November 2009

09TELAVIV2473 2009-11-12 15:03 2010-12-19 21:09 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv

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SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/12/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER MOPS KWBG IS IR
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF DEPUTY SECRETARY
JAMES STEINBERG

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

¶1. (S) Summary. Israel is deceptively calm and prosperous.
The security situation inside Israel is the best since the
outbreak of the Second Intifada, the economy has weathered
the storms of the international economic crisis, and
Netanyahu’s governing coalition is stable, for the time being
at least. Yet outside the storm is gathering and Israelis of
many different political outlooks agree on the need to seize
the initiative, even while they disagree about what exactly
should be done. Israelis see Iran as the primary regional
threat, both due to its nuclear program and its projection of
power directly into Gaza and southern Lebanon. The Israeli
navy’s seizure of a ship loaded with a huge shipment of
Iranian arms November 3 has provided tangible proof of
Iran’s involvement in arming Hamas and Hizballah. Syrian
intentions are also a source of concern, as Israeli analysts
see Asad moving closer to Iran and Hizballah even as Syria
improves its relations with the West. The sharp decline in
Israel’s long-
standing strategic relationship with Turkey is adding a new
element of instability into the picture. Prime Minister
Erdogan’s rhetorical support for Ahmedinejad and his
dismissal of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program is
feeding the sense here of impending crisis, although the
robust U.S.-Israeli security relationship is profoundly
reassuring to Israeli security officials and the general
public alike. Finally, the failure to re-launch
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the political crisis in
the Palestinian Authority is deeply disturbing to Israelis
who still believe in a two-state solution. Even GOI skeptics
are worried that the lack of a political dialogue and talk of
a collapse of the PA are undermining the bottom-up approach
they advocate as the alternative to a final-status agreement.
Netanyahu insists that he is ready to start negotiations
immediately without preconditions, but he will not negotiate
on the basis of former PM Olmert’s offer of a year ago. The
opposition Kadima Party’s number two, former IDF Chief of
Staff and former Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, has
generated considerable attention with a new peace plan that
is based on offering the Palestinians a state with temporary
borders in the next year or two, to be followed by intensive
final status negotiations. Few here believe the Palestinians
will accept this idea, but it may serve to push Netanyahu
toward offering a peace initiative of his own. End Summary.

Calm Before the Storm?
———————-

¶2. (S) Israel in the fall of 2009 is deceptively calm on the
surface. Israelis are enjoying the best security situation
since the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the result of
Israeli intelligence successes in destroying the suicide
bombing network in the West Bank as well as good security
cooperation with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.
The Israeli economy has successfully weathered the world
economic crisis, with only a slight uptick in unemployment
and no major impact on the financial system. PM Netanyahu’s
center-right coalition is stable, and faces no significant
challenge from the opposition Kadima Party. Netanyahu
personally enjoys approval ratings over sixty percent, and
appears to have benefited politically from the media
obsession with reports of frictions with the U.S.
Administration. Netanyahu so far has managed the more right
wing elements of Likud and other rightist elements in the
coalition, although tensions with the far right are likely to
reemerge over peace process issues, including a temporary
settlement freeze or a decision to make good on Barak’s
pledges to evacuate illegal outposts. There are signs of a
growing split within the Labor Party, and Foreign Minister
Lieberman continues to face the strong possibility of several
criminal indictments for money laundering and obstruction of
justice, but none of this threatens the stability of the
coalition, at least not yet. The latest polls indicate that
Likud would gain three seats if elections were held now.

And Looming Threats
——————-

¶3. (S) Despite this good news for the government, Israelis
are even more anxious than normal these days. Sixty-one
years after the establishment of the State of Israel,
Israelis sense a growing tide in the world challenging not
just the occupation of territory seized in 1967, but even
against the existence of the Jewish state within any borders.
The GOI’s alarm and outrage over the Goldstone Report was
based on their view that the report represented an attempt to
deny Israel the right to react military to terrorist threats.

TEL AVIV 00002473 002 OF 004

Security is indeed good and Israel’s borders are generally
the quietest they have been in years, but it is common
knowledge that Hamas in Gaza and Hizballah in Lebanon both
now possess rockets capable of hitting the greater Tel Aviv
area, Israel’s main population and economic center. When
discussing Iran’s nuclear program, sophisticated Israeli
interlocutors note that the issue is not just whether a
nuclear-armed Iran would launch nuclear-tipped missiles at
Israel – although that possibility cannot be dismissed – but
rather the regional nuclear arms race that would ensue and
the impact of the resulting uncertainty on Israeli elites and
foreign investors alike. Israel’s remarkable high-tech
economy is a great achievement, but it also makes Israel
exceptionally vulnerable to a host of private decisions to
live and invest elsewhere. Growing alienation among Israel’s
twenty-percent Arab minority and the increasing domination of
Israeli Arab politics by an elite that identifies with
Palestinian nationalism further complicates Israel’s internal
scene.

¶4. (S) Painstakingly constructed relations with Israel’s
neighbors are also fraying. Even optimists about relations
with Egypt and Jordan admit that Israel enjoys peace with
both regimes, but not with their people. The transformation
of Michel Aoun into Hizballah’s primary Lebanese ally may be
the final nail in the coffin of Israel’s decades-old
relations with Lebanon’s Maronite Christians. Finally,
Israelis are deeply alarmed by the direction of Turkish
foreign policy, and see Erdogan and Davutoglu as punishing
Israel for the EU’s rejection of Turkey while driving
Israel’s erstwhile strategic ally into an alternative
strategic partnership with Syria and Iran.

Gaza Dilemmas
————-

¶5. (S) Gaza poses its own set of dilemmas. The IDF general
responsible for Gaza and southern Israel, Major General Yoav
Galant, recently commented to us that Israel’s political
leadership has not yet made the necessary policy choices
among competing priorities: a short-term priority of wanting
Hamas to be strong enough to enforce the de facto ceasefire
and prevent the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel; a
medium-priority of preventing Hamas from consolidating its
hold on Gaza; and a longer-term priority of avoiding a return
of Israeli control of Gaza and full responsibility for the
well-being of Gaza’s civilian population. Israel appears
determined to maintain its current policy of allowing only
humanitarian supplies and limited commercial goods into Gaza,
while sealing the borders into Israel. There are indications
of progress in the indirect negotiations with Hamas over the
release of Gilad Shalit in return for the release of hundreds
of Palestinian prisoners, many of them hardened
terrorists,but it is difficult to predict the timing of such
a deal. Shalit’s release would likely result in a more
lenient Israeli policy toward the Gaza crossings, but a large
prisoner exchange would be played by Hamas as a major
political achievement and thus further damage the standing of
Abu Mazen among Palestinians.

Security Cooperation with the U.S. Reassuring
———————————————

¶6. (S) Especially given the sense of growing threats from
all directions, Israelis from the Prime Minister on down to
the average citizen are deeply appreciative of the strong
security and mil-mil cooperation with the U.S. The
U.S.-Israeli security relationship remains strong, as
indicated by the joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense exercise
Juniper Cobra 10 in which over 1,400 American personnel
tested Israel’s defense – and U.S. support thereof – against
ballistic missile threats in the region . The United States
remains committed to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge
(QME), and has taken a number of steps to alleviate Israeli
concerns over some potential U.S arms sales to the region,
including the creation of four new QME working groups to
further discuss these arms transfers. These working groups
will soon begin deliberations, focusing on previous arms
transfer agreements, mitigation measures for the planned U.S.
F-15 sale to Saudi Arabia, technical mitigation issues, and
intelligence policy.

¶7. (S) While the United States and Israel may not agree on
some U.S. arms transfers to the region, these QME working
groups will ensure a transparent process so that Israel is
not surprised by any U.S. potential transfer. As it does in
assessing all threats, Israel approaches potential U.S. arms
sales from a “worst case scenario” perspective in which
current moderate Arab nations (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and

TEL AVIV 00002473 003 OF 004

Jordan) in the region could potentially fall victim to regime
change and resume hostilities against Israel. It is
primarily for this reason that Israel continues to raise
concerns regarding the F-15 sale to Saudi Arabia, especially
if the aircraft are based at Tabuk airfield near the Israeli
border. We have deflected Israeli requests for additional
information regarding the F-15 sale until we receive an
official Letter of Request (LOR) from Saudi Arabia.

