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Cablegate: Possible Post-Disengagement Scenarios

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect

1. (SBU) Summary: Predictions about the universe of
post-disengagement possibilities can be grouped into three
possible scenarios and two remote options, according to a
range of Israeli observers. The first scenario -- the
roadmap scenario -- is the official position of the
Government of Israel (GOI), which has pledged to encourage
and support the Palestinians as they take steps to ensure
security and demonstrate self-government in Gaza. The second
possible scenario -- the so-called Somalia scenario -- is
predicated on an Israeli expectation of Palestinian failure,
which will freeze further movement toward a two-state
solution, as predicted by PM Advisor Dov Weissglas in his
"formaldehyde" interview a year ago. Polls suggest most
Israelis expect this failure, but only far-right politicians
and the settler constituency actually seek this outcome,
which they could then exploit to derail future negotiations
with the Palestinians or further Israeli unilateral
disengagement from the West Bank. The third scenario
anticipated by a diverse group of Israeli academics involves
more Israeli unilateral acts when PM Sharon, or his
successor, faces obstacles in the roadmap process -- either
Palestinian failure to control violence or a political
impasse over permanent status issues. A cadre of Israeli
professors, pundits, pollsters and politicians analyzes
Israeli and Palestinian politics under each
post-disengagement scenario. They generally discount two
other options favored by the far left and far right,
respectively: immediate movement to permanent status talks on
the basis of the Geneva Accords; and, transfer of
Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza or Jordan. End

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2. (SBU) WORKING ASSUMPTIONS: Incremental progress and
reciprocal steps lead to progress toward realizing the
President's vision of a two-state solution.
Israeli-Palestinian cooperation post-disengagement continues,
with the PA ensuring that the current truce by militant
groups is respected, and the GOI undertaking some
confidence-building measures to assist President Abbas. The
GOI aims to move gradually toward Phase II -- Palestinian
statehood with provisional borders -- while the PA seeks
rapid movement to Phase III (Permanent Status Agreement).
Proponents of this view take their cue from Prime Minister
Sharon, who has articulated, on several occasions, how he
views the linkage between disengagement and movement onto the

3. (U) PROPONENTS: PM Sharon told the Israeli public August
15 that the Disengagement Plan is "good for Israel in any
future scenario. We are reducing the day-to-day friction and
its victims on both sides... Now the Palestinians bear the
burden of proof. They must fight terror organizations,
dismantle its infrastructure and show sincere intentions of
peace in order to sit with us at the negotiating table."
Sharon concluded: "this action is vital for Israel. ... It
was something that had to be done." On August 29, PM Sharon
told Channel 10, "Disengagement was a one-time move and no
similar move will happen in the future. The next stage, and
we are currently in the pre-roadmap stage, is to move on to
the roadmap. There are no more stages of disengagement."
Sharon also clarified that "the large blocs of settlements
which are so vitally important will remain in our hands.
There should be no doubt about this. Not all the settlements
that currently exist in Judea and Samaria will remain. You
have to remember one thing. Even according to the roadmap,
the decision of where the borders will be, and which
settlements Israel will have to remove, is the final stage of
negotiations. The final results can only be presented during
the final stage (of the roadmap) because anything decided
along the way will serve as the starting point for further
negotiations." Evacuation of isolated settlements not inside
the blocs of settlements would only occur, he said, "during
the implementation of the roadmap and during its final


4. (SBU) Pollster and sociologist Ephraim Yaar, author of a
monthly Peace Index that surveys Israeli views on major
issues relating to relations with the Palestinians, predicts
that the Israeli public will be most influenced by the degree
to which there is continued Palestinian violence
post-disengagement. Israelis "won't buy that the PA can't
prevent it," Yaar told poloff September 13. Some 71.5
percent of Israelis think that unilateral disengagement from
Gaza is only a first step toward an extensive evacuation of
settlements from the West Bank, he said, but most of these
Israelis condition their political support for further
disengagement from the West Bank on a peace agreement with
the Palestinians. In a recent meeting with Embassy officers,
Professor Dan Scheuftan of Haifa University reiterated that
Palestinian violence has a strong effect on Israeli reaction.
Professor Mark Heller of the Jaffee Center predicts that if
the Palestinian Authority manages to control violence, the
GOI will offer some confidence-building measures (CBMs) to
the PA, such as allowing the opening of a seaport and the
airport in Gaza, expanding maritime area available to Gaza
fishermen, releasing substantial numbers of "high quality"
prisoners, authorizing voting rights for those prisoners
remaining in jail, instituting safe passage between Gaza and
the West Bank, and supporting efforts to re-equip Palestinian
security forces and mobilize financial assistance to Gaza.

