had been positive, and said that
during his recent visit to Damascus, the Syrians indicated
that they were ready to renew talks either through Turkey or
Russia so long as they would include the future of the Golan
Heights. Lavrov said that he raised with Hamas leaders the
need to allow visits to captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Lieberman asked if Russian officials could visit Shalit, and
Lavrov directed DFM Saltanov to explore this possibility.

Iran
—-

¶8. (C) Lavrov predicted that “nothing new” would happen with
Iran until after the U.S. began its dialogue with Tehran,
although he thought there was a better chance to get a “clear
answer” from Iran on P5 1 proposals under the current U.S.
Administration. He reiterated that Russia did not believe
there existed hard evidence that Iran’s nuclear program had a
military dimension, and thought it transparent enough to
detect whether resources were directed to military uses.

¶9. (C) Lavrov expressed Russian interest in reaching a
negotiated solution to the crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear
program, and the need for the West to normalize relations
with Tehran, a close Russian neighbor with which it shared
the Caspian and its resources. He raised Russian concern
that an Israeli attack on Iran would cause instability in the
region and an influx of refugees into the Caucasus. Fuchs
said that Lieberman responded that Israel “was not talking
about such a response” and understood that an attack would
cause a “chain reaction” within the region. Lieberman made
similar statements suggesting that Israel was not considering
attacking Iran during his press conference.

¶10. (C) Lavrov reiterated that Russia and Iran had signed a
deal to provide S-300s, but that Russia had not transferred
any weapons. The GOR did not intend to provide regionally
destabilizing weapons, but also had to take into account how
it would be perceived by others if Moscow failed to fulfill
its contract with Tehran.

Georgia
——-

¶11. (C) Lavrov expressed Russian appreciation for Israeli
steps to limit arms sales to Georgia to defensive weapons,
but raised concern that other countries were supplying
offensive weapons. He was also concerned that the recent
military exercises Georgia conducted with NATO might push
Tiblisi to undertake “another adventure”.

Bilateral Issues
—————-

¶12. (C) Fuchs said that much of the discussion between Lavrov
and Lieberman focused on expanding bilateral ties, especially
in the economic sphere. They also touched upon parochial
issues of concern to Lieberman and his constituents, such as
the payment of pensions owed by the Soviet Union and Russia
to Russian-speaking Israelis.

¶13. (C) Lavrov raised Russian concern with “historical
revisionism” regarding the Soviet Era and Second World War,
which, he said, was particularly acute in Eastern Europe but
was also present in Israel. He cited Israel’s official
recognition of the Holodomor, the 1930s famine that occurred
in Ukraine. Lieberman explained that by recognizing this
tragedy, Israel had not said Russia was guilty of causing it,
nor that it was an act of genocide.
BEYRLE