¶8. (S) Finally, an argument can be made that Israel has
continued to raise concerns over the F-15 sale as leverage in
its attempts to modify its purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike
Fighter (JSF). Israel remains highly committed to the JSF as
a successor to its aging F-16 fleet, although budgetary
considerations have raised some doubts how Israel will be
able to afford it. Nevertheless, Israel continues to press
for the inclusion of an Israeli-made electronic warfare (EW)
suite, indigenous maintenance capacity, and a lower cost per
aircraft into its JSF purchase plans, and has repeatedly
raised these issues with SecDef.

Impasse with the Palestinians
—————————–

¶9. (C) Polls show that close to seventy percent of Israeli
Jews support a two-state solution, but a similar percentage
do not believe that a final status agreement can be reached
with the Palestinian leadership. Expressed another way,
Israelis of varying political views tell us that after Abu
Mazen spurned Ehud Olmert’s peace offer one year ago, it
became clearer than ever that there is too wide a gap between
the maximum offer any Israeli prime minister could make and
the minimum terms any Palestinian leader could accept and
survive. Sixteen years after Oslo and the Declaration of
Principles, there is a widespread conviction here that
neither final status negotiations nor unilateral
disengagements have worked. While some on the left conclude
that the only hope is a U.S.-imposed settlement, a more
widely held narrative holds that the Oslo arrangements
collapsed in the violence of the Second Intifada after Arafat
rejected Barak’s offer at Camp David, while Sharon’s
unilateral disengagement from Gaza resulted in the Hamas
takeover and a rain of rockets on southern Israel. Netanyahu
effectively captured the public mood with his Bar Ilan
University speech last June, in which he expressed support
for a two-state solution, but only if the Plestinian
leadership would accept Israel as the ation-state of the
Jewish people and the Palestiian state would be
demilitarized (and subject toa number of other
security-related restrictions o its sovereignty that he did
not spell out in deail in the speech but which are well
known in Wahington). Palestinian PM Fayyad has recently
temed Netanyahu’s goal a “Mickey Mouse state” due to all the
limitations on Palestinian sovereignty that it would appear
to entail.

¶10. (S) Abu Mazen’s stated intent not to seek another term is
widely seen here as an effort to put pressure on Washington
to put pressure on Israel to meet Palestinian terms for
starting negotiations. Abu Mazen’s statements have likely
reinforced his image among Israelis as a decent man, and
certainly a different breed from Arafat, but a weak and
unreliable leader. Yet even some of the Israeli officials,
including Avigdor Lieberman and Sylvan Shalom, who have been
most skeptical about the prospects for a final status
agreement in the near term, are now expressing concern at the
lack of engagement with the PA and the prospects of the PA
collapsing. Advocates of a bottom-up approach are finally
realizing that without a political process, the security
cooperation and economic development approach will become
unsustainable. Netanyahu has told us that he considers Abu
Mazen to be his negotiating partner, and in his latest public
statements has stressed that he is not interested in
negotiations for their own sake, but rather seeks a
far-reaching agreement with the Palestinians, but it remains
unclear to us how far Netanyahu is prepared to go. Netanyahu
is interested in taking steps to strengthen Abu Mazen, but he
will not agree to the total freeze on Israeli construction in
the West Bank and East Jerusalem that Abu Mazen insists is a
requirement for engaging with Netanyahu.

Israeli Choices
—————

¶11. (C) Former Defense Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff
Shaul Mofaz generated a lot of media attention this week when
he announced a peace plan that calls for establishing a
Palestinian state with temporary borders on sixty percent of
the West Bank, then entering final status negotiations.

TEL AVIV 00002473 004 OF 004

Mofaz’ approach is similar to ideas that have been floated
quietly over the past few months by Defense Minister Barak
and President Peres, and Mofaz claims that both Barak and
Peres support his plan. Mofaz’ plan is in part an effort to
undermine the political position of his rival for Kadima
party leadership, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Livni, presumably drawing on her experience negotiating with
the Palestinians during the Olmert government, says she
opposes the idea of an interim solution, but instead supports
intensive final status negotiations, perhaps this time with
direct U.S. involvement. Livni and Mofaz both stress that
they are motivated by a sense of urgency and that time is not
on Israel’s side.

¶12. (C) Netanyahu still holds the political cards here,
however, and we see no scenarios in which Livni or Mofaz
become prime minister in the near future. As Mofaz told the
Ambassador earlier this week, Netanyahu may wait until the
Palestinian elections, if they are in fact held in January,
but the initiative is in his hands. If the Palestinians
continue to refuse to engage on terms that Netanyahu can
accept, it is possible that Netanyahu could turn his
attention to Syria. Media reports that Netanyahu asked
President Sarkozy to deliver a message to Asad may turn out
to be accurate, but as with the Palestinians, Netanyahu will
not resume talks with Syria where they left off under Olmert,
but will insist on negotiations without preconditions.
CUNNINGHAM

Israel and the US collude over follow up to the Goldstone Report.

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NEA FOR A/S FELTMAN; NSC FO DAN SHAPIRO; OSD FOR USD-P
FLOURNOY
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/05/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PTER KWBG EG SY IR SA LE TU
IS
SUBJECT: ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE VERSHBOW MEETS WITH
SENIOR ISRAELI DEFENSE OFFICIALS

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

This is a re-transmission of USDAO TEL AVIV 3188.

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On November 1 and 2, Assistant Secretary of
Defense (ASD) for International Security Affairs, Ambassador
Alexander Vershbow, met with a number of senior Israeli
defense officials in Israel including: Ministry of Defense
(MOD) Director General (DG) Pinchas Buchris; Head of MOD
Political Military Bureau Amos Gilad; Assistant Chief of
Defense Major General (MG) Benny Gantz; and Head of MOD
Intelligence Analysis Production Brigadier General Yossi
Baidatz. The Israelis expressed positive views on continued
U.S.-Israel cooperation particularly on Israel’s Qualitative
Military Edge (QME) and the ongoing Juniper Cobra missile
defense exercise. Israeli officials explained that they were
going through an unprecedented period of calm due to the
deterrent effect of Operation CAST LEAD, but that below the
surface were a number of significant dangers. They continued
to emphasize that Iran represents the greatest strategic
threat to the region, both its nuclear program and its “axis”
with Syria, Hezbollah, and HAMAS. They also expressed
skepticism about Palestinian President Abbas’s future, given
his weakened position as a result of his handling of the
Goldstone Report and his inability to get the full settlement
freeze he had pushed for; they questioned his ability to
restart peace negotiations. Israeli officials were concerned
about the deteriorating Turkey-Israel relationship and
discussed threats emanating from both Syria and Lebanon. END
SUMMARY

——————-
Bilateral Relations
——————-

¶2. (S) ASD Vershbow’s trip to Israel came as a number of
high-level Israeli and American officials were meeting on key
issues. On October 31, Secretary of State Clinton arrived in
Jerusalem for talks on the peace process with Prime Minister
Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, and Foreign Minster
Lieberman. In addition, EUCOM Commander Admiral Stavridis
arrived in Israel on November 1 to observe the Juniper
Cobra-10 ballistic missile defense exercise. The ASD’s visit
also came in the wake of recent high-level discussions on
Israel’s QME in Washington, and the October 21 meeting of the
Joint Politico-Military Group in Tel Aviv.

¶3. (S) On QME, ASD Vershbow asked for Israel’s assessment of
recent discussions, and across the board, Israeli officials
expressed gratitude for U.S. efforts on this front and voiced
optimism on the steps moving forward. Amos Gilad
acknowledged the sometimes difficult position the U.S. finds
itself in given its global interests, and conceded that
Israel’s security focus is so narrow that its QME concerns
often clash with broader American security interests in the
region. Israeli officials acknowledged the impressive nature
of the QME dialogue mechanisms recently established, but
stated that the results of the process are what truly matter.
MG Benny Gantz defined successful QME relations as “the
effective process plus the right mitigations.” While not
explicitly saying it, Gantz seemed to acknowledge that Israel
does not expect that all QME decisions will break in its
favor, but that Israel only expects a fair and equitable
process that incorporates “intimate dialogue.” DG Buchris
thanked Versbhow for the recent success of the JPMG and said
he looks forward to convening the first meeting of the agreed
upon working groups by the end of November. Vershbow stated
that the technical working group discussions would be
launched soon, and that he was looking forward to future
Israeli participation on this issue.

