27.09.2005: AMB. JONES´ 9/26 MEETING WITH ISRAELI MOD´S GILAD FOCUSES ON EGYPT, GAZA, HAMAS ACTIVITY AND PA ELECTIONS



S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TEL AVIV 005864

SIPDIS

NOFORN

STATE FOR NEA/AIP

DEFENSE FOR OSD (JAMES ANDERSON)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/26/2015

TAGS: PREL, MARR, MASS, KPAL, KWBG, EG, IS, GOI EXTERNAL, ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS, GAZA DISENGAGEMENT

SUBJECT: AMB. JONES´ 9/26 MEETING WITH ISRAELI MOD´S GILAD FOCUSES ON EGYPT, GAZA, HAMAS ACTIVITY AND PA ELECTIONS

REF: A. TEL AVIV 05794

B. TEL AVIV 05137

Classified By: Amb. Richard H. Jones. Reasons: 1.4 (b, d).

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SUMMARY

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1. (S/NF) In a September 26 meeting with the Ambassador, Israeli MOD Political-Military Bureau Chief Amos Gilad indicated that his September 25 meetings in Egypt to discuss the Rafah passage on the Egypt-Gaza border yielded no breakthroughs. Gilad said the Israelis prefer to open Rafah passage after six months, while the Egyptians prefer to open it by mid-January -- before Palestinian elections and the Haj. Gilad said the Egyptians are controlling the Egypt-Gaza border better than before, and praised them for quickly sealing the border when asked by Israel to do so. Requesting that his information and sources be strictly protected, Gilad said Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman recounted to him the details of a recent visit to Cairo by Syrian President Al-Asad. Gilad cited Suleiman as saying that Al-Asad "threatened" Egypt not to yield to U.S. pressure to isolate Syria, or suffer Syria´s playing the "Palestinian card."

2. (S/NF) Summary, cont.: Gilad said he warned Suleiman that continued terrorist activity on the part of Hamas will not be tolerated, and that Hamas participation in January 2006 Palestinian elections will "destroy everything." According to Gilad, Suleiman said Egypt will take steps to ensure that there will be no elections in January, but did not elaborate. Gilad portrayed the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a "sinking ship" suffering from interpersonal rivalries among PA President Abbas, PM Quraya´, Civil Affairs Minister Dahlan and Interior Minister Yusif. He said PA President Abbas needs to assert his leadership and act upon it, and suggested that the U.S. and Egypt present Abbas with that choice. Gilad cautioned that U.S. economic assistance to the PA will not help to stabilize the security situation in the Gaza Strip. Gilad said he is hopeful that an Israel-Egypt security dialogue can be started up, and expressed his hope that the U.S.-Israel security dialogue will be restarted now that the issue of Israeli exports to China has been resolved. Gilad expressed his concerns about developments in Iran and Jordan, and said that Israel has very little information about Iran. He asked the Ambassador about his views on the future of Iraq, and was told that the U.S. is cautiously optimistic about Iraq´s future, seeing positive indicators in increased Sunni political participation and the continued training of Iraqi security forces. END SUMMARY.

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GILAD SUGGESTS NO BREAKTHROUGH ON RAFAH

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3. (S) Gilad indicated that his September 25 meetings in Egypt to discuss the Rafah passage between Egypt and the Gaza Strip yielded no breakthroughs. Gilad said he conveyed to Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman that Israel could allow the Rafah passage to open after six months. Suleiman reportedly conveyed Egypt´s preference for opening after four months -- in mid-January before the Palestinian elections and the Haj. Gilad praised the Egyptians for responding quickly to Israeli calls to stop the flow of human traffic along the Egypt-Gaza border, noting that it took the Egyptians only 30 minutes to respond to Israel´s request to seal the border on Friday, September 23. Gilad acknowledged that the Egyptians opened it for a short time afterwards to allow some people to cross, but said this was to "let off some steam" from the Gaza Strip, and clarified that Israel had no problem with the temporary flow which Minister Mofaz had approved. Gilad said the Egyptians are controlling the Egypt-Gaza border better than when they took control of it from the IDF.

