Emphasis is mine.
S E C R E T TEL AVIV 000414 SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 02/22/2025 TAGS PREL, PTER, MASS, SY, LE, IS REF: IIR 6-849-9075-10 Classified By: Luis G. Moreno for reasons 1.4 (b),(d)
1. (S/NF) On February 22, 2010, BG Yossi Baidatz, Israel Defense Intelligence (IDI) Chief of Production and Analysis, advised Embassy Tel Aviv officers that IDI had information suggesting Syria intended to imminently transfer SCUD-D missiles to Hizballah in Lebanon. Baidatz explained that IDI viewed completion of such a transfer as creating a “new level of concern” along Israel’s northern border, and he requested that the USG demarche the Syrian government in an attempt to dissuade them from transferring the missiles. Baidatz requested that any demarche be delivered prior to the February 25 arrival in Washington of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Baidatz was concerned that a demarche following Barak’s meeting in Washington would lead the Syrians to believe that the U.S. and Israel collaborated to uncover and thwart the transfer.
2. (S/NF) Embassy Tel Aviv’s Office of Regional Analysis is sending additional details separately. Cunningham
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 002777 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/23/2019 TAGS: PREL PGOV KNNP MASS SY TU FR KWBG IR IS Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, Reason 1.4 (b) (d)
1. (C) Summary. CODEL Skelton met with Prime Minister Netanyahu November 16 at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. Their discussion covered Netanyahu's meeting with President Obama the previous week, Netanyahu's interest in resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear program and options for tougher sanctions, possible negotiations with Syria, U.S.-Israeli cooperation on missile defense, and Israel's objections to the Goldstone Report. Netanyahu said his meeting with the President was the best meeting that they have had. He stressed that he had told the President that he is ready to negotiate with Abu Mazen now, and contrasted Israel's position with the PA's setting of preconditions for negotiations. Netanyahu listed steps the GOI has taken to support Abu Mazen, noting that the PA is "doing a good job" on security. A nuclear Iran, however, would "wash away" all progress as well as undermining Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. Netanyahu said that Iran is vulnerable to sanctions and urged the U.S. to increase the pressure on Iran, with likeminded countries if Russia and China will not support new sanctions in the Security Council. Netanyahu commented that there is broader Arab and European support for tough sanctions than in the past, although the Arabs may not say so publicly. Netanyahu praised President Obama's commitment to missile defense, and commented that U.S.-Israeli cooperation on missile defense sends a strong signal to Israel's enemies. He thanked the CODEL for the Congress' support. Netanyahu said Israel faces three main threats: Iran's nuclear program, the build-up of rockets and missiles in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and the Goldstone Report, which condemned Israel for defending its civilian population from years of rocket attacks. Netanyahu said Israel will need to ensure that a future Palestinian state cannot launch rockets at Israel's international airport or critical facilities. End Summary. Let's Get on with Negotiations ------------------------------
2. (U) CODEL Skelton, consisting of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D, MO) and Mrs. Skelton, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), Representative Tim Murphy (R, PA), Congressional Staff members Phil McNaughton, Michael Casey, and John Wason, Military aides Colonel Jeff Koch and PolCouns met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu November
16. Netanyahu was joined by Deputy National Security Adviser Rear Admiral (reserve) Avriel Bar Josef, media adviser Mark Regev, policy adviser Ari Harrow, and a Congressional liaison officer from the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
3. (C) Netanyahu began the meeting by noting his appreciation for his meeting with President Obama at the White House the previous week. Netanyahu described his conversation with the President as "the best we've had so far." He said that regarding negotiations with the Palestinians, he told the President, "let's get on with it." Netanyahu stated that his government had removed hundreds of obstacles and roadblocks in the West Bank, helping the West Bank economy achieve a seven percent growth rate, adding "and we can kick it up to ten percent growth." Netanyahu said his Bar Ilan address last June had been difficult for him, but it had united Israelis in support of accepting a demilitarized Palestinian state. The current GOI had also restrainted construction in settlements more than its past several predecessors.