————————
Iran Remains Top of Mind
————————

¶4. (S) Israeli officials continue to uniformly emphasize that
Iran’s nuclear program and regional hegemonic ambitions are
the greatest strategic threats to Israel. They view Iran as
the center of a radical axis that includes Syria, Hezbollah
and HAMAS.

¶5. (S//NF) Israel continues to offer a worst-case assessment
of the Iranian nuclear program, emphasizing that the window
for stopping the program (by military means if necessary) is

rapidly closing. General Baidatz argued that it would take
Iran one year to obtain a nuclear weapon and two and a half
years to build an arsenal of three weapons. By 2012 Iran
would be able to build one weapon within weeks and an arsenal
within six months. (COMMENT: It is unclear if the Israelis
firmly believe this or are using worst-case estimates to
raise greater urgency from the United States). Amos Gilad
explained his view of the repercussions of an Iranian nuclear
capability stating that it would give Iran a free hand in
supporting “HAMAStan” in Gaza and “Hezbollahstan” in Lebanon.
Gilad also argued that Saudi Arabia would definitely react
to a nuclear Iran by obtaining a weapon (with Pakistani
assistance) and Egypt would almost certainly follow. He was
less sure about whether Turkey would respond by pursuing a
nuclear weapon. Regardless, the security situation in the
region surrounding Israel would be dramatically altered
should Iran acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

¶6. (S//NF) ASD Vershbow queried various Israeli officials
about their view of the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR)
proposal and Iran’s recent equivocation on the agreement.
Israeli officials uniformly expressed support for the
agreement but made clear that by itself it was not
sufficient. They stated that it was only one stop on the way
to containing the Iranian nuclear program and that it must be
followed by a freeze-for-freeze agreement and eventually the
full suspension of uranium enrichment, as well as the end of
work on the newly disclosed site at Qom. They warned that
the TRR agreement by itself could serve as a major victory
for Iran if it legitimized in the world’s eyes Iran’s right
to enrich uranium on its own soil. None of the Israeli
officials expressed surprise about Iran’s apparent reversal
on the TRR agreement, as they viewed this as typical Iranian
negotiating style and part of an Iranian strategy of delay.
Amos Gilad stated that Iran would never agree to anything
that contradicted its overall strategic goal of achieving a
nuclear weapons capability.

¶7. (S) When queried about how the U.S. views the Iranian
response, ASD Vershbow explained that the United States was
still seeking greater clarity on what was the real Iranian
bottom line. We may need time to ascertain whether Iran’s
response was in fact a serious walk-back or whether it would
be willing to abide by the initial TRR agreement that had
been agreed to in principle in Geneva on October 1. However,
he also emphasized that American patience is not unlimited
and that if the TRR agreement did collapse, the U.S. would
likely begin pursuing the pressure track.

¶8. (S//NF) Israel was also highly concerned about Iran’s
support for proxies, with General Baidatz emphasizing that
there are multiple bases in Iran where IRGC, Quds Force,
Hezbollah, HAMAS, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives
all train together and share knowledge. MG Gantz also
emphasized Iran’s role as a weapons supplier to Syria and
that Syria actively facilitated arms transfers to Hezbollah.
He expressed concern about Iranian shipments of weapons via
Sudan to Egypt and into Gaza. On the Russian delay in
delivery of the S-300 (SA-20) to Iran, Gilad voiced
satisfaction with the train of events, acknowledging Prime
Minister Netanyahu’s “secret” visit to Moscow and President
Obama’s engagement with Medvedev had both played a role.
Gilad was worried about Russian readiness to support tough
sanctions on Iran. ASD Vershbow said the Russians’ signals
on sanctions were mixed, but they seemed genuinely concerned
about recent Iranian missile tests and the revelation of the
Qom facility.

——————-
West Bank and Gaza
——————-

¶9. (S) Of particular interest throughout the meetings was the
subject of the Palestinian political situation. It was
widely agreed that President Abbas is currently in a weakened
political state, and Israeli officials generally cast a dour
assessment of Abbas’s future. In one exchange, Amos Gilad
stated his opinion that Abbas will not survive politically
past the year 2011. Gilad further stated that Abbas is
facing unprecedented criticism within the Palestinian
Authority over his handling of the Goldstone report, and that
this, coupled with a stubborn HAMAS, has weakened Abbas
considerably. The Israelis said the perception in the Arab
world was that the U.S. had encouraged Abbas to take

difficult positions on Goldstone and settlements only to walk
away from him. ASD Vershbow queried Gilad over measures that
could be taken to bolster Abbas. Gilad responded by stating
that Israeli-Palestinian peace discussions need to be resumed
immediately, but without preconditions, and that both parties
need to seek further cooperation on a range of issues —
specifically on the security sector front. Gilad expressed
optimism over the current atmosphere in the West Bank, citing
improvements in the security and economic spheres, and
further stated that the reduced Israeli Defense Force (IDF)
footprint in the West Bank has made conditions ripe for
advancing the relationship. Gilad closed, however, on a
sourer note by stating that the Government of Israel has
little faith in the Palestinian negotiating team.

¶10. (S) ASD Vershbow transitioned off the political
discussion to focus on the Palestinian Authority Security
Force (PASF). Specifically, Vershbow highlighted the concern
that Palestinian forces were seen as lacking real authority,
and therefore asked for steps that could be taken to give the
PASF more visible control of security. Israeli officials
responded by citing the decreased number of direct- action
incursions, checkpoints and patrols, and seemingly drew a
correlation between reduced IDF activity and increased PASF
authority (COMMENT: Despite Israeli assurances, U.S. and
Palestinian officials continue to highlight the corrosive
effect of regular Israeli incursions). MG Gantz cited
Palestinian security sector reform as a major accomplishment,
stating that on-the-ground coordination between the PASF and
IDF units has improved dramatically. Despite these positive
developments though, Israeli officials repeatedly underscored
the importance of retaining the right to disrupt terrorist
operations in the West Bank and Gaza. Additionally, they
stated that if Israel allowed a weak and untrained security
force to take over in the West Bank in the short term, the
result will be deterioration of the Israel-Jordan
relationship over the long term. The prospect of poor
Israeli-Jordanian relations, according to Amos Gilad, is
unacceptable, and would result in the loss of “strategic
depth” for Israel.

¶11. (S) ASD Vershbow urged his Israeli counterparts not to
soley focus on the short-term “here and now,” but rathr to
envision the possible benefits that a strongand viable West
Bank could have for Israel’s secrity situation in the
future. Vershbow used thi point to springboard to the issue
of HAMAS and aza, asking whether success in the West Bank
coud serve as a “magnet” and help solve the Gaza problem.
He asked if Israel had made any headway in tems of an
information operations campaign to better communicate with
the people of Gaza. Israeli officials offered very little in
the way of a communications strategy or long-term vision for
the territories, but reinforced Israel’s core belief that
HAMAS has only sinister motives, and that any attempt Fatah
might make to improve its standing in Gaza would only be met
with HAMAS opposition. General Baidatz articulated Israel’s
concern by highlighting recent intelligence that HAMAS is
trying to acquire from Iran (and potentially test-fired the
previous weekend) the 60 km-range Fajr-5 rocket that could
reach Tel Aviv. These actions, according to Baidatz and
other officials, make any discussion of Palestinian
reconciliation both premature and unrealistic. Ambassador
Vershbow sought further clarification on this point, querying
Israeli officials over the level of public support for HAMAS.
Specifically, the ASD asked if there was any way to
undermine support for HAMAS vis-a-vis the peace process.
Amos Gilad responded simply by saying that one of Israel’s
biggest concerns is the atmosphere created by disjointed
peace talks. Specifically, Gilad stated that political
promises of peace, unification, and reconciliation —
concepts that are never realized — are only resulting in a
climate of uncertainty that is unhealthy. On this matter,
Gilad mentioned that Egypt’s role in pushing reconciliation
is not helpful and often counterproductive, but that he
expects Egypt to continue floating the idea at future
junctures.