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GILAD RECOUNTS WHAT EGYPTIANS TOLD HIM OF AL-ASAD VISIT

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4. (S/NF) Asking that the information be kept in the strictest of confidence and not attributed to anyone, Gilad said that Suleiman recounted to him a recent visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad to Egypt. Gilad said that Suleiman told him that Al-Asad threatened the Egyptians with the "Palestinian card," saying Syria would play it if Egypt succumbed to U.S. pressure to isolate Syria. According to Gilad, Al-Asad told Suleiman that he wants to develop political cooperation among Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. When the proposal was made to Egyptian President Mubarak, Mubarak reportedly told Al-Asad that Egypt would not cooperate with Syria, and would not countenance Syrian threats. According to Gilad, Suleiman said that Mubarak told Al-Asad that he should behave in his relations with the U.S. Gilad said, "It appears the Egyptians do not like Al-Asad, especially as he appears to have given the Palestinians a ´free hand.´" Gilad stressed the "utmost secrecy" of his discussion with Suleiman, noting that Suleiman told him that he does not want it to be known that Suleiman had invited Gilad to Egypt.

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GILAD DELIVERS STERN MESSAGE ON PALESTINIAN QASSAM LAUNCHES

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5. (S) During his three-hour meeting with Suleiman, Gilad said he conveyed a "stern, severe" message from Israeli DefMin Mofaz to the Egyptians about the Palestinians´ launching of Qassam missiles into Israel: "This cannot continue. The mood in Israel is very bad." To emphasize the seriousness of the message, Gilad said, he refused dinner with Suleiman. According to Gilad, Suleiman "spoke bitterly of Hamas," and portrayed it as a common enemy akin to the Muslim Brotherhood. Referring to the Qassam attacks, Gilad told the Ambassador, "It is humiliating to us. We have to respond." Gilad said the Qassam launches were conducted by Hamas to cover up for its mistake that led to the fatal explosion of Qassams at a rally in Jabalya refugee camp on September 23. He said that Hamas was careless in the particular incident, but should not be underestimated: "They are very disciplined, much more so than the PA security forces." Gilad predicted that Hamas´s weekend Qassam launches will come back to haunt them. Recalling earlier discussions he has had with the Egyptians, Gilad said the Egyptians are shocked by the scope of terror organizations in the Sinai. He said the Egyptians initially told him the terrorist networks were 100 percent Egyptian, but eventually admitted they are run by Wahhabi organizations out of Saudi Arabia. Gilad said he believes the latter, although he emphasized he did not see a Saudi government hand at work in this case.

6. (S) Gilad said he will meet with Egyptian Major General Mustafa Bucheri on September 27 to discuss possible Egyptian training of Palestinian security personnel. Gilad described Bucheri as a low-key, self-effacing but very knowledgeable expert who is in charge of Egypt´s intelligence liaison in Gaza. According to Gilad, Bucheri is in charge of 46 Palestinian advisers in Gaza, and wants to open military training camps in Gaza and the West Bank for Palestinian security personnel. Gilad said the GOI needs to discuss the issue further. Gilad himself is not inclined to have the Egyptians training Palestinian security personnel, although he said that it is already happening in Egypt. He noted that Egypt had sent Badr Brigade trainers to Jordan, and assessed that it had not yielded anything fruitful. He also dismissed out of hand Jordanian offers to send Badr Brigade members to the West Bank to train PASF, commenting they had enough Palestinians to worry about already.

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DISCUSSION OF PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS, IN-FIGHTING WITHIN PA

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7. (S/NF) Gilad said he warned Suleiman that if Hamas participates in the January 2006 Palestinian elections "it will destroy everything, as Hamas will take over and start a new process." According to Gilad, Suleiman and his deputy told him, "There will be no elections in January. We will take care of it." Gilad requested that the USG closely hold this information and strictly protect the sources. He clarified that neither Suleiman nor his deputy explained how Egypt would stop the elections or elaborated further on the subject. Gilad admitted that he does not know how the Egyptians could prevent the elections from taking place, but said, "The only people the Palestinians can trust now are the Egyptians."