4. (C) Netanyahu then contrasted his efforts with the PA, which he said is maintaining a "political and economic boycott" of Israel, setting preconditions for negotiations, supporting the Goldstone Report in the UN, and is now talking about a unilateral declaration of independence. Israel wants to engage, but the Palestinians do not. Netanyahu quoted a Palestinian official as saying that the PA had "exhausted the negotiating process," then noted that the Palestinians have not even started to talk to his government. The real difference, he pointed out, is that Abu Mazen is facing elections, while Israel has already conducted its elections. Netanyahu also commented that the Palestinians had initially expected the U.S. to "deliver Israel" on all of their demands, but are now realizing that this will not happen. President Obama understands, he stated, that Israel is ready to move forward. The alternatives to negotiations are bad for everyone. Netanyahu said that if Abu Mazen would engage, they would confront all the issues. The process would not be easy, but it has to get started.
5. (C) Netanyahu said the West Bank had remained quiet during Operation Cast Lead because the Palestinians do not TEL AVIV 00002777 002 OF 003 want to live under Hamas' rule. He asserted that according to recent polls, Abu Mazen and Fatah would easily win an election, even in Gaza. Netanyahu stressed that he was not pushing for the Palestinians to hold elections, but was instead focused on promoting the expansion of the West Bank economy by removing both physical and bureaucratic obstacles. He acknowledged that the PA is "doing a good job" on security, though he added that PA leaders are not aware of everything Israel is doing to support the PA's security. If we could add a political process to the cooperation that currently exists, we could get security, economic development, and peace. Netanyahu warned, however, that if Iran gets a nuclear bomb, the peace process would be "washed away." Even Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan would come under enormous pressure. Iran Sanctions --------------
6. (C) Chairman Skelton noted that his Committee is following Iran closely. Netanyahu said he had advised the President to stick to the deadline on the TRR offer, adding that it is also important to ask Iran to stop its enrichment activities. Netanyahu commented that there is a new mood in the major European capitals in support of sanctions. The U.S. does not need to depend on the Security Council, but can work with likeminded countries. Sanctions should focus on Iran's importation of gasoline, while also focusing on opening up the information networks. The U.S. should lead the world toward tougher sanctions, or more of the Arab states will start appeasing Iran, as Qatar is doing. Netanyahu summed up his advice as: "stick to the deadline, be firm on the terms, and apply sanctions" if Iran does not comply. He thought Russia may be more inclined than in the past, but it would be best not to count on the Security Council. Having set a deadline, the P5 1 should stick to it. The Western powers at least will go along. We should close the gap between understanding the problem and acting on it, he said. Netanyahu said Israel's problems with Iran are not limited to its nuclear program. Even without a nuclear umbrella, Iran is sending hundreds of tons of weapons to Syria, Hamas and Hizballah. The ship seized November 3 by the Israeli Navy had on board two thirds of the amount of rockets fired at Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
7. (C) Representative Israel asked Netanyahu about the timetable for Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu responded that Iran has the capability now to make one bomb or they could wait and make several bombs in a year or two. It is important to bear in mind that the Iranian regime was exposed as a fraud during their presidential elections. The Iranian people detest the regime and have shown great courage in the streets. The exposure of the Qom facility also helped convince doubters in the international community that Iran has a weapons program. Iran has a weak economy and a fractured political system, so it is vulnerable to sanctions. The time to act diplomatically is now, Netanyahu said, adding that we still have a year or two to stop the Iranian program. Netanyahu said he thought President Obama understands Iran perfectly. The Arab leaders hope Iran will be stopped, there is broad Arab and European support for "vigorous steps." Chairman Skelton asked whether the Arabs would state their support publicly. Netanyahu replied they might not, but it would not make a large difference since the Arab "street" will not rise up in support of the Iranian regime. Ready to Talk to Syria ----------------------