¶12. (C) In bringing up the Goldstone Report, DG Buchris
emphasized that the Government of Israel took extraordinary
steps to mitigate civilian casualties, despite HAMAS’s
deliberate use of civilians as human shields. He stated that
the IDF made over 300,000 phone calls to alert civilians
before bombing legitimate military targets. He also compared
Israeli operations in Gaza to U.S. operations in Iraq and

Afghanistan and stated that Israel would do whatever was
necessary to protect its population. In response, ASD
Vershbow recalled U.S. support for Israel in handling of the
Goldstone report, and offered to share U.S. experience in
investigating incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan as the GOI
considered whether to conduct an additional investigation.

——————–
Anxiety Over Turkey
——————–

¶13. (S) Israeli officials also expressed growing anxiety over
the Turkey-Israel relationship after the Turkish cancellation
of Israel’s participation in the ANATOLIAN EAGLE joint
exercise. They expressed their belief that the strategic
relationship with Turkey is critical, but that PM Erdogan’s
views have increasingly penetrated into the military and have
been part of the reason for the deterioration in relations as
Turkey looks East rather than West. Gilad believes this is
understandable as Turkey’s EU accession prospects look
increasingly doubtful, and they must balance their relations
with both regions to succeed.

¶14. (S) Baidatz stated that the Turks have an agenda to
contain any Kurdish influence in Iraq and that to achieve it
they need to improve their relations with Iran and Syria. In
his view, the worst possible outcome would be a new
Turkey-Iran-Syria-Iraq axis in the Middle East. Gilad also
noted that Turkey wanted to improve its relationships with
Iran and asserted that it had made some very aggressive plans
recently to support HAMAS. However, he had a less
pessimistic view than Baidatz, stating that Turkey had played
a positive role in Iraq and that generally the Turks’ agenda
was for a stable Iraq that would be commercially beneficial
to Turkey. Gilad stated that he was skeptical of any
political rapprochement between Israel and Turkey in the near
term, but that Israel would continue to foster the
military-to-military relationship because of its strategic
importance.

¶15. (C) Gilad also queried ASD Vershbow about what Israel
might do to improve its relationship with Turkey. Vershbow
explained that Turkey wants to be influential in the region
and that if it jeopardizes its relationship with Israel, it
will undermine its status and its leverage as an evenhanded
mediator. He also commented that Erdogan’s ideological views
may lead him to focus on Turkey’s Islamic neighbors, but he
is also a realist who will not want to jeopardize Turkey’s
ties to the U.S. or NATO. The U.S. and Israel should be
patient with Turkey and stay engaged, encouraging the Turks
to play a constructive role in the region. He stated that at
the upcoming bilateral defense talks between the U.S. and
Turkey in December, he and Under Secretary Flournoy would
emphasize the need to improve Israel-Turkey relations.

—————————-
Quiet on the Northern Border
—————————-

¶16. (S) Israeli officials remain pleased with the “quiet”
nature of its northern border — something they attribute to
the deterrent effect Israel has built up following OPERATION
CAST LEAD and the 2006 war in Lebano. However, according to
Israeli officials, it i a foregone conclusion that strong
cooperation eists between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)
and ezbollah. The level of cooperation far exceeds wht
many assume is simply the day-to-day problem of corruption
within the ranks. On the contrary, Israel believes that
LAF/Hezbollah cooperation is a matter of national policy.
Amos Gilad attributed this dynamic to elements of
nationalism, stating that Lebanese government and military
officials choose not to confront Hezbollah out of patriotic
zeal. Moreover, according to Gilad, any information shared
with the United Nations Interim Force-Lebanon (UNIFIL) goes
directly to Hezbollah by way of the LAF.

¶17. (S) Israeli officials have major concerns over
developments within Hezbollah — specifically, its
relationship with Syria and Iran. General Baidatz spoke of
this relationship and drew attention to the existing supply
of Fateh-110 long-range missile that Iran sent to Syria.
Israeli officials believe these missiles are destined for
Hezbollah. According to Baidatz and others, if the delivery
were to occur, this would significantly alter Israel’s

calculus. Under such a scenario, the looming question for
Israeli policymakers then becomes: “to strike or not to
strike.”

—————–
Optimism on Syria
—————–

¶18. (S) General Baidatz offered an Israeli intelligence
assessment that if Syria were able to achieve peace with
security and obtain greater U.S. involvement, it may pull
away from Iran’s orbit. He explained that President Assad
used his “negative assets,” namely Hezbollah and HAMAS, to
make himself relevant and that ultimately Assad wants it all:
the Golan Heights; peace with Israel; better relations with
the U.S.; a strong relationship with Iran; and a continued
relationship with Hezbollah. Ultimately, Gen Baidatz
asserted that if Assad had to choose one thing, it would
likely be peace with Israel. ASD Vershbow asked if Hezbollah
could be sustained without Syrian support. Baidatz
acknowledged the difficulty in answering this question, but
stated his belief that it would be a gradual process before
Hezbollah could completely wean itself from the Syrian
support apparatus and that, ultimately, both Hezbollah’s and
Iran’s flexibility would be significantly reduced.

——————————-
Mil-to-Mil Relations with Egypt
——————————-

¶19. (C) Amos Gilad commented that he would like to see a
complete peace with Egypt, but noted there was very little in
the way of Egyptian-Israeli military relations and that Egypt
continued to train its military for war with Israel. Gilad
stated that Egypt was not likely to attack Israel and did not
represent a short-term threat, but that at the very least it
was necessary to have modest contact between Egyptian and
Israeli officers. He expressed frustration by describing
Egypt and Israel’s “frozen peace” and that neither side knows
anything about the other. He noted that the last high-level
military visit for Egypt was in 1991.

¶20. (S//NF) Israeli officials agreed that Egypt’s
counter-smuggling efforts have improved, particularly since
Operation CAST LEAD in January. However, they stated that
gaps still exist and that Egypt needs to focus its efforts on
stopping Bedouin smuggling in the Sinai. Gilad said he was
disillusioned with the technical monitoring solution; tunnels
continue and smuggling is increasing even with U.S.
assistance along borders with Egypt.

——————————————— —————
Iron Dome and Juniper Cobra – Strengthening the Relationship
——————————————— —————

¶21. (S) On Iron Dome, DG Buchris (Assisted by retired General
Nagel) briefed ASD Vershbow on the latest developments,
stating that Iron Dome is planned to have an initial
operating capability by the spring of 2010, and that
technological advancements have made the system much more
viable defending against short range rocket attacks from Gaza
or Southern Lebanon. Buchris also emphasized the need for
additional USG support to help fund additional production of
Iron Dome to protect the civilian population in both the
North and the South. Buchris also noted progress on the
upper- and medium-tier ballistic missile defense systems
(Arrow-3 and David’s Sling, respectively). In an earlier
meeting, MG Gantz quantified the importance of fielding
adequate missile defense systems by citing critical Israeli
infrastructure such as Ben Gurion Airport and the Ashkelon
electricity plant. Suffering the loss or damage of places
such as these, according to Gantz, would be a major blow to
Israel and, therefore, every effort to
stand up a capable missile and rocket defense shield should
be taken.

¶22. (S) After Gantz highlighted three areas of focus for the
IDF (deterring conventional threats, responding nimbly to
asymmetric threats, and developing an integrated missile
defense system), ASD Vershbow asked for Gantz’s initial
impression of the Juniper Cobra-10 exercise. Gantz stressed
the importance of this exercise, and stated that so far it
had been a success. ASD Vershbow stated that the timing of
Juniper Cobra was somewhat fortuitous, given the recent

developments with Iran. On the larger issue of missile
defense, ASD Vershbow stressed U.S. efforts to try and
persuade Russia to become more involved in missile defense
cooperation, but stated that Russia’s realization that the
new U.S. missile defense approach in Europe is more effective
than the previous one is causing the Russian leadership to
ask many questions about the system.

——-
Summary
——-

¶23. (S) All of ASD Vershbow’s interlocutors carried a
consistent message emphasizing that: Iran remains Israel’s
greatest threat; recent events have weakened President Abbas;
the PASF have performed well in the West Bank; and the
relative calm on all Israel’s borders does not obscure the
fact that Israeli intelligence is seeing significant activity
and planning by Iranian surrogates, namely HAMAS and
Hezbollah, with facilitation from Syria. These threats
suggest that Israel must remain vigilant and prepared for the
calm to end one day.

