Cablegate: Israeli Ct Officials Discuss Israel-Hizballah War, U.S.-Israel Ct Cooperation
Carol X Weakley 09/20/2006 01:52:28 PM From DB/Inbox: Carol X Weakley
S E C R E T TEL AVIV 03732
INFO: AMB AID ADM RSO PD IMO CONS DAO RES IPSC ECON
CLEARED: POL/C:MSIEVERS, DAO:TWILLIAMSON, ECON:AABELL
PP RUEHC RUEHXK RUEHJM
DE RUEHTV #3732/01 2621336
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 191336Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6450
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 4559
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 003732
DEPARTMENT FOR S/CT - AMBASSADOR CRUMPTON, VIRGINIA PALMER
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA, NEA/IPA (MAHER)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2016
TAGS: PTER PREL SY LE IS
SUBJECT: ISRAELI CT OFFICIALS DISCUSS ISRAEL-HIZBALLAH WAR, U.S.-ISRAEL CT COOPERATION
Classified By: DCM Gene A. Cretz. Reasons: 1.4 (b, d).
1. (S) Israeli counterterrorism (CT) officials were anxious to convince visiting S/CT Deputy Coordinator Virginia Palmer that Israel´s 34-day war with Hizballah in July and August had weakened the terrorist group and given Lebanese PM Siniora greater political will to take on Hizballah, but Israeli NSC CT Coordinator General Danny Arditi was candid about his fears that Siniora would be assassinated and that "even the Golan Heights would be insufficient to wean Syria away from Iran." Israeli MFA CT officials urged increased U.S. pressure on Syria to ensure compliance with UNSCR 1559 and UNSCR 1373´s provisions on terrorist safe haven, but offered no concrete suggestions for how to do so. They acknowledged that efforts to have Europeans designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization would probably be unsuccessful "at least through 2007." They agreed that S/CT would host the next (CT) Joint Working Group in February 2007. END SUMMARY.
NSC UPBEAT ABOUT WAR RESULTS; WORRIED ABOUT SINIORA, HAMAS
2. (S) In a September 13 meeting with German, Singaporean and U.S. CT coordinators, Israeli NSC Counterterrorism Bureau Director General (ret.) Danny Arditi said his office dealt with interagency CT coordination, primarily in areas of: technology, intelligence, unconventional (WMD) terrorism; border and crossing point security; terrorist finance; international cooperation and national regulation; and protection of critical infrastructure. The office focuses on Palestinian terrorism -- what Arditi termed the greatest day-to-day threat to Israel -- but is increasingly concerned about the growing "convergence" of Palestinian, Hizballah and international terrorist groups. Arditi´s Shin Bet advisor -- introduced only as Shimon -- said fragmentation of longstanding Palestinian military organizations had offered greater entree for global jihadists. Hizballah´s military wing in Gaza is "huge," the advisor asserted, with an organization and even medals remarkably similar to those of Hamas. Shimon hypothesized that the Hizballah kidnappings -- which sparked the war -- were calculated to pressure Hamas not to return the Israeli soldier they had kidnapped, rather than to respond to Iranian instructions. Such a provocation served Iran´s interests, Shimon suggested, but the timing probably did not. Shimon predicted that Hizballah will "double and triple efforts to operate in Gaza and the West Bank now that the Lebanon front is closed." In the near term, he suggested that this will take the form of financial support and training of Palestinian fighters in Lebanon. Asked what Hamas´ view of Iran was, Shimon said Hamas wants Iranian finance but is more loyal to its Muslim Brotherhood roots and is "not a client of Iran."
3. (S) In a separate one-on-one with Palmer, Arditi said it was still too soon to assess the effects of the Israel-Hizballah War. Arditi initially gave the now familiar spin: "Siniora is stronger, and more willing to criticize Hizballah, than he was in June. Although the Lebanese Armed Forces lack equipment, militarily they are capable of dealing with Hizballah if they receive the necessary political support." Nasrallah´s failure to deliver on promised reconstruction assistance would also strengthen Siniora´s hand, Arditi predicted, noting that Hizballah had only provided promised financial support to 200 of 12,000 Hizballah supporters. Arditi then became more candid, noting that despite some pressure to focus on reconstruction and domestic problems, "Hizballah headquarters still seems to be listening to Iran and its external wing" and remains committed to focusing on the struggle against Israel. Arditi said he was personally very concerned that Siniora would be killed. On the positive side, Arditi said he was encouraged that Israel had eliminated 500 of an estimated 1500 Hizballah fighters, virtually all of Hizballah´s long-range missiles, 4,000 medium-range missiles, and -- most importantly -- 600 missile launchers.