5. (SBU) Gidi Grinstein, President of the Re'ut Institute
and former aide to then-PM Barak, told poloffs September 12
that he predicts that either after Likud primaries to be held
in the coming months or shortly after Israeli elections in
2006, if re-elected, PM Sharon will move unilaterally to
recognize a Palestinian state. Permanent Status Issues (i.e.
1948 issues such as refugees, Jerusalem, borders) are too
difficult to resolve via negotiations, Grinstein said.
Focusing on this basket of issues puts the cart before the
horse. A two-state reality should be the forerunner to
negotiations, not the reverse, he said. Professor Asher
Susser, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East
and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, agrees in the
strategic advantage of reversing the order of the Oslo
process: "A Palestinian state is a fundamental necessity for
Israel, and in Israel's long-term strategic security
interest." He emphasized, "Israel needs a Palestinian state
in the West Bank and Gaza more than the Palestinians."

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6. (U) Former ISA (Israeli Security Agency) Deputy Director
Ofer Dekel told an audience at the fifth annual
Counter-Terrorism conference in Herzliya September 14 that
"the pullout of Gaza eradicated one component of legitimacy
for Hamas... and this absence of legitimacy (for further
terrorism) will act as a restraint." Dekel said that Hamas
will transfer some of its capacity for terrorism to the West
Bank, but predicted that the tahdiyah (calm) will be fragile
but self-enforced until after Palestinian elections on
January 25, 2006: "Hamas is very sensitive to its own public
opinion and its leaders do not want to be martyrs." Dekel
said Hamas aspires to big-time politics and will attempt to
demonstrate its political influence in the upcoming
Palestinian elections. Dekel indicated that the PA remains
the most influential body in Palestinian politics, but also
its most corrupt. Dekel said that President Abbas could "buy
off" the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, but
Israeli force is the only means of restraining Palestinian
Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Dekel warned that the disintegration of
Fatah, and resulting power struggles could lead to confusing
anarchy, which would pose the greatest security threat to

7. (U) MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor), who also addressed the
Herzliya conference, argued that President Abbas is the one
best positioned to confront Hamas, but predicted that Abbas
would not do so before the January elections. MK Sneh
predicts that Abbas will have greater political clout after
the elections, and this will allow him to impose his demand
for disarmament four to five months later. Professor Susser,
who is an expert on Jordanian politics, said he believes
Hamas will emulate the role of Jordanian Islamist parties.
"Hamas won't want to win the elections, but they will do as
well as they would like to," i.e., win sufficient votes to
demonstrate political power, but not enough to assume
responsibility for governing Gaza. Presidential and
parliamentary elections and institutions are important
because they confine the Palestinian national enterprise to
the West Bank and Gaza and reduce the role of the diaspora,
in Susser's view. Thus, elections -- even with Hamas
participation -- are an important stepping-stone to a
two-state solution. Hamas will not participate in the
January 25, 2006 elections on President Abbas' current
conditions, he added, but Abbas ultimately will accept Hamas
in the political process even if the group has not disarmed.

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8. (SBU) WORKING ASSUMPTIONS: Status quo antithetical to
U.S. objectives in the Middle East. The Palestinians drop
the ball after disengagement. The GOI will stay put, cease
further disengagement and make no further "concessions" in
the face of Palestinian failure to stop terrorism.
Proponents of this view accept the analytic perspective
articulated publicly by Dov Weissglas in his famous October
2004 "formaldehyde" interview with Ha'aretz journalist Ari
Shavit in which the PM's Advisor predicted that the
Disengagement Plan would create circumstances that will
freeze the political process with the Palestinians. However,
we should not necessarily assume that PM Sharon and his
advisors, including Weissglas, still adhere to the
formaldehyde theory, or seek a continuation of the status
quo. In his address to the UN on September 15, Sharon
stated: "The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel
does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land.
The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect
them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are
also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign
existence in a state of their own."

