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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 001114
H PLEASE PASS TO REPRESENTATIVE ACKERMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV KNNP EFIN IR KPAL IS
SUBJECT: CODEL ACKERMAN’S MEETING WITH OPPOSITION LEADER
BINYAMIN NETANYAHU: ECONOMIC SQUEEZE ON IRAN AND HAMAS;
SCENARIOS FOR A NEW GOVERNMENT; RIGHT OF RETURN AS ACID
TEST OF ARAB INTENTIONS
REF: TEL AVIV 1086
Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones, Reason 1.4 (b) (d)
¶1. (C) Summary. Representative Gary Ackerman (D, New York),
Chairman of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee of
the House International Relations Committee, accompanied by
the Ambassador, met with Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu
at the Knesset April 11. The discussion covered Netanyahu’s
ideas on how to pressure Iran in order to block its nuclear
program and topple President Ahmadinejad; Netanyahu’s views
on dealing with the Palestinians; his critique of Prime
Minister Olmert’s handling of the Second Lebanon War; and
Netanyahu’s analysis of Israel’s domestic political
situation. On Iran, Netanyahu advocated intensified financial
pressures, including a U.S.-led divestment effort focused
largely on European companies that invest in Iran, as the
best way to topple Ahmadinejad. On the Palestinians,
Netanyahu did not object to supporting President Abbas but
said Israel and the U.S. should first focus more on
“strangling” Hamas. Netanyahu asserted that Israel’s
mishandling of the Lebanon war had strengthened Israel’s
enemies. He predicted that Olmert would not be able to stay
in power much longer, then described several different
mechanisms for forming a new government. Netanyahu expressed
confidence that the Israeli public recognized that he had
been right, that unilateral withdrawals were a mistake, and
that the priority now must be stopping Iran. Netanyahu noted
that he thought dropping the “right of return” was the acid
test of Arab intentions and insisted that he would never
allow a single Palestinian refugee to return to Israel. End
¶2. (U) House Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee
Chairman Gary Ackerman, accompanied by the Ambassador, Pol
Couns, Subcommittee Staff Director David Adams, and Staff
member Howard Diamond called on Opposition and Likud Party
Leader Binyamin Netanyahu at the Knesset April 11. Netanyahu
was joined by foreign policy adviser Dore Gold and MFA North
American Department Congressional liaison Eyal Sela.
¶3. (C) Representative Ackerman told Netanyahu that in his
meeting the day before with Egyptian President Mubarak, he
had asked Mubarak if military action were necessary to
prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, should the
strike be carried out by the U.S. or Israel? Mubarak had
responded that if it came to that, the U.S. should do it and
Israel should stay out. Netanyahu said he took Mubarak’s
point, but commented that he thought the Iranian regime, or
at least President Ahmadinejad, could be toppled by economic
pressure, including a divestment campaign. Noting that
economic sanctions lose their effect over time, but can be
powerful in the short term. The goal should be to encourage
Ahmadinejad’s political rivals to remove him from power.
Afterward, if the pressure could be maintained it might be
possible to bring down the entire Iranian regime, but that
would also entail identifying alternative leaders. The idea
was to use economic pressure to create a public sense of
regime failure. Netanyahu said he had consulted with noted
historian Bernard Lewis, who believed that Iran would be less
dangerous once Ahmadinejad was removed.
¶4. (C) Netanyahu said there were three bills in Congress
designed to divest U.S. pension funds from investing in about
300, mostly European, companies currently doing business in
Iran. Divestment would immediately bring down the credit
ratings of these companies, thus forcing them to respond.
Netanyahu urged Congress to support the divestment
legislation, adding that he also planned to use a visit to
the U.S. to raise the issue with Wall Street fund managers.
His approach was to tie in Darfur to expand the scope of
anti-genocide divestment and link it to U.S. policy goals.
Netanyahu said he was unsure that financial pressures would
be enough to stop Iran’s nuclear program, but he was
confident they would succeed in bringing down Ahmadinejad.
He commended Dore Gold’s efforts to put Ahmadinejad on a
genocide watch list as part of a broader effort to
delegitimize the Iranian President. Asked about the quality
of U.S. and Israeli intelligence on Iran, Netanyahu said his
nightmare was that we had missed part of the Iranian program.
