Viewing cable 07TELAVIV3613

07TELAVIV36132007-12-27 11:42:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
DE RUEHTV #3613/01 3611142
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 003613 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2017 
Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, Reason 1.4 (b) (d) 
¶1.  (C) Summary. CODEL Specter met with Prime Minister Olmert 
December 25.  Their discussion focused on the possibility of 
peace negotiations with Syria; the National Intelligence 
Estimate and Iran's nuclear program; Egypt and the problem of 
smuggling into Gaza; dealing with Hamas in Gaza; and the 
negotiations with the Palestinians.  On Syria, Olmert 
stressed that he had sent a clear message to Bashar Al-Asad 
and was still waiting for the Syrian response.  Olmert 
criticized the NIE as "not helpful" to efforts to mobilize 
the international community against Iran's nuclear program. 
He said he would discuss his ideas on Iran with President 
Bush during the President's upcoming visit.  Regarding Egypt, 
Olmert complained about "massive" smuggling of weapons 
through tunnels into Gaza.  Olmert noted that Egypt was "not 
afraid" of the U.S. reaction.  Olmert denied that Hamas had 
formally offered a truce in Gaza, stressing that Israel would 
not negotiate with Hamas as long as the latter did not 
recognize Israel.  Olmert praised President Abbas and Prime 
Minister Fayyad as "genuine and honest" in their desire for 
peace.  Regarding Palestinian complaints about ongoing 
settlement activity, Olmert said he had informed the cabinet 
that Israel is freezing construction in the West Bank and 
will not confiscate any new land, but he insisted that the 
freeze does not apply to the settlement blocs that Israel 
expects to retain.  Olmert said he was "not pessimistic" 
about the negotiations with the Palestinians.  He thought an 
agreement could be reached within a year, but it would not be 
implemented for some time.  He expressed hope that 
Palestinian society was undergoing a positive change.  Israel 
was prepared to move forward, but carefully and without 
exposing itself to danger.  End Summary. 
¶2.  (U) CODEL Specter (Senator Arlen Specter (R, 
Pennsylvania), Representative Patrick Kennedy (D, Rhode 
Island, Senate staffer Christopher Bradish, and military 
physician Navy Captain Ronald Smith), accompanied by 
PolCouns, met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert December 25. 
Olmert was joined by his Chief of Staff Yoram Turbowicz, 
Foreign Policy Adviser Shalom Tourgeman, Spokesman Mark 
Regev, and incoming Israeli Consul General in Philadelphia 
Daniel Kutner. 
Negotiating with Syria 
¶3.  (C) Responding to Olmert's question about Washington 
developments, Senator Specter commented that President Bush 
is becoming more engaged in the peace process.  Specter noted 
that he sensed a shift in the Administration's opposition to 
engaging Syria.  Olmert commented that it was difficult to 
move forward with Syria when Damascus ignored the world's 
demand that it cease its intervention in Lebanon.  Syria 
continued to kill Lebanese members of parliament and even the 
future chief of staff of the Lebanese army.  Even President 
Sarkozy had lost patience with Syria, he noted.  Specter 
agreed that Syria was difficult, but he thought there was a 
chance to move forward.  He said he had met in Washington 
with the Syrian deputy foreign minister after the Annapolis 
Conference, and the Syrian had told him that Syria wanted to 
talk to Israel.  Syria wanted the Golan Heights back, so 
Israel could use this as leverage for better Syrian behavior 
on Lebanon and support for Hizballah and Hamas. 
¶4.  (C) Olmert noted that he had said publicly that he was 
prepared in principle to negotiate with Syria, but it would 
be a long process.  The deputy foreign minister might say 
nice things, but the Syrians had to begin to deliver. 
Specter asked who would move first, adding that Olmert had 
told him the same thing a year ago.  Olmert responded that he 
had done a lot in the past year to reach out to Syria. 
Syria, however, had not responded to the new "attitude that 
we have clearly conveyed."  So far, there had been no 
response.  Noting his long history of contacts with the late 
Hafiz Al-Asad, Senator Specter said he would raise this with 
President Bashar Al-Asad when he visited Damascus.  Bashar 
was not his father, but it still may be possible to deal with 
him.  Olmert agreed that Bashar was not his father.  He added 
that he had urged Secretary Rice to invite Syria to 
Annapolis.  (Note:  This part of the meeting was leaked in 
detail to the Israeli media the same evening by Olmert's 
Iran and the NIE 
¶5.  (C) Senator Specter asked whether the international 
community could deliver sanctions that would be sufficiently 
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tough to stop Iran's nuclear program.  Olmert responded that 
the NIE was "not helpful" in this regard.  Israel was 
convinced that Iran was determined to get the bomb, but there 
was no smoking gun.  Olmert said President Putin had told him 
about Putin's meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, 
during which Putin asked why Iran was rushing to enrich 
uranium.  If Iran's goal was to develop an alternative source 
of energy, why enrich uranium while Iran had no technical 
means to use the enriched uranium?  Putin said that Khamenei 
responded that no one had ever asked him that question 
before, and he did not know the answer.  Olmert said his 
answer was that Iran was enriching uranium to produce a bomb. 
 The U.S. intelligence agencies must have solid information 
about Iran stopping its weapons program in 2003, but they did 
not know for certain whether the program had been restarted. 
If Iran obtained enough enriched uranium, it would get a bomb 
easily.  Olmert stressed that every means must be used to 
pressure Iran. 