8. (C) Regarding Syria, Netanyahu urged the U.S. to press Damascus to stop supplying arms to Hizballah. Noting that he had stopped in Paris to meet President Sarkozy on his way back to Israel from Washington, Netanyahu confirmed media reports that Sarkozy had offered to mediate between Israel and Syria. Netanyahu said he would prefer direct negotiations with the Syrians, but added that he would accept France as a mediator. President Asad, however, still wants Turkey as the mediator. Noting that Turkish PM Erdogan had recently stated that he would prefer to meet with Sudanese President Omar Bashir than with Netanyahu, Netanyahu asked how the Turks could be fair mediators. Working Together on Missile Defense -----------------------------------
9. (C) Netanyahu said that in addition to peace with the Palestinians and Iran, he and the President had discussed joint U.S.-Israeli efforts on missile defense. Netanyahu TEL AVIV 00002777 003 OF 003 commented that he had personally visited the Juniper Cobra joint military exercise. The program has reached a phase at which it is possible to monitor incoming missiles with a good lead-time, but it is still very expensive to intercept "crude rockets" such as those fired from Gaza. The information shield is moving ahead nicely, but the physical shield is lagging behind. Netanyahu observed that it is very important for the U.S. and its allies to be able to defend themselves against missile attack. Chairman Skelton noted that U.S. personnel who briefed the CODEL were very optimistic about the program. Netanyahu said only the U.S. and Israel are currently working on missile defense. This cooperation sends a powerful message to Israel's enemies he noted, and thanked the CODEL and the Congress for their support. Goldstone Report a Key Threat -----------------------------
10. (C) Netanyahu commented that Israel currently faces three principal threats: Iran's nuclear program, missile proliferation and the Goldstone Report. Goldstone gave terrorists immunity to attack Israel if they fire from populated areas. During Cast Lead the IDF send thousands and flyers, text messages and phone calls to civilians, warning them to get out of the way, yet Israel was accused of war crimes. Hamas and other terrorists fired 12.000 rockets into Israel from Gaza, Netanyahu said, noting that Israel is the only country in the world faced with threats to annihilate it. Netanyahu asked the CODEL to imagine a situation in which Israeli Air Force pilots must consult with lawyers before they can travel abroad. Former PM Olmert, former FonMin Livni and DefMin Barak could be hauled before the International Criminal Court. Netanyahu said he could not accept that IDF soldiers could be charged with war crimes for protecting their country from constant attack. The deaths of several hundred civilians in Gaza was "tragic," Netanyahu said, but there was no deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel. Deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime, but what should Israel do when terrorists deliberately target Israeli civilians and then hide within their civilian population?
11. (U) CODEL Skelton did not clear this cable. CUNNINGHAM
S E C R E T TEL AVIV 002757 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2019 TAGS: PREL PARM MNUC KNNP EG IR Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers, reasons 1.4 (b),(d)
1. (S) Summary: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher visited Israel December 1-2. U/S Tauscher focused her visit on setting the stage for a successful Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon) in May 2010. She consulted with GOI interlocutors on potential strategy in addressing Egyptian insistence on pushing for the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, as a way to divert attention from Iran to Israel. U/S Tauscher reiterated that the United States will not take any action to compromise Israel's security and would consult closely with Israel -- which GOI officials greatly appreciated. Nevertheless, U/S Tauscher said the United States is interested in exploring possible small steps involving Israel to address some of Egypt's NWFZ concerns regarding the lack of implementation of the 1995 resolution. GOI officials for the most part were critical of these tactics, questioning why Israel should be portrayed as part of the problem. They recommended a more direct approach to President Mubarak -- thereby circumventing the Egyptian MFA -- in which Egypt is reminded that Iran is the regional nuclear threat. Other topics discussed include President Obama's arms control and nonproliferation agenda, the P5 1 process and Iran's nuclear program, the FMCT and CTBT, Jordan's plans for a nuclear reactor, and Israel's qualitative military edge (QME). End summary.