9. (U) PROPONENTS: Those who expect this scenario include
politicians who opposed disengagement as well as some of
Sharon's erstwhile allies. MK Netanyahu (Likud) wrote in his
resignation letter to the Israeli cabinet on August 7,
"Unilateral withdrawal under fire without compensation is not
the way (to reach peace and security). I am not prepared to
be a partner to a step that ignores reality and blindly
advances the establishment of an Islamic terror base that
will threaten the State (of Israel). I am not prepared to be
a partner to an irresponsible move that endangers the
security of Israel, divides the Nation, sets the principle of
withdrawal to the 1967 lines, and further endangers the unity
of Jerusalem." And there are those within Sharon's camp who
also forecast what direction Israeli policy will take if Gaza
becomes chaotic. In an August 17 interview with Al Rai
Al-aam, FM Shalom said: "If Gaza turns into a base for
shooting missiles at Israel and increasing Palestinian
attacks, it will be impossible to move on to another step and
take a new risk."

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10. (SBU) Interpreting data from his post-disengagement
Peace Index survey, Professor Yaar said that Israelis feel
betrayed by the Palestinians and the Oslo architects. "Oslo"
is now a "negative brand name," and a majority of Israelis
are pessimistic regarding the possibility that the
Palestinians have the (will) to establish law and order." If
Gaza remains/becomes a base for attacks on Israel, then a
majority of Israelis will oppose further evacuations in the
West Bank. Yaar said a majority of Likud members are against
disengagement, but a majority of the Israeli electorate
supports disengagement, "and Sharon knows it." Yaar said
that Likud members may hate Sharon, but they may also believe
that remaining in power is more important than ousting
Sharon. Dr. Mark Heller of the Jaffee Center for Strategic
Studies explained to poloff on August 29 that before
supporting any further "concessions," the Israeli public will
ask of its leaders: "What is in it for us?" He views the
possibility of another Israeli disengagement in the near
future as "inconceivable."

11. (SBU) Dr. Heller, who has written on the Palestinian
response to disengagement, assessed, however, that a
Palestinian political mindset concerned about "principles"
will prevail over pragmatic decision-making based on economic
or other considerations. He cited the burning of the Erez
industrial zone at the outbreak of the second Intifada in
2000 as an historical example of how the Palestinians respond
in crisis in ways that are directly contrary to their
economic self-interest, and predicted that Palestinian
leadership will not be pragmatic on issues such as
international passages. (Note: One of the first events
post-disengagement was the burning on September 12 of
factories in the Erez industrial zone that had employed
hundreds, and, at times, thousands of Palestinians.) Dayan
Center Director Susser warned that many Palestinians believe
time works in their favor, and that delay in realizing a
two-state solution will lead to the "South Africanization" of
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- a process directed toward
a one-state solution where Palestinians are the majority.

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12. (SBU) WORKING ASSUMPTIONS: Asymmetric demographic growth
of the non-Jewish population in the areas west of the Jordan
River -- both Israel and the West Bank -- will dictate
further, accelerated Israeli unilateral disengagement from
areas in the West Bank that lie on the "Palestinian side" of
the serpentine separation barrier, which will become the de
facto border. Consolidation of settlement blocs on the
Israeli side of the barrier, including within the large
"fingers" that protect settlement blocs such as Ariel, may be
accompanied by withdrawal of settlements and outposts
elsewhere as Israelis come to view the holding of territory
in largely Palestinian areas as a strategic liability.
Professor Arnon Soffer of the University of Haifa has
produced a series of demographic studies that have persuaded
the political leadership and the general population that
disengagement is in the interest of Israel.

13. (U) PROPONENTS: Proponents of further unilateral acts
range from those who seek consolidation and permanent
retention of Israeli settlement blocs to those who favor
unilateral withdrawal from isolated outposts. These
scenarios would diminish the role of the roadmap and create a
degree of uncertainty regarding the ultimate destination of
the two parties. Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim, on a
tour of Ariel, September 5 said: "Whoever thinks
disengagement from Gaza will continue with disengagement from
the large settlement blocs is very wrong. We will see that
this does not happen." Former National Security Advisor Uzi
Dayan, who heads the Tafnit organization that calls for a new
agenda for Israel based on separation from the Palestinians,
announced September 20 a plan for 32 West Bank settlements to
be evacuated and a temporary border established. Critics say
such unilateral moves are ill conceived unless based on
negotiations with the Palestinians. MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor),
told an audience at the Herzliya Counter-Terrorism Conference
on September 14 that "Sharon's worldview is that 90 percent
of Eretz Israel will be under Israeli sovereignty while Gaza
and seven cantons in the West Bank will form a Palestinian


