DE RUEHJM #1971/01 3060827
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 020827Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6516
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 JERUSALEM 001971
NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, SEMEP, AND IPA. NSC FOR SHAPIRO/KUMAR.
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2019
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO THE PA UPDATES ON GOE
INTRA-PALESTINIAN RECONCILIATION STRATEGY
REF: JERUSALEM 1891
Classified By: CG Daniel Rubinstein for reason 1.4 (d).
1. (C) Summary. In an October 28 meeting with the Consul
General in Jerusalem, Egyptian Representative to the PA Yasir
Othman provided an update on Fatah-Hamas reconciliation
efforts. He said the GOE continues to press Hamas to sign a
draft Egyptian reconciliation text, but does not anticipate
that Hamas will do so, due to opposition from Syria, Iran,
and the Hamas military wing in Gaza. For the GOE, the most
important part of the agreement is a joint security committee
under "Arab supervision," which will supposedly pave the way
to remobilize PA security forces in Gaza. He acknowledged
USG concerns over the GOE strategy, but insisted it remains
preferable to the status quo. Othman said reconciliation
through elections must occur before Abu Mazen can engage
seriously in negotiations with the GOI. End Summary.
GOE Contines to Press Hamas to Sign,
Knowing Hamas Remains Unready
2. (C) Othman began by noting that the GOE continues to press
Hamas to sign a draft reconciliation proposal tabled earlier
this month (reftel). However, Othman said, it is unlikely
Hamas will sign in the near future. Gaza-based Hamas leaders
Ismail Haniya and Mahmoud Zahar want to sign "with
observations," he claimed, but Gaza military wing commander
Ahmed Ja'bari remains adamantly opposed, since the current
Egyptian text prohibits "unauthorized military structures."
Hamas' Damascus-based leadership is also being pressured by
Iran and Syria not to sign, he claimed.
3. (C) As a result, Othman said, "our assessment is that
Mish'al is buying time" and cannot agree to the current text.
Nonetheless, the GOE contines to press Hamas to agree. "Our
position remains the same," Othman said, adding, "Abu Mazen
has signed already. With Hamas, we are saying come to Cairo,
sign, and then we can discuss your reservations." The Consul
General noted the importance of USG-GOE consultations before
taking any additional steps.
For GOE, Security Commmittee Key
4. (C) For the GOE, Othman noted, the joint security
committee is the most important component of the
reconciliation proposal, as it would supervise implementation
of key aspects of the agreement, such as Palestinian
elections. Othman said the committee would be under the
supervision of Egyptian and Arab personnel based in Gaza. By
calling for the remobilization of 3,000 PA security force
members in Gaza, it would allow the PA to re-establish a
foothold there. He acknowledged that, on paper, the
committee's mandate would extend to PA security forces in the
West Bank as well, but the GOE had kept the language on this
point "intentionally vague" in order to exploit the
"constructive ambiguity" in its discussions with Hamas.
Political Rollback of Hamas Control
Only Viable Strategy for Gaza
5. (C) "Hamas is a reality on the ground," Othman noted, and
rolling back its control can only be accomplished over time.
He admitted that the agreement "shelves" the issue of
demobilizing Hamas' military wing (the Izzedin al Qassam
Brigades) for now. "The Qassam brigades are a fact on the
ground and cannot be addressed right away," he said,
comparing the approach to that adopted by the international
community toward Hizballah's military wing in Lebanon. What
the GOE proposal offers, he said, is for the PA to move from
a situation in which it has no control over Gaza to one in
which it has "partial" influence there.
Flawed Reconciliation Preferable to Status Quo
6. (C) Othman acknowledged USG concerns over this approach.
He defended the GOE strategy as an imperfect resolution to
the situation for an interim phase only, between now and
Palestinian elections. "It's not a permanent agreement," he
said. He also warned of the dangers of continued stalemate.
Hamas is solidifying its security and political control in
Gaza, he noted. Control of the tunnel economy has
strengthened its hand, and Hamas is buying up real estate,
including significant portions of the evacuated Israeli
settlements. Over the longer term, its policies are
JERUSALEM 00001971 002 OF 002
contributing to a "lost generation" of Gazans subjected to
Hamas' educational and social policies.
7. (C) Stalemate also does not benefit Hamas' interests,
Othman said. He claimed resistance to Hamas' authority is
growing among disaffected ideologues, some of whom have split
off from Hamas' military wing to join Salafist groups. While
these problems do not challenge Hamas' control, they
increasingly complicate its ability to advance a coherent
agenda. He also said that the "lesson" the GOE had learned
from Hamas' decision to breach the border fence in January
2008 is that the situation cannot be left to fester. "Gaza
is a time bomb," he said, "and it will explode in someone's
face" if the status quo prevails.
8. (C) Othman then provided his assessment of how
reconciliation affects the USG's effort to restart
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. "Abu Mazen can't sign an
agreement without reconciliation," he said. Othman cautioned
that the absence of a political horizon for Palestinians, and
efforts by rejectionists to exploit tensions over Jerusalem,
were further undermining peacemaking efforts. "So our
assessment is that the only way Abu Mazen can move forward is
9. (C) We have generally found Othman a candid interlocutor
on reconciliation and other issues, though we defer to
Embassy Cairo as to the extent his statements accurately
reflect GOE policy. The GOE's preferred sequence of
reconciliation before negotiations may present problems,
though it is not inconsistent with Fatah's own strategy of
renewing its legitimacy through Palestinian elections (or by
painting Hamas as the party standing in the way of
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