2. (SBU) U/S Tauscher met with National Security Advisor Uzi Arad on December 1. Arad was accompanied by NSC Senior Advisor and Nuclear Security Summit Sherpa Gil Reich. In a separate meeting on December 1, U/S Tauscher met with MFA Director General Yossi Gal, Deputy Director General for North America Baruch Bina, and Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar. U.S. participants for the Arad and Gal meetings included Political Counselor Marc Sievers, T Senior Advisor James Timbie, NSC's Adam Scheinman, and political military officer Jason Grubb. U/S Tauscher met for dinner with Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) and MFA senior officials on December 1, including IAEC Director General Saul Chorev, Deputy Director General David Danieli, and Director for Policy and Arms Control Merav Zefary-Odiz, as well as MFA DDG Bar and Director for Arms Control Rodica Radian-Gordon. On December 2, U/S Tauscher met for breakfast with MOD Political-Military Chief Amos Gilad; U.S. attendees included Charge D'Affaires Luis Moreno, Timbie, Scheinman, and Grubb. Arms Control/Nonproliferation Agenda ------------------------------------
3. (S) In various meetings with GOI interlocutors, U/S Tauscher outlined an ambitious arms control and nonproliferation agenda, beginning with the President's Prague speech, and including other priorities such as a follow-on to START, CTBT ratification, the upcoming NPT Review Conference, and negotiating the FMCT. She noted that negotiations with Moscow on START were slow to develop in part due to delayed confirmations and Russian wariness. But U/S Tauscher expected a START follow-on -- including a strong verification regime -- soon.
4. (S) National Security Advisor Arad described President Obama's arms control and nonproliferation agenda as "daunting and challenging." He reaffirmed that the GOI will participate in the April 2010 Nuclear Security summit in Washington, noting that PM Netanyahu planned to attend the summit as discussed between President Obama and PM Netanyahu during their recent one-on-one meeting in Washington. GOI Nuclear Summit Sherpa Gil Reich noted, however, that the Holocaust memorial day in Israel might be a potential scheduling conflict with the summit. Arad expressed appreciation for the summit, noting that if the initiative had been pursued ten years previously, perhaps proliferation cases such as AQ Khan might have been prevented or at least controlled. He wished the United States success negotiating with the Russians on START.
5. (S) Due to the U.S. administration's prioritization of arms control and nonproliferation, Arad also noted that the GOI had recently reconvened a high level committee on these issues comprised of GOI officials and experts from outside the government. He noted that the committee had been formed during President George Herbert Walker Bush's administration to analyze treaties such as the CWC and CTBT, but stopped meeting in 2007. U/S Tauscher expressed interest in meeting with the group during her next visit to Israel; Arad took the request on board. Egypt and the NPT -----------------
6. (S) On the NPT, U/S Tauscher reiterated the importance of a successful Review Conference -- including hopefully a consensus resolution. She raised U.S. concerns over potential Egyptian actions at the RevCon, based on previous decades of behavior and "10-15 year-old talking points." U/S Tauscher said the United States is not "naive" with respect to Egypt; nevertheless, the United States must make a sincere, good faith effort to create the conditions for a positive RevCon -- this might include small steps with Israel to address some of Egypt's desire to demonstrate progress in implementation of the 1995 resolution on a region free of weapons of mass destruction.
7. (S) That said, U/S Tauscher reiterated that the United States would consult and coordinate with Israel, and would take no action that might compromise Israel's security. She noted that the United States would like to elevate the NPT RevCon issue to President Mubarak at an appropriate time, and expressed interest in developing an alternate communication track to Mubarak to circumvent the MFA, potentially through Egyptian Intelligence Minister LTG Suleiman. U/S Tauscher said her message to Cairo will be "very tough," and that Egyptian obstructionist behavior linking Israel to Iran's nuclear program is not helping Egypt.
8. (S) Arad said relations with Egypt were "relatively good," describing continued dialogue between PM Netanyahu and President Mubarak, and strong channels of communication at other levels. In many respects, he said Israel's relations with Egypt are almost as good as during PM Rabin's time. Arad said Egypt and Israel do not see "eye-to-eye" on some issues such as Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, but otherwise relations are strong.
9. (S) Arad described the Egyptian MFA, however, as a "nagging problem" in the relationship, particularly regarding the Middle East NWFZ issue, and noted Cairo's refusal to talk to FM Lieberman. Other GOI officials expressed exasperation over Egyptian motivations on the NWFZ; Reich raised Egyptian behavior at the latest IAEA General Conference, as well as Cairo's negative reaction to the IAEA Board of Governor's recent statement on Iran. Arad said Israel has supported a regional NWFZ as far back as 1992, provided Israel enjoyed peaceful relations with its neighbors. He said the GOI has spoken frankly with Cairo, noting that such behavior is not helpful, and is misdirecting focus away from Iran.