¶6.  (C) Senator Specter recommended not to rely on the CIA, 
which he said had been "wrong too often."  Putin, he said, 
had the best idea, which was for Russia to supply Iran with 
enriched uranium.  The question was whether Iran could be 
stopped short of military means.  Olmert said a concerted 
effort by the international community, including Russia and 
China, could work.  He complained that the public thinks 
there are only two options, either war or acquiescense. 
Olmert said he plans to discuss ideas about third options 
with President Bush during the President's upcoming visit. 
Olmert expressed interest in Specter's plans to meet IAEA 
Secretary General El Baradei in Vienna.  He urged Specter to 
talk to El Baradei about the NIE. 
Egypt and Smuggling into Gaza 
¶7.  (C) Representative Kennedy noted an article in that 
morning's Israel press about Egypt allowing Hamas to smuggle 
weapons into Gaza.  He asked what the U.S. Congress could do 
to convince Egypt to change its approach.  Olmert replied 
that there was "massive" smuggling of weapons, including some 
very dangerous anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles into 
Gaza.  The Egyptians say they have uncovered 67 tunnels, but 
many are still functioning, and weapons, money and terrorists 
are passing through them into Gaza.  Egypt also facilitated 
the crossing of hundreds of Hamas terrorists.  Olmert said he 
had complained to Mubarak that Egypt was not doing enough, 
but the Egyptians were "not afraid of the U.S. reaction." 
Congress had frozen some of Egypt's military assistance, but 
the Administration would use its waiver.  As long as there 
was a waiver, the Egyptians would not worry.  Olmert added 
that he had told President Bush that Egypt should not have 
its cake and eat it too.  Defense Minister Barak was going to 
Egypt the next day to meet Mubarak.  Olmert said he hoped 
that visit would help. 
¶8.  (C) Turbowicz commented that Mubarak does not deny that 
Egypt has not stopped the smuggling, but he claims Egypt 
needs 750 more border guards to do the job.  Increasing the 
number of border guards would be contrary to the peace 
treaty, however, and the GOI would need to bring the issue to 
the Knesset for approval.  That was something they did not 
want to do.  Olmert said Egypt was not using the forces it 
has effectively.  Congress should convey that message to 
Egypt in a powerful manner. 
Truce with Hamas? 
¶9.  (C) Senator Specter noted that it had taken the GOI 
several days to respond to reports that Hamas had offered a 
truce in Gaza.  Olmert replied that Hamas had never offered 
anything.  On the day that Israel killed twelve members of 
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas was frightened.  They had 
phoned an Israeli Arab journalist, but their message was not 
clear.  The Israeli media had played this up, and after a few 
days Olmert had made clear that Israel would not negotiate 
with an organization that did not recognize Israel.  In any 
case, a truce would be useful to Hamas, which would use it to 
resupply and reorganize.  Specter asked whether Israel had 
dealt with Arafat before he changed the PLO Charter.  Olmert 
said Arafat had only pretended to change the PLO Charter when 
President Clinton visited Gaza, but that was not the point. 
The point now was that President Abbas and Prime Minister 
Fayyad are "genuine and honest" about wanting to make peace. 
This was a dramatic difference from Arafat.  Olmert added 
that there was also a big difference between Hamas now and 
the PLO in 1993.  Hamas said openly that it would fight 
Israel forever due to religious reasons.  Arafat had turned 
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out not to be a worthy partner, but he had no ideological 
objection to peace. 
Settlements and Negotiations 
¶10.  (C) Specter asked about the Palestinian complaints about 
ongoing settlement activity.  Olmert said the Palestinians 
were using settlements as leverage in the negotiations.  He 
added that he had made a statement to the cabinet that Israel 
was freezing construction in West Bank settlements and would 
not confiscate any more land.  But the freeze did not apply 
to construction in the settlement blocs, which were mentioned 
in President Bush's letter of April 2004.  Olmert said he 
would not stop construction plans that were already approved. 
 He stressed that he had told this to President Bush, to 
Secretary Rice, and to President Abbas.  Abbas had simply 
asked him not to publicize such construction.  The Jerusalem 
suburb of Maale Adumim will remain Israeli, for example.  If 
the Palestinians do not ask about construction there, Israel 
will not announce it.  But if they ask, Israel will have to 
tell them.  Olmert said Israel had promised to withdraw from 
ninety percent of the West Bank and not to take any 
unilateral steps.  It remained to be seen if the negotiations 
would succeed, but Olmert said he was not pessimistic.  In 
response to Specter's question whether an agreement could be 
reached in one year, Olmert said he thought they could reach 
an agreement but it would not be implemented for some time. 
Abbas and Fayyad were serious, but that may not be the case 
for all the Palestinian negotiators.  Olmert added that the 
Israeli negotiating team was serious about reaching an 
¶11.  (C) Specter said he had visited Israel twenty-four times 
as a Senator and there was always tension.  Israel responded 
to Arab ill will with checkpoints, which the Palestinians say 
prevent them from developing their economy.  What prospect is 
there for breaking the cycle of violence?  Olmert said he 
noticed a change in Palestinian society toward moderation. 
There was a new generation of Palestinian businessmen today 
who speak differently from their counterparts thirty years 
ago.  President Abbas himself had been a terrorist thirty 
years ago.  Israel would move forward, but it would do so 
carefully and without exposing the Israeli public to danger. 
¶12.  (U) CODEL Specter did not clear this report. 
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