¶24. (U) ASD Vershbow has cleared this message.
CUNNINGHAM

09TELAVIV2500, 40TH JOINT POLITICAL-MILITARY GROUP: EXECUTIVE

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PTER EG CH IR RU SA LE TU IS
SUBJECT: 40TH JOINT POLITICAL-MILITARY GROUP: EXECUTIVE
SESSION (PART 1 OF 4)

Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers, reasons 1.4 (b,d)

¶1. (S) Summary: During the Executive Session of the 40th
Joint Political Military Group (JPMG), U.S. and Israeli
counterparts continued discussion on the creation of four new
Qualitative Military Edge (QME) working groups. GOI
interlocutors continued to raise concerns regarding the F-15
sale to Saudi Arabia. Both sides agreed that continued
pressure be applied to Iran, especially following the
disclosure of the nuclear facility in Qom. GOI participants
expressed concern regarding Chinese and Russian cooperation
with respect to enhanced Iranian sanctions. The GOI also
raised dual citizenship concerns with respect to access to
sensitive technology, and noted from its perspective Turkey’s
disturbing change of course toward Syria and Iran — and away
from Israel. This is the first in four cables (septels)
reporting on the JPMG. End summary.

¶2. (SBU) Israeli Participants:

— Brigadier General (res) Pinchas Buchris, MOD Director
General
— Major General (ret) Amos Gilad, MOD Political-Military
Chief
— Brigadier General Ronen Dan, acting Israeli Defense
Attache to the United States
— Gad Dovev, Director, MOD Mission, New York
— Alon Bar, MFA Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs
— COL Shimon Arad, IDF J5
— Rami Yungman, MOD Political-Military Bureau
— Schmuel Royter, Assistant to the MOD Director General

U.S. Participants:

— Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of
Political-Military Affairs
— Luis Moreno, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv
— Dr. Colin Kahl, International Security Affairs, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense
— Brigadier General Jefforey Smith, Joint Staff
— Prem Kumar, Director for Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian
and Jordanian Affairs, NSC
— Tom Goldberger, Director for Israel and Palestinian
Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
— COL Richard Burgess, Defense Attache, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

Qualitative Military Edge
————————-

¶3. (S) The Executive Session continued discussion from the
September 30 Qualitative Military Edge (QME) meeting in
Washington. Both sides presented their primary points of
contact for the four newly proposed working groups focusing
on previous agreements, mitigation measures for the F-15 sale
to Saudi Arabia, technical mitigation issues, and
intelligence/policy. Agreement was reached to begin working
on the details of each working group’s meeting schedule and
timeline.

¶4. (S) The GOI continued to express concern over the F-15
sale to Saudi Arabia. U.S. participants noted that the USG
is unable to provide more detailed information about the sale
until Saudi Arabia officially sends a Letter of Request
(LOR). The GOI expressed additional concerns about
stationing these new aircraft at Tabuk airfield in the
northwest corner of Saudi Arabia — close to the Israeli
border. U.S. participants stated the USG understanding that
this should not be an issue, as the Saudis are considering
stationing new Typhoon aircraft at Tabuk. The GOI also
raised AMRAAM sales to Jordan; U.S. participants explained
that the new C-7 AMRAAM is an export version with
capabilities similar to the C-5 version — and therefore
provides little to no increase in capabilities.

Iran, China and Russia
———————-

¶5. (S) Both sides expressed concern over the recent
revelation regarding Iran’s nuclear facility at Qom, and
agreed that increased pressure should be applied directly and
internationally against Iran in order to better determine
Tehran’s motives and next steps. Both sides agreed that the
facility at Qom should be inspected immediately. One member
of the Israeli delegation expressed the opinion that some
consideration be given to “shutting Qom operations down
completely” to prevent further progress on obtaining a
nuclear weapon. That said, the GOI argued that the
international community not become bogged down on the Tehran
Research Reactor (TRR) and Qom, thereby diverting focus from

TEL AVIV 00002500 002 OF 002

the bigger issue of Iran’s nuclear program.

¶6. (S) Several questions were raised about China’s position
on Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon. Both sides
agreed that continued engagement with China and Russia is
needed — as well as building a consensus in Europe. The USG
speculated, and the GOI concurred, that China will follow
Moscow’s lead. USG participants argued that China would seek
to avoid an international confrontation over Iran. The GOI
described 2010 as a critical year — if the Iranians continue
to protect and harden their nuclear sites, it will be more
difficult to target and damage them. Both sides then
discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting
bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled
quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping
Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.

¶7. (S) The GOI made the case for “crippling sanctions”;
cooperation between the United States, Europe, Russia and
China will be necessary in order for these sanctions to be
effective. U.S. participants stressed the USG position that
any discussions with Iran on this subject be finite; the USG
will continue to monitor whether negotiations are making
progress. The GOI stated that it is not convinced the
Iranians will negotiate in good faith unless there are
visible and clear threats. U.S. delegation members described
eight lanes of sanctions, and outlined a plan to “pivot to
apply appropriate pressure” on those points and tracks that
have the most impact. U.S. participants concurred that 2010
is a critical year — but the continued application of
pressure is vital.

¶8. (S) Regarding Russia, the GOI was not confident that
Moscow will be helpful in any Iranian sanctions effort — GOI
participants opined that Russia is considered a “mystery”
with respect to their views on Iran. The GOI raised the
Russian S-300 sale to Iran, noting that the transfer is still
pending. GOI participants argued that Moscow seeks a return
to superpower status, but there are contradictory trends
regarding Russia’s internal condition.

Dual Citizenship Issues
———————–

¶9. (S) The GOI raised the issue of dual citizenship within
the context of access to sensitive technology. U.S.
participants acknowledged Israeli concerns, noting that the
issue is being worked at the highest levels of the USG to
reach consensus on how to proceed. The GOI recommended
obtaining a waiver similar to the relationship from which
Canada or Australia benefit.

Turkey
——

¶10. (S) The GOI raised the current direction the Government
of Turkey has taken toward Syria and Iran — and away from
Israel. Israeli participants argued that Turkey has been
supportive of Hamas in Gaza while pursuing a more “Islamic”
direction with the goal of becoming a regional superpower.
The GOI argued that the Turkish military is losing its
ability to influence government decisions and strategic
direction. After this past year, GOI participants said they
have a “bad feeling” about Turkey. The GOI noted that the
Israel Air Force (IAF) Commander in the past wanted to speak
to the Turkish Air Force Commander, but his Turkish
counterpart declined.

¶11. (U) A/S Shapiro has cleared on this cable.
CUNNINGHAM

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PTER KWBG EG IR SA LE IS
SUBJECT: 40TH JPMG: NEA REGIONAL DISCUSSION (PART 3 OF 4)

Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers, reasons 1.4 (b),(d)

¶1. (S) Summary: As part of the 40th Joint Political Military
Group (JPMG), U.S. and GOI counterparts discussed security
issues in the Near East region. GOI officials expressed
support for the P5 plus 1 engagement process with Iran, but
doubted the process would lead to any change in Iranian
behavior — Iran will use the engagement process as an
opportunity to continue its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs Andrew
Shapiro stressed that engagement with Tehran was not “open
ended”; the United States is preparing sanctions in the event
engagement does not prove successful. GOI interlocutors
continued to express concerns regarding U.S. support of the
Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF); U.S. participants reiterated
U.S. support of the LAF as a counterweight to Hizballah. A/S
Shapiro noted NEA, with PM participation and support, plans
to brief the GOI on the U.S. policy regarding Lebanon in the
near future. In a continuation from the JPMG Executive
Session, GOI interlocutors made the argument that U.S. arms
transfers in the region could potentially arm future enemies
of Israel. GOI officials expressed frustration over the
Goldstone Report; U.S. officials advocated sharing lessons
learned regarding confronting terrorists in
civilian-populated areas. GOI officials noted improved
counter-smuggling efforts from Egypt regarding arms transfers
to Gaza via the Sinai. However, they argued that Egypt can
and should do more to prevent the flow of arms. U.S.
delegation members also briefed on U.S. policy in Iraq, and
expressed concerns about the current situation in Yemen.
This is the third of four cables (septels) reporting on the
JPMG. End summary.