10. (S) MOD Political-Military Chief Amos Gilad said Egypt understands that Iran is the real threat to the region, noting that a nuclear weapon-armed Iran is a redline for Cairo. He averred that Egypt does not accept that Iran will become a superpower, but remains afraid of its own domestic political situation post-Mubarak. Gilad expressed succession concerns, noting that Mubarak is "approaching the past more quickly than the future." He added that Mubarak does not have confidence in Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit.
11. (S) MFA Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar outlined repeated attempts by the GOI to engage with the Egyptian MFA, but to no avail. He described Egyptian actions linking Israel to Iran's nuclear program in the IAEA as "not encouraging," and questioned how to convince Egypt to drop this "obsession" over the NWFZ. Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) Director General Saul Chorev and Arms Control Director Merav Zefary-Odiz speculated that Egypt feels challenged by Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear weapons, and includes Israel in any public attack on Tehran in order to give Cairo coverage from regional criticism. Bar argued that the Egyptian MFA raises Israel's nuclear program as a "wedge issue" in order to prevent better relations between Israel and others in the region. IAEC Deputy Director General David Danieli concurred, noting that Egypt can use the nuclear issue to put Israel "in a corner" while benefiting from positive relations between the two countries.
12. (S) Zefary-Odiz also reviewed her participation in an International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament conference in September 2009 in Cairo. She described the conference as "very confrontational," and that it was clear Israel was targeted by Egyptian interlocutors. Zefary-Odiz acknowledged that the GOI had anticipated such behavior, and contemplated skipping the conference. She noted that Egyptian officials also lambasted Iranian participants, but were always careful to include Israel and Iran in the same sentence.
13. (S) Arad said the GOI will take their cue from U.S. "heavy-lifting": if there is a small step -- "not a concession," he stressed -- that Israel could take to help facilitate, then the GOI would consider it. He noted that the GOI wanted to see a "reversal of trends" from Egypt regarding Iran's nuclear program -- after all, it is in Egypt's interest to do so. He said Israel continues to have reservations regarding the NPT -- following nuclear pursuits by Libya, Syria, and Iran, it is clear to the GOI that the NPT is not sufficient and must be strengthened. The goal of the NPT, he stressed, should not be to "prevent the next Iran, but to stop Iran in order to prevent the next Iran" from occurring.
14. (S) Chorev speculated that Egypt will aim to ruin the RevCon. Bar said the Egyptians have not been held accountable for past bad behavior at the NPT RevCon -- "they have never paid the price." He noted that Cairo knows the importance the United States attaches to a successful RevCon, and therefore will try to leverage a "high price" in order not to ruin it. He noted similar tactics with regard to Egypt's counter-smuggling efforts along the border with Gaza.
15. (S) Timbie outlined several small steps that might address Egyptian concerns and demonstrate progress in implementation of the 1995 resolution and the Middle East NWFZ: an IAEA forum on the experience of other regional NWFZs; a special coordinator or rappateur on 1995 resolution implementation; a statement from the United States, United Kingdom and Russia reiterating the importance of the 1995 resolution; and exploring text with Israel and Egypt on universality and compliance.
16. (S) Gilad questioned these steps from a "tactical/strategic" context, and suggested this was not a tactical matter. He argued against creating the impression that Israel was the problem. Instead, Gilad recommended a strategic, traditional approach -- concessions will only be used by Egypt as leverage. He suggested the United States remind Egypt of its special relationship based on U.S. support, and reaffirm that Iran is the "bad guy." Gilad said Egypt should also be reminded that most countries in the region agree with the NWFZ concept in principle; the Egyptian MFA's insistence on an immediate NWFZ neither fits the current political reality nor makes sense as it diverts focus from Iranian intransigence. He noted that Egypt listens to the United States; it is therefore important to speak clearly and directly when taking the issue to Mubarak.
