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Viewing cable 09TELAVIV2777, CODEL SKELTON'S MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TELAVIV2777 2009-12-23 10:10 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
VZCZCXRO3883
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #2777/01 3571034
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231034Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4704
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 7238
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0898
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 002777 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/23/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KNNP MASS SY TU FR KWBG IR IS
SUBJECT: CODEL SKELTON'S MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER 
NETANYAHU 
 
Classified By: DCM Luis G. Moreno, Reason 1.4 (b) (d) 
 
1.  (C) Summary.  CODEL Skelton met with Prime Minister 
Netanyahu November 16 at the Prime Minister's office in 
Jerusalem.  Their discussion covered Netanyahu's meeting with 
President Obama the previous week, Netanyahu's interest in 
resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, the Iranian 
nuclear program and options for tougher sanctions, possible 
negotiations with Syria, U.S.-Israeli cooperation on missile 
defense, and Israel's objections to the Goldstone Report. 
Netanyahu said his meeting with the President was the best 
meeting that they have had.  He stressed that he had told the 
President that he is ready to negotiate with Abu Mazen now, 
and contrasted Israel's position with the PA's setting of 
preconditions for negotiations.  Netanyahu listed steps the 
GOI has taken to support Abu Mazen, noting that the PA is 
"doing a good job" on security.  A nuclear Iran, however, 
would "wash away" all progress as well as undermining 
Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.  Netanyahu 
said that Iran is vulnerable to sanctions and urged the U.S. 
to increase the pressure on Iran, with likeminded countries 
if Russia and China will not support new sanctions in the 
Security Council.  Netanyahu commented that there is broader 
Arab and European support for tough sanctions than in the 
past, although the Arabs may not say so publicly.  Netanyahu 
praised President Obama's commitment to missile defense, and 
commented that U.S.-Israeli cooperation on missile defense 
sends a strong signal to Israel's enemies.  He thanked the 
CODEL for the Congress' support.  Netanyahu said Israel faces 
three main threats:  Iran's nuclear program, the build-up of 
rockets and missiles in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and the 
Goldstone Report, which condemned Israel for defending its 
civilian population from years of rocket attacks.  Netanyahu 
said Israel will need to ensure that a future Palestinian 
state cannot launch rockets at Israel's international airport 
or critical facilities.  End Summary. 
 
Let's Get on with Negotiations 
------------------------------ 
 
2.  (U) CODEL Skelton, consisting of House Armed Services 
Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D, MO) and Mrs. Skelton, 
Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), Representative Tim Murphy 
(R, PA), Congressional Staff members Phil McNaughton, Michael 
Casey, and John Wason, Military aides Colonel Jeff Koch and 
PolCouns met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu November 
16.  Netanyahu was joined by Deputy National Security Adviser 
Rear Admiral (reserve) Avriel Bar Josef, media adviser Mark 
Regev, policy adviser Ari Harrow, and a Congressional liaison 
officer from the Israeli Embassy in Washington. 
 
3.  (C) Netanyahu began the meeting by noting his 
appreciation for his meeting with President Obama at the 
White House the previous week.  Netanyahu described his 
conversation with the President as "the best we've had so 
far."  He said that regarding negotiations with the 
Palestinians, he told the President, "let's get on with it." 
Netanyahu stated that his government had removed hundreds of 
obstacles and roadblocks in the West Bank, helping the West 
Bank economy achieve a seven percent growth rate, adding "and 
we can kick it up to ten percent growth."  Netanyahu said his 
Bar Ilan address last June had been difficult for him, but it 
had united Israelis in support of accepting a demilitarized 
Palestinian state.  The current GOI had also restrainted 
construction in settlements more than its past several 
predecessors. 
 
4.  (C) Netanyahu then contrasted his efforts with the PA, 
which he said is maintaining a "political and economic 
boycott" of Israel, setting preconditions for negotiations, 
supporting the Goldstone Report in the UN, and is now talking 
about a unilateral declaration of independence.  Israel wants 
to engage, but the Palestinians do not.  Netanyahu quoted a 
Palestinian official as saying that the PA had "exhausted the 
negotiating process," then noted that the Palestinians have 
not even started to talk to his government.  The real 
difference, he pointed out, is that Abu Mazen is facing 
elections, while Israel has already conducted its elections. 
Netanyahu also commented that the Palestinians had initially 
expected the U.S. to "deliver Israel" on all of their 
demands, but are now realizing that this will not happen. 
President Obama understands, he stated, that Israel is ready 
to move forward.  The alternatives to negotiations are bad 
for everyone.  Netanyahu said that if Abu Mazen would engage, 
they would confront all the issues.  The process would not be 
easy, but it has to get started. 
 
5.  (C) Netanyahu said the West Bank had remained quiet 
during Operation Cast Lead because the Palestinians do not 
 
TEL AVIV 00002777  002 OF 003 
 
 
want to live under Hamas' rule.  He asserted that according 
to recent polls, Abu Mazen and Fatah would easily win an 
election, even in Gaza.  Netanyahu stressed that he was not 
pushing for the Palestinians to hold elections, but was 
instead focused on promoting the expansion of the West Bank 
economy by removing both physical and bureaucratic obstacles. 
 He acknowledged that the PA is "doing a good job" on 
security, though he added that PA leaders are not aware of 
everything Israel is doing to support the PA's security.  If 
we could add a political process to the cooperation that 
currently exists, we could get security, economic 
development, and peace.  Netanyahu warned, however, that if 
Iran gets a nuclear bomb, the peace process would be "washed 
away."  Even Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan 
would come under enormous pressure. 
 