4. (S) Arditi said the GOI estimates that Hizballah receives USD 200-300 million a year from Iran, approximately 70 percent of its total funding. Arditi said it was too soon to know how Syria could be pulled out of Iran´s orbit. Without prompting, he said, "Even if the Golan Heights is on the table, Assad might not change Syria´s relations with Iran. Assad is a risk-taker by personality. He is not familiar with the facts. He is...," Arditi paused searching for the right word, "like an outer-space alien, out of touch."
CHANGE OF EUROPEAN DIPLOMATIC STRATEGY ON HIZBALLAH
5. (C) On September 14, Palmer met with MFA Strategic Affairs Director Miriam Ziv, Office Director for CT and Non-Proliferation Yehuda Yaacov and his Deputy Joseph Moustaki. (NOTE: Yaacov and Moustaki recently switched portfolios; Moustaki will now have primary responsibility for CT, reportedly because Yaacov´s abrasive approach had riled the Israeli interagency. END NOTE.) Ziv and her staff had little to say how the war had affected Israel´s overall CT strategy or how Syrian support for Hizballah could be curtailed. They remain focused on developing a public and diplomatic strategy to produce a call for action against Iran and Hizballah and demand enforcement of UNSCR 1559. Ziv acknowledged, however, that Israel would probably not be able to convince EU members to designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization "at least through 2007." Ziv noted that some Europeans already regretted designating Hamas because doing so had limited their maneuverability after Hamas won PA elections. With Europeans sending troops to staff an enhanced UNIFIL in southern Lebanon, they will be even more reluctant to designate Hizballah, Ziv suggested.
6. (C) Yaacov said he had canceled plans to tour Europe to urge designation, prevent "further backsliding" on Hamas, and bolster European enforcement of FATF regulations. Instead, the MFA is putting together a full-court public diplomacy press on Hizballah aimed at European parliaments. In particular, as a result of the evidence Israel now has that Iran transferred sophisticated Russian-made weaponry to Hizballah through Syria, Moustaki wondered aloud if it might be useful to encourage a December 2006 meeting of NATO, EU and OSCE parliamentarians to pass a non-binding resolution on Hizballah and the situation in Lebanon. Moustaki also noted that, in coordination with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Israel is talking directly to European banks that transfer money from Iran to banks in Lebanon.
7. (S) On Al-Manar television, Yaacov said Israel was pushing France to urge Egypt and Saudi Arabia to prevent their nationals from broadcasting Al-Manar into France, in violation of French law. Over the longer term, the GOI will push the EU to ban Al-Manar broadcasts because they are inciting violence and are anti-Semitic and intolerant. Palmer encouraged Ziv to share the information Israel has on the frequencies that are being used, so that the USG could use it in talks with the EU Troika.
PUSH FOR ACTION ON IRAN
8. (S) Yaacov said that Iran invested in Hizballah as an "asymmetrical arm," but that Hizballah´s "weak performance" (NOTE: He did not elaborate. END NOTE.) in the recent conflict had convinced the MFA that Iran will increasingly rely on its own capabilities, pushing its neighbors in the region to choose between Iran and the West, and accelerating its weapons programs. Yaacov lamented that even with widespread international recognition that Iran is running a nuclear weapons program, a missile program, and sponsoring terrorism, there is little political will to address these threats. Iran, unlike North Korea, Yaacov said, "is responsive to pressure, and it needs to be made clear to Iran consistently that it will pay a price for its behavior." Ziv added that Hizballah has increasingly been making public statements suggesting that it is taking a greater interest in Iran´s nuclear program.
9. (S) Ziv expressed concern about the challenge smuggling in the Sinai Peninsula poses in the areas of counterterrorism and arms control. She indicated that Israel would welcome efforts to bolster Egypt´s will to address illicit transfers of arms and strengthen the capabilities of Egypt´s Border Guard force. Moustaki noted that rumors abound about an Al-Qaida presence in the Sinai. He claimed that the Egyptians "close their eyes" to couriers carrying money through the Rafah border crossing into the Gaza Strip. Yaacov allowed that the Egyptians recognize the threat terrorists in the Sinai pose to them, and considered this a good start.
PUSH FOR CLOSER CT COOPERATION
10. (S) Ziv said that she hopes to strengthen counterterrorism contacts with the U.S. She agreed with the proposal that S/CT will host the next Joint Counterterrorism Group (JCG) meeting in early 2007, but urged greater working level follow up on CT finance issues and multilateral cooperation. Yaacov expressed frustration with what he termed diminishing momentum within the international community on the subject of safe havens. Palmer encouraged the MFA to propose concrete ideas for UN CTC and CTED action. Ziv and Palmer both expressed pleasure that plans for cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the appropriate GOI bodies seemed back on track.
11. (U) This cable was cleared by Deputy Counterterrorism Coordinator Virginia Palmer.
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