17. (S) Chorev and Zefary-Odiz argued these steps had been tried in the past -- and had failed. Danieli questioned why Israel should take any steps at all. Based on experience at the IAEA and the UN First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, he said "nothing satisfies Egypt" as Cairo "pockets every concession" and demands more -- "it's a slippery slope." Danieli said Israel will not "play by Egypt's rules." Bar concurred, noting that Egypt will "raise the bar," and begin negotiations with these small steps as the baseline -- he was skeptical such steps would prove helpful.
18. (S) Arad characterized these steps as "talking endlessly" -- that is "not progress," he said. He was uncomfortable discussing Israel NPT compliance, especially as Israel is not a party to the treaty. He also raised concerns regarding the definition of the Middle East NWFZ -- did it also include Pakistan, India and Iran, for example? Arad said such questions should be posed to Cairo -- if Egypt is willing to include Pakistan in its definition of a Middle East NWFZ, then we can take that as a signal that Cairo is ready for a serious conversation on the matter.
19. (S) Zefary-Odiz argued that the NPT as a "global solution" is not appropriate in the current political realities of the Middle East. Due to the region's prior track record of NPT non-compliance, she said a gradual, step-by-step process employing confidence building measures be used to improve relations between neighbors. NPT partner obligations should be enhanced, not reduced, she said. Zefary-Odiz noted that only after peaceful relations are established can arms control measures be pursued, starting with conventional weapons and later focusing on chemical/biological/nuclear arms. She said that Egypt and other Arab states de-link comprehensive peace from arms control measures -- Israel views these elements as inseparable and sequential.
20. (S) On a related note, Chorev asked if Israel should attend the RevCon as an observer. U/S Tauscher and Timbie replied that the decision was ultimately the GOI's to make, but offered to raise the issue in Washington . Chorev noted that Israel would be careful not to "make any noise," and could play a positive, consultative role. On the other hand, Danieli acknowledged the argument that as a non-party, perhaps it was not appropriate for Israel to attend. Iran ----
21. (S) U/S Tauscher said the United States was very concerned about the recently announced Iranian plans to build ten additional uranium enrichment facilities. She reiterated the two track strategy of persuasion and pressure, and noted that the time for persuasion is "waning." U/S Tauscher said the United States has "created the coalition" it had hoped for, and was happy to see the recent IAEA BOG's resolution transferred to the UNSC.
22. (S) U/S Tauscher noted that the United States was working hard through the P5 1 process to encourage Russian and Chinese cooperation to counter continued Iranian intransigence and inflammatory rhetoric -- Russia and China are "lynch pins," she said. She noted that Russia had worked closely with the United States on the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) proposal, which Moscow considered an "elegant solution," -- but Iran had not agreed. Keeping Russia engaged, U/S Tauscher explained, also means Chinese cooperation.
23. (S) MOD Political-Military Chief Amos Gilad described recent Russian cooperation on Iran as encouraging, but expressed reservations that Russia would join in any sanctions against Iran. He explained that Moscow has raised the provision of sophisticated Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology in exchange for canceling the S-300 sale to Tehran. Gilad said that Russian interlocutors had acknowledged development gaps in their UAV platform, and is prepared to pay USD one billion for Israeli UAV technology. He reiterated that Israel will not provide its latest UAV technology, arguing that such technology would likely end up in the hands of the Chinese.
24. (S) Arad said the GOI appreciated the United States' efforts regarding Iran, noting how hard the United States has worked to build an alliance. He pointed to the recent IAEA Board of Governor's resolution as a successful example of U.S. efforts. Regarding the Qom facility, Arad said the GOI was not surprised by Tehran's "chutzpah." He described a high degree of alertness in Israel, and added that the GOI studies daily Iranian posturing and boastful announcements in an attempt to discern Iranian intentions. Arad commented that the trends are bad, as Iran continues to accumulate low enriched uranium.
