DE RUEHJM #1488/01 2331044
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 211044Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5820
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 8652
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4498
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 5246
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 8213
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 4286
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 4909
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC C O N F I D E N T I A L JERUSALEM 001488
NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE AND IPA, NSC FOR SHAPIRO/KUMAR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/2019
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO PA ON RECONCILIATION
Classified By: Deputy Principal Officer Greg Marchese for Reasons 1.4 (
b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary. Egyptian Representative to the PA Yasir
Othman told D/SEMEP David Hale that GOE mediators made no
progress during a visit to Amman and Ramallah the week of
August 17. Gaps remain on a proposed factional committee,
and may have widened on the issue of Hamas prisoners in the
West Bank. Talks scheduled for August 25 have been
postponed, and no new date has been set. Othman said Hamas
remains firmly in control in Gaza, despite clashes last
weekend with Jund Ansar Allah. Finally, he said that Fatah
emerged strengthened from its recent Congress, and an
emboldened Abu Mazen appears sincerely committed to elections
in January 2010, despite practical difficulties. End
Reconciliation: No New Ideas, Talks Delayed
2. (C) In an August 20 meeting with D/SEMEP David Hale in
Ramallah, Egyptian Representative to the Palestinian
Authority Yasir Othman provided a debrief on Egyptian
mediation efforts. Othman said Egyptian General Intelligence
Service Deputy Mohammed Ibrahim visited Amman and Ramallah
the week of August 17 before moving on to Damascus on August
20. "He came with no new ideas," Othman noted, adding, "his
goal was only to listen, to see if it is possible to restart
talks now that the Fatah Congress is over."
3. (C) No progress was been made in closing the gaps on key
issues (prisoners, elections, security, or a proposed
factional committee), Othman said. With regard to the
factional committee, Othman said senior Hamas official Ghazi
Hamad had told him that Hamas "wants the committee to have an
executive function, and more clarity as to how it relates to
the governments in the West Bank and Gaza. We told them it
would not replace the (PA) government, and would only exist
in the transitional period before elections."
4. (C) On prisoners, the gap has actually widened, Othman
said. In the run-up to the recent Congress, Fatah had
offered to free as many as 600 prisoners in exchange for
Hamas permitting Gaza delegates to travel to Bethlehem, he
said. This was well beyond the "hundred or so" prisoners
Fatah had offered in the previous round of talks in Cairo.
Now, Hamas' expectations had been raised, but Fatah officials
made clear their offer was specific to the Congress.
Mohammed Ibrahim told Hamas representatives it might be
possible to structure a three-stage deal, with an initial
release, a second release in conjunction with a factional
agreement, and a third stage at an undetermined future date.
Othman said the Israelis had made clear any prisoner release
would affect their willingness to relax restrictions on West
Bank movement and access, further complicating this issue.
5. (C) Othman confirmed that the next round of factional
talks (planned for August 25 in Cairo) would be postponed due
to a lack of progress, and to avoid conflicting with an
August 26-27 meeting of the PLO National Council in Ramallah.
Hamas Politics: Zahar Ascendant?
6. (C) In response to a question from D/SEMEP Hale about
internal Hamas politics, Othman said Hamas military wing
commander Ahmed Jabari "has the upper hand" in Gaza now.
Interior Minister Fathi Hamad remains influential, as does
former Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, he added. "We are
trying to give more attention to Zahar because he is becoming
more moderate compared to the others," Othman noted. He
described Khaled Misha'al as the "axis" between senior
leaders, adding that Jabari depends on Misha'al for financial
7. (C) With regard to August 14-15 clashes between Hamas
forces in Gaza and the Jund Ansar Allah group, Othman said
the Egyptians received advanced warning and increased
security along the border as a result. "From our point of
view this was a good development," he noted, adding, "these
Salafist groups are not directly related to al Qaeda but
embrace its ideas." He said Hamas retains complete control
over the security situation in Gaza, and dismissed the
possibility that Salafist groups represent a threat to Hamas
rule. "They (Hamas) were ruthless in how they handled the
situation, but in the long term there will be a payoff for
Hamas," he added.
Fatah: Sights Set On Elections
8. (C) Fatah emerged from the Sixth Congress in a stronger
position domestically, Othman said. "They are gaining
popularity, and they feel now is their chance to regain a
majority in parliament," he noted. In recent meetings with
Abu Mazen and senior Fatah officials, Othman said he came
away with the impression that calls for Palestinian elections
in January 2010 were more than just a tactical ploy against
Hamas. "I feel that Abu Mazen is seeking legitimacy in
advance of resuming negotiations. He is already reactivating
the PLO. If he is re-elected as president, and if Fatah wins
a majority, it repairs the damage Fatah suffered in (the 2006
Legislative Council elections)," he said.
9. (C) Hale asked how elections could be held in the absence
of a factional agreement. Othman said he had heard several
"ideas" from senior Fatah officials, none of which seemed
practical in his view. One senior Fatah official told him if
Hamas refuses to agree to elections, Gaza would be declared a
"rebellious region," but Othman questioned the practical
impact of such a declaration. Another idea involved adding
Gaza-based Fatah leaders to the electoral slate in the West
Bank. "These are not solutions," Othman said, "and I told
Abu Mazen we remain unconvinced that elections are a viable
option in the absence of reconciliation." Nonetheless, he
noted that Abu Mazen's inner circle and key Fatah leaders
seem to view elections as the only way out of the domestic
political stalemate. Othman said Abu Mazen did pledge not to
call elections before consulting the Egyptians, since such a
move would signal the end of GOE mediation efforts.
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