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Cablegate: Military Intelligence Director Yadlin Comments On

VZCZCXRO4198
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #1733/01 1641638
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 131638Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1629
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001733

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2017
TAGS: PREL PTER MOPS KWBG LE SY IS
SUBJECT: MILITARY INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR YADLIN COMMENTS ON
GAZA, SYRIA AND LEBANON

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

1. (S) Summary. During a June 12 meeting with the
Ambassador, IDI Director MG Amos Yadlin said that Gaza was
"number four" on his list of threats, preceded by Iran,
Syria, and Hizballah in that order. Yadlin said the IDI has
been predicting armed confrontation in Gaza between Hamas and
Fatah since Hamas won the January 2006 legislative council
elections. Yadlin felt that the Hamas military wing had
initiated the current escalation with the tacit consent of
external Hamas leader Khalid Mishal, adding that he did not
believe there had been a premeditated political-level
decision by Hamas to wipe out Fatah in Gaza. Yadlin
dismissed Fatah's capabilities in Gaza, saying Hamas could
have taken over there any time it wanted for the past year,
but he agreed that Fatah remained strong in the West Bank.
Although not necessarily reflecting a GOI consensus view,
Yadlin said Israel would be "happy" if Hamas took over Gaza
because the IDF could then deal with Gaza as a hostile state.
He dismissed the significance of an Iranian role in a
Hamas-controlled Gaza "as long as they don't have a port."
Regarding predictions of war with Syria this summer, Yadlin
recalled the lead-up to the 1967 war, which he said was
provoked by the Soviet Ambassador in Israel. Both Israel and
Syria are in a state of high alert, so war could happen
easily even though neither side is seeking it. Yadlin
suggested that the Asad regime would probably not survive a
war, but added that Israel was no longer concerned with
maintaining that "evil" regime. On Lebanon, Yadlin felt that
the fighting in the Nahr Al-Barid camp was a positive
development for Israel since it had "embarrassed" Hizballah,
adding that IDI had information that the Fatah Al-Islam
terrorist group was planning to attack UNIFIL before it
blundered into its confrontation with the LAF. End Summary.

Gaza Fighting Not Israel's Main Problem
---------------------------------------

2. (S) The Ambassador, accompanied by Pol Couns and DATT,
called on IDI Director Major General Amos Yadlin June 12.
Noting reports of fierce fighting between Hamas and Fatah in
Gaza that day, the Ambassador asked for Yadlin's assessment.
Yadlin described Gaza as "not Israel's main problem," noting
that it ranked fourth in his hierarchy of threats, behind
Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. Yadlin described Gaza as
"hopeless for now," commenting that the Palestinians had to
realize that Hamas offered no solution. IDI analysts, he
said, had predicted a confrontation in Gaza since Hamas won
the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January
2006. Yadlin commented that Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had become
personally close despite their ideological differences, but
neither leader had control over those forces under them.

3. (S) Yadlin explained that both Fatah and Hamas contained
many factions. The Hamas military wing had been frustrated
since the signing of the Mecca Agreement in January, but
there were also many armed groups in Gaza that were not under
the control of either party. Yadlin cited the example of the
Dughmush clan, which had shifted from Fatah to the Popular
Resistance Committees to Hamas before becoming an armed
entity opposed to all of them. After May 15, the Hamas
military wing had sought to export the fighting to Sderot by
launching waves of Qassam rockets. One week later, as a
result of IDF retaliation, they realized the price was too
high and reduced the Qassam attacks.

4. (S) In response to the Ambassador's question, Yadlin said
he did not think that day's Hamas attacks on Fatah security
forces were part of a premeditated effort to wipe out Fatah
in Gaza. Instead, they probably represented an initiative of
the military wing with the tacit consent of Khalid Mishal in
Damascus. Mishal was still considering the costs and
benefits of the fighting, but the situation had become so
tense that any incident could lead to street fighting without
any political decision.

Gaza and West Bank Separating
-----------------------------

5. (S) The Ambassador asked Yadlin for his assessment of
reports that Fatah forces had been ordered not to fight back.
Yadlin said Mohammed Dahlan had 500 men and the Presidential
Guard had 1,500 more. They understand that the balance of
power favors Hamas, which "can take over Gaza any time it
wants to." Yadlin said he would be surprised if Fatah
fights, and even more surprised if they win. As far as he
was concerned, this had been the case for the past year. The
situation was different in the West Bank, however, where
Fatah remained relatively strong and had even started to

TEL AVIV 00001733 002 OF 002


kidnap Hamas activists. Yadlin agreed that Tawfiq Tirawi had
a power base in the West Bank, but he added that Fatah was
not cohesive.

6. (S) The Ambassador commented that if Fatah decided it has
lost Gaza, there would be calls for Abbas to set up a
separate regime in the West Bank. While not necessarily
reflecting a consensus GOI view, Yadlin commented that such a
development would please Israel since it would enable the IDF
to treat Gaza as a hostile country rather than having to deal
with Hamas as a non-state actor. He added that Israel could
work with a Fatah regime in the West Bank. The Ambassador
asked Yadlin if he worried about a Hamas-controlled Gaza
giving Iran a new opening. Yadlin replied that Iran was
already present in Gaza, but Israel could handle the
situation "as long as Gaza does not have a port (sea or air)."

War with Syria "Could Happen Easily"
------------------------------------

7. (S) Noting Israeli press speculation, the Ambassador
asked Yadlin if he expected war with Syria this summer.
Recalling the 1967 war, Yadlin commented that it had started
as a result of the Soviet Ambassador in Israel reporting on
non-existing Israeli preparations to attack Syria. Something
similar was happening again, he said, with the Russians
telling the Syrians that Israel planned to attack them,
possibly in concert with a U.S. attack on Iran. Yadlin
stated that since last summer's war in Lebanon, Syria had
engaged in a "frenzy of preparations" for a confrontation
with Israel. The Syrian regime was also showing greater
self-confidence. Some Syrian leaders appeared to believe
that Syria could take on Israel military, but others were
more cautious. The fact that both sides were on high alert
meant that a war could happen easily, even though neither
side is seeking one. In response to a question, Yadlin said
he did not think the Asad regime would survive a war, but he
added that preserving that "evil" regime should not be a
matter of concern.

Fighting in Nahr al-Barid Positive for Israel
---------------------------------------------

8. (S) The Ambassador asked Yadlin for his views on the
fighting in the Nahr al-Barid refugee camp in northern
Lebanon. Although Yadlin was called to another meeting and
did not have time to elaborate, he answered that the fighting
was positive for Israel because it had embarrassed Hizballah,
which had been unable to adopt a clear-cut position on the
Lebanese Army's action, and because the Fatah al-Islam
terrorist organization had been planning to attack UNIFIL and
then Israel before it blundered into its current
confrontation with the LAF. He also agreed that the
confrontation was strengthening the LAF, in fact and in the
eyes of the Lebanese people, which was also good.

9. (S) Comment: Yadlin's relatively relaxed attitude toward
the deteriorating security situation in Gaza represents a
shift in IDF thinking from last fall, when the Southern
Command supported a major ground operation into Gaza to
remove the growing threat from Hamas. While many media
commentators continue to make that argument, Yadlin's view
appears to be more in synch with that of Chief of General
Staff Ashkenazi, who also believes that the more serious
threat to Israel currently comes from the north.

********************************************* ********************
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JONES

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