25. (S) MFA DG Gal said there was not much difference in the national intelligence estimations (U.S., UK, France, and Russia) regarding Iran. He said the GOI takes "very seriously" Iranian plans for ten new enrichment facilities -- "time is of the essence," and "now is the time to implement crippling sanctions," he added. Gal likened the case for enhanced sanctions to prescribed antibiotics from a doctor -- one must take the full course of antibiotics for the prescribed period of time, or they will not work.
26. (S) Turning to his crystal ball, Gilad was not sure Tehran had decided it wants a nuclear weapon -- but is "determined" to obtain the option to build one. He acknowledged that the engagement strategy is a good idea -- "as long as you understand that it will not work." Gilad said it should be clear by February 2010 that engagement as a option has failed -- the imposition of "crippling sanctions" for the February/March/April timeframe is crucial. He said Russian cooperation will be the key, and the current Russian cooperative mind-set cannot necessarily be counted on in several weeks time. By June of next year, Gilad said it should be clear whether sanctions have worked. However, given Tehran's clandestine nuclear program (e.g., Qom), he said it will not be clear when Iran has reached the "point of no return" -- he doubted Iran will choose to let it overtly known that it has produced a nuclear weapon. FMCT and CTBT -------------
27. (S) IAEC DG Chorev raised the FMCT's future in the Conference on Disarmament. U/S Tauscher acknowledged frustration with Pakistan, and noted that while Washington places a high priority on the FMCT, other efforts like a START follow-on and the CTBT will come first. Timbie added that it will take some time to negotiate an FMCT.
28. (S) Chorev asked about the current prospects for CTBT ratification in the Senate. U/S Tauscher noted that the START follow-on was a higher priority, and said the Senate will likely focus on the Law of the Sea treaty before turning its attention to the CTBT. She pointed to mid-term Congressional elections in 2010, and explained that focusing on the CTBT in 2011 might be more prudent given the controversy associated with the treaty. U/S Tauscher explained the necessity of making the case for the CTBT, and hoped to build political momentum in favor of the treaty through the release of the Nuclear Posture Review, a new national intelligence estimate, and the handover on the stockpile stewardship program.
29. (S) Chorev asked that the United States consult with the GOI on the CTBT, where he said Israel could be "more flexible than the FMCT." U/S Tauscher asked if the GOI might be willing to make affirmative statements in support of the CTBT; Chorev made no promises, but suspected such a statement might be possible -- especially if it would help with Senate ratification.
30. (S) Chorev described the FMCT as "very difficult" for Israel. Scheinman confirmed that negotiations would be based on the 2006 draft FMCT text, with an added verification regime that is being worked on -- he described the verification regime's definitions as "critical" in that regard. Danieli questioned the FMCT's added value, arguing that it would have little impact. He asked who was the FMCT's real target -- India, Pakistan or even Israel? Jordanian Nuclear Reactor -------------------------
31. (S) IAEC DG Chorev raised Jordanian plans to build a nuclear reactor. He said the GOI has decided not to oppose the reactor, and have offered the Jordanians Israeli expertise on where best to build it. Chorev said the IAEC formed a steering committee with its Jordanian counterpart comprised of three working groups focusing on safety, geological surveys, and water issues. Chorev said the steering committee first met in Amman in June 2009, and is waiting to convene again. Danieli stressed that the GOI does not want to hamper the Jordanian nuclear plans, but added that Israel has concerns about border issues and security associated with the reactor. Timbie said the United States is pushing Jordan to sign a 123 Agreement along the same lines as the recent agreement signed with UAE, only stronger. Zefary-Odiz noted that Egypt is putting tremendous pressure on Jordan not to accept a 123 Agreement. QME ---
32. (S) U/S Tauscher reiterated the United States' strong commitment to Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME), and expressed appreciation for the GOI's willingness to work with us through the newly created QME working groups. Both MOD Pol-Mil Chief Gilad and MFA DDG Bar commended the newly created QME working groups, and asked they be scheduled to convene as soon as possible.
33. (U) T has cleared this cable. CUNNINGHAM
IVSIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2019 TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PTER KWBG EG IR SA LE IS 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
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002500 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2019 TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PTER EG CH IR RU SA LE TU IS 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
S E C R E T TEL AVIV 002482 NOFORN SIPDIS 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 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