DE RUEHTV #1177/01 1530619
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O 020619Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2000
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001177
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/01/2019
TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV MOPS IR KWBG IS
SUBJECT: CODELS CASEY AND ACKERMAN MEET WITH DEFENSE
Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, reasons 1.4 (b,d)
¶1. (C) Summary: Post hosted two CODELS during the week of
May 25: one from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led
by Senator Casey, the other from the House Committee on
Foreign Affairs led by Congressman Ackerman. Both
delegations met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who
conveyed similar points on the Peace Process and Israel's
concerns about Iran. End summary.
¶2. (C) Barak began his meeting with the Casey delegation by
apologizing for being late due to what he described as an
"internal debate" at the Prime Minister's office regarding
the development of a response to President Obama's upcoming
speech in Cairo. He noted there are "perceived gaps" between
the USG and the GOI regarding the Peace Process, and
explained the GOI's internal debate is focused primarily on
how to ensure that the U.S. and Israel "trust each other."
Barak expressed confidence that PM Netanyahu is sincere in
wanting to "seize this opportunity and move forward" with the
Palestinians, but alluded to members of the coalition who do
not agree with this course of action.
¶3. (C) From his perspective, Barak told the Casey delegation
that the GOI was in no position to dictate policy to the
Palestinians or the USG regarding the Peace Process -- "it
takes two to tango, and three to negotiate," he said. Barak
noted that it is the GOI's responsibility to ensure that "no
stone is left unturned" regarding the Peace Process; if
efforts to achieve peace ultimately fail, then the GOI must
be able to state that every effort was pursued. He said he
personally had no objection to "two states for two nations,"
and panned Arab arguments for a bi-national state in Israel.
Barak said Israel envisions "two peoples living side by side
in peace and good neighborliness" as the final goal.
¶4. (C) With the Ackerman delegation, Barak focused on the
need for a regional approach to the peace process. He
supports a regional initiative for peace and cooperation for
the entire Middle East region to be launched by Israel. He
stressed as well the need to build trust and convince the
U.S. administration that the new Israeli government is
"serious in its efforts toward peace."
¶5. (C) Barak commented on political developments in the West
Bank and Gaza in both meetings. He said the GOI continues to
review its policy, and then added that the Palestinian
Authority has much to accomplish in terms of law enforcement,
a functioning judiciary, and regaining control of Gaza before
a "balanced" Palestinian state can be created. He has been
extremely impressed with the work of U.S. Security
Coordinator Gen. Dayton training PA security forces, and
commended Salam Fayyad's concrete, practical approach.
¶6. (C) Barak made clear in these meetings that he feels the
Palestinian Authority is weak and lacks self-confidence, and
that Gen. Dayton's training helps bolster confidence. He
explained that the GOI had consulted with Egypt and Fatah
prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to
assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas. Not
surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers
from both. He stressed the importance of continued
consultations with both Egypt and Fatah -- as well as the NGO
community -- regarding Gaza reconstruction, and to avoid
publicly linking any resolution in Gaza to the release of
kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
¶7. (C) In his meeting with CODEL Casey, Barak said the GOI
believes its "keystone" relations with the USG remain strong.
He described the integral role the USG plays in preserving
Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME), especially when
faced with threats posed by Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas. He
noted that the GOI's positions on Iran are well known, and
described North Korea's recent nuclear test as a "second
wake-up call" (the first being the AQ Khan network). Barak
asked rhetorically how a lack of firm response to North Korea
would be interpreted by Iran's leadership, speculating the
USG would be viewed as a "paper tiger."
¶8. (C) In both meetings, Barak said "no option should be
removed from the table" when confronting Iran and North
Korea; engagement will only work in conjunction with a
credible military option, he said. Barak said he was
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personally skeptical that engagement would lead to an
acceptable resolution, and argued in favor of a paradigm
shift to confront the triple threat posed by nuclear
proliferation, Islamic extremist terrorism, and rogue/failing
states. He said a strategic partnership with China, Russia,
India, and the EU is essential in facing these threats.
Barak argued that failure to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran
would result in a nuclear arms race in the region as Turkey,
Egypt, and Saudi Arabia look to acquire nuclear weapons.
¶9. (C) When asked if the USG and GOI have fundamental
differences of opinion when assessing Iran's nuclear program,
Barak said we share the same intelligence, but acknowledged
differences in analysis. He suggested that the USG view is
similar to presenting evidence in a criminal court case in
which a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
As such, USG standards are tougher -- especially following
the failure to find WMD in Iraq -- while end-products such as
the 2007 NIE unintentionally take on a softer tone as a
result. Barak said the fate of the region and the world
rests on our ability to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear
weapons -- as such, the standards for determining guilt
should be lower as the costs are higher.
¶10. (C) In both meetings, Barak described Iranians as "chess,
not backgammon players." As such, Iran will attempt to avoid
any hook to hang accusations on, and look to Pakistan and
North Korea as models to emulate in terms of acquiring
nuclear weapons while defying the international community.
He doubted Tehran would opt for an open, relatively
low-threshold test like the recent one in North Korea.
Rather, Iran will seek ways to bypass the NPT while ensuring
its program is redundant and well-protected to prevent an
irreparable military strike. Barak estimated a window
between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from
acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable. After that,
he said, any military solution would result in unacceptable
collateral damage. He also expressed concern that should
Iran develop nuclear capabilities, other rogue states and/or
terrorist groups would not be far behind.
¶11. (C) Barak reinforced his message regarding Pakistan in
both meetings. He described Pakistan as his "private
nightmare," suggesting the world might wake up one morning
"with everything changed" following a potential Islamic
extremist takeover. When asked if the use of force on Iran
might backfire with moderate Muslims in Pakistan, thereby
exacerbating the situation, Barak acknowledged Iran and
Pakistan are interconnected, but disagreed with a causal
chain. To the contrary, he argued that if the United States
had directly confronted North Korea in recent years, others
would be less inclined to pursue nuclear weapons programs.
By avoiding confrontation with Iran, Barak argued, the U.S.
faces a perception of weakness in the region.
¶12. (U) CODELS Casey and Ackerman did not have the
opportunity to clear this message.
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