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Cablegate: Former Pm Adviser On Goi Political Future

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Leza L Olson 08/29/2006 09:52:48 AM From DB/Inbox: Leza L Olson

Cable
Text:


C O N F I D E N T I A L TEL AVIV 03432

SIPDIS
CXTelA:
ACTION: POL
INFO: ECON DCM DAO AMB IPSC AID ADM RSO PD CONS IMO
RES

DISSEMINATION: POL
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB:JONES
DRAFTED: EXEC:SISKAL
CLEARED: NONE

VZCZCTVI220
OO RUEHC RUEHXK
DE RUEHTV #3432/01 2401553
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281553Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5953
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 003432

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2016
TAGS: PREL MOPS LE IS PGOV
SUBJECT: FORMER PM ADVISER ON GOI POLITICAL FUTURE

Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: In an August 25 luncheon meeting former PM
Advisor Dov Weissglas told the Ambassador that the GOI is in
political trouble because it placed too much faith in
military advice and set overly ambitious goals, which were
impossible for it to achieve and trapped it into continuing
the war against Hizballah for too long. Nonetheless, he
applauded the strategy of massive response, which he saw as
discouraging future missteps by Hizballah and a sine qua non
for future Israeli withdrawals from occupied territory.
Despite its problems, Weissglas doubted that a vote of no
confidence in the government was likely or would succeed.
Instead, new elections would probably be called sometime
within the next year, possibly following a successful
challenge to Labor Party Chairman and Minister of Defense
Amir Peretz within his own party. Weissglas discounted
rumors that new parties might be enticed into the coalition
in the meantime. With regard to the way forward, Weissglas
argued that after a few months separation and in the context
of successful contacts on operational issues, it might be
possible for the GOI to enter into talks on Shebaa Farms,
which were "totally unimportant" to Israel. He also thought
that talks on an exchange of POW's could take place within
weeks and revealed that former PM Sharon was personally
favorably disposed toward talks with Syria. End Summary

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2. (C) Former Prime Minister Senior Advisor Dov Weissglas
joined the Ambassador for a 1-1 lunch Friday, August 25, and
shared his observations on the current situation. They can
be summarized as follows:

Current State of Play

-- The GOI is in trouble now because it over promised; the
Israeli public only sees what wasn't accomplished and ignores
what was. To repair the damage, the GOI should lay low for a
while and focus on day-to-day governance. Any new policy
initiatives now would be dismissed as "political gimmicks."

-- The basic GOI strategy of responding massively was sound.
Although Hizballah has many Iranian sympathizers, it is still
a mass Lebanese movement. It is impossible for it to ignore
that Lebanese interests suffered greatly during the war.

-- In addition, the strong Israeli response helped disabuse
Hizballah of the notion that it can keep pursuing Israel
after it pulls out from an area. If Olmert had not responded
the way he did, any further withdrawal from the West Bank
--negotiated or not-- would have become impossible.

-- The US policy of supporting the GOI during the conflict
was "just right" and is highly appreciated within Israel.

The Coalition Government's Prospects

-- The government is not in any immediate danger. It is
doubtful that a no confidence vote would succeed; history
shows that it is very difficult for GOI opponents to muster
more than 30-40 votes due to sharp divisions among the
various parties.

-- Nonetheless, new elections will probably occur within a
year, for example if Labor Party rebels succeed in defeating
Amir Peretz in the party's leadership elections due next
spring.

-- In the meantime, do not look for new coalition partners
for Olmert's government. "Why would mice swim to a sinking
ship?" (Note: there have been rumors in the press speculating
that Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beteinu party might join
Olmert's government.)

-- Lieberman himself told Weissglas in early July that at a
minimum he would want the Defense Minister portfolio to join
the government. His price would be much higher now.

What would have Sharon done?

-- It is unlikely that Nasrallah expected that Hizballah's
strike would provoke a big crisis. There were too many
variables that he could not have forecast, including that one
of the cameras on the border had malfunctioned, allowing the
Hizballah team to approach without being detected; that two
soldiers would be captured alive; that the IDF would
immediately launch a half-baked rescue attempt that would hit
a mine and incur eight more casualties, upping the ante for
Israel; etc.

-- Given the circumstances, Sharon might not have even
reacted to the kidnapping of the two soldiers, certainly not
immediately. If he had responded, Sharon would have known
not to set ambitious goals (e.g., the rescue of the soldiers;
the destruction of Hizballah) that were beyond his power to
deliver. When Olmert and Peretz did, they were forced to
continue military operations. The longer the war dragged on,
the worse they looked.

-- Instead, Sharon would have just said that we had to punish
Hizballah. Then he could have let them have it for a few
days and declared victory whenever he chose.

-- Olmert and Peretz placed too much faith in what they were
told and had no experience that could allow them to suggest
alternatives. Sharon knew that IDF Generals always
exaggerate capabilities. "Arik always said, take everything
they tell you and divide it by ten." Peretz, in particular,
had no such "BS detector".

Shebaa Farms

-- The Shebaa Farms are "totally unimportant" to Israelis.
However, in the current circumstances it is necessary to
separate any talks on them from the current crisis related to
the captured soldiers.

-- Any such talks should wait "some months" and only take
place in the context of perceived progress on contacts with
Lebanon, e.g., through a revived Armistice Committee.

-- Similarly, any talks regarding POW exchanges also need to
wait, but the delay in this case need only be a matter of
weeks rather than months.

Syria

-- Contrary to his public position, in private Sharon always
said that he was not personally opposed to talks with Syria.
He said that he refused them to avoid undercutting the Bush
administration's anti-terror policy against Syria.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************
JONES

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