¶2. (SBU) Main Israeli Participants:

— Brigadier General (res) Pinchas Buchris, MOD Director
General
— Major General (ret) Amos Gilad, MOD Political-Military
Chief
— Brigadier General Ronen Dan, acting Israeli Defense
Attache to the United States
— Gad Dovev, Director, MOD Mission, New York
— Alon Bar, MFA Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs
— COL Shimon Arad, IDF J5
— Rami Yungman, MOD Political-Military Bureau
— Schmuel Royter, Assistant to the MOD Director General

Main U.S. Participants:

— Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of
Political-Military Affairs
— James Hursch, Director, DTSA
— Dr. Colin Kahl, International Security Affairs, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense
— Brigadier General Jefforey Smith, Joint Staff
— Beth McCormick, Deputy Director, DSCA
— Prem Kumar, Director for Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian
and Jordanian Affairs, NSC
— Tom Goldberger, Director for Israel and Palestinian
Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
— COL Richard Burgess, Defense Attache, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv
— Robert Maggi, PM Coordinator for Counter Piracy
— Kevin Maloney, Licensing Director, PM/DTCL

Plenary
——-

¶3. (S) MOD Director General Pinchas Buchris began the
plenary, stating this was “perhaps the most important JPMG to
date.” He pointed to the threat of a nuclear Iran, and
expressed hope that U.S. leadership will find a way to stop
Iran. Otherwise, a nuclear-armed Iran will “impact the
stability of the world,” Buchris said. A/S Shapiro described
this 40th JPMG as a key forum and the primary mechanism in
the political-military dialogue between the United States and
Israel. He said the United States wants to “re-energize” the
JPMG, with the goal to “bring back strategic elements” into
the discussion. A/S Shapiro highlighted the importance of
mutual understanding and transparent dialogue.

Iran
—-

¶4. (S) MOD Political-Military Director Amos Gilad presented a
strategic overview. He began with Iran, reciting President
Obama’s statement made during a visit to Israel prior to
becoming president that the United States would not tolerate
a nuclear Iran. Gilad said Israel concurs, and described
current dialogue with Iran as the “most sensitive stage” and
Iran’s “last chance.” He said Iran remains determined to

TEL AVIV 00002502 002 OF 004

reach the “nuclear option,” which he described as
“intolerable.” He quoted former President and Ahmadinejad
opponent Rafsanjani as saying Iran “only needs one bomb for
Israel,” implying that Iran will continue to threaten Israel
regardless of its leadership.

¶5. (S) A/S Shapiro noted that the United States shares
Israel’s concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons
program. He said that the United States is beginning with
engagement, but at the same time is preparing tougher
measures should engagement fail. A/S Shapiro stressed that
engagement was not “open ended” — the United States needs to
see concrete steps and tangible results from the P5 1 talks.
He noted concerns over the Qom facility; if Iran does not
respond to engagement, then the United States will move
toward stronger steps such as sanctions. DASD Kahl
reiterated that it is not our intention to allow Iran to “run
out the clock,” and noted that engagement also serves to
build international consensus on sanctions. MFA Deputy
Director for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar argued that the
United States must present a clearer message to the Europeans
on what is expected of them regarding sanctions.

¶6. (S) A representative from Mossad said Tehran understands
that by reacting positively to engagement, Iran can continue
to “play for time” and avoid sanctions while pursuing its
strategic objective to obtain a military nuclear capability.
From Mossad’s perspective, there is no reason to believe Iran
will do anything but use negotiations to stall for time so
that by 2010-2011, Iran will have the technological
capability to build a nuclear weapon — essentially reducing
the question of weaponizing to a political decision. Mossad
said Iran’s main crisis is in the political sphere — the
current regime is weaker than prior to the elections, but
does not face significant risk as its security apparatus
remains loyal, while the opposition lacks a charismatic
leader. The goal of the regime, therefore, is to calm down
the domestic political environment — Khamenei realizes the
frustration demonstrated following the elections has not
disappeared. BG Smith asked if Khamenei’s death might change
the political landscape; Mossad noted no information to
suggest a change in Khamenei’s health, while those
surrounding him appear more loyal than ever.

¶7. (S) Mossad believes Iran wants to become a regional
hegemon, and is dictating its agenda by using Hamas and
Hizballah as force multipliers. In that respect, Iran is
very creative in finding ways to transfer weapons systems to
its proxies. Mossad said Tehran also understands the effort
to split Syria from Iran’s influence, and is working hard to
deepen its relationship with Syria as a result. DASD Kahl
argued that Iran is weaker regionally today than in recent
years. He noted progress in Iraq, the results of the recent
Lebanese elections, and outreach to Syria as signs of a
weaker Iran. DASD Kahl also noted increased U.S. credibility
in the Muslim world, while the crackdown following the
Iranian elections exposed the current regime as brutal to the
region and in Europe.

Hizballah/Lebanon/Syria
———————–

¶8. (S) Gilad addressed threats posed by “Hizballahstan” and
“Hamastan,” noting that Hizballah/Hamas-Syria-Iran
cooperation has strengthened. He noted that rockets from
Lebanon can now cover the entire territory of Israel, while
ballistic missiles — although not new — remain Israel’s
most serious threat with adversaries having the capability to
target Israeli citizens and major cities. IDF J5 Col Shimon
Arad noted four main trends in Lebanon: 1) internal political
deadlock since the elections; 2) Hizballah’s growing military
capabilities; 3) Lebanon as a volatile military arena; and 4)
Lebanon’s susceptibility to outside influences, including
Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. He recommended improved
US.-Israel coordination, and called for an exchange of views.
Arad also recommended creating Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)
deconfliction measures, demanding improved LAF performance,
and exerting greater pressure on Syria and smuggling.
Finally, he called for sanctions on the Iranian Republican
Guard Corps (IRGC), trilateral meetings with the Lebanese and
UNIFIL to deter Hizballah, and bolstering UNIFIL by extending
Gen. Graziano’s tour for an additional six months.

¶9. (S) A/S Shapiro acknowledged the GOI’s desire for
specifics regarding U.S. policy on Lebanon, and hoped to
invite GOI representatives to Washington in the near future
for a full brief led by NEA, with PM participation and
support. He cited the need to provide an alternative to
Hizballah, which explains U.S. goals to strengthen the LAF as
a counterweight. DASD Kahl argued that any LAF cooperation

TEL AVIV 00002502 003 OF 004

with Hizballah is pragmatic given the LAF’s current weakness.
He noted that U.S. assistance has been temporarily put on
hold since there is still no Lebanese government. Kahl also
argued that prospects for better relations with Damascus
depend on Syrian desires for better relations with the United
States and the return of the Golan Heights. Arad argued that
more must be done to weaken radicals and cease smuggling.
Gilad said the GOI cannot envision a government in Lebanon
without Hizballah, and said the LAF will come to the defense
of Hizballah if attacked by Israel — thus, a strengthened
LAF hurts Israel.

QME

¶10. (S) Turning to U.S. regional arms transfers, Gilad
suggested Qualitative Military Edge (QME) as a “codename” for
potential threats against Israel. Israel currently enjoys
peace with regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the
United Arab Emirates — but the future is uncertain, and each
of these regimes faces the potential for change, he argued.
U.S. weapons — “the best in the world” — level the playing
field by reducing the need for training — and could
ultimately aid a future enemy of Israel, Gilad said. A/S
Shapiro stressed the importance of transparency — while
there may be differences between Israel and the United States
in terms of a regional assessment, the key is to ensure that
there are no surprises, he said.

Peace Process
————-

¶11. (S) Gilad described the Middle East peace process as a
“pillar” of Israeli security. He quoted PM Netanyahu and
President Peres that Israel remains sincerely committed to
peace. Gilad noted however, that the re-launching of
negotiations is complicated by the split in Palestinian
leadership. He said a weak and corrupt PA had lost Gaza
despite Israeli warnings. Gilad said 2010 will prove pivotal
with Palestinian elections looming and Egyptian mediation
efforts to broker reconciliation between Hamas and the PA
having failed. That said, he noted that Israeli-PA security
and economic cooperation in the West Bank continues to
improve as Jenin and Nablus flourish, and described
Palestinian security forces as the “good guys.” NEA/IPA
Director Tom Goldberger said Special Envoy Sen. Mitchell
continues his mission, and noted that Egyptian reconciliation
efforts were meant to strengthen the PA, not weaken it.