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SIPDIS

DEPT FOR S/SEMEP

EO 12958 DECL: 06/18/2019
TAGS PREL, LE, SY, UN, IS
SUBJECT: GOI DISCUSSES LEBANON AND SYRIA WITH HOF

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Luis G. Moreno, reason 1.4 (b) a nd (d)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. On June 10, Fred Hof, Special Advisor for Regional Affairs in the office of Special Envoy Mitchell, held a series of meetings with GOI officials from the MFA and MOD to discuss the situation in Lebanon and Syria and the possibilities for progress towards opening negotiations with each. The Israeli officials expressed cautious optimism over the election results in Lebanon, but did not believe they would lead to major changes in the power balance in Lebanon, or serious reduction of Hizballah influence. However, both Amos Gilad, Pol-Mil Director in the MOD and Nimrod Barkan, Director of the MFA Political Research Division (INR equivalent), told Hof that the Lebanese election results took Syria by surprise, and were a blow for Syrian President Asad. The officials were split over the prospects for Israeli peace with Syria. Alon Ushpiz, Chief of Staff for the MFA Director General, believes Syria is only interested in a process that gives it international legitimacy. However, in a separate meeting, Gilad called Syrian/Iran ties a “marriage of convenience” which could possibly be broken with a peace agreement with Israel and incentives from the United States. On Ghajar and Sheba’a, there was consensus within the GOI that Ghajar can be resolved, but doing so will not have much utility, while Israeli will only agree to discuss Sheba’a within the context of Syria. End Summary.
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Lebanon Elections Hurt Syria
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¶2. (C) The Israeli officials said that it is too soon to tell what the results of the elections in Lebanon will really mean. Nimrod Barkan told Hof that he does not see the elections as damaging for Hizballah, as their popularity among the Shia remained solid. He added that if Hizballah could maintain its blocking third within the GOL as established in the Doha Agreement, the Lebanese government would remain paralyzed. In another meeting, Amos Gilad assessed that the elections results were largely due to huge amounts of Saudi Arabian money and the Maronite Patriarch throwing his support to March 14, and not because of a fundamental shift in Lebanese society.
¶3. (C) On the other hand, both Gilad and Barkan agreed that the elections were a blow to Syria, which was completely caught off-guard by the results. The Syrian presidential advisors on Lebanon, they said, are now in trouble. Barkan explained that the Syrians were so convinced the pro-Syrian March 8 would win the elections that they thought they could minimize their interference and still win. They wanted to appease France and the United States, and not irritate Saudi Arabia, and thought they could do so at no cost. In this way, Barkan said, French and American actions and rhetoric in support of March 14 were productive.
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Hizballah Still Planning to Avenge Mughniyah’s Death
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¶4. (S) Barkan emphasized that Hizballah still plans on avenging the death of Hizballah operations chief Imad Mughniyah, and that Israel has already thwarted two terror attacks in third countries. Barkan said Israel has very sensitive intelligence that Hizballah has completed operational planning for a third attack outside Israel, but so far Nasrallah has not decided whether to give the order to carry it out, despite Iranian pressure to launch the attack. Barkan said he had personally drafted the MFA’s post-Lebanon election statement, which included a warning the GOL that Israel will hold them responsible for any attacks “emanating from Lebanon” and not just attacks from Lebanon. Gilad also told Hof that Hizballah had shown restraint in the face of Iranian pressure due to the elections, especially during the Gaza operation. Barkan and Gilad both emphasized that they did not know if Hizballah’s calculus would change post-election. Gilad warned Hof that the next round of fighting with Hizballah would likely involve rockets falling on Tel Aviv, and if this happens Israel will respond harshly throughout Lebanon.
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Can Syria Separate Itself from Iran?
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¶5. (C) Hof also held a meeting with senior MFA staff, including Deputy Director General for Coordination (Director General Chief of Staff) Alon Ushpiz, Minister Lieberman’s Chief of Staff Naor Gilon, and Deputy Minister Ayalon’s Chief
TEL AVIV 00001324 002 OF 003
of Staff David Siegel. Ushpiz asked Hof if the United States really sought peace with Syria in the near term, or if it saw Israeli engagement with Syria as a way to put pressure on the Palestinian track, create space in the Arab world, and gain influence with Syria. Hof replied that all of those goals could be pursued simultaneously, including peace. During the proximity talks in Turkey conducted under the Olmert government, Ushpiz said that President Bush gave PM Olmert the approval to hold talks through Turkey, but said the United States would not get involved, so Israel went as far as it could. Israel was also unsure about proceeding because, they said, the GOI remained skeptical regarding Syria’s intentions to withdraw itself from its alliance with Iran in exchange for peace.
¶6. (C) Amos Gilad, on the other hand, told Hof that the GOI defense establishment assesses that Syria may be serious about removing itself from Iran and withdrawing support for Hizballah in exchange for reconciliation with the West, especially the U.S., and the return of the Golan Heights. Gilad asserted that peace with Syria is critical to achieving Israel-Palestinian peace due to Syria’s ability to support spoilers. Therefore, he asserted, it was worth it for Israel to make the attempt. In the talks through Turkish mediation, however, Gilad said that Israel had been too forthcoming about its security requirements, and too enthusiastic, and Syria was not ready. He also noted that Israeli security requirements with Syria had changed radically since the last talks in 2000, as Israel no longer fears a Syrian surprise armor attack across the Golan but rather is concerned about Syrian missile attacks on Israeli cities, so those issues would need to be renegotiated.
¶7. (S) Negotiations with Syria may succeed, Gilad said, because Iran was a marriage of convenience for Syria. He believes Syria would much rather be close to their fellow Arabs and the rest of the international community, if given the chance. Gilad stressed that both the Iranians and the Arab Sunnis despise the ruling Alawite minority in Syria – he recalled that Sadat used to call the Alawites “pagans” – and said the Iranians would like to get rid of the Asad regime at the appropriate time. Gilad noted that Syria did not inform Iran of its nuclear reactor, which was built entirely with North Korean assistance, and did not notify Iran in advance of its proximity talks with Israel. In addition, he said, the Golan Heights have remained Israel’s quietest front, evidence that Syria can uphold its commitments as long its commitments are clear.
¶8. (C) While Syria may want peace, Gilad cautioned that it may be impossible for Syria to extricate itself from Iran and Hizballah, even if it tried. Hizballah is now an integral part of Syria’s defense concept, and is a more effective fighting force than the Syrian army. But in the end, Gilad stated, Israel only has two choices with Syria: war or peace.
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Hof: Small Steps Needed Towards Talks with Lebanon
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¶9. (C) Turning to the prospects for moving toward peace with Lebanon, Barkan and Gilad separately told Hof that the GOI had examined the question of renewing the 1949 armistice commission, at the USG’s suggestion, and there were many questions, including some basic legal questions posed by MFA lawyers. Hof replied that much of the armistice agreement is obsolete, but the armistice allows for mutually agreed modifications, and recognition of its basic legitimacy among the Lebanese, and the fact that it is mentioned in the Taif Agreement, could create cover for talks.
¶10. (C) Hof suggested an incremental strategy for Lebanon, expanding existing, low-level mil-mil trilateral contacts with UNIFIL gradually until they eventually can encompass some political progress. Small steps were needed because the Lebanese people’s attitude toward Israel had hardened over the past 30 years, Hof explained, and we need to get them back to seeing peace with Israel as a realistic prospect.
¶11. (C) Gilad, Barkan, and the senior MFA officials separately told Hof that Israel was ready to move forward with resolving the issue of the northern end of the village of Ghajar, but doubted that resolving the issue would lead to real progress and risked boosting Hizballah. Hof replied that Ghajar can be an important step as long as any Israeli public message is carefully calibrated to emphasize that Israel is fulfilling its 1701 obligations, and that other parties should do the same, and not as a benefit to the Lebanese moderates. It is a small step, Hof said, but the kind of small step needed in this process.
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¶12. (C) On Sheba’a Farms, all the GOI officials separately repeated the long-standing position that Sheba’a must be resolved in the context of Syria and not Lebanon. Sheba’a, they said, was simply a pretext for Hizballah’s claim to represent “resistance to occupation,” and if it were resolved Hizballah would simply find another pretext. Hof agreed that it was a pretext, but thought it would be useful to make Hizballah publicly shift their pretext. Issues like the seven Lebanese villages in northern Israel, Hof explained, are not taken seriously in Lebanese society, but the Lebanese claim to Sheba’a Farms is. Forcing Hizballah to shift its excuse for retaining an armed force could help expose them to Lebanese society as Iranian surrogates willing to fight to the last Lebanese.
¶13. (U) Fred Hof has cleared this message.
********************************************* ******************** Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv ********************************************* ******************** CUNNINGHAM