14. (SBU) Dayan Center Director Susser told poloff September
13 that Israelis increasingly have come to appreciate that
holding on to territory in Palestinian areas is a strategic
liability, not an asset. Sharon's strategic view has moved
above military calculus, and Susser attributes some of this
change to his advisors' (e.g., Dov Weissglas) increasing
receptivity to the ideas and predictions of academics rather
those of the ideologues of the settler movement who
"controlled the office of the Prime Minister two years ago."
Sharon, whom Susser now views as Israel's De Gaulle, saw the
status quo as destructive, and opted to preserve and secure
the "state of Israel" rather than the Eretz Israel of
religious Zionists. Susser added that Sharon and other
proponents of disengagement have not done enough to explain
the underlying rationale for disengagement. In Susser's
view, Sharon's Disengagement Plan was not undertaken for
"peace," but to keep Israel Jewish. "A million Russian Jews
changed nothing -- it only delayed for a decade the
demographic realities, i.e. that Jews will be a minority in
(Israel and the West Bank) by 2010. Professor Uriel
Reichman, President of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center
and a founder of the Shinui party, agrees, and on September
14 told an audience at his Center that Israel must come to an
internal consensus on the permanent borders it seeks in an
eventual agreement with the Palestinians. "If we remain
stuck (in the West Bank), we will have a binational state."


15. (SBU) Professor Susser said Sharon's actions and
statements suggest that his plan is to consolidate settlement
blocs behind the separation barrier. Disengagement from the
West Bank to within the area protected by the separation
barrier must occur within the next five years, or the dynamic
of the Gaza move will be lost. The status quo will endanger
the historical Zionist enterprise, in Susser's view. "The
impotence of the GOI vis a vis the settlers is over. Gaza
demonstrated the limits of their power. Imposition of state
on the settlers, not the other way around." Likud and Labor
are parties representing ideologies Israelis no longer
believe in -- Likud as the party of Eretz Israel and Labor as
the party of peace with the Arabs, he said. Israelis have
moved to the center and form a "Zionist majority without a
party." If Sharon's vision is "Gaza First, Gaza Last," then
Sharon has understood nothing," Susser concluded in response
to a question about this possibility.


16. (SBU) Professor Dan Schueftan, a Senior Fellow at the
National Security Studies Center of the University of Haifa
and an outspoken out-of-the-box observer, claims to have laid
the intellectual underpinning for Sharon's disengagement
policy in his 1999 monograph entitled, aptly,
"Disengagement." Schueftan told poloff August 29 that he
anticipates further unilateral steps rather than negotiations
with the Palestinians over roadmap implementation.
Specifically, he predicts there will be another unilateral
disengagement in 2007-8 from the Samarian mountains in the
West Bank, and that by 2012-15 Israel will decide
unilaterally again to divide Jerusalem rather than face the
security threat that will be posed by 250,000 isolated Arab
East Jerusalemites, who, he predicts, will be recruited to
perpetrate terrorist acts after the separation barrier is
completed around the West Bank. Schueftan predicted a Likud
victory in upcoming elections, but did not think a Netanyahu
victory in the Likud leadership battle -- despite Netanyahu's
anti-disengagement discourse -- would make it any less likely
that the GOI would pursue further unilateral disengagement.

Two Discounted Options

17. (SBU) Two options generally discounted by these mainly
centrist Israeli observers, are: (1) immediate movement to
permanent status talks on the basis of the Geneva Accords;
and, (2) transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza
or neighboring states. Most centrists in Israel discount a
political solution model on the Geneva Accord, a model for a
permanent status agreement put forward by Yossi Beilin,
Chairman of the Yachad Party, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former
Palestinian Minister. Dr. Menachim Klein of Bar-Ilan
University is a member of what might be called the "religious
left." A former settler, he now believes that it is in the
interest of Israel to withdraw from the territories as part
of a negotiated settlement, not unilaterally. Gidi Grinstein
said such a "package approach" would be destined to failure,
while Professor Susser views the substance of the Geneva
blueprint as muddled on key issues such as the right of
return. Susser said the work on articulating fundamental
principles (rather than a concrete blueprint) of Ami Ayalon
and Sari Nusseibeh is more promising, as these two peace
activists have developed understandings and support for
"moving beyond 1948 to focus on 1967 issues chiefly focused
on land" rather than competing and irreconcilable historical
narratives. On the extreme right, Israeli proponents exist
for transferring Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan or
Gaza, but even some of the political representatives of such
movements, such as former MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael
Beitenu), have acknowledged the inevitability of a
Palestinian state, albeit not situated within 1967 borders.
Indeed, Lieberman has ignited concerns among Israeli Arabs
that some Israeli towns, such as Um el Fahm, will be included
in the territory of a future Palestinian state so as to
remove non-Jewish populations from the state of Israel.

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