Goldstone Report
—————-

¶12. (S) Gilad addressed Israel’s immediate neighbors within
the context of the Goldstone Report. He said Israel has
checked “all the details” of the report, and have concluded
that the report’s accusations are “baseless.” Buchris said
the report sets a bad precedent for countries trying to
protect its citizens from terrorists; he noted 300,000 phone
calls from the IDF to houses in Gaza ahead of strikes in the
effort to prevent civilian casualties — “no other country
has taken such steps,” Buchris argued. A/S Shapiro
highlighted strong U.S. opposition to the report’s referral
to the UN Security Council, noting the report’s biased
mandate.

¶13. (S) Gilad said Israel only entered Gaza after Hamas
violated the ceasefire or “tahdiya,” which many Israelis felt
was “humiliating” and left Defense Minister Barak open to
criticism. Gilad characterized Operation Cast Lead as a
success that accounted for humanitarian issues; the IDF
showed restraint in the operation because Israel did not want
to re-occupy Gaza. DASD Kahl advocated sharing perspectives
and lessons learned on strategic communication to more
effectively confront terrorists in civilian-populated areas.
NSC Director for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Prem Kumar
noted continued UNSC interest in the Goldstone Report, and
asked Israel to inform the United States on any additional
efforts or investigations the GOI was taking to help deflect
any further damage from the report.

Egypt/Counter-Smuggling
———————–

¶14. (S) Gilad said Israel was frustrated by its Arab
neighbors — including specifically Egypt — for supporting
the Goldstone Report, which complicates the peace process.
Israel continues to benefit from good security cooperation
with Jordan, he said. Gilad argued that Egypt could stop
smuggling into Gaza “completely,” and questioned whether
Egypt should be judged by its efforts or results. Gilad

TEL AVIV 00002502 004 OF 004

stressed the latter, and argued Egypt can do more on
counter-smuggling. Finally, he noted Israeli concerns that
Egypt continues to prepare for a potential future military
confrontation with Israel, while no Egyptian military
officers visit Israel.

¶15. (S) A/S Shapiro outlined U.S. military assistance to
strengthen Egyptian border security, counter-terrorism,
peacekeeping and civil defense efforts. He said the United
States is working with Egypt to improve regional security
efforts, such as counter-smuggling. Regarding the Gulf
States and Saudi Arabia, A/S Shapiro stressed efforts to
improve energy security and counter-terrorism, while
bolstering the capabilities of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) in the face of the Iranian threat. Finally, he noted
U.S. withdrawal from the Anatolian Eagle exercise following
the Turkish decision to suspend the IDF’s participation. A/S
Shapiro said the United States has been delivering the
message that Turkey must improve its relationship with
Israel.

¶16. (S) PM Counter-Piracy Coordinator Maggi briefed on the
counter smuggling technical discussion meeting (septel). He
cited the importance of working with Israel’s neighbors —
including especially Egypt and Turkey — to prevent Iranian
weapons from entering Gaza. Maggi said more pressure should
be applied in the EU and UN to gain more latitude — and
possibly further action from the EU. He said tracking cash
flows, and increasing prosecutions and incarcerations were
important, with the ultimate goal of increasing cooperation
and momentum. Goldberger said Egypt sees Hamas as a national
security threat, and added that Egypt had closed 200 tunnels
since the beginning of 2009.

¶17. (S) Goldberger noted Egyptian domestic political
sensitivities, and questioned whether more commercial and
humanitarian goods could be allowed through the Gaza border
crossings. Gilad strongly stated that there were no limits
on commercial goods through the border crossings. Goldberger
asked about construction materiel like cement; Gilad said the
GOI would not allow Hamas to build bunkers — goods such as
cement or iron would not be allowed because of their military
applications. He also argued that smuggling is a lucrative
business for all involved, including the Egyptian government,
and said the best way to stop the smuggling was to increase
arrests and incarcerations. Goldberger mentioned U.S.
economic and development assistance efforts in Sinai. He
noted that most requests to third countries to deny arms
transfer overflights are based on Israeli intelligence;
additional information/intelligence from the GOI would ensure
greater cooperation. Bar raised prosecuting shipping
companies complicit in arms transfers to Gaza; A/S Shapiro
said he would take that back to Washington for further
consideration.

Iraq/Yemen
———-

¶18. (S) On Iraq, DASD Kahl noted there are currently 125,000
U.S. soldiers in Iraq, which will be reduced to 50,000
soldiers by September 1, 2010 with complete U.S. troop
withdrawal by the end of 2011. He noted the U.S. goal of
establishing a long-term strategic relationship with a
sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq. A/S Shapiro and
DASD Kahl briefed the GOI on U.S. efforts to assist the Iraqi
military to complete its counterinsurgency force, transition
the military to a force that can defend its borders, and
align the Iraqi military more closely to the United States.

¶19. (S) DASD Kahl pointed to the growing threat (al Qaida, al
Houthi insurgency, and southern secessionists) in Yemen. He
said the United States is attempting to prevent Yemen from
heading toward an “Afghanistan-type scenario” with general
lawlessness and increased ungoverned spaces. BG Smith noted
that al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to
fester in North and sub-Saharan Africa. He said Egypt is
actively involved in countering AQIM with 3,800 soldiers in
Sudan — this should be encouraged and expanded.

¶20. (U) A/S Shapiro has cleared on this cable.

CUNNINGHAM

09REYKJAVIK208 2009-11-18 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik

VZCZCXYZ0021
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0208 3221740
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181740Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4224
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0109

C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000208

SIPDIS

DEPT PASS TO IO COLLECTIVE
IO/UNP FOR MORRISON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2019
TAGS: PREL UNGA KPAL IS SY LE IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND’S POSITION UNCHANGED ON UNGA RESOLUTIONS
WITH ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS

REF: STATE 118799

Classified By: CDA SAM WATSON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

¶1. (C) Post delivered points contained in reftel to Emil
Breki Hreggvidsson, Counsellor in the Foreign Affairs
Department at the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs on
November 18. Hreggvidsson stated that the Government of
Iceland has not changed its position of abstaining or being
absent from the votes on the three resolutions listed in
reftel.
WATSON

09DAMASCUS804 2009-11-19 09:09 2010-12-06 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Damascus

VZCZCXRO2489
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDM #0804/01 3230900
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 190900Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7038
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5866
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0787
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 0861
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0744
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0759
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 DAMASCUS 000804

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA, S/CT
NSC FOR SHAPIRO/MCDERMOTT
PARIS FOR NOBLES
LONDON FOR LORD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/07/2029
TAGS: PTER PREL LE IZ IS SY
SUBJECT: IS NOW THE TIME TO RAISE HIZBALLAH WITH SYRIA?

Classified By: CDA Charles Hunter, Reasons 1.4 b and d.

¶1. (S/NF) Summary: Syria’s determined support of Hizballah’s
military build-up, particularly the steady supply of
longer-range rockets and the introduction of guided missiles,
could change the military balance and produce a scenario
significantly more destructive than the July-August 2006 war.
If rockets were to rain down on Israeli civilians in Tel
Aviv, Israel would still have powerful incentives, as it did
in 2006, to keep Syria out of the conflict, but it might also
face compelling reasons for targeting Hizballah facilities in
Syria, some of which are in and around populated areas.
Syria’s current strategic mindset appears to assume Syria
could avoid involvement in a new conflict, based largely on
its 2006 experience. Syrian leaders also appear convinced
that arming Hizballah will increase Syria’s leverage in
bringing Israel to the negotiating table. As Washington
weighs how to approach Syrian officials in upcoming
engagement efforts, discussing Hizballah from the perspective
of the regional strategic landscape may help to facilitate a
“big picture” conversation in which we could challenge these
assumptions and focus Damascus on the importance of taking
cooperative steps with the U.S. now. Though raising this
subject could well distract from a cooperative approach that
shows signs of progress after months of investment, we
believe sounding a warning, probably in a one-one-on meeting
with President Asad, would be worth considering in pursuit of
a broader, more strategic dialogue. End Summary.