09PARIS827 2009-06-22 13:01 2010-12-19 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Paris

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TAGS: PGOV PREL FR
SUBJECT: FRANCE MID-EAST DIRECTOR ON PEACE PROCESS

Classified By: Acting Political Minister Counselor Andrew R. Young for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (S/NF) MFA Middle East Director (Assistant
Secretary-equivalent) Patrice Paoli informed POL Minister
Counselor June 18 that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
told French officials in Paris June 15 that the Israelis have
a “secret accord” with the USG to continue the “natural
growth” of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Paoli noted
that the French anticipate strong Israeli resistance to USG
pressure on this issue. He asked whether the USG has
considered how to adapt to possible Israeli responses: “How
will you react to Israeli reactions to your pressure?” He
claimed that “the credibility of President Obama will be
judged on the issue of settlements.” MFA DAS Ludovic
Pouille, who also attended the meeting, underlined this
point: “Arabs are saying progress on settlements is crucial.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem obsessed with the settlements
issue; they won’t even enter the game without progress on
settlements.” Paoli added that “negotiations can wait until
the fall, but steps forward cannot wait until then.” Both
diplomats emphasized the need to build confidence measures on
the ground now.

¶2. (S/NF) In stressing the energy with which the GOF plans
to approach the peace process, Paoli said that France will
not wait until all 27 EU members are in agreement before
pressing ahead with their support of USG efforts. Pouille
said the French can play an important role on “two key
issues”: working toward a settlements freeze and monitoring
the implementation of an eventual agreement. By leaning on
other countries in the European Union and within the Quartet
to bring their resources to bear (“their diplomatic presence,
their networks”), Paoli said that France hopes to contribute
to pressing the parties forward as quickly as possible.
Pouille stressed monitoring in particular, which he described
as “a big hole at the Annapolis conference.” He argued that
“the US cannot be the only judge” of progress.

¶3. (S/NF) Paoli explained that President Sarkozy will have
three messages to convey to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
when they meet in Paris on June 24:

— “You think you’ve got time, but you don’t.”
— “You think you have an alternative solution, but you
don’t.”
— “You think you’re stronger than the Palestinians, but
you’re not.”

Paoli said that Sarkozy will stress that “there is a single
door and it is imperative to move through it now.” Paoli and
Pouille both expressed disappointment with the reservations
contained in Netanyahu’s June 14 speech, but noted that it
nonetheless reflected significant movement in the Likud
position regarding a Palestinian state. “It’s not easy to
reverse a campaign promise two months after the campaign,”
Paoli observed. They also said that President Obama’s
address in Cairo was extremely well received in France and in
the Arab world. “It was a speech, though, and it was a
received as a speech,” Pouille said. “The reaction in the
Arab world was: ‘Now do it.'”

PEKALA

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