8. (S) Gilad said he is hopeful that Egyptian President Mubarak will tell Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas during the latter´s visit to Cairo September 27 that the Palestinian Authority must make a choice: "It either takes the reins of government or it does not." Gilad recalled that he stressed this issue to Suleiman who, according to Gilad, wrote down "for the first time" the points Gilad made to him. Gilad believes that means his points will be shown to Mubarak in advance of the Mubarak-Abbas meeting.

9. (S) Gilad said the problem facing the PA is that PA President Abbas "actually believes he can convince Hamas through dialogue after a long period of peace. He believes there is no alternative to himself." Gilad recalled how he had recently turned over a memo to Abbas along with a request to reorganize the PA. According to Gilad, Abbas said he would work with it, but took no action. Gilad said PA Interior Minister Nasir Yusif is honest but has no power base. In contrast, he described Suleiman Hillas -- the Palestinian Security Forces Commander in Gaza -- as competent. Gilad recalled that Hillas worked well with the IDF during the Gaza evacuation, but noted that Hillas did not report his communications with the IDF to Yusif. Gilad said PA Civil Affairs Minister Muhammad Dahlan is out to get Yusif, and that PA PM Ahmad Quraya´ is "terrible, and needs to go." Portraying the PA as a "sinking ship," Gilad said he had cited the shameful responses to the murder of Musa Arafat to Suleiman, who had responded by saying a commission must be established to investigate the murder of Arafat. As a further example of the state of disarray in the PA, Gilad suggested that Palestinian policemen and soldiers helped to loot the greenhouses that were preserved for the Palestinians.

10. (S) Responding to the Ambassador´s question about what can be done to help PA President Abbas, Gilad replied, "He listens to the U.S. and Egypt. He needs to be told he has to make a decision. Either there is one state, one authority, one weapon in Gaza, or there is not. He needs to be forced to make a choice, and then he needs to carry out his obligations." Gilad said, "U.S. economic assistance to the PA will not help to resolve the security situation in the Gaza Strip."

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GILAD PITCHES STRATEGIC DIALOGUES

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11. (C) Gilad said that as a result of discussions with the Egyptians on the Egypt-Gaza Border Guard Force Agreement, relations with Egypt have markedly improved. He hopes Israel´s long-held goal of a serious strategic dialogue with Egypt can finally be achieved, and noted that the Egyptians will invite Israel DefMin Mofaz to Egypt. (NOTE: He did not specify a date. END NOTE.) Gilad suggested that Egypt -- like Israel -- is worried about Iran and its nuclear weapons program and designs in Iraq.

12. (C) Gilad expressed frustration that the U.S. and Israel "do not have a formal framework for discussion, as a result of the incident involving China." He indicated that the delay in holding the Joint POL-MIL Group (JPMG) session, Defense Policy Advisory Group (DPAG), and the Strategic Dialogue is deeply felt in Israel´s security establishment, especially as "it is recognized that the U.S. treats seriously only formal dialogues." The Ambassador responded that there is a desire to re-start the Strategic Dialogue with Israel, and that it could begin this fall or in early 2006. He said that Secretary Rice has assigned Under Secretary Burns to lead it. Gilad acknowledged this was apositive development.

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GILAD EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT JORDAN, IRAQ

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13. (C) Gilad said he is concerned about the current situation in Jordan, with King Abdullah reportedly rotating his generals and governments on a regular basis, changing out his ambassador to Israel unexpectedly, and facing increasing opposition in the Jordanian parliament. Gilad said that Israel´s cooperation with Jordan on the counterterrorism front is "incredible," and he hopes it will continue. He stressed that Jordan´s stability is vital to Israel´s security. Gilad said he is worried that Israel does not know much about the situation in Saudi Arabia, or about internal ethnic tensions in Iran.

14. (C) Gilad asked the Ambassador about Iraq, expressing his view that security is the main issue there. The Ambassador said he was cautiously optimistic about the future of Iraq, observing that the Sunnis seem increasingly ready to participate in the democratic process, and that the U.S. is making significant progress in training Iraqi security forces.

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