———————————-
Is the Strategic Balance Changing?
———————————-

¶2. (S/NF) Syria’s determined efforts to re-arm Hizballah
during and after the July-August 2006 war between Israel and
Hizballah have consistently grabbed Israeli headlines, most
recently with Israeli Chief of Staff Ashkenazi’s November 10
revelation that Hizballah possessed 320-kilometer range
rockets. Jane’s Defense Weekly reported October 28 on
Hizballah’s deployment of the first guided surface-to-surface
M600 missile on Lebanese soil, with a range of 250 kilometers
and circular error probability of 500 meters. Public
estimates put Hizballah’s stockpile as high as 40,000 rockets
and missiles, reinforcing assessments by some experts that
this build-up may portend a shift in the military balance
between Israel and its northern nemesis. Hizballah SecGen
Nasrallah’s recent claims of possessing a capability to
“destroy” the IDF may overstate the case for domestic and
regional propaganda purposes, but reporting in other channels
confirms Nasrallah’s bragging on November 11 that Hizballah
can sustain fire on Tel Aviv and reach “all of Israel.” This
capability, if fully used, would represent a quantum leap
over the damage and psychological terror Hizballah rockets
caused in northern Israel during the 2006 war.

¶3. (S/NF) There is overwhelming evidence that shows Syria
provided not just logistical and other support in moving the
weapons, but was the main source of the weapons. Syria’s
integration of Hizballah into its military doctrine,
moreover, means that Hizballah operatives and facilities
enjoy a growing footprint in Syria.

¶4. (S/NF) At least two potential consequences flow from
Hizballah’s increased capabilities and Syria’s role in
creating them: (1) If there is another war between
Hizballah and Israel, it will be far deadlier than the 2006
conflict; (2) as in 2006, there would be compelling reasons
for Israel to want to keep Syria out of any future war if
possible, but there might be a countervailing need to hit
Hizballah and perhaps targets in Syria, some of which are
located in populated areas.

———————————
Agreeing to Disagree on Hizballah
———————————-

DAMASCUS 00000804 002 OF 003

¶5. (S/NF) U.S.-Syrian discussions on Hizballah have tended
to “agree to disagree” after hitting the wall of conflicting
views on the legitimacy of armed resistance and Israeli
occupation. Syrian officials, including President Asad,
emphasize their political link to Hizballah and flatly deny
that Syria is arming Hizballah. They then defend the right
to armed resistance in response to prolonged Israeli
occupation of Syrian and Lebanese territory. When
convenient, Syrian officials claim they no longer have
responsibility for Hizballah, noting “we are out of Lebanon.”
President Asad and FM Muallim have also suggested that the
challenge of disarming Hizballah would be solved after Syria
and Israel signed a peace treaty. This agreement would lead
naturally to a deal between Lebanon and Israel, thereby
removing the rationale for Hizballah’s resistance movement
and setting the stage for the transition of Hizballah to a
purely political party.

¶6. (S/NF) The Syrian government’s strategic view of
relations with Hizballah is difficult to assess with high
confidence. According to various contacts, President Asad
appears to be focused on the possibility of a new conflict
between Israel and Syria, but many suggest he believes that
the red lines of the 2006 war would be preserved. According
to this model, Syria could avoid direct involvement as long
as Israel refrained from striking targets on Syrian soil.
Syria also seems to be hedging its bets through improved
relations with Turkey, France, and Saudi Arabia, which,
Syrian officials probably hope, would object to Israeli
attacks against Lebanon and/or Syria.

¶7. (S/NF) Asad nonetheless appears more convinced than ever
that arming Hizballah is necessary for Syrian security and
perhaps as a stick to bring the current Israeli government
back to negotiations on the return of the Golan. Syrians
remain resistant to the notion that Syria bears
responsibility for managing a potentially explosive situation
that could draw Damascus into a war neither sought nor
winnable. They have ably deployed a force field of cognitive
dissonance to resist arguments linking Syria’s arming of
Hizballah and the future prospects of Syrian-Israel peace
negotiations. Israel, they insist, remains the problem, and
only a more active U.S. role can bring and sustain a
resolution. According to the prevailing Syrian view,
however, U.S.-Syrian relations must normalize before the U.S.
can play the role of a credible honest broker.

—————————————-
The Cooperative Approach Shows Potential
—————————————-

¶8. (S/NF) As the interagency continues to plot future plans
to engage Syrian officials and thinks about how to recruit
other countries to support our efforts, we face a choice not
only about the level of our engagement, but about the
approach itself. Up to now, U.S. efforts have largely
focused on developing a cooperative relationship on issues of
mutual interest, such as Iraq and U.S. sanctions. Our four
month pursuit of military-to-military cooperation on Iraqi
border security represented, in effect, a first step toward
establishing a broader and higher-level dialogue on Iraqi
security issues, including Syrian support of foreign
fighters. After the August 19 bombings Baghdad rendered
implementation of this initiative impracticable, discussions
in late-September shifted toward a possible CT dialogue.
This new focus provides an alternative mechanism to continue
discussions on Iraqi security issues such as foreign
fighters. Syrian officials appear willing to go along with
this approach, as long as the emphasis is on building
bilateral relations first. After months of investment, our
engagement efforts are close to enabling both sides to
exchange positive gestures. This cooperation should help to
the stage for more focused discussions on a broad range of
issues and strategic choices about the future direction of

DAMASCUS 00000804 003 OF 003

the relationship.

¶9. (S/NF) During this process, U.S. officials have
carefully placed markers on key issues, including human
rights, IAEA compliance, Bank Aman, Lebanon (e.g., border
demarcation), and Palestinians (pushing Hamas to accept the
Quartet principles), and the new embassy compound. We have
addressed these issues mainly in discussions with Vice
Foreign Minister Miqdad and the Syrian Embassy in Washington
(with less dialogue between Embassy Damascus and the Syrian
MFA). Our view is that the cooperative approach will have
more chance of success if we continue to use these channels
to deal with such issues, until the relationship can sustain
discussion at higher levels that will yield a higher
probability of favorable progress.

¶10. (S/NF) Against this backdrop, sending U.S. officials to
focus on Syrian relations with Hizballah could distract
significantly from our efforts to build a cooperative
foothold. There is unlikely to be common ground or any
breakthroughs, and a new focus on Hizballah-related issues
could further set back our efforts to re-energize the
engagement process, not least by spurring the Syrians to
demand a reciprocal change in U.S. behavior, e.g., lifting
sanctions. Focusing our higher political-level discussions
on the issue of foreign fighters provides a more familiar
subject with a higher chance for initial progress.

——————————————— —
But Hizballah’s Arsenal Poses Urgent Challenges
——————————————— —

¶11. (S/NF) While the near-term chances for a successful
dialogue on Syria’s strategic relationship with Hizballah are
much lower, the stakes — the possibility of a regional
conflict and significant obstacles to achieving comprehensive
peace — are just as, if not more, urgent. Sharing our
concerns about the dangers of Syria’s arming of Hizballah,
probably best done privately in a one-on-one session with
President Asad, could serve to establish the basis of a more
frank exchange about Syria’s role, and enable us to challenge
potentially dangerous Syrian assumptions as part of a wider
strategic dialogue. Recent revelations about Syria’s role in
weapons shipments create some urgency in turning Syrian
attention toward ending these supplies and restraining
Hizballah from making good on its provocative rhetoric.

¶12. (S/NF) We don’t expect these points immediately to
change Syrian behavior or its relations with Hizballah, but
we believe sounding this warning would put President Asad and
others (such as Turkey and France) on notice that Syria’s
actions have created a situation in which miscalculation or
provocative behavior by Hizballah could prove disastrous for
Syria and the broader region. This message could likewise
underscore our belief that Syria needs to demonstrate a more
active role in achieving peace with Israel and better
relations with the United States. Even if a war between
Israel and Hizballah does not materialize in the immediate
future, we should try find a way to use our ongoing
cooperative engagement with Syrian officials to help them
recognize their overriding interest and responsibility in
preventing this unappealing scenario altogether.

HUNTER

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