Iran Sanctions 
-------------- 
 
6.  (C) Chairman Skelton noted that his Committee is 
following Iran closely.  Netanyahu said he had advised the 
President to stick to the deadline on the TRR offer, adding 
that it is also important to ask Iran to stop its enrichment 
activities.  Netanyahu commented that there is a new mood in 
the major European capitals in support of sanctions.  The 
U.S. does not need to depend on the Security Council, but can 
work with likeminded countries.  Sanctions should focus on 
Iran's importation of gasoline, while also focusing on 
opening up the information networks.  The U.S. should lead 
the world toward tougher sanctions, or more of the Arab 
states will start appeasing Iran, as Qatar is doing. 
Netanyahu summed up his advice as:  "stick to the deadline, 
be firm on the terms, and apply sanctions" if Iran does not 
comply.  He thought Russia may be more inclined than in the 
past, but it would be best not to count on the Security 
Council.  Having set a deadline, the P5 1 should stick to it. 
 The Western powers at least will go along.  We should close 
the gap between understanding the problem and acting on it, 
he said.  Netanyahu said Israel's problems with Iran are not 
limited to its nuclear program.  Even without a nuclear 
umbrella, Iran is sending hundreds of tons of weapons to 
Syria, Hamas and Hizballah.  The ship seized November 3 by 
the Israeli Navy had on board two thirds of the amount of 
rockets fired at Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War. 
 
7.  (C) Representative Israel asked Netanyahu about the 
timetable for Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon.  Netanyahu 
responded that Iran has the capability now to make one bomb 
or they could wait and make several bombs in a year or two. 
It is important to bear in mind that the Iranian regime was 
exposed as a fraud during their presidential elections.  The 
Iranian people detest the regime and have shown great courage 
in the streets.  The exposure of the Qom facility also helped 
convince doubters in the international community that Iran 
has a weapons program.  Iran has a weak economy and a 
fractured political system, so it is vulnerable to sanctions. 
 The time to act diplomatically is now, Netanyahu     said, 
adding that we still have a year or two to stop the Iranian 
program.  Netanyahu said he thought President Obama 
understands Iran perfectly.  The Arab leaders hope Iran will 
be stopped, there is broad Arab and European support for 
"vigorous steps."  Chairman Skelton asked whether the Arabs 
would state their support publicly.  Netanyahu replied they 
might not, but it would not make a large difference since the 
Arab "street" will not rise up in support of the Iranian 
regime. 
 
Ready to Talk to Syria 
---------------------- 
 
8.  (C) Regarding Syria, Netanyahu urged the U.S. to press 
Damascus to stop supplying arms to Hizballah.  Noting that he 
had stopped in Paris to meet President Sarkozy on his way 
back to Israel from Washington, Netanyahu confirmed media 
reports that Sarkozy had offered to mediate between Israel 
and Syria.  Netanyahu said he would prefer direct 
negotiations with the Syrians, but added that he would accept 
France as a mediator.  President Asad, however, still wants 
Turkey as the mediator.  Noting that Turkish PM Erdogan had 
recently stated that he would prefer to meet with Sudanese 
President Omar Bashir than with Netanyahu, Netanyahu asked 
how the Turks could be fair mediators. 
 
Working Together on Missile Defense 
----------------------------------- 
 
9.  (C) Netanyahu said that in addition to peace with the 
Palestinians and Iran, he and the President had discussed 
joint U.S.-Israeli efforts on missile defense.  Netanyahu 
 
TEL AVIV 00002777  003 OF 003 
 
 
commented that he had personally visited the Juniper Cobra 
joint military exercise.  The program has reached a phase at 
which it is possible to monitor incoming missiles with a good 
lead-time, but it is still very expensive to intercept "crude 
rockets" such as those fired from Gaza.  The information 
shield is moving ahead nicely, but the physical shield is 
lagging behind.  Netanyahu observed that it is very important 
for the U.S. and its allies to be able to defend themselves 
against missile attack.  Chairman Skelton noted that U.S. 
personnel who briefed the CODEL were very optimistic about 
the program.  Netanyahu said only the U.S. and Israel are 
currently working on missile defense.  This cooperation sends 
a powerful message to Israel's enemies he noted, and thanked 
the CODEL and the Congress for their support. 
 
Goldstone Report a Key Threat 
----------------------------- 
 
10.  (C) Netanyahu commented that Israel currently faces 
three principal threats:  Iran's nuclear program, missile 
proliferation and the Goldstone Report.  Goldstone gave 
terrorists immunity to attack Israel if they fire from 
populated areas.  During Cast Lead the IDF send thousands and 
flyers, text messages and phone calls to civilians, warning 
them to get out of the way, yet Israel was accused of war 
crimes.  Hamas and other terrorists fired 12.000 rockets into 
Israel from Gaza, Netanyahu said, noting that Israel is the 
only country in the world faced with threats to annihilate 
it.  Netanyahu asked the CODEL to imagine a situation in 
which Israeli Air Force pilots must consult with lawyers 
before they can travel abroad.  Former PM Olmert, former 
FonMin Livni and DefMin Barak could be hauled before the 
International Criminal Court.  Netanyahu said he could not 
accept that IDF soldiers could be charged with war crimes for 
protecting their country from constant attack.  The deaths of 
several hundred civilians in Gaza was "tragic," Netanyahu 
said, but there was no deliberate targeting of civilians by 
Israel.  Deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime, 
but what should Israel do when terrorists deliberately target 
Israeli civilians and then hide within their civilian 
population? 
 
11.  (U) CODEL Skelton did not clear this cable. 
CUNNINGHAM