He added that if the current intelligence was correct, it
would take Iran a few more years to develop a nuclear weapon.
He agreed with Ambassador Jones’ assessment that
TEL AVIV 00001114 002 OF 003
Ahmadinejad’s announcement of a breakthrough in Iran’s
centrifuge program was probably exaggerated. It would be
critical, Netanyahu stressed, to target companies investing
in Iran’s energy sector.
Bring Down Hamas
¶5. (C) Congressman Ackerman asked Netanyahu for his views on
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu said Abbas
was a “nice man who means well,” but he added that Israel and
the U.S. should focus on “bringing down Hamas” through an
“economic squeeze.” Netanyahu asserted that eight months
ago, the Hamas government had been on the brink of collapse,
but had become stronger because Israel became weaker as a
result of the Lebanon war. Without elaborating, Netanyahu
said it would be easier to weaken Hamas than to strengthen
¶6. (C) Netanyahu commented that Shimon Peres had admitted to
him that the Oslo process had been based on a mistaken
economic premise, and as a result European and U.S.
assistance to the Palestinians had gone to create a bloated
bureaucracy, with PA employees looking to the international
community to meet their payroll. Netanyahu predicted that
Palestinians would vote for Abbas if they believe that he can
deliver the money. He suggested putting in place an
“economic squeeze with an address,” so that Hamas would
receive the popular blame. Asked if Fatah knew how to
conduct an election campaign, Netanyahu said the Palestinian
patronage system should be forced to collapse, which would
have an immediate impact since the entire Palestinian economy
was based on graft and patronage. Instead, he asserted, the
opposite was happening. Hamas was also handling the prisoner
release issue well since they had created the impression that
Hamas was in control of the process and “sticking it to the
¶7. (C) Congressman Ackerman asked if Abbas would survive
politically. Netanyahu said he was unsure, since politics
were stressful, especially Palestinian politics. The policy,
he added, should be to starve the NUG. If any money is
given, it should go directly to Abbas. Netanyahu said it was
not clear the GOI has a policy, there was a general climate
Lebanon War Failures
¶8. (C) Turning to the Second Lebanon War, Netanyahu said the
problem was not the war’s goals but rather the disconnect
between goals and methods. If the IDF had used a flanking
move by a superior ground force, it could have won easily.
Instead, Israel “dripped troops into their gunsights,” an
approach he termed “stupid.” The top leadership had lacked a
sense of military maneuver. In addition, they had been
afraid to take military casualties, but instead got many
civilian casualties. If Olmert had mobilized the reserves in
ten days, seized ground, destroyed Hizballah in southern
Lebanon, and then withdrawn, he would be a hero today.
Instead, Netanyahu predicted, Olmert will not last
politically. Olmert’s current public support levels of three
percent were unsustainable.
A New Government?
¶9. (C) Netanyahu said the pressure on Olmert was
accumulating as a result of corruption investigations as well
as the impending release of the Winograd Commission’s interim
report. Olmert could be pushed out as a result of a
rebellion within the Kadima Party. Kadima members are
realizing they cannot allow Olmert to stay in power, but
Kadima itself might collapse since it was a “fake party.”
Netanyahu described several options, including Kadima
replacing Olmert, a new coalition formed in the Knesset, or
Netanyahu’s preferred option, new elections. New elections,
he stated, are supported by sixty-five percent of the public.
Netanyahu insisted he was in no rush since he was “enjoying
the time with his family” and rebuilding the Likud Party.
Likud was reaching thousands of new supporters, including
many highly educated professionals and high tech
entrepreneurs, through the internet.
¶10. (C) Netanyahu asserted there was a growing sense in the
public that he had been right in the last election.
TEL AVIV 00001114 003 OF 003
Unilateral “retreats” (i.e. such as the withdrawals from Gaza
and southern Lebanon) were the wrong way to go. Israel had
allowed an Iranian enclave to establish itself in Gaza.
Syria was arming itself for the first time in 20 years,
Hizballah had rearmed since the war, and Gaza was being
turned into a bunker. Egypt was not doing on a twelve mile
front along the Gaza border what Jordan was doing on a
150-mile front. The way out was to stop Iran, thereby
dealing with the octopus, not just its tentacles.
Right of Return the Acid Test
¶11. (C) Netanyahu stated that a return to the 1967 borders
and dividing Jerusalem was not a solution since further
withdrawals would only whet the appetite of radical Islam.
Ackerman asked if the Palestinians would accept peace based
on the 1967 lines. Netanyahu said he would not agree to such
a withdrawal since the 1967 lines were indefensible, but he
added that the “right of return” was the real acid test of
Arab intentions. Instead of Israel making more step-by-step
concessions, Israel should insist that further concessions be
linked to reciprocal steps toward peace. The Palestinians
must drop the right of return and accept Israel’s right to
exist. The Arab initiative did not meet this standard since
it keeps the right of return open. Israel will only have a
peace partner when the Palestinians drop the right of return.
Asked whether Israel could accept case by case exceptions,
Netanyahu insisted not one refugee could ever return. Israel,
after all, was not asking for the right of Jews to return to
Baghdad or Cairo.
¶12. (C) Netanyahu said UNSCR 242 was not a bad formula since
it did not specify precisely from which territories Israel
would withdraw. After the withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon,
there was deep disillusionment among Israelis about the
principle of land for peace. Even the noted Israeli leftist
writer AB Yehoshua had said in a recent interview that he
despaired about peace because the Arabs wanted all of Israel.
From 1948 to 1967, the conflict had not been about occupied
territories, but that point had been obscured by “effective
propaganda.” The root of the conflict was an Arab desire to
destroy Israel, which had now become part of the larger
ambitions of radical Islam.
¶13. (C) The 1967 borders were not the solution since Israel
was the only force blocking radical Islam’s agenda of
overrunning Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu proposed that
Israel offer to work with the Saudis against Iran. If Iran
was not stopped, there would be no agreement with the
Palestinians, and the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt
would come under tremendous pressure. There could be no
deterrence against “crazies” such as Ahmadinejad. Netanyahu
advised Congress to expedite the legislative effort for
divestment. If that did not work, we could reconsider other
options. Congressman Ackerman said that if Netanyahu came to
Washington, he would hold a hearing on divestment.
¶14. (U) CODEL Ackerman did not have the opportunity to clear
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv’s Classified Website:
You can also access this site through the State Department’s
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INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
Monday, 30 April 2007, 10:58
C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 000409
EO 12958 DECL: 04/30/2017
TAGS ECON, KBCT, PHUM, SY
SUBJECT: ARAB LEAGUE BOYCOTT MEETING: SPIELBERG DESIGNATED
REF: 06 DAMASCUS 05302
Classified By: CDA Michael Corbin for reasons 1.4 b/d
¶1. (U) Summary. The semi-annual meeting of the Arab League Boycott group was held April 23-26 in Damascus. Participation and results followed expectations and closely paralleled last November,s gathering (reftel). No companies were dropped; the one announced addition to the blacklist of entities is film director Steven Spielberg and his Righteous Persons Foundation. End Summary.
¶2. (C) The semi-annual meeting of the Damascus-based Arab League Boycott Office (ALBO) was held April 23-26. In attendance were diplomats and/or representatives from Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, according to Muhammed al Ajami, head of the Syrian Regional Office for the Boycott of Israel. The Arab League main body and the Organization of Islamic Conference also had members present, he said. Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia showed support (via the OIC) for the boycott, and they and other countries will likely implement their own bans following the ALBO format, Ajami speculated. As with prior meetings, the most notable absences were those Arab states who have signed separate accords with Israel: Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania, Ajami said. Djibouti and Somalia did not attend, despite earlier efforts by ALBO seeking to encourage their presence, said Ajami.
¶3. (C) No companies were removed from the list during this most recent meeting. The one addition mentioned was film director Steven Spielberg, who was singled out for his USD one million donation to Israel last year during the summer conflict in Lebanon, according to Ajami. The committee banned all films and other products related to Spielberg or his Righteous Persons Foundation, Ajami said. Generic enforcement guidelines given to ALBO members include the banning of DVD imports and airing of Spielberg,s films. XXXXXXXXXXXX
¶4. (C) Comment. Ajami was much more forthcoming with EconOff than he was in a November 2006 meeting, expressing confidence that the boycott was growing stronger and asserting that Israel,s position in the region was becoming weaker. Echoing what seemed like a SARG-supplied talking point, Ajami also claimed that Syria is now being recognized as a key player in regional problems